Thursday, November 27, 2008

I couldn't imagine not using a Pentel 0.5mm with a 2B lead

As a bibliophile (and book lover) I should welcome the appearance of a television programme to do with literature. It should be an educational and inspirational event. Why then, I hear you politely enquire, do I find the BBC’s Book Programme so utterly vomit inducing?

Well, let’s start off with the dull tart who presents it. Mariella Frostrup is her name, so I believe. A voice like a badly oiled bicycle and a manner that, if it were adopted by a male, could only be described as smarmy. A syrupy smile that is just asking to be smacked off. I suspect that she is related to Gyles Brandreth.
And, before I go on, what sort of a name is that? It certainly isn’t Yossarian’s name, sir.

Then we have the excruciating vista of authors taking themselves seriously. “You are wonderful aren’t you? Would you like to take the next five minutes to describe exactly how awesomely magnificent you are?” Oh, fuck off.

They had a section this week where some writer or other (definitely or other) described the room in which they do their writing. If any of you heathens out there still deny the existence of a Supreme Intelligence, then, pray tell, how do explain the invention of "fast forward"?

Next week, Dave from Norfolk will be discussing the influence of Turgenev on his narrative about greenhouse construction, Richard will describe his favourite keyboard, and Tom might say something or other about something, not sure what he writes about these days.

Donn! What do they have instead of literature in Canada?

I shall rely on The Burnley Advertiser for my book reviews from now on.

I trust that you all took my advice and began reading Middlemarch in sync with me. I am loving it, even more than the last time, making sure that I don’t speed through it. I wish that Ms Evans were still with us, and writing a blog. I expect that she would not stoop to kicking Frostrup’s tits off, but would probably call her a daft slag in a very clever way.

Now, Mrs Cadwallader, there’s a sexy minx. I would love to spend a few hours chatting (or more likely listening) to her.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.

I have to confess to feeling a little let down by the readers of this fine collection of literature and important news (aMToNW). I feel I am alone in going over to Boris's place and helping him along in his important job. Even Raincoaster doesn't visit him very often. Heaven only knows what happened to dear old Mark, I suspect one of you idiots upset him.

The more astute of you will also notice that I have a new friend to stalk.


I have attempted, over the years, to make my writings accessible to you all, and geared the style towards my loyal readers. Some of you will notice that to even the most erudite student of literature, my prose is indistinguishable from that of Enid Blyton. I have to warn you that this may change in the coming days, as I feel that my writing will be influenced by George Eliot. Yes, I have decided to reread Middlemarch, and am determined to take my time in doing so, so as to absorb all of it. I hope that you have all read it. Perhaps, like me, you took a long time to getting round to it, put off, maybe, by having classical literature forced upon you at school. (For Dave, of course, it was not called classical literature, when he was at school, "The Way We Live Now" was contemporary fiction.) It is excellent. I defy Scaryduck to do a condensed version of it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I've got a sewing machine

In case any of you were wondering why I am up this late at night (don't all shout at once) I should point out that I was over on Facebook in a chat with the son of a friend who was asking for help with an essay on logic, specifically Locke and Descartes. It is in times like these, in mentoring those younger than myself, that I feel that I am putting something back in, and repaying the kindness that has been shown to me.

The thread has now become a discussion about sex, drugs and rock and roll, specifically Hawkwind, who made some major contributions to each of those arts.

My work is done, and I can now sleep peacefully.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pinup of the week

It was a delight and an education to see the lovely Graham Rowntree being interviewed on the Rugby Club this week.

Seeing him speak often reminds me of the Village Idiot sketch from Python. One expects that he will sound like a punch drunk boxer rather than an articulate and intelligent commentator. When asked whether the next (England) game was likely to see a shift in emphasis from the back 3 to the front 3, he opined that all games should be that way, and, indeed, the game would be much better if you got rid of the backs and the referee.

I trust that all of this is not making those of you unfortunate enough to live in the colonies sad, that is not the intention. You must remember that your countries are still young, and you must be patient in your wait for culture.

This is so much more edifying than the fare presented by soccer pundits. It may be the beautiful game, but there is no one around who can describe it fluently. Mangled English pronounced as if by Arthur Daley. “He done good”. “He has ran”. “He ran quick”. Morons. You can say what you like about equestrian sport – brain dead throwbacks twatting around like the man I’m aunt to, they should all be taken out and shot for the sake of the gene pool and so on – but the commentators speak so nicely. You can say that the monarchy is representative of fascist oppression and peopled by those without the wit to do up their own buttons, but at least when they are unveiling a statue of the 16th Mayor of Margate, they speak distinctly and accurately. You can, if that is your preference, call Gyles Brandreth a totally vacuous, unfunny Tory tosser whose is so far up his own arse that he has two heads, but he does speak very clearly and correctly. If I were the England soccer manager, I would play Brian Sewell at centre forward.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Competition Time

Any smartarse out there recognise this gentleman?
I shall not be claiming royalties from him.

Twats, Jim, but not as we know them

I am obliged to the science section of the Torygraph for the attached image which shows a recently discovered galaxy on the far reaches of the universe.

Experts say that there is no sign of intelligent life, but there could be organisms there capable of reciprocating communication. These creatures are likely to be surly, inarticulate and materialistic.
There is speculation that they are ruled over by a strangely eccentric being beyond the imagination of science fiction writers.

P.S. I was first. I am not normally given to boasting, but there are very few such momentous opportunies on the electric internet.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Y'all need to help me out.

Look. (Does that sound like Blair?) The previous post is as upbeat as I am likely to get. The picture of Mountaine makes me smile. I guess if you don't know him - Adam, you must know him, he lives in your state - the effect is not going to be so noticeable.

I need to write about something other than the recent election in the USA. It does not do me any good to go and look at Obama's new website - which, incidentally and ironically, is the phrase I expect many of us will be using over the next couple of years in order to keep the wolf from the door - and have to restrain myself from adding to the comments section.

So, please, tell me what I should write about next. Remember, I am incredibly bigoted and ill-informed about most subjects, so it should not be too difficult for you to find something.

I could write answers to the people who came here courtesy of Theodore and Evadne Google, but aside from the perverts, and the twat who keeps enquiry about "interesting things that happened in November" - nothing, you twat - the only one remotely interesting was asking about "How to turn down an invitation to an Indian Wedding". Well, that's easy - you don't have to. Just don't turn up. They are all exactly the same, and there are thousands of people there, so you won't be missed, unless it is your own wedding, when the chances of your absence being noticed are reduced to about 1 in 5. I very seldom go, and have no intention of going to another one unless there is something very special about it. I've been to the weddings of my 3 lovely nieces - I chose to go. At the last one there was some very lovely Indian dance entertainment in the evening. So I have been told. I went out with a pizza instead, I can't name the fellow absentees because I don't want to get Anish and Ravi into trouble. Nobody noticed. If this answer does not satisfy you, then the best I can do is to tell you how to avoid being invited to the next one.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall

In contrast to my previous despatch, which may have been inclined towards the pessimistic, I want to reassure all of you out there who rely upon me for understanding the major movements in the world, that things are certainly looking up, and we are entering an era when injustices will be removed and peace and harmony will reign.
To support this argument, I enclose a picture of my dear friend Mort. He is the one wearing the hat.

I met Mort when we worked for associated companies, doing a similar job on either side of the Atlantic. At the time there was some discussion among our colleagues about which one of us was the more eccentric. Eccentric was the kindest description used. At the time, the view was that I had the slight edge, although I am not sure what criteria were used. I am happy to report that I have retained my zany behaviour, whereas Mort has, as you can tell, settled down and managed to behave in a manner which enables him to go unnoticed among the general public. He has taken, for a reason I do not know, to calling himself “Mountaine”, but other than that he could pass for an accountant or quantity surveyor.

It is with the support of the average man in the street such as my friend that Mr Obama has managed to sculpt his victory. You can all sleep soundly in your beds knowing that those who voted for and will continue to enable the new president to carry out his reforms are such solid, grounded and sensible citizens.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Another county heard from

Following Dave’s declaration that he avoided posting about religion and politics, I thought it only proper that I should add my two penn’orth of ill-informed, prejudiced and uncalled for commentary on the events of the last two days.
In the last two days the following has happened:-

1) Barack Obama has been elected to be the 44th president of the United States.
2) He is black
3) er…
4) That’s it.

Honestly. That is it. That is all. Nothing more.

On the day of the election the airwaves were filled with journalistic cack of all sorts - nothing of any substance or interest. It was so dire that I had to turn off the radio in my car and talk to my wife – she is recovering now, and I have not bothered her today with my prattling, so there is no need for you to fret. Today, the media has been filled with millions of words about Mr Obama winning the election, and his being black. None of it has been any more informative or of any more consequence than that.

Can I draw your attention to two worthwhile pieces of writing about this couple of days, please?

Dear Willie has produced another very nice essay – well up to his usual standard, in which he describes the idiocy of the media.

My friends at the Onion
have also told it as it really is. Yes, I know Willie said that today was not a day to be cynical, but by the time I post this it will be tomorrow, if you see what I mean. Like most good satire, the article will probably make you uncomfortable as well as amused.

Let me tell you how I see it, after all, every other bastard has been determined to foist their uninvited opinion on you.

As you may have deduced, my sympathies are on the left and liberal side of the political spectrum. Extreme left and extreme liberal. They have been that way ever since I can remember, and have not altered a great deal despite my movement into the middle classes, my growing older and more cynical and my acquisition of property. From here, I don’t see very much difference between the politics of McCain and Obama. Obama is preferable, but I don’t really see him making much difference, no matter how happy most of you are to see someone elected with a pledge to change the direction that the world’s number one superpower has been moving in. I will say this, however: I cannot imagine anyone with any intelligence ever voting either Republican or Conservative. I will never, ever vote for them or their allies. If you do vote for them, it is an act of stupidity. If you voted for McCain, it was an act of dangerous stupidity. But for Obama to have got this far, he will have cut deals and compromised. Even if he were to be a genuine liberal/left of centre idealist, those deals will come back and bite him in the ass, and prevent the changes that all of my liberal friends are hoping for. Yes, I am that cynical.

What really astounds me, though, is the description of Obama as being “socialistic”. This term is usually used disparagingly, as if caring for the rights and welfare of the underprivileged were somehow disgusting. This is the legacy of the Thatcher/Reagan era. I wish someone had strangled those two motherfuckers at birth, along with all of the other stupid fascists queuing up to take their place as the leaders of the “fuck you” party.

The spirit of the American constitution and the declaration of independence and the Gettysburg address all hint at the high ideals of socialism, but I don’t recall any US politicians who have really been left wing.

For the benefit of those of you from foreign parts, and those of you so young that you don’t remember the Labour party being on the left, can I illustrate what I mean by a left wing politician.

The man whose name first springs to mind is Nye Bevan. I have more than a few differences with his politics, but he is one of the few public figures who has gained my admiration. Nye came from working class stock, underachieved at school, and worked as a coalminer. He joined a trade union, had his qualities recognised, and was elected as member of parliament for his home town. He attracted a great deal of animosity, because of his commitment and uncompromising attitudes. Despite having a stammer and the lack of ability to pronounce the letter ‘r’ (I can’t stand people like that), he was a brilliant orator. After the second world war, the British voters kicked out Churchill who had led them through the years of conflict, (I have never found a convincing explanation for this) and elected a Labour government that was largely socialist in nature. Bevan was given the job of overseeing the establishment of the National Health Service. Not only was he given the job of doing it, but he did it, and did it very well. The principles were: health treatment free at the point of delivery, and equality for all in the standard of care received. All treatment was paid for by the taxpayer. This meant that for people of my generation, we were able to grow up in a society where we could see the doctor, have him visit us, get treatment and medicine, and not have to worry about paying the bill. Of course, no society can really afford the kind of healthcare that we want – where there is no waiting for treatment or diagnosis, there are sufficient staff, hospitals and resources to provide care of an acceptable standard for everyone, but for the early part of my life systems were put in place to strive towards that. I will leave for another time how the right wing governments of the last 30 years have shat all over that ideal.

This is a simplistic account of what happened. It is not suitable for inclusion in your Ph.D. thesis. I am merely outlining the events in order to describe part of what I mean when I talk about socialism.

Even if Obama wanted that kind of health care in America, he knows that he would never be allowed to begin to think about implementing it.

So, joyful celebrators of a new era, I am sorry if I have pissed on your fireworks this November 5th. I really hope that the new president manages to end the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, not start any new ones, sort out and regulate the fuckwits running the world’s financial institutions, and bring about a serious reduction in poverty, prejudice and inequality in the USA. I sincerely wish that. It is just that I can’t see the bastards who backed the Republicans, control the media and got Dubya elected allowing that to happen.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Your sorrow is sheer delusion

I am in the process of reading one of the great works of literature (for about the 12th time) and it occurred to me that the central theme is remarkably similar to another favourite that I have read even more times. I am referring, as if you have not already guessed, to “Catch 22” and “The Bhagavad Gita”.

The central theme is, of course, the reluctance of the main character to take part in warfare. The narrative unfolds in very different ways, and, as far as I am aware, there are not many comparisons between the two texts, so, again, the opportunity arises for me to help you to gain some understanding.

I have chosen four aspects of these works to see which one is of greater value. These aspects are chosen entirely at random, and many important comparisons are discarded in making these choices, but the outcome will always be the same.

These aspects are in no particular order.

1) Humour

Catch 22 is a very funny book. The Gita isn’t. There are about as many jokes in the Gita as there are in most of the scriptures. Not many people wet themselves laughing reading the Koran, Buddha was hardly the Ken Dodd of his day, and only the most perspicacious scholar of Aramaic can find the subtle political satire hidden in the Sermon on the Mount. Those of you with agnostic proclivities will probably say that this is evidence of God lacking a sense of humour. This may be the case, but I would suggest that the scribes who compiled these great works were rather in awe of the Creator’s wit, and decided to leave the funny bits to him. After all would you take on the maker of Princess Anne, the pomegranate and the human penis in a competition to determine who was the wackiest?


2) Resolution of the conflict.

The Gita wins hands down on this one. Yossarian never manages to outwit all of the people who try to kill him, even though he survives, whereas Arjuna is given very explicit instructions about the nature of human existence and the path to impartiality and liberation. Unfortunately, over the years, this advice has been mucked about with and a few religious loonies have stuck their oar in and thrown in the usual crap that comes with religion, about duty and being aware of one’s station. You just have to sift through the dross to find the jewels.


3) Historical accuracy.

There was a 2nd world war, and part of it did take place in Italy, although the characters are entirely fictional.

There may have been a battle at Kurukshetra, and Krishna and Arjuna may have been there, but there is no independent corroboration of this.

Still 1-1

4) Characters

There are certainly more of them in Catch 22, and many are described in such detail that the reader feels that he knows them very well, this is even true of some of the characters who only get a few lines of description. The author even goes so far as to tell us that Major Major looks like Henry Fonda.

I have not read the rest of the Mahabharata, and some scholars suggest that the Gita is a later addition to this work by a different author, but in the Gita we learn little about Arjuna other than his general mental malaise. Similarly, we can only make deductions about Krishna, but it is very difficult to argue that the text leads us to accept that this is God in human form. Thus I think that he pretty much outranks the myriad of personalities in Catch 22, even if they are all added together, and few would be able to convince me that he is not more interesting.


So, there we have it. A victory for the Gita, Unless you prefer a good laugh to enlightenment. Whichever you choose, and I will certainly not judge you on your choice, I suggest you give them both a try. Certainly read them before you read this tripe.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Strange times

There has been a shift in the ethers - the word verification that I use here, and the one used by others (although they are much less likely to be invaded by spammers than I), has become less cryptic, and many of the letters now make up what could almost be words. I declare the word verification definition tradition revived. This is good news, as most of you have nothing to say, but do occasionally manage to come up with a witty definition.
Sorry these posts are on the short side lately, I am still recovering from Hallowe'en, the night when parents send their children round to ask for sweets from strange men. One child came to my house with a mask that dripped what looked like blood. It looked even more like blood when he left.
There is a headline on the BBC site tonight that reads "Martins hauls Magpies off bottom". For those of you with a tendency to be over-literal, I should explain that this refers to the outcome of a soccer game and alludes to the nickname of one of the protagonists. There is no suggestion that there are any anally fixated ornithologists in the north east of England. Oh no.