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Real life

Some observations of foreign types in crowds

There was some strange behaviour outside my hotel this evening, instead of the usual languid European-style pavement restaurant with a few, mainly elderly residents enjoying their café under an iridescent evening sun as a few blonde haired goddesses drift by aimlessly on bicycles, there was a massed throng of unruly teens and drunken men filling the square in front of my hotel.

I presumed that it was some form of political protest as they were uniformly dressed alike, but apparently not, it was in fact an opportunity to get utterly paralytic on Heineken served in plastic cups while watching a giant TV screen erected at the end of the not-so-very-grand place. I initially presumed they were there to watch the local version of “America’s Next One Hit Wonder” or whatever it is called in The Land of Clogs.

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How to be human 101 – Empathy

Bad RobotIn my early years I had an all encompassing belief that the universe revolved around my arse. Apparently this is quite common among single children and ‘tail end charlies’ like myself, whose elder brothers were nearly 10-years older than me.

It also didn’t help that I came into my mothers life at a very difficult time when she was being physically abused by my father, as she told me in later years, I was the raft that she clung to during the storms of her turbulent marriage. She finally divorced my father when he was coming up for retirement as she couldn’t bear the thought of being stuck in the house with the miserable old bastard 24/7. (more…)

The Rumble in the Ryton Jungle.

Remember when you were at school and the finest entertainment on offer was either a ZX-Spectrum or a fight?

This wasn’t a fight as such. It was more of a clinical chinning carried out with strength and skill.

Side note – the chinner, N, I subsequently had a fight with over a complete misunderstanding and we both escaped unscathed because I guess his heart wasn’t in it, I’m good defensively and he fought like a gentleman (as did I). I once had the greasy acne ridden face of the vile D in my hands and just couldn’t bring myself to use my advantage and push those thumbs into his eye-sockets. I guess I learned then I’m not a fighter. I’m nowhere near dirty enough.

Anyway, onto the subject. Or object? Hawthorne was a vile piece of work. He was only at Ryton Comp because he’d been kicked-out of everywhere else. We took a lot of them. Anyway he wandered the school invariably with with his concubines each under an arm in an ape-like progression and wearing knock-off Raybans. He was an amoral cunt of the first water. I mean utterly amoral. And utterly a cunt. He used his size to intimidate and the fact that he very clearly didn’t give a tinker’s for anything good or decent and set himself-up as a sort of spectre of menace on the corridors of the school. I mean like most of us wanted to just get through school with qualifications for jobs or university or the military or something. Hawthorne didn’t give a toss about anything. Even the girls he “squired” were a rotating smorgasbord of slags.

One day though he got too artistic. N had come into the school yard after running training (he was a county sprinter) and put his sports bag down (Head bag – standard issue in the ’80s) with all his stuff in it. Now N was widely regarded as the hardest lad in the year, if not the school and I bet this riled Hawthorne who coveted this “prize” (I use the quotes because N never sort fame or domination or such) so Hawthorne in what can only be described as an “Imp of the Perverse” moment urinated into N’s open bag.

What happened next ought to have been filmed Matrix style with a cool soundtrack. N got the mist and it was red. All his PE kit, his books, everything had been pissed on. I don’t know the time of this action but I can still guess at the distance and it was probably less than 10m. N went into overdrive and Hawthorne went continually backwards under a hail of blows that would shame Jackie Chan. He lost consciousness and also bladder control just against the chainlink around the yard. The teacher on yard duty kept on sucking sweets the whole time – which wasn’t long. A number of things resulted from this…

Hawthorne’s attempt at behaving as an object of menace ceased. I mean after several hundred kids had seen him comatose and spread-eagled with wet trousers his stock as a gangster had diminished.

Nothing happened to N. It was generally seen as a Good Thing.

The chainlink had to be fixed. This is because it partially collapsed due to the crush of kids wanting to see the action.

N continued his athletics and it held him in good stead because the next time after leaving school I saw him was on TV being interviewed by ITN. He had joined the merchant navy and was a junior officer on a tanker that collided with another vessel in the Channel. He got off sharpish when it burst into flames and was one of the few (the only?) survivor on the ship. He ran the length of the deck and leaped to safety into the briny and swam like hell. I suspect if anyone had been there to time it Usain Bolt would be looking a bit sheepish now. I saw him in a local pub shortly after (he’d been given leave) and bought him a pint. A lot of people did.

What happened to Hawthorne I neither know nor care.

But that was an epic fight.

Nick Clegg has a plan…

When I first heard that the Lib-Dem “flag-ship” proposal (to distance themselves from the Tories) was a 5p levy (to go to like charidee) on placky bags I almost wet myself with mirth. God knows what William Gladstone would think. The Mash as ever has it spot-on.

PLASTIC bags are to be printed with lurid sexual imagery in a bid to discourage their use. Tesco bags will carry an image of a dwarf having sex with a trumpet, while Sainsbury’s carriers will feature a manga-style orgy involving sexy animals.

A government spokesman said: “A detailed design showing a woodland creature getting wanked off will do much more to reduce plastic consumption than a paltry 5p charge.

“Shoppers will stop and think ‘do I really need this bag enough that I am prepared to walk through town carrying a picture of a squirrel with a massive erection?’”

Mother-of-two Nikki Hollis said: “It’s a good idea in principle but yesterday I forgot my ‘bag for life’ at Morrison’s so the checkout girl gave me carriers showing male bikers stroking each other’s bits.

“Now my children want leather jackets for Christmas.”

The spokesman added: “We’ve made an exception with Waitrose bags. Waitrose shoppers will simply be offered Lidl bags, or nothing at all.”

Shopper Roy Hobbs said: “It’s great to see the government taking positive action. I care about the planet so I’ve got a rustic hessian satchel in which to place all my plastic-packaged shopping.”

Absolute fucking genius. And, yes, for once, I quoted the whole thing. Nothing else would do. Charge me 5p.

Sowell: “Studies Prove…”

Often we hear that “all the experts agree” that A is better than B or that “studies prove” A to be better than B. ….

A fascinating discussion of the fact that statistical studies can be interpreted and presented in various ways…with varying degrees of rigor and of intellectual honesty…for various reasons. Dr. Sowell provides some excellent examples in this three-part article.

Part 1: http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell080906.php3

Part 2: http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell081006.php3

Part 3: http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell081106.php3

Nathaniel Branden on Self-Esteem and Libertarianism

A talk by Dr. Nathaniel Branden in which he considers a couple of possible reasons why Libertarianism is unappealing to many people today (“today” being, I believe, in 1999 or 2000; he’d have been about 70 at the time).

[Dr. Branden is probably the single most successful publicizer of the Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. He is a psychotherapist whose work has largely been focussed on the importance and the practical building of (genuine, not hoked-up) self-esteem.]

Unfortunately, the 32-minute video does not include the Q&A.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LURSc-PwRyU

What I did at 8:30am…

At 8:30am I was shoveling from the council gritter into a wheel barrow. Now I don’t mean the kind of crappy ball-jobbies that lilac-shirted maker of crap vacuum cleaners (give me a Henry) James-Bastarding-Dyson designs but a proper agricultural wheel-barrow. One that I had just previously tipped-out of snow and something vaguely organic that I can only call “matter”. I may have killed an advanced microbial civilization. I frankly don’t care.

Now, the gritting of the path (and we had a collection of biddies and codgers in today and I seriously doubt if one of them fractured a hip they’d easily get an ambulance up the road so I grits the path). I subsequently have fielded two phone-calls from folk turning-up asking for advice on getting 4x4s up the road. My neighbour has a Land Rover and he told me he wasn’t driving anywhere for “Love nor money”. But I had to get a full wheel-barrow – one-wheel drive (powered by a single Nick-Power engine about 100 metres up a 45 degree slope, through the snow, in the wind.

It was emotional. At one point I stopped. At this point I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “Adding insult to injury”.

Because a dog-walker happened by. A twinkly middle-aged bell-end and Gore-Texed to the hilt – looked like Ranolph Fiennes exploring his Southern Pole and he asked me, “If I was having fun”?

Rapidly, three options presented themselves…

In order…

1. Cut his head off with my spade and hurl it into the river. Advantage: instant gratification! Disadvantage: 20 years in Strangeways.

2. Say something really sarky like, “Yeah, the last time I had this much fun I was having an umbrella drink on a private Carribean island whilst an oiled-up Halle Berry and Scarlett Johanson were wrestling over who got to give me a blow-job – oh, and I was also watching NUFC beat Sunderland 25-0″. I just couldn’t be bothered.

3. Do nothing. Say nothing. Shove that barrow up the road! Proj on!

I did #3.

There is a moral to this tale. It is that there is one born every minute and they are mainly cunts.

Oh I don’t mean Chairman Mao class-cunts! I mean the common or garden variety of cuntishness. Just the casual twattish version of cuntery. I didn’t even want him to get me a bit of momentum up. No. I just didn’t appreciate having the piss taken by a bloke who wasn’t pushing a heavily laden barrow through the fucking snow up a steep hill. Just a little empathy for your fellow traveller on life’s pathway. Just, actually, not saying anything.

Pratchett 2.0

I know there are a lot of Terry Pratchett fans among the Kitty Kounters (we even have a quote in the sidebar), but his daughter, Rhianna, is less well known. She started out as a journalist, but now writes scripts for videogames. The rather marvellous but misunderstood Mirror’s Edge was one of hers, and I’ve always liked the speil from the trailer (oddly, I can’t find this exact version on YouTube; the one I’ve linked is the closest):

Once this city used to pulse with energy; dirty and dangerous, but alive and wonderful. It started slowly at first. The authorities said the changes – the monitoring, banning, regulating – were for the greater good. But good doesn’t mean right…

Top stuff, eh? Anyway, she’s written the new Tomb Raider reboot, and there’s an interview over at the Metro’s gaming section. Most of it’s about the game obviously, but she talks about her dad and how, once he’s unable to continue working, she’ll be the Custodian of the Discworld (although she has no intention of carrying it on: “protecting it from myself”, she says). Sounds like it could hardly be in better hands.

Crime of the Century…

Well, it’s been bitter cold a few days ago. I know I was varnishing an external door.

I then thought for dinner I might fancy (It was my wife’s idea) making a hearty Spanish style stew. So I went on a hunt for chorizo… and found it at the Co-op which staggered me for it was the only “filthy foreign sausages” (insert Sid James line of choice) the Co-op did have among it’s bewildering variety of almost identical British (Gawd bless ‘er! etc.) mechanically recovered offal tubes (there’s a ref there and not a prize if you get it – well not from me, anyway) there was chorizo! My flabber was gasted. None of that other continental filth, mind. None of your French or German or Czech or Polish or whatever sausage (insert Sid James line of choice). Apart from their many other sins the Co-op is staggeringly parochial. On the little screens at the tills there’s loads of piccies of “jolly natives” with their new water-pump but (with the exception of chorizo) nothing else paid for by buying Fairtrade tat or buying bottles of “ethical water” (why does that always remind me of homeopathy?)

And, yes, I am aware the British sausage industry (insert Sid James line of choice) makes lovely sausages too but those were not represented. Just umpty varieties of bog-standard “bangers”* of the sort I only ate as a student and only when I was on my uppers. Fortunately not too often. Anyway I got chatting to J who works there and is by far and away the most competent member of staff. He used to be a pub land-lord but… Well, I dunno – what with pubs closing 16 to the dozen and all – but he’s a shelf-stacker now. He’ll never make management because I suspect he is regarded as “not a team player” which is HR talk for, “shows initiative and is capable of thinking independently”. The way to get ahead in such organisations (I saw much the same when temping for the Government) is to just keep your head down and schmooze. Never, ever suggest a better way of doing things it shows your line-manager up. I did once and was “pruned”.

Anyway he told me a story… He’d recently apprehended a shop-lifter. The shop-lifter had gone over to the freezers and purloined a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream and had concealed it down the front of his trousers**.

“Is that stolen goods in your pants or are you just pleased to see me?”

J told me something else bizarre too. Apparently ice-cream sales rocket in the last half of December. I found that odd considering what I was making for dinner that night.

*Insert Sid James line of choice. etc. This is getting tired, so I’m retiring it.
**Oh, go on, that is very “Carry On”. On pretty much the coldest day of the year he had put a tub of ice-cream next to his genitals. Perhaps he was planning on wooing a lady? Well, I guess the poor mare would have been disappointed as the Barry White was playing and the lights went low. Unless he’d previous half-inched a magnifying glass and tweezers. Some how I doubt he had the fore-sight. He might have had a cryogenic foreskin mind :-)

I thought I’d died and gone to Hebburn…

A few days ago I was in the local Co-op buying bleech or some such. Anyhows, they have an area manager in and he is uttering the latest diktat. The woman on the till is astonished, gob-smacked by it. It went like this…

“You have to stock aubergines – tell Terry*.”

“But, but… what do you ever do with them?”

Area Manager doesn’t look taken aback. Seriously – must be used to it. He tries to talk her down in much the same way a copper might with some bloke on the tenth floor who is planning on jamming himself on the pavement (I assume Area Manager tasted aubergine once in a moussaka on Corfu and had seen the future). If I was a cruel man when I made my purchase I would have whispered under my breath, “I also like kumquats you know…” but the local A&E probably doesn’t have enough defibrillators anyway so I didn’t.

I have never really seen the point of kumquats but the imp of the perverse is a powerful imp.

This is 2012 and the Co-op regards aubergines (“Aubergines, Auber-here, stealing all our vegetable racks!”) as exotic. I mean if you can’t get a frigging aubergine what hope for a jet-pack? Right next door is a proper greengrocer who stocks several types of squash!!! Such decadence hasn’t been seen since the last days of Caligula! We also have a butcher and a deli (this stocks different forms of cheese). Both the local(ish) TESCO and Sainsburys even have a stab at sushi. Just before Guy Fawkes night the Co-op got in a huge consignment of… Easter eggs. Seriously. The Co-op is like Stalin just shot his load… in an aubergine. Even Uncle Joe would have known an aubergine when he saw one being a Georgian and all… The Co-op is fucking chronic.

I “popped” for some tomatoes a bit back and took them to the counter and had to have them returned because I spotted one had grown a Gandalf of a beard of something I’ve only ever seen on a sodding petri dish. And not any of mine (I know how to streak-plate). I mean the ones in movies where Denzel Washington or someone has 24 hours to save the Earth and bed a well-fit co-star (why is there never a phone call that goes like this, “Can we re-schedule for Thursday I’ve got a lot on right now”. “OK, cool, see you then!”). Nah, instead of that I had two slags** gossiping about X-Factor which was clearly more important than serving moi and Terry replaced my toms with a grumplestiltskin of a face-on at a speed matched only by glaciers. He then disappeared out back grumbling about customers actually wanting produce that wouldn’t give them pantomime poisoning***. Presumably for a fag or a wank**** or (most likely) just a general skive.

But the crowning turd in the punch-bowl came Friday before last. Now I was going out to see “Skyfall” (not bad BTW) and dinner was hurried and the Co-op tend to… Well, my wife is vegan and she frequently has said she can find fuck all to eat there. Well I was in the same dilly of a pickle. I thought I’d get a brace of their reasonable Aberdeen Angus burgers (nowhere near as nice as the ones I make but OK) but no! No burgers for Nick! Useless twats. They had replaced ‘em with – I shit ye not – a fucking display of four types of “Rustlers” (more on those soon). So I looked at the shelves for something tasty and quick (bear in mind this is kinda a convenience store/small supermarket) and there was the fifth-root of fuck-all. I got meatballs in the end. So seeing as I have no dietary whatevers I was as stumped as my vegan wife. That is fuckwittery from the Co-op on a cosmic scale. I got something in the end. I suppose I could have got the frozen burgers by Birdseye but that is all eyelids and rectums. Anyway I didn’t have the defrost time if I wanted to see Mr Bond. Not a fucking chance. No chance for anything to be shaken or even stirred apart from the bowels and that in a cataclysmic Old Testament sense.

Oh yea who eat the unclean parts of the ossifrage behold!

There are things in that shop that violate Deuteronomy. And possibly Leviticus.

This is…

…the Rustler’s microwave burger…

… an atrocity that makes being groped by DLT look like some form of “boisterousness”.

Having said that the microwaveable kebab is some form of Crime Against Humanity

And they had replaced all their proper burgerage with Rustlers. Cunts.

They really are a collection of tit-ends. More tit-ends than a fucking dairy farm in Wisconsin. An utter tittery of dunces.

The milk is OK at the Co-Op. There is pity-all you can do to cunterate milk.

But the water! Christ on a bicycle playing the fuckulating Souzaphone. The shop is hideously expensive. Well, some of it is but that is the “ethical water”. They also have normal H20 for people who are not the “saved class” that show their “ethics” by buying expensive tat and know piss-all about basic chemistry. Ethical-fucking-water!

What the the Allah-buggering-piss-flappery is “ethical water”? Is that water that can write a Desmond essay on Spinoza’s juvenalia as well as quenching a thirst? Or is it just water bought by self-righteous self-abusers? Note the hardly disguised selling of indulgences and the piccies of happy natives who’s water is ultimately sold to some school-run mumster with a BMW X-5 to make her feel better about killing the planet with diesel to take Tarquin and Cressida to school. Does anyone other than me think this more patronizing than anything the (obviously evil) British Empire ever did? Anyone thought these folks might not want to be “happy natives” for Co-op customers to feel good and have the opportunity to own a Beemer as well? Nah, that would be so inauthentic for the poor dears wouldn’t it? Better keep ‘em in abject poverty so they can make “authentic things” to be bought by middle-class Indy readers to assuage their consciences over having the X-5…

It sticks in my craw. It really does. I am typing this on an excellent little netbook/laptop by Lenovo (S205). This machine was designed and built in China by people whose parents were probably starving peasants without a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. If they had remained “authentic” or Mao-ist or whatever I’d not have this machine on my lap, you wouldn’t be reading this and China wouldn’t be dragging itself into a bright future. A survey a few years ago showed that 80% of “Chuppies” (middle-class Chinese) liked English cider so Bulmer’s planted orchards and built a factory over there. What goes around comes around. It ought to be about creating wealth, not the “selling beads to the natives” approach of Fairtrade nor the re-distribution idiocy of sharing the morsels of the last ration-box on the lifeboat. Wealth is not fixed. I could go on. And I shall, in a later post…

“I took a poo in the woods hunched over like an animal. It was awesome.”

(look it up). So is cholera, doll.

- Drew Barrymore (who promised E.T. to “be good” and then became a pre-pubescent heroin addict). She was muntering around some potless gaff in Central America and thought shitting like an animal was “cool”. OK, if that is her fetish – fine. And maybe it is if you don’t have to do it all the time. But how patronizing is that? Coming (so to speak) from someone who at the time lived in a mansion in Hollywood? I could be wrong but I think that was valued at $20m round the time. Fuck off. You are not part of the solution. You are the problem. Poverty does not bring dignity. They are utterly seperate variables.

Wealth (and aubergines) are not to be ashamed of. Protectionism is something to be ashamed of. We should not be ashamed that we have indoor plumbing but that we actively prevent development in some of the poorer countries by our trade policies and then engage in patronising and pointless genuflection to the Gods of “Fairtrade” as, yes, an indulgence is just wrong. That the EU subsidises (controls) our farmers etc. and that the counterbalance is Fairtrade is obscene. It helps almost no-one.

Why not just cut the Gordian knot?

Why not let us all run and play?

*Terry is the most idle cunt who ever (slowly) walked this goodly Earth. If he moved any slower he’d have moss on him – like a three-toed sloth.
**The first time I was ever in Buxton (genteel spa town etc..) some lad walked past me and my then girlf and he just said, “tits”. Oddly enough the same happened in New Orleans with the same girl. She had nice breasts but a slim build and they went with that and were hardly bazonga material so that’s odd. I find it odd that it happened over six time zones but then you are no longer alive if reality loses it’s eternal power to astonish.
***A terrible malady that makes someone think they are Christopher Biggins and playing Widow Twanky at the Swindon Empire. I have actually sort of met Mr Biggins and he seemed a decent sort. And yes, he was a panto dame at the time.
****For some reason (my filthy mind) I’m thinking of an old Turkish proverb, “A women for duty, a boy for pleasure but a melon for ecstasy!”. They don’t tend to have melons in the Co-op. Perhaps they are too exotic or perhaps Terry has jizzed in them during his many “technical breaks”. Perhaps that’s why the fruit and veg tend toward the manksome?

Cheshire East

That is where I live according to the gubbermunt. I call it East Cheshire but clearly that isn’t as dynamic as “Cheshire East“. “Go East!” as the Pet Shop Boys didn’t sing.

Anyway, through the door I get today the free-sheet detailing all the wonderful things Cheshire East does for me. There is some stuff on parenting which if I had kids I would feel abysmally patronized by and a speech by the council boss in which he promises the earth but clearly can’t be arsed to fix my road which increasingly resembles a fucking goat track in Mogadishu.

And there is also the council “cabinet” line-up. I almost bouked with merriment when I saw who held the environment portfolio…

Councillor Rod Menlove (Conservative and the upstanding member for Wilmslow East).

Here he is:

And this is about him.

Rod Menlove.

Jebus fucking wept.

I mean he might be a real nice bloke but growing up called Rod Menlove carries a whole carousel of baggage. At least he wasn’t called “Roger”. His parents spared him that at least.

“Darwin Award” Is Barely Adequate

Down below, Paul has written a post about the “fall of the Moron civilisation”, and a very good post it is too. It describes how a certain South American civilisation, facing the invasion of the Conquistadores, responded by, er, killing their own people and setting fire to their pyramids, which turned out not to be the optimal strategy. That however was a form of organised moronism. Our society increasingly specialises in the individual form, largely it appears because it has now so regulated everything that individuals have entirely lost the capacity to take the most simple care of themselves. Which brings us to 46 year old Diane Hill, who set herself on fire with petrol.

Now burning yourself isn’t automatically moronic. Petrol is flammable. Under certain circumstances it can spontaneously combust (if you soak a heap of rags in it, then something to do with latent heat that our Physics expert Nick can no doubt explain). Or, more likely you can have a stray spark if there is a sufficient concentration of vapour, or…

She was using her cooker at the same time as pouring petrol from one container to another using a jug after her daughter had asked for some petrol.

Oh.

The woman was cooking dinner while decanting the fuel from an “appropriate petrol container” into a glass jug when the vapours ignited [...] that “created panic,” causing the woman to spill the petrol, which “resulted in spillage on the lady’s clothes which ignited as well”.

Ah.

Lee Smith, one of the fire officers called to the scene, told BBC Radio 5 Live that firefighters did not need to extinguish any flames but had to deal with “a lot of smoke”.

I bet they did.

So here we have a woman so stupid that she decanted petrol into a jug next to a cooker (this was a gas cooker wasn’t it, Mrs Hill? The one with the naked flames?) and who gets the blame for this? The government.

Now come on. I’m no fan of the Coalition, but we can hardly blame the government for presiding over people so stupid that the advice to keep a bit of extra petrol in results in them pouring it from jug to jug while stir frying dinner, can we?

Labour peer Lord Harris called for Francis Maude to resign after the woman, named locally as Diane Hill, suffered 40 per cent burns when she tried to pour petrol into a jug in her kitchen after her daughter’s car needed refuelling.

Because Francis Maude didn’t take into account how close to the fall of the Moron civilisation we actually are. Presumably if he’d advised people to buy cutlery, he’d be responsible for some woman deliberately stabbing herself in the eyes with a fork, because he hadn’t actually specified she shouldn’t do that.

I think we may as well give up on this “libertarian” thing, guys. With raw material like this, hoping for a society of self-reliant individuals is really asking too much, isn’t it?

Two Interesting Facts about Samoa

There are precisely two entries under “21st Century” in the Wikipedia article about Samoa. One is about the country changing from driving on the right to the left in 2009. This goes against the trend somewhat, but it turns out that it’s easier and cheaper for them to import cars from (relatively) nearby Australia and Japan than from the Americas, so it made sense.

The other one is about today. Or rather, not today. Today… well, whatever the Cats server says over in Australia, I’m writing this on the 30th of December 2012, and I couldn’t have done that if I lived in Samoa. Today didn’t happen in Samoa.

The country straddles 180° longitude, and has up till now placed itself to the East of the International Date Line, on GMT-12. But, largely because of these same trade links with Oz and whatnot, it’s now on the West, GMT+12. So they skipped over the 30th of December. Perfectly simple, but the more I think about it the more my head hurts.

Trade, though: the two Interesting Things Samoa has done this century are both due to pressures of trade. I’ve categorized this under “Real Life” because that’s what trade is. All the other multifarious worries and panics of political types are nothing compared to where your stuff comes from and how much it costs. It’s a powerful thing that can erase entire days from the calendar.

Why they didn’t just wait until the 29th of February next year isn’t quite clear.

Update: Somehow I managed to turn commenting off. Fixed it.

Hip-Hop Diplomacy and the War on Cameras.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time:”Send an American rap crew on a tour of Pakistan to help build bridges between two countries whose relations have plumbed new depths this year”.

But after being detained by security officials in Rawalpindi and then seeing a major concert cancelled by a venue in Lahore at the last moment, the FEW Collective’s attempt at cultural diplomacy has backfired, emphasising the frosty feelings between two awkward allies.

Well, let’s call a spade a manual earth-removal tool. The most absurdly obvious derangement in international relations is the idea that Pakistan is an ally of the USA. Bridges perhaps need to be built but from Pakistan and not the USA.

On Wednesday, the hip hop troupe from Chicago, was in Karachi preparing for a concert after being forced to abandon its Lahore gig amid allegations the venue had come under pressure to cancel the event.

Only the Telegraph could refer to rappers as “a troupe”.

The Al-Hamra Arts Council claimed US officials had not produced a No Objection Certificate from the Pakistani government.

A what?

However, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Islamabad insisted that the paperwork was in order.

Paperwork from the embassy for a rap gig? How very rebel!

“We don’t know whether there was pressure or not to hold it or if they just felt uncomfortable,” she said.

While America’s image through much of the Muslim world has been dominated by war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the music that sprang from its inner city black populations in the 1980s is popular everywhere from the West Bank to Kabul.

You got to love the Telegraph for feeling the need to explain what rap is. I mean it’s not like it’s the most dominent form of popular music for the last 30 years.

Rappers such as El General in Tunisia have even helped spread the message of democracy during the Arab Spring this year.

Hip hop diplomacy has become an increasingly important plank of American foreign policy during the past decade as officials try to tap in to the worldwide popularity of rap – just like the jazz tours of the Cold War when Dizzie Gillespie and Benny Goodman were dispatched to counter Soviet propaganda in Africa and the Middle East.
Nowhere is the effort needed more than in Pakistan.

Or more wasted.

In January, a CIA contractor shot dead two men in Lahore.

Then a secret mission to kill Osama bin Laden on Pakistani territory sparked a fresh wave of anti-US anger in May.

Meanwhile, CIA drones continue to pound targets in the country’s lawless tribal belt.
The result is that only 12 per cent of Pakistanis have a favourable opinion of the United States, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.

Is that really cause and effect? I mean let’s face facts the USA has indulged Pakistan for various reasons over decades and all they got was… Well bin Laden got safe refuge for a decade in Pakistan walking distance from that country’s top military academy. I mean really. It is taking the piss. I am no great fan of Obama but he had to send the SEALS in because the USA’s “key ally in the war on terror” was doing less than nothing. He also has to have the drones prowling over Pakistan’s tribal areas. Basically if Pakistan can’t be arsed to keep it’s house in order then somebody has to. Or perhaps more to the point if they can’t (for whatever reason) deal with their own gaff then they shouldn’t bitch about violations of their sovereignty should they? They can’t have it both ways can they?

In response, the US embassy has hosted a string of touring musicians in order to show a different side of America.

And this worked out…

But within days of their arrival the FEW Collective fell foul of the country’s beady-eyed security services last week when a band member was spotted taking photographs from a US embassy vehicle in Rawalpindi, home to Pakistan’s military headquarters and Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

Yeah, the police state that can’t find in a decade the World’s most wanted man when he’s spitting distance from their foremost military academy but can nick a rapper for taking photos.

They were released only after deleting images from their cameras.

I would argue that the litmus test of freedom is the attitude to cameras. Objections to them are the stock in trade of pecksniff jobsworths. In this respect the UK is going south. The dibble a few years ago caused a German tourist hell for photographing a tube station. The man had an interest in LRT architecture. OK, a minority pursuit but so what? Minority pursuits are what makes our species so magnificent. They are also something despised by the gits that be. They hate everything they don’t understand (and that could fill a Zeppelin Hanger) because they don’t have the understanding to understand that we are all individuals.

Then there is Greece. Recall the plane-spotters a few years back? You know what got me about that one? They were scrobbled on espionage charges (aren’t we both NATO?) for photographing F-16s. Now who might want to know about Greek F-16s… Turkey might. But the Turks oddly enough also fly almost identical F-16s. Turkey also builds F-16s. If there is one thing the Turkish air force know it’s F-16s.

One thing that I hate (no, I despair about) this country is we are heading down the Greek road of anyone with a camera being suspected of something. Anyone with a camera in the vicinity of children is clearly a pervert. But what really bugs me is there is no rhyme nor reason to it – it’s just arbitrary because they can and they need no reason because they are the state. It’s like enforcing a law that bans the wearing of purple hats on Tuesdays. Trust me you would get the likes of PCSOs to hand-out fifty quid fixed penalties without questioning. They might even walk past someone being murdered or raped to do it.

And it isn’t just state-sanctioned. It is pervasive. Ten years ago I could trot around with a camera and nobody would care. Now I get “looks”. I get looks because I use a DSLT (if you don’t know cameras the same as a DSLR which means it looks like a “proper” camera) to take piccies so I am clearly up to no good. Only spies, terrorists, peadophiles and the paparazzi who so cruelly hunted down Diana need a lens that size. We should all make do with the much more discreet camera on our phones. I love that Sony because it’s a cracking camera and I take photos to look at and not upload to Facebook LOL! Anyway, phone cameras are shite. I mean they’re OK for what they are but…

What they are ain’t much.

Of course what has also happened over those years where the private individual has come under increasing suspicion for even carrying an obvious camera the state has rolled out CCTV to an unprecedented level. Odd isn’t it? The private individual is an automatic suspect for having a camera but the state can video you with full impunity from the law. And yes, I meant that carefully. A rational and just polity would not put the state above the law it imposes on the rest of us. It might even obey it’s own laws.

I am no terrorist or spy. I’m just a bloke who is a bit of an f/stop philosopher (a minority hobby like golf or angling but a common enough one – anyway if it was an utterly peculiar one then so fucking what) . I like taking piccies. And I ought to post more. But…

RIP

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie (September 9, 1941 – October 8, 2011)

And if you don’t know who he is, your opinions on computers don’t matter.

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