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Civilisation

Civilisation

The greatest things that have happened to human civilisation in the last thousand years are:

  • The Catholic Church
  • The Renaissance
  • The Enlightenment
  • Free Enterprise Capitalism
  • The British Empire
  • The United States of America

Discuss.

I am happy to remove the Renaissance from the list as a separate item and give it to the Church.

I am aware that these are all European, and I make no apologies for that.

Another quote…

…from all our favourite music-hall comic,

“When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up.”

- Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

And he was right.

I am conflicted. Seriously. I have thought for ages of putting up a list of the truly great fighter ‘planes and it is difficult to compare across eras. So you can stuff your Spitfire and your English Electric Lightning (magnificent though they were). The P-51D does it for me.

For me better looking than the Spit (I know that is a hanging offence in England because by English law the only thing better looking than a Spitfire is Pippa Middleton’s buttocks), much better range and just pure sex to take the stick with. And when Major General James Doolittle* got his paws on the 8th Airforce and used the P-51s on the offensive rather than defensive. Well, in just over a week 17% of German fighter pilots were lost. The Luftwaffe never recovered.

The P-51 truly won the air-war over Germany.

*Rarely has anyone had a less appropriate surname.

Orlando.

I am horrified but not exactly shocked. This is the Leitmotif of our lives. It is the continuous grinding pressure that makes our lives a slow misery. And all because of the deranged rantings of a goat-botherer nigh on a Millenium and a half ago.

Our culture has put Neil and Buzz on the moon. Our culture has created computers, our culture has made it affordable for me, as a student, to see the Applachians. Our culture enables boys to wear skirts to school. I am 42 and the largest social change I have seen in my time is the increasing acceptance of homosexuality. I’m straight but I’ll happily have a pint on Canal Street* in Manchester so this could of been me. It quite possibly could have been you.

I have a short message to jihadis. If you want to live in the Dark Ages many countries are available. We have gay marriage (a boon to florists – especially if Sir Elton John is involved). Shoddy Absurdia executes people for “crimes” such as “sorcery”. That is the difference.

You pay your moneys, you takes your choice.

If you want to live in a modern industrial democracy then fine. But if you do then I is sorry but you have to play the rules. Our rules. If they want to play by their rules then they can fuck off. I want nothing to do with people like that.

If they want an all straight caliphate with sexuality subjected to strict law then that is their choice. Just don’t do it in Europe or America. We are better than you. We have to remember that.

So was this homophobic? Or Islamic terrorism? Or both? I dunno. I do know it was appalling.

And my wishes are to the friends and family of the dead and wounded.

With one exception.

*Guess how that sign is routinely defaced?

Amjad Mohammed Ben Sasi.

A 19-year-old boy has been publicly executed in Libya after he refused four times to repent for swearing.

Amjad Mohammed Ben Sasi had allegedly blasphemed during a dispute with a neighbour in the coastal city of Sirte.

He was consequently hauled before an Islamic State Sharia court three times and on each occasion the youth stood his ground.

‘Amjad was a proud and angry young man,’ Salah Salem Ben Sasi, the teenager’s uncle told The Times.

‘He was fed up with Islamic State rule in Sirte. His attitude was “Do what you like, I am not apologising”.’

he paid the price for his defiance and on the fourth day was brought into the main square where the blasphemy charge was read aloud to the public.
Amjad Ben Sasi remained resolute to the end, and when he was asked if he had any final words he turned to the man who was about to kill him and said ‘My name will live longer than yours’, the uncle recalled.

‘The executioner replied, “We shall see”, and shot him twice in the back of the head.’

I am almost tempted to put-up the Youtube stoning scene from “Life of Brian” but this isn’t a funny is it? This is a principled man standing against almost unspeakable evil and knowing it will lead to his death.

So this is it…

He walked unafraid. He was a million times the man of the sum of the scum who killed him.

From here.

Biodynamic eggs…

First off I have an A in A-level biology and an MSc in astrophysics. I have have no qualifications in being a gullible twat.

Secondly, I am a very good cook.

When I buy eggs I always go for proper free range (note the term can cover a multiple of things) and I do this on the basis of genuine animal welfare and not the position of the planets.

BTW I did sixth-form work experience in a lab at Newcastle University and it was into GM-ing cassava toremove the toxins because whilst cassava is a staple for much of Africa (and elsewhere – it grows anywhere) it contains toxins that have to be removed by a lengthy process. Now if genetically modified cassava can be free of the toxins then the work of the rural housewife is dramatically decreased. Which means…

… Let’s see shall we?

And quite frankly I’d rather see poor Tanzanians benefit in a tangible fashion rather than Hipsters from Hoxton. The first group are feeding their families, the second their egos.

So what is a “biodynamic egg”? It is an egg laid according to astrology. Here day fights with night. And they charge more for them – 10p more for six than “organic” eggs.

I weep tears of blood. Norman Borlaug must be spinning in his grave.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for vaguely spiritual ideas (and the established religions) but what really gets my goat is the “vaguely spiritual” and their attempt to cross the divide. Science ought to be about this world and religion about the next. Science (including pseudo-science) has no place in morality and religion none in science.

Why books still matter.

I don’t read books much. I have “x” number of computers in various states of order and an smartphone and a Kindle Fire. So why do I also have a very high quality slip-case edition of The Lord of the Rings? In four volumes (the fourth is the appendices etc). My Sindarin is probably better than my French! Well, better than my Quenya anyway.

Well, three reasons. My old copy from way back (single volume paperback) was falling apart – not from neglect but from use. My mother wanted to get me a birthday present and I wanted a nice set. In a very real sense the information revolution of the last couple of decades has created a demarcation between the “bit” and the “it”*. Anyone with internet access knows at a visceral level they have access to the Library of Babel** (and mainly free or very cheap) so a book in a sense becomes more of an object as we transfer our understanding of information from paper and ink to the ephemeral 1 and 0.

This was brought home to me (although I knew it at some level before) when I stood in awe just last year at the one book I’d love to own above all gold and silver. It was in Trinity College, Cambridge and was the first edition of Principia Mathamatica and not just any copy. This was Newton’s very own with his hand-written marginal notes for the second edition. It was like, for practicing Jews, looking at the first Torah written in blood and fire by YHWH Himself. Wow. And here is the three odd things. It is written in Latin (and I am very limited in that), it dates from an era when mathematicians didn’t want to disclose methods so even if I grokked the Latin the maths would be obscure to me (Newton didn’t want to disclose the calculus so re-wrote his proofs using da olde skool sums). And finally it is available free for download (in English).

So why does it matter? For the same reason the Wailing Wall matters to Jews or why old Beatle’s vinyl matters to music lovers. It is “it” and not “bit”. It is an actual physical thing. Over the last few years vinyl record sales have increased as CD sales have declined. It is about having soul. Which is an odd way of thinking. That the physical in some way embodies soul more than the abstract.

So that is why I cherish books. Because they are “things”. They are beyond mere information now. They once were information but they are now “stuff” which oddly elevates them because they are the thing in itself because the information is all online now.

They have lost their informational shackles to become free.

*Sorry to the late John Wheeler for that.
**Sorry to the late Jorge Luis Borges for that.

The one where iDave is right…

I have met a number of people who were of the opinion Nigeria was hopelessly corrupt. Most of them Nigerian which was why they lived in England.

So iDave was “undiplomatic” but he spoke the truth. If that ain’t true explain this.. A few years ago we dumped a sofa and I slit it and got eight quid out of it. I want a Nigerian sofa because that is a hell of a lot of sponds to go astray. Obviously I’d need a hole in the ceiling and a Sepp Blatter to get on it to watch Sky.

And that is just the military budget. So don’t piss on my my back and tell me it is raining.

Yes, we give Nigeria a lot of aid. It mainly goes the way of Keyser Söze. I don’t mind some of my cash going to build wells and such for the desperately poor but lining the pockets of gits is a bit above and beyond.

We do enough of that here anyway.

The Order of Yoni…

That is Alexandra Brendlova. (yes, “Carry On fans it is somewhat similar to “bendover”). She is a Czech model. A model advertising beer… Well who’d thunk that one up. But this is no ordinary beer… Oh, no.

Imagine woman of your dreams, your object of desire. Her charm, her sensuality, her passion… Try her taste, feel her smell, hear her voice… Imagine her massaging you passionately and whispering into your ear everything you want. Now free your fantasies and imagine that with a magic wand you can close it in one bottle of beer. The golden drink brewed with her lure and grace and flavored with instincts. Imagine the beer which every sip is a randez-vous with this hot woman of your dreams… she hugs you and kiss you gently, looking straight into your eyes… How much would you give for that beer?

Read the whole thing. It’s sort of inverse beer-googles. Thank you Poland and Czechia! It is a reason to vote “in”. Sorry my innuendometer is stuck at FSD. I must try harder.

Can you imagine the meeting with the bank manager to fund this?

Pitchers:
“We want 400,000 Zloty and access to a Czech model’s vagina.”

Manager:
“The dream of us all…”

If there is a point to this (and there isn’t) this frivolity (and it is obviously a novelty product) it is a sheer celebration of the freedoms these nations were for so long denied. There is something glorious in this. It also, in a sense, shows these are not the huddled-masses the Daily Mail thinks are overwhelming our NHS etc. These are modern, vibrant countries. I know because I been to them several times. I doubt the average Daily Mail reader has and quite frankly a bit Neville Chamberlain. “A far away country of which we know little”. Nev, me old China I can get to Prague cheaper than the train to London. Whether I sample vagina ales is another matter.

Here endeth the lesson.

Nearly. An awful lot of immigrants to the UK from Central and Eastern Europe are highly skilled. How exactly is that harmful? How precisely can an Estonian nurse be seen as a drain on the NHS? When the NHS is short of nurses. Until we get out of the rut of thinking every human is a drag and not a benefit we will languish with 0.1% economic growth.

We didn’t object when Poles and Czechs (and many others) flew Spitfires in 1940 did we?

Well some of us (much later) did…

null

These are long-standing friends and allies The idea they are moochers is ludicrous. Who was it who did a “Ride of the Rohirrim” at Vienna in 1683? Where did the only person to ever win Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry come from and who laid my mum’s patio?

That is an epic fail even by BNP standards. Look closely at the nose.

And I still haven’t seen the big tent.

A tale of two emergency services…

30 years ago today Chernobyl had an “incident” and not a good one.

I (a physics grad) am in favour of nuclear power but not the RMBK design and apparently nobody running it was a qualified nuclear physicist. What could possibly go wrong? We found out didn’t we?

I always try and find a positive and despite poor design, engineering and bad management the Ukrainian Fire Brigade did the best they could and rescued calamity from mere disaster. Many died but they did their job and did it knowing the risks which were extreme. They are heroes by any definition. Death from ARS is not a nice way to go.

Today, also the Hillsborough inquiry finally came to a conclusion that the emergency services were at best inept. I watched that on TV in 1989 with my Dad. It was very clear to me the Police were worse than useless forming a line across the centre of the pitch rather than pulling down the cages. I have rarely been more outraged by the callous authoritarianism that sometimes manifests in this nation than that day. The TV commentators knew what was happening, me and my Dad knew but the rozzers did nothing. Partially I think because they thought football fans were just scum in principle. That it has come to 2016 for this to be concluded legally is a disgrace.

The contrast between the behaviour of the emergency services in both disasters (and note Hillsborough resulted in more immediate deaths than Chernobyl) is striking. The firefighters of the Ukraine are heroes in my book. To tackle a nuclear meltdown knowing this is probably “it” takes true grit. To stand on the half-way line whilst 96 people are crushed to death just a few tens of metres from you takes true cuntery.

The Hillsborough inquiry verdict and the anniversary of Chernobyl provide a very stark contrast in the human spirit.

I dedicate this post to the firefighters,

And I condemn South Yorkshire Police.

Goodnight Sweet Prince…

I had just been hit by the death of Victoria Wood. Then Prince…

The two had quite a bit in common. Both crafters and grafters. Both absurdly multi-talented.

If there is anything positive here it is this. If you believe in an afterlife they might just be together in a Little Red Corvette.

And if you don’t both Victoria and Prince are now in The Overhead

As, of course is Sir Terry.

Whilst we have 1s and 0s they are still with us. Whilst the satellites fly and the copper hums (assuming BT Overreach aren’t playing Les Buggeuers Risible with it) and the fibre is still lit. While I (and others) still have several terabytes offline in a sense they are still here. Perhaps that is the true immortality.

I have to be careful here but one of the reasons I never class myself as an atheist but as an agnostic is that I do have a spiritual side. It is a hard-edged one and is somewhat Borgesian. The best way I can put it it is to invert (not literally!) Woody Allen. He has a gag along the lines of, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it by not dying”. OK, it’s funny. But… A couple of weeks ago I dragged out some old text book and derived the speed of light from Maxwell’s equations purely because I realised I’d forgotten how to. Maxwell now lives in me again.

Now that is a very Borgesian.

Ideas, concepts, jokes, music and equations (and the double curl trick) matter as much as our material selves. I think we can take some comfort in that. How old is the theorem of Pythagaros?

I mentioned Borges. This is what I meant.

OK, Pierre Menard embarks on an insane (indeed truly Quixotic) quest to re-write a literary classic but the point that Borges is making is about the overhead. It is just there. Of course there is the secondary point (there always is with Borges) about literary criticism and how text change meaning even if identical textually. The key is even if their meaning is different down the generations there is still meaning. That is what makes a work great.

And of course so is Borges. He is part of the great tradition (and, yeah, he knew it) of creating works that will last forever and in that sense lasting forever himself.

But then there are things that last forever and do not change.

Here is one.

So goodbye to icons of (almost) my generation. Fare well. I know you shall.

Shoddy Absurdia

Regular readers will know I have little or no time for the only country on the planet that forbids women from driving. They also stone homosexuals. I on the other hand have got stoned with homosexuals. I have also been in cars driven by women. The times we live in eh?

It’s coming out. I knew. I just knew the camel-fucking bastards were up to their fucking necks in 9/11 (and the rest).

I don’t care for their depravity but depravity is just that. Being implicit in the murder of nigh on 3000 people is another matter entirely. I don’t care if they want to make my ancestors who embuggered monks on Lindisfarne and stole their plate look civilized. But that was over a thousand years ago. Things move on. The last gift my country got from Norway was a Christmas Tree. What have we ever got from Saudi Arabia? Hatred, evil and 15/19 on 9/11.

The time has come…

We build nuclear because Saudi you have nothing but oil. Nothing. I mean nothing. Let’s put this bluntly. This is not Islamophobia – oh, no! This is straight horror at our bending-over for a vile regime. I have visited some of the great Mosques of the World. I was treated with respect and I showed them respect.

I have dirty little secret. I do. I like photographing religious buildings and Islam does seem much more amenable than Catholics for example.

This is not Islam. This is an unspeakably corrupt regime we have enabled.

This has to end. Now.

Easter Sunday interlude.

By the way, changing the subject completely, this is my gobsmacked face.

Introducing Miss Angelina Jordan, then aged 8. Just relax, indeed, chill out, and enjoy the beauty.

 

If your eyes are dry following this performance I don’t want to know you.

Remember folks, the Religion of Peace wants to ban both females performing in public, and music.

Update: I suppose for Easter the jazz pop of the precocious young Miss Jordan, while mind blowing, isn’t as appropriate as Handel’s Messiah. So have both.

Brussels

Whilst I was upset by the carnage in Brussels part of me rebelled at the sort of usual suspects dragged out to suggest more of making life difficult and miserable for the rest of us. We must instead walk unafraid and live as normally as possible. Many years ago I was in a pub in Newcastle and somebody had left a briefcase. This was during an IRA resurgence*. I told the barman wwho held it to his ear and said, “I hear nowt ticking, pint of lager is it?”. Exactly. We don’t allow a “soft win”. None of their attacks is in and of itself and existential threat and we shouldn’t go into a panic over them. That would have the bastards in Riyadh (and they are behind this all** laughing up their wizard’s sleeves. Having said that “sorcery” is a capital offense in Shoddy Absurdia. Yet, they are a “key ally”. What like Saruman was to Gandalf?

So my strategy is “Condition Normal” and carry on and let the hard men and women of Spec Ops etc kill as many of these bastards as possible. And yes, I mean kill unless they have intel. Then the oubliette for the fuckers.

They will lose because they have no culture other than murder, rape and pillage.

We have this…

Yes, an English orchestra playing music by a German with a Finnish conductor and the incomparable Kyung Wha Chung as soloist. She’s Korean. Do I need to say from what side of the DMZ? Thought not. And that is why we shall win. Because beats the Hell out of droning the (frequently incomprehensible ) rantings of a Dark Age pederast from some desert shit hole. Everyone of us who is in favour of liberty is in this together because the alternative is Saudi or their ISIS pals or the DPRK or whatever Hell whatever arseholes can concoct. What most of us can do is tilt a two finger salute whilst going about our own business.

What some of us (with appropriate skills) can do is terminate with extreme prejudice – and fair play to them. Having said that the culture war is more important. Every time you have fun (the baddies hate fun) you score a little victory. And it drives them up the wall. I mean they are pretty far up the wall already but maybe, just maybe they might go over the top.

Anyway I might just get a couple of Belgian ales. We Brits stood with you in 1914 and I see no reason to change.

L’union fait la force

PS the Youtube vid segues so…

*A bit of graffiti I saw in the George Green Science Library (University of Nottingham) gents toilets not long after, “I’d sleep with Gerry Adams but I’d be thinking of Martin McGuinness”. Made me chuckle.
**15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.

112 – not out.

Yisrael Kristal was born in Zarnow, Poland on September 15, 1903

That is remarkable. He was born three months before a couple of brothers from Ohio thought railways were a bit passé.

He survived WWI, WWII and was also was put in Auschwitz. I have been there though in happier times. The birds do sing. There is a myth that they don’t. What isn’t a myth is the pond with the mortal remains of 600,000 people. More of course were gassed and then burned.

Right. I have an Airfix to make. It is a P-51D-25 with Invasion Stripes. 6x’.50s is the sound of freedom. I am peering now over this Lenovo lappy at me (me!) in the forward ‘pit of a DH Tiger Moth. Irvin jacket and goggles and all that. That was at IWM Duxford and exit via the gift shop and all that. I quite fancied an Irvin jacket to own yet they were GBP 700! That is more than my wife’s Vauxhall Corsa is worth on the open market. I bought a mug instead. “We sweep the skies”. I alas (RG colour-blindness) am a Quaker warden so rather than sweeping the skies I mop the toilets. But then I am taller then Tom Cruise and not a twat. And Tom Cruise is a twat. And I can handle an F-14 better than him.

But anyway- I ramble – getting to 112 is a feat. Best of luck sir! I guess if you can survive a NAZI death camp you can take on anything.

PS He might also recall Newcastle winning the league. The last time they did that was 1927. I was born in 1973.

Embarrassing Bodies

A short few years back I flicked onto a show called, “Embarrassing Bodies” on C4.

I watched dumb-founded not just because I saw it as a C21st freak-show (which it is of course) but because I couldn’t work it out. The central idea was that people with complaints too embarrassing to see a GP (or whatever) were OK to be seen by the travelling circus of Dr Christian and Dr Pixie* instead.

I hated the communal showers after PE as a kid (I am not the only one for whom this is the case – far from) and the only person in this World of 7.x billion people I feel OK being naked in front of is my wife. Obviously. I don’t buy the whole Germanic Nazi gym mistress “Health and Efficiency” schtick. One of the most bizarre sights I ever saw was in Yugoslavia (as was) on a beach. A late middle-aged geezer was offering boat trips and, as it was “clothing optional” and he was nearly starkers. I mean nearly because whilst he was fully cock’n'balls to the breeze because he would be the Captain of your lugger the only garment he was wearing was a captain’s hat. My mother laughed so hard she almost died. No wonder a couple of years later they had a brutal civil war. For to quote John Rotten, “There was fuck all else to do”.

Nudity is obviously our natural state but we haven’t been natural since Ugg- the Person of Cave – thought of bringing fire inside the cave. It’s called culture and nakedness is special only because it is not broadcast. This is not argument against nude art or even porn (quite the reverse) but if nudity is “normalized” then what’s left? An MRI scan – have you seen Miley Cyrus’s pancreas yet? It is also natural to die from simple infections but we have antibiotics and stuff now. It’s called “Civilization”. So is taking 300 people in a 200 tonne metal bird from Manchester to Philadelphia but somehow Boeing manage it. Actually my last trans-Atlantic was on an A330 but they are much of a muchness. Perhaps that is the point. True genius is to make something amazing mundane. Doesn’t apply to incongruous nudity mind. That is making the amazing mundane.

So, if I may get back to my point. I think there is something very odd about a society were people are afraid to show their “bits” to a doctor in a private space but OK if it is on broadcast media. I mentioned the C4 show started a bit back but just recently ITV have chimed in with Jeremy Kyle’s Emergency Room.

And I thought Jeremy Kyle in and of himself was more than enough grotesquely enlarged bollocks. Truly he is the only pigeon-chested abattoir-creeper who keeps Piers Morgan from the very nadir of the cunt-list.

*No, I am not making the names up. One sounds like something from “Pilgrim’s Progress” and the other like… “Dr Pixie will see you now…”. Arrgh!!! I mean Dr Smith or Dr Jones or Dr Patel… But Dr Pixie? I’d rather see the “Wise Woman” and pay extra for the cackling. Having said that a couple of hours on the flet with Galadriel would about see me right. Insert your own Nenya joke here.

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