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Sometimes they get it right

Day of the Doctor.

It is today. It is a fixed point in time and space and I shall be there – or at least in Stockport (the Manchester tickets had gone) – to see the 50th anniversary show live in 3D in the cinema. Cool. I shall not be alone. This is being shown live in 94 countries in 1500 cinemas live. This has never been done before. My wife recently bought the 50th anniversary edition of Dr Who Magazine. It has a copy of the 1964 first anniversary edition of the mag which includes a letter from a reader saying that the Who was the best programme (don’t we call ‘em “shows” now) on either channel. How times change!

I should have bought a fez for the night. Fez’s are cool. There is nothing more but this…

A tale of two passengers.

I have flown from Malta to Manchester. I can’t say it was a great experience. Flying very rarely is these days but fortunately I wasn’t on the plane with this tosser. Please read the whole thing – it’s mind-bending. Here is a taste…

A drunken jet passenger was tasered by police after stripping naked on the airport tarmac – and challenging the captain to a fight.

The 52-year-old man, who had arrived in Manchester on an easyJet flight from Malta, also urinated up the side of the Terminal One building.

Video taken of the amazing incident shows the burly, bald man removing his clothes on the runway apron and posturing at the captain – before receiving a slap across the face from his female companion.

Almost makes you wish for the days of Paul Temple on flying boats with wicker chairs and a G&T served just right.

Apparently the gentleman in question has been arrested on the grounds of being suspected of being “drunk and disorderly”. I hope the magistrate doesn’t feel the need to consider this one for too long.

On the other hand this is a brilliant story.

Nothing Changes

February 5th

Today we had a meeting about the Europass. This was a completely new development. I’d never even heard of it. … It seems that [it] is a new European Identity Card, to be carried by all citizens of the EEC. The FCO, according to Humphrey, is willing to go along with the idea as a quid pro quo for a settlement over the butter mountain, the wine lake, the milk ocean, the lamb war, and the cod stink.

Apparently, the PM wants me to introduce the necessary legislation.

I’m horrified by this.

Sir Humphrey was surprised by my reaction. He thought it was a good idea, as I’m known to be pro-Europe, and he thinks that a Europass will simplify administration in the long run.

Frank and I tried to explain to the officials that for me to introduce such a scheme would be political suicide. The British people don’t want to carry compulsory identification papers. I’ll be accused of trying to bring in a police state [...]

I asked Humphrey if the Foreign Office doesn’t realise how damaging this would be to the European ideal?

“I’m sure they do, minister. That’s why they support it.”

This was even more puzzling, since I’d always been under the impression that the FO is pro-Europe. “Is it, or isn’t it?” I asked Humphrey.

“Yes and no,” he replied of course, “if you’ll pardon the expression. The Foreign Office is pro-Europe because it is really anti-Europe. In fact, the Civil Service was united in its desire to make sure the Common Market didn’t work. That’s why we went into it. Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for the last five hundred years – to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought wars with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule.”

“But that’s all ancient history!”

“Yes, minister, but it is, in fact, current policy. It is necessary to break up the EEC, so we had to get inside. We had previously tried to break it up from the outside, but that didn’t work. Now that we’re in, we are able to make a complete pig’s breakfast of it. We can set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch… the Foreign Office is terribly happy. It’s just like old times.”

Yes, Minister, “The Writing on the Wall”

ID cards, lies and duplicity over Europe… the book from which I’ve taken the bulk of this quote was published in 1981. The TV series which I’ve been re-watching and inspired me to post it first aired in 1979. Both are as relevant today as they were then (another episode is about an austerity drive). They’ve aged far, far, better than the highly celebrated – and much more recent – The Thick of It, for example: it was about the Blair administration; Yes, Minister is about the delusion that these here-today-gone-tomorrow administrations make a blind bit of difference in the face of our real government, the Civil Service.

If you’ve never encountered Jim Hacker, Sir Humphrey, and the Ministry of Administrative Affairs, I highly recommend you remedy the defect. The first series in particular is exceptional. Think of it as an education. Johnathan Lynn and Anthony Jay were – are – both political animals, and had contacts who were even closer to the centre of the permanent government; they weren’t making it up. Maraget Thatcher, when she met them, is reported to have said, “It’s very good. How did you know?”.

Industry Against An Evil Tax. BBC readers not sure…

I have mentioned the iniquity of APD (air passenger duty) before

This is excellent news and long overdue.

But the BBC comments are a cracker…

No one forces you to fly, so stop moaning and pay up, stay in the Uk or travel by road, rail or ferry.

I’ve choosen to stay in the UK for holidays for the last 2 years and forgo the ‘being treated like cattle’ on the plane or like a ‘terrorist’ at the airport and I’ve enjoyed every minute of every holiday, whether it be to Derbyshire, Manchester or Scotland.

- Anthony Rat

Sounds a barrel of laughs! Maybe it’s just me living in the vicinity of Manchester (and within very easy access of the Derbyshire peaks) but it doesn’t exactly seem a holiday as such. And quite frankly my last two foreign jaunts were to Turkey and Poland so please, please explain to me how they could have been easily accessible by road or rail (not to mention that Polish railways are dreadful and haunted by the spirit of Uncle Joe). I might be reading too much into that comment but it does seem to suggest that Mr Rat seems to think air travel is in principle worse in some sense than surface travel. Now far be it from me to point out the bleeding obvious but the airline game runs on very tight margins and every plane I’ve been on in recent years has been pretty (or entirely) full so in terms of the dreaded CO2 and all I very much doubt my wife and I could have driven (plus a ferry or the tunnel) to Istanbul more efficiently. Anyway seeing as I live in the North West of England where it rains all the time I can’t see a trip to Scotland being much of a morale boost!

keep the taxes! really cheap air fare is environmentally irresponsible anyway!

family of six? why not try a nice two week holiday to Orkney (i know a gorgeous self catered house up there which sleeps 9 for significantly less than £400 a week!)

or if the Scottish Isles don’t appeal there are always the classic options of Brighton, Blackpool and Wales. Plus, this way you support the UK economy!

- MayaGold

Two weeks in the Orkneys. There is the cube-root of bugger-all up there. My uncle once lived there in a futile attempt to evade justice. Oddly enough his nemesis in the shape of DS Donnelly of the Liverpool Serious Fraud Office arrived there by plane because surface is a pain. I mention this because APD is particularly severe for UK internal flights (essentially they tax you for each landing and take-off in the UK). So APD really doesn’t help the UK economy. Now you might be thinking internal flights in this country are silly and this is often the case apart from when they aren’t. If my co-conspirator RAB decided on “a nice two week holiday to Orkney” he’d undoubtedly fly because it’s a hell of a drive from Bristol where he lives. Or what about a Londoner who fancies a break in Belfast? But knowing RAB he’s much more likely to go to Sri Lanka or Cyprus because he’s a very bad man. As to the suggestion of Blackpool… Have you seen Blackpool recently? It’s like Dante’s Inferno. It is a dreadful place full of pissed Scousers having fights. Or you can see various variety acts at the end of the pier who you thought were dead. Like The Krankies.

So the airlines are against the tax – bearing in mind we do not levy VAT on air travel where should the government get their money out of this industry.

As ever the airlines think it is a god given right for people to fly no it is a luxury and as such we should remove APD and levy 20% VAT on the flights.

- quicksesh

That is a vile comment. It starts by assuming there is a God given right for government to get money out of flying. It goes on to suggest nearly 108 years after Kill Devil Hills that flying is a luxury! Not on WizzAir from Liverpool to Katowice it isn’t! If civilization has taught us anything (and quicksesh was clearly not at this lesson) it is that ordinary people can now live in ways that great sultans or emperors or generalized potentates of yore could not even dream of. That is the point. It’s a sort of diffuse version of the Nietzschean will to power. quicksesh’s vision (if I may call it so) is pathetic. Anyway of course the airlines are against this! They’d be failing their share-holders if they weren’t. I mean when was the last time you saw a turkey carrying home a Christmas tree?

It is fortunate that Orv and Will are dead because that comment would have killed them. They saw a brighter future as did so many others whose memory we betray by this new cult miserableness.

The Mirror wins it!

Now we all know it was Ryan Giggs. To be honest I can’t actually remember not knowing it was Ryan Giggs.

So I must say I was disappointed with the headlines because it’s not exactly like this story was sprung on them.

But The Mirror alone got a good headline. “Naming Private Ryan”. Now The Mirror is a vile excuse of a tabloid. It’s like The Sun without tits but sometimes it gets the headline right. Sometimes it gets things extraordinarily wrong. Its coverage of the Euro ’96 semi between England and Germany was a travesty. Stuart Pearce in a Tommy helmet, the paper edged in barbed wire and every war movie cliche yanked out for good measure. That managed to be offensive to everyone. The Mirror also got it right on September 12th 2001 with “War on the World”. Yes that captured the nihilism of 9/11 rather well.

England

I am a careful man. I have to be for I am a warden of a religious building (yeah, fucking right!) which belongs to one of the “peace churches”. I am also now the designated first-aider. A day with St John sorted that. I sat next to a brace of lasses from the Hallé Orchestra. They were first-aiding because they did the away-days for kids from rough parts of Manchester. So first question our teacher asks is, “What risks do you think you have in your work?”. when it comes round to my table the first to respond is an Irish fella who looks like Hugh Grant who works in a solicitor’s office. He is in fact a solicitor. He is a bit stumped until I suggest “cardiac arrest upon seeing the bill”. That broke the ice! Anyway the two orchestral lasses… Well, one of them piped-up, “We work with poor teenagers from Manchester… So anything really”. As Josey Wales put it, “Reckon so”.

Anyway, and this is in a sense a response to RAB’s most excellent post just below. Kids. Kids eh? Kids! I am 37 and unbelievably childish but I got nowt on da kids. The children really are childish.I know they can’t help it and I only annoy myself when it is adults who believe utter wank. But for every tosser who studied the Mystery of Art in Fife there is a Nick and there is RAB – Physics and Law, Nottingham. That is a terrifying combo.

But to riff on what RAB said over a rather cheeky Merlot and a fag… Well a couple of weekends ago these disgustingly middle-class kids were driven in their C-Maxs here for the “children’s meeting” and all Hell let loose in the grounds and it is me that has to ensure these bundles of joy go home in approximately one piece. This is harder than you might think. You have to delete the natural “fucks” from the discourse for a start. Not least because “Don’t go in the fucking river” is both morally wrong and right. But even if it was right it wouldn’t work. What would work is if I took my pants down in front of the lads and lasses and asked them to look at the scar on my inner thigh… It’s kinda special and the sort of thing kids love. I was extremely lucky. That was a whisker away from my femoral artery. What else a rusty iron L-piece was close to (at 9.81m/s/s) doesn’t bear thinking about. Though I’d be seen as some sort of fiddler.

Nah… Da kids…
The kids loved it. They played in the garden and one of the lads said, “We’re building a prison for the girls from bamboo” (what I had cleared). Yes, dear readers, it was fucking Tenko on my watch. So this is a peace church and these are the most middle-class kids in Cheshire. And they are still little bastards.

Makes me proud to be English. Not even “peace churches” can stop the viiolence.

The Future is the Past.

On this day fifty years ago Yuri Gargarin slipped these surly bonds…

Fifty years ago…

It’s like black and white movies of the Battle of the Somme because it is history now. It is something that happened and mattered but not something that is still happening.

Fifty years ago.

Around that time my teenaged Dad was watching a band he rather liked called The Silver Beatles at a dingy gaff called “The Cavern Club” in Liverpool playing covers of American songs. And yes, the cloakroom attendant was a Miss Priscilla White.

We still had the death penalty, homosexuality was illegal, we still had shillings and such. Kilograms were just something mysterious and filthy the French did. Flying to America was a big deal and not something almost everyone can now afford. Wearing a black polo-neck jumper and saying, “That’s cool daddio” after reciting terrible beatnik poetry was, well, cool and could get you laid rather than beaten which is what should have been the case.

My wife once tried to explain to her teenage cousin Pong. He didn’t get it. It was a world away from his Sony PSP. A friend of mine has just had a kid (couple of months ago). How, ten years from now, could I explain Halo to him? Luke will grow up in world where all TVs are panels and have a thousand channels. I recall them with tubes and the start of C4 being a big deal. I also recall as a young kid watching in black & white which is a concept which will truly scare the kiddies. They just won’t believe it! Will they though believe that when my parents were half the age I am men went into space? Will they believe and see where it all went wrong? Will they see that technology is about more than how slim your phone is?

I don’t have any children (a cat is more than enough) but I’m 37 so I could easily have teenage kids of my own which means that Yuri’s excursion easily places that within the realm of teenagers of that time who are grandparents now.

So what happened? Where did it all go wrong (and why is there a Vauxhall Corsa in the drive and not a jet-pack in the cupboard?). Well, obviously there was the absurd dick-swinging contest that was the Cold War that accelerated in the wrong way such non-market driven space-silliness. Well, I say “silliness” but the glory of it is impossible to dispute.

But there is another way of looking at it…

Historians have worked out that from having a vague idea to first flight the Wright brothers spent $1000. I have seen a reconstruction of the Flyer in the Smithsonian in DC (they also have the watch with which the first controlled powered flight was timed). I have seen the command module of Apollo 11 there too. 66 years separates Kill Devil Hills from the Sea of Tranquillity. 50 years separates me from Gagarin and then what? My Tal-Mizar enables me to view the transits of the ISS but that is no further from me than London is. 50 or 66 – the difference is the age of a teenager who probably likes music their parents regard as cacophonous. As ever.

We have not gone any further than Orv, Will or Yuri. But there is hope. At roughly the same time the bicycle engineers from Ohio invented flight as we know it there was also Samuel Langley. He was director of the Smithsonian. And this is what he spent $50,000 of US government money on:

It was launched from a boat via a catapult that alone cost $10,000 (the Wrights launched from a rail made from wood from a local dealer that cost the eye-watering sum of $4! The Wright aircraft was spotted on the ground by the local life guards (it was December – who’s swimming?) and (amongst others) a “curious teenager” who happened by. Now if you think from the photo Samuel Langley’s ‘plane took an early bath you’d be right (not Wright). The “pilot” of the “aerodrome” had to be fished out of the Potomac.

Langley of course had the press out. That epic (but very expensive) non-event was photographed (and rightly mocked by the press). For the Wrights…

…this was the real thing

The first powered and controlled flight ever. Can you imagine the tale the “curious teenager” had to tell? There are many images that could be seen as defining the twentieth century but for me that is the one. We took off and where will it end? Nietzsche had earlier opined something like, “The railway, the electric telegraph are postulates for which the 1000 year conclusion has not been written”. Quite. Neither has flight, neither has space and does not that scare them? Oh, it’s safe enough when it is in the context of super-power confrontation which can be fitted into the political box but when it is about more…

Which to me it is. It is about everything.

Anyway, salute Gagarin! For that was magnificent.

Fifty years… wow!

Back in 1995 my tutor at Nottingham asked what I want to do after graduation. I wanted (and did get) a fully funded (yes, six places in the country, but then I was good) MSc in Astrophysics from London (QMC). Why? I was offerred a number of postgrad berths including one – at Nottingham – in – I’m not joshing – chocolate*. He used the phrase (he was into wave-guides) that astrophysics was the “engine room”. Oh, hell it is! It is the fire and the fire we must touch. Or we are nothing.

Yuri we salute you (even if we’ve been a bit tardy since)! And when (not if) I get my holiday home by the methane seas of Titan it’s gonna be umbrella drinks all round!

And there shall be attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

Because we are the dust of supernovae and we just need to go home.

*That included 3 grand a year in “consumable lab supplies” which I assume would have meant I was well set up for shagging any fat bird I might meet – in the East Midlands anyway – so that’s a lot. But no!

Are you ready…

… For the big day?

Not this nonsense…

Which is thoroughly “gay” but this…

…and this…

23/4/2011 – I shall be there with tacos and beer and the phone unplugged.

We will get to know what River Song is and who dies and if The Silence are as cool as The Weeping Angels.

Not long now. I so hope it is most excellent. It has to be…

A fez isn’t cool. I had many opportunities to buy one in Istanbul recently but didn’t*. I did though buy a hookah and that is cool. A Stella, my thoroughly Whovian wife, a toke, chilli and The Who… Now that is super cool. I can’t wait…

Turn it up! When that hits me anew there will be most definitely a fixed point. The only real destination TV in all spacetime.

*I have to source my smoking jacket first. Or at least dry-clean my velvet one (which has seen some very far from PG rated adventures I can tell you). Louche things just seem to happen to me with that…

It only cost a tenner too.

And I like louche. Louche is cool.

XL1

I’m no fan of hybrids but this is something else…

That is the VW XL1 diesel-electric hybrid and it does 313mpg!. Now that is something else. It’s only a two seater (but does have some luggage space) and it’s not too nippy (though 0-62mph in 11.9 isn’t exactly bad) but that’s just wow!

And I think it looks cool. It’s got scissor doors which aren’t just cool but in a British car park very useful. It’s kinda like cars of the future were supposed to look. Those nifty Krauts!

313mpg.

Apart from the flying obviously.

Ratcliffe Rats Found Guilty

The Kingsnorth Six got away with eco-terrorism aggravated trepass back in 2008 with a little help from professional eco-fascist James “Trains of Death” Hansen, Zach “Eco-mentalist” Goldsmith and a jury fooled into believing a not guilty verdict would save the planet. However, we’ve had two savage winters since then with worse to come. So what’s changed? Well quite a lot actually.

Place:  Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Notts.

Activists who planned to shut down the UK’s second largest power station have been found guilty of conspiring to commit aggravated trespass.

Apparently the bitter cold and spiralling energy costs has tempered Nottingham’s wellspring of twleve good men (and women) and true to the point they are no longer prepared to tolerate eco-fascist bullshit.  Well done them!

The 20 climate change protesters intended to invade the coal-fired station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire, their trial was told.  They were among more than 100 people arrested during a night-time raid at Iona School in Sneinton in April 2009.

Nottinghamshire’s finest actually performing the duty they are paid for.  Well done them!

During the trial, the jury was told the protesters aimed to disrupt the power station’s supply to the national grid by shutting it down for a week.

And did the protesters actually think about the far reaching consequences and hazards to public health and safety if they succeeded in disrupting the output of England’s second largest power station for an entire week?  Apart from not producing CO2 which has almost no effect on global warming anyway.

Did they fuck.

The defendants called expert witnesses, including a Nasa scientist, to argue their actions were necessary in the fight against climate change.

Because it worked for the Kingsnorth scumbags didn’t it.  Oh wait…

But the jury unanimously found the 14 men and six women guilty.

Because nothing focuses the mind against climate fuckwittery and spiralling fuel bills quite like freezing your arse off in one of the coldest winters in decades.

One of the defendants, Claire Whitney, said outside court: “Taking action on climate change is not an act of moral righteousness but one of self defence”.

No dear.  Locking eco-loons like you up is an act of self defence.  Oh crap…

The activists will be sentenced on Friday but the judge said he was not considering custodial sentences.

Well I’ll take consolation from the fact that ordinary people have shown they are finally seeing beyond the climate alarmist bollocks even if our elite remain stubbornly clueless and fucked in the head.  I wonder if the judge would have been so magnanimous had the eco-loons succeeded and people died or were injured as a result?

Cable Needle

This is surely going to irk certain “lightweight” people.

Whoever wrote the Thatcher cable was obviously paying attention.

Talking about lightweights, didn’t Cameron claim he would prefer to be a child of Thatcher rather than a son of Brown? This is the same creature who isn’t fit to buff Maggie’s handbag and he would have us believe he’s fit to be considered her heir-in-politico? How very dare he!

Don’t kid yourself Dave. You see, there is no way this side of the Big Bang you could ever be considered a child of Thatcher. That you are so totally the demon spawn of Heath the Lying Quisling Shitbag, on the other hand, I’m more than willing to believe.

What the papers didn’t say…

Something infinitely more newsworthy than the Wikileaks revelations that the Duke of Pork acts like a fat twat. While the media sticks a collective thumb up its own arse Katabasis pulls out a plum.

H/T GOT

Non-story of the century…

Prince William is to marry his girlfriend Kate Middleton in London next year in what will be the biggest Royal wedding since the prince’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, married in 1981.

So after several years together some bloke is marrying his girlfriend.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, called it “unadulterated good news”.

What an odd thing to say! Especially considering the Chuckles and Di car-crash. In Di’s case literally. But then iDave is a moron. Chuckles me old china. If you want the marriage to work don’t shag your mistress on the night before.

Anyway, I wish William and Kate happiness and hope it all goes well for them (and for the good of the nation his Dad chokes himself to death on a Duchy Originals pork pie) so we wind-up with a King and Queen that don’t want to make me study guillotine maintainance.

But I am not interested. Because essentially I’m not going to the stag do. Imagine that! I reckon Harry could lay on a splendid do for all. No, it’s not even that. William and Kate have been together for some time and essentially the story is “man and woman in long-term relationship get married”. It’s a shocka ain’t it! This is not dissing it. Indeed quite the reverse. It is fundamentally a reaction from me to the likes of the Chuckles and Diana farce. Princess Diana was in many ways a flawed individual but she was put through the wringer and still managed to raise two sons who seem decent types unlike the rest of the misfits parade of granola (nuts, fruits and flakes) that make up the Royal Family. It’s kinda weird. The Queen seems OK and Prince Phil is priceless. Her kids are mental but her grandchildren seem oddly fine. Not just Harry and William but the likes of Zara and Peter. I know the tabloids got their pantyhose tangled because Zara got a tongue stud and William and Kate had a bit of a falling out and Harry got pissed in nightclubs but all of that is disturbingly normal for the House of Windsor. Indeed the RFNG seem reasonable types.

And Chuckles and Diana was a farce. I watched it back in ’81. The thing about fairytales is they are fiction. What the Royal establishment did to a naive 19 year old virgin (as checked-out by the Royal Gynaecologist) who was not the sharpest pencil in the box was horrendous. An heir and a spare (and Harry is a Lone Ranger) and fuck-off so Chuckles can keep on doinking that hound Vanilla and talking to plants and selling hideously over-priced chutney and being a generalised twat about town is hideous.

No, this is different. Anyway, William and Kate, have a good one!

Australian Culture

there’s a bit of a debate going on at Samizdata about high and low culture and the like. So I thought I’d see what the Australians could contribute. I found this at The Appalling Strangeness. It’s Rolf Harris singing “I touch myself” by the DiVinyls. It knocks a concerto for car alarms by someone “challenging” into a cocked hat. This is culture. Enjoy!

Mother Goose updated

I read this about fifteen years ago, only once, and for some reason it came to mind yesterday. Remembering what it was about I was able to reconstruct it in only a couple of minutes thought, word perfect as it turned out:

Probable-Possible, my black hen
She lays eggs in the relative when
She doesn’t lay eggs in the positive now
Because she’s unable to postulate how.

Frederick Windsor

I now learn, thanks to the wonder of this interwebby thing, it is from The Space Childs Mother Goose. You think Franny Alexanders ideal and patronising cow of a teacher would approve of stretching children like this?

Here is another I knew, but had no idea it was from the book:

Flappity Floppity Flip
The mouse on the Mobius strip
The strip revolved, the mouse dissolved
in a chronodimensional skip!

I know what I’m buying myself for Christmas.

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