Monday, August 31, 2009

[so cal fires] firemen killed, evacuations continue

[late evening listening] it wasn't all rock 'n roll

Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich - annoyingly, they cut off the end of the song:

Tommy James and the Shondells - new version but quite good:

Moody Blues - yes:

Procol Harum - the best sound has the naffest vid, this is the best compromise:

Animals - difficult finding a vid with good sound or youtube not causing trouble:

[august bank holiday monday] overcast here

What did you do on this day today? Eat? Go to a garden? Nudge nudge, wink wink? Go swimming? Go to the beach? Blog? Prepare for the upcoming year? Sleep? Go for a walk? Have convivial company for an ale and a natter? Try to survive the street? Have a drink at the club?

[political compass] revisited

I just took the test again:

[monochrome monday] with a little help ...

[the great lie] now enshrined in british law

Women in same-sex relationships can now register both their names on the birth certificate of a child conceived as a result of fertility treatment. Female couples not in a civil partnership but receiving fertility treatment may also both be registered. The law change applies to female couples in England and Wales who were having fertility treatment on or after 6 April 2009.


I want the names, now, of all who conspired to get this mentally deficient piece of tosh in to law, those names to be put up in a public place to warn people whom to avoid dealing with in any future context.

It's Loretta all over again.

I'd like to examine the minds of people so into PC that they can ignore basic biological realities and try to create a destructive and dangerous society where Great Lies are able to be enshrined in the fabric of a nation and used to achieve who knows what, to the ultimate perversion of children no longer able to recognize fact from fantasy, truth from distortion.

This law is so wrong, so based on evil that it absolutely boggles the mind. It is, quite simply a lie for one partner to have her name on a birth certificate if she was not the parent. The state is acting here to condone an untruth on an official document, a document which requires, of the signees, that it is the truth to the best of their knowledge.

Here is how low society has now sunk.

[the making of myths] the devil's in the details

The spin and the lies of Nu-Labour are not just a strategy, there're a time-worn system and we'll judge the Tories against this when next May comes.

Many people have written on how no one accepts responsibility in politics and even in society anymore. There are no Nu-Labour scandals, in Nu-Labour eyes, simply because Brown doesn't accept that there can be guilt in relation to his administration.

Therefore, spin replaces what used to be calls for a Minister's resignation. The Profumo affair today would result in some guff about how the media is biased and how the current global economic crisis, caused by factors outside our control, has impinged on a fine Minister whose private life is his own, by the way.

Or something like that.

Integrity and decency have been devalued. They're talked about but they don't exist at Westminster to any great extent and genuine MPs get swamped by the others, the whole package being labelled shopsoiled. Is it the curate's egg, good in parts or is all rotten right through?

The real nature of human interaction

In any interface between human beings and between humans and pets, there is a struggle - a struggle for preeminence, the taking of the high moral ground, the acceptance of the projected image, the need to be seen as right, baggage from previous interactions, the carving out of a living space within which we're comfortable, the setting up of defensive mechanisms to protect what we've carved out and so on.

In even the most benign relationships, especially where love is in the equation, there is a power struggle going on and the interaction which works best is where each knows his or her place and doesn't buck the system. I'm not arguing for this but it is the actuality. Phillip McGraw, in his Lifelaw N8, said that there is no reality, only perception.

I think that there are some immutable realities. If someone says he was doing x and it is explained with backup, then it is likely that his intention was x, as stated. Another person's inability to accept that is his/her own problem. Through these sorts of things comes all the conflict in the world and the bottom line is, the reason why anyone carries on like this is - to get one's own way.

That's all it is and all it's ever been - you want it your way, I want it mine.

The trouble is:

1. not everyone recognizes this;
2. some like to alter the equation by imparting spin to the intereaction.

The art of spin

One of the commenters at this site quoted Adams - they care, we don't, they win.

A party dedicated to spin, to constructions placed on the public record, to obfuscation and sleight of hand is always going to initially defeat a victim whose focus is elsewhere.

In a relationship I fell into some years back, I learnt what spin really was and how dishonesty gets a toehold and then grows. In any relationship, one is the active partner, concerned with the fine detail and the analysis and the other is usually focussed on something else, for example the workplace, the current project, the bit on the side or the hobby e.g. the car restoration or whatever.

This latter person is naive because he or she [and I'll refer to it as "he" for convenience only] is being shafted and doesn't know it. There is a type of person, a spin-doctor who always has to be right, never wrong. One never hears of his mistakes, only of his triumphs. Any error which, in the light of his current circumstances, is too glaring to deny, is passed off lightly, heavily laden with spin.

Rule N1 - no one likes to admit guilt or error;

Rule N2 - if confronted with this, everyone has his way of acknowledging/moving on;

Rule N3 - any attempt by the victor to look away with a triumphant smile or insist the other acknowledge the error verbally will be met with anger on the part of the admittee and both become intransigent.

Rule N4 - never admit a wrong if you are not wrong, simply on the grounds of:

a. being outmanoeuvred;
b. being weak willed;
c. for the sake of peace;
d. because it is a storm in a teacup and you don't care anyway.

This last point, d, is the crucial one. From bitter experience in the workplace and at home, I've learnt that the moment you allow them or her to do a slide where a certain incident is seen in a certain erroneous way, that erroneous interpretation then:

1. goes down on the record uncontested;

2. contains only the spin of the other party;

3. is reintroduced later in conversation with third parties as a given fact, a given truth, when it is anything but;

4. is spun to others in a way which accords with other people's general perceptions of the one spoken of and though it is wrong, those hearing it are not sufficiently analytical nor care enough to delve into this truth or not and therefore nod on in agreement with the oh so plausible teller of the untruth and pass it on in the form of rumour, out of earshot of the accused.

This is the true evil of the slide and the actions of the person who likes to employ it. It's employed in marriages and relationships to gain the high moral ground, to exonerate the actions of the party of real guilt and to pyschologically defend that person from any taint of being seen to be in error.

Often it's one way.

When both do it, then there is a volatile relationship which cannot last.

Where one employs it and the other refuses to play along, then there is also the end of the relationship.

This was so with someone I was once in a relationship with, some years back. The difference was that forewarned is forearmed and my antennae, honed by blocking a former spin-doctor I'd known prior to that, now picked it up straight away and blocked the spin.

It was a very minor point - that I had not supported her sufficiently in an argument she was having with a friend. If I had said nothing because it was uninteresting to me and it was uninteresting, truly, then the assumption, very subtly put: "You don't support me sufficiently [general rule]," had had its first piece of uncontested evidence placed next to it.

It was now a fait accompli and next time this distortion was used, the gameplayer could point to the previous evidence of the "the type of thing you do".

Stratagems and spoils

If you are awake to these sorts of people, you are still not out of the woods because then you get this:

1. The same spin is reintroduced patiently at a later time, often carefully reworded and usually timed to perfection, when you are either incapable, through illness or about to do something or when your mind is focussed on something else. The whole aim is to get the tacit acceptance established - and lack of fighting from your corner is tantamount, in this person's mind, to admission. It will do for now.

2. If the assertion is blocked this time, then the asserter drops it for now and plans to reintroduce it later. It's part of the gameplan that the admission must be made. This is Irish Lisbon 2 in a nutshell. Wrong result, try again and again and again until you wear them down.

3. If the untruth is blocked at every attempt by you, then the gameplayer has a problem. The next strategy he uses is to assert the exact opposite of the truth, in such a plausible "we're men of the world" manner that the Lie, [for that's what it amounts to], finally attaches itself and once attached, it can't be erased.

4. There is a whole panoply of strategies and this person is now so far down the line into stratagems and spoils that actually having a life does not occur to him and being focussed on something healthy is so far in the past that this Gollum can't go back [although Gollum did re-emerge as Smeagol for a time].

5. The penultimate stratagem is, if all the aforementioned fails to attach the Lie to the teflon accusee, to press others into the service of the Lie, to "Jim Jones" a bunch of women or men and weave the web of charm to the point where they'll go off and do the dirty work for him, often with scant knowledge of the truth but with assertions of long time acquaintance and therefore knowledge of the truth. It's pure propaganda.

6. The final stratagem, if the Lie still fails to stick and in 99% of cases, it does attach itself, through sheer persistence and through other's weariness with the whole issue so that they throw up their hands and say, "Whatever you want," then there is only one option left - destroy!

They go back, patiently, through everything that person has said or written, comb it for possibly negative connotations which can be placed on an out-of-context quote or whatever and slowly construct a snow job on that person, being careful to only suggest that which most are willing to believe, that belief emerging from their careful, subtle email or phone campaign of drip, drip, drip of poison over the months and years, until something is now accepted as lore which, in fact, had no original basis at all.

In summary, you are dealing here with a psychopath, a person who might not even know his spin is spin but probably really believes it is the truth, just as a method actor does because to believe it is the truth is the only possible hope of plausibly persuading others.

What an honest person would do

The premium you, yourself, place on the truth has nothing to do with how good you are at methods of propaganda or how plausible you come across as and it often can't stand up against good spin.

Any salesman can be plausible.

If there is a difference of opinion, if both sides are honest, then each puts his point of view, hears the reply, corrects the errors as far as he sees them, has his errors corrected in turn and the process goes on for a week, a month, after which it is over. Both perceptions sit on the record and people can then make their own mind up by reading one then the other.

The honest person, even if he drags it up months later at a gettogether, says something like, "John's not going to agree with me here but ..." That's the honest way because it acknowledges that there is another point of view.

When there actually is only one truth

Sometimes though, one side is simply not honest and why this is particularly dangerous is because most people believe that there have to be two sides to every story, that where there's smoke there's fire and that everyone conceals something.

When something comes along which actually is one-sided, it is not not accepted as possible.

If you, yourself, are meticulous with the truth, if your method is to assert, be attacked, go back and review what you said, retest the links, assert again, be attacked, repeat the process, always on the basis that you might have made an error [because everyone does and noone's infallible], then when you come up agaisnt a truth-slider such as described above, it is well-nigh impossible to have your attitude of integrity and his attitude of non-integrity seen for what it is.

Everyone will want to balance up the two sides by saying you might be in error a bit and the asserter may just have something there, when it is really not so. The self-actualizing process in most people's minds, especially those hearing something and not really engaged with the issue, is to balance both sides more or less evenly. Anything which hits buzz word triggers reinforces in people's minds that what the speaker is saying "rings true", when in fact, it might not be so.

Goebbel's vilification of the Jews followed just such a pattern.

What to do

Unjust as it may seem, the only real option is to get out of that situation with those people but to carry on with your own life and your own responsibilities.

The forces arrayed against you are so far down the track that no one is going to either be interested in the truth, if it doesn't relate personally to them or they're not going to think it out with any clarity. Most people just haven't he time.

This is what the gameplayer and spin-doctor is banking on.

If your side of the issue is on paper and his side is on paper, then that's the best you can hope for, in terms of the actuality. Your own psychological state now comes into it, your own mental health.

Staying sane

You have responsibilities, maybe to your family, maybe to your department or to your firm. You have to be in good condition to face that each day and getting dragged down into slanging matches, slurs and spin is the ultimate destroyer. You have to say, if necessary over and over, "I've had my say, it's on the record, take it or leave it."

You have to protect your life and your health in the end. Phillip McGraw's Lifelaw N9:

Lifelaw 9 - There is power in forgiveness.

If someone hurts us, either that person never knows he’s hurt us or else he just goes away and leaves us to suffer.

Where once we were going along happily, now someone has made us angry, depressed and seeking revenge. This then makes us bitter.

Does this person pay for his crime against us? No way. Do we pay for his crime? Yes, every time, through loss of balance, loss of mood and loss of health. In the end, he wins and we lose.

Only we should choose how we feel. Forgiveness is the way to say:

"Nobody is going to hurt me and control my feelings, even in his absence. I make the choice whether to be hurt or not. In the end, he is the unfortunate one, not me."

By rethinking the meaning of forgiveness, we can become emotionally freer, calmer and generally a more pleasant person. Power over oneself is the key to a calmer, more balanced life.

One aspect of this power over oneself is to block any attempt to slip a piece of spin over you, no matter how seemingly innocuous, no matter how much you care for that person, no matter how unimportant it might seem.

To fail to do that right form the start is to teach the other what works and what doesn't work. It's the road to destruction, the thin edge of the wedge, whatever metaphor you care to employ. We must not allow the Nu-Labour spin to stand as the actuality, we must patiently show, in our blogs, the way it really is. Then, anyone form outside who comes in can read your side and the spin-doctors' side and make his or her own decision.

Here endeth the sermon.

[so cal fires] why isn't anyone covering them

It's amazing that Google News, the American news service, did not carry the Southern Californian forest fires but things are pretty grim down that way. One correspondent got a message out to yours truly:

We had ash falling all day yesterday. The wind has shifted so it's not so bad at the moment. We're on stand by to help evacuate horses from friends' ranches. so have had to do the dog shuffle.

The LA Times says:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today urged residents in fire evacuation zones to flee as firefighters predicted another difficult day battling a wildfire that has burned 35,000 acres and threatened more than 12,000 homes from Acton to Altadena.

With temperatures expected to reach the mid- to high 90s today in the fire areas, officials said they were anticipating extreme fire conditions, mirroring Saturday’s, when flames leapt as high as 80 feet and spread at a rate of about 2.5 miles an hour.

Now, with that sort of action going on, where is the world press? Where is the British press? Where is anyone?

You can keep updated on the current fire situation at this site and on the extent of the damage here. I emailed a friend I know from a distance away and this was the report I got back:

The whole Mountain was on fire! It was incredible! All the clouds in the pics are smoke only. The sun had already set, and the moon (in the pics) was giving us light. As it got darker, splotches of red, and the glow of red increased on the horizon of where the mountains are. We were only just able to get into the area that we were, as it was starting to be evacuated.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

[late evening listening] dearieme presents bix

This is beginning to become quite a feature now, this 8 p.m. music spot and I, for one, am enjoying it immensely.

I had a collection of Bix, along with Jellyroll Morton and others, some from original pressings and anywhere I went, people wanted copies. Gone now, all gone. The tape was filled out with pieces from the Palm Court Theatre Orchestra and a jazz orchestra doing teens, 20s and 30s stuff in the 80s, when it had fallen out of fashion. Can anyone remind me of the name of this British jazz orchestra? Like the Palm Court but just can't recall the name.

Dorsey's clarinet was superb in Singin' the Blues and I get a picture of Dearieme's penchant for the purity of the instrument. I quite like the frenetic harmonies too and here's the one which did it for Bix Beiderbecke - this is the best clip I could find:

Where there's jazz, in my book, there have to be the wimmin, Dearieme, we might differ on this, I don't know. Anyway, here are some of them wimmin:

Jellyroll Morton is not a purist in some eyes but he ushered in the modern era and yet some of his material is quite old. This is from 1905 [original tune]:

Obviously we can't see a recital from those days but here's a quite a fun modern rendition of Tiger Rag:

Late addition by Dearieme - better it goes here, as it will be some days before we go jazz again:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?

Tom Paine, of The Last Ditch, Top 100 blogger, returns after a too lengthy absence with a piece which stirs the soul. Dearieme's late evening music, coming up at 8 p.m. would seem to complement this post as well:

My first "favourite thing" was a toy Mercedes “gullwing.” My father still has it, restored and in a display box with my other childhood motors. If you would like a real one, Bernie Ecclestone’s old one (pictured) is currently for sale. Here’s the link.

A car is more than transport. It’s both a symbol and an instrument of freedom. When I fire mine up and the computer tells me my range, I like to consider not only where I am going, but all the places I could go. All without having to tell anyone else, hang around in a public place at the convenience of others, or trust a stranger with my life.

The car is to the train as John Stuart Mill is to Marx. Though I fondly remember my childhood train set and a steam-powered trip to the seaside with my late grandmother, I hate trains as much as I love cars. I hate the lowest common denominator experience, where all must live for a while the life of the nastiest person in the carriage. I hate the higher cost and greater inflexibility; all with a car still necessary at either end to make the whole farce possible.

The forerunner of another favourite thing of mine was a Tissot watch my father gave me as a teenager. It was an old one of his, which he replaced with an Omega. It lasted until my train-using grandmother bought a new one for my 18th birthday.

While I love technology and hate nostalgia, I still prefer a mechanical watch to more accurate electronic types and now have a small collection. The best I have is a “Grand Complication” that took Patek Philippe's craftsmen months to make. There are models that take four and a half years, apparently! It doesn’t tell time as well as the sturdier one I wear on my holidays (so I can swim) or even a cheap quartz one, but it is a delightful object. It has proved a better store of value than more “sensible” investments and is an heirloom for my yet-to-be-born (no pressure, Misses Paine) grandson.

I wore it every day for the first year I had it, but now reserve it for “Sunday best.” I see it every day I am at home and confess it and its companions give more pleasure than is quite proper.

An artist will know and care about brushes and canvasses so it’s not surprising that a writer (however humble) should care about pens and stationery. Not that I go crazy buying pens any more. Like umbrellas, more are lost than are ever worn out. I have put many fine pens into circulation that way and can only hope they are appreciated, somewhere. I like to have an attractive one to look at while pondering what to write. My interest in stationery makes little sense when most of my writing is pixellated. Still, I can’t pass a quality stationers without looking around and am ridiculously tempted by high quality paper for which I have little use. Even my nice pens are mostly used for marginal notes and corrections on the writing of others.

I left books until last, but they were first. I have an intense working life, am studying a new language and now spend online much of the spare time I used to reserve for books. As I type, there is a reproachful pile of improving literature on a windowsill crying “hypocrite” at me. Yet everything good about my life flows from my boyhood reading.

I was not a great student, but I will claim this. I never took my teachers at their word. I strongly believe no pupil was ever meant to do so.

I went to a series of mediocre state schools with Labour-voting teachers and a Redbrick University where the only openly right-wing lecturer was so eccentric, ugly and ill-dressed that he might as well have been engineered to discredit his thought. The teachers and lecturers mostly didn’t tell us how they voted, but they didn’t need to. The conventional thinking of the Left underlay their every utterance.

If it were not for the town library and the relatives I gently conditioned to regard books as appropriate gifts, how else could I have checked my teachers’ opinions? How else could I have found another view? Not that I knew what I was setting out to find. I expected my reading to explain why my teachers were right, but that’s another matter. Reading is a road, not a destination.

I don’t buy as many books as I used to. Mrs Paine is a voracious reader of modern literature and does most of the buying. She has led me out of the dusty classics I reared myself on and into the modern world. As is always the problem with reading moderns (the bad authors of past ages are out of print) she is disappointed with much of what she reads. She kindly passes on only the good stuff to me.

I therefore only buy books these days in the form of well-crafted objects to treasure. The literary iPod seems close now, but when my daughters’ everyday reading is electronic, I still want them to have beautiful books as the literary equivalent of my mechanical wrist-watches.

I was delighted to find a first edition of Middlemarch for one of Miss Paine the Elder’s birthdays. In a few years, she will have her whole library with her at all times just as I have all my music with me now. Still, I hope that copy of her favourite novel, in the form George Eliot herself imagined, will catch her eye from time to time and make her smile.

Isn't that what “favourite things” are all about?

[Guest blogger, Tom Paine, usually lives at The Last Ditch]

[good old boat] woody and pleasing to the eye

This is a reply to the post on favourite things by Tom Paine:

It wouldn't hold a candle to today's plastic fantastics, speedwise but this 20 foot wooden catamaran was designed by the father of Australian catamaraning, Charlie Cunningham, a man I was priviliged to meet shortly before his death [no comments please].

In that one afternoon in his enlarged garage, with the Little America's Cup winning Quest in straps hanging from the roof above us, he taught me the principle of design, of buoyancy and centre of effort, of rocker and freeboard.

And who was I? A nobody except that I was building a B class at the time and wanted to know a couple of things, certainly not all I learnt that day. This was the nature of a purist who loved his field and was willing to to share on it. I'll never forget that afternoon and I actually ended up with a B2, for those it means something to.

It's not nostalgia. Surely it's just a love of pleasing lines and natural materials which makes me determine, with approaching age, that I'd never have anything but a wooden boat with either a gaff rig or something else traditional, most certainly with golden spars and tanbark sails.

Graham Chapman summed it up for me:

[garden quiz] try these three

Simple - identify the name of the famous garden:

1. From Russia with Love

2. From Wales

3. From Iran


Peterhof, Powis Castle, Golshan garden

[fine machinery] inspires confidence

[blogging returnees] four of late

Damon is back, this time in harness. Pop over and congratulate them both. So is Jams back, but not as a Blind Owl. L'Ombre is also back with a couple of posts, including his inimitable Olive Tree blogging. Tim Worstall you're already aware has returned. As others return, I'll post on them.

Some nice things coming up this evening at 19:18 [quite exciting for me] and 20:00 [sweet delight] respectively.

[brownadder] and the new spacebook

If you like your satire dry, you could do worse than this series:

Brownadder the Second Rate
by Bill Quango

Still chuckling.

Meanwhile, in tech news, Angus has this up ... no, let me start again ... Angus has posted this on the Spacebook, among other things:

The dual-screen laptop is aimed at professional video editors, photographers and designers who need to flick between different applications to carry out their work.

But anyone willing to meet the expected $3,000 (£1,835) price tag should be warned that the double screen is likely to push the weight of the Spacebook significantly above standard laptops.

Well, for a start, I'd hardly classify myself as an IT professional and yet such a thing would be more than useful - even the 17 inch Mac is constricted for the things I wish to do on it [no quips, please] and the price tag of the Spacebook is hardly one that a Mac buyer would balk at. I say well done and I, for one, will be looking at this idea.

[tom cruise] rumour magnet but possibly just awkward and shy

This is one of those "much better than I could ever write" pieces so I'm lifting it, holus-bolus, from the Age:

Has any star ever been the subject of more rumour-mongering than Tom Cruise? According to a multitude of new and old allegations: he's gay; he's impotent; his sperm count is too low to father a child; his first marriage, to actress Mimi Rogers, disintegrated under the pressure of her sexual frustration; his second wife, Nicole Kidman, left him on the expiry of her 10-year marriage contract with him; Mrs Cruise III, Katie Holmes, is also under contract but with the added proviso of falling pregnant to him; their child, Suri Cruise, is not his and her actual biological father is either actor Chris Klein or deceased Scientology founder, L Ron Hubbard, via frozen sperm; while his adopted children were purchased from impoverished Scientology adherents.

Tom Cruise has died at least once - most recently last year, when he fell to his death in notorious celebrity danger zone New Zealand; he's demonstrated his genius for typecasting by giving Victoria Beckham the role of an alien princess in a film about Scientology; he's built a bunker in Colorado in which to shelter from the wrath of intergalactic warrior Xenu; and most enduringly, he's said to be hopelessly devoted to alleged fellow Scientologist Will Smith, from which the need for contract wives arises. Will Smith has publicly defended Tom Cruise and his faith but denies membership in the church of Scientology.

In fact, there is not a shred of evidence to support any of these stories and most have been either retracted when legally tested or disproved by the conflicting accounts of informed witnesses. Yet, they persist. Mud sticks, as they say, but in Tom Cruise's case, it seems that no amount of PR detergent can cleanse his public image. But why?

What is about him that leads people to believe and propagate such unlikely tales?

I'd put in, first and foremost, that his name, Cruise, is an immediate turn-off, a fabricated Mr. Cool name, even though there is the pesky little matter of it actually happening to be his real name.

He is a short-a--e, let's face it, a small man in manner, much smaller even than me and I'm not big. This does not endear. Look at Dustin Hoffman and then look at Danny de Vito. The difference is that the former tries to come across as Mr. Cool and can't pull it off. De Vito has none of that baggage and even parodies himself, so we can like him more.

Cruise has this thing about being taken oh so seriously and he can't do it. He also has these annoying habits like his pushing of his faith, [I'm ever mindful of my own position here], his bouncing on the sofa like a kid, the way he screws up his face but the intolerance also rankles, such as when he allegedly told a clearly mocking interviewer, on the subject of scientiology, "Fuck you!" Now that doesn't seem too Christian in most eyes although I've been known to use a few expletives in conversation with my mate and still believe in G-d.

It rankles with the public though.

Andrew Morton, makes the point that in 1996, Tom Cruise became the first actor to star in five consecutive films grossing over $US100 million at the American box office. His career is commercially unrivalled and over the years he's slowly but surely won over the critics as well - with one famous exception.

Pauline Kael, the New Yorker's now deceased, but still influential film critic, had no time for Cruise's dynamically intense screen presence. She panned his acting style as "patented" complaining that it "produces nothing but fraudulence".

Is he a good actor? I don't know. I think he is - he was excellent and even chilling in Interview with the Vampire, a film which also showcased Brad Pitt's considerable talent as an actor. Whatever one might personally feel about the two of them, perhaps you might concede that they can both act.

So what's the problem? Why should we be concerned at all about Tom Kat? Is it jealousy of his success? I don't think so. Most of the people I've ever conversed with on the issue are just worried that there's something wrong about him, something implausible. I feel well-qualified to write about this because there are many who think the same about me - that there are always question marks next to my name. Do I contrive to create this? I can say no but it happens nonetheless.

Perhaps in this is the key to Tom Cruise. So we get this:

As Morton describes it, "Those who have interviewed him and even audited him have come away from an encounter feeling that they have been subjected to a performance rather than a personality." This sentiment is echoed by Ariel Leve in The Sunday Times where she writes that in interviews Cruise "engages but at the same time is disengaged". A less charitable assessment quoted by Morton comes from an unnamed former colleague who sums up Cruise's persona as being "bland as tofu but without the flavour".

Similarly, I had a headmaster once sit me down in his living room and ask me, "I want to know what really makes James Higham tick." I couldn't tell him. It's not that I wouldn't - I couldn't. In my case, it's a deeply ingrained sense of privacy which leads to a sort of putting on of an act to keep people at bay. People always suspect someone [other than them] who want their privacy so much that their defensive mechanisms are too smooth.

Is this the case with Tom Cruise? He certainly allows quite a bit to escape to the public and the public don't like what they see. So he goes back into his shell and then he's accused of not being real. The man can't seem to win. He just seems awkward, to me, with some kooky ideas and each time he interfaces with the real world, he gets kicked, so he goes back into the shell of his private world, only coming out through his art.

Look, has anyone considered that Cruise is basically shy? Shy people have a hell of a time. I should know because I'm shy and please don't guffaw and spill your coffee at that.

Andrew Morton [concludes]: "What you see is not what you get". In Morton's view, Cruise's winning smile and buoyant charisma masks an "edgy, threatening, and even sinister" personality whose greatest challenge is playing himself.

That's surely the long and the short of it, isn't it?

To me, there are two kinds of secretive people - those with a Real Secret or Twenty to conceal and those who imagine they have but simply haven't, nothing really bad anyway. The former tend to be oily and in control but very brittle when threatened, the latter tend to be charming but honest ... in control and very brittle when threatened. How to tell them apart?


Tom Cruise comes across, to me, as the latter type. All right, he might have some tax issues, he might not. There doesn't seem too much else he could be up to unless he's a Manchurian Candidate or an alleged Illuminati trainer like, say, Kristofferson or Jerry Lee Lewis or allegedly one of Them like Bob Hope. I'd imagine it would be hard for an intense, shy man to also be an action hero to one half of the populace. Hard to combine the two, you would think.

[olympics] the new fahrenheit 451

This is actually a worry and alarm bells are ringing:

Martha Lane Fox has told the BBC, as the government's new Digital Champion charged with getting millions online who are not yet connected to the internet, that she wanted a "virtual race" to coincide with preparations for the 2012 Olympics.

There are so many things about it. Firstly, she is precisely that type of Blair Babe, the right age [meaning too young to be making policy moves which affect out lives], idealistic, talented, ambitious, undereducated [by definition if she went through the PC indoctrinating school system of the last 30 years] and yet conformist and starry eyed at being "selected" by the big boys - precisely the type of "nice" person one meets all over New Britain and whom ageing men in power [as I formerly was] are wont to promote and part and parcel of the "anything new must be good with govspeak attached to it" and let's all suddenly get on on the internet and support this worthy cause and this lovely young lady.

Except that the reasons the government wants us all online I don't buy in the least and the Olympics are just as much a smokescreen as 7/7 and will usher in draconian measures in crowd control and legitimize the CCTVing and control freak measures they wanted in in the first place. It happened in Australia two years ago, behind a smokescreen and this is a tried and tested technique. There is much precedent.

I've often wondered how, when everything is pointing to command and control in this society, that we, the bloggers, can get away with the most outrageous statements and no one seems to mind, even if we are monitored. It is so opposite to all the other moves out there that I've long suspected what the game plan has in mind, vis-s-vis us.

This statement through the innocuous enthusiasm of a young lady gives an inkling of big brother - millions on line by 2012 who have not been on before.


[winnie the pooh] crosses the cultural divide

It's good to go to official sites from time to time to get the official line. One such site is Dipnote, the U.S. State Department blog, which made a plea to be given a chance when it first began:

Granted, we're new at this, but just ask that you give the blog a chance. It's an open forum where you can actually discuss foreign policy issues with State Department officials and fellow bloggers. The question of the week this week is "What will life in Cuba be like after Castro?"

To be fair, that site has done well and is more a National Geographic of the blogosphere now. Where it gets interesting and sometimes amusing is the totalitarian sites, such as the Chinese Government's site, where the spin on such people as the Dalai Lama is interesting to read, given that the world knows the Chinese government's attitude already.

Thus we have "more than ten political organizations protesting the visit of the Dalai Lama to Taiwan" and so on. Today's nifty little vid is the Chinese government spokesperson explaining to us about the Winnie the Pooh production "very popular with children and even some adults".

"The famous cuddly bear is regarded as one of the most lovable, honest and friendly cartoon characters", presumably The Three Virtues of Character to which all should aspire. Listening to Winnie deliver his lines in Mandarin, [correct me if I have the language wrong here], is an education in itself. "In the show, he gives good advice to the youngsters, about eating healthy food like honey ... and doing exercises every day."

There is then an interview with a technician about the new technology and you can see this in the wonky Chinatube called, believe it or not "CCTV". Do they see anything ironic in that? I suppose one can be too cynical, a relic of the decadent west and not one of The Three Virtues of Character - to look at the Chinese children's faces of wonder and even bewilderment, one should be ashamed of one's bemusement, if one were so inclined, as one ought to be.

A cute interview follows with one of the tots:

The wholesome information the performance conveys impresses not only the children, but also their parents.

"I love Piglet, who do you like?"

"I love Piglet too!"

"Besides Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore is my favorite too. The lovely donkey. And you?"


This was the sort of thing I was involved with in Russia and my task was to lift the dialogue and dissertations out of the cultural context of the host and into the idiom of English.

They are the most dedicated people in trying to be authentic and not to be held up to ridicule and I imagine the Chinese would be the same. Once, when I could barely conceal a smile at the way one girl had expressed herself, she asked me, point blank, what she had said wrong and the last thing I wanted to be was patronizing because her English was excellent and my Russian only rudimentary, so I knew my place.

I said that the way she'd spoken it, with those Russian mannerisms and the slightest of accents, was actually delightful to English ears.

"No, no," she was horrified, "I want to do it correctly."

"It was correct, perfectly correct but even the things you chose to speak on and your mannerisms were quite Russian in nature. As for your accent, in Britain, it would be very highly regarded, especially by the boys." Then I explained one of the reasons Anne Boleyn had been such a hit at the English court. She wasn't satisfied though and wanted to be "perfect".

So it was not to mock the parents, teachers and children that I wrote as I did above - it's a very rewarding field and a win-win situation.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

[argentinian bloggette] do they know about hat tipping in buenos aires

Argentinian bloggette ** Superchic has this:

A continuación copio el resultado de una encuesta que se realizó en un blog ( no argentino) sobre algunas mujeres over 40. Por favor, leer bien la lista, miren quien aparece con 2 votos!

That's rather interesting because I seem to recall this post as well on sexiest women over 43. Should I be flattered or flattened?

** Cherie reports virus alert for the Superchic site, so I've removed the link.

[late evening listening] arranging life in its correct order

Women make us men look really shallow and they always occupy the high moral ground. We don't arrange it all in our minds the way they do. We don't dwell on every aspect, prioritizing them and reordering them in response to any new nuance. Women read things into our actions which are simply not there, they hear things in our intonation and in our little pregnant silences which speak volumes to them but not to us.

I always feel so inferior talking with a woman because she watches you and takes in every gesture, every hesitation. Don't get me wrong, I can think, I can feel, I can express my feelings but I don't think things through to the nth degree like women. I'm more likely to say, "Right, do we have an agreement then?" and she'll reply, "What did you mean by looking that way when you asked, 'Do we have an agreement then?'?"

They don't care more than us or less than us - we care long after it's over and they've moved on but they are more intense when together. We're more intense when we're away from them, if we love them. We can paint pictures with words and caress them with them and we can gaze at them intensely so that they blush but they know better if we mean it or not.

This is more like us:

[silent saturday] what lurks

[early evening overture] kiss and don't tell

You know, they're not too bad after all and that Paul Stanley - wow:

[saturday country quiz] bumper edition

We haven't had a country quiz for a long while. Try these:

1. In the north is the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert, the Mapuche played a major part in its history, politically unstable, Nixon sent operatives in there, people suffered under the Caravan of Death, one of the widest income disparities in the world.

2. At one stage some 17,000 sq mi (44,030 sq km), after unification it became greatly reduced, it's a sacerdotal-elective-monarchical state, used to have a Quartermaster General and Master of the Horse and has the oldest active continuous diplomatic service in the world, dating back to at least AD 325.

3. Not now a country in its own right, it began with the establishment of Deira, 547AD though being more appropriate as the year of establishment, when Bernicia was brought in it became a kingdom, in 627AD, the King became a Christian through Paulinus.

4. Was there ever a country so abused by all? One of the world's oldest civilizations, it once included Mount Ararat, conquered by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Russians, there ahve been pogroms aplenty.

5. First inhabited by aborigines of Malayan descent, an island state, in 1999 its feisty neighbour conducted submarine warfare exercises and missile tests near the island, it joined the World Trade Organization in Jan. 2002.

6. Sitting on a fault line, most of the people live in the 7% of the island that is made up of fertile coastland, the Kalmar Union altered its sovereignty in 1397, it had the first female head of state and is known for the beauty of its women whose surnames end in dottir.

7. Dependent on the river running up its centre, one of the most famous nations on earth, the red land was always vital, it has the Khamaseen wind which blows from the south in spring, bringing sand and dust.


Chile, Vatican City, Northumbria [Northumberland scores you zero points], Armenia, Taiwan, Iceland, Egypt

[promiscuity] results in lower fertility

Apparently, Austrian males are the worst. Get over there, girls, if you want some disease.

Oh yes - like this one very much. Vox reports that Promiscuous women are less fit:

Less fit by the standards of natural selection, anyhow:

The following table shows the average number of children women have birthed by the number of male sexual partners they have had since the age of 18*. Like men, women who have had only one partner are the most fecund.

Whereas monogamous women who have only had one lifetime partner averages 2.29 children, the average US woman with nine partners averages 1.46 children.

Read it all.

Multiple partners say so much about the person doing it. Impaired social and emotional development, inability to take responsibility - it goes on.

Just to finish, I couldn't go past this headline:

Megan Fox Would Rather Kiss Girls

I don't know this Megan Fox from Eve but I can't fault her reasoning - I'd rather kiss girls too. By the way, any idea how I came across that news item? I was googling a certain group with a view to putting up a youtube for someone. Trouble is, I don't like the music. I'll try Iggy Pop.

[drink wine] and stay happier longer

A number of bloggers have covered this one about teetotallers being more stressed out than drinkers. As a Christian, my attitude is this, 1 Timothy 5:23:

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

If it's good enough for Timothy, if Jesus turned water into wine and He drank it at the Last Supper, then it's good enough for me. Plus, the efficacy of wine is just not disputed. All that cancer talk is more than offset by the benefits. No argument from this blog.

[protection] how nanny should we get

Hope it's like this, this year

It might be very difficult to get you interested in this one because 1. it's about sport 2. it's about a sport which not many are interested in.

The issue though transcends any particular country and game and if it had been gridiron or gaelic football, it wouldn't matter. Actually, it's about the Australian game and the second last round of the home and away season. Basically, a player gave an almighty hip and shoulder bump to another and produced an injury. I'm not sure. Maybe he didn't produce an injury but could have.

Either way, he was reported and had to front the tribunal, where he was suspended, which meant, as a star, in missing the crucial last game of the season, the side would go in undermanned. Guess what? They lost. Hence the angst and ire over the rule.

What it comes down to is that the Australian game, traditionally, was always a very physical game, with no padding and so there were injuries. In the nanny state and matriarchal upbringing of kids these days, the authorities determined that the players required protection and so to bump another player high, even if a total accident, is illegal and carries a penalty.

In the outcry over the making of the game into a girly or sissy sport, something, by the way, that if enough people were angry about, would affect gate takings and the AFL would have to look at it - in this, the AFL supremo, Andrew Demetriou, said:

''The fact of the matter is that the rule was considered two years ago and it was on the basis of medical experts and we've made absolutely no apologies for protecting the head because we don't want head injuries,'' Demetriou told Fairfax radio. ''People can bang on about the game's lost the bump … it's complete nonsense. We've had, in two years on our medical survey, the lowest neck and head injuries we've ever had and if that's the by-product of this, so be it.''

I like Andrew Demetriou and a political tract he wrote some years back was good, solid common sense. I don't know how he's been in his job downunder. Also, that team which has now been knocked out of the playoffs [finals] was the one which took the flag from my team last year and yet the principle must transcend this.

Like the gladiatorial contests of old, people want biffo, they want head-to-head contests up and down the ground, champion on champion, they want grunt and solid clashes. Sure they want skill as well but a bit of biffo never hurt anyone [much]. This is the rugby player in me speaking.

On the other hand - head injuries are another thing, as you know. I hope the debate doesn't split down gender lines, with mothers on one side and the lads on the other. Personally, I'm nearly in the middle on this, though more to the male side.

[round the world attempt] thirteen years old

The Beeb is coming out with very interesting things just now. I swear I'm not short of material but this dilemma is quite a puzzler.

A Dutch court has put a 13-year-old girl under state care for two years, stalling her bid to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. The decision by three Utrecht judges means Laura Dekker's parents, who support her plans, temporarily lose the right to make decisions about her.

A child psychologist will now assess her capacity to undertake the voyage. Miss Dekker says she is happy with the ruling, but she will try to convince the authorities to let her set sail.

We have all the elements here - man against nature, youth striving ever upwards, initiative, the pioneer spirit, wicked state interfering and a pretty girl.

Physically, could she?

Thirteen - possible. Looking at the body, she's capable of much the same as I was at that age and I was never physically weak. I could handle a Sabot at 11 and a Moth at 13, handle them enough to sail them in a race or on a long journey around the bay.

She was born on a boat and has sailed all her life. She's a bit physically weaker than me at that age and yet she'd probably be tougher and very determined. If she had support crew the whole way, as did Ellen Macarthur, if her boat had systems designed for her physical ability and to allow her to sleep, if she does take the two years, then why not, physically?

The dangers of such a journey

Dekker had planned to start her trip in September and to take two years to circumnavigate the world on an eight-metre boat named Guppy.

This is an ultra-small boat in seagoing terms, even for an experienced adult and that's a major worry for a start. It's also a huge boat for a little girl, no matter if she's a world champion dinghy sailor or whatever.

I'd also ask if you would check out this post again - just click to the middle of the videos - and get a feel for what it's like. It is hell out there and the question is not whether the kid can handle the boat - I think she could - but whether she can handle freak conditions.

When crews of seasoned adults, big, beefy men, have trouble with them, when I, not to put too fine a point on it, have trouble handling nature out there, then it's daunting for a kid, no matter how closeby they are in support craft and via radio.

Please check out that video and see what I mean.

Verdict? Possible but only with extreme support. Why do it? Well, why do anything? I can understand that completely. Two years loss of study? Perhaps but she's young and not 10 - she's 13. I'm sure when she comes back, she'd be allowed to catch up. Knowing her determination, she'd probably succeed too.

She said it herself - she hasn't had a normal upbringing, she's clearly self-reliant and as a sailor, if I were the parent and my wife, also a sailor, agreed, perhaps that's the clinching issue.

Actually, one more thing is the clinching issue - what role would authorities, i.e. taxpayers, have when she gets into trouble? Any rescue attempt is measured in tens of thousands of euros and her own crew could not help her in extreme conditions.


This is frightening. What role does the state have in protecting the child? She's not being sexually abused [it seems], she's not being bullied, she seems quite even-tempered. We don't know and she accepted the state ruling so quickly. She'd like to try again, she said. That's the kid in her talking.

Did the state have the moral right and obligation to stop her? She wanted to beat the 17 year old boy with the record. 17 year old boys, I can attest, are a different kettle of fish to 13 year old girls. At 17, I was sailing something like this.

Look, all right, the kid is too young but not by a lot and she is a good sailor. But custody for two years? That's pretty draconian. And do the parents have any right to judge the fitness of the girl to do the voyage?

This looks line ball, doesn't it?

[change] and the fleeting connections we make

Via the Beeb is this sad story.

When you Google St Kilda, it brings up Melbourne, Australia although, after this news story, the British original might see a revival. The Beeb tells a tale of decline and final abandonment:

People had lived on St Kilda, the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides, since prehistoric times. In the 19th Century, tourists began to visit the archipelago and the St Kildans - known as the Hiortaich - became more dependent on the outside world.

In the 1850s, 42 of the islanders emigrated to Australia, half of them dying on the way. The winter of 1929 was particularly hard on the island and some of the remaining inhabitants died, many having already left.

The remaining 36 islanders wrote to the government asking to be taken off so they could lead new lives on the mainland. The island was abandoned the following year.

I'd think it would take a Scot a lot to abandon his homeland [not that these were exactly Scots] but when you think it through - very little peat, a rock covered lightly in grass, what could they do? What was their industry, apart from fishing?

I'm imagining living there on that rocky place in the ocean and am thinking that if they had their families and enough food to subsist, it might be worth continuing. Could they not have had potted gardens inside the houses they built with roofs which opened to the light? In summer it would have been sufficient - I've been to Iceland and there was enough summer light and heat.

Could they not have grazed stock, each household creating its own protected grass paddies, to be covered in winter? In Russia, in my early days there, there was a big to-do in summer of killing a cow, cutting it up and freezing the parts and also bottling berries, as well as veges and fruits. There were places you could get the jars and the metal seals and the rotating sealing device was mechanical and quite easy to use.

By the end of summer, everything was stored and ready and in autumn, the stock was brought into its own sheds, double stone walled. I can't help thinking that if the Russians could do it, the St Kildans could too. Maybe it was just too severe and too hard on available grain to keep the cattle there. Could they not have been put on an ark at the end of summer and taken south, to the borders area?

I suspect that when the tourists started coming in though that the islanders started that comparison thing of their own poor lot against the greener grass and that hastened the shift off the island. What the tourists might have brought is know-how in animal husbandry and crop growing. Why not?

It seems sad to me that things end like this. On that theme, Thud, Over the Water, also laments but his tale is about the British Pub [sorry to steal his pic below]. He writes:

With so many distractions available today it is easy to forget that a pub was for hundreds of years the centre of life (church too perhaps) for so many communities.

It's a snowballing effect over here. As numbers stop going, the pint gets dearer, more stop going, the smoking ban comes in and so on, you have to go further to a watering hole and the costs becomes prohibitive for more than once or twice a week.

Perhaps they will come back one day, these pubs but I suspect it will be more like the American diner replicas and the beer will be chemical lager. Revivalist movements are good but how authentic can they be? I hope he can start something over there.

Rocky islands are one thing and pubs another. People are something else again and why they drift away is a combination of non-proximity, disagreement, pressure of work and lifestyle and so on. Sometimes, a very strong minded person digs in and there it is.

I've lived in three separate countries for long enough to not only make friends but to have family there. As time has gone on, they were of the opinion that such things would always be but as I gained experience, I saw that people you had to leave behind, while making a great deal of effort to keep in touch for a while, slowly reduced that contact and I admit - so did I.

My ex-gf and I were never going to part, we swore that to each other but in the back of my mind, I saw it as two planets on different orbits which had, for a while, coincided. I wanted it not to be so but it was. It's now as if we loop back within range of one another every so often and that's pleasant but there's also a gulf there.

Plus we age and coming into a time when we need certainty, we find only uncertainty and fleeting connections. I don't wish it to be so but often it's out of my hands. I'm happy to continue and never see disagreements as final. Others may disagree.

They say you can never go back. Perhaps so. I believe one can and it can be more rewarding second time round.

Friday, August 28, 2009

[late evening listening] not even the chair

The trouble with Neil Diamond is that someone like me can't present any of his songs. It started out with Solitary Man but that would have led to false speculation, then Cherry Cherry but that might have caused trouble in certain quarters. Next was Red, Red Wine but I don't want you getting the wrong idea. Holly Holy seems to be about some girl. You'll Be a Woman Soon would be just great to run on this blog, wouldn't it?

Ho hum, which Neil Diamond song to use? I Am, I Said? Just listened to it now and it has its own problems as a statement. Hmmmm - a nice, non-controversial song, please Neil?

Oh, to hell with non-controversial. Now reader/listener - this one is not about me, not about my current toothache and muscle spasms, not about any desire on my part whatsoever - it's just a Neil Diamond song and a good one too:

[romance] dying art in films

Everyone to his or her own, natch, yet methinks the quality of romance in films has drastically fallen away in recent years. Mind you, with the new kick-butt female, it would hardly be safe to go anywhere near her and good luck to her in her future celibacy but for normal moviegoers, well there needs to be some sort of love interest in it.

The action genre, my favourite and any other non-mushy genres are obviously not based on saccharine sweet swathes of dialogue and yet to cut it out altogether seems a nod to our new society where so many men and women now live apart, divorced or never married and where the procreative act alone, with no delayed gratification, is the order of the day.

Olga Kurylenko's Camille was a case in point. She had her butt saved, she was given advice which later helped, she twice gave him a car ride which saved his butt and was there any warmth from either of them? Not a bit of it. The third Bourne had all the makings - there they were in the haircutting scene, she'd already admitted it had been difficult for her in Paris and what does he do? Just looks at her stupidly.

Ghost is obviously the benchmark and Demi "can't wait to get my gear off" Moore doesn't do a bad job but it's a bit saccharine for mine. I prefer it when they're an unlikely pair and they come together through grudging admiration for one another. This is romance of the first water:

It's so romantic when they have their falling out, if you remember and as he storms out, he turns and snaps: "And another thing - I faked every orgasm!" Well, it was better than the final scene of Wars of the Roses, anyway. But for true romance, you can't beat this delicate scene when John Connor and Kate Brewster meet again in the back of a pet van, after ten years :