Saturday, May 26, 2007

[some slides] hover for caption

[chinese] wrath of confucius

And while we're still on the topic of the Good Lord, is there any reason you'd suppose He has a down on the Chinese?

Lightning has killed 56 people in China this year, 17 more than the same period last year, Yu Rucong, deputy chief of the China Meteorological Administration, said on Friday.

Another 65 people were injured, 26 more than in the previous year, Yu said, adding the lightning accidents have caused direct economic losses of 10.97 million yuan (US$1.4 million) in the first four months.

Just asking.

[innocence] may the force be with you

As we creep inexorably into the New Feudalism, the novel Lord of the Rings, which I've just been reading parts of again, seems fairly analogous.

It was also Memorial Day on Monday.

No one chooses to go off to war but if there's a threat, it must be met. And brave men and women do that. And it is true that it steels the soul and forges bonds - about all it has going for it.

The greatest error of the Timid is to think they can manage perfectly well by themselves, thank you very much. Really? We're managing the world well at the moment? And we can change it without either regulation or revolution? We can stop the new feudalism, in which the Home Secretary proceeds with the plan of "derogating" from Article Five of the European Convention on Human Rights for our own good?

Personally, I put my faith in the Force but the Force is like buying an Aston Martin or a Rolls - it has its price. You're not just buying a car but a whole lifestyle. You no longer wonder about the car starting each day or how it would fare in an emergency skid or in an accident. It's all taken care of, as long as you do right by the vehicle, according to the instruction manual.

But it costs and costs big.

And when you're travelling along a fair road and that road's downhill and the other man in his Lada 10 seems to be doing just as well beside you, at a fraction of the cost, you can start thinking: "I wonder if maintaining this is all worth it."

The Christian Club is exclusive, with but three entry requirements. You need to:

1 believe that you need to be redeemed in the first place;

2 believe that you can be redeemed in this manner;

3 abide by club rules, which tell you to be charitable to your fellow human.

And that's it.

Very big asks and therefore the reason the Club is so exclusive - more exclusive than the Other Side has to offer because there are so many natural barriers to entry.

So all this garbage about Holy Crusades and Inquisitions and bibles chained to pulpits and written in Latin to exclude the common man; all this Intermediary guff like pontiffs and High Priests and so on, the selling of relics, all the wars invoking the name of Jesus and sporting red crosses, rampant evangelism, bible bashing prudery, Somerset Maugham's target in his excellent tale of the stern and unbending Mr. Davidson in "Rain", devastation of native communities in the name of the Lord - all of that has zero to do with the simple Message contained in a few short pages.

A short tale from earlier days:

We used to take the kids for swimming lessons at the local pool at my northern school and the issue was that one of the new girls [about 12 years old] didn't actually wear a top but swam in her undies.

For three weeks she blithely swam almost as nature intended and strangely, none of the other kids said anything and none of us knew how to deal with it.

Then, in the fourth week, she came in a costume and a modest one too. I was appalled and I hope you do see why. In this I'm 100% with Maugham. Because what was destroyed this day was innocence, based on no discernible biblical text but on a vague sort of prudery born of a notion of what Jesus might have approved of.

You know the 80s film Never-Ending Story? And how the characters in a child's fantasy world were destroyed by the Ravening Wind named Disbelief [or Loss of Innocence]?

That's one of the main dilemmas with Christianity. Another two main problems with its image have always been:

1 the hijacking of the intellectual property through the centuries by States and by the Other Side so that frightened people inadvertently rush into the arms of the Enemy rather than the Protector;

2 the insufferable serenity of believers, nay, the insufferable enthusiasm of the Happy Clapper.

There's a reason for the latter.

I don't know of a Christian who would put it this way but in fact you are being "possessed" by a spirit the moment you click on the button "I Believe". It's a mechanism which works more infallibly than the better known phenomenon of clicking on a porn picture and automatically inviting in the embedded Trojans and other viruses to your computer system.

And someone else's new-found enthusiasm is as inviting to us as a root canal operation, particularly if we're doing life hard ourselves.

When the Happy Clappers compound that with their take-it-as-read platitudes like "Jesus loves you", that's fine for the already devout who've seen the Light but for the great unwashed out here, amongst whom I still count myself one, it's nauseatingly counterproductive.

There's a reason for that too.

JC always went after the Lost Sheep, more than the already Safe and Protected and therefore the bulk of new Christians are people who weren't coping, who didn't have the standard meathead lifestyle or suburban bourgeois decency. In other words, there had to have been something they at least perceived as wrong in life in order to have made this move.

I'm not referring to Christian households here - they're another matter.

So I suggest that the Jehovah's Witnesses and the like could do with a PR refresher course before belting on one's door in the middle of a long afternoon squawk, just to thrust The Watchtower into one's hands and to invite themselves in for a "chat".

I suspect after this I'm going to be doubly damned - I'll certainly be struck off the vicarage guest list and cast into Perdition by the Moral Majority whilst my own bunch of sinner mates and nightcap-sipping sweeties quietly slip away to someone else less Strange.

And what of folk such as Jack Rensimer and Halls of Macadamia? They know I'm for conservative values, patriotism, G-d, the armed service men and women - in other words, like my own father was - and yet I have a damned strange way of showing it in my posts.

Sigh. I don't know what to say, really.

Friday, May 25, 2007

[some notes] about the novels

Re the novels, jmb asked: "So how come we are getting these teasers? Are you going to put it up somewhere as the whole? Is it published?"

No, not published yet although I did hawk an earlier version of Book 1 to some London literary agents in 2000 and one was encouraging, if not conclusive and another was verging on rude.

They must have been rewritten twelve or thirteen times, to cut out the smart literary phraseology and make it leaner and meaner and to deepen the characterizations.

I don't know how you write yours but I have to draw characters from real life - I can't contrive or amalgamate them. Names are real too but applied to the wrong characters.

Time frame is from 1994 to around 2020 [apocalyptic]. I call them romantic thrillers but the truth is they're about a series of continual shocks from the outside world which punctuate the intimacy until they take over the story completely.

I'll try to put the first two chapters up this weekend.

[baby names] the decision of their lives

Clearly, when naming your baby, an awareness of what you're saddling the baby with is paramount.

Version 2.0 and Abyss are not 100% suitable!

In an attempt to assist you with your decision, here is a selection of rather fine names given by responsible parents to their offspring. Which will you choose?

1. Jigme [Richard Gere + Carey Lowell]

2. Fifi Trixibelle [Paula Yates/Bob Geldof]

3. Satchel [Mia Farrow/Woody Allen]

4. Moxie Crimefighter [Penn Jillette]

5. Daisy Boo [Julia/Jamie Oliver]

6. Yamma [James Brown]

7. Jermajesty [Jermaine Jackson]

8. Moon Unit [Frank/Gail Zappa]

9. Betty Kitten [Jonathan Ross & Jane Goldman]

10. Nell Marmalade [Helen Baxendale/David Eliot]

Still not entirely satisfied? There are another ten coming up next time.

[obsession] flight to the north

Second of the excerpts from my first novel, Obsession, detailing my early life in Russia [the first excerpt is here].

Fleeing from London and danger, for reasons there's no point going into here, Hugh, the anti-hero and his travel partner take a train north, to draw the baddies onto his home turf.

Being fugitives doesn't stop him showing the Russian girl around the sights and here they get to the Saltersgate, high on a ridge not far from York.

He waited for the inevitable question – why legendary?

‘The legend states vaguely, because my memory’s not all that hot, that there were some smugglers hiding out here at the pub, back in the mists of time; an exciseman got too close, he was bumped off and the body was buried beneath the hearth.

They had to keep a fire eternally burning so that no one would ever look underneath. So it has been ever since and even in the middle of summer that bloody fire is still going - it'll be going today.’

‘You guys make the most of your history, don’t you?’


She was delighted when the road led onto a long, high ridge between two valleys and then, there it was in front of them in the distance, commanding spectacular views across the valley.

‘This is a postcard,’ she whispered.

Hugh just smiled to himself.

The next surprise was the publican coming from around the bar, his huge hand extended. Hugh immediately ordered XB.

‘Nope,’ said the publican.


‘XB’s rubbish today. Try the Camerons.’

‘Camerons? Yuk!’

‘Try the Camerons today.’

A pint and a half of Camerons was brought to their table not too near the fire, together with a bowl of nuts they hadn’t even ordered. Hugh was grinning from ear to ear and she was studying him closely.

‘You ordered XB Hugh. How can he tell you no?’

‘The man’s an expert. If he says Camerons, then Camerons it is. He has the cleanest pipes in Britain.’

‘Cleanest what?’

‘Pipes, trubichki, you know - where the beer passes along.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘Right - stay here and let me get the menus.’ A conversation ensued with the publican and both were grinning. Hugh came back. ‘The Yorkshire Pud’s good today, it seems. You hungry?’

She shot him a scornful look. ‘OK, here’s the programme – beer and nuts, whilst they get the food ready. May I suggest the Yorkshire Pud – ’

‘What’s that?’

‘Tyesta, batter, in the shape of a bowl and into it is poured meat and onions and other things. You like kharcho at home?’

‘Of course.’

‘Then maybe you’d like this. And one more thing – while we’re waiting for our food, the publican’s going to take us ... downstairs,’ he concluded, mysteriously, ‘and he doesn’t do it for everyone.’

‘I’m not even going to ask.’

Richard came over and asked if they were ready. What followed was a tour down to the basement, replete with wooden and metal barrels and he proceeded to explain to Ksenia the intricacies of storing, tapping, the cleaning of the pipes, the gas and so on, until he’d led them back up and behind the bar.

‘And that’s where it ends – at the tap,’ the publican concluded.

‘And notice he doesn’t use metal valves, he uses the draw pumps,’ added Hugh.

She was far more impressed with the passion these two guys were showing for their subject than with the finer details themselves but somehow she was sure she’d been privy to something pretty special or else the British always got enthused about the mundane. She’d have to stew over this one later.

For now, she was the centre of attention and two guys were falling over backwards for her - a most satisfactory arrangement all round.

The food was far from mundane and a touch of nostalgia crept in during the Yorkshire Pud; it reminded Ksenia of her grandmother’s cooking but she said nothing. They toasted the memory of that poor official who’d been the inadvertent cause of the legend then, after profuse thanks to the publican, headed out to the car park at the side.

The air was heavy with the unmistakable aroma of the countryside - pollen, grass, trees and always that breathtakingly sheer drop into the valley either side of the hotel. The Escort was a cabriolet and as they pulled onto the main road from the crisp gravel and the car picked up speed down the hill; the breeze had her hair streaming behind and she briefly felt at one with the world.

Hugh was going faster now and the bottom of the hill was coming up and there was a sharp bend and he wasn’t slowing down. She glanced across anxiously, as he suddenly dropped speed, then accelerated through the bend, the car bottoming out and then tearing up to the next crest.

...and so on. For devotees who note the inconsistencies in the ale terminology, I'd appreciate if you set me straight.

All parts of the dialogues happened but not necessarily at the same time or in the same place. Actually the place we fled to was Bergen but the pub scene over there is a bit hazy and this part of the plot demanded Britain.

[cranes] dancing across the sky

Interesting things happening across the road and I don't think I'd do them.

There are three tall houses being built and the eighteen story variant had men on the very top floor just now, being supplied by three cranes.

All very colourful and even graceful - a dance of tubular steel in gold, red and blue - wish I owned a camera. One arm of the mother crane was hovering over the baby crane, almost protecting it.

Another crane, presumably the daddy, carrying a metal grill across against the clouds, reached the concrete edge of the top floor, one worker leant over to pull it in and it looked to me as if he had no safety harness of any kind.

At least it would be mercifully quick.

On the ground are the foundations of whatever - jagged metal rods sticking vertically out of concrete blocks - and I couldn't help feeling that this called for some jaunty doggerel. So here is one I cobbled together just now:

Cranes in their natural habitat,
Motionless stand and wait;
An innocent workman approaches the edge,
Just metres form his fate.

The whir of the motor, the high crane swings;
He reaches out in space,
As five passing seagulls drop their load,
Hitting him in the face.

Spluttering, it briefly slips his mind -
His precariously positioned perch -
As he tumbles, clutching at the grill
And the crane gives a mighty lurch.

Swift as an eagle, the grill is dropped,
The workman hears no roar
As the grill swings back like a cricket bat
And he hits the 13th floor.

Hands frantically clutch, he's safely dragged;
They can see he'll live some more.

"Well, you'd best get back then," the foreman grunts;

He returns to the eighteenth floor.

Just looking over there again now and there's another madman striding across the steep roof of the little house above the top floor. Better man than I am, Gunga Din.

[kylie] fishing in the wrong pond

Word on the street is that Kylie Minogue has hired a team of assistants to help find her a man. High on the list of must-haves for her new toy boy is looks and lots of money. But since the singing budgie is in Cannes for the film festival, I think her time and money would be better spent getting out on the town herself and nabbing one of those yacht-loving pretty boys with a lovely French accent. And when you're looking as hot as the pop princess is nowadays, that should be no problem at all!

If that's the pool she's really fishing in, then she's a sad case indeed. Time's running out and she's persisting in the wrong type of guy, like most women below a certain age and sometimes even after it. There's no happiness in that pond. As travellers know, if you sometimes go off the beaten track, away from the main resorts, then you can often stumble upon hidden gems.

[democrat cave-in] what's the big deal

[A] Democratic Congress is now voting to fully fund the war in Iraq, as demanded by President Bush, and without any timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Bush got his $100 billion, then magnanimously agreed to let Democrats keep the $20 billion in pork they stuffed into the bill -- to soothe the pain of their sellout of the party base. Remarkable. If the Republican rout of 2006 said anything, it was that America had lost faith in the Bush-Rumsfeld conduct of the war and wanted Democrats to lead the country out.

What I find remarkable is that supposedly seasoned observers are marvelling at this. Do you really think the Democrats weren't softened up first? Do you really think that deals were not cut? Do you really suggest that Washington is squeaky clean? Do you really think Congress or the Executive run things in America?

And who bankrolls the deals? Who's the source of the money? And who has a history of playing hardball and who has this blog been consistently railing against? But bankrolling is only part of the whole deal. The presence in Iraq is part of a much wider issue and the Democrats were simply let into the secret, in highly patriotic terms, no doubt, and given their choice.

Nothing remarkable whatsoever. Just follow the money. Oh, and quiet, well-heeled groups with strange ceremonies and traditions.

[tele-evangelism] the old three card trick

A little discussion going on about the Falwell business on various sites.

My position on this - I have exactly the same target as my mentor, the Nazarene Handyman. Countless times worse is the seeming holy-man, who actually draws his pay from mammon, than the openly evil man:

The Moral Majority's influence dropped sharply following sex scandals in the late-1980s involving two other television evangelists, Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.

It's not as if we weren't warned:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.

It's the old three card trick:

1 Take a simple scripture such as Matthew Chapters 5 to 7 and add your own unsustainable embellishments which blur the distinction between right and wrong, establishing a link between money and faith and calling the new hotch-potch modern and relevant to the times. In other words - more palatable to a clientele.

2 Publicly indulge in the more sensationalist references, such as miracle cures, which you palpably have not the power to perform, being faithless in yourself in the first place and concentrate on these rather than on pointing people to the readily available texts. Hype it up with constant references to "faith healing".

3 Sit back and allow the the whole damn thing to implode under its own weight, revealing you to be a hollow charlatan and your "faith" to be nothing but empty jingoistic claptrap, based on dubious literary sources. Be found out having sexual liaisons with your "parishioners" and a double effect is achieved:

a the non-believer snorts with sardonic disgust and now has further ammunition to dissuade any would be superstitious "believer";

b the new-believer now doubly rejects the tele-evangelist and his whole cursed mumbo-jumbo and wants nothing more to do with it. Forever. The ex-believer is not only innoculated against hope but is openly antagonistic and useful to the other side.

In the process, all that's been lost are a couple of corrupt tele-evangelists, cheap at the price. What's been gained is the alienation of a whole tele-audience plus the vindication of the humanistic community.

In all of this the original text is selectively quoted, as I'm doing now. The question is which text you quote. Text such as:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

That excerpt from Matthew is in sharp contrast to the Mercedes riding tele-evangelist. You need no intermediary to read this text. Here's a url if you're interested. And here's an example:

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

So when you gaze on someone, is it with kindness and a desire to be friends or is it with a view to how that person can help you up the ladder, or with lust or with hate, e.g. in the Middle-East?

There is pure life-philosophy in this text - providing a blueprint how to act.

Even the barely intellectual reasoner can see that, if followed through to its logical conclusion, it would do away with wars, human destitution, despair, avarice, striving for the unattainable and so on and replace it with respect, decency, wholesome laughter, friendship, striving for goals only slightly beyond reach but most of all - it leads to contentment.

There are forces who don't want that to occur under any circumstances.