Monday, June 30, 2008

[wordless week] a solution to the seven days

There's always one

Now be honest – aren’t we just that wee bit weary of all these Wordless Wednesdays and Snappy-happy Saturdays?

Do you delight in being directed what to blog on, on which day and according to which theme?

Do you yearn to blog alphabetically?

Well, your humble correspondent might just have come up with the answer. Higham proposes that the week be surgically incised into seven equal portions and presented thussingly:

Mammary Monday

This day we all go out on the prowl for gratuitous totty and plaster our blogs with female flesh [or the ladies may indulge in the male of the species, should it be their wont]. Get the blood circulating early in the week.

Twittery Tuesday

“Made the Mall, met Maud and Mavis and lingered languorously over a long limpid lunch.” Makes for marvellous reading and should delight the blog community no end. So let’s all twitter on Tuesday and leave those pesky serious posts for later.

Woebegone Wednesday

Lest you feel this has all been too light-hearted, let’s sink into doom and gloom on Wednesday and post only about the latest deaths, famines, medical conditions and other inspiring fare. The aim is to leave every one of our readers in philosophical mood, still facing Thursday and Friday ahead.

Thurtabulous Thursday

Time to strangle our English and wax lyrical about the huge windfall we just came into or the tremendous travel we’ve just undertaken in a sunny paradise somewhere in the Mediterranean, whilst back home it’s still 10 degrees and drizzling. Sensitivity is the key here.

Furry Friday

This is where we festoon our blogs with furry creatures and loveable little moppets and write of how Woopsy did wee-wees and then mauled a weasel, in intricate detail recounting the usage of the pooper scooper and widdle sponge. A day for animal lovers and to post all those pics of your toddler in hilarious and endearing poses.

Sonorous Saturday

The trick here is to latch onto the latest Bete Noir, say Gordon or Robert, go on and on and on and on about his latest outrage, preferably lifting huge chunks from MSM articles, shoving them into interminable posts and adding the wry and witty analysis: “Isn’t he a bastard?”

For piquancy, we could add variations on the words Guardian, Gordo or Dubya.

Serene Sunday

This is the day of rest, the day we give the alliterated weekdays the shove and simply blog on something intelligent. Well OK – not all that inspiring, I admit. Or else we can go for a drive into the countryside.

Anyway, all in all, it should be a winner, don’t you think?


Feel free to copy and paste this graphic to publicize these awards. It would be nice if someone could provide a more professional job for the graphic and actual prize banners.

There is no doubt that Iain Dale’s UK Political Bloggers List is the definitive guide to ratings in the UK and that on the American continent, the Weblog Awards is the definitive guide.

All this is well and fine but there is still a need for a blogosphere peer review in all categories, not just political and the reason there has not been, so far this year is:

a. it’s a lot of damned hard work to set up
b. there has not been, apart from the “Super Blogger” or “Fine Blogger” badges which do the rounds, any definitive guide, since last year, which fellow bloggers would respect and who’s badge bloggers would proudly display.

Last year’s Blogpower Awards filled the gap to an extent but everyone remembers the difficulties which arose there.

As it appears that Blogpower are not running their mid-year awards this year, then it is high time, before people go away for school holidays, to run a peer review which the blogosphere will respect. Who better to launch it than the man at the centre of the 2007 controversy, yours truly.

There might well be a workable formula here:

Peer review of the blogosphere, by the blogosphere, for the blogosphere

How the Awards work

1. Names are called for today to fill five spots on a Panel of Moderators who will administer the running of the Awards. Naturally, the higher the status of the blogger on that panel, the more accepted the awards will be.

The way to nominate is to simply comment in the comments section of the post at the site [click on the red title]:

The Blogger's Blogger Awards 2008

with the name of someone you’d like to see on the panel. On Wednesday these nominations can be reviewed and a list drawn up of ten names on which you can comment further. On Friday the final five are chosen and are asked to participate. If they accept, they are given admin rights to the Awards blog.

2. The Panel then decides on categories between them. The idea is to choose categories where:

a. the small blogger is not swamped
b. the smaller countries don’t get swamped by the larger
c. the megablogger has his/her own category to compete in.

Categories are then published at the Awards blog as separate posts, each listed as a link in the first post at the top of the page. Visitors can then come to this page, click the category link and go to that separate window.

3. To nominate someone within a category, simply leave the name and url of a personal blogger of at least one month’s standing without any further commentary. Any commentary invalidates the nomination and it is deleted.

At the end of the stated nomination period, the admins see which ten are the most popular nominated and their sites go into that same post as links for voters to check out.

4. In the voting phase, personal bloggers of at least one month’s standing name the finalist of their choice, again using the comments section of that post. Again, it is transparent and anyone can see the state of play at any one moment.

Bloggers can vote once a day over the stated period [decided on by the Panellists] and because all comments carry dates and times, it’s easy to check that someone votes just once in a day. Any informal votes will be deleted by the Panel.

No Panellist may vote in a category he/she is nominated for.

5. By the end of the voting phase, it will be fairly clear who is out the front and who close on their heels.

So, to return to point one, time for you to:


[Please don't nominate at Nourishing Obscurity here.]

Appendix: Some possible categories

Political blogs

North America Left of centre
North America Centre
North America Right of centre
North America Nationalistic

UK Left of centre
UK Centre
UK Right of centre
UK Nationalistic

Rest of the World Left of centre
Rest of the World Centre
Rest of the World Right of centre
Rest of the World Nationalistic

Macropolitical [non-aligned, not country based, not issue based]


North America Economics
UK Economics
Rest of the World Economics


Work related e.g. medical
Researcher and fisker
Graphics intensive
Daily life/domestic/pets/food

Blog readership

North America best little blog [under 200 uniques average]
UK best little blog [under 200 uniques average]
Rest of the World best little blog [under 200 uniques average]

North America best established blog [between 200 and 700 uniques average]
UK best established blog [between 200 and 700 uniques average]
Rest of the World best established blog [between 200 and 700 uniques average]

North America best major blog [between and 3000 uniques average]
UK best major blog [between 700 and 3000 uniques average]
Rest of the World best major blog [between 700 and 3000 uniques average]

North America best mega blog [upwards of 3000 uniques average]
UK best mega blog [upwards of 3000 uniques average]
Rest of the World best mega blog [upwards of 3000 uniques average]


Services to blogging

Sunday, June 29, 2008

[the sicilian luncheon] post-prandial report

You’d be forgiven for concluding from the previous post [given that you were at all interested in the first place] that the luncheon today was going to be dire.

Not a bit of it.

Already with memories of Welshcakes’ midnight pork, bacon strip and gherkin rolls, the remaining portions dipped into afresh this morning, we waited for the car to arrive to collect us.

The red Fiat Panda, driven by the student daughter, promptly arrived only 30 minutes past the appointed time; the free form jazz she was playing through the Blaupunkt which she turned up full blast through the rear speakers beside my ears in the back was nevertheless pretty talented stuff and the country lane, between the curving dry stone walls either side, was easy on the eyes.

The property itself was situated halfway between our town and the nearby Scicli, set in rolling hills. We turned onto a side road and headed uphill to the park set on a ledge cut into the hillside, a sprawling complex of house and outbuildings, also in the same lightish but cemented stone.

[Referring to the map below now] we went through the archway, the white clothed long table was just being set for lunch and elements of the extended family were here, there and everywhere, introductions being effected as and when.

Now to describe, clockwise, the complex of images coming at us.

Through the archway on the left was the cavernous kitchen-come-all-purpose room with its light-grey tiled floor and wooden tables; in the wall near where we stood was a Madonna set into the stonework; over the main table was a wood pergola; behind the table, up the little hill, was a terraced garden, each section with its own little stone retaining wall and to the right of that – the steps up the hill towards the yard.

Immediately beyond the main table was a cherry tree in a large tub and various other flora. To the right was the entrance to the little house, presumably where the grandparents or someone lived.

There is no tradition of bringing drinks to guests, even in 40 degree heat but one of the chaps took pity on Welshcakes and me and brought a bottle of mineral water so that was all right. Slowly, the guests arrived and the greater family now joined us, setting places and chatting and a nice crew they turned out to be – warmhearted and friendly.

At this point it would be as well to mention the underlying anarchic and chaotic nature of the Sicilian – it can be seen from the way dishes emerge in no particular order, through to the architecture and landscaping – nothing is even and levelled, everything can be a surprise. Overall, the effect though is pleasant and refreshing, certainly in an exercise like this luncheon.

The food began to emerge.

That’s more Welshcake’s department than mine but I can tell you the first thing up was an enormous pie of chicken and some sort of chicken mash, with a large pan of spicy rice and a fresh green salad as accompaniment.

Now came the white wine and it was quite delish. Outside was close to 40 degrees but where we sat could not have been over 28 or 29, with all the foliage everywhere. There was also an electric “bug zapper” in operation and highly effective it was too.

With me thinking it was all over, they now brought large bowls of what looked like stew in a tomato concoction but neither of us could have eaten much more at that point.

With me once more thinking it was over, they started distributing almonds and the wine changed to possibly the finest Muscat I’ve ever tasted and now it certainly looked like it was all over.

Not a bit of it.

Now came the local chocolate, various sweetmeats we’d brought and some other coconut or pinenut things plus the coffee. Surely that was it?

Not a bit of it.

Now came another round of Muscat and nuts, followed by the bringing of the sweet plums, apricots so juicy one could have cried and watermelon everywhere.

The host now came up nervously to check if he’d provided enough and the hostess did the same some minutes later.

Eventually we were given a lift back to town and that was The Sicilian Luncheon. Sicily is not a particularly rich area, in financial terms, for the average person but it is certainly rich in culture, food and human warmth and that showed through today.

Hopefully this post added to your own recollections of the area and brought back fond memories. For the rest – get down here and join us.

[sunday lunch] this will take some digesting

Well, this is the Higham's first venture outside the town and an interface with an Italian family - mum, dad, fourteen brothers, twenty sisters, husbands, boyfriends, children, grandchildren and various pets, not to mention a probably super lunch.

It's not Welshcake's first venture outside though so I'll rely on her to keep our end up in the conversation. Churlish to say we'd rather be resting in the cool of this apartment when the sun gets high but there it is - 11 a.m. the car will come for us and we'll no doubt report later in the day.

Have a good Sunday lunch yourselves.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

[saturday quiz] steal straight from wiki version

Now I did promise this would be harder than Welshcakes' second quiz so here it is - a total steal from Wikipedia:

1. What is the first name of this famous artist?

Il 15 aprile 1874 s'inaugura, nello studio del fotografo Nadar, al secondo piano del 35 di boulevard des Capucines, la mostra del gruppo Societé anonyme des peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs, composto, fra gli altri, da Monet, Cézanne, Degas, Morisot, Renoir, Pissarro e Sisley, polemici nei confronti della pittura, allora di successo, accettata regolarmente nei Salons.

2. First name of this composer?

Gebuer de 22. August 1862, als éischt vu fënnef Kanner, gouf de Claude Debussy als Jong vum Manuel-Achille Debussy a sénger Fra Victorine agedroen. Gedeeft gouf hien eréischt zwee Joer méi spéit, wat deemols ongewéinlech spéit war.

3. First name of the film director of whom this is a part fimography:

2000: Chabrols süßes Gift (Merci pour le chocolat)
2003: Die Blume des Bösen (La fleur du mal)
2004: Die Brautjungfer (La demoiselle d’honneur)
2006: Geheime Staatsaffären (L’ivresse du pouvoir)
2007: Die zweigeteilte Frau (La Fille coupée en deux)
2007: La parure und Le petit fût, Episoden aus Chez Maupassant (TV)

4. Second name of the famous actor, by which he was better known:

William ____ Rains (10. november 1889 London, Inglismaa – 30. mai 1967 Laconia, New Hampshire) oli inglise päritolu USA lava- ja filminäitleja, enim tuntud peaosalisena filmidest "Nähtamatu mees" ("The Invisible Man"; 1933) ja "Phantom of the Opera" (1943).

5. One of Derek Jacobi's roles.

Answers [highlighting required as usual]

Claude [in modern anglicized parlance]

Dedicated to Ellee - she knows why.

Toilet humour?

Toilet humour?

I'm satire by my computer what are you doing?

A plagiarist copied and pasted the above post on a forum. Within 3 minutes the person was sussed out and confronted by another poster who had Googled the first line and found the original source. The plagiarist apologised and claimed that he or she had found it stuck to a toilet door.

[zimbabwe] it's the hypocrisy which galls

Good joke that, about predicting democracy - what sheep I reign over.

Please, if you are of a delicate disposition, excuse the tone of this post:

Brown calls Zimbabwe vote "new low"

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Saturday Zimbabwe's presidential election was a "new low" -- but predicted democracy will come to the southern African country.

Yeah, right. Just put your sanctions where your mouth is, tell Milliband to find a spine and Mugabe might miraculously fall. But you have no intention of doing that, do you, you hypocrite? You need Mugabe for the strategic plan.

And in other news, this from David Farrer:

Astounding, isn't it? But it must be true: the BBC is the source: Scotland's only female police chief has spoken for the first time since taking up the role.

Disgraceful the way she was gagged or credit to her gender? And to wind up, some little gems on life in Brown’s Britain:

Firstly, from the Quiet Man:

People living in a north Derbyshire hamlet have been told they cannot have signposts because it is not a "recognised" place. Holestone Moor near Matlock has been mentioned in census and gravedigging records since 1851.

But Derbyshire County Council said the settlement was not shown on local maps and therefore was not a recognised geographical location. Resident Steve Clemerson said the community definitely "did exist".

Next, from the Norfolk Blogger, who is apparently now banned from using

Well in part, the government do know that I exist because they tell me I already have a login, but they refuse to allow me to use it. So when I phoned them and asked them to reset my password, I realise just how serious a problem I might have.

You see, because I didn't send in any photo ID last year within 21 days, I have been banned and barred from using AND they have no way of re-instating me and no number I can contact in order to be allowed to use the system ever again.
And from Private Eye’s latest edition, 1213 [June 27th]:

In Salford … the Labour Council threatened to charge children from St. George’s Primary School, which is facing the axe, for the cost of a road closure if they marched in protest. No one, as yet, has paid the £1918.35 bill. A letter has arrived at the school threatening “county court proceedings” or “referral to a debt recovery agency”.

Charming, simply charming, don’t you think?

Friday, June 27, 2008

[thought for the day] friday evening

I think it was the Manx poet William Bealby Wright [but was more likely someone entirely different] who, in the late 70s, uttered:

You don't expect a decent chap to actually take you up on an invitation.

[friday olive tree blogging] and a super lunch

Under the olive trees today, the mind moved to L’Ombre in the south of France or wherever he happens to be at this moment. This post is dedicated to him.

The current heat in Sicily essentially means people are fleeing to either their country retreats or the beach [with the tourists] and ours is a bit of a ghost town really, especially during the hours of heat [10 a.m. to 7 p.m.].

For us, this means a sleep in until about 11 a.m., a few jobs, a bit of interfacing with the local population and then a wander along to a café for lunch. Today, Welshcakes went to Raffaele’s for her hair and I met her there.

Let me describe the place.

Welshcakes reaches the ante-garden patio, with its raffia table and low chairs, by lift, the marble stairway being too steep and slippery but it’s a delight nonetheless with its foliage either side. Once inside the main airconditioned room with its canvass awnings over the outside balcony, one is brought water or coffee and the coiffuring of and by the females goes ahead.

Afterwards, we take the road down along the dry stone walls, past the roundabout with its "umbrellered" beer garden and into the steep but picturesque drop down to our destination, the Caffè Consorzio, perched on a hill near the main route down to Modica Bassa.

Inside this caffè, itself on different levels, we go through one garden, past another and eventually come out on an olive tree shrouded stone terrace with table and chairs, delightfully cool and inviting. The girl comes out and puts another table beside it, covers it with a white linen table cloth and brings linen napkins and other paraphernalia.

The bread and drinks are brought and we order.

A breeze plays through the olive leaves and many float down and cover us whilst we wait. The food arrives and the service is courteous to a fault – meat, aubergines, onions, greens, tomatoes and so on, with copious liquid to help it along.

It might be climbing to 40 degrees outside this grove but it is refreshing where we are and tranquil – oh so tranquil.

Eventually we start the trek back up to our place, no direct route but a series of interconnected upward tracks, each with its own charm. At the steepest points, the Higham arm is taken and we do make it back for an extended siesta in the wood-shuttered coolness, followed by the grabbing of the Mac now and the writing of this post.

The “easiness” of the day, the lack of fuss, has been hard to put into words but it was nice for all that.

[de facto] when is it ever genuine

If a man beats his de facto to death, surely that wouldn't count as a genuine killing?

I've been in de facto marriages and in the other sort too and I can't quite see the point of de facto these days, especially as there is still a property settlement and lots of other goodies, should the two part.

In these days when same sex couples can have ersatz marriages and even children [in a manner of speaking] plus certain other difficulties, then one pauses to think. Maybe it's better to be asexual, like me.

More widely in society, for example when there are female clergy and they no longer do the services in Latin, perhaps the genuine article should be subsidized now.

William Gruff considers we should get real in other ways too. I like Welshcakes' method of getting real too.

I'm heading down the road for a genuine coffee at an ersatz caffe after that diatribe.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

[i cann] see dissimulation here

At first sight, it looks like another example of encroachment - the net's [so-called] regulator Icann … voting to decide if the strict rules on so-called top level domain names, such as .com or .uk, can be relaxed.

The BBC comments:

If approved, firms could turn brands into web addresses while individuals could also grab a unique domain based on their name, for example.
There’s already, for example, but this could possibly now be turned into http://morleyis.iangrey. My question is, ‘What’s the point of it?’ Ian wouldn't bother doing it. The answer to this lies in this, methinks:

If there is a dispute [over domain names], we will try and get the parties together to work it out... but if that fails there will be an auction. [Dr Paul Twomey, Icann chief executive]

Money. As simple as that.

Naturally there’ll be cyber-squatting and disputes and Icann will resolve them at a price. So what’s the story with Icann in the first place?

ICANN is a California non-profit corporation that was created on September 18, 1998 in order to oversee a number of Internet-related tasks previously performed directly on behalf of the U.S. Government by other organizations, notably the The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority IANA.

So, it used to be run by the U.S. government and yet they have a meeting in Paris? Who are these people to wield such power? And do you understand a word of this?

On September 29, 2006, ICANN signed a new agreement with the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) that is a step forward toward the full management of the Internet's system of centrally coordinated identifiers through the multi-stakeholder model of consultation that ICANN represents.
All right, so they are somehow under California law or U.S. or whatever but they hold their meetings far away:

Critics argue that the locations of these meetings are often in countries with lower Internet usage and far away from locations that the majority of the Internet-using public can afford to reach. This makes public input or participation from traditional Internet users less likely.
As I read on, the point continually comes through about them being asked to do this or to oversee that. But who asked them? Read on:

The original mandate for ICANN came from the United States Government, spanning the Presidential administrations of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Some other worrying little things:

On March 14, 2002, in a public meeting in Accra, in Ghana, ICANN decided to reduce direct public ("at large") participation.


In September and October 2003 ICANN played a crucial role in the conflict over VeriSign's "wild card" DNS service Site Finder. After an open letter from ICANN issuing an ultimatum to VeriSign.
Well Verisign itself is an issue all of its own but by now it's probably best to stop and let you put me straight over all this. Am I completely out of order in thinking that a progressively less transparent U.S. government agency is running the internet for the globe?

Just asking.

[commemoration] blending the old and the new

Nice work of art at Ian Grey's place. A slice of the old Morley is commemorated but admirers are also reminded they're under surveillance at the same time.

A bit of the old, a bit of the new, ushering in the New Feudalism and the ASBO generation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

[interim report] the heat is on ... and on ... and

This Wikipic of Judaea by David Sharkbone vividly shows what we are in today. Already 34 degrees early, it's building and building and certain things become clear.

Firstly - it is not always the case that in the country is cooler. The buildings in town afford shade and the large buildings have that walkway and courtyard effect which certainly cools things down. Every home has shutters and offices are airconditioned.

So, on the way back from downtown just now, it was skipping from shade to shade with the option of stopping in at any of the gelaterii and having granita or whatever. Bottled water is everywhere and it's all set up for "hot". True "hot" is when the cafe owners blanch and mutter, "Caldo, caldo!"

In Russia, the two foot thick walls, intended for the cold, also helped against the heat and certainly water and ices abounded there too ... and yet somehow it wasn't a heat-conscious place as such. This place Sicilia is organized for it.

Perhaps this is all a yawn for you in cooler climes and yet the heat is so pressing on us here that we can think of little else. Incidentally, I had my first Italian lesson yesterday and didn't do too badly.

Next report soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

[thought for the day] tuesday evening

When contemplating your navel, do you ever consider:

1. Why would anyone in New York or Chicago want to scrape the sky anyway?

2. Do dogs actually talk or do the ones in the house opposite just bark in the middle of the night in sympathy with those in the house on the other side?

3. If some people get richer, must others get poorer in sympathy or
do they stay the same?

4. Why don't the centrist pollies on all sides just form one big party with a rotating administrator?

5. What is the best song ever released?

[blogosphere] mutual support and its possible limits

In March, this blog ran a post on the blogosphere to join the myriad other soul searching blogger posts and it focussed on how much we could achieve as bloggers.

There is a point to this post now and the difficulty is not to offend, particularly with fellow Brits [which statement in itself is likely to offend, I know].

The thing is, each blogger is essentially publicizing his wares and hopes that a great many people will stop by and read what he's written, perhaps even comment. Where he goes wrong is when he has other expectations of the process.

For example, the Usmanov and Darling affairs had much publicity and the blogosphere, by and large, rallied round and told those two where to get off. Rousing stuff and well done. I think most people are good natured enough to run a banner in support or even a post or two but what do we do when the question, say, of donating money comes up?

This was why I tried to resist putting a paypal or whatever during my recent troubles although I did bleat a fair bit, it's true. The resolution to the difficulty has been catalogued on this blog and it does show that things can happen for the good.

But what do we do when someone wants much much more?

When someone wants us all to lay down our lives supporting something he or she is into and when they draw it to a close, berates said people for not continuing on and on? Most people are too sensitive and tactful to say this but there are limits.

Similarly, when someone sees his blog as a route through which all other bloggers will come on any particular social issue, with all the aggregators and what have you collating the grateful bloggers' contributions or when a particular blogger sees others as paying for the use of his material and countless other schemes, I'm a little less than forthcoming, I'm afraid.

I'm aware that some will read these words and say, 'Oh, that's wonderful - look how well Higham has done out of blogging, swanning around Sicily et al.' Well yes, I am exceedingly grateful for what has happened but I really don't feel it's the same question per se.

I'm referring above to the expectation that other bloggers are going to tune into another blogger's schemes or devote part of everyday to that scheme.

I'm not explaining myself well.

I suppose the point came out of a discussion Welshcakes and I had earlier about different bloggers and expectations of how much time and effort can really be devoted to a cause when most of us are having difficulty even keeping our blogs up, answering comments and visiting our rolls. Of course we must not be selfish, of course any of us would welcome new ideas and help someone in distress but there are surely limits.

One point Welshcakes has just made is that of geographical location. Let's say there was a difficulty in the UK, for example. All right, we can write to our local MP but no MP in Britain will read a letter not coming from a resident constituent. There are, sadly, limits to what an expat can do, much as he/she might wish to help. Of course we'd do what we could from where we are.

We'd like to know what others think about this.

Monday, June 23, 2008

[plastic surgery] new improved competition

Well it's high time we ran another competition for you plastic surgery devotees and here are four to start the ball rolling:

Your task - to rate the stars in terms of the effectiveness of their plastic surgery and their attractiveness to you personally. Don't stand on ceremony - tell us your thoughts on these beauties.


We make no claim that any of these stars have actually undergone plastic surgery. Let's just say it's a hunch.

Ancillary question:

Do you feel there are any richly deserving of inclusion in this competition whom we've sadly neglected?

Hat Tip: Welshcakes, with whom I was discussing famous Welshmen and one thing led to another, you know ...

[trees] trust them to get their hands on these too

Longrider, in his Plague of Tree Inspectors, highlights just what the problem is with those in power - they try to create problems which don't exist, particularly in the case of the trees that never needed to come down:

This tells me that English common law worked exactly as it is supposed to. What we have here is the law working as intended yet a quango wants to impose regulation and inspection to solve a problem that does not need solving because, frankly, it does not exist.

Read the whole post. It's more than this though. It's utilizing any possible pretext to exert control, including that of the health of trees. I'd like to say "total prats", except that this was a quite cynical move on their part.

Pity the trees and pity us.

[total politics] give it a try

Try the new concept in total resource politics.
Mosey around and explore.

Hat tips: Iain, Ellee

[exploiting grief] masterclass by sky and the bbc

We were watching Sky News and BBC World News last evening and something occurred which we'd already spoken of for a week or more.

To put it in context, I'd been into the Melbourne Age in the morning and had noted it was full of killings and 15 girls becoming pregnant and all that and quite frankly, I don't wish to have this thrust onto my plate early morning or late at night.

Don't get me wrong - it's not that I'm uncaring or don't feel for the victims - it's just that I object to having it thrust upon me as "news".

So to last evening and sure enough - there was Sky with closeups of the contorted faces of newly bereaved people with tears rolling down their cheeks, as the reporter thrust a mike at them and asked them how they felt. But perhaps the most distressing aspect for me was how the camera rolled on, lovingly taking in their grief to enable the home viewer to cluck-cluck in sympathy and feel awful for the night.

So I suggested we switch to BBC. Not quite as bad but not good either. As for Sky, they are in no position to defend themselves on the charge that they are not only exploiting grief for entertainment purposes but are actively seeking it out in world "trouble spots".

I find it all bizarre and sickening.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

[thought for the day] sunday evening

Justice is open to all, like the Ritz Hotel.

[James Matthew, 1955]

[dunce cap] do it again, ireland

Sorry Ireland, you got it wrong and will have to sit the exam again. "No" was the wrong result and so you'll get a second chance next year:

After a week of what European leaders call reflection, another Irish referendum beckons, to be held early next year. Without it, there might well be an attempt to oust the Irish from the European Union.

A Yes vote in a second referendum is not certain, even if the Irish government were to succeed in securing another rent extracting, treaty-amending protocol. At a time when the Irish economy is about to fall off a cliff, enthusiasm for
the EU and its treaties will not increase.

Interesting how there could possibly be a second referendum. A referendum is a referendum. There was one in Ireland. There was a result. End of the matter.

Very worrying how openly cavalier they've become - seems they don't fear the public anymore in the post-democracy era.

[david davis] 'nuff said

Please look at this post and this one.

Now look at this post, particularly the comments and this one and this one .

I'm glad that serious consideration is now being given to:

1. the fact that Cameron is disastrous for the Tories [did you see BBC World's Dateline London this evening?]

2. the possibility that Davis actually has his head screwed on right.

[football and weather] hotting up here

Doesn't matter whether one is interested or not - Euro 2008 is on in full force here and it might well be Russia v Italy the way things are shaping up.

My Russian mate's just been online about it all, saying there were scenes in the centre of my former hometown he'd never witnessed before. Apparently it's the first success since 1988 when they were the USSR. Right, yeah.

Meanwhile here Italy is still in it and if it comes to this match-up - difficult to know who to go for.

For the football purist, to be male and not to know what's going on is weird, foreign in fact. Actually, football's never been my sport although there's a sentimental attachment to the Crazy Gang. Rugby though - that's another matter [Union of course].

So I'm not going to comment on NZ-England.

Meanwhile, back in Sicily, it is shaping up for a 40 degree plus day today but at 7.30 this morning it was the best - no traffic, cool, light breeze, one trattoria/cafe open and a lovely cappuccino or two whilst sitting al fresco, watching the world go by.

The reason I was out there was that our water ran out, damn it. This puts Welshcakes under the hammer more as I can just zip off to the school for a wash and wend my way back. So I feel badly for her this morning and hope to goodness the water van comes soon today.

OK, so I'll head off now and wish you all a lovely Sunday wherever you are.

[theostalgia] take me back

Welshcakes and Simi?

Now Theo's talking my language.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

[thought for the day] saturday evening

Anyway, when I woke up this morning, the pain had spread to the whole of the back and then I realized exactly what was going on - I was metamorphosing into a nicer chap than earlier.

Yep, tell tale signs on the backs of the hands, the razor was working overtime for virtually no effect and then Welshcakes stopped by and murmured, 'It's definitely you.'

'Didn't you realize I've been masquerading all along?' I fiendishly snapped. 'What you've let into your house is nothing less than ... Baht At in disguise.'

'Well, you've overslept,' was the reply, as she cheerfully skipped off to marinade some chicken and start on the plum wine.

Now once more the mild mannered James Higham, I made the kitchen with the help of the trusty stick and suddenly the thought for the day sprang to mind:

Every day in every way, I'm getting better. [Emile Coue, 1915]

Surely there's something in that for all of us.

[oil] peace and harmony ahead ... not

Friday, June 20, 2008

[real news] this sultry friday

My suggestion to save the legs next time Welshcakes takes Simi for walkies

Bag draws our attention to the shocking news that there is a criminal subculture in prisons. Bag adds:

I'm sure the next expose we will be reading about is the Immigration Office explaining how all these immigrants are from a different culture from us in the UK. Catholics are religious and politicians are liars. I know. It's hard to believe isn't it?

Well, yes, it is hard to believe but here is one even harder to believe - in this home where I am currently ensconced due to the kindness of St. Welshcakes, you might think I'm the only bloke. Not a bit of it. Here is the household in order of precedence:

* Simone Welshcakes de Beauvoir
* Welshcakes
* Uncle James
* Mr. Tyry [the tractor tyre Simi comes to grips with every afternoon when the neighbourhood dogs go into hysterics]
* Mr. Bony Squeak [has to be seen to be believed but most effective]
* Mr. Dumby-Bell [occasionally I fill in, in this role]
* Mr. Pully-Toy [no comment]
* Mr. Stringy [let's not get tangled up in this]
* Mr. Tuggy [no comment again]

I have to report that Simone Welshcakes de Beauvoir is the first to greet me in the morning, followed by Welshcakes in a more subdued manner.

In other news,
Obama's gay Muslim character assassinators are hard at it and Cherie is reaching for the stars.

Harry Haddock says goodbye to Britain's trees [courtesy of The Englishman

Finally finally - Kate's had her wheelie bin stolen.

[ergonomics] and blogging don't mix

Fact of the matter is that I did my back in and I can lie or stand perfectly well without pain but sitting, let alone sitting and lifting the hands to type, is a bit out of the question.

On the other hand, there is a surprise post this evening so I'll rest up now and get back to you later. Have a good Friday all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

[this post] complete waste of time

Jams reported today the strange case of Stuart Hill, who decided that the Shetlands should secede from the U.K. and the E.U. and become the State of Forvik.

Commendable, Stuart but surely this comes under the heading of "Complete Waste of Time"? You know very well Iceland will step in and take you over.

This got me thinking about other things which are a complete waste of time:

1. Expecting understanding and compassion from a bureaucracy;

2. Thinking your holiday is going to run smoothly with no accidents and no lost documents;

3. Lending a book, even with your name on the inside cover and hoping to see it again;

4. Getting enough time to blog and visit everyone

... and so on and so on. I wonder what seven things spring to your mind when you hear the words: "Complete Waste of Time"?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

McCanns: Physicians heal thyselves

McCanns: Physicians heal thyselves

When I first heard and read the following quote from Kate McCann at yesterday’s press conference in Strasbourg, my initial reaction was that because there was no abduction therefore the McCanns could not suffer any pain.

"A structure we feel is absolutely vital if no other families are to go through the pain we have suffered and continue to suffer since Madeleine’s abduction nearly 14 months ago".

However, there will be those in the extended family who do actually believe the McCanns version of events and this may be painful for them.

My reasoning is restricted to Gerry and Kate McCann, and I thought that evading justice was not painful.

Unlike the McCanns, I hold my hands up when I am in the wrong.

Socrates: May not their way of proceeding, my friend, be compared to the conduct of a person who is afflicted with the worst of diseases and contrives not to pay the penalty to the physician for his sins against his constitution, and will not be cured, because, like a child, he is afraid of being burned or cut: - Is not that a parallel case?

Polus: Yes, truly.

Socrates: He would seem as if he did not know the nature of health and vigour; and if we are right, Polous, in our previous conclusions, they are in a like case who strive to evade justice, which they see to be painful, but are blind to the advantage which ensues from it, not knowing how far more miserable a companion a diseased soul is than a diseased body; a soul, I say, which is corrupt, unrighteous and unholy. And hence they do all that they can to avoid punishment and to avoid being released from the greatest of evils; they provide themselves with money and friends, and cultivate to the utmost the powers of persuasion. But if we, Polus, are right, do you see what follows, or do we draw out the consequences in form?

Polus: If you please.

Socrates: Is it not a fact that injustice, and the doing of injustice, is the greatest evils?

Polus: That is quite clear.

Socrates: And further, that to suffer punishment is the way to be released from this evil?

Polus: True.

Socrates: And not to suffer, is to perpetuate the evil?

Polus: Yes.

Footnote: Is evading justice painful? + Google = Gorgias By Plato = McCanns: Physicians heal thyselves + Google = This now number 1 on Google.

[thought for the day] wednesday evening

Here's some advice:

Always give advice, especially on topics you know absolutely nothing about.

[comment is dear] lord prat bigglesworth pontificates

This may be so:

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's need for lower interest rates to stimulate the US economy conflict with the Treasury's need for a strong dollar to deal with runaway oil prices. The Fed should recognize that its actions are misguided. The potential harm of a sustained weak dollar can make the credit crisis look like a minor storm.

... or it might not be so but one thing is for sure - the Morgan Fed is either incompetent or evil.

Take your pick.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

[feel the heat] southern sicily sizzles

We had our first 40 degrees today and of course it was while we were waiting for the bus back from Catania Airport, such bus due at 13:45 but appearing, mysteriously, at 16:15 after everyone had been fried to a frazzle and nicely pickled.

We are currently locked into a discussion on which liqueur to hit first - Gin ai Mirtilli [Welshcakes made], Pineapple Liqueur [Welshcakes made = strong], Mandarinetto [commercial but yummy], Mint Limoncello [puts hairs on your chest whilst refreshing you], the Xocohilc Liquore al Cioccolato [with chilli pepper], Quince Liqueur and Orange Liqueur [both Welshcakes' mindbenders] and lastly the Vecchia Romagna Black Label Italian brandy of which more at a later time.

The Catania airport thing is a nice venture. Two hours away by airconditioned coach, one passes through amazing countryside, mainly hills, cliffs and rocky outcrops in a range of pastel colours, with the occasional rough stone building dotted here and there to complete the scene. Will have to take a camera next time - some of the cliff faces and the buildings affixed to them are awesome.

There is greenery too - hillsides of lemon trees and assorted produce, as well as the bus running close to the ocean at one point and that is something else again. I have this crazed idea to build a little house into the hillside somewhere but that's down the track.

Back in Modica, the thing which hits you is the number of motor scooters - Vespas, Lambrettas what have you. The legal age for these is 14 .......

[Sorry, have to interrupt this post with the news that Italy has just scored in the European Cup. The city just burst into spontaneous uproar, the motorcyclists are racing up and down the roads at top revs and everyone's going crazy.]

So, as I say, the legal age for these is 14 and it produces situations where a lady was crossing via Sacre-Coure a couple of days ago and was hit by one of these teenage putt-putts - she was actually lucky it wasn't worse. They're everywhere, these things.

'Nuff for now. Don't miss Welshcakes' post later on the clandestini who died yesterday and I'll mention the neighbourhood dogs who are driving us crazy with their wall to wall barking day and night, especially poor little Simi.





Woof justice?

Reverse Culture Shock (a preview)

As I stated in the previous post, my family came to Madrid for the weekend. They´ll be here in Spain till this Saturday but I can´t go with them due to my teaching obligations. Needless to say, when they showed up at Barajas, I was thrilled (having not seen them in six months). However, as the day wore on and two of my family members refused to see or do anything besides sit in the hotel, I started getting angry. I didn´t let it show but it seemed so weird, first off, talking in English. Second, I do remember how tired I was the first day I came here. I hadn´t slept during the entire flight and proceeded to sleep two hours after eating breakfast when I got into my (now) old apartment near Príncipe Pío. I soon recovered later that day. What one member of my family (who shall remain nameless) said sums it up best, "We´re only here for a week. They should be wanting to see more stuff and not be too concerned with sleep." Too true! They really did miss out this weekend! Although they´ll be back on Saturday, I´ll be out of the country.

Some things I´m sure will seem quite strange to me when I leave early next month. Among them are the following:

No subway system in Indianapolis

A bit more face saving than here (as I´ve commented in previous posts, Spaniards are very direct, to the point of being rude by our standards).

Speaking English instead of Spanish

Hearing Mexican Spanish (for which I´ve developed a healthly dislike) instead of Castillian Spanish

No churros for breakfast *sniff*
Things that will not be strange:
A judicial system which works (Sadly here in Spain, you can murder someone and get out in twenty years)
Driving and blasting rock music out of the windows at full volume (something I´ve been seriously missing)
It´ll be a mixed bag, that´s for sure.

Last Days in Spain

I finished my finals on Friday. My family came to Madrid for the weekend and sadly missed out on quite a bit, being too jet lagged to see anything remotely cool like the changing of the guard at Palacio Real or actually going inside the Cathedral of Our lady of Almudena (we just stood outside and took a photo of the statue, my aunt from Argentina absolutely wanting a photo). Now that I only have to teach English and nothing else, I´m always out and about in Madrid. Today I went to the Telefónica building on Gran Vía and saw an exposition of photos. I was hoping to go into their museum which has many old school telephones including the one used by the king to innagurate Madrid´s phone system but it´s closed till August. I then went to Chamberí.

Chamberí is a neighborhood in Madrid and also has a cool exhibit: an old station from the Metro system dating back to 1919 (when Line 1 was innagurated). Specifically Line 1 (where I live off of) is the oldest of the entire system, something I didn´t know till today. I didn´t bring my camera with me but I found some very decent photos of it on the Internet. Enjoy!

This of the excavation of the station. It was closed in 1966 and in 2006 the process began to recover it. Once you get on the platform for the trains you can actually watch the current line 1 trains go by! I was so thrilled when a friend told me a few months ago that you can go in this station. I have been dying to get photos/get in ever since I moved to Tetuán back in February.

Here is probably the coolest photo I found. This is when your standing on the platform. Notice first off the ever famous Metro de Madrid diamond denoting what station it is (in this case, Chamberí). It´s in the old style too, compare it with the one below Quevedo, which is more recent. Second, it has one of the ads that is down in the station, they retained the original advertisements. Third, off to the right, there is one of the current line 1 trains passing by. I waved at everyone, with my sunglasses on and my university t-shirt. It passes by at normal speed, so I´m sure everyone was thinking, "What is this?"

This is the entrance to the station. Find below a photo of the diamond from Quevedo.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Old Jewish Cemetery

I would like to share with you a place I found quite moving - the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. It was founded in 1478 and for more than 300 years it was the only burial ground where Jews were permitted. It is quite compact in space so burials were on top of one another, sometimes up to 12 deep. The site contains an estimated 100,000 bodies and over 12,000 gravestones.

The stones are amazingly jumbled and quite fascinating. I like the following picture because to me it shows the cycle of death and life.

And here you get an impression of how close the gravestones are.

The only way into the cemetery is through Pinkas Synagogue which was founded in 1479. Today the Synagogue is a memorial to all the Jewish Czechoslovak citizens who were imprisoned in Terezin concentration camp and later deported to various Nazi concentration camps. On the walls of the Synagogue are the names of 77,297 people who didn't return! The building also houses an exhibition of children's pictures from the Terezin concentration camp.

My first step into the building, seeing all those names on the wall was quite overwhelming. There was no way I could have photographed it for lots of reasons but here is a photo so you can get an impression of it...


This photo was originally uploaded by: ccarlstead.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

[thought for the day] sunday evening

On this auspicious Sunday, some words of wisdom from 1744:

Truth is the cry of all but the game of the few.