31 March 2011

Fear the Amalgam Horde

The BBC reports that the winner of this year’s Diagram Prize for oddest book title is….

….Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way. Written by by former dentist Michael Young, the book offers a guide on how to build an empire in the dentistry field.

In his book, Young argues that despite the western world viewing the legendary warrior in negative terms, his warmongering tenacity is required to build a successful business.

Its closest rival was 8th International Friction Stir Welding Symposium Proceedings, which details the development and application of friction stir welding at a German symposium last May.

This year's other shortlisted titles were What Colour Is Your Dog?, The Italian's One-Night Love-Child, Myth of the Social Volcano and The Generosity of the Dead.

Well there you have it… if Genghis Khan had the Golden Horde what do you call dentists that use is tactics? The Amalgam Horde?

The Great Gagarin cover up

Today’s Telegraph carried an article titled Soviet Union lied about 1961 Yuri Gagarin space mission

Ach here comes the great “Gagarin space flight hoax,” I thought. Given that a lot of people do not believe that there was ever a Moon landing, why not deny the first manned space mission.

Well it isn’t quite like that:

Apparently Soviet officials and covered up the fact that he had landed more than 200 miles away from where they were expecting him… according to a new book.

The book 108 Minutes That Changed the World apparently reveals revealed that scientists twice miscalculated where he would land which is why there was nobody there to meet him when he finally touched down some 500 miles south of Moscow.

The Soviets also lied about the manner of his landing, claiming that he had touched down inside the capsule itself when in actual fact he landed separately via parachute. The reason they lied, said the book, was to skirt strict rules that would have prevented them from officially registering the flight as a world record.

Is that it? It must be a slow news day…

30 March 2011

The passing of a great

There was a man who was perhaps responsible for more things being tightly glued to otherThings (and quite a lot of people glued to things too) than anyone else. That man was Harry Coover , who dies last Saturday aged 94.

In 1942, while searching for materials to make clear plastic gun sights, Coover and his team at Eastman Kodak first worked with cyanoaryltates but rejected them. Nine years later, Coover was overseeing Kodak chemists investigating heat-resistant polymers for jet canopies when cyanoacrylates were once again tested. That time around, however, Coover recognized that he had discovered a unique adhesive. In 1958, the adhesive Super Glue was introduced for sale.

Coover held 460 patents. In 2004, he was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame. In 2010, Coover received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Dr Coover, we salute you

29 March 2011

Yet another birthday

Ah, another birthday. This time it is my 48th (It is also Elle MacPerhson's 48th too but she has worn fa better than I have... I may have bigger boobs though!). But I do remain 20 years younger than erstwhile Prime Minister John Major.

I shall lift a glass with (although not in the same company as) Lucy Lawless, Marina Sirtis, Teofilio Stevenson, Eric Idle and Bud Cort.. Needless to say there is no prospect of sharing a birthday drink with Norman Tebbit

28 March 2011

Vogue to Syrians: Eat Shit continued

Joan Juliet Buck goes on to demonstrate absolutely that she has the political nous of a maggot. There is no way she was being ironic here:

The presidential family lives in a modern apartment in Malki. On Friday, the Muslim day of rest, Asma al-Assad opens the door herself in jeans and old suede stiletto boots, hair in a ponytail, the word happiness spelled out across the back of her T-shirt. At the bottom of the stairs stands the off-duty president in jeans—tall, long-necked, blue-eyed. A precise man who takes photographs and talks lovingly about his first computer, he says he was attracted to studying eye surgery “because it’s very precise… and there is very little blood.”

The old al-Assad family apartment was remade into a child-friendly triple-decker playroom loft surrounded by immense windows on three sides. Asma al-Assad likes to say, “You’re safe because you are surrounded by people who will keep you safe.” Neighbors peer in, drop by, visit, comment on the furniture. The president doesn’t mind: “This curiosity is good: They come to see you, they learn more about you. You don’t isolate yourself.”

There’s a decorated Christmas tree. Seven-year-old Zein watches Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland on the president’s iMac; her brother Karim, six, builds a shark out of Legos; and nine-year-old Hafez tries out his new electric violin. All three go to a Montessori school.

Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. “They outvoted us three to two on that.”

I don’t think there is any need to go on

Anna Wintour - ugliness goes deep

As for the American Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, the not-wife has a few choice words to describe her (primarily due to Wintour’s pro-fur stance)… Most of them rhyme with bunt, shunt and stunt. In relation to his article, she her words for Wintour and Buck were “A pair of callous bitches”.

On the evidence of this piece of fawning drivel I can only agree.

Vogue to Syrians: Eat Shit

This is old news but still worth a rant:

Okay so you don’t buy Vogue for its insightful political analysis but there must surely be times when even the producers of such a piece of glossy fluff like Vogue must wonder if they are utterly out of tune with reality.

I wonder what Anna Wintour and the Vogue editorial board were thinking when they put the March edition together.I doubt they gave a single jot of care for the situation in the Middle East in general or the people of Syria in particular.

Joan Juliet Buck

The issue in question  included the following Asma Al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert , written by socialiite ,former French Vogue editor in chief and palpable are arselicker Joan Juliet Buck.

Here are some selected excerpts:

Asma al-Assad, Syria’s dynamic first lady, is on a mission to create a beacon of culture and secularism in a powder-keg region—and to put a modern face on her husband’s regime.

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies….She is the first lady of Syria.

Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.”

The Assads

It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark.

Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary.

The first impression of Asma al-Assad is movement—a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles. Dark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace. No watch, no jewelry apart from Chanel agates around her neck, not even a wedding ring, but fingernails lacquered a dark blue-green. She’s breezy, conspiratorial, and fun. Her accent is English but not plummy. Despite what must be a killer IQ, she sometimes uses urban shorthand: “I was, like. . . .”

Asma Akhras was born in London in 1975, the eldest child and only daughter of a Syrian cardiologist and his diplomat wife. She grew up in Ealing, went to Queen’s College. She studied computer science at university, then went into banking..

She started dating a family friend: the second son of president Hafez al-Assad, Bashar, who’d cut short his ophthalmology studies in London in 1994 and returned to Syria after his older brother, Basil, heir apparent to power, died in a car crash.

The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.”

Blah, blah blah, Louboutin, Chanel and other expensive brands the Killer comes in the next post

But clearly Joan Juliet Buck has the political nous of a maggot.

27 March 2011

A New Temperance Poem, in Memory of my Departed Parents, who were Sober Living & God Fearing People

If one McGonagall gem was not enough, here's another pearl of art!

My parents were sober living, and often did pray
For their family to abstain from intoxicating drink alway;
Because they knew it would lead them astray
Which no God fearing man will dare to gainsay.

Some people do say that God made strong drink,
But he is not so cruel I think;
To lay a stumbling block in his children's way,
And then punish them for going astray.

No! God has more love for his children, than mere man.
To make strong drink their souls to damn;
His love is more boundless than mere man's by far,
And to say not it would be an unequal par.

A man that truly loves his family wont allow them to drink,
Because he knows seldom about God they will think,
Besides he knows it will destroy their intellect,
And cause them to hold their parents in disrespect.

Strong drink makes the people commit all sorts of evil,
And must have been made by the Devil
For to make them quarrel, murder, steal, and fight,
And prevent them from doing what is right.

The Devil delights in leading the people astray,
So that he may fill his kingdom with them without delay;
It is the greatest pleasure he can really find,
To be the enemy of all mankind.

The Devil delights in breeding family strife,
Especially betwixt man and wife;
And if the husband comes home drunk at night,
He laughs and crys, ha! ha! what a beautiful sight.

And if the husband asks his supper when he comes in,
The poor wife must instantly find it for him;
And if she cannot find it, he will curse and frown,
And very likely knock his loving wife down.

Then the children will scream aloud,
And the Devil no doubt will feel very proud,
If he can get the children to leave their own fireside,
And to tell their drunken father, they won't with him reside.

Strong drink will cause the gambler to rob and kill his brother,
Aye! also his father and his mother,
All for the sake of getting money to gamble,
Likewise to drink, cheat, and wrangle.

And when the burglar wants to do his work very handy,
He plies himself with a glass of Whisky, Rum, or Brandy,
To give himself courage to rob and kill,
And innocent people's blood to spill.

Whereas if he couldn't get Whisky, Rum, or Brandy,
He wouldn't do his work so handy;
Therefore, in that respect let strong drink be abolished in time,
And that will cause a great decrease in crime.

Therefore, for this sufficient reason remove it from society,
For seldom burglary is committed in a state of sobriety;
And I earnestly entreat ye all to join with heart and hand,
And to help to chase away the Demon drink from bonnie Scotland.

I beseech ye all to kneel down and pray,
And implore God to take it away;
Then this world would be a heaven, whereas it is a hell,
And the people would have more peace in it to dwell.

The Great Yellow River Inundation In China

'Twas in the year of 1887, and on the 28th of September,
Which many people of Honan, in China, will long remember;
Especially those that survived the mighty deluge,
That fled to the mountains, and tops of trees, for refuge.

The river burst its embankments suddenly at dead of night,
And the rushing torrent swept all before it left and right;
All over the province of Honan, which for its fertility,
Is commonly called by historians, the garden of China.

The river was at its fullest when the embankment gave way,
And when the people heard it, oh! horror and dismay;
'Twas then fathers and mothers leaped from their beds without delay,
And some saved themselves from being drowned, but thousands were swept away.

Oh! it was a horrible and most pitiful scene,
To hear fathers and mothers and their children loudly scream;
As the merciless water encircled they bodies around,
While the water spirits laughed to see them drowned.

Oh! heaven, it must have been an appalling sight,
To witness in the dead stillness of the night
Frantic fathers and mothers, struggling hard against the roaring flood,
To save themselves and little ones, their own. flesh and blood.

The watchmen tried to patch the breach, but it was all in vain,
Because the banks were sodden with the long prolonged rain;
And driven along by a high wind, which brought the last strain,
Which caused the water with resistless fury to spread o'er the plain.

And the torrent poured into the valley of the La Chia river,
Sweeping thousands of the people before it ere a helping hand could them deliver;
Oh! it was horrible to hear the crashing of houses fallen on every side,
As the flood of rushing waters spread far and wide.

The Chinese offer sacrifices to the water spirits twice a year,
And whether the water spirits or God felt angry I will not aver;
But perhaps God has considered such sacrifices a sin,
And has drowned so many thousands of them for not worshipping Him.

How wonderful are the works of God,
At times among His people abroad;
Therefore, let us be careful of what we do or say,
For fear God doth suddenly take our lives away.

The province of Honan is about half the size of Scotland,
Dotted over with about 3000 villages, most grand;
And inhabited by millions of people of every degree,
And these villages, and people were transformed into a raging sea.

The deluge swept on over the fertile and well-cultivated land,
And the rushing of the mighty torrent no power could withstand;
And the appalling torrent was about twenty feet deep,
And with resistless fury everything before it it did sweep.

Methinks I see the waste of surging waters, and hear its deafening roar,
And on its surface I see corpses of men and women by the score;
And the merciless torrent in the darkness of the night,
Sportively tossing them about, oh! what a horrible sight.

Besides there were buffaloes and oxen, timber, straw, and grain,
Also three thousand villages were buried beneath the waters of the plain;
And multitudes beneath their own roofs have found a watery grave,
While struggling hard, no doubt, poor souls their lives to save.

Therefore good people at home or abroad,
Be advised by me and trust more in God,
Than the people of Honan, the benighted Chinese,
For fear God punished you likewise for your iniquities.

A tub thumping slice of awfulness from the Tayside Tragedian. Don't forget McGonagall Online for your daily dose of poetic gems.

26 March 2011


Murder in Syria

As the protests in the Middle East spread so does the repression of dissent. Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad is no exception meeting demonstrations in Damascus, and elsewhere with extreme violence

Thousands of protestors joined funeral processions in Deraa yesterday, chanting: "Deraa people are hungry, we want freedom." Hundreds took to the streets in the cities of Homs, Hama, Tel and Latakia and in towns surrounding Deraa, with smaller protests in the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo,

At least 23 people had been killed, some of them in Damascus. Amnesty International put the death toll around Deraa in the past week at 55 at least.

The violence in Syria came after the government had pledged on Thursday to look into reforms. "Regimes become really weak when their image turns to brutality. The killings in Deraa have done that," said Ziad Malki, an activist living in exile in Switzerland. "The Syrian people want more now."

Here’s hoping that Assad becomes another middle eastern leader to be consigned to the dustbin.

25 March 2011

Meanwhile in China...

According to today’s Guardian Chinese democracy activist Liu Xianbin (no relative of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo)has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for advocating government change in online articles.

The trial came amid a crackdown on activism in China in which dozens of lawyers and activists have vanished, been interrogated, held under house arrest or criminally detained for subversion.

Liu Xianbin, who has previously spent a decade in prison, was found guilty of inciting subversion of state power after a trial that lasted just a few hours, his wife, Chen Mingxian, said.

Chinese law says inciting subversion carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, but a court can impose a longer sentence if the offence is deemed particularly grave.

"The 10-year sentence to me, because we've already been through 10 years … is a repeat of the painful process, one in which I can only watch and wait anxiously," said Chen, who is a schoolteacher.

Liu was a founding member of the China Democracy party and was convicted in 1999 of subversion of state power and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was released in November 2008.
After his release, Liu continued to be involved in several high-profile human rights activities. He was a signatory to the Charter 08 manifesto, which called for an end to single-party rule and advocated democratic political reforms.

What can one add to this? China’s atrocious human rights record speaks for itself

Tired out after a hard day's evil

24 March 2011

Not so red planet Mars

The lack of life on Mars, let alone any civilisations was due (at least in part) to its lower gravity (and thus the leeching of its atmosphere into space). However there is one far more rational reason a mere simpleton like myself would never have considered – and that is CAPITALISM.

Well according to deal old Hugo Chavez. “I have always said, heard, that it would not be strange that on Mars there had been civilisation, but then probably capitalism arrived, imperialism arrived, and did for this planet,” he said at an event on Tuesday to mark World Water Day.

Well there you have it I’m convinced!…. To be fair Chavez did make more sensible comments but he seems to have a knack of sounding like a dolt.

Seamus Heaney on my favourite pen maker

I found this poem on the Fountain Pen Network (I really do collect pens but not I'm not a serious collector).

The Conway Stewart

"Medium," 14-carat nib,
Three gold bands in the clip-on screw-top,
In the mottled barrel a spatulate, thin

Pump-action lever
The shopkeeper

The nib uncapped,
Treating it to its first deep snorkel
In a newly opened ink-bottle,

Guttery, snottery,
Letting it rest then at an angle
To ingest,

Giving us time
To look together and away
From our parting, due that evening,

To my longhand
To them, next day.

The poem appeared in his 2010 collection Human Chain.

I have never seen a poem about  fountain pen before, let alone one about a Conway Stewart pen.Contributors to the Fountain Pen Network are of the opinion that the pen in question was a model 58...

23 March 2011

Trilobite orgy shock

On such a day it is appropriate to post a news item about everybody’s favourite extinct arthropod.

Last week Science Daily carried an item concerning the occasional discovery of an entire population of fossilized trilobites.

From such finds Carlton E. Brett, University of Cincinnati professor of geology, is able to find evidence for ancient environment and Trilobite behaviour Brett has analyzed multiple examples of mass trilobite burial.

"We find moulted pieces lying immediately adjacent to each other," he said. "This is proof that the sediments were not significantly disturbed after burial."

Like modern crabs and lobsters, trilobites appear to have gathered in large groups for protection when they shed their protective exoskeletons. During moulting, there was safety in numbers. And, like their modern cousins, trilobites seem to have used these molting gatherings as opportunities for mating.

The mass burials preserve large groups of similar-sized -- and therefore similarly aged -- specimens, segregated by species and, after molting, "naked."…

Which lead Professor Brett to come to the following conclusion:

"It's an orgy,"

The article goes on to consider evidence for migration but… orgies? ORGIES!

Perhaps trilobites were the progenitors of the polyamorists..

But enough of the possible sexual antics of trilobites it is good to see beloved fossils make news!

University of Cincinnati (2011, March 17). Fossils record reveals ancient migrations, trilobite mass matings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/03/110316152939.htm

A Trilobite Haiku

Graceful Trilobite
denizen of ancient seas
Only stones remain

If you can create a worse haiku on the subject of trilobites I would love to see them!

Today is Trilobite Day

For no good reason whatsoever (apart from it seemed like a good idea five minutes ago) I have deiced that today should be set aside for a celebration of everybody's favourite extinct marine arthropod.

To get things started here is what may be (or may not be) the only song tribute to class Trilobita and its many orders

22 March 2011

Syria: No More Fear

This is from a Reuters article regarding the popular mood in Syria, another country which has seen larger protests over the last few days

The preacher of the Saladin Mosque was reflecting on the joys of Mother's Day, his sermon straying far from dramatic protests now gripping Syria, when a young man jumped up to the pulpit and grabbed the microphone.

"Why are you talking about this in these circumstances? Tell us about the political situation!" shouted the youth, before secret police arrested him and hurried him away.

In Damascus, as in the provinces, a barrier of fear which had blocked dissent is breaking down. Uprisings across the Arab world have not stopped at the door of one of its most hardline administrations.

For the first time, placards other than those glorifying Syria's ruling elite and the "historic achievements" of the Baath Party are being raised in the towns of the strategic Hauran plain south of Damascus.

A single word is etched on them -- "Freedom."

The region,, has seen the first non-sectarian protests against the Baath Party since Assad's late father Hafez al-Assad crushed leftist and Islamist opponents in the 1980s.


In a sign of changing times, Montaha al-Atrash, whose father led a revolt against French rule in the 1920s, addressed Assad directly in an interview on BBC Television.

"Dr Bashar, listen to us. Non-stop pressure and repression will generate an explosion. You know, and you see how the region is boiling,"

Opposition figure Riad al-Turk, who spent 25 years as a political prisoner said Syrian leaders face "the moment of truth." 

"What is required is serious and clear steps to transform Syria from repression to democracy…. They are steps outlined repeatedly: release political prisoners, abolish the state of emergency, legalize a multi-party system, separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and scrap the clause that makes the Baath Party 'leader of state and society'," he said. "All I know today is that Syria will not remain the kingdom of silence. Fear will no longer suffocate, and my homeland will not remain a big prison."

I wonder what will happen in Syria over the coming weeks, f I can’t see Assad going without bathing in the blood of a lot of ordinary Syrians,

Yet more nephew

21 March 2011

Writing on the wall for Yemeni president?

I will freely admit that I know little about Yemen so I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by trying to sound authoritative about events in that country.

Protests in Yemen have not received the same level of coverage as those in North Africa. There has been major protests against the regime of president, , who has been in power for 32 years. Ali Abdullah Saleh has responded to protests with extreme violence.

Now according to the Guardian and elsewhere it looks like Saleh will be consigned to the dustbin of history more quickly than Ghaddafi. Eleven military commanders, including a former confidante of the president have defected from the regime, promising to protect anti-government protesters in the capital.

Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a long-time confidant of the president, announced he would support "the peaceful revolution" by sending soldiers under his command to protect the thousands gathered in the capital demanding for Saleh to step down.

"According to what I'm feeling, and according to the feelings of my partner commanders and soldiers … I announce our support and our peaceful backing to the youth revolution," Ali Mohsen said via a video statement released before noon.

Ali Mohsen's pledge seems to have led to a stream of defections from the regime as ambassadors, regional governors, editors of government newspapers, prominent businessmen and senior members of the ruling party have either resigned or joined the protestors

"The regime is crumbling, there is very little support left for the president now," said Mohammed al-Naqeeb, head of the ruling party in Aden who resigned this afternoon.

Abdallah al-Qahdi, a senior commander from Aden who was fired from his position last week for refusing to put down a peaceful demonstration said that many regime insiders had been waiting for someone like Ali Mohsen to lead the way, and he expected most of the army will defect.

What does this all mean? To this keyboard pundit it sounds like Saleh will be history soon… but I said that about Ghaddafi a few weeks ago so what do I know? I have no idea how determined the president and those around him are to hang on to power or what military strength they have to call on.

I had not heard of Ali Mohsen before today. From what I can glean from the press he is not exactly a savoury character, having crushed previous rebellions in the country with extreme prejudice. Is his defection a cynical power play? Perhaps so. Would Yemen be a better place with him in charge? Perhaps not.

All I can predict is that there will be more bloodshed before all of this is over.

For Claude


A song to banish Celine Demonne

20 March 2011

Libyan air strikes start

French, RAF and USAF aircraft have been in action over Libya. Canadian, Spanish Danish, Norwgian, Qatari and UAE aircraft are to follow suit. The indications are that they are having some effect but time will tell. Hopefully they will have a major effect on Ghaddafi's ability to wreak slaughter on the rebels. Libyan media sources have reported dozens of civilian deaths - how true these reports is anyone's guess at the moment.

I support the strikes for the following reasons:

  • Although weeks too late they should help ensure that the Libyan uprising is not crushed. To have stood aside and done nothing would have seen Ghaddafi wreak an appalling vengeance on the rebels.
  • By stepping in and helping to stop a Ghaddafi victory should prevent a protracted insurgency by rebels disillusioned by the West. This would have been a gift to hardline Islamists.
  • The attacks should provide cover for the the rebels, at the very least, to  regain towns lost to forces loyal to Ghaddafi over the last couple of weeks,
  • Hopefully thought the strikes will assist in regime change
It is not that I do not have reservations about the strikes:
  • Not so very long ago the countries that are now leading leading the strikes  were engaging in a "rapprochement" with the very person they are now seeking  to remove
  • Little regard is being given to protests elsewhere in the Arab world and nothing is being done to stem the murder of protestors, particularly in Yemen and Bahrain.
  • No action would have been taken had there not have been huge commercial interests in Libya.  
 Let's see what happens

Las Vegas contracts Celine Dion

Be afraid, be VERY afraid

It has long been acknowledged that chanteuse Celine Dion alone represents somewhere in the region of 35% of the Canadian economy. And it is not record sales - her prodigious consumption of throat sweets provides employment for over 70% of the labour force workforce in Labrador.

According to the Telegraph  her ability to generate humungous piles of money is coming to the aid of perhaps the tackiest place on the planet.

The city of is, of course, Las Vegas which has been hit particularly hard by recession. In fact it has seen just about the economic biggest slump of American city.

Dion has been dubbed a "messiah" and the debut of her new show at Caesar's Palace last week was treated with all the reverence of the Second.

"She's been called a 'one-woman economic stimulus package' and I think there's a lot of truth to that. People will come to the city just for her and they will spend money and as a consequence, she has an outsized impact on the economy," said Stephen Brown, director of the Centre for Business and Economic Research in Las Vegas.
"And 'Bigger than Elvis, Sinatra and Liberace put together?'" he added. "Definitely."

Brown estimates that Dion's show will create at least 4 million direct and indirect jobs and bring around $475 billion worth of new economic activity in each of the three years for which she has been contracted. In fact box office takings are over $17 billion already for the first month's worth of shows alone.

During her last run in Las Vegas, from 2003 to 2007, every single ticket of every single show sold out, creating gross profits of $400bn and reaching a total audience of 300 million

Caesar's built a 200,000-seat auditorium especially for her, complete with dazzling stage wizardry and a dehumidifying system to protect her voice from the dry desert heat.

In a related move Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is reported to have held discussions with the surviving members of the Bay City Rolers in the hope of a similar economic revival…

Needless to say I would rather hammer rusty nails into my eyes rather than attend a Celine Dion concert

Sunlight on flowing hair

19 March 2011

Galway Girl

the not-wife on the other hand is from Hornchurch...

Iran unveils plan to conquer galaxy

Fars news agency  has announced that Iran has developed an unmanned flying saucer

Called "Zohal" in Farsi (which translates as Saturn) the saucer was designed and developed jointly by Farnas Aerospace Company and Iranian Aviation and Space Industries Association (IASIA),.

The initial version, which is designed just for aerial imaging, is equipped with an auto-pilot system, GPS (Global Positioning System) and two separate imaging systems with full HD 10 mega-pixel picture quality and is able to take and send images simultaneously.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei was reported to be delighted with progress and hoped that an improved version equipped with warp drive and quantum torpedoes will be ready as planned by 2020.

US intelligence sources believe that this taken together with the development of new body armour for the revolutionary guard (see above) is an indication that Iran may have a strategy for expanding its influence beyond the bounds of earth.

“a saucer equipped with faster than light technology and quantum armament is likely to be a match for any space faring civilization in this sector of the galaxy” a spokesman said,

18 March 2011

Well the UN has finally passed a resolution permitting the establishment of a no fly zone over Libya, The US, France, Canada and the UK will participate. Several other nations are likely to follow suit.

Ghaddafi appears to have responded by calling a cease fire (kind of, sort of but not in the western town of Misrata where the regime has continued with shelling attacks). Who knows how long it will lasr

I can't help but feel that if this resolution should have been enacted weeks ago, It might have prevented a lot of death and destruction (assuming, of course, that Ghaddafi had reacted then with a cease fire and stuck to it).

Better late than never I suppose... Just so long as the no-fly enforcers don't contrive to screw things up by bombing the rebels

Ach human, big camera, small....

As ever Bebe shows ill grace when being photographed

17 March 2011

1952 Vincent Black Black Lightning

Cooksferry Queen

Candle Mary

This is a few months old but still worth a post
Mari Valenzuela of Alhambra, California made an astonishing discovery when she finished praying the rosary in December. According to the KTLA news website she noticed an image of the Virgin Mary formed in candle wax.

The wax figure is about six inches tall and appears to show a woman kneeling and praying.

Valenzuela showed the figure to her friends and family who say they've never seen anything quite like it form from wax.\

Valenzuela says she doesn't know what to do with the figure but wants to share it with as many people as she can. In the meantime, she's storing it in her refrigerator so it doesn't melt.

Hmm I wonder if she has ever heard of Ebay?

16 March 2011

1 000 000th

A Dane coming for some porn shots and finding two mating lily beetles became the millionth visitor to this crappy blog.

Here's to many others coming here seeking gratification but only finding disappointment (but not my happy band of regular readers I pray!)

More from Saturday's shoot

12 March 2011

A man with a fan

Skull Chador

Crap Infra Red Shot of nephew

Been out  with nephew on another photo session this morning. This one went rather better than the last one we did..  No colds, no getting caked in mud and no jarred knees. In fact everything went swimmingly until we got rear ended when I was driving hm back to the station! Mercifully there was no damage

11 March 2011

Blogger fatigue

The Poor Mouth is not far off five years old. By that time it will contain over 4,000 posts with around 43,000 and over 1 million visits. Not too shabby if I say so myself...

Most of the time blogging is enjoyable but there are times when it is a chore. I am currently feeling the latter rather than the former.

I will continue until my fifth blogoversary on 2 April and then I will take a break of a few weeks. 

No photo hunts until then

Boris as still life

Boris does not seem to worry about my inveterate untidiness

10 March 2011

Let’s follow France’s lead

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has taken a bold step and is to recognise the Libyan opposition's Interim Governing Council based in the eastern city of Benghazi. France is the first country to do so.

While it is right and proper that the West does not send troops into Libya – that could damage the rebel cause, even though it now seems that Ghaddafi and his minions are slowly regaining ground – there is a lot more that can be done.

Sanctions are fine and well but the rebels require far more international support. Recognising the interim council in Behghazi is a first step. Rapid provision of humanitarian aid is of course a given. The way things are going I am sure the rebels would greatly appreciate as many portable anti tank and anti aircraft missile systems as can be spared. And as a matter of urgency too!

Hopefully there will be no more prevarication and a no-fly zone over Libya will be put into place as soon as possible

Thanks to H for drawing my attention to this

Sunne in splendour one more time

Blackmore church

Why women should love spineless men

More than one woman over the years has called me spineless. At the time I was insulted but now it seems that being a spineless male has a distinct and most pleasant advantage.

The BBC reports that scientists believe men once had small spines on their genitalia along the lines of those found in chimpanzees, cats and mice.

A study published in Nature gave details of an analysis of the genomes of humans, chimpanzees and macaques which indicates that a DNA sequence thought to play a role in the production of these spines have been deleted in humans, but has been preserved in other primates.

The researchers at Stanford, Georgia and Pennsylvania State universities in the US wanted to trace evolutionary changes in human DNA.

They compared the human genome with those of the chimpanzee and macaque, and came up with 510 stretches of DNA that have been conserved in our primate relatives but deleted in humans. Nearly all them appear to play a regulatory role in the function of nearby genes.

Penile spines are barb-like structures found in many mammals. Their role remains under debate, and they may play different roles in different species.

They may increase stimulation for the male during mating. They might also play a part in inducing female ovulation in a small number of species, but there is evidence that they can cause damage to the female too. There is also the suggestion that they might have evolved to remove "mating plugs" - material that some male species deposit in the female genital tract to block other males' attempts to fertilise the same female.

The researchers believe the loss of these spines in humans may be related to changes in human courtship. The loss of spines, they say, would result in less sensitivity and longer copulation, and may be associated with stronger pair-bonding in humans and greater paternal care for human offspring.

Whether the theories about the function of penile spines are correct or not I am glad that they have been evolved away[ the not-wife of course is even happier!

09 March 2011


Move along. Nothing to see here

Music for tramadol

Love love is a verb
Love is a doing word
Fearless on my breath
Gentle impulsion
Shakes me makes me lighter
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

Night night of matter
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

Water is my eye
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire of a confession
Fearless on my breath
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

you're stumbling into
you're stumbling into

Music for a bad mood

Always a good song for a bad mood I find. No pretending that I am a youthful Jello though - Bloody well jarred my knee again

Big Society, little budgets

A few months ago Civil Society minister, Nick Hurd praised the charity TimeBank (which matches volunteers to charities where their expertise is most useful – it has placed 300,000 people with charities over the last ten years)

After speaking at an event in December, he wrote on Twitter: "Happy 10th anniversary to TimeBank! Good event trying to counter cynicism on Big Society."

You would have thought then that TimeBank would be an organisation that the government would be keen to fund given its push towards the “Big Society”….. but you would think wrongly

According to the Independent the Office of Civil Society (surely a department that was made for Jim Hacker…) has refused to continue providing Timebank with a strategic partnership grant of over £500,000, an amount that represents a quarter of its total income.

Chief Executive Helen Walker said she was extremely disappointed that the charity had failed to even get past the first stage of the funding process.. "This decision will hugely undermine the Government's vision for a Big Society," she added. "For the past decade we have made an important contribution to mobilising an army of 300,000 volunteers and to improving the quality of volunteering across the board. Without this vital core funding we will not be able to continue to deliver the level of service that we have based our reputation on and will have to considerably reduce our activities and staff as a result. We will be mounting an appeal against this decision and will be creating a petition to save the charity in due course."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "TimeBank was given six months notice, which is ample time to plan for the future."

Ah well so much for the Government putting its money where its mouth is…

08 March 2011

The Wind Will Take Us

It's been a while since I posted a poem by Forough Farrokhzad

The Wind Will Take Us

In my small night, ah
the wind has a date with the leaves of the trees
in my small night there is agony of destruction
do you hear the darkness blowing?
I look upon this bliss as a stranger
I am addicted to my despair.

listen do you hear the darkness blowing?
something is passing in the night
the moon is restless and red
and over this rooftop
where crumbling is a constant fear
clouds, like a procession of mourners
seem to be waiting for the moment of rain.
a moment
and then nothing
night shudders beyond this window
and the earth winds to a halt
beyond this window
something unknown is watching you and me.

O green from head to foot
place your hands like a burning memory
in my loving hands
give your lips to the caresses
of my loving lips
like the warm perception of being
the wind will take us
the wind will take us.

Translated by Ahmad Karimi Hakkak

I know I've posted this poem before but it is one of my favourite poems so here it is again.

The poem and several other works by Forough Farrokhzad can be found here

Well They Are Passion Fruit!

Moving away from simulacra for I bring you some rude shaped fruit instead. A vine producing penis-shaped passion fruit has been discovered by a gardener in the Brazilian city of San Jose de Ribamar.

Although none of the penis-shaped variety are ripe yet, the woman who grew them, Maria Rodrigues de Aguiar Farias, 53, told the news site G1 so many visitors want to see the plants that she’s started charging admission.

Well it made the not-wife laugh like a drain when she read the story!

Once again I can thank the Fortean Time breaking news section for this story

07 March 2011

Defending Galliano – When Silence is Golden

The original news story passed me by (My thanks to Modernity for drawing this to my attention) but better late than never.

I could not believe that American stylist Patricia Field (That’s her above looking tres chic!) would describe Galliano’s anti Semitic rant as a piece of theatre but that is exactly what she did:

In a phone interview last week, Field/ described Galliano’s controversial videotaped behaviour as “farce” and said she was bewildered that people in the fashion community have not recognized it as such.

“People in fashion all they do is go and see John Galliano theater every season. That’s what he gives them. To me, this was the same except it wasn’t in a theater or in a movie…John lives in theater. It’s theater. It’s farce. But people in fashion don’t recognize the farce in it. All of a sudden they don’t know him. But it’s OK when it’s Mel Brooks’ ‘The Producers’ singing Springtime for Hitler.”

Field said Galliano was “acting out a character.” She said she can not understand how people who come to his shows and are entertained by him season after season don’t recognize that the recent incidents were another form of theater.

“They don’t even see the farce in it. Fashion people who know him have not come forward. They know his theater,”

Ben Franklin may or may not have said “Tis far better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”. Perhaps Patricia Field could have done well to ponder this phrase before opening her mouth in defence of Galliano.

And now a pretty church

The famous Church of St Andrews at Greensted-Juxta-Ongar, It is famous for being the oldest wooden structure in Europe dating back to the 11th Century at the latest.

Mary in Newquay

Caroline and Stephen Gray were walking along the coastline near Newquay when they stopped to pose for a series of holiday snaps. But Caroline, 38, was speechless when the couple returned home and studied the digital camera to spot a clear image of the Virgin Mary, which she insists was not present when she took the picture.

She said: ''There was nothing on the screen when I took the original photograph. Then when we got home the image of the Virgin Mary had appeared. ''There was absolutely nobody else on the beach at the time, which makes this all the more intriguing.
''It looks like a pregnant woman and she appears to be holding a lamp. It certainly looks like the Virgin Mary. ''I don't know if it would still be visible if you went there to see it, but I'm sure that won't stop people from trying.''

After a spate of non-religious simulacra it’s good to see a BVM appearance again

06 March 2011

The old man of the trees

My favourite dryad from the Black poplars in the Chase, Dagenham

The face of Otzi

Okay this is not breaking news but it is something that certainly interests me!

Otzi the Iceman was killed about 5300 years ago while trekking up the Schnalstal glacier in the Italian Alps.

Hit on the head with a heavy cudgel and wounded in the side by an arrow, he collapsed into the snow and was mummified by the cold and dry air. He lay undiscovered until 1991, when Erika and Helmut Simon stumbled across the corpse near the Italian city of Bolzano.

Now, according to the Telegraph, Dutch forensic experts Alfons and Adrie Kennis have painstakingly created the first image of Otzi, relying on 3D images of the mummy's skull and infrared and tomographic images.

Their reconstruction reveals Otzi to be an older man, with deep wrinkles in his face and shaggy, unkempt hair parted on the side.His sunken cheeks and deep-set eyes make him appear tired, and older than scientists believed him to have been at the age of his death - around 45.They placed him at 5ft 3ins tall and had him weighing in at 2lbs under eight stone.

The new model of him will go on display from March 1 until January next year at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano.

Fascinating.I used to enjoy the programme Meet the Ancestors which endeeavoured to put a face on ancient (and not so ancient) skeletons. It is wonderful to see the face of Otzi

A bit of noise for a Saturday night

A couple of days ago my old friend Jimmy St James told me that the Hawkwind tribute band Hoaxwind were playing at a pub in Romford, something that I had missed. And a pretty good band they were - their repertoire focussing on 70s covers with a couple of songs from the 80s. They were most enjoyable. What I didn't realise was that the headline band was the band Gunslinger formed by former long time Hawkwind bassist Alan Davey.

Gunslinger are Alan Davey, his nephew Louis and Cat Bothwell. Very much in the lie of Motorhead but without the slow ballads like Overkill or Bomber!

A most enjoyable night that ended with ringing ears!

05 March 2011

Boris is Blue

Boris is in trouble,,, again. After a long period of him being kept indoors to keep him away from his beloved English Mastiff Izzy.

Ot's not that we disapprove of his inter-species infatuation but that he follows Izzy home (a fair bit away_ and has started bullying the family cat Boychik,

In the last few days we hoped that Boris might have forgotten about Izzy so we decided to relent and let him out earlier. Last night I got a call from Reuben, Izzy's owner, advising us that he was straight back and bullying Boycchik.

That'sit, Boris is being given an ASBO and will be under house arrest from dinner until about 1am

The photo was taken on a Nikon D50 with an infra red filter

Huckabee slams single mother Palin

Hot on the heels of stating that Barack Obama was raised in Kenya, former Arkansas governor hMike Huckabee may well have damaged his chances of securing the 2012 Republican presidential nomination after launching a blistering attack on Bristol Palin for "glamorising" single motherhood with an "out of wedlock" pregnancy.

Huckabee criticised the 20-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin saying "There aren't really a lot of single mums out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being famous just for being famous… Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that's the story that we're not seeing, and it's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorise the idea of out of children wedlock."

AAlthough Sarah Palin’s star seems to be on the wane it is believed that Huckabee’s comments about her daughter backfire on him as he tries to secure the Republican nomination.

Oh wait it was Natalie Portman he was criticising. Heven forbid he ever meets Justine Thornton (Ed Miliband’s partner – Ed Miliband is the leader of the opposition Labour Party here. They are not married and they have two children). His head might explode

04 March 2011

Photo Hunt - Still Life With Jaundice

The theme for the week's Photo Hunt is self portrait. Personally I hate to be photographed which is why I tend to live on the other side of the lens inflicting photos on other people

.As a result there are relatively few photos of me. This is a version of the one on my Facebook page

Old boy

It won't be long before the old chap is seventeen

03 March 2011

So much for Chavez’s attempt to prop up his buddy

An attempt by Hugo Chavez to broker a peace deal between Ghaddafi and the Libyan rebels has failed. Unsorprisingly leader of the rebels have rejected any such approach out of hand.

"No one has told us a thing about it and we are not interested anyway," said the spokesman of the national committee in Benghazi, Abdul Hafif Goga. "We will never negotiate with him."

"Talk of peace is far too late," said a second member of the organising committee, Salwa Bogheiga. "A lot of people have died and there is no one to negotiate with. They lost that right when they started killing people on 17 February."

The rebel committee in Benghazi and the military leadership that jointly run the eastern side of the country insist that they are now too committed to consider any sort of ceasefire. They say that Gaddafi would use it to re-organise his loyalist troops for a major assault on rebel-held cities.

In Chavez’s mind he surely thinks he is doing something constructive. After all he is trying to help out an old friend and ally in the struggle to provide the best rhetoric against the USA.

As the rebel leaders say themselves it is far too late for talks – that time ended when Ghaddafi’s men opened fire. If Chavez is negotiating Ghaddafi’s departure, then fine I suppose. Negotiating anything more to Ghaddafi’s advantage can be forgotten.

First narcissus of spring


02 March 2011

When PFI goes bad

In 2001 AssetCo (Initially British Gas's asset and leasing subsidiary) was awarded a 20-year PFI contract to provide “a range of outsourced support services, including the ownership and management of operational vehicles and equipment.”

According to the company’s website the company “procures and delivers the fleet and equipment to the London Fire Brigade (LFB), enabling efficiencies for over 500 appliances and support vehicles, two fire boats and 50,000 items of operational equipment.”

In addition the company “manages the operational availability of all of the frontline Fire and Rescue vehicles and operational equipment used at the 113 London fire stations.”

In addition AssetCo was awarded another contract to provide LFB with up to 700 staff, trained to provide a support firefighting service

The reserve firefighters provide “contingency to London Fire Brigade in the event of extreme situations such as pandemic illness or flooding.”

…And of course cover during strikes now that the Green Goddess fleet has been disbanded, but that is another story

This is all fine and dandy, I suppose, so long as the contract benefits LFB (I am in no position to comment on this) and AssetCo is a going concern

Even if the former has been the case (although the Fire Brigades Union has expressed concern over this) the latter most certainly is not.

Over the last two weeks the press has carried a number of reports about AssetCo’s financial difficulties (They passed me by I regret to say),

On 14 February The Guardian reported that the company had a £4m short term debt problem and that action to refinance had not progressed quickly enough to meet immediate cash demands

On 21 February this report stated that the company was approaching investors and shareholders in a bid to raise up to £8m as soon as possible. The report reiterated that delays over refinancing had led to a significant strain on the cash resources.

AssetCo directors remained upbeat, however,

Now it seems that HM Revenue and Customs has applied for a winding up petition in respect of unpaid taxes. The company has apparently managed to delay the court hearing until mid April in a bid to raise the necessary funds.

Whichever way you look at it this is serious. The winding up petition is a “nuclear option” which could end up in the company being liquidated and its assets sold to pay debts. If this were to be the case, what then for LFB assets? Would it mean the sell off of appliances (fire engines)?

Even if it did not come to an asset sale, what then for LFB’s essential maintenance and procurement functions?

The government and LFB seem to be unconcerned so far: A spokesman for Bob Neill (the Minister with responsibility for Fire services) said the contract was a matter for the company and the London fire brigade.

A spokesman for the brigade said: "We plan for all events that could affect the fire and rescue service we provide and do not anticipate an impact on London's fire engines! (I bloody well hope not!)

I must admit that I have a serious interest in this matter – not as an example of Tory bashing or as a but as a resident of a London borough. The prospect of a service as vital as fire cover being compromised because of a private company’s financial situation makes me shudder,

It begs a lot of questions but for once I will not state the obvious!

E-Tree phone home (or Take me to your Lignin?)

Pete Burford, 72,of of Eldersfield, Gloucestershire, discovered this fine simulacrum when when he chopped down a poplar tree for firewood.

"It's probably just one of those things, but it so looks like E.T. I couldn't believe it," he said.

Or is it crap magician Paul Daniels?