31 January 2010

The older I get the less interest I take in football. I’ve lost the last bit of interest I had in local side West Ham anymore, I don’t give a damn about the overpaid and overrated show ponies in the premiership or any other league, national or overseas. While I was a little outraged at Thierry Henry’s “hand of God” goal that saw the Ireland team lose out on a place at the World Cup finals in South Africa this summer, I simply can’t be bothered with the game anymore.

I had thought that the football world was greedy and sometimes corrupt but I was shocked to see the callousness and sheer stupidity of the African Football Confederation (CAF)

On 8 January, the team coach carrying the Togo national side to its first fixture in the African Cup of Nations was attacked by Cabindan separatists (Cabinda is an Angolan exclave separated from the rest of Angola by the River Congo and territory belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Three people were killed in the attack (the driver, a press officer and the assistant coach) and seven wounded, including at least three players.

Although the players wanted to stay the Togolese government, quite understandably, withdrew the team.

Yesterday the CAF announced that Togo had been banned from the next two Africa Cup of Nations . Furthermore a fine of $50,000 was levied.

CAF stated that the decision to pull the team out amounted to governmental interference in the sport. "The players publicly expressed their willingness to return to the Nations Cup to compete. But the Togo government decided to call back their national team," CAF explained in its statement. "The decision by political authorities contravenes CAF and African Nations Cup regulations."

needless to say the Togolese government was livid "This is a surprise decision and it means that people (CAF) have no consideration for the lives of other human beings," said Interior Minister Pascal Bodjona. "This is insulting to the family of those who lost their lives and those traumatised because of the attack. We had two people dead and others suffered so if those people at CAF had any consideration for others I don't think at this time this is a reasonable decision.“

A team goes to play football but is attacked by a separatist faction. People are killed and several members of the squad are injured. The act of the government of Togo was correct. I can’t believe how crass the football authorities have been here

The man behind the Ancient Mariner?

According to the Observer an author believes he has identified the sailor who was the base for Coleridge’s poem the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Robert Fowke traced the sailor back to his birthplace in the Oxfordshire town of Woodstock, and has revealed the details of his extraordinary life in a book published this week.

Coleridge is thought to have come up with the idea of writing about a sailor who is becalmed at sea after shooting an albatross in 1797, while he was out walking with his friend William Wordsworth in the hills above his home in Nether Stowey, Somerset.

According to Mr Fowke: "Scholars have always known what gave Coleridge the idea for the poem, because Wordsworth said they had talked together about a book by Captain George Shelvocke during their walk, but nobody has ever taken up the story,"

Examining both Captain Shelvocke's A Voyage round the World by way of the Great South Sea (1726), and another seafaring volume by William Bettagh, Fowke has pieced together the life of the sailor, Simon Hatley, who is said to have shot down "a black albatross" while on board a ship called the Speedwell. "The more I discovered, the more exciting it was," said Fowke. "I knew Hatley was lost at sea and had then been picked up by a Spanish ship and taken to Lima, where I suspected he had become caught up in the Inquisition."

Finding an account that suggested Hatley was tortured in South America, Fowke travelled to Madrid to search through the Inquisition's official records. "Under the heading 'Spontaneous Conversion' I found at Number 11 a 'Simon Hatey' who was from 'Yudstock'. I thought that could be Woodstock, so I went to Oxfordshire and, sure enough, I found the birth of Simon Hatley in the local register for 1685."

Hatley sailed to the Pacific on two of the most dangerous voyages of the early 18th century. At one point, he was on a ship not only with Alexander Selkirk, the marooned sailor whose story inspired Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, but also with William Dampier, an adventurer and writer on whose work Jonathan Swift drew for Gulliver's Travels.

Hatley was on the crew of the Duke, which set out for South America on a voyage proposed by Dampier accompanied by a sister ship, the Duchess. At one point on this voyage of 1709, while Selkirk and Dampier were both together on board the Duchess, Hatley joined them. "Because these privateers were incredibly bureaucratic and suspicious and wrote down everything about their loot," explains Fowke, "they appointed Hatley as the 'plunder manager', to check that the two ships' crews were being honest with each other. So for one period they were all on board the same ship."

A Voyage round the World by way of the Great South Sea by Captain George Shelvocke, published in 1726, contains a passage that is likely to have given Coleridge the idea for his poem about the Ancient Mariner.

"We all observed that we had not had the sight of one fish of any kind since we came into the southward of the streights of le Maire, nor one sea-bird, except a disconsolate black Albatross, who accompanied us for several days, hovering about us as if he had lost himself, till Hatley, my second Captain, observing in one of his melancholy fits, that this bird which was always hovering near us, imagined, from his colour, that it might be some ill omen .... he, after some fruitless attempts, at length shot the Albatross, not doubting (perhaps) that we should have a fair wind after it ..."

This is utterly fascinating stuff (Yes I know I say those words a lot but I do earnestly believe it!). Given also that I am fascinated by Britain’s maritime history (but don’t ask me to scandalise the main topgallant and I couldn’t tie a bowline even if my life depended on it!). I certainly do feel a purchase coming on though

30 January 2010

On the subject of sixty somethings

This video is not so good but the sound quality is above par. Hawkwind are still going strong and showcasing new material. This song is called Wraith. Sung by bassist Mr Dibs, the founder member Dave Brock can be seen on the right. He became a pensioner a couple of years ago but he,s still producing great stuff after half a century in the music business (over 40 of them with the Hawks!)

Sometimes only something very loud will do

Call Motorhead a guilty pleasure (if so I am guilty as charged) but I have always had a soft spot for he who is Ian Fraser Kilmister. Strange to think that he is eligible for his pension come Christmas Eve

28 January 2010

I am Seismic Shock

Levity aside regular readers will know that on Sunday I posted an item regarding police intimidation of blogger Seismic Shock at the behest of one Reverend Stephen Sizer, the vicar of a church in Virginia Water. Unsurprisingly Seismic Shock's treatment has been reported on dozens of blogs and has even made it on to the BBC website and has been discussed on the Index on Censorship site

I find the use of police to try and silence a blogger an utter disgrace. It is something that could happen to any of us if someone decides to take umbrage at the content of our blogs. For what it's worth I support this protest wholeheartedly

My thanks to Modernity who has reported extensively on this squalid affair and who created the above video

Iranian regime creates two new martyrs?

The BBC reports that the Iranian regime has executed two men convicted of being "enemies of God" and members of armed groups and trying to topple the Islamic establishment. They were named as Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour (above)

According to a statement from the Tehran prosecutors office "Following the riots and anti-revolutionary measures in recent months, particularly on the day of Ashura, a Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court branch considered the cases of a number of accused and handed down death sentences against 11 of those... The sentences against two of these people... were carried out today at dawn and the accused were hanged,"

Mr Ali-Zamani was sentenced to death in October having been convicted for ties with the Kingdom Assembly of Iran (Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran), a banned monarchist group. At his trial in August, prosecutors accused Mr Ali-Zamani of plotting political assassinations with US military officials in Iraq before returning to Iran "aiming at causing disruption during and after the election".

Human rights activists noted that the indictment stated that Mr Ali-Zamani had been arrested before engaging in any actions relating to the protests.

Mr Rahmanipour was arrested in Farvardin [the Iranian month covering March-April] - before the election - and charged with co-operation with the Kingdom Assembly. He was 19 when he was arrested, and that many of the charges related to the time when he was a minor.

Hmm so both of these men were under arrest before the fixed election and the subsequent protests? These and the future executions (I doubt many sentences will be comuted) are an indication of a government that is trying to rule by fear a population that is no longer scared. As I have said many times before I look forward to the day that this regime is flushed into the cesspit.

Women Keep your virtue!

27 January 2010

Meanwhile the Earth is becoming less “visible” to aliens

Dr Frank Drake, the founder of Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), 50-years ago told a meeting at the Royal Society earlier this week that the phasing out of analogue transmissions from television, radio and radar was making our planet electronically invisible from outer space.

Analogue signals used to spread out millions of miles into outer space, even reaching some distant stars, digital transmissions are much weaker and therefore are less easy to detect by extra-terrestrial life forms.

He said the earth used to be surrounded by a 50 light year wide shell of radiation, with old-style television transmissions generating around one million watts. But he said with satellites aiming much of their transmissions towards earth now virtually no radiation was escaping into outer space.

He explained: "Now the actual amount of radiation escaping is about two watts, not much more than you get from a cell phone. If this continues into the future, very soon our world will become undetectable."

This may not be a bad thing if our neighbours include the Borg. On the other spare a thought for the disappointed aliens who will no longer be able to tune into Coronation Street... On the other hand...

A prediction I would like to come true

Earlier this week Professor Michel Mayor, of Geneva University predicted that I earnestly hope comes true: The prediction is that astronomers will detect the first Earth-like planet outside the solar system during 2010

Addressing a Royal Society conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) programme, Prof. Mayor (who led the team that discovered the first exoplanet in 1995) said: “The search for twins of Earth is motivated by the ultimate prospect of finding sites with favourable conditions for the development of life. We’ve entered a new phase in this search.”

Over the last 15 years more than 400 exoplanets have been discovered. However, very few if any of them are likely to be viable candidates for incubating life, as most of them are too large.
He said that Nasa’s Kepler spacecraft will be the first to find an earth like planet. Kepler, which has been in orbit around the Sun since March last year, is focused on a dense star field in the Orion spiral arm of the Milky Way. Monitoring more than 100,000 stars every half-hour for three years, it is looking for variations in the brightness of stars caused by planets as small as Earth passing in front of them.

Professor Paul Davies, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University, also spoke. “When I was a student, I couldn’t find anyone who took the idea of life elsewhere in the Universe seriously. Now it’s pretty much the party line in the scientific community. A big part of that has been the discovery of extrasolar planets,” he said.

It would be great to hear of the discovery or an earth-like planet this year... if not then next year!

26 January 2010

Tending the grave of Sadegh Hedayat

An Iranian cleaning the grave of the writer Sadegh Hedayat in Pere Lachaise, Paris. Hedayat is the author of the novella, the Blind Owl, a work that deserves to be considered a great work of fiction.

25 January 2010

Venezuelan press accuses US of using weapon to create Haiti earthquake

According to Fox news (hmm...) Hugo Chavez believes that the USA used an "earthquake weapon" to set off the catastrophic quake in Haiti.

Citing an alleged report from Russia's Northern Fleet, Venezuelan TV issued a press release saying the 7.0 magnitude Haiti quake was caused by a U.S. test of an experimental shockwave system. The US government used HAARP to create the quake. It also alleged that it was also to blame for a Jan. 9 quake in Eureka, California and may have been behind the 7.8-magnitude quake in China that killed nearly 90,000 people in 2008.

Even more chilling is that Haiti was just a dress rehearsal. The ultimate goal of the test attack is the "planned destruction of Iran through a series of earthquakes designed to topple the current Islamic regime."

The story has since been taken down from Venezuelan station’s website.

Having been used to a Murdoch news provider in the form of the Sun, I was , ahem, a little sceptical about the report.. as for the basic story, the word “BOLLOCKS” sprang immediately to mind

And then there is a further report in Pravda It looks like someone’s been watching a bit too much X Files. Tinfoil hats around methinks...

Richard Thompson - Shoot Out the Lights

24 January 2010

Blame it on the Boogie Nights?

The wife of the film director Roman Polanski has said that she "understands" why other mothers are shocked by the fact that her husband had sex with a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s (fathers on the other hand are horrified while siblings are disgusted).

According to the Independent French singer and actress Emmanuelle Seigner, blamed the "crazy" moral climate of Los Angeles in the 1970s for Polanski's sexual assault on the girl at the home of the actor Jack Nicholson in 1977. "It was a time of madness," she said. "Attitudes to drugs and sexual liberty and permissiveness are no longer the same today."

Polanski fled the US in 1977 after pleading guilty to a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage girl. Polanski was accused of plying her with champagne and drugs and raping and sodomising her during a modelling shoot at Nicholson's house. He was indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy. He pleaded guilty to a single count of unlawful sexual intercourse.

He was arrested in Switzerland in September and detained for two months before being released into house arrest at his Swiss chalet in December. A judge in Los Angeles was due to decide last night whether Mr Polanski could remain in Switzerland while he is sentenced. His lawyers argue that, as part of a plea bargain in 1977, he was promised a short sentence which he served while awaiting trial. They say he fled the country when he was warned that the judge had changed his mind.

Bottom line is that he fucked a child... A child, not a Lolita... Given that most other people living in those hedonistic days managed to avoid doing what he did, it is pretty rich of his wife to blame the seventies.

Vicar uses police to stifle blogger

I will be honest and state absolutely that I had not come across the Reverend Stephen Sizer before and I had never previously visited the blog Seismic Shock.

Before going into details I wish I had not come across the former while the latter has certainly been the victim of a malicious complaint which involved him receiving a visit from the police.

The following is taken from a post by Seismic Shock at Engage Online.

Seismic Shock had placed previously posted on a number of occasions about Sizer stating with very good evidence that Sizer “forwards emails from Holocaust deniers, shares platforms with Holocaust deniers, and flaunted his anti-Zionist theology before Iran’s apocalyptic Holocaust-denying regime? “ Here is Sizer on Iranian tv:

Both Sizer and also Lecturer Anthony McRoy, who had lectured at a theological conference in Iran (go to the Engage article for the link) took umbrage at the statements about their links tosome extremely unsavoury characters.

“At 10am on Sunday 29th November 2009, I received a visit from two policemen regarding my activities in running the Seismic Shock blog. A sergeant from the Horsforth Police related to me that he had received complaints via Surrey Police from Rev Sizer and from Dr Anthony McRoy – a lecturer at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology – who both objected to being associated with terrorists and Holocaust deniers.

The sergeant made clear that this was merely an informal chat, in which I agreed to delete my original blog (http://seismicshock.blogspot.com/) but maintain my current one (http://seismicshock.wordpress.com)....

.... With my research on Reverend Sizer’s associations with terrorists and Holocaust deniers making its way into a publication of the Society of Biblical Literature, I was quite content to hold my peace. However, now that Reverend Sizer is now misrepresenting what has happened in my case in order to intimidate others, now is the time to speak up.

A Christian blogger – “Vee” of LivingJourney, who is based in Australia – linked to my blog as a resource for Christians to learn about anti-Semitism in the Church, including “lots of info on Stephen Sizer and Sabeel”.

Rev Sizer left her this comment:

Dear Vee,

You must take a little more care who you brand as anti-semitic otherwise you too will be receiving a caution from the police as the young former student of Leeds did recently. One more reference to me and you will be reported.


Why is Reverend Sizer claiming that I received a police caution, when the police stressed I did not receive a caution? Is Sizer deliberately misrepresenting the same police force that he originally used to his advantage?

Who is Reverend Sizer reporting to, and why does Reverend Sizer genuinely feel he has the power to close down debate by threatening police action? Why call the cops rather than answer his critics?

Political and theological disagreements should never be accompanied with threats of litigation or police action, but instead with logic and open debate.

I wholeheartedly agree with Seismic Shock’s last final statement. Personally I find it disgraceful that Sizer had chosen to intimidate a blogger in such a way, especially when the blogger has good evidence to substantiate his claims.

Here’s hoping that Sizer’s idiotic action and veiled anti-semitism come back to bite him hard

My thanks to Modernity and Snoopy for drawing my attention to this disgraceful affair

23 January 2010

And now for some more Mad Madge

Again it's been a while since I posted a poem by 17th century Essex girl Margaret Cavendish (aka Mad Madge). Luckily for her posterity she was also the Duchess of Newcastle otherwise her great works may have been lost to the world. One of her favourite subjects was atomic theories. Here is a poem of hers dating back to 1652

The Bignesse of Atomes

HEN I say Atomes small, as small can bee;
I mean Quantity, quality, and Weight agree
Not in the Figure, for some may shew
Much bigger, and some lesser: so
Take Water fluid, and Ice thats firme, [5]
Though the Weight be just the Bulke is not the same.
So Atomes are some soft, others more knit,
According as each Atome's Figured;
Round and Long Atomes hollow are, more slacke
Then Flat, or Sharpe, for they are more compact: [10]
And being hollow they are spread more thin,
Then other Atomes which are close within:
And Atomes which are thin more tender far,
For those that are more close, they harder are.

If you enjoyed this offering from Mad Madge on atomes then you can find an elephant's sufficency of her scientific poems here

The return of Canada's cheese bard

It's been far too long since James McIntyre graced this blog. For tose who don't know his works, Mister McIntyre was Canada's master of cheese-related poetry.

Here is a tribute to a pioneer of Canadian cheese.

Father Ranney, the Cheese Pioneer

When Father Ranney left the States,
In Canada to try the fates,
He settled down in Dereham,
Then no dairyman lived near him;
He was the first there to squeeze
His cow's milk
into good cheese,
And at each Provincial show
His famed cheese was all the go.

Then long life to Father Ranney
May he wealth and honour gain aye.

He always took the first prize
Both for quality and size,
But many of his neighbors
Now profit by his labors,
And the ladies dress in silk
From the proceeds of the milk,
But those who buy their butter,
How dear it is, they mutter.

Then long life to Father Ranney
May he wealth and honour gain aye.

Now we close this glorious theme,
This song of curds and rich cream,
You can buy your hoops and screws,
And all supplies for dairy use,
Milk cans and vats, all things like these
In Ingersoll great mart for cheese,
Here buyers do congregate
And pay for cheese the highest rate.

So we call on you again aye,
To honor Father Ranney.

22 January 2010

Photo Hunt - Balanced

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is balanced. With four cats it was not hard to fiind a prime example of the subject. This is Ted as a kitten showing his balancing skills back in 1998. Little did we know that this cheeky little fellow would become the epitome of evil!


21 January 2010

There’s diamonds in them thar planets

Are you are a budding imperial overlord and have just taken purchase of your own Space Shuttle? Is threatening to level New York just too passé? Well it may need a few extra engines and a big oxygen tank but there may be treasure a plenty out in the outer solar system.
According to a new study published by Nature there may be diamond oceans filled with solid diamond icebergs, could be floating on Neptune and Uranus.

The research is based on the first detailed measurements of the melting point of diamond. It found diamond behaves like water during freezing and melting, with solid forms floating atop liquid forms.

"Diamond is a relatively common material on Earth, but its melting point has never been measured," says Dr Jon Eggert of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. "You can't just raise the temperature and have it melt; you have to also go to high pressures, which makes it very difficult to measure the temperature."

The scientists liquefied the diamond at pressures 40 million times greater than what a person feels when standing at sea level on Earth. From there they slowly reduced the temperature and pressure.

When the pressure dropped to about 11 million times the atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth and the temperature dropped to about 50,000 degrees solid chunks of diamond began to appear. The pressure kept dropping, but the temperature of the diamond remained the same, with more and more chunks of diamond forming. But the diamond did something unexpected.
The chunks of diamond didn't sink. They floated. he diamond was behaving like water.

An ocean of diamond could help explain the orientation of the planet's magnetic field as well, says Eggert. Roughly speaking, the Earth's magnetic poles match up with the geographic poles. The magnetic and geographic poles on Uranus and Neptune do not match up; in fact, they can be up to 60 degrees off of the north-south axis. A swirling ocean of liquid diamond could be responsible for the discrepancy.

I have no idea if this is a load of hooey but the idea of diamond icebergs... well it could go a long way to funding the intergalactic empire of your dreams!

Omicron Centauri – end of the line

Harry Beck created a classic when he designed the London Underground map. I don’t think he ever imagined it would be used to provide a schematic of something far, far larger.

The computational sociology fellow Samuel Arbesman designed the Milky Way Transit Authority transit map in order to display the "vast and complex interconnections" of the Milky Way in an accessible and familiar way.

"This map is an attempt to approach our galaxy with a bit more familiarity than usual and get people thinking about long-term possibilities in outer space," he said. "Hopefully it can provide as a useful shorthand for our place in the Milky Way, the important sights and make inconceivable distances a bit less daunting.
Each line on the map corresponds to an arm of the galaxy, and the "stations" are actual places in their locations albeit stars, nebula and other astronomical objects (including the Hamptons???)

Arbesman admitted he was neither an astronomer or astrophysicist and acknowledged his work leaves room for improvement. He welcomed comments, suggestions or criticisms.

I’m sure some adjustments are necessary but I love the idea of representing something as vast as our galaxy in such a simple and easily digested manner.

20 January 2010

VD is for everybody

I know I posted this a few years ago but who doesn't love a repeat, especially this curiosity from the US!

The Asch Experiment

This experiment on conformity was originally conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s. While not as spectacular as the famous Milgran experiment it makes uneasy viewing in its own way

19 January 2010

WW- Ship

A January sales extravaganza

Are you a budding galactic emperor but are at a loss as to how to make a start? Or perhaps your neighbour has bought a swanky new car and you want to wipe his eye.. Then your prayers may have been answered.

For a mere $28.2m you can be the proud owner of a space shuttle with just one careful owner. Nasa has promised Discovery to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, but shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour are still available.

Nasa decided to sell the shuttles ahead of their retirement later this year. They are set to be replaced by the new Ares 1-X rocket, which is due to take over all manned space flights in 2015.

There is one problem. The shuttles do not come with engines, But that should not be a problem as Nasa are now offering them free, to anyone with the wherewithal to take them home.

Time to get my credit card our, methinks!

18 January 2010

What truly powers the internet

Well according to Joel Veitch anyway

Lemon Pipers - The Jelly Jungle of Orange Marmalade

The Jelly Jungle of Orange Marmalade.

Cheesy 60s music invariably cheers me up. Perfect for International Optimism Day

Psychedelic situation - Jimmy Curtiss

Another cheery bit of 60s cheese!

Captain Groovy & His Bubblegum Army

Turn that frown upside down

The third Monday of January is known as Blue Monday as it is considered to be the most depressing day of the year - the Christmas and New Year parties are a distant memory, the credit card bills and trudging to work when it is cold and snowing (or perhaps the rain is just hammering down) are distinct realities.

But fear not. today has been designated International Optimism Day but the Optimists Society. So cheer up and count your blessings... or something like that anyway.

In honour of this august day (okay so it's January but what the hey!)The Poor Mouth will have nothing but happy and cheerful posts all day. Bile and misery can wait until tomorrow

17 January 2010

Guess where Baby Doc can stick his offer of aid.

Telegraph reports that erstwhile dictator of Haiti (a human rights abuser and greedy kleptocrat.. or is the latter a tautology?) Jean-Claude “Baby Doc ”Duvalier has indicated that he wishes to donate £8m to the American Red Cross to support their relief work in Haiti.

Duvalier apparently sent an e-mail to a Daily Beast reporter Martin Papes (here is the link to the relevant Daily Beast article).

He said that he would officially ask the Foundation set up in the name of his late mother, Simone Ovide Duvalier, to transfer the $8 million (£5 million) to the American Red Cross. He said:

“It is with great horror and a profound emotion, but also with a very great concern, that I have monitored the murderous and devastating consequences of the terrible earthquake that has so piteously struck our country.

“In these hours of great national distress, my thoughts go out to the wounded, the victims, particularly the children and the youth, and their families and loved ones.”

“In spite of the gravity of the situation, I wish to tell you of my hope and my conviction that Haiti will once again find its way, thanks to an exceptional mobilisation of the life forces of our country [and] with the assistance of the international community, the path toward a true reconstruction,” he wrote.

“Haitian People, I know your extraordinary courage, selflessness, and the sacrifices that you are all capable of to save our country.”

Baby Doc became president for life of Haiti in 1971 when he was aged just 19.He inherited the title from his father, “Papa Doc”. He was deposed in 1986 after a 15-year rule plagued by brutality, corruption and a crumbling economy. He has lived in Paris ever since.

Between them Duvalier pere et fils were responsible for the deaths of around 40,000 political opponents .

Although the promised donation almost certainly came from money the venal little brute stole from the people of Haiti, some things are just too dirty to touch, regardless of the need for aid. I hope the American Red Cross tells his where to stick his donation.

Alternatively he could release every single penny he and his family still has access to then return to the country to face trial. A donation in such circumstances would be acceptable.

A New WWI veteran discovered

Regular visitors to the Poor Mouth will know that I have been recording the deaths of the last few veterans of WWI. I take my information from Wikipedia which I consider to be as reliable as any source on this subject.

The contributors to the Surviving veterans of World War I page are quite scrupulous and apply consistent criteria for inclusion – more so than some governments. To be included on the list a person had to be a member of one of the belligerent armed forces on or before 11 November 1918. A person who was still in training at the time is considered to be a veteran of the war. This meant that the last two French soldiers of WWI were recorded here while not recognised by the French Government. The French Government required that a soldier saw three months active service before being considered a veteran.

In addition there are categories for unverified claims (self explanatory) and for WWI-era veterans. This category listed people who entered service between the end of the war and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. It also listed persons who served in related conflicts (eg the Soviet-Polish war).

As at 1 January there were three known WWI veterans: Claude Choules, who served in the Royal Navy and who lives in Australia; Frank Buckles, an American who served as an ambulance driver on the Western Front; John Babcock, a Canadian who had completed training but who had been held back in England for being underage. Recently there had been talk of a fourth veteran but there was no conclusive evidence to support the claim.

Yesterday's Telegraph provided the evidence needed to confirm the survival of a fourth veteran.It carried a report on Florence Green, 108, who served with the Women’s RAF (WRAF) as a waitress in the officers' messes at Marham and Narborough airfields in Norfolk.

Her story came to light after Andrew Holmes, a British correspondent for the United States-based Gerontology Research Group, traced her name using the National Archive. Mr Holmes tracks and validates the ages of people over 110 and also keeps track of British men and women who are older than 107.

He located a service record on the National Archive for Florence Beatrice Patterson, Mrs Green’s maiden name. He traced the records further and found that Florence had joined the WRAF in September 1918 - two months before the war ended on November 11, 1918.

Mrs Green said she had been unaware of her status until very recently. ''I enjoyed my time in the WRAF. There were plenty of people at the airfields where I worked and they were all very good company. I would work every hour God sent but I had dozens of friends on the base and we had a great deal of fun in our spare time. In many ways I had the time of my life.
'It was a lovely experience and I'm very proud.''

Wing Commander Hugh Milroy, from the veteran's charity Veterans Aid, said: “This goes to show that there is a huge variation in the type of veterans we have in this country. 'Women like her played a vitally important role in the British war effort and the fact she is now the last surviving veteran is some achievement.”

Before the discovery of Mrs Green's service history, it was believed that British-born Gladys Powers, who died in Canada in 2008, was the last female veteran. Harry Patch, from Somerset, was previously the last surviving World War one veteran and died in 2009 aged 111.

This is excellent news, Who know but there may be more veterans out there.

16 January 2010

Zac Goldsmith hates politics....

Zac Goldsmith at his home in the Amazon rainforest,err Basingstoke

Today’s Telegraph reports that Zac Goldsmith:

1. Hates politics

“I hate the game of politics,” he said. “I don’t want to get involved in this childish Punch and Judy. I have seen enough of politicians to know it is not a class of people I particularly want to spend my time with.”

2. Suggested that the furore over into MPs’ expenses had exposed the nature of Parliament

“The scandal revealed really squalid behaviour by a lot of politicians,” he said. “It is not a place I would ever want to call home.”

Fair enough you may say unless you realise that Zac Goldsmith is:

a.The Tory candidate for Richmond Park and North Kingston at the next election

b. claimed non-domiciled status to avoid paying UK tax on his £200m fortune – this while living in London

There’s a hefty bit of doublethink on the part of Mr Goldsmith, methinks... He should fit in just fine

BNP member gets 11 years

Bus driver and BNP member Terrance Gavan member was jailed for 11 years having spent the last decade manufacturing firearms and explosives at his home in Batley, West Yorkshire.

Police discovered 54 improvised bombs including nail bombs and a booby-trapped cigarette packet, as well as 12 firearms. Apparently Gavan had "a fascination with things that go bang", but also a "strong hostility" towards immigrants. During his trial the court heard that he to target an address he had seen on a television programme that he believed was linked to the 7 July bomb attacks in London.

Gavan pleaded guilty to 22 counts including collecting information useful for terrorism and possessing explosives and firearms.

I wonder if Griffin will wring his hands over this member of the BNP "master race"?

Meanwhile here's Bill Hicks on Rush Limbaugh

Please not that this is a parental, grandparental and great-grandparental advisory video. You have been warned!

If only Bill Hicks did not die so young.

What a Bick Sastard

Another arsehole debasing a national flag

Sean over at Omnium has footage of some bullshit coming from Par Robertson's mouth which is in bad taste and historically incorrect (He doesn't even know which Napoleon was in charge when the French were thrown out.

Yet Rush Limbaugh trumps Pat Robertson in the crass rubbish stakes as is evidenced here.

As the Reverend Spooner, late of New College Oxford, may have put it: what a cupid stunt that Lush Rimbaugh is

15 January 2010

photo hunt - jiggly

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is jiggly, an adjective to describe something that moves or rocks lightly up and down or to and fro in an unsteady, jerky manner.

Determined to keep the subject matter decent, the only choice for this theme is our dear, departed and disabled cat Mimi. She suffered from cerebelar hypoplasia which meant that she moved in an uncoordinated and jerky manner and had a strange head wobble. For all that she was an utterly loveable cat.

Robyn and Bebe

Unusually these two are sitting apart.

14 January 2010

A Sea Slug Haiku

following on from my previous post and inspired by Robin D Gill whose book Rise Ye Sea Slugs which contains 900 glorious haikus on the subject, I feel compelled to provide my own haiku in honour of the nudibranch:

Oh mighty Sea Slug
wily thief of chloroplasts
makes food from sunlight

Hmm I think I'll stick to photographs!

Actually Rise ye Sea Slugs actually contains haikus on the subject of sea cucumbers but what the hey!

Nudibranchs... Now with added chlorophyll!

Live Science reports on the discovery of a sea slug that is in one sense part animal and part plant. It produces chlorophyll and so it is the only animal that can carry out photosynthesis.

"They can make their energy-containing molecules without having to eat anything," said Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Pierce has been studying Elysia chlorotica, for about 20 years. He presented his most recent findings Jan. 7 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Seattle. The finding was first reported by Science News.

The sea slugs live in salt marshes in New England and Canada and are believed to have appropriated the genes needed to make the green pigment chlorophyll. This on its own is not enough for photosynthesis: the slugs cannot produce chloroplast, the organelle where photosynthesis takes place.. These are obtained by eating algae.

As long as they receive sufficient light they can survive without food. Furthermore the trait is passed on to offspring

The biggest mystery now is the mechanism by which the chlorophyll-generating genes are actually incorporated into the sea slug’s genome

This is fascinating stuff, with major implications if the mechanism for incorporating genes can be determined. I never ever thought that such a complex creature would be part plant so to speak (nut only so to speak). That said I have met a few people who are so thick they probably need watering!

13 January 2010

Is Russell Brand the new Messiah?

I simply can't let a good simulacrum pass me by (or a bloody awful one for that matter) and recently we have had a veritable bonanza of Jesus and others appearaing on just about every imaginable medium... but not a Naan bread until now

Monday's http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/808516-face-of-jesus-appears-in-naan-bread Metro reported that Jesus had found the time to appear on a Naan bread served to David Howlett at India Dining in Esher, Surrey.

Is it just me or does the Naan bread actually bear the image of Russell Brand?

If Jesus appears on everything and Jesus looks like Russell Brand does this mean that that Brand is the Messiah? Does that make Katie Perry a new Mary Magdalene? Hmm I will get on our new Lord#s good side by finding his unfunny jokes and his crass antics the height of good humour...

WW Shadows

12 January 2010

President George W Bush 2002-2009?

Rudy Giuliani: "We Had No Domestic Attacks Under Bush; We've ... - For more amazing video clips, click here

Rudy Giuliani 8 January

Dana Perino November 2009

I don't think Bill Clinton was still in the Oval Office on 11 September 2001... One slip of the tongue, especially on the part of Giuliani, would be forgiveable and easy to rectify as everyone makes mistakes. The two interviewers, Hannity and Stephanpolous(?), are clearly both incompetent, lazy hacks for letting that pass without clarification. Much as I think dislike Paxman's arrogance, he would gone for the jugular if either had said that on Newsnight!

Death of a hero

According to the Guardian Miep Gies has died at the age of 100 after a brief illness. Madame Gies, who was one of those who helped hide the Frank family, also saved the teenager's diary ensuring that it survived to be published.

Born Hermine Santrouschitz on 15 February 1909 in Vienna, Gies moved to Amsterdam in 1922 to escape food shortages. She lived with a host family, who gave her the nickname Miep.
In 1933, she took a job as an office assistant in the Otto Frank's spice business. After refusing to join a Nazi organization in 1941, she avoided deportation to Austria by marrying her Dutch boyfriend, Jan Gies.

As the Nazis increased their arrests and deportations of Dutch Jews, Otto Frank asked Gies, to help hide his family in the annexe above the company's warehouse on Prinsengracht in July 1942. Jan and Miep Gies worked with four other employees of the firm to sustain the Franks and those who shared the annexe.

In her own book, Anne Frank Remembered, Gies recalled being in the office when the German police, acting on a tip that historians have failed to trace, raided the hideout in August 1944. After the raid she even offered the police a bribe for the Franks' release, but to no avail.

After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam, where he lived with the Gies family until he remarried in 1952.Miep worked for him as he compiled the diary, then devoted herself to talking about the book and answering letters with questions from around the world.After Otto Frank's death in 1980, she continued to campaign against Holocaust deniers and refute allegations that the diary was a forgery. She suffered a stroke in 1997, which slightly affected her speech, but remained in generally good health as she approached her 100th birthday.

As with many of the wartime generation Madame Gies brushed aside rewards and decorations for helping hide the Frank family as being more than she deserved "This is very unfair. So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work," she wrote in an email to the Associated Press days before her 100th birthday in February.

Gies was bestowed with the title of Righteous Gentile by the Israeli Holocaust museum. She has also been honoured by the German government, the Dutch monarchy and educational institutions. Despite this in 1997 she told schoolchildren:

"I don't want to be considered a hero. Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary."

A hero is not a lantern-jawed, muscle-bound macho man in uniform (although of course they can be). A heroes are ordinary people acting in an extraordinary manner. These last words describe a hero to me.

11 January 2010

Iranian regime arrests the mothers of the murdered.

I saw this story first on Azamehr’s blog. As he puts it “They killed their children. Now they detain their mothers”. This post is taken from a report on the Payvand website.

On Saturday Security forces attacked and detained 30 members of Mourning Mothers (a group of mothers whose children have been killed in recent events see below for further information) ) in Laleh Park, Tehran. More than a hundred police and plain clothes agents attacked the and took the mothers to the Vozara Detention Center in Tehran.

An eyewitness described events: "I was in Laleh Park today around 4 p.m. More than a hundred police and plain clothes agents had occupied the park and its perimeter. They would not allow anyone to even sit on the benches or congregate. Every Saturday, the Mourning Mothers and their supporters gather in the Park. Today after about 70 mothers had entered the park, security forces engaged them and started chasing them, grabbing them, and forcing them into police vans. They used a lot of violence and insults in the process. One of the mothers who is 75 years old has been taken to a hospital"

The Mourning Mothers (also called the Mournful Mothers) was formed by women whose children have been killed recently and their supporters. The group's principle demand is for the authorities to be accountable for the deaths, disappearances, and detentions of their children.

The Mourning Mothers remind me of the treatment received by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo at the hands of the Argentine junta. I hope that none of these mothers becomes the Iranian Azucena Vilafor
According to the Telegraph a film production company is looking for a terminally ill person to volunteer their body to a reality tv show in which they will be mummified and possibly displayed in a museum...

The volunteer would be filmed in the run-up to their death so that viewers have "a proper emotional response" to them when they pass away and are mummified.

Fulcrum’s TV’s executive producer, Richard Belfield, spoke about his plans to an undercover reporter from The Independent who posed as a possible volunteer.

“We would like to film with you over the next few months to understand who you are and what sort of person you are so the viewers get to know you and have a proper emotional response to you,” he said. “It may sound rather macabre but we have mummified a large number of pigs to check that the process worked and it does. We have lined up scientists to support the project and found a place approved by the Human Tissue Authority where the mummification would take place

“Afterwards one thought was - though this is not obligatory - to put the body in an exhibition in a proper museum so people can properly understand the mummification process. That is something we would be flexible about. But we would like to keep the body for two or three years to see that the mummification process worked. Then the normal funeral arrangements could be made.”

A Channel 4 spokesman told The Independent that the research into Egyptian chemical practices could have implications for modern science. “We’re fascinated by the research that is taking place," he said. "If the scientists are able to find a willing donor we’d be interested in following the process.

Hmmm..... Well at least there is no indication that it will be celebrity vehicle with canopic jar challenges and the like.

10 January 2010

Cobaea scandens in a sorry state

Maybe next summer.....

Malcom Caldwell...

Today's Observer carries a long article (I presume it is in the magazine section - I will find out when I finally venture out to get a paper) about Malcolm Caldwell, a Marxist academic who was, inter alia, a vocal supporter of Pol Pot's regime.

In December 1978 Caldwell was invited to visit Cambodia by the Khmer regime along with American journalists Elizabeth Becker and Richard Dudman (they were among just seven western visitors to the country during the Khmer Rouge's tyranny). On 22 December Caldwell had a cordial audience with Pol Pot, something that delighted him. In the early hours of the following morning he was murdered, almost certainly on the orders of the man he had met the day before.

Here is an extract from Elizabeth Becker's book When the War was Over. It is her account of what happened on that night.

Anyway the Observer article is interesting. It portrays Caldwell as a charming man (by all accounts he was) but very, very naive. Fair enough but I can think of many other descriptions for him. Sadly only a small handful do not involve expletives!

Last year Democratiya Magazine published an excellent essay on Caldwell (click here to read it, it is well worth it, I assure you). Written by Michael Ezra it is a far more damning critique of the man.

Caldwell represents the sort of person I hate the most in the world, the apologist of evil. While the Left sadly appears replete with such people, the Right is full of the same sort of scumbag too, so it is not the preserve of one part of the political spectrum. Whatever the political stripe people like Caldwell and his successors (George Galloway springs to mind) are not even useful idiots. Lucky for them few ever meet such an ironic death....

09 January 2010

Days of Pearly Spencer x2

Race with the devil x 2

Pro-regime scum desecrate Neda’s grave... again

The Times reports that supporters of the Iranian Government have for a second time desecrated the grave of Neda Soltan, the student whose shooting during a street demonstration last June made her a worldwide symbol of the opposition.

The black marble grave stone on which her face is engraved has been pockmarked by bullets. This is despite the constant presence of security forces who are there to prevent the grave from becoming a shrine.

The current tombstone was put in place on December 14 after the previous one was smashed in mid-November. The damage was discovered on December 31.

Not only wishing to destroy her last resting place the regime has increased its efforts to smear her name. A recent documentary (excerpts were aired by Press TV, the English language propaganda station which employs Galloway as one of its useful idiots) made the preposterous claims that Neda was an agent of the US and Britain and that her death was a hoax. It suggests that she squeezed fake blood over herself as she lay on the pavement but was then shot dead by her fellow conspirators in the car that took her away — presumably to silence her.

“Neda for a moment realizes their wicked plan and struggles to escape but they quickly shoot her from behind,” the narrator claims, and goes on to name Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to save her and has since fled to Britain, as one of her killers.

Previously the regime claimed that she was killed by British and US intelligence agents, by the BBC or by the opposition for propaganda purposes. It has also unsuccessfully pressured her parents to say that their daughter was killed by foreign agents.

I would like to view these acts as part of the death rattle of a desperate and increasingly insane regime. In reality the near future of Iran will include a lot more blood, sadly. The sooner they are gone, the better

08 January 2010

Photo Hunt - Bulky

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is bulky. Being at a bit of a loss and not wanting to go for the obvious (one of my large fluffy male cats - see post below for one in all his glory!) here are some photos I took when the bones of the River Thames Whale were put on display at the Guardian visitor centre for a few days in January 2007.

Before it died - rescue attempts failed sadly - it weighed about seven tones and thus was bulky in life

Boris in a winter wonderland

For Boris, a soft and warm place so sleep is a wonderland in winter

07 January 2010

Dead Echinops and snow

Death of the nijuuhibaku

Today’s Independent reports on the death on Monday at the age of 93 of a man who has equal claim to the title of luckiest and unluckiest person ever. It is a matter of personal opinion to decide which title applies. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was the first (and only?) person known to have survived both the Hiroshima and the Nagasaki atom bombs. Last year the Japanese government formally recognised him as the only "nijuuhibaku" - double A-bomb survivor.

I had posted an item about him here in March, calling him a double hibakusha.

Mr Yamaguchi was a young engineer on a business trip to Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when a B-29 US bomber dropped its payload – the "Little Boy", which would kill or injure 160,000 people by the end of the day. Three kilometres from Ground Zero, the blast temporarily blinded him, damaged his hearing and inflicted horrific burns over much of the top half of his body.

Three days later, he was back in his home city of Nagasaki, 190 miles away, explaining his injuries to his boss, when the same white light filled the room. "I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima," he said later. The "Fat Man" bomb killed about 70,000 people and created a city where, in the famous words of its mayor, "not even the sound of insects could be heard".

His exposure to so much radiation led to years of agony. He went bald and developed skin cancers. His son Katsutoshi died of cancer in 2005 aged 59, and his daughter Naoko never enjoyed good health. His wife died in 2008 of kidney and liver cancer. Toshiko suffered one of the many symptoms of fallout survivors: an abnormally low white blood cell count.

But once he recovered, he returned to work as a ship engineer and rarely discussed what happened to him. He quietly raised his family and declined to campaign against nuclear weapons until he felt the weight of his experiences and began to speak out. In his eighties, he wrote a book about his experiences, and took part in a documentary called Nijuuhibaku. The film shows him weeping as he describes watching bloated corpses floating in the city's rivers and encountering the walking dead of Hiroshima, whose melting flesh hung from them like "giant gloves".

Four years ago, he spoke to the UN in New York, where he pleaded with the General Assembly to fight for the abolition of nuclear weapons. When the Japanese government belatedly recognised his "double victim" status, he said that his record "can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die."

My Yamaguchi you suffered more in two dreadful days than any man should suffer in many lifetimes. You then spent over 60 years living with the consequences. I hope that you rest in peace

06 January 2010

Oh holy spud

It is good to start a new year with a new type of simulacrum. While not as outrageous as the Jesus on a terrier’s arse, I have never come across a spud with a cross inside.

According to philly.com, (via the Fortean Times) there was not one but two “cross-grained” root vegetables: The first was discovered first by Dennis Bort of Brunswick, Ohio on Christmas Day. The second was found by a couple in Marion, Iowa, on New Year's Eve. The discoverers appear to worship mammon as both spuds have been put up for sale on eBay.

Bort said he and his wife had just returned from vacation and were "trying to scrounge together a Christmas dinner with what wasn't spoiled in our fridge...So I peel the potatoes and I'm getting ready to do it and I see what you saw in the picture I said, aw, holy crap, it's a cross," said Bort, a police detective.

Six days later Connie Gross of Marion, Iowa, skinned a potato with a similar image inside. She and her husband, Jim, covered it in foil and stuffed it in the fridge."Our first reaction was, we don't want to eat it," Jim Gross said.

Explaining why he put it on eBay \Mr Bort said "I'm not a religious person at all, I'm not taking it as a sign of the apocalypse or anything like that. I've seen stories of Jesus in the cheese sandwich and all the other crap, but.... There's always a Christmas credit card bill to pay with the holidays, so why not?"

Personally I believe that the appearance of such a holy symbol constitutes a sign of great portent, Revelations 7:17 says “For the pottatoe which is its midst hath a cross throne shall be made into chippes and shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of lager”

Or something like that anyway...