30 November 2010

And the Sense of Sight

A painting I have loved for a long time but never seen until Friday. Taken in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Sadly at a bit of an angle to avoid reflected lighting. I was disappointed that it was hung high on the wall above a door. Definitely not the best place to show it off at its best.


From the World Museum, Liverpool

29 November 2010


Just back from a long weekend visiting my oldest online friend Suzy (nearly 10 years). A god time was had despite a streaming col;d and freezing weather. Here is her kitten Henri.

Normal service resumes tomorrow

24 November 2010


Will be offline now for a few days. Back next week

Ingrid Pitt RIP

I am sad to see that Hammer Horror stalwart Ingrid Pitt has died at the age of 73. Unsurprisingly films like Countess Dracula and the Vampire Lovers were firm favourites in my formative years.

Sadly it probably won't be long before we also mourn the passing of the greatest Dracula of them all - Christopher Lee (and not Bela Lugosi!)

VDG - Still Life

23 November 2010

Bryan Fischer is an arsehole

Bryan Fischer - Wanker

I came across this story yesterday on Bryan’s site Why Now?. Bryan, who had a lengthy career in the military and in law enforcement is rather more restrained in his choice of words for his post title but shows an enormous degree of contempt for the man.

And with utter justification....

Last week Fischer,who is director of issues for a right wing group called the American Families Association (– looking at its stance on various isues, including Judaism, it is clear that the organisation is an assortment of gimlet eyed bigots, masquerading as wholesome Christians… Anyway, I digress) wrote an article called the Feminisation of the Medal of Honor

In the article he notes that The Medal of Honor would be awarded this afternoon to Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta for his heroism in Afghanistan. Giunta He took a bullet in his protective vest as he pulled one soldier to safety, and then rescued the sergeant who was walking point and had been taken captive by two Taliban, whom Sgt. Giunta shot to free his comrade-in-arms.

While saying that Giunta deserved his medal (well Duh!) he noticed a disturbing trend in the awarding of these medals, which few others seem to have recognized. “We have feminized the Medal of Honor.” This is because, in his twisted logic, that every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts )sic – I think he means Iraq and Afghanistan) had been awarded for saving life and not for inflicting casualties on the enemy.

He then asks when “are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things so our families can sleep safely at night?”

In his words “I would suggest our culture has become so feminized that we have become squeamish at the thought of the valor that is expressed in killing enemy soldiers through acts of bravery. We know instinctively that we should honour courage, but shy away from honouring courage if it results in the taking of life rather than in just the saving of life. So we find it safe to honour those who throw themselves on a grenade to save their buddies.”

And so on and so forth

Clearly Fischer thinks there is something effeminate about saving the lives of comrades in extreme circumstances as Giunta did, - as for that matter did Johnson Beharry the last member of the British Army to receive the Victoria Cross (NB Australia and New Zealand have since awarded their own version of the award. The criteri for the award are every bit as stringent as the original). Was Johnson Beharry’s award the result of an effeminate society? I would like Fisher to say that to Beharry’s face.. and to Giunta’s too. I think both of these extraordinary brave men would view him with a mixture of contempt and pity.

Anyway Fischer does not seem to know much about the recent recipients of the Medal of Honor. A quick check of a official site concerning US military history brings us details of Jared Monti who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2006

Sgt Monti received his medal posthumously following this action:

On June 21st, 2006. While Staff Sergeant Monti was leading a mission aimed at gathering intelligence and directing fire against the enemy, his 16-man patrol was attacked by as many as 50 enemy fighters. On the verge of being overrun, Staff Sergeant Monti quickly directed his men to set up a defensive position… He then called for indirect fire support, accurately targeting the rounds upon the enemy…While still directing fire, Staff Sergeant Monti personally engaged the enemy with his rifle and a grenade, successfully disrupting an attempt to flank his patrol. Staff Sergeant Monti then realized that one of his soldiers was lying wounded in the open ground between the advancing enemy and the patrol's position. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Monti twice attempted to move from behind the cover of the rocks into the face of relentless enemy fire to rescue his fallen comrade. Determined not to leave his soldier, Staff Sergeant Monti made a third attempt to cross open terrain through intense enemy fire. On this final attempt, he was mortally wounded, sacrificing his own life in an effort to save his fellow soldier.

Clearly Monti’s act of supreme bravery is not manly enough for Fischer. Perhaps Fischer should enlist as a corpsman and perform his duties under fire. I am sure his views on bravery would change radically… If e did not run screaming to the rear or if his comrades didn’t frag him first…

Finally if the saving of life is a feminine attribute, I will happily change my name from Jams to Jemima. I would much rather be in touch with this side of humanity than the vile, twisted version Fischer espouses

What the hell are the North Koreans playing at?

The North Koreans seem to like using brinkmanship to get their way but they may well be sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

It was no real shock to see that they had shelled an island under South Korean control. killing two soldiers and wounding nearly a score of others. Still their actions are incomprehensible to this blogger.

What the hell do they think they will achieve? Do they want war to engulf the peninsula? Perhaps Kim Jong il really wants to go out with a bang.

Utter madness!

Mad mental moggies part 37 674

Err this is one psycho cat!

22 November 2010

Great moments in research and statistics

This is yet another item that was to be found in the Fortean Times breaking news section

Time reports that a survey by the dating site Smartdata measuring the sexual activity of its French users has revealed that. women whose names end with the letter “a” reported having more than the average 4.4 sexual partners most women had during their lifetime.

At the top of the list is Laura (with an average of 9.7 partners), Tania (9.6), and Lola (9.5). Women named Thérèse averaged 1.1 lovers, just behind 1.2 for Françoise, and 1.3 for Martine.

Make of this what you will… I am far too much of a gentleman to make a salacious comment on these results!

Nibbled by a Garra rufa

Today was my appointment at solesensation to have a try at a bit of ichtyotherapy for my psoriasis.

As I said last week, a number of places have opened up in Britain offering a fishy pedicure, courtesy of the Doctor fish (Garra rufa) but solesensation claims to have the only full body tank in the country.

After a shower I donned my swimming trunks and lowered myself into the tank. The fish clearly saw that my body was going to be a many-course banquet for them and they swarmed over me at once.

It is a rather curious sensation - ticklish with a bit of pins and needles thrown in for good measure but once you get used to it it, it becomes rather pleasant. That said it is rather odd to to look down and see dozens of minnow-sized fish tucking in to a fine fen of dead epidermis!

After a little while I began to relax and let the fish do their thing. The session was mean to last 45 minutes but I thin I must have been in the tank for a good hour, having lost all sense of time.

What I can say is that the fish had removed a quite a bit the dead skin leaving the rest of my skin feel a lot smoother than that it has for quite a while.

This is not a cure for psoriasis, merely a rather unusual but pleasant way to alleviate one of the symptoms and allow me to apply my topical cream more effectively (for a while at least).

I think I will be returning for another session soon.

Rodin II

21 November 2010

A Christmas present for the masochist that has everything

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, shops have the seasonal tat on the shelves and are poised to drill appalling seasonal muzak into our skulls for a month.

This year I have been scratching my head (but mainly due to psoriasis) about what to get my loved ones for Christmas. To the best of my knowledge none of them undergo any act to mortify their flesh but if you know someone who does then cilice.co.uk may have the ideal gift for them.

The website has a an excellent selection of of scourges to fit an pockets but perhaps the best bargain is the hair shirt, made from genuinely irritating sackcloth, which is currently being offered at half price - the low, low price of $49.99!

Get them while they hurt!


From the Rodin museum, Paris

A modest proposal

The Celtic Tiger may be in the process of being stuffed and mounted on an IMF wall but it looks as if at least that humour has not been extinguished.. yet. This is a letter that was published last week in the Irish Independent. The author surely had their tongue firmly planted in their cheek

DEAR Your Majesty,

On behalf of the people of Ireland I beseech you to take our little country back into the bosom of your realm and provide us with succour in our most dire hour of need.

Please ignore our complaining ad nauseam about 800 years of colonialism, your dodgy imperial past, your overrated football, cricket and rugby teams and all our unkind utterances about your wonderful family

Let me just remind you that we remain steadfast in our obsession with all things English: your gift to the world that is the English language, most of the world's major sports, your Premiership football teams, your soap operas, your musical genres, your high-street shopping -- not to mention that system of law for which we remain eternally grateful.

Nobody loves us any more, hardly anybody will lend us money and those that will actually want it back and with interest. Our politicians have been shown to be no more than a bunch of chancers and clowns who are about to bankrupt us all while they merely take a cut in expenses.

Everybody is laughing at us and showering us all with pity, which only used to happen during Eurovision or on 'The Late Late Show'.

If you could just bring yourself to offload a few of those jewels that you hardly ever wear and throw a few billion this way, we would ensure that street parties across the land will be held in the wake of your visit, which we barely deserve.

The country is already in raptures at the announcement of your grandson's engagement to some bird from Berkshire.

Of course, no other country in the civilised world would have saddled its citizenry with decades of hardship by bailing out its wastrel banks with billions of euro that it couldn't afford.

But the difference is. . . we're Irish.

Hmm perhaps Cobh will revert to Queenstown. Dum Laoghaire will go back to being Kingstown,. Laois and Offaly will be Queen’s and King’s County again.

If this happens in time then there is a good chance of an extra bank holiday for the upcoming royal wedding!

20 November 2010

The Catholic Church comes kicking and screaming into the 1960s

The Church comes kicking and screaming into the 1960s

Wonders never cease but it seems that the Pope is finally softening its ridiculous stance on the use of condoms.

Acoording to the Guardian the Pop has said in a new book that their use can be justified in some cases, such as for male prostitutes seeking to prevent the spread of HIV.

The pontiff makes the comments in a book-length interview with a German journalist, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," which is due to be published on Tuesday.

The church has long opposed condoms on the basis that they are a form of artificial contraception, while the Vatican has been harshly criticised for its position given the AIDS crisis. Benedict says in the book that, for male prostitutes for whom contraception isn't a central issue, condoms are not a moral solution. He also says that condoms could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."

This is a major shift in position since last year when he told reporters while flying to Africa that condoms would not resolve the AIDS problem there but, on the contrary, increase it.

Austin Ivereigh, a British Catholic commentator "The Pope is not actually saying anything that would surprise moral theologians. What is surprising is that it is coming from the Pope… The church's teaching on contraception predates AIDS and predates new kinds of moral possibilities, which is that condoms can be used not as a means of preventing a conception but as a means of preventing transmission of a virus…Rome has been silent on this for some years. The difficulty has been how they can clarify this teaching without it looking like they are lifting the ban on contraception.

Well at long last. The Church’s attitude on contraception has been appalling.. Better late than never for this shift, I suppos
Our internet connection is back so the world is no longer cut off. Rejoice!

Internet down

No internet service at home since yesterday morning. Bah! Hopefully will be back later today

19 November 2010

Friday guest cat - Cutta Cutta

skight change of tack for this week's Friday cat blogging. Rather than a photo of one or more of the pulchritudinous puss-cats that rule this house here is some video footage of Cutta Cutta drinking. This relates to a post yesterday in which the mechanics of cat drinking had been studied by scientists at MIT and other establishments

18 November 2010

Continuing with the Peter Gabriel theme

And now Solsbury Hill

Langer : the finest word in the Corkonian lexicon

A Langer

While I was bor in sunny Romford both of my parents are from Cork. My father is from the City, my mother is from a village not far from the Kerry border. My father in particular is a Corkonian first and an Irishman a distant second. Despite having left Cork nearly 70 years ago it does not take him long to revert to the glorious sing-song accent that is peculiar to the city.

Cork has its own slang. Perhaps the jewel in the crown is the word langer. It has several meanings:

  • It is the rough equivalent of wanker in the sense that it is used to label someone as an idiot

  • It is also used as an alternative expression for the membrum virilis

  • In the plural it describes being in a state of considerable :”refreshment”

In the past it was also used to describe someone who would jump on to the back of a cart or other vehicle in order to gain cost free transportation

Unfortunately it is also a not uncommon surname which may have originated as a nickname for a tall person (it might also have bee used to describe someone from a langa – a cultivated area).

Whatever the origin, it is a name that will give a smile to any Corkonian!

BIFFO - a fecking huge langer

According to an article in the wonderful website the People’s Republic of Cork. The word is about to enter the Collins English dictionary. Unfortunately it will be described, much to the chagrin of the writer, as Irish rather than Cork slang!

Interestingly the author, Finbarr Barry (Now that is a very Cork name!) states that the actual origin of the expression dates back to the 19th Century when the Munster Fusiliers (the regiment my grandfather served in briefly in WWI before he was take prisoner in August 1914) were posted to India

The soldiers were often plagued by the Langur Monkey in the jungles. The soldiers then used the word ‘langur’ to refer to people they despised when they returned. The wild untameable behaviour of the jungle monkeys was often compared to those monkeys emerging from the pubs of Cork at closing time and also received the name “langur”.

I did not know this. It is a wonderful explanation. I hope that it is true.


The article goes on to describe how the word has gone from being a uniquely Cork expression to one that is gaining ground across the country. It is becoming less of a pejorative term and more of a term of robust endearment in the process.

It is well worth a read, a most interesting and enjoyable article from a much loved website

The cat’s lap – a thing of elegance (naturally!)

My thanks go to Claude who sent me a link to this article in the full knowledge that it would be of interest to me.

According to the Physorg website researchers at MIT, Virginia Tech and Princeton University have analyzed the way domestic and big cats lap and found that felines of all sizes take advantage of a perfect balance between two physical forces.

It was known that when they lap, cats extend their tongues straight down toward the bowl with the tip of the tongue curled backwards like a capital "J" to form a ladle, so that the top surface of the tongue actually touches the liquid first. This is known because of the work of Doc Edgerton, who used strobe lights in photography to stop action, filmed a domestic cat lapping milk in 1940.

Recent high-speed videos made by the team revealed that the top surface of the cat's tongue is the only surface to touch the liquid. Cats, unlike dogs, aren't dipping their tongues into the liquid like ladles after all. Instead, the cat's lapping mechanism is far more subtle and elegant (of course!!). The smooth tip of the tongue barely brushes the surface of the liquid before the cat rapidly draws its tongue back up. As it does so, a column of milk forms between the moving tongue and the liquid's surface. The cat then closes its mouth, pinching off the top of the column for a nice drink, while keeping its chin dry.

The liquid columnis created by a delicate balance between gravity, and inertia. The cat instinctively knows just how quickly to lap in order to balance these two forces, and just when to close its mouth

The domestic cat averages about four laps per second, with each lap bringing in about 0.1 milliliters of liquid, the big cats, such as tigers, know to slow down. They naturally lap more slowly to maintain the balance of gravity and inertia.

The work began three-and-a-half years ago when Stocker, who studies the fluid mechanics of the movements of ocean microbes, was watching his cat lap milk. That cat, eight-year-old Cutta Cutta, stars in the researchers' best videos and still pictures. And like all movie stars (Cutta Cutta means "stars stars" in an Australian aboriginal language), he likes being waited on. With their cameras trained on Cutta Cutta's bowl, Stocker and Reis said they spent hours at the Stocker home waiting on Cutta Cutta … to drink, that is. But the wait didn't dampen their enthusiasm for the project, which very appropriately originated from a sense of curiosity.

"Science allows us to look at natural processes with a different eye and to understand how things work, even if that's figuring out how my cat laps his breakfast," Stocker said. "It's a job, but also a passion, and this project for me was a high point in teamwork and creativity. We did it without any funding, without any graduate students, without much of the usual apparatus that science is done with nowadays."

"Our process in this work was typical, archetypal really, of any new scientific study of a natural phenomenon. You begin with an observation and a broad question, 'How does the cat drink?' and then try to answer it through careful experimentation and mathematical modeling," said Reis, a physicist who works on the mechanics of soft solids. "To us, this study provides further confirmation of how exciting it is to explore the scientific unknown, especially when this unknown is something that's part of our everyday experiences."

It comes as no surprise to this cat lover that mogs have an elegant solution to the problem of drinking. Dogs on the other hand take a hit and hope attitude to the problem.,, It’s a bit like the difference between drinking tea from a china cup (with little finger extended) and quaffing a mug of beer (and largely missing!).

Ach it probably won't be long until the Genus Felidae (and perhaps genus Pantera) develop the opposable thumb from their dew claws.... Then we are truly doomed!

17 November 2010

Aother bit of Peter Gabriel

A trip to the doctor (fish)

It seems that the craze for fish pedicures has come to Havering. The spas use a type of fish known as the Doctor Fish (Garra rufa) which is native to the Middle East, particularly Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The fish "nibble" at dead skin leaving healthy skin alone. skin feels softer after and certainly looks better

The fish have been used in Turkey to treat psoriasis for some time. In recent years their use as a spa treatment has started to spread across the world, with the first spas opening in the UK earlier this year.

Here they are used to provide pedicures but one place in Hornchurch, solesensation, has a body immersion bath - it claims to be the first in the UK (I am not sure if this is true or not)

Being a psoriasis sufferer I have been intrigued by the doctor fish treatment ever since I first saw it on tv some years ago, Now that there is a place locally to try out the treatment I have booked a session on Monday (I was quite lucky as only one session is offered a day and the salon was featured on some Essex reality show on ITV which means that it is quite popular).

I am quite looking forward to giving it a try. I am under no illusions that it is a miracle cure - or any real cure at all - but if you are covered in patches of dead, flaky skin which sloughs off in bed and in my clothes as I am, any port in a storm! That and my hair looks like it has dandruff's big, ugly brother despite using methotrexate (an anti cancer drug which is effective in treating skin disieases but takes a while to kick in) and a strong steroid. Vitamin A cream.

So I am intrigued to see if it can relieve some of the worse symptoms and not make me bleed as exfoliation does. One thing is for sure, ther are going to be some Garra rufa who will think that Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and their birthdays have been rolled into one!

I will report back on Monday.

Sakineh declares herself a sinner in a penitence fest on Iranian tv

Iranian state TV has broadcast a statement from Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in which she described herself as a "sinner".

She also accused Mina Ahadi, an activist of the German-based International Committee Against Stoning (Icas), of spreading her story around the world.

Ahadi who was instrumental in bringing Mohammadi Ashtiani's case to the world's attention, was as "a communist dissident exiled in Germany", who had taken advantage of the case for her own benefit.

Two German journalists arrested in Iran last year "confessed" during the broadcast that they had received orders from Ahadi.
During the programme,

Mohammadi Ashtiani reiterated her previous televised "confessions" that she was involved in the murder of her husband. "I am a sinner," she said.

Her face was blurred and the interview, conducted in her native Azeri language, was subtitled in Farsi. Previously, Iranian officials have tried to distract attention from the sentence of stoning by portraying Mohammadi Ashtiani as a murderer and not mentioning the charge of adultery over which she has been imprisoned since 2006.

The programme said that Mohammadi Ashtiani's case was promoted around the world by her lawyers, Mohammad Mostafaei, and later Kian, because "they were looking for excuses to claim asylum in western countries". Mostafaei, Mohammadi Ashtiani's first lawyer, was arrested and subsequently forced to leave Iran after giving interviews to foreign press including the Guardian. He is now in Norway.

Kian, a government appointed lawyer for Mohammadi Ashtiani, began to represent her after Mostafaei, but contrary to the government's will, became outspoken and defended her.
Kian, who has been jailed since October, claimed that Mohammadi Ashtiani was beaten and tortured before appearing on TV for the first time.

Qaderzadeh, a bus conductor in Tabriz, said in the programme: "He [Kian] told me to say she [Mohammadi Ashtiani] was tortured … Unfortunately, I listened to him and told lies to the foreign media.

In response to his remarks, Kian said in the programme: "Telling lies to foreign media was my recommendation to Sajjad."

Call me a tad scetpical but I somehow sense that Sakineh was under just a little duress to make these statements… Clearly the scum who run Iran are pissed off that they couldn’t have their stoning.

Meanwhile Ahadi told the Guardian: "They are not just attacking me, they are attacking our committee and everybody who successfully brought her case to the world's attention and, at least for now, managed to stop Iran form stoning her. If it wasn't for the world's attention, Sakineh would have been executed by now, that is what's making them angry."

The two German journalists who appeared on the programme, who were not identified, admitted to their "illegal acts". One of them said: "Mina Ahadi sent me to Iran because she knew she would benefit from my arrest and I'll sue her when I get back to Germany."

Iran's English language TV channel, Press TV, reported on Monday that according to Iran's East Azerbaijan Prosecutor Malek Ajdar Sharifi "the behaviour of the Germans showed they entered Iran as spies and tried to create negative atmosphere against Iran and the East Azerbaijan judiciary."

Well I suppose it makes a change from having spies under British control… For once Uncle Napoleon has a different target.

16 November 2010

And now some Ramones

Games without frontiers

Gerry Adams MP TD?

Gerry Adams has announced that he intends to move his base of operations fro the North of Ireland to the South.

In Sunday’s Observer it was reported that he will seek election to the Dail in the Louth constituency at the next general election.

Adams will step down as an MLA (a member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly) he plans to retain his Westminster seat even though he does not attend the House of Commons.

Adams said: "As leader of the only all-Ireland party with an all-island mandate, I have a choice to make whether to stay in West Belfast, a place that I love, or to seek a mandate in another constituency in the south.

"West Belfast is my home. It is where Colette and our family are and where I live. But after thoughtful consideration, and with the support of colleagues, I have decided to put my name forward for Louth. If elected for this constituency I will work and stay here and travel home when possible."

The party has a seat in the Louth constituency but but the current TD, Arthur Morgan, announced he would be stepping down at the next election to concentrate on his business.

However, there is no guarantee that Adams would retain the seat or find himself in a multi-party coalition government. In the most recent Irish general election Adams performed disastrously in a live leaders' debate on RTE television in which he was unable to answer questions on economic policies in the republic.

For what it’s worth I would not welcome Adams’s move to the politics of the Republic (but then I don’t have a vote in the Dail elections). It is not only because of my extreme dislike of Sinn Fein (to be fair I also dislike the DUP with a passion too) the man has become rather a non-entity since the peace process in the 90s

Adams has had the chance to transform himself from the talking head of a terrorist group to an able politician. In my view he has failed. Martin McGuinness on the other hand has been rather a revelation. Much as I dislike him personally McGuinness has shown himself to be quite an able politician. While I would rather not have seen him and Paisley holding the reins of power in Northern Ireland their working relationship was a pleasant surprise.

There will be an election in Ireland next year or in 2012 at the latest. While it it likely that Fianna Fail may face a decimation akin to that meted out on the Tories in 1997, there is little prospect of Sinn Fein being invited to join the next government. They may well increase their representation but as it stands the biggest winner (if not the outright winner) looks to be the Labour Party. A Fine Gael/Labour coalition looks to be the likeliest outcome. This time Labour will probably have a far bigger role in the coalition than it has in the past.

As for Adams he will be a little fish in a rather bigger pond if elected.

15 November 2010

A bit of Vonnegut that brings a smile to my face

I posted this excerpt back in 2007 as a wy of marking Vonnegut's passing. A recent comment on that post has brought it back to me and this is why I considered Vonegut to be a UNSECO world heritage site in himself:

The Dancing Fool by Kilgore Trout (as outlined in Breakfast of Champions)

A flying saucer creature named Zog arrives on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. Zog brings the information from his home planet, Margo, where the natives converse by means of farts and tap dancing.

Zog lands at night in Connecticut. He no sooner touches down than he sees a brush-fire spreading toward a house. He rushes into the house -- farting and tap dancing -- warning the people about the terrible danger they're in. And the head of the house brains Zog with a golfclub.

As I said then we shall not see his likes again

Beer – the origin of civilisation!

Once again the Fortean Times breaking News section contains gold. On Friday it had a link to a Livescience article concerning the role that beer may have played in the rise of civilisation.

Some archaeologists believe that Stone Age farmers domesticated cereals not so much to fill their stomachs but to turn the grains into beer. This is not a new argument but now one archaeologist believes that the evidence is getting stronger.

That people went to great lengths to obtain grains despite the hard work needed to make them edible, plus the knowledge that feasts were important community-building gatherings, support the idea that cereal grains were being turned into beer, said archaeologist Brian Hayden at Simon Fraser University in Canada.

"Beer is sacred stuff in most traditional societies," said Hayden, who is planning to submit research on the origins of beer to the journal Current Anthropology.

The advent of agriculture began in the Neolithic Period of the Stone Age about 11,500 years ago. Once-nomadic groups of people had settled down and were coming into contact with each other more often, spurring the establishment of more complex social customs that set the foundation of more-intricate communities.

Archaeological evidence suggests that until the Neolithic, cereals such as barley and rice constituted only a minor element of diets, most likely because they require so much labor to get anything edible from them — one typically has to gather, winnow, husk and grind them, all very time-consuming tasks.

Hayden said that he had seen that hard work for himself. "In traditional Mayan villages where I've worked, maize is used for tortillas and for chicha, the beer made there. Women spend five hours a day just grinding up the kernels."

However, sites in Syria suggest that people nevertheless went to unusual lengths at times just to procure cereal grains — up to 40 to 60 miles (60 to 100 km). One might speculate, Hayden said, that the labour associated with grains could have made them attractive in feasts in which guests would be offered foods that were difficult or expensive to prepare, and beer could have been a key reason to procure the grains used to make them.

"It's not that drinking and brewing by itself helped start cultivation, it's this context of feasts that links beer and the emergence of complex societies," Hayden said.

"In traditional feasts throughout the world, there are three ingredients that are almost universally present," he said. "One is meat. The second is some kind of cereal grain, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, in the form of breads or porridge or the like. The third is alcohol, and because you need surplus grain to put into it, as well as time and effort, it's produced almost only in traditional societies for special occasions to impress guests, make them happy, and alter their attitudes favourably toward hosts."

The brewing of alcohol seems to have been a very early development linked with initial domestication, seen during Neolithic times in China, the Sudan, the first pottery in Greece and possibly with the first use of maize.

Well this is good enough for me. It is delightful to know that beer, rather than being the cause of society’s ills in fact the cause of society’s creation!

I would raise a glass myself but for the fact that I am not allowed to drink alcohol at present… Bah!

How James Blunt saved the world

Not only is James Blunt the greatest singer the world has ever seen (Jesus, I said that? even sarcastically that sticks in the craw!)) but it seems that his prompt actions prevented the outbreak of World Warr III

Accoring to the Graun Blunt claimed in a radio interview that in 1999 he was serving in Kosovo (He had been an army officer before his music career), He had been at the head of a column that had been ordered to seize Prisina airfield,

US general Wesley Clark had issued a command to "reach the airfield and take a hold of it", the Russians had arrived there first. "We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively," Blunt recalled. "The direct command [that] came in from general Wesley Clark was to overpower them.

Blunt said he wasn't willing to risk major conflict with Russia. "There are things that you do along the way that you know are right, and those that you absolutely feel are wrong," he said. "That sense of moral judgment is drilled into us as soldiers in the British army." The singer-songwriter claims he would have declined the order even at the risk of a court martial.

It didn't come to that. British general Sir Mike Jackson sent an admonishing message. "[His] exact words at the time were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting world war three'. [He] told us why don't we sugar off down the road [and], you know, encircle the airfield instead." Asked if he thought the original order could indeed have set off a third world war, Blunt replied: "Absolutely."

So there you have it. Blunt was instrumental in averting WWIII. In addition he is the first singer songwriter to have broken the light speed barrier, brought peace to the Middle East and will surely sit at God's right hand come Judgement Day...

Personally I think his output is the musical equivalent of water boarding....

14 November 2010

Angst in my pants

From 2008 when they performed 21 concerts. Each one featured one of their albums then a selection of favourites.

Long may they carry on!

And another Peter

Cuts you up by Peter Murphy

Moribund the Burgermeister

From Peter Gabriel's first solo album

De Valera and that message of condolence upon the death of Hitler again


It’s been a while since I’ve dealt with any aspect of Irish history. It was fortunate that I happened upon this article in the Irish Independent yesterday – quite fortunate as I haven’t looked at the paper for some weeks.

Eamon De Valera was the second worst leader to grace the Republic of Ireland (or its predecessors) beaten only by the grossly corrupt criminal Charles Haughey to the top slot. That said the gruesome twosome of Ahern and BIFFO (the current Taoiseach Brian Cowan – the Big Ignorant Fucker From Offaly) are close behind due to their gross economic mismanagement which has turned the Celtic Tiger into that infamous dead cat that bounces during an economic slide.

Among his many acts of utter stupidity was his visit to Eduard Hempel, the German Ambassador to Ireland in 1945 to sign a book of condolence for Adolf Hitler. This act caused international anger and contributed to Ireland’s status as a semi outcast nation for at least a decade.

New research has shown Mr de Valera fully expected the furore he created when he called on the German ambassador Eduard Hempel, to "express condolences" after Hitler's death was announced on May 2.

He never publicly explained the rationale behind his visit but previously secret papers in a new Royal Irish Academy book -- 'Documents on Irish Foreign Policy 1941-1945' -- show his thoughts following the incident.

"I had expected this," Mr de Valera wrote. "I acted correctly and I feel certain wisely."

Mr de Valera said he could have feigned a "diplomatic illness" but he would "scorn that sort of thing".

"So long as we retained our diplomatic relations with Germany, to have failed to call upon the German representative would have been an act of unpardonable discourtesy to the German nation and to Dr Hempel," he said in a letter.

He said he was "certainly" not going to add to Dr Hempel's humiliation "in the hour of defeat".
"I had another reason," his letter says. "It would establish a bad precedent. It is of considerable importance that the formal acts of courtesy should not have attached to them any further special significance, such as connoting approval or disapproval of the state in question or of its head."

I have always considered De Valera’s act to be the act of a small, ridiculous man with a pathological adherence to protocol and the political nous of a flatworm.

This letter shows that m extremely low opinion of the man is fully justified. Regardless of his feelings towards Hempel – there is nothing to indicate that he was much more than a reluctant Nazi (for what that is worth) – It was an act if extreme stupidity. He knew full well that the act would be badly received and would poison relations, particularly with the USA with whom relations were already pretty poor.

Germany was dead and buried by the time Hitler killed himself. The allies were on the verge of victory in Europe and yet he felt that the niceties of diplomatic protocol were far more important than acknowledging the blatant political reality.

How can I best describe De Valera? The man was an utter fuckwit who would have been better off as a school teacher or a junior clerk. Ireland may well have been a better place if he h

13 November 2010

What charming people

Some of the more cretinous comments on the Daily Mail report on Aung San Suu Kyi's release

It goes to show the generosity and understanding of the Junta. Well done to them!

I agree with Sophie. There is less to this woman than meets the eye. She left her husband - and more importantly her children - to become a "saint" in Burma. Much like Princess Diana revered for her looks rather than achievements. Another example of style over substance. Would we have been interested in her if she were fat and ugly rather than the seemingly delicate little oriental flower with blossoms in her hair that we see in the newspapers. A very hard nut indeed, I think.
More like the Face of NIVEA! She has spent the past 20 years holed up in her luxury mansion with 2 maids to cook and clean for her, playing the piano and reading autobiographies. Hardly courageous, sounds more like a holiday to me. Anybody in a privileged position can sit and whinge against the government but where is the democracy in Burma? If anything, she is putting the people's lives in more danger. As far as work is concerned what job has she actually done? I reserve my admiration for true heroines like Mother Theresa of Calcutta, wrinkled because of their hard physical work which got results.

Errr...she will come to the UK and make her home here and watch the X Factor?!? And claim benefits and complain about the weather!


The Lady is freed at last

At last Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest by the Burmese Junta. In and of itself this is a great day. For what it's worth I am delighted but I can'tt help wonder what next or how long before the vermin junta and their parliamentary puppets contrive to return her to captivity. Let's see what happens next.

Nevertheless it is my deepest wish that she sees the junta and their puppets consigned to the gutter

12 November 2010

The theme for the week's Photo Hunt is itchy. Okay s this nettle is initially sting-y, it soon itches like hell

The Lady released

Press reports indicate that Aung San Suu Kyi is about to be released from captivity. Let's see if this is true

Ted at rest

And the very first photo taken with my brand new camera body, a Nikon D700

11 November 2010

Some wonderful retractions

From here

Asia Bibi

Some cases rightly get major international attention – Here I am thinking of the likes Aung San Suu Kyi, Neda Agha Soltani. It is absolutely right that the Lady’s incarceration and Neda’s murder have been major news items.

Other equally worthy cases do not seem to get the media attention they deserve. This post concerns an appalling sentence handed down to a woman in Pakistan. So far it has received little attention from the world’s press. The Telegraph is an exception (as is the Richard Dawkins website for that matter). Sadly I missed the article when it was originally published.

Asia Bibi is a 45-year-old mother-of-five who has been sentenced to death under Pakistan’s atrocious blasphemy laws

In 2009 Asia had been working as a farmhand in fields with other women, when she was asked to fetch drinking water. Some of the other women – all Muslims – refused to drink the water as it had been brought by a Christian and was therefore "unclean", according to her evidence, sparking a row.

Apparently some of the women workers had been putting her under pressure to renounce her Christian faith and accept Islam.
The women were alleged to have pressed her about Islam. She responded by sharing with them about her faith in Christ. She spoke of how Jesus Christ had died on the cross for their sins and then asked them what Mohammed had done for them. (This pragraph accordning to the site Cross Rhythms.)

The incident was forgotten until a few days later when Mrs Bibi said she was set upon by a mob. The police were called and took her to a police station for her own safety.

Under pressure from the mob the police then registered a blasphemy case against her.

Asia denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.

Ashiq Masih, her husband, said he had not had the heart to break the news to two of their children.

"I haven't told two of my younger daughters about the court's decision," he said. "They asked me many times about their mother but I can't get the courage to tell them that the judge has sentenced their mother to capital punishment for a crime she never committed." Mrs Bibi has been held in prison since June last year.
"The trial was clear," he said. "She was innocent and did not say those words."

Human rights groups believe the law is often used to discriminate against religious minorities, such as the country's estimated three million Christians. Although no one has ever been executed under Pakistan's blasphemy laws – most are freed on appeal – as many as 10 people are thought to have been murdered while on trial.

Ali Hasan Dayan, of Human Rights Watch, said the blasphemy laws were out of step with rights guaranteed under Pakistan's constitution and should be repealed. "It's an obscene law," he said. "Essentially the blasphemy law is used as a tool of persecution and to settle other scores that are nothing to do with religion.
"It makes religious minorities particularly vulnerable because it's often used against them."

There is no doubt about this, the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are appalling. It seems that they are all too often used to persecute religious minorities (most often the Ahmadiyya sect but many Christians too).

It does not matter what she said or not. It is a horrendous sentence under an evil law. Asia Bibi should be released forthwith. She and her family must then and allowed to lead her lives in peace.


Remembering the Bomber Command dead at the Field of Remembrance

10 November 2010

Robyn Hitchcock - Heaven*

On of my favourite Hitchcock songs - from the live album Gotta Let This Hen Out. THe studio version is on Fegmania

Chinese food scandal protestor jailed

Today’s Telegraph reports that Zhao Lianhai, who created a website to highlight the plight of children poisoned in a major food adulteration scandal in China, has been jailed for 2 1/2 years.

Zhao created the site in 2009 after his son was poisoned after being fed adulterated formula milk. He was one of about 300,000 Chinese toddlers who were poisoned (of which at least six of them died) by milk that contained melamine, an industrial chemical that was added to make the milk appear to contain more protein than was actually the case.

The website quickly became a focal point for thousands of parents who were outraged at the crisis, and that the issue had initially been covered up.

As more and more parents began to call for justice and compensation, and Mr Zhao began to press their case publicly, he came to the attention of the Chinese authorities.

Last November, he was arrested by the police and then charged in March with "creating a disturbance". His lawyer, Li Fangping, said the evidence for the charge had been that Mr Zhao had given a media interview on a public pavement, held a dinner in a restaurant for a dozen parents of other victims, and that he had held up a small sign in protest outside a trial of milk company executives responsible for the poisoning.

As his sentence was announced, Mr Zhao protested in court, stripping off his prisoner's uniform and refusing to be handcuffed. "I am not guilty!" he said. Mr Li said he would appeal the sentence, and that Mr Zhao was in "quite good health, but anxious. He has not seen his wife and two children for almost a year."

Mr Zhao has already served one year of his sentence, and will now have another year-and-a-half of prison time.

Three people have been sentenced to death for their role in the toxic milk case, and the general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu, the milk company at the heart of the scandal, was given a life sentence. Dozens of officials, dairy executives and farmers have been punished for allowing the contamination to take place.

What to say? Words fail.

Staigue Fort

09 November 2010

Five Anglican Bishops jump on the Vatican Express

The Telegraph reports that five Church of England bishops are leaving to join the Catholic church in a protest over the ordination of women bishops.

The Roman Catholic Church backed their move, and promised a "warm welcome" to all Anglicans who decide to switch allegiance to Rome.

Senior Catholics are finalising plans for the English Ordinariate, a new body created by the Pope to accommodate Anglican converts who cannot accept women bishops.

The Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, Alan Hopes, the Roman Catholic representative leading the development of the Ordinariate,

“We welcome the decision of Bishops Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton, John Broadhurst, Edwin Barnes and David Silk to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate for England and Wales,” he said.

The move was precipitate by a decision at the General Synod of the Church of England in July to support plans for women to be ordained as bishops in England for the first time. The five bishops are said to be “dismayed” at the liberal reforms to the Church in recent decades and will join the Ordinariate in pursuit of “unity” with Rome when the new body is established next year.

Other members of the Church of England are expected to follow their lead. St Peter’s in Folkestone, in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own diocese, became the first parish to declare publicly that it intended to join the Ordinariate last month.

Holy Trinity church in Reading is expected to make a decision on whether to follow in the next few weeks. Meetings are also planned at St John the Baptist church in Sevenoaks, Kent, and Holy Trinity, Winchmore Hill, in north London.

To be honest I find the move rather stupid. Personally I just don’t see the problem, given that an all male clergy in the past was a simply a reflection of the status of women more than anything else.

The ship jumpers are not guaranteed a universally warm welcome in the Catholic church. There are many people like my father who do not care for people changing religion for something as trivial as this.

Needless to say the new converts will not be forced to be celibate, making the rule on existing catholic priests more of an insult.

I’m wondering if the Catholic Church will have an ad campaign

Anglicans! Are you sick of female priests? Hate the idea of them becoming bishops?

Well join the Catholics. We’re bloody terrified of women!

Burmese junta squeaks home in surprise election win

Burma’s military has claimed a shock victory in the country's first election in 20 years, winning 80 per cent of the seats. This will give the junta a wafer thin majority.

''We have won about 80 per cent of the seats. We are glad,'' said a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the junta's political arm, who did not want to be named.

The USDP member said turnout was more than 170 per cent, despite muted activity at polling stations on election day.

“We are most grateful to those people who came back from the dead to vote for us some of them voted up to 500 times. Such devotion to our party is touching”, said

Still victory was far from assured: “It was only thanks to a sustained campaign of intimidation, arrests and a trumped up charge against Aung San Suu Kyi” that we were able to win.”

Needless to say the election was an utter sham which will do absolutely nothing to better the lot of the Burmese people. That said it is interesting to see that the National Democratic Force, the main pro-democracy party, may win almost half the 37 seats in Rangoon, the country's former capital.

Not that it will make a jot of difference: the military will retain a quarter of the seats in the two houses of parliament, according to the constitution.

Elected lawmakers in both houses can nominate a presidential candidate to compete against the military-appointed legislators' contender but somehow I doubt that this person will stand a chance of becoming president

A little bit of heaven on earth

Anne's Grove garden, County Cork

08 November 2010

Death of a sycophant

While I keep an eye on my stats I don't follow them slavishly (apart from keeping on the lookout when they are bout to hit a milestone like the 500,000th visitor) I was surprised to see a big spike in visitors over Friday and Saturday with the great majority of them coming from Romania.

The reason for this spike was the death on November 5th of Romanian poet Adrian Paunescu who, although he described himself as an "inner circle dissident", he was the court poet to Nicolae Ceausescu/ Here is a post I wrote last year which includes on of his abysmal poems glorifiying the Nazi bastard.


Adrian Paunescu now

While I love bad poetry, there is a huge difference between the passionate ineptitude of the likes of Tayside Tragedian or McIntyre of the giant cheese and the sycophantic ramblings of the political court poets as you will still see in places like North Korea.

Of all the former communist states in Europe Romania was in many ways one of the worst. Ceausescu may have garnered a little respect in the west by having the temerity not to participate fully in the Warsaw Pact structure and not contributing to the forces that toppled Dubcek in Czechoslovakia he was an evil mane in virtually every other respect of his worthless life.

Essentially Ceausescu was. Ultra nationalist and a unreconstructed Stalinist. It would be safe to say that he was a Nationalist Socialist. (Hmm that sounds a bit of a mouthful, let me remove a syllable.- Ceausescu was a National Socialist. Huum still too many syllables. This sounds right)

Ceausescu was basically a NAZI. Like other tyrants he had his coterie of sycophants. One of these was Adrian Paunescu who was Ceausescu's court poet. Here is an example of his work, some extracts of a poem translated by Constantin Roman:


"We now live a new life, which was dreamt of and fought for
By our forbears, our national revolutionaries Tudor, Balcescu
Horia and Iancu, who were once upon a time
The martyrs of our sufferings and of Romania’s fate

Today their heir is this wise old man, brought to us in Spring time
To be a hero amongst heroes. As Communist Party Leader,
It stands to reason that he is also the country’s President.
And that is why, through the very person of Ceausescu we found our own newborn ethos.


It is Ceausescu himself that introduced honour within the Communist Party and the Country
He rediscovered our history unadulterated
To make us reach for the future in our dreams, as well as
In our daily deeds, full of new meanings.


We can’t accept that our life should be broken
As we make history day in, day out, the way it was prescribed
By the 9th Congress of the Communist Party
Whose philosophy is to believe in the People as the ultimate solution

Notwithstanding all that the centre of our struggle remains
The Communist Party who knows the problem and has the solution
The Party is the architect of all our future
The perfect judge of our past and present

That is the stuff of which Romania’s hero is made
A true heroes through every fibre
The first recipient of the Truth
Who knows how to confront all Evil


As we follow our Hero, we overcome disasters
As we follow our Hero we shall be able to
Make everything to the measure of our enthusiasm
You People with a noble spirit, People with a pure soul. "

Paunescu showing dissent

Even if this is well written in Romanian it has the stink of a man who had his lips to the sphincter of a tyrant. I gather that Paunescu had the temerity to call himself a dissident.

If you wish to read about a real Romanian dissident who did suffer terribly for her actions try Doina Cornea and not this worthless scumbag

Topiary at Versailles

Last week’s mid term elections were not exactly great news for the Democrats but one state appears to have bucked the trend. California saw the re-election of veteran politician Jerry Brown as well as small advances in the state senate.

For me anyway, one result was rather curious: the electors of Long Beach voted en masse for Democrat Jenny Oropeza (left) who beat her Republican opponent 58.4% to 35.7%

This is despite the fact that Sen. Oropeza, had died on 20 October…. A special election will be required.

This sort of thing is not unknown. The odious and erstwhile Attorney General John Ashcroft was defeated in 2000 by Mel Carnahan who had been killed in a plane crash.

What I don’t understand is why these election went ahead when it was clear that one of the candidates was clearly unfit to discharge their duties if elected (or perhaps not: Strom Thurmond is believed to have died in 1983 but still served for many years).

Here if a candidate dies the constituency election is suspended (as happened in Thirsk and Malton this year) until the party whose candidate has died selects another one. It just seems odd that the in the US the election still goes ahead

06 November 2010

Assassins of Allah

Originally called Hassan i Sabbah. This originally aeared on the 1977 album Quark, strangeness and charm. Its name changed to Assassins of Allah during the 80s

The Sex Pistols do Hawkwind

Actually not a big surprise as John Lydon was rather a Hawkwind fan. He may not have admitted than in 1977 though!

Hawkwind -Steppenwolf

05 November 2010

It lives

I.m not around until tomorrow so I'm not participating in this week's photo hunt. Here's Crabby as he/she gets out of the way of the camera

A small spit in the face of public servants but still a spit

Wrong finger but we get the message

It’s not uncommon for governments to bring in placemen into departments as special advisors. Labour did it and the Tories did it when they were previously in power. I’m not saying that it’s right but it is done.

A personal photographer is a different matter though. If Cameron. According to the Guardian (and plenty of other sources) the Cabinet Office has confirmed it had given Andrew Parsons, a former Tory party employee described as Mr Cameron’s “vanity photographer”, a job in the civil service.
Nicky Woodhouse, a filmmaker who has made hundreds of the 'web Cameron' films for the Tory party, has also been put on the civil service payroll.

The pair have been hired by the Cabinet Office on a one year contract, worth around £35,000 each, with a brief to work across all Government departments.

The jobs were not advertised to anyone else and their positions did not exist under the last Government.

The Government announced a recruitment freeze not long after they took power. So much for that then. Okay this is not a huge issue in the grand scheme of things but it sends a message to civil servants facing the axe – a message of utter arrogance on the part of the Government.

If nearly half a million jobs are going, slashing the number of people to provide essential services and deliver policies then why the hell is there money for a personal photographer?