Sunday, 23 May 2010

There's no title...Oh, what the f**k!

You have to feel sorry for Queen Elizabeth II, don't you? That's the monarch not the ocean going ship. She spends her whole life dedicating herself to her job. Trying to do her best at being a queen and while there may be many compensations, obscene wealth not being the least, I would be loth to give up everything that I might enjoy in a desperate, last gasp, attenpt to save the UK's constitutional monarchy. Out with the girls after one too many Bacardi Breezers, the occasional line of coke in some swanky restaurant's toilets, the occasional quickie up against the wall of the palace with a 'bit of rough', burning down a public building.

Disagree with the monarchy or not, no-one can doubt Elizabeth's committment to the job. And yet she is surrounded by the most stupid, imbecilic individuals, not to mention an intrusive press, that she must wish that she had been born in earlier times; the Victorian era perhaps? When the Royals knew how to be 'discrete', circumspect. When she would not be surrounded by scandal, embarrassment and out and out idiocy at every step of the way.

Now undoubtedly society has moved on, for better or worse, but what the poor old dear has had to put up with. Her philandering husband (hearsay and rumour I hasten to add, I'm not getting sued over this - no-one dared print it in the 70's); her idiot of a son and a marriage made in hell; her other idiot of a son and a marriage made in another kind of hell; her ex-daughter in law in bed with the son of the 'fugger' (how did that wanker get control of Harrods? At least there are no worries on that score now!); her doubly idiot of a son and his ludicrous affair with someone else's wife, sort of. How she must long for the power of her namesake.

And now Fergie rears her ugly money-grubbing head again. When will that women ever learn? Not ever, probably, too stupid; but how can you get caught in a sting like that? On tape? £500,000 for 'access' to Andrew (an unpaid trade envoy). I may be old-fashioned but, when you buy into that whole 'Royal Family' thing and all that it brings with it, wealth, fame, prestige. does that not give you certain 'obligations'. Like you maybe 'owe' something? Like you don't embarrass them too much? Like you don't drag the family into mud for a financial gain? Your financial gain?

Now, of course, Fergie had the perfect mentor, Lady Diana Spencer, but I still find it amazing that someone would stoop so low without any consideration for the position which she originally put herself in by marrying into the family. Her 'publicist', read 'Damage Limitation Expert', said she was 'naive'. Well, that doesn't begin to describe it.

It is only the general 'love' the Brits have for the actual person that is the Queen that sustains the monarchy. When she is dead, the whole edifice will collapse within twenty years and the Brits will have a republic, a president. Why? Because the people around her never accepted that 'with great power comes great responsibilty' (to quote Uncle Ben. No, not the rice, Peter Parker's, Spiderman's, Uncle Ben). They're too thick to understand that they're queering their own patch! And it damn well serves them right! But the rest? Lord only knows!

You can say what you like about constitutional monarchy but if it stops people like Rayguns, Dubya, Mitterand, Wilson, Putin from totally controlling nations, then I'm all for it! But only when you have a monarch like the Brits have got right now. Any of the other wankers, and it's pushing a 'handcart to hell'!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Atlantic triangular trade and the dumbing down of our children.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand why people purposely shoot themselves in the foot. Obviously, they just might be as stupid as we naturally think they are but I rarely believe that; humans are simply too devious, too prone to deception, to make me think that there is not some ulterior motive for wanting to look as crassly idiotic as possible.

Take Texas' attempt to have the African slave trade re-branded as the 'Atlantic triangular trade' in school textbooks. On the face of it, it seems ludicrous to suggest it. I mean, what else do you call taking people from one place, incarcerating them against their will, selling them for profit and denying them all rights to which residents of a place might believe appropriate. What do you call being treated as one more possession in a bag of goodies that includes your washing machine, your cows, your house, if not slavery? And if you agree with that, what's wrong about referring to commerce, trafficking, in human beings for profit as the 'slave trade'. Why would you want to call it something else just for the sake of it?

After all, the people who engaged in it had different values (thankfully not values to which people now, generally subscribe). As far as they were concerned, they were doing nothing wrong. We might have a more enlightened attitude towards the dignity of man, all men and women, than they had but this doesn't seem to be much of reason to change the terminology, does it?

And while we're on the subject whatever happened to genocide as the perfectly good word to describe the attempted annihilation of a group of people on 'racial' grounds? When did this start to get supplanted by 'ethnic cleansing'?

Obfuscation. Not now, not in the near future. But eventually, if you hold onto power long enough. If Hitler had won, how long would it have taken for 'die Endloesung dem Judenproblem' to have become just that. A solution to a 'problem'. No longer the systematic, bestial destruction of European Jewry. How long before Texas schoolchildren forget the horrors of the slave trade because of the words used to describe it? Surely not in our lifetimes? Perhaps not. But that's not its purpose. Its true purpose is to to deflect attention away from the wider issues of what it's wise to teach the children.

For a nation built on the foundations of a desire for religious tolerance, a nation built on the principles of no taxation without representation, a nation built on the principles of government of the people, by the people, for the people, it seems a strange route to take. This desire to teach half truths to the children; give them little or no opportunity to draw their conclusions, make their own judgements. To talk of redressing the balance; that education needs to address the 'over-liberalisation' of school curricula misses the point entirely.

Children do not grow up to be responsible, rounded human beings, capable of independent thought, whether for good or evil, by being taught in a conservative manner. To teach such state sanctioned garbage only increases the risk that the adult that these children become will be twisted betond repair. Not as wishy-washy, do good, liberals but as thinking human beings!

There is a reason why the education of the young has been transformed in the last fifty years. It's because previous methods DID NOT WORK! We should have trust in our offspring; that they will make 'good' decisions, irrespective of the 'facts' we teach them.

Because we taught them to think!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Brown, Cameron and Clegg - fill the stage with flags!

You didn't think I wasn't going to comment on the UK's General Election now, did you?

So, we got a hung parliament. No surprise there then! It's been predicted for weeks especially as the Conservatives made little or no effort to sway the voters who turned to Mrs Thatcher in the eighties and who returned to the Labour fold in the nineties. As a consequence, Labour managed to hold it's own quite well, given the economic abyss that is now staring the Brits in the face. When all's said and done, Margaret Thatcher has probably done more to undermine support for a political party in the long term that any individual over the last 100 years. Given the see-saw nature of the British electoral system, the Tories should have romped it!

So what next? The UK simply joins Europe! Nearly every country in Europe has a minority or coalition Government. Only France, Greece and I think Italy have parliamentary majorities for a single party and they scarce hold up any kudos for a 'single' party mandate to govern. Especially Greece! The only reason that the Brits are so frightened of the notion is that, outside wartime, the only time they tried it was in 1974 and it collapsed and ushered in the 5 years of the Callaghan government and the so-called 'winter of discontent' and thence Margaret Thatcher.

Now, quite clearly, the Lib Dems hold the balance of power, although in the case of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party the issue is complicated because they would need, probably, the nationalist parties in addition to the Lib Dems to actually get a working majority and, as a consequence, brokering a deal will be much trickier. Cameron's job is much easier; he only has to get one 'bloc' on side not four (or more).

However, irrespective of who forms a Government, it raises the ugly spectre of a deal done behind closed doors and the voters don't get what they asked for. It's all very well pundits choosing to see the electorate as one amorphous mass but it isn't like that. The electorate have not voted for a change in the system (except those who voted Lib Dem). The electorate are composed of individual voters and whatever their motivation for voting the way they did, and the motivations are many, each individual voted for the party that the deemed would best serve their interest; or in the case of the altruistic, society's interests.

Amidst all the talk of 'National Interest' (and to quote Ricky Tomlinson, 'My ARSE!'), the leaders of both the main political parties are acting out of pure self interest. They both know the Lib Dems want proportional representation (PR), again out of self interest, not because it is 'fairer', and they both know that will almost certainly stymie the possibility of a majority government for either of the two main parties. All Cameron and Brown can do now is to effect some kind of 'damage limitation' which postpones the inevitable; the Lib Dems get too many votes (around 20-25% most times). Once they have any kind of influence, they will seek to change the system in such a way as to favour themselves and in effect become the power brokers in successive goverments. To me, that sounds inherently dangerous and inherently undemocratic.

While the system as it stands today can scarcely be described as fair, a party which polls around a quarter of the votes only secures representation in about 7.5% of the seats in the commons, would proportional representation be any fairer? After all, if talks break down between the Conservative and the Lib Dems, the UK could still find itself with ostensibly a Labour Government which the electorate, it would seem to me, don't want; at least they don't want a Government led by Gordon Brown! The real danger of PR, to my eyes, is that nothing is overt and everything is covert! It's how deals are done; after the event, not before! And not subject to the wishes of the electorate.

I'm happy for PR to work if everybody is up front on 'coalitions' before the election so voters can see what effect their vote may have on the manifestos of each party, how much they will be 'watered down', but a system which allies parties 'post hoc' is, I think, less fair than the one the Brits have now!

One of the main 'problems' the Brits have is that, unlike most 'Western-style' democracies, they do not have an elected President, they have a constitutional monarchy. This, to my mind, makes a fundamental difference to the way in which PR might work. If you elect a President, you are in effect electing that President's programme. It might be watered down by a senate or some kind of 'Parliamentary body' but 'Presidential Veto' usually puts paid to any 'rebellion' :) However the Brits have a system whereby the electorate as a whole to do not elect the leader, the Prime Minister, they elect 'party candidates', senators, deputes etc but by and large, irrespective of might be said, the Prime Minister effectively commands the power of a President; it is. after all. a 'constitutional' monarchy. The Queen, or King, has the power of veto, he or she doesn't sign the bill, but to exercise it in 99.99% of cases would destroy the Monarchy.

As long as the current system remains, and there are sound reasons in support of a constitutional monarchy, PR would be less fair, involve machinations on a truly Machiavellian level and would do the British people no good in even the medium term.

In the end, the last people you should vote for in an election are the people that are standing. By the very act of standing, they disqualify themselves as being fit to run a country, a society. Those who don't stand, seek to make a difference to society by persuasion, by dialogue, by discussion. Those who stand, seek to impose their will, their decisions, hopefully by being the largest 'bloc', and thereby in a position to do so.

All of this does not take into account that value of the 'local Member of Parliament' which the Brits have an enormous affinity for. No one can doubt the value of this and the sincerity of what lies behind it, however these people, whether they like it or no, are at the mercy of their party! They will ultimately 'toe the line' whether in Westminster or elsewhere. To do otherwise would risk 'deselection'!

Spare a thought, and a prayer if that is your way, for Meredith Kercher; brutally murdered. Maybe one day, I will understand human beings, what makes you do the things that you do, believe what you believe; but I very much doubt it. A penguin's brain is not large enough to encompass all that you have done; and sadly all that you will do!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Winos, Junkies, Avatars and Jeff Healey

I have decided. No apologies. No explanations. Nothing. We'll just pick up where we left off. OK?

Just like I haven't been away, stuffing my face on fish, fish and more fish......and squid! Oh, those tentacles feel so good when they go down!

Went to see 'Avatar' yesterday. The station had got their copy earlier in the week. Yes, I know I am a little behind the times but hell, I've been out at sea these past months. No dvds in the ocean! So was it worth the wait? Later! I said later!

First I'd like to examine the nature of comedy. :) It's said that all great comedians have to be actors; and good ones at that. I am inclined to agree with the majority view. Think about it! Telling a gag is one thing. You have to have good timing; there's nothing worse that a punch line without the exact, right amount of pausing between the lines. And it has to be done in just the right tone of voice, timbre, otherwise it just doesn't work. But.

More importantly, you have to believe the character's funny, don't you think. There has to be something intrinsically funny about the comedian. It's not just about the script. Well I watched something I hadn't watched for ages. Richard Pryor - Live and smokin'. Shot in a dingy 'comedy club' by one camera in 1971, before the 'good times', before the freebasing :) (Cut to comedian with a lighted match bobbing up and down - RP after the 'accident'. Or Michael Jackson after the Coke advert! Depends on who's telling it!)

Well. Pryor goes into this 10 minute monologue about the winos who used to hang out where he lived as a kid. The drunken, exaggerated claims, the slurred speech etc. Taking on the 'character of an old wino. Then into the mix, he introduces a black junkie, desperate for his next 'fix', who proceeds to banter with the wino. A lot like Lenny Bruce it's true, the two character 'skit', but a more poignant evocation of the despairing helplessness of addiction you could not hope to see. And not a laugh in sight. Just Pryor 'free-forming' characters. Maybe Richard thought it was funny, holding up a 'wasted nigger' to the white folks. Maybe he didn't. But I sure as hell don't think the 'white folks' expected that during a comedy routine!

So Avatar. The most hyped movie in the history of the planet. The largest grossing film of all time. The only film in which Signoury Weaver DOESN'T get her tits out.


Like all James Cameron's films, a triumph of technology over substance! A movie made for the masses to stream into IMAX theatres and marvel at how wonderful it looks! "Wow! They do that all with computers!" They all say. Hell, the Abyss was only good because Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was in it! (Stop drooling MG). I'm sorry, I don't care how polished the CGI is, it still doesn't look real! It seems to me that somehow the over-reliance on CGI has caused a major component of the appreciation of 'fantasy' to come adrift; the willing suspension of disbelief. You know it's all CGI so you don't bother to suspend the disbelief. How much more 'real' is, say, 'the Dark Knight', however equally preposterous the fantasy, because, by and large, it IS real. A real 'Tumbler', a real 'Bat-Bike', a real Batman!

Even the mildly subversive nature of Avatar, humans waging war on indigenous populations for profit, couldn't disguise its inherently 'twee' nature. After all, these are mercenaries, not US troops, tho' they might as well have been. The 'renegade' was not chosen, but a poor substitute. And there isn't a 'foreigner' amongst the mercenaries. Not an Arab, not a Russian, not a South American. No, they're all American! What are we supposed to read into this? A 'thinly veiled' attack on American expansionism? No! Just you can't be seen to criticise another ethnic group in mainstream American cinema, that's all. Ergo, no ethnic groups! And where were the Pandoran Penguins?

And to cap it all, the film goes against all the tenets of the 'fairy story'. You see, a major component of stories in which a human character is thrust into 'faerie' is their eventual departure and the aftermath. The dislocation on arrival and the dislocation on departure. Avatar fail on both counts. It's not subversive, it's TWEE!

It's a pity, because this could have appealed to the mainstream (ignorant American) cinema audiences and still been intelligent and thoughtful. Ah well, you can't win 'em all!

I came across this last night. One man's homage to the late and great Jimi Hendrix. 'All along the watchtower'. The late Jeff Healey. No rebooting, no reinterpretation of either Hendrix or Dylan, just an out and out steal! Still bloody awesome whichever way you look at it!

I sent the link to MG last night thinking it might amuse. Of course, he saw him in the late eighties! Just after 'See the light' was released! Typical!

Oh, by the way I forgot to mention, he lost his eyes to retinoblastoma before he was a year old!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Cicero Subrubreo, anti-prophet and historian. Part 2

Well, I'm back! Fricka too! I'm enormously grateful for MG for carrying on this blog, as best as he was able, it must have been an awful shock to suddenly wake up and find you cannot speak! It is however nice to know, for this Penguin at least, that he didn't manage to lose language altogether, otherwise the wait might have been TOO long for you!

After my disappearance last year, I wasn't sure if I would have the courage to resume. It was, after all, pretty cowardly of me to go off without even a farewell. But I have steeled myself and am now ready to jump back into the fray. MG can get his own blog! Ok, I don't mean that and to show that I am truly grateful, I attach one last example of his meandering, unintelligible prose to kick of my return. (Until next year!)

Going to watch 'Avatar' now, Fricka and I like a little romance mixed in with our mayhem. It's so nice that ALL dvd's come with subtitles now - so long as you can find them! Anyways, some more of MG ramblings. No doubt you'll know what came in part one (this doesn't make any sense to me at all - must read intervening blogs) and so it will make some kind of sense to you - who is Cicero Subrubreo, when he's at home? Well, anyways........

Wherein lies the power of the Monocracy? How does one man rule the Imperium. How does one solitary man withstand the plots, the stratagems, of those of his retainers who might wish to supplant him? How does he prevent the multitude of hosts, his armies, his sky-borne navies, his cosmanauticons, dealers in death all, from rising up in revolt? What stops the populaces across a myriad of different planets from attempting control over their own fate? A fate without the intervention, the whim, of the Monocrat?

Tradition, nothing more and nothing less. History is the key to the Monocrat’s power.

Accident, chance, even luck may have played their part in the millennia-old longevity of the Monocracy but the key to its power ultimately lies in its initial success and the lasting influence of that success.

From the earliest days of Osirisu’s conquest of the planet Ganth, a myth has arisen of the infallibility of the Monocrat. How all that he touches becomes a metaphorical gold. How he cannot lose; be it a battle or the hearts and mind of his people, even the conquered ones! Osirisu, it must be said, was fortunate to be born with, and schooled in, such ruthlessness, avarice, an over-arching lust for power. His savage treatment of his parents only fuelled the respect he was given, insane as though it may seem. With each ruthless and indiscriminate conquest, he added to that respect until the people came to believe he was infallible. A true demi-god amongst mere mortals.

Who would dare, even if power hungry himself, to rise up against the Monocracy. Who would dare go against the wishes of so successful a ruler? Is it not better to be riding the wake of a man that unifies a planet , a wake that brings enough power to satisfy all, except a man of Osirisu’s ambitions, than chance that you might be brought low by challenging the power that steers the ship; seek to provide your own course? Would the risk be worth it?

It is a truism that no-one thought to challenge Osirisu’s power, or if they did so think they thought better of it, for challenging someone so mighty, second only to Creator in power, or so the people of Ganth believed, could only lead to disaster; for the individual, for Ganth.

And so became the birth of a myth.

So strong was the belief in Osirisu’s power, that it, in all its glory, passed to his son and thence to his son’s son and so on in a never-ending cycle until the present. Who can deny that divinity does not pass from father unto son? As the Creator’s divinity passed to his son, Osirisu? How can it be otherwise? To think otherwise would question the Creator, in his omnipotence.

And so, the people do not rebel, the armies do not revolt, the bureaucracy does nothing overt to withstand the fancy of the Monocrat. To do so would be to court disaster, divine retribution. The overthrow of the Monocracy could only be conjured by a madman.

History, as you can see, both explains and defines the Monocracy.

Cicero Subrubreo, anti-prophet and historian, ‘Ruminations on the Monocracy, vol III (incomplete) CE110,357

Interdicted by Monocratic decree, 1.672.803.201, CE110,357.