DAY 57

August 29th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink



It look as though the time for another Middle East ‘humanitarian intervention’ has come around. Words fail me as usual: let me borrow some from the more eloquent Tariq Ali, in the LRB blog:

The aim of the ‘limited war’ as set out by the United States and its European vassals is simple. The Syrian regime was slowly re-establishing its control over the country against the opposition armed by the West and its tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar). This situation required correction. The opposition in this depressing civil war needed to be strengthened militarily and psychologically.

Since Obama had said chemical weapons were the ‘red line’, the weapons were bound to come into play. Cui prodest? as the Romans used to inquire. Who profits? Clearly, not the Syrian regime.

Several weeks ago, two journalists from Le Monde had already discovered chemical weapons. The question is: if they were used, who used them? The Obama administration and its camp followers would like us to believe that Assad permitted UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and then marked their arrival by launching a chemical weapon assault against women and children, about fifteen kilometres away from the hotel where the inspectors were lodged. It simply does not make sense. Who carried out this atrocity?

In Iraq we know it was the US that used white phosphorus in Fallujah in 2004 (there were no red lines there except those drawn in Iraqi blood), so the justification is as murky as it was in previous wars.

Ever since the war and occupation of Iraq, the Arab world has been divided between Sunni and Shia components. Backing the targeting of Syria are two old friends: Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both want the regime in Iran destroyed. The Saudis for factional reasons, the Israelis because they’re desperate to exterminate Hizbullah. That’s the endgame they have in sight and Washington, after resisting for a bit, is playing ball again. Bombing Syria is the first step.

It’s foolish to get too worked up about Britain. It’s a vassal state, de facto governed by a National Government that includes Parliamentary Labour. Its political parties have accepted permanently situating themselves in the ‘posterior of the White House’. Cameron was gung-ho for a war some months ago. When the US went cold on the idea, Downing Street shut up. Now they’re back in action with little Ed saying that he backs the war ‘reluctantly’, the most pathetic of positions. Conservative backbenchers are putting up a stiffer resistance. Will more Tories vote against than Labour? We shall see.

The Iranians have reacted strongly and threatened suitable retaliation. It may be bluff, but what it reveals is that even with a new ‘moderate’ leader, praised by the Western media, the stance being taken is no different from that of Ahmedinejad. Tehran understands well what is at stake and why. Every single Western intervention in the Arab world and its surrounds has made the conditions worse. The raids being planned by the Pentagon and its subsidiaries in Nato are likely to follow the same pattern.

Meanwhile in Egypt, an Arab Pinochet is restoring ‘order’ in time-honoured fashion, with the backing of the slightly embarrassed leaders of the US/EU conglomerate.


Too much information! That’s what I learned from the Guardian‘s news of the Nasdaq crash on Thursday. How did I come to miss it – too absorbed in my own petty affairs as usual, missing the sufferings of the poor naked traders.Stockmarket-300-001C72AE

‘Oh, I have taken too little care of this’, as Lear, who was notoriously careless, remarked in a similar storm. It could be my fault for reading the Guardian  – if I’d only switch to the Mail, I’d learn to blame not the data – who, or which, one can’t visualize as evil ‘others’ – but the benefit cheats, the bogus asylum-seekers, and others of my neighbours.

But let’s suppose that there actually is (are?) too much data. Worse, if you persist in believing the liberal press, much of this data, loosely referred to as ‘the new oil’, is being funnelled through a secret surveillance base in the Middle East. Some bright world leader (call him Rumsfeld) clearly thought ‘Oil? Let’s put it in the Middle East, under the eye of our Saudi friends.’ Forgetting the possibility that crazy suicidal jihadists might blow up our secret surveillance bases. Crashing the Nasdaq would be the least of our troubles.

I’ve naturally panicked about all this. Even our friendly Nazi Amazonamazon_getty-image_2455507b

and Google have had their glitches – purely, it appears, because of the excess of facts they have to process. I can sympathize. To make a tiny contribution to stemming the tide, I include the following pledge:

This blog will contain no data which has not been copied from some other source which is publicly available.

For example, I’m at liberty to tell you the weight of my suitcase at the Ryanair checkin (14.9 kilos), since Ryanair have already stored it in some grand aviation data processing vault. What I can’t do is go out, count the number of snails in the garden, and report on that – since, as no one has done it before, it’s ‘new data’ and risks crashing some megasystem whereof I haven’t dreamed. And organizations like the UK GlowWorm survey which asks you to report on new glow worm sightings (when, where, male/female/prefer not to say) are, it would seem, completely irresponsible in piling up yet more things that we might trip over. Indeed, any reader/watcher of Wallander (say) could construct a scenario in which an extremist green group developed a mechanism whereby random actions by glow-worms (walking over a trip-wire in the garden) triggered trades on the Nasdaq which sent it out of control, simply by virtue of being new information.

Enough of that. All these newsy pictures are boring, and there have been complaints about my overuse of the oil painting. Here is a photograph by Martine Franck – a Tibetan Buddhist monk and his tutor.


This blog has shamefully neglected seventeenth century lesbian poets (writes reader S. Waters); to make up for this, I happily include the matchless Katherine Philips’ heartrending ‘Orinda to Lucasia: Parting October 1661 at London’.

ADIEU dear object of my Love’s excess,
And with thee all my hopes of happiness,
With the same fervent and unchanged heart
Which did it’s whole self once to thee impart,
(And which though fortune has so sorely bruis’d,
Would suffer more, to be from this excus’d)
I to resign thy dear Converse submit,
Since I can neither keep, nor merit it.
Thou hast too long to me confined been,
Who ruine am without, passion within.
My mind is sunk below thy tenderness,
And my condition does deserve it less;
I’m so entangl’d and so lost a thing
By all the shocks my daily sorrow bring,
That would’st thou for thy old Orinda call
Thou hardly could’st unravel her at all.
And should I thy clear fortunes interline
With the incessant miseries of mine?
No, no, I never lov’d at such a rate
To tye thee to the rigours of my fate,
As from my obligations thou art free,
Sure thou shalt be so from my Injury,
Though every other worthiness I miss,
Yet I’le at least be generous in this.
I’d rather perish without sigh or groan,
Then thou shoul’dst be condemn’d to give me one;
Nay in my soul I rather could allow
Friendship should be a sufferer, then thou;
Go then, since my sad heart has set thee free,
Let all the loads and chains remain on me.
Though I be left the prey of sea and wind,
Thou being happy wilt in that be kind;
Nor shall I my undoing much deplore,
Since thou art safe, whom I must value more.
Oh! mayst thou ever be so, and as free
From all ills else, as from my company,
And may the torments thou hast had from it
Be all that heaven will to thy life permit.
And that they may thy vertue service do,
Mayest thou be able to forgive them too:
But though I must this sharp submission learn,
I cannot yet unwish thy dear concern.
Not one new comfort I expect to see,
I quit my Joy, hope, life, and all but thee;
Nor seek I thence ought that may discompose
That mind where so serene a goodness grows.
I ask no inconvenient kindness now,
To move thy passion, or to cloud thy brow;
And thou wilt satisfie my boldest plea
By some few soft remembrances of me,
Which may present thee with this candid thought,
I meant not all the troubles that I brought.
Own not what Passion rules, and Fate does crush,
But wish thou couldst have don’t without a blush,
And that I had been, ere it was too late,
Either more worthy, or more fortunate.
Ah who can love the thing they cannot prize?
But thou mayst pity though thou dost despise.
Yet I should think that pity bought too dear,
If it should cost those precious Eyes a tear.

Oh may no minutes trouble, thee possess,
But to endear the next hours happiness;
And maist thou when thou art from me remov’d,
Be better pleas’d, but never worse belov’d:
Oh pardon me for pow’ring out my woes
In Rhime now, that I dare not do’t in Prose.
For I must lose whatever is call’d dear,
And thy assistance all that loss to bear,
And have more cause than ere I had before,
To fear that I shall never see thee more.

Owing to the increased debility of my Mac, I can no longer hear anything on it. (That, or I’ve suddenly gone deaf,) So rather than risk experimenting with a Bulgarian drum’n’bass track which might prove a disappointment, I’m sticking to the tried and tested: Gillespie, Rollins and Stitt in ‘Sunny Side of the Street’, with Diz on vocals.


DAY 56

August 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

So, neoliberal global conspiracy, you thought you had silenced me? By exiling me to a small village in the Languedoc, dulled by the sun, deafened by the cicadas, with a wifi which I thought I had got installed, but which proved defective. (‘Il vous faut peut-être un cable ethernet, Monsieur’.) Unable to think, much less communicate my so-called thoughts to the world. Luckily, I was able to draw inspiration from Tchékhov’s deathless one-acter La Noce, in an unforgettable performance by Humani Theatre.

voici-le-carton-d-invitation-pour-assister-a-la-noce-de_647395_510x255How better to meditate on the balance-sheet of a country life – and of modernity – than in the company of the deranged Russians.

No, no, no!

[Following her]

Have pity on us! Have pity!

No, no, no!

[Chasing them]

You can’t go on like this! Where are you off to? What about the grand ronde? Grand ronde, s’il vous plait!

[They all go off.]

And all this in barely comprehensible French. All it wanted was the odd spliff to aid the unsystematic derangement of the senses. I suppose that, while we are on the subject of the arts, I should put in a plug for the brilliant Théâtre de Pierres at Fouzilhon (Hérault 34480), who sponsored this event. Drop in if you’re in the neighbourhood on a Tuesday.

So, anyway, evil empire, if you think that I had forgotten your misdeeds – your nine hours’ detention of innocent Brazilians at Heathrow, your continuing arms sales to the bloodstained régime in Egypt, not to mention the arrest of Caroline Lucas for opposing fracking – you must have thought that, just because I was lying on the beach with my head buried in the Midi-Libre, I had nothing on my mind but the rubbishy outcomes of yesterday’s bullfight at Béziers

Screen shot 2013-08-22 at 21.39.16(‘Faibles applaudissements, une oreille’). No way – rushing back to London unmolested by Theresa May’s minions at the airport, (although the Green Line in an undoubtedly sinister move has replaced the 757 bus from Luton airport by a limping local service to the exciting centre of Luton, followed by a 1 1/2 hour wait for a ‘real’ bus along the motorway – but I digress) – I resumed contact with  the thrilling course of international events, with my Facebook friends, with my fans worldwide.

In the ongoing debate on education, I begin to feel that Michael Gove has a point: education has been undermined by left-wing “ideologues” who believe schools “shouldn’t be doing anything so old-fashioned as passing on knowledge, requiring children to work hard, or immersing them in anything like dates in history or times tables in mathematics.” Indeed, too many amateurs are trying to move in on a field where after all expertise ought to count for something.Under the terms of my upcoming draft bill on the subject, no one should become secretary for education unless they know (i) the proof (well, a proof) of Pythagoras’ Theorem;Screen shot 2013-08-22 at 22.08.24 (ii) the periodic table, and why its periods are the length they are (in particular, what is the difference between the lanthanides and the actinides); (iii) why it hurts when a policeman hits me on the head. In terms of neurons and pathways, I mean. That should rule out some charlatans who, like Mr. Gove, have English degrees and affect to despise more technical subjects like Hotel Management.

And if you are at a meeting where one of these people is holding forth, don’t throw eggs. Just ask:

1) Why is the sky dark at night?

2) Why is the sky blue during the day?

3) Why do fools fall in love? (Answers in the next posting.)

POETRY CORNER: Having mentioned cicadas, it makes sense to cite the major poem which features one, even if in English it becomes a cricket, a grasshopper, or (in Finnegans Wake) a Gracehoper.

La Cigale et la Fourmi

Jean La Fontaine (tr. Don Webb)

La cigale ayant chanté
Tout l’été,
Se trouva fort dépourvue
Quand la bise fut venue :
Pas un seul petit morceau
De mouche ou de vermisseau.
Elle alla crier famine
Chez la fourmi sa voisine,
La priant de lui prêter
Quelque grain pour subsister
Jusqu’à la saison nouvelle.
« Je vous paierai, lui dit-elle,
Avant l’août, foi d’animal,
Intérêt et principal. »
La fourmi n’est pas prêteuse :
C’est là son moindre défaut.
« Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud ?
Dit-elle à cette emprunteuse.
— Nuit et jour à tout venant
Je chantais, ne vous déplaise.
— Vous chantiez ? J’en suis fort aise :
Eh bien ! Dansez maintenant. »

The cricket had sung her song

all summer long
but found her victuals too few
when the north wind blew.
Nowhere could she espy
a single morsel of worm or fly.

Her neighbor, the ant, might,
she thought, help her in her plight,
and she begged her for a little grain
till summer would come back again.

“By next August I’ll repay both
Interest and principal; animal’s oath.”

Now, the ant may have a fault or two
But lending is not something she will do.
She asked what the cricket did in summer.

“By night and day, to any comer
I sang whenever I had the chance.”

“You sang, did you? That’s nice. Now dance.”


I got the intern to do some research and we don’t think I’ve played Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love‘, which has got to be one of the all time winners in the contest for an enigmatic video. (See comments, of which the best is certainly ‘Heck yeah!!!!!! Awesome. Timeless!!!!!!’ by the discriminating Tristan Tupaz.)

And I’m quite certain I haven’t played any Mahler. How prejudiced! Here is no. 5 of Kindertotenlieder, ‘In diesem Wetter‘ sung by Sarah Connolly.

DAY 55 – Wanted

August 5th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, the last post (get it?) was completed in something of a scramble – which set me thinking. While I can, and do, often take days and days rambling on composing a page, searching for the mot juste, trying to find a picture to go with a recipe, worrying about what words ending in -ou » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 54 – For Bradley Manning

August 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In case you’ve been on another, happier planet. US soldier Bradley Manning

bradley-manning-aiding-the-enemy-300x168was convicted on twenty different charges relating to his ‘whistleblowing’ activity » Read the rest of this entry «

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