Friday, 29 January 2010

WATCH THIS SPACE

There may be no blog for a while. We are off the England, London and Bournemouth, to see family and friends. I will try to write, but it might be difficult. I am looking forward to meeting people but not to the journey. These days I am a rather indifferent old wine, with more than a hint of acidity, that does not travel.

Life without the furries and featheries will be unsatisfactory. But there will be compensations for sure.

And I will try to solve the murder of Dr. David Kelly. Easy.

Today Blair speaks at Chilcot. He will squirm skilfully and nothing will be resolved. He knows something. Maybe we should take a lead from his ex-brother in arms Rumsfeld and waterboard him a few dozen times.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Alastair Campbell is innocent!


I was beginning to think that the idea of any news story shocking me ever again was long gone - that I had moved beyond good and evil in fact. Until I read that Lord Hutton, some sort of ex-judge, was sealing the evidence in the suspicious 2003 'suicide' of Dr. David Kelly - for the next seventy years!
An amazing bit of high-handed arrogance by anyone's standards, one would think.
Kelly was, as a biological scientist and arms inspector, deeply invoved in the continuing ruckus over the Iraq war and the famous, if fabulous, Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Given this, and in view of the current Chilcot inquiry, we can only ask ourselves: What is Hutton hiding?
Something momentous for sure. Either we can hold our collective breath for seventy years or we can speculate. So, here goes.
If Kelly's death was either suicide or an accident, there would be no need for a cover-up. It must then, be murder. And very likely brutal murder. And very likely cold-blooded. So, cold-blooded, brutal murder it is. Now we're getting somewhere.
Who done it? We have all heard the scurrilous and unfounded rumors surrounding Alastair Campbell. Utterly unfounded. Totally absurd. One only needs to visit his 'Official Website.' It is indeed a site to see. All pastel pink, rose and mauve labels - more suggestive of Women's Knitting Weekly magazine than of a cold-blooded, brutal murderer.
And there is the man himself featured in his extensive 'picture gallery' - still almost distinguished looking, despite his advanced years, like some noble old ruin.
By no means is this the face of a cold-blooded, brutal, killer - except when he is wearing his soccer cap, of course.
The clincher of his innocence was, for me, his appearance at the Chilcot inquiry. The forthright and guileless simplicity of his delivery gave the lie to those base enough to infer that he might have the cunning to commit anything as complex as murder, even the warm-blooded and gentle kind.
We must look elsewhere.
Watch this blog!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Blair and Bush - and Uncle Dick Cheney and all


Horses' arses

Tony Blair is a melancholy conundrum to me. When he was elected Prime Minister, I was still working in the States but I followed his career with close and friendly interest. He, and his wife, seemed cozily familiar - the sort of people who lived nearby, that you ran into at dinner parties. Decent, reasonable, cheerful, caring, compassionate sorts. Like all of us, in fact. Nice. Liberal.Easygoing. In favour of gay marriage and a woman's right to choose. Enjoying both opera and the Stones. Not too intellectual - at least not in public. Fond of a nice glass of wine, provided it's not too costly. Don't own guns, and don't want to. We had mutual friends. Same sort of people. I wished him well.
Seems, as usual, I was dead wrong.
Seems Tony got some kind of sexy frisson from hanging around the corridors at the White House in order to catch a glimpse of boy George twirling his six-guns and pretending to be Gary Cooper. From time to time Bush would swagger out ('In Texas, we call it walkin!') of the Oval Office, pat the Prime Minister on the top of his pointy head and let him kiss his arse occasionally.
Well, horses for courses, as we Brits say. Whatever floats your boat as the Americans put it. Takes all sorts, etc.
But, Jesus Christ.
I am no snob (Oh, yes you are - says Reb) but I would far sooner be shoveling shit on the Isle of Capri than have to be in the same time zone - let alone the same room - as Bush, or Cheney or Rumsfeld, or any of that detestable, ignorant, vulgar, arrogant, squalid, unlettered, philistine bunch of neocon bastards.
But the ongoing Chilcot inquiry will, no doubt, not pursue this line of reasoning. After all, even today in Britain and America both, to consort with a bunch of hyenas and yahoos like the Bushes merits no more than scorn and disgust.
Crimes against taste and human dignity are not war crimes.
Some of the British newspapers are encouraging readers to say what questions they would like to ask Blair when he presents himself at the Chilcot inquiry.
Mine would be, 'How did you manage to sit next to that nauseating prick at luncheon and ask him to pass the salt without vomiting all over him?'
Rhetorical to be sure, but I think we should be told.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Hounds Found



Haiti may have to take a back seat today, despite there being another heavy tremor. (Pray harder, folks - maybe you can head off number three)
The thing is, we were giving the dogs their usual constitutional the other morning, when Una suddenly ignored our 'commands' and ran across the local road. Two minutes later she came back, accompanied by two skeletally thin greyhound bitches. This was not a surprise to us, as there have been sightings of two stray greyhounds in the area for several days now. We managed to coax the smaller one to come near enough to get a lead round her neck, and the other tagged along close behind but making sure nobody could get a hand on her. And so we lead them home and within the comforting walls of the Peaceful compound.
The cops were called, arrived, said it was another department's problem, thanked us, and left.
So, now we have two of the thinnest, smelliest - but very beautiful - dogs you'll ever see. Both still very scared and shy. They have been out in the wilderness, living on who knows what, for at least a week. The smaller one has already performed every conceivable bodily function on the floor and the carpet. Reb and Kim are giving them names. Bad idea. They can't stay.
Reb came to bed at 2 a.m, last night and I went down and stayed with the dogs. Very pleasant with the stove kept up, dozing in the firelight. When I woke about four one of the hounds had been sick on the carpet. Dogs. As the man said, 'Truly, they are called dogs.'
But, at 8 a.m. the bigger one followed me outside and did her bodily stuff in the yard. A good development.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Endgame Extra

I think I published this yesterday, but I have added a bit extra. So will re-publish.

The Haiti quake has shaken up a few preconceptions.
Earthquakes - more perhaps than any other form of natural disaster - concentrate the mind wonderfully. Why is this? Well, they invariably strike without warning. Hurricanes, and the floods in their wake, are tracked hourly and we are informed of the risk. People often are warned to flee. Whether or not they do, is their problem, we can comfort ourselves. Volcanos the same. In the past they took the locals by surprise. Not now. Tornados can still strike swiftly, but mostly folks can take some sort of cover in time.
Extreme heat and extreme cold are capable of killing, but usually only when things go wrong these days.
Mostly we cope.
There is the perception of something unearthly about an earthquake. One second you are dozing cozily in your bed, the you are next dead, buried under tons of rubble.
In fact, like it or not, an earthquake is one of the most natural things in the world. Geologists are surprised it doesn't happen more often. The paper-thin surface of the planet has been shifting and roiling for millions of years. We all know this, although I suppose the people who think the world is a few thousand years old have their own ideas.
In the quite recent past, in 1755 in fact, Christian believers - virtually everyone in the western world that was, had no doubt about earthquakes. They were the work of God - and so must be part of His plan. As they were destructive, He must be punishing the Lisbonians(?) for something. This something must be their sins - what else? When Voltaire had the nerve to question this assumption, it was decried as blasphemy.
In 2010, either these old arguments are still valid for Christians or they are not. If they are not, what are the new arguments about God, 'natural' disaster and the world? I would very much like to know.

So far no success. I am now accused of playing games.

What I would like is for somebody to say, 'No, it's not God's fault, because...'
or 'Yes, it's God's fault, but...'
Is this too much to ask?

Apparently.

I am tempted to say the hell with it, but that would be unchristian.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

QUAKES AND QUACKERY

The Haiti earthquake, and subsequent comments by the likes of Pat Robertson - got me, and no doubt most people, thinking about Voltaire. Well, we can't think about him often enough. I must thank Mr. Thomas S. Vernon for putting all it so elegantly.



ON NOVEMBER 1, 1755, Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, was virtually destroyed by a terrible earthquake that resulted in the deaths of many thousands of people. In statistical terms this event is by no means at the top of the list of the world's great disasters, but it made a lasting impression on the minds of literate people.
Many of us today know about the Lisbon earthquake who never heard of the more destructive events that have occurred both before and since in various parts of the civilized world. What made the Lisbon earthquake so memorable? No doubt mainly the fact that it was thought about and written about by one man, Fran├žois Marie Arouet de Voltaire. The tragedy made a life-changing impression on the mind of this man, not only because of the immeasurable human suffering involved, but also because of its religious significance.

When news of the tragedy reached Voltaire he wrote to a friend as follows:

'One would have great difficulty in divining how the laws of movement operate such frightful disasters in the best of all possible worlds.... What will the preachers say, especially if the palace of the Inquisition has been left standing? I flatter myself that the reverend father inquisitors will have been crushed like the others. That should teach men not to persecute men.'

'The best of all possible worlds' is a reference to Gottfried Leibniz, the German philosopher who, in 1710, had published a work explaining that the evil and suffering we witness are necessary features of a world which otherwise would not be as perfect as it is.
This was a popular view among philosophers and theologians of the time: our limited minds cannot grasp reality as it is perceived by an infinite, benevolent, and all-powerful God who, out of an infinite number of possible worlds, has created the best that could be.
This is one way of dealing with what is known in the history of thought as the problem of evil: why do evil and suffering abound in a world created by a beneficent and all-powerful Creator?
The answer, according to Leibniz and others is that we would realize that everything is really for the best, could we but see things from God's point of view. To Voltaire such a resolution of the problem had long seemed insupportable, and the Lisbon earthquake appeared to attack and demolish once and for all a philosophy that insulted human dignity and intelligence.

The view promulgated by Leibniz and others is often characterized as "optimism." Theodore Besterman reminds us that "in this context optimism has nothing to do with one's outlook on life; it is the belief that all that is and happens is for the best." Indeed to some thinkers, including Voltaire, the Leibnizian view makes for the deepest sort of pessimism, for if we were obliged to believe that the conditions of human life we see about us are the best that is possible -- even under the management of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God then we have good reason to be discouraged, not only about this life but about the life to come as well.

Yet John Wesley, the Methodist patron saint, did not hesitate to attribute the Lisbon tragedy to "sin," to "that curse that was brought upon the earth by the original transgression of Adam and Eve." This should not surprise us, as Wesley was also an enthusiastic supporter of witch burning.

Christian opinion of the question of free will has long been divided, but there is substantial unanimity in claiming the right to exercise free will in the matter of logic!
Voltaire had also read a poem by Alexander Pope in which Pope proclaimed, "Whatever is is right"!

Some Christian apologists have tried to explain away the problem of evil by saying that what the infinite mind of God perceives as reasonable and just may not appear so to our finite intelligence. In his Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire makes short work of this kind of pettifogging sophistry:

The silly fanatic repeats to me ... that it is not for us to judge what is reasonable and just in the great Being, that His reason is not like our reason, that His justice is not like our justice. Eh! how, you mad demoniac, do you want me to judge justice and reason otherwise than by the notions I have of them? Do you want me to walk otherwise than with my feet, and to speak otherwise than with my mouth?








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Friday, 15 January 2010

HEAVEN, HELL AND HAITI

This picture of Edith Piaf has nothing to do with the piece below. But we need something to look at.

Haiti is on my mind right now. That and God, and one of his representatives on earth, Mr.(or should that be the Rev?) Rob Elder. I had a small exchange with him on facebook, during which it transpired that he is a Man of the Cloth.

A felicitous epiphany for me. Of course, with a name like that, one should have known. Mr. Elder, is indeed, an elder of some church or other - which is yet to be revealed, but I have high hopes of The Quivering Brethren. A youngish elder, maybe but an elder nonetheless. And, doubtless, the latest in a lengthy line of elders possibly stretching back to the Flood. A notable affirmation of intellectual Lamarkism. Serendipity is the word that springs to mind.

My affection for clerics is well-known in the small but select circle I inhabit. Nothing I like better than vituperating with vicars, parleying with parsons, prognosticating with priests or bickering with bishops. If you should think this is mere persiflage, ask my bishop buddy Bosco, of Pennsylvania. I would even be prepared to pontificate with the Pope. I am no snob. Indeed, at times I reflect on my wasted life and wonder if I might not have made a decent Dean myself. But I suspect I might have taken the religion business a bit too seriously.

The point is, my Christian chums are, practically without exception, exceptionally nice people. And often intelligent. Jim Basick was - hopefully still is - Chaplin to Toledo University.(Though, on reflection, I suspect this might sound as if I am damning him with faint praise.) No matter, we must press on.

The point is, (I know, we're getting there) the point is, all these good men (and the odd woman) belive in things that are not supported by any credible evidence. There is no evidence to support the belief that there is life after death, for example. The 'evidence' that Jesus rose from the dead, is sufficiently contradictory to prevent any self-respecting newspaper from running it. Fox News might, or The National Enquirer, but not The New York Times or The Toldeo Blade.

The point is, (at last) this all started with Pat Robertson saying that Haiti had only itself to blame for doing a deal with the devil. But, once the door to superstition is opened even a fraction, all kinds of lunacy comes bursting in. Why is making a pact with Satan any more crazy than praying to a god who apparently allows appalling things to happen to us all on a daily basis? Maybe he hates Haiti. Maybe he loves the USA. If that is so, it doesn't seem fair to me. And we English like fairness, in principle anyway.

An honest god is the noblest work of man, they say. (I do, anyway) We need to do more work on this one, he's looking a bit shabby.

And we havent even mentioned Sara Palin. That should count for something.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

RETURN OF THE STRANGER



Just a couple of days ago, I remarked that it was time for another look at Camus. The next day, a full page in El Pais headlined, 'Will 2010 be the year of Camus?' Well, merde alors, as they say. The writer, one Jean Daniel, founder of the Nouvelle Observateur, a fearfully intellectual frog mag, believes that, 'More than ever, our world needs the lucid discipline, the abomination of the absolute, the cultivation of doubt and the restrained heroism that characterised the author of 'The first man.' And he may be right.
Much of the Camus fever is due to it being the fiftieth anniversary of his untimely death in a car crash aged 47. As youngsters, we took a keen interest in French culture - called ourselves existentialists and wore black roll-neck sweaters, listened to Juliette Greco records, watched Goddard and Truffault films and pretended to read Being and Nothingness and agreed that life was absurd. In my dotage, I realise we were right to do those things at that time. Not all that bad to do some of them now, especially the last.
Apart from Sartre, (whose novels I liked) I found reading Camus a more rewarding experience, and learned much of value from The Stranger, The Rebel and The Plague. Camus himself denied being an existentialist, claiming to be a simple pagan. When I look at the effects of organised religion today, a bit more paganism might be a blessing.

Camus has some good quotes

Don't wait for the last judgement, it take place every day.

Freedom is nothing more than a chance to be better.

In order to understand the world, one must turn away from it on occasion.

It is normal to give away a little of one's life in order not to lose it all.

Monday, 11 January 2010

LUDWIG


''in the metropolitan civilization the spirit can only huddle in some corner.''

- Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

THE OLD ROUTINE



In response to the countless millions out there in blogosphere - Deb particularly -a rundown on the mundane in Morations.

Up this morning, Sunday Jan 10th, at 7.30 in the dark. But it is often as early as 6.

Mutual greetings with dogs, cat. Clean out Murphy's shit from the potted palm and sweep up the soil from around.
Put on the coffee.

Then arrancar ( fire up -good word, I think) the computer to catch up on the latest follies and inanities in Britain and the US.
My horse of yesterday, Tar Heel Mom, came third in a photo at Gulfstream. So, not bad. Made 3 euros. But am having trouble watching the races live these days, which I could do here at one time. Some computer devil at work.

Cold here these days, but not as bad as Britain, which is '...Paralysed by Winter's icy grip,' and so on, as the Guardian or Telegraph will have it. Ooo, er.

Then take the cover off Bob and give him his seed and a sliver of fruit, normally apple, which gets him singing. Give Una her pills in a lump of cream cheese. This is since she had her leg off. Can't actually remember what the pills are for now. Reb does.
Make the chickens' breakfast of left-over bread, pasta, veg, etc. Rice a big favourite.

We have a back window sill about a yard deep, where the chicks like to cluster, clucking and pecking at the glass and watching us inside. When I go out with their breakfast, the all run back with me to their house, all getting under my feet and shouting. It is funny when chickens run. They are dinosaurs. These cold mornings, I have considered taking them each a cup of cocoa, but Reb thinks it is going a bit too far. I look at Max sometimes and wonder if he would taste as good as he looks. But I could no more eat him than I could Tim.

Then clean out the wood stove. There was a piece moaning about wood stoves in the Guardian recently. The writer, who hates them, made the point that they can be time consuming, expensive nuisances. He is right in a way. It depends on your 'lifestyle.'
If I was going off to a full day's work at the humbug mines, as in the past - a wood stove would not do. Like animals and children they need constant attention. They need to be fed wood every hour or so and a thorough clean out every morning, emptying the ash box, polishing the glass panel. Takes time, all of it, and is messy. And I have to spend an hour or so every few days, chopping up kindling and chain-sawing the logs. But, for me, this is not unenjoyable.

By now it is 9am and Reb is stirring. In an hour or so, it will be time to take a walk along the Camino to San Nicolas del Real Camino - a village whose name is longer than the main street - to have a coffee in the bar Barrunta with the neighbors.
Then back for church, which will be chilly.

Must start thinking about lunch. Something with meat as we have no vegetarian pilgrims on the premises for once. Rabbit, maybe.

Friday, 8 January 2010

A NEW LEAF


MAX. The rooster. Big,handsome and cowardly. So we have at least one thing in common.

Too many months since my last blog. Not sure why - have not done all that much. True, Murphy the bent pussy cat and Una the triped dog have taken up some time, but that is just an excuse. Still, now as you see - I have an elegant new label which I can fail to live up to.

Meanwhile Reb's blog sails effortlessly along - with its growing flotilla of readers.

What - as Face Book puts it - is On My Mind right now, is our visit to England in two weeks or so. I anxiously scan weather channels each day. Snow and ice and dead sheep and dead frozen dart fans and cold and cancelled trains and planes. As I head into my dotage, I find I have less tolerance of the prospect of our journey. It will not be an adventure. I want the trip there and back to be nice and dull and warm.

Quite brisk here today. I have just had to take an axe to the frozen water bowl for Max and the hen girls - a good inch thick, it was.

And we have a new year, for which I do not hold out a whole lot of hope. That things don't get much worse would be good enough for me.

BOOKS. Last year I read 'the Rest Is Noise' and I urge you to do so - it is a fascinating and gossipy history of music during the 20th Century. I also read 'La Noche de los Tiempos' which is also highly recommended, but I must warn that it is in Spanish and 1000 pages long, so most of you are excused.

This year I intend to re-read Camus and Koestler, who are in the papers recently with anniversaries and biographies, and also Orwell on Cataluyna.
Camus thought life was absurd and Koestler thought it was insane. Both, I think, were right.
Probably time to re-examine George Bernard Shaw as well. He just thought life was ridiculous. He was right as well.

MUSIC. I bought some Berg, Sibelius and Schoenberg - as a result of the Noise book. Schoenberg is interesting, but I don't know if I will warm to him or Berg. Sibelius is enjoyable and I will get more. He does not sound like the world's worst composer to me. Some apparently think him so.

NEWS. Lorca is not buried where he was supposed to be. And it seems he may never now be found. Maybe this is not so bad a thing. It adds a new layer of mystery and irresolution. But the prospect of him possibly being in the Valle de los Caidos is not a happy one.

RACING. Three truly great horses in one year- Sea the Stars, Rachel Alexander and Zenatta. But how the last two, fillies - failed to meet head to head was a huge let down. That would really have been the Race of the Century, no matter what is still to come.