Monday, September 30, 2013

"The Man with the Golden Arm" (movie / poem)

My ol' Dad showed me "The Man with the Golden Arm" many years ago when I was quite young and it must have had an effect as I used many drugs in my life but I never would touch heroin.  In fact, it was the only street drug I didn't do at one time or another.  It's possible there was some contact with it as sometimes back in the Army days people would say they had put some heroin into joints that were called OJ's but who knows if it was really there and I never noticed any particular effect from them beyond that of the reefer.

The movie was shot in the mid- to late-fifties and, even though it was directed and produced by Otto Preminger and starred Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak, it's a cheesy job of a production.  It was obviously shot on a Hollywood sound stage and most of the characters are so one-sided as to be almost cartoons but it's still a brilliant piece of work and the jazz in the soundtrack is exceptional.

Eleanor Parker plays Zosh, Frankie's girlfriend, who is keeping him by feigning paralysis in an auto accident in which he was at fault.  Her performance is abysmally flat while that of Kim Novak as Molly shows the sensitivity of loving a junkie when she is torn between helping him and walking the hell away.  Sinatra isn't exactly a dynamo of acting genius but he shows good sensitivity toward how a junkie who has gone straight is torn between staying that way and going back to his old ways.  However, he does an excellent job of showing the pain of kicking it again.

As with "Trainspotting," the climax of the movie is when Mac or Frankie kick heroin and both did fantastic jobs with it but in different ways.  However, also like "Trainspotting," it wound up with a 'happy ending' and again I wasn't really satisfied with it.  Note that Preminger did not write the story but rather created a screenplay based on a novel by Nelson Algren so it would be interesting to know what he thought of the ending.  Perhaps it didn't satisfy him either but he wanted to stay true to the original.

Something that's not obvious from movie is that Otto Preminger is yet another German director.  More accurately, he was Austrian but he still belonged to the class of German directors who willingly took on movies that went beyond simply trying to entertain people.  Perhaps ironically, one German, ostensibly at one time an artist, who didn't come anywhere near understanding this was Hitler as he commissioned a series of movies for his Third Reich, all of which were complete crap.

Cat has been quite a student of cinema but it still surprised me a little that she was familiar with the "The Man with the Golden Arm."  Like me it had been a very long time since she watched it and she said she may watch it again.  It had been so long with me that I didn't remember how it ended and perhaps that's the same with her.

Just as with German movie directors, Cat is not satisfied with music that is simply entertaining.  Live music is a performance art so of course entertainment is part of it but if that's as far as you're willing to go then it's very unlikely she will stage you at Cat's Art MusikCircus.  The same is true with her visual art as making something pretty is not enough for her and some of it is brutal but, even in that frankness, there is an elegant beauty to it.

There is more than intellectual interest in these movies as the damage done to Britain by heroin is obvious the moment you spend some time here.  What I'll pass to the sociologists and psychologists in the audience is my concern over any idea that junkies are victims of the evil dealers.  I don't mean to defend the dealers but maybe their evil is about the same as the bankers as both are bleeding society but they do it in different ways.  My concern is that treating junkies as victims absolves them of responsibility and accountability but you don't become a junkie just by sniffing the stuff, you have to work at it and time will pass before the monkey is on your back.

One example that's familiar to just about everyone is that of Amy Winehouse and she didn't have anything close to a happy ending.  I've listened to her husband talk about how it went with heroin and he said it took some while before they were addicted.  They didn't even realise their addiction until one day they woke up and felt sick.  That's when they realised they were in withdrawal.  I think the movie of her life would be an excellent piece of cinema but I have not seen "Sid and Nancy," the story of Sid Vicious and his violently self-destructive path to drug-addicted death.  However, even though that story has already been told perhaps it needs to be told again ... and again ... and again ... until people finally understand it.

In my view, underlying all of this is why heroin comes out of U.S. war zones.  Afghanistan had been the biggest producer of opium poppies and consequently heroin prior to the Taliban but they came close to wiping it out.  Since the U.S. invasion and despite the massive U.S. military presence, poppy cultivation has skyrocketed and Afghanistan is again the biggest producer in the world.  The same was true from the Far East during the Vietnam Era when the CIA was actively involved with heroin exportation from Thailand.

Given the staggering volume of heroin required on a daily basis to support a large population of addicts, estimated at a million in the U.S. alone, there's no chance so much could be imported without governmental engagement.  The question of how is not so important but the question of why is vital.  The U.S. is not the only country involved as there is rampant heroin abuse in the U.K. and, I gather, in Russia as well.  Why.

"The Dream"

and not knowing.
There is no dream,
there is almost nothing
except the roar of empty voices
screaming words that mean nothing.

They say, "Believe me,
save me,
help me to know there is something more
or something else
or anything beyond
television and french fried philosophy,
reduced in fat, of course."

They know the truth,
they scream,
but it is nothing,
only more words of despair
soaked in rain and blood and selfishness
calling out, "Give me my skag
to cure my sickness."
But there isn't any cure
when the words are the disease
and the needle the suckle
from the mother who is dead.

The raining never stops
nor the bleeding
and the screaming, "Feel my pain,
my anger
my agony.
I need to die
but I am afraid of death
just as I am afraid to live."

And then he awakens.
It starts all over again
"I am sick.  Help me."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Piano of the Future?

The Seaboard is a piano keyboard created by a British inventor named Roland Lamb.  He said he has loved the piano since he was a kid but he wanted to take it beyond its limits.  (CNN:  Hans Zimmer plays the piano of the future)

The fundamental aspect of a piano is that it's a percussion instrument but Lamb wanted to take it beyond percussion to give the piano more expressiveness.  He wanted to be able bend notes as one can do with stringed instruments but the percussive aspect of a piano made that impossible.  There's no way to change an actual piano but one can do just about anything with a synthesiser ... and so he did.

With current synthesisers, one can bend notes with the portamento wheel that's usually on the left side of better keyboards.  While this method is effective in performing the bend, it's awkward, particular so in that one must take one hand off the keys to do it.  The difference with Lamb's instrument is that he has made the keys touch-sensitive so a note will bend up or down depending on how you move your finger on the key.

The article goes beyond discussion of the Seaboard and includes other new instruments and software as well.  It also includes video examples of the instruments being played.

I haven't talked with Cat about this yet but I look forward to it as I have no doubt she will have an opinion on it and that will be a most interesting discussion.

"The Matrix" (poem)

If there were no Muslims
the bankers would invent them
to give themselves a cloak
for the evil that they do.

They aren't humans but machines
with money in their veins
and nothing but deep malice
coursing through their brains.

They all provoke the Muslims,
it gives cover to their actions.
It's not their sons or daughters
who die on foreign plains.

Children think they fight for justice
but bankers take it every day.
People pray for sweet salvation
but it will not come that way.

There is courage in the truth
and the truth will set you free.
Call your courage and your power
It's what you're meant to be.

To face their grim oppression
you ask how can it be done.
But there's only one real question
Can you be The One.

Bombers in the Non-News

Today there is a report about Samantha Lewthwaite, the White Widow, a British woman who converted to Islam and was married to a suicide bomber who died in the attacks on trains in London some years ago.  The news channels report they don't know if in the attack at the Westgate Mall in Kenya whether she was killed, escaped, or was not involved at all.

What the fuck kind of news is that.  Here's someone who is such a miserable excuse for a woman that her husband didn't mind killing himself for the cause, abandoning her and their two children, but nothing else is known about her.  So now she is, might have been, or wasn't involved at all in this terrorist attack at Westgate.

Wow.  Nothing gets past the news channels, does it.

It's not just the BBC broadcasting this as other televised news channels are doing it too and there are huge headlines in newspapers that talk of a world-wide manhunt for Lewthwaite.  Who knows what they will do if they actually determine she had anything to do with the attack.

In other news this morning:

Global Warming

The average temperature around the world is going up, down, or maybe staying the same.

John Kerry

Today he will bomb Syria, will not bomb Syria or will find some other way to posture at being a President.


Today it will be rainy, sunny, or kind of mixed, except for Scotland where it will rain ... maybe.

Dave Goodman does a show on the Dave Channel in which he ridicules the news.  Given material like that regarding Lewthwaite, he's never going to run out of material.  (The Dave Channel didn't get its name from Goodman.)

Passport Update - Counting Down

It's now one week into the wait and they estimate two to three weeks before it will be returned.

The application fee put a hell of a whack on money for the month and that sucks but what doesn't suck, if you're a Brit, is going to the U.S.  The reason is that the exchange rate in pounds to dollars means your money will almost double.  The buying power of a dollar or a pound is about the same and you can tell it from the price of a bottle of Pepsi on sale, to car prices, the cost of a house, etc.  If you take £100 to America, it will magically become $160.  How about that for a cracking deal.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's Not Just Bagpipes Anymore

Something I admired tremendously about Greek traditional music is they don't simply repeat music from old days but they keep it alive and keep it growing.  And so it is with a Scottish Highland band, Peatbog Faeries.  If you expect to hear them doing yet another version of "Amazing Grace" on the pipes, guess again.  This band is doing traditional music but it is very much live, not in that it was recorded in front of an audience but rather that it is living.  (Reverbnation:  Peatbog Faeries)

Thanks to my cuz for the link as she passed it to Cat and Cat passed it to me.

In case you don't know anything about a peat bog, take a look at the Wiki.  Cat asked me what is a peat bog and I knew it was kind of a swamp but that was about it.  The Wiki has the rest of the story.  (Wiki:  Bogs)

How Not to Drive in Europe

There are many ways to travel about Europe.  If it's your interest to find the best way to do it then this article is not for you.

When you are covering a significant distance, you will probably want a fuel gauge that works.  The one on the scooter did not.

When your fuel gauge does not work, you will probably want an odometer so you will know how far you have gone since you last got fuel.  The odometer did not work either.

What remains is becoming a human calculator.  Open with where you started and then try to determine where you are.  Compute how many kilometers are between the start point and your current location and divide by the number of kilometers the vehicle goes per litre, assuming you have any idea what that figure might be.  This could work well if you have a GPS but there was a problem.  I didn't have one.

So what really remains is driving for an hour and a half as that would be about ninety kilometers and I knew the scooter needed to be filled at about one hundred and twenty kilometers so this would give me a thirty kilometer safety margin.  But there's a problem with this approach also.  It only works if you have a watch and, well, I didn't have one of those either.  There was another way to determine the time ... stop in a petrol station.

What About the Music

When thinking of African music, it's often in terms of drumming as if we came out of trees about one hundred and twenty thousand years ago, started drumming on logs or whatever and never made any significant advance after that.  As you have already concluded, this is not even close to true or there would be no reason to comment.

There's an additional twist to the timing as Ice Ages have decimated populations multiple times during the course of human history and the last one, about fifty thousand years ago, wiped out everything all the way to equatorial regions.  However, as much as possible, people would have moved to stay ahead of it and there are two things we always bring with us when we move:  our language and our music.  Even though the loss of life must have been staggering, it's not unreasonable to believe there is a continuous thread of music back to the beginnings of man.

Some may dispute the timing of a hundred thousand years and some will tell you the human history only goes back six thousand years because science exists only as a Satanic plot to discredit the history in the Bible.  There are others who believe Homo sapiens emerged in multiple places around the Earth rather than only in Africa and consequently radiated everywhere else.  For the purpose here, it makes no difference if there were other points of emergence as the African history is ancient and quite likely the most ancient of all.

It's logical to believe we started drumming first as chest-pounding is observed in primates so graduating from that to hitting logs or anything else that would make noise isn't a huge leap.  What makes it interesting is that the increased mental capacity of H. sapiens meant the rhythms got enormously more interesting.  And this, for at least some people, is where it stops; savages beat drums in the jungle, yeah, yeah, yeah.

There's little I've said about the relationship with Cat but music is an important topic when we talk.  When I spoke with her about African music, it didn't surprise me at all that she was already well-versed in the subject and here's an example of a video she offered showing an expert job playing an African musical instrument.

Discerning the age of this type of instrument goes beyond what I want to say as my interest is the diversity of African instruments rather than determining the age of one relative to another.   (Wiki:  Kora)

Another instrument that fascinates me is the udu which is a deep-voiced instrument Voodoo Shilton often uses in his arrangements and you can hear him do it in his performances at Cat's Art MusikCircus on Friday nights.  (Wiki:  Udu)

Even though it's a percussion instrument, the sophistication of a wooden African xylophone intrigued me.  It's much more an instrument of melody rather than rhythm and, as with the others, the sound is unique and extraordinary.  I apologise for not having the name of it but there isn't enough access to the net to fully research things as much as I would like.

What I suggest is to continue this theme in your own time and you will discover a wealth of musical expression you may not have imagined.  It's much like the phenomenon of the bouzouki in Greece which looks and sounds similar to a guitar but it is played with a unique style that gives much of the national character to Greek music.  You might wish to review that further as well because there is an Irish adaptation of the bouzouki and I'm not familiar with the style in which it is played but I'm sure that is unique as well.  I know for sure the tuning is not the same as for a Greek bouzouki.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I Learned in the Army

Whenever I'm walking, even after all these years, I hear the drill sergeant shouting to straighten up, pull your shoulders back, hold your head straight, etc.  And even after all these years it still works.

Something else that has stuck with me is field-stripping cigarettes.  When the platoon is on the march, the sergeant may call out to take five and then you can smoke 'em if you've got 'em but Heaven help you if you throw a cigarette butt on the ground.  If any foolish private should make that mistake then the sergeant will find him and make damn sure he never forgets that the enemy can track your movement by following the trail of cigarette butts.  Instead, what the private must do is field-strip the cigarette which is to flick the burning end off it and then pocket the butt.  To this day, I field-strip cigarettes so I can throw the butt into a garbage can.

Another thing I learned was how to throw a hand grenade.  Of the three this was the most useless but it is huge fun to chuck something that makes such a colossally big bang.  Hand Grenade Day in Basic Training is a big one as a sergeant is right next to you to ensure you don't make a fatal mistake when you first try it.  The drawback is that if you still make a mistake then you and now the sergeant will immediately become a quite disgusting mass of disordered protoplasm.

Other than the above, I didn't learn anything at all from the Army.  I wasn't much of a soldier ... but, what the hell, it wasn't much of an Army and still isn't.

P.S.  I don't write these in the sandwich shop but rather I write them offline and then pop them off in a roll.

Boobs in the News

A few days ago I wrote that female news broadcasters on the BBC have larger breasts than their American counterparts.  Most males enjoy looking at boobs unless it's a boob like Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly on Fox News but the observation isn't gratuitous as the BBC broadcasters wear form-fitting outfits so you can't miss the phenomenon.  They aren't flaunting their femininity but rather they aren't doing anything to suppress it ... and why should they.

It's not just on the BBC where one will see a high degree of femininity in the newscasters as Abby Martin or Thabang Motsei on RT News are beautiful women but, as with the BBC, they aren't flaunting anything, they just don't suppress it.  These aren't isolated examples or there would be no reason to comment.

If you look at female American newscasters, most will range from slithering vipers like Nancy Grace on CNN to the majority which are asexual beasts who have so suppressed their femininity that they wouldn't inflame the libido of a life-time prison convict.  It seems most think they can't compete with men unless they stop being women although why any woman would feel threatened by loathsome bastards like Hannity or O'Reilly is a mystery.

Unfortunately, there is one arena in which a British broadcaster has chosen to imitate America.  Specifically it's the imitation by Jeremy Kyle of Jerry Springer, the P.T. Barnum of human misery.  In both cases, they operate under the guise of helping profoundly damaged people to find resolutions to their problems but the real purpose is hugely-exploitative and they make tremendous salaries in doing it.

You can see on Twitter the result of what Kyle does as people comment frequently regarding his show that it makes them feel better about themselves because they're not such miserable humans as those featured there.  Most of the people appearing are heavily-overweight, obviously uneducated, and often are frequent users of drugs, typically heroin.

Going beyond these observations requires an editorial on the sociology of them but that's not my purpose as it's your job, not mine.  There's nothing I loathe quite so much as people trying to tell me what to think and American news is notorious for it but British broadcasters don't seem to do that too much.  However, British broadcasters are contributing to the overall propagandising in the news in their own way, albeit with more subtlety than the blatant examples in American news.

So, what does it all mean.  How the fuck do I know, I just like observing what we monkeys do with things.

The Meaning of DRS in Formula 1

DRS is an acronym I've heard frequently in coverage of Formula 1 races while I've been here but I had no idea what it meant and I gather it was first made legal in 2011.  It's likely I'm only just hearing about it now because the English coverage of Formula 1 is so much better than the American channels.  You can get it over there but usually only from premium sports channels.  Here it's no problem at all and there's the added plus from the races being close to the Brit time zone except for the Far East and Australia.  They will be racing in Korea in a couple of weeks so who knows what time that will be covered.

DRS means Drag Reduction System and it refers to two settings for the rear wing on the car.  When you 'level' the rear wing, it reduces drag on the car and therefore permits the car to go faster but it's at the cost of down force and the car can get more 'slippery' in handling.  Consequently, the 'level' setting is good for straights but not so good on corners.  Conversely, the down force setting for the rear wing slows the car down but makes it easier to control by giving better grip in cautions.

There are no restrictions on using DRS during qualification, etc but it can only be used in specific locations along the circuit during the race and only so long as there is no local or full-track caution.

So now we both know.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fun with Propaganda in the News

The report on RT News and my surprise at it being Russia Today brought a bit of comment in the background.  It's quite refreshing to hear that in contrast to the mindless bitterness from Anonymous.

After discovering about Russia Today, I started comparing which stories were covered as headlines by that channel relative to the ones covered by the BBC.

The seizure of Greenpeace activists at gunpoint by Russians who were trying to start drilling near the Arctic Circle was covered extensively by the BBC, including a direct interview with a representative from Greenpeace.  The story was not reported at all in the Russia Today headlines.

Aid workers who were trying to bring food and supplies to a town which had been bombed by the Israeli military were pulled from their vehicle and roughed up by Israeli soldiers and police.  This was reported extensively on Russia Today but was not mentioned by the BBC.

An incident of a friendly fire death in Iraq was covered in an extended report by Russia Today but, as with the other stories, it wasn't covered at all by the BBC.  The event took place quite a while ago and was covered as a special feature by Russia Today so there was no particular reason for the BBC to cover it but this is still an example of a story embarrassing to America due to the way the investigation was mismanaged by the U.S. military.

Filtering news to promote various agendas has been taking place on American news channels for years but this type of propaganda is not limited to that country.  It is now clear to me that Russia Today will cheerfully present anything that's potentially embarrassing to the United States or Europe while filtering anything that would be embarrassing to Russia.  The information they present is accurate but the filtering discredits the presentation as a whole.

Television news here comes primarily from the BBC, al Jazeera, and RT News.  American news channels aren't carried but there's really no reason they should be.  Fox News has been known for years as not only pushing a far-right agenda and this is not unusual in the realm of propaganda but they go beyond that to distort the news rather than the simple filtering observed in other channels.  CNN isn't carried either as most likely people in Britain really aren't particularly interested in Lindsay Lohan's latest arrest or what Justin Bieber is doing about the monkey he abandoned in Germany.

The Tour of Britain ... and Singapore

The Grand Prix in Singapore is run at night but I didn't know that so I was up this morning looking for the start on BBC.  I was figuring the time differential between Singapore and Edinburgh meant it would be televised at five or six in the morning but I couldn't find any sign of it.  Later in the afternoon I found why there was no race to see.

It turned out that the BBC would broadcast in the afternoon the highlights of the race which I then discovered was run on Saturday night.  Unfortunately, the broadcast was at the same time as the broadcast of live coverage of the final stage of the Tour of Britain which is a bicycle race much like Le Tour de France.

I didn't want to miss the coverage of either event so I ended up flipping back and forth between both and that almost worked but the Tour was finishing just as the Grand Prix was about to start.  The last two or three kilometers of a bicycle race are very exciting so I missed the start of the Grand Prix but it was so worth it.  The last two or three kilometers are good but the last few hundred meters are thrilling.

The Tour of Britain races all over the country but the last stage takes place entirely within downtown London.  Rather than going cross-country, they race over an 8.8 kilometer course and do ten laps around it.  The entire circuit was lined with people watching and it seemed they were all hoping Mark Cavendish, an Englishman, would win it.  Watching his final sprint to the finish was an amazing thing as his legs started pumping like a locomotive and the crowd got its wish:  he won it.  (You may remember he won Le Tour de France as well.)

There's no need for much of a report on the Grand Prix of Singapore as it has nothing to do with England except for expert coverage by Suzi Perry who is not only hot but is very well-versed in Formula 1.  From the actual race coverage, it's worth mentioning that a night race on the streets of Singapore is a beautiful thing to behold.

They even shoot off fireworks over the bay at the end of the race.  It's an obvious call that Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel would win but I like following Mark Weber, an Australian, particularly since it is his last season.  It was looking good for Weber but his car broke and ended up in flames.  He wasn't injured but it was a damn shame to see him break down at the end of the race when he had a good shot at third place.

As to which was the most exciting to see, I'm surprised to say it was the Tour of Britain.  This wasn't the only stage I've seen and the end of a stage is quite exciting for any of them but for the last stage most of all.  It's beautiful to watch this race as well because it tours around British countryside.  I've written previously on how much I enjoyed riding around the backroads here as they're much prettier than the motorways and the Tour of Britain was racing over the same roads.

In the background to all this was the saving grace of this flat.  My situation is pretty grim but my cuz put me up in a beautiful flat and I'm very grateful for that.  Ordinarily I hardly ever watch television but there's one in the flat and it has given a fascinating reveal of how things are in Scotland and England.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Success - Passport Renewal is On Its Way

The title says it all.  The courier is now on his mission.  Yahoo!

Cat is so fed-up with hearing the updates on the passport as I'm sure are you all and this hopefully finally settles it.

All done with my part.  Check!

Live from Belly Buster in Leith, Scotland

The computer I use is an Apple laptop and the battery life is incredible.  It's been running for 3.5 hours and is at 45%.  I'm not using video or anything that will chew up the battery faster but it's impressive to me that the battery has lasted this long doing anything at all.

It always amuses me to see the hecklers line up to fling poo every time Apple does something but I've used computers that you probably wouldn't recognise and I've never seen anything that will do a better job of it.  Probably the worst was Digital's microVax but I think they're extinct these days.  I haven't heard anything of Digital in years.  They were responsible for the idea of distributed computing and that got people thinking it was clever to put Windows machines all over the place.  Network costs went through the ceiling and from that came the all-purpose excuse of the modern age:  the computer is running really slowly today.  Computers aren't slow, stupid implementations are.

An observation from here at Belly Buster.  There is a funeral shop next door and it has a price list in the window, one of which reads, "Care for the Deceased."  I might be wrong but I was under the impression that being deceased meant that you're beyond care but apparently not and, yahoo, there's a bill for it.  "The Great Lebowski" showed how to do a funeral right:  burn up my worthless carcass, put the ashes into a coffee can, and chuck it into the ocean.

What's Hot on the Blog

This really cracks me up as what I'm seeing is that Germans are very much afraid of sharks.  The probability of being chewed by a Great White Shark in the Mediterranean is not very high but it was a big surprise to me to learn of breeding populations of them in that region.  Who knows what they eat but it usually isn't people.  I think it's about a dozen people who have been chewed in the last hundred years.  If you want to be afraid of something in Mediterranean waters, it ought to be jellyfish as they're all over the place and thousands of people get stung by them each year.

Many Germans go on holiday to Greece and lots of Greeks go to Germany for work.  Maybe the Greeks in Germany tell the Germans to look out for the sharks just to screw with them.  Greeks are very funny people.

I do like seeing the enthusiasm for the article on Greek Highway Monuments as it took a bit of time to put that one together and thousands of people have read it.

Um, yes, I am killing time waiting for the courier.  Why do you ask.

iPhone 5S Much Less Expensive than Previous Models

When I got my first iPhone it cost somewhere around $400 US but I see an iPhone 5S with 8GB is today $199 US.  The new features don't seem like a huge leap from the previous model but the last one I had was an iPhone 3GS and that was quite a while back.  I had a Samsung flip phone in Greece, mostly because it was cheap, and that thing was rubbish.  It was so ineffective that most of the time I didn't even bother carrying it.  There were multiple times when I would go wandering around the yard, waving the damn thing in the air and trying to find somewhere I could send a text message.  It wasn't just that location but pretty much anywhere.  Samsung sucks.

I don't have any plan for buying an iPhone even if I did have the money but it would be pretty swell to hear Lotho's voice rather than sending emails.  He is a maniac builder and can probably put up a house by himself but he likes writing about as much as cleaning toilets.  He's my bro but for me it's the other way around.  I couldn't dream of building a house but writing comes easily.  I bet The Baby is talking up a storm by now too.  I haven't seen that kid in a year.  (The same House Rules still apply.  Absolutely NO baby pictures on the Internet even if she isn't a baby anymore.  I'm not protesting those rules as I really don't understand how there can be so many pedophiles floating about.  Were they always around and now we just hear about them more or is the number of them increasing for some unknown reason.  Regardless, there will be no pics of The Baby on here.  I'm sorry about that but I'm not sorry about the House Rules.)

RT News - Quite an Impressive Source

Previously I had thought The Guardian provides the best news reporting around but I found an even better source in RT News.  Max Keiser provides blistering analyses of global financial activity and Breaking the Set, hosted by Abby Martin, is equally penetrating regarding a wide variety of topics.  Larry King is also featured on RT News.  Given these features, I had thought the channel was based in the U.S. but I was stunned to learn just now that RT stands for Russia Today (Wiki:  Russia Today).

I've previously received a recommendation from a conservative American friend regarding the even-handed reporting of al Jazeera but I haven't been particularly impressed by it.  I've also taken a look at BBC's Breakfast news but it doesn't seem to have much point beyond trying to provide visual proof that the British news reporters have larger breasts than their American counterparts.  A big part of their morning show is reading the headlines from various newspapers.  Gasp, what would Edward R Murrow think of that.  Maybe he wouldn't care and would just be looking at their breasts.

Perhaps you could call it a benign form of propaganda for Russia to provide what appears to be an uncoloured presentation of the news but it's not entirely transparent.  It focuses very heavily on activity in America but there is relatively little regarding Russia.  That fact notwithstanding, the channel offers information rather than editorials and it's your responsibility as a viewer to differentiate between news and propaganda.  The only way to do that is to keep your view as wide as possible.

Intellectual Posturing and the Art of Corporate Bullshit

Someone complained that a subsequent article on "Trainspotting" showed only that I'm posing as an intellectual.  I don't know how the individual came to that conclusion but the author was, at best, sub-literate so a dog finding its way home would probably seem quite a feat of intellectual prowess.  I do think "Trainspotting" is an important movie or I wouldn't have written the article as that would have wasted my time and yours.

The previous article wasn't an example of intellectual posturing ... this one is:

Language has become a wasteland of affectation in which people are trying desperately to sound intelligent and they have assumed the lingo of corporate staff meetings.  Such meetings are called by people who were business majors and who have no more command of the language than the average porcupine.  I'm not exaggerating as I've had multiple dealings with vice presidents and above and their incompetence in written expression was embarrassing to behold.  If it's your purpose to sound like a porcupine then good luck to you but, assuming that is true, you have probably already left and are now rooting around in the garden to find insects to eat.

People in staff meetings often think it sounds more intelligent to use big words even when smaller ones will serve very well.  One of the most common examples is the substitution of utilise for use.  Both mean the same thing but corporate types seem to think they are paid by the syllable.  Considering their outrageous salaries, perhaps that premise is true.  Also considering those enormous salaries, one might think they would have a strong need for clarity of expression to prevent wasting anyone else's time but that's not at all true.

Another example of expensive syllables is in the use of replicate.  It's not enough to copy something, instead one must replicate it.  The only other environment in which I have heard replicate being commonly used is the field of genetics regarding the way DNA and RNA work.  How replicate made its way from hard science to a corporate boardroom is left to the interested scientist to discover.

When one doesn't know a pretentious substitution for a word, one can still try to sound intelligent by adding an unnecessary word.  One example that occurs fairly frequently is the use of polar opposite.  The expression has meaning in geometry but it adds nothing otherwise.  Another example comes from someone in an extreme state of corporate desperation who will refer to two entities as being diametrically opposed.  It's the same as a polar opposite as both refer to a line going to the opposite side of the circle (i.e. the diameter) so it must pass through the center.

Opposite has a yet more pretentious synonym as an Englishman might refer to Australians as antipodean creatures.  The word still only means they are opposites as Australians live on the other end of the Earth from England but use of the word in a corporate staff meeting may help give the impression the speaker does something more in spare time than collecting baseball cards.  It's not likely but perhaps.

A slightly different variety of this type of verbal perversion is the joining of two simple words to give the impression of something more complex.  An example is when a corporate stooge says an event could negatively impact the company's bottom line.  It would be simpler and more effective to say the bottom line will be damaged but that only matters if you are being paid for the thought rather than for the word.  The problem isn't so much that some speak unclearly but rather that such expressions get imitated, erm, replicated by every crackhead at the table.

Some aspects of corporate lingo are surprisingly colourful as someone judging a product as having no value might comment that the dog won't hunt.  If someone judges another's perspective to be in error, he might comment that we all need the same view of the elephant.  For example, someone studying only an elephant's tiny eyes might assume the elephant to be a much smaller animal, perhaps the size of the dog and, well, that dog won't hunt.

I'm somewhat apologetic that some will regard this article as pedantic but Noam Chomsky is likely one of the smartest people on the planet and he's been clear that our view of life, the universe, and everything is only limited by our ability to describe it.  Deliberately limiting our abilities to describe it through ineffective expression is unfortunate and, in my view, warrants protest.  At the end of the day, self-limiting speech negatively impacts our view of the elephant and thus there isn't any dog that will hunt.

Don't be sitting back smugly on Facebook as if this sort of thing doesn't happen on social networks as there is probably no other institution more limiting of world view than those that claim to expand it.  There is almost no original thought on Facebook and the majority of activity in that environment is either liking something someone else has contributed or sharing it (i.e. copying it).

And the Countdown Continues

After waiting for two or three hours yesterday, I got a phone call here at Belly Buster from the Embassy in London to advise me that, oh no, the courier will come by on Friday instead.  The courier will arrive sometime between now and 16:00 and hopefully sooner than later but we shall see.

Once again, my thanks to Voisek at Belly Buster as I would not be able to take telephone calls without his gracious hospitality.  Cat and I talked about the Poles as she knows a lot about the people from her own heritage.  She told me their beliefs are much like those of Greece in which sharing is a fundamental part of their culture.  If you've been following the blog for a while, you've read of my admiration for how the Greeks live and Cat tells me it is much the same way with the Poles.

Thank you in Polish is not something I can spell but I know it is pronounced JEN-KOO-YEH.  Cat tried for some while to get me to pronounce it right and her efforts worked as I said that to Voisek yesterday and he knew right away what I meant.

Cat, Jenkooyeh!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What About the Passport

It's been a blazing drag trying to accumulate the bits needed for the passport renewal application but right now I'm doing the countdown awaiting the arrival of the courier who will take the application to the U.S. Embassy in London where it will be sent back to the U.S. for processing.  For whatever reason, it's mandatory to use the courier service so I wait and then pay the fee.

It will be a tremendous relief to get this in motion but it would still be premature to book a flight to Schiphol (Amsterdam airport).  It's always possible something else will go wrong and then I would be out the cost of the ticket if I book it too soon.  It's necessary to go to Schiphol to stage for flying back to the U.S. as there is no direct flight from Edinburgh.

On the last time back, the Customs agent discovered a container used to sell joints in Amsterdam.  There was nothing in it but there was enough trace molecules or whatever to register a positive on a drug-sniffing machine.  I was stunned when he showed it to me as I had no idea it was in there and I was even more stunned when he said there could be a five hundred dollar fine for it.  I was tempted to say congratulations, Clyde, glad to see you're on the job stopping the ton of heroin that comes into the U.S. every day.  I didn't say it as he would have brought out the anal probe for sure if I had.

It doesn't matter if I write about this as I'm not smuggling any contraband of any kind.  I was amused to see a TSA inspection tag inside my guitar case from when I flew over here.  They x-ray all luggage so they already knew there was a guitar in there but some wizard decided to open it and see, yep, it's a guitar alright.  Gadzooks, if he wanted to do something useful he should have detuned it so it wasn't damaged by the flight.

Never ever fly unless you have detuned your guitar.  You may get away with it on a short flight but the strings will pull the neck right off it on a long one.  The strings get cold and contract ... pop ... your guitar ends up in splinters.  The neck wasn't pulled off the body of mine but it was severely bowed.  That was repaired in Greece but I was never satisfied with the work and it will go into the shop again in America.

And the beat goes on.

Hillary Clinton Puts a Lip Lock on Vladimir Putin

Filled with gratitude for saving her 2016 election campaign, Hillary Clinton gave Vladimir Putin a big wet kiss.  Afterward, Putin said it was a good kiss but not a great kiss, his arrogance undiminished by his success in the recent sparring over Syria.  Had Obama gone ahead with bombing Syria, Clinton's chances of getting elected in 2016 would have been about the same as those for Ronald McDonald even though he would likely do a vastly better job than most politicians of the last few decades.

There's not a lot of reason to comment on politics as that arena has descended into cartoonish absurdity.  The reason this comes up at all is the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Obama and, given his behaviour since election, that award is as ludicrous as a wolverine trying to run a chicken ranch but it's Nobel who has my attention.

For most it's only an answer to a trivia question that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite but this wasn't a result of pure science in the way Einstein made it possible to make an atomic bomb; Einstein wasn't trying to create weapons.  Instead, Nobel invented a series of explosives and owned Bofors and other weapons manufacturing companies, some of which are still producing high-power weapons to this day.  It was only after he realised how he would be remembered after death that he decided to create the Nobel Prizes.

Hopefully Nobel has made more of himself through the Prize he created than he did through his actual work but he isn't the primary reason for my interest either.  Sweden is typically a neutral country but how can there be neutrality from a country that manufactures weapons.  Right now they are manufacturing a rocket-propelled grenade that is a one-man device with unbelievable destructive power.

The Swedish RPG has a switch on the side of the device to select single or double explosions.  In single-mode, both charges in the warhead explode at the same time blowing all to hell whatever it hits.  In double-mode, the first charge in the warhead explodes and the second charge explodes just after.  The first charge blows a hole in the target and the second charge goes through it to blow up whatever is on the other side.  I've seen a televised demonstration in which this device first blew a hole through six inches of reinforced concrete and then destroyed and blew shrapnel all through a room-size container on the other side.

Sweden's neutrality is no different from the absurdity of a winner of a Nobel Peace Prize talking ardently of war with Syria particularly when he has only the thinnest justification for it.  After the record of Obama's administration, perhaps most particularly the rampant abuses of power by the NSA, it will be difficult for Clinton to get elected but bombing Syria would likely have made it ridiculous to even consider registering to run for the office.

Maybe most fascinating of all is Russia playing the role of peacemaker and apparently with great sincerity.  The Russians are great weapons exporters too and the AK-47 is trying hard to kill as many Asians as malaria so who would have predicted Russia would be so strongly advocating peace.

Notwithstanding the egregious hypocrisy governments have been displaying, there is some reason for optimism in seeing the cooperation between the U.S. and Russia to bring about a peaceful resolution of the problem with chemical weapons in Syria.