The Curmudgeon


Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Housing Problem

A Theory was trying to accommodate as large a population of Facts as could be managed without exceeding its budgetary allowance for the present quarter. The Theory laid a foundation of Evidence, fortified itself with Logic, and subjected its strength to experimental testing twice a week in the more rigorous areas of the local gymnasium. Yet still the Facts continued noisily battering at its walls, until the din could be heard even above the screams of the newspaper headlines.

Finally an Official appeared, and informed the Theory that it was hereby expelled, expunged, deported and anathematised beyond all hope of redemption.

"But what of the Facts?" the Theory protested. "I have accommodated so many of them, some so huge and awkward as to have escaped the attention of almost the entire infotainment industry. Are they to be set free once more, to bask idle and disorganised in the incomprehension of the media and the ignorance of the public?"

"I know nothing of that," said the Official; "but you have no planning permission, and space is at a premium in this district. You must leave here forthwith, and nevermore return unless you become smaller and simpler."

"This country is narrow, I know," admitted the Theory; "but I was personally squeezed into it with much effort, along with many of my Facts, by a Scientist of probity and repute. Does that count for nothing?"

"Nothing at all," said the Official; "you stand now on consecrated ground. This country lies within the skull of a Minister, and many of your Facts contradict the party line."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Daveybloke Joins the Polish Mainstream

Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives are all of a smirk today thanks to some comments by Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, about their chum Michal Kaminski. Schudrich noted that Kaminski is "a strong ally" of a violently expansionist racist state whose international relations are characterised by armed robbery, military threats and hydrophobic rhetoric in the name of repairing past wrongs. This shows that Kaminski has renounced the ideology of his neo-Nazi past (his clear conscience on the matter was presumably the reason he lied about it) and turned into the sort of opportunistic dog-whistler that William Hague can do business with. Schudrich also said that Kaminski's Law and Justice party "is a right-of-centre party here in Poland and within Polish politics is very much considered a mainstream party". That may be perfectly true; indeed, it is eminently possible that Kaminski's Law and Justice Party contains people who are slightly to the left of most New Labour home secretaries. Were Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives trying to cuddle up to the Polish electorate, their association with Kaminski would not be a problem. Unfortunately, Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives are trying to present themselves as having something to do with the British government, supposedly a European power somewhat superior to France and Germany and very nearly on a par with the United States; and it seems just possible that an implied declaration that Silvio Berlusconi is a bit left-wing for their tastes might not be the most plausible substantiation for such a claim.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Operational Discretion

The commissioner of the Metropolitan Firearms Club, Sir Paul Stephenson, has expressed his understanding of the concern caused by somebody or other's decision to allow some of the lads to patrol estates and streets armed with semi-automatic weapons. A member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Jenny Jones, raised the matter last week only to be smeared as "hysterical" by one of that select few among the London Haystack's henchpersons who have not yet been sacked for corruption, incompetence, racism or other amusing quirks of character.

Unlike his illustrious predecessor, Sir Paul Stephenson appears capable of recognising situations where a fib is a lost cause. Nevertheless, his statement falls well within the bounds of recent Metropolitan tradition, of a piece with such well-loved past hits as The jacket looked bulky to me, Someone shouted "Armed police", The CCTV wasn't working that day, He was only an alcoholic news vendor and anyway he had no contact with the police, and the recent favourite, I was afraid those little metal numbers might do somebody a mischief. Although the commissioner regretted the all-important public-relations aspect of the problem, and made the obligatory mention of "long and proud tradition" which is the accepted signal for a plan to undermine the tradition in question, it emerged that Stephenson did not know about the decision to use armed patrols; that Stephenson's deputy did not know about the decision to use armed patrols; and that the Metropolitan Police Authority did not know about it either. (The London Haystack also did not know, but in all fairness that fact hardly counts as an indication he wasn't told.) Doubtless the usual nobody will be reprimanded.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foreign Phish

Date: Wed Oct 28 2009 9:00pm Europe/London
To: database-recipients::
Subject: a Bridge 2 far

Daer Herr or Madam Martins

thnak yuo fro for yuor foreign Advise abt birtish europolicy aftter teh Coming Victroy. as daveyBloke of the Pople &nd Primem Mimnster i wlil of coruse cosnider yuor comnemts udner cosnideration. i wold wuld wuold remnid you howver taht i am Daveybloke Popples Bloke Poples Primster Idnependenent Sovreign spaciel Relatonspip rah rah your contry On tehe he oheh ohter Hand is motsly knwon for Bikes Dykes Tulips & Van Tromp and if not for Us adn US Youwold al lbe in euorpean unison spaeking GErman. vhere are yur Pappers Ha Ha i am british Sesnse of Humor alliallialliance wiht micheal kamininski and the Decent WaffenSS wlil wil ensnure best itnternests of Britshit Pople sovreign Sttte Keep uor Banananas Bendy rah rah. for I am Daveybloke aftrer the Coming vicTory i will have Specal Rlatioons wthith Obamarama for as daveybloke & ppls priminstrer I am Cuddly Churchill i am Gooood with Coloured folks. Joioin wiht Us whit US froward not Back remebmer who won rah rah. i am daveybloke.

rah rah

Davey (britshirt) bloke

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I have just received my contributor's copies of Wormwood 13, and very fine they look too. My contribution is a close reading of Robert Aickman's story "Bind Your Hair"; other attractions include the first English translation of an early and disreputable jeu d'esprit by Guy de Maupassant; a discussion of M P Shiel's story "Vaila" in terms of Walter Pater's conception of life as a "strange, perpetual, weaving and unweaving of ourselves"; a look at the work of G G Pendarves, one of Weird Tales' very few female pulp writers; and a very interesting and enjoyable piece by Brian Stableford about Anatole France's rather bumbling brand of literary Satanism. You never know when this sort of thing might come in handy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trust is a Rare and Fragile Thing

Since, as we all know, those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear, the Government is bleating for special treatment over the accusations by seven persons of limited Britishness that it was complicit in their torture by the United States. The Government claims (or "believes", as the Guardian's telepathy correspondent has it) that holding the security services accountable to the public would "be likely to assist those whose purpose is to injure the security of the UK and whose actions in the past have shown that they are willing to kill innocent civilians"; though not quite so many innocent civilians as have been willingly killed in the name of the security of the UK over the past six and a half years. The Government also claims (or "believes", again according to the Guardian's resident psychic) that holding the Foreign Office accountable to the public "could prejudice the United Kingdom's bilateral relationships", since apparently the Government's allies are willing to blackmail the United Kingdom into keeping all their dirty little secrets. If the Foreign Office started snitching on its chums - not only in the US, but in bastions of democracy like Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan - why, who knows where it might lead? After all, "the effective conduct of international relations depends on maintaining trust and confidence between governments" - between the British Government and George W Bush, between the British Government and Silvio Berlusconi, between the British Government and Colonel Gaddafi, between the British Government and Islam Karimov, to take a few purely random examples. It is largely thanks to the trustful and confident relationships between statesmen of such dignity and stature that Britain and the world are situated as they are today. Surely no-one of any consequence would wish to force the British Government to behave as though the United Kingdom were some sort of democracy - riddled with freedom of information and rotten with human rights - and risk leaving all that behind.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

President Tony and His Chums

The Upper Miliband has been pushing his application for a new job: that of European High Representative for Foreign Affairs, which he evidently hopes to take over when his chum, the ascended incarnation of the Vicar of Downing Street, takes his throne of Power as president of the Union. The Upper Miliband stated that he was "not available" for the post, doubtless owing to the anticipated brilliance of New New Labour's performance at the next general election; and he also said, "I have got a job that I am absolutely committed to and proud to do"; which, in the context of modern politics, amounts more or less to a commitment to clear his desk the moment Tony says it's all right.

The Upper Miliband observed that Europe needs a "strong figure" as president, someone fresh from bringing peace to the Middle East who is "able persuasively to advocate the case that is decided by the 27 member states of the EU" - in short, a strong figure who will do as he's told by twenty-six foreign governments as well as by the Daveybloke administration on the mainland. Well, this certainly sounds like Tony. Failing that, the consequences will be dire: "we will find the world run by America and China without any reference to us". Tony's record of firm independence in dealing with the United States is of course known to one and all. The Upper Miliband also noted that, once Tony is president, he would like the traffic to stop wherever he goes; undoubtedly, with Cherie in tow (and perhaps even Gordon, if the old comedy partnership can be resurrected), stopping traffic will hardly be a problem.

The Upper Miliband also professed puzzlement at Conservative opposition to the Reverend's candidacy. This is surely a little naïve. Daveybloke's cuddlies do not want Blair as president because they would prefer Michal Kaminski or a member of the Latvian Waffen-SS supporters' club; the Conservative old guard do not want Blair as president because he reminds them too much of Daveybloke. Besides, quite apart from Blair's election victories, the Conservatives hate him because he has implemented so much war, privatisation, business deregulation, political corruption and police thuggery, and thereby discredited so many treasured Conservative policies.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

They'll Try Anything To Stay Here

Britain's chronic lack of proper border controls has resulted in yet further delay to the process of ridding our blessed isle of one more failed asylum seeker. A ten-year-old Nigerian taxpayer traumatisation unit was placed in detention in June along with her mother but, despite the suffering this caused her, was released after three weeks. The mother was detained again two months later, while the spawn of residential non-deservingness was allowed to stay with an aunt. After ten days this oversight was discovered and a squad of fifteen immigration officers, backed by police and social services (the SAS were presumably busy elsewhere), dragged her screaming from the house and threw her back in chokey. Fortunately, none of the personnel involved appears to have suffered injury. Although a psychotherapist had reported the possibility of a suicide attempt, the proto-jobseeker was somehow permitted to fail in her effort to strangle herself, and her removal has now been delayed further thanks to the legalistic pettifogging which has sullied so many of New Labour's cleansing attempts. The only bright side to the sorry saga is that there is, as yet, no prospect of this case turning some corner of a British field forever Nigerian.

Anyway, as Justin points out, what a jolly good thing it is that the likes of Gordon Brown and Jack Straw are - ethically, at least - so different from the BNP.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Without responsibility,
No rights accrue, except to thee.

Where keeping steady is the norm,
Portray reaction as reform.

Sell all on which you get your paws,
Provided that it isn't yours.

Where salesmanship avail thee not,
Then leave the bloodied shreds to rot.

Whatever the decay may spare,
Deport to feed a tabloid scare.

If in deporting thou shouldst fail,
Deposit the remains in jail.

Ensure, when they have done their time,
Their prospects lead them into crime.

Then, if the pulp can take some more,
Dispatch it promptly off to war.

Where all is wreck and desolation,
Evangelise for low inflation.

While flogging off whatever's left,
Preach that there's no excuse for theft.

Mosey Papp

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Birthday

Tonight is, as you are doubtless aware, the anniversary of the first day of Creation, according to the Ussher chronology. It is also the fifth birthday of an equally misbegotten project, namely the present weblog. I set this thing up in March 2004, and over the next couple of months posted occasional bits of material which had been written years previously. A change of domicile then intervened, but on 22 October I posted the first piece written specifically for the extensive and discreetly appreciative nobody who had registered my web presence at the time. Hence, I consider that this weblog was born on that day, after a seven-month gestation.

Fortunately, one's writings are not like children. If this weblog were a child, besides having undergone premature delivery it would be badly neglected, constantly abused, and either autistic or hyperactive depending on which not-quite-lethal-enough cocktails of junk food I had shovelled down the maw in the name of peace. The fifth birthday would be a time of trauma as I embarked upon the ordeal of picking out a school and brushing up on the religious doctrine necessary to get the little beast into it. A weblog is a much more civilised affair, and considerably less costly. For all the crankery, obnoxiousness and hysteria for which the blogosphere is famed in the mainstream media, if there were more bloggers and fewer parents the world would be a quieter place.

This is also my eighteen hundredth post, which makes it all suspiciously neat. Thank you all for reading; thanks to the commenters for commenting; and if you've linked, reviewed or otherwise engorged my hit-count or my self-esteem, thanks for that too. The mudgeonry will continue.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just Be Grateful

Even after thirty years of Thatcherism, with an ever-yawning pay gap to show for it, there is still one man in the world who believes in trickledown economics, whereby the rich do as they please and the poor share in the losses. He is Lord Griffiths, a former sycophant at the old bag's court and now, doubtless on merit alone, the vice-chair of Goldman Sachs International. Griffiths, whose experience of inequality as a child in a Welsh mining village self-evidently excuses his perpetuation of inequality as a pre-cuddly Conservative peer and kleptocrat, said last night that bankers should be allowed to pay themselves whatever they dashed well please and that the British public ought to keep smiling through and be glad of any crumbs that come its way. Griffiths referred to bankers' large salaries and larger bonuses as "compensation" for the trauma of working "in an internationally competitive market which ensures the bank businesses here and employs British people". If the British people don't like that, the banks can always go businessing in Switzerland and the Far East, and we would risk forfeiting the presence of the entire social class which caused the present recession.

Gordon's little Darling has responded to the effect that Goldman Sachs were failing to send the sort of signals which Gordon's little Darling could, in conscience, approve. Gordon's little Darling mentioned the importance of sending a clear message that "if you make a mess of things, you don't get rewarded for it". It is fairly likely that Gordon's little Darling will have stopped rewarding the bankers by mid-2010, having ceded the job to George the Progressively Osborne.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moral Superiority

The sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak has approved an initiative whereby members of the bigoted wing of the Anglican church can defect to Rome while continuing to address their invisible friend in their own special way. Like an American president invading a British overseas territory, the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak or one of his underlings just about found time to inform Lambeth Palace a fortnight before the blow fell. The opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury was not requested in advance, doubtless on the sensible grounds that it would be couched in terms so subtle that the initiative might be hard put to survive it; the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak is, after all, in his eighties. The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Williams, ever the New Labour politician, dismissed the annexation as "business as usual"; though he does not appear to have made any offer to go an extra mile by entering into full and visible communion with Vatican Incorporated on his own behalf. Taking the longer view, of course, it is indeed business as usual; not only in the sense that loving one's enemies to death is standard procedure for Christians, but in the wider sense that human congregations tend to find self-assured lunatics more attractive than dithering hypocrites. Blair triumphed over Edwina Currie's back-to-basics friend, whose name escapes me at the moment; Reagan beat Carter; Thatcher destroyed Kinnock; and Christ triumphed over the Pharisees.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Murky Emissions

The Glorious Successor, who has done so much to divert British society away from outdated weapons systems, lunatic surveillance projects, oversized airports and radioactive white elephants, has been wagging the famous New New Labour finger at a gaggle of environment ministers which has congealed underneath an umbrella called the Major Economies Forum. It seems our own Minister for Talking about Getting Someone to Do Something About the Environment was too impressive to waste on such a gathering.

The Glorious Successor informed the rapt assembly that "no retrospective global agreement in some future period" could undo the damage from unchecked emissions growth; and that "by then it will be irretrievably too late", as opposed to retrievably too late. There is good news, of course: "an extra 1.8bn people - a quarter of the world's population - could be short of water by 2080", and thus may well constitute a new, extensive and rather highly incentivised consumer group. Better yet, the changes will not be confined to the lesser breeds: "in Britain we face the prospect of more frequent droughts and a rising wave of floods", which might help to distract our children and grandchildren from whatever tattered remnants of their birthright a future government may see fit to snatch from them.

The Glorious Successor flattered himself shamelessly by referring to "my fellow leaders", which may have raised a smile or two; and he recycled his predecessor's messianic "thousand days to prepare for a thousand years" into the appropriately shorter, cheaper and ungainlier "fewer than 50 days to set the course of the next 50 years and more". Finally, with near-Blairite meaningfulousity: "We cannot compromise with the earth, we cannot compromise with the catastrophe of unchecked climate change, so we must compromise with one another," the Glorious Successor perorated; while the American special envoy, having listened carefully to someone or other, said that it was all up to China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Return... of the Civil Dead

Two reports are soon to emerge by the chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, about the methods which prison authorities use to meet Government targets. One such method is allegedly to flip some of the more assertive malefactorial units between different prisons according to which particular establishment is being inspected - since, obviously, anyone wishing to gain a proper idea of how badly an institution is being run will always give advance notice of their visit so that those running the institution have time to ensure an appropriate degree of realism. The Minister for Incarceration Including Child Incarceration apparently disapproves of the transfers, doubtless because they fail to meet the stringent tabloid regulations concerning severity of punishment, or "policy requirements relating to the wellbeing of prisoners" as the euphemism hath it. The chief inspector's reports are expected to "trigger a debate" or, in Standard English, bring forth a flurry of highly constructive recriminations, denials and statements of the Thing-that-is-not.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In Summary

The Glorious Successor, leader of New New Labour, Prime Minister and Premier-under-Mandelson of Her Majesty's Government, which collaborated in the murderous invasion of Iraq and cannot supply its own troops properly; which connived in torture and illegal detention and sent a begging letter to the Americans for an alibi; which wags its finger at Iran while patting Israel on the head; which spies incessantly on its own citizens but cannot make proper provision to keep the data from being left on trains or stolen on laptops; which has broken every promise of meaningful Parliamentary reform in England but has helped the BNP gain seats in Europe; which lectures the public on responsible energy use and claims to be turning the economy green via coal and nuclear; which turns sickly at the thought of paying its citizens a decent pension while happily throwing its citizens' money at banks in reward for not mending their ways; which has filled the prisons with the mentally disturbed while covering for any corporate crook provided its crimes are blatant enough; which panders to the worst instincts of the scumbag press while abusing the BBC for bias; the Glorious Successor, who presided, if that is the word I want, over the expenses scandal and responded to it by publishing redacted versions of what had already appeared in the press and by letting egregious thieves go in return for a cheque and a show of contrition; the Glorious Successor has now decided, after twelve years of continuing the Thatcherite project of dismantling the public sector so that the profitable bits can be given to private corporations and the rest doled out to churches and charities or simply allowed to rot, that it is time to take a tougher line against those vested interests which are standing in his way. He wants society to be more responsible. Well, jolly good luck to him.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daveybloke the Daucological

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has been doing his planet-saving thing today. As the leader of a party which has a crudely-painted tree for a logo and which contains many respected members of the vegetable kingdom, Daveybloke preached of carrots and sticks and how, at least in the case of big business and people who buy lots of electrical goods, the carrot is a better approach.

Daveybloke expressed his disapproval of the present Government's obsession with regulating business, which has led the country to the lamentable state it's in today and which until quite recently brought the present Government enthusiastic endorsement from regulatory fanatics like Rupert Murdoch. In typical innovative style, Daveybloke wishes to "build a strong co-operative relationship between business and the next Conservative government", whereby the planet will be saved through the next Conservative government politely asking business to accept a bit of carrot, and business strongly and co-operatively scoffing the carrot before going its own merry way and then squealing for a subsidy when indigestion strikes.

Daveybloke has also discovered that "information can be used as an extraordinary tool for change". Daveybloke, whose historical awareness evidently extends almost as far back as the 1970s, considers this "one of the insights of our times". Daveybloke intends to "force energy companies to tell customers, clearly on their bills, how much they could save by moving to a cheaper tariff". Such information would be an extraordinary tool for change because, thanks to the transparent simplicity and honesty with which energy companies operate, consumers would then move to the cheaper tariff; and if a planet cannot be saved by consumers moving to a cheaper tariff, why, one might as well just write the damn thing off.

All this is called "mindful consumption", as opposed to the mindless variety with which George the Progressively Osborne doubtless reproaches the likes of Oleg Deripaska when he drops by the yacht to be informed just exactly how strongly business and the next Conservative government will be co-operating.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let the Bastards Swamp Us, Rules Judge

Now that shock and awe is passé, and the brave servicepersons who fought for Tony and George are all safe at home, and the sovereign, independent Iraqi government has come into its own, expunging terrorism with one mighty hand and corruption with the other; now that the evil Iranians have stopped stirring up trouble and interfering in the affairs of a country which does not constitute a military threat; now that the various errors and oversights which took place during the Iraq adventure are so far in the past that even the spiritual leader of the Poodle Archipelago does not think it worth while to mention the torture and mass murder which accompanied them; now that the cancers are on the decline, the cluster bombs have turned cuddly and the schools and hospitals are springing up all over the country like bankers' bonuses; now, in short, that all is well and mission accomplished and roses, roses everywhere, the Ministry of Dawn Raids and Deportations sees no reason why Iraqi asylum seekers should use the devastation of their homeland as some sort of excuse for further endangering New New Labour's precious relationship with the scumbag press. However, as so often seems to happen, the law has stood in the way of natural justice, blocking the ejection of half a dozen people who were about to be sent back, apparently to the safe haven that is Baghdad. The Ministry of Dawn Raids and Deportations was so certain of the legal and moral status of its actions that it refused to disclose the destination or the date of the flight on which the beneficiaries were to be repatriated; yet the judge found in favour of the asylum seekers. No wonder respect for the law is so rare these days.

Update Certain elements of the Iraqi army are no better, it appears.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Forward Not Black

The Minister for Minority Management, John Denham, has proclaimed that "action to promote the leadership potential and capacity of black and Asian groups" is necessary. However, it might be seen by some as unfair, so instead the Government is going to pump twelve million pounds into bribing "resentful white working class communities" not to vote for the British National Party. "No favours. No privileges. No special interest groups. Just fairness," Denham sloganised, harking back to the good old days of triumphant Blairite verblessness. "The position and growing self-confidence of minority communities can be seen as a threat to communities under pressure," Denham lectured; clearly minority communities do not suffer the same recessionary pressures as the rest of us. "It's not surprising that they may question whether they are being fairly treated and to worry that others are, unfairly, doing better," Denham psychologised; such an attitude would, of course, be entirely inexcusable among the young, black and extensively databased. "Not entirely surprising that feeling unfairly treated can lead to resentment or worse," Denham concluded. Denham does not seem to have explained why potential BNP supporters can be bought to sweet reasonability by throwing money at them, while (to take a random example) potential benefit thieves cannot; but he did note the inadvisability of trying to go forward by going backwards, which demonstrates an encouragingly linear grasp of geometry.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Box of Tricks

Idolatry being a sin and a superstition, thousands of devout pilgrims are expected at Westminster over the next few days to gape in awe at a box containing some bits of a dead nun. Thérèse of Lisieux, who was born in 1873 (or 1871, as the Grauniad hath it) and died at twenty-four, was given a posthumous make-over by her family and canonised in 1925, presumably because a life of sickly humility followed by an early and discreet death represents one of the Catholic church's most treasured ideals of young womanhood. Her philosophy was apparently that what matters is "not great deeds, but great love"; but it is anticipated that about a hundred thousand people in this country will regard gawping at parts of her leg an adequate substitute for both. She is also supposed to have promised to "let fall a shower of roses on earth" after her death, but the authorities at Westminster cathedral have been cynical enough to order fifty thousand pink ones, just in case.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Maternalisatory Facilitification, Legislatificatory Clarificationality

The Minister for Tiny Consumers has clarified (or, in Standard English, altered) one of New New Labour's more hysterical bits of tabloid-pandering by graciously extending his permission for parents to look after one another's children. Of course, most of the child abuse which takes place outside faith schools is committed in the family home or by family friends; but, contrary to what one might think, it does not appear that this was the major motive behind the mild ministerial attack of rationality. Instead, the Minister has been moved to re-draft the statute (something the House of Commons used to be for, when it was still an instrument of government as opposed to politics) "after two police officers were told they were breaking the law by looking after each other's young daughters". Since no shooting appears to have been involved, it was evidently considered inexpedient to have a couple of Government enforcers in open breach of the law; therefore the law must be changed, despite its obvious advantages in terms of imprecision, intrusiveness and imbecility. The Minister has also made it clear that private child-care arrangements between parents are "matters for parental discretion and decision", provided that the sacred bond of hard cash is not blasphemously invoked in the process.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lucky Thirteen

Along with handsome editions of weird and fantastic works by people such as Arthur Machen, Walter de la Mare, David Lindsay, M P Shiel, Sarban and various others among the under-read and under-reputed, Tartarus Press also puts out a twice-yearly journal, Wormwood. The thirteenth issue has me in it, discussing Robert Aickman's story "Bind Your Hair", and will be published on 25 October. Order with alacrity, await with anticipation, and peruse with avidity.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Worm Dieth Not

And, speaking of moral courage, the Archbishop of Canterbury stood under the same roof with Tony Blair yesterday, doing something the former referred to as "reflecting on the human cost of seeking for justice". The quest to which Dr Williams referred was the war in Iraq; the human cost was the cost to members of the British armed services. Dr Williams gave two readings. The first was from a prophet of the god of Joshua, Jephthah and Ariel Sharon: "A time to kill and a time to heal ... a time to break down and a time to build up." The healing and the building up, said Dr Williams, have been at the heart of the efforts of our brave boys and girls. Why, after all, would a soldier want to kill anybody or destroy anything? The second reading was from a deutero-Pauline epistle about jihad and women's rights. Dr Williams noted that "there are visible enemies - a dictator, a terrorist", as Tony would agree; and that "we cannot say that no mistakes were ever made", with which Baha Mousa would undoubtedly concur; and that "it would be a very rash person who would feel able to say without hesitation, this was absolutely the right or the wrong thing to do, the right or the wrong place to be". It would certainly be too bad if the followers of a man who allowed himself to be crucified in the name of principle were to do anything rash. Observing that "the moral credibility of any country (sic) engaged in war" depends less on people who talk than on people who have guns, Dr Williams noted the virtue of obedience: "obedience that comes from recognising that others have been given a clear responsibility for certain difficult decisions"; which indicates that, should his Church still be in one piece when the Daveybloke administration reaches power, Dr Williams should have little difficulty in accommodating himself to Daveybloke's chums in the Latvian Waffen-SS fan club. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time for obeying orders and a time for self-exculpation. Dr Williams warned against "letting ends justify means, letting others rather than oneself carry the cost, denying the difficulties or the failures so as to present a good public face"; following which he again referred to the Iraq campaign as having something to do with healing, with building, with justice and with "seeking a better and more secure life for people who have suffered outrageously". It is, of course, quite true that for much of the Iraq campaign the Vicar of Downing Street had Gordon Brown for a next-door neighbour, and was subjected to some very uncharitable comments by some very rash people. Dr Williams equated the invasion of Iraq to "taking the world a little further out of barbarity and violence", and compared to Christ's "love and openness to the stranger" the business of a hired hand with a gun obeying orders for pay. Dr Williams ended on the possibility that there is "a time to let go of the satisfyingly overblown language that is so tempting for human beings when war is in the air", which was "perhaps" one of the lessons his own generation learned from past conflicts. Perhaps.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Whoso Breaketh An Hedge, A Serpent Shall Bite Him

The Church of England, while continuing its arcane moral contortions over whether femininity is as bad as homosexuality from the episcopal point of view, seems to have caught up to the twenty-first century in a bit of a hurry on a slightly more significant moral problem. Having lambasted financiers for their lack of repentance over the economic crisis, the Church is now worried about a proposed European Union directive to regulate the doings of those same financiers. The directive, blubbered the Church Commissioners, will "significantly restrict our ability to generate funds to pursue our charitable missions and thus reduce our impact for public good", including "such expenses as pensions for the clergy". When the issue is a matter of money, rather than one of mere human rights for second-order clergy, second-order Christians and second-order human beings, it seems that the corpse has a bit of twitch in it still.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

He Too Is Human Bloke

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has been waving his dead child around again. "When such a big part of your life suddenly ends nothing else - nothing outside - matters", except perhaps the opportunity to score a few sympathy points at a political rally. "It's like the world has stopped turning and the clocks have stopped ticking. And as they slowly start again, weeks later, you ask yourself all over again: do I really want to do this?" Fortunately for broken Britain, it appears that Daveybloke really does want to do this.

Elsewhere, Daveybloke blamed Labour for letting down poor people by having too much government. Daveybloke plans to remedy this by retaining and extending Labour's interference in the free market. Daveybloke "insisted the economic recovery would be delivered by the people", rather than by anyone with chums in the City or the CBI. "If you put in the effort to bring in a wage, you will be better off" than if you are unemployed; this is certainly radical. "If you save money your whole life, you'll be rewarded"; the Conservatives have always believed in rewarding people for having money. "If you start your own business, we'll be right behind you", particularly when the slash-and-burn approach to the economy causes the business to fail, whereupon you'll feel the Osborne boot up your fiscal arse; and, inevitably, "if you risk your life to fight for your country, we will honour you" because talk is always cheap.

Daveybloke also said that things would be tough and that there would be cuts in public spending; but on the other hand the deserving would be rewarded, the vulnerable cared for and the children thought of. Daveybloke had a child who died, in case you hadn't heard.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Evidence of Revival in British Construction Industry

Archaeologists excavating the west bank of the river Avon have discovered evidence of a second circle of stones a mile and three-quarters from Stonehenge. The director of the archaeological team has speculated that Neolithic society viewed the river as a conduit between the living and the dead since, at the time of the circle's supposed construction, some twelve hundred years before the foundation of the House of Lords, Stonehenge was Britain's largest burial ground. The stones for the newly discovered circle were apparently imported from a considerable distance away, doubtless at great trouble and expense; and Stonehenge itself may have taken as long as five hundred years to build, which indicates a certain reassuring continuity as far as the British construction trade is concerned. The discoveries at the river Avon are somewhat less spectacular than the Anglo-Saxon hoard recently found in Staffordshire; which may explain why nobody seems to have mentioned the real-estate value of the land involved, or to have asked how soon the Government intends building a road on top of it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

All the Life You Can Afford

A Danish team of gerontologists displays a touching ignorance of Government policy past, present and likely in calculating that at least fifty per cent of those born in Britain in the year 2000 will live a hundred years, and that those born since 2000 will live even longer. It is not clear where the Danes have got the idea that fifty per cent of any sample of Britishness-oriented human resources at the dawn of the twenty-second century will be able to keep a roof over their head and avoid being eaten by their children; let alone what percentage will be able to afford the medical care necessary to survive the cancer, heart disease, dementia, arthritis, diabetes and general frailty which even the researchers admit will continue to afflict those who survive the next few decades of globalisation, climate change, austerity, nuclear waste, health service reform, welfare reform, pension reform, feral youth, water wars and other manifestations of our leaders' tough love. The researchers also blithely suggest shorter working weeks as a means of coping with the demographic change; apparently their assessment of present trends has failed to take account of British pragmatism, whereby Protestant morals and Thatcherite justice combine to reform the vulgar, continental and agriculturally inefficient "carrot and stick" into the more economical "small stick and big stick" or, under a liberal administration, "wagging finger, small stick and big stick". They even claim that "the old will need younger people to look after them", which looks perilously close to being an argument for increased immigration.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Spiritual Garbage

The sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak has signalled a significant break with Christian tradition by urging the Catholic church in Africa to be a voice of reconciliation, justice and peace, rather than ensuring that a man's foes shall be they of his own household, as recommended by the Saviour. The sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak issued a special appeal with regard to Guinea, where soldiers fired on demonstrators last week, killing perhaps a hundred and fifty or so. The sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak appealed for those who had been shot at to speak with and reconcile themselves to those who shot at them, and for those who held the guns to speak with and reconcile themselves to those who didn't. Doubtless the effect will be momentous.

Speaking from the ascetic surroundings of St Peter's Basilica, the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak scolded Africa for its materialism; speaking as a former Grand Inquisitor, the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak scolded Africa for its religious fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalists, or "groups claiming to be from religious backgrounds" as the resident theologian at the Associated Press hath it, are spreading across the continent; and according to the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak "they are doing so in the name of God, but with a logic that is opposed to divine logic: teaching and working not with love and respect for freedom, but with intolerance and violence". The Catholic church, the degree of whose love and respect for freedom is a matter of extensive historical record, is growing rapidly in Africa. The Catholic church is violently opposed to birth control and to the use of condoms; despite this, according to the Associated Press, Africa's "poverty, conflicts and Aids have posed challenges" rather than killing lots of people as they tend to do if unleashed among the white folks. In response to these challenges, the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak is hosting a special three-week synod "to discuss the church's problems in Africa" and, presumably, to decide what Africa must do in order that the church's burden may be lightened.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

My First Stabbing

A short while ago Tiso the technomnemologist introduced the present writer, via our respective comments boxes, to a certain David Haywood, who is the southerly portion of Public Address, a blogospherical sub-community based in the sheep-and-movie-landscapes part of the world. Public Address also publish books, one of which is David's own My First Stabbing - a title which very nearly excuses the fact that the volume's front cover has a picture of a baby on it.

The book contains various anecdotes and reminiscences from the author's varied life and (I can only hope) peculiar imagination. Many of these are available on David's weblog, but I still prefer flickable pages to clickable ones; all the more so as the publication itself is a thoroughly professional piece of work. As a reader of occasionally obscure and antiquated literature, I have had some acquaintance with small-press productions, and in terms of its design and proofreading My First Stabbing does very well indeed.

The subject matter includes an anarcho-Glaswegian grandfather; the verbal dissection of some Eiffel Tower tourists who should probably have taken the lift; a philosophical dialogue with a Gschwendtner; a convincingly argued if somewhat anecdotal polemic against the politicisation of urination; and some home truths about babies which are as promiscuously profuse in quantity as they are profoundly disgusting in quality. Among the book's most telling insights is the comparison of infant offspring to a hard-working right-wing politician: "He screams at his incompetent staff during the day, and then spends his nights partying, guzzling food, and fooling around with women's breasts." Rivalling this but not quite surpassing it are the five-point guide to what makes a good pub, and the acute socio-economic observation about luxing venetians. There is a great deal more, including the frankly appalling toothpaste simile which I shall leave you to discover for yourself.

There are poignant pieces too, about the process of moving home and various encounters with people too strange or idiotic to be anything other than completely real; and the last essay in the book treats of the deadly serious though fortunately transient traumas surrounding the baby's birth. It is told with the same light touch as the others, and the author's refusal of both the easy options of flippancy and sentimentality only heightens the effect.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

African Zionist

Some people were born to be in comic-books. The very name of Eugène Terre'Blanche ("happy-deoxyribonucleic-acid white-land") is brilliantly suited to the job of racist supervillain, and it is clear that the old crank intends to live down to it until the end. He is a sort of South African Avigdor Lieberman, except that Lieberman is shrewd enough to keep his violence verbal and his illegalities international; while Terre'Blanche, of course, is not an immigrant. He has been a bit quiet recently thanks to political correctness having gone mad in the present South African state, which put Terre'Blanche in prison over a near-fatal assault on a man whose genes were not quite so eu as his own. He now hopes to organise a referendum for those disillusioned with a state in which "crime, death, murder, rape, lies and fraud" have apparently escaped from the government into the population at large. He also hopes to rally the oppressed whites of South Africa as they languish in their bantustans, and "apply to the United Nations for a breakaway Afrikaner republic", hopefully in the bits of South Africa where the diamond mines are. Then again, he might like to consider setting it up in eastern Europe and furthering the British Conservative party's Drang nach Osten. With his dislike of federalism, his fervent patriotism and his obvious concern over some people's crimes, he is surely the sort of man with whom Daveybloke could do business.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Responsible Crocodile Management

The Australian environment minister, Peter Garrett, has introduced a five-year plan, including regulated trafficking in juveniles, to control some of the country's most powerful and dangerous reptiles outside the Murdoch family. The government of the Northern Territory had submitted a proposal which provided for safaris where tourists and trophy hunters would be able to pay for the privilege of killing a quota of the beasts each year; Garrett rejected the proposal after the usual "careful consideration". The Northern Territory's minister for parks and wildlife claimed that the safari arrangement would benefit the indigenous community, which is rarely the best way to get things done in a former colony, and especially a former colony with so recent and disastrous a record of electing John Howard.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A National Embarrassment

Those of you who notice things will probably have observed that your correspondent has paid very little attention to the eructations of NuLabConFlab '09 - The Final; and now is as good a time as any to confess that this has been no accident. Indeed, the past fortnight's occasional poetic effusions could perhaps be considered a blogospherical substitute for singing la la la with the fingers in the ears until the whole ugly business is done with. I am only too well aware that Daveybloke's Cuddly Conference is yet to come; but however shallow, superficial, dishonest, repellent or smug the participants may be, their words will at least possess a certain relevance, since it will most likely be Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives who will man the country's next four-year shift of corporate welfare and banker-wanking. Nevertheless, I am unaccountably tickled by the thought of someone with the gravitas of the Upper Miliband claiming to be wiser and more mature than the likes of Daveybloke, George "Progressive" Osborne, or anyone else in the twits, flits and shits brigade that constitutes the front bench for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. It is also rather charming to see the party that helped Nick Griffin into Strasbourg fulminating over Daveybloke's attempt to propitiate his neotebbits by cuddling up to the East European anti-semites and gay-bashers. For his efforts the Upper Miliband received a standing ovation, no doubt entirely spontaneous.

The Government has made its usual contribution to reasoned and honest debate by issuing a statement that compares the approaching electoral meltdown to the elections of 1945 and 1997. This is obviously unfair. In 1997, a corrupt, incompetent, discredited, mean-spirited and authoritarian government was spectacularly trounced by an Opposition led by a second-rate public relations man who substituted slogans for policies, doubtless on the sensible grounds that policy-making could be left to the CBI, Rupert Murdoch and the White House. The present situation is quite different, because Daveybloke is not really a second-rate public relations sort of bloke. Daveybloke has a little man, Andy Coulson, who second-rates for him, and it would be unjust to suggest otherwise. As for 1945, it is a bit difficult to determine which of the opposing parties New New Labour sees reincarnated in itself, since it was in 1945 that the Official Greatest Ever Number One Briton Ever, a barking reactionary who equated the welfare state with Nazism, was defeated by a party which had leanings towards being in favour of a national health service.