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Category Archives: Musings

Now, it’s easy to treat the mainstream media or some sections of it as some kind of whipping boy. Those on both sides who like to accuse the BBC of bias, to those on the left who like to go on about the demonizing antics of the Daily Fail Daily Mail or The Sun whilst those on the right do exactly the same with The Guardian. Or the more conspiracy minded types- or at least those who have no truck with the ruling establishment – who consider that the entire mainstream media are not to be trusted at all and prefer some alternative media source, however biased and full of “fake news”. After all, it can be pointed out that often the regular media has not been above reporting “fake news” in the past itself. (But it is not as if alternative media on t’internet is automatically more trustworthy. There is no such thing as a totally unbiased, trustworthy source- or nothing we can be 100% sure is.) Now, much as in the past I’ve liked the BBC, I myself have a long tradition of shouting at the radio with regularity every morning, over some line it wants to push, or the antics of interviewers wanting to push from interviewees the line they want (though politicians are often all too keen to make a speech).

There are a couple of things that have drawn my attention of late in the British news media, relating to certain things within government that are legally impossible. One: that the sitting Prime Minister, currently Theresa May, has the power still to call an early General Election. Ignoring quite clearly a little thing called the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, which quite clearly aimed to put a stop to that and requiring a motion, passed by a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons for this to happen, otherwise Parliament would sit for a period of 5 years. The other, similar thing is that Scottish First Minister Nichola Sturgeon is capable of threatening us with another Scots independence referendum at the time this country (Britain as a whole) needs it the least, in the vain hope the EU will let them back in with open arms. But, of course, she cannot do this without approval from Westminster, and before Brexit is concluded, Mrs. May is firmly opposed to any such undertaking. (Occasionally Tories are not without sense.)

I wonder what to make of Lansman and Momentum [left-wing Labour Party affiliated movement formed in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s appontment as leader] trying to get endorsement from Unite and take over the Labour Party, (Certainly some on the left do not like Lansman and ilk who they feel have launched a coup within Momentum, but that is beside the point). Look at the way the media are treating it as a “secret plot”- all the more to sensationalise it and possibly demonise those on the radical left. Or there are those who try and point out that the media- even the Guardian- are out to get Corbyn. Certainly they seem to be distorting facts about even when he is competent, but it seems a lot is left to be desired even then. Yet it is worth pointing out that any organ of the establishment and capitalism is not exactly going to give too much real space to anything that looks like socialism. Too much of a threat, I suspect.

Those who seem more conservative or nationalist leaning also seem to suppose that within the media there is some kind of “liberal elite”, affiliated with Europe to such an extent that they are out to derail Brexit by all counts. Maybe so. But then maybe the blogosphere is quite capable of producing its own twaddle. I’ll deal with that another time.

And then we have the narratives surrounding right wing populism in general. Particularly with Trump. Is this the reaction of a disaffected white working class? Perhaps there is some truth in this. Well, with Trump, I’ve heard allegation that those on lower incomes (perhaps however disproportionately from ethnic minorities) tended to vote Clinton, and not forgetting this was hardly a democratic result given Clinton actually won the popular vote.

Of course with Trump, too, they obsess over his tweets, his antics, his personality flaws, and whether or not the Russians hacked the election as to his actla policies- in other words, what matters.

Back here, it gets me how so much attention is paid when it comes to things like Brexit on what I would consider disgraced political has-been like Tony Blair (less respectable elder statesman, more potential war criminal and in hindsight less saviour than real destroyer of Labour?) The establishment looks like it will prop up those in its own club.

And don’t get me started on the way the news media seems to give so much space to celebrity related stories, the royal family, the ongoing doping and other corruption scandals within the world of sport, and indeed sport in general. These things are peripheral to the real issues facing the world at present, some of which are completely ignored.

And how the terrorist threat seems to be magnified beyond all proportion, when cars probably kill far more people than terrorists. And as for state actors, their stupid wars, mismangement, public service cuts…

Of course many today decry the internet age, the financial unviability of news media, and how it means the death of good quality journalism in favour of talentless hacks. But even as a kid I recall hearing how journalists- and let’s not forget politicians- were among the less trusted professions even back in the ’90s, as far as the popular imagination is concerned. There has long been the fact of advertising pressure on commercial media, the clear division of  bias in most of the British press, and state powers leaning on the lot – including the supposedly unbiased public service BBC.

Whatever media one chooses to trust, we must always critically evaluate, fact check, and question whether there truly is such thing as an unbiased source. Ever.

Well, this post has been something of a stream of consciousness semi-rant, and more to do with politics again. But ne’er mind. Maybe one day I will add some variety to this blog again. But first, I must post something.

Before I aim one day (when I can a. be arsed and b. become somewhat more knowledgable on such matters, which I probably never will be enough) to write some long treatise on what would make the ideal democracy, perhaps it might be beneficial to share one or two thoughts.

And here is one. There are always some banging on about how this or that party or candidate is bad because they do not “listen to the people” or put into practice “the will of the people”, and conversely, some others are better because, finally, they are in fact doing that very thing. Of course, this is what is supposed to happen in a democracy, right? The actual people are more in touch with what their own needs are, and the realities on the ground, than a bunch of over-expensed career politicians who have spent very little time in the “real world”, you think, or even the would-be experts in their ivory towers. Right?

Except, as many critics point out, many people are not always as intelligent or well-informed on many issues, they may form views and make decisions based on blind ideology and received wisdom rather than actual rationality and facts, and so on. For some, this is a reason to either abandon or limit democracy in some way, or an argument for representative democracy so that those best able to make decisions and have the time to become informed will be able to do so. As long as, it is assumed, they are in some vague way generally following “the will of the people”.

It is my thought that sometimes, these detractors are true in their diagnosis, but not always in their cure. Representative “democracy” often ends up turning into nothing more than choosing once every four or five years who exactly we want to rule over us and do politics on our behalf, and so to avoid becoming well-informed or engage our critical thinking faculties, to become involved in the debate to the point that we have to question and analyse our well worn ideas. At least if the elected politicians screw up, we can claim it is their fault for being corrupt imbeciles who took us along for a ride, or at least we voted for the other guy, or moreover, none of them ever listen to “the people” so why bother being engaged? It’s never our fault.

Another thing that certain people banging on about “the will of the people” fail to realise is that “The People” does not necessarily mean them and their mates, to the extent others should not be trying to form a contrary view. Even if their viewpoint is the majority (or at least the dominant viewpoint of those who are not the middle-to-upper class, well-educated elites) that does not mean it cannot be challenged, or that it might not be, well, wrong. People not agreeing with you doesn’t mean you are being ignored or sidelined. Especially when it’s by those who think that your views or actions are genuinely reprehensible.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except those others that have been tried from time to time. No, it’s not a perfect system, but just maybe, the solution is not less democracy but more and better democracy. Democracy I think should not mean mob rule, or tyranny of the majority in the sense that majority opinion should silence or shout down minority opinion. This is why I think that legitimate freedom of speech and expression is of paramount importance. The relevant information must be available. Radical or novel ideas which might be right should not be ignored in favour of comforting old myths and the standard way of doing things. (If people want to argue for open borders, little to no interference in the operation of the free market, abolishing capitalism altogether, then let them.) Of course, note I said legitimate freedom of speech and expression. It is my contention, that freedom of speech is about the freedom of ideas and information, not an excuse to attack, insult, or ridicule, to threaten, or act in ways that might actually cause harm for particular people. Of course I can see there are times where one would want to limit that, such as those who advocate hate-speech laws or no-platforming agendas. But I would hope that such people (and their detractors) consider that it is best served when those speaking or expressing their thoughts do directly threaten others in so doing, or step outside the bounds of reasonable discourse. Marginalizing ideas or shutting them down does, I think, not remove them, simply creates resentment and allows those who hold them the opportunity or find other ways to organize and come back with a vengeance. Those seeking to remove fascism or other intolerant or hateful ideologies might need to consider not simply making these views unacceptable in that way, but rather dismantling them, exposing their flaws, and above all, be better able to communicate with those disaffected people who turn to such when things are not going well – and offer something better, which I hope they have.

But I digress. In short, democracy can work – but it will only work if all the people have the opportunity to participate on an equal and open basis, are able to have their views and decisions have weight, are willing to debate in a calm, rational manner and listen to each other, critiquing and adjusting our views as necessary, and are willing to make rational, well-informed decisions as best possible. It may not always work, but there you go.

WARNING: I said this was a family-friendly blog, but as the title suggests, controversial stuff follows. I’ll try to avoid too many gory details, but younger readers, those of a more sensitive disposition and all that might want to skip this particular article and get back to all the other brain-melting political/newsy stuff. Heck, it’s not like people being bombed to bits is all that bad, really. But seriously, some people may wish to avoid it, and it’s not like I condone the bilge from the sewers of popular culture that follows. De gustibus non est disputandum, sure, but still…

EDIT: I am also aiming to edit some stuff out further as there is extraneous stuff that doesn’t even belong here (controversial as it is) but we don’t need to read about it.

Now it seems in the nature of popular music that some of it will ultimately end up being controversial, as it has been since time immemorial. And whilst this at times can be a somewhat mixed blessing- for example protest music which challenges genuine injustices and seeks a better world- and at other times isn’t really all that big a deal, there are times when it is plainly silly and serving no other purpose than to get that person or group’s picture in the papers, literally and figuratively. This article is about the latter.

Anyone following the gutter end of the news about a year or so back will probably heard of the somewhat raunchy antics of a certain young lady by the name of Miley Cyrus, who in a desperate attempt to shed her child-star image (in the tradition of many a former child star gone before) has decided to adopt a more “adult” image, generally sexing it up, popularizing a strange new dance craze known as “twerking” (which from what I can tell involves wiggling your behind like a maniac, or some such) and doing unspeakable things with demolition equipment. This was the one thing which prompted me first to begin writing this post*, but of course it’s far from the only thing.

Of course some people invite controversy whilst they’re still child stars- see a certain Britney Spears for example, whose debut hit …Baby One More Time had to have the “Hit Me” part removed in case someone, somewhere, thought… she was wanting her would-be boyfirend to abuse her? She was wanting to do other things with him that 16-year-old girls arguably shouldn’t be doing at their age? Not, of course, a mere figure of speech indicating the restarting of a failed but innocent relationship. But of course even she had to sex it up to shed the otherwise-tame image of pretty much every other song bar one or two, with lows of mock lesbian weddings with Madonna (for probably no other reason than to tease the tabloids) amongst other things. And, after going off the rails (it seems the media pressure got too much), she seems to have spent half the rest of her subsequent songs telling everyone else where to shove themselves, she can do what she likes and everyone wants to seek Amy** regardless. Or she’s telling female canines to put in more effort. Or whatever.

As far as recent examples go, the black icing on the cake has to be Lady Gaga, whose persona matches her name exactly it seems. Be it wearing a dress made out of meat, or saying it’s perfectly alright to be gay, probably, or any number of things in her songs and videos I won’t even discuss here (an earlier version of this article contained one example, but we need not revel in that).

This is nothing new, of course. Be it Eminem dissing everyone, rapping disturbing things about obsessive fans, wielding a chainsaw on stage and all that jazz; to gangsta rap; to depicting the Queen with a safety pin in her nose whilst comparing the monarchy to fascism;  to David Bowie’s gender-bending and (possibly fake) bisexuality, to hippies getting high, to Elvis wiggling his hips around (the masculine, frontal version of twerking, perhaps). And running through it all, the cry of classical music and easy listening lovers everywhere: what the heck is that Bleeping Awful Noise? (Ma, you’re just jealous, it’s the Beastie Boys? Or perhaps not…)

Of course it doesn’t matter whether you personally think it’s an utter outrage, innocuous silliness or even a positive attempt at trying to change social attitudes for the better (as some self-styled progressives might think of one or two of the examples hitherto mentioned). At the end of the day, ninety percent of it is probably deliberately trolling for publicity, certain that it will press the Berserk Button of some Moral Guardian or other***, or attract the hypocritical faux-outrage of the Daily Fail Daily Mail and its equivalents. As the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity, and if it doesn’t get you known, it’ll make people buy your products out of spite for the haters. Either that, or if the star doesn’t like it, the media will be revelling in it and laughing all the way to the bank. Unless their name is Bill Grundy, in which case they might be regretting it.

Let’s be honest, on the one hand there is some stuff which is genuinely morally troublesome, and certainly something we don’t want our kids to see. But all Miley Cyrus’ bottom-wiggling antics can hardly be compared to shooting planes out of the sky or lying about weapons of mass destruction. It’s not as if Eminem was actually trying to hurt anyone with that chainsaw, or actually condone the desperate and murderous acts of the eponymous Stan- rather, in the latter case, trying to make a serious point.

Or, in other words, either laugh about it or just plain old ignore it. Despite what some may tell you, keeping up to date with mainstream popular culture or even having the blindest clue about it is, shock-horror, optional. Like internet trolls, showbiz stupidity will fade away if it isn’t fed it’s regular supply of publicity, which only happens as long as it sells. Whatever you do, The Man(TM) wants your money. Think carefully before giving him any.

 

*Which, like many posts, was sat lying around unfinished, such that it would be gathering dust if it was on an actual piece of paper and not just a collection of ones and zeros on WordPress’ servers, which it obviously isn’t, so there.

** Seriously, don’t try to find out what that means. At least not if you’re under 18. Don’t think of elephants, either.

*** According to the language of the TV Tropes website, which will ruin your life. Honest.

…is that you never really recall the whole of the decade you were born in.

I fear that for a man who’s a mere twentysomething*, I’m getting awfully nostalgic.

Although of course it’s possible that in actual fact, the problem is we assume decades start in years beginning in zero and ending in 9. One blogger I read once claimed that most of the Seventies was pop-culturally still the Sixties and the only truly unique thing about the pop music was punk, which only really got going around… 1977? I’ve personally observed that most pop music trends tend to start towards the middle to end of a decade and sometimes carry forward. For example, Gary Numan’s “Cars” featured on last month’s 1979 Top Of The Pops repeats on BBC4, a clear example of synthpop from before the ’80s. There must have been earlier examples than this. Or the Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star which was released in the same year, yet pop videos at least were more iconically associated with the arrival of MTV in the ’80s. (Not to mention said song isn’t entirely lacking on the synths, so it is often mistaken for an early ’80s hit). And, since this blog is nothing without the odd mention of politics, I reckon the socio-political ’80s started roughly in 1979 (with the election of Margaret Thatcher) and ended in 1991 (with the breakup of the Soviet Union).

But there is still a good chunk of ’80s I missed out on first time round- like the entire highpoint of the classic 8-bit micro era not to mention a lot of synthpop, New Romanticism, the launch of Channel 4, classic Doctor Who still on the telly, etc.. Trouble is, I reckon were I to have been born earlier I’d not have enjoyed it- thinking as much of the 8-bit micros as I did of smartphones and tablets up until recently (I have belatedly started using one but still reckon touchscreens are a far-from-perfect interface- and affording even less escape from the internet I am so addicted to at times…), New Romanticism would have seemed even more silly than it does to me now, and synthpop would be Bleeping** Awful Noise which doesn’t use any real instruments like proper good old-fashioned music.  Not to mention more recessions, controversial Tory-led governments, the miner’s strike, the lingering threat of nuclear war… there truly is no golden age one can look back to, which is any better than now. But it would have been nice to have seen it.

* Getting on for thirty I know (though a year older than when I started the post), but still…

** Tempted as I am to use a “colourful metaphor” here, this is a family-friendly blog, as ’twere, so I shall refrain. And if you get that reference, it’s from a film I was sadly too young to see on the big screen, or even to care at the time. Another problem with being born too soon…

 

 

Well, I’ve been on holiday for two weeks in Florida. I had aimed at least to have a good time, try to get on well with my hosts (my mother’s friend and her family) and get all the books read I’ve taken with me, I suppose. So far I have only finished one- John Brunner’s Times Without Number, a sci-fi novel set in an alternate history where the Spanish armada successfully defeated the English and invaded, yet Spain itself was reconquered by the Moors; where time travel has been developed (deceptively easily, it turns out), yet travel in spatial dimensions is limited to the horse and carriage. I suspect in a Catholic society, the lack of Protestant work ethic discouraged any industrial revolution which might have lead to the development of the steam engine? I wonder. It is a world where aristocracy and slavery is the norm, where the Catholic Church wields considerable influence, and the Inquisition is considered humane for using truth-drugs and hypnotism instead of torture as a means of interrogation. But these are the good guys, aiming to prevent the misuse of time travel for personal or political gain, or the timeline from being altered significantly. The epitome of Deliberate Values Dissonance, for any of my fellow tropers who may be reading. Oh, and I’ve also started on Jane Austen’s Emma and a collection of sci-fi short stories from the sixties.

So, I’m now in Florida, and have been for about a week, along with my mother. The weather is certainly as warm as can be expected, but can be very stormy, with lots of lightning and at least a few power cuts. Due to issues with lost or delayed luggage (a nightmare for some) we haven’t yet done too much, besides shopping, Starbucks and a couple of trips to the beach. There is some interesting wildlife to be seen even in the extensive back yard of our hosts, including various birds, a squirrel, the occasional deer and raccoons and even evidence of a bear which left its mark on the fence. In the interests of privacy I will not share too much about my hosts save to say they’re pretty nice folks, if I must be reminded it is the GULF (of Mexico- we’re in southwest Florida) we have been to the beach of, not the SEA! (Presumably a customary distinction the locals make?)

Next week, possible boat trips to see dolphins and possibly a tour of the Everglades. Pictures I hope will find their way to this blog- minus, for the sake of privacy, any well-defined human subjects, as agreed.

My post on the Israel-Palestine conflict seems to have been viewed by at least one Palestinian- possibly someone who commented on one of my friend’s Facebook thread. I hope I didn’t disappoint him by being a little too pro-Israel. It seems the guy who was supposedly captured was actually killed in action. I forget his identity. Now, at last, it seems there is actually a more lasting ceasefire and the chance of some talks… or is there? And the fact the Palestinians have gone to the world courts? I wonder how that will lead. O world, when will you learn to stop fighting and wasting life in this way?

That said, the whole business with the oppressive, murderous “Islamic State” does make me think that some military action is necessary. A cautious approach, however- maybe a few airstrikes to limit effectiveness, arm the Kurds or Iraqis in general, aim to reconcile opposing groups within Iraq, and let them sort their own problems out. Don’t give in to the demands for all-out action at any price- this will only lead to more support for these radical groups and end in more waste of civilian life. And do our best to help those in need- do not ignore the Christians and others who they are persecuting.

Anyway, enough of this.

Hopefully I could before long get some books or videos reviewed. I have bought and hope to bring back a few VHS tapes which are unavailable in the UK, including the badly-dubbed version of Macross- Do You Remember Love? as well as They Were Eleven (mystery thriller in space), Explorer Woman Ray (Indiana Jones type fayre, but with a female protagonist?) and the Leiji Matsumoto classic Galaxy Express 999. Maybe I shall review the Moorcock and the Brunner.

And maybe finish the (currently long and rambling) essay on what might make an ideal democracy, if certain of my readers don’t mind yet more political fayre. (Note, ideal democracy doesn’t necessarily mean ideal political system.)

Maybe I’ll even have some ‘gators or dolphins to show you.

[This post has been edited from its original form for personal reasons.]

… so it might as well be now.

Reviews of 2013 I think might have to go by the board- I might yet complete that article but seems a bit late now March is well underway. (Doesn’t time fly!)

And 2014 has had it’s fair share of crazy goings on. As if we hadn’t enough turmoil in the world, now it’s the turn of Ukraine. I rather wish I could understand the whole business, but I only half remember the kicking out of some leader as part of the Whatever-It-Was revolution some years back and now they’re back for Round 2. (I really need to do more research.) What I do know is that there seems to be tension between the main part of Ukraine which is looking towards Western Europe for support, whereas the ethnic Russians in Crimea and the east are obviously still wanting to stick with the Big Bad Bear for support. That Crimea “should” be a part of Russia again seems only right to me- as it was only in the Soviet days it became transferred to what I presume was the Ukrainian SSR and stayed after independence. But, with Russian troops being sent in to protect their holdings, and what seems like a fair amount of intimidation and trying to force their hand by turning off the Ukrainian TV channels in favour of Russian ones- talk about objectivity? I think not!- this referendum looks somewhat likely to be skewed in its outcome.

It would seem that whatever the Western governments might say about it being illegal, international law is barely worth the paper it is printed on. After all are the same Western governments not also guilty- do we not recall that little thing a few years ago known as the Iraq War? Of course Saddam Hussein was, by all accounts, a thoroughly nasty piece of work, and Iraq was not de jure annexed by the United States or Britain. But an invasion, on shaky pretences which turned out to be false, of a country without waiting for genuine UN approval, is not something that I thought was done in the modern world. Yet when Russia decides to take back what was pretty much rightfully its in the past anyway, with what seems to be the backing of at least some of the population, in he midst of a chaotic and questionable turn of events in Ukraine, it’s all bad.

 

On the other hand I have started dabbling with an interest in the history of the Soviet Union and Russia in general. Whether I can find anything about the Ukraine or Crimea in actual book form I don’t know. What I have managed to get is the following:

– “Life in Russia” by Michael Binyon. Binyon was at one point foreign correspondent for The Times for the then USSR, and manages to get a mixture of his own experiences, some interviews, and even references to the Soviet press itself for what is a surprising look (given the Cold War era it was written in) at the pre-Glasnost USSR. It is quite well balanced, neither railing against Communism nor without a sense of its shortcomings, and demonstrating what life was like for ordinary people.

– “On Socialist Democracy” by Roy Mevedev, who was a Soviet dissident who was interested in reforming the system from within, and apparently agreed with a lot of what Gorbachev was doing, before history overtook matters. He is still thoroughly Marxist-Leninist, and therefore I would probably not want to hold entirely to his views, but he has a lot to say about the rigid bureaucratic nature of the system and its failings, and how dissent is necessary. He also heavily criticises Stalin and attempts to rehabilitate him posthumously.

Quite a few interesting arguments about democracy reside in this book, which could well form the basis for the article I mean to write on the matter some day. The idea being that, in a totalitarian system with no real freedom to offer criticism of the system, the system cannot function adequately. Of course I question whether that has to be in a movement like revolutionary socialism, which is ideologically constrained. In order for a truly democratic society, the people should be able to choose what direction they want their society to take and to do so without bloodshed. (Alas I dream.) Of course I would hope, as a Christian, they would follow in the ways of the Lord, impossible also under an atheistic ideology that only tolerates religion on sufferance and as long as it doesn’t rock the boat. (Or in other words, not too different from what the West is becoming with creeping secularisation and unbelief, albeit yet without any real persecution.)

But I digress.

The book isn’t really history as such, but does offer an insider’s view of what was going wrong with Soviet Communism and how it could have been fixed within the system.

-“Survey of Russian History” by BH Sumner. Seems to be an overview of various aspects of Russian history. Dated now (written in the ’40s) but what I could find cheaply at the time when bought in a bookshop in York. I am sure my fellow members of counter-factual.net could recommend some better ones.

-“The Princess of Siberia” by Christine Sutherland. Bit of an odd one this and bought on a whim, it’s about a certain Princess Maria Volkonsky, wife of one of the leaders of the 1825 Decemberist Uprising who followed him all the way to exile in Siberia away from the Tsarist court. By the looks of it something of a romantic, idealist figure.

I don’t know what insight I’ll get with these books if I can ever get round to reading them all. But it is a start.

And, in all this, jobs are to be done. I wonder if I am slipping with the jobseeking habits, but I’ve managed to have some success from the mad push in December. Firstly I get no less than three interviews in one week. All unsuccessful, but with one coming from a speculative application and still managing to impress the employer and leave them willing to forward my CV to partner organisations and clients, another one willing to take me on for voluntary work/work experience, and then I get a part-time self-employed job distributing Betterware catalogues. I am seriously. seriously wondering whether I cannot simply make more of this and “sign off” the “dole” as the whole jobseeking thing and the Jobcentre is getting to me. Or, is that just me needing to wake my ideas up once more? I really don’t know what to think. I suppose I could make some money from this- possibly more than the “dole” on a good week, but it’s not a regular income and I’d have to work hard at it and really know what I was doing.

What I do know is that whatever I am doing now should ultimately be regarded as a stepping-stone to other things, and giving up applying for other jobs ought not to be something I should do.

Back to the Ukraine. I recall a rather interesting post Christopher Nutall, a fellow counter-factual.net member of note, wrote (http://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/a-lesson-from-the-ukraine/) about how the Ukraine should have kept its nuclear weapons for the day the Big Bad Bear threw out the rulebook and started giving it trouble. The idea of nuclear weapons has always been confusing for me- whilst I can see the deterrant potential, these wepaons not only have the power to destroy the world as we know it, worst case scenario, but what happens if every nation feels the need to have one? What about North Korea? And is not even the major powers and so-called “responsible” nations having it not encouraging such questionable regimes to pursue their own nuclear ambitions? Non-Proliferation Treaty or not, as I said, international law ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on half the time. Yet even the North Korean regime surely isn’t so irresponsible as to sacrifice its own self-interest by actually launching the few piddling nukes it has and essentially getting slammed hard by the Americans and the South, with probably China pulling the plug on support. So, why even bother with non-proliferation, especially since there are so many advantages to having nukes to defend yourself against a powerful and encroaching neighbour?

 

Maybe I should stop worrying about these things and start being busy with my own affairs, I guess. I waste far too much time on such matters. And other distractions.

 

Watch this space, I hope, for rants on the decline of Stockton High Street, more musings on religion, politics, current affairs, life, the universe and everything, and more anime reviews. I could at least do Wings of Honneamise, which was an interesting and quite unusual film sadly unreleased on DVD in the UK. (Like I care… I still prefer VHS*, heh, heh, heh…)

 

* I be a sad retro-obsessed fool, I be.

So Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister, the so-called “Iron Lady”, has died today. And whilst some persons (including of course Cameron) are on TV waxing lyrical about how great she was and how much she will be missed, the people who were just waiting to use her grave as a urinal are already leaping for joy and coming out with the hate. Truly the Marmite of politicians.

Whilst it lasts, here’s a Youtube clip from the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ showing a certain song. Whilst it lasts, see how many of the comments are inspired by the passing Baroness….

Respect for the dead you’d have thought might be in order, but not a bit of it. I guess the handling of the miners’ strike, her reputation in Northern Ireland, calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and the Poll Tax -sorry Community Charge- all do that.

But can’t it wait a bit, at least?

Well, another month has passed, the mad pre-Christmas rush, plus the day itself, is over. (The world, contrary to what crazy New Age misinterpreters of Mayan calendars might have had us believe, is not, however.) Technically it’s still Christmas, but few seem to be that bothered during the lull between Boxing Day and New Year. When the latter comes, it’ll be time to put to bed any misguided ideas about Old Year’s Resolutions and start thinking how to make some ones for the New one.

And I said I was going to make some and update you on them.

Mentally of course I wanted to do loads- spend more time with God and reading the Bible, studying harder, wasting less time on the internet, buy less useless crap- but I never formalised any. Such, as one member of my church did remind me, is perhaps tantamount to legalism, when we as Christians ought to be free and not trying to live by rules- even self-imposed ones- to the letter. Probably quite right, but the bad habits need fixing and new ones put in it’s place.

About the only one I managed to keep up to now is, “Don’t buy any more comics.”

Yes, that’s it.

Not that this is a bad thing. At £2.40 a time, not to mention the danger of possibly forming obsessions of the wrong kind where Supergirl and Power Girl are concerned, it can’t be entirely a bad thing. Not that I haven’t tried reading other sorts of stuff, and haven’t tried enjoying it for the storyline.

Magazines I have almost kept to not buying to- until the allure of the Christmas Radio Times proved too much to resist. And the latest monthly special of the Micro Mart soon followed, as it might contain useful info on possible computing bargains and new tech to come- as a would-be budding IT person it would be wrong not to at least try to keep up. Possibly with a more up-to-date means than a paper magazine, but they have their uses. There is plenty of room for the old stuff.

Whilst I am being worried by that Sushil Yadav guy on the Powerswitch forums (look him up if you dare) suggesting “Industrial society Destroys Mind and Environment”- and that the only decent thing we can do is cut all production back to food, clothing, shelter and that’s it (yeah right) or the warnings of impending food crises elsewhere, plus the dreaded Fiscal Cliff that the States might fall over and lead to further economic turmoil nationally and internationally, perhaps it could be a wake-up call. Or perhaps I should not be worried so much as all that. Yet materialism I wonder could be going too far, no less so in my case.

But, as we learned a week ago gone Friday, it’s still not the end of the world, yet. And I hope we can make 2013 a slightly worthwhile New Year. I wish you all a good one.

Again we come to the end of another year… nearly. In fact we’ve actually got just short of another whole month before its end. The trouble is it seems to have gone awfully quickly, and I feel my life is little better now than it has been for the past quite a number of years. So, I’ve been thinking- instead of waiting a whole ‘nother month before making New Year’s Resolutions, how about finishing the old year the way you mean to go on? If one is really to make such a radical difference, why not start now and not wait until some arbitrary start-over time, which perhaps means you aren’t really serious?

It’s not just the problems in my own life I need to get right, of course- whether that be  putting ten times more effort into job-seeking and college work, doing stuff round the house and maybe even this blog. And spending less, and drinking less, and wasting time on the internet a heck of a lot less. I’ve been wondering about how screwed up the world is. I amongst all the arguments I’ve been having on YouTube about the merits or otherwise of free-market capitalism as opposed to Marxism and everything in between, wondering about the ongoing economic turmoil and the hopeless state of politics, whether we ought to remain in the EU or not, &c., it rather strikes me that there is something very wrong. Even if we are to assume that capitalism has played its part in development and reducing poverty- yet we should still realise there are still a lot of desparately poor people in the world, a lot of environmental damage, and that business is taking its share of the blame. But what drives business? Us. It only exists as long as someone is buying its good and services, if people want what it has to offer, or allow ourselves to be conned into believing so. I wonder what all these campaigns, all this politicking and so on is really doing. We need to change first. So, perhaps there is an even greater need to make a real difference than just personal ones.

Of course one can hardly escape a certain festival already being hyped up as part of Phase 2 of the silly season. And we are once again needing to be challenged as to whether it should really be about the baby in a manger who would grow up to be nailed to a tree, or the portly chap with the white beard, red coat and reindeer. And another video, being shared by a certain friend on a certain social networking site, certainly makes me wonder all the more. And whether we need a paradigm shift in the way we think. The video, by the way, is here:

Really the two representative figures could not be more different. One represents ultimate self-sacrifice and selflessness, and moreover, of the God we Christians are supposed to understand. The other represents the secular (if not pagan), materialistic, worldly side of things, that if it is selfless at all, gives to its own and rewards only those it thinks deserve it. (The man who died on the tree did it to redeem those who certainly deserved nothing of the sort.)

All this digresses of course from the somewhat trivial idea of making a few small resolutions in order to improve one’s own life. Perhaps indeed though one ought to start somewhere. The question is, exactly where? I shall perhaps give myself a little time to think about it, and return to it in another post in a day or two. Meanwhile, I must start by doing something positive and serious before the next 24 hours is up.

Meanwhile, a question- what would your Old Year’s Resolutions be? What suggestions do you have for mine? How would you have them not just to change your own life, but impact on others and maybe the world? (If we start small, it might build up…)

And by the way, the baby in the manger who grew up to be nailed to a tree and die is, of course, Jesus. I would suggest He also didn’t stay dead, but rose to new life, so that we too, could die and live again. That, I contend, is the essence of real change. The thing is, do we trust Him to do that? (If, indeed, some of us believe in Him at all?)

This is now the time of year where Halloween, Bonfire Night and Commercial Christmas all come upon us in one fell swoop. and this is the point where the collective madness gets into full swing.

Firstly, the shops display all manner of “spooky” Halloween related goods. Maybe some of the symbolism is really spooky- I mean, think about what those Jack-O’Lanterns really look like. And there is invariably an obsession with the dark and the macabre- withces, vampires, ghosts and all.I would rather not see this stuff plastered absolutely everywhere- severy shop, library, college and whatnot. You can’t get away from it.

I’m not even going to start on the alleged pagan connections, since I know little about the real facts, and all I will say about the macabre obsession is obsessing over the dark and evil seems unhealthy to say the least. If it isn’t linking in with the supernatural, indeed demonic. Just a bit of fun? Maybe. Or maybe not.

And then there are bound to be a few kids trying to knock on your door pestering you for money or sweets. Hence why I have all the lights off bar one- then they might think no-one’s in and it’s not worth bothering. Some wonder if letting kids out on their own on a dark noght is even a good idea, though this could be paranoid.

Either way, I sometimes wish I could ban the whole thing. Maybe that is an over-reaction, but I’d rather have the right NOT to see evidence of this sort of thing everywhere I go, thanks.

And then there’s always going to be one or two nutters who will insist on setting off fireworks at any time of the day or night, possibly with no regards to safety, even though it’s not November the 5th. thankfully I’ve only heard one or two this year- it’s actually getting better. Then, when you get to the night itself, I could swear the whole town turns into something closely resembling a war-zone, only with pretty lights. This does scare small animals, folks. Do bear that in mind.

And why exactly does the material worship that is commercial Christmas have to begin in October? If not September? Ah well, there’s plenty of Lebkuchen (German gingerbread) at Lidl… but I’m supposed to be on a diet. (Yeah, right.) and maybe mulled wine. Why isn’t this stuff available year-round?

End rant. It really was pretty un-profound and almost content-free this time.

EDITED: since me and dieting really don’t mix, and I therefore made a slip-up.