Saturday 31 December 2016

Happy New Year

Tis been said that 2016 has been a good/bad year for celebrity deaths. No doubt it has been a bumper season for the 'Dead Pool' enthusiasts. Don't always nominate the very old buggers. Look at Kirk Douglas, he recently reached a 100. Although to be fair, he looks totally fucked. At the end, and in between, we should look at quality over quantity. Once pleasure of life dissipates, then death becomes a welcome relief. Into gentle oblivion, we go. Of course, the puritanical Western legal-medical paradigm considers suicide a crime. I'll not become mired in the 'Right to Die' debate today. A later post, perhaps?

I'm reminded of what is deemed a celeb these days. There appears to be a sliding scale from the Pitts to ex soap 'star's who eke out a living in panto (O, no they don't!) and 'Dancing with the Twats'. I suppose everyone has to make a living, somehow.
So, enjoy the New Year whatever it may bring.  

Friday 30 December 2016

All is Sophistry.......

The common view of ‘Sophistry’, is an argument for its own sake; an argument without regard to the truth (Quid est veritas?). The subject matter is of little consequence or value to the accomplished sophist. And a valid and convincing argument for a particular proposition should be able to be overturned with equal validity. This is an extreme standpoint, perhaps, that few sophists strictly adhere to. But truth is often elusive and dependant on perspective and stance.  

Sophistry was a system first introduced by the ancient Greeks and is today best demonstrated in the High Court by Advocates well versed in the technique. Western politicians were once polished adherents but this is rarely the case, these days. Winston Churchill’s rhetoric was at its most edifying and obscure when he gave full rein to the methodology.

To the ancient Greek mind, sophistry was allied to the philosophy of scepticism. Sophistry and scepticism are natural kinsfolk, on the distaff side, as true sceptic philosophers maintain that true knowledge is unobtainable . A truly ridiculous doctrine if taken to extreme, as denial of knowledge implies a knowledge of negation. Like many ridiculous doctrines (see solipsism) it shouldn’t be judged at face value but recognised as a severe scourge for higher mental effort.

Sophistry had negative connotations to the ancient Greeks and to us moderns also, although I suspect for different reasons. While it is true that the subtle arguments vented could be specious, they were often subtle and cleverly constructed; this is admirable regardless of the century you were born. There was a snobbery amongst the Greek intellectual elite typified by Plato and Aristotle. They thought that a philosopher should provide a free tutoring service to the noble and ignoble rich, alike. Sophists on the other hand were notorious for having the temerity for charging a fee for their work. Many became rich peddling their intellectual wares. Plato was a nobleman of means and enjoyed a living from his lands. He could afford high principles. Socrates was not a wealthy man and seemed to genuinely eschew wealth and provision for his family. I’m sure his wife and children would not have minded the rewards of the odd tuition fee. However, Socrates had rich friends and admirers who made sure that he did not starve in spite of his unconventional ways. But both men were humbugs, although Socrates to a lesser degree. All must have a means of support, even the hermit must come out of his shell and ask for alms, now and again. High principles can only exist in a rich society. A society which produces an excess of goods and food. All Greek thinkers extorted a fee from the working populace if only they were honest enough to recognise the fact. The otherworldliness of gifted savants is often a pale pretence. Deny them three meals and watch them sing for their supper.

Have I digressed?
The power of the rhetoric and the power of politics sailed together in ancient Greece. A versatile and clever speaker could charm his way into public life given powerful friends and a modicum of good luck. His skills would also act as an anodyne from ills foisted by powerful enemy lawsuits.

As an Anecdote
Carneades was a great exponent of the Sophist’s art and had learnt his trade well. An art it must be, as sophists of the pure kind have an altogether different intellectual temper to the scientist or true philosopher. We can express admiration for their work but must treat their conclusions, wherever they may take us, with contempt. Carneades was part of the Greek diplomatic mission sent to Rome in 156BC. Rome had prospered much from the two Punic wars with Carthage. With conquered lands came, Empire, fantastic wealth and transcendent power in the Mediterranean. While in Rome, and as a matter ingrained habit, Carneades meant to profit and launched a series of lectures for the edification of young and exclusively rich Roman, Noblemen. Like many nations, before and after, which have achieved rapid military success thrusting them into contact with people of a more advanced cultural progression, the Romans felt intellectually and developmentally inferior to the Greeks in everything except politics and war. Young Roman Noblemen were quick to ape Greek mannerisms and customs. 

As was Carneades custom, he first delivered a lecture on the notion of ‘Justice’ as espoused by Plato and Aristotle. The lecture was morally and spiritually uplifting. The young Romans were mightily impressed. Next day however, the wily Greek gave a lecture completely contradicting the edifying sentiments of the previous lecture; the Romans got the point. The first lecture appealed to high virtue, while the second promoted a realistic, prosaic view of this imperfect world. The prominent Roman of the day, Cato the Elder, who may not have been present at the lectures, was less impressed. Cato represented the old virtues of Rome; bucolic; obstinate; stupid and brutal. Cato would have nothing to do with sophistry even if he could have understood it. It smacked of un-manly and certainly un-Roman virtue of highly dubious, foreign provenance. Cato’s austerity was notorious as was his unwavering patriotic devotion to duty. He wanted a Rome unsullied by Greek guile and intellectual duplicity. Of course, Rome went on to cultivate all of the Greek vices without any of the equalising Greek virtues.

Rome's dalliance with sophistry and Greek intellectual innovations, in general, was superficial at best, with a few notable exceptions. In this regard I would place Cicero and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius as exceptions and neither could be considered as sophists. And both men, though clever, never contributed anything new to the pantheon of philosophy. Nuff said.

Cato: a true reflection of 'Old Rome'

Tuesday 27 December 2016


A picture paints a thousand sausages, or general words to this effect
Christmas presents are predictable. The usual round of aftershave, underwear and socks. I'm  a man who wants for nothing. Simple pleasures; simple man. I'm difficult to buy for; I understand this. Anyway, my son bought me a model, trebuchet. Definably the best present I've had in a handful of Christmases. For those not aware of medieval devices of destruction, let me introduce the Trebuchet, the feared weapon of the Middle Ages. Before the advent of gun powder this was the serious destroyer of castles and fortresses. The trebuchet is powered exclusively by the power of gravity and well designed machines could hurl a 350 pound projectile at enemy battlements.  

It took about two hours to construct the wooden model. Thereafter we fired missiles over the deck into the back garden- very satisfying. Neighbourhood cats were bemused and neighbours looked  on with awe. 

Beast of Doom

Sunday 25 December 2016

Flaxen Saxon's Christmas Message

Welcome to our home
Tis the magical time of year when all strife ceases and goodwill over flows from the chalice of human kindness. Regardless of creed or religious affiliation folk come together as one and peace reverberates through a land, fecund and verdant. No dissention is heard. Generosity is manifest and smiles are on the lips of everyone as they dance in unmitigated joy. Hark and hear the laughter of small children as they hold hands and frolic with joyous abandon.
This year the Flaxen household will partake of the simple joys of the season. Cosy chats around an oak log fire. Sensible imbibing of egg nog and other alcoholic beverages will ensue. Roasted chestnuts will keep Jack Frost at bay and mistletoe will adorn the high eaves of our humble five bedroom abode.
Choristers will sing, in harmony, at our holly bedecked door. Snow will flurry pristine white upon the land and settle in drifts after a light choreographed scurrying. No tumult: all will be tranquil, sweet accord. Mother nature in tune with Man and Mankind responds in kind- sweet sigh of unrelenting, unsurpassed bliss.   
Merry Christmas to all my gentle readers and may the New Year be bountiful and cast sweetmeats at your sublime countenance. As you have probably guessed, I have already partaken of the Christmas medication. In my dreams the pigs are always winged.

Here are my previous Christmas messages:

Friday 23 December 2016

Holey Duvet of Tipton

The Holey Duvet of Tipton supine
Amazing news from the ill famed/fated delightful spa town of Tipton cosily lingering in the vale of the beautiful West Midlands like a fart on a windless day. For it can be revealed, on this day, that the ‘Holey Duvet of Tipton' has been unearthed in the grounds of Mr Khan’s, 'Emporium for all the cheap shitty stuff which normally breaks within three days of purchase'. There is no doubt that the duvet is the original duvet containing the imprint of Reg, The Inebriate's, shell suit (all praise to the relic).
As you will no doubt recall, Reg was returning along the towpath of the Birmingham to Dudley canal after a particularly heavy spiritual (100 proof) session at the temple of imbibing, ‘The Felching Ferret’. Although late at night, Reg was mysteriously guided by a throbbing headache and fell face first into the dark, dank, murky waters of said canal. In Reg’s own words: “Twas an awakening, an epiphany. As my eyes opened I was suddenly confronted with the bloated corpse of the local itinerant, 'Filthy Eric'. I swear I saw a limpid eye open and slowly wink before the gas inflated body bobbed out of sight and explode in a cascade of colour and intestine. In a moment I saw my future revealed. This baptism in the noisome waters of the canal had not only infused a particularly nasty, chronic and extremely pruritic skin condition it had also revealed my inner calling. I was to fondle and lead a sect of acolytes. Only the youngest, fairest and well endowed women would be allowed to partake of the mystery and arcane ceremonies (especially the fondling)."
Upon reaching home, Reg, in a fit of fervour and religious ecstasy, collapsed akimbo upon his bed. On repose Reg fell into a deep reverie and lay prostrate for a full twelve hours on the ‘Holey Duvet of Tipton’ (blessed be, the holey duvet of Tipton). On awakening the ambient light seemed infused with a bright and highly incandescent quality thus turning Reg into a quasi man/god. During the night an ethereal imprint of Reg's beatiferous (not a real word) form had mysteriously became manifest upon the duvet. The stain, if it was a stain, was not of earthly resonance and gave off a strange and unpleasant odour/ordure. A perfect likeness had insinuated upon the polyester fibres as if a gossamer secretion had emanated from Reg's every pore, cavity and orifice.
Reg was so impressed that he immediately discarded the 'Holey Duvet of Tipton' over the wall into the courtyard of Mr Khan's Emporium etc etc. There it lay unmolested and inviolate for 10 years………During a divinely inspired health and safety inspection, Mr Khan found ‘The Holey Duvet of Tipton’ nestling majestically between two dead dogs. Mr Khan immediately recognised the religious artefact for what it was. Poignantly, Reg is no longer with us as he was whisked off and ascended to the gods at the time of the ‘Great Fire of Tipton’ and never seen again. No doubt he watches us mortals as we parade our banal, pitiful lives and bestows beneficence with divine and wanton abandon.
The priceless duvet can be purchased from Mr Khan’s etc, etc for £20.99 or £180.00 for 10. Arse.
Filthy Eric, in repose

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Muzzle Brake

Tiger tank sporting muzzle brake

When I was a kid growing up in the quaint and delightful town of Tipton I used to while away the solitary hours constructing 'Airfix' models. I was particularly enamoured with tanks from the Second World War. Each was lovingly crafted, constructed and painted in authentic colours and camouflage. I was particularly fond of the Churchill tank. To be honest it was not a great tank in comparison to German and Russian varieties, although it was a versatile vehicle and appeared in many sterling and gallant variants throughout the war. I suppose I was drawn to this particular British tank because its silhouette resembled my vivid birthmark which sat adjacent to my third nipple. In fact my third nipple looks very much like a 'star shell burst' fired from the barrel of a tank. I digress.  

I confess I was intrigued by a projection which appeared on some, but not all, of the tank's guns. I asked my father, as he was an ex-soldier, about the purpose of the 'nobbly bit' on the end of the barrel. To his credit he professed ignorance and didn't try to impress his son with a manufactured, on the spot, explanation. 

Years rolled by and the mystery of the 'tank appendage' stayed close to my heart and I wished fervently for a resolution. At some stage my interest in girls intervened so the tank thingy went to the back of my mind to be rekindled once the hormone surge had settled down a little. And so the years passed....Then the internet phenomenon burst upon the world like an additional nipple fired from a tank gun. All knowledge was within my sticky and often moist grasp. I quickly learned that the barrel extension was called a muzzle brake. I also learned that the primary function of the muzzle brake was to reduce the recoil of the tank's gun. The 'brakr' was so designed that when the blast gasses escaped from the gun the fins within the break would channel the force sideways therefore counteracting the recoil of a large calibre weapon. Less recoil meant that the turret didn't have too protrude too much at the back. Also it helped with crew comfort as they didn't have to deal with the severe jolt caused by excessive recoil in a constrained turret environment.  

The dispersion of the muzzle gases laterally also helped with visibility after a shot. Without a muzzle brake, the propellant gases would linger in front of the tank obscuring visibility for crucial moments. The muzzle brake dispersed the gases sideways therefore clearing the frontal visual field. But the more I researched the more it became apparent that muzzle brakes were not universally utilised. Many large gunned tanks didn't seem to have a muzzle brake at all. Guessing that omission was there for a good reason (oxymoron) I suspected that muzzle brakes may have confered certain disadvantages. My misgivings were not unfounded. 

Like most things in life muzzle brakes are a mixed blessing, just like extra nipples. A third nipple might be great as a conversational 'ice breaker' at the Christmas party, but they can chafe something awful against a chiffon running vest. After a 10 mile run the friction and pain can become quite exquisite Once again I've regressed. Anyway, the lateral blast from the gun is fine as long as you don't have your own troops in attendance. The side blast is substantial and can kill or disable troops within the blast area. Also the addition of the muzzle brake adds extra length to the gun barrel. In open country this is not much of a problem. However, in city fighting long barrels are an impediment. In the Normandy fighting, Tiger tanks had to demolish buildings in French towns in order to turn corners. Furthermore, redirected blast can stir up dust and dirt thus revealing the tank's position to the enemy. 

Most, if not all, modern battle tanks are bereft of muzzle brakes. Muzzle brakes interfere with modern ammunition rounds. This is especially the case with sabot rounds. Penetrating rod rounds are encased with a self discarding sheath. The presence of a muzzle brake interferes with the sabot breakaway process. Thus tanks fitted with muzzle brakes are unable to use this highly effective anti-tank round. 

So there it is. My boyhood curiosity has now been assuaged and I'm free to ponder fresh conundrums anew. Actually, come to think of it my birthmark is more evocative of an amphibious landing craft, mark IV, E series rather than an unmodified Churchill tank. Mayhap, over the years, it has grown with the telling.


Thursday 15 December 2016

Socrates: A very Brief Commentary- UPDATE!

Update 16th December 2016
For reasons which remain inexplicable to me, I left out an essential paragraph in the original composition. I have remedied this amnesic error and have consequently bolstered my piece with the illuminating additional paragraph. This paragraph adds context further supporting the general thrust of my thesis. May the literary gods forgive me, for I shall not forgive myself for this grievous omission.
If you care, it is the paragraph just above the ugly fella. Arse

Socrates, together with Plato and Aristotle, represent the Magnificent Triumvirate and epitome of Ancient Greek Philosophy. Socrates left no scribblings of his own and what we know about his life, philosophy and discourse, is mainly through two of his students, Plato and Xenophon. Plato requires no introduction. Xenophon was a Greek general who successfully led 10,000 Greek troops through the length of the Persian Empire c400BC. No mean feat? Or a stroll through a degenerate, effete empire? You decide.

The Main Sources
The Socrates, as related by both men, is an inconsistent entity on important philosophical issues. Although Xenophon can be relied on with reference to the factual aspects of Socrates' life, his take on Socratic philosophy and political reaction to his teachings should not be taken too seriously. Xenophon may have been a successful general but he was no intellectual. With Plato's account we have a different problem. Plato was well versed with Socrates' philosophical outlook and debating methodology however, in his dialogues where Socrates takes central stage, we are not entirely sure whether we are listening to the original Socrates or Plato's doctrine emanating from a Socratic mouthpiece. Not many men could have invented this ‘Socrates’, but I believe Plato could have. 

A life in Brief
Socrates was born c 470 BC in Athens. When young he served in the Athenian citizen army and acquitted himself bravely on three campaigns during the Peloponnesian war with Sparta. In later life he became an avid debater and applied the dreaded dialectic to his discourse. In the main he was not interested in matters pertaining to the material, physical world. He concerned himself with ethical and moral questions. Thus Socrates enmeshed himself with human concerns: what makes men good? What is truth, justice and happiness? He questioned all existing beliefs and institutions including politics and the prevailing theology. His method was to question his subject by a line of prompts and verbal spurs in order to elicit 'new knowledge'. In this regard he considered himself a midwife- merely drawing forth and giving birth to ideas already latent and innate within the 'vessel'. This of course is not the case. By a series of well designed leading questions Socrates either imposed his point of view or encouraged the 'victim' to engage the topic from a novel direction. It is to be noted that he rarely brings together firm conclusions on the topics he chooses to debate. This is due to the subject matter in hand and shows wisdom. The ultimate questions concerning human nature do not have ultimate fixed answers, unless asked/answered by a prissy pedant with a closed mind. The debate forever remains open. In this regard he has fared better than his contemporary, Plato and near contemporary, Aristotle, in the opinion of modern folk. The speculations of Plato and Aristotle roamed and delved not only into human nature but in matters physical, cosmological and biological- in these subjects they have been subsequently shown to be entirely wrong. However, due to their authority and the uncritical reverence given by those who followed, they indirectly stifled original thought for nearly 1,500 years. What men; what a legacy! But not their fault.

Socrates, due to his philosophical methodology, garnered great respect and great hatred in equal measure amongst the Athenian citizenry. The questioning young, and old, adored him while established politicians, men of substance and respect often felt humiliated by his probing irreverent treatment of their long held cherished notions and beliefs. We have no extant written evidence attributed to the Athenian ferret community. I suspect, on the whole, it would have been positive. But if we are to be intellectually honest, we will really never know. Let us draw an opaque veil over this knotty conundrum and digress, no more.  

As to Socrates appearance: he was not moulded in the Greek Classical concept of beauty; short, squat, stocky and with an agreeable paunch. Even his friends and admirers considered him very ugly. Socrates seemed to care little about his physical appearance and made little effort to defy nature with artificial adornments.
The Athens of the late 390s BC was a politically unstable city. Athens was still reeling from its defeat in the Peloponnesian war. Those who reigned had little time and affection for the likes of Socrates. He was seen as an unsettling influence on the citizenry and especially the young and as a consequence it was considered expedient to have him indicted for impiety (399B). Socrates managed a spirited defence but was condemned nonetheless. Instead of paying a hefty fine and going into exile, Socrates remained unrepentantly defiant and was eventually condemned to death by poison. An account of his last hours, spent with friends, is given in Plato’s Phaedo. During his last hours, Socrates remains serene and continues with his philosophic speculations. Understandably, given the circumstances, Socrates ponders on what becomes of the ‘human essence’ after death. He leans to the view that an afterlife exists in which he will continue his speculations with fellow philosophers. The arguments on which he relies are not convincing to a modern mind and have a naive quality about them. To his credit, Socrates considers the alternative- gentle oblivion. A dreamless sleep which cannot be anything but good.

Who's a pretty boy, den?

The Athenian state of the period was a politically unstable, bubbling cauldron of a city. Athens was still reeling from defeat in the Peloponnesian war. Those who reigned had little time and affection for the likes of Socrates. He was seen as an unsettling influence on an unsettled citizenry, especially the young. As a consequence it was considered expedient to have him indicted for impiety (399 BC). Socrates managed a spirited defence but was condemned nonetheless. Instead of paying a hefty fine and going into exile, Socrates remained unrepentantly defiant and was eventually condemned to death by poison. An account of his last hours, spent with friends, is given in Plato’s , Phaedo . During his last hours, Socrates remains serene and continues with his philosophic speculations. Understandably, given the circumstances, Socrates ponders on what becomes of the ‘human essence’ after death. He decidedly leans to the view that an afterlife exists in which he will continue his speculations with fellow philosophers, for an eternity. The arguments on which he relies are not convincing to a modern mind and have, uncharacteristically, a naive quality about them. By the way, this 'afterlife' only appeals to the unbridled intellectual. Lesser men, crave beer and women, as well. To his credit, Socrates considers the minor alternative- gentle oblivion. A dreamless sleep which cannot be anything, but good.

Socrates, appears as a high minded aesthetic. A man seemingly divorced, as much as anyone can be, from the mundane physical world. A man of honest and towering principles. Although, in public, he confesses to know nothing, the impression we get is that: ‘he protests too much’. I suspect in private ‘he knows it all’. Perhaps I’m being a tad unfair to the 'gadfly', although he does come across as more than a little smug. Indifference in the face of death is laudable. A death he could have easily escaped. However, we would have been more impressed if he had believed oblivion the more likely scenario. In this respect he is reminiscent of the Christian undergoing martyrdom at the hand of the Roman Emperors. Surety of an afterlife inures us from tragedy, in this life, and makes us brave to face the next.....


Tuesday 13 December 2016

Mr Showmanship

Liberace’s dining room

Simpering Liberace was a darling of the tinkering ivories and a litigious protector of his sexuality. A gaudy gaiety of a man. An entertainer who craved love and affection from his audience and pounced/ponced about the stage with wanton, nay gay, abandon. His glitzy showmanship gathered many fans and equally drew derision and side swipes/sleights. Throughout his life he vigorously maintained and jealously protected his brand of ‘heterosexuality’ and woe betide the journalist who printed otherwise. His private life was not to be divulged and he led a life of genuine heartache as he tried to mesh his public persona with a very messy and often sticky private life.
In 1956 a British journalist described Liberace in the following unflattering terms: “A deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love". While not explicitly stating the obvious, the description strongly implied homosexuality. Liberace sued the tabloid, the ‘Daily Mirror' and won the libel case. Under oath he declared his heterosexuality.
He was eventually ‘outed’ by a spurned lover although Liberace successfully defended the subsequent court case for palimony. On the 4th of February 1987 Liberace died from AIDS, although the diagnosis was not mentioned on the death certificate and only became manifest at autopsy.
A great showman; a man of contradiction; a man who was obviously homosexual but because of the power of celebrity, money and litigation maintained an air of childlike sexual innocence. In reality Liberace was a tortured but relentless and promiscuous sexual predator.
I hear tell that Liberace was embalmed before he was buried. I wonder if he would burn well?

Sunday 11 December 2016

Dogs and Cats

Dogs and cats share and enrich our lives to the point where it is difficult to imagine life without them. Traditionally us humans are expected to fall into one category (dog or cat person) and most folk will state a preference. And in this regard I'm no different. I've owned dogs all my life. When young I owned 'Staffies'. Staffordshire bull terriers are a breed highly favoured in the 'Black Country' where I grew up. Imagine a compact American pit bull and you get a rough idea of what the breed looks like. Staffies have a reputation for tenacity and are extremely protective of their owners. These days we own Maltese terriers. Cute, fluffly, white dogs. Like many lap dog breeds these dogs have been designed to be adorable, extremely loving and loyal to their owners. As I write, 'Mandy the Maltese', lies curled and content upon my lap, gently farting. 

Mandy, looking cute
Domestic cats have changed little from their wild ancestors. Thousands of years ago they realised the advantage of  associating with humans and decided to adopt us. Cats are independent haughty loners; adaptable and cunning. I have no doubt that the average domestic cat could survive in the wild. If an apocalypse occurred my dogs wouldn't make it past two days and more than likely succumb to the prowling and pouncing neighbourhood cat- docile pet turned feral killer. 

It is very much a given that dogs 'love' their owners. We leave them for an hour and when we return they greet us with flailing tail, gymnastics and sloppy kisses. Now that is what I call love. When my wife returns from shopping I receive a perfunctory glance and a hefty credit card bill. A cat on the other hand barely breaks into a sweat. Attention is only guaranteed and feet circled if 'dinner time' is overdue. 

Studies have been conducted on our pets looking at the release of the chemical, oxytocin. This is the hormone which makes us all warm and fuzzy inside when we interact with those we love. Tis no surprise that when dogs interact with their owners this chemical soars in both dog and human. Truly an objective expression of mutual love. What is surprising, not to dedicated cat owners perhaps, is that cats also receive a boost in oxytocin under similar circumstances. The increase is less than observed in the 'man-dog' scenario, but significant nonetheless. 

What does all this mean? Dogs and humans have evolved a strong emotional bond akin to true love. Cats, not only tolerate us but seem to actually 'like us' in a manner which transcends the usually accepted notion of 'cupboard love'. This makes sound adaptable evolutionary sense. In a way, our pets are the ultimate parasite. Intelligent animal species exploiting weakness in the ultimate intelligent species. Quite a feat. They are totally dependant on the human host for food and lodging. We in turn garner nothing tangible from the interaction. Although it is certain that we gather the intangible asset of affection, whatever that means. 

Before we become too complacent it is a good idea to heed the occasional story where lonely cat/dog woman gets eaten by loving Mittens/Fido. Hunger is a universal propelling force in nature and is not to be ignored or underestimated. Hunger overrides all other base instincts. It turns the pampered moggy into a Tiger and the coiffured, beribboned pooch into a Wolf, although to be fair, in the case of the Maltese terrier, an extremely crap wolf.

I also like ferrets.....

The noble Staffie: uncle Eric's dog, Eli

Thursday 8 December 2016

Contemplating Retirement

I’ve been taking stock of my life lately. After a gruelling couple of weeks at work I’m finding that I’m drawing on my last reserves. This time of year is always busy, but this season, for reasons which fail to impinge or make rational sense, has been exceptionally busy. Currently life is no more than a never ending cycle of getting up at 6.00am, commuting and working solid for 11 hours. Frankly, I’m buggered and often fall asleep in inappropriate places. Weekends are just an extension of my working week. Usually I’m sequestered in my cosy study peering over a stack of files, gently rocking and farting. I never get visitors.

The point of this particular ramble? I suppose it reminds me that I’m not as young, and more importantly, resilient as I used to be. I’m becoming aware of my own mortality and I’m seriously contemplating a retirement plan. I’ve no intention of working beyond 65, or 62 for that matter. I don’t care about the government exhorting us ‘oldies’ to continue working well into our dotage- the government can fuck off. I’ve the example of my poor father to ruminate upon: The poor sod died ‘in harness’ 3 months before his official retirement at 65. I don't want to be morbid but no one is guaranteed a span and although I’m fit and healthy for my age, at least according to my doc, there is always fickle chance and circumstance to contend with.

I’ve worked hard all my life and deserve a little time in the sun to reflect, contemplate and write; somewhere rural and quiet- far from the squawking mass of humanity. I’m reasonably well off financially and have made provision for my elder years. I’ve pursued a prudent fiscal policy throughout my adult life (steady Flaxen, you are starting to sound like a twat). So tis a matter of sorting out the intricate web of finances, gathering in all the strands and placing the suitably entangled, juicy fat fly, in the gaping maw of the awaiting arachnid (accountant). Obviously there will be a few adjustments. Lavish spending will have to be curtailed. I’m not high financial maintenance as my pleasures are simple and inexpensive. But my wife……..She enjoys shopping and amassing clothes and shoes. We have four wardrobe areas in our house, including a large ‘walk in’. In this entire expanse my clothes occupy a small portion of one wardrobe. The rest is a vast repository for ladies’ apparel. Of course, my lovely wife is a bit younger than myself so she has the option of continuing to work in order to fund her lavish hobby.

Apart from adjustments in the household budget, my wife is worried about what I’ll get up to when I have no organised routine of work. I’m a darling creature of habit. If I foster good habits, all well and good; if I foster bad habits, all well and good. She suspects that I’ll retreat into my inner sanctum (study) and immerse myself in writing, appearing only for the occasional evening meal. She has a point. I have a need for solitude and require a little time to myself. Time to engage in lonely activities which I enjoy (get your mind out the gutter) and stare out the window imagining what it would be like if I owned a high powered sniper rifle: ‘There goes Mr Plinkington’s head. That’ll teach him for regarding me in a slightly askew manner while I'm practising nude Tai Chi in the privacy of the communal garden’. I’ve digressed.

Regardless of outcome, I’ve made my decision. This gives me a year to sort everything out and get rid of the accumulated household detritus spanning 40 years. And then I need to look for a place to hunker down. I’ll not be free to roam the country at will. New Zealand house prices are ridiculously high and thus I’ll be constrained by regional price variation. Mayhap the sublime winterless north? At this stage, who can say?

Sunday 4 December 2016

Rambling Sunday Bollocks

Okay, this brain requires modification. Some of this shit I can relate to. Cartoon theme songs is not even close.  And what the fuck is an internet meme? You need to throw in some white matter about ferrets and just a pinch about hot women jelly wrestling or mud wrestling, I'm not that fussy or pedantic. It wouldn't hurt to have a scantily clad Katie Perry warbling on video, but as always with the sound on mute. In my mind the useless trivia part of the brain would have to be much expanded, as would the math and science bits.

Actually my social skills are enhanced. I'm not some strange mumbling geek; I'm just strange. I converse well with all sort of folk, even fools. My thoughts remain mine, unless provoked. And I can be real charmer when I can be bothered.  

Consider this in the light of constructive criticism: where is the portion of the brain allotted to beer and women?  C'mon, beer and women are the main pleasures in life. Otherwise what is the point of existence? Obscure references, wandering off into dark dank places when you are shivering, in the foetal position, gently rocking, doesn't even get an honourable mention.

Seriously folks, this simple model of the workings of a man's brain is insulting and patronising in equal halves. I would raise a petition against this sort of thing, but lethargically, I can't be arsed. In the final analysis, I'm a very, very, lazy man and a tad, odd.

Nobody Expects the Italian Inquisition  

Behold the visage of a Great Man
Galileo (1564-1642) was truly a great thinker and scientist and a herald of the scientific revolution to come. As such Galileo relied on the scientific experimental method to advance knowledge. Today, most educated people are familiar with the power and utility of the scientific empirical method. However, in Galileo's day the usefulness of the technique to elicit new knowledge was vastly underestimated by the educated men of the time. This takes me neatly to the educated men of the time: Throughout the Middle Ages, education was controlled by the Church. Men of letters were invariably monks. Furthermore, the curriculum was strictly controlled by the church. Emphasis was strongly directed toward Christian devotion. Philosophical development of Christianity from the 4th century AD onward evolved from ancient Greek philosophy, particularly the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. The wisdom of these sages was deemed sacrosanct and not to be questioned. To question or refute some aspect of Aristolean doctrine was tantamount to heresy. And you know what happens to heretics, don't you? They get a light singeing with the dedicated singeing rod administered with loving care by the Inquisition. During the 16th century the laity in the West could receive an extensive and deep education if they could afford it at one of the Catholic controlled universities. Inevitably the education centred on Latin grammar and theology according to prevailing Catholic dogma. Galileo as a young man studied medicine but his studies were curtailed due to financial circumstance and he never completed his degree. Even so his talents were recognised and he managed to secure a teaching position at the Italian university of Padua. 

Due to Galileo's fertile, inquisitive and scientific nature, he broke new ground in the physical sciences. He is remembered for his seminal work on the laws of motion and mechanics. Once he acquired the new fangled telescope he published several tracts on his findings. From his observations he became convinced of the truth of the heretical Copernicus heliocentric world view. According to Catholic dogma, the Earth was the centre of the universe. This was in accord with Holy Scripture and supported by the ancient Greek savants. To say that the Earth orbited the Sun was to invite a visit from the infamous 'Inquisition'. Generally this was not a pleasant experience (see above regard to singeing implement). 

A simplistic synthesis indeed: Actually many learned Clergy were sympathetic to the Copernicus system. It simply wont do to see the Catholic Hierarchy, as a whole, totally opposed to the Heliocentric system and to new science. Some Scholastics were convinced, especially after peering through Galileo's telescope and were prepared to recant, albeit slowly. Tis true the more pedantic and devotional (stupid) of the ecclesiastic fraternity refused to partake of Galileo's visual revelation and remained steadfast in their dogma. Generally history has not been kind to such folk.

 It seems that there were sensible elements within the Catholic Church trying to reconcile the rapidly advancing, and as far as they could see, unstoppable march of science with prevailing theology. Smart Clergy realised that theology needed to be receptive to the new science even if it meant discarding cherished and long held notions about the world. After all, theology is about fluid interpretation. If you are clever enough and inventive of mind you can reconcile all, even science and theology, but this is nothing but sophistry and intellectual gymnastics and thus should be judged as such. 

Galileo was a genuinely pious man and tried hard to accommodate his observational science with prevailing Catholic theology. Sadly, the conservatives prevailed and Galileo's views and publications were deemed inimical to Catholicism and placed on the 'Banned Book List'. On occasion his books were singed with the dreaded singeing rod' (I made this up). Throughout his later career he was interrogated by the Inquisition and Papal representatives. As a matter of whimsy (not really), Galileo wrote a book (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems) comparing both the accepted Ptolemaic and the upstart Copernicus systems. He phrased it in the form of a debate. The adherent to the Ptolemaic system was represented by the character of, 'Simplico' . Galileo's argument and thrust of debate is clearly in favour of the heliocentric viewpoint. The Pope of the day certainly got the point and regardless of his moderate stance, the outcome was predictable. Whatever the Pope's private views, in public, he was fettered by political and theological constraints and let's be frank, Galileo was not being very subtle: In Italian 'Simplicio' has the connotation of 'simpleton'. Galileo had powerful friends and thus his final years were spent under gentle house arrest rather than rotting away in a dank dudgeon.  

From our lofty perspective of nearly 500 years later it is hard for us to appreciate the power hefted by the Catholic Church in the preceding centuries. The tentacles of Catholicism reached through all levels of society. Monarchs quaked at the feet of Popes and generally complied with Papal edicts and Catholic doctrine. Henry the VIII was a bold exception. But that is another story for another day. I wonder if Henry would have had the temerity to break with Rome if England had been a continental power. The channel is a mighty antidote to the disease of Catholic power. Sorry, I'm starting to digress. 

At the fundamental level, science and theology are irreconcilable. Theologians and scientists who attempt a 'fusion' based on some form of commonality are involved in a doomed enterprise. Scientific methodology and scientific knowledge is totally contrary to notions such as 'blind faith' and 'revelation'. Simply put, it is impossible to reconcile the rational with the irrational. In any 'knowledge 'conflict between science vs religion, religion is always going to come off second best. Religion always peddles inferior and often shoddy intellectual goods. Thoughtful theologians have always known this. This is why, religion, when they hold sway and power over matters secular have always endeavoured to suppress new knowledge and individuals of intellectual quality. Now, isn't that the sad truth?

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Petitions: not worth the paper they are not written on

Usual suspect
My last post was a tongue in cheek nod to the silly season with a hot gypsy side salad.

Imagine my obvious pleasure to learn that the new British five pound note contains traces of animal fat. The note, made of plastic, is virtually indestructible, unless you decide to burn it. Perchance to leave it in your trouser pocket and expose it to a heavy wash, spin cycle optional, and it will come out pristine and brand new. Hoorah, I hear you say. No more soggy notes and heavy labour matching up friable fragments so you end up with two definable serial numbers: thereafter trotting to the local bank to convince a dozy spotty teller to proffer a replacement. We truly live in wondrous times.

Some sectors of the populace are not convinced. In fact the presence of rendered animal fat has upset the vegetarian fraternity (and sorority) and indeed they have been moved to pen a petition, to wit: The new £5 notes contain animal fat in the form of tallow. This is unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and other clueless sods in the U.K. We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency that we have to use. Apparently over 15,000 signatures have been garnered from folk with nothing better to do. The Royal Mint and government are dearly worried and are considering recalling all five pound notes. All future issues will contain only the finest tofu lightly seared with extra virgin olive oil. ARSE. This will make the notes more palatable to meat eschewing, whining, pansy minorities. Anyway, who gives a fuck about what the Jains want?

This sort of thing is likely to tip your gallant host over the edge into frank insanity and propel me on an incendiary bound frenzy. And let’s be honest, my propensity to ‘burn stuff’ is never too far from the surface at the best of times. Just one more push.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Dog Days of Summer

We are fast approaching the 'silly season', well at least in the southern hemisphere. That time of year renowned for its lack of meaty news stories. It is no coincidence that this time coincides with the closure of Parliament and the law courts. Seasoned journalists need to cast a finer meshed news net to capture stories for the delectation of the eager reading public. Tis the time of year when we hear of how 'Mittens the kitten' became stuck up a tree. Heart warming stories of the frivolous type which momentarily restores our gentle faith in humanity and distracts from our trite, meagre and often pointless lives (steady Flaxen). I am not interested in those stories today. Instead I'm going to share a few news headlines which have made me smile. Don't expect to feel all warm and fuzzy inside after casting your meat pies (eyes) over this sorry collection. If you are a seeker of wisdom then I beseech you to close down your browser, NOW and go and delve elsewhere. For here lurks madness which appeals only to those endowed with a twisted, nay sick, sense of humour. And if you are kind I might even be tempted to throw in, gratis, a few hot flamenco gypsy dancers. Hola!

Whether it is a well placed typo, a weird statement or sentiment, or a phrase which  simply defies belief, I now place them before you like a ferret dropping a well chewed Kiwi.

Read on and weep

Yes, that is a woman: A face that would worry rats
A face that launched a thousand binges. I suspect, at some time or other, we have all been tempted to 'freshen' up the black bean beef. And let's be honest who would notice the difference?

Who said pasties are not 'hot and sexy'
This one reminds me of the classic scene in 'American Pie'. The poor bugger in this story should have waited a while before putting his twinkle in the hot meaty goodness (silly sod). Luckily for future generations, this moron has voluntarily decided not to have kids. And for that we thank him.

Too clever
This is funny and clever. For god's sake give this journo a  pay rise, he or she deserves it.

"Who's a pretty boy, then?"
Poor Tommy is no longer with us, he is no more, bereft of life and joined the choir invisible. He is an ex-budgie. I'm hoping they put the intrepid Inspector 'Kipper' of the Yard on the case. Can't be having unsolved suspicious budgie deaths now can we? Spoiler alter: Twas the cat.

One word-Magic mushroom
Here we leave reality as we know it and enter a parallel universe fuelled by psychedelic drugs. Actually this one reminds me of the 70s, if only I could remember the 70s........

Not an easy word to spell
O the irony. I can sympathise as I'm not the best spella in the world. That said, with the ubiquitous spell chucker, there is no excuse.

Naughty ferret
My personal favourite. I've owned ferrets (no shit, you say) and I'm at a total loss how anyone can confuse a dog with a ferret regardless of anabolic steroid misuse. Just goes to show how gullible and stupid some folk are. 

Why would you think this is a good idea?
I suppose as long as you insert 'going with the nap' it shouldn't be too much of a problem, that is until you want to remove the poor hedgehog.

No comment
That looks like a very contented dog.

I do see the resemblance

Got it all: dwarf, sex, badgers and syndicated chef. Isn't life great?

Enough to put me off my vindaloo
For once I'm lost for words. I'm off to lie down and take my medication.

As promised

                                                                     Bloody gypos

Thursday 24 November 2016

Nature vs Nurture

You don’t have to be a genius to realise that women tend to live longer than men. When I visit my mother in the ‘Old Folk’s Home’ it is clear that the old ladies outnumber the old fellas by a heavy margin. It is not too far from the mark to describe the home as a ‘Granny Farm’. And to be fair there is the air of vegetation amongst some of the poor inmates, er, clients. A wise man once said: “Old age is a shipwreck”. Not only is old age a shipwreck, some of the wrecks have accumulated a heavy crust of barnacles and the anchor has long since drifted away…….
So why do women, as a group, outlive men? Do men take part in riskier pursuits? Does testosterone drive us to violence? Are we more stressed? Maybe we take less care of ourselves and eat and drink less healthily than women? Are men exposed to hazardous work environments? Could it be that when we become ill we are less likely to visit a health professional? I can certainly relate to this last piece of folk wisdom, or as I like to call it: “First sign of death I’m off to the doctor”.
I think there is an element of truth in all of the above and perhaps combined they help to explain the observed discrepancy to some small degree. Also noted is that males are more prone to cancer overall, than females. And this being the case and accepting that cancer is relatively common, especially amongst the aged, it may go a long way to explain life span differences between the sexes. Many factors affect predisposition to cancer and environmental factors as mentioned previously may have their role to play. Certainly stress, testosterone and unhealthy living contribute to cancer predisposition although not as great as you might expect. Certainly not as great as finger wagging, lifestyle controlling politicians and doctors would like you to think: but that is another story, for another time.
Cancer is essentially a genetic disease and I’ve always suspected that the difference in cancer rates between the sexes may come down to genetic differences, but to date I hadn't seen any hard scientific data to back up my suspicion. Speculate no more! Researchers publishing in the prestigious, Nature Genetics, found that females have an extra copy of a gene which confers a degree of protection from cancer. The gene represents another line of defence against cells growing uncontrollably. Tis no surprise that this gene is carried on the X chromosome. Males only have one copy of the X chromosome while females have a luxurious, two. The gene in question is called a 'tumour suppresser'. If a mutation occurs which destroys its function then the affected cell is not necessarily cancerous but becomes predisposed. Generally, further mutations in other tumour suppresser genes are required to provoke the cell to become cancerous. Because women have two copies of the gene, both copies need to 'knocked out' to achieve the same mutational state of the male counterpart with one copy.
Researchers estimate that this gene may be responsible for 80% of the bias in certain cancers. Overall males carry a 20% excess of cancer burden in comparison to females. So once again an important trait in humans is mainly down to genetics and only marginally influenced by how we live our lives.
The debate concerning the extent environment and genetics differentially influence our make up as humans has become contentious; bitter and understandably carries political overtones. For instance, there is very strong evidence that our innate intelligence is mostly determined by genetics and the influence of environmental factors is marginal. Wise politicians and educators stay quiet on the issue. Scientists who talk openly about the issue are shouted down and branded as fascists. Just because society, or some aspects of it at least, do not like the findings of objective scientific endeavour doesn't mean it is not true. Science, or good science, should be indifferent to whether it is in accord with prevailing mores or political correctness. Anyone is free to disregard what they like and on whatever grounds, but let us hope Anyone never becomes a scientist.    

Saturday 19 November 2016

Harden up

The world is a tough place and let us not diminish it's impact. That said, sensible folk navigate life's minefield with care. The foolish man runs amok and suffers accordingly. The wise and prudent man treads carefully as if in a burning building.

Friday 18 November 2016

Tipton Secondary Modern c1972

It was a shit school- but burnt well

I was rummaging through some old documents the other day when I found this newspaper clipping betwixt the pages of an old book, entitled: 'The Art of the Incendiary'. The news article concerned the tragic conflagration which engulfed my Alma Mater the day after I graduated.

The police came knocking on my door a few days later with all sorts of questions. And of course I had an alibi. On the morn of the fire I was in the company of fellow ex Tipton school pupil, Sally Ault. As I distinctly recall we were involved in extra curricula activities in my unkempt bedroom. Sally's testimony, bless her heart, was unshakable and remarkably consistent. 

The evidence against me was circumstantial at best. And just because I'd had my shoulder length blond locks sheared on the afternoon of the incident proved nothing. The Inspector was unrelenting in his questioning and hung in there like a ferret clinging to a rabbit's neck. Confess, confess! Tis true the suspicious youth seen hanging about at the time matched my description exactly, as several witnesses were willing to attest, but I'm a great believer in doppelgangers and parallel universes and such. Wisely the witnesses had an epiphany and recanted. On second thoughts the youth's hair looked more mousy brown than golden hued. This ruled me out in a thrice. No way it could be me as I had just washed my golden locks which bedazzled in the sun and bathed the scene in an ethereal glow as if a cleansing H bomb had gone off in Tipton High Street. Here is a gratuitous tip: never use cheap shampoo or conditioner- false economy and I should know. Have I digressed? Anyway, without witnesses or a confession the poor Inspector was bereft of a conviction. No court in the land would have convicted on the evidence to hand and rightly so. It is better for ten guilty men to go free than one innocent man to be unjustly convicted. Isn't our justice system wonderful? The arsonistically (not a real word) inclined miscreant was never caught and probably lurks unrepentant within our very midst waiting for an opportunity to assuage a hunger which never abates.     

Is there a statute of limitation on this sort of thing? I suspect after 44 years it would be very difficult to identify the perpetrator and gain a conviction. Best to let it go then, eh Inspector?

Sally on the day of our graduation- I wonder what she is doing now?