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.
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.
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
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
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.
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'ma 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.....
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
I hear tell that Liberace was embalmed before he was buried. I wonder if he would burn well?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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
had been a continental power. The channel is a mighty antidote to the disease
of Catholic power. Sorry, I'm starting to digress.
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?