Thursday 31 May 2018


Seems like sound advice

I’m drawn to rational beliefs and philosophies. Hence my admiration for the British Empirical philosophers, particularly the sublime philosophy of David Hume.   As for the ancients, I’m attracted to the doctrines of Epicurus. Epicurus flourished c306 BC and founded a school in Athens (‘The Garden’). Not so much a school- more of a commune.  Unlike his predecessors and contemporaries, he freely admitted women and slaves. His philosophy was a mixture between contemplation about the physical world (he believed in indivisible atoms) and exhortations for a simple, sober life. His community was not averse to private ownership of goods and property, however, they preached against rampant consumerism.

Epicurus’ philosophy is associated with the pursuit of pleasure. But he was not a hedonist in the modern sense of the word. He emphasized simple pleasures such as friendship and satiation with a refreshing, but frugal repast and he did not encourage rampant sexual activity or gluttony (more fool him). Although allowing wine, Epicurus’ acolytes were not encouraged to imbibe to the point of drunkenness.

Most of what we know about Epicurus comes from the work of other philosophers. Although he wrote prodigiously (300 books), little remains of his work- mostly letters to his followers. He appears to conform to rational tenets and insisted that nothing should be believed except that which could be tested by direct observation or logical deduction. Although not denying the existence of the gods, explicitly, he taught that the gods did not interact with the world of man. This is as about as close to atheism that was allowed in Ancient Greek society without the serious accusation of impiety. He is credited with the insightful: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"  A potent critique of Theism as understood in the conventional sense and an accusation that appears highly relevant in conjunction with the Christian understanding of the deity. And indeed, his argument has remained a historical thorn in the side of religious belief and has spurred/spawned the development of a specialist sub-division of theology, called Theodicy.  No doubt, the arguments put forward against Epicurus’ original injunction/contention have been ingenious. To my mind they rarely address the core problem and represent an extreme form of theological sophistry which remains at best unconvincing, and at worst, absurd.

Of particular interest is Epicurus’ concept of death. While it is true that the act of dying can be extremely unpleasant, once we slip away we are no longer sentient and therefore beyond any conscious existence; pain can be no more. For Epicurus, death is an eternal dreamless sleep. He denies any form of afterlife in contradiction to most mainstream religions. Epicurus has no time for muddled thinking with regard to death. Death is not to be feared and is no different to the state preceding birth. I find this a sensible logical pronouncement and remarkably refreshing for his period. It is wrong to consider Epicurism as a cult of death. It is more about the celebration of life while we have it. This is a profoundly liberating philosophy.

I’m retiring at the end of June to my small holding in the country. I intend to lead a simple life; veggies grown; homemade rhubarb wine; fruit cider from the trees and eggs garnered from the chucks. I’ll supplement the freezer with a little bow hunting- plenty of critters for harvesting in the Wairarapa. I intend to follow the precepts of the ancient sage: a simple life with simple pleasures. Either that I’ll set up a commune for attractive fallen women under 30. Only time will tell…….Arse.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Sigmund Freud: Brief Notes

Behold the enigma

On my study desk I have a framed letter from Sigmund Freud to an English physician. Unfortunately, the letter is not dated, however, it was written when Freud was still practicing in Vienna, so it must have been written before 1938, after which Freud moved to Britain. It mainly concerns a case report Freud was working on at the time and I suppose there is enough internal evidence to be able to work out a close date for when it was written. But frankly, I can’t be arsed.

Sigmund Freud is considered the father of psychoanalysis, and I think rightly so.  He effectively founded the discipline and his theories dominated the field throughout the first part of the 20th century. Indeed, he still exerts a tremendous, and often a baleful influence, on modern psychoanalytic thought to this day.

Clearly, Freud was a man of formidable intellectual vigour and his capacity for work was astonishing. But Freud remains an intellectual enigma, out of tune with the intellectual timbre/temper of his time. Science had been in the ascendancy, in the enlightened West, for centuries. Freud, in spite of his intelligence, exhibited thought patterns akin to the intellectual methodology of Ancient Greek philosophers 2,500 years ago. He appears to have had no time, or at least seemed oblivious, toward empirical science and the scientific method. Like the Ancient Greeks, he would make observations of a phenomenon, then move straight to theory without the intervening stages of formulating a hypothesis and subsequent testing by experiment. In his own time these intellectual processes were clearly redundant and anachronistic. Like the ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, Freud thought that pure reason could unleash new knowledge. And in this regard, he is simply right, but only in the world of mathematics and logic. His contempt for the scientific method, at least in the realm of psychoanalysis, is illustrated by the following anecdote. On being told by an associate that a researcher had found experimental evidence for his concept of ‘Repression’, Freud was heard to remark: “I do not require experimental data for the validity of my concepts, they exist anyway.”

It is of no surprise that Freud’s concepts were often couched in the names of mythical Ancient Greek characters- the Oedipus complex being a striking example. He also introduced the Ancient Greek concept of duality into his theories: consider his formulation of the ‘life force’ and its darker blood relative, ‘the death drive’, named Eros and Thanatos respectively. It appears that Freud was a better Classicist than a Scientist. Much of his work would not pass the rigorous peer reviewed scientific standards demanded of modern scholarship, today. That said, Freud remains important because of his early influence on the ‘theory of the mind’, although most of what he preached has been discarded by modern psychologists. Perhaps only his simplistic model of the psyche has relevance to modern thought, although his ideas were arrived at by intuition and not based on anything intellectually concrete. Most educated folk are aware of Freud’s conceptualisation of the Id, Ego and Superego. His major insight was to recognise the importance of the vast unconscious mind and the sublime influence of the unconscious on conscious thought processes.

For all the intellectual derision and opprobrium aimed at Freud today by modern psychology Professors, Freud’s standing in the lay public mind remains high. Indeed, he has successfully invaded our unconscious thoughts and Freudian concepts remain entwined within our cerebral cortex (stop waxing lyrical, Flaxen, and take your medication). Our society is littered with Freudian slips such as:  Arrested development; Death wish; Phallic symbols; Anal retentiveness; Defense mechanisms; Cathartic release. And on and on and on. No doubt when these learned Professors have slipped this mortal coil, most will soon be forgotten along with their work, but Freud will endure.

Monday 21 May 2018

The Royal Wedding

The sleepy Principality of Dudley is in incandescent uproar at the anticipation of the Royal wedding of Prince Barry (call me Bazza) and his bride, Sharon Mugumbo. The dream couple met when Barry was carrying out humanitarian duties in a Tipton brothel. Apparently, they fell in love when their eyes locked over a moist, crusty bed sheet.  There are naysayers who contend that a Prince of the realm should be marrying someone posh called Cassandra or Jocasta, rather than marrying a colonial, coloured actress, stripper, chanteuse and hair dresser. And a divorcee to boot. Some aver that the trend had been set when the Duke of Windsor nearly married Wallace Simpson 148 years ago.

Controversy was spawned after it was divined that local itinerants, sleeping rough in Dudley High Street, had removed themselves voluntarily to take up permanent residence in the local cemetery. Filthy Eric, of no fixed kneecaps, managed to escape the roaming death squads and opined thusly: “Can you spare 20 quid for a pack of fags and a bottle of ‘Thunder Bollocks’ wine? “.  When encouraged with a cattle prod he continued in a dissimilar vein:” Ooooh, what a lovely couple. May beneficence cascade upon their tumescent loins. And their first child, be a masculine child. Although she does look a bit dusky”

Mr Khan, of Mr Khan’s cheap shit and tat, has launched a gaggle of products celebrating this most inauspicious event including a line of commemorative mugs sporting the effigies of the hapless couple. Sharon has been rendered in shimmering topaz sporting a spear, grass skirt and a bone through her nose, while Prinz Barry is in the full regalia of the SS Totenkopf division. The effect is enhanced by the judicious application of crayon highlights and Sharon’s moustache has been rendered in shimmering shellac.

Mrs Enid Mugumbo, of no fixed morals, ranted on interminably:  “Oooooo what a lovely bride Barry makes. I remember his mother, Kylie, a great useless, thick, stupid lump with a penchant for banging foreigners".

Sharon’s father is unlikely to attend the wedding as he is washing his underwear that day. His book: ‘The Prince who shagged my daughter’, will be available in all good book stores later this week.

The royal Ferret, Shagger, was not amused.

Prince Phillip is 137

Filthy Eric, in repose 

Friday 18 May 2018

More Health & Safety Bollix

I have the unhappy designation of Departmental Health & Safety Officer. Tis a poisoned chalice full of foul smelling ichor. My main duties revolve around meticulous form completion; maintaining a hazard register and a chemical register. There is a pressing need to conduct a monthly 'Health & Safety Audit' and an insistent obligation for each staff member to complete an annual 'Health & Safety Questionnaire'. Anyway, it appears to me that as long as I dutifully complete the assigned tasks the management gods are appeased and life, as we know it, rolls along with wistful abandon. Furthermore, real health and safety issues, issues that actually impact on the worker are conveniently ignored, especially where money is required to remedy the situation. For instance, we have a long-standing issue with the air conditioning and temperature control systems in the laboratory. As this requires a complete and expensive refit, the management have conveniently ignored our repeated requests, entreaties, nay pleas, for refurbishment.

Last year I decided to audit the atmospheric levels of a chemical compound used in the processing of cells for chromosome analysis. One of the chemicals used in the mixture is acetic acid which is liberated into the atmosphere during the process. Visitors to the laboratory often remark on the pungent odour which appears to permeate/pervade the area. Of course, the scientists and technicians can no longer smell the chemical due to a long and frequent acquaintance. Also, copper pipes in the fridges and freezers have corroded resulting in equipment failure on a regular basis.  Consequently, I thought it would be a good idea to check on the recommended exposure levels and was appalled to note that the permissible levels in an environment should not exceed 8ppm over an eight-hour period. With this knowledge in hand, I obtained a dosimeter for measuring acetic levels in the atmosphere. Although not highly accurate, the meter gives an indication of acetic acid concentrations, albeit in a semi-quantitive manner.

Over the course of several months I’ve  assiduously measured the acetic acid levels in the lab, especially during peak activity. Eventually, this will form the basis of a health and safety report, which once completed, will be forwarded to our Occupational Health Department for deliberation and perhaps thereafter passed on to Higher Powers. Very early on in the study it became apparent that levels were high normal or over limits deemed safe. This work often had to take second place to my normal duties and I was hoping to submit my ground-breaking study sometime in July. But the fates and the furies had other ideas. And it came to pass that a senior manager got wind of my endeavour. Within a thrice I became the attention of a gaggle of upper management types. To a man they wore perplexed and worried frowns over suits of burlap grey. Mayhap, they were expressing concern for the health of their dedicated scientific staff? Or could there be a darker, ulterior motive?  They fired off a volley of insistent and pertinent questions. My answers did not allay their troubles. Head suit, gasped: “Oh my god, we could be fined  200k.” At that revelation they shuffled into my boss’s office to further spread the woe. To fix the issue will cost a meagre 10k- I wonder if they would be so willing to comply if the legislative ‘Sword of Damocles’ was not swinging adroitly above their well coiffured bonces?  

Once management had departed, and as if in a fevered dream, I was approached by my very harassed looking boss. “Flaxen”, he intoned, “I want your report on my desk first thing in the morning”. Bugger, says I, as I was hoping for a relaxed evening with the local ‘swingers’. All the crusty bits had been scraped off my gimp suit and a new ‘glory hole’ had been lovingly fashioned. Instead, I’ll be huddled over a keyboard until the wee hours poring over statistics and standard deviations- ARSE.

Moral of the story:  If you want anything done, cloak it in the guise of Health & Safety. It stirs like a Behemoth and lurks at the margins of all corporate decisions and if they fail to heed/feed the beast, they will incur the wrath of power wielding Health and Safety Pendants. The penalty for non-compliance is dire and immensely expensive. It is important to remember that a judicious and constructive enhancement (fiddling sounds too harsh) of data is okay, especially if it conforms to your own nefarious agenda- all the best scientists do it.    

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Bow of Doom

Behold the bow of Doom or Redemption, depending on perspective. This is my first successful Ash bow. My first Ash bow turned into a pile of firewood, but the hard-won lessons have been applied to my second project. It has taken a while to fashion this bow, about 3 months, due mainly to the lack of spare time for practical woodwork.

The bow is 66 inches long and has a draw weight of 30lbs, at my draw length. I was aiming for a weight of between 40-50lbs. Unfortunately, I made the bow limbs too thin and had to cut down the bow from its original length of 72 inches to its final length to gain extra poundage. This is not a mistake I intend to make with my second bow. The handle region is 10 inches and overlaid with a piece of Kwila. Kwila is a native NZ hardwood used for the construction of decking. I had a piece in my garage and decided to include it in the build. I managed to rasp down the handle to give an ergonomically functional profile. I used the same wood to reinforce the knocks.

I've backed the bow with rawhide. This material is relatively expensive to obtain from archery outlets and being a tight arse (arse) I decided to purchase a rawhide dog chew from the local pet shop. I soaked the chew in warm water for a couple of hours. Thereafter I unpicked the 'bone' and glued it to the back of the bow. The rawhide gives the bow a rustic, primitive look and helps to prevent the rise of splinters which could introduce weak spots and areas of potential failure. As far as I'm aware, the rawhide does not impart any additional poundage to the draw weight, for that I would require a backing of natural sinew or fibreglass. I finished off with a couple of applications of boiled linseed oil for protection.

The bow shoots well and appears to be reasonably well tillered. It does not sport an arrow shelf or sights- no bells, whistles or fripperies. I designed the bow to look unrefined and arrows are shot off the knuckle. Not the prettiest bow in New Zealand and way too light for my taste. I'd require at least an extra 20lbs for hunting deer or hog. This brings me neatly to my second Ash bow: I've already started the project. This bow will be of a similar pyramid design to the first. The handle, or riser, will consist of a laminate of three different kinds of wood, to achieve an aesthetic. Also, I intend to back the bow with strips of Lincoln green fibreglass. This time I'm aiming for a 50lb draw weight. This bow should be suitable for target shooting and hunting and although the overall design will not be sophisticated I'm hoping for a bow which will be pleasing to the eye.

I'll be moving to my retirement property next month. A four-bed single storey home with barn, nestling in 2.5 acres. Absolutely perfect for setting up a static archery range. The Tararua Mountains provide a majestic backdrop to my rural idyll; far from the unwashed crowds and common folk. And here I will wend out my dotage until my body is consigned to the flames and once more I will meld with the universe.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Fat Twat

Shock breaking news from the principality of South Tipton as it revels in the moist glistening folds of the Black Country peninsular. For today, it can be revealed that the esteemed leader of the North Tipton Democratic Republic (NTDR), Dim Sum, has crossed the ‘pantyhose line’ to enter into negotiations with South Tipton’s leader, Enoch Vowel II.

This is indeed a historic occasion and heralds rapprochement between the two states for the first time in 60 years following the great pig's pud and ferret wobbling disaster of June 25th, 1950. That date, which will live in infamy, signalled the breakdown in diplomatic relations between these two kindred nations. Pig’s pud was hurled and Shagger the ferret suffered from a particularly severe wobbling. Needless to say, relations have remained strained ever since. Indeed, Kim Do Pong threatened to unleash his latest terror weapon, ‘The peace Rocket’, but luckily for South Tipton, a random whippet pissed on the box of matches.

Dim Sum will visit the local orphanage and deposit thousands of NTDR children as a goodwill gesture and afterward find homes in the NTDR for thousands of stray dogs denuded from South Tipton’s kennels as a humanitarian gesture.

Mrs Enid Mugumbo, of no fixed dentures, had this to say about this momentous event: ''Ooh what a lovely man to cement harmonious accord between our great nations. Although I didn’t expect him to be so short, fat, ugly and sporting a particularly shite haircut. Has anyone seen my poodle'', Noodles?''

Wise words indeed, Mrs Mugumbo.
Ramen Poodles