Saturday, March 30, 2013

Introducing to those who’ve never heard of him one Johnny Winter (before he pops his clogs - he’s not that young anymore). I’m also rather intrigued as to what wars North Korea has been fighting to allow its generals to award themselves so many medals. After that just a few bits and pieces of the usual shite

Here’s a song I’m sure many of you know, but might well be unfamiliar with this version. Give it a listen. As far as I’m concerned he does the song justice, where others might well have reduced it to Saturday night chicken ’n chips cabaret. It’s by Johnny Winter.



On Sunday, April 14, my mate Pete and I are going to see Johnny Winter play at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in West London. I’ve always like Mr Winter’s music since, in 1972 in my last year at college in Dundee, I turned on the radio and heard the track Funky Music and thought ‘shit, that’s music I like’. Below you can hear two tracks.

I bought several of his albums - that is LPs - almost as soon as I got heard it. The one I bought which has that track was  there was Johnny Winter And which featured Rick Derringer - no convenient Amazon website then and I had to got to a ‘record store’ to order it but, as these things happen, they all got lost. Since then I’ve since acquired several of the ones I owen on CD.

Bach enthusiast, Mozart enthusiast, Palestrina enthusiast, Haydn enthusiast, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Ravel, Beethoven, Dave Fiucyzinski, Freddie Jackson, Bob Dylan blah-di-blah enthusiast that I am (how many more composers and artists can I name without blowing it all and merely coming across as a show-off, name-dropping cunt rather than a man with admirably eclectic tastes?), I have a soft spot for Mr Winter. He’s not subtle and Radio 3 won’t give him a lot of airtime between now and Kingdom Come, but the man has something, and I must admit I’m looking forward to gig. (And this is as much a nod to Pete that I still owe him for the ticket and I shan’t forget, as I’m not that sort of guy.

Mr Winter is one of that very rare breed, an albino rock star. There are, as far as I know only two of them and the other is his slightly better known brother Edgar. (Albinos are, if you don’t know, men, women and other animals who have some kind of genetic ‘defect’ - I have to put it in inverted commas in case we now should call it a ‘lifestyle choice’ and it’s illegal to call it a defect and I don’t really fancy appearing befoe Bow Street magistrates charged with a hate crime - which means their hair and skin are completely white. Good news, of course, for any Ku Klax Klanners and British National Party supporters who still froth at the mouth at the very mention of reggae and that kind of thing.) Here’s a second song by the man.



. . .

Well, that’s a shortish entry so I should, according to the Bloggers’ Code as set down in the Marseille Memorandum of 2008, add a little more to make worthwhile the space I am taking up on the web. I mean who knows what gems I am displacing by my neurotic insistence on making a noise and taking shite at length? A quick flick through the various media websites reveals that North Korea are at it again and now claim they are at war with South Korea and the U.S. Quite what they are up to I don’t know and don’t even claim to know. Perhaps young Jim Jam Kim or whatever the young shaver’s name is who inherited the throne from his dad was given an Samsung Galaxy III which isn’t working quite as he would like. And incidentally, take a look at the picture below which has appeared almost

everywhere. Who are they kidding? Are we really expected to believe that the assorted generals surrounding the young shaver really are taking their orders from him? I know it’s a bit below the belt, but he looks to me as though he still needs written instructions on where to find his cock. But what the real power set-up in North Korea is would be anyone’s guess. And where the hell did they get all those medals? As far as I know the last war North Korea was involved in was the Fifties’ Korean War, so what have they done to earn that bunch each and every one of them is wearing? Answers, please, on a postcard addressed to the usual dustbin.

. . .

The really big news here in Old Blighty is the utterly bizarre weather we’ve been having. Summertime - that’s ‘summertime’ as in the clocks go forward - begins early tomorrow morning, but most of the country is apparently snowbound. I say apparently, because we lucky ones down here in Cornwall are only getting the rather cold weather. Freezing temperatures, blizzards (or what passes for a blizzard here in Britain - our descriptions usually have the Swedes, Alaskans, Norwegians and the good folk from Siberia in stitches for them -12c is a welcome relief) are taking place further up North.

I rather suspect we are in for a belter of a summer - ‘highest overnight temperatures since time began’, that kind of thing (‘Most dramatic headline since Caxton cribbed a printing press from Gutenberg!’) Or not. See that’s the beauty of Britain: like our national football (U.S ‘soccer’ - nambies), rugby and cricket sides almost everything about Britain is unpredictable. Our national sportsmen, for example, will play a real blinder one minute, then redefine what it is to be a pratt the next by losing (as our Test team almost did in New Zealand - bloody New Zealand. The only reason we held them to a draw was because their best players had to go home to help with the shearing. Talk of luck!)

Anyway, back to the weather. It has been awful, shivery cold down here and shivery cold and very snowy further north. The weathermen say it could even carry on till the end of April. Give me a break!

. . .

Finally the bits you have been wating for:

Arch WAG Abby Clancy put on a beige dress and has gone off on holiday!

Model Care Delevingne (I’ve never heard of her either, but then I am 103 years old - make allowances, please) has been showing off her toned torso.

Katie Price (who was once the King of Jordan or something, but we’re not supposed to mention that any more - apparently she’s taken out a super injunction) has got married again. Yes, got married again. I’ll repeat that in case anyone reading this still can’t quite believe it: Katie Jordan has married again. That’s right, again.

Meryl Streep’s daughter has split from her boyfriend. Isn’t life sad? And there was me thinking she might have starved to death in the Ethiopian desert. Funny how you can get these things sooo wrong.

Jessica Alba has supper with her hubby.

Kim Sears looks summery in a white dress and floral cardigan. Anyone care to tell me who Kim Sears is? Is she anything to do the nutter who inherited North Korea from his dad. No? Well, she could have been, couldn’t she, I mean the names are reasonably similar. Do your reckon Jim Jam Kim wears summery dresses? Not in public, probably.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sorry to say this but: beware conspiracy theorists (or at least intemperate bloggers). And a spot of Britain’s national sport: Teasing The French. I’m sure our Gallic cousins have a useful word for ‘teasing’ which I could employ here just to show off, but, sadly, I don’t know it

All the following notwithstanding, I can’t resist posting a picture which has come my way of the latest euro bank note being issued in Cyprus. Here it is:


A year or two ago, I came across a blog by a former advertising executive call John Ward which he calls The Slog. The name is some kind of derivation from ‘deconstructing bollocks’, and his avowed intention was to try to cut through the - well, bollocks - in which much of our ‘news’ is swaddled by governments, official bodies and, sadly all too often, our media (who, unsurprisingly are more interested in keeping the dollars rolling in than anything else) to try to uncover what’s beneath it all. I found the blog at the previous height of the euro crisis when it looked increasingly likely that Greece would have to leave, causing all kinds of upset.

John Ward refers to his sources, many apparently in influential positions with whom, by his own account, he is in constant touch, and although I have no way of knowing whether or not they are quite as well-informed as he claims, I must, for any lack of evidence to the contrary, take him by his word. That was in the late autumn of 2010, and as that year turned into 2011, John Ward predicted with almost absolute certainty that it was a done and dusted matter that over the weekend in March 2011, Greece would leave the euro. I think I even blogged on it myself.

The plan, he said, had been hatched in Germany and Washington, which, he claimed, was following its own agenda of weakening Europe as a financial market, and the so-called ‘Grexit’ would be underway once the financial markets closed on a Friday. By the Monday Greece was still a member. John Ward gave chapter and verse as to what had happened and claimed that he hadn’t, in fact, been wrong, but there had been several developments which meant the plan to turf Greece out had been put on hold. That was two years ago. I carried on reading The Slog, but in view of that one failed prediction, I did so rather less.

I was also increasingly unimpressed by some of the language and phrases John Ward used. It wasn’t that I was offended, it was that they seemed curiously inappropriate for what would otherwise seem to be a serious commentary. And he, too, seemed and seems to subscribe to the, in my view completely batty, suspicion that the whole euro crisis is nothing less than a German plot to dominate Europe. I mean would you accept as serious your GP’s health advice if he also claimed regularly to talk with elves and goblins? No, nor would I. John Ward habitually refers to ‘Berlin-am-Brussels’, calls Angela Merkel the Füherine and often makes reference to the Fourth Reich.

Looney tunes? I am apt to agree. And though, on the other hand, he does a lot of spadework, digging into this report and that, I rather think it is the kind of spadework which might be undertaken by those intent on ‘proving’ the Moon is not only made of cheese, but it is, in fact, a rare cheese produced only in the Cynon Valley, in South Wales. His latest suggestion is that the governments in the eurozone are planning some huge theft of everyone’s money. Oddly enough, given the government of Cyprus’s plan to grab a percentage of all savings in the island’s banks - a plan swiftly abandoned in the face of savers’ anger - John Ward’s suggestion might not seem quite as batty. But batty it is. I have never been a conspiracy theorist and am always inclined to cock-up theories, so that is where Mr Ward and I must part company.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I think the whole euro experiment is doomed to failure sooner rather than later and that a bad situation is being made far worse by the day by ill-thought-out ‘solutions’ and remedies. It would be pointless to mention exactly where the euro started going wrong, but I shall do so anyway: monetary union must come after political union not before it, because there simply has to be a credible body governing how it is operated. So from the outset the euro was (in my view - my sister, whose opinion I always respect, disagrees) doomed.

Everything else, for example, reports that Chirac insisted as a favour to the Greeks that Greece should be allowed in as a quid pro quo for supporting German reunification, was a sideshow. Even that fact that a great many countries fiddled their figures to become members is, in essence, not important. Things have gone from bad to worse - horrible unemployment and related miseries in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland - because whatever measures suggested by the ECB and the rest were too timid, politically unacceptable or could simply not be agreed upon.

So we now have the mess we are in, including the utterly bizarre situation where European taxpayers might well have found themselves in the position of protecting the savings of Russians, much of which is widely believed to be criminal money.

I think the problem stems largely from the kind of people running the various European institutions. I think the essence of the matter is that those who staff the ECB and the EC etc are more or less my generation and a little younger, men and women – though, I should imagine largely men – who grew up in the heady days of student politics and idealism in the late 60s, early 70s and in a way simply haven’t outgrown that idealism. They seem to suffer from a panglossian conviction that ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’ however rocky the road to that world might at present be. (Here in Britain we have a similar problem in that all too many of our politicians in all parties started out as special advisers to other politicians and have limited experience of the world you and I know).

So underlying almost all the measures taken is that they must keep an eye on ‘the bigger picture’ – yes, things might be tough now and, yes, people might have to make sacrifices now, but think of what it is all leading to, the glory of it all.

After all, aren’t we continually told the one aim of the original ‘EU’ when it was first set up as the Coal and Steel Community was to tie France and Germany so closely together that they would never again go to war? And all too often the, in my view facile, claim is made that ‘the EU has kept peace in Europe for the past 60 years’. It is this immature idealism which is blinding the decision makers to the effects their decisions are having. I mean no one in their right mind would otherwise countenance tolerating youth unemployment at more than 50pc (as it is in Greece, Spain and Portugal).

To adapt that hoary saying ‘they can’t see the trees for the wood’. So although these men and women are by no means ‘stupid’, I suggest this mess is largely, almost wholly, the result of infinite bumbling, though for the reasons I suggest above.

. . .

There are few things we Brits like better than teasing the French, and Lord are they teasable. So in that spirit I’d like ‘to share’ (as they say on TV) these three anecdotes with you that are perhaps apocryphal, perhaps not, but which are quite amusing for those of use who aren’t French:

John Kennedy’a Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 1960s when De Gaulle decided to pull out of NATO. De Gaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible. Rusk responded: ‘Does that include those who are buried here?’

There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room and announced: ‘Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?’ A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: ‘Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day; they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day; and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?’

A Royal Navy admiral was attending a naval conference that included admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks when a French admiral suddenly complained that whereas Europeans learn many languages, the English learn only English. He then asked: ‘Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?’ Without hesitating, the British admiral replied: ‘Maybe it’s because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies, South Africans and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.’

NB Does anyone use semi-colons when they speak? I’ve often wondered. And as I’ve just lambasted John ‘The Slog’ Ward for what I regard as unnecessary national stereotyping, it would be thoroughly remiss of me not to engage in some quite gratuitous hypocrisy. So in that spirit I give you: Jacques!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How not to do it: the EU shows us how. And I repeat my heartfelt plea: lay off the Germans, it’s not their fault. Britain’s one and only Ronnie Biggs waves farewell, and why global warming really frightens me

If someone somewhere has written a textbook on how make damn sure a bad situation becomes a lot worse and could well end in disaster sooner rather than later, the good folk trying to end the euro crisis have gone through it with a toothcomb and applied every principle therein they could find. They haven’t actually announced ‘the euro’s fucked, save what you can, each man and women for themselves’, but they might well have done.

We have been through Ireland and Greece almost going to the wall and then somehow hanging on – cuts in public services and misery for all those at the bottom of the pile notwithstanding - and then came Spain, which didn’t actually need a bailout, but which came pretty damn close and is most certainly not out of the woods yet. Each time the day was saved with the liberal application of sticking plaster, financial legerdemain and, I should imagine, outright lies, as the group which is referred to as the Troika kept the wolf from the door and the euro is as yet still alive, although not exactly kicking. In economic terms, Ireland and Greece are relatively speaking tiddlers.

The bigger worry was that the situation in Spain would get out of hand, followed by Italy. Both countries have sizeable economies and trying to contain a collapse in both could well have proved nigh-on impossible. But all has been quiet on the euro front for several months, the abysmal unemployment figures in Spain, Greece and Portugal – apparently every second man and woman under 25 is unemployed - notwithstanding. Then came the complete and utterly incomprehensible cock-up in Cyprus. In euro terms Cyprus in not just a tiddler, it hardly exists at all. But its government is on the verge of bankruptcy and needs a euro bailout to the tune of €17 billion.

This is where the brains in Brussels seem to have lost the plot entirely. Cyprus is well-known as a tourist destination, but its economy, in fact, is sustained by it being something of a banking haven. I read today that around €65 billion are stashed away in saving accounts with various Cypriot banks. (What makes the matter even more ticklish, although this has not direct bearing on the problem, is that a substantial part of that €65 billion is Russian mafia money.)

Given all that money tucked away in savings account the Troika suggested to the Cypriot government that it might care to steal some of it, around €6 billion or so, and put that towards the sum it needs ensure the PM and his various ministers continue to have a sensible supply of ouzo and mezes (err, I might be mixing my cultures there, but you get the point). Another factor is that German politicians - quite rightly – are slowly waking up to the fact that not all Germans – that’s not all Germans by a long chalk – are at all keen any more in ensuring the euro survives until kingdom come if it means they have to dip their hands into their pockets every other day. So the word went out to those with money stashed away in Cypriot banks: sorry, chaps, but we’re skimming off 10 per cent of what you have there. There was, as you can imagine, uproar, especially as there is a EU-wide law protecting the first €100,000 of any savings from such a measure.

Then there was the angle that depositors can broadly be split into those with just a little tucked away for a rainy day and various thickset Russian crims who all live in undersead Mediterranen lairs with speedboats and mini-subs when they are not patrolling the streets of



Moscow at night shooting each other. Or something along those lines. Given the rather large amounts of money they are laundering, a 10 per cent haul would be quite a sizeable amount. On the other hand these are chaps who know what to do with a gun and a knuckleduster rather more than you and I, so it does seem extraordinarily silly to suggest ripping off the rip-off merchants.

The most recent response has been that a vote on the measure in the Cypriot parliament saw the idea well and truly kicked out and everything is back to square one. But that means the government is still heading for bankruptcy if it can’t get hold of the necessary readies. During all this Cyprus’s banks were not opened to avoid a run on the banks. They are due to open on Thursday morning, although there are suggestions they could well be kept shut until a deal has been struck whereby the government can get hold of the £17 billion it needs for that next round of drinks. That makes sense, of course, but it seems unlikely that it will be lent the money. And as soon as the banks open we can confidently expect that run on the bank to take place.

Certainly, there will be some short-term emergency measures that can be put in place to try to avoid the worst, such as restricting the amounts which can be withdrawn, but in the long run that would simply be pissing in the wind. But the greatest damage has been made by allowing savers in Italy and Spain to start fearing that they, too, could well see some of their savings - well, stolen isn’t too strong a word - to bail out their governments of those countries as and when. And it doesn’t matter that, perhaps, a bailout will never be needed. Slowly, but surely, savers will start withdrawing their moolah and stashing it somewhere safer, in Britain, for example, or Switzerland, or for that matter anywhere outside the Eurozone.

So there you have it: a bad situation has been made 100 times worse because some bright spark simply didn’t think it through.

. . .

Keen and regular readers of the ‘ere blog will know that my heritage is partly Teuton (one of the reasons that two of my nicknames at school were ‘Jackboots II’ and ‘Kraut II’ – ‘II’ because until my last year I had an older brother there who was known as – is there really any need to labour the point? – ‘Jackboots I’ and ‘Kraut I’. (Incidentally, another nickname was ‘Preggers’ because at 13 my body had not yet evolved into that handsome, Adonis-like exemplar it was to become, and although I was about 10/11 stone, I was, for several years, still only around 5ft 5in, so being something of a round thing, various unkind souls thought I looked pregnant.)

I have to add that by way of laying my cards on the table as I am about to make a heartfelt plea for my mother’s kinsmen and women. Why is it always the Krauts who get the stick in all matters euro fuck-up? From where I sit their only sin is a chronic lack of imagination and a rather stolid out lookout. In fact, the word stolid’ might well have been invented to describe some, though by no means all, Germans. The lack of imagination is well highlighted by the cards they produce: superbly engineered and the car of choice in any emergency but less exciting to look than the view of a suburban street on a rainy afternoon in Droitwich). But that is their only sin.

The great Simon Heffer and the great Dominic Sandbrook are, I’m bound to say, entirely wrong: there is no masterplan to dominate Europe, to finish the job the Kaiser and Hitler started. The Germans are, almost to a man and woman, more than happy for life to carry on in its comfortable and ever-so-slightly dull way, with plenty of socialising, plenty of good food, plenty of wine and beer and no hassles whatsoever. It was this attitude which, for a while at least, made them EU enthusiasts. British pub bores are simply quite wrong: the Germans are not a warlike nation forever on the lookout for more Lebensraum.

Their tragedy, if that’s not too strong a word, is geographical: their country sits slap bang in the middle of Europe. So when Napoleon – now there’s a man who was warlike, but you don’t hear the French being perpetually slagged off for being warlike – set his heart on sipping a glass of vodka in Moscow one day, they only way he could get there was through Germany. If an army wants to get from one end of Europe to another, it makes little sense to ‘by-pass’ Germany so as not to disturb them. But things are stirring in Germany: why, many are now asking themselves, should we always foot the bill? The explanation that they should ‘atone’ for their past is, by now almost 70 years after the end of World War II, looking more than a tad threadbare. It is that sentiment which is behind the proposed new party Alternative Fuer Deutschland.

It is their lack of imagination which for so long, for far too long, in fact, has kept them suggesting the same solution – austerity – to the euro crisis. Of course, it looks good on paper: if you’re going bust, stop spending so much. What they can’t grasp is that solution which is the obvious one in a domestic situation is not the obvious one on an international level, just as Newtonian physics seem to work on a certain macro level, but come apart completely at the atomic level which is where Einsteinian physics come in. And even those are now being shown to fall apart in other situations.

Yes, Germany is a prosperous country (and might I also at this point knock on the head another myth: the Germans are not hardworking or, at least, no more hardworking than other folk. They are simply better organised and like to get things done the right way the first time round). But there is equally as much private wealth in France, Italy, Spain and, yes, Greece. So, German taxpayers are asking, why us.

Why indeed? . . .


The only way this pic can possibly be captioned is: ‘The British Way’. Foreigners (which is all of you who were not lucky enough to be born British, or in my case half-British, half-German) will have no idea and can have no clue as to why this pic is so pleasing. And if you’re British and also have no clue - fuck off abroad. Let me add a caveat: Kiwis and Ozzies might well also be in the picture, perhaps even Canucks (sorry, but I can’t think of anything more insulting - if there is a term, please get in touch).

However, much I dislike British food, British attitudes, British ‘style’, the British obsession with ‘class’, the Brits attitude to sex, it is a pic like this which sums up the quintessence of being British which, almost, forgives all. Almost. For the record it is a pic of Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs arriving at the funeral for fellow Great Train Robber Bruce Reynolds. Quite why he decided to flick a V sign and at whom I don’t know, but neither do I much care. Ronnie has given us Brits a great deal of entertainment.

He returned to Britain from Brazil when his health gave way and was immediately jailed by the usual jobsworths know what’s best for Britain. He was later diagnosed with cancer and released on compassionate grounds by the usual jobsworths who have a slighter better idea of what’s good for Britain than their less imaginative cousins. By the look of things Ronnie is not long for this world. I for one wish him a kind life for however much of it he has left.

. . .

Here are one or two items from the news you might have missed yesterday in all the excitement of whether or not Cyprus goes tits up by the beginning of next week or a few days later:

Kelly Holmes goes home in a blue shift dressafter a night out. Well!

Christina Aguilera has lost weight!

Girls Aloud split! 

Khloe Kardashian towers over her sister Kourtney because she’s wearing sky-hight heels! Fancy! The minx!

Nicki Minaj suffers yet another wardrobe malfunction! (Her tits pop out of her swimsuit as she films a music video.) 

Una Healy told by critics to put on a bit of weight! (Which is a welcome variation on the usual theme of ‘Just look what a fat cow XXXXX has become! And that cellulite! Shocking!)

Jessie J shaves all her hair off! Tulisa has NOT gone up two dress sizes! 

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Steward haven’t split! Ellen DeGeneres has the flu! Emmy Rossum turns up at charity gala - and allows photographers to take her picture! Well!

Nicole Scherzinger carries her bulldog Roscoe out of her hotel as she goes off to dinner! 

Vogue covergirl Kate Upton slaps her bottom!

Taylor Swift might have new boyfriend!

Ellie Goulding wears striped bikini top and stonewashed hotpants!

Colin Farrell goes for a brisk war! 

But that’s enough crap. For more of it visit the Daily Mail’s column of shame here

. . .

 
Bloody global warming really, really, really pisses me off!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Cry Of Love, Jimi Hendrix’s last bona fide studio album, and I are finally re-united after close on 30 years. What else could someone like you reduced to reading The Blogs Of Others care to hear more? And the Jesuits are the ones for me (if and when)

I’ll be adding more to this entry tomorrow, but I just wanted to record that today has arrived courtesy of whoever I bought it from an album (once an ‘LP’, now a ‘CD’ - oh, dear how important initials are these days when you want to prove you are still breathing and not yet dead). It’s one I once had as an ‘LP’ - OK, LP and I’ll forget trying to be such a smartarse - then ‘lost’, as I ‘lost’ quite a few LPs which were stacked in the attic of my house in Norlan Drive, Kings Heath, Birmingham B14 after I moved to Cardiff to start a job as a sub on the South Wales Echo and had to rent it out. I’ve been looking for it ever since, and a few years ago came across it again on Amazon, but the price was way beyond what I care to pay - around £35. Why I don’t know. However, taking another look recently, I saw someone was selling it secondhand for £24, and tight cunt that I can be, I decided even at that price I wanted it. It was, and now again, is one of my favourite albums.

It’s The Cry Of Love by Jimi Hendrix and was the last studio album he recorded, not, as happens all too often, a collection of outtakes and rejected crap which various record companies put out to fleece the fleeceable. I shall listen to it again tomorrow on my way to London for my four days of work (or should that be ‘work’, as I rather enjoy it?)

. . .

Apropos Pope Wayne - or is it Francis? These things are apt to confuse a handsome thirtysomething like me - the first Latin American football striker to be elected Pope and Bishop of Rome - yes, I had to read that twice, too, but we are, after all, living in a very modern world, one in which men can marry other men, women can marry other women and

Pope Wayne: He had a lethal left foot, but then discovered the Jesuits
black is apparently white after all despite centuries of not being so - I heard a rather amusing anecdote about Jesuits, Dominican and Franciscans. Pope Wayne (who might well have played for Real Madrid in the 1970s, but who failed a medical) was so disillusioned by the cynical tactics of his fellow players and was, at heart, quite a sincere chap that he hung up his boots and took to the priesthood, choosing to apply to the Jesuits as at the time he thought they were the coolest.

It seems a Jesuit, a Dominican and a Franciscan were sitting together in a room when the light suddenly failed. The Franciscan took fright, fell to his knees and immediately prayed to God intensely that he (I understand the correct form is ‘He’ but then when was I ever one for correct forms?) should bring back the light. The Dominican, a slightly more cerebral chap, began a long discourse on the nature of Light and Darkness, Good and Evil and who . . . blah-de-blah-de-blah. The Jesuit got up and replaced the fuse.

When I was 12 and living in Berlin, I attended a Jesuit college for three years. I don’t know a great deal about the Jesuits, except that they tend to act as acid does to most metals, intellectually and otherwise. I must admit that I am rather drawn to the Jesuits and were a miracle to happen and I was not only persuaded that Christianity is not after all a load of voodoo hooey, but decided I had a vocation and should become a priest, the Jesuits would be my first and only port of call.

Actually, perhaps I shouldn’t joke as much. At least this guy has the good grace not only to admit the poor have a shit time, but also that the RC church should do something about it. And no one lives in a small flat, cooks his own meals and travels ‘to work’ on the underground for several years in the hope that he might one day be elected Pope and it will all look rather good in the Vatican PR handouts. Or am I just as naive as the rest of you?

Unsurprisingly, the British press, who rarely have much better to do, have already got their sharpened knives and are questioning just how active he was in the armed resistance to General Galtieri when that son of a bitch had the gall - had the gall! - to restrict shipments of tea to the Falkland Islands (or, as we Brits like to call them, the Falkland Islands). Did he or did he not - the public surely has a right to know! - personally suggest that if the Falkland islanders couldn’t get as much tea as they would like, they should perhaps, you know, try drinking coffee. I mean, it’s not the end of the world is it (unlike the Falkland Islands if you live in london rather than Buenos Aires)? Bastard! Calls himself a man of God? Yeah, right. The Jesuits will, apparently, take anyone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A lovely version of Autumn Leaves, one of my favourite tunes, courtesy of a guitarist called Ryan Stewart of whom I know nothing


Not written here for a while and don’t at the moment have much to say, but just to keep you all ticking over, here’s a video of one of my favourite tracks played beautifully. The track is Autumn Leaves and it’s played on guitar by a guy called Ryan Stewart, whose website you can find here. I know nothing about Ryan Stewart and only came across this particular version when searching You Tube for versions of Autumn Leaves. There are some quite mediocre ones, but Ryan’s is one of the best I have heard and beats most all others by a country mile. Here it is, and I hope you enjoy it.
 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Forget UKIP, many economists in Germany now want an alternative to the euro freaks, too

The big news here in Britain for about five minutes last week was that at a by-election in Hampshire, the anti-EU party UKIP came second, beating the Conservatives into third place. I doubt whether that will have made many headlines abroad, and even here in Britain interest waned almost overnight given that strange things tend to happen at by-elections and given the accepted view that on many issues UKIP is more in tune with rank and file Tories than are the Cameronian Tories. Cameron himself has vowed that UKIP’s success will not mean he will take a ‘lurch to the Right’, but at the same time the Mail on Sunday reported today that a future Tory government will ditch the Human Rights Act. (Actually - and this is a bit of insider info, nudge, nudge, wink, wink – the word is that the Mail on Sunday hack did get a Tory briefing but got something horribly, horribly wrong and wrote the wrong story. The trouble is that now it has reported a possible new policy, one that will go down a storm in the shires and among suburban blue-rinsers and their wives, Cameron will look a right tit if he doesn’t follow through.)

UKIP – the United Kingdom Independence Party – is, as far as I am concerned not a political party at all but a single-issue pressure group. And that single issue is: Britain must withdraw from the European Union. A UKIP supporter reading this blog might well bleat ‘but we are a political party’, but as a rule political parties sport policies on a range of issues, and when UKIP does present ‘its policies’ on education, transport, defence, the economy and all the other areas politicians are forever sticking their noses into, they remain wholly unconvincing. Just the one issue preoccupies their every waking moment and that is getting Britain out of the EU. On all other issues they are pretty much contingent with the Tory party.

Cameron once wrote off UKIP as ‘loonies and closet racists’ (and he could well have a point), but the problem was that as many rank and file blue-rinsers have rather a soft spot for UKIP (and I can think of several Tory acquaintances in rural Cornwall who have told me they ‘would vote UKIP if they had any chance of taking the seat), he ran dangerously close to describing many Tory supporters as ‘loonies and closet racists’ (and, again to be honest, if he were to do so, could still well have a point.) But UKIP aren’t just a problem for the right-of-centre; there are plenty of voters who identify with Labour (and even the Lib Dems) who are equally disenchanted with the European Union and might well in extremis find themselves voting for UKIP, especially if it means that the more successful UKIP is in an election for any given seat, the less successful the Tory candidate will be, so the better the outlook will be for the Labour chap or chappesse. And that, of course, is the big Tory worry: UKIP might not garner enough votes at the 2015 general election to win any seats, but it could garner enough to do the Tories a hell of a lot of damage and lose it seats.

The one pertinent point about UKIP – yes, there is one, you know – is that, for all their fogeyism and cravats and golf club jokes and gin and tonics, they are more in touch with the mood of Britain than many like to admit. But a more interesting point is that their disillusionment with the EU is not just a parochial British affair. So a drum roll please for ‘Alternative für Deutschland’, a soon-to-be-established party in Germany whose would-be founders and supporters are terminally fucked off with the whole euro crisis, Merkel’s measures to solve it and cross-party support in the Bundestag for those measures. The at the moment the party is scheduled to be formally founded in April at a meeting in Berlin and has promised to try to contest seats in Germany’s general election this September, or, if it isn’t ready to, to take part in the EU elections in 2014. You can read about the new party here, here, here and here (if you read German) and I must admit that that is where I have garnered my scant knowledge of it so far. But a crucial point is that, as far as I can see, they should not be regarded as a version of UKIP in Lederhosen and a Stein of lager.

First of all, they are specifically concerned with the euro crisis and are not demanding Germany’s withdrawal from the EU. Second, unlike the profile of your average UKIP bod, who to my mind is more at home swapping ever-so-smutty jokes at the golf club bar than taking part in a truly academic discussion, a quite a few of the bods who plan to set up Alternative für Deutschland are university economists who, however much you might disagree with their analyses, can at least be accepted as knowing what they are talking about. And quite apart from not being ‘anti-EU’, many are wholehearted supporters of the EU. It’s just the way the euro crisis is being handled which bothers them and, more importantly, what they see as implications for German democracy, and, yes, I admit Germans can get rather intense and dramatic in some matters, but I do think they have a point. They point out that although the parties in the Bundestag might disagree on strategy and tactics, all are agreed that the euro must be protected. It is the solid consensus on the matter which troubles them, and those Germans, of which there is a growing number, who no longer agree, are simply unrepresented.

So perhaps their fears for the future of democracy in Germany is not quite as daft. This could get interesting, especially as the election last week in Italy ensured that parliamentary chaos there for the foreseeable future is certain.

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Bloody rain!


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I gave you a house in Southampton which looked like Adolf Hitler, now here's a church in Tampa Bay, Florida, which looks like a chicken (or at least to those who take an interest in these things).