Saturday, December 27, 2008

Flat Out

One fortunately does not celebrate Christmas.

I got a twinge the last time I was at the computer and by the time I got down the stairs I could barely walk - back trouble.

I am one of those who has had congenital back trouble ever since my early 20.s - and it decided to floor me for the Christmas period, which is possibly a good thing.

It did mean I could not go and get some results from the hospital, and id did mean that when it snowed here in Timisoara to give us a white Christmas I didn't need to go and walk in the damn stuff - so clouds and silver lining what?

I also think it might have contributed to a reduction in the swelling of the hernia (did I mention the hernia - number three on my body is trying to tell me something chart?)

Not that other things are not swollen - grapefruit size scrotal sack making feel like an over endowed ram.

But enough, I must try to keep this thing tasteful.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Too much information ...

I must warn you not to read on if you have a delicate stomach or sensitive nature.

Part of the problem of this tumour thing is the fact that it sticks out like a sore thumb - and that there seem to be associated side effects.

One of the most intriguing is the look - there has been a degree of swelling under the skin and the result is very reminiscent of the nose of a Bull Elephant seal.

The distortion is not discomforting, most of the time (although other swelling does lead to a need for careful walking) .

It does force a degree of readjustment.

The sheer physicality of it and the ability of the body to stretch and swell is becoming a fascination - and one looks down at oneself in the bath with a distance - one inspects and examines as if it were not the self, but an independent body one were looking at.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not quite all there ...

or too much of a good thing?

There is an extension on my implement of masculinity which has sent several doctors scurrying. Scalpels and anesthesia are now brandished with aplomb.

I tend to move at a more restrained pace. Something to do with the extension.

A triple whammy of heart, hernia and tumor have certainly coloured the festive season with regards to your humble servant - although I have to admit to a sharpening of my wit.

The difficulty is in breaking the news to others - I couldn't give a damn (Quite frankly, my dear) and see in it an inevitable - of family genetics, if not of mortality itself.

I hope to keep posting - although it is very difficult to get to the computer - and I am off to the UK for the cruelest cut of all (I am most likely going to earn my qualifications for working in the Imperial Chinese Bureaucracy - or supervising the Harem of some over cautious Pasha) so sporadic, barren posts only in the near future.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fantasy Football

... Romania!

Iancu (BBLB) on the tv - administrative difficulties shouldn't affect the football team ... erm, like not paying them?

Can you imagine anyone not being paid and being expected to go out and give their all? Well, some charity workers for a good cause, but Iancu is not a good cause!

And idiot Petrescu ... "we gave them a lesson in how to play football" - I thought the idea was to score goals - and what was the score, oh yes, a 1-1 draw. Strange lesson.

But what is really frightening is the way the sports press are allowing these people to get away wit it ... still no reporting of the financial mismanagement, the failure to pay wages, the interference in the team by a man who is supposed to be suspended.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fat Man Singing

... and the show is not over 'til!

Let me tell you the plot of a soap opera, not too far from reality ...

There is a certain Big Bellied, Little Brained Football-Club "owner" (Romanian) who seems to think the rest of the world is as stupid as he! I suspect Bass but could be an aging tenor.

He is apparently out of money - he is known to owe large amounts to various 'friends' so his personal probity is somewhat suspect.

He tried to recover his loses by selling the club he 'owns' (after loosing 6 points for the season by his idiotic actions) - but doesn't seem to have been successful.

Whilst he was quiet and not involved, the team flourished - 10 national games without a loss. Team spirit goes up, the fans sing a chorus of praise.

The Big Belly's deals fall through and he tries to take over control. Dark strings in the background of celebrations.

First thing he thinks of is the selling of low level players he's purchased after bad advice from the ever accompanying toadies and brown tonguers (got to be tenors with a whine and bass singing falsetto).

To do this he wants them to play in the first team. He sends a list of to be included to the heroic team manager/coach (lyric tenor of a baritone) who refuses to change the team.

Mysteriously, against the odds, the next game is lost ... and there is the suspicion certain players have sold out to the Big Belly! Even more suspicious is the public vilification Big Belly launches against the coach.

The chorus mutters but is too intoxicated to really respond - disaster looms if it doesn't act, but will it see through Big Belly in time?

Team spirit is starting to be rocked - fear of the none payment of wages, the removal of an effective, winning coach, inefficient and poor support staff starts to run an undercurrent of sharps and discordant noise in the newly forged harmonies.

Disaster - a threat from Big Belly, just before an important match - teams spirit is further eroded ... but with an heroic effort the team manage to salvage a draw ...

Big Belly strikes again - wages are not paid ... footballers, who had been giving their all are not given wages, the coach is not paid ... and the press stay quiet! Distracted by Big Belly and his talk of the future, they fail to see through the lies and deceptions ...

What will the final act bring ?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Russians came ....

Great time at the Ballet last night - a gala with proper dancers. Amazing how quickly things go when you are having fun.

Mind you, I still am not over fond of 19th Century Ballet.

The child behind had a most appropriate reaction to the small male who came on wearing what looked like a pleated, tartan school-girl's uniform - give it a chocolate.

All that was required to make the evening perfect was to shoot the penguin who gave a speech at the start.

Romanians do like talking.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Palin goes Tybalt

Skynews this morning gave the lovely headline:

Palin claims Obama consorts with terrorists.

Which instantly got the Shakespeare antenna twitching.

Tybalt, when he was searching for an insult, used the word consort ... ah, I said, maybe the woman (or her speech writer) has a classic education after all!

But no, it was only the editors at the British based news service who seem to have had an education.

Doesn't take away the Tybaltian nature of the insult though - and, as we all know, Tybalt was a rat.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hell awful!

It was the sort of production that gives Opera a bad name.

Timisoara Opera, like much of the theatre in Romania, luxuriates on a cloud of conceit – there is no better example than the current production of Gounod’s Faust, endured by my good self and a colleague last evening.

Let me start by excluding the innocent.

The orchestra and conductor did a competent job – what came out of the pit was OK, if a little slow some of the time and too direct at others.

So too with the chorus. Provincial Opera Choruses are never going to equal in either size or youth their metropolitan equivalent, but the Timisoara crowd sang well.

I can see why both groups are being used abroad in international co-operations and as support in festivals in Austria.

I can also see why such festivals bring along their own soloists.

Maguerite managed to go mad nicely after a difficult beginning. Earlier on the ‘role’ – as directed - taxed the acting skills of the singer - with one unforgettable and unforgivable moment of ‘beached whale’ stupidity. A woman of her stature should never have been asked to roll on the ground – unless it was to flatten a particularly lumpy cricket square.

Faust had a pleasant, resonant lower range but had to resort to full volume athletic leaps to hit the higher notes which produced a thin, acid sound – very reminiscent, I thought at the time, of the awful, weak, sun-deprived home-brew wines you have to taste when visiting people’s relations in the countryside.

Mephistopheles was well past his sell by date … which is a shame because hiding inside the now discarded banana-skin of a performer was a once great devil. Again, the singer had little chance to exploit either the role or his experience as the stultifyingly awful direction effectively left the man standing around posing in a weak imitation of a Bela Lugosi studio advertising photograph.

Which brings me to the real source of the problem – the totally inept stage direction and equally incompetent stage design (the choreography was just hilariously incongruous).

There is a tendency in Romania for theatre and opera directors to be a bit 1960s – abstract and ideas driven, symbolism rather than narrative. It worked in the 1960s – it falls flat on its face nowadays.

This production had two or three ‘ideas’ – or, rather, visual set pieces – and no overall unifying conception. It totally failed to get the ‘plot’ across – my partner at the slaughter made that point in the first interval – if she hadn’t read the story, she wouldn’t know what was happening. In Act IV it looked like Maguerite had died early (which wouldn’t have surprised me – possibly of embarrassment) whereas when she did die at the end it looked like she hadn’t and, for some reason. her night-dress had gone floating off into the sky (possibly a passing hurricane).

There was a little girl too. What she was doing there I dread to think – possibly the daughter of someone important in the theatre who wanted to get his child on the books and earn some money through child exploitation. The poor thing had to sit through the final act on a wooden staircase in her ‘nighty’, endure the soprano at full volume and madness and then help the hurricane take away the spare clothing.

There was a lot of spare clothing – or not, in the case of the ballet.

The costuming looked driven by whatever could be found to fit (or cut holes in, in the case of the ballet) in the wardrobe department’s store. At the ‘village’ fete in Act II the chorus appeared on stage in full sophisticated salon evening dress – possibly as seen in La Traviata, during the party, possibly from the ball scene in Die Fledermaus. They stayed in the same clothes right through the production – including when the men are supposed to be soldiers returning from war in Act IV. That was particularly silly – although the director’s ‘disposition’ of the men on the stage competed for the gold medal in idiocy.

Funds are limited, I realise that (although with a ticket price equal to that paid on a recent visit to the West End of London, not the fault of the punters whose bums were numbed in the dreadfully uncomfortable seats), but the two-flats-on-wheels scenery solution seemed a little on the excessively cheap side: Especially as it necessitated the frequent use of monk-dressed stage hands to push the damn things around. Monty Python Spanish Inquisition, I thought – frequently.

I take it the lighting designer died before work started on the production and the show was under the control of an enthusiastic 8 year old trainee technician.

I’d use the word amateur if it wasn’t an insult to some very good amateur productions I have enjoyed.

Gounod’s Opera is not exactly rocket science and, despite its cornucopia of good tunes, has its structural weaknesses – which is why it needs strong, coherent direction. It didn’t get it, resulting in one of the worst things I have ever seen in the professional theatre. If I had directed a school production this badly, I hang my head in shame and burn every play text I possessed whilst vowing never to set foot on stage again.

I think the choreographer has done just that and tried to replace the ballet with a ‘man with the hairiest chest’ competition.

Thank goodness for the music.

There is absolutely no excuse for this degree of dreadfulness. Timisoara Opera has given me some very enjoyable evenings in the past. It’s production of Traviata ten years ago was stunning – the best I think I have seen on stage live. The Boehma and Fledermaus were enjoyable and repeatedly watchable. There were singers on stage last night I know could have given far more, in the right production.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Palin in the Butt!

Couldn't resist this one ... The Guardian (link) quoting Simon Scharma on Ms Palin:

"she makes George Bush look like Karl Marx"

(and he's not over pleasant with the Other side either).

Nose - Face - Blood on the floor

Now, I know the average American politician has the intellectual processing powers of a beer fed slug, but yesterday's antics surely reach a new level of inebriate stupidity?

In order to 'save' money they wiped over a trillion dollars off the stock exchange ... erm, good maths at work there.

Mind you, I knew a head of an International American School who refused to employ American Maths teachers on the grounds that they couldn't do the maths they were supposed to be teaching. Seems the Republican (and sizable Democratic chunk) were taught by the international rejects.

The 'communist-threat' rhetoric too - goodness, which millennium are these people living in?

To actually hear a supposedly serious politician refer to the proposals of George (Der...) Bush as reflective of the actions of the Russian politicians in 1917 is tragic ... almost as tragic as the belief in the words held by the man's constituants back in the 'heartland' of the US of A.

But what can you expect of a bunch if ill educated hics - most of whom are creationists and are waiting for divine intervention anyway.

(Just thought I better confirm my liberal credentials by resorting to abuse.)

Pleased to see how both Obama and the old guy restrained themselves and didn't try to exploit the situation.

What I am not sure about is the reaction over the other side Pacific ... the markets fell, but not as much as expected. Then all was explained by a nice CNN reporter who pointed out that the Asian investors presumed that the American politicians would come back after the holiday (Happy New Year by the Way), do their calculations again and get it right this time.

Sorry - not the American way with mathematics.

Another thing I learnt in international schools - American children just say they are no good at math, their parent was no good at math so there is no point in trying.

Asian children (and mixed Europeans) just say I'll do it 'til I get it right ... and do.

HO HUm, what a world!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Annoyed in Romania

A double bus journey - there and back with a resulting boiling of the blood!

The article to the left is a pale reflection of attitudes here in Romania.

On the bus going, I overheard a conversation between a young child - only just speaking and indulging in a stream of consciousness. We went passed a 'Gypsy' House - much like the one in the picture. The stream of racism which came out of the child's mouth was unbelievable - obviously reflecting the indoctrination of the adults ... dirty gypsy, thieves, black ... etc.

Coming back, an umbrella had been left at the bus stop and a man getting on the bus picked it up and, as soon as he got on the bus asked aloud whose it was.

An older, dark skinned woman said it was hers - he instantly sneered at her and called her a liar - he'd seen her ethnic origins and classed her as someone who would steal and lie. It was a knee jerk reaction - he didn't even think. I looked around at the faces on the bus. Several people were smiling and one actually laughed.

A recent survey revealed the extent of racism in the country -not that a Romanian would recognise their attitudes a racist - "they just reflect the facts".

Another incident on the Television which horrified me (a lot on Romanian Television horrifies me) was a recent pair of raids on prostitution - one here in Timisoara, another in a different part of the country.

In the more civilised sections of the European Union, prostitutes are seen to be as much victims as criminals - it is the gang leaders and the bosses who are the targets. Not so here.

The tv was full of images of arrested prostitutes - film taken inside the police station! They were portrayed as cause and the source of 'the problem'. No mention was made of the pimps or the people behind the scene (possibly heavy bribes in the right place ensured that).

Not at all happy with Romania at the moment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Romanian Heads in the Sand

Romanian Education

Today (Monday) school starts again in Romania – all over the country, schoolchildren will go to school, listen to uplifting, inspiring, vacuous speeches and do nothing … in many schools they will actually do nothing for several weeks as the timetable is ‘finalised’ or the school is repaired – you’d be amazed at the poverty the school buildings exhibit.

Ask a Romanian though how good their education system is and they will tell you it is one of the best in the world.

One sure fire sign of communism and vestigial communist thinking is the belief that the system is OK it is individuals who are at fault.

I heard the sentiment expressed on national television this morning – a man, one of the ‘experts’ came out with the thought almost word for word. It wasn’t an old man either – it was someone who must have completed the higher stages of his education in post-revolution Romania.

The system of education in Romania is good – the problem is the teachers (to paraphrase).

Let me tell you, as someone who has worked within not only the Romanian system but state and private education systems across the world, the Romanian system stinks …the teachers are the way they are because of the system. Of the teachers I know, I can say there is a mix – some remarkable dedicated individuals, many effective at delivering the system, some big hearted and useless, some only in it because they couldn’t think of anything to do with their real-world useless university qualifications: All disgracefully underpaid.

Money is partly responsible for the malaise – there is none: The physical fabric of the buildings, the wages of the teachers, the spending on resources – all are woefully lacking. Seriously greater expenditure would certainly help – at least some children could actually go to school instead of waiting at home ‘til the school building can fit them in.

However, on its own money is not sufficient.

A whole mind set – the communist mindset – that education has locked into for generations (nearly all the teachers, administrators, politicians are a product of that system) has to be shifted.

Romanian Education is poor – it is based on theories of pedagogy dropped in the economically successful countries decades ago.

It is based on assessment procedures that encourage conformity and corruption: the debate over the national baccalaureate this summer, if followed in Europe, will be sending shivers of horror through the institutions which will be responsible for quality control – the real world of business will just refuse to accept a Romanian qualification.

It is based on the decades of lies and assurances about a none existent world beating quality which people are reluctant to accept – after all, it is not nice to know you are not the genius you thought you were but only an average to poorly educated dupe of a system economically and politically corrupt.

There is nothing more symptomatic of the depths and delusions the system takes Romania’s population than the current graduates.

I recently gave a course which included a number of young graduates – their assumption was that they already knew everything about the subject (they had, after all, just graduated from an excellent education system), that they only needed a few ‘tips’ and that they didn’t need to work at incorporating any of the material, or even to seriously think about it.

Setting aside the normal self assurance of youth, they were arrogant in the extreme – subject arrogant. And ignorant – many of them knew nothing of the European Framework for languages (despite graduating with languages as part of their degree), nor of the Cambridge ESL examination system (despite the examinations being commonly taken in the city they studied and both accepted and sometimes requested by international companies employing people here).

Needless to say, most of them are heading for a fall (a serious economic one – their jobs could actually be on the line): It does not matter – they can always get another (better) job – where the pay is higher … or so they think.

Fortunately not everyone thinks that way.

I will be saying goodbye to another graduate this week who, after completing his degree here in Romania has seen the light – and is going to do two more years as an undergraduate in the UK in order to give a bit of weight and meaning to the piece of paper being issued here – he also actually wants to be able to earn a living using the knowledge gained in his studies.

Two younger students have asked for help getting in to the UK and an other European country to start their degrees – cutting out higher education in Romania altogether – with the blessing of their parents – who have seen the failings here at first hand.

There are teachers who know there are other ways of teaching and other aspects of learning … but the system stops them from developing the interests they show.

It really is time Romania and Romanians bit the bullet – your education system is bad … stop trying to change individuals and details, a complete overhaul is needed, from the bottom to the top.


One of the tv channels noted last night that in a recent survey of 45 countries, Romania came 37th - for the ability of 16 year olds to read and understand a passage in their own language. The response of the spokeswoman for the education department was revealing - it is the fault of the parents if their 16 year old cannot read ... QED

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lipstick on a Pig...

One wonders if Mr Obama had someone in mind with the comment - does McPain qualify as Kermit and is the Muppet Show returning with a White House Race special?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Black Futures

I refuse to get 'upperty' about the degree of ignorance exposed in the world over the black hole issue - what I will say is 'so much for Science education!'

Romanians (I am sure) are no worse than other nations (although the refusal to recognise their backwardness in things educational is spectacular - one teacher in a 'respectable' secondary school not far from where I am typing openly taught a class of 17-18 year olds that the dinosaurs died out because they didn't go into Noah's Arc and dinosaurs and people lived at the same time!), but the emotional outpouring of fear over the CERN experiment is amazing to behold. The strongest reason given so far for such fear and belief in the inevitable end of the world is Nostradamus and his 'predictions - so much for the quality of education.

Thank goodness the Romanian National football team is doing so badly - it is providing a much needed distraction. The headline "major" victory for a 1-0 defeat of the Faeroe Island team I suspect is a little over the top. In case anyone here needs reminding - the population of the islands is less than 50,000!

Mind you, the glorious victory of the English over the Croatians, if population is a factor, doesn't quite hold up to too much inspection.

But Walcott got 3 so I don't care.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In Memoriam

Joe Farrar

1913 – Sept 9th, 1968

As befitted, my father died at the time of night most streets are empty. He’d driven past Withington hospital (an old workhouse), parked his car at the side of the road, just outside a pub, and dropped dead of a coronary thrombosis.

I was thirteen at the time, and just starting my second year at secondary school. If he had lived I am sure I would have had a very different life – but the combination of late nights, alcohol, cigarette smoke (although he never smoked himself, he spent a lot of time in pubs playing darts – the doctor had told him to give up smoking only a few weeks before – he had been amused at the suggestion he give up something he didn’t do) had worn through the tubes already weakened by a hard war and did for him.

Although I can’t remember his birthday, I remember his death day … this year it is the 40th anniversary.

We had a good funeral – my brother, mother and I sitting in the car which followed the coffin – having a good laugh at the thought of the old man sitting on the coffin, childhood-rickets bowed legs (wide enough to let a pig through) dangling over the edge, contemptuous of all the fuss and desperate for a pint.

The body was cremated and although his name (not, as it turned out, his baptismal ‘official’ name – all his life though, he’d been called Joe) was entered in the ‘roll of honour’ no memorial marks where his ashes were scattered. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the place – and someone else, a brother-in-law I think, did the same office, in the same place, for my mother when she died 30 years after.

There are fewer and fewer memories now – like the final ripples on a river after a fish has jumped and sunk back in to the deep flowing stream.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Know the enemy ...

Bad night – strange dreams.

Too hot to do anything during the day – including eat … !!!!

Not even in the mood to drink: A half hearted attempt to sink a couple of beers in the form of shandy failed miserably.

Not as miserably as the Romanian football team – which appears to have taken the example of the English team and gone down the drain. So too the Scots – not a nation I have an over fondness for at the moment (although they are doing great things for Romanian education). Pleased to see their precious national team hasn’t got a chance and that the sensible thing would be to field a British team in football … whoops, forbidden territory.

That unshaved, ugly traitor Mad Murray is unfortunately doing too well in his beloved USA (you can have him – give him States citizenship, please) at the expense of a real player (Mr Nadal) – but it’s taken a hurricane to help him out of the inevitable slaughter which was about to ensue as the clean shaved and respectable looking Spaniard recovered form.

Whilst we are over in the states it is worth mentioning that the Palin woman (real Republican Candidate for president) is accused of book banning ….

…. anyone shocked?

Mind you – as a schoolchild I was pleased the Catholic Church had their ‘index’ – a book with a list of books that they had banned. It was a great place to go for a quick smutty read in the library – it not only told you what was banned but why … so the fertile teenage imagination could fantasize about countless bestial and worse activities under the guise of ‘explanation’. I have to say I suspect anyone wanting to ban a book is more frightened of the power the words are having over them than over others. What happened to ‘know thine enemy’?

There is a seriously odd television channel here in Timisoara which perpetrates all sort of Christian nonsense (which I am quite happy with – no banning needed, just a quality state education) and provides regular moments of poor quality ‘healthy’ programming … pity the child exposed to that alone.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Bad Day in Timisoara

There are days and there are – ‘one of those days’!

Yesterday was a distinctly – ONE OF THOSE DAYS!!!!

I should have realised it was gong to be bad when I woke with a headache – never a good sign.

Downloading from the internet site I buy my music from was slow – and a couple of tracks needed reloading. I wrote a great Shakespeare blog – and had trouble posting it.

The walk and sit by the river, on what turned out to be a very hot and uncomfortable afternoon produced nothing but the briefest flash of Kingfisher and a wag of wagtail. Coupled with that was a meeting with one of those people I know – but I’ll be damned if I know who it was or why I knew them (although a name is floating around in the background).

I tried the park and that was no better – too many ambulances and police sirens, heat annoyed drivers and irritating children.

The news was bad – Poli Timisoara no longer exists (that’s the local football team) it has been stripped not only of its name (a noble name) but also of its colours – which I think no bad thing as they are the most awful clash of tastelessness I’ve ever encountered on 22 legs. They have also lost 6 points – which smacks somewhat of insult on top of injury and is distinctly political.

However, the locals have got revolting – and when the Timisoarian get revolting, governments and systems fall … remember 1989? (If you don’t, it was the start of the Romanian Revolution – the only one where the former communist leaders actually got shot). The afternoon sirens were partly responding to the taking to the streets and throwing things at the police that was going on around the stadium.

When I get home – my computer has collapsed – it refuses to start up and rebooting is not working …

I am now on my old, un-connectible to anything and don’t breath too hard or it’ll stop working and anything you do write will have to be transferred using a memory stick if you are lucky – floppy disc if you are not - laptop bought last millennium.

So – no internet – no nothing: All the work, all the downloads, all the documents and … well, everything, looks lost. That includes all the music I downloaded over the last couple of months too.

Blood is flowing. I’ve been seriously sucked by several insects … a join the dots pattern on my upper arm, bites on the feet, on the hands and one really irritating one in the middle of my back. As I type there is one of those females just waiting on the wall. I’m out of spay.

Other blood has been flowing too.

Around 9pm there was an almighty racket as the mob moved from the stadium and marched – I went out and followed them through to Opera Square – there were several hundreds of them and very well behaved too – mind you, they were being shepherded by riot police (two truck loads if the empty trucks are anything to go by) in full gear. They were also being followed by a large number of horn honking cars. Impressive.

And nothing happened – the local TV stations tried to incite some reaction – hanging flags from the Opera House balcony (where the fans could not get so how did the flags and banners get there without the media assisting?).

There was some mighty fine chanting, for 15 minutes. Then things petered out and quickly everyone drifted away.

When I got home the sports channels were talking – talking – talking: A sure sign that nothing will happen, the Romanians are great talkers.

Then I tried going to bed.

It didn’t work.

Gone two am and heading for three – and I’m messing around here, sipping a second cup of tea, fighting off the female dinners on my red-stuff waiting for some sort of resolution to a really bad ‘one of those days’.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Obama vs ... the women

He had to do it against Hillary and now he's got to do it against that other woman (what is her name?).

Is anyone in any doubt MacPain is a dead duck ... and this Monty Python woman is the real runner for president?

A word of warning - Anglo-Saxon society is much more matriarchal than people realise (remember Iron Knickers) and a right wing woman is the sort of dominatrix your average 'naughty-boy' redneck would love to tell him what to do!

Listen to rhetoric and you'll hear an awful lot about firmness and love - iron fists and how, just doing the ordinary makes you extra-ordinary in the world of politics ...

There was a fish and chip shop woman in Australia, just the same, fortunately that ex colony had enough insight to see through the shallowness of the rhetoric ... not convinced the Americans are educated enough to see it!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

On a pregnancy

... I don't know the girl, it's none of my business, the girl should not be exposed to the press attention she is going to get ...

she's getting the attention because her mother has accepted the nomination for vice president ...

her mother must have known the daughter was going to get the attention and has deliberately sacrificed her daughter (and the unborn child) because of her political ambitions ...



And what of John McCain? Did he know and also tacitly accept the public sacrifice of the child?

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A thankful disappointment

I just caught myself being disappointed that the latest hurricane wasn't a bit more destructive - wasn't the promised, 'Storm of the Century'.

A strange thought ... why would I be delighted in greater destruction? What is it that has dragged me into this urge for seeing a violent and ultimately tragic outcome?

Part of the answer I think is from the impulse humans have to tell stories ... we like a good story.

We are driven by a pattern of narrative which leads us to expect outcomes and if those outcomes are not reached there is a disappointment.

The British and the US media have been leading us to expect a 'certain' outcome ... it hasn't (thankfully) arrived ... so - not a good storm!

Odd the way narrative guides us through life.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Self Promotion

For those interested in the mix of Shakespeare, Olympics and American politics, I have just blogged over on Shakespeare Experience a good one!

What is fascinating is the way in which so much of the actual violence of war and national competition seems to have been distilled into sport ... not that sport doesn't get violent.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Republican choice ...

I have serious doubts about the mental health of the average American ... no, it's not the beer they drink or the fact that they think apple juice is cider, nor is it the inability to understand the rules of rugby (or Geneva Convention) ... it's McCain and the republicans.

The fact that the man is a war hero is automatic grounds for disqualification ... have they not watched Rambo? But it is not the geriatric leader we are interested in ... its his choice of 'running mate': And I'd run if he tried to mate with anyone in public.

The Alaskan Governor (notice, she's so well known no one would recognise her name). Sarah Palin - as in Monty Python Palin?

It is either a brilliant move (so brilliant I'm blinded to it) or an act of such obvious idiocy only a nation of morons would fall for it ...

We need to steal the women's vote off Obama ... he blew it with Hilary .. so find me a woman - er one like that British bint - the Iron knickers one.

And she needs to carry a gun and kill small furry things dead at a 100 feet. That'll get us the murderous-guns-are-right wing vote.

Oh, and sound like the sort of mama would paddle the rump of any upstart teenager black and blue... the sort of mama all patriotic kids need. Morality in the home.

Bit like the old Women of the West - you know, Calamity what's her face - the one who snag whipcrack that way and was played by Doris someone or other ..

A pioneer we can tap in to the WASP mythology ofa oure white improvement in the Mid-West.

The trouble, of course, with that, is the reality:

"Old-timers always claimed Calamity Jane Cannary had a big heart when
she was not drinking, but unfortunately that was not very often. She
was a bullwhacker, a harlot, a scout, an occasional actress and an
accomplished liar. Jane traveled (mostly bumming her way) throughout
the West. There are numerous versions as to how she got her name. One
story says that any cowboy who bought her services was in for a
calamity, meaning they were going to be spending quality time with a
doctor in the near future."

Thanks to The Regulators: Women of the Wild West for the information.

Now that's the sort of woman that'll swing a lot of votes.

(Trouble is, it just might.)

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Friday, August 29, 2008

A six year old's birthday party ...

One not so serious English commentator (well, part of a topical news skit programme - the Daly show) came up with a great one ...

"If you take democracy to its natural conclusion, it is just like a 6 year old's birthday party - all balloons and streamers ..."

You know - he had a point.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

On this day ...

Seeing as the Beeb is being violent and uncivilized in its choice, my own:

  • 1609: Galileo Galilei demonstrates his telescope to the Venetians
  • 1768: James Cook begins his first voyage
  • 1918: Leonard Bernstein born
Now, why pick violence over that lot? Nothing in the BBC choice takes precedence over any one of those dates.

Galileo, of course, was cheating ... as all good scientists in search of grants have to do. He hadn't actually invented the telescope - although what he did with it was earth-moving (literally - it was used to shatter the crystal spheres and put the sun firmly at the centre of our little part of the universe).

Cook was almost cheating ... off to discover a continent the Dutch had already been to - but, hey, we won the publicity race!

After all where else could we send all our future criminals (and, if you think about it - most of them would have otherwise been executed - so transportation was a good thing).

Pity the Australians developed such an awful attitude to sport (they actually try to win and get upset when they don't) and never developed a decent accent. Mind you, we did get Kyle out of the place so most other things can be forgiven.

As for Leonard Bernstein - where to start? Nutty as a fruit cake - talented and totally charismatic. Whether he was conducting Mahler or writing West Side Story or talking on a talk show, entertainment guaranteed.

I can't see why the BBC insist on picking out the war related and its like ... there is plenty to choose otherwise and much of it celebrates (as does Bernstein's conducting) the tremendous spirit which can infect all humans.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

On this day ...

79: Mount Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples erupts, burying the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Something spectacular wouldn't you say? The sort of thing guaranteed to attract attention - but simply ignored with a "It'll never happen here," or a, "We'll deal with it when it happens," attitude.

The trouble with that is the consequences ...

Bodies in the streets.

Nobody seems to think of the bodies 'til after ... or rather, the army does and so gets the body bags ready, but the politicians and the ordinary public seem to have an, "I'm immune" view of the world which unfortunately doesn't reflect the truth.

The BBC have another Roman linked 'On this day' for today:

410: Rome is sacked by Alaric the Goth, the first hostile occupation of the city since the fourth century BC.

... which would suggest the, "It couldn't happen here," mind set to me. Alaric was a Goth and has a lot to answer for ... not least the silly clothes and 'style' so beloved of hormone driven teenagers with more conformism than brains.

Alaric ultimately failed to get what he wanted ... but managed to upset rather a lot of people on the way.

Invasions seem to do that.

I could mention Iraq ... or the great Afghanistan (graveyard of so many invaders) ... but the Beeb has managed to provide another lovely focus in its 'On this Day' ...

1949: Nato comes into existence to counter the Soviet military presence in Eastern Europe.
and, 'surprise surprise', I'll finally come to Georgia.

Nato is supposed to be protecting against the 'soviets' ... and nice and secure they make us feel ... unless you happen to live in one of the countries actually 'threatened' by Russia - or to use politic-speak, "In the Russian sphere of influence."

Symbolic the round table - and very typical of the 'Camelot' mentality ... Why does no one remember the end of the myth?

Camelot failed. For one brief shining moment, there was a spot ... but it was brief, it was destroyed ... and the barbarians had their way.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Things you see in the river ...

Now, I wouldn't be sure it was exactly one of these:

but it certainly looked like it! It's a Stone Crayfish ... used to be popular with the monks (like Carp) for eating.

Actually there were three or four of them in various sizes.

Over the years I've seen quite a variety of things in the Bega in the centre of Timisoara - from snakes (which decided to do a mating dance on my feet) to freshwater turtles.

No one ever believes me - but I know they are there.

All you need to do is sit and wait - all comes along in time.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hoycules ?

"I actually said we had nine chances of gold and would probably get five, but the rest of the world has stepped back and we've stepped up. Chris Hoy is being called "Hoycules" in the camp. There is a different philosophy about them."

Chris Boardman talking about Britain's cycling dominance (on the Beeb)

What's really fascinating is the way that providing the right facilities and finance can raise the 'game' so much.

Every one of the cyclists has put it down to the creation of the National Cycling Centre (link) in Manchester and the proper financing of it.

What a shame Manchester never got the Olympics ...

However, I don't think it is only the money and the support.

How do you account for Phelps?

I'm not going to get into any arguments over is he/isn't he the greatest ... the golds speak for him - no one else has either won so may events (yes that was WON) or won so many in one games (with a little help from his friends)

Not only that he's shaved the 'Spitzian' moustache which makes him more Greek God than Viking thug.

Undoubtedly Phelps has had the support - but that doesn't make an athlete who can win more medals than most of the world's countries!

He gave part of the answer in an interview ...

Nothing is impossible.

With so many people saying it couldn't be done, all it takes is an imagination, and that's something I learned and something that helped me.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Olympian Task

Imagine an Olympic record which has stood for 100 years and is still unbroken - well, Emil Voigt, a native Mancunian, holds that record. Admittedly, the event (the 5 mile race) has never been in the Olympics again, but it is still something of a distinction.

I point to the story just to remind people that despite the accountant mentality of the media, there are more things to being up there with the Olympians than records.

There is deserved accolade for anyone who wins (without cheating) a gold in any event: I would go so far as to say there is a deserved distinction for anyone who competes in any event at the Olympics.

Take a closer look at Mr Voigt - he almost didn't compete - he was on the point of giving up competitive athletics as he was getting too old (@ 25); in training his 'arch' collapsed - so a plaster cast was stuck in the shoe before he ran; he was the only vegetarian at the games (I'd like that one checked out myself).

Such is the stuff of heroes.

Few know of the man now - although he moved to New Zealand and trained many athletes there.

It is one of the many tales that remind us one point of the Olympics is for ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things - have their 15 minutes of glory, then fade into the background again.

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Genetic Throwback

Watching the Hungarian TV channel Olympic coverage (not repeats of the pool - come on eurosport, there are other events) and I saw the nose. You could measure a mile along that - stright as they come.
Andrea Minguzzi, a Greco-Roman if ever I saw one, was in the fight for the Gold - he won. All 84 kg of him.

When I saw him I thought - that's a gladiator if ever there was one. he just looked the part.

Fitting an Italian win a Greco-ROMAN wouldn't you say?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Big Boy's Toy ...

I notice on the inestimably violent BBC 'On this Day' a decidedly milder anniversary.

Link to a steaming train.

That is Oliver Cromwell - the last Steam engine to pull a passenger train on the British Rail network in the time of real trains.

It was all of too many years ago - I was just celebrating leaving junior school and didn't notice a thing.

My question is what is it that makes the damn things not lie down and rust respectably?

Harry Potter has to have one - and romances in the Rail Buffet are not the same thing since clean machines have failed to mist-up the platform.

Mind you, if you are going to have trains with names - all that huffing and puffing, steam and smoke does at least give a bit of personality. Can't stand the silly names of boats.

And it (restoring the things) does preserve the great English eccentric without killing too many harmless species on the way.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Open ses'me

Things seem to have moved on a little since the first Olympic Opening Ceremony:

Mind you, it is noticeable that they did take the time to take a photo - suggesting even back then that they were aware of the importance of the media and of the need to promote ... but what were they promoting?

Whatever it was, it doesn't look too much like sport - or at least, not sport alone. There are important people in the forefront.

Why the 2008 Olympics should be expected to be anything other than an inheritor of this tradition is beyond me.

And it has to be said, the Chinese did do it a lot better than the rather naive originators who seem to think, if you go by the picture, they don't have to work too hard to get the world's attention.

Whatever else you think of the Chinese - they are workers and one of the things that seems to be missing from all the commentary about the opening has been the sheer effort that has gone into the ceremony. Forget the cost (not so much if you split it between the population of China - and even less if you think of the world audience for it) look at the human time and organisation.

There were 2008 drummers to open, coordinated better than any marching army or Broadway musical I've ever seen.

This very strong statement reminded me, as did several other sights during the ceremony of the terracotta army: It was not just the mass of participants, it was the expectation of order under pressure, of the assurance of pre-planning and the human resources available.

If the original opening ceremony was nod in the direction of the world that the Olympics were back - look at the shape of the building they are in, very Ancient Greek - then this ceremony says - China is back too - Ancient China, Not so Ancient China, Recent Past China and China Future!

Perhaps most disturbing for the Western Liberals amongst us ( and that does include me) was the military presence. Nice looking young men in uniform is one thing - but did they have to goose step?

It would be impossible for the Chinese military not to have participated (indeed, I suspect they really were a very strong element in the success - both for the logistical support and the provision of people) but to the world outside the strong statement of military significance might just seem a little inappropriate.

What China did get over to the world in this ceremony was what brilliant film makers they are - because that is what you were watching - a one shoot only film.

I am certain the viewers of screens around the world got a much better view than anyone in the Stadium - maybe not quite the atmosphere. For the person who took the decision to make a film director take control knew how to choose people.

One thing I was a little uncertain of was the inclusion of Sarah Brightman. I'd never noticed before how 'Chinese' her voice was - maybe that is one reason I don't rate her as a Western Singer. Here, she worked brilliantly - as did her 'pop' partner ... Liu Huan.

As befits an opening ceremony, the torch did a Kitsch lighting - at least it was the actual flame that lit the big one (unlike in the famous USA case of the arrow not actually lighting the torch).

How much a flying Chinese Hero is really representative of Sport is debatable, it is certainly representative of popular culture.

And that I think is indicative of how far China has come - we did not need this ceremony to establish the position of China as a cultural entity- it was already there. What it did was state loud and clear - We are here.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

What a night

... raising the Flag (2) ...

It was the first time I have been able to sit through an opening ceremony. Whether that is a sign of ill health and age or there really was something special about the shenanigans I'll leave to others to decide.

As expected, the 'spontaneous' roar as Yao Ming entered with the flag was spectacular; less expected and possibly more spontaneous, was the one for Roger Federer - whose birthday it was - when the camera focused on him and the crowd realised he was carrying the flag ...

Maybe the second proudest man in the Stadium.

There was a lot of focus on the tennis stars by the cameras..

Nadal was one of the first individuals to be picked out by the Chinese director (we got what the Chinese got, no choose your own in this event) and later, when the athletes were finally free to move, there was an interesting

sequence of Federer, Nadal, Murray (proving he needs a wash and shave) - then a flash to various other athletes, including Britain's youngest, Tom Daley, who attracted several shots. For someone who isn't really expected to get too far (realistically) he is attracting a lot of media attention.

But then, children seemed to be a major theme of the ceremony - notice Yao Ming's partner (Lin Hao) with the flag.

Whether the child was there to remind the world of the Earthquake, or to reduce the chance of the Yao Ming cult growing at the expense of the communist leaders I wouldn't dare to say, but despite the roar and despite the attention given to other flags and flag carriers the director didn't spend too long on Mr Ming and did spend a lot of time flitting between various communist leaders.

One flag that did get it's fair share of attention was the Union flag. It is only at times like this and in parades like this one that you actually notice just how many countries have it as part of their own.

Not only the obvious ones - like New Zealand, but several others too ... all very emotion stirring and all very told you we ruled the world!

One of the nice things about the parade of athletes was to see so many women carrying the flag ... difficult to find an image though - maybe it is time for the media to catch up with the athletes.

I'll have things to say about the ceremony itself latter today ... when I might just mention Georgia.

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