Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Folk Art, Let's Dance!

Yard Dog gallery in Austin, Texas, is currently showing works by Kevin Coyne and by Mekons (not ex-Mekons) Jon Langford and Rico Bell. True multimedia masters.


Why not just call them mongs and be done with it?

How about this for a spectacularly misjudged piece of humour?

I always thought we here at Counago and Spaves had the monopoly on bad taste, and while saying that comparing special needs kids with the Bush administration is an insult to special needs kids sounds clever, Ted Rall really has managed to insult special needs kids in this cartoon. Can you think of anything more patronizing?

Fuck it. I've just spent the last couple of weeks moaning about Norm having no sense of humour for the "Kill Bush" appeal in the Grauniad and slagging Lenin for finding Americans who apologize for Bush's election win "sickening." Now it's your turn to write in and tell me to "lighten up."

Monday, November 15, 2004


Should his mother be worried?

Although I'm not a 'blood relative,' I'd like to think that in some way I was influential in the recent behaviour of my godson's twin brother (aged 4), as recounted by his mom.

Young Jordan and Joshua used to sit at the same table at school, but recently they've been separated, and Joshua now sits at a different table. Nonetheless, they still go to the same classes.

How then to explain Jordan's response to a teacher the other day who asked him whether he had any brothers or sisters? "No," he replied to her. "They're all dead."


By coincidence, I'd been musing over a character for my next novel whose first words to her mommy and daddy were "Darkness . . . darkness," on the supposition that no child is able at such a young age to develop a sense of the eternal night that is death, but Jordan proved me wrong. And not just a sense of mortality, but an understanding of the principles of black comedy to boot.

Joshua's response to Jordan's answer is not recorded.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


More fun than kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse

From America:

“In consultation with the Vatican and the local bishop, a Vatican-appointed investigator has announced the closing of the seminary in the Diocese of Sankt Pölten "effective immediately."

Bishop Klaus Küng of Feldkirch, Austria, whom Pope John Paul II appointed to investigate the diocese and its seminary, where thousands of pornographic photographs had been found on computers, made the announcement on Aug. 12.

The bishop, in a statement published on the Sankt Pölten Web site, said "several" of the seminarians were healthy, holy, committed men who would be assisted in finding a new place to continue their studies for the priesthood. "Unfortunately," the bishop said, "serious erroneous trends" were found among many of the seminarians. He cited in particular the practice of viewing and downloading pornography from the Internet and the development of "active homosexual relations" among members of the seminary conimunity.

Without directly criticizing Sankt Pölten's Bishop Kurt Krenn, Bishop Küng said, "Over the past years, too little attention was paid to the necessary criteria" for accepting candidates for the priesthood. "The more pressing the lack of priests," Bishop Küng said, "the more balanced, more sincere and more virtuous must be those chosen to become priests."

In late July, Pope John Paul appointed Bishop Küng to make an apostolic visitation of the seminary and the diocese. The appointment came after a student was arrested on charges relating to child pornography and after an Austrian magazine published photographs police had found on the seminary computers. The student pleaded guilty on Aug. 13 to downloading child pornography and was given a six-month suspended sentence.

The seminary rector and vice rector resigned after the photos were published showing staff members and seminarians kissing and fondling each other. Bishop Krenn initially downplayed the seriousness of the photos, saying they were part of a boyish prank during a Christmas party.

After Bishop Küng was appointed, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, president of the Austrian bishops' conference, said the conference and the nuncio to Austria had "warned for months" that Bishop Krenn was "dangerously ignoring the rules of recruitment" by admitting students to the Sankt Pölten seminary without investigating why they had been rejected elsewhere. Bishop Küng said "all past and future candidates" for the priesthood in the Sankt Pö1ten Diocese would undergo pastoral and psychological counseling, for their own good and the good of the church.”


Mommie, he's scaring me!!

That's next year's holiday sorted out, then.


Interview with Rennie Sparks

Taken from HERE.

New links, left.


Armistice Day. Let's make up.

Also Veterans Day, Remembrance Day in Canada, and the Feast Day of St. Martin, patron saint of beggars.

a reminder that there are many, many honest, decent, good Americans.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Long Live the Edelweiss Pirates

Recognition at last!


Lookout! Injuns!

A news report entitled "Dogfight Upset," by Malcolm V. Lowe in the November issue of Popular Mechanics magazine:

“We may not be as far ahead of the rest of the world as we once thought,” Air Force Chief of Air Combat Command General Hal Hornburg candidly admitted to the press after his pilots were trounced by Indian aviators during the “Cope India 04” exercise.

“We always knew we were good,” an Indian air force spokesman said. “But it is only when the U.S. says so that the world takes notice.” Just how well the Indian pilots performed the U.S. Air Force refused to say. Results have been classified. However, the British media claimed an unnamed U.S. congressman who had been briefed on the exercise said American pilots were defeated in nine out of 10 engagements.

The mock combat pitted the older Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter against the Indian air force's new Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30MK Flanker, a twoseat multirole fighter. American pilots in the mock air-to-air combat were drawn from the 3rd Wing of Pacific Air Forces. Weapons fire was simulated with radar. “The U.S. Air Force has never flown with or against the Su-30 Flanker before, so that aspect of this exercise is completely new for us,” Capt. Mark Snowden, an Eagle pilot, said in an interview distributed by the Air Force prior to the exercise.

An analysis of the exercise by New Delhi-based India Defence Consultants (IDC), a military-affairs think tank, cited its sources as saying that the Americans and Indians had spotted each other on their radar screens at the same moment, but that the Indian pilots shot first. Another factor, said IDC, may have been the absence of two critical support aircraft, the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye and Boeing E-3B Sentry. Each carries an airborne warning and control system (AWACS). Normally operating with Eagles, AWACS-equipped aircraft spot targets minutes before they appear on cockpit radars, and then help pilots determine how to best attack the opposing force. IDC said that the inability of American pilots to win without AWACS support could lead to changes in tactics that place higher value on protecting these assets.

Hornburg believes a more sweeping overhaul is needed. “The exercise leads me to remind people that we need to modernize our air-to-air capability.”


Please will someone put this show on in Ireland?

It's been packing them in, in Hollywood.

Why not Harold's Cross Hell House?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


What a show, there they go, smokin' up the sky

Not an appropriate lyric unless he's cremated, I suppose.

Emlyn Hughes (aka crazy horse) died today, aged 57, of a brain tumour.

Another one of Thatcher's children dies before she does.

Such is her curse.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Reasons to be Cheerful . . . and Miserable

Accumulating another book review backlog, so it's time for more mental evacuation.

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, by Francis Wheen.

An elegantly argued and carefully written book. Wheen spends most of his time deflating the free-trade balloon and indulging in the schadenfreude many of us felt when the Internet bubble burst. He also has a good go at postmodernism and finishes off with a sideswipe at the antiwar left (I note that Normblog gets a mention in his list of worthy Web sites).

It's an easy read but covers ground so many others have dealt with, and in a similar vein. There isn't much to distinguish this from, say, Greg Palast's writing.

What's more, and strange at that, I was struck by the lack of indignation in the text. As a regular Skeptical Inquirer reader, I was hoping for a major lambasting of New Age philosophy, repressed memory syndrome, alien abduction, and Christian and Islamic fundamentalism, but it's as though Wheen never gave much thought to researching these fertile areas. Insteads, the book comes across as a series of essays looking for a home, for a common theme to connect them.

The tacked-on anti-antiwar left piece sits uneasily too. The pro-war left might flatter themselves that they're the only ones defending enlightenment values and civilization, but that's at the expense of ignoring the legitimate case against "instrumental reason" advanced by Adorno, Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School, (if only to the extent of ignoring the fact that scientific research is not applied disinterestedly but where the money is - weapons and big pharma). If you want to defend "reason" and civilization by criticizing those supposedly cozying up to Islamofascists, you need to distance yourself from fundamentalist Christians and people who'll use your essential decency to legitimize thier regime.

I haven't provided a link to this book, by the way, because it's published by a company owned by Murdoch. I'm sure you'll understand.

The Communist Technique in Britain, by Bob Darke.

Amusing autobiography of former Communist bus conductor and Hackney councillor Bob Darke, mostly describing how put-upon he was by the party and recalling the emotional blackmail his superiors used to drag greater and greater sacrifices from party members - although they were mostly interested in members' donations. The clandestine meetings and obtuse messages from on high are not half as funny as the clear tension in the party between retaining members for their cash contributions while insisting on complete obedience and devotion.

Call yourself a revolutionary yet you can't sell 1,000 papers a week? A common refrain, I fear.

Most of the members, it appears, simply gave the party the money and burnt their copies of the paper on the fire at home - at least it did some good that way.

At the same time, it's a sad story; a number of Darke's comrades suffer ill-health, as does Darke himself until he quits the party, as a result of the strain and workload. No one said making the revolution was going to be easy, but it's going to be even harder if it only attracts masochists.

After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order, by Emmanuel Todd.

A strange book, if only for its unusual approach. Todd, who predicted the imminent downfall of the Soviet Union in his book La Chute in 1979, argues here that the supposedly horrifying American empire is, if anything, already coming to an end. The United States, he says, have provided the world with a largely benign empire over the past 50 years or so, mostly during the cold war, but since then the United States has lost not only its indispensability but also its economic and military power, as well as the ideological unanimity required to sustain the imperial endeavour.

Todd has been criticised by both right and left for trying to put U.S. power into some perspective; neither like the way he downplays U.S. might, the left because it means the U.S. aren't to blame for everything, the right because it offends their belief in American exceptionalism and the country's imperial destiny. Todd argues that the state of the U.S. economy, an annual deficit of $500 billion or thereabouts, and its military weakness - it's the strongest individual country, perhaps, but can barely even manage to occupy Iraq - mean that the balance of power is shifting away from a unipolar world order and towards a multipolar one; economically, Japan, Germany, China, and Russia are providing new challenges and agreements between them that put American hegemony in doubt.

Todd calls himself post-American rather than anti-American. He regards this issue as settled and has already returned to other pursuits. He is also pro-capitalist in the sense that he sees no immediate viable alternative. And he makes some odd comments about American culture and American women in particular that bear no relation to wht I would understand by those terms, but the book's a quick read (possibly an indication of the shallowness of Todd's arguments, I'm not sure) and worth getting to grips with if only for the unusual perspective it provides (Todd's use of demographics, for example). Give it a go.


I'm not the vanguard, I'm the ticket inspector

Norm's profile of Marc Mulholland last Friday drew my belated attention to a fascinating debate on Indymedia concerning Dennis Tourish's argument that revolutionary left parties function effectively in the same way as religious cults.

This debate took place last August, but of course I only caught up with things last month, (surprise surprise). Largely focusing on a chapter about Militant in a book Tourish cowrote, On the Edge, the debate extends to cover the Socialist Party in Ireland and the SWP, with contributors from around the globe intervening. I do recommend you read it, if you have the time, if only to observe Tourish's view being confirmed by the arguments advanced by his opponents, who exhibit clear signs of cult-like thinking, mainly in their resistance to and capacity to reinterpret any evidence that contradicts the coherence of their worldview.

A joy.

Today's motto: Far better to be inconsistent and wrong half the time than consistent and always wrong.

Friday, November 05, 2004


Adeu Escriba

Maker of the best chocolates in Catalonia, Antoni Escriba i Serra, has died aged 73. He ran my wife's favourite shop in Barcelona.

A pilgrimage is required.

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