Category Archives: Books

Pig Cam

You can imagine the Daily Express editor’s thoughts as he tasked Tom Parfit with writing this story.

David Cameron, pig semen“Wait: aren’t we smearing that Corbyn chap? But… THIS IS TOO GOOD. It may not be true… but it’s TOO GOOD NOT TO PRINT. Especially as we have so many photos of David Cameron cuddling pigs! SO MANY. Of David Cameron. CUDDLING PIGS.”

(Helpful subordinate: “Also there was that story a couple of years ago about Cameron getting pig semen from China!” – Daily Express editor “No, that was no relation.”)

The story is that during an “initiation ritual” for the Piers Gaveston Society (which David Cameron joined while he was reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Brasenose College, Oxford, between 1985 and 1988) the to-be-Prime Minister put a “private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a pig.

The pig would have been dead and decapitated at the time, of course.
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PS: Smearing by Mensch, an afterthought

I haven’t written anything about the Hugo Awards on this blog, despite having a vote at the 2015 Worldcon, because the extraordinary mess that a few hundred people made of a popular-vote award really seemed to have nothing to do with UK politics, which is, mostly, what I write about here.

Hugo Award 1946 retroThe Hugo Awards are a set of science-fiction awards nominated and voted for by members of the World Science-Fiction Society (WSFS) annually, and presented to the winners at the World Science-Fiction Convention (the Worldcon). Any paid-up member can nominate any eligible work: the works that receive the most nominations are short-listed (generally five works to a short-list, though a tied vote can give six to a short-list). Any paid-up member can vote for any or all of the works short-listed in any category, and the work that receives the most votes wins the Hugo Award for that category. They’re called Hugo Awards after Hugo Gernsback, who is generally acknowledged to have founded modern science-fiction.

The goal of the Hugo Awards is for fans to choose the best works published over the previous two years.
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Terry Pratchett is not one to go gentle into any night

Terry Pratchett: 28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015. He died at home, surrounded by his family.

rather than let Alzheimer’s take me, I would take it. I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the ‘Brompton cocktail’ some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.”

AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER

Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

The End.

Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy in 2007, a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s.

His books live on.
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GE2015: The Sorting Hat

First-past-the-post voting systems don’t lend themselves to coalition government. But that’s what we’ve got, and there are four possible governments we could have after the General Election on 7th May 2015.

How we vote on that Thursday in just over three months time has very little to do with the government we’ll end up with. The rise in support for the Greens across the UK no more translates into increased numbers of MPs than the rise of support for UKIP means they’ll become a major party.

But the SNP are likely to be the third or fourth largest party in Westminster after May 2015. Electoral analysis shows a huge swing to the SNP across Scotland, which – if we had a more representative electoral system – could translate to over forty seats for the SNP (Labour down to seven MPs and LibDems to one), But just as the tremendous fall in LibDem support isn’t likely to be reflected in an equivalent loss of seats – Greens are more popular than LibDems but aren’t likely to do more than retain their one MP – the Labour wipeout isn’t expected to be as extreme as a naive reading of the polling figures would suggest.

Toscafund, an established asset manager based in London and Dubai, chaired by former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir George Mathewson, commissioned Professor Richard Rose to carry out seat by seat analysis of polling across the UK. For Scotland, their report says:

“A uniform ‘national’ movement of votes is unlikely because the SNP must jump from third to first place over different challengers in different parts of Scotland. Because the median Labour seat is held with a margin of 31.6 per cent over the SNP, any recovery by Labour would reduce the depth to which Labour plunged.”

Conservative Majority - Voldemort winsI’m discounting the Voldemort option – Tory majority or Tory/UKIP coalition – because this is not a probable option. The Tories can’t win a majority, and UKIP can’t win enough seats to help them out.
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Filed under Elections, GE2015, J. K. Rowling

The Invisible Wings

Campbell Gunn emailJim Sillars writes in an open letter:

Bear this in mind: Scotland is involved in a great debate conducted democratically. That means freedom of thought has to be matched by freedom of speech, and that right respected by all. Freedom of speech does give licence to abuse. It is a wise person who does not use it for that purpose. Don’t start to respond by saying the other side are at it too. They are not going to get media coverage. You are.

In every campaign there comes a tipping point. Those of us engaged intelligently in this campaign, yes intelligently, can only hope that your stupid contributions through personal abuse do not lend themselves to a tipping point towards a Yes defeat. Stop playing the game that suits only the No side.

In this letter Jim Sillars recalls incidents of “false friends” – undercover policemen who infiltrated the independence movement and encouraged young enthusiasts to commit crimes with a view to making Scottish independence look like a bad cause. He says bluntly:

In 1979, with only a very weak assembly on offer, MI5 and special branch were involved, as was the CIA – with the US Consul in Edinburgh coming from the CIA stable. That was for a weak assembly, do you think that they will not be more engaged now that independence is on the agenda? Has it ever crossed your mind that by conducting a campaign of abuse, which plays into the hands of the No media, you are opening the Yes side to a dirty tricks campaign?

(There is a response to this letter from within the Yes campaign here.)
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Filed under J. K. Rowling, Scottish Politics

Sherlock Holmes Fawkesd

Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and the MoustacheI wasn’t exactly disappointed by The Empty Hearse: though I was disappointed that Mark Gatiss ducked out of actually providing the answer to how Holmes did survive. (It’s possible that Gatiss will provide the answer in episodes 2 or 3, but I’m not counting on it.) But I’m looking forward to The Sign of Three.

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The Hobbit: Now You’re Tolkien

If you were Peter Jackson, would you want to stop making Lord of the Rings movies?

I expect not. Which is one reason why the first Hobbit movie took us only to the end of Chapter 6, and the second takes us only to the end of Chapter 13.

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Escapism and fantasy

In 2012, I wrote a blogpost here every day. In 2013, for various reasons, I thought it better to cut down and write a blogpost only two or three times a week – with the predictable result that weeks could pass without writing one, when I was busy and nothing in particular came to mind.

For 2014, I plan to write a blogpost a day – though I’m giving myself a big exemption in July, for various reasons that I shall probably discuss in more detail nearer the time. (Anyway, in both 2012 and 2013, July was the month with fewest visitors to the blog.)

Writing a blogpost is not at all like writing a story. But I’ve written blogposts about stories – I wrote one about the end of House MD, and another about Doctor Who’s Christmas, and about the Hobbit, and I wrote four about Sherlock, and certainly plan to write more about the third season of Sherlock. Most of what I write about, here, is politics, with the odd bit of science: and what with 2014 as the Year of Indyref and 2015 a General Election year, I don’t anticipate any shortage of politics to write about.

But I shall still write about fantasy. Because when the world is grim and getting grimmer, we need to think about other things, too. Escapism is not a bad word unless you are a jailer.

Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. just so a Party-spokesman might have labeled departure from the misery of the Fuhrer’s or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery …. Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the “quisling” to the resistance of the patriot.

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Christmas post

Atheist's Guide To ChristmasI meant this post to be a compilation of a few pleasant links to celebrate Christmas, but then I got a dose of norovirus for the solstice, and if you have ever had norovirus you will understand, but if you haven’t yet: I spent Sunday feeling like complete crap, and the next couple of days recovering.

My best gift to myself was remembering that oral rehydration therapy would both be good to drink and do me good:

  • 30 ml sugar : 2.5 ml salt : 1 liter water
  • 2 tbl. sugar : 0.5 tsp. salt : 1 quart water
  • 6 tsp. sugar : 0.5 tsp. salt : 1 liter water

ORT – simple solution of sugar and salt in water – is reckoned to be one of the biggest medical discoveries of the 20th century, which has probably saved more lives than any other. I wouldn’t have died of 24-hour norovirus: I am a strong healthy well-nourished adult. But people can die of prolonged vomiting/diarrhea due to dehydration and sodium depletion: and ORT both helps replenish fluid and the sugar solution helps the gut absorb the salt it’s losing. Although packets of ORT salts are manufactured under the supervision of WHO / UNICEF, anyone with access to water, sugar, and salt can mix up an ORT solution at home, and if you are even slightly dehydrated, it’s much safer to drink than plain water.

So, having cheered you all up: who’s going to watch The Bishop’s Wife? (BBC iPlayer til 30th December.)

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Filed under About Food, Benefits, Charles Dickens, Other stuff on the Internet I like

David Blunkett to Berlin

On Monday 23rd September, at a Demos fringe meeting on “Privacy, liberty and security: How will Labour tackle terror?” David Blunkett talked about pornography.

David Blunkett MPConservatives propose that there should be a default ban on accessing sites that your Internet provider thinks may contain porn. Labour supports this default ban. David Blunkett spoke in favour of it:

“In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Berlin came as near as dammit to Sodom and Gomorrah. There was a disintegration of what you might call any kind of social order.

“People fed on that – they fed people’s fears of it. They encouraged their paranoia. They developed hate about people who had differences, who were minorities.

“There always has had to be some balance, in terms of the freedom of what we want to do, for ourselves and the mutual respect and the duty we owe to each other in a collective society. I think getting it right is the strength of a democracy.”

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