Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Wonderful News


I have always loved Lewis since his Mum Karen brought him along on our group skiing trip, and he took my little Ben under his wing. At the time he was eleven and Ben was eight, the encouragement and support he gave my little one warmed the cockles of my heart. Ben's 22 now, so I guess he is 25.

Now he is an international rugby player. Good for him. I wonder how he is qualified for Jamaica. I saw his grandmother, only the once, at Karen and Stewart's wedding. Perhaps the Caribbean heritage is from her.

Update: Ben and Lewis on the deck of Bondy's boat later on in the year they met (passim). I get sentimental looking at and reading that post.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Rodney Ackland

The author of the play Mia was in this weekend went to Central as well, which squares the circle nicely. I was aware, for some reason that eludes me, that it was first performed in 1952 so I was somewhat surprised by the frankness of the language and the treatment of homosexuality.

Wikipedia explains:

The first staging of his (Rodney Ackland's) large-cast drama, The Pink Room (or The Escapists), in Brighton and then at the Lyric Hammersmith in London on 18 June 1952, was largely financed by Terence Rattigan, who liked the play and believed it deserved a London production. The Pink Room was a tragi-comedy set in the summer of 1945 in a seedy London club (based on the French Club in Soho). It received a severe critical panning and after that, apart from one further play and an adaptation, it led to the playwright's more than 30-year virtual absence. According to its director, Frith Banbury, "When the play failed, Terry never wanted to see Rodney again."

However, following the abolition of the Lord Chamberlain's play licensing in 1968, Ackland was able to rewrite aspects of this play, re-titling it Absolute Hell. It was performed in its new form in 1988 to considerable success at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond-upon-Thames, directed by Sam Walters and John Gardyne, and starring Polly Hemingway and David Rintoul.

All clear?

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Absolute Hell

I went to see my niece in Rodney Ackland's Absolute Hell yesterday afternoon, which means that, according to my calculations I have been to the theatre three times in the last seven days. Two, I will grant you were Saturdays but the most recent was a matinee and last week's was an evening performance. which means they all fit in a 168 hour period.

What a great afternoon I had; wonder after wonder. For all that I knew intellectually that it was a final year production at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, I think that subconsciously I was expecting something like a school or church hall. This naivety stood me in good stead. They have their own theatre, the Embassy (here is its Wikipedia page), formally a professional, commercial operation but owned by Central since 1956. The set and the costumes were beautifully crafted, there was a cafe bar when we could get a drink in the interval etc. etc. In retrospect I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was and it added to my enjoyment.

Oh, and Mia was very good as Elizabeth. It was also good to see two of her classmates that I have met socially with her, Alex and Saskia, in it as well.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Cymru Persia

 I couldn't help it. In the end I bunked off work for the second half of the Wales Iran game. Let's take it on the chin, they deserved to beat us.

I even found myself warming to them when they hit either post and then had a shot saved within ten seconds. I admired the fortitude of the prone striker who was smiling ruefully to himself. They also endeared themselves to me by smiling whenever they were up to skulduggery that strictly should have had them up before the magistrate in the morning.

I also liked what I saw of their fans in the ground.

It does make me wonder about the effectiveness of sporting and cultural sanctions. Are they not perhaps worse than nothing, perpetuating the myth of the distant inscrutable Other? 

Prodnose: The Other?

Myself: In phenomenology, the terms the Other and the Constitutive Other identify the other human being, in their differences from the Self, as being a cumulative, constituting factor in the self-image of a person; as acknowledgement of being real; hence, the Other is dissimilar to and the opposite of the Self, of Us, and of the Same.

Prodnose (looking like a fool): Oh yes. I see now.

It is just like Russia at the Euros in 2016 (passim). Why do we keep confusing the people with the regime? When Wales played them at the Euros (and won 3-0) in Toulouse there were no incidents at all between rival fans despite our tabloids droning on and on about the threat of the Kremlin's paramilitary Ultras.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Think Globally, Act Locally

I drew Ghana in the World Cup Sweepstakes run by friends and neighbours, the Hendries, so I decided to watch their first game at Canedo's, my local Portuguese cafe/restaurant (host Alberto, hostess Marietta) over a glass of red or two. What could be a better venue for the Portugal Ghana match, I reasoned than a Portuguese run place with a shirt donated by the Ghana qualified Callum Hudson-Odoi?

I was right. The atmosphere was great. Who knew there were so many Portuguese locals? Also with the game streamed from a Portuguese channel I didn't have to endure Roy Keane on ITV1.

Rod M and partner are back in Blighty this weekend for a family wedding, so we are going to meet up. (She has got a name; I just don't feel authorised to share it with the world.)

He sent me an email yesterday saying he had booked a table at the Norfolk Place, a cafe/restaurant and bar near their hotel. I just accepted, put it in the diary, and checked the route from here to there on Google Maps.

Later he sent me a Wikipedia page link. The Norfolk Place Restaurant is the ground floor dining room at the at the Frontline Club.

The Frontline Club is a media club and registered charity located near Paddington Station in London. With a strong emphasis on conflict reporting, it aims to champion independent journalism, provide an effective platform from which to support diversity and professionalism in the media, promote safe practice, and encourage both freedom of the press and freedom of expression worldwide.

Could there be a better place for me to meet the International Man of Mystery who is the Kitchen Cabinet's Geopolitics correspondent?

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Dinner with Groucho

Dinner With Groucho - what's it all about?! from Arcola Theatre Marketing on Vimeo.

I saw "Dinner with Groucho" last night at the Arcola theatre, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't think I have been there before. Rebecca took Helen's ticket as she is stuck at home with Covid. Afterwards in the bar, the show was only about 70 minutes long, she told me a story about what social workers, like her, go through. It made me cry. There is now a fifth member of the Kitchen Cabinet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The other McKenna

Kerlin Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of rarely-seen early works by Stephen McKenna. Painted in the 1960s, when the artist was in his 20s and living in London, the works in this exhibition result from a decade of remarkable creative freedom. (Herewith.)
I am rather taken with this. PG sent it to me because Stephen McKenna was in St Illtyd's (our common alma mater) with him all those years ago. 
Assembling fragments of shape and colour, McKenna’s early abstract paintings adopt a vivid multi-chromatic palette and a dreamlike elasticity. As the decade progresses, the artist begins to introduce the human figure to these scenarios, using spatial illusion to bend linear time and elicit intense psychological drama. Moving from abstraction to figuration with ease, he layers windows within windows, rooms within rooms; suspending the figure in abstract geometric prisms, or splicing it into composite parts. Seldom seen since they were first exhibited, the paintings in the sixties have a vitality and sense of discovery that reverberates across half a century – and are as captivating now as they were upon completion.
We didn't get a lot of that talk when I was there, in the Llanrumney comp it had become.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

YMA O HYD


USA 1 Wales 1. I'll take it. Watched the game in the Standard with fellow Welshman Luke.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Fiona Hill

Fiona Hill grew up in a world of terminal decay. The last of the local mines had closed, businesses were shuttering, and despair was etched in the faces around her. Her father urged her to get out of their blighted corner of northern England: “There is nothing for you here, pet,” he said.  

 The coal-miner’s daughter managed to go further than he ever could have dreamed. She studied in Moscow and at Harvard, became an American citizen, and served three U.S. Presidents. But in the heartlands of both Russia and the United States, she saw troubling reflections of her hometown and similar populist impulses. By the time she offered her brave testimony in the first impeachment inquiry of President Trump, Hill knew that the desperation of forgotten people was driving American politics over the brink—and that we were running out of time to save ourselves from Russia’s fate. In this powerful, deeply personal account, she shares what she has learned, and shows why expanding opportunity is the only long-term hope for our democracy.
Nine months after adding it to the list (passim), I have  spent this month's Audible credit on Fiona Hill's book. With any luck it will help me with social history, Russia, Ukraine and Trump.

Alexander Mercouris is a YouTube channel I follow about the crisis. I also try and keep up with Timothy Snyder's course: The Making of Modern Ukraine, a playlist on the YaleCourses channel.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Lavender Hill Mob

 To The Lavender Hill Mob in Richmond on tour last night. I absolutely loved it despite never having seen the film. 

The conceit, for want of a better word, is that the plot is played out in Argentina by a cast of the friends of the main protagonist, who has fled there with his ill gotten gains.

Early on a waitress character serves up two elaborate cocktails, adorned with paper umbrellas plus citrus fruits and olives on sticks etc. One of them, of course, fell on the floor though the cast carried on regardless.

It very much reminded my about what PG told me about the lessons of working in rep all those decades ago; if you take out a box of matches on stage and open it, it will be upside down and they will all fall on the floor. Flowers in vases should be plastic flowers in empty vases, if you have real flowers in vases filled with water the next person who walks past during the performance will knock them over.

Must catch the original film itself one day.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Wake Up Boiler (Christmas has come early)

 My boiler has taken to staying on for fifteen minutes and then cutting out. I had FIRST Plumbing & Heating GOC Ltd round to look at it twice to no avail. The first time they serviced it and decided there must be a blockage. The second time they cleaned out the F&E tank and flushed through with chemicals. Still no dice and I haven't heard back from then since. Been trying Plan C Today. Running the heating and the hot water manually via the Hive web interface for seven minutes then turning them off for eight. Rinse and repeat.

What I will do I think for the meantime is program the system to follow that schedule automatically. It looks a bit long winded on the UI though. I wonder if there is an API or something I can use to get at it more directly?

Also, not to self, try draining the radiators.

Friday, November 18, 2022

I told you I'd forgotten

 I told you I'd forgotten

Of your fingers in my hair

I told you I'd forgotten

Of your dad's old rocking chair

I told you I'd forgotten

Of the things we used to do

I told you I'd forgotten

Of the days of me and you


I told you I'd forgotten

In the absence, in the night

I told you I'd forgotten

Of the break up and the fight

I told you I'd forgotten

To forget what I forget

I told you I'd forgotten

To regret what I regret


Did the merry-go-round make us dizzy?

Did the candy floss get in my hair?

Was it perfect that night or just busy

With the prizes we won in the fayre?


I'm sitting here remembering

Your fingers in my hair

I'm sitting here remembering

Your dad's old rocking chair

I'm sitting here remembering

The things we used to do

I'm sitting here remembering

The days of me and you


Did the merry-go-round make us dizzy?

Did the candy floss get in my hair?

Was it perfect that night or just busy

With the prizes we won in the fayre?

Prodnose: What on earth is this drivel?

Myself (summoning up some little dignity): Explanations will be provided on a "need to know" basis.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

No conceivable interest

 I am lying in bed over a bottle of vin rosΓ©. Ali Asgar, who was cook to a British regiment in the War, is 'baking' a partridge in a pot. The cavalry have collected and horses been paraded. They say it is a two days' ride to Firuzabad, but I hope to do it in one.

Prodnose: What on earth is this?

Myself: It is the last paragraph I read in The Road to Oxiana last night; top of page 164 in my edition.

Prodnose: Of what conceivable interest to anyone is this?

Myself: No conceivable interest.

I did, with an effort; though it was hard on the rest of the party. Opinion at Kavar gave the distance as nine farsakhs, thirty-six miles. I rode eleven hours, excluding one stop for lunch, and as the good going and the bad were about equal, I can hardly have averaged less than four miles an hour. It must have been more than forty miles.

Prodnose: What on earth is this?

Myself: It is the next paragraph I am going to read in The Road to Oxiana when I take it up again; this evening I hope.

Prodnose: Of what conceivable interest to anyone is this?

Myself: No conceivable interest.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Adding insult to injury

 John (her father, my brother) can't go and see Mia in Absolute Hell at the Embassy Theatre, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Friday week:

Please note: Due to announcement of industrial action, the performances on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 November have been cancelled.

Harrumph! I can't go on Wednesday, as I am prebooked for the new Frank McGuinness at the Arcola darling. John and I wouldn't be wise to go on Saturday night as we are on a workshop (passim) building cigar box guitars in a pub from half past ten in the morning and the chances of us still being compos mentis come the evening are slim to nonexistent.

I am amazed how disappointed I am by this turn of events. PG says the play is worthwhile, and speaks highly of the director, having directed him in turn, back when he was an actor. In Original Sin and A Patriot for Me as I recall. 

He also gave a thumbs up to a BBC version with Judi Dench. The insanity of the modern world is illustrated by the fact you can watch this on Amazon Prime in the USA (herewith) but not in the UK. Ditto it is nowhere to be seen on the BBC iPlayer. We paid the license fee that got the thing made, yet we can't see it while Appalachian mountain Hillbillies can. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Mali

Rod M is back on London for his stepsister's wedding in Hertfordshire on the 26th. I will try and meet him and Carolyn early on Sunday morning as they fly back at midday.

This is handy, as I want to bend his ear about Mali. He was out these with the EU as I recall.

BBC: Yesterday

UK withdraws troops from Mali early blaming political instability

The UK is withdrawing troops from Mali earlier than planned due to political instability in the country, Defence Minister James Heappey has said.

Since 2020 around 300 British soldiers had been in the country as part of a UN mission to protect the local population from Islamist extremism.

Mr Heappey said two coups in Mali in three years had "undermined" efforts.

He also attacked the current Malian government for working with the Russian mercenary group Wagner.

"The Wagner Group is linked to mass human rights abuses and the Malian government's partnership with the Wagner Group is counterproductive to lasting stability and security in their region," he told MPs.

...

The operation in Mali had been described as "the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world" and 288 UN soldiers have lost their lives there since 2013.

The UK is the latest country to pull its troops from Mali, with France formally ending its decade-long presence last week.

French troops had been in Mali at the request of the then-government, however, since seizing power in 2020, Mali's military rulers have fallen out with France and have instead turned to Russia to help in their fight against Islamist insurgents who are wreaking havoc across much of the country.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Prosopagnosia

Took the drama school nieces (Central and Guildhall) to see my cousin's boy Bart (RADA) playing one of the principal roles in Les Miserables in the West End yesterday.

I got to the theatre early and failed to notice that Mia was already there until she called out "Uncle Nick." I didn't recongise Bart's sister Vanny at all until she said hello.

I forgive them though, I am not one to bear grudges.

Bart was absolutely brilliant as  ThΓ©nardier; so convincing a villain that I felt like punching him on the nose when we walked round to see him at the stage door afterwards.

As for the musical itself, I remain - I am sorry to say - unconvinced. Eb, Eb/D, Cm, Eb/Bb, Ab, Ab/G, Fm7, Bb and repeat for the rest of your life. Why do they keep playing the same tune all the time and why is it almost all in the same key?

Perhaps it isn't the longest-running musical in the world, it just seems like it has been going on forever when you are watching it.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

All grist to the mill

 I just sorta assumed that the Wales Argentina game would be on at least one of the screens in the Standard yesterday for all that it clashed with the Newcastle Chelsea game. No such luck.

I would have turned on my heels and walked out, but Andy H had arrived before me and, gentleman that he is, got me a pint. 

Stuck there for at least 20 fluid ounces, I started casting round for an interim solution and wondered about my phone. I was surprised to see that the Prime Video app was already installed so I fired it up, and navigated to the game, all courtesy of the boozer's wi-fi.

I ended up watching the whole game on it there. Joe turned up and it was his birthday, then the rest of the Reillys, from Mass, to take him out for a pizza after Chelsea game etc. etc. I even stayed to watch the Newcastle Arsenal with the Hendries which followed.

Video on the phone is actually a practical proposition. I only spent 25% of my battery on the rugby. A lesson worth learning.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Keep on keeping on


I was at Spice Jazz last night with Andy M watching Yolanda Charles' Project PH. What a great band! A good venue too, previously unfamiliar. It is downstairs at the Spice of Life pub. Tube from the 'Wood to Leicester Square, a left turn, and the job's a good 'un. Must go again.

It is a good trick, keeping in touch with friends you only ever see occasionally. I imagine that the COVID lock-down made that worse; breaking occasional habits. Let's check out me and Andy.

I last saw him and Ian at Ronnie Scott's in September last year.
The time before that I met him in Hammersmith one Sunday morning after seeing PG. I don't seem to have a date for that. Let's call it 2000. (Update it was April 2021)
April 2019: ExpeRience: The science of music at the Royal Institution.
September 2017: Armenian Tasting at the Red Herring Wine Club.

Four times in just over five years. Doesn't seem like much but it keeps the wheels turning.

Being men of a certain age we asked about each other's parents and children. I was absolutely delighted to hear that his 87 year old father had recently got a speeding ticket while driving back from a Steely Dan tribute band gig. Older than both Mum and PG and putting them to shame. Old school.

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Final Lap

I finished story 719 yesterday, so Volume 2 of the Malcolm Lyons 1,001 Nights translation is done and I have started on the third and final volume. today.

Alex can read Kindle books aloud, so my current MO is to use the Alexa app on the phone to fire up the day's story on the everywhere group as I go about morning routine; there are speakers in the bedroom, the bathroom, the living room and the kitchen you see. 

After that I go through it again, reading it myself, and writing a precis that I send to the rest of the group on WhatsApp.

There should only be 282 left now.

It has been one of the most rewarding and educational of the tasks and projects I am forever setting myself.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

I'm so dizzy, my head is spinning

Friday: Yolanda Charles: London Jazz Festival with muso-chums

Sunday: Les Mis in the Sondheim #TheatreDynasty

Saturday 19th: Lavender Hill Mob Richmond Theatre: ColWood works outing

Wednesday 23rd: Dinner with Groucho - Arcola Theatre

Friday 25th: Absolute Hell - Embassy Theatre, Royal Central. More #TheatreDynasty

It can catch up with you this music or theatre once-per-month plan; grows like topsy if you don't weed it regularly.

Gotta stay in tonight; season 2 of Warrior Nun has dropped and still nursing head after Liam the landlord's birthday in the Standard yesterday.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Rakie Ayola

Watach the vidoe above. Ladies and gentlrmen we have a new Welsh Born Icon. Rakie Ayola, born Cardiff 1968. You go girl! I will be all over The Pact.

''Woke,'' as wielded in this case, is a manipulative term, used to present something inherently positive and unproblematic in a negative light. Was on the end of it myself this weekend, but that is a story for another day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

You can't get there from here


Back in 2017 (passim) I was astounded to discover that Russia has a border with North Korea. 

Been chatting to Jone, Renu's Norwegian boyfriend lately, and was just as astonished to learn that Russia has a border with Norway as well.

Norway is a long way away from North Korea.

Just bear my naivety in mind the next time I get on my high horse and start lecturing you about the geopolitical implications of something or other.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Know thy enemy

Rod M has been casting his gaze over last Tuesday's, last Wednesday's and last Thursday's posts. The general conclusion is that I have failed to satisfy the examiners. As the man responsible for geopolitics in the kitchen cabinet, his points must be addressed.

First off the bat I accept his elegant skewering of my comments on the Angola-Tigray truce. Here are my words:

Not a lot of coverage in the UK, of a ceasefire in what has been described as the ‘deadliest war in the world.' A deal brokered by the African Union note, not the increasingly marginalised and irrelevant United Nations.

The great man's withering response:

The AU brokered Ethiopia Tigray deal for example isn't to the detriment of the UN but precisely what the UN is about. Chapter 8 of the Charter is all about regional arrangements for conflict resolution and prevention.

The "old Africa hand" is right. See https://www.un.org/en/about-us/un-charter/chapter-8. I have no option but to take it on the  chin.

As for my comments on Putin and the SCO, I think I may attempt a defense. When I recommend reading and listening to Vladimir's voluminous essays, speeches and Q&A sessions, this should not be taken as me advocating them as edifying. I just think it is prudent to try and understand what he thinks. Ditto the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; it may well be (the Rodster's assessment) a grouping of autocratic regimes whose main aim is to prevent the spread of ideas that are anathematic to them. All that I am saying is that, given that the SCO represents about 40% of the world’s population, it is probably not a bad idea to have it on the radar.

That said, I am always grateful though for criticism as constructive and educational as that I get from the international man of mystery.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

The Volcano

 
I have written twice before (in 2012, then 2020) about the pub my dad grew up opposite being rebuilt in the  Cardiff's St Fagans National Museum of History.

Cerys Matthews presented a BBC documentary about St Fagans in the week (herewith). There is a segment about The Vulcan about twelve minutes into it. We can expect an opening next year. We must try and hire it for a party and gather the descendants of the Brownes who lived so nearby.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

A tale of two MPs

I am in Cardiff for the Wales New Zealand game today, so I won't be going to Coffee in the Wood for the caffeine shot that has become traditional (since I lost my 8:30 am yoga Jones) before 10:30's Skype call with mum. Today I will be there in the actual physical flesh.

Thinking about CITW though conjured up a mental image. When I bowled up there a couple of weeks ago,  Siobhan McDonagh - our MP - was picking up a coffee to go wearing a garish a football jersey as I have ever seen (black and pink stripes anyone?). It had with her name on the front and Mitcham Park FC on the back. A little internet research revealed that she is the sponsor of the U13 Diamonds girls team. I imagine she was on her way to watch a game. Isn't that heart-warming? I'm a big fan. I saw her having a late weekend lunch with her sister in Canedo's on the High Street not so long ago. (Other posts about her on the spindrift pages are here.)

Could there be a greater contrast, in terms of loyalty to the community that elected you, than with that lemon Matt Hancock MP, who has lost the whip after abandoning his constituency for f I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in Australia?

Friday, November 04, 2022

Might the sun be rising in the East?

The Ethiopian government and northern Tigray rebels agreed to a ceasefire on Wednesday, the African Union’s special envoy said at a press conference in Pretoria. The agreement comes after the warring parties began their first public face-to-face talks in South Africa since the onset of hostilities in November 2020. ‘Today is the beginning of a new dawn for Ethiopia, for the Horn of Africa and indeed for Africa as a whole. Let me hasten to thank God for this new dawn,’ said Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president. The truce includes a commitment to a ‘cessation of hostilities as well as to systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated disarmament, restoration of law and order, restoration of services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, protection of civilians, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups,’ he added. Ethiopian civil war: parties agree truce to end hostilities https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/02/ethiopian-civil-war-parties-agree-truce-to-end-hostilities
Not a lot of coverage in the UK, of a ceasefire in what has been described as the ‘deadliest war in the world.' A deal brokered by the African Union note, not the increasingly marginalised and irrelevant United Nations.

The African Union is an alliance of states that currently consists of 53 countries mainly located in Eastern Africa and Western Africa. All member states comprise a total area of 11.29 million square miles (29.25 million km²) and about 1.33 billion people.
Russian Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov on 27 September chaired the first meeting of the Organizing Committee in charge of preparing for and holding the 2nd Russia–Africa Summit and other events in the Russia–Africa format in St. Petersburg in summer 2023. The meeting was attended by representatives of key ministries, departments, government agencies, and business associations.

The decision to regularly hold Russian-African meetings in this format was taken during the first Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi in 2019. The upcoming summit aims to provide a new constructive impetus to the development of Russia’s multifaceted relations with African countries and bolster the policy of a comprehensive and equal partnership with the African people.
More evidence that, regardless of rights and wrongs, we Europeans and Americans are deluding ourselves if we think the whole world is united against Russia. Putin’s vision for a “multipolar world” to supplant what he views as the Western-dominated international order that emerged after the Soviet Union’s collapse. I can understand how his invocation of the West as a hegemonic neo-colonial power bent on stunting the development of the rest of the world and exploiting poorer countries night play well in Africa. Especially an Africa struggling with grain and fertilizer imports in the light of NATO led sanctions.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Might the sun be setting in the West?

I was a bit puzzled after yesterday's post (herewith) when I couldn't seem to find any reference to September's SCO conference in the spindrift pages at all. It turns out I had written about it, but - as it was held in Samarkand - I had vented in September to the WhatsApp group in which we are digesting the 1,001 Nights, one night at a time; 71% in as of yesterday.

The 23rd meeting in Uzbekistan, of the nine-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was covered in the myopic UK press as if it was a side show to Ukraine's problems for all that - China, India and Pakistan being members of the SCO - the organization represents about 40% of the world’s population; and that,with the addition of Russia, the SCO countries make up 60% of Eurasian territory (the other member states of the organization are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and now Iran).

Leaping from crag to crag like a mountain goat, I now enquire if you have ever heard of BRICS, an acronym coined to associate five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa? Since 2009, the governments of the BRICS states have met annually at formal summits.


Prodnose: Should the West be worried that Saudi Arabia wants to join BRICS?
Myself: Yes, very much so. Yes.


Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Valdai


YouTube suggested this video to me yesterday. It is over three and a half hours of Vladimir Putin making a speech and answering questions from an audience at a think tank event and it comes with a real-time translation. It has been made available by, of all people, Sky News; not an organisation whose output I previously thought of as publishing content requiring at attention span.

The think tank is called the Valdai Discussion Club; here is its Wikipedia page, and here is its website.

I can't claim to have watched all of the video with the concentration it deserved, but I have seen a lot of it. I have to come clean, it is a very impressive performance, and something I find it almost impossible to imagine (pulling two names out of a hat) either Joe Biden or Boris Johnson having either the stamina, the mastery of detail, or the coherence (as opposed to blather) to deliver.

My main takeaway is the breadth and depth of the international audience sitting in the venue. The world is bigger than the USA, the UK and the EU. Might the sun be setting in the West?

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Beast

 McSWEENEY’S

WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEONE ASKS IF YOU’VE EVER READ VONNEGUT by ELIZABETH ARANT

I got a link to the article above from my old friend Chris yesterday. I guess it was a subtle reminder of the days (BSc Chemical Engineering 1979-82) when we would be sitting at the back of a lecture theatre laughing about favourite Kurt Vonnegut books and stories rather than paying attention to the fascinating topic reaction kinetics.

It was good to catch up and tell each other about our sons. His Dylan is 6'1" and in Bristol reading Animation.  We also swapped AncestryDNA results. Here's his. Viking stock! Arriving by long-boat to pillage. Stealing gold from monasteries and carrying off men as slaves and girls as concubines! It explains a lot now I think back on Hendrefoilan Student Village.

Now I remember, Rod M came to Chris's first wedding.

Rod M is a sort of strange attractor at the centre of my life. I am hoping to catch up with Dommy Lafranceschina (ex Commonwealth Games Greco-Roman wrestler) this weekend as he is coming down from Clitheroe to Cardiff with some mates for the Wales New Zealand game. Rod knows him as well as he went with the crew to Pamplona one year when I had to cry off.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Cellophane Man

I turned on the radio at random as I was driving home from PG's yesterday. Desert Island Discs was on. Here's a link (available for 27 days).  The guest was Professor Angela Gallop, a forensic scientist.

In 1999 Angela and her team investigated the murder of Lynette White who was killed in her flat in Cardiff in 1988. Five men had been tried for her death and three - known as the ‘the Cardiff Three’ - were sent to prison although their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal two years later. Angela’s investigation made history when the murderer was identified and convicted through his familial DNA.

I know all about the Cardiff Three, having been in school with John Actie. Her discussion of that case is about 30 minutes in. She says that she met John after helping to identify the real killer and that she finds the "dignity with which he has dealt with the whole thing awe-inspiring."

Update:

Chapter 20 of her book When the Dogs Don't Bark: A Forensic Scientist's Search for the Truth is called Lynette White. That may be worth a read.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Dahhhhhhhling!

 Grauniard

‘The silences that night were spellbinding’

Anne Reid, The York Realist, Royal Court, 2003

I had no idea this was such a good play. The first time I read it, I thought: “Oh no, not another northern mother. Boring.” I was 64 and I’d never worked in London before. Peter Gill directed it so beautifully. Everything was specific in its choreography: this is the height to hold a teapot, this is how to take off and hang a coat. Whatever the action, he said if you take your time and present it, the audience will find it interesting. And he was so definite about pace: play the first scene legato, the second pizzicato – he really knew the music of a scene. The silences in the theatre that night … spellbinding! Later, we went to the Royal Court bar and as Peter walked down the stairs everyone burst into applause.

The author of a new book about the greatest openings in theatre history asks stars of stage to recall their most thrilling first nights – and the occasional disasters that befell them.

Worth reminding myself of as I am off to take himself to Waitrose.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On


So. Farewell
Then
Jerry Lee Lewis.

All you gotta do honey is kinda stand in one spot
And wiggle around just a little bit
That's what you gotta do yeah

You improvised those lyrics
When the music fell off the piano

That, at least,
Is what I half remember

And choose still to believe
Whether or not
It is true

I myself
Did this poem
In one take

The world shall not see
Our like again

EJ Thribb

Friday, October 28, 2022

Streets full of water, please advise


I am due back down in Cardiff the weekend after next. I must go and have a look at Churchill Way. This must be the uncovering of the legendary feeder canal where Dad learned to swim. He lived in Adam Street which adjoins the photo above a bit further south as I recall. 

"The canal has been paved over for over seven decades but now, with redevelopment work underway, it is set to form the heart of a huge rejuvenation of the city centre." Goshk.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

I came to Casablanca for the waters. I was misinformed.

How the Casablanca Club, a black-owned night club in Cardiff’s docklands, became a magnet for people from all walks of life, and in the 1970's and 80's, it changed people's lives.

Lots to unpack here. Noah Francis Johnson, who was in the same year as me in school, presents a BBC Radio Wales documentary about  the Casablanca Club which was in Mount Stuart Square just like Dad's office.

Your main takeaway though is that is is only available for the next 13 days so listen to it soonest by clicking here.

Let's all just meet back on the spindrift pages in a fortnight and see what we have learned.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Tubular Bells

grand piano
reed and pipe organ
glockenspiel
bass guitar
double-speed guitar
two slightly distorted guitars
mandolin
Spanish guitar and introducing acoustic guitar
plus, tubular bells
Prodnose: What's this supposed to mean then?
Myself: It doesn't mean anything.
Prodnose: So why would anyone read it?
Myself: I don't care if anyone reads it or not.
Prodnose: So why write it then?
Myself: Write? I wouldn't call this gibberish writing.
Prodnose: I give up.
Myself: Be that as it may, I will be at my desk again at five o'clock tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Both Sides Now

There's a new BETA feature in AncestryDNA that bifurcates your matches between "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" but which is mummy and which is daddy?

Almost everyone I have bought a test for is either a child, a nephew or a niece of mine and thus related to me on "Both sides" of my family a classification that, on first glance, made me shudder until I realised that my son and his cousins are - OF COURSE! - descended from both my mother and my father.

This is where Peter rode to the rescue, his mother being my paternal grandfather's sister. Quod erat demonstrandum? He is related to me by Parent 2, who is thus daddy; similarly Parent 1 is mummy. Further my 2% Scottish is from Mum; Dad 100% bogtrotter.

Piece of cake though for the next generation to work it out. The son and heir just needs to look up which side said cousins are on, the cousins in turn - the side that I am on.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Objectified

Jonnie H is about six and a half feet tall and a good all round sportsman; plays cricket in the summer, played rugby with my Ben, and - now that he is in university - has a side hustle playing at centre half for a semi-professional soccer team.

If the Uni's rowing coach heard about him, or maybe even saw him walking around the campus, and asked him to try out for a place in his eight would he be "objectifying" him.

No. I didn't think so.

Cf. Meghan Markle who  disliked ‘all looks and little substance’ part of being a ‘briefcase girl’ on Deal or No Deal.

“And by the way, I was surrounded by smart women on that stage with me, but that wasn’t the focus of why we were there and I would end up leaving with this pit in my stomach.

“Knowing that I was so much more than what was being objectified on the stage.

“I didn’t like feeling forced to be all looks and little substance. And that’s how it felt for me at the time being reduced to this specific archetype the word bimbo.”

I imagine that Steve Redgrave, widely considered to be the greatest rower of all time, winning gold medals at five successive Olympics is similarly frustrated when people want to talk about that rather than  his Wordle score.

Wordle 492 3/6

🟨🟨⬜⬜⬜

⬜🟩🟩⬜🟩

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

Mine from this morning. Not too shabby eh?

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Near Room

Have you ever read Shadow Box: An Amateur in the Ring by George Plimpton?  I can't recommend it highly enough, especially this morning, for an image it contains of the “Near Room,” a place of dreadful foreboding which Muhammad Ali once described to the famed editor and journalist in striking, chilling detail:
“…a place to which, when he got in trouble in the ring, he imagined the door swung half open and inside he could see neon, orange and green lights blinking, and bats blowing trumpets and alligators playing trombones, and where he could see snakes screaming. Weird masks and actors’ clothes hung on the wall, and if he stepped across the sill and reached for them, he knew that he was committing himself to his own destruction.”
It is almost as if Ali himself had visited the Royal Standard one Saturday night.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Chums


I am not as a rule greatly taken with Niall Ferguson. That said though, there are more of his books than I would have imagined on the shelves that surround me.

I was astounded though to hear him, on the latest episode of the Hoover Institute's GoodFellows show, rip into Oxford University's PPE degree and its entirely deleterious effect on the UK's government, ruled - as we are - by know-nothing nonentities 'qualified' with it. It sounds almost as if he might have been sitting at an adjacent table in a pub one night listening to me rant and rave along the same lines.

I have cued it up above. It starts about two and a half minutes into the show, and will only take up five minutes of your time.

He also gives a shout-out in it to a book called Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK by Simon Kuper. That came out on Audible two days ago at the same time my latest credit appeared, so that is where the credit has gone.

Friday, October 21, 2022

omne trium perfectum

King Charles III arm in arm with Paapa as Sir Ian looks serenely on. Each of the three is a  dear personal friend of the blog. Is it too early to start speculating about Prime Minister Essiedu? What with the King's personal prerogative powers including accepting Liz's resignation and applying his seal to the appointment of the man I first met in the Antelope pub quiz?

Thespian Paapa Essiedu discusses playing the most challenging and rewarding character of his acting career; Boris Johnson.
Unless of course the rumour that Boris may throw his hat in the ring again turns out to be Paapa pulling our legs again already.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Sons Of Kerim Bey

 The last time I was having my hair cut (Andrews, next to CITW in the High Street) the usual two TVs mounted above the mirrors were on. One showing music videos while another, with the sound down, was tuned to a 24 hour news channel, and on that channel was more bad news from Ukraine.

The barber, a Turk, sighed. "Just opposite," he said and, of course, he is right, Turkey has a maritime border with Ukraine across the Black Sea. Half distracted, and half under his breath he talked me round his country's borders. To the East of Ukraine is Russia (maritime again), then comes Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. To the west are Bulgaria and Greece, then more sea borders;  Cyprus, Egypt, and Romania.

I can see what he was getting at I think. It can hardly be conducive to relaxation to have that bristling gang surrounding your homeland. And I am all but sure it would never, ever have occurred to me if I hadn't gone in for a short back and sides.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

'witty, touching memories of youthful love' Jermyn Street Theatre, The Times ★★★☆☆

 PG sent the WhatsApp group a photo from the play's press night yesterday. I have also noticed that they text is published tomorrow (https://amzn.to/3ESFNaD).

There's a review in The Times this morning here. It is online but behind a paywall. I will copy and paste the text below.

Something in the Air review — witty, touching memories of youthful love

Jermyn Street Theatre, SW1

Donald Hutera

Wednesday October 19 2022, 12.01am, The Times

★★★☆☆

Leading roles for mature actors in new plays tend to spotlight those who occupy the starriest, most bankable realms of the profession. And understandably so, given that such casting is a crucial part of any big West End venue’s box-office strategy. The Fringe, on the other hand, has more leeway. For his slim yet literate and touching new memory play, now at the intimate Jermyn Street in central London, the veteran writer Peter Gill has come up with not one but two older central characters.

Alex (Christopher Godwin) and Colin (Ian Gelder) are septuagenarians living in a care home. In Gill’s largely sedentary staging of the work, co-directed by Alice Hamilton, the pair literally never leave each other’s side — both men occupy identical, institution-style wingback chairs at centre stage, and stay put throughout the entire 65 minutes of the play.

The script tips its structural hand at the start. Colin, mentally sharper and temperamentally milder than Alex, briefly comforts the latter before they nod off. Alex then suddenly yet subtly becomes more alert, slipping effortlessly into the first of many longish interior monologues. Colin has them too. Loaded with vivid, scene-setting physical detail and era-specific cultural references, these individual reveries don’t occur in real time. They are, instead, parallel recollections centred on two separate young men that Colin and Alex once loved in their youth, long before they met.

Gill’s play is not just a two-hander, but a cross-generational ensemble piece — modest yet sophisticated, rather than sentimental, and sometimes acerbically witty. The young men (played by James Schofield and Sam Thorpe-Spinks) conjured by the respective memories Alex and Colin materialise either side of the stage; as talking ghosts from the past, they serve their purpose. There are also two present-day visitors: Alex’s moody, homophobic son (Andrew Woodall) and Colin’s understanding niece (Claire Price, warmly sympathetic without being saintly).

The chamber-style musical structure of Gill’s writing keeps contrivance at bay. What arises from all the talk — past and present — may not be theatrical dynamite, but I suspect that it was never meant to be. Gill seems to be after something more delicate and personal, laced with ambiguity and longing — even though past tense.

The production also benefits from being pinned to the very deft and dovetailing interpretations of Alex and Colin by Godwin and Gelder. Together with Gill, they’re shining a light on experiences, feelings and desires embedded in queer history, while underlining the value of companionship of any kind.

Ends Nov 12. jermynstreettheatre.co.uk

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

In dreams

The son and heir told me over the weekend that he had had a dream in which I, and someone he works with called Steve, jumped out of a plane together, parachuted, and landed next to him in a field to wish him a happy birthday.

I was rather taken with this until I made the mistake of mentioning it to the Gillster, a man who has dropped more money than I will ever earn on cod-Freudian shysters.

Was there a hint of a twinkle in his eye, when he attributed it to abandonment issues? I feckin' hope so.

MedicalNewsToday

“Abandonment issues” is an informal term that describes a strong fear of losing loved ones or of them leaving a relationship. It is a form of anxiety that can affect relationships throughout life.

“Abandonment issues” is not a distinct diagnosis. As such, it can refer to many things.

Fear of abandonment can come from an anxious attachment style or early childhood trauma. It is also a feature of some mental health conditions, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Gimme Chrissie Hynde over Sigmund F any day of the week.

Monday, October 17, 2022

My New Best Song


I pick up PG early each Sunday morning. We go to Waitrose and then to the grocers so we are usually settled down in the Plum Cafe in Munster Road over a flat white and a weak cappuccino before ten. People watching is one of my bestest hobbies and I am very, very nosy. Thus courting couples, who in all honesty likely weren't courting before Saturday, tend to catch my eye and my ears the morning after the night before. There was a wonderful example yesterday; an exquisite, delicate, porcelain creature with a raw-boned Yank who was entirely aware he was punching well above his weight. He was just jabbering, couldn't shut up for even two minutes in case there would be ..... silence. He'd seen a film recently apparently. It had a lot of scenes and they all came one after the other. My heart went out to him, the lovable doofus. At least he was there, manning up and taking one for the team. 

Any roads, my mental soundtrack was Saturdays are the Greatest by Kristina Train which I imagine being sung more in sorrow than in anger on a Sunday morning. The genius of the arrangement is to inject a melodramatic Ennio Morricone spaghetti western theme into a sombre ballad. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Flex Rumblecrunch: also known as Sean Burke

I don't know how closely you follow CAGEMATCH, the internet wrestling database, but I have stumbled upon a page on it that made my day.

I vaguely remembered that Sean Burke, one of my oldest friends, got a shout out from the OED when the Welsh word cwtch was added, and indeed I was right. Google led me to this:

WalesOnline

Our job is to record the language. And we found the word cwtch was turning up more and more.

Part of the reason is there has been a spate of writing which recognises Welsh-English as a legitimate dialect, such as Sean Burke.

Quite so. But there's more. An earlier, less perfectly honed query led me to this page.

Career Data
Roles:
Singles Wrestler (2010 - 2018)
Tag Team Wrestler (2013 - 2017)
Beginning of in-ring career:
2010
End of in-ring career:
2018
In-ring experience:
8 years
Wrestling style:
Powerhouse
Nicknames:
"Golden"
"The Supreme Talent"
Signature moves:
Elevator Slide
Uranage Slam
Flying Shoulder Tackle Spear
Powerslam Iron Claw
Mate, I have known you since infant school, but that Sean Burke is gone from me now. Henceforth you can be nothing but Flex Rumblecrunch.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Oh well... Life goes on

Among my new poems, torn from the front pages, is this chilling indictment of bourgeois hypocrisy; wrapped almost tight enough itself to throttle, yet still daring to contend - scarce half awake - with the distant Platonic echo, throb, challenge and warning of rigorous intellectual self-examination

Kwasi Kwarteng

Cheng, deng, dreng, eng,

Seng, sheng, spreng, streng,

Tianducheng*

*Tianducheng (Chinese: ε€©ιƒ½εŸŽ), also called Sky City, is a housing estate in Xingqiao Subdistrict, Linping District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China that imitates many design features of Paris.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Canedo Attitude

I have written before (passim) of getting into the habit of lingering over a £3 glass of red and a good book at Canedo's early in the evening before it closes at half past seven.

There's a framed shirt from Callum Hudson-Odoi on the wall towards the back. A television is usually flickering, tuned to a Portuguese channel, in the corner. The day before yesterday it was previewing the FC Porto Champion's League game away at Bayer Leverkusen that was due to start at eight. I mentioned to the owner that Callum would probably be playing as he is on loan at Leverkusen from Chelsea, mentioning that I knew him because he was in school with Ben. We had a little chat, in the course of which he mentioned that Raheem Sterling's family lived briefly in Colliers Wood (Not Tooting! he stressed) when they first arrived in England from Jamaica.

I do hope that this is true. Callum replaced Sterling when he came on around the seventieth minute for his first senior England cap. Wouldn't it be great if it was two local lads, for all that I think Sterling was largely brought up in Neasden?

Another small reflection, there was a boy sitting quietly inside on his own at a small table. He looked like he was doing his homework. Just before seven, a woman I took to be his mother came in, was warmly greeted by the staff, and picked him up. I've noticed it before. Not often or regularly but now and then. it gives me a warm feeling. Maybe she is raising him on her own and something she must deal with comes up occasionally. Surely sitting safe and warm, surrounded by familiar people is better than being left alone in a flat. Community: the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Don’t think, feel…

Thursday is today, so we are all going tonight. That's Peter and Alice in the photo above.

I think I did him the power of good on Sunday when he was trying to explain his anxieties about the next day's "tech rehearsal" by the, deceptively simple, expedient of not having the faintest idea what he was talking about. Phrases like "sight lines" and "the prompt side" went flying over my head. When he realized I had no clue if upstage meant the front or the back, he gave up in frustration and pretended to look at his phone. I like to think of it as 'taking his mind off things.' That I am to PG, something along the lines what one of Prince Harry's emotional support dogs is to the second, but probably not the last, Mr Meghan Markle.

Officially tonight is the first preview so I probably won't comment again until I can link to the reviews after the official opening. That is unlikely to be before next week I guess.

In a not unrelated development, I am wondering about going to see TROUBLE IN BUTETOWN in the Donmar next February. Cardiff innit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

SPIKE

Nick Draper is joined by Spike Godding and Rob Boyce to discuss the latest issues around Plough Lane, including the departure of Joe Palmer as Chief Executive, and the daft surrender of a two-goal lead at home to Doncaster. Why did Palmer leave, and why could we not see out a first win in 14 games?
Spike and his niece Kara when I popped in to CITW for a flat white on Saturday morning. Greetings were exchanged and fat was chewed. Later when I was in the Standard for the Arsenal Liverpool game, I was told he had been invited to the Emirates on corporate hospitality. The Gunners wanted to pick his brains it seems about the Wimbledon AFC podcast with which he is involved. I had been peripherally aware of that before but "never paid it no mind." The YouTube embed above is an example of it. Truth be told I haven't listened to it yet. A blip on the radar worth investigating though I would suggest.

Apple, Spotify, YouTube and Website boxes ticked. They don't seem to be messing about.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

whoever looks for a friend without imperfections, will never find what he seeks

Opened my eyes this morning with a thought I want to take for a walk. It struck me that the wokery, deplatforming and cancelling that the right so love to decry, is not so far from the sanctions and boycotts they love to impose.

I'm thinking of Iran initially, the most sanctioned country in the world until it was surpassed by Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. "A new generation of internet-savvy youth are refusing to be silenced in their fight against Iran’s theocratic, repressive government," intones Lunchtime O'Booze, our middle-aged male correspondent. 

Dressed like a punk-rocker in her dark make-up and clothes, Nika Shakarami’s high voice rang out on the streets of Iran as she was filmed singing to her fellow protesters.

Just days later, her broken body was secretly buried by security forces far from her village: the latest victim of Tehran’s brutal crackdown on youngsters demanding basic human rights.

Nika, 16, was one among thousands of brave schoolgirls who have cast off their headscarves, given portraits of the Supreme Leader the middle finger and chased Iranian officials out of their playgrounds. 

Take a step back. Take a breath. Don't the three paragraphs above sound rather prurient? What practical things are we doing to help or support these girls? You know the answer. We aren't doing any. Over the years, sanctions have taken a serious toll on Iran's economy and society. Who is to say they haven't taken a similar toll on individuals among the good people of Iran's will, fortitude and initiative? That discontent would not have swelled earlier in a healthier, less bloody incarnation if the rest of the world hadn't pretended to take the moral high ground by averting its eyes.

Remember soft power? The ability to co-opt rather than coerce; shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. If you can reconcile it with boycotts you're a better man - or woman or mermaid - than I am.

Don't even get me started on Russia.

Monday, October 10, 2022

music hath charms to soothe the savage breast


I popped out to Coffee in the Wood on Saturday morning, to get a flat white on board before our regular 10:30 Skype chat with mum. Andrew of the Old Street Big Band was there along with his wife is Gemma and daughter Lara, neither of whom I recall meeting before. (Little Lara was eating a chocolate croissant that was wider than her jaw, and eating it sideways.  She looked like the Joker from Batman after a night on the tiles by the time she had finished. I was utterly beguiled.)

Muso-chat between me and A ensued. I told him about the Cigar Box Guitar Build and Play Workshop John and I are going on in November (passim) and he tipped me the wink about the video above. (It's actually a BBC production, but "this programme is not currently available on BBC iPlayer." Why not?)

I was telling him a daft story about tuning my guitar to the hum of the fridge, but couldn't remember if it was closer to a B or a G so I just pulled B out of the air.

"Concert A is 440 Hz" he mused, "so 55 Hz will be an A as well. Our electricity current frequency is 50 Hz, which means, surely that fridge hum is closer to a G (a bit sharp)."

Absolutely right! I had got confused with the USA's 60 Hz supply. That is not a person in 10,000 who would have known. I just happened to have opened my big mouth in front of that one in ten thousand.

Music also came up in our chat with Mum. Charlotte Church has been in the news lately, which reminded me of a family legend: to wit that Mr Carter - my sister Caroline's piano and voice teacher - after a long and storied career that included gigging with Django Reinhardt, decided to cut down from two girl students to one and chose Caroline over Charlotte. (I was long gone by then, Caroline being 19 years younger than me. Catholics eh?). Apparently it is true.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Bringing Hard Back

I have finished Anthony Sattin's 'Nomads: the wanderers who shaped our world' (passim). Got in the habit of walking down to the Canedo Cafe at the end of the road of an early evening and reading twenty or thirty pages over a glass of red. So much more satisfying than Kindle in fact that I have splashed out on another hardback, 'Roland in Moonlight' by David Bentley Hart. A physical book, red wine, and cheese of an evening perhaps? Living for pleasure alone!

Nomads sat very well with my current interests. It begins and ends in Iran's Zagros Mountains; topped and tailed with the author encountering and meditating on the Bakhtari tribe's annual migration. Between this alpha and omega though it is a real page turner. He casts his net so wide that one never knows what the next paragraph may bring. This is praise not criticism. For example, I was genuinely staggered to discover that the quagmire that was the Scythian campaign of Persia's Darius I, was mostly fought in what is now called ........ Ukraine. The parallels with 2022's Putin/Zelensky standoff are uncanny.

Page 300:

Then, out of nowhere: 'Do you know my name comes from our Shahnameh?'

Shahnameh ... Ferdowsi's great poem of Persian and Zoroastrian history is still as fresh and relevant as when it was composed a thousand years ago. Its 50,000 couplets start at the dawn of time and end with the Arab conquest, moving from the mythical to the heroic to the historic. Shahnameh, the Book of Kings, was an attempt to preserve the culture of a Persian world that had been overwhelmed by Arabs, Turks and by Islam. It was an act of setting down intended to preserve the language, culture and history of nomadic Zoroastrian Persia. In the Shahnameh, Fereydun is the heroic king who frees Iran from a foreign power and stands as an archetype for the strong, just ruler. Siyavash is a tragic prince of such extraordinary beauty that his face blazes like a planet and whoever sees it falls in love with him. Other great heroes none greater nor more heroic than Rostom dance through the epic couplets as they do through the lives and imagination of Bakhtiari, who are often mourned after death with a full recitation of Ferdowsi's masterpiece.

Which is where we came in, having found many tie ins to the Shahnameh in the 1,001 Nights; up to the six hundred and eighty oddth story now. Also Robert Irwin (passim) is name-checked in Sattin's book for having read and commented on a draft.

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Cute Anon


Words fail me. They do not however, fail Carlos Greaves at McSweeney's. I am not joking this is a real thing backed by Peter Thiel (passim).
WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN ON THIS ALT-RIGHT, ANTI-CHOICE, TOXIC MASCULINITY DATING APP?
I like to think I’m a pretty normal, conservative-leaning guy who believes LGBT people are possessed by Satan, all abortions should be punishable by public stoning, and vaccines were invented by Jews to make men’s foreskins fall off so that all guys with penises will be circumcised and forced to convert to Judaism. You know, just center-of-the-road right-wing stuff.

But I’ve always had a hard time meeting women on dating apps, maybe because liberal women have been brainwashed by Queer Eye to believe that men should be able to clear the unrealistically high bar of having the basic ability to regulate their emotions and be able to make a decent omelet.

So when I heard about a new dating app called The Right Stuff, aimed at helping conservatives meet each other (and thus out-procreate the minorities trying to replace us), you can imagine how excited I was to meet the Q to my Anon. But then I opened the app and hardly saw any women, and I couldn’t help but wonder: Where are all the alt-right, anti-choice, male-subservient women on this dating app?

Look, I’m not a picky guy. All I’m looking for is a woman who is intelligent, funny, and attractive, who believes God created women to help men with stuff they’re naturally bad at, like empathy, and who enjoys shooting wild animals from a helicopter. So where are the millions of women I imagine fit that exact description if not on this app?

It’s not like my political views are that out there. I just happen to subscribe to the traditional belief that women belong in three places: the home, the home goods section of HomeGoods, and Home Depot (but only the paint department, because the rest of the store is strictly guy territory). So it’s strange that every time I sign into this app, the only people I see are like-minded guys and a woman who claims to be Marjorie Taylor Greene’s cute younger sister, but who I’m pretty sure is a sexbot. Is it really that difficult to find a woman whose only ambitions in life are to gratify me sexually at my whim, be a vessel for my offspring, and then die? Is that so much to ask?

I want what everyone else in life wants: someone to wake up in the morning next to, someone to bathe and spoon-feed me when I’m old (and also when I’m young and middle-aged), and someone to hold my hand while we commit heinous acts of domestic terrorism against people whose beliefs don’t align perfectly with ours. But I guess some women would rather be left alone to snuggle under a warm blanket while sipping mulled cider, watching Gilmore Girls, and petting their cat. Alas, some people just choose to act against their own best interests.

I’ve always subscribed to that age-old conservative aphorism “a wife is like a mother who’s your same age.” Someday I hope to meet a woman who wants to be my wife-mother, which I would think would be every woman’s dream.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll go back to scrolling Tinder and Hinge, since The Right Stuff is mostly just ads for camo gaiters and dick pills. I also have to respond to the email I got from the FBI. Apparently bragging about pepper spraying women police officers on January 6 isn’t the pickup line I thought it would be.

Friday, October 07, 2022

The best lack all conviction

Do you remember that last time I was down in Cardiff I told you that back in June I found myself beginning to suspect that I personally knew someone who was better informed on any specific hot button issue than any member of the dreary commentariat? And that I had determined to start gathering these exemplars together over the months and years into my own new Kitchen Cabinet?

Consider this a formal invitation to join as the fourth member. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (including its antecedents; Kierkegaard, Nietzsche etc.), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction.

As always, should you or any of your KC Force be caught or killed, I will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This notion will self-destruct in ten seconds. Good luck.

Result! The author of:

  • The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida
  • Authorship from Plato to the Postmodern: A Reader
  • The Ethics of Writing: Authorship and Legacy in Plato and Nietzsche

is signed up for Team NickyB.

Piers Morgan must be quaking in his boots.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

In which I embrace a meme

What can I tell you? Labour Party Graphic Designers (@LabourDesign) have had me weeping with laughter all through Conference this week.