A hot, sunny, insect-buzzing day drew me out to the garden which has been in need of some maintenance for months. Weeding paths and cutting back foliage while a blackbird sang to me his fluid, melodic improvisation, gave me a chance to think, uninterupted by the urgent demands of human obsessions. It occured to me how different children's lives are these days to my childhood. Few toys then, we relied on our imaginations, sense of adventure, and fascination with the world and its mysteries yet to be revealed. There was never a time I can remember being bored, each day was an adventure, and I most often returned home exhausted and hungry. Then, we made things, often from the least promising of ingredients, and constantly discovered things to overcome. We built camps, created fictional scenarios, played out unfamiliar roles, had feuds and made friends. We knew how to be children.
Todays kids are a different species it seems. Unwilling, or unable, to do anything for themselves, obsessed with the latest must have electronic gizmos, they spend most of their time indoors either being passively entertained by mostly mindless televisual wallpaper, and can't apparently go on a car journey with their parents without spending the whole episode watching a movie on their mobile players attached to the seat in front, insulated from even the sounds of the real world with earphones. They seem to be bored a lot of the time, despite having a vast array of 'entertainment' at their fingertips, and their participation seems to be as passive spectators of an imaginary reality they did not create.
I began to wonder if this lack of real stimulation was responsible for the apparent dumbing down that we see all around, especially among those under thirty, the ones whose whole lives have been 'enhanced' with this electronic wizardry. The only way these young adults seem able to enjoy themselves is with copious amounts of alcohol until they are incapable of thinking, and the emptyness of their lives is pushed to the background. Now the BBC is planning a free satellite TV service with 200 channels, no minute of the day need be uncovered by something trivial even for those who can't afford the Sky subscription. That all this electronic stuff requires massive resources, principally plastics, and is therefore part of the problem of climate change and homo sapiens eventual demise, is an irony lost on most.
Perhaps I should record my blackbird and release another piece of plastic for people to listen to rather than enjoying the real thing for themselves for free. It seems these days that 'free' is worthless, and unless something costs money for an ersatz experience, it is of no value.
The Humane Society of the US has been lobbying for an end to the sickening capture and slaughter of wild horses and burros and is almost there with the House of Representatives voting overwhelmingly (277-137) to restore a 34-year-old ban on the commercial sale and slaughter of America's wild horses and burros. On Wednesday, the bill to ban the sale and transport to slaughter of all American horses cleared a critical Senate committee by a decisive 15-7 vote. All Americans can add their voice to this campaign by contacting their representatives and letting them know how they feel. To shut down the horse slaughter industry in the United States and to stop horses from being exported to other countries for slaughter -- where they face longer transports and an even more grisly death -- the Humane Society needs everyone who cares about horses to get involved. So tell your friends, family and colleagues how they can help, and send them here to sign up.
Wild horses and burros had been protected from slaughter from 1971-2005, but in 2004, former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns [named as one of Washington's most corrupt politicians by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics] stripped those protections by slipping an amendment into the 2005 omnibus spending bill. Burns is a one-braincell farmer from Montana, now thankfully out of office, though not, unfortunately, slaughtered and made into pet food.
Had a sample of my latest published book delivered today, the author, gardener at a large country estate nearby where she grows vegetables the traditional way in the walled garden, had a thousand delivered and is overjoyed with her first book in print, and about to start promoting it. A ready sales place is the estate's Cafe where her organic produce is sold cooked in delicious meals for the visitors who throng there in the tourist season. It should sell well along with the wine, also made on the estate using the grapes they grow in their vinyards, as well as a collection of very tasteful tourist gifts, all housed in part of the ancient buildings [the estate was listed in the Domesday Book which was drawn up to catalogue every estate, land holding and dwelling in 1086 although most of the buildings date from the 14th century]. I enjoyed photographing the buildings and land for the book, as well as the estate cat who lives in the greenhouse, and the ladies who cook. Always a mixture of trepidation and pleasure when the printer's parcel arrives, thankfully, this time there were no goofs, usually spotted within seconds of opening the book at random. Sod's law.
Big flap going on now Iraq has turned even nastier and some are having second thoughts about a royal prince putting his life on the line as an army officer. How times have changed since kings and princes led their armies into battle, and Harry surely has in mind Prince Hal, who Shakespear wrote about, and of his own role in history. Trouble is, with the most deeply unpopular war this country has ever been involved in, no one wants to contemplate Harry getting blown up in an armoured car and royal bits having to be rescued from the dusty streets of Basrah. Worse still if he were captured and held to ranson, a king's ranson? The insurgents all have a photograph of him ready for identification purposes and are bound to target him if he ever makes it out onto the streets. He'll be the one surrounded by the bodies of anonymous looking men in suits with their hands inside their jackets, wearing shades and looking paranoid. Difficult to spot then.
It's not difficult to see why Harry and his older brother had to be got away from the influence of their mother who was carving out a name for herself as a campaigner against cluster bombs and landmines, ordnance the UK still likes its army to use. A bit extreme to have her killed, but would a court have given custody to their weird father when the whole country knew what he'd been up to and with whom, against their saintly mother? The princes [heirs to the throne] might have turned out quite differently if they had been brought up by Diana, and the court case would have been sordid in the extreme and not to be contemplated by an establishment which likes to keep tight control. Murder, by comparison, is so much cleaner. And despite so many crying foul, there will never be a definitive conclusion that she was deliberately killed along with her Egyptian Muslim lover any more than there will be with Dr Kelly's arranged 'suicide'. And as time passes, most will forget details and current issues will crowd them out of the media consciousness. The establishment knows that it just has to wait calmly for the dust to settle, Mohamed Fayed notwithstanding. But what a change, in the 'care' of their father, and doubtless with some careful schooling/brainwashing, they have turned out like carbon copies of the present heir, and both joined the army where the power of the royals has always resided. The eldest will do stints in all three services to ensure a totally loyal armed forces, loyal to him in the difficult times to come.
It's been revealed that samples were taken in the 1980s from the bodies of Sellafield workers [past and present] who had died, to ascertain the levels in plutonium in various organs to compare the findings with those of urine samples taken routinely from all workers. Local people were also sampled to check if they too had similar levels. More
You'd think this would be a routine safety check and part of an ongoing monitoring of nuclear safety. I would have expected it to be continuing to this day, a necessary watch on a very dangerous industry. But the revelation has elicited a totally different response from the media, which has gone off on one of its frequent tizzes, asking if relatives were informed at the time and whether they gave their consent. This smacks of ancestor worship in a backward New Guinea tribe, rather than a developed, scientific nation, and very soon I expect calls for the samples to be returned to relatives to be buried with their 'loved ones' with due religious ceremony. Perhaps they'll want the urine returned as well.
I find it extraordinary that a species which slaughters millions of animals daily, makes all kinds of foodstuffs from every available animal body part, and cares little for their physical and mental welfare prior to slaughter, can care so much about the organs of dead humans. I know all religions preach that homo sapiens is, amongst the millions of species which have crawled, swum and flown on this planet, somehow special, but isn't this ludicrous obsession with bits a trifle more deranged than the norm for even religious beliefs? When you're dead, and it happens to all of us, you're dead. You are ex, so much meat, why should anyone give a toss what happens to it? Incineration seems to be the preferred option these days, yet it's wasteful of fossil fuel [285kwh of gas] and polluting, a much better option would be burning in power stations or recycling. With recycling we would get to feed those animals which could stomach us, and the whole process would be natural and wholesome, wildlife parks and zoos would seem to be the obvious to benefit from a free supply of protein for their carnivores. I've often thought the Tibetan Buddhist practice, of suspending the body in a tree for the vultures to feast on, a much better alternative to the expensive polished wood coffins routinely buried to rot, although wicker ones are becoming increasingly popular with the growing awareness of the need for a smaller carbon footprint. I can see that with so many of us, bodies hanging in trees half eaten might be an unpleasant sight, so I would settle for burial in a wood, to nourish the trees, and the bluebells, wood anemones, hyacynths, wild garlic, columbine, orchids, figwort, honeysuckle, wood avens, and the unforgetable forget-me-nots and other plants too numerous to recall. Scientists are welcome to my bits for their research. The woodland burial is the preferred option on several grounds; normal burial is six foot deep, too deep for oxygen to assist aerobic composting, and anaerobic composting produces methane, the worst greenhouse gas. Trees have deep roots, so would benefit from the nutrients we all contain, and their leaves would help distribute the nutrients to all the surface plants.
I think the trend is towards a dumbing of society, the media being prime movers, staffed as they are with the largest collection of self-obsessed, simplistic lame brains to be found. It's an odd 'Flowers for Algernon' trend in homo sapiens, and probably part of our long demise as dominant species; becoming so stupid it doesn't understand what's happening and is as a result blissfully unaware of the fate that awaits it.
As if hitting the news over remarks that the Nazis were stylish and tasteful wasn't enough for ageing minor popster Brian Ferry, whose praising the marketing and presentation skills of the Nazi regime [Really beautiful!] got some stick, Ferry has now released a collection of Bob Dylan songs which will be about as tasteful as Jimmy Osmond doing cover versions of Bach. Ferry, a member of the Countryside Alliance pro-hunting lobby group, prefers to play at the country houses of the rich these days, and is keen on shooting and other barbaric country sports - his ex-public schoolboy son Otis is a notorious fox torturer and one of the yobs who broke into the House of Commons to disrupt the fox hunting bill. Titles for this 'look at me' album are: Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, Simple Twist of Fate, Make You Feel My Love, The Times They Are A-Changin', All I Really Want to Do, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Positively 4th Street, If Not for You, Baby, Let Me Follow You Down, Gates of Eden, and All Along the Watchtower. My blood runs cold at the thought of the butchering this aged lounge lizard will do to this bunch of fine songs by the master. But then Bjork has apparently released a collection of Joni Mitchell songs, so clearly nothing is sacred in this new discordant age.
"When I was 18 and as stupid as all the troops over there now, including the square-jawed, talking-head generals, I was supposed to be bringing democracy to a Third World country. It was baloney then and it's baloney now. All we did (I was a grunt in the Marines), was make a thousand Viet Cong for every one we killed. And the ones I killed have haunted me since."
"War gives the Pentagon's cowardly bureaucrats, the federal government's cowardly politicians, and America's citizen cowards the chance to try to convince themselves that they're not the cowards they know they are."
Anyone wanting to let the Canadian Government know what they think of them and their allowing the inhumane slaughter of baby seals barely a few days old should go here, the Canadian Government website's feedback page. And you can use the back button and then press submit again and again to keep sending your thoughts on this pointless, sick slaughter of the innocents. There are links on the site to the governer general, prime minister and parliament, and of course you should also sign the pledge not to buy Canadian products here.
I suppose it hasn't occured to anyone in the media both in the US and elsewhere that showing the videos the student who shot dead 32 people at Virginia Tech sent to NBC on the day of the shootings just encourages pathetic, crazed inadequates like him to do a copycat.
Posted from the college campus between the two rounds of killings, Cho Seung-hui is shown pointing guns at the camera, and ranting, and the media here in the UK have been playing it almost continuously. What a way to make yourself famous if you're thinking of commiting suicide anyway. We all have a few issues with people or society, and this media binge will encourage those with the urge to do a shooting anyway to make a video event of it. It's a bit like rats in a cage, they eventually turn on each other due to overcrowding.
It's no coincidence that these events are becoming more frequent, with each one outdoing the previous ones in terms of numbers. The next aspirant to fame as a shooter, will have to top 32 in order to get the media to take notice. Still the gun lobby nuts in the US defend their right to carry arms, arguing in their deranged, illogical way that this right prevents mad or bad people from killing them. It clearly doesn't deter a lunatic who isn't thinking logically either, and if everyone in the country had a gun, the result would be total mayhem as shootouts occured everywhere people had an argument, if only out of paranoia.
The smell of blossom hangs in the hot air, blackbirds' cockily fluid song complementing it, all the rest is sleepy insect buzz of high summer. But hey, wait a minute, this is April, what's August going to be like if it's like this now? There will be loads of sunburnt bodies by the end of the day, even with their three weeks in the sun somewhere foreign getting skin cancer, the average Brits aren't used to this at home and many will overdo it. I went out in the heat of it to photograph more houses for my site http://www.blackandwhitehouses.co.uk and got as far as Ludlow in Shropshire, home of some particularly fine examples of medieval timber frame building, when my camera battery ran out. So the Ludlow series will have to wait for another day.
I just wish there was a semblence of a proper, adult debate or discussion on climate change. We seem constantly to move three steps forward and two back, and sometimes even four back. Arguments which were won years ago come round again and again, it's almost like the human race has almost instant amnesia and has to learn everything over again. For anyone to be still disputing that the actions of homo sapiens have contributed mightily to climate change - and the fact of climate change isn't still disputed - is criminal denial, we all share responsibility, particularly those of us 'lucky' enough to live in the rich world.
Looking plumper every time he appears in public [much like John Travolta with his fat-stuffed face], Al Gore is now spearheading a series of Live Earth concerts in July modelled on the Live Aid concerts that did so little to help Africa, but which inflated pop egos immeasurably in a display of conspicuous hypocrisy never before witnessed on planet Earth. Using the hypocrite Gomby Man Geldoff as a role model is the mark of the politically incontinent [Geldoff's daughter flew into the recent Hyde Park 'Make Poverty History' concert in a pink helicopter while her gobshite father was lecturing the world on the obscenity of poor people starving], but that ain't stopping Big Al, twice US vice president, and now wishing to move from vice to persuading the rest of us that by using an energy saving lightbulb we can save the planet. Something tells me Al has failed to grasp quite a lot about climate change, but just like politicians everywhere, he thinks he knows best and has been lecturing us since he 'saw the light'. Perhaps he just has to be in the [energy-saving] spotlight.
The sight of obscenely rich pop luvvies' self-contratulatory singalongs in 'aid' of the world's poor was a gut wrenching experience for those with any sensitivity and half a brain, but the idea that the same self-obsessed overconsumers have anything to tell the rest of the world about global warming is too ludicrous to contemplate, especially when the biggest act he's so far managed to entice is Madonna, who doesn't flinch from flying to Africa to pick up a takeaway child when the desire hits her and is rumoured to be soon off on another jet-fueled jaunt there for reasons unknown. Together with her nauseating creep of a husband who's spent his life profiting from pornographic gun-flics which have fueled the gun obsession among disadvantaged black youth and debased society generally, Madonna is part of the problem, not the solution, as are all the overconsuming rich with their private jets, limos and parasitic lifestyles. A series of 'Eat the Rich' events might attract a lot more attention, and would go some way to redressing the balance the human race has well and truly upset. Mind you, I wouldn't feed them to my dogs, I value their health too much.
Don't believe a word of it, especially now the MoD - never knowingly truthful - is positively encouraging all fifteen to sell their 'story' that is, the officially approved MoD one, presumably to shut up any dissident voice who might wish to tell the truth. There's a lot in it for them; they get to be seen as heroes rather than wooses, they get a load of money (talking about six figure sums), and don't face any charges. The release by Iran of TV footage of them all sitting around watching TV, playing board games, watching TV and eating might be part of Iran's propaganda, or it might represent a snapshot of how it was, and of course Iran is out to milk the situation for all it's worth, but would they really have tortured UK service personnel, and risked causing a major incident possibly leading to an invasion, already threatened by the Chimp? I suspect that the Iranians would have been very careful to play it by the book, and if anyone believed they would be imprisoned for eight years if they didn't admit to being in Iranian waters and apologise, more fool them. Previous captures of UK servicemen by Iraq in the first Gulf War, where we were actually at war with them, resulted in them being paraded, bruised but defiant on Iraqi TV. Seems this bunch were made of weaker stuff, and we are supposed to feel sympathy because they were scared stiff and couldn't cooperate enough. Of course it's in their interest to now claim they were blindfolded, kept in solitary and threatened, a big wedge of money making it even easier.
The MoD, responsible for the murder of Dr Kelly, are a tricksy, devious bunch of geeks who do not shy away from the utmost deceit, it's all in the national interest after all, as was Dr Kelly's death. If they can't buy people off, they shut them up. They're the closest thing we have to the KGB. But the money angle has infuriated almost everyone; old generals who are adament it isn't legal and certainly isn't British, relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq who are outraged, commentators of all kinds. Everyone, in short, who isn't part of the government, or the tabloids willing to splash out hundreds of thousands. A small percentage will be donated to army charities, wow, now that's generous to a fault. This could blow up into a huge row, and I do hope so. Although so far no media commentators have drawn the obvious conclusion that the MoD are doing it to manipulate the public's view of the truth with the officially sanctioned 'story'. Give 'em time. Forty years down the line it'll come out, that's if global climate change hasn't made such issues irrrelevent by then.
Climate change may be implicated in the increasing scarcity of bees, or there may be other causes. Germany is apparently experiencing huge drops in bee numbers, and the US likewise, but no one as yet is putting it down to one cause. If it continues, climate change won't be a problem as most of the human population of the planet will have died from starvation long before climate change makes the planet unfit for the naked ape. Such a small thing as a bee, yet the future of our food crops is entirely dependent on them, as well as non-food plants. Without bees, there will only be those plants which reproduce either by themselves or with the aid of another insect. I was pleased to see a bee today.
I don't believe a word of it. the 'fifteen', released with goody bags and in newly laundered military uniforms which must have got rather smelly in two weeks, are whisked off to a military base - with ridiculous armed police lining the airport, against what is unclear - and just five reappear to give a press conference where they recount a tale of solitary confinement, pcychological manipulation and threatened executions as excuse why they all cooperated with the Iranians and apologised for straying into their waters. Which, the official story goes, they didn't. Knowing the British state lies, and Blair can't tell the truth ever, we are left with the decision whether to belive this tale, which only five of the fifteen were prepared, or allowed, to state on camera, or Iran, which made a point of putting them on TV in obvious good spirits, in many cases laughing and joking, showing the world that they were not being tortured.
The issue of how a group of marines allowed themselves to be captured so easily is glossed over by claiming that they were outgunned and 'some of us wouldn't have been here now' if they had resisted. That's never stopped marines in the past from fighting to the last man, but I guess we have a different type of marine these days, ones who think more of their own survival than anything like duty or not surrendering. I wonder why the others weren't part of this press conference; did they refuse to lie, or were they not to be trusted to keep the story together? There's one who hasn't even been named, doesn't figure in any photographs and is a mystery, who or what is he? The marine officers were, of course, only too willing to absolve themselves of any claims they acted like girl's blouses, so this story was the best they could come up with, but it is understood that one man refused, and the woman, who we saw a lot of while guests of the Iranians, is nowhere to be seen now. Very fishy. It wouldn't suit the British state to admit the Iranians had beahved impecably and treated them well, and, more importantly, it wouldn't have suited the US, which is still looking for an excuse to attack Iran, the Chimp in chief believing he could win such a war despite losing it in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course the Iranians will have used some psychological pressure, these were, after all, foreign military, already invaders of their neighbour, and in their coastal waters. And perhaps this bunch were only too willing to be persuaded that it would be a good idea if they admitted to that and speeded up their repatriation. I think murky is the word, despite the UK media hacks falling for the story completely and printing the expected gung-ho stories complete with Union Jacks. Thus is the British public manipulated and kept ignorant.
Well, the Iranians played a blinder, completely outclassed the po-faced British who didn't get the joke, and played it perfectly to the world's media. Wonderful stuff, and how fascinating that they behaved just like the ancient Persians behaved with captives! Always treating their captives with respect, they fed and clothed them, and did their laundry so the chaps could be sent on their way with clean uniforms, presumably carrying their gifts of suits in the tasteful luggage thoughtfully provided. Back in the days of the original crusades, they often kept captives for years, and when they finally released them, they gave them lots of gifts by way of compensation.
Although this was not for years, but a couple of weeks, they all got goody bags! And the British state was made to look crude, bullying, lying and inept, pretty accurate really. While Iran comes out of it as civilised, even pleading that the sailors and marines shouldn't face any charges for admitting to having strayed into Iranian waters and apologising for it.
Of course, the war criminal and professional liar Blair is now suggesting that the recent deaths of British troops in Iraq is down to Iran, just the sort of thing a low-grade creep like him would come out with. He'll never admit to any culpability over Iraq, sticking to the same, tired old story about bringing democracy to the country and banging on about the democratically elected government of Iraq, despite it being blasted apart and a complete mess. I don't envy the police officers who are going to be protecting Blair for the rest of his miserable life, a dangerous job considering the millions of people who'd like to see him dead, many of whom are probably capable of doing the deed.
Now the other sailor boys are queueing up to say how naughty they are and how sorry to have strayed into the Iranian's bit of sea water, tut tut. Whatever happened to name, rank and seriel number? This bunch are making video diaries. Either they're all girl's blouses, or the fiendish Iranians have been feeding them meals cooked with hasheesh, and they're all mellowed out and chatty. Would explain the giggling we've seen a few times on camera. Of course the Idiot Chimp had to jump in with his few cents worth to try to ratchet it up, and the hypocrisy by the UK government nonces decrying the disgraceful behaviour of the Iranians 'parading them on TV'. Utterlu uncivilised behaviour of course, but at least they haven't had bags put over their heads while they're kicked around the floor like these captives' fellow combatants have done with Iraqis, so I think Bliar and his minions should shut up.
While another politician's war still rages, the worthies of the establishment have been celebrating the Flaklands which they are still claiming was a justifiable war despite the fact that Thatcher deliberately allowed the Argentians to think she and her government were uninterested in these low lying rocks in the South Atlantic with the blood of whales a distant memory, so that she could then send the might of the Empire crashing down on their mostly conscript young men, and win herself another term after fooling most of the gullible British public and wallowing in gung-ho patriotic fervour which made some of us sick at the time. The vicious, psychopathic bitch is still alive, more's the pity, and much admired by the vacuous liar who has done so much to complete her hateful agenda and demolish any semblence of a caring, responsible society. What Thatcher started Blair has finished, and the country is a meaner, more spiteful and unfair country than it once was, with the gap between rich and poor immeasurably wider, and the spiv party handing out gongs for bribes and even turning over the selection of secondary schools to a lottery.
scenes from this war will create thousands maybe even millions of militants
intent on inflicting damage on the only superpower. The war will be waged
across America and in any American outpost and embassy. It will be brutal
and messy and will continue for decades. Bush doesn't know what he has unleashed.
Fool on the hill March 2003
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