Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Gibraltar to Narvik road trip now live and Googlemapped

Across two pages, link below is a map of the Gibraltar to Narvik trip
with links to online photo albums at every stage

When you click on a bit of the map it should open a little window with
a picture in it - if you click on that picture it will go to a full
picture album from that stage

googlemaps can only display the route on two pages, there is a link at
the bottom to the second page

Meshki’s issues with the electromagnetic spectrum

Meshki (AKA ‘Radiohead’), Rob and Masah's cat, has a variety of serious behavioural issues which I believe are a result of a ludicrous head size to whiskers ratio, which is completely outside my long previous experience which cats. Meshki has a tiny kitten head from which sprouts a virtual GCHQ of whiskery aparatus, allowing him to pick up signals probably not yet perceived by human science.

As a proud son of Cheshire, I’m immensely proud of one our local landmarks, Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory. A vast art deco dish driven by a turrent mechanism from a Royal Navy dreadnought, it is the first and last British Imperial contribution to the space race, tracking Sputnik across the heavens even when Soviets couldn’t. 

I look at Meshki sometimes and wonder how much data input his tiny cat brain has to deal with compared to Jodrell Bank.

Have you ever dialled up and down an old radio set to FM or LW and got that buzzy pulse that apparently is emitted by Jupiter? It is that sort of signal, shortcutting through Meshki's tiny brain (along with Talksport, The Archers, Stokes Croft Community Radio, mobile phone signals and worrying about Eltons Roads carnivourous plants) that I believe makes Meshki suddenly bite and then run off after he’s been purring happily for some time.

Fairford Air Show vs Bristol M-Shed

Couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to contrast and compare two new forms of British museum. A flying one and a museum of comminuty cohesion and progress

Before I go any further let me draw your attention to James Cook's pics from Fairford. It was such a damp day the water vapour made a ghostly cloak for the Fast Jets

When planned, six months ago, the trip to Fairford was to be a bit of a one day anti-Glastonbury. James talked me into doubling my ticket price to get in The Pimms enclosure, which sounded incredibly up market and I suggested in bored emails from Gibraltar that we go suited and role play the day as sleezy arms dealers


I think I'll be offering a near minthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lun-class_ekranoplan

"Spirit of Westward Ho!"

which has been kept in a climate controlled hanger somewhere between Bideford and Appledoor shipbuilders (where they are bulding parts of the new Astute class and the new carriers) Appledore shipbuilders have been helping main it since that unfortunate collision with the Lundy ferry.
(It probably only made the North Devon papers)

Only serious use has been as a high speed ferry from Ilfracombe. Andy and Su were on one run in 2008 but said it was 'noisy'

When the Airshow finally came round in July I was not long back from the Road Trip and I had dragged Rob Sanders into the equation just so we could exploit his cheap accommodation (and food and Bristol, and cat<see below>).

Weather report was terrible so the suit and arms dealer concept was booted. It was as bad as Glastonbury ever gets when we got there, the only comfort was the runway which wasn’t muddy. I was soaked to the skin when I found James in the Pimms enclosure who was his usual ebullient self though age has obviously softened his obsession with B52s and A-10 tankbusters.

Though I was worried about getting Rob into the Pimms enclosure without a ticket I needn’t have, as after years of training at getting into Glastonbury Rob should run a course on infiltration techniques.

We had Eckles cake and coffee for lunch, and were bored by aeobatics displays. It was a good day, though we were frustrated by easy availablity of delicious Pymms and then fried by an unexpected sun. Our final sight was a sad reminder of the twilight of the UK aero industry, the last remaining Vulcan V-bomber , a cold war machine designed to kill millions of Russians, treated here with the all the solemnity of an apocalyptic Princess Diana.

The real highlight was the french Rafael presented as it should, as gorgeous supersonic pole dancer in a  burlesque club of the clouds. The  Eurofighter, in contrast, laboured with fake weapons and obviously knowing it had important business elsewhere, was in comparison a great but busy waitress in a pub

Later in evening I alarmed the staff of a Vietnamese restaurant with my Red Skull and a disappointing meal was improved Mahsa's bubbly chat. She was talked us into watching Get Him To The Greek when we got back. I've seen it 3-4 times before but it gets better, this time I was taken by Aldous Snow's relationship with 'Naples' ("I wasnt going to tell you about his real father.. but then he started to look more and more Italian ...") which is mostly played straight as just sweet and tragic.

Next day, in cruel counterpoint to Fairford, we went to the talk of Bristol at the moment, the newly opened museum, the M-Shed. A cruel man would call it civic masturbation. Since they tore down an engineering museum for it I'm prepared to be cruel.

Like a community action group given access to a museum or a shedfull of old crap, M-Shed is the sort of place we'd find ourselves in growing up in Cheshire during day trips across the border in Yorkshire, and we'd mercilessly take the piss. Full of almost Texas self aggrandisement and not very Bristol at all.

M-Shed should be subtitled “for fans and competists only’ and even mad local obsessives might find the content ridiculously ephemeral. Concert tickets from punk bands that played Bristol in the 1970s? Did you not have any pictures? M-Shed seems less a museum and more an excuse to ‘engage’ the tax payers of Bristol to make them feel nice. I'm sure the original appeal for vital gems of history like bus tickets to fill the great new museum of YOU must have been great for someone politically.

Highlights? A suspended example of the Flying Flea, the cheap private aircraft sold between the wars that sought to replace the car. In typical M-Shed fashion it has all of the promotional material for this miracle new private flying car without any of the explanation why it wasn’t a success (Answer: It was lethal) Presumably it was built in the area but I saw no detail on the factory.

Heartening to know that someone went around recording the memories of Bristol old folk but most of that belongs in an archive for actual historians to use, rather than something will actually divert kids from screaming their heads off. First hand historical sources can be devastingly effective when used correctly (Exhibit 1 : Secret Police Museum in Budapest) but when the content rarely gets more dramatic than “the Irish immigrants ate all the potatoes, we had to have cabbage soup instead” it will drive kids right away from museums and right back to the X-Box.

Proof of how outstandingly out of touch the M-Shed is is the single picture and caption devoted to Trip Hop. And there I’ve said that term, most hated, to describe the Bristol music scene, to emphasie that Trip Hop is exactly what Bristol is world famous known for. When you sit in a mojito bar in Tarrifa and hear Massive Attack or a club in San Francisco and hear Portishead - that is the Bristol that is world famous. Slavery? Brunel? Forget it. And the M-Shed gives the Bristol music scene one photo and a caption. I imagine U.S. visitors in particular will wonder if they are somehow in the wrong Bristol.

And worst of all it annoyed me about the Bristol engineering museum was aparently destroyed to make way for the M-Shed. In direct contrast to Fairford the only evidence of Bristol aircraft company was an airfix model and the only input from nearby rolls Royce was a slightly bigger model. Britain in 2011 still in thrall to the Business Sector, entrepreneurs, The Apprentice, Dragons Den. The media idolises Del Trotters and Arthur Daly’s and not the Brunels and Whittles.

Days later I saw a debate on Intelligence Squared,

in which the creator of MUMSNET chose to argue that bullying Western kids into any kind of academic achievement was pointless as none of 'The Dragons' (lol) on Dragons Den had bothered with anything too taxing at school.

The number of Alan Sugars types listed historically as Great Britains is very slim, perhaps because the record of British managerial incompetence since 1945 is world famous (though not in this country). Maybe I just haven't seen the statues of Freddy Butlin and Marks And Spensers in Whitehall. I'm not so sure these business daredevils really are that much of a draw for the average boy. When I was at school I dreamt about being an astronaut, not being the chairman of C&A. If I was a teenager now, rioting would probably sound a lot more fun than selling porcelain cats that sing 'How much is that doggy in the window ?' out of the back of a Robin Reliant.

The real ironic highlight of the M-Shed is a large painting called “Gran Tourismo” showing two kids supposedly visiting their Gran, but actually playing a console game while she sits ignored on the other side of the sofa.
M-Shed is the kind of expensive, claustrophobic social inclusion that the far right think they are rebelling against when they rant away at spineless liberals wasting money. A hall full of trade union banners does not help in this regard, and they are just hung there with a few photos and descriptions of local riots without any attempt at context at all. It seemed the M-shed was massively self-defeating in this regard. A big hearty thanks from the establishment socialists in charge to the warriors of Bristol’s real people, who have seen their living standards and share of Britains wealth plummet since the 1970s. Would a hall dedicated to welfare dependency, unemployment, and the rise of the Service sector and the Business Sector have been too depressing?

Perhaps a mention of the financial crash of 2008 would have been appropriate, considering very little of the M-Shed’s kind of tax-payer funded group hug will be seen henceforth. Maybe that’s the final irony. The M-Shed serves it’s historical purpose best as a monument to the kind of worthless vanity project the world was investing in prior 2008. Future generations will walk around and marvel not at actual exhibits but on the total waste of the building as a whole

I did tease the locals, Rob and Mahsa, that (as a Mancunian) the M-Shed seemed to be missing a Hall of Great Bristol sporting achievement, and that (as a part time London resident) I had seen some great art sprayed on the side of buildings in Bristol; but there is no sense teasing them about the sporting stuff; the Northern creed of soccer obsession looks to the south west eyes like social masochism, kind of interesting only in an incomprehensible sick way.

And on the art you’d have to be a idiot to be snobby about Bristol right now. This (below) is perhaps the best time I have ever spent in a museum…

And this is the most ingenious and subversive film I have seen for years

I’ll hopefully cover the coolness of Bristol with the a blog posting on I’LL BE YOUR MIRROR, when the South Wests Portshead and PH Harvey took over London for a weekend, Suffice to say I’ve seen enough of buzzing cities (Berlin) and non buzzing cities (Manhattan) to know that the best of Bristol right now isn’t bus tickets and ration cards from 1952.

Oh .. and the cat... (see next post)

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

STARVE THE BEAST; Ayn Rand for Europeans

The US credit downgrade was no accident. To understand why the American Right brought the world to the brink of financial collapse by threatening to veto the US budget extension you need to know what their real intentions are, ("the most pernicious fiscal doctrine in history”) and why they they think corporate anarchy should replace elected government.

“This is a manufactured crisis”
Too true. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was quite right. The trigger for the U.S. debt rating downgrade, and the disaster we stared at from the largest economy on Earth defaulting, was an entirely self-inflicted wound. But Mrs Bachman’s statement was not just stating the obvious. She was trying to convince the American voter that a budget default could only be good for the U.S. Why would a serving U.S congresswomen and Presidential candidate suggest that?

To understand this you should be aware of political strategy of the far right called Starve The Beast

To quote the Wikipedia link above, 

"*Starving the beast*" is a fiscal-political strategy of some American conservatives to cut taxes, depriving the government of revenue that enables spending on social programs …in an effort to create a fiscal budget crisis that would then force the federal government to reduce spending.”

Economist Paul Krugman: "Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts,
Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate
intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could
then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate
an unsustainable budget deficit."

Sarah Palin is hardly even coy about this  “[Congress], starve the beast,
don't perpetuate the problem, don't fund the largesse, we need to cut

If you are anything like me (a naive idealistic European), you will be astounded at the cynicism of this. We might be aware of the naked political cynicism of Soviet Communism or Nazism but the perpetrators in those cases were brutalised gangsters or embittered World War 1 veterans. Not Christians. And many of the American far right claim to be exactly that. What defines the conscience of a devout Christian who is prepared to inflict widespread economic misery across his own nation for political gain?

George Monbiot thinks they are hypnotised by Fox news. It is much deeper than that. To accept what comes from Fox, and to perpetrate what is political cynicism of the highest order, you need to have already accepted a whole new morality based on 'freedom' as 'the law of the jungle'.

Adherents to this new freedom are people living in a moral mirror universe, role-playing that beard heavy episode of Star Trek without any hint of irony. They can bring the world to its knees over a budget crisis but will not pay any tax themselves. They can cry foul at the excesses of Greeks and then perpetuate endemic tax evasion through their own political system (40% of the U.S. budget deficit is Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of Americans. It is growing all the time and fiscal suicide.)

Once labelled a grass roots organisation, in reality, the Tea Party is as much a grass roots movement as the tobacco industry and the Oil Lobby. It has now been revealed a Republican front organisation, each political alter ego of the other. Sharp dressed responsible businessman by day, white hooded pyromaniac by night. If ‘psychopath’ sounds harsh consider the definition “ characterized by a tendency to commit antisocial and sometimes violent acts and a failure to feel guilt for such acts”. And then apply it to recent political acts by the U.S. Republican party.

Those doubters who are unaware of the depths of Republican thinking might
need to read the around The Southern Strategy<
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy>, for 40 years dismissed as left wing conspiracy theory, now accepted as truth.

‘The Tea Party’ is a dumbed down political off shoot of Republican Supply Side economics (and ultimately Starve the Beast) in the same way that Nazism was an off shoot of Eugenics. Supply Side (or Trickle down) economics, has all the real world practical advantage for the overall economy and the average person as the English National Opera. Even No.1 Ayn Rand fan Alan Greenspan should be thankful that devotees like Reagan, Thatcher and their heirs were too corrupt or incompetent to completely usher in the ‘share owning democracy’, as the stock market cataclysms since 2008 would have left the world population actually destitute instead of theoretically destitute.

And the less said about their business/service industry vs. manufacturing policy the better. How many times have you watched that Knight of the Chipping Norton Set, Jeremy Clarkson opine about the lack of British industry without bothering with the slightest mention of where it went to? In retrospect destroying our own manufacturing base looks uncomfortably similar to the self destruct button being pushed on our economies.

The ideas behind all this, and their moral base, have become all the more pervasive since the 1980s. The political and economic ideas which were once just ruthless self-interested greed among the haves have become a mean meme running the through the meanest of the have-nots as well.

Starve The Beast, has been a virus handed out in blankets in the corporate breaks between the commercial breaks on Fox News. But economics alone does not climb into peoples hearts and make them this mean.

For that, you need ideas powerful enough to subvert the basic human behaviour (call it Christian morality if you like) given at all, to allow normal people to coexist happily in society without resorting to shooting sprees. To make the morality of the Tea Party Republicanism and policies such as Starve the Beast and the Southern Strategy make any kind of sense you need to understand their cult hero, Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand is to these people what Wagner was to the Nazis. She would be its heart and soul if they actually still possessed anything in that cavity except for blackened lemons full of spite and negativity. (How do such creatures pro-create? They stare into each other’s eyes and marvel at their mutual self-interest?). Readers in the U.K. may well be unaware of Ayn Rand, a Russian Kulak émigré from Stalin to Hollywood whose two cult novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, defined her philosphy of extreme selfishness, Objectivism.

Atlas Shrugged is the most nakedly political of the two, a science fiction parable in which the talented elite (say, the Chipping Norton Set) "down tools" to re-take the world from the shiftless parasites (you and me).

The real meat though, a brilliant piece of moral subversion, is The Fountainhead. On the surface a Dallas-like saga of feuding architects determined to bring modernism (Art Deco) to the skyline of New York, it is thrillingly bad in four dimensions, like reading a novel written by a J.G. Ballard character, or putting on a great suit once own by Oswald Mosley. It is a novel so intoxicated with its own personal integrity it seems unaware it is flirting with extreme politics like Eva Braun after a bottle of Black Tower.

The Fountainhead is full of fetishistic moral inversion and dark obsessions that have been running through U.S. society for decades. The hero, an almost farcically principled artist, martyrs himself by blowing up a building he doesn't like. He counts among his friends a tabloid press baron, a young protégé convicted of attempted assassination, a love interest that seems to invite consensual rape shortly after they meet, and most chilling of all, the villain, Toohey, a cartoon Liberal manipulator, who uses morals and charity as a tool only to place others in his debt and advance himself.

Toohey is a Bond villain whose tool for world domination, his orbital space laser, is a social conscience.

If I described a flashback from The Fountainhead in which Toohey thwarts and exposes the school bully just to advance himself, and the sympathy of the writer is most definitely with the bully, you would struggle to believe me, but it is there. As seen by Rand the school bully is a free spirit, oblivious to the constraints around him. (Chapter VIII)

Rand is not only a cult hero to the Tea Party Republicans she is the idol of the economists that have shaped our world since the 1980s, and is now regularly featured in U.S. schools forced to ‘balance’ the liberal leanings of their other literature. The fact that Rand ended her days living off the state under an assumed name has been quietly forgotten. Vice Presidential nominee and new face of the Republican Party, Paul Ryan, is in record as being a disciple of Rand. “There is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism," Ryan told The Atlas Society in 2005, "than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works."

Rand has ushered in a mirror moral universe, where the' freedom' of press Barons in the Chipping Norton set to run tabloid surveillance amounts to a corporate totalitarian state for the rest of us. Here is a headline from the tabloid newspaper in The Fountainhead. Compare with the level of press morality seen by some of Fox News’s paper stablemates at News International.

 *“Hell is said to be paved with good intentions” said The Banner “Could it be we’ve never learnt to distinguish what constitutes the good? Is it not time to learn? Never have there been so many good intentions proclaimed in the world. And look at it”* (from XIII)

Ayn Rand herself was fiercely anti-religious, a fact conveniently forgotten by most of her followers, who seem unaware that her message of extreme self is not unlike that of a near contemporary.

"Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law".

That the political and economic message of the Tea Party seems closer to the ideas of Aleister Crowley than anything in the Bible has to be an irony that will keep amused whatever replaces us on the surface of this planet. Perhaps the human race is lucky to have got this far. With Tea Party levels of social co-operative behaviour 50,000 years ago the human race would never have made it out of the caves, in fact we would probably have sold each other out
to the Neanderthals.

With the Tea Party, the Republicans and the Party Whose Job It Is To Fail (the Democrats) pushing the U.S. face first into an extreme experiment with gangster economics and plutocracy, it all seems very dark. There is only one horrible blood red light on the horizon. What was that quote about capitalism and rope?

"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."

Are we sure Lenin never worked as a Republican strategist?

Schools... Out.. for.. Summer

What with 17 stops, 2 hours every summer day on the ancient Bakerloo line and finally the worst riots in living memory this hasn't been the best of London contracts.
In fact today is a day like no other in London I can remember.

General consensus in Santander bank this lunchtime was that the Army should go in. I jokingly said the kids will be off the streets as soon as it rains as you can't loot anything waterproof from a sports shop; but noone was even smiling. Old scared black woman could not be cheered up. She honestly thinks nothing will stop the kids except the army. They seem to want to treat this as zombie apocalypse instead of kids running riot (why am I in the bank? I'm too busy panicking about the stock market to panic about the riots)

I think the rioters may well wish they got the army. Cameron and co will do anything to avoid having to put troops on the streets so he will give the police a blank cheque to do anything. The British Army is not trained for riot control (see Bloody Sunday) but they would start with showing some restraint. The police tonight are going to go out and lay down the law in a very major way and it could be brutal. Perhaps they need to do it to regain their respect.

In Leon for lunch the staff are stupidly friendly, which is even scarier. As I type this in the heart of Whitehall, Downing street is around the corner, police sirens (Greenwich we think) are constantly blaring.

Saturday night, when it all kicked off, I was surprising the staff of a nice Italian restaurant by choosing to eat on one of their outside tables at the top of Tottenham Court Road. What happened? saw a lot of worried people walk by, it was a bit chilly but the food and wine was awesome. (I was oblivious)

Next day I found myself with Rich in a drunken rowdy crowd of thousands... they were all City fans ("just Pheonix Nights on tour basically") getting beer ed up before the Community Shield final at nearby giant stadium. We were still laughing about the riots then. I know two friends in Tottenham, Su and Odi, and I had txted both to ask if they were all right when I'd finally seen the riots from Saturday. Odi had left a hilarious rambling voicemail with a myriad of explanations for the rioting including his brother going to a Spurs match when he's an Arsenal fan ("the cosmic balance").

Having spent most of the day boozing with Rich, who cleverly got us on a bus north rather than south (to avoid the football fans actually), I got back to Wembley hotel and saw on Sky that it really was a major issue. Next day, on the Monday, I found an excuse to go and see Su in Tottenham. I saw a huge van with +++Police horses in Whitehall, and one super keen horse in the back, who was kicking against the door and flinging his head around. Su thought Odis voicemail very funny and we agreed that such was the state of the rennovation of her house it was unlikely the rioters could damage it any further.

On way back stood at Seven Sisters I looked up Tottenham High Road. Sunny but chilly. Boiling clouds seemingly linked to FTSE prices. Police dotted around arms folded looking confident, probably acting. Not many people but all moving a lot faster than normal, none of the good natured idling you get in Tottenham area.

I then got on the the new London Overground line, to move due west across to hotel in Wembley. It stopped briefly above Hackney retail park and Next was among shops with boarded up fronts. Other than that it was only wierd in the Overground eerily quiet way. Brand new empty orange trains running on recently reactivated but old rail lines, in it's strange mix of old and very new, like easyhotel as an underground line.

When I stepped off at Wembley Central I found it completely locked down. I had to get dinner from a Subway with one worried looking Indian working in there. He said the police had told him to close but his boss had refused him permission. I was nice and reassuring. The trouble wouldn't get to Wembley - that is the consensus. "We're not like that" he said almost convincingly. The Asian areas will seek to take care of themselves the way the Turkish shopkeepers have done. If there is trouble near the hotel tonight I am going to go out and stand with them.

Went back to hotel and watched Croydon burn on Sky. Out of the window there were police sirens constantly, going up and down road, probably between Ealing and Hackney.

My Facebook status last of
"it's just an army of dimwit Ali G's who are too stupid to realise they are all on camera. It will all stop as soon as it rains..."
was looking pretty bullish last night, before Croydon burned. 

Much as I dislike local MP Dianne Abbot she is right, letting Tottenham gangs run control a shopping centre for hours on a Saturday night has given the capitals kids a taste for looting.
And I think this is a gangs thing, kicked off by an attempted arrest of a gang celebrity carrying a firearm. It looks like orchestrated street gang attacks on police. This is more like Assault on Precinct 13 than Cry Freedom.

Silver lining? 
Tottenham will recover.
Its better we have this now than now than further down the line. Two years from now we might be glad the police got practise with baton rounds and water cannon. As we descend further into the 80s expect Cameron to get us into a nice little war we can win and for Ghost Town by The Specials to be number 1 throughout the entire of the autumn...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northumberland_Development_Project