Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zinbabwe

Because of the Zimbabwe elections this Blog sent earlier.

The monster of Zimbabwe, one Robert Mugabe, said at a rally that if you cast your vote for him in the next election he promises to behead all homosexuals! As though that poor country hasn’t suffered enough under his brutal dictatorship. “US President Barrack Obama says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice. Aah, we will never do that.” He describes homosexuals as worse than pigs, dogs, and birds. How the hell did birds enter into it? The man is a maniac, totally off his head. While people of his ilk still exist there is no hope for humanity. When I read something like this I momentarily wish, like a good ole southern Baptist, that I believed in the afterlife and heaven and hell. If anyone deserved to go into the flames for all eternity it is this totally immoral mobster. Alas, it is not to be. He will just die like everyone else, every other dictator who has ever been, and all that will be left is the memory of the atrocities committed under his dictatorship. Was this really what Zimbabweans threw off the colonial yoke for? He has been president for more than three decades why on earth does he want it again at his age? Much better if the scumbag just died. It would make the world a cleaner place. Unfortunately he will win the election hands down. It’s amazing what effect a bit of thuggish browbeating can achieve. The man’s idea of government is to send his wife and entourage off to Paris to do a bit of shopping and build himself a billion dollar palatial mansion while his people are starving, deprived of basic amenities, and the country’s infra-structure is crumbling by the day. His palace, in the worst possible taste, a sort of Baroque/Rococo/Sun King structure in the heart of Africa is a fitting tribute to the absolute corruption of power. I remember a school friend so many years ago saying, when he and his mother (father killed at El Alamein in World War 11) were about to emigrate to Rhodesia as it then was, “That’s the country of the future.” Some future. His name was Peter Lasker. I wonder what ever happened to him.
“So keep your clean drinking water and food rations, United States!” the imbecile goes on to say, “Zimbabwe has everything they need in the world’s largest collection of severed gay heads.” In this day and age this is totally appalling and we thought the recent legislation in Russia was bad enough.
So what is happening elsewhere? In Uganda ultra rich fundamentalist preachers from the US, losing the battle in their own country, have been having a field day, all in the name of God, as they rage against homosexuality, preaching hatred and even going to the extent of showing gay pornography, with what result? The damage they cause is incalculable as all they have done is set in motion a wave of hysterical homophobia and as though Uganda doesn’t already have criminal sanctions against homosexuality even to the extent of, like Mugabe, threatening a death sentence and is a country where women and children on suspicion of being witches are imprisoned in a camp. In South Africa however that marvelous man the Rev. Desmond Tutu has said he will not worship a homophobic god but he, in turn, is fighting a losing battle against ignorance and stupidity though he does now have some sort of backing from the Pope who has said more or less that gays cannot help their orientation and should not be marginalized though homosexuality was still a sin. In other words hate the sin love the sinner. “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of goodwill who am I to judge him?”
The same cannot be said for the splenetic right wingers in the US: the Republicans, the Baptists, the Fundamentalists, the Evangelists who, since the passing of the same marriage act in many places have come out with the most ridiculous and malevolent propaganda – i.e. pictures of humans kissing their horse, their dog, their cat. In other words implying the floodgates have opened and who knows where it will end?
Another good ole boy from the Deep South, Mississippi I shouldn’t wonder, a state that, like Texas, enacts the strangest laws ever devised, some while ago came up with the brilliant scheme of putting all lesbians in one field surrounded by an electrified fence and gays in another. Unable to breed they would automatically die out. Let us get down on our knees and thank the Lord God with all our hearts and a thousand hallelujahs of praise that he sends such servants among us to illuminate our sinful lives. The good ole Pastor forgets the Nazis did this, killing off thousands of gays in their concentration camps and I am glad to report Germany is today completely free of these wretched sinful ungodly creatures. Also the question arises as to where he is going to find fields big enough? Perhaps he should nominate a couple of states (obviously not Mississippi or Texas) maybe Arkansan and California. Everyone knows that California is simply ridded with gays, there they swarm like termites. Neither has he taken into account that gays are born from heterosexual couplings and that each new generation will produce more because it has always been with us and always will be. If God hates fags as the W’boro Baptists believe I am amazed He has allowed it to flourish universally.

It never ceases to amaze me that in the year 2013 so many have their mindsets in the year 913 or thereabouts with their ghastly vision of heaven and hell and sinners burning and tormented for ever. How you burn forever without a corporeal body beats me and a flesh and bone body wouldn't last five minutes let alone being tortured for eternity. All very well for Prometheus on the order of Zeus to suffer everlasting torment having an eagle peck out his liver every day, but he was a Titan, a mythical figure of Greece, so the question I would like to ask every fundamentalist believer in heaven and hell is where the hell in fact are they? I suppose with a violent stretch of the imagination hell could be located in the steaming white hot bowels of the earth but where precisely is heaven? It is stated unequivocally that Christ in full view of his audience “ascended into heaven” which means quite literally that defying the law of gravity he rose bodily up into the sky, and don’t forget his mother followed shortly after in the same fashion, but to where did they actually go? Apart from succumbing from the lack of oxygen or freezing temperatures, since these words were written man has travelled to the moon and explored some of the vast expanses of space but there has been no sign of any heaven where Jesus and his mama could have ended up. But heaven is a noun, it is a place, it must exist somewhere, but where? Maybe there is a theologian who can give an answer or maybe even a good ole Southern Republican Baptist boy or gal who believes implicitly in its existence. No more than 10000 words on a postcard please. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Xania

Cars, cars, cars, cars! Friday evening we went into Xania to meet our friend, the actress Katia Sperelaki for drinks and a meal. It was my first visit in goodness knows how long. Parking has always been a problem in Xania, but seeing it for the first time in well over a year at least, the number of cars seems to have multiplied out of all proportion; parked nose to tail and sometimes double parked up and down every street. Fortunately there were spaces in a municipal car park just a very short walk to the old harbour where we had drinks watching the sun go down, and then moved on to the nearest Taverna for a very pleasant meal. Midnight saw Cinderella making for the coach but for Katia, being Greek, the night was still early and we left her as she headed back to the bar for a nightcap. I had never been to this particular bar before. It has been established in one of those enormous Venetian warehouses, or maybe it was an arsenal. Being summer though we took our drinks outside of course.
It was the last night of Diane’s holiday. Impossible to believe she was here for three weeks. It was like only yesterday that she arrived but Saturday morning saw her on the plane heading back to the UK. Gone are the halcyon days of childhood when summers went on and on and never seemed to end. Now, as one grows ever older and feebler, time passes at ever increasing speed. Maybe it’s to get one used to the fact that we are heading for that big blackout. I’ve spent most of the past week putting my stamp collection in order. Even I didn’t know how extensive it is and I have a feeling (if ever I get the job finished) I will need a couple more albums at least. There are boxes of stamps still to go through. When I talk about growing feebler, my hands are so trembly now; doing the stamps is a performance in itself as, apart from the trembling, I find it more and more difficult to hold onto anything so imagine trying to hold a pair of tweezers in one hand and a delicate stamp in the other when your hands are wobbling all over the place. Pouring liquids or holding a cup or glass and it’s possible a certain amount will spill over the edge and don’t even mention trying to fasten buttons.
 It would make a great comedy if it weren’t such a pain in the arse. Needing to take a pee when at the restaurant, Douglas assisted me to the front door and asked for the toilets. The toilets for patrons are upstairs on the first floor but in order to save me having to struggle up them the waiters suggested the papoose (grandfather) would prefer to use the staff toilet on the ground floor. Wasn’t that considerate of them?
‘A DOG’S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.’
Before humans die they write their last will and testament, give their home and all they have to those they leave behind. If, with my paws I could do the same, this is what I’d ask…
To a poor and lonely stray I’d give my happy home, my bowl, and cosy bed, soft pillow, and all my toys; the lap which I loved so much; the hand that stroked my fur; and the sweet voice that spoke my name.
I’d will to the sad scared shelter dog the place I had in my human’s loving heart, of which there seemed no bounds.
So when I die please do not say “I will never have a pet again, for the loss and pain is more than I can stand.”
Instead, go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope, and give my place to him.
This is the only thing I can give…

Author Unknown.

I read this on Facebook and was truly moved by it. We said when Merrill died last year that that was it; no more dogs. But I am so glad we got Wagner. In the short few months we have had her she has given us so much joy. The house just wasn’t the same without a dog and she has added an extra dimension to our lives.
It would seem every large city now as a problem with stray dogs and this was brought to mind seeing a half dozen loping around the old harbour. None of them looked as if they were starving so obviously someone is feeding them but they are street dogs nevertheless. The Athens ones too, of which there are many, all seem well fed. In some countries though their treatment is terrible and doesn’t bear thinking about.
Something else on Facebook that caught my eye: a seal pup with red fur, enormous pink flippers, strange pale blue eyes and almost blind. A Russian photographer took pictures of the poor outcast. It was sitting all alone miles away from its peers who obviously wanted nothing to do with it and was waiting for its mother to come and feed it, but she would never come. The photographer rescued him and he is now safe in a dolphinarium. Happy ending. Somehow I can’t help but feel there is a moral to this story but for the life of me I can’t actually think what it could be.
As usual in Xania, the restaurants, cafes and bars were seething. You wouldn’t believe there is a financial crisis until you learn that since the beginning of the year more than 200 families are receiving aid from Helping Hand and there have been 71 suicides on Crete. How many in all of Greece I wonder and I bet not a single politician among them.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Royal Baby

So the Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to her brand new royal sprog and the whole world would appear to have gone totally doolally. Pardon me for being a party pooper but I really cannot see what all the fuss is about. By the time the poor little bugger is likely to be crowned king the world would most likely have ended anyway. (See Attenborough). The Daily Mail kow-towing with the best of them has of course published a “Royal Baby Souvenir Special,” filled with pages of all the guff their journalists can come up with. One headline reads “487 million take to Twitter to share in the baby frenzy” and frenzy is obviously the most apt word for it. The child’s horoscope has been cast by Jonathan Cainer and bets are being taken on as to what its name is going to be. It seems James was the two to one favourite but lost out to George, so he will be the seventh of that name. Evidently Kate is not only the Duchess of Cambridge but her full title is Her Royal Highness Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus and the question I would like to ask is this; as she is a commoner how come she is suddenly Her Royal Highness when this accolade was repeatedly denied the Duchess of Windsor?

So on to David Attenborough. I know have flogged this a number of times I know but I am pleased that someone who can speak with the voice of authority has made his belief public. According to him, and these are his words, “humans are a plague on the Earth that need to be controlled by limiting population growth.”

The television presenter said that humans are threatening their own existence and that of other species by using up the world’s resources.
He said the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth.
“We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he told the Radio Times.
Sir David has spoken out before about the “frightening explosion in human numbers” and the need for investment in sex education and other voluntary means of limiting population in developing countries.
“We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that’s what’s happening. Too many people there; they can’t support themselves — and it’s not an inhuman thing to say. It’s the case. Until humanity manages to sort itself out and get a coordinated view about the planet it’s going to get worse and worse.”
And, while on the subject of food, I do wish parents would teach their kids some table manners. Nothing is more off-putting at dinner than to see a wide-open chomping mouth full of masticated squishy food. Well don’t look I hear you say, but if it’s directly in your eyeline sometimes you can’t help it. At dinner the other evening our table was next to one occupied by a Scandinavian family. Despite not speaking Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, we presumed they were Scandinavian by the little bit of dialogue we overheard which was definitely herbe-nerbe. (“Hobnob” in English. You say herbe-nerbe with a rising inflexion at the end.) Anyway, the family consisted of grandparents (smokers), parents (non-smokers) and three boys, all so blonde their hair was virtually snow white. The two younger ones sat with their backs to us but the eldest, fourteen or so I would say, sat opposite and at first I thought he had a deformed mouth until I realized it was surrounded by tsatstiki. If you don’t know what that is it’s grated cucumber and garlic in yoghurt. He was slapping it on bread, opening his mouth as wide as it would go, taking far too big a bite and consequently having to chew with his mouth open. You would have thought food was going out of existence on the spot. I learnt to eat with closed mouth at boarding school when I was eight years old. Eating with an open mouth was derisively called alligateing and you were quickly brought to heel if seen doing it. People in the West eat far too much anyway. Greeks have gargantuan appetites and the herbe-nerbes could match them as more and more dishes arrived at their table. When I was in America I could hardly believe the amount of food consumed. It’s no wonder obesity is such a problem. Half the world eats and gets fat, half the world starves, that’s the way it goes.


Monday, July 22, 2013

The Villa Lysis

I’ve just read again my libretto for “The Villa Lysis – A Shrine to Love and Sorrow” and I really do wish I could find a composer willing to work on it. I really and honestly feel it deserves to be taken the next step. Chris Littlewood is working on the other opera with the tentative title “Modi” on the life of the painter and sculptor Modigliani. As with Belle Otero I had wanted to write the Modigliani story for more years than I can remember and suddenly out lf the blue it happened, as did the story of the Baron Jacques d’Adelsward-Ferson, the man who built the Villa Lysis on the isle of Capri. I don’t mean I had been wanting to write about the Baron for years and years but over a year ago I read somewhere, can’t remember where, that there was a competition for a new opera and the subject had to be GLTB. First prize may not have been all that substantial but performance was guaranteed and that was what attracted me. Don’t ask how I discovered the good Baron Jacques. As with Modigliani a great deal to date has been written about him but I can’t say, before starting my research, I had ever read any of it although a novel by Roger Peyrefitte entitled “A Particular Friendship,” amongst other titles, like “Exile of Capri” has been on our bookshelves for goodness knows how long. Evidently Peyrefitte was painstaking in his research, reading everything d’Adelsward had written, going to places he travelled, even going as far as interviewing people who had personal knowledge of Jacques but the result is more fiction than fact. Peyrefitte obviously just wanted to write a good novel rather than be restricted by authentic biography. I quote from an article originally published in a German magazine – “Exile of Capri, the final result is a distortion no matter how brilliant, perhaps revealing more about Peyrefitte and his times than about d’Adelsward and his.”
More than twenty years ago now my literary agent in London suggested I write a screenplay on the mass murderer William Palmer, known as “The Prince of Poisoners.” I duly went ahead and wrote it as a deep black comedy. I had no sooner finished it when Yorkshire Television broadcast their version and, I hate to say it without sounding like sour grapes, but it was one of the most dismal programmes I have ever watched. How can you possibly write on a subject like that and produce something so boring and dull? Well, somebody did but unfortunately it put the kybosh on mine (shades of Harry Secombe and “Pickwick”) my agent wanted nothing more to do with it so a very good script languishes on the shelf if anyone is interested. I always thought of Rupert Graves as Palmer. So just why wouldn’t my agent go ahead with it? Because Yorkshire TV got their oar in first? How many films have been made on Oscar Wilde and the subject never seems to pall?
So, although much has been written about the Baron d’Adelsward, I see no reason why I should not join in in my own inimitable way. If there is a composer out there who thinks he or she might be interested, or if anyone knows of one, please get in touch. In the meantime here is a taster from “A Shrine To Love And Sorrow.”

2) The terrace of the Wolcott-Perry villa. The two ladies are having their tea.

KATE:
I see that simply dreadful woman is sailing away.
All a body can say is thank the Lord.

SADIE:
What? (Looking out to sea.) Oh, yes.
I do believe that is indeed her yacht.
Yes, it most definitely is.
Good riddance I say
A blessed relief.

KATE:
We won’t have to batten down the hatches.

SADIE:
Or man the battlements.

KATE:
Or raise the drawbridge.

(They laugh. A young maidservant enters and gives a little curtsey.)

MAID:
Please excuse me, my ladies.

KATE:
What is it?

SADIE: Do we have a problem?

MAID:
There is a gentleman has called.

SADIE:
What? Without an invitation?
Who may it be I wonder?

(The maid advances on the tea table and hands Kate a visitor’s card.)

KATE:
Baron d’Adelsw√§rd Fersen. Hmnnnn…

(The two women give each other nods and knowing looks.)

KATE:
Usher him in.

(The maid bobs and goes. After a few seconds Jacques enters.)

JACQUES:
My dear Kate, my dear Sadie,
Please do forgive this intrusion
But I am in such a fearful state.
Something dreadful has happened,
Truly dreadful.

KATE:
My dear Jacques, what could it be
That’s affected you so?
You look quite pale, dear boy,
It cannot be that bad surely?
Sit down, sit down
And tell us what it is.

(But Jacques does not sit down. Throughout the scene, until the end, he paces.)

JACQUES:
Here, here, read this.

(He passes Kate a slip of paper. She reads it and hands it to Sadie.)

SADIE:
Forgive me.
I shall be back tomorrow evening.
I love you.

KATE:
Oh dear.

(She hands back the note.)

KATE:
What can one say?
Tell us, Jacques, how this has happened,
It has something I feel sure
To do with that dreadful dreadful
Simply dreadful woman.

JACQUES:
(Pointing out to sea) Yes, yes.
 Even now he is on that accursed yacht
And who knows where they are bound for?

SADIE:
To Lesbos I have no doubt.
That’s what she said.
And I can only hope she stays there.

JACQUES:
No, that cannot be,
Not if he says he will be back this evening.
He does say that doesn’t he?
Doesn’t he say that?
He will be back this evening?

KATE:
Then, if they are not sailing for Lesbos,
That blessed island set in the violet sea,
They are merely on some excursion.
If the sirens of Capri had done their job
The wretched woman’s yacht would have hit the rocks
And we would all be saved
From her wicked wiles,
Her depraved nature.

(She gives a violent shudder.)

But tell me, dear boy,
How did this come about?
Would you like a cup of tea?

(She rings a little hand bell.)

JACQUES:
Thank you, no.

SADIE:
(Proffering the plate.) Maybe an éclair?

JACQUES
(Shakes his head.) I first met the Baroness Zuyderzee…

KATE: That dreadful woman!

SADIE:  Dreadful woman.

(The maid appears.)

KATE:
Bring another cup please.

(The maid bobs and goes.)

JACQUES:
In various Paris salons,
And then in Venice
Nino and myself that is.
The Baroness had with her
Her new conquest
A Russian girl named Alexandrine.
Young, quite voluptuous…

(He outlines her shape with his hands.)

KATE:
Oh…

SADIE:
Oh…

(The teacup rattles in her hand. She hastily puts it down.)

JACQUES:
We went out, in a gondola of course,
As everybody does.
When in Rome do as the Romans do,
When in Venice go out in a gondola
And this vixen, this young harridan,
This harpy
Made her intentions abundantly clear
As far as Nino was concerned.
The Baroness invited us to cruise with them,
An invitation I politely, but naturally, refused
And we fled that snake pit of female lust.
Oh, I should have gone,
I should have gone,
At least I could have kept an eye on them.

KATE:
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

SADIE:
Oh dear, oh dear.

JACQUES:
But when the baroness arrived in Capri
I could hardly ignore her,
And invited her to lunch.
It took four men,
Four strong brawny Capriots to carry her up the hill
Such is her enormity.
Only her appetites and her fortune
Are larger than her revolting body.
The wicked Alexandrine was of course
Still with her and made no bones about it
That she still had eyes only for Nino
And was determined,
Determined,
That blood sucking vampire from the Russian steppes,
However I might try and prevent it,
To ensnare him with her wolverine fangs.

KATE:
And the dear boy fell for her charms,
I’m not surprised.
Women can be so alluring,
So seductive, as we know too well,
(To Sadie.) Don’t we, dear?
And he jumped over the hedge as it were
To the adjacent field.
You know the old saying
About the grass being greener.

SADIE:
My dear Jacques, with all due respect,
I have to say this was inevitable.

JACQUES:
What!

SADIE:
Maybe life at the Villa Lesbos,
I do beg your pardon,
A slip of the tongue,
The Villa Lysis
Was becoming just a trifle boring?

KATE:
(Lifting the pot.) Another cup of tea, dear.

SADIE:
(Passing her cup.) Thank you.
You will remember, Jacques,
The two American girls visiting us
Quite recently
And how, when our backs were turned,
Nino did something rather naughty
With one of them in the garden
And received a slap in the face
For his temerity.
Our visitor’s are so much better behaved
Than some I must say. Thank you, dear.
(As she receives her tea.)

KATE:
We know how you feel, Jacques,
Believe me.
When the baroness was here before
We kept losing our maids one by one,
The pretty ones anyway
It was most annoying to say the least.

SADIE:
After a while one runs out of pretty maids.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Zombies

Nature really is quite amazing. During my two and a half month exile upstairs while the house alterations were taking place Douglas neglected (hardly surprising considering the amount of work and the pressure he was under) to water a shrub in a tub outside the garden door and, when I saw it, it was to all intents and purposes dead, just a mass of brittle branches and withered brown leaves – except for one miniscule portion of green, hardly visible. Where there’s life there’s hope as the old saying would have it and after one generous watering more green appeared. In just over a week and daily watering the shrub is once more a healthy specimen. There are branches of course that will never recover but they can be cut away leaving the remainder to flourish. Everything in the garden is overgrown and needs trimming or even drastic pruning anyway. I don’t know where this particular shrub came from. It just suddenly appeared so I have no idea what it is. It doesn’t flower but even so it is decorative beside the doors so I’m glad we didn’t lose it. I remember a couple of years back the same thing happened with a Virginia creeper because its tub was low down and out of sight on the far side of a wall it was a case of out of sight out of mind. Then one day I noticed this pathetic twig along the wire fence, remembered it, and three minutes with the hose had it springing back to immediate life. At one time I had hoped it would climb and cover the back wall of the building next door, built right on our boundary but, unfortunately, those winds of Crete broke it off and that was that. It obviously didn’t have, and never would have, the strength to resist.
Talking of coming back from the dead, I wrote an e-mail to our friend Michael Jenn listing all the writing I have done in the sixteen years we have been in Crete, neglecting to add nearly twelve hundred Blogs. Douglas maintains that after I am gone and not likely to return as a zombie he will edit and publish them. A big job is all I can say. But to return to the coming back from the dead bit, Michael’s response included a clip from the film he has finished working on playing a zombie in a scene with Brad Pitt. Great part, no dialogue to learn (obviously zombies have lost the power of speech) but lots of pathetic or menacing howls and a fantastically hideous make-up. Michael seems to attract roles that require this sort of thing. For most of the scene he is unrecognizable until almost the end when he steps into the light and you can just recognise traces of him. I don’t think I would ever have had the patience to sit in a make-up chair for three hours while all that was plastered over my face. In my old acting days I even resented having to wear crepe hair when moustache or beard was necessary. The spirit gum drove me crazy.
Anyway, in case it might be of interest, here is the list of works I sent him –

Just as a matter of interest and to bring you up to date with my writing here is a list of everything I have written since moving to Crete. Firstly, as you know having read it, my autobiography, “No Official Umbrella” then –

La Belle Otero – Musical Book and Lyrics.
The Journeys We make – novel.
Angel – novel.
Torque – novel unpublished
The Museum Mysteries and Other Short Stories – Gothic horror!
Dead On Time – a Thornton King adventure (also on Kindle)
Just In Case                         ditto.
Dead On Target                  ditto.
The Cinelli Vases                ditto.
Celluloid & Tinsel              ditto.
Men And Their Toys          ditto (To be published)
Two full length plays – ‘Marry Go Round’ (comedy set in Athens) and ‘The Muses Darling’ theoretical play on the death of Christopher Marlowe.
2 opera libretti – The first on the artist Modigliani, the second, the naughty goings-on at the Villa Lyses on Capri. Very Ronald Firbank this one.
The prose works are all available on Amazon.

Talking of Firbank many years ago I wrote the book and lyrics for a musical based on his novel ‘Prancing Nigger,’ but couldn’t get the rights. I suppose these days of political correctness and the awareness of racism the title would have to be changed even though it was used as a term of endearment and I cannot for the life of me think of a replacement or a better. Not I suppose that it matters as the likelihood of it ever been done is like zero. I could never understand why Sandy Wilson never chose this for his Firbank adaptation rather than ‘Valmouth’ which is so slender he had to include some of ‘The Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli.’ There is a scene in this novel where the Cardinal pursues a choirboy around the cathedral before expiring in front of the high altar. There is nothing new under the sun. It’s been going on probably for centuries.
But on the subject of racism I read in the news that a white boy in South Africa with the permission of his parents has undergone the Xhosa initiation ceremony which includes circumcision, this evidently in order to have a greater understanding with his black friend who went through it at the same time. This is truly remarkable, not only because of the boy’s bravery in facing this ordeal but he bears an Afrikaans name – de Wet.
I also watched on Facebook a ‘Cheerios’ commercial featuring a black father and a white mother and their little daughter. Despite the immediate avalanche of bigotry a number of young kids were interviewed for their reactions. They couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about and aired their views with such articulation, intelligence and in some cases positive vehemence, even in the very young; it was a joy to watch. They were all beautiful and maybe there is some hope for humanity after all.



Monday, July 15, 2013

Mobiles

THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE.

We have bigger houses but smaller families:
More conveniences, but less time:
We have more degrees, but less sense:
More knowledge, but less judgment:
More experts, but more problems:
More medicines, but less healthiness:
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back
But have trouble crossing the street to meet
The new neighbour:
We build new computers to hold more information,
To produce more copies than ever,
But have less communication:
We have become long on quantity,
But short on quality:
These are times of fast food but slow digestion:
Tall man but short character:
Steep profits but shallow relationships:
It is a time when there is much in the window,
But nothing in the room. – The Dalai Lama.

I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots. – Albert Einstein.

In an e-mail from a friend she says that that day has arrived. You may or may not have seen it but, presuming you haven’t, it consists of a number of photographs in each of which everyone is glued to their phone. A day at the beach, cheering on your team, having dinner out with your friends, an intimate date, a visit to the museum, enjoying the sights. In every photo it’s eyes down and everyone’s concentration is entirely on the phone. It would seem the world and each other no longer exists. It reminds me of an American visitor who, on being taken to view the ancient ruins at Phaestos, spent the entre journey glued to his satnav (or whatever it was) knowing exactly where he was but missing all he passed through. Also one evening at dinner I watched a holiday family at a nearby table. It was quite a large jolly family all of whom seemed to be really enjoying each other’s company except for one boy who was glued to his phone, even to the point of virtually turning his back on the others who, in turn, tended to ignore him. I presume by the movement of his thumbs he was either texting or playing a game. Whatever, it was much more interesting than being sociable. I find that sad. The Greeks, who can be as Smartphone mad as anyone else, at least take time away from them to be sociable and do still talk to one another.
I hear a game has been invented when dining with friends in a restaurant. The phones are piled up in the centre of the table and whoever answers his or her phone first pays for the meal. Could it be true? If only.
Villages in India might not have toilets but everyone has a mobile phone. Do you really need to have a conversation while squatting in a field?



Thursday, July 11, 2013

World Violence

What on earth is sport, in particular soccer, coming to?  Football riots in Egypt some little while back that led to a number of deaths was bad enough but now In Sao Paula, Brazil a referee got into a fight with a player that ended up with him drawing a knife and fatally stabbing the player at which point friends, relatives, and others rushed on to the field, stoned the referee to death and, as if that wasn’t enough, quartered his body. Was there really any need for that? Did they use the same knife or were there others? And this is where the World Cup is to take place.
Now there is a question as to whether the NFL (American football) has a crime problem with a number of players being arrested on murder and other serious charges.
The world seems to be coming more and more violent and, unfortunately, a great deal of it has to be put down to Islam no matter how much its adherents claim it to be a peaceful religion. The civil war in Syria, or certainly what amounts to a civil war, grows more and more barbaric with Jihadists spreading sharia law and apparently wanting to take over and turn the country into a Muslim state. Sunni and Shia are forever at each others throats, bombing and killing and in Syria a fourteen year old boy selling coffee and being asked how about a free cup was shot dead for making a casual remark about the Prophet. Evidently what he said smiling was something like ‘Not till the Prophet returns’ and he was overheard by three men who took him outside and put three bullets into him while a crowd, including his mother, watched.  Evidently one of the men was heard to say ‘You can insult god but you cannot insult the Prophet.’  None of the Jihadist groups who seemingly are already fighting among themselves has claimed responsibility; in fact they all claim to be shocked and outraged by it.
Meanwhile what is happening in the UK? At long last and at a cost of thousands in legal aid to the British taxpayer to finance appeal after appeal, the evil cleric Abu Qatada has finally been deported to his home country of Jordan where he faces terrorist charges. There are a great many more who should be deported but it is too easy for them to quote the Human Rights Act to forestall anything happening. Like Qatada they could go on with appeal after appeal.
Muslims in England, a country that has given them shelter and generous benefits hold mass rallies in places like Hyde Park where they display banners proclaiming death to all who mock Islam or the Prophet, the words used being kill, slay, butcher, behead. And in the country that has give them the freedom to spew out their hatred in this fashion a placard that reads, “To hell with freedom.”  And nothing is done to control them, which would be racist. They might be a hysterical ignorant mob but there is more danger that sooner or later will have to be faced. Attempts to influence the British parliament, vigilante groups on the streets in London’s East End proclaiming this is ‘A Muslim state’ and demanding the introduction of sharia law which surreptitiously exists in many communities anyway though I would hope any public floggings, stonings, decapitations or amputations would have British law swooping down fast, or would that also be considered racist?
There have been a number of Islamic terrorist attacks but who knows when and where another will take place that the security forces will not be able to prevent?

The country now boasts hundreds of mosques and women wear the hijab. Whole areas of towns like Bradford, Halifax, Nottingham are dominated by Muslim families but there is worse to come. They have now infiltrated the quiet countryside and it would seem it is always a rabid cleric who leads the way. The place is the quiet typically English Buckinghamshire village of Fulmer. The man is Sheikh Yasser al-Habib, 34 year old firebrand Shia cleric.  At the beginning of the year he fronted a campaign to raise £2 million to buy a large barnlike building on the outskirts of the village previously used as a retreat by the Plymouth Brethren and now renamed the Al Muhassin Mosque. In 2003 he was jailed in his native country of Kuwait for launching lewd attacks on some of the most revered figure of Sunni Islam. He then fled to Britain which naturally, the English being what they are, granted him asylum although Kuwait has requested his extradition to stand trial it is quite obvious this is another one who has nothing to fear as far as that is concerned. He runs a television station, Fadak TV and uses it to continue has inflammable rhetoric setting Shia against Sunni and Sunni against Shia that has moderate Muslims in Great Britain extremely worried, and if they are worried how do the Brits feel about it? He has encouraged believers to make an effort to inhabit areas around the mosque and, should he be successful in this, the once quiet peaceful little village will be no more, that is a certainty. Labour has a great deal to answer for with their open immigration policy and who knows what will happen next?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Digitalisation

What a palaverina! The computer genius in this house (thank the good lord for him) decided to change computers. I still don’t really know why. I have inherited Chris’s machine, Chris has Douglas’s and D himself has mine – I think that is how it is. Anyway to begin with it created a million problems because when it comes to computers, as I have remarked before, I am a Luddite and the complete A1 klutz. Changing computers is all very well but changing individual programmes is another matter altogether and to begin with  I was lumbered with a whole lot of Chris’s material, then half the amount as Douglas worked on it and, finally, it was cleared. Sounds like Scientology dunnit? It scared me half to death when I saw him taking two of the computers apart but, unlike all the king’s men and all the king’s horses, he put them back together again and all was well. I am not the only klutz in the world though. I don’t know what has happened in the rest of Greece but in our tiny corner of Crete going digital has been greeted by howls of anguish as televisions no longer worked, this despite the fact that we had two year’s warning. Eventually when the penny dropped Spiros in the hardware shop was selling decoders at the rate of knots. Holiday makers paying over a thousand euro a week for their villas with all mod cons and probably including satellite must have been furious.
 Sharp has released what it says is the biggest LED TV screen in Europe – ninety inches! In the UK according to research (the world is choc-a-bloc full of eager researchers all beavering away) 6% of television sets sold are over fifty inches with the market evidently growing though still, as they call it, a “niche.” The trend for large TVs is larger in the states. This evidently is down to people having larger houses with larger rooms that can accommodate them, particularly as they get slimmer and slimmer. (The TV sets not the people who tend to get larger and larger anyway.) Naturally the new sets can do more and more magical things other than make breakfast and have sex but do you really want to watch three channels simultaneously? Haven’t our brains got enough to cope with as it is? I remember way back in 1953 watching the coronation on a little black and white screen with an enormous magnifying glass in front to enlarge the picture. The set itself was as big as a medium size cabinet. What an advance in technology there has been since then.
Mentioning brains I read an interesting article which asks did our puny brains evolve with a predilection to be obsessed with celebrity? The question is put by anthropologist James Tehrani and I quote – “Fame is a powerful cultural magnet. As a hyper-social species, we acquire the bulk of our knowledge, ideas and skills by copying from others, rather than through individual trial-and-error. However, we pay far more attention to the habits and behaviours demonstrated by famous people than those demonstrated by ordinary members of our community. It follows that things are much more likely to catch on if they are associated with someone who is well known for one reason or another - even if the association is erroneous,”
But I haven’t been entertained by celebs or VIPs on an ultra-large screen. On the contrary YouTube and the small screen I see before me at this moment has provided me with movies I would never have otherwise watched, in particular Westerns, like catching up once again with “High Noon” and an interesting little historical piece, “The Great Train Robbery” ten odd minutes filmed in 1903, the very first Western.   
Watched a movie called “Armageddon.” Fantastic enormous explosive effects, cast of thousands, and a boring load of rubbish. On the other hand a war film “Hell In The Pacific” (what a dreadful title) just two characters stranded on an island, an American and a Japanese and totally engrossing from beginning to end despite neither of them speaking the other’s language. I see I can also watch “The Burmese Harp” and I wonder if I will find it as wonderful as when I saw it in Hampstead so many years ago and was left speechless by it. Among other films mentioned I talk about it in CELLULOID & TINSEL, Thornton King’s private eye adventure number five.

Finally, talking about size once more (!) have seen a photo of a production of “Rose Marie” in Doncaster in1949 with a cast of eighty! 1949, only four years before I landed in London and, today if you submit a play with more than two characters to a management it would more than likely not even be read. Timing is all. I submitted my play “The River Of Sand” to Granada Television once. It came back with a note like that famous American saying about “Gone With The Wind” “Who’s interested in the civil war?” only this read “Who’s interested in South Africa?” This was before Soweto after which everyone was interested in South Africa.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Pro-life

Forgive me if I have already mentioned this and am repeating myself. Have been meaning to write it and can’t remember whether I have or not (another problem that comes with the passing years.) The pro-life organisation in Australia did take exception to my opinions and came back with even more emotional blackmail, this time too silly for words. Whoever wrote it states over-population is a myth and the solution (this is meant for people like me I suppose) is just to kill everybody! Well this is a new angle. I don’t recollect anyone mentioning the killing of “everybody!” The problem with those who believe in something so fanatically is that sooner or later logic goes flying out the window. As far as the subject of population is concerned this is just denial. Interesting snippet in the paper of a university graduate in the UK who is stacking shelves as he has applied for forty jobs requiring his qualifications and has got nowhere. Is there a single country in the world where the problem of high unemployment, sometimes as much as forty percent, doesn’t exist? It might seem facile to say there are just too many people chasing too few jobs when we know certain manufacturers no longer exist and that in other professions the computer has taken the place of any number of workers, making them redundant. I can’t help feeling though that if there weren’t too many people chasing what work there is, particularly in third world countries there would be fewer unemployed and problems with dissatisfied youth. There would also be fewer, in particular children to the age of seven, dying daily from starvation. Estimates put the figure at 7000 but still willy-nilly more and more are born every day only to suffer the same fate and that in my humble opinion is not pro-life. As a certain Sister Joan Chittiser puts it, “I think in many cases our morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born, but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. That’s not pro-life, that’s pro-birth.” So pro-life Australia don’t tell me population isn’t a problem. The world has lost half its rain-forest, the oceans have been polluted with a billion tons of non-biodegradable rubbish, some large cities are once more suffering from smog, waste piles up in mini-mountains and some animal species, even protected ones, are almost extinct as they are poached for food. People gotta eat. To increase the yield we now have GM crops and poisonous pesticides that have killed off insects and millions of bees, battery hens and cattle we dose on anti-biotics. So even if the world isn’t over-populated at the moment, with the increasing birth-rate it won’t be too long before it is. From 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050.I don’t know why I should worry about it as I won’t be around to see it so I won’t mention it again. But as far as the issue of abortion is concerned there are, as with everything, two sides to the question. While pro-life is thumping away in Australia, in Texas Democratic state senator Wendy Davis endured a twelve hour filibuster, quite an achievement, in an effort to stop a new law going trough limiting abortion after 20 weeks and stricter conditions that would close all but five clinics in the state. There are currently 42. Her brave attempt was hardly worth it though because immediately the Republicans started the whole process once more. I have no medical knowledge to expound on the limits that should be imposed but perhaps the Republicans are right in not allowing abortions after 20 weeks. However, stringent regulations that prohibit all but five clinics to operate in such a vast state could very well lead to quackery and the backstreet abortions of yesteryear with all the suffering, one is led to believe, that entailed. 



Monday, July 1, 2013

Another hodgepodge



I’ll try another hodgepodge though, as I said sex is bound to raise its ugly head sooner or later. Come to think of it, let’s start with sex anyway. That one-time premier of Italy, the scallywag, Silvio Berlusconi has been sentence to seven years for having sex with an underage prostitute. The likeliness of his actually serving it is pretty remote I reckon taking into consideration all the usual legal shenanigans and appeals that are going to go ahead. Both he and the girl deny the charges and it is more than possible he didn’t know she was underage. Girls of that age can look a lot older and more sophisticated and he wouldn’t expect her to be underage.
A married thirty year old school teacher has an affair with a fifteen year old girl and they flee to France together. What they expected to do with themselves once they got there heaven only knows and, of course, they were immediately sent back to the UK, the man to face criminal charges, the girl to say she still loves him and will wait till he’s out of prison when they will marry.
Sexual attraction really is very strange and indefinable. Looking at a photograph of Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo together you cannot help but wonder what on earth she sees in the man.  To put it bluntly he is gross. He is huge, he is fat, he is very unprepossessing. She is small, pretty and petite. Somehow I wonder if she could bear the weight.
And of course there is so often a dark side to sex, the abuse of young boys by Catholic priests. Is celibacy realistic? Women being forced into prostitution. Seven members of a gang of Pakistani and East African origin have received life or long sentences for grooming young girls for sex. Not content with having them themselves they also farmed them out to whoever. Now Muslim leaders in the UK have preached against the grooming of young girls, the sermon’s message being very clear, “this is an evil against humanity” The Koran emphasises how children and the vulnerable must be protected. Hopefully for once a religious admonition will have an effect. Interesting that there are now hundreds of mosques in the UK. How long before Sharia? Certain Muslims in London’s East End have formed vigilante groups patrolling the streets in what they now consider a Muslim area. They fervently believe Sharia is not too far away. Multi-culturism has been a total disaster.
Moses supposes his toeses are roses. Moses supposes erroneously. It is so unfortunate that the world is choc-a-bloc full of those who suppose erroneously. In the sixteenth century ground human skull was believed to alleviate fits and in Queen’ Elizabeth’s time something called “Oil of Man” was considered a cure for wasted lambs. Disgusting as it sounds oil of man was fat rendered from the corpse of an executed criminal and used as an ointment. In passing I mention the Nazis also used human fat but at least they were practical, turning it into soap which is even more disgusting. Today there are people who erroneously believe that ground rhino horn is an aid to sex and an efficacious medicine is made from the bile of bears. So rhinos are killed for their horns and just think for a moment how you would feel if every so often you were confined in a cage so small you couldn’t move and suffered a surgical invasion without anaesthetic. Why oh why oh why in this 21st Century must so many animals suffer at the hands of crass and ignorant human beings? The stories of cruelty are too numerous. Sometime ago I saw a gruesome photograph in the paper of a dog hanging by wire from a pole because, according to its owner, it was a failure as a hunter. Recently a Bulgarian dragged a dog behind his car as punishment for killing two chickens. The dog was so badly injured it naturally had to be put down. Two South African students skin a kitten alive. In China a dolphin dies because tourists at a zoo drag it out of the water so they can have their photographs taken with it. In Greece, despite it being against the law, animals still suffer violent and agonising deaths from poisoning. In Crete there are what is known as barrel dogs: that is they are kept on a chain about a metre long attached to a metal barrel lying on its side, boiling in summer freezing in winter. They are fed on scraps and are tethered solely to bark if a predator approaches. Domestic animals that enjoy a loving and caring home are the lucky ones. Millions are born only to suffer. Will it ever change?