Sunday, November 09, 2008

The End Of The World As We Know It

You may have heard people talk about 2012. Some people say it is the year when the world will end.

By Steve Andrews & CJ Stone

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-End-Of-The-World-As-We-Know-It

The Power of the Light

CJ Stone tries an alternative therapy that is set to cleanse his soul and aura. The question is: is he evolved enough to step into the light...?

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Power-of-the-Light

Hair Pie

Crosby Stills Nash and Young sang a song about it. In those days hair was a revolutionary statement. But what's its purpose? That's the question on CJ Stone's mind.


http://hubpages.com/hub/Hair-Pie


You Can Write To King Arthur

King Arthur is this ex-biker, ex-soldier, ex-builder (not necessarily in that order) who had a brainstorm back in the eighties and decided he was King Arthur, after which he donned a white frock and a circlet, and has been causing various kinds of trouble ever since.

I wrote a book with him once.

http://hubpages.com/hub/You-Can-Write-To-King-Arthur

LSD Refugees

I've just taken LSD. For the first time in 25 years. That little brown drop of liquid, placed on the end of my finger and ingested some 30 minutes ago, is about to play havoc with my sense of self...

http://hubpages.com/hub/LSD-Refugees

Columns III: War and Asylum

In the controversy surrounding the issue of asylum seekers, we tend to forget some of the very real human stories that lie behind it. It's too easy to see it as an "issue" and to forget that these people are human beings, with mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers who love them, with hopes and aspirations just like ours, who suffer just like us, who laugh just like us, who dream just like us, and who die just like us.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Whitstable-Times-Columns-II

Baghdad Girl

She is fifteen years old and she has just finished her exams. She likes cats. She has a blog which consists almost entirely of pictures of cute little kittens rolling about on well-tended lawns, or relaxing, stretching and yawning, or playing with balls of wool. She is like most teenage girls the whole world over.

Her name is Raghda Zaid and she lives in the United Arab Emirates. She used to live in Baghdad.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Baghdad-Girl

Columns IV: Welcome to the Future

These days we seem to be under the quaint illusion that the progress of civilisation is the same as technological innovation.

Every day there are hundreds of new products on the market; from mobile phones that take your picture, to palm-top computers the size of cigarette packets; from cars without pistons, to video streaming; from vacuum cleaners without dust bags, to "Blue Tooth" technology that allows you to use your computer in any location. All of this is seen as "progressive", as if the accumulation of more and more gadgets was really the measure of human worth.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Welcome-To-The-Future

Computer Troubles

I’m very worried about my computer. It’s been doing some very odd things of late. I tell it to do one thing and it does something else. It’s like a recalcitrant teenager throwing a permanent paddy, stamping its foot and going off in a virtual sulk.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Computer-Troubles

Atlantis

...for these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable… Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others…

With these words, from the dialogue of Timaeus, written in about 360 BC, the philosopher Plato would unwittingly launch a deluge of speculation, investigation, argument and counter-argument, that has lasted the better part of 2,500 years.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Atlantis

Samhain and Cider

Samhain. Halloween. The season of darkness. Grim clouds scutter like thin grey rags under a sombre sky. This is the time of the ancestors, the time of the ancients, when spirits roam the land. The time of the dark awakening.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Samhain-and-Cider

Vlad the Impaler

“Tepes” means “Impaler”. He got his name because impaling was his preferred method of execution. This is how it was done. The victim had his legs yanked apart, by horses attached to ropes, and then a sharpened stake about the size of a fist was inserted between the buttocks, up the anus. The stake was greased with pig-fat to allow ease of inserting, and to stop the body shock that might cause the victim to die too quickly....

http://hubpages.com/hub/Vlad-the-Impaler

Angels of New York

We came in on the George Washington Bridge on the Interstate, but you could see the city long before that, from deep inside New Jersey somewhere, the jagged line of skyscrapers flashing between the hills and trees...

http://hubpages.com/hub/Angels-of-New-York-Part-I

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sweet Nothings

They are just here, that’s all, in this place of borders, on the threshold of becoming. What do their faces tell us? Are they sisters? Are they friends? It’s not clear, even, when these photographs were taken. There is an archaic quality about them, as if the camera is a time machine and we’re looking through the lens to another time, another era, maybe a century ago.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Sweet-Nothings-The-Small-Schoolgirls-of-the-Borderlands-in-Eastern-Anatolia-by-Vanessa-Winship-A-Review



The Power of the Light

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Power-of-the-Light

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bear Nation

It was after this that I first heard a bear speak. It was Lydia. She was walking up and down by the fence making this noise. It is a unique and unmistakable sound, like a plaintive nasal cry, slightly wistful, slightly melancholic. The Latin name for bear is "Urs" and that is exactly the sound they make. "Ur?" It's a question. There's a questioning tone to it, like something you might ask of the mountains, of the wind. Something slightly sad. "Why have you left me, Ur? Where have you gone, Ur? Why do all us creatures have to die?" You can hear the peaks of the mountains in its voice. You can hear the breathing nearness of the wind. You can hear the echoes of the forest. You can hear the lonely miles of travel. You can hear mortality and loss.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Bear-Nation-Looking-For-Bear-in-Harghita-County--Transylvania---Part-1

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I Don't Write For Money I Write For Love

So, you have to ask, what is the difference between a professional writer and an amateur? The difference is that a professional writes for money, of course, and demands a proper rate of pay. This is reasonable enough you might say, and it's certainly true that I could do with being paid for some of the things I write. But the real truth is that most of these professional writers not writing for themselves. They write for an editor who works for a proprietor whose main purpose is to fill his paper with advertising. So in the end, most writers are writing for advertisers.

http://hubpages.com/hub/I-Dont-Write-For-Money--I-Write-For-Love

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Riding With Lady Luck

I'd driven through the night, through the darkness and through the rain, hearing the squeak of the windshield wipers rubbing back and forth sluicing diamonds from the glass, watching the lights from in front and from behind, mile after mile of road in this great arc across a continent, sweeping though invisible landscapes and the shadows of mountains, like dark, unseen presences, through Germany and through Austria, through unknown borders between sleeping nations, through dreams and night time stirrings, through the first flickers of light on the horizon, the rising dawn, to this place - not even a name on a map - a toilet-stop in Hungary.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Riding-With-Lady-Luck

Mothers Club in Erdington

Mothers Club in Erdington, Birmingham, an early psychedelic music venue, opened on the 9th of August 1968 with a performance by Duke Sunny, and closed on the 3rd of January 1971, with a blockbusting three-band show by Quintessence, Stonehouse and Happy. The following is a personal record of that club, and that era....

http://hubpages.com/hub/Mothers-Club-In-Erdington

Down in the Dumps

I was very, very nervous. Not so much at the prospect of any pain (I'd been assured it wasn't too painful) as at the humiliation of bending down to the scientific rigours of the medical establishment: being slapped on a table and pinned down like a specimen in a medical experiment, while they pumped alien substances into my back-passage, no doubt with the prime intention of blowing away the last vestiges of my human dignity.

As it happens, that's exactly what it was like.....

http://hubpages.com/hub/Down-In-The-Dumps

Strange Daze on Fantasy Island

In a sense Steve looks at the human life-form in exactly the same way. It is weird and fascinating to him. It is a sign of Life - the Big Life - that weaves and patterns its way through the world in all it's peculiar, variegated splendour. But he's not at all caught up in human self-promotion, or in the out-of-kilter human belief that only human things matter.

In other words, Steve just hasn't got the slightest notion about politics.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Strange-days-on-Fantasy-Island

The Romance of Space

There was a great movie on Channel 4 recently, called In The Shadow of the Moon, about the Moon landings.

It contains archive footage of the nine missions that went to the Moon between 1968 and 1972, plus interviews with some of the guys who took part.

There's something about those men. A quality. A presence. A sense of wonder. It's as if, having stepped upon the surface of the Moon, having felt its gravitational embrace, they have left something of themselves back there which still speaks to them through all that distance of time and space.......

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Economics-of-Space-Exploration

The Bard of Ely's Nature Conservation Site

Once he dyed his hair turquoise. That must have been a very strange sight, a lurching, bespectacled, purple-headed giant with a green beard, looking like something that had just stepped out of a flying saucer, just popped down to Earth to do some shopping at the local supermarket.....

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Bard-of-Elys-Nature-Conservation-Site

How To Catch a Great Crested Newt

I have nothing against Ringed Plovers. I'm sure the Ringer Plover is a very nice bird. The one I saw seemed perfectly decent to me, hopping along by the stagnant pool, pecking amongst the pebbles, looking for grubs. And I'm glad for all the Ringed Plover in the world that there ARE still places where they can grub about in, as it were, grubbing up the grubs to get their daily grub....

http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Catch-a-Great-Crested-Newt

What to do at the end of the World

One particular mystical-magical sect committed mass suicide. This seemed an illogical act to me. The end of the world means we're all going to die anyway, so why pre-empt it? Personally I'm glad I kept my options open and stayed alive.

http://hubpages.com/hub/What-To-Do-at-The-End-Of-The-World

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Khabs is in the Khu

Actually there may be a partial truth in this. It is certainly true that by the use of repetition, incantation, slight of hand and magical gestures, anyone can weave a spell to cast an illusion over the whole world.
It's what Tony Blair and George Bush have been up to all the time. Abracadabra, hey presto. Look: they've conjured a "war on terrorism" out of thin air!

The Khabs is in the Khu

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Transylvanian Journeys Brand New Post at HubPages



This HubPage is the story of my journey to Transylvania and how it affected me.

In some ways, I think, it changed my life.

I've seen many things over the years, but nothing has ever touched me like that Transylvanian landscape.
I wrote the story in about two days nearly two years ago now. It is very intense.

It iss meant to be the first chapter of my book, Borderlands, about my time living in Romania, but unfortunately I was unable to find a publisher for it. I think it works by itself, however. Anyway, if people like this I will publish more of the book in the weeks to come.
It might be a little bit long for a HubPage, I don't know.
Let me know what you think of it by leaving a message at the bottom of the page.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

We're Here Because We're Here



This is the only known picture of Ivor Coles, who died in September 1915, most likely in the 2nd Battle Of Loos, which took place on the 25th of September that year.

In the picture Ivor is about 12 or 13 years old. He was 18 when he died.


After he died he "disappeared".

There were no records of his death. There was no grave to show where he was buried. There wasn't even an inscription on the Menim Gate, on which is carved the names of all of those whose bodies had been lost in the carnage of the First World War.

Ivor Coles became a non-person, not even a statistic in the records.

This is the story of Ivor Coles, how he got lost, and how, ninety years later, his family found him again.

It is a story of loss and redemption, told with poignancy and insight, with pictures and music, links and maps to go with it.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Were-Here-Because-Were-Here


Other stories by CJ Stone on HubPages:

Riding With Lady Luck: a journey across Europe in a Grand Cherokee Jeep

The Bard of Ely's Nature Conservation Site : A visit to Tenerife to see Steve "Bard of Ely" Andrews.

Down in the Dumps: how to survive a barium enema

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Healing Hands


I’ve been saying this for a few years now: therapeutic massage should be available on the National Health.

Everyone should be able to get a weekly massage from a qualified practitioner.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Biodynamic-Massage-in-Whitstable

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Karl Marx Lives!


The following is from a letter sent to me by my old good friend Dave, about a famous building (see above) in the great European city of Vienna where he lives. As he says:



"It's called Karl-Marx-Hof (Karl Marx Court), and is the longest residential building in the world. For its time incredibly advanced for council housing.


"Well, it was of course renamed under the fascists (from 34 to 45) and at the end of the war the American commander of that section of Vienna (like Berlin divided into British, French, Russian and American zones) was a little bit worried about the locals' plans to restore the original name.


"So he called on the expertise of an emigre Austrian, Joseph T Simon, who was then an officer in the US army. According to Simon's autobiography, he was asked, among other things, "Did you know this Karl Marx personally?" "Was he a member of the communist party?" "What was his position on the Soviet Union?"


"Simon, who had been a member of the revolutionary socialist (social-democratic)youth movement in the 30s replied that, no he didn't know Marx personally and since Marx died in 1883 he obviously wasn't in a position to know anything about the Soviet Union, but that he was highly appreciated by social democrats.


"The army commander then sent out an internal army mailing saying that Mr Simon was extremely well informed about Marx and that he credibly argued that Marx wasn't a communist at all, but was closer to the Viennese Social Democrats, so there was no reason to change the name of the building --- so it's still called the Karl Marx Hof to this day."
Thus Karl Marx lives in the name of public building in Vienna.


For my latest story please go to:




Thursday, May 22, 2008

Poisoning the Atmosphere


Have you looked at the sky recently? It´s like a motorway up there.

On one day last week in the space of less than ten minutes I counted at least seventeen aircraft. It was nearing sunset so all the lines of exhaust fumes were lit up like little streaks of phosphorescent pink candy scattered about across the sky. Later, as it began to get dark, I could make out the aircraft lights blinking on and off like secret messages in Morse code.

What strikes me is how we have diminished the power of the heavens. We look into the sky to see evidence only of ourselves. The stars have disappeared behind a barrier of light haze and air pollution and all that´s left is aeroplanes.

When I was in Transylvania last year I saw the Milky Way in a clear sky for the first time in years and it was breathtaking. There was no light pollution and the sky was utterly black. Looking up was like being cast adrift in an ocean of stars. Millions of stars like a tidal surge arcing across the infinite sky.

We´ve forgotten how awesome the Universe is. The Milky Way is the heart of the Galaxy in which our tiny sun dances and plays. It is one galaxy amongst millions. Each galaxy consists of billions of stars - billions of suns - each one of them a white-hot nuclear furnace of unimaginable power, unimaginable strength. To look up at the stars is to be reminded of this. To look up at the stars is to measure ourselves against the Universe and to know how insignificant we are.

It takes millions of years for the light from the furthest galaxies to reach us. Looking at the stars is like stepping into a time-machine. It´s like looking deep into the past to a time before our own fragile little planet was born.

Instead of which we look up and there´s some guy in a Cesna buzzing about catching the sunset, there´s a stray passenger plane from Gatwick flying to Lanzarote, and a few high-flying jets on some obscure military manoeuvres leaving plumes of smoke across the sky.

How much does it cost to send a military jet into the upper atmosphere, to catapult one man half way across the globe? How many gallons of aviation fuel does this use?

We´ve been taking this world of ours for granted. Now is the time to start asking questions. Whose purpose does any of this serve? Who gave the orders for these planes to take off? I don´t remember being consulted about it.

Have you noticed how the exhaust trails from those high-flying jets seem to hang around for a long time in the air? You look up into the sky and there´s not only live aircraft skimming the ionosphere, but evidence of previous ones left in long white streamers criss-crossing the whole expanse.

The official name for these streamers is contrails, and the official explanation is that they are the result of water vapour caused by engine exhaust. This doesn´t explain why they hang around for so long, however, nor why, as you watch them, they spread out and start to turn into something resembling a fine white mist.

The question is, what mess of chemicals are hidden in this mist? What effect is this having on our delicate atmosphere?

We can´t go on poisoning the world like this.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Gorilla In The Room



Things are not always what they seem.

For instance a credit crisis is not necessarily a crisis. For some people it's an opportunity rather than a crisis, a chance to buy up failing businesses at knock-down prices.

Meanwhile the war on terror is not really a war, and the front page of your newspaper does not generally give you the news.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Reality-Is-What-You-Make-It

Monday, May 05, 2008

Masochist TV


I must be some kind of a masochist. After my last blog, in which I was complaining about the state of the telly these days, I’ve actually ended up with MORE telly.

I have subscribed to one of those on-line digital TV packages with 53 channels and the ability to record and pause live programmes.

This all sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is. Who would want to pause or record most TV programmes anyway?

As for the 53 channels, anyone who has Freeview will already be familiar with them. They consist of the five terrestrial channels, news channels, kids’ channels, supplementary channels - such as ITV2 and Sky 3 (which mainly consist of repeats of 80s American TV shows) - lots of radio channels, plus – my favourite! – a whole heap of shopping channels for those of us who can’t even be bothered to get off the sofa while indulging our consumer habits.

Hand me the handset I want to buy something. How about some kitchen essentials, bed and bathroom furniture, filter products, watches, travel bags, electronic equipment, makeup, fashion accessories? I could get some new diamante bra straps and matching swimming caps to go with my latest beach wear.

There’s something glaring and hysterical about these programmes, something noisy and randomly garish, like being trapped within a glossy shopping catalogue-world with a psychopathic salesperson for company. The world finally gone insane.

I’m not quite sure how I ended up with this. I was after broadband, but somehow the salesperson on the end of the phone managed to persuade me that I needed all of these supplementary packages too.

So I’m a wired-up person. I am wired into the world-wide network. I mean that literally. I’ve just been counting the wires. I have a TV, a vision box, a CD Rom player, a radio, speakers, an external hard drive, a laptop, a wireless router, a telephone, a table lamp, all plugged into the same socket in the same room.

That’s ten electrical leads: plus one telephone cable, one TV aerial cable, speaker leads, scart cables, mouse cable, plus leads connecting all the electrical appliances to each other.

It’s amazing: all of this snake’s nest of advanced technology making it possible to record the latest repeats of Celebrity Come Dine With Me on More 4 + 1 while on-line shopping, listening to the latest top-ten downloads and looking up the TV viewing figures on the internet all at the same time.

Celebrity Come Dine With Me. This has to be the most inane celebrity TV concept programme ever devised: celebrities you’ve never of heard of cooking up food you’d never eat in rooms you would never visit with people you don’t like. People famous for not even being famous doing mundane things we all have to do anyway, like cooking food.

Whatever next? Celebrity Come Shop With Me? Top Ten Celebrity Nose-Picking Moments? I wouldn’t put it past them.

I’ve just looked up the viewing figures. On one night Celebrity Come Dine With Me netted 2.9 million viewers. Let’s say it’s a four part series. So that’s 11.6 million hours of people’s lives spent absorbing this drivel.

That’s 1,324 years – or nearly nineteen whole lifetimes - of people watching dreary people with personality disorders backstabbing each other while preparing and eating food on TV.

Welcome to the future.

It’s more frightening than you could ever have imagined.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...


With more than half of Europe's wild bears within its borders, the Romanian forest is the ideal place for some bear-stalking. By Chris Stone


First published in Wizzit, Wizz Air In Flight magazine, February 2008.

http://www.wizzmagazine.com/features/2008/feb/follow-that-bear.html

Monday, April 14, 2008

TV Licence


The world gets weirder by the day.

I went to buy a TV licence this week. Where do you go to get a TV licence? You go to the Post Office, surely.

Not any more, it seems. These days you buy your TV licence from Threshers.

Some of you may already know this. You probably think this is old news. Apparently the Post Office hasn’t sold TV licences for two years now. But for me it was just astounding.

I think my jaw actually dropped when the man behind the counter told me. I think I took a step back in astonishment. And then, when I asked where I should go, and he told me that the nearest pay-point was Threshers, I’m sure I did a sort of pirouette on the spot, looking round and raising my arms in a shrug of disbelief. I wanted to ask the people in the queue behind me if they had ever heard of such a thing?

TV licences from Threshers now. Whatever next? Greetings cards from the greengrocers? Suntan lotion from the butchers? Maybe the Job Centre could sell me bottle of ketchup to go with my bag of chips from Champs bakery.

Later, when I got to Threshers, I had another surge of incomprehension at what I was about to do.

I said, “excuse me, I can’t believe I’m asking for this, but is this place to buy a TV licence these days?”

“It is,” said the manager.

I turned around, and the man waiting behind me was clutching a TV licence top-up card.

I said, “look, he’s at it too.”

The man said, “it’s the easiest way,” handing his card to the Thresher’s manager to get it topped up.

So there I am, amidst all the bottles of wine and spirits, the cans of lager, the crisps and snacks, the half-price special offers, the Three-For-The-Price-Of-Two deals, buying myself a TV licence.

I felt that I must have entered a parallel universe. Andy Pandy in La-La Land. A place where nothing is as it seems.

Then again, maybe there’s a kind of twisted logic to all of this. The price of beer at the pub being so prohibitive these days, maybe they want us all just sat at home drinking on our own, in our own separate little boxes, watching the TV, while they fill us up with their drivel, pumping our heads so full of hysterical, screaming nonsense that we no longer notice that the whole world is being bought and sold from under us, that nothing actually matters any more.

Have you watched any telly lately? You have to be drunk to bear it.

So why are our Post Offices closing down? Why is the central Post Office in Canterbury now upstairs in WH Smiths, so that old people are made to clamber up the stairs while being bombarded with WH Smiths’ advertising from every angle? Why are local Post Offices all over the country disappearing?

You hear talk of market forces and the like. You hear talk of them being uneconomic. But then, you have to ask, who made them uneconomic, when the TV licence franchise is being handed over to Threshers?

What other services are being filtered off?

The term “market forces” is a euphemism.

It’s just another term for government economic policy.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cheap Booze


As I’m sure my British readers already know, alcohol prices went up by 6% above the rate inflation in the budget, supposedly to combat binge drinking.

That’s 4p on a pint of beer, 14p on a bottle of wine, and 55p on a bottle of spirits. So, now, I can already hear the binge drinkers thinking to themselves. “Fourteen pence on a bottle of Chardonnay. Clearly I will have to drink more responsibly from now on.”

http://hubpages.com/hub/Drug-problems-or-drug-solutions

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rooms


I’ve been looking at flats.

I wonder how many readers have been in the same position in the last few years?

I was shocked at how expensive they have become, and how little you get for your money.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Cost-of-flats-in-Whitstable

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Prince of Propaganda


You will have seen the photographs. Prince Harry in a baseball cap. Prince Harry on a motorbike. Prince Harry kicking a football made of rolled up toilet paper. Prince Harry having a laugh with his mates. Prince Harry firing a machine gun into the empty desert.

Prince Harry fighting the good fight for justice and democracy in Afghanistan.

On a single day there were 56 pages of coverage in eight national newspapers, with booming headlines like "Harry the Brave" and "Harry the Secret Hero." The Sun included a glamorous poster of the prince out on patrol.

Meanwhile it’s been Afghanistan week on the TV news: a number of short films looking at army conditions in Helmand Province in the South of the country, where most of the British troops are stationed.

Well I‘m a cynic about these matters. Though Prince Harry’s presence in Afghanistan was a closely-guarded secret for a while, it was always a set-up for future propaganda purposes. How many of you actually believed those images? Do you really think that the British army would put him in a position where anyone would get a chance of firing live bullets at him?

As for the TV reports, I watched with increasing irritation as the week went by. How are we supposed to understand such a complex set of issues on the back of a few grainy bits of one-sided footage? The reporter was addressing us in a portentous tone while perched on top of a flat-roofed building in the middle of Kabul, a relatively safe city. These were his exact words, or something very close: “British troops, fighting and dying in Afghanistan to keep terrorism off our streets.”

Hang on now. These are Afghan tribesmen, not international terrorists. They are fierce, wily, savage mountain people fighting with home-made guns, essentially nationalistic peasants. They probably have no idea of where Britain is, and still less care. Their passions are inflamed at the sight of foreign troops on their soil. If there weren’t British troops in Helmand no one would be firing at them.

I must have been one of the last people of my generation to make it to Afghanistan. It's been off-limits for the last thrity years or more. Anybody younger than me - unless he was a reporter or in the army - couldn't possibly have seen it. At least I have some idea who these people are.

This was back in the 70s, when the famous hippie-trail to
India passed through that mountainous, desert land of warring tribes, before the Russian invasion, but during the time of the communist government. Even then it was like the wild west. The Afghans are good at copying things and I was told that there were gun factories dotted about in secret locations. But then you’d see them riding into town on horseback, with a rifle slung across their shoulders, and it was a flint-lock not a machine gun.

It was the Americans who gave them Stinger missiles to fire at the Russian helicopter gun-ships. It was the Americans who trained them in modern warfare and who brought Osama bin Laden in to whip up their Islamic fervour.

Everybody knows by now that the war in Iraq was conducted for the venality and greed of the oil magnates in charge of the White House, so they are repackaging the Afghan war as somehow more “just.”

But Osama bin Laden left many years ago – left to escape while the US engaged in its plunder of Iraq.

Don’t you think its time we left the Afghan people to their own devices?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Van the Man Meets The Bard of Ely

The following is a picture of my good friend Steve Andrews, also commonly known as The Bard of Ely, due to the fact that he writes poetry and that for many years lived in Ely, in Cardiff. The story that follows, about the time that Steve met Van Morrison, is a word-for-word transcript of a tape I made with Steve, which was later used as the basis of a Guardian column, and later again in my book The Last of the Hippies, in which Steve plays a major part. Apologies for the lack of new content on this site. I've been busy with a number of projects. Meanwhile, enjoy the sound of Steve's distinctly comic voice....


“And we’ll walk and talk in gardens wet with rain,

And I’ll never ever grow so old again.”

Van Morrison: Astral Weeks.


First of all I spoke to Van at Robin’s. I was working for Robin Williamson. This would have been about 1993. I was working at Robin’s as his secretary. And I had to answer the phone and everything, and I answered the phone one day and it was actually, it was Van the Man, and I’m saying, "who’s speaking please," and he’s saying, "Van Morrison." And I’m in total shock, awe, whatever, I’m like, "wow, this is Van Morrison," you know. And that was the first time I spoke to him, and that was a very unsuccessful conversation. I’m sort of gibbering, "oh, um, I’ve always been, well er, a great fan of yours." And he’s saying, "yeah, yeah?" And I’m saying, "yeah, yeah, really, what shall I…?" And he’s saying, " just tell Robin that I’m in the area and if I’m around I’ll give him a call again." I said, "oh yeah, right, right, I’ll do that." And - I remember what he said - he said, "all the best." And that was it. And I thought, "oh wow, wow, Van Morrison has said ‘all the best’ to me, this is brilliant, I’ve spoken to him." And that was the first time that I had any sort of connection with Van.

But then, I’d taken my son to his pottery class. And it was closed that day. And it was in the afternoon by now. Robin Williamson was doing the midsummer solstice concert at the Celtic folk museum in St Fagan’s, which I obviously knew about. I had an invite to be there. Because the pottery thing wasn’t happening, I said to my son, "well let’s go along and see Robin." So we went to the folk museum and it was an appalling day - it was one of these midsummer absolute piss-down days, it was absolute torrential rain going on - and we got there quite late anyway, and when we got there Robin’s gig was just about finished. And because of the terrible weather, they had to move the open air thing into one of the marquee tents. And Robin finished his set, and I could see a couple of people, one of whom was Van Morrison. And Robin went over and he was talking to them, and I thought, "wow, that’s Van Morrison again." And then I heard in the conversation, it came up that the other guy who was with Van was from Ely. And I thought, "wow, wow, Van Morrison is actually with someone who’s from Ely. This is my cue to go over and say something." And I went over and I said - the first thing I said was just utterly ridiculous - I said, "so you’re Van Morrison then?" And he said, "er yeah?" And I said, "oh yeah, I spoke to you once before, from Robin’s." And he said, "yeah." I said, "And I’ve always been a great fan of yours, I love your music." And he said, "yeah." And by this point I’m thinking, I’m not making much success here, I’m not having much success in having sparkling conversation with my hero here, all he ever says is "yeah."

At which point my son came over to me, and he’d just been outside the tent, and he came in the tent, like, we were at the edge of the tent, and Robin is stood one side, and Van’s stood here, and there’s this other guy from Ely stood there, and Isaac just comes in under the edge of the tent, and he says, "Dad?" And I says, "yes Isaac." And he says, "you see this rope?" pointing to the guide rope coming off the marquee tent. And I said, "yeah?" And I’m starting to sound a bit like Van Morrison, I’m saying, "yeah?" And he said, "well, can you put your head by it?" And I said, "yeah." And he said, "well go on then." So I’m moving my face down by the rope, very naively, in my usual way, and not expecting anything, and not being on my guard at all, I’m just putting my face down by this rope. At which point he grabbed the rope and twanged it, and all the water that had collected on the tent roof flew all over my face and down my neck and all over my clothes, and I just didn’t know what to do or say or anything, I’m just completely and utterly freaked out with utter embarrassment, cos this is right in front of Van Morrison. And I just muttered something, "er, oh, er, Isaac, um, we’ve got to, er, we’ve got to go and, um, come on," and sort of grabbed his hand and went. And I didn’t look back. I just sort of went out into the rain outside and headed for the exit as fast as possible. And that was it.

Bard of Ely at MySpace

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Brave New World


The following words are from the 1946 introduction to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

I only offer them as particularly appropriate at this moment in history.

"A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude."

And again:

"Great is the truth, but greater still, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth."

Today there is a holocaust. The holocaust is upon us again. A people are being killed. A people are being targeted. A people are being subjugated. A restless army roams amongst a population, killing at random. Children are sliced down in their own homes. Their cries are echoing up to heaven, but no one hears. We are all silent. No one listens. No one hears. All is silence except the echoes of gunfire.

You ask, "Why do they hate us? Why do they target us? Why do they murder us at our business in our own towns?"

You ask this, but you do not ask, "Why do we hate them? Why do we target them? Why do we murder them at their business in their own towns?"

The child's cry echoes down an empty street. Why can we not hear it?

The Mother's cry falls on deaf ears, a dead baby in her arms.

Why can we not hear the pain?

You listen to the arguments. Listen, listen, listen, really listen. The argument is for a racially pure Israel, for racial purity, for a racial state. And within that state a separated ghetto with a racially distinct people inside, hidden behind fences, and subject to arbitrary attack.

Zionism was the original Nazism.

The Zionists worked with the Nazis.

They are one and the same.

Last week we heard that torture flights had passed through British territory. This sort of information has become so routine now that hardly anyone notices.

This week it was reported that Prince Harry had been in Afghanistan. Then we get pictures of him with his "mates" kicking a football made of rolled up toilet paper, rolled out for us, as it were, on demand, another item of ass-wipe news to wipe out the reality of what's happening around us. Routine propaganda.

Routine torture. Routine murder. Routine lies.

A routine war.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Codswallop


I was listening to L. Ron Hubbard on tape with a friend of mine. L. Ron Hubbard (in case you don't know) was the Science Fiction writer turned spiritual guru who founded the Church of Scientology. My friend is an ex-member of the Church. He was guffawing all the way through. "I used to take this so seriously," he said.

The basic theory of the Church is that we are all re-incarnations of extra-terrestrial beings called Thetans. Members of the Church pay vast amounts of money to rise through the ranks. They start at OT-1, and progress upwards. "OT" stands for Operating Thetan.

On the tape Ron (as he's affectionately known) is sitting by the Ocean talking intimately to his followers. You can hear the lapping waves and the mournful cries of seagulls in the background. The tape was made sometime in the early '60s. He has a very warm, soothing voice, and he's chuckling to himself in a self-satisfied, nonchalant manner.

He was telling us about a near-death brush with some vast Truth.
He referred to the Truth as The Wall of Fire. So awe-inspiring, so terrible, is this Truth that the mere mention of it would make you sick. Many people in history who have approached this Truth have died. Ron is the first man ever to have come through the ordeal. He did it so that others would be able to follow him. This Truth is only accessible to OT-3 levels. To reach OT-3 costs many thousands of pounds.

Then my friend told me what this "Truth" actually consists of. It concerns the origins of sexual perversion on this planet. Apparently it came from a Thetan dictator called Xemu several billion years ago. He ran a confederation of 75 planets, and brought certain of his subjects to Earth, where he tied them to a mountain and dropped nuclear bombs on them. He was experimenting on them, by implanting them with sexual perversion.

My friend said: "So Ron was right. It would make you sick. It would make you sick to have paid all that money just to hear such a load of old codswallop."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Freedom



I was at a meeting the other day. The adjudicator asked us if we’d like to take a break. Only he didn’t use the word “break”, he used the word “breather” instead.

We said no, we’d rather just get on and finish the meeting.

It suddenly occurred to me what he meant. He was talking about a fag-break. The word “breather” was a euphemism.

This seemed quite funny to me, substituting the idea of breathing with that of smoking: as if taking a breath of nice clean fresh air was in anyway similar to sucking on a cancer stick and dragging those deadly fumes into your lungs.

It also struck me as a measure of the changes taking place in this country that no one wanted to take him up on his offer. In that room of maybe ten people, the only smoker was the adjudicator himself.

This time last year he wouldn’t have used a euphemism. He would have imposed the cigarette break and several people would have joined him.

Ten years ago it could easily have been the other way around: ten smokers to the one non-smoker. Almost everyone would have wanted that “breather”.

Twenty years ago and we’d all have been smoking in the room itself, and the non-smokers would just have had to put up with it. The air would have been thick with cigarette smoke and the floor dusty with ash.

Some changes are definitely for the better.

I watched an old TV drama the other night. What was shocking was the sight of people lighting up on the screen. You don’t see that any more. It seemed dirty somehow, rude, like seeing someone picking their nose in public.

Personally I like the new smoke-free pubs. I always laugh when the smokers go out. They look so guilty and furtive, shrugging their shoulders apologetically as they shuffle out for their fix.

There’s two smokers I see almost every day. I see them leaning either side of the door of their house, each with a fag in their hand, blowing the smoke out onto the street. Then they stub out their cigarettes and go back into the house. These days even the smokers don’t want to have to put up with the smell of their own smoke.

It’s been three years since I gave up. I never did a better thing. A few weeks ago I met my old friends John and Carol down the Labour Club. John gave up some years ago, but, he admitted, sometimes he still longs for a cigarette.

That never happens to me. It’s a matter of interpretation. I still get the odd twinge, but rather than interpret it to mean “I want a cigarette”, I think, “thank God I don’t have to do that anymore.”

The key lies in the term “giving up”.

When you give something up, it implies that it was enjoyable at one time. But smoking was never enjoyable, it was always only an addiction. The only pleasure you ever got was in the temporary relief from the cravings.

I spent about two months fighting my addiction. My moment of freedom came with one particular cigarette. I realised even as I was smoking it that I was already craving the next one. Each cigarette creates the addiction that requires the next cigarette to relieve it. In that moment I knew that all the cigarettes in all the world would never satisfy me, that all I had ahead of me if I didn't quit was a lifetime of craving. I knew that with every fibre of my being. The spell was finally broken.

I used the Allen Carr method.

You take one final cigarette, you smoke it, and you say goodbye to it. You smoke it knowing that it will be your last.

After that it becomes funny.

I was in a shopping queue about fifteen hours later in the midst of the withdrawal laughing at the absurdity of it. I wanted to say to the check-out girl, "hey, I'm withdrawing from nicotine and it doesn't hurt a bit."

Nicotine addiction is almost entirely psychological.

There's like a little tickle in your belly, but once you remove the psychological craving - the illusion that cigarettes are a pleasure - it's a cinch. You're high on an excess of oxygen. You haven't had this much oxygen in years. The whole world is suffused with colour. The air wafts with scents. Your senses are coming alive, and everything is hilarious.

I was in another shop buying lottery tickets and the Daily Mail for my Dad. I hate the Daily Mail, and I've never done the lottery.

A youngster came in, a girl, maybe 15 or 16, and bought a packet of ten cigarettes. I said, "you'll be addicted for the rest of your life you know."

I thought it was so funny. I could see the look on her face, a combination of surprise and disdain - surprise I'd said anything, disdainful of my aged opinion - and it was like reading my own mind at that age.

That was when my own addiction had been born. It had nestled in my cells and in my belly, a little tiny furtive thing niggling in my guts, hidden from view. It had pretended to be my friend, when it was really my greatest enemy. It had lingered inside me like a virus, sucking out my will. It had been a pose at the time, a way of appearing grown up, but it soon became a need.

After that the addiciton is associative. If you have a cigarette with a coffee, every time you have a coffee you are reminded of cigarettes. If you have a cigarette with a beer, the beer becomes a trigger. Everything becomes a trigger. Use the phone. Smoke. Have a meal. Smoke. Sit down. Smoke. Stand up. Smoke. Breathe. Smoke. A lifetime of breathlessness and obligation.

So no, I haven’t “given up” smoking.

I have been released from a terrible curse.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Qi That Rides The Wind


I’m what you might call deeply insensitive (as opposed to people who believe in spirits, who are usually referred to as “sensitives”). I couldn’t tell a spirit from a washing line. What I mean is that there was just something odd about the d├ęcor of the house.

It was purple for a start, various shades of purple, from light purple on the walls, to dark purple on the skirting board, with flimsy maroon scarves scattered all over the place, shrouding out light fittings and cast about seemingly casually over the backs of all the chairs. Also the room was full of crystals, table fountains and wind-chimes dangling in inconvenient places at the entrance to most of the rooms....

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Boondoggle Economy



I’ve just discovered a new word. It’s “boondoggle”.

Well it’s not a new word actually. The spell check on my word processor recognises it. But it’s new to me.

It comes from America. A boondoggle was a piece of braided leather which boy scouts used to hang their whistles on. It may have had a nautical purpose at one time. It’s basically a useless but decorative item.

Later on it appeared in a headline in the New York Times, on 4 April 1935. “$3,187,000 Relief is Spent to Teach Jobless to Play ... Boon Doggles Made”.

It was referring to one aspect of the New Deal programme during the depression when unemployed people were put to work doing useless jobs.

As a word it became famous overnight and came to represent government funded work with no intrinsic purpose used as a way of gaining political patronage.

I first came across the word in an article from Rolling Stone magazine called The Great Iraq Swindle.

In the article the writer is referring to the privatisation of services in the US armed forces. The American army no longer washes its own smalls. It gets a private company in to do that. The private company is on a cost-plus contract. This means that whatever it spends it earns, plus three percent.

It’s the way the American army has been run since the Balkans, which means that Blair must have been aware of it.

Stop and think about it for a second. Cost-plus. You get three percent on whatever you spend. It’s a recipe for spending as much money as you possibly can. Everything you spend earns you an extra three percent.

This is what they call “free enterprise”.

So American soldiers’ underwear is being washed on a cost-plus basis. So too are all their social needs being met. Cost-plus means that every soldier who uses the privatised R’n’R facilities gets charged to the American government, which encourages the people who estimate the numbers to exaggerate. The people who estimate the numbers are also the people who take home the profit.

Cost-plus is also the method being used to rebuild Iraq: that traumatised, wounded, war-torn, and shattered country. Cost-plus to build privatised hospitals. Cost-plus to build roads, police training academies, schools, to run airports, to build sewerage plants, to generate electricity, the lot.

It’s the reason why nothing in Iraq works very well, why they still have power cuts even to this day. They blame it on terrorists, but it’s mainly just substandard workmanship.

Profits go straight back home to America, to American private investors, leaving the poor Iraqis with nothing but wreckage to contend with. Even their services aren’t their own.

Everything that the Americans knock down in that grand on-going Turkey-shoot we call “The War on Terror” is being rebuilt at the American taxpayers expense by private companies on a cost-plus basis, making this the biggest public spending bonanza in World history.

This is called "Military Keynsianism". Keynsianism is the theory - first suggested by the British Economist John Maynard Keynes - that a capitalist economy needs a constant supply of public money to "prime the pump", as it were, to keep the economy rolling. In the post-war years in Europe public spending was - to a large extent - spent upon the public, on hospitals and schools. This was called "the welfare state". Military Keynsianism is another form of the welfare state: the welfare state for the rich, a way of funnelling public money into private hands via the Military-Industrial Complex.

So next time you hear about operations against al-Qaeda targets on the outskirts of Baghdad, remember who will do the rebuilding.

Remember, too, who made the bombs and who built the planes; who supplies the equipment; who made the uniforms and who rakes in the cash.

War: the biggest boondoggle of all time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pistis Sophia



The following is a column I submitted to an astrology magazine. Regular readers of this blog will recognise it as based on something I wrote in these pages about two years ago. Unfortunately the editors didn't feel it was suitable and it was rejected. This is only the second time a story of mine has been turned down by this particular publication. Interestingly enough, the first time it was a story about Christianity too: about Pro-Life Christians.

Here's a copy of the e-mail exchange between me and the editor just after it was rejected:

Chris: "What's the reasoning for this, just out of interest? No-go on Christianity?"

Editor: "Yeah bang on, we have to give religion a wide berth."

Which is odd, don't you think? Why would an astrology magazine feel that it has to give a wide berth to religious questions?

But as I pointed out to a Christian friend of mine these texts have been suppressed for nearly 2,000 years now, so it's not surprising that they should continue to be. I expect they would get a lot of noisy hate mail if they published. Christians just seem to find the idea of a feminine aspect to the divinity too difficult to contemplate it seems....



On my birthday I typed the words “The Hypostasis of the Archons” into my mobile phone and sent it as a text to my ex-wife, the mother of my son.

The funny thing is, of course, that using predictive text, my mobile phone did not recognise the words at all. Well it recognised some of the words, but not others. The others I had to spell out. Hypostasis. Archons. Letter by letter. Therefore my mobile phone now contains the title of an early Christian Gnostic text in its memory.

The Hypostasis of the Archons. It means, “The Reality of the Rulers”. It is one of the Gnostic gospels found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945. They are a collection of early Christian writings which had been buried in the desert to hide them from destruction by the Orthodox elites at the time. They date from between the first century to the fourth century AD and show what a very different force Christianity was in these early years.

When I found the text on the Internet is was like a thrill of instant electric recognition passing through my whole body.

I’d never read anything quite like this before, and yet is was oddly familiar. Christianity, and yet not-quite Christianity. Something else.

The reason I typed the title into my mobile phone to send to my ex was that she had asked me about Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code.

I’d said that Dan Brown was sort of onto a half-truth in his book. Not that Jesus ever married Mary Magdalene, but that the feminine has been systematically exorcised from Christianity over the centuries and that certain forgotten forms of the religion were much more sympathetic to the notion of a female side to the deity.

This is clear in The Hypostasis of the Archons, where the feminine part of the deity is given a name: Pistis Sophia.

“Sophia” means “Wisdom”, “Pistis” means “Faith”.

Her name therefore means “the Wisdom of Faith”, or, perhaps, “the Faith of the Wise”.

This is how she is described in the book:

“As incorruptibility looked down into the region of the waters, her image appeared in the waters; and the authorities of the darkness became enamoured of her. But they could not lay hold of that image, which had appeared to them in the waters, because of their weakness - since beings that merely possess a soul cannot lay hold of those that possess a spirit - for they were from below, while it was from above. This is the reason why ‘incorruptibility looked down into the region (etc.)’: so that, by the father's will, she might bring the entirety into union with the light.”

It was the image of the goddess reflected in the waters that caused a resonance in me. The goddess as “incorruptibility”. The idea of the “authorities of the darkness” becoming enamoured of her, but being unable to lay hold of her. They fail to lay hold of her firstly because they are looking in the wrong place. (What they are looking at is merely a reflection.) But secondly, because she is the image of incorruptibility and cannot, therefore be “laid hold of”. She is beyond objectification. She is beyond property. She is beyond measure.

As I read the words it conjured up an image in my mind.

This image sent a message to me about the true nature of our world, as a reflection of another world. Sometimes, even, I can sense that other world - not so far away - as a world of immense, intense almost unbearable beauty; as a world of true kindness; as a world of friends, not strangers; as a world where exploitation and violence have ceased to exist; as a world which glows with its own inner light, where the works of art and nature are forever intertwined in an elaborately playful dance of sheer delight. The naturalising of the human. The humanising of nature.

The rebirth of the goddess.

http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Hypostasis-of-the-Archons

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Justice


This is Sohail Qureshi, the dentist who was jailed for four and a half years last week on terrorism charges.

The picture is the one used in the Sun newspaper in its coverage of the trial on January the 9th.

In other pictures he appears without a beard, or with a small goatee.

Have you noticed how unreal that beard looks? It looks like it has been scribbled on the photograph with a felt tip pen. Look at it more closely and it appears to be the product of some cack-handed manipulations in Photoshop. The question is why? Why bother to put up a fake photograph when there are real photographs available? We can only wonder. Maybe the real photographs weren't intimidating enough.


Qureshi was arrested at Heathrow airport in 2006 as he was getting ready to board a flight to Pakistan.

He had several thousand pounds in cash taped about his person. In his baggage were night-vision lenses, sleeping bags and rucksacks, plus a removable hard-drive containing copies of US combat manuals.

According to security sources – as reported in the Sun - he was intending to go on to Afghanistan where he was planning to take part in actions against British and American troops.

You see this is what I find absurd. How seriously are we supposed to take this? The threat from jokers like Quereshi is about as real as that beard of his, and as effective as that Kalashnikov would be against an F16 fighter or a B1 bomber.

This is not to say that he didn’t intend harm, or that he shouldn’t be punished.

Who knows what was going on in his mind or what he intended? It's just that, on a relative scale this man is decidedly small-fry. A nothing. A nobody. A jumped-up idiot with delusions of grandeur.

The threat of terrorism is now a world-wide phenomenon. But the majority of victims of terrorism are not people in the relatively safe West; they are Muslims in the conflagration of fear and terror that is the Middle East.

Over a million people have died violently in Iraq as a direct consequence of the actions of the British and American governments. When violence happens in an occupied territory it is always the occupiers who are to blame.

It is no less a terrorist act to be killed by an American warplane armed with Mk 82 general purpose bombs in a raid against al-Qaeda positions in a civilian area on the outskirts of Baghdad, as it is to be killed by terrorist bombs in London or Madrid; the difference being the sheer frequency of the attacks.

Two attempts in the last five years in London.

One a week in Baghdad.

The trouble is, when I say something like that I can already feel people’s hackles rising.

Nothing justifies attacks on civilians.

Nothing.

And that goes as much in Iraq – where attacks on civilians are an everyday occurrence – as it does in London.

There is no such thing as “collateral damage”.

There are people dying, that’s all. And mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters grieving. And families and friends driven literally insane with grief.

And one grief does not compensate for another, it only adds to the store of grief.

This is a grieving, sad, hopeless, desperate world right now and I don’t know what the answer might be.

Grief on grief. Never ending grief.

But what I suspect - what I very strongly suspect - is that the routine response of enraged Muslims like Qureshi to these horrors is expected, and that the customary noise of newspapers like the Sun - their manufactured outrage - is merely a ploy, a front, a slight of hand in a game of masks and appearances covering far more devious plans.

The vultures are feeding on the blood of war.

It’s rich pickings amongst the carnage.

In the midst of a collapsing economy war is the one sure-fire way to increasing profits.

And just as I celebrate the capture and punishment of one would-be terrorist like Sohail Qureshi, so I would be even more pleased to see the real war criminals brought to justice; to see the likes of Bush and Blair hauled before a jury and tried in a properly constituted court of law.

You see, I believe in Justice.

Which is more than you can say for them.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Armageddon Factory



Maybe I’m too cynical at times. I read the newspapers, or watch the TV news, and my first instinct is to wonder how I am being manipulated.

Take that story about the dentist-turned-terrorist Sohail Qureshi who was jailed for four and a half years last week. Most of the newspapers were suggesting that his sentence was too mild, adding that he was likely to be free in a year.

But what actual threat was he?

He was caught boarding a flight with several thousand pounds in cash strapped about his body, with optical night-vision lenses and police batons in his bag, along with two sleeping bags, two rucksacks, some medical supplies and a removable hard drive containing US army combat manuals.

He pleaded guilty to possessing articles for terrorist purposes and to possessing a record of information likely to be useful to terrorists.

So it’s obvious, by his own admission, that he was bent upon some violent act. No doubt he deserved to go to prison.

He had also been in contact with Samina Malik, the so-called “lyrical terrorist”.

Several of the news programmes referred to him as “an al-Qaida operative”. Apparently he had been on a training camp once. One newspaper described him as “a hate-filled fanatic”, while another said that he planned “to fight against British and American troops in Afghanistan”.

It was at this point that I spluttered into my tea.

He’s a dentist. What’s he going to do: pull their teeth out? Even assuming he has actually had some training, how, exactly, is he going to fight British and American troops using police batons, sleeping bags and rucksacks?

I’m trying to imagine what sort of action he might have been planning. I have a picture of him charging down a hill spinning a sleeping bag over his head while wielding his trusty baton. He would have been able to do this at night, of course, being equipped with the night-vision lenses.

OK. He had money. Maybe he was going to buy weapons. He could probably get one or two Kalashnikovs for that money, plus maybe some grenades and a pistol. Perhaps there was even a brigade of Taliban troops waiting to meet him somewhere on the Afghan border.

You have to ask, however: what use would a dentist from Forest Gate be to the Taliban, those battle-hardened mountain-men, many of whom have known nothing but war all their lives? He wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.

But it’s the comparison of resources that clarifies the real truth behind this story.

The day after Sohail Qureshi was sentenced the Americans were in action on the outskirts of Baghdad, attacking so-called al-Qaida targets.

They dropped 40,000 lbs of explosives in a forty minute blitz using F16 fighters and B1 bombers.

A B1 bomber costs $283.1 million. The US Air Force has 100 of them. Each 500lb bomb costs $283.50, making the cost of one forty minute operation, in ordinance alone, nearly $23,000.

There are currently 1,055,734 American soldiers on active duty around the world. US arms spending amounts to 48% of the world total. US soldiers are the best equipped in the world, each one having large quantities of deadly, sophisticated weaponry at their disposal….. probably including night sights and sleeping bags.

The idea that a crazed dentist from Forest Gate, an addled poetess from Southall and a few other nutters can be considered a threat to world peace compared to the Armageddon factory that is the United States is, of course, a fantasy.


Please click on the following link for a mind-boggling article from Rolling Stone magazine on the economic reasons behind the war in Iraq. Has the American state finally gone completely crazy? Here is the evidence...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Three Short Pieces: 1. Save the Fish!




There's a line where righteous behaviour can spill over into self-righteousness. It's a very fine line. Everyone knows it: the point where a matter of principle can become a matter of absurdity. Take what happened to my friend John. He was on a weekend camping trip in mid-Wales with his five year old daughter. This was the first time John had seen Rhiannon for weeks. And he's crouching by a little silvery stream with a child's fishing net, chasing the trout around, the girl hanging onto his leg and chattering, both of them more intent upon their conversation than with catching a fish, when they're approached by a couple.

"What do you think you're doing?" the woman says. The man just stands in the background with his arms folded, looking displeased. She has long hair and a woolly jumper, and he has sandals and a beard. John looks at them bemused. "You're not allowed to catch fish in here, you know," she adds, indignantly.

John stands up. "Catch fish?" he says. "With this?" And he holds up the flimsy stick with its little plastic net.

"Well, you look Green," the woman says.

It took a second or two for that one to sink in. John thought she was referring to his fishing abilities. And then it struck him. She was referring to his politics. She considered herself a conservationist. She was trying to Save The Fish.

It's a common problem on the Righteous Left. People become so caught up in what they like to think is the Big Picture, that they stop noticing the details. The mind is so set in a righteous groove that it can longer distinguish a threat from a plaything. Of course the real threats to the future of the Planet - the international corporations, the military-industrial complex - are so unassailable and, at the same time, so ubiquitous, that it is beyond the scope of the average person to challenge them in any but the most peripheral of ways.

So what's a good Eco-activist to do? He has to do something. This is the point, maybe, where the sense of a personal mission can fall into pomposity - where righteous purpose becomes self-righteous posturing - and can end in the absurd spectacle of a couple of middle-class hippies defending these swift, muscular trout from a child's plastic toy.

Rhiannon said: "I think that Woman's mad!"





2. Angry Hair




People have different ways of dealing with anger. Some people get drunk. Others kick a football about. Some people meditate. Raji drives.

He had this beautiful sport's car. And one day he was so angry he just jumped into it and put his foot down. He didn't tell me what he was angry about. So he was hurtling down the road at 60mph. There was an S-bend at the end of the road. He skidded round the first turn and then banked into the second. There were a couple of workmen nearby, digging up the road. He could see their faces. They were looking at him as if he was some kind of idiot. This made him even more angry. He just slammed his foot on the accelerator and...

Well you can guess the rest. His beautiful new sport car, slick and shiny and humming with power, wrapped around a lamp post: a write-off.

Anger makes you do stupid things. He was lucky he wasn't hurt. But he knew the workmen were still watching him. He leapt out of the door, slammed the door shut and, without looking back, went on his way. He was going to the hairdresser's.

Anger compounds anger. If he was pretty pissed off in the first place, he was quadrupley pissed-off now. The hairdresser had to calm him down. "Have you rung the AA?" the hairdresser asked. So Raji did. And with his car hissing and steaming around a lamp post, and this wild anger tearing at his nerves, he had his hair done.

Afterwards he went back to the car. The AA were already there, ready to tow the thing away. He gave them instructions on where to take it and got on with the rest of his day. He was due to at the airport in 4 hours. He didn't have time to think about what had happened till he sat down on the plane.

"And did you learn any lessons from it Raji?" someone asked.

"I learned not to drive when you're angry," he said.

"Why’s that?”

“You end up with a bad haircut.”