Saturday, December 30, 2017

I Want to Hear Now, the Modern Sound/So I Won't Feel Alone at Night


I got a new stereo for Christmas. The old one is the one I've had since Christmas 1995, and is showing its age: there's no DAB, the CD player doesn't play all CDs, there's no way of attaching an MP3 player, and there's a twin tape deck of the kind no-one uses anymore. But this is the only stereo I've ever owned: I used it to hear most of the music I've ever heard for the first time, and it was with me from secondary school and 6th Form on to Nottingham, London, Liverpool, and then back here. It was, indeed, the radio on to help me from being lonely late at night.

It's wrong, of course, to feel emotions about mass-produced items of consumer electronics, but I don't think I'll be taking the stereo to the tip in the way that I did my old DVD player earlier in the year. It also seems unlikely that I'll ever have any kind of feelings about any other stereos.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas at Song Be

At midnight, celebration was interrupted by the sound of machine gun fire in the distance. The revelers trooped outside to see if they were going to have to fight on Christmas Eve. There were hard words concerning the ancestry of the enemy. Across the wire, across the outpost line, across the valley of no-man’s land were the crests occupied habitually by the “opposition.” From these heights there rose a stream of green, Soviet made “tracer.” The celebrants contemplated this for a minute, and then Suarez suggested a reply. An M-60 machine gun emerged from the house, and while one man fired red tracer into the air, another held the bipod above his head and another fed the gun its belted ammunition. The streams of bullets crossed in the black, star-studded sky. The VC gun fell silent, as did the American. There was a hush as warriors waited for some sign that the hope of common humanity yet lived. The VC fire resumed. Now there were three guns shooting green stars into the blackness. The MI men’s gun chattered merrily, spilling a river of shell casings into the street. Red and green filled the night.
- W. Patrick Lang, The Huron Carol (2007)

An account of a small incident that took place in Vietnam at Christmas 1968. Like most stories of Christmas truces during wars, there's a sad epilogue.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

New York Night

New York Night, No.2 (1921)

New York Night, No. 2 (1921) by George Ault

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Margin For Individual Decision

I really have no idea where Marxist academia gets its reputation for being gloomy from.


From Vicente Lull and Rafael Micó's Archaeology of the Origin of the State (2011).

Friday, August 25, 2017

Tin Legs

The BBC's "Horrible Histories" tells kids about Douglas Bader:


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dear Nintendo

Dear Nintendo,

I am writing to apply for the position of game designer with your company. We have a chance here to help children experience games that are more true to life than any game before them. Computer graphics have improved and improved and improved, and some day soon we're going to have to ask ourselves where we can go next in our search for realism.

We need virtual pet games where you clean and feed and love your furry little friend and that car still comes out of nowhere so smoothly, a god of aerodynamics and passenger safety. Where you hear your father's quiet joke that night, when he thinks you are asleep.

We need a new Mario game, where you rescue the princess in the first ten minutes, and for the rest of the game you try and push down that sick feeling in your stomach that she's "damaged goods", a concept detailed again and again in the profoundly sex negative instruction booklet, and when Luigi makes a crack about her and Bowser, you break his nose and immediately regret it. When Peach asks you, in the quiet of her mushroom castle bedroom "do you still love me?" you pretend to be asleep. You press the A button rhythmically, to control your breath, keep it even.

We need an airport simulator, where the planes carry your whole family from A to B, job to job, and dad still drinks in the shower and your older sister still has casual sex that she confides might bring back a feeling she's certain she didn't imagine. Where the plane touches down and you all lean forward in your seats because of inertia, and again and again someone says "I hate to fly".


Joey Comeau 
- Joey Comeau, Overqualified (2009)

Friday, June 09, 2017

Dawn On The Avenue De Boavista

It's dawn now in Porto, and I'm the only one still awake. I first turned the data back on on my mobile phone just after 22:00 last night. I did it in a "Give it to me straight, doctor" mood, and found some positive news. It's just been announced that there's a hung parliament.

I've no idea what's about to happen, or whether the people I've given my conditional support to over the last two years will gravely let me down or lead to disaster.

What interests me, though, is how wrong all the Smart Boys who went to a grammar school, or an expensive private school , and maybe then Oxbridge were. After all, those educations made their ideas intrinsically More Serious than those of someone who went to the state school down the road, and less elite univesities. That's the natural order of things.

Don't expect to see too much discussion of that over the next few days, though.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Beagle World Record Attempt

About a month ago I went with a friend - and her Beagle - to the Beagle World Record Attempt at Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire. Here are some of my photos and videos.


Mr. Bingley making friends.


Citizen Journalist Beagle is hungry for the truth.

Hurley-Burley in the off-lead paddock.

Waiting for the world record attempt to get underway.


On the walk.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Mirror’s Temperature is Always Zero

One of his colleagues has described the haunting and profoundly revealing occasion when Heydrich came home at night to his brilliantly lit apartment and suddenly saw his reflection in a large wall mirror. In an attack of cold rage he 'whipped his pistol from his holster and fired two shots at this double', the ever and tormentingly present negation of himself, from which he could free himself in liquor and in the splintered glass, but not in reality. He was prisoner of this figure of negation, he lived in a world populated by the self-created chimeras of of a hostile distrust, scented behind everything treachery, intrigue or the snares of hidden emnity, and thought only in terms of dependence - the most impressive embodiment of that vulgarized Darwinist principle in whose light the world was revealed to National Socialist ideology: life seen only as struggle. Himmler said of him that he was 'the embodiment of distrust - the "hypersuspicious", as people called called him - nobody could endure it for long'.
- Joachim Fest, The Face of the Third Reich (1963)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Like Luke and R2-D2, Me and That DVD Player Were


On Sunday I took my old DVD player to the recycling place. Mum and Dad got it me for Christmas 2000, I think, and it's been with me ever since. There are plenty of reasons to get rid of it: it's the size of a house, the SCART socket seems to have broken, and it's from the days before HDMI. Plus I have a Bluray player these days. Nontheless, if you lived with me in Nottingham, London, or Liverpool, this was what we used to watch things on.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

March Violets

FIRST MAN: Have you noticed how the March Violets have managed to completely overtake Party veterans like you and me?

SECOND MAN: You’re right. Perhaps if Hitler had also waited a little before climbing on to the Nazi bandwagon he’d have become Führer quicker too.
- Das Schwarze Korps, November 1935

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Monday, January 02, 2017

Futures, Unevenly Distributed

There is Only One Way to Live

Mumbai in 2014. Photograph by Paul Needham.