Neil

We are plummeting into the future and Neil Armstrong died yesterday aged 82. We are living in the future. Pretty soon we will look back to the old days, when Europeans first discovered America, when Napoleon ruled Europe and when men walked on the moon.

Below is a music video by a guy named Roy Cooper. It fits very well as a tribute to Neil Armstrong.

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong

Fulking Bonfire

Fulking Bonfire

Old Fashioned LSD

In the old days, perhaps before the mass hysteria about drugs, scientists used to conduct experiments on the effects of LSD. The first two videos are quite fascinating. I love the way that, in the second video, the girl seems to be having one revelation after another until she realises “I can do everything!”.

The miliary thought they could use LSD as a weapon and so they experimented too. Happily the results seems to have been merely to incapacitate a bunch of Royal Marine Commandos by causing them to giggle and “lose their sense of urgency”. Oh, and one man “nearly succeeded in felling this tree using only a spade”.




Rose

Buy Roses at Fine Art America

waking up with a pencil in your ear wont get you pregnant

It was me. I was Talking Bollocks!

It was me. I was Talking Bollocks!

It’s been a bumper week for those in the public eye TALKING BOLLOCKS!

First I heard that Respect MP George Galloway had blundered around like a bull in a china shop on the subject of rape and said that having sex with a sleeping woman was “not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it“.

Hmmmmm………I’m not sure I’d considered this question before but it’s pretty insensitive. Rape, like race and illegal drug use, is a taboo subject which politicians mention at their peril.

The liberal intelligentsia were quick to jump on Mr. Galloway. On BBC Radio 4’s PM program a criminal barrister named  Felicity Gerry was interviewed. She was very clear in her opinion which I have been unable to find on the web and so must quote from memory. When pressed for a definition of rape she said something along the lines that it was “anyone putting anything where someone else didn’t want it” and gave the obvious examples of a penis in a vagina as well as a pencil in someone’s ear!

I kid you not! I heard this almost verbatim on the wireless. The really strange thing is that no other pocket bureaucrat thought it necessary to come on the radio and condemn such idiotic remarks. Imagine if Mr. Galloway had said this?

The interviewer suggested that the law could have different levels of rape and that not all were identically serious and gave the example of murder and manslaughter but Ms. Gerry was adamant: “Rape is rape”. The idea that “rape is rape” is, of course, bollocks as it puts a 16 year old boy who has sex with his 15 year old girlfriend in the same category as a psychopath who has raped multiple women at knifepoint. “Rape is rape” she kept repeating unaware that she was talking as much bollocks as George Galloway.

Then we had a barmy American politician wade into the argument. In an interview with a TV station Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for the Senate in Missouri, was expressing his opposition to the right to abortion for women who had been raped and, in an attempt at justification, said: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare……If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Woah!!!! This is strange stuff. First he implies that some rapes are not “legitimate” then throws in some weird science he must have read on some Christian Alien blog.

Remember that TV show Kids Say the Funniest Things? How about a new show where the we round up a lot of politicians and ask them questions. They could call it Politicians Talk The Most Bollocks – No, wait, they do it already only it’s called Prime Ministers Questions.

Trees In Silhouette

Trees In Silhouette

Brighton and Hove 999 fun day

Newfoudland Rescue Dog

Newfoundland Rescue Dog

What an idea! A 999 fun day! Experience all the violence and ghastliness of the emergency services in a fun day out. In fact it was no such thing. Just the police, ambulance, life guards and various other organisations setting up shop on Hove Lawns to let the public get a better look at the work they do. I was particularly interested in the Newfoundland dogs which are trained to swim around picking up struggling swimmers. Beautiful animals and they save our lives. What could be better. Though watching this video I can’t help thinking that one of the men should have had the guts to jump from the helicopter rather than throwing the dog in.

Newfoundland Rescue Dog

Newfoundland Rescue Dog

Newfoundland Rescue Dog

Newfoundland Rescue Dog

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man and dog at sunset

man and dog at sunset

chimney cake and the globalisation of ideas

Budapest

Budapest

I spent this week in Budapest staying at the excellent Intercontinental Hotel with a fantastic picture window overlooking the Danube and The Castle. Hot and sunny during the day and just plane hot at night. There is nothing like travelling around Europe for a few years to make you understand just how crap British weather is. Once the light faded the castle illumination came on. Gorgeous! As was the parliament building a little further along the river.

room with a view

room with a view

For lunch one day we drove out to Budaörs and visited the  Adler a traditional Hungarian restaurant where I ate good goulash. One evening I took a boat ride along the river. The commentary explained the architecture and mentioned that a Hungarian invented the computer. Odd, as I’d been told that it was either Allan Turing or Charles Babbage, both Englishmen. This reminded me of a Dutch friend telling me that a Dutchman had developed ideas on gravity before Newton. When I was a kid I was led to believe that Britain created the whole of the modern world. At school I was told that William Caxton invented the printing press and it was comparatively late in life that I learned about a German named Johannes Gutenberg.

A little later I ate in the excellent Sörforrás restaurant. Comfortable, good service and delicious Hungarian and international food. I think that, really, the whole of European history is one. We speak of globalisation now but centuries ago there existed a Europeanisation of scientific and artistic thought. Presumably the educated people understood this but the illiterate masses were oblivious to it. Not so different from today when the world’s elite flit around the globe paying their taxes wherever convenient but when they need our support they appeal to our nationalistic feelings with terms like “in this land” and “We British”. Remember Tony Blair banging on about being “passionate” about British this and that yet when he left politics he got a job with an American bank. Patriotism, as Samuel Johnson observed, is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Hungarian Parliament Building

Hungarian Parliament Building

In truth, I don’t believe that many great discoveries come about in isolation. Ideas about relativity were simmering away amongst the world physics community before Einstein finally hit the nail on the head. Ideas and memes swirl around in our culture like the currents in a river. They ebb and flow and occasionally some bright spark gets drawn into an eddy and brings it all together. The sum of human knowledge is ratcheted up another notch. Yes, it was Einstein who made the final move but if he’d fallen under a car, someone else would probably have got there soon enough.

It crossed my mind that, like a river, human knowledge has many tributaries and side channels. Perhaps Einstein’s marvellous discovery helped us focus our attention on the material world and we’ve made great progress in this respect. Yet I wonder how it is that a civilisation which can place men on the moon and robot cars on mars can’t figure out an economic system which does not either get bogged down in authoritarianism inefficiency like Socialism or have periodic catastrophes like Capitalism.

The odd thing is that nobody seems interested in developing another system. People who don’t like Capitalism have an irrational faith in Socialism. People who mistrust Socialism think that recessions, depressions and credit crunches are just something that society has to endure along with the concomitant suffering of the poorest. If the brightest and the best could be dragged away from their Bloomberg terminals then maybe they could figure out a sustainable economic model. Ah, but that would mean change and nobody likes that.

The banks of the Daunbe

The banks of the Daunbe

Perhaps the relevant ideas and memes are swirling around us already; climate change, the Internet, super-complex and reliable consumer products,  globalisation, a common language, the creative classadditive manufacturing. Perhaps all the pieces already exist and we just need some Einstein to put it all together?

On this visit I did not board the funicular railway up to the castle but I hung around one evening near the station at the bottom and took photos as evening fell. Vast cruise boats slid by, many from Germany. The Danube rises like an enormous cake in Germany’s Black Forest and flows through Vienna, Bratislava and Belgrade not to mention Orşova, Drobeta-Turnu Severin, Calafat, Bechet, Dăbuleni, Corabia, Turnu Măgurele, Zimnicea, Giurgiu, Olteniţa, Călăraşi, Feteşti, Cernavodă, Hârşova, Brăila, Galaţi, Isaccea and, of course, Tulcea.

As I crossed the bridge back to the hotel I looked down and saw one of these floating leviathans drifting by with a swimming pool on it’s deck. It has never occurred to me to cruise along a river before. What a great idea. You can stay in one place while visiting the great cities of Europe.

Kürtőskalács

Kürtőskalács

The hotels are near the main entertainment area in Budapest and the night was busy with tourists and locals. I bought Kürtőskalács, or Chimney Cake, from a street seller. Spirals of pastry dipped in nuts and sugar that tasted, to me, like mince pies. One starts to eat this delicious confection and gets the idea that one will eat just one more ring before stopping. But these are not rings, this is a spiral and one munches on and on and on until one has devoured the whole thing.

A driver had been organised to take me from the hotel to the office the next morning. I emerged early and he had not yet arrived and so I stood gazing out over the river and waited. The hotel concierge approached, asked my name and said I should get in one of the taxis that always wait outside the hotel. I explained that I had a car coming but he insisted. I walked to meet him at the car and explained again that this was unnecessary. This time a second concierge joined in telling me that I should get in the car and when I tried to speak a passing young man with a rucksack said to me: “He couldn’t come”. For just the twinkling of an eye I thought I was back in The Village. Either that or some Soviet era spy thriller. It seemed that the whole of Budapest knew who I was and was conspiring to kidnap me.

I got in the car and went to the office.

Banks of the Danube

Banks of the Danube

Roses

Roses

Austin Powers and Casino Royal

The Man On The Radio is telling me that Lounge Music is making a come back. It seems that Lounge is music like Herp Alpert or the stuff they played during the Austin Powers films. Come to think of it, Herp Alpert performed the theme to, what must have been the inspiration for Austin Powers and still the best Bond film ever, the original Casino Royal. TMOTR also suggested that Ursula 1000 are a modern band who make Lounge Music. Some time ago I bought a CD by a band named Lamb Chop who are also said to have dabbled in Lounge and The Saturday Option is a definite must listen.

brighton bulldozer

brighton bulldozer

Perseid The Damp Squid

Damp Squid

Damp Squid

Saturday evening me and a friend drove up onto Dartmoor to watch the Perseid Meteor shower. We parked in a small car park by the Warren House Inn and looked around for a place to camp. After getting  wet feet trapsing through marshland we found a bit of flat ground high up away from the road. Returning to the car we picked up the gear and retraced our steps, this time avoiding the gullies. After the tent and camp bed were erected we headed for the pub.

Dartmoor

Dartmoor

The Warren House is a friendly old fashioned place which serves lamb hot pot, lasagne and the like. The sort of grub you want if you have been wandering around in English weather which was of course misty and overcast. We expected to be heading straight for bed once the pub closed.

After a few pints the landlady told us that the fire in the hearth had been brought from another pub which had burnt down and was never allowed to go out. Slowly the place emptied of customers and about 11:30 we emerged into the darkness. As it was so dark I took the opertunity to fall into a ditch by the side of the road and after that we switched on our head torches. We hunted around and eventually found our camp and cracked open another couple of beers. By now the sky had begun to clear and we could see some stars.

We stood about and looked and looked and looked. I saw one but it was pretty obvious that, like the rest of the tourists to England this year, the Perseid’s had mostly stayed away. The cloud began to draw in but we retained a small patch of clear sky. As I lay on my camp bed in my sleeping bag I gazed up and saw two more tiddlers. Another Perseid damp squib.

Star House

Star House

Summer in Brighton

palmeira square

Palmeira Square

Drove home last night. Sunshine, windows open, hammering down the A23. Summer has finally come. Approaching Britghon I noticed the  mist over the hills and as I drove down The Drive I discovered that the city was immersed in dense fog. Though this gave a chill to the air I knew that just a few feet above my head it was still summer and it was beautiful to watch the fog rolling along Kingsway. As the sun set the fog drifted out to sea and the horizon seemed to undulated.

Today the fog has gone and the flowers are out in Palmeira Square. On the down side it looks like Harry’s English Restaurant has closed but I guess this is a lesson to us all. You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone and I should have frequented the place more often.

Still, the sky is clear which bodes well for the seeing since tomorrow night is the start of the Perseid Meteor shower.

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Harry's Restaurant has closed

Harry’s Restaurant

Adelaide Crescent

Adelaide Crescent

Adelaide Crescent

Adelaide Crescent

brighton bulldozer

brighton bulldozer

Sport! – What is it good for?

Just Another Corporate Logo

Just Another Corporate Logo

The Man On The Radio (TMOTR) said that, years ago, lack of funds had meant the British Olympic effort was quite amateurish whereas now, thanks to Lottery funding, we can afford the best trainers, the bet “sports scientists” and the best equipment. Consequently we have one of the best medal counts after China and the U.S, countries which also throw money at sport.

I suspect that most countries have more sense than money these days and so can’t afford this sort of behaviour. However, once the world economy picks up, perhaps the competition for the best will increase? Perhaps the Germans will decide that they must “invest” limitless funds in their team? Maybe they will try and attract the best trainers from the British or Chinese? If this happens then Olympics sport will become very much like Premier League football with personnel changing teams solely for money.

Except the athletes, of course, they must be nationals of the country in whose team they compete. But even here there is wriggle room. The Daily Mail recently ran an article about “Plastic Brits” claiming that Ukrainian wrestler Olga Butkevych only received her UK passport a couple of months prior to the start of the 2012 Olympics. The Daily Mail has a reputation for xenophobia but, though they may overstate the case, some athletes do change nationality in order to get a place in Olympics teams. It was the Daily Mail who helped start this trend when they persuaded the father of South African runner Zola Budd to encourage her to apply for British citizenship in order to compete for Britain in the 1984 Olympics.

If we are to run National Olympic teams as if they are multi-national corporations then why not? Better still, let’s throw away these idiotic scruples about commercialism and let the sponsors fund Olympic teams directly? Coca Cola could do a deal with a small bankrupt country, such as Greece, to bail them out providing that the Greeks relax their immigration rules and allow citizenship for the world’s best athletes. The athletes would need to be paid higher salaries than other countries in order to overcome their heartfelt nationalistic fervour.

At a stroke we would have achieved the rebirth of the Greek Olympic tradition as well as digging them out of their current economic funk. Greece would leapfrog the UK to the top of the medal table of corporate nations which have allowed hyper-commercialism to displace democracy. Faust was small fry compared to this!

st malo beach

St Malo Beach

Robots on Mars

A million to one

A million to one

There is talk in the press of the Chinese space program and recently they put their first woman into space. The suggestion is that they are catching up and surpassing the work of the United States. Don’t you believe it. Sure the Chinese are putting people in space and good luck to them. They have learned from the the U.S, the Soviets and the rest of the world and will be using modern technology to shortcut their path into space.

Within the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) there has long been a debate over whether the U.S. should pursue manned or robotic space flight. There are arguments on both sides. Manned space flight is far more thrilling and, some say, more flexible leading to greater discoveries. But robots are cheap and the technology is getting better every day.

You can throw up a lot of robots for the price of a manned flight. Consider that it is now possible for ordinary men and women to build contraptions which approach the boundaries of space using consumer technology such as iPhones, Video cameras and helium balloons. Then consider that the British attempted a mars landing which very nearly succeeded in 2003 for just £44 million!

Next Monday, the 6th August 2012 at 5:31am GMT another Mars landing is scheduled to occur. The NASA Mars Science Laboratory will deposit a rover named Curiosity with objectives including determining Mars’ habitability.

Mars explorers brace for Curiosity rover's 'seven minutes of terror'

Curiosity

But this will be a landing like no other. The spacecraft will drop through the thin Martian atmosphere in much the same way as the old Apollo capsules returned to Earth. It will trail a parachute to slow it down but after that, the fun begins. Once the spacecraft has slowed sufficiently, the lander will drop from the outer shell and fire rocket engines enabling it to fly across the surface of mars to locate a suitable landing site. Once this is located the machine will hover and lower a rover vehicle via cables onto the surface. The cables will then detach and the “flyer” will zoom off and crash leaving the rover pristine on the surface of mars. Fan-bloody-tastic!

As radio waves take around 20 minutes to travel from Earth to Mars it is not possible for all this to be accomplished via remote control and so onboard computers will handle all decision making. Site selection, time to release the flyer, time to drop the lander. The lot. As if all this were not enough Curiosity has a laser to vaporise small quantities of rock enabling fast analysis and selection of sites where it will deploy it’s drill.

Good luck to the Chinese with their space program but, though the yanks may not be pursuing manned spaceflight, they clearly are pushing the technology for robotic exploration.

Star House

Star House

Militarising the Olympics

Militaristic?

The arrival of the head of the British armed forces

It can be no mystery to followers of Talking Bollocks that I abhor sport. Sure I dabble at sailing but mainly for the fresh air and pretty colours. If truth be known, the sound I find most irritating is that of an overexcited football commentator bawling his stupid head off because a man in shorts has kicked a ball into a large net.

Last Friday I arranged to meet some friends at a pub in London and was told that we had a table and could watch the Olympics Games opening ceremony starting at 9pm. My heart sank. The installation of TV in pubs is a disaster to rank alongside the invention of marketing and I anticipated an evening watching boring people do boring things.

I arrived early and we had a few drinks. The ceremony started with a lot of silly shepherds and I mainly ignored it. I shall not bother you with the cliched story of how my interest was, at first piqued, and then enthralled. Early commentary had contrasted the London extravaganza with the opening ceremony in Beijing four years earlier which was said to be a very militaristic affair. I applauded the difference. I loved the anarchic, individualistic, irreverence of London. In short I ended the evening in a state of over-sentimental patriotic idiocy as was, no doubt, the intention of the now God-like Danny Boil.

I am not now converted to the cause of sport but I have been paying more attention than I would normally have done and it seems to be going reasonably well. If nothing else it has achieved something I have long wished for which is the eradication of the surfeit of tourists in our capital city.

I have heard that many Olympic events have left numerous seats unoccupied and and that the army have been called upon to fill the seats. I guess this was inevitable after they were called in to handle security. It does seem to be setting a pattern though especially as The Queen is head of the British Armed forces and was escorted to the opening ceremony by a (fictional) Royal Navy Commander.

I wonder……since the failure to supply adequate refreshment at several equestrienne events, why not get the army in to do the catering too? In fact…..after today’s banning of several badminton players, perhaps we might even start replacing individual competitors with soldiers? Danny Boyle and Sebastian Coe could be given honorary ranks in the SAS and, by the time of the closing ceremony, we might achieve a 100% militarised Games?

The British have a general tendency to drag up The Second World War at the drop of a hat and, now I think back, didn’t I hear the strains of either 633 Squadron or The Damn Busters during the opening performance? Perhaps the contrast with the Beijing games is not so great after all?

Yachts

Yachts

Life, Death and Vanilla Slices at RopeTackle Arts Centre

Jenny Eclair - Can't believe they let her fill her car with petrol

Jenny Eclair – Can’t believe they let her fill her car with petrol

Tuesday evening Jenny Eclair spoke about her new book, ‘Life, Death & Vanilla Slices’ at Ropetackle Art Centre in Shoreham.

Arriving in Shoreham just before 7pm, I drove around looking for what I expected would be a crusty nautical themed building. I stopped and asked a couple who pointed to the modern block of flats towering over me with RopeTackle written down the side. Ah, it’s there is it.

Inside Ms. Eclair was being introduced and when she came on her style was buoyant, irreverent and self deprecating. One feels as if one knows her from her TV and radio appearances. Her colourful speech, embellished with the odd “fuck”, “ball bag” and “Perimenopause” gave the middle class, middle aged, middle Englanders a thrill that had one woman tittering most of the way through. Which is as it should be because, though this demographic is the butt of her humour, it is also where her empathy and humanity seem to lie.

During her introduction Ms. Eclair joked about how she had been discarded from the cast of Loose Women and she seems genuinely to regret this as she used to  get a free breakfast at the ITV canteen and could be home by 2pm.

Ms. Eclair  then read excerpts from the book. On the face of it there is not much to it. A woman living in London gets called back home to the North to attend her mother who has had an accident. However her prose is peppered with cynical, witty observations about middle classed life and “Women of a certain age” and various asides leads me to think that this is not just a humours book. The story deals with a crisis which any of us might face and the structure has  two narrators, one of whom is unconscious. The last time I heard of anyone attempting this was a novel by Phillip K. Dick entitled Ubik.

After the reading Ms. Eclair took questions which set her off on excellent tangents such as revealing that every time she fills her car with petrol she can’t believe they are letting her do this!

Her new book is named Life, Death & Vanilla Slices and as is published by Sphere.

st malo beach

St Malo Beach