Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Parliament - Prime Order (Micro Mix)

A Plague on Evangelical Vegetarians

vegetarianism: the higher taste
Image by robpurdie via Flickr
I appreciate that almost all of us have things we believe in, or traditions we have carried on for years, or political or social goals that we believe, deep down, if the rest of the world thought and did the same the same as us then the rest of the world would be a far better place. Personally, I would like to see a much broader appreciation of hard rock music, the introduction of Neal Gaiman's Sandman as a compulsory part of all English literature courses and the police to be allowed to arrest any adult caught wearing a tracksuit in public when the wearing of said clothing is not immediately related to a sporting event. But that's just me.

I know a lot of people get upset at people who have faith, they hate proselytizing. The very worst single belief people though are the ardent vegetarians and associated animal rights folk. Theirs is the one and only true path, they have achieved perfection and nirvana in their views and all others, meat eaters and leather weathers in particular, are unthinking souls lost in the limbo of uncaring and harmful ways. Yet, they can be saved, especially if you bang on about it for long enough.

My views on vegetarianism and its ultra orthodox relative veganism are the same as my views on religion. I am quite happy for you to hold whatever view you want, but once you have stated your view and someone else has stated they are not in agreement you should not persevere with explaining your viewpoint until the cows come home – of their own accord, only if they wish to spend the night in a barn, and not to be cruelly exploited for the purposes of extracting the precious gift that is mother’s milk.

Militant vegetarians always try to claim a moral high ground by continually pointing out the various cruelties involved in meat production. They do so though by always taking the most extreme examples they can find. Whilst engaged in a rather one sided ‘discussion’ recently I was repeatedly informed that if I would only watch a particular YouTube video showing chicken factory workers being cruel to their flock then I would never want to eat chicken again. This is false and fuzzy logic, I have in fact seen the footage in question and what I desire after seeing it is for nasty people to stop being unnecessarily cruel to chickens and using them as footballs. Not for a moment does this sort of thing turn me off from being a meat eater; a ‘lovely roast hen with Yorkshires and gravy’ is still on the menu for me.

If you wanted to show the health and farming benefits of being wholly or partly vegetarianism I would be much more willing to listen. I think the Meat Free Monday movement is quite a decent idea, there are lots of us who should perhaps eat less meat and less extensive and intensive animal rearing would be beneficial in parts of the world. Perhaps the idea could be extended into Fish Only Friday and Tofu Thursday, but only if people want to join in.

I dislike the way some vegetarians try to demonise meat eating, the whole Meat Is Murder moral high ground thinking is rubbish. People are not evil because they enjoy a bacon butty or Big Mac. They might not be particularly well educated about the meat they eat though, so there is always room for education.

People should be allowed to eat meat, meat is wonderful. Last night chef Rob and myself made some slow honey and chilli slow braised belly pork with crackling and it was truly wonderful. As some fundamentalist vegans would have it though, this was the act of two evil men; an innocent animal lost its life just to provide a family with a meal.

I will be quite honest here, and this is the bit that might upset some people. I hold that animals and people are two different things. Animals are not people, they do not have to be accorded the same rights and respect that I would grant to any human. However, I see no reason at all why any food animal should be put to any unnecessary suffering. Beasts farmed for food should live decent lives free from pain and suffering and the killing should be accomplished in the most humane manner possible.

Many of us should perhaps eat less meat, bought from less intensive farming styles. Yorkshire Dales lamb would be an example of a good choice due to its non-intensive farming methods, while artificially fattened beef is less good. Neither of these, nor hardly any other meat choice is evil. The moral high ground claimed by the militant vegetarians is not a high ground at all; they have taken a value judgement and made a decision based on their own moral standards, as I have done. Neither of us stands above the other in moral terms, it only looks that way from your narrow point of view.

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School Photo

A rather sweet short film about school photo day.


Ham Bikini Bouncing Explosions Mayhem!

Coca-Cola Wormhole (Vidvent Calendar Day 2)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baseball ?

Русский: Том Стоппард на приёме в честь россий...
Tom Stoppard
"I don't think I can be expected to take seriously any game which takes less than three days to reach its conclusion" - Sir Tom Stoppard talking about baseball and cricket.
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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Two Minute Zombie Movie

Too Late from Side Films

Songs of Joyce - My Girl's a Yorkshire Girl

My Girl's A Yorkshire Girl

Yorkshire Rose
Image by jo-h via Flickr
Two young fellows were talking about
Their girls, girls, girls —
Sweethearts they'd left behind,
Sweethearts for whom they pined.
One said, "My little shy little lass
Has a waist so trim and small.
Gray are her eyes so bright,
But best, best of all...

"My girl's a Yorkshire girl —
Yorkshire through and through.
My girl's a Yorkshire girl,
Eh! by gum, she's a champion!
Though she's a factory lass
And wears no fancy clothes,
Still I've a sort of a Yorkshire relish
For my little Yorkshire Rose."

When the first finished singing the praise
Of Rose, Rose, Rose,
Poor number two looked vexed,
Saying in tones perplexed:
"My lass works in a factory too
And has also eyes of gray;
Her name is Rose as well,
And strange, strange to say...

"My girl's a Yorkshire girl —
Yorkshire through and through.
My girl's a Yorkshire girl,
Eh! by gum, she's a champion!
Though she's a factory lass
And wears no fancy clothes,
Still I've a sort of a Yorkshire relish
For my little Yorkshire Rose."

To a cottage in Yorkshire they hied
To Rose, Rose, Rose,
Meaning to make it clear
Which was the boy most dear.
Rose, their Rose, didn't answer the bell,
But her husband did instead.
Loudly he sang to them
As off, off they fled...

"My girl's a Yorkshire girl —
Yorkshire through and through
My girl's a Yorkshire girl,
Eh! by gum, she's a champion!
Though she's a factory lass
And wears no fancy clothes,
Still I've a sort of a Yorkshire relish
For my little Yorkshire rose.

For my little Yorkshire Rose."  - Words and music by C.W. Murphy and Dan Lipton

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Official Kiss Kiss Music Video - Popstar Trishii

(Found by Shan)

The Blog Isn't Dead...

Antony and Cleopatra, bas relief
Image via Wikipedia
...but it came close this time.

I know I've been rather non-existent on the blogging front for nearly a month, a busy period at work, uni work and then our annual holiday all got in the way.  The holiday was wonderful, we spent two weeks in Florida and did all the touristy things including the Universal theme parks, Gatorland, watching the Mars mission being launched and, er, shooting a Glock handgun. Not at anybody you understand.

After Florida we spent a weekend at the UK's premier classic/hard rock festival, Hard Rock Hell, drank slightly too much, got a new tattoo and heard some great, and hugely loud, bands.  Magnum, Black Stone Cherry, Therapy?, Michael Monroe, Voodoo Six, Quireboys, Wolfsbane, Kobra and the Lotus and a host of other bands made it a great weekend.  We have booked our tickets for next year's festival already as they tend to sell out rather early.

I got some rather good news from The Open University yesterday, I passed my foundation module with flying colours and received a Distinction.  I managed seven maximum scores from the eight marking points and a good score on the online multi-choice exam.

Now that I am a quarter of the way through the 60 point module AA100 The Arts Past and Present, I am very glad that I did the foundation module as nearly all the work we did on art, poetry and history is highly relevant to this course as well.  My first essays on this course, on Plutarch's view of the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra, and a critical comparison of the styles of Cezanna and Zurbaran, were both marked as being only a fraction short of Distinction level so I am really pleased with that as well.  The second essay, a re-write and reflective analysis of the Plutarch essay I handed in while on holiday. The next essays are on Michael Faraday, and a critical analysis of some poetry about cats, due in the first week of January 2012
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Wagner - The Greatest Hoax

English: W. Somerset Maugham British writer
W Somerset Maugham

"But Siegfried! When he mentioned it Professor Erlin leaned his head on his hand and bellowed with laughter. Not a melody in it from beginning to end! He could imagine Richard Wagner sitting in his box and laughing till his sides ached at the sight of all the people who were taking it seriously. It was the greatest hoax of the nineteenth century." - Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham.
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Son Of The Groom Speech

For those who were unable to be at Dad and Shirley's wedding...

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the wedding celebration of Jack and Shirley Jarvis.

I would like to thank you all for being here, especially those of you who knew I’d be saying a few words – it’s very touching that you’re still in the room.

When Father asked me to do this speech, he said he was looking for someone with right amount of decorum, the correct gravitas, somebody with a sense of propriety, a man who understood decency and decorum and whose style of formal ceremonial speech would complement and underline the occasion, however, he conceded his best friends were the likes of Graham Walker and Mike Exley so that was unlikely, and even if knew anybody else of that ilk he couldn’t afford their services and so as a back up would I do it for free.

No problem, as now as I have almost 15 years of the marriage experience, I thought I might be in the position to offer the happy couple some general advice.

As I said, I have now been married, oh hang on, Meg’s been editing my speech. I have now been HAPPILY married, what’s that dear ? Sorry, I have been VERY HAPPILY MARRIED for almost 15 years now.

Actually, this reminds me of a story, we were flying on holiday and the lady in seat next to Meg was admiring her ring.

“Yes” said “It’s the famous Jarvis diamond, but it comes with a terrible curse”

“Oh what’s that ?” asked the lady.

“Mr Jarvis” my wife replied.

Strange but on the same holiday I managed to get lost in the airport, realising I had gone missing Meg went to the assistance point and said she had lost her husband.

“What does he look like ?” said the assistant.

Meg replied “He’s about 6’6”, a body like a bronzed Adonis and the features of a young George Clooney.”

The lady pulled up a picture of me on the cctv and said was this her husband.

“Yes” said Meg.

“But” said the lady, “this man is 5’4” with a pot belly, a frankly ridiculous beard and looks like Lemmy from Motorhead.”

“I know” said Meg, “but who wants him back “

I asked my good friend Phil Baxendale if he had any experiences he could pass on as a married man and he told me this story of his own wedding. Apparently Michelle was very nervous on their wedding day and afraid she might get something wrong at church. Phil said “It’s very simple dear, just remember that first comes the aisle, because that’s what we’ll be walking down down, second comes the altar, because that’s where we’ll be standing, and finally comes the hymn, because that’s what we’ll be singing.”

And how did that work ? I asked Phil.

Not so good he replied, when we got to the front of the church all I could hear was Michelle muttering Aisle – alter – him , aisle – alter – him.

Now, a recent holiday survey showed that the items that appeared most often in the luggage of young newlyweds were

an industrial sized tub of KY jelly

a rampant rabbit personal pleasure device and

a kinky nurses costume

Whilst the items that appeared most often in the luggage of older newlyweds were

an industrial sized tub of Deep Heat

a Johnson & Johnson personal support truss and

a nurses outfit, complete with heart monitor and defibrillation machine

some older couples also took along a dirty movie, not so much to get them in the mood as to remind them what they were supposed to be doing.

This does remind me of the wedding day of my Great Great Grandfather Wilfred, at the wedding breakfast his rather elderly bride turned to him and said

“Tonight I’m going to give you super sex”

Great Great Grandfather thought for a moment and then replied “I think I’ll have the soup.”

Ok, this has been a load of daftness, but to conclude I would like to recall the final words of my Great Great Grandfather Wilf. I was a young boy, and the family were all gathered around Wilf’s hospital bed, he lay there with his oxygen mask on, and he began struggling for breath and indicated with his hands that he would like a paper and pen. With these he scribbled a few words which he passed to me, and then the poor old soul expired.

Dad turned to me with a tear in his eye and said, what did he say Mike.

I look down at the paper and solemnly read out to the assembled family.

It says “You’re standing on my oxygen tube.”

Now, to be properly serious, I would like to take this opportunity to formally welcome Shirley into the Jarvis clan, and I’m very sorry but we don’t get any more serious than this.

And now ladies and gentleman, if you would charge your glasses, I would like to propose a toast, to the much loved and respected patriarch of the Jarvis clan, and to the equally much loved and respected most recent addition to our family, Jack and Shirley Jarvis…

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review : Swiss Family Robinson - Johann David Wyss 2*

I was hoping that this would be more in the Crusoe vein, but it isn't, it's tripe.

The Robinson family get shipwrecked on a bountiful coast containing a menagerie of wildlife from various continents, all of whom appear overly eager to hurl themselves on the family's hunting spears whenever they get peckish. Indeed, the life at the shipwreck point is so rich and varied that they hardly seem to eat the same meal twice.

Within a year the family have established a system of irrigated farms, have built a number of homes, have domesticated half the animal population of the area and then bump into the natives - read; savages - of the area who have not managed to do any of these things.  The author though understands full well why the locals have not reached shipwrecked Europeans standards of living, it is obviously because as they are black / savages / natives / brown skinned, they are obviously uneducated.

I disliked this book all the way through, every mild problem the family encounter is solved with overwhelming efficiency, almost nothing appeared believable.  If you want a decent historical shipwreck story go for Crusoe.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Babes Of Eve - Orlanui

"Look, it's a long flight of many warps from Dresi to Attyn, what else have I got to do but stalk other pilots ?" - China Flex

Babes Of Eve

ZZ01shagsme here has a bit of a Natalie Portman in Star Wars look about her, but I do hope that Shagsme's gaming skills are better than Miss Portman's acting. 

Eve Rules Of Combat

Eve Online: Apocrypha - Rokh

1. If the enemy is in range, so are you.

2. The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions:

· when you're ready for them.

· when you're not ready for them.

3. Teamwork is essential, it gives them someone else to shoot at.

4. If your attack is going well, you have walked into a trap.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot

Religion vs. Spirituality

Tenzin Gyatso gives a characteristic hands-rai...Image via Wikipedia"Actually, I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality.  Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims of salvation of one faith tradition or another, an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of metaphysical or supernatural reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or nirvana. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayer and so on. Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit - such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony - which bring happiness both to self and others. While ritual and prayer, along with questions of nirvana and salvation, are directly connected to religious faith, these inner qualities need not be, however."

- the Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millenium, Riverhead Books, 1999, p22, quoted in Clive Erricker, Teach Yourself Buddhism, Hodder Education, London, 2008.
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Pretty As A Picture ?

4 Wise Men

Closed Market Stalls Amsterdam

Sea View From Dunstanburgh Castle

Alnmouth Beach

This was back in August. Meg took me on a day trip to show me some of the places that her parents used to take her as a child.  Alnmouth beach is lovely, hard flat sand and lots of interesting rock pools, and a golf course on which you almost tee off from the sand.

Ellie At The Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Exposed: Media fabricated 'empty tents' story at OccupyLSX

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Rudeness Of Atheists

Pope Benedictus XVI
Pope Benedictus XVI
I became involved in a discussion last week on my Christian beliefs, and as at many times before when I have stated my belief in God, I was immediately verbally attacked and in quite rude terms.  I find this quite a lot, there seem to be quite a lot of people who cannot feel secure in their own atheism without being quite astonishingly abusive and deliberately attacking my faith.

I do consider myself a Christian, I believe in God and Jesus, I am not a fervent follower and won't be proselytizing in order to try and convince you to accept my set of beliefs.  I really don't mind if you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, agnostic, a white witch or actively bow down and worship Accrington Stanley FC.  I do find though that a fair number of people who profess to be atheist have to attack you for not sharing their life view.

The discussion was one of those rambling after dinner chats when one of the diners said to me "You believe in God don't you ?", I replied that I did.  The follow up comment is sadly fairly typical "I find it hard to believe that any so called intelligent person can believe in religion." My response to this rather rude outburst was to say that there are many far more intelligent people than me who also believe in God, but the attack had to carry on and try to poke holes in my belief and to 'prove' that I was foolish for so believing.

If this situation was turned around and I was fairly rude to people on other topics, for example let's say I verbally attacked fellow diners for having children, thereby increasing the already almost insupportable world population, draining our resources faster, damaging the ecosystem and bringing the world perilously close to an ecological tipping point.  If I said this, and added that I was astonished that any so called intelligent person could have children, I feel fairly sure that people would be rather offended and the likelihood of me being invited round for dinner again would be somewhat diminished.  In modern British society though it has become acceptable to attack religion, in almost any terms you wish to employ, and for that to be accepted as a reasonable way to behave.

Why are some atheists so intolerant ? What is it about what I do and believe that angers them so much.  I go to church once in a blue flood, I pray more often when I'm out in the countryside hiking or running, there is something in the beauty of nature that calls to my faith.  I have been reading the Bible, and I am interested in learning more about religion, not just my own, what is there in this simple set of actions that so angers some non-believers ? I really cannot see that I am doing anything that should bother anyone or cause any sort of offence.

Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the UK, at ...
Jonathan Sacks
On his visit to the UK last the Pope warned of the threat of the "more aggressive forms of secularism" that he perceived in British society.  Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, warned in July this year of the growing, and state sponsored, religious intolerance in the UK.  In Wakefield a housing worker of 15 years good standing was sacked for displaying a palm cross on his van, what sort of intolerant buffoon is offended because the electrician who comes to fix his faulty fuse box wears a cross, a star of David, a turban or nips out for a prayer break instead of a tea break ?

I would like to reiterate that if you are an atheist, I am quite happy with that, I don't see the need to bother you about it. I don't profess to have all the answers to life and the universe, I cannot explain to you the mysteries of cancer, Alzheimer's or any other illness you bring up in the "If this disease exists then there can be no God" argument, I am not a professor of theology.  I'm just a cook who also happens to believe in God, why does that offend you so ?
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

People Listen To This For Pleasure ?!

My kitchen normally chugs along to the noise of angry sounding young people bellowing over a crescendo of wailing guitars and pounding drum rhythms, yesterday though as I pressed on to the next part of my humanities course, the fat lady sang.

Giuseppe VerdiCover of Giuseppe VerdiTo be more accurate, she wasn't fat at all, I was just repeating an overly used jibe about opera, but like many people, I suspect that quote and a vague image of large men in tight fitting costumes is about my sum knowledge of opera.  Yesterday I was introduced to Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Donizetti and Luzzaschi, and I must admit, it was not an easy introduction.

I have no problem with listening to songs in another language, alongside the excellent German singing Rammstein I have a fair few bands whose singing language is either not English, or in some of the more extreme metal bands, possibly not human.

There is a quality to this operatic singing though that sends a shiver right through me, and not in a good way. To be even more precise, I can get along with the male singers, but the high pitched warbling effect favoured by the female vocalists is jarring and unpleasent to my ears. 

So far on the course I have gained knowledge of a good many art forms and historical figures about whom I previously knew very little, and the more I learn the more I seem to appreciate them, with the exception of Stalin, who was a git.  I have not come across anything so far though that has been so hateful at first contact and that has left me with the feeling that if I never encounter it again, I will be the happier for it.

Opera is regarded by many as being difficult and elitist, an art form reserved for, and appreciated by a narrow band of the upper classes.  As with many things regarded as being elitist, half the case is that access to opera, as with many things considered somewhat exclusive, is actually quite easy, anyone can download, cheaply or for free, a reasonable selection of music, and if you have the money you can buy a ticket for a gig.  What seems to be harder to come by though is an appreciation for the art form.  I am listening to (I think) Maria Callas warbling her way though a bit of Verdi's La Traviata, and to be perfectly honest, I just wish she'd stop.

Oh well, I will just have to apply our old Scout motto, POR - Press On Regardless.
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stalin's Giving Me A Hard Time

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later, I have reached a part of the degree course that I did not find easy.  I dare say as I add modules and move on to stage 2 and 3 work I'm going to find quite a lot of the work quite hard, but until the Stalin chapter yesterday everything seemed to be going quite well.

Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev, January 1936.
Krushchev and Stalin

Our task in the Stalin chapter of Reputations is to examine the myth of Stalin, both the story he built up about himself, and then the counter-myth spun by Krushchev, this is done by examining the conclusions of different historians.  This is a very different way to learn history than I am used to, this isn't at all the rote learning of dates and events I can remember from school, along with the very definite 'this is what happened' approach. The methods we are being trained to use to examine history is much more 'so X occured, but the reason might be Y according to Smith, or Z according to Jones', and then it's up to us to sort it out.

I have managed to complete the Stalin chapter, and did all the exercises within, but it was tough going, and when I read the suggested answers for each question, I had not made half so many connections and conclusions as I had been doing in the earlier parts of the course.

There isn't an essay to do on Stalin, for which I am quite grateful.  My Cleopatra essay is almost completed, just the bibliography to do, and I have my Cezanne vs. Zurburan essay in rough form ready to copy up. Looking to the next chapter of the course, it's music, focusing on the diva, and taking in Maria Callas, Madonna, Puccini and Luzzaschi, who as far as I am aware at the moment, plays inside left for AC Milan.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wagner, Dead As Mutton

Caricature of Richard Wagner Cover of L'Eclips...Image via Wikipedia
"I tell you young people that before the nineteenth century is out Wagner will be as dead as mutton. Wagner! I would give all his works for one opera by Donizetti."
"But Siegfried! When he mentioned it Professor Erlin leaned his head on his hand and bellowed with laughter. Not a melody in it from beginning to end! He could imagine Richard Wagner sitting in his box and laughing till his sides ached at the sight of all the people who were taking it seriously. It was the greatest hoax of the nineteenth century." - Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

ICC Dinner & Wine Night

A green wine grape.Image via WikipediaThe food cooked by Dave, Richard, Owen & Callum, Maitre D'd by Liz, and served by Ellie and Rae of this parish, was wonderful.  Seriously folks, hats off to you, I think you did a quite remarkable job cooking a five course meal for 50 people from what is really just a standard home, non-commercial, kitchen, I was most impressed.

The ICC wine nights are a fund raising event for the cricket club, always popular and very well supported, where a team of very hard working volunteers cook and serve the food, and a selection of 'wine experts' select and present a wine to go with each course.  I got to choose the dessert wine (with a fabulous budget of £6 a bottle), and my presentation ran like this....

"Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a wine, the grapes for which are grown only in a single, near inaccessible valley in the Nava De Roda hills of the Ribero Del Duoro wine region in Southern Spain.

Lavish care and attention is spent on the grape vines, grape tenders camp out in the valley ensuring that each vine receives exactly the amount of water it needs and keeping the vines clear of pests. The grape tenders have to be somewhat accomplished at a musical instrument, for wine grower Jesus Montilla is convinced that the grapes grow riper with music, preferring light classical music in the growing season, and a little flamenco as the grapes ripen.

The Moscatel grapes are only picked at night, during the first frosts of Autumn, and only after being blessed by the bishop of Valencia. They are then transported in padded baskets on the backs of mules, at the winery each grape is inspected for ripeness and any that do not pass Jesus Montilla’s exacting requirements are rejected.

The grapes are then gently trod beneath the feet of young girls, filtered, and barrelled for two years before being bottled. The resulting wine is said to taste somewhere between sexual ecstasy and religious revelation, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is not that wine.

However, there is another wine, grown in vast quantities on the plains of Valencia, where the grapes are watered by the urine of passing goats who are herded by the infamous winemaker Pablo Ossario. They say that if you are downwind of Pablo that on a breezy day you can smell his BO in Madrid, on a bad day in Portugal. Pablo seasons his goat piss tinted grapes by spitting regularly and heartily into the fermenting vat, and because Pablo can’t be bothered waiting for the grapes to really ripen he sweetens the resulting wine with antifreeze (which is only rumoured to cause cancer in lab rats). This pale green, sometimes lumpy and frankly repellent vintage is bottled in stolen Marks & Spencer bottles and shipped to the UK to be aimed at the slapper & chav Lambrini girls market.

This ladies and gentlemen, is that wine, cheers."

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Greetings From Amsterdam

The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem v...Image via Wikipedia We're here just having a quick four day break, my first consecutive days off since April I think.  The flight was fine, we had to take a bus from Schipol to catch a train from another station to get into Amsterdam, but that was fine. There was an arse in suit playing hell with the ticket guy and demanding to know why they hadn't informed people in advance of the change of plans, but really, what's he supposed to do, phone everyone in Europe and say "Hey, if you're coming to Amsterdam on Sunday there are some engineering works on the lone so you'll have to catch a bus and that will hold you up by 20 minutes." The thing is, sometimes people in suits are dicks.

Amsterdam on arrival was much like Ilkley, mostly raining.  We had arrived later than decent restaurants open on a Sunday and ended up in a burger place where one half of the customers looked like drug dealers and the other half appeared to be the end of week get together of the Amsterdam National Front.  There's something about groups of skinheads that always makes me mildly nervous.

This morning though the city showed itself in a better light. After sleeping in until 8.30am, and there's a rare treat in itself, we had breakfast at the hotel and then set off on a bus tour of the city.  Meg fancied looking round a diamond workshop and so we looked at the beautiful, glittering and expensive things for a while, and then she said she could stand being bored for a bit and allowed me to drag her around the Rijksmuseum.

I was rather impressed with the collection of Dutch masters and the demonstration the art provided of what an impressive trade and military power the Dutch Republic was.  The museum is having a refit for the next couple of years and the display space has been vastly cut down, but the art on display is a visually stunning Dutch greatest hits parade, including the almost overpowering and vast 'Night Watch.'

After a quick lunch we took a canal cruise around more of the city, including the river and a cruise past the vast river cruise ships and the old sailing ships, the we had a walk around the fringes of the red light district and Chinatown.  Dinner was a huge pile of noodles and Peking duck, then a few pints of Heineken back at the hotel.

Tomorrow ? We haven't quite decided yet, but the floating flower market and Anne Frank's house are possibles.
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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Basho by HokusaiImage via Wikipedia'A chili-pepper,
give it wings,
a red dragonfly' - Basho

'Pull of the wings of a red dragonfly,
a chili-pepper' - Kikakou

Pic - Basho by Hokusai
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Sunday, October 02, 2011

Diary Of A University Student Aged 44

Corporate logo of Leeds Metropolitan Universit...For better or for worse then, introductory course Y-180 is a wrap.  I have submitted my assessment essay on Chris Ofili's mixed media painting Afrodizzia, I have done the multi-choice online exam and that is it, the course is complete.  All I have to do now is sit back and wait for the result and hopefully 15 points of the 360 I require to get a degree.

Except...I'm not sitting back and waiting because I signed up for a 60 point module, AA 100 - The Arts Past And Present, and as the Openings module ended, the new one began.

On Saturday I became a proper student as along with a largish crowd of fellow Open University students I attended our induction day event in the Rose Bowl at Leeds Metropolitan University.  A number of the Yorkshire (Region 7) students had contacted each other via Facebook, and so wet met up, slightly nervously, at Leeds Station before trooping off en masse to an actual brick Uni.

I know the first course was proper study, but this course feels more real after meeting fellow students face to face as well as getting to meet our course tutor.  Now, the Open Uni has rules about talking about tutors but I think it's alright if I say that our tutor seems decidedly forthright, blunt even, but in a very honest and helpful way.  I think he has left us in no doubt of what we need to do to pass this module, what we need to do to pass this module with flying colours, and what sort of things we should avoid to avoid looking like complete muppets - handing in 5,000 word count essays when the question asked for 500 for example.

I had a flutter of unease during the tutor introduction session, but not to do with this course, it was just that as the tutor explained why we must remove the 'I' from our essays I was thinking back to what I had written in my essay on Afrodizzia and wondering whether there might be a bit too much of myself in it.

Now, I know that some of my fellow students may well read this as my blog posts to Facebook, and I do want to panic anybody who might be struggling with the coursework, but...I was a bit worried when I took on this degree work that it might be too challenging for me, that I might struggle with the work and fall behind.  The opposite seems to ring true, well, its either that or I'm failing to understand the work.  I know that I have not quite nailed the art of the academic essay style yet, partly because I am far too used to writing in a chatty and informal style, but that will come with a bit more practise.  My first tutor also kept giving me a great bit advice - get in close to the subject.  I realise that I have a tendency to stand back a bit and look at the topic in overview, to try and drag in extra information and expand on the question asked. Practise should make better here if not perfect, read the question very carefully, and then, very carefully, answer the question that was asked.

I love all the work.  Our tutor said we can't possibly enjoy everything, but so far I have, the 1st World War Poetry was moving and powerful, Chartist history opened up for me a part of history I knew nothing about but was glad to learn, and the art, oh wow, the art is fantastic.

Scientist Michael FaradayWhen I started this, I was pretty sure that a degree in English Literature was the one for me, after all, I read loads of books so it should only follow that my main strength and interest would lie in literature right ? I still love Eng Lit, but some of the art sets me ablaze.  Before learning about techniques, meaning, and especially context, I was content to look at art and judge it on whether I liked it or not, which is at the base level what everyone does.  When I can learn about the back stories to, and history of people like Picasso and Cezanne though it makes their paintings come alive for me, I can identify with what they saw and what they were trying to achieve, why they painted in the way they did.

Eyes down then, time to both study and enjoy it, our first theme is reputations and the people we are studying are a fantastically diverse group, Cleopatra, Christopher Marlowe, Paul Cezanne, Michael Faraday, Joseph Stalin, Madonna (the pop singer), Maria Callas and the Dalai Lama. It's all great, I'm sure I will hit a point when the work becomes a struggle, when my comprehension leads me astray and I need to phone my tutor and say "Help", but for now, I love the work, I love the way the OU and the modules work, everything is wonderful.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Did The Enlightenment Fail ?

Jurgen HabermasImage via Wikipedia
Jurgen Habermas
"Enlightenment thinkers still had the extravagant expectation that the arts and sciences would promote not only the control of natural forces, but would also further understanding of the world and of the self, would promote moral progress, the justice of institutions, and even the happiness of human beings. The 20th Century has shattered this optimism...Should we try to hold on to the intentions of the Enlightenment, feeble as they may be, or should we declare the entire project of modernity as a lost cause ?" - Jurgen Habermas, "Modernity versus Postmodernity" in New Left Critique, 22 (Winter 1981)
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is This Land The Nurse That Bred Thy Soul ?

Seneca, part of double-herm in Antikensammlung...Image via Wikipedia
"Declare with speed what spot you claim by birth. Or with this club fall stricken to the earth! This club hath ofttimes slaughtered haughty kings! Why mumble unintelligible things? What land, what tribe produced that shaking head? Declare it! On my journey when I sped Far to the Kingdom of the triple King, And from the Main Hesperian did bring The goodly cattle to the Argive town, There I beheld a mountain looking down Upon two rivers: this the Sun espies Right opposite each day he doth arise. Hence, mighty Rhone, thy rapid torrents flow, And Arar, much in doubt which way to go, Ripples along the banks with shallow roll. Say, is this land the nurse that bred thy soul?" - from Apocolocyntosis by Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Suspect A Stroke ? Act FAST

Suspect a stroke? Act FAST

What is FAST?

FAST requires an assessment of three specific symptoms of stroke.

Facial weakness - can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?

Arm weakness - can the person raise both arms?

Speech problems - can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

Time to call 999

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, sculpture by Puerta de ...Image via Wikipedia

Then Hercules said, "You just listen to me, and stop playing the fool. You have come to the place where the mice nibble iron." Apocolocyntosis, Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

Pic - Sculpture of Lucius Annaeus Seneca by Puerto De Almodovar in Cordoba.

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Cezanne vs. Zurbaran

Cezanne's Jug and fruit

Zurbaran's Still life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose

Fight !