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Home | 2017 | November

Scrapbook for November 2017

29.11.2017 – Don't worry, be happy

In late 2014 a small pension pot paid out to me. For the first time in my life I was liquid – well, er… slightly damp. This little pot has got to be invested, I thought, can't just blow it on the usual human frailties.

Stocks? Nah. The whole market was clearly about to crash, it just couldn't go any higher (e.g. Apple then: $112, now: $172). Bitcoin? That's just a casino game – it won't last (then: $200, now: $10,600). Play it safe. Put it in a savings account in the bank (3 years' interest: 0%, bank charges almost as much as the principal). 'Don't worry, be happy' – I hate that song.

Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I, 1514. Image: MetMuseum.

Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I, 1514. Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

28.11.2017 – Shaping the science agenda

In 2014 the Swiss newspaper Der Bund published an interview with Emeritus Professor Dr Christian Schlüchter, a geologist at the University of Bern. Prof Schlüchter is by no means a consensus scientist when it comes to climate science and this interview made some small waves at the time. The following striking passage in the interview is worth recalling – in the category 'Lest we forget'.

Ott: Are you accusing the researchers of the IPCC of political machinations?

Schlüchter: I was once invited by accident to a meeting in England. The discussion there was very memorable. It was led by someone from the East Anglia Climate Center, which was under fire following the emails that had been published as a result of Climategate. The host of the meeting spoke like a kind of father. He sat on a table in front of the participants and received statements on which he then commented either benevolently or disapprovingly. Finally he offered tips on how to formulate which funding applications for which recipients for certain research topics. I was impressed by the way the host collected and selected information. I am concerned for the credibility of science.

Christian Schlüchter

Christian Schlüchter. Image: ©DerBund.ch/Newsnet

27.11.2017 – Diana's revenge…

…on the Windsors. Best eaten cold. Meghan comes with a history that will cheer up the media and roots that are not in the Almanach de Gotha.

Judging by the comments in the media on this happy day she is not the people's princess, far from it. Should be entertaining for a few years, till she gets to keep Kensington Palace in the settlement.

Harry tells GF to do the shopping

We mentioned her inconsequentially here and here.

27.11.2017 – Peace at last

You have stopped over in some dump of a town in the middle of nowhere. There is one rundown hotel with questionable bedding and a non-functional TV. Next to the hotel is a pub with a peeling signboard that gives no suspicion that it has ever had better days. Well, if this is where the action is in this town, in you go.

A few drunks are scattered around the tables, comatose with drink and boredom. There's a woman with green hair slumped across the back of the bar – the bartender? You are the only conscious being in the place.

The Figures of Speech discussion group

Welcome to the Figures of Speech discussion group, the place to go for a bit of peace and quiet when no other entertainment is available. There are still some empty chairs – anyone?

21.11.2017 – Thanksgiving

23 November this year is that important day for Americans, Thanksgiving, so a good excuse to pick something from the golden age of American illustration – which was also the golden age for much of American culture.

Here is a self-explanatory piece by one of the greats of the period, Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951), done when he was 75, close to the end of his career, a time when the commissions were not flowing in as they once used to, and close to the end of his life, which had become more and more reclusive. Still, he could certainly knock out a striking composition, here an astonishing mix of realism and caricature.

FoS image, size 708x983

Joseph Christian Leyendecker, Thanksgiving, from the 'American Weekly' of 20 November 1949.

Today he might possibly be arrested for painting this family of hideously white religious nuts: the father armed and dangerous, the mother an unemancipated household slave and the child, clearly gender dysphoric, weighed down by Bible learning.

14.11.2017 – Dim and dangerous

Now that the distraction of knee-fondling and bottom-patting is fading in a cloud of public apathy, dim Theresa brings the Britons their next distraction: the Russians.

A bit of a surprise really, since Russia doesn't seem to have done anything to hurt the UK. Still, she used her platform at the Lord Mayor's Banquet last night to give them a severe ticking off and to tell them to behave.

To underscore her message our new Palmerston will probably send an aircraft carrier somewhere – you know, the one with no aircraft. That'll bring them to heel.

We hear Theresa at her dimmest. With all the real and very, very serious issues facing the UK at the moment – Brexit, national and personal debt, productivity, military decline and so on – let's pick a fight with the Russians, whilst simultaneously telling them we want to be friends. She is even threatening to send Boris Johnson to sort them out, Mr Mixed-Message himself.

10.11.2017 – Site changes

  • A message-board style comments system has been implemented.
  • The section 'Seen elsewhere' has been removed.
  • The section 'Indexes and search' has been removed. Two of the entries it used to hold, 'Index of people' and 'Index of themes', have been discontinued: as the blog expanded they grew dramatically and their maintenance eventually required too much effort in a sober state.
  • The 'Contents list' and Google 'Site search' have been moved to the main menu.

07.11.2017 – Distraction therapy

The UK government and the UK media are fussing with noisy outrage over trivia: touched knees, patted bottoms, clumsy flirts and ridiculous pickup lines. Committees will be formed, enquiries launched and watchdogs established. It will only be a matter of time before a Tsar is appointed.

All this is simply the hole into which the ostrich has stuck its head, hoping that all the big issues will pass by harmlessly. It is a distraction exercise that has been seized upon gratefully by people who really should be spending their time thinking and talking about difficult strategic stuff, such as Britain's post-Brexit role in the world, its financial stability – above all its indebtedness – and its defence.

This behaviour comes as no surprise at all, since Britain has a dim Prime Minister and a cohort of ministers who anyway seek refuge in box ticking and shopping lists. The Tory top brass, we are told, have 'circled the waggons' around this dolt, which shows how useless they themselves are, not realising that the party's poor performance at the last General Election was to a large extent a rejection of her. Perhaps, somewhere in their tiny brains lodged somewhere within those thick skulls there might be just a glimmer of a hint of a realisation that there is no one else they might realistically choose as leader who is not also utterly detested by the Tory electorate.

In the Cameron years in the pursuit of votes the party selected and promoted the fatuous and sidelined the sensible. They still have a very few backbenchers in the latter category but there is now no serious person – not one – in their upper ranks.

Hence the relief all round in political and media circles that there is some scandal about which they can chatter until the next serious event interrupts them.

06.11.2017 – Still on your own

Two related themes:

The people shouting about the need to reduce gun ownership in the United States need to tell us how they intend to bring this paradisical condition about. How they are going to disarm the hundreds of millions of people who own fireams legally without criminalising upright citizens, without executing millions of home searches, without starting a civil uprising and without violating the states' rights? Then they can tell us how they are going to take the illegally held firearms out of circulation, too – unless they are just intending to disarm the good guys.

The state cannot protect you, whether from terrorists or from lunatics. No place of public assembly – no church, no Christmas market, no shopping crowd – is safe. John Hinderaker, on a recent visit to Britain, noted that Westminster Bridge, the scene of one of Britain's terrorist attacks this year, has now been decorated with various measures to stop exactly the same thing happening again. Of course, they don't stop something slightly different happening and anyway, once off the bridge the bollards are no more.

To the state we citizens are merely statistics. No government can protect us.