Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Boycott Israeli oranges (and other stuff)

Its the last day of August and I try to make it a point of ending every month on a high for the sake of my own sanity. So heres a bit of news from Palestine which I feel is quite uplifting.

Remember the Palestinian non violent resistance movement I talked about earlier? well its growing, heres a two part summary of the current state of the movement.

And here we have news on the growing boycott of Israeli goods most of which are picked by poorly paid Palestinians anyway and grown on there stolen land.

Now this boycott movement is very important for a number of reasons. First a successful economic boycott as well as obviously damaging the Israeli economy thus meaning less money for settlement expansion and white phosphorous explosives, it was also further entrench Israel's political and diplomatic isolation further weakening the Zionist self confidence that is the glue that holds the present system together. Evidence of how worried the Israeli government is about this potential pariah status is shown by there attempts to turn there entire population into members of a propaganda ministry.

We all know of the history of the boycotts of both Apartheid South Africa and Ian Smith's UDI government of Zimbabwe both his books on the subject have very long diatribes against several British PM's (especially Wilson) for what he saw as betrayal of the White populations of Southern Africa. Of course several military defeats such as the rise of both the Zimbabwean African National Union and the Zimbabwean African Peoples Union and South Africa's disastrous intervention in Angola certainly hammered in the nails.

Monday, 30 August 2010


“Did i request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me man? Did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?”

Hello everyone. And if your wondering no I didn't read the book in one day, I just noticed that it was Mary Shelley's birthday to day so thought it'd be apt to dust of my old notes I took back when I did read Frankenstein and edit it a bit so I could cobble together a review, enjoy.

Frankenstein is very different to the classic film. There is no castle, no Igor (who was originally called Fritz) no lightning and no hammy and melodramatic “It’s ALIVE!”. What there is however is a tale about the follies of letting romantic notions about adventure control a man and that unbridled inquisitiveness can lead to disaster.

Victor Frankenstein becomes a brilliant student of sciences (presumably biology) at the Ingolstadt University, were his quest for intellectual prestige fuelled by his sorrow of the death of his very beloved mother, leads him to experiment with bringing the dead back to life. This proves to be a disaster as when he does finally succeed in conquering mortality he finds the creature he creates to be so hideous and big -in order to make the assembly of the body easier Victor made it from parts that were much bigger then the average so that the creature is around 8ft tall and extremely broad- that he immediately panics and flees, this leads to the creature escaping into the wilderness. And since it has the mind of a newborn spends a lot of its time(several years)wandering through the woods slowly learning about life and mankind. Unfortunately due to his grotesque appearance the creature is constantly met with lynch mobs whenever he tried to find companionship and is forced to constantly flee and hide while developing an intense hatred for mankind and his creator Frankenstein.

By coincidence the creature stumbles upon the Frankenstein home and Victors little brother whom in a fit of rage the monster kills and then frames the Frankenstein’s close family friend who is later executed. However in one of his many fits of self loathing -something he shares with his creator Victor- the monster abandons revenge in order to strike a deal with Victor were the beast will leave him and all humankind alone forever if Victor will construct for him an “eve” to go with him into isolation (see bride of Frankenstein).

The deal goes ahead after the monster recounts his hellish life to Victor including the time he spent several years observing a French family through holes in there walls, by doing this he slowly learns French,as well as the concepts of poverty, love and Islamophobia(that is not a joke)before finally being rejected when he tried to make contact with them. However Victor starts having second thoughts or more accurately third or fourth thoughts, he becomes afraid that if he does do what the creature -which he never gets round to naming despite having several lengthy conversations with- wants then he might just procreate and raise an army,(how two collections of corpses could possibly breed is not made clear though to be far there was little understanding of human reproduction in the early 1800's at the time this was published) and ends up smashing the corpse, this enrages the monster when he discovers Victors double cross and he begins a campaign of vengeance on Victor, first by killing his best friend and once again framing Victor for it and then he caps it off by beating Victors wife to death on there wedding day, the combine shocks break Victor mentally and after several nervous breakdowns decides to embark on a journey of revenge himself, and hunts the monster all the way to the North Pole, in a vane effort to correct his lifetimes worth of failures and mistakes. The End....... Or is it?

So there you go one of the earliest giants of the Victorian Gothic horror and one of the earliest pioneers of Scientific Fiction, though the science here is not only made up but also just a catalyst to get the plot going. Victor in one of the few acts of genuine thoughtfulness we actually read him doing in the book quickly destroys his resurrection secrets and refuses when asked to go into specifics.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

New Model Army

“We don’t have Democracy, in the world of politics today; we have Oligarchy punctuated by occasional contests to determine who has the most effective control of the media”.

Hello all, been doing a bit of reading before bed in my preparations for moving. And I just realised that many of the books I've read about and "reviewed" are actually pretty old and thus either talked about enough already for everyone to be familiar with. A bit like how we all know that rose bud was his sled in Citizen Kane (still a good watch though).

So I figured why talk about some of thats still relatively new on the shelf of our local waterstones. So here we are New Model Army,(NMA) -not to be confused with the other New Model Army- by Adam Roberts who also wrote the excellent Yellow Blue Tibia and is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. NMA is one of those 20 minutes into the future sci-fi books so there are no rayguns or teleporters, though they do have superior wiki's and googlemaps and faster internet access.

The main plot of NMA is at first a some what straightforward military diary of the life of Tony Block (hes half Frisian) as he recounts to a mysterious Colonel whom we learn more about as things progress his last campaigns as part of the NMA known as Pantegral. An NMA is a new type army that organises itself Democratically as opposed to the traditional hierarchical or "Feudal" model current nation state armies employ. They get there name unsurprisingly from Cromwell's New Model Army which while nowhere near as egalitarian as these NMA’s, did introduce ideas such as voting for your officers and appointed a number of agitators to ensure the conditions and views of the men were expressed. Leveller Regiments flat out refused to take part in Cromwell's Irish Campaigns as its gaols conflicted with there commitment to liberty for example.

From the very first page its clear that Tony's views on the benefits of direct democracy will be extremely prevalent to the point of a lecture. For me this wedding the idea of Democracy so thoroughly to the narrative was both a strength and a weakness. It was and is refreshing to see a work outside of something found on the Marxism archive point out all the oligarchical tendencies modern parliaments and Senates are riddled with. But on the other hand the NMA characters are so self righteous about how they and they alone are true democrats that the fact they vote on everything alone justifies what ever they do (including maiming unarmed prisoners), this is especially irritating when you take into consideration that the NMA's are ultimately a band of a few thousand soldiers who quite simply can't hack it in civilian life. And essentially all the NMA are, there are no NMA style agri-communes or NMA municipalities, the only thing this global wave of true democracy is capable of doing is bring death and violence. ANd just because the NMA's are independent doesn't mean the people who hire them are either. For example Pantegrals most recent campaign was on behalf of the Scottish government in its bid to oust the British army over the formers refusal to acknowledge the new Kings legitimacy and desire for independence. But how do they know thats what the Scots really want since there was no referendum?

Though to be fair I suspect much of that was intentional. In Yellow Blue Tibia the only other Adam Roberts novel I've read, nearly every character who possesses strong beliefs about anything is made out to be a bit of fool when tripped up by a couple of ideological contradictions. And as the novel goes on there are more paragraphs and arguments made that shine a spotlight on the NMA's absurdities.

Anyway there was one other flaw that marred my enjoyment of it slightly. And thats the military side of it, the actually combat segments while not bad and possessed of professionalism don't quite gel. The NMA's are made out to be this big new threat that constantly defeat national armies wherever they clash. But the book only half explains while in a believable fashion. On one hand since there not a national army and as such have no desire to hold territory and are only concerned with bringing the UK gov to the negotiating table so it makes sense how there able to confound there opponents strategically. But tactically when the actually clash on the streets of Reading and elsewhere the NMA's wipe the floor with the sqauddies with every skirmish. Its explained that in future things like Wireless internet Wiki's and googlemaps have progressed to the point were they can be applied to military coordination effectively making each trooper a recon unit, and while this explains why groups are better at flanking manoeuvres and tactical withdrawals when necessary it doesn't explain while the Army (the guys who have pioneered these technologies) aren't capable of doing the same. Well they do explain it, its because there used to blindly following orders directly from there Generals which isn't even close to how urban warfare is waged. Then there is the NMA's unerring accuracy, we constantly see three or four NM soldiers casually pick of a dozen or so infantry, at first I thought they were using some kind of new hi tech private military rifles but nope they appear to use Ak's and other cheaper kit.

But these are rather minor gripes, another surprising point in the books favour is that Tony is Gay. and yet somehow isn't a flamboyant interior decorator or mincing sodomite. Which I personally found quite refreshing to see.

Once I'll refrain from getting into the specifics about the ending but thats owes a lot to the fact that the ending is extremely had to understand. When Tony was captured by the Americans they finally turn him round to a more cooperative state of mind. And develop some new type of AI called giant which they believe will do.... something, which they've planted in his head to use as a living bomb, they decide that it will be prudent to test first on a smaller NMA by the name of Schaferhund (shepherd dog)operating out of Alsace-Lorraine, so they do and activate Giant and it..... does something.

In conclusion I would highly recommend New Model Army warts and all (teehee). Especially if you're an Anarchist interested in seeing a truly democratic and egalitarian military force. Or a Celt who would like to indulge in a little nationalistic anti monarch wish fulfilment, what with the whole succession wars. Also futurists might be interested in the novels use of internet technologies to bring about global change.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Mikes helpful tips for students

Hey everyone, been a bit quiet lately and I'm sorry for that but its getting pretty close to the start of my final year at Uni (hopefully) and I've been busy moving about and packing my bags, then there was my frequent attempts to find temporary employment of this summer which only yielded temporary one or two day jobs.

Anyway I thought since I do like to help my fellow man and woman it might be a good idea to list off a few tips and tricks I've found that helped me with my studies.

This will be most relevant to those studying for degrees in politics, history, and international relations mind but there should be a few tips that can work across the board.

Number One: Get at least one book that is a brief and yet concise outline on the topic your discussing. I personally recommend the Oxford A Very Short Introduction When writing essay's or answering exam questions it helps to be specific, and it helps you be specific and keep a confidant argument when your sure what year your example happened happened and what the figures were in at least an approximate form. It also helps keep your thoughts grounded on the right trail.
I've lost count of the times I've heard some brain box base his arguments around something he just skimmed.

Number Two: Set your own much more punishing deadlines as they are crafty bastards when left to there own devices. I've been at University for two years now and while not as unprepared for it as I was when I first started I am still constantly being caught out by this feeling that I've got a whole month left thats four weekends and I don't have lectures on Wednesdays plenty of time etc. And I ain't the only one, I'm safely in the majority on this one. The funny thing is this seems to get worse the more work I actually do before zero hour. Last time I did half my workload early and then sat on it for awhile so trust me the shorter the time limit the less you'll suffer in the long run.

Number Three: Keep an open mind, short of mankind evolving to the point of developing into some sort of hive mind or gestalt entity there will never be a man who knows everything and has considered every possibility. You will encounter many people from diverse social cultural political backgrounds etc. And even you never know who you'll be forced to work with nor in the case of a debate/argument what they'll come up with. I once had to explain how knives and swords actually work to a bloke who was extolling the virtues of Japanese sword craft, and another time I had to call someone out on how they knew nothing about nuclear devices when the suggested a viable strategy in war was to detonate nuclear bombs in the atmosphere to disable a cities electricity, in the middle of the Cold War, as this would cause less of a stir.

There we go hope someone out there will find this useful.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Nuclear Proliferation and 21st Century Real Politik

It recently been discovered that the United States has been working on a deal to supply Vietnam with access to Nuclear fuel as well as the benefit of US nuclear information and reactor parts in a bid to weaken China's political clout in the region.

Ever since Vietnam embraced "Market Socialism" in a economic restructuring similar to China's under Deng Xiaoping, it has enjoyed economic growth but had a hard time combating inequality and the new demands on its energy networks and turned to nuclear power to fill the holes. A number of companies including from Russia and China were in negotiations for the contracts at the time the US stepped in.

You might notice that this agreement makes the US protestations over the Iranian nuclear program and there "fears" over nuclear proliferation seem farcical would that that were the end of the US and the West's hypocrisy on this matter.

Below is the news story that Turkey and Brazil were able to not only get Iran to agree to a deal that was nearly word for word what the official Western policy was with the exception that Iran could seek compensation if Turkey did not deliver on its part within a certain time. Naturally this deal was seized on by a rejoicing Whitehouse right? Wrong. Obama and Cameron refused to recognise the deal and continued scare-mongering about Islamic atom bombs.

But why you might ask? its simple the US won't accept the deal because it was not present at the talks and neither were any other Western nation safely tucked away in its sphere to look like America's interests were being served. To give there blessing to a deal not brokered by the West or a big power like the old USSR, new Russia or the PRC sets a dangerous precedent for are world hegemony, it will say that the world can run itself without guidance or support thereby weakening US influence globally as nations no longer have to choose a "us or them" style in international relations.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Impending NHS Privatisation

The Other Tax Payers Alliance has released a step by step guide to how the ConDems white paper will result in the privatisation of the National Health Service.

Authors blog.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Viva La Quinta Brigada

As man born to a mixed Celtic ancestry I've always had a soft spot for folk music of all stripes especially Irish though I do think Riverdance is of the devil. And I've always enjoyed every version of La Quinta Brigada I've heard but this one for me is the definitive version.

Further information on the Spanish Civil War can be found at The International Brigade Memorial Trust I also recommend George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Up the Republic!

Hello everyone, August looks to be a quiet month for me blog wise as deadlines are creeping up and I've been packing up my things to prepare for another move for my final year (hopefully)of study. However while I was packing up my DVDs I stumbled across an old copy of a game I used to spend hours on at a time when it first came out. And since it is one of only a handful of video games to deal with politics in a more substantial and intelligent then "there are Nazi's over there go make them dead!" or the more recent there are "Rusky Commies over there go make them dead!".

Republic the Revolution the game is set in a fictional Soviet Breakaway Republic called Novistrana which for some reason always reminded me a little of Moldova where they speak a Simesque gibberish language. In the aftermath of Soviet collapse a Karasov former spy master in the KGB has rising to power in the chaos and turns the nation into a quagmire of corruption and brutality with a crumbling economy.

The players task is to build a political party first in you home town and lead a mass uprising against Karasov in the capitol and become its new leader. How you do that is up to you and the political skills you acquire, you can do the mundane canvassing and petition signing or you can hire hitmen and seize rival faction supporters businesses. The political tools in this game are quite varied and the trick to success is to find which one will work best in the current conditions.

Unfortunately the game is severely lacking when it comes to ideology. You really don't have one, you can choose your party name and a logo from out of 4 options all of which are generic and vague. This I feel is quite a shame as they missed an opportunity for a scenario where you had to weigh up your principals and your most effective yet unscrupulous tactics, but well it was the first game of an independent developer so I guess you have to take what you can get.

For those who are curious about the East and the turbulent politics of the post Soviet Republics such give this game a look especially as it is now going for under a fiver.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Time Machine

“I could hear their murmuring laughter as they came towards me. Very calmly I tried to strike a match. I had only to fix on the levers and depart then like a ghost. But I had overlooked one little thing. The matches were of that abominable kind hat light only on the box”

Good afternoon dear all. I first read the Time Machine a while ago and watched the 1960's film even further back in time but strangely enough something about writing up yesterdays post got me thinking about it again and given that its just 90 or so pages long decided to reread it.

It didn't take to long for me to remember what I found so familiar, it was the relationship between the Eloi and the Morlocks and how its essentially the same relationship we humans currently have with cattle only in the year 802,701*.

Interesting anyway since I've started and there are definitely a few people out there on the old global spider web that haven't had the pleasure of reading it so why not fill out some time by giving my thoughts on it and the film since a kind off enjoyed it as well even if there were a number of differences which I felt weakened it.

The Time Machine perhaps unsurprisingly given its exactly what it says on the tin title and the fact that it was first published in 1895 is the first story to actually involve using science and a nuts and bolts machine to well travel through time. There were a few older tales about time travel but they involved either visions and hallucinations or in the cases of myths and legends the Gods and magic. The science is obviously since its a readable fictitious narrative about time travel being written by a social commentator and writer in the late 19th century is a bit wonky for example if it stays in the same spot in space and only travels through time then wouldn't the traveller (none of the Victorian characters including the traveller get names)die in space as the Earth rotated around the sun?

Anyway the plot is that the traveller wishes to journey far into the future to view what great achievements man will have made and to see what Utopia would actually look like and briefly speculates on it including a society that brace yourselves has developed a practical program of Communism "To discover a society" said I "erected on a strictly Communist basis".

Unfortunately he over shoots somewhat and ends up smack bang in the year 802,701. This is perhaps the biggest break the film makes with the book as it has the traveller jumping around a Cold War style time thats quickly hotting up first before getting to the far distant date. This change also lays the foundations for much of the other alterations (the rest being the usual Hollywood games) that occur when the Traveller gets to the 802000s.

In the book he finds that man which has already achieved its Utopia millennia ago has had to face no hardships of any kind, politically, socially, militarily and bacterial. And as such evolved to the point of permanent infantile state both mentally and physically. This new race is called the Eloi, there about four feet tall have a very limited language rarely exceeding three syllables and no equivalent of grammar and have so short attention spans that when the traveller finally learns there language and begins asking them simple questions they quickly get bored and play with the flowers, "O brave new world that has such people in it" hey? Anyway his time machine soon turns up missing and he knows these cabbage patch kids couldn't have done it for quite a few reasons so he is stuck there for a few weeks. Whilst there he hypothises that due to the Utilitarian nature of the Elois clothing and shoes and there communal lifestyles -they are always in groups and all sleep together in big decaying ruins- that society had already achieved its Communist paradise a while back he then finds out he was completely wrong when he meets mankind's over bastard child the Morlocks.

The Morlocks are the slightly bigger and more intelligent Albino Cave dwelling versions of the Eloi and live deep underground in a vast series of caverns filled with the previous societies old machinery, this global workshop is connected with the surface by a series of deep ventilation shafts which the traveller initially mistook for High Ground Wells (geddit?). This causes the traveller to change his hypotheses as it now seems much more likely that the opposite of Communism appears to have happened and the continued entrenchment of the class system has now resulted in genetic and physiological divides as well as socio economic since Labour was force to toil underground while the Aristocracy enjoyed the surface.

This arrangement while no doubt enjoyable by the future Capitalist seems to finally bit them hard as since everything was literally provided for them out of site there descendants the Eloi have become completely useless and at the mercy of the Morlocks, who lacking any food supplies down below have turned to exploiting the one large source of potential meat left the Eloi. Effectively exploiting and treating like cattle the very people who centuries earlier exploited and treated them like pack mules. So quite an interesting take on Marx's concept of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

In the film however the Eloi and the Morlocks are the descendants of those Cold War states shown earlier, and both maintain human intelligence in fact the Eloi are still human and are all twenty year olds and white though the Eloi have no education and are still pretty empty headed. And the Morlocks are Green evil cave men who do everything they do with a very strong case of senseless malice. Guess which side was supposed to be which in that Cold War future.

Whereas in the Novel the Morlocks aren't actually evil, they kill the and eat the Eloi becasue they have no choice its either that or starve they've evolved to be meat eaters and the only consistent source of meat left are the Eloi hell when there not eat them they actually take good care of the Eloi, there clothes and shoes I mentioned earlier? made by the Morlocks in fact the Morlocks treat the Eloi much better then we humans do to the animals we kill for eating especially when compared to battery farms.

Also another minor gripe in the film they make the Eloi female Weena a buxom young lass and love interest for the traveller. You know the usual crap Hollywood forced on every film at the time. In the novel shes like an Eloi he saves from drowning and whom bounds with him in a relationship similar to an uncle and young niece given that shes four foot tall not very energetic and not to bright. Strangely though they did keep the docile lack of intelligence of the character in the film.

I would go on but really the story is only 90 pages long and theres nothing left but the ending to talk about and while I feel its fine talking about discussing and analysing a novels themes and events as it helps a person make up there mind whether or not they're interested in it blabbing about the climax kind of ruins the whole thing.

* Yes the book does explicitly state that this is the comparison but I did already draw that conclusion before that point.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A beefeaters opposition to cattle battery farms

Good morning all, well its a new month on this blog and I think all twelve of you who've stuck around for the duration will know what that means, thats right a 38 degrees post but this ones a very special plug/rant as its about a campaign that is taking place rather close to home.

Its about opposing the implementation of battery farms for cows in Lincolnshire which is the county in which I live (well technically the North East of it)and is an area that I care very much about. oh and if you don't live in the area then that isn't an excuse to give this one a miss, as we all know ideas and policies travel and the more accepted they become the harder they are to fight when they encroach on your back patio.

First off I think I should qualify this by stating that I am not a Vegetarian or an dietary eco-warrior, and may views on animal "exploitation" for want of a better term are this as long as the actions taken are for the benefit of the human race and don't involve the extinction of the animal in question or create a new type of disease or some sort of weaponisation then go ahead.

And its those views that are the main reason I'm against these plans. The new "mega barns" reduce the quality of the meat and milk due to severe exercise dietary and environmental factors keeping the cattle penned in and sickly. It therefore not only doesn't benefit man in fact it actually does the opposite and becomes to mans detriment with the inferior meat and milk and now that I think about their skin wouldn't tan well either so the leather would be of poor quality too.

They also cause an environmental detriment to local yellow bellies*, as the large warehouse style barns will not only spoil the view somewhat, more so then those Wind turbines which I personally think are kind of nice; they'll also increase the amount of waste and carbon gases (tee hee) that will get out into the atmosphere aiding climate change and creating horrendous smells which I can't see will do the tourist board any favours. And for once I'm not making a scatological reference for the sake of humour here either, anyone whose been to Lincolnshire the Agriculture heartland of the Nation on a warm day on field fertilising day will know what I'm talking about here.

And lastly theres the local economy aspect, anyone whose caught a recent episode of Country file or its ITV knock off I mean commercial equivalent Country wise will know that Britains agricultural sector is already up to its neck in the cow manure (this scatological reference is for humour) with council looking to sell off there farms for big profits usually for land development for some kind of mega mart. And this policy if implemented will only further there woes, its essentially the equivalent of open big supermarkets who have enough capital behind them to undercut all there smaller competitors much like the Tesco and Asda have done to the corner shops and local bakers in many of are communities.

* People who live in Lincolnshire,

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