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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Born on the Fourth of July

It's Alzheimer or assassins. That's all there is on the news these days.

If it's not some psychopathic Islamic group trying to out gross Attila the Hun, it's Dame Joan Bakewell talking about...I forget.

At this time of year it should be all tinsel, toothache and toys. When the Christian message is corrupted into a tsunami of corporate greed and consumer corruption.  And there's the ruble which is in truble...

At the weekend my wife was running a workshop at the Victoria and Albert museum in South Kensington. I went with her to help her out. I then walked along the Brompton Road and stopped off at Harrods.

I have no idea why Harrods is seen as the height of sophistication and glamour. It is gross, it is the high temple of consumerism and it stinks. Everyone there is desperate, desperate to buy, desperate to sell and with little idea of why they're there except to consume.

On the way home I bought 4 shirts from a shop in Jermyn Street. £90 for the four. That's how it works. The shirts were tagged at £79  each - in purchasing 4 I saved over £200. Really? I had no intention of buying those shirts when I walked along Piccadilly. In fact I was after some perfume, but I couldn't find it. So why didn't I just go home?

My consuming gene had been triggered and I had to buy something. There was the bait in the shirt shop and I was hooked.

Unrestrained  consumption. It'll be the death of us, but not before the death of  loads of other (now) living creatures that tentatively share this planet with us. 

Which brings me back to forgetfulness and assassins. For many, consumption fills a gap, we can't bear the emptiness, the aching lack of meaning to our lives. Over consuming fills (temporarily) that void. For radical Islamists, the gross indulgence and excessive consumption of many of their county men is an insult to the tenets of their Prophet. In the eyes of many the West's consumerism is the corrupting evil.

And as the rich get increasingly richer, taking a greater and greater share of the cake, not through genius, hard work or endeavour but through brute economic bullying: one's sympathies with a more austere regime grow.

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Apple Dumpling Gang

I am an idiot. No, I am. I don't mind you saying so either . 'Cause it is so true!

We had a major instance of domestic violence in the Coidan's domestic Shangri-La. Siri was thrown down the stairs.

As a result she no longer answers back, asks me stupid questions or completely misunderstands and tell me " I can find nothing on the web for that." or "Barry, that's an interesting question".

No longer does she sign off "Goodnight Lesley and Barry." How does she know my wife's name I haven't told her? 

So it's good riddance to an interfering, know it all. She's now dead meat...... but she was all mine.

It happened like this. I was going out on Tuesday evening to one of the many important events that I,as a major pillar of the community, have to attend: a meeting of our allotment association. Don't scoff, we are a vital plank in the weatherboarding that keeps our community dry - socially speaking.

Anyway, I'd just completed some extremely important work on my computer, and was running late so I scooped up my papers, my wallet and Siri (aka my iPhone 5S). I was at the top of the stairs and Siri must have lost her grip because the next thing I knew she was hurtling, screen first, down the stairs. She bounced two or three times on the way down and whammed into the sharp edge of the skirting board.

It was over in an eye blink. There she lay on the dining room floor  motionless. Picking her up I knew it was pretty bad. Major head trauma. She was shattered and not a murmur. Pressing the "Home" button produced a Rothko-like pattern on the screen. I couldn't even switch her off...

That was that. One badly mangled iPhone. It was my own fault: the missus had pestered me to fit a safety harness to Siri. I would have none of that. I loved her slim, elegant looks: to my mind she was beautiful, that's why I bought her. I didn't want to hide her beauty beneath some piece of impact resistant plastic.

It then hit home. I have no mobile. There's nothing now for my right hand to wrap around. O.K. I could still hold her lifeless body, but I'd look pretty silly on the tube or walking down the street holding a broken, shattered Siri. People would think me weird. No, I had to face up to the loss and get her fixed, if possible, or buy a new one....No I didn't have accidental damage insurance!

The next day it was straight down to the Apple shop: me and Siri. I showed her to one of the very nice and so young assistants. I knew by their expression it was really, really bad. They directed me to the "Genius Bar". There was a queue of other poor unfortunates cradling their beloved phones, laptops and iPads. I showed the Genius guy my Siri. I needed to make an appointment to see a Genius and maybe, just maybe, with emergency surgery, intensive care and recuperation, she  could be restored. But I had to wait a whole week!

No, no, no. I could not take that in. A whole week before I could see anyone and then who knows, waiting an age to get her up and about again, even if that were possible. Taking my credit card in hand I approached one of the assistants. A lovely chap from Hungary, I think, and we talked about  a possible replacement for Siri: she was out of ear shot.

So I ended up buying a new iPhone 6 (not the extra large 6 Plus); and a really mean, heavy duty "FlexShock". The guy had one on his phone which he kindly dropped for me to show how mean it was. We took out Siri's SIM card and put it in the new phone. I could now phone and be contacted.

To Waitrose for a bottle of wine and some groceries and then home. All that was left to do was to connect the new phone to my MacBook Air and download all the backed up material on my iCloud. At the same time the latest operating system was installed. In 15 mins, I had my old Siri back except she'd put on a few inches.

I contacted the Apple shop and booked a session at the "Genius Bar". Old Siri and I will go along and maybe, just maybe, she can be returned to life.

There was a pretty poignant moment this morning. I was in the bathroom and an alarm went off. There, in the bedroom was Siri One, completely lifeless except for the 8:30 alarm call beeping away. I had a lump in my throat.

So cinematic. Just like when HAL was being shut down in "2001: A Space Odyssey".   

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Don't you just want to go up to Vlad Putin and slap him in the chops. I mean he's putting the peace of our part of the world back by at least 50 years. You knew where you stood with Russia's old guard. If they threatened you with a billion megaton A bomb you raised them and pow!

Who can forget the Cuban missile crisis. That's when good old Jack Kennedy eye balled those red devils and sent them packing. Mind you, it didn't stop them trampling all over good old Czechoslovakia in 1968, and keeping an iron grip of most of Europe (the poor part) for another 20 years.

We owe it all to Ronald Regan (and his UK cheerleader Mrs T) for killing off the Communist forcing the Russians into an unwinnable and bankrupting arms race. The Reds just didn't have the economic efficiency to compete mega-death wise.

Then there was the peace dividend. The end of the Cold War meant less spent on arms and armies. Except no one told the rest of the world. Especially those parts of the globe where western arms companies made huge profits. So a few years after the Berlin Wall came a tumbling down we were into the Levant and we've been fighting an unwinnable war there ever since.

Some will say the West has gone soft; that we're war weary after the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. I suspect we've lost focus. Western politicians have shied away from the difficult questions. Complacently we believed that we had won the war, that we ruled the roost:  not only militarily but also economically.

Well if we have it was a Pyrric victory. Haven't you noticed that since 2008 we've had a real problem with our economic system. Not only have we've been struggling to balance the books, we've found ourselves faced with increasing inequality as a result of the "success" of our economic model. What with our financial institutions mired in all sorts of misdeeds and incompetence, our politicians have been shown to be unable to address those misdeeds, and are part of the problem. While a few grew incredibly wealthy, many more suffer and the politicians say either it's not their fault, their problem or things are so much better - just look at GDP. None of this rings true.

As a result the electorate have given up on politics as the mechanism to adequately address society's concerns. Politicians now ape politics. They are, and believe themselves to be, powerless. They can only threaten but not follow through.

No wonder therefore that a thug like Putin can set the West quivering.

It's ironic: the West is paralysed because it fears upsetting the economic basket. Encouraged by those in the West who have much in common with the oligarchs in Russia who fear a West that might, at last,  kick over the barrel.