Patronising

Durer’s St George and the Dragon. The crowned princess is lurking behind a rock. With a pig.

St George fought the dragon and killed it — or did he? Such doubt could make patriots go weak and quite giddy. Did he rescue a maiden and liberate a city like Perseus, it’s said, in ancient antiquity? Or is it a myth, a tale for the gullible from powerful leaders who claim they’re infallible?

The truth is that George has a past that is murky: perhaps Cappadocia (that’s now part of Turkey) or Palestine claims him. Yes, Christian martyr — but slayer of dragons? Well, that‘s a non-starter.

He’s patron of England, the Knights of the Garter, Teutonic Knights, Reichenau, Gozo and Malta. He’s chief saint of Portugal and also of Genoa, of Moscow and Beirut and, yes, Catalonia. God help us if they all decide to go fight, for how will George know who is wrong and who’s right?

Yet it’s the far right who often invoke him, their claims of supremacy based on pure hokum. For they would now see saintly George as outsider, a migrant or refugee, maybe Al-Qaida. To persecute him would elicit no qualms, and he’d not be received with wide open arms.


A post in rhyming couplets to mark April 23rd, St George’s Day

Riddle-me-ree

Not ellipsoid but ovoid

What needs to be broken before it can be used?

No idea? Here’s another clue:

A box without hinges, key, or lid,
yet golden treasure inside is hid

Still in the dark with this riddle? This witty doggerel by Luis d’Antin van Rooten gives another, perhaps more obscure, hint:

Un petit d’un petit
S’étonne aux Halles
Un petit d’un petit
Ah! degrés te fallen
Indolent qui ne sort cesse
Indolent qui ne se mène
Qu’importe un petit
Tout gai de Reguennes.

No? Another question then: what is former vicar’s daughter and esteemed Prime Minister Teresa May calling ‘ridiculous’?

Easter’s very important. It’s important to me. It’s a very important festival for the Christian faith for millions across the world. So I think what the National Trust is doing is frankly just ridiculous.

Lest you’re still puzzled, she’s complaining that in just one context giant chocolate manufacturer Cadbury’s dropped the word Easter from the promotion for their annual hunt.

Continue reading “Riddle-me-ree”

Sister blogs

I’d like to give a quick shout out for Calmgrove’s two sister blogs. MyNewShy is a photoblog, while Zenrinji has a mix of micropoetry and flash fiction, humour and seriousness.

I am planning revamps of both blogs in the next little while, both in appearance and in frequency of posts (which have been rather irregular in recent months) though not much in content.

Do feel free to visit these sites and look through the archives, but fear not — the chief virtue of the posts are their brevity. I’ll leave verbosity to Calmgrove.

Bibliophile’s Progress

Bookshelves in secondhand bookshop, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
Bookshelves in secondhand bookshop, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Actually, this title’s a sprat to catch a mackerel: my reading progress appears to have been minimal this month, as you may have noticed from my February posts. I’ve read a couple of kids’ books (one of which was a reread and actually completed in January), a non-fiction history (granted, it’s over 500 pages of smallish print) and a modern take on the Alice books; and I’ve started a couple of classics. That’s still barely one a week.

True, I’ve been involved in other matters, mostly musical — choral singing (a scratch Mozart Requiem as well as a scratch Mahler Resurrection Symphony for example) and piano accompanying — but that shouldn’t really have impinged much on reading time, though it did reduce the time I might’ve dedicated to composing posts.

But, really, what I should be considering is less progress than process.

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In praise of political correctness

hate-week
Still from the 1956 film adaptation of Orwell’s 1984

Political correctness gone mad.

How many times have you heard this phrase? Me, I’ve lost count, but I could almost guarantee that the person speaking it has it in mind to say something outrageous about how wrong it is to try to be a decent human being. (It’s the same as when somebody declares, “I’m not racist, but …” — though, regretfully, that’s a topic for another time.)

Here are two definitions I’ve culled from the ether of political correctness which to me reflect the original concept of the phrase:

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The future now

nikola-tesla
Nikola Tesla 1856 – 1943

Inverted Commas 1: The modern world viewed from 1926

When wireless is perfectly applied, the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance.

Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.

We shall be able to witness and hear events — the inauguration of a President, the playing of a World Series game, the havoc of an earthquake or the terror of a battle — just as though we were present.

Nikola Tesla’s prescient prediction of the internet, skype, the mobile phone (or cellphone) and live reporting — and all this in 1926, ninety-one years ago.

nikolatesla

Sadly not all his predictions have come true, for example:

International boundaries will be largely obliterated and a great step will be made toward the unification and harmonious existence of the various races inhabiting the globe.

And why we are still waiting for this?

It is clear to any trained observer, and even to the sociologically untrained, that a new attitude toward sex discrimination has come over the world through the centuries, receiving an abrupt stimulus just before and after the [First] World War.

This struggle of the human female toward sex equality will end in a new sex order, with the female as superior.  The modern woman, who anticipates in merely superficial phenomena the advancement of her sex, is but a surface symptom of something deeper and more potent fermenting in the bosom of the race.

It is not in the shallow physical imitation of men that women will assert first their equality and later their superiority, but in the awakening of the intellect of women.

Through countless generations, from the very beginning, the social subservience of women resulted naturally in the partial atrophy or at least the hereditary suspension of mental qualities which we now know the female sex to be endowed with no less than men.

  • John B Kennedy, “When Woman Is Boss: An Interview with Nikola Tesla,” Collier’s, January 30th, 1926;
    cited in Steve Silberman, NeuroTribes: the legacy of autism and how to think smarter about people who think differently, 2015;
    whole text at http://www.tfcbooks.com/tesla/1926-01-30.htm [accessed February 2nd 2017]

Inverted commas will be another occasional series, this time of quotations that strike me as appealing, intriguing or apposite.

nikola-tesla-company

What is truth?

pravda
The original banner title of Pravda, the Russian Communist Party newspaper

If — somehow or other — you’ve missed it, there has been much in the news and elsewhere about truth, post-truth and fake news. This concern with what counts as fact, what is factoid and what is downright lies is nothing new, nor is the dissembling that goes along with it, though it’s certainly been in very sharp focus in recent days, weeks and months. Here are ten quotes or thoughts about Truth, offered in the hopes of clarity:

Continue reading “What is truth?”