Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Unfair Competition

Any readers who watched the live transmissions of the recent 15th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznań, Poland may have been surprised, if not shocked, when 17 year-old prodigy Mone Hattori, from Japan, was eliminated after the second of four rounds.

Apart from mature and deeply felt renderings of works by Beethoven and Grieg as well as the obligatory Polish composers she had delivered a flawless performance of one the the most pyrotechnical pieces ever written for violin, the H. W. Ernst Variations on The Last Rose of Summer. You can see her here.

When she failed to appear in the third round, the shared outrage was amply voiced by viewers in the chat box that accompanied the live transmissions. The wrongness of the decision was later confirmed by the anti-climactic final round with the survivors turning in limp versions of the obligatory concertos to the bemusement of the audience. With the notable exception that is, of the eventual first prize winner, the very deserving Veriko Tchumburidze from Georgia.

So what went wrong? Hers was not an isolated case. The dismissal of another competitor, Celina Kotz, was incomprehensible to many.

Jury Chairman Maxim Vengerov explained the scoring system in a video for Facebook Violin Channel page. In an attempt to ensure impartiality of the jury members, they were not allowed to vote for their own pupils or for a player they had taught in the last 5 years. It goes without saying that teachers are fond and proud of their best pupils and want them to do well.

However, they were allowed to vote to eliminate a player, in a "yes/no" system apparently inspired by reality TV shows. And this could be where the system failed.

Imagine, if you will, a jury selected from a wide spread of countries each one jealously rooting for their own country or their favourite pupil, with no direct way of positively influencing the outcome of the competition. The only button you can press is the dismissal button. Your only ploy left is to try to see off the competition. And with only ten members it only need two or three to vote down the most obvious danger in the shape of a likely hands-down winner, for the wicked deed to be done.

Further evidence of the way this system can skew results, equally loudly decried by the kommentariat, was the survival to the finals of Vengerov's own pupil, Maria Włoszczowska. Struggling out of her depth through the two concerti, her cheeks visibly burning with embarrassment, her presence could only be explained by the reluctance of the jurors to vote "no" to the chairman's protégée.

Every year, international music competitions and all the top music colleges have to deal with applications from a constant stream of superbly turned out performers from Japan, Korea and China. To most Europeans, putting in five hours a day of violin practice from age three seems somehow inhuman, and a borderline infringement of children's rights. Something it would be wrong to expect a European child to undergo.

Turning out a world-class soloist also represents a sizable capital investment, in teaching, instruments and fancy dresses. And Asian parents are willing to make big sacrifices to pay the price to see their prince or princess on the stage. Are there no limits to how far they will go?

All this give European judges and players a feeling of unfair advantage, and for the more nationalistic among them, a sense of cute overload from an Asian female talent invasion. This shared feeling among the judges means that the hurdles are much higher for Asian musicians.

Perhaps next time, Simon Cowell should be invited to choose the jury. He would never allow such travesties.

As Bela Bartok famously noted "Competitions are for horses, not artists." At least horse races leave little room for doubt about the winner.

Friday, May 6, 2016

You Read It Here First!

For a long time now, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been exporting its barbarous hubris worldwide in a way that would suggest it is actually begging for a showdown. For some folks its successful campaign to head the UN Human Rights Council was a slap in the world's face. And kicking off 2016 by beheading 47 Shia believers in one day further underlined its contempt for the world's bleeding hearts.

Along with tolerating Turkey's abuse of the NATO umbrella, coddling the Saudis significantly weakens the USA's moral standing and claim to act as the world's policeman. And there is no shortage of volunteers to take over this role, or of nations who would love to take the Kingdom down a notch, if not to give it a good drubbing.

Plot spoiler alert!

My Extreme Nemesis scenario boils down to turning the Hijaz with its twin omphaloi of Mecca and Medina (formerly Yathrib) into an uninhabitable radioactive wasteland. Some of the more spirited online comments on news items exposing Saudi backwardness even tout the idea of turning the whole Kingdom into molten glass, though clearly creating such a large window onto the Earth's glowing core would be over the top and over budget.

Of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj pilgrimage is the only one directly operable manu militari. Whether the cult could survive on the remaining four pillars hinges in part on how much its finances depend on revenues from the pilgrimage business.

The simplest mechanism would obviously be cruise missiles fired from a submarine in the Red Sea. There is an Islamic prophecy I read somewhere that the Qureishi clan's long-running b'n'b business would be terminated from the direction of Ethiopia, just across across the water. More specific is a Russian YouTube video, which I can no longer find, that simulates a two-pronged sea-borne missile attack without being specific about the target. It could be the effect of the poor animation, but the sub commander was walking in a funny way.

For the moment a nuclear scenario may seem farfetched, but a few recent developments seem to be working towards clearing the way to making it less inconceivable.

My first alert that things could be moving in this direction came when, after years of stonewalling the USA, Iran accepted the American nuclear deal, apparently wholeheartedly and in a verifiable manner, following just one week of Russian diplomacy. I asked myself, what could Russia have possibly offered Iran in exchange for abandoning its home-grown nuclear program? And in what way are Russia's plans advanced by such an initiative?

And of course, what would those plans be?

Then there are the recent articles about Russia replacing its submarine fleet, and test-firing its latest Kalibr missiles in the Arctic. The missiles travel at Mach 5, far too fast to be intercepted by the expensive air defences that the Saudis have acquired from America.

And now this! Holy War declared by the Patriarch of the Holy Russian Church!

I give it two years.

Of course, as my wife smugly pointed out, I have been wrong before. As when I predicted that the Saudis would invade Syria on February 29th (to avoid having to deal with anniversary riots every year) after their Northern Thunder exercise involving 350,000 troops. Fortunately they chickened out, and I don't mind being wrong.

So tell me I'm wrong! Use the comments box below. And if I'm right, remember where you saw it first!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Islamic Puffball Explodes

The current tsunami of refugees from Sharia hellholes has the entire European nanny community scrambling for moral high ground. It only took two photos of drowned children to sucker even the most respected commentators into joining the rush.

These are people we look to for the big picture, for dispassionate analysis of where we stand at this historical juncture. But their fear of being labeled, if not racist, then at least heartless, has trumped their common sense. And European governments have been morally half-nelsoned by their media into a collective tizzy.

While the West's proud self image is dependent on delivering a compassionate response to every humanitarian crisis "in the name of humanity", the architects of the current crisis, Daesh, are acting in the name of their psychotic god-figure, Allah.

So it might not do us any harm to take a gander at the other fellow's point of view. You need to see this through the lens of the Islamic view of history: the unstoppable path to Islam's world domination.

In a recent article, Robert Spencer reminds us of the Islamic religious duty of Hijrah, the act of setting up Muslim communities abroad by infiltration.

This has been compared to the way a cancer metastasizes in so many blogs that you can save me the effort of linking to them by googling "Islam metastasizes." Another highly enlightening article, that I see has been refined considerably since it first went public, entitled "The Terrifying Brilliance of the Islamic Memeplex", lists 26 "memes" that make up Islam's virality.

But my personal favourite image of Islam is that of the puffball, a mushroom which explodes to send its spores everywhere. To continue the analogy, when these spores find fertile ground, they form a mycelium, the invisible infrastructure which invades the ground, sometimes over large distances, until favourable circumstances afford it the energy to fruit, in the form of more puffballs, which in turn explode when they are ready - or when purposely trodden on by little boys.

And in this picture, Daesh are the little boys. The mycelium, or root structure, is the ummah, the Muslim community. In order for it to spread, individual level of belief, moderate or fanatical, makes no difference. It doesn't even matter if some of them, like the drowned child in the photos, are heretical Yazidis! All are instruments of Allah's will.

If our only worry were the twanging of liberal heartstrings, some solutions to the problem can be envisaged, and have indeed been mooted. Banning of circumcision and ritual slaughter of animals can both be pleaded on equally strong or stronger humanitarian grounds than the giving of asylum. Denmark is trying to lead the way in this regard.

But then, if we are expected to believe that the open-armed welcome of Muslim refugees by the German government and its silencing of protesting voices with jail and fines is a purely humanitarian reaction to the crisis, what are we to make of the double standards applied both by the media and by Western governments regarding the current genocidal persecution of Christians in the Middle East?

Sorry guys, would love to help! Not.

It just doesn't add up. Clearly, followers of one religion are being given preferential treatment over the rest, and even being allowed a pass for having massacred the others. Even stating this obvious fact can get you into trouble in today's Germany. The very Germany so recently accused of trying to dominate Europe using banks where their tanks failed.

So what is Germany's game? What is Germany's dream?

Wikipedia has some interesting quotes about how this question would have been answered three-quarters of a century ago, with these insights into Hitler's thinking:

In speeches, Hitler made apparently warm references towards Muslim culture such as: "The peoples of Islam will always be closer to us than, for example, France".

According to Speer, Hitler stated in private, "The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?"[225] Speer also stated that when he was discussing with Hitler events which might have occurred had Islam absorbed Europe: "Hitler said that the conquering Arabs, because of their racial inferiority, would in the long run have been unable to contend with the harsher climate and conditions of the country. They could not have kept down the more vigorous natives, so that ultimately not Arabs but Islamized Germans could have stood at the head of this Mohammedan Empire."

Similarly, Hitler was transcribed as saying: "Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers [...] then we should in all probability have been converted to Mohammedanism, that cult which glorifies the heroism and which opens up the seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone. Then the Germanic races would have conquered the world."

So one must be permitted to wonder, if only in the darkness of one's prison cell, how much has really changed. And once banged up for bringing such ghosts out of the closet, can we expect any protection from the more "devout" prisoners?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Not so Potty History of England

Genocide ! Ethnic cleansing ! Minority rule ! Apartheid ! Mass expropriations ! Yes, you've guessed it. The history of England !

The kingdom of England was born of one of the most thoroughgoing campaigns of ethnic cleansing ever carried out. According to Peter Beresford Ellis in Celt and Saxon this is borne out by the complete lack of surviving Celtic place names left on the map (apart from the rivers. Go figure). We hear that a century or two after driving off the remaining Celts to the wilds of Scotland and Wales, the Saxons (sassenachs in Gaelic) were Christianised and repented. This didn't stave off their comeuppance, first at the hands of the Danes who took over the North-East of the country and then, far more grievously, with the Norman invasion.

With this event the oppression of the foul by the fair went into high gear, and was to outlast Magna Cartas, civil war, rebellions and Reform Acts. The divisions it created survive today as virulent as ever, and can be seen in patterns of land ownership, class divisions, linguistic features, as well as in the so-called "mindless violence" which is so much a trademark of the English scene. To this list must be added the extraordinary survival of the House of Lords, a chamber of the landed whose primary function has been to block the one thing England most badly needs - Land Reform.

Those who watch westerns will be familiar with the civilised ploy of usurping a preliterate people's tenure of ancestral lands by demanding to see written title deeds. This fruitful exercise was first carried out with resounding success by William the Conqueror and his aides and resulted in the so called Domesday Book. Schoolboys are given to understand that this book was a sort of census of smallholdings for tax purposes. We were also told that William brought about "much needed" strong government to Britain. In the immortal words of Molesworth in 1066 and all that, these were "Good Things".

To understand why, 935 years later, these evil acts continue to bear violent fruit, a comparison with modern Spain might illuminate. The hostilities played out in the Spanish Civil War have attenuated a mere two generations later into friendly regional rivalries. The significant difference is that in the case of Spain the victors were not land-grabbers. As a thought experiment, it is easy to see that if my grandfather murdered yours in the heat of war, you and I can still carry on a normal relationship. But if my grandfather killed yours and stole his land and you are now paying me rent to live or work on it, I will always be your enemy no matter how nice I try to be about taking your money or crops.

For nearly 400 years the official language of the administration in England was French. The adoption of English in 1457 was hailed as some sort of victory for the underclass, but from a linguistic point of view the divisions remained intact. The blond invader's "fair speech" was a creole of Saxon, Danish and French far removed from the basic Saxon or Danish-based "dialects" of the grovelling field labourers. Even today Fair Speech and Foul Language still represent the two irreconcilable poles of English society. In an imaginary slanging match between a member of today's ruling class and a cockney cabbie, the former might use terms of French origin such as "imbecile", "unpleasant individual", "stupid person", while the cabbie's Anglo-Saxon reply would get this page blocked by half the firewalls of today's schools. And while the colour of a man's hair and even his dress are no longer a guide to his ascendance, his vowel sounds are a badge of allegiance which he would do better to disguise if he walks into the wrong class of pub.

What the Normans started, the Tudors were prepared to carry on with a vengeance (their takeover was, actually, vengeance). Their first obsession was to improve their own racial stock as well as their landholdings by imposing themselves on as many blonde Norman ladies as possible. As a reaction to this, Norman snobbery ("my family goes back to William the Conqueror") probably dates from this time. The new royalty's landgrabbing task was complicated by the aforementioned title deeds, and new methods of expropriation were invented. "Morton's fork" was invented by a chancellor of the exchequer who was a past master at the art of squeezing the barons, who in turn squeezed the peasants. As a last, or sometimes first, resort there was always the hanging method. This involved paying spies to fabricate evidence of treason against rich landowners. The lands of those executed on this charge became, and in many cases remain, Crown property. But the biggest prize was the ecclesiastical lands. Henry the eighth's bust-up with the Church of Rome was just the prelude to a long and very profitable tide of expropriations both of lands actually owned by the church and of lands belonging to so-called recusants. The new Church of England provided a way of vastly widening the purview of "treason", using the protestant religion as its pretext. Founded on greed for land, it was to reach its logical conclusion when exported by Oliver Cromwell to Ireland with the Penal Laws debarring Catholics from all ownership of land. These laws were a stroke of English genius, a double whammy for Ireland, for when they were repealed 150 years after their introduction, apparently in the name of Justice and "Fair" play, they produced such a huge rise in land values owing to the suddenly increased demand, that even the reform's opponents were won over.

The one large remaining block of unseized land was the so-called Common Lands. They were a thorn in the flesh of the oppressor class who didn't enjoy the sight of dirty-faced, insolent shepherds browsing their flocks on land for which they paid no rent. The Enclosure acts which put an end to this intolerable situation were predicated on a neat and novel argument - efficiency ! The idea was that people who had to pay rent were more likely to put the land to more intensive and efficient use. The food shortages which added weight to this argument may or may not have been engineered to this end. The only remaining question was: Who should they pay rent to? Why, obviously, to those who would then make sure the Crown got its cut - the landowners.

Unfortunately the labouring class were still very much in evidence. The threat of prosecution (or a bottom full of shot) for Trespass could keep them at bay, but no amount of tree planting could render them completely invisible. Their untidy hovels were a blot on the landscape even when they weren't rioting under the influence of drink. How much more enjoyable country life could be if a way could be found to dispense with their services ! They could be sent to war, for example. Now there was an idea ! They could be used to grab land abroad !

The nineteenth century saw the putting into effect of various solutions to the "unwanted people" problem, from the Industrial Revolution which started by replacing agricultural workers by machines, and corraled the dispossessed into the grimy Bantustans of Greater Manchester and Birmingham, and the rise of the British Empire, culminating in the carnage of the Great War.

The global increase in scope for dubious real estate management practices afforded opportunities for new upstart players to join the ranks of the old Norman elite. On the whole they met with such success worldwide that a new optimistic feeling of putting the world to rights became the normal swaggering style of the British as a nation.

Since the Brits went global the results are everywhere to see. A glance at today's world map shows that no continents bar South America have escaped the British mania for redrawing boundary lines. Millions of lives have been lost and continue to be lost in wars over lines drawn by British colonisers. In the Twentieth Century various dictators and maverick states have taken leaves out of the British book - some more grotesquely than others. Most have failed to hang on to their winnings not because they used the wrong brand of sanctimoniousness or picked the wrong victims or were too crude. They failed because they arrived too late. The Brits got there first then rewrote the rules.

Today huge swathes of the most expensive rent-bearing urban land in Europe are owned by the Church and Crown of England, and a large slice of the working lives of city dwellers is devoted to swelling the coffers of these two entities, who through the unique British system of leasehold manage to perpetuate the ruthless hold of PLU (People Like Us - i.e. sons and daughters of the nobs) on the bloody winnings of their forebears.

Brits, doncha love 'em? Now we are showing Afghanistan the way to peace ! Watch out !

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's not about good versus evil

But where th' extreme of vice, was ne'er agreed:
Ask where's the North? at York, 'tis on the Tweed;
In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there,
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where:
No creature owns it in the first degree,
But thinks his neighbour farther gone than he!
Ev'n those who dwell beneath its very zone,
Or never feel the rage, or never own;
What happier natures shrink at with affright,
The hard inhabitant contends is right.

As noted by Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man, morals are relative, and may not even be about morals. You all know the famous George Carlin quote “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” Here we are looking at a sliding scale situated somewhere between the extremes of staying in second gear and total recklessness. A different scale, one that we might characerize as more a moral scale, operates when we find a wallet on the ground. For someone not scrupulously honest many factors come into play, starting with how much cash is in it? Did anyone see you pick it up? Does the wallet contain the owner's ID? Is the owner an attractive potential mate? Is there anyone nearby you could hand it in to, and could they be trusted not to pocket it themselves? Not everyone praises honesty in such a situation. Some might call a poor person who passed up such a windfall an idiot for having missed a chance to change his life. Like the driver in Carlin's example, we judge others' reactions to this situation by comparing it to what we would do faced with the same variables (Amount, presence of ID. etc.). They are either too honest (handed the wallet in with no ID) or really stupid (could have been 700 dollars better off).

In nature we see a sliding scale between peaceful symbiosis and raw predation that has little to do with scruples and everything to do with survival imperatives. Parasitism and invasiveness complicate the picture somewhat, but at a more abstract level we can describe the sliding scale as stretching between a conservative attachment to the status quo and a violent urge to overthrow it. Ancient History has highlighted the dichotomy between agriculturalists and pastoralists, or settlers and herders. The conflict in Darfur is only one recent resurgence of this age-old opposition, now mirrored in the hubris of Corporate Power as it continues to herd and manipulate the supine, tasting-panel-simulated consumer-hobbit. Tolkien saw it all coming!

24eme Salon de Peinture de Clairac

True to form the 24th Salon de Peinture de Clairac kicked off with a riot of globular breasts, paint spills, harlequins and merry-making cubistic peasants, with guest of honour artist Jean Coladon. With the fitful meticulousness of the self-taught the man paints bare ladies with eyes like decals, geometrical tits and smudgy muffs, and has been doing so for 30 years. He places these in various imaginary contexts, sometimes adding an accessory here, a pair of wallpaper wings there. One would like just once to be spared the up-the-nostrils chin shot intended to represent Earth-shattering orgasm (a nod to ecclesiastical images of saints in ecstasy) but more often than not suggestive of acute back pain. Taking the mike at the opening vin d'honneur, the artist listed the various labels he had been given, and said that his favourite was to be called a symbolist. Too soft to be soft porn these silicon breasted naiads have become the dominant theme of French village art, though they make you wonder when any of these artists actually last saw a real woman in the buff. Clearly influenced by photoshopped images from lads mags and Lara Croft, the formalised anatomy and generic (where not totally blank) faces incarnate half-formed idealisations of the female object. What is so strange is that half the artists that produce this stuff are women. Needless to say the selection committee didn't like my stuff and hung it under a spotlight that drilled a shaft of light down the middle of my sunset creating an alarming nuclear armageddon effect.

Monday, December 26, 2011

On Ted Hughes being admitted to Poet's Corner

To the residents of Poets Corner

Budge over ditty-mongers, Ted
Is here; and lugging rhymeless tomes
He comes to join the rhyming dead
And here engrave his timeless pomes
(That’s timeless in a modern sense
As in “no time to pause and think.”
It doesn’t mean they transcend tense.)
No long re-writes – why waste the ink?
The stuff just poured out from his heart
With that berating earthy voice
Committees love; and hence their choice.
Now Ted can share with you his art:
“When inspiration fails use guile!
Who reads all that? Just weigh yon pile!!”