08 November 2009

Daily Chat 08/11/09

Aztec emperor Montezuma welcomed Hernán Cortes into Tenochtitlán with a great celebration in 1519.  That worked out well for him, didn't it?  The Bodleian Library opened to the public in 1602.  The Louvre was opened to the public as a museum in 1793.  Wilhelm Röntgen discovered x-rays in 1895 and the death penalty was abolished in the UK in 1965.

Born today:  Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476), Edmond Halley (1656-1742), Bram Stoker (1847-1912), Christiaan Barnard (1922-2001), Alain Delon (1935), Guus Hiddink (1946), Bonnie Raitt (1949), Kazuo Ishiguro (1954), Gordon Ramsay (1966) and Joe Cole (1981).

It is Remembrance Sunday in the UK.


  1. What a great picture I love poppies.

  2. deano

    I was just going to say the same thing!
    Beautiful flowers, but fragile. It's a joy to see them in the fields.

  3. In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

  4. NB: the last stanza is usually omitted these days, but it's what the author, a soldier after all, believed.

    Macrae, a Canadian, is remembered with others of his clan on a plaque at Eilean Donan castle, the most magnificent setting for a memorial.

    NB2: the liar Blair said when announcing the Iraq invasion that the US had stood side by aside with Britain during the Blitz. In fact, only a tiny minority of Americans supported the UK in the early stages of WWII. But the Commonwealth helped, notably Canada, which supplied materiel, destroyers, convoys, and a new generation of Macraes.

    Remembrance, remembrance.

  5. On the Canada connection, Edwin

    My grandfather emigrated to Canada & returned to Europe as a soldier in WW1, where he served in France. He met my grandma here after he was wounded. Later, they lived with their young family in a cellar kitchen in Upperthorpe, Sheffield. I never met him, he died of TB a month before my dad was born. My dad trained in Canada as a pilot in WW2.

    Remembrance, remembrance.

  6. Bold great daisies' golden lights,
    Bubbling roses' pinks and whites -
    Such a gay carpet! poppies by the million;
    Such damask! Such Vermilion!
    But if you ask me, mate, the choice of colour
    Is scarcely right; this red should have been duller.

    From: Passing the Chateau, July 1917
    Edmund Blunden

    Remembrance, Remembrance

  7. I saw his round mouth's crimson deepen as it fell,
    Like a Sun, in his last deep hour;
    Watched the magnificent recession of farewell,
    Clouding, half gleam, half glower,
    And a last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek.
    And in his eyes.
    The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak,
    In different skies

    Wilfred Owen.

    Remembrance, Remembrance.

  8. Wifred Owen again:

    What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
    Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
    Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.
    No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
    Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, --
    The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
    And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

    What candles may be held to speed them all?
    Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
    Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
    The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
    Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
    And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

  9. I don’t usually pay any attention to Remembrance Sunday myself, mainly because the official thing always has an element of militarism in it which I really can’t be doing with.

    Is it just me, or has that factor been ratcheted up a few notches this time around?

    I’m thinking mainly of the increased profile of coffins of dead soldiers etc coming back from Afghanistan. Until fairly recently they were brought back almost in secret, as if their deaths were shameful. Now it seems to happen with huge fanfare, telling us that we should all be in full support not only of them and their families, but also (in fact mainly) of the wonderful role they’ve been playing in making the world a better place.

    On a personal note, my grandfather was also a Canadian serviceman. He came through WWII, and now lives in Vancouver, I believe. His mate, who married my grandmother’s sister, was one of many members of the Canadian Airforce who didn’t come back from a mission. I expect my grandfather will be remembering him and many others today.

    I love poppies too, deano, I just feel that some of those who stick one in their lapel at this time of year do it because it’s expected of them, rather than because they’ve thought about what it means.

  10. If I were fierce and bald and short of breath,
    I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
    And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
    You'd see me with my puffy petulant face,
    Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
    Reading the Roll of Honour. "Poor young chap,'
    I'd say - 'I used to know his father well;
    Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap.'
    and when the war is done and youth stone dead,
    I'd toddle safely home and die - in bed.

    Base Details
    Siegried Sassoon

    Remembrance indeed

  11. andysays,

    it's an interesting point you bring up. My Grandad was called up in 1939 and saw service in North Africa but mostly in Burma and the far east.

    He said every 5 years, Remembrance Sunday should be devoid of both Military and Politicians to signify the sacrafice made by the Citizen Army, the ordinary man and woman on the street who made up the vast bulk of both WWI and WWII armies.

    He believed this would symbolise the failure of the establishment towards its population and the way political failures dragged them into making the ultimate sacrafice.

    My Grandad believed quiet reflection (with a dram) on the loss of his colleagues and the political failures which led so many to lose their lives was the most appropriate way to commemorate. Was jingoism inherent in military parades not one of the reasons we fell into WWI after all?

    I also feel uneasy about the pomp and ceremony involved. I always think it's a form of self justification especially for the military.

    However I would never, ever question the motivation of the men who fought wishing to observe in this way, it's the Politicians and Military top brass that have my ire.

    Today, I'll be quietly remembering my auld granda (with requisite dram) and the sacrafice he and his genearation made.

  12. andysays - during the vietnam war, the 'dover effect' (pictures of the coffins coming back to dover air force base) was credited with reducing people's support for the war (arguably a logic-fail as it was already subject to strong criticism before they lifted the embarge on showing them, and stats suggest it makes little difference to public opinion).

    I wonder if the change in presentation in this war is because the high-and-mighty have finally woken up to the fact that it's a full-on fucking war, with hideous casualty levels - not the 'small local engagement' with a dozen or so dead, who could be waved through as 'acceptable', but a body count reaching 229 in Afghanistan after 179 in Iraq. I do also fear that said H&M are using the deaths, trying to convert support for the troops into support for the war. But if they are forced to face up to it - like that wonderful man who refused to shake Blair's hand - as well as reminding us of those who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice, then that's a good thing, I think.

    Re: poppies, I used to wear a white one, as I saw the 'regular' one as militaristic - and then I had a conversation with my Grandpa about what the poppy, and the Legion, meant to him. "Not the last resort, but a last resort, pet, that's what I think about war". So I've taken that on.

    I do think that there is a 'requirement' for people in the public eye to wear one - see 'that' QT - but I've had a couple sent over by my parents, and just left them out in the flat for people to take. And the only thing I've seen that makes them pause (people in their 20s and 30s with no military connections) is "but we haven't given a donation - can't take a poppy if we haven't given a donation!" which I thought was quite sweet.

    Anyway. Will raise a glass to Great-Uncle Jack in the pub later - there is a corner of a foreign field that is forever Birmingham.

  13. Hi 13thDuke.

    We’ve not spoken before - I think you must have arrived here during my self-imposed absence.

    I’d be inclined to agree with your grandad, except perhaps I’d prefer it to be like that every year. Unfortunately, as we both know, that will never happen.

    I too wouldn’t question the motivation of the men who fought wishing to observe in this way, even though at times I might wish that far more of them had refused to fight and to be used in this way subsequently. Some veterans of various conflicts have spoken out about the way the sacrifices of their comrades in arms have been used as a reason to go to war again, of course.

    I was cautious about bringing this up - I don’t want to upset anyone here for whom today is an important day of remembrance - but I reminded myself that the vast majority of those here are intelligent and thoughtful people who are always prepared to entertain different points of view.

    I’ll gladly raise a metaphorical dram to your grandad and all those who anyone else here is remembering today.

  14. andysays - sadly I think the 'use' of veterans for political purposes is inavoidable, but for them (I've worked with regimental museums in the past and heard some great things from the guys involved) this is a secondary thing to honouring fallen comrades. As one of them said to me "politicians start wars, armies try to end them" - most, for better or worse, are not political. I think that's because they sort of can't be, given their line of work, although I do think that if more would stand up and say 'no, this is wrong' they'd have more moral heft than the politicians they were facing down. But often they won't, because they don't see it as 'their job'. So maybe the only public statement they can make is to lay a wreath, or have their coffin unloaded from a plane. Have to admit that last year I was reduced to tears by the WWI vet trying to stand up from his wheelchair at the Cenotaph. More powerful than a million speeches from our dear leader.


  15. Hi Philippa:

    Glad to see you’ve eventually made it across from Cif too - we had to coax you for long enough!

    As you’ve said, some veterans etc have spoken out about this issue, including the one who refused to shake Blair’s hand.

    It’s a hugely complicated issue, with all sorts of inter-tangled strands.

    The distinction between support for the troops and support for the war is an important one, and one which often gets lost. In my younger days, I used to see it in rather more simplistic terms and feel that as any explicit support for the troops would be interpreted as or twisted into support for whatever war our masters were waging at the time, I wasn’t going to express any support for the troops.

    But even though I may think they’re sometimes misguided, I have to recognise that they’re often risking their lives for something they believe in, which is more than I’m ever likely to have to do - impossible not to have some respect for that.

    And as you suggest, you’d need to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the WWI vet struggling to rise from his wheelchair to pay his respects to his comrades.

  16. Hi andy,

    pleased to make your online acquaintance!

    I know what you mean about being cautious questioning the motivations of remembrance on this day.

    However, I believe we would be doing the past generation a serious disfavour by not discussing these things. After all, did they not sacrafice their lives for the freedom to do this?

    If not this time of year, then when else does the national psyche get together to remember and reflect?

    It should not be a case of remembering their sacrafice without questioning the motivations and failures of their 'betters' (remember this was a more deferential time) which led to this appaling sacrafice.

    This is the issue I have with the official remembrance commemorations, it seems to be all about remembering the deaths without any genuine reflection on what led to these appalling tragedies.

  17. On a lighter note (and while listening to 6Music's rather sensitive take on the silence - 2 minutes of listening to the sea) just wanted to give props to Sheffpixie for this comback on the Student Carnage thread:

    "Speaking as an old woman I'd be grateful if you didn't use us as a term of abuse. If I knew your address I'd come over and puke in your porch."

    Well said, that lady.

  18. "Have to admit that last year I was reduced to tears by the WWI vet trying to stand up from his wheelchair at the Cenotaph. More powerful than a million speeches from our dear leader."

    Yes, well put. The Normandy remembrance was stunning - those old soldiers' eyes to the sky during the fly past was such a powerfully moving image. My grandfather was a PoW from 39 to 45. He told me and my brother something about being a padre in the prison camps, facing firing suqad that was averted at the last second, dealing with the depravations, hearing the outpourings of countless fellow prisoners (a padre listens and offeres solace) - broken men, some of them. He never told his daughters or sons, so as a grand son, age fifteen I was priviledged to a very important history lesson that afternoon - one which I would hope Remembrance Sunday is all about, at its heart anyway.

  19. AS a war baby who did not loose her father I offer this for a; those war babies who did -

    War Baby
    He has not even seen you, he
    Who gave you your mortality;
    And you, so small, how can you guess
    His courage or his loveliness?

    Yet in my quiet mind I pray
    He passed you on the darkling way -
    His death, your birth, so much the same -
    And holding you, breathed once your name.

    - Pamela Holmes


  20. Ay ay, Bitterweed. My Grandpa was not deployed overseas - he was an engineer and spent the war at Bovington camp teaching (and I quote,) "them posh sods from the cavalry" to drive tanks. My dad said he didn't get much in the way of stories from him - until a few years before he died, when he admitted he didn't like to talk about it because he'd been 'safe' in GB, and had had a pretty good time (he met my nan at Bovington - she was WAC, I think, drove trucks), while his brother died in France.

    Very shortly before he died, when his mind was wandering, he kept talking about people my dad had never heard of. When I went to visit, he'd get agitated about 'the now' (no, Bob, you're not going home later - this is home) so I started asking him about these chaps he was talking about. Many of them were schoolfriends, who were deployed, and died. He lost so many friends, as well as his brother - and their memory, and some strange sense of guilt for not having shared exactly what they went through, was still palpable.

    It is indeed a privilege to hear their stories. I just wish it hadn't taken so long - but that was perhaps part of the character then. Mustn't grumble, and all that. Bless 'im.

  21. Morning all

    Hey, andy - great to see you!

    My mum was a huge supporter of the British Legion and collected for the poppy fund every year - I used to help her out quite a bit. Her dad was injured in the Somme at the age of 16 - he had lied about his age to sign up, bless his little heart. When I look at my 14 yr old and think of that, it makes me quake with fear. I have suitably brainwashed him into being a concientious objector, though. Hooray for indoctrinating your kids with your own philosophies!

    Anyhoo, one year Mum was invited to the Festival of Rememberance in the Royal Albert Hall - the one we see televised on the Saturday night - and I went with her. When they have the two minute silence they drop a poppy petal for every life lost in war since WW1. I cannot begin to describe what that felt like. I had tears streaming down my face and the petals were inches thick on the floor at my feet - and that covering the whole square meterage of the RAH.

    Because I have been at home with the lurg for most of the week, I haven't got a poppy yet this year, which is the first time I can ever remember not having one. Nobody comes round to the door collecting any more, like my mum used to do year after year.

    To reprise the old hippy mantra of the 70s - Imagine they gave a war and nobody came?

    Imogen posted something very poignant the other day about a conversation she had overheard near a tube station. A young chap was collecting for poppies, and an elderly chap was making his donation. The younger guy said "Lest we forget", and the elderly guy said "Well we have forgotten, haven't we, because we are still doing it".

    The War to End all Wars. Yeah, right.

    Rememberance, rememberance.

  22. And again on a lighter note, as I have quoted Grandpa Bob on more serious issues, Barbara Ellen's piece has reminded of a piece of advice from the great man (who, later in life, single-handedly kept the Suffolk motorised wheelchair repair industry in business - he used to do some rally-driving, and would keep cornering at speed) - which was, if physically harassed by a chap:
    "Kick a man in the privates and he'll just whine to his mates oh, it wasn't fair, she kicked me in the privates, and they'll all agree with him - smack him in the face and he has nobody to complain to"
    From the man who wrestled under the name 'Battling Bill Blotch", I considered this an expert opinion, and have always worked on that basis.


    Ah me...

  23. A great pleasure to see you back here Andy.

    It must have been especially awful for Wilfred Owen's family to have received the news of his death just as the church bells were sounding out the ached for peace. I'm a white poppy guy.

    Dog walking calls.

  24. Hey, yes, hi Andy, long time etc, a thoughtful post as usual.

    Does anyone find this joke from David Mitchell offensive - I just read in the Observer it got quite a few complaints

    Last entry in Anne Frank's diary: "Today is my birthday. Dad's bought me a drum kit"

  25. I don't find that offensive, BW. I think there tends to be a "don't speak ill of the dead"-ness about certain historical figures that gets way out of hand sometimes. I can't see why people would be offended, except if they thought that nobody should be allowed to make jokes about Anne Frank ever, however anodyne they might be.

  26. Have to admit, bitterweed, that I chuckled when I heard it. But you could definitely hear the 'conflict' in the audience reaction.

    His column today and Shazia Mirza's yesterday both deal with offence, and I am now trying to work out what makes me laugh, and what makes me go 'ooh, bit far, that'. Which, quite frankly, is taking a lot of fun out of it.

    Mitchell was brilliant on the news quiz friday - he manages to be both funny and cut through bullshit, which is my favourite kind of comedy. So he was getting applause for his points as well as laughter for his delivery.

    On balance, I like 'no-victim' comedy (Eddie Izzard, Bill Bailey, Victoria Wood) but I do love a good 'political' rant (Brigstocke, John Stewart, Bill Hicks) too.

    For me, it comes down to funny versus not funny. Which has to be subjective. And the Carr 'paralympics' gag has nothing (as Montana pointed out on the thread) on what I've heard from those in the forces.

  27. PhilippaB
    That's pretty much where I'm at with comedy. While we're at it, I am a big fan of Hicks - his stage craft was mesmeric, he worked incredibly hard from an incredibly young age - fourteen - on the whole science and art of stand-up. He was a already a consumate pro by the age most circuit comics are doing their first gig at uni. If anyone's interested, "Screaming in the USA" by Cynthia True is a good Bill Hicks biography - it's no hagiography, and a hell of a lot of research went into a pretty straighforwardly written account. You can't help but like the guy, his humanity, intellect and compassion were the drivers of his barbed, outrageous satire. And this always distinguishes, to my mind, "edgy" comedians from those who merely seek to outrage or offend. The underlying sense of moral purpose, of injustice, of standing up for the little guy, shouting down the pompous, the self regarding and the unjustly powerful... (I often find Mock the Week a bit of a let down because all they're doing much of the time is sneering - at pretty much anyone - for the sake of it. Well fuck a doodle do, aren't *we* clever ?)

    Mitchel's pice is pretty good today actually.

    Anyways, got visitors - catch youse laters !

  28. Just read the thread and posted that and a bit more on it. FFS. What are people getting their knickers in a knot about?

    Welcome to the Century of New Puritanism.

  29. Hi Andy you're missed.

    Amnesia is fostered and horrors are remembered on a political basis. Glencoe in 1692 is remembered, but the massacre of Irish women and children at Linlithgow (following the killing of the Irish prisoners at Philliphaugh) in 1645 is forgotten; Cameron of Lochiel is remembered for leading his clan over the hills to join Charlie at Glenfinnan in 1745; forgotten is the fact that Lochiel's brother forced the Cameron tenants to take part in the rebellion, threatening to kill their animals and burn their houses.


  30. BeautifulBurnout
    Dumbells - just one endless round of drinks laughs that one isn't he ???

    Interesting that there is a discussion here on the most solemn of subjects, on a remembrance day intertwined with an exploration of what makes comedy good....

    (Was watching Withnail and I again the other night and I quipped to a mate that it wasn't really a comedy but more of a tragedy with some brilliant gags....)

  31. Oh my god - poster has shown up on the FGM thread referring to 'cleaning' and that she was happy to have it done and is happy to do it to her kids.

    Now feel slightly sick.

  32. 6Music news - Rock festival in Dubai featured the Happy Mondays, minus Bez, because he's not allowed into the country. Rules included - no swearing, no alcohol on stage. Sean Ryder had some problems with the first one, they might have well have tried to stop him breathing...

  33. Hi Andy - good to see you back.

    Hi all just a flying visit as at my ma's and don't have the netbook. Re the poppy issue I wear both (God I know such a cop out in one way). I used to only wear the white poppy but when I met my other half his grandpa flew a Halifax and lost many friends in the war. His stories were rivetting. Sadly he passed away two years ago. He was an amazing charachter. He still had his big white handle bar moustache in his mid nineties.

    Anyway after listening to him and realising what the poppy meant to him I started to wear one (although have not got one this year as not been out for ages) and I wear it next to the white one.

    My own grandad didn't fight as he was an electrician (he worked for the coal board in later years and in the pits - but doing electrical stuff not actually mining) but he was told he had to stay behind. He had to made sure that the electricity stations etc were okay. He never really talked much about the war but lost friends and family so maybe there was the sense of guilt too. He did tell us about when Sheffield got bombed though and the whole village nearly was stood on the fields watching the sky burning in the distance.

  34. monkeyfish

    You're not posing as 3Speach over on the FGM thread are you?...Sounds like one of your 'characters'. If you are you're being very naughty...

  35. Phillipa - I think 3Speach is a wind up (possibly monkeyfish). 'Rhodesia' is a bit of a give away

  36. ...and if climatecommunion is also a wind up, I've been well and truly suckered.

  37. The East Germany thread has proven the point I was banging on about on yesterdays Hungary 1989 thread.

    If you have the temerity, the gall or the downright delusion to question whether the comprehensive victory of the west in 1989 led to ambrosia milk and honey in the east you are a Stalinist.

    Poor Olching has been getting deleted all over the shop trying to address some of the nuttier comments.

    The official narrative since 1989 infantilises- everything pre 1989 west good, everything east bad. It's cowboys versus indians.

    And whilst no apologist for totalitarian communism, what happened post 89 in Eastern Europe was a free marketeers wet dream at the expense of the populations.

    Fair play to CiF for commissioning pieces which challenge the perceived wisdom of post 89 in Eastern Europe

  38. Sheff, I know - bullshit meter was kicked off balance by the sheer awfulness of the comment. But there. I'd rather get suckered by ten trolls that let one genuine git get past me, heh heh.

    climatecommunion's real, though. scary stuff...

  39. following LordS comment on the Jess Reed thread:
    which is a bit like looking for the scraps of hash that you dropped in the carpet for that one last joint
    I tried to find 'Brillo Hunt' on Youtube for a musical representation of that feeling, but it's not there. Boo.

    So here's Canyon instead

  40. success! you can find the brilliant brillo hunt here...

  41. check out 'shag' too, that's brilliant as well.

    there should be a word for the feeling of happiness you get when you are reminded to listen to an album you haven't taken out of the pile for ages.

    amusicament, or something.

  42. Spot on, Your Grace.

    People in the Eastern Block did not have all the freedoms we had - freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of religion for example. But neither did they have freedom to starve, freedom to die on the hospital steps due to no medical insurance, freedom to be unemployed with no hope of work, freedom to be homeless. All those lovely freedoms we have in the West.

  43. No. I've been out all morning. I'll take a look though.

  44. Dunno who that is but he's good. I'd lay a lot of money it's a he..and white.

    "Tribal Rhodesian"..classic

    maybe it's an 'ethnic Afrikaner' taking the piss.

  45. monkeyfish - its also the play on freespeech (3Speach). couldn't be Hank could it?

    Hank - is it you?

  46. I just made a lush pud. My dad's a diabetic and I need to watch sugar levels, so I quartered some pears and stuck them in an ovenproof pan with a quarter of a bottle of red wine, a bit of water, a bit of Splenda and a couple of cardamon pods and let them stew in the oven for about 40 mins. Ate them just now with double cream and they were bloody marvellous.

  47. It was the "cleaning" bit that got me. I have never ever heard it called that - in the same way that I have never heard anybody from Zim under the age of 70 call it Rhodesia any more.

  48. BB - sounds lovely! I rarely add sugar to fruit in puddings (crumble? just use regular apples...) but I will admit that my attempt at sugar-free crumble topping (I can't use art. sweeteners) went quite spectacularly wrong...

  49. Pip - have you thought about using chopped hazelnuts in a crumble topping instead of sugar? You don't get quite the same caramelised gooeyness, but it gives it some sweetness.

  50. 3Speach has come up with an absolute stunner

    As outlined twice already, I am Rhodesian, not Zimbabwean. How dare you attempt to deprive me of the right to reclaim the term 'Rhodesia' from colonialism.

    Indeed, how dare you, knowing nothing of Rhodesian politics, lecture me about my own country and tribal backround.

    For your information, the NeoRhodesian movement is a reaction to the corruption and scandal of 'Zimbabwe" - the corrupt legacy of colonialism.

    The reclaimation of Rhodesia is symbolic of african autonomy and triumph over the disease of European colonialism and slavery.

    Any guesses who it might be?

  51. I dunno who it is but they are playing a blinder there! :o)

  52. BB - I have been known to throw in the odd hazelnut, but I normally use half oats and half flour, to get a really crunchy topping (still with a bit of sugar - although not as much as the recipe says). Mmmm.

  53. Yum, Pip.

    Back to the GDR topic - I am stunned at the vitriol being directed at the writer of this piece, frankly. You normally expect it on I/P and religious threads, but why is there so much utter hatred for someone who says "Well, the GDR perhaps wasn't a bad as it was painted" when said someone was born and brought up there?

    Is Capitalism the new religion, and any apostates are to be roundly vilified and publicly flogged or something? I can't believe I am on the Graun these days, I really can't...

  54. Theres rather a good rant on the carnage thead fron an 'almightymonkey' - the tone of which sounds familiar

  55. I have been known to throw in the odd hazelnut, but I normally use half oats and half flour, to get a really crunchy topping (still with a bit of sugar'

    Phillipa, sounds like a recipe for Comment is Free. I'm not sure what ingredient 3Speach is - rather clever, if in an unpleasant sort of way, whoever it is.

  56. If that's you, Mr Fish, nice one. Just responded to it. Although Sheff's response is better than mine :o)

  57. Nope..not me either.

    Although it might be someone impersonating me impersonating someone else...how cool would that be?

    Gotta say, an excellent post btw. One I would have been rightly proud of. Did anyone suggest to almightymonkey that the answer might be Socialism..get him to Google it. It's all a bit VHS to his generation.

  58. BB,

    good posting on the DDR thread. Olching, splat64 and hinschelwood have also made excellent points, hinschelwood epsecially on the FDR's moral vacuum which led to youth backlash and Baader-Meinhof terrorism.

    I think the vitriol or the absolute refusal to engage in nuanced thinking in this debate cloaks deep insecurity.

    The right wingers observe the social meltdown of society in the last 30 years and blame everything and everyone else except the socio-economic model they hold dear and which is the main cause.

    It's always easier to lash out at perceived enemies rather than to reflect on cherished political values and admit that they have done more to destroy social cohesion than 'Socialist New Labour.'

    Articles such as the DDR article feeds their paranoia that the Guardian is at the centre of the political debate and influences the New Labour Govt. New Labour is socialist, therefore the country's woes are the results of socialism.

    It's not so much a logical leap as a logical evel kenievel motorbike launch across the grand canyon.

  59. Very true, Your Grace. New Labour is no more socialist than Simon Cowell's arse. I am not surprised that a lot of Americans seem to be jumping on the band-wagon on CiF though. It really does hark back to the old Cold War days.

    Funny - an old James Bond is on at the moment (Octopussy) and at the start my hubby said "Ah, those were the days, when you actually knew who the enemy was because everyone told you it was the commies".

  60. Marilla Frostrup is on form today:

    Frostrup Agony Aunt

    Where do they get theses people from?

  61. God knows deano.

    I would drop-kick him if it were me, though. Looking at pr0n on the puter is one thing. Going off for random shags arranged through a swingers site is clear evidence that the geezer doesn't want to get married to her.

  62. Duke, BB, we are probably in agreement on a lot of things, but this nonsense you are both spouting about Bruni de la Motte's Cif article astounds me. I won't get into the article itself, but how deluded do you have to be to accept the following as some sort of reality or truth?

    The GDR was a society largely free of existential fears. Everyone had a right to education, a job and a roof over their head. Emphasis was placed on society not on individualism, and on co-operation and solidarity.

    No worker could be sacked, unless for serious misconduct or incompetence. However, even in such cases, other alternative work would be offered.

    Those quotes are from John Green's article on Socialist Unity here

    Green and de la Motti have a book out called 'Stasi Hell or Workers' Paradise' here which I haven't read myself, perhaps you have? I don't want to be rude about this but for fuck's sake, please try and do a little research before you pontificate. And if you're both familiar with Green's work and de la Motte's book, and are in agreement with their views, fair enough, then we'll just have to agree to differ.

    And here's a song for you both which speaks to a reality which is determined by chemicals rather than ideolgy: silver paper

    lol, as they say on YouTube.

  63. Did you ever visit East Germany while it was the GDR Scherf? Well I did - albeit that I was only 14 at the time, when my dad was working in West Berlin for a year.

    What I saw the times I visited East Berlin resonated far more with what De La Motte is telling us than with the garbage that some of the idealogically-driven free market posters are wittering on about - particularly those who never set foot in the country and saw how people were living.

    True, in the department stores there would be two of everything instead of of the ninety-twelve of everything that we have in our stores. True that one day a kid stopped and stared at us because we were eating bananas, and his dad apologised to my dad for his rudeness and explained that his son hadn't eaten a banana before because they were not imported all that often. But people were not miserable drudges keeping Metropolis running while the Elite partied on upstairs.

    People, in general, seemed to be far friendlier and more at ease with life than their counterparts in West Berlin. I know both Berlins were little more than a showcase for the benefit of the other side of the wall, but I instinctively preferred the gentleness of the East and its people to the raucous, rowdy, in-your-face-ness of the West.

    But that's just me.

  64. OK, you were 14 years old and it was Berlin. Not really typical of East Germany imho. Ever been to Rostock? Concrete apartment blocks several kilometres long and a dinky little train that will take you to Warnemünde where you can buy herring. Lovely!

    What did you think of the song?

  65. My aunt's German, and she and my uncle live in Berlin. What surprised me, on several visits there, after the wall came down, was a fairly strong consensus that while the wall coming down was good, unification was seen as more problematic. Most of my A&U's friends are arty, so they were completely behind the removal of the state controls on expression (in all its forms) but many of them were less convinced that 'one Germany' had been created, and were particularly narked that everything DDR-ish had been rejected. Given the choice, I'd imagine they'd choose freedom, but it doesn't mean they didn't have good memories of childhood, friendship, family as well, in amongst the crap. They felt that all of that (as well as any reasoned debate about socialism) had been chucked out with the oppressive bath water.

    So, I don't think the DDR was a golden age, but then I don't think anyone is arguing that. I think, as ever, that it's a bit more complicated than that...

    And the level of vitriol on that thread is indeed a bit weird. I mean, really weird, as BB says.

  66. anecdote - my Nanna and Grandpa went over to Berlin, before the wall came down, to visit Number 2 son and his strange German wife. Only, my Nanna being of a parsimonious persuasion, she went with a cheap tour. So they ended up in the East, which she hadn't realised could be a problem. Very nice hotel, and everything, but they only had one day trip over to the West (and were chaperoned so could not nip off to see A&U's flat), and my uncle could only go over to see them once.

    At which point, they asked why his wife 'hadn't bothered coming' - he says they never really understood that she couldn't (she was on a list of some description) because 'everybody's so nice'. Hopeless, bless 'em.

    By the time they were thinking of coming again, the wall came down, so Kim didn't have to offer to pay the extra to get them onto a trip to the West bit...

  67. Scherfig,

    just to make my position crystal clear.

    I am no apologist for the totalitarian communism which existed in Eastern Europe 1945-90. They were suffocating regimes in every sense of the word.

    I will say it again, I am not defending the Totalitarian Communist regimes.

    My arguments on CiF on the Eastern European threads in the last couple of days is that Totalitarian Communism has been replaced by Gangster politics and authoritarian capitalism, hardly an improvement.

    However because in neo-liberal eyes, their economies are market economies, we can turn a blind eye to to the corruption (Bulgaria and Romania especially), the dictatorial regimes (uzbekistan, kazakhstan and turkmenistan) and the authoritarianism (Russia). Of course the radical free marketeering and asset stripping (the oligarchs) was acceptable despite doing nothing for the populations.

    I'm not saying some things haven't changed for the better but we must look at why the rise of extremism is spreading in Eastern Europe and why despite 20 years of 'freedom' are the populations of Eastern Europe deeply pessimistic:


    If you look at the results you see people support Democratic principles etc etc but most people believe from the survey that economically they are worse off than communism.

    The questions we have to ask is why people feel that? Could it have something to do with the radical free market socio-economic model implemented 89-91?

    With respect, you have fallen into the trap that I criticised others for on CiF- that criticism of 21st century Eastern European politics and economics automatically makes you a Communist.

  68. Yeah, Philippa, it seems to be serious revisionism from both sides. As always, the truth is probably somewhere else, maybe somewhere in the middle, but ill-informed Cif commenters aside, a lot of stories from the old DDR are lost due to people being inexplicably dead. Just call me cynical, but when revisionism becomes so shamelessly blatant, then I just cry foul.

  69. Nice choon, scherf. A bit Lynrd Skynrd but not bad.

    Pip - one of my dad's colleagues in W. Berlin was a Brit who had been there since the days of the airlift - his GF was German and all her family were in the East. He was allowed over as many times as he wanted, but she was never allowed. This was in the 70s, mind you - dunno if things got better after that or not.

    Oh, and what His Grace said too.

  70. Aw c'mon scherf - how many people from the GDR were "inexplicably dead"? I know that people in the early days of the Wall were shot if they tried to escape but I don't think it ran into the thousands. I've been to the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie and seen all the films.

  71. Thx, Duke, that clarifies somewhat, and I'm not really disagreeing with your stance. I would, however, humbly submit that I've not fallen into the trap you mention. I like to think that I'm not quite so stupid, although I could well be wrong :0)
    What did you think of the song?

  72. Evening all,

    Lots of very good posts today, and hello! to Andy.

    Like others, I am sceptical of the way politicians use the poppy appeal to garner support for current warmongering. The 'war to end all wars' unfortunately didn't achieve that aim.

    My grandparents' generation liked their war stories, but only the amusing tales; they never spoke of the horrors. One of my great-uncles was a novelist and wrote a couple of books about his experiences in the trenches (which I think were actually quite limited; he worked mostly in intelligence).

    When my grandmother died a couple of years ago, about 18 months after my grandfather's death, we found that she'd been carrying around all the love letters he'd written her whilst he was overseas during the war (WWII). The letters were brilliant (and quite risqué!) and you could see the censor's marks where he might have hinted at their location. As he was ship's engineer, the letters veered from passionate pronouncements of love to the problems of repairing the engines in a stunningly short passage.

    They got engaged during one of his leaves and married upon his return, which was a narrow thing as his ship was torpedoed in the middle of the Atlantic and he survived a couple of days clinging to wreckage before being rescued. She always said she'd never forgiven him for letting the silver tea service he'd bought her in Argentina sink to the bottom of the ocean!

    On a note that is related both to this theme and Moctezuma, here's Cortéz the Killer.

    Only halfway through comments, back to reading the rest now....

  73. Oh, and 'Goodbye Lenin' is just a brilliant film, on the 'human condition' front.

    I think that Gerhild (Aunt) could have gone over had she not been 'on a list' as some of her friends were allowed annual visits to family - there was supposed to be the ability to get over in a crisis but it took so long to get clearance, usually the crisis was over by then. If the crisis was somebody dying, that was just bad luck. But those I think were people 'naturally' on the other side of the wall (cousins, where the parents lived on different sides, for example). If you'd escaped to the West, you didn't go back - unless on a moody passport, which was about as dangerous as just pitching up and saying 'hi, I'm back'.

    Have no idea what got Gerhild on the list...Mind you, as she's fairly militant now about vegetarianism, the environment, free speech, and art, I can only imagine how bolshy and outspoken she was when she had the wall running through her city.

  74. Scherfig,

    had a listen, not bad. I'm not too keen on late 60s early 70s American rock (the mighty Neil Young being the honourable exception).

    In terms of American rock this is what floats my boat:


  75. BB, politics aside, the old DDR was not somewhere that you would really want to live. And I'm not talking about people getting shot on the Wall - that was a few hundred (about 240 I think). I'm talking about the thousands that disappeared in the DDR over the years. Like they disappeared in Argentina, Chile, etc etc - totalitarian states everywhere. Do we only criticize fascists on Cif?

  76. Nah, we can criticise totalitarian regimes of all hues, scherf. Fair dos.

  77. Fair nuff, Duke. Old guys, but not so old as the inestimable Mr Young, Here's some young guys:


  78. I would like to echo that no social upheaval ever warranted that fucking Scorpions song.

  79. Like a bunch of whining meerkats stuck up a scorpion's arse.

  80. Re the Mitchell piece: I only know him as an Observer columnist, and I read his column today. When he repeated the joke, my first thought was that the Nazis had allegedly made things from the skins of the Jews they'd slaughtered and that it was in seriously bad taste (i.e. I thought he was hinting about the drum skins). The noise factor didn't occur to me until he explained it.

  81. BW - yeah but Neun-und-Neunzig Luftbalons was fucken ace!

    The Scorpions were vile.

  82. Thaum

    Ugh. I hadn't thought of it in that way at all... I am pretty sure it was the noise element that the joke was about, though you never can tell. That kind of makes me shudder now, though.

  83. Bitterweed,

    'Winds of change' has the capacity to turn anyone into the bastard lovechild of Erich Honeker and Leonid Brezhnev.

  84. Scherfig,

    thoroughly enjoyed that volbeat. I'll check them out further. It's as if Hank Williams was the lead singer of Slayer!

  85. lovelywar

    On the poppy issue, I don't wear one. It's a symbol which has been hijacked by the militarists, the war lobby, those who bomb the shit out of weaker nations and send young men to their deaths in pursuit of profit.

    I resent enormously the fact that I can't wear a poppy without being seen to implicitly endorse war fought on behalf of the aims of a tiny elite.

    Just as I despise the Sun for claiming to be the paper that "backs our boys" when, if they really cared about them, they wouldn't be clamouring for war at every opportunity, and thereby putting our boys in harm's way.

  86. Bitterweed, that wonderful Scorpions song encapsulated all the longings and ambitions of a repressed generation living under a totalitarian system that would not tolerate offensive hairstyles. Nobel peace prize now!

    thauma, great tune. I would dearly like to make a joke about ethically acceptable Cif musik, but it's just a good song (the Zuma album version is best, I think). Or live rust

  87. Hank - my sentiments exactly.

    And happy birthday Bonnie Raitt.

    S'funny, I know at least 5 people who have birthdays today, including my best mate.

  88. Duke, they're a newish Danish band. A bit limited, I think, but they've got some good stuff.

  89. Ah, scherfig, but we ain't on Cif here. (Nearly posted the live rust version instead!)

    Do you mean that references to the conquistadores' genocidal practices might not be acceptable to political correctness?

  90. Scherfig,

    on the subject of bad German hairstyles, check out these late 80s/90s German footballers

  91. @Duke - and if Hank Williams was the lead singer of The scorpions? Man, that'd be an angry band (-;

  92. BB - yes, I'm sure that's not what he meant, but that's why you have to be careful with that sort of joke.

    Not that I'm advocating off-limits areas for jokes, but surely there's enough other material.

  93. ''Hank Scorpions''

    it does have a certain ring to it. Can you do the whistle to 'winds of change?'

  94. "Like thousands who disappeared in Argentina, Chile etc etc - totalitarian states everywhere. Do we only criticize fascists on Cif?"

    I'm reading The Open Veins of Latin America atm, scherf. What it spells out, as if it needed saying, is that totalitarian states are facilitated, endorsed and exploited for the benefit of our liberal democracies.

    The ugly truth which is so often glossed over is that our material comfort is made possible by dictatorships the world over.

    That's why I've got very little time for "charity activists" who think that thousand-dollar-a-plate galas will ever address the underlying causes of 3rd World poverty. Most of them know that they are complicit in the corruption and oppression they spout liberal pieties about, just as they also know that their own comfortable lifestyles would be threatened if their sticking plaster approach was tossed aside in favour of the radical surgery which is necessary.

  95. Ha ha BB, I liked Nena, but also liked those boys when I were younger... sorry guys...

    Thauma, check this:


    PS Michael Schenker was quite seriously unwell *in der kopf* when he did this. It shows. Magnificent !

    "Hank Scorpions"

    Fucking genius !

  96. And, even though German, he wasn't a goalhanger.

  97. Thanks to everyone who’s greeted me on my return.

    Way back upthread, 13D said:

    *However, I believe we would be doing the past generation a serious disfavour by not discussing these things. After all, did they not sacrifice their lives for the freedom to do this?*

    On one level they did, at least they were told that was why they were making that sacrifice, but I don’t think that’s the whole story, any more than the reason the current troops are dying in Afghanistan so that little girls can go to school without being in fear of their lives (obviously that’s a noble aim too).

    I pretty much agree with Hank that the symbolism of Remembrance Sunday, including the poppy, has been irreversibly hijacked by the forces of militarism and their apologists (anyone seen Dennis MacShane recently?).

    It’s not just the case that history is written by the winners, it’s also rewritten to suit the political and ideological needs of the ruling classes today.

    *Oceania is currently at war with Eurasia, therefore Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.*

  98. HankScorpio
    Sunday night frivoloties aside, there was a decent piece about African aid and Brussels the other day, don't know if we've covered that here in my intermittent visits; pretty much in accorcance weith your comment. Very good to see you back bay the way, as well as comments from that incessant excoriating wit Monkeyfish.

  99. 'safari can't find the server', Duke. Is the old DDR still censoring t'internet?

    Hi Hank, don't want a row here, but given the poppy thing that we're talking about, I think that in the past you've misunderstood swiftyboy's political views, and have unfairly hammered him just for being an ex-soldier. fwiw, my grandfather was a merchant seaman during WW1, he 'jumped the quay' in Liverpool and spent most of the war sailing beef from Argentina and Uruguay to Britain. The only reason he did it was because the Brits had got his name from an informer as being a member of the Donegal brigade of the IRB (forerunner of the IRA) and he had to skip the country on false papers. So, when the Easter Rising took place in 1916, he was on a British ship dodging Germans to supply the troops in Flanders. Funny old world, ain't it? Nothing's ever black and white.

  100. More Wilfred Owen, for those who think supporting the troops means you have to support the war:

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori

  101. PS. was a proper old cnd peacecamper in the 80s. but the poppy is one way of allowing what my grand-father said to me to run through my blood. Forget the militarism, the pomp and the chicanery... allow in the truth of warfare.

  102. PPS Hank ,swifty's an excellent fellow, surely you were testing against the grain ?

  103. My favourite WWI poem, Montana - "the old lie" indeed. I posted a comment this time last year on a Max Hastings article about Remembrance Sunday, and finished it with that Owen quote.

    We studied the WWI poets at school when I was 15 or so, and that poem always stuck with me. It was mesmerising, such powerful imagery, and shot through with anger.

    I love Brooke's The Soldier too, for its lyrical beauty. The two poems bookend the war, the patriotic innocence and the ugly reality.

  104. Scherfig and BW - nobody's conscripted these days. Swifty, from what I've seen of his views, probably spends too much time reading Andy McNab.

    Maybe I'm wrong. Wouldn't be the first time, but he's never bothered engaging in a discussion.

    I'm open to peace talks.

    I'm not interested in people who retreat from the battleground and snipe from deep cover, if you understand this somewhat tortuous metaphor.

  105. Erm - BW - not bad if you like that sort of thing, I suppose. Flying Vs always scare me a bit. But if we're going down the metal route, and they mentioned Rainbow, how about this one?

    Montana - Dulce et decorum est - yes, indeed. I have a mate who was in the army, and when I get him round my house and ply him with a bit of booze, he talks about the horrors of Belfast and Belize, and the others places he was sent. However, we don't agree at all in general philosophy; he is essentially pro-war as he's been conditioned to "support the troops" at all costs.

    Having been in the army, he sometimes displays a shocking disregard for foreigners' lives. Thinks it's funny when bombs kill the "enemy", that sort of thing. Yet he's very touchy about people "disrespecting" UK troops. Me, I don't see the difference between two dead bodies, and if one of them died defending their own land rather than attacking someone else's, well....

  106. Well, danke schön Duke, but I've now got articles about Sarkozy, Paul Potts, Schweinegrippe, and Prinz Harry but no fucking hairstyles {apart from Philipp Lahm).

  107. Those German footballers' hairstyles must be pretty extreme:

    *Service Nicht Verfugbar*

    So does www.bild.de run on pluck software, or what?

  108. Hi andy, welcome back. How the hell are you?

  109. It seems that war is always a very different beast for the men who have to actually fight it and pretty much everyone else. I have a great-uncle who was a bombardier in WWII. He was involved in the fire bombing of Dresden. He gave all of his medals, ribbons, etc. to my brother and me to play with when we were little and the only time I ever heard him really say anything about the war was when he once remarked that the men who joined organisations like Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion were the guys who'd had an easy time of things in the war. He said if they'd really seen anything of the war, they'd never want to look at their uniform again, let alone, put it on once a year.

  110. Well fucking said, thauma. That's my experience too of the few old soldiers I know.

    Weighing things in the balance, my sympathies tend to be more with innocent babies, children and non-combatant adults who litter the ground of Iraq, Afghanistan than with grown men who had free will and choices...

  111. Hank - great Dylan choon.

    The ugly truth which is so often glossed over is that our material comfort is made possible by dictatorships the world over.

    This is very true. The US has been running around for years, dismantling leftist democracies and putting in right-wing puppets, mostly with the backing of the rest of the Western world. I'm chiefly aware of what has been done in Latin America and the Middle East, but no doubt it's been going on in Africa and elsewhere too.

    You don't count the dead when god's on your side.

  112. Gents,

    I apologise for the failed link. When I posted it I clicked on it and it worked. To make up for it, have a chuckle at this

  113. Hank / thauma
    I don't think Swifty's anything other than a fine fellow, and probably an excellent soldier. I don't have a problem with ex army, some of them have tremendous insight, and are as 'socialist' as most public sector workers in their views.

    They've tested the true mettle of our leaders on a front line, and know about solidarity when the shit comes down.

    Pretty fucking confusing....

    thaumaturge , try this: Wild dogs

  114. Read the book I mentioned, thauma. It was written in 1971 but has been recently updated. Hugo Chavez gave it to Obama when they met after the Great Brown Hope won the Presidency.

    It's an overview of 300 years of British and American colonialism in Latin America, and makes clear how we have freedom and prosperity because other people don't.

  115. Me, I don't see the difference between two dead bodies, and if one of them died defending their own land rather than attacking someone else's, well....

    Exactly. And the causes of war are usually nowhere near as black-and-white as people want to think. One of my eternal frustrations with so many of my compatriots (even most of the ones who were against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is how unwilling they are to consider that these people might have a legitimate grievance against us and that acknowledging that doesn't equate to condoning terrorism.

  116. Hank - the thing is, I believe his attitude is a coping mechanism for what he's done. When you get him talking honestly, he is horrified at what he's seen and, yes, what he's participated in.

    Somewhere in today's Observer (the article on the Fort Hood shooting, I think) was a bit on PTSD where a soldier was hallucinating and seeing the child that he'd killed.

    How could you possibly recover from something like that?

    Oh, and here's another Dylan song, just 'cos I like it: Dark Eyes. Suits the mood though. (Unfortunately a cover version but not a bad one.)

  117. BW - it's up to him, mate. I've left the door open. If he wants to discuss things, I'll do so. I've never run away from an argument.

  118. Yeah, I’m well scherf. How are things in Copenhagen?

    Glad to see the debate is still raging in my absence, though with such as yourself to stoke the fires, I always knew it would carry on.

    Hi Montana:

    *war is always a very different beast for the men who have to actually fight it and pretty much everyone else*

    One of the ways in which war has perhaps changed from WWI where Remembrance Sunday and poppies and the rest have their origin, is that civilians are more often directly caught up in the horror of it all than they were in previous times. Some (though not all) of the men (and it is still mostly men) who are doing the fighting are relatively well protected and looked after when they’re injured; those who are inadvertently caught up in it, on the other hand, are usually not.

    Most of us here will never know the horrors many from our grandparents’ generation experienced, and thank fuck for that. The experience of “our boys” in Afghanistan may be terrible, but it’s not the horror of the trenches described by Owen et al.

  119. Hank - aah yes, I remember reading about Chávez giving him that book. I've always meant to get around to reading it!

    Montana - yes, it makes me despair when I see how (mostly) brown people in remote lands are dehumanised and their suffering doesn't mean anything. Because, you know, they're killing our lads who are over there invading.

    BW - back to you in a few mins!

  120. This comment has been removed by the author.

  121. Andy

    The experience of “our boys” in Afghanistan may be terrible, but it’s not the horror of the trenches described by Owen et al.

    Yes, but as you point out, it's a different thing for the civilians in the line of fire these days. With fire-bombing and drones and what-not, the attacking army wreaks incredible devastation on the civilian population with very little risk to themselves.

    So it's even easier to dehumanise the enemy if you don't get anywhere near close enough to look them in the eye.

  122. I stayed off theGDR thread - couldn't be arsed to argue - I think the fall of what passed for socialism and its replacement with what now passes for democracy with its rampant freebooting capitalism has had effects that are much more complex than a lot of the comments suggested and i don't know whether I really understand enough about it to make a sensible contribution.

    One thing that interests me are these attempts to re-instate Stalin as a great hero of the nation, why people are doing it and what it means. Rightly or wrongly it seems to involve a sense of loss and nostalgia for old certainties. That although lives were constrained in many terrifying ways, it was possible to have a kind of life that was bearable. Seems crazy to us in the west but as His Grace points out many people are so much more economically worse off now than before - Moldova for example, is a basket case and corruption is everywhere (although it always was its much worse now).

    I'm off to Romania for work in February and will be meeting up with government officials there - should be interesting.

  123. Oooh. Diehard 4.0 on the telly.

    Time for some chewing gum for the brain

    Back in a bit.

  124. BW - beat this for some overindulgent metallishness!

  125. What are you going to be doing in Romania, sheff?

  126. Sheff - great post: sounds like a fertile ATL seed....

  127. If we're brutally honest with ourselves about these things, it doesn't actually matter whether the killing is in Iraq or Zimbabwe or Bosnia (as long as it's not in the UK or the US}. We turn a blind eye to so much, and what we choose to ignore depends on our politics. I think that the concept of a 'just war' is long gone (Orwell could argue that fairly convincingly in the 1930's) but there's just too much confusion today. No matter how unpalatable it is, we need to acknowledge the fact that there are wars, all over the world, all the time. And there's not very much that we can do about it. A bleak view, I know, but that's life. Agonising about it on blogs might make us feel better, but it doesn't change anything.

  128. "Dulce et decorum est"

    I recall Swifty citing Own's words in the recent past - can't be certain but I seem to recall that he too thought it one fine poem which I do too.

    I don't have Swifty down as yer typical military man at all - rather more questioning and critical to be just a leader of grunts I thought. Certainly a guy with a fine sense of the ridiculous imho.

  129. "How could you possibly recover from something like that?"

    Interesting question, thauma. I think you can only do it by dehumanising the enemy and dehumanising the troops themselves. Dehumanising individuals has always been the goal of every military organisation, obviously, convince them that they are no longer individuals but part of a corps, with shared identities, a common purpose and a mutual enemy.

    It's a perfectly natural human reaction to fear "the other" and to identify with one's own tribe. The military preys on that instinct.

    We all buy into it in different ways - I support the England football and cricket teams, for instance, wear the shirts, love it when we win, hate Cristiano Ronaldo or Glenn McGrath when appropriate. But my tribe is the English working class first and foremost, so I have no affiliation with the public school and military twats who play for and support the England rugger team. And I support whoever they are playing.

    Philip Toynbee's quote about wiping out the threat of fascism in England for a generation by bombing the East Stand at Twickenham on a match day resonates with me.

  130. What ever happened to those white poppies you used to get?

    Anyway, here's a tune that always gets me in the mood for a bit of peace and reconciliation.


  131. What ever happened to those white poppies you used to get?

    Usually available at the local Quaker Meeting House

  132. thauma - I'm fascinated by it and my work has brought me into contact with quite a lot of mainly young people from eastern European countries.

    Hank - Its to do with the ways in which the nationals of A2 countries, (Romanians and Bulgarians) can gain access to the workplace in the UK. As you know there are big restrictions on what they can do that are likely to stay in place for at least the next couple of years - much to the irritation of the A2 governments.

    I'll be looking at the systems used by the local agents who recruit for temporary seasonal labour in UK agriculture plus meeting with people from the Ministry of Labour there. Or at least thats the plan.

  133. Interesting post Hank, and I agree with much of what you say, as I often do, but there seems to be a danger of falling into the same trap of “dehumanising the other” you’re pointing out.

    To suggest that everyone who supports the England rugby team is necessarily a public school and/or militaristic twat, for instance, is to deny their humanity (in addition to being plain bollocks) and that makes me extremely uncomfortable whoever it’s directed against.

    We’ve seen the unfortunate effects of thinking that the end of achieving socialism and the apparent emancipation of the working class justifies any means, including regarding those we decide are the class enemy as inhuman, and they end up with regimes which are just as inhumane in their own way as the system you and I both want passionately to be rid of.

    In fighting the enemy, we have to make sure we don’t come to take on the very traits which make him the enemy…

  134. Hi, Andy! Nice to see you again!

    One of the ways in which war has perhaps changed from WWI where Remembrance Sunday and poppies and the rest have their origin, is that civilians are more often directly caught up in the horror of it all than they were in previous times.

    Well, certainly in the areas where the fighting is being done, though, in some ways that makes things harder on the soldiers. Imagine the guilt of the soldier who's been ordered to storm a house because the intel is that it's the headquarters of the local warlord, who goes in firing only to discover in the aftermath that the people he's just killed were women and children.

    Here in the US, coverage of these wars has been sanitised to an obscene degree -- of both native civilian and US troop casualties. I truly believe that most of the opposition to the war that built up during the Bush administration was due, not to any moral qualms about why we were there or horror at the number of lives being lost, but simply because it hadn't been as easy as we'd been promised and we weren't getting the oil rewards that we'd been led to believe would come our way.

    People got angry because petrol doubled in price, not because Iraqi children were dying at the hands of US soldiers.

  135. 13th etc. - clearly you are just as out of touch as the rest of the aristos - eww! I stand back in horror.

    Hank - yes, the dehumanisation is what's inculcated into the troops, but unfortunately for them it's not enough if they have a spark of humanity left when they've finished.

    Now, we've finally found something in rugby we can agree on. I generally (secretly) support whoever is playing England. This is not because I hate the English (far from it), but it is a deep-seated Celtic tribal thing, probably much like the warring mentality.

    So yesterday: England vs Australia. I like the English, am dubious about Aussies. Somehow my gut was supporting the Wallabies. Can't explain it. It's a sport thing.

    Philip T - I assume a Polly relation?

  136. This comment has been removed by the author.

  137. @deano - re swifty, like I said, if he wants to have a chat with me, fine. My impression is that he posts a lot of smart-arse comments to while away the hours at work, like some others on here (or more to the point, over there). I've never seen him post anything which I was interested enough to engage with.

    If I'm wrong, and you, BW and scherf are suggesting that I am, fair enough. The fact remains though that whenever our paths have crossed on here, he's never stuck around to back up his arguments.

    Maybe he goes back to the PhoneBooth to lick his wounds. And maybe this place would be a whole lot less fractious if the PB was decommissioned, so that those of us without access were assured that our posts here weren't being analysed and picked over, and that a coordinated response by the elect wasn't being planned.

  138. "I've never run away from an argument."

    Should be a standfirst for this site !

    I don't know about soldiering, but I do know how most of my ex army buddies think. The work done in Bosnia, as covered by Ed Vulliamy 10+ years ago frankly, in the Guardian, by the SAS and paras 2,3 was accountable for saving many villages worth of bosnian/croat muslems from being part of a Breughal painting.

    There will always be soliders, as there will be nurses. There will also be a few ex-soldiers involved in e.g. Sierra Leone, stopping some foul genocide, who then go private for sandline/executive outocmes and ship blood diamonds.

    Soldiering is in itself a non-aligned profession. Peoples' behaviour within those organisations is often as much defined by the organisations' traditions and heritage as the individuals' input. Which is extremely varied.

    Meanwhile, here's KD Lang doing some justice to Neil Young.



  139. I reposted that before Hank's comment, which is a good one.

    I don't use PB anymore; it has been taken off air as far as I know.

    Swifty is a stout fellow Hank, trust me, whereas you are just an agressive, nihilistic miscreant cunt and I need to get very, very pissed with you soon.


  140. I'm a stout fellow too, BW, but I'm cutting back on the beer and the curry, so there's still hope(-;

  141. It's been a long time since I read Clausewitz, but isn't de-humanising the enemy pretty much essential to getting troops to fight?

    You're a very naughty boy, Mr. Fish. ;-)

  142. Mr Fish needs to fight Mr Blair for EU Presidency. He'll win.

    Hank and me need to take in some apple blossom, green tea, tai chi and no porn, alcohol or bad vibes for a week or two. Preferably somewhere abroad. How about Brussels ?

  143. Thanks, Montana:

    *Imagine the guilt of the soldier who's been ordered to storm a house because the intel is that it's the headquarters of the local warlord, who goes in firing only to discover in the aftermath that the people he's just killed were women and children*

    That’s a reasonable point, but it’s still not really comparable to the effect on the dead women and children, and those maimed in the attack, and those whose country is effectively destroyed, at least I don’t think it is.

    And we should bear in mind, as Hank mentioned above, that Britain and the US no longer have conscription. The members of “our” armed forces have all volunteered, which is another significant difference to many of the past conflicts our countries were involved in.

    Young Britons and Americans signing up today do have some idea of what they may be signing up for. That doesn’t make them monsters, but it does make them responsible for their fate in a way that civilian casualties are not.

    *we weren't getting the oil rewards that we'd been led to believe would come our way… People got angry because petrol doubled in price*

    And you wonder why we say you Americans have no sense of irony ;-)

  144. Hank
    "Maybe he goes back to the PhoneBooth to lick his wounds."

    Don't know my friend I'm not a 'booth member and if I recall it correctly Montana has recently said she has stopped he participation there. I don't know if that means that is been closed down or if I have misunderstood the position.

    I always though it more potential trouble than it was worth and somewhat inconsistent with what UT was about in regard to free and unmoderated speech.

    I had always assumed you were a phone-booth member. Just goes to demonstrate how assumptions can be so wrong. I can't imagine you were refused entry though.

  145. MF - heh, here's my take on final reconciliation: Carmen.

    Sheff - very interesting! Please keep us posted and consider writing a piece on UT2 on what you're doing.

    Andy - you are right about rugby and working-class, of course, but I've been round that course before with Hank and he can't be convinced. ;-)

    Hank - Swifty has a lot to contribute IMHO.

  146. should have read ...stopped her participation there

  147. Good luck with that, sheff, sounds like an interesting challenge!

    @thauma - seriously, if I'm stuck in a pub when the England rugger chaps are doing their thing, I'll happily adopt an Aussie accent and persona. But I hate the bastards when the Ashes are at stake.

    @andy - good point, but exceptions must always be made.

    And yes, thauma, Philip T was Polly's dad.

  148. Hank - my impression is that cricket is a *much* more middle-class sport than rugby. But then I don't live in the SE....

  149. Dunno, haven't been to phonebooth for ages. Only nip into the things these days for a fast change into my superhero suit before I shower the interweb with sarcasm...it's one of my special powers...I also have the ability to type after consuming industrial quantities of cheap lager.

    I sent off an application to join the X Men but they weren't impressed. That lot only do boring shit like saving people from burning buildings and holding together collapsing suspension bridges with coachloads of orphans on who all look like the little kid out of ET. Fuckin losers.

  150. Hank
    if I'm stuck in a pub when the England rugger chaps are doing their thing, I'll happily adopt an Aussie accent and persona

    Reminds me of when I lived in Scotland. Whenever England played anyone my mates always supported the anyone - they would have gouged out their own eyes before supporting England.

    Personally i'm a complete tart when it comes to support - depends on the buffness of the players! Only joking...but it has crossed my mind.

  151. @deano - yeh, I used to be a PB member. Flounced out of there many moons ago, so I know whereof what I speak.

    @thauma - "Swifty has a lot to contribute IMHO" - another testimonial from someone whose opinion I respect. Fine. It's not in my gift to ban him or to ostracise him. I have said often enough tonight and previously that I'm happy to engage in discussion with him. He doesn't seem keen to do so.

    Doesn't matter anyway. He can comment on here, just as I can, and we can ignore each other, if that's what he wants. I'm really not bothered either way, just as I'm not bothered if Bru or Kiz want to comment on here and ignore me.

    It's an open forum. Montana has never banned anyone to the best of my knowledge (billp might have been "constructively dismissed"!).

    I'm more than happy to engage with swifty. Hell, I'm happy to debate with Kiz, if she wants to do so.

    I'm not sure why some people on here expect this place to be all sweetness and light. There's a lot of intelligent, opinionated people on here, so there's bound to be arguments. It amazes me how ready the bourgeois liberal types are to run away at the first inklings of unpleasantness.

  152. monkeyfish:

    I think you’ll find that membership of the X-Men is restricted to those whose special powers are the result of genetic mutation, rather than being bitten by a radioactive spider (Spiderman), subjected to excessive does of radioactivity (the Hulk), or falling into a vat of radioactive lager (Monkeyfish) - OK, I’m guessing about the last one.

    If you feel strongly about your exclusion, maybe you’d have a case which the Commission for Racial Equality could take up on your behalf. At the very least you should be able to turn it all into an ATL piece for CiF.

    Let us know how you get on…

    Goodnight everyone; it’s been just like old times :-)

  153. Andy -- no, I didn't mean to imply that the effect it had on the soldier was in any way worse than the effect it had on the women and children. My point was that a soldier killing a soldier from the opposing army can rationalise that in ways that a soldier who has killed unarmed civilians cannot.

    And as far as the fact that the troops were not conscripted, most American servicemen -- the grunts, anyway -- were young men who had enlisted as a way to finance a tertiary education. They thought they'd do their two years at Fort Hood or Camp Lejeune or maybe Kaiserslautern, if they were lucky, and then they'd go to Redneckia State University on the GI Bill. Mosul and Kandahar were not on the itinerary.

    I should probably stay out of the which-sport-is-more-middle-class debate, but as an outsider, I'd have thought rugby was too tough a sport for poncey private schoolboys.

    Cricket certainly seems posher to the alien eye.

  154. Cricket more middle class than rugby...

    Nah, don't think so. Cricket's a summer sport, rugby's a winter one, so most state schools will play football in the winter and cricket in the summer. That's what ours did anyway. And cricket has always been the summer game for the working class as a result.

    Interesting to look at the class composition of England sides over the years, the bowlers tended to be working class, and mostly from the north, while the batsmen tended to be middle class, public or grammar schools. Not sure why that is.

    Cricket is a mixed class game, rugger is for the ruling class in England, thaum. Either public schoolboys, armed forces chaps or coppers.

  155. Fucking love the idea of MF falling into a vat of radioactive lager! Nice one, andy.

  156. Here's one for the working classes. I hope brusselsexpats doesn't see it because working class people aren't supposed to understand this shit. Only Belgian scuba-diving uncles who fought in the war and know which fork to use for the fourth fish dish should be allowed to listen to it. This might be a bit pleb now, what with it being hijacked by the EU and all that, but it may still be one of the finest pieces of music ever written (along with Vangelis' score to Bladerunner)

    ode to joy

  157. Pretty sure Bru's in the audience there, scherf. It was probably a fundraiser to bring Beethoven to the benighted masses of Benin. Everyone went home smug and self-righteous, and the Africans went to bed cold and hungry.

  158. Yeah, maybe, Hank, but did you catch the German shit right at the end there? Something about all men will become brothers? That's the patriarchy talkin' right there. And Bernstein was a Jewish liberal who funded the Black Panthers. Fuck me sideways!

  159. Arrgh. Take that 'allowed' out of that post when you read it.

  160. Nice one, montana. But watch out, your middle class roots are showing. Stay stupid - you'll be better off in the long run.

  161. "Stay stupid - you'll be better off in the long run."

    Too fucking right, fella. It's a biscuit.

    If only I'd known that the key to acceptance on the leading liberal comment site in the UK media was taking a position on Jaffa Cakes, and meerkats, rather than getting all angry and political...

    What do I want to talk about?

    It sure as hell isn't meerkats, wombats, or Jaffa Cakes. Nor is it tungsten teapots, jewelry, shopping for shoes or nights at the friggin opera.

    It's what's been discussed here tonight, and over the last few days. This forum is becoming interesting and provocative.

    Long may it continue.

  162. Nice bit from Albeniz, montana. Asturias has directlyy discernable roots in Moorsih traditions and can be heard in Turkish music to this day.

    Now.. which Blade runner track do you mean??




    Great great music from a timelessly intriguing pulp sci-fi.

    And Rachel is still the toppest bit of robo-totty ever ...

  163. scherf -- nothing in my ancestry but tenant farmers, tin miners, carpenters and railroad workers. I's just uppity.

  164. Nothing finer than an uppity lady.

    Night all.

  165. Indeed
    PS Deano, good luck with those fuckwits invading your field. Keep the hounds in and your chest out.



  166. It's all good, bitterweed. But this is suitably spooky, sets the movie up, if you see what I mean.
    btw Pris is also robo-totty (in a very non-sexist way, of course.)

  167. Let me tell you about my mother....

  168. No, it was a quote, silly billy.

  169. Great. My visitor from Oz says global warming is a myth perpetrated by Thatcher to close down the pits.


    Fucking GREAT.

    Bollocks then. Here's this


  170. "..nothing in my ancestry but tin miners..."

    So you're uppity, montana. Take that chip off your shoulder, sister. All this class war crap is so tiresome.

    I'm so weary of angry little plebs on here who think that they have a right to a voice just because their fathers weren't diamond miners.

    To read some of the comments on here, one might almost think that there's something wrong with airhead socialites getting cushy non-jobs in Brussels thanks to their connections.

    Stop whining, the lot of you. Anyone would think that you'd been herded into gas chambers.

  171. Good old John, RIP

    And with this I'm fuckin' splittin, Jack.

    Let me tell you about Thatcher's mother...

  172. Heh
    From the "edgy humour" thread...

    See youse later

    "If gay cunts are allowed to laugh at our soldiers dying I want to laugh at niggers been told the truth"

    If only you could get the great big panzer cock of madness your parents have fed you all your premature incubation out of your bumbrain we might be able to feed you with some facts to the contrary.

    Unfortunately, under new BBC-Homo-Human Rights-Guardian-Lesbo laws this is impossible, so your brain is now surrounded by cheap Romanian porn and vast tracts of stupidity forever. Now go vote for change.

  173. Where is this cheap Romanian porn of which you speak, BW?

    Anyway, here's what I'm listening to atm...


  174. Hank, under my bed, along with my soul... heh

    My second favourite Dylan era...


  175. Nite then GitmeisterHank

    What did you think of Chronicles BTW? Assuming you read it.

    I thought it was magic.

  176. It's in my "to read" pile, mate.

    Der Gitmeister (-;

  177. Right, that's me for the night:

    There once was a pig called Allah
    Who skived under a big wheel barrow
    By wiggling his cock
    He turned back the clock
    And all the Daily Mail cunts declared war on Jarrow.

  178. I have just cut myself on a brussels sprout.

    That is all for now.