Archive for General
2015 turned out to be a pretty shitty year but friends and family have rallied round to support us. Let’s hope 2016 is a better year than 2015!
The Saturnalia tree is up, there’s a pagan holly and ivy wreath on the door and the kids are playing with their winter solstice presents. That can only mean one thing: it’s Zeusmas! Thank the FSM Hanukkah was early this year because it’s going to be a nightmare next year when it clashes with Kwanzaa on the 26th.
And this, my friends, is why people in secular countries all over the world say happy holidays. They’re not taking the Christ out of Christmas, they’re putting the Yule back into Yuletide, the Saturn back into Saturnalia, winter back into the solstice, the hog into Hogswatch and the FSM into ChriFSMas. There’s no war on Christmas, just an appreciation of the fact that most people don’t believe in the religion that claims the exclusive rights to the month of December to celebrate the birth of one of its prophets (who was actually born in spring but had the date moved to help Christianise the Roman Empire) and their insistence that the winter solstice be dedicated to their chosen religion.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, I hope you have a happy whatever festival you choose to celebrate and in honour of the pagan roots of the holidays get drunk, have fun and be as debauched as your significant other/chance festive acquaintance allows you. Having a good time and making your loved ones happy is more important than arguing about whose sky fairy has the biggest tonker, especially when we all know the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodly appendages are way bigger than Jehovah’s old fella and He’s got hundreds of them!
I’m no stranger to being censored on the Guardian’s ironically named Comment Is Free but usually it’s for such heretical thinking as disagreeing with something they say or correcting one of their many, many mistakes, not for criticising an arts critic.
Guardian arts critic, Jonathan Jones, has written what I will generously call a worthless piece of substandard literary diarrhoea describing Sir Terry Pratchett as a “mediocre” writer publishing “ordinary potboilers”. He bases this opinion on never having read any of Terry Pratchett’s books and never intending to read any of them even if he lived to be a million years old.
Let’s just examine the facts shall we? Prior to the release of his final book, Shepherds Crown, this week Terry Pratchett had sold over 85m books in 37 different languages. He was given the OBE for services to literature in 1998 and knighted in 2009 for the same. He was the number one best selling fantasy/sci fi writer in the 1990s, won a huge list of awards, was awarded 10 honorary doctorates, was made an adjunct professor of Trinity College Dublin and big budget films were made out of four of his Discworld novels. The plays of his books have been performed the world over and a large number of his books have been recorded for radio and broadcast around the world. The books have spawned calendars, diaries, figurines, board games, computer games and other merchandise. Sir Terry Pratchett had a net worth of £42m according to the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List. He has been credited with inadvertently inventing the genre of comic fantasy. When he died, people around the world mourned his death and inspired by a quote from one of his books, Going Postal – “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken” – thousands of websites and internet servers gained a “GNU Terry Pratchett” header in the ultimate geek tribute. Even the Guardian website did it.
Jonathan Jones has written two books. You won’t have heard of them and you won’t have read them. He’s an art critic for the morally and financially bankrupt Guardian newspaper. He presented an TV series on art for BBC2 and although he has presented two prestigious arts awards, he has never won any award himself.
Jones isn’t even a has-been, he’s a never-was. He’s a literary snob exploiting the release of the last ever Discworld novel to gain some notoriety. He says that he’s never read a Pratchett book and that they’re so far down his list of books to read that he “would have to live a million years before getting round to them”. He says that he once flicked through a Discworld book in a bookshop “but his prose seemed very ordinary”. Ordinary!
Because he’s never read the Discworld novels he hasn’t watched the characters evolve over three or four decades until you know them so well that reading the next book is like catching up with old friends. He hasn’t experienced the hairs on the back of his neck prickling at spotting a strand of continuity in the latest Discworld novel that goes back 30 years or the pleasure in reading a book for the tenth time and still spotting something that you didn’t notice the first nine times. He can’t empathise with Commander Vimes’ struggle to reconcile his working class, republican man on the street background with marrying into the aristocracy and becoming a Duke or Granny Weatherwax’s constant battle to contain the “black” in her, knowing that if she stops fighting it a lot of people will get hurt (or have their heads messed with so they believe they’re frogs in a human body which is a lot worse then being turned into an actual frog). He won’t know that that Sir Terry (or Pterry as he’s known to fans) tackled such complex subjects as poverty, equality, bigotry and religious extremism whilst making people laugh. If that isn’t -ing genius then I don’t know what is.
I picked up my copy of the Shepherds Crown on Saturday (well, two copies actually – one to read and a slipcase edition to keep) but I haven’t started it yet. I’m reading another book at the moment that my wife ordered me to read and I don’t like leaving a book half read. I’m sure Pterry would have understood. I’m in no hurry to get through the Shepherds Crown because it means I’m at the end of the Discworld series. Once I’ve read it, the Discworld will be frozen in time and that saddens me. Throughout all the trials and tribulations of trying to survive as a hormonal teenager, through the traumatic loss of close family members, meeting my wife and having a family, through depression and dark times and the best days of my life Terry Pratchett has been there for me, providing a means of escape from reality and even a moral compass at times. We could all benefit from being a bit more Terry. For me he was the greatest author that humanity has produced and he will be without equal, at least in my lifetime. And Jonathan Jones? How many people he’s never even met will still be mourning his passing 6 months after he’s gone?
If you are thinking of commenting on Jonathan Jones’ article then just these three words will suffice …
GNU Terry Pratchett
So we’re now on day 3 of the solar apocalypse and against all odds I’m still one of the survivors.
The temperature got as high as 32 degrees yesterday which is the sort of temperatures we experienced some summers when I was a kid. Of course, 30 odd years ago a heatwave in summer was just called weather and people made the most of it with a day at the seaside whereas now it’s a killer solar apocalypse caused by global warming and everyone is advised to stay in their houses because they’re going to die the second they walk out of the house.
Day 3 of the solar apocalypse is a bit cooler and damper than the first two days. It’s still in the 20s but the light showers of cool rain must be bringing some welcome relief to the council workmen who are doing a stirling job clearing the mounds of bodies off the streets.
Meanwhile, here’s another gratuitous tabloid heatwave picture.
Well, day one of the killer solar apocalypse is over and I’ve managed to cling on to life against all the odds.
According to the Met Office and other experts the temperatures getting up to the same sort of level that holidaymakers inexplicably survive in their millions every year is going to be a killer with particular groups at risk including the young and old, active and inactive, healthy and unhealthy, fat and thin, gingers and depending on your religious persuasion, gays.
Despite ticking several of those boxes and the Daily Express suggesting I’m little more than a walking corpse, I took my life into my own hands and ventured outside a couple of times yesterday. I’m still here to type about it so I made it through day one of the killer heatwave; only time will tell if I survive to the weekend.
In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous tabloid picture of some young ladies sunbathing in a park to remind you the sun’s shining.
Gone but not forgotten …
It’s that time of the year again where Christians celebrate Jesus turning into a zombie. But it’s important to remember the true meaning of Easter in these modern times.
Ēostre was celebrated by pagans long before the Romans started nailing Jews to bits of wood and was only adopted as a Christian festival when the Romans started hijacking pagan festivals and attributing them to events in the bible.
Easter is full of pagan imagery such as painted eggs and rabbits or hares. The eggs represent the sunlight of spring and the rabbits and hares are fertility symbols. The whole festival of Easter really has nothing to do with zombie Jesus, it’s all about celebrating the spring equinox and worshipping a pagan fertility goddess. So enjoy your chocolate pagan fertility symbols and don’t forget to say thanks to the goddess Oestera.
I was absolutely gutted today to hear the news that Terry Pratchett had died. I turned to Facebook to share grief with the world (as you do) and sat staring at my phone for half an hour. How do you distil your feelings about the death of the author you’ve read almost continuously for the past 25 years into a Facebook status? I’ve lived inside this man’s head for the majority of my life and it feels like losing a member of the family.
I started reading Discworld books as a young teen on the recommendation of my local librarian. He wasn’t an orangutan and he didn’t have a beard or pointy hat so he probably wasn’t a wizard. He was a great librarian though because he managed to track down every Terry Pratchett book in the county one by one and get them sent to our little library so I could devour them.
My collection of Terry Pratchett books is … comprehensive … and I read them all the time. My wife keeps telling me I should read something else and I do read other books from time to time but I go straight back to my Terry Pratchett books when I’m finished. Some of these books I’ve been reading for 25 years and I still find something new every time I read them. The continuity is amazing for 40 books written over 3 decades with characters that might have made only a cameo appearance in the first couple of books popping up 30 books later.
I was fortunate enough to accidentally (no, really) rent a holiday cottage in the next village to Terry’s house a couple of years ago. The housekeeper told me which pub he drank in and I thought about going a few times but I decided against it, figuring that his local is probably the last public place on earth he can go without being bothered by fans. My kids wanted to walk up the lane to his house and tell him how much of a fan I was but I pointed out that that’s stalking. He probably wouldn’t have minded but I felt like he’d earned what little privacy he had. I’m one of what I imagine to be a fairly small number of people who not only know where the Chalk is but to have seen the corner of Discworld that Tiffany Aching inhabits. The reason the Chalk feels so real in the stories is because it absolutely is – it’s what he saw when he looked out of his window.
Pterry’s genius has earned him immortality but a world with no new Terry Pratchett books is just too much to contemplate at the moment. Terry Pratchett and the Discworld have been a big part of my life for so long. No more books to look forward to. No more harassing the staff at Waterstones for pre-order dates when I know a book is due out soon. We’ll never know whether it’s Carrot or Nobby, what happens when a werewolf and a human make a baby, what really happened to Esk or where little Sam’s cow is. This makes me sad even though I know we would never have found out anyway because he didn’t know himself. He could have tied up all these loose ends with a few words but I think he liked to keep himself in suspense as much as his readers.
Terry had been suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s for the last few years which he referred to as his “embuggerance”. He died at home, surrounded by his family in a bed covered in cats. He went before the disease took his mind which is a small consolation. His death was announced on the Twitter account he shared with his assistant, Rob.
At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
My trusty Vauxhall Zafira has finally gone to the great scrapyard in the sky. The MOT was up this month and it just needed too much work going to it – two new tyres, new clutch, new EGR valve, new brake pipes, new discs, new exhaust … and that’s just the things I knew about!
I’m now the proud owner of a Suzuki Wagon R+ VVT auto. It looks like Postman Pat’s van and it’s a bit of a grandad car but it’s surprisingly roomy, quite nippy for a 1.3 engine and it’s only done 30,000 miles in 9 years with a service every 6 months. It’s not the most exciting car I’ve ever had but I’m not quite ready for a mid-life crisis just yet.
I thought going from a manual to an auto was going to be difficult but I’ve only gone for the clutch a couple of times since I picked the car up on Friday.
Smash some pumpkins … or whatever.
I’d like to thank the guys at the company that hosts my website, Runtime UK, for all the work they put in to recovering the database behind it that I accidentally deleted on Sunday evening.
They put in many hours of hard work recovering a database that wasn’t even supposed to be backed up so I didn’t lose the years of material that not only has great sentimental value but also goes some way to charting the history of English nationalism and the (small “c”) campaign for an English Parliament over the last decade for which I am extremely grateful. They even identified a dodgy Ajax script that was destroying the performance of the website to the extent that Google emailed me to tell me there was something wrong with it. This is why it’s worth paying for a good service from a local company instead of the cheapest offering from a faceless corporation. Would the likes of 1&1 or GoDaddy have gone to those lengths to help me? Not a chance.
So thank you Andy and Phill for your hard work and anyone else at Runtime who was involved in my minor (self inflicted) disaster, the doughnuts are on me.
I’ve seen the sad news today that Andrew Ian Dodge passed away on Friday after losing his second battle with cancer.
Andrew was a seasoned campaigner who couldn’t help but try and right any wrongs he came to know of. He had a strong sense of right and wrong and his desire to effect change led him to stand for election as Senator for Maine for the Libertarian Party.
Andrew was a supporter of an English Parliament, a eurosceptic, a prolific blogger and a rock/metal fan. We had a lot in common!
The BBC is asking “Why don’t the English want more power” in response to the Scottish independence referendum in defiance of the evidence that actually they do.
In an article promoting the balkanisation of England into artificial regions, they make the ridiculous claim that 19% of English people support regional government and only 15% support an English Parliament. Toque has been keeping tabs on English Parliament opinion polls since 2002 and not once has support for an English Parliament dipped that low – in fact, in a 2007 ICM opinion poll for the Telegraph 15% supported English independence. Are we to believe that just because people have stopped asking the question in the last year and a half, the support for an English Parliament that has consistently been between more than 50% and almost 70% depending on the question asked has suddenly nosedived to just 15%? That’s rubbish and the BBC know it which is why they’ve left it unsourced.
You can gauge the support for an English Parliament quite easily by just asking any random sample of people – your family, friends or work colleagues – whether they think England should have its own government like Scotland does and unless your circle of friends are ill-informed hardcore British nationalists, most of them will say yes.
The case for an English Parliament does need to be made again because there hasn’t been an effective campaign highlighting the issues and the solution since the Campaign for an English Parliament collapsed into a mere parody of itself a few years ago but support for an English Parliament is still high. Support for regionalisation is still low but increasing in Yorkshire and Cornwall where Labour and Mebyon Kernow respectively are peddling their divisive, anti-English politics.
The message for Yorkshire and Cornwall – and elsewhere in England for that matter – is that an English Parliament and regional devolution aren’t mutually exclusive. There is no reason why Cornwall or Yorkshire shouldn’t have an assembly of its own if that’s what the majority of people there want but that power has to be devolved democratically from an English government, not given away by the British government to frustrate the wishes of the English people. A Cornish Assembly or Yorkshire Assembly could never compete with the Scottish Parliament or Welsh or Northern Irish Assemblies let alone a G20 country but England in its own right would be a G8 country, one of the largest economies in the world. The British government won’t devolve meaningful power to a region and that’s one of the reasons why the regional assemblies were rejected by the electorate but a devolved English Parliament with greater autonomy for county or regional government under that English government could deliver local decision making where it’s more efficient or a national approach isn’t appropriate without breaking up England.
The message for the BBC is that we do want our country back and you can quote all the dodgy, unsourced statistics you want and give as many column inches to the regionalists as you like but you won’t change the facts. The majority of people in England want an English Parliament.