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Monday, 11 November 2019

Thoughts on NOT Thursday: The YouTube 'Putsch'

This has become an interesting snapshot of British politics that I feel it's worth recording and commenting upon, because at the moment with larger constantly looming political stories both at home and abroad it is becoming increasingly possible to lose track of events and fail to mark those important occasions and happenings with our attention, but I think this case in point of the failure of the far-right is one that is an outcome of hope for moderates, the left and the general population. Not least because it offers a push back to the received wisdom of the power of social media and as such I'll being comparing this story to another recent event, the so-called 'storming of Area 51' that gained a great deal of social media 'noise' and apparent influence, which ended in a damp squib.

Turns out that people who say one thing online in a completely anonymous and consequence free environment are unlikely to follow up any of the things they said they'd do. If only Brexiteers and the alt-right (two totally different groups of course) were also so spectral in their support. Although this story helps prove that apparent volume of online support doesn't necessarily lead to true believers. If we're not being watched or we have no responsibility to enact the things we say we'll do then we rarely seem to do them.

Link to BBC story here
Towards the end of last year there was a definite feeling (being promoted online) that the dissenting voices of 'Tommy' and his UKIP pals would not be silenced. That only with a true HARD BREXIT would the voices of the British Working Classes really be heard and responded to after their shattering 51.9% to 48.1% 'victory' in the advisory EU referendum that was held in 2016. Indeed, longtime demagogue Nigel Farage said what was lurking in the recesses of Tommy and his followers minds the previous year (at an event in 2017) that "there will be widespread public anger in this country on a scale and in a way we have never seen before... if they don't deliver this Brexit that I spent 25 years of my life working for, then I will be forced to don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines."

Well, the March deadline came and went without any public guillotines making an appearance and even after the October Spooktactular deadline was also passed, still not an incident had occurred. Perhaps they are biding their time?

I mean, either that, or  the Farages, Tommy Robinsons and other Dick Braines were just all full of shit and pandering to a delusional and easily swayed crowd of scared, confused and not overly sympathetic people with bombastic ranting specifically designed to appeal to weaker impulses and help keep them in power.

You could end of feeling sorry for them if they weren't literally the worst sort of people imaginable.

Here's an example in case it seems like I'm making a straw man.

Tommy Trumpet and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Booklet
By the man who brought you, 'Ten Reasons why Jacob Rees-Mogg should be Prime Minister.'

For a brief while it seemed as if the far-right was on a resurgence all across Europe (indeed, elsewhere it really is and is an actual threat) but thankfully Tommy seems to have almost single-handedly damaged the standing of such parties in the UK almost fatally. Perhaps another figurehead will rise up to become this generation's Nick Griffin, as I can't help but think that Tommy's has his time already. Since his release from Belmarsh prison in September, Tommy has been rather quiet, but it's interesting to see that one of the last public things he did was to 'back Boris'.

Really there's not much more that needs to be said about these people, as there's no point in engaging with them in good faith as this is the last thing that they would ever do. Their rhetoric is a swirling nonsense of racist buzzwords that only the initiated can interpret (AKA a dogwhistle) which leaves a deniability that allows their verbal slurry to permeate normal channels of discourse in an attempt to 'mainstream' their ideas. Fortunately, unlike the fascists of the USA and elsewhere in Europe and Russia, our lot are a rather pea-brained collection of failed humans.

I mean, unless you think that Farage and Boris Johnson pose an actual existential threat to the UK.

I'll get back to you about that on Friday the 13th.


Timeline of events:

    Sunday, 3 November 2019

    Foodie Whatever: Spanish Stew and Viv Dhal

    It wouldn't be a surprise to hear that I'm finding the thought of discussing or thinking about British politics, society and all her ills a massive depressing stressful bore presently. Frankly I don't think I'm alone in being fed up with the constant infighting, division, and most egregious, the continual bare-faced lying by those in power and those that would take power undeservedly (i.e. Farage, Bannon, Tommy etc).

    It also doesn't help that our seven month old child has decided to cease sleeping for more than two or three hours at any one point, meaning I'm in a state of almost permanent zombie-like torpor, which makes dealing with my job, a increasingly frantic exercise in futility as I attempt to do four people's jobs while the whole place seemingly falls apart, nigh on impossible.

    Plus it's now well on the way to Winter in Scotland. A prospect that should fill most sentient mammals with dread as the big warm glowing orb goes away for three months and we live in a state a cold, dark, soggy misery and this time I can't even drink myself unconscious like most sane Scottish people do during 'the dark months'.

    Given all this, it is probably time to practice some mental health management. So, it's away with social media and all the unhelpfully biased news coverage, time to focus on caring for the family and spending time with them, and do good things for myself such as eating really nice foods. One of which is an old classic recipe paraphrased from a friend and the other is a recent experiment.


    Spanish Stew, or 'Guapo Fantastico'

    Chicken, Chorizo, Bean and Olive Stew

    This stew came about from having half a chorizo sausage and a big pot of olives in the fridge. A few brief searches of the internet later, a lightning fast supermarket sweep, and we were ready to get creative in the kitchen together.

    It's a lovely experience to cook together, although our sous chef is a little young he does provide excellent musical accompaniments, as well as providing a morale boost when required. If you can't replicate a baby in a bouncy seat, at least play some funk and soul music while you cook, which we also did.

    Ingredients List
    Chicken Thighs (off the bone, although this point is contentious, I prefer them like this)
    Chorizo, a sausage not slices
    Cannelini Beans, tin of
    Green and Black Olives with oil, herbs and garlic (or just a heap of olives that you like)
    Red Bell Pepper
    Small 'baby' potatoes
    A tin/carton of 'nice' tomatoes
    Tomato puree
    Onions
    Garlic
    Paprika
    Olive Oil
    White Wine (a white Rioja or other Spanish white seems appropriate)
    Crusty Bread to serve, ciabatta will do

    Method
    1. If, like us, you don't have a massive stoneware casserole dish then you'll have to make do with your largest saucepan. Heat a good glug of the olive oil at a medium-high temperature on the hob and then add the roughly cubed chicken. Stir this until the meat is sealed, it probably will stick a bit but this is fine as it'll all come off once the wine gets added later.
    2. Add the chopped red pepper, onions, chorizo and garlic. Add some paprika, about a teaspoon will do. Heat this for a couple of minutes or so, stirring all the time. Now pour in a good amount of the wine, like a half glass or so. Add the olives as you stir in the wine, you want to let this reduce a bit. Our olives were very salty, oily and herby so no additions were needed, but you might want to.
    3. While that's happening, bring some water to boil in another pan and add the potatoes. You want to these to be 'nearly' done, which will take ten minutes at most.
    4. Add the tomatoes and half again the amount of water from the tin/carton, give it a good squirt of tomato puree (about a tablespoon). Add the tinned beans, strained of their juice. Stir, reduce the heat to low and put the lid on. Give it a stir every five minutes or so.
    5. Once the potatoes are ready strain them and add to the stew. Walk away and forget about it while you bath the baby and it all burns to the bottom.
    6. Add some more water, a bit more puree, a pinch of chilli flakes (pul biber) and stir the burned goodness back into the stew. Also have a glass of wine about this time because it's all too much really.
    7. Serve with bread and the rest of the wine, but only once the baby is asleep.

    Some of these steps don't need to be exactly followed of course, I'm sure it would taste just as nice without burning it for example, but who knows maybe that added to the flavour?

    Viv Dhal

    Classic Masoor Dhal

    I've been making dhal varieties for a very long time now. It provides a basic base for all sorts of other more exciting ingredients to be added, but this list and method is one that I got from a good friend (the titular Viv) and is so fool-proof that it's worth following through everytime. Additions are still possible and encouraged, but I'll leave that to you. This is the classic dhal and is good enough on it's own with Basmati (method also covered) and Raita (ditto) only.

    Ingredient List
    Dhal
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 3cm ginger, grated
    3 cloves of garlic, grated/crushed
    3 green finger chillies, sliced (deseeded or not, heat tolerance depending)
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1.5 tsp tumeric powder
    2 tsp ground coriander
    1 lemon, juiced
    Fresh coriander
    Butter
    Oil
    Enough Red Lentils for Two, washed
    Access to water (I've cooked this while camping)

    Raita
    Greek Yoghurt
    Cucumber
    Fresh Mint (these three minimally)
    Nigella Seeds
    Garam Masala
    Spring onions
    Sea salt flakes

    Method
    1. Fry your ingredients in the same pan that you'll use for cooking the lentils. Heat the oil and butter, add the onion and fry for a minute or two stirring. Add the ginger, garlic, chillies and spices. Also at this point don't tell Viv that I ALWAYS add a hearty shake of ground fenugreek, which I think is the tangible taste/smell of Indian food and is probably my second favoruite food smell after Dill. You might need a touch more oil/butter if you're being frugal. You want a paste like consistency. Fry this on a medium heat for five minutes or so. You want everything cooked through.
    2. Remove 2/3 of this mix and set aside in a dish, add a wee touch more butter to melt through this because why not?
    3. Add the lentils to the pan and stir them through the remaining mixture for a minute or so. Then add water and once boiling (should be almost immediate) reduce the heat to a minimal simmer and pop a lid on.
    4. Oh yeah, timing. Hope you're reading this BEFORE starting the recipe. Anyway, at around the time you're adding the onions and spice mixture to the dhal pan you also want to be adding your washed basmati rice to a pan of cold water and a lid on. 1:2 rice to water. Brind this to boil and then reduce to simmer and cook for fifteen minutes or until all the water is gone. A glass lid is invaluable for this task! Either that or shaking the pan while holding the lid.
    5. Did you make your raita already and put it in the fridge? If not, go back in time and do that. How to make? Chop and mix. Personally, I quite like to grate my cucumber, but that's just my kink.
    6. Hopefully your lentils and rice both evaporate their respective waters aroundthe same time. The dhal, of course, should be a bit looser than the rice. Mix through your set aside masala mix and squeeze through the lemon juice, serve topped with chopped fresh coriander, alongside the rice and raita. Oh yeah, did you buy mango chutney? Get some of that too.

    Keep eating happy.

    Love,

    C x

    Wednesday, 4 September 2019

    Words on Wednesday: Prescient Poets

    Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion,
    Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave and eats a bread it does not harvest.

    Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
    and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

    Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
    yet submits in its awakening.

    Pity the nation that raises not its voice
    save when it walks in a funeral,
    boasts not except among its ruins,
    and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
    between the sword and the block.

    Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
    whose philosopher is a juggler,
    and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

    Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
    and farewells him with hooting,
    only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

    Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
    and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.

    Pity the nation divided into fragments,
    each fragment deeming itself a nation.

    Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of the Prophet


    Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
    and whose shepherds mislead them.

    Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
    and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.

    Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
    except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
    and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.

    Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
    and no other culture but its own.

    Pity the nation whose breath is money
    and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.

    Pity the nation - oh, pity the peope who allow their rights to erode
    and their freedoms to be washed away.

    My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti, after Kahlil Gibran


    Jane Frere



    Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Words on Wednesday: Thali Katori

    Thali Katori
    An Anthology of Scottish and South Asian Poetry
    Edited by Bashabi Fraser and Alan Riach
    Luath Press, 2017
    ISBN 9781912147090




    I like a random poetry discovery as you may well know. Well, this one fell into my lap last week just as I most needed it. I've been struggling to read anything longer than a paragraph recently; exhaustion, child care, lack of motivation, other concerns, world weariness, etc.

    So, this literary "feast of many flavours" was a much appreciated find. Here are just a wee sample.

    Tessa Ransford (1938-2015)



    The dhobi's dog


    The dhobi's dog will return from riverbank in the sun
    to the house, but not lie down; to and fro he'll trot
    panting, semi-wild, hither and thither recalled,
    never petted, fondled, either hot or cold.
    Does he belong? To whom? Dhobi-ji send him home,
    Bibi-ji won't give him room. Such is my lot.

    Born and reared in India, comforted by ayah
    on some cool verandah of lofty bungalow
    with charpai and dgchi, decander and serahi,
    enervated, dusty, the whining mosquito,
    black ants and red, hug fans overhead:
    when all was done and said, the British had to go.

    In Scotland I froze: hands, feet, nose,
    in thick uneasy clothes at dour boarding school:
    a wind-resistant, dismal, stern, redoubtable,
    grey-stone-wall life exemplified by rule;
    embarrassed to embrace, weep, laugh, kiss:
    was I of this race? from such a gene pool?

    I lived in Pakistan, land of the Mussulman,
    governed by the Koran. I learned Punjabi,
    dressed in shalwar, travelled to Lahore,
    joined in zabur, lived on dal-chapatti:
    but didn't my passport say 'British, born Bombay'
    however long my stay in Sialkot or Karachi?

    I like the way I speak, the voice my thoughts make,
    yet Scottish folk are quick to think me English.
    I've lived here (sixty) years (Anderson forebears
    and Glasgow Macalisters - that's buksheesh!)
    Still my language finds no place, no ethnic dress or face:
    I plead my special case and thus I finish.


    Irfan Merchant



    Address Tae Chicken Tikka Masala


    Fair fa' the nations favourite dish
    fulfilling everybody's wish,
    great chieftain, O so very Scottish,
    the spice o life;
    ye came, and conquered the English,
    tae cure thestrife.

    Born in Glasgow's Shish Mahal
    during Thatcher's iron rule,
    your origins stretch to the Mughals
    but when they tried
    the chicken tikka, the locals
    found it too dry.

    The chef wad think tae open up
    a can o' Campbell's tomato soup,
    add chilli, colouring with pap-
    -rika for zest;
    and then O what a glorious sup,
    simply the best.

    As Scots we want the hottest thing
    on the menu, a dish with zing:
    haggis disnae mak us sing -
    we're globalised;
    it's the mince an tatties o Tony Singh
    brings tears tae eyes.

    Noo we export tae India
    oor national dish, making it clear
    that Scotland is a warld leader
    in aa the airts;
    fir chicken tikka masala
    ye've won oor hairts.

    Lord Ganesh, tae please the Scots
    remember whit they want is lots
    o sauce and spices, very hot,
    but dinnae worry;
    Ah've got the answer in ma pot -
    gie then a curry.


    Shampa Ray


    Red Moss


    Are you land or water?
    You welcome me,
    spongy wetland, burnt red
    rain-fed mosses stacked
    discreetly under heather.
    I've gone this way before,

    looked out at lochs,
    Grand Canyon, a mile deep,
    gardens that no longer hang
    but are hung into the earth.
    I have seen you, cast
    my thought-hook elsewhere.

    But today it is your
    peaty reticence, the silence
    of your insects, the lure
    of no purchase, that wants me.
    Your open-heart surgery landscape
    will unravel me enough.

    I want your compressed
    witness, your tidy files, the human
    and inhuman in your dark seams.
    What was and is, together,
    not reduced like the curlew's cry
    but deep as Bible layers.

    You do it with such flair,
    skip over the ten thousand years.
    You are the story I would walk on,
    slip through as fish or toad,
    come clean to fill your sky
    full of bright sentences.

    Bashabi and Alan

    Friday, 26 July 2019

    Games Day: Championship Manager 01/02

    I'm having to talk about this here because otherwise I will drive JJ and my friends and colleagues up the wall about it, which is incidentally the main motivation behind this blog anyway.

    That is, to have a space where I can 'talk out' ideas and concerns that would become an irritation in other ways. So, if in reading this you find your eyes glazing over, have no fear as this is typically the reaction I get when boring people about my activities and interest in the Championship Manager series of computer games. So, after that exciting introduction, let me now talk about...

    Championship Manager 01/02


    Championship Manager 01/02 (henceforth CM0102) is possibly my favourite computer game of all time. I might love the Baldur's Gate series (and will talk about those games in connection with my RPG past some other time, possibly if I replay the games) and the Fallout games (they became something totally different since Bethesda took over, but New Vegas is a great game) but I sincerely think that I've spent more hours playing CM0102 than any other game.

    A brief look at screenshots of the game shouldn't fill you will much/any excitement, unless you are thrilled by a good spreadsheet (and why not?), but therein belies the hook of the game. It's not the flashy graphics or exciting and different gameplay that gets you, all of these things can become usual and then passé reasonably quickly after all, but it's the core structure of the game that speaks to me and apparently many others. That is, the joy of organising!

    I mean, I am a Librarian, with a background in academic philosophy, so this really shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone, but I find a great pleasure in organising a 'perfect' team of players and the tactics of the team. Obviously, this is never quite realised as there's always something going wrong and something to win. Much like football itself, it's never truly 'over' and permanently 'won'.

    The benefit of this game rather isn't it's completeness, but rather the gaps that require imagination to fill. Unlike later versions that have 2D and 3D representations of the live game, this version is only text highlights and although there are images, they are rather a collection of stock backgrounds rather than individual specific portraits or actual locations and so forth. These people and places are all 'described' in the brief abstract way that the game uses, with special events being rare and not allowing a great deal of interaction with. Again, this is something that later versions alter, with newer games having endless press briefings and interviews, as well as player management and more realistic world football developments.

    Although these changes would, you'd assume, make the game more engaging, instead for me it makes the game seem more a slog and constant 'clicking through' of meaningless menus. Certainly having seen people play FM19 (the latest Football Manager game) this is how they seem to find these additions. CM0102 allows you to play through entire seasons in a few evenings.

    So the choice lies whether you prefer story or detail, minutiae or narrative, whether football itself represents a social story or a strategic competition.

    Now this last point might simply be me stretching a metaphor beyond breaking point (it is) but there is still something in that I believe. Namely how we differently interact with games, with art, with life. There isn't a right way, but we seemingly allow more space for personal differences in how we attach ourselves (how we care-for) to these games than we do the more 'important' things like politics. That is, "oh you like X? That's interesting, I like Y which is different from X, but I can see why you'd like it" or "oh you like X? That's interesting, I like Y which is different from X, tell me why you like it as I do not." These sorts of conversations are more likely when talking about games and almost impossible when discussing politics online. Although, perhaps the more vital component is the latter, 'online', than the subject itself (although I contend that this plays a significant part also, as it holds an implicit assumption about the 'value' of the subject).

    Do I now tell you about some of my games? How I took Gornik Zabrze from mid-table obscurity in the Polish league (with a maximum of 5 non-Polish players per team) to becoming Champions of Europe within four years? How I took tiny Hoffenheim from the German Regionals to becoming the dominant force in Germany and Europe, a 'career' game that has run for over ten in-game years, and has also seen me parachute into the EPL to save a relegation threatened Chelsea? How I took Welsh minnows Swansea from the bottom of Division 3 into the EPL with superstars such as Roy Keane, Zidane, and Patrick Kluivert playing for them before an in-game bug caused the entire game to be lost? These are just my most recent games.

    Maybe some other time... But I think that, like describing one's dreams to another, that they are never quite as interested for *you* as they were for *me*. Perhaps instead a few screenshots of some OMG moments from those games...

    Czech Republic v Paraguay World Cup 2010 Final

    It's hard to think of anything less likely

    Apart from this perhaps