Friday, 31 October 2008


In my last post I succumbed to a bit of media manipulation. I had seen some interviews on Channel Four News with teenagers who saw nothing wrong with leaving bullying messages on answer-phones, but I don't know how those interviewees had been selected, nor how the interviews had been edited. The under-20s I have known certainly never struck me as likely to be bullies. The bullies I have known were mostly 40-plus.

I don't usually watch TV news, which in general I find much less informative than the printed press, but lately I have got into the habit of turning it on simply because the American election has become compulsive viewing. Note to self: no more regular watching of news programmes after 5th November, not even Channel Four!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


I had never heard of Russell Brand, and I hope I shall never hear of him again. I vaguely knew the name Jonathan Ross, without ever having watched of listened to him. But now everyone is condemning them (except the under-20s, who apparently think it's OK to leave disgusting messages on someone's answerphone). All they did was to join in the national sport of public humiliation. No programme of 'reality TV', no game show is complete without the judges (celebrities of course) insulting the participants, one or two of whom are then voted off - preferably to give a tearful interview afterwards. People don't win by winning; they win by not losing. I suppose it's the modern equivalent of throwing Christians to the lions - or throwing bulls to the Christians - but it seems rather nasty that people want to see others being humiliated. Or have I missed the point about human nature?

Guerillas versus gorillas

It is terrible to see images of thousands of refugees flooding eastwards out of Congo, especially when one remembers how the difference between Hutu and Tutsi was created. The Belgians in Rwanda and Burundi wanted to divide and rule, in the best colonial tradition. They issued identity cards showing people's "ethnic" membership. People who had ten or more cattle were stamped as "Tutsi" (which originally just meant rich). Those who had less than ten were "Hutu" (poor). One anthropologist even invented the myth that the Tutsis were a master race who had swept down from the North, and that they were taller, more intelligent and nobler than the Hutus. Seventy years later those identity cards were the basis for genocide.

But if it is so easy to create the conditions for war between humans, how difficult it seems to prevent our conflicts from destroying other species. This latest disaster threatens the survival of the two hundred mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, the headquarters of which have been seized by guerillas. Gorillas are our closest cousins after the chimpanzees and bonobos - peaceful creatures who just want a quiet life with their families. They don't even compete with humans for resources (though trophy hunters see them as a resource). There are only about seven hundred mountain gorillas left in the wild; see what you can do to help them survive:

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

More gold down the drain.

Gordon Brown seems to want to use aqua regia too; he's going to flush away his Golden Rule (about spending being equal to tax revenue over the economic cycle). Now he's going to borrow massive amounts to pay for things like the Olympic Village. A pity he isn't going to plant forests instead! Anyway, we'll be paying for it for decades to come - not in gold though!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Why Cyclepath?

Bogus is the peerage that I claim,
Viscount Cyclepath my lordly name.
Every cycle track or path or lane
Figures in my long and thin domain.
Come and share it, every two-wheeled friend;
Keep away though, cars, or you'll offend.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Why Aquaregia?

Aqua regia (royal water) is a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids, and it can dissolve gold. Here's a cunning plan to change the global economy: dig a tunnel into Fort Knox and then flood it with aqua regia, washing away most of the world's gold. Economists would then be forced to think about the nature of money and to realize that it is not anchored on anything physical. Although the gold standard was long ago abandoned, people still behave as if gold were a sort of money, and countries hold on to their ownership of piles of the stuff in Fort Knox. The trouble is that gold is rather useless stuff, except for making electrical connectors and small items that must resist corrosion. It is far too dense for anything large except paperweights or the veneer on busts of Kate Moss. The mug I am drinking from would weigh ten times as much as the tea it contains if it were made from gold. So let's dissolve away the gold in Fort Knox and base money on something really valuable such as wood. If countries knew that the value of their money depended on their forests, their timbered buildings and their wooden furniture and their shelfloads of books, perhaps they would think twice about turning wood into carbon dioxide.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Why blog?

Every time I read the news
I feel the need to speak my views.
I write them to the editor
But wonder what I do it for.
They mostly end up in the bin;
It's rarely worth to send them in.
Better to blog them for a change
And hope that someone is in range.