Archive for December, 2017

Cats in Space!

December 28, 2017

No, not the Muppets’ ‘Pigs in Space’, nor the 70s Disney film The Cat from Outer Space, but SF paintings of moggies going where no moggy has gone before. It’s from the SF art site on Tumblr, 70sscifiart. And I dare say that some of them may well have been inspired by the Disney film, or came along to ride the Disney bandwagon after the film came out. On the other hand, there are an awful lot of cat fans, including SF authors and artists like Cordwainer Smith. In one of his stories, The Game of Cat and Dragon, the first human pioneers into interstellar space use humans cybernetically linked to cats to operate the defence systems combating the alien monsters that lurk in the darkness between the stars. Cats are used because they’re the topmost, ruthless predators. But Smith liked cats anyway, and they appear in many of his stories.

This is for all the cat people out there. Enjoy!

RT Shows Clip of Triple Suns Seen in China

December 28, 2017

This is a bit of fun and Fortean weirdness to cheer people up after the gloom and chaos of the seasonal weather and the continuing Tory destruction of the NHS, the economy, and everything decent in our society. A couple of days ago, RT put up this very short video of the triple suns seen in the sky over Hailun City. The blurb for the video states that it mesmerised the residents, and appeared at about half eight in the morning.

It’s an illusion, of course, which the RT blurb duly mentions. I think these type of illusions are called Sundogs, or parhelion. The large, middle sun is the real sun, whose light is refracted by ice or water crystals in the Earth’s atmosphere, thus creating the illusion that there are two smaller suns either side of it. It’s been seen several times in history. I think one appearance is recorded in one of the medieval chronicles for the 12/13th centuries, where three suns were seen by the people of one particular county in England.

I have read attempts to explain the strange creatures seen by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel as sundogs. When these appeared in the sky before him, they were travelling in strange vehicles like wheels, which also had other wheels revolving within them. This doesn’t actually sound like a sundog to me, and I think the incident is far better explained as a visionary experience. Of course, the UFO crowd have also tried to claim that what Ezekiel saw were really visiting extraterrestrials in their spaceships, following the theories of Von Daniken and the like. I really don’t believe that explanation either. Von Daniken’s ideas have been massively influential in promoting the ‘ancient astronaut’ hypothesis – that Earth has been visited throughout its history by aliens. But it’s also been extensively critiqued itself. Von Daniken got much of his facts wrong, and misinterpreted the archaeological and anthropological evidence he used to support his ideas.

But whatever your view of visiting aliens and UFOs, I think we can all enjoy this strange and weirdly beautiful spectacle.

I’ve Also Come Down with a Cold

December 27, 2017

This is just to let you know that blogging might be a bit slow at this end as well, as I’ve also come down with a nasty cold, just as Mike has over in mid-Wales. I did not, however, catch it from him. It’s just something that’s going about, and so I’ve been mostly resting today and dosing myself up with cough mixture. Hopefully, it’ll clear in the next few days, touch wood.

I hope everyone reading my blog is fit and healthy, however, and ready to face whatever horrors the New Year will bring!

Best Christmas Wishes To All My Readers

December 25, 2017

This is just to wish everyone reading my blog a very happy Christmas, whatever their religious or philosophical beliefs. May you, your families and friends enjoy a peaceful time, and look forward to a happy and prosperous New Year.

A Soviet Space Santa

December 24, 2017

After the Russian Revolution, the Soviet Union became an officially atheist state. Christmas as a state holiday was banned, and religion was very strongly repressed and persecuted. The trappings of the holiday was, however, kept but transferred instead to New Year, so you had a ‘New Year’s Tree’ and so forth.

This is another fascinating pic from 70sscifiart. It shows a Soviet ‘New Year’ Santa looking out at one of the Salyut space stations, which the Russians were then using to smash the records for the longest stays in orbit by humans. It shows both the seasonal greetings and the pride the Russians had, and still have, in the achievements of their space programme.

70sscifiart is on Tumblr at http://70sscifiart.tumblr.com/. Go there for more vintage space art.

A Self-Portrait of Greg Hildebrandt

December 24, 2017

This is another great piccie I found over at the 70sscifiart site on Tumblr. It’s a self-portait of Greg Hildebrandt, one half of the great SF/Fantasy artists the Brothers Hildebrandt. They’re probably best known for their Fantasy paintings of goblins, dwarves, giants and other creatures direct from works like The Lord of the Rings. Though this picture’s title, A Very, Very Close Encounter, suggests a more extraterrestrial source of inspiration.

70sscifiart is at http://70sscifiart.tumblr.com/. It’s worth taking a look for anyone interested in great, vintage SF art.

A Space-Age Santa Claus

December 24, 2017

I found this piccie of a space-age Santa, bringing season’s greetings and good cheer on his sleigh and with suitably spacesuited reindeer, to a base on an airless, desolate world on the Tumblr site, 70s Scifi Art, which is at: http://70sscifiart.tumblr.com/

Enjoy!

Vox Political on Boris Johnson’s Clownish Incompetence over Russia

December 24, 2017

Mike yesterday, 23rd December 2017, posted a piece criticising Boris Johnson for his completely inept handling of the talks in Moscow to improve relations with Russia. Boris has already proved to be massively and embarrassingly stupid in the way he has handled Myanmar, Libya and Iran.

Later on in the article, Mike discusses how Boris’ absolutely ignorant statement about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Anglo-Iranian lady, who was imprisoned in Iran for allegedly teaching journalism. She was guilty of no such activity, but had simply gone there to visit relatives for a holiday. As so many Brits of Iranian descent do. Nevertheless, Boris opened his trap, confirmed the lies put out by the Iranian government, who then decided to increase her sentence. Well done, Boris! In fact, the Iranians have decided to cut the sentence back to six months, but this is the decision of their independent judiciary, and nothing to do with the government.

In his meeting with Sergei Lavrov, Johnson’s opposite number in the Russian Foreign Ministry, Johnson got it into his thick, old-Etonian head to make matters worse by criticising Russia for the war in Ukraine, the annexation of the Crimea, hacking and electoral interference over here, and Syria. All while ostensibly deploring the depths to which Anglo-Russian relations had fallen, and claiming to be a ‘Russophile’. I put up a piece the other day about an interview Ken Livingstone did on RT’s ‘Going Underground’ with Afshin Rattansi. Livingstone said that he knows Boris very well, having fought against him in four elections, and doesn’t trust a word he says. He makes the point that Boris doesn’t want to be a politician, but a celebrity, and stated that he doesn’t always read the briefing documents his aides have prepared for him. All of which strikes me as very true. As for being a Russophile, Livingstone said that Johnson would probably immediately start mouthing off about them once more the moment he set foot back in London.

Mike warns that instead of decreasing tension, Johnson’s tactless comments will have served to increase it, possibly leading to armed conflict. Well, it’s what some in NATO seem to want. Think of the way Killary was ramping up military tensions with Russia and China, and the former NATO general, who published a book in 2016 arguing that by May this year 2017, we and the Russians would be at war.

Mike concludes

I would say the UK will need to be prepared for an escalation of hostilities – at least on a covert level.

But Mr Johnson’s public outburst makes it seem abundantly clear that, when it comes to our defence, his government has nothing.

We had better hope that I am mistaken.

As for Mr Johnson himself: He has critically compromised the UK’s relationship with a major foreign power.

When he arrives back in the UK, Mrs May should give him the same treatment she offered Priti Patel – another Cabinet minister who thought she could do whatever she pleased without consequence.

But we all know Theresa May is far, far too weak for that. It’s why she needs to offer her resignation as well.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/23/theresa-may-sent-a-clown-to-do-her-diplomacy-an-international-incident-was-inevitable/

I’ve heard from many people with expertise in foreign relations that despite the Fall of Communism, Russia still needs very careful handling. This was known as far back as the 1990s. I’m starting to wonder if Johnson really ever intended to smooth things over with our Russian friends. I don’t think he did, and that this has all been for show. Britain is tied to American foreign policy through the Special Relationship, which means we ride on the American’s coat-tails trying to maintain our status as a world power. In return for this, we do whatever they want. Which our leaders, like Tony Blair, do extremely enthusiastically. Hence Blair’s very willing participation in the bloody and illegal invasion of Iraq.

The Americans seem to want some kind of confrontation with Russia. This is partly about Killary trying to distract attention away from how massively unpopular and corrupt she was by falsely claiming that she would have won the election, if it weren’t for those pesky Russky hackers. It also seems to be about the fury of American multinational industry over their failure to control the Russian economy since the accession of Putin, after so much was sold to them at a knock-down price by another walking alcoholic disaster area, Boris Yeltsin. To whom the Americans corruptly funnelled hundreds of millions into his election campaign. And, according to Red Ken, Obama and the Democrats hate Russia, because they wouldn’t join their anti-Chinese alliance to stop China becoming the world’s greatest economy, instead of America.

So I think that Boris’ mission to Russia was deliberately doomed from the start. It was for show only, so that people would think the Tories sincerely cared about peace and security, while they manifestly don’t. Well, the grunts and squaddies, who are going to die in the frontline will be mostly working class anyway, so from their toff viewpoint, who cares?

So if there are any Russian readers of this blog, I have this to say in my very limited, schoolboy Russian.

Boris Johnson durak. On ne dorozhili k Britanskuyu ludei, kotoraya khotet mir i druzhbu mezhdu Britannuyu i Rossii.

Which I hope means ‘Boris Johnson is a fool. He is not valued highly by the British people, who want peace and friendship between Britain and Russia’.

And very best season’s greetings to all our readers, in whatever country they live, and whatever religious or philosophical beliefs they hold. My you all enjoy a peaceful and prosperous holiday season and New Year.

Update on Planned Book on Western Support for Fascist Dictators

December 24, 2017

Okay, a few months ago, Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, suggested I should write a book detailing the West’s support for the Fascist dictators that have plagued this planet and its people since the Cold War, as part of the campaign against the Soviet Union and Communism. She felt this was important, as many people on the left came to their political consciousness through campaign against such monsters as General Pinochet, and the institutionalised racist oppression of apartheid in South Africa. That has vanished, but class apartheid still remains, as explained by John Pilger in a recent interview on RT, and is still very much alive and used against the Palestinians in Israel. Florence wrote

In the early 70s I volunteered to help type up translation transcriptions of reports from torture victims of the “Shit” of Iran, as Private eye called him. (It was as evidence for Amnesty.) Its not something you can ever forget. When the revolution happened, it was simply new bosses at the same slaughter houses. This is another lesson learned; the violence required by a state to terrorise its own people seeps into the culture, and remains for generations (maybe longer, its too early to tell in most of the cases you cover in this interesting and evocative piece). The violence of the state becomes symmetrical in the revolution in many countries, Iran, Iraq, etc. that follows such repression.

(For this reason I also worry that, for example, the almost visceral hatred of the disabled (and other poor) in the UK bred by the eugenics of neoliberalism for decades will not be so easily dislodged with a change in government. )
I see that the experience of having lived through those times is no longer part of the wider political education of the younger members of the left. In Labour the excesses of the neoliberals all but wiped out that generation and the links. I talk sometimes to our younger members in the Labour party and they are fascinated – but totally clueless. I do try to point them at this blog for this very reason. They are oblivious to who Pinochet was, why it mattered to us then and now, the refuge given to that butcher by Thatcher, the entire history of the Chicago school etc. The traditional passing in of this history, personal history too, through social groups in the Labour party has all but broken down.

As a suggestion, perhaps you could edit your blogs into a book we could use in discussion groups? You would help us be that collective memory board for the newer (not just younger) activists. It would help tease out the older members stories of their personal part in the struggles at home and abroad, but more than that your pieces on the collision of religious and political also show the rich complexities of life.

I’ve started work on the book, and collected a number of the posts together in a series of chapters. These will be on:

Introduction and Florence’s request

General US/Western Interference

Pinochet Coup in Chile

Real Reasons for Iraq War

Russia and Ukraine

Gaddafi and Libya

Syria

British Recruitment Nazis, Exploitation of Guyana, planned internment of radicals.

Fake News and Domestic Propaganda, HIGNFY, Andrew Neil

I’ve still got to put them in some kind of narrative order, to they make a kind of progressive sense to the reader, rather than being simply jumbled up higgledy-piggledy. Once that’s done, I shall see about putting a cover to it, and sending it to Lulu, if anyone’s interested. Incidentally, my book Privatisation: Killing the NHS, should still be available from them, if anyone’s interested. I don’t know how many copies of this book I’ll sale, but I hope it helps do something to bring down this horrific, murderous wave of neoliberalism imperialism released by George Dubya and Blair, and extended by their successors.

Brian Blessed Talks about his Role as Boss Nass in Star Wars Prequels

December 24, 2017

In this clip I found on YouTube, the mighty Brian Blessed is interviewed by host Jaime Stangroom about his role as the amphibian alien king, Boss Nass of the Naboo, in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Stangroom opens the interview by declaring that Blessed is a British institution. Or belongs in one, referring to the great man’s over the top personality. He notes that among his other achievement, he’s the oldest man to go to the South Pole and has climbed Mt. Everest.

It seems George Lucas was quite a fan of his. Before they started filming, Lucas asked to be alone with Brian for about half an hour. He said he wanted to cast him as Jedi, but that he would be too powerful for such a role. What other role could he cast which would be more suitable for his energies? Quick as a flash, Blessed’s agent, who surely deserves their fee, suggested Boss Nass.

The scene where Nass finally offers peace between the Naboo and humans was unscripted. The crowd surrounding Nass were to kneel or stand respectfully towards him, waiting for him to make a pronouncement. But Nass’ lines hadn’t been written and it was left to the Dynamite Kid to make them up. Which he did. He made the characteristic noises, before making his pronouncement of peace between human and amphibian. Lucas was delighted, and said that was exactly what was in his mind.

Stangroom asked the inevitable question about what he thought of Jar Jar Binks. Blessed, like the professional actor he really is, is very careful in his reply. He states that it’s always dangerous to criticise another actor’s interpretation. He just says that you have to make sure that the noises the Naboo characters make do not overshadow the spoken lines, as you can lose a lot of plot that way. He then gives a demonstration from his own performance as Boss Nass to show how he avoided that problem.

Rather more entertaining is his tale of talking to the actor, who was unveiled as the true face of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker in last of the original trilogy, The Return of the Jedi. The actor, who played him had been a big star in the 1940s, but was now quite elderly, or at least when Blessed talked to him. He remembered that he’d been in a film, where they took a mask off him. He had a bit of a struggle remembering who he’d played, until it came to him: Darth Vader. Blessed was astonished. ‘You played Darth Vader! You don’t know how big that character is!’ before going on to explain how massively popular Vader was and how everyone wanted to play him. The actor replied by saying, ‘Well, they only gave me a little wage.’

Blessed’s got a reputation as something of a bit of a ham, thanks to his powerful personality. Well, as Fritz Leiber, who was the son of Shakespearian actors wrote in A Spectre is Haunting Texas, ‘All actors are hams and secretly love it’. But the interview reveals that behind the shouting there’s a very thoughtful mind that carefully considers what to say and what to put into the performance.

He’s also very left-wing. Blessed himself is working class, the son of a northern miner. When he did a one-man show back in the 1990s, He described going to the peace conferences in the 1950s. At one of these he found himself sitting next to a foreign gentleman. He asked who he was. ‘Picasso’, the stranger replied. ‘Oh yes, what do you do?’ ‘I’m an artist’. So Blessed asked him if he could draw something for him. So Picasso drew a picture of a dove on a bit of paper hankie Blessed had at the time. Of course, Picasso drew it in his extremely simplified, modernist style. When Blessed got home and looked at it, he declared it was ‘rubbish’, and that Picasso wasn’t an artist at all, and threw it in the bin. Thus throwing away potentially thousands of pounds.

Blessed for a long time said that he wanted to play Dr. Who. I think that time is long past, as he’s rather too old now. And the job of the new Doctor is already taken, and he’s the wrong gender. But he has appeared in the show. He was in the Colin Baker ‘Trial of a Timelord’ serial ‘Mindwarp’, in which he played an alien samurai warrior battling the evil Mentors, and the alien supercapitalist Sil.

Oh yes, and while Han was killed in the last Star Wars sequel, we can always take comfort in that Gordon’s Alive !