Posts Tagged ‘RAF’

Agent Stool Pigeon Tears Apart Alex Belfield in Answer to Fans

February 24, 2022

Last week was not a good one for mad YouTuber Alex Belfield, as he was suspended from YouTube for a series of violations. It appears he has now gone off to Ustreme with his friend, Jim Davidson. Belfield is very much a man of the right, ranting about the Channel migrants, whom he calls ‘dinghy divers’, calling for the privatisation of the NHS and criticising the Covid lockdown as well as other diatribes about race and Black Lives Matter and the trans craze. He has some kind of feud going with individuals from the Beeb which has resulted in a long series of court cases. He takes every chance to talk down the corporation and demand its privatisation and sneers at its staff as ‘Guardian-reading, oyster-eating, champagn-sipping, university-educated Naga Manchushy types’. He hates middle class left-wingers, and presents himself as a White working class lad from a pit village whose managed to succeed despite opposition from a woke, left-wing middle class establishment.

But he has his critics. I’ve put up a number of pieces on here criticising him, and have had a number of replies from his fans. Some of them are polite, but most are just abuse. And it seems I’m not alone. He has another critic in the shape of ASP – Agent Stool Pigeon – on YouTube. I found this video on the gentleman’s channel in which he answers Belfield’s fans by tearing further into their hero. I got the impression that he’s done this several times before, and that this is an answer to their complaints.

After denying that he’s making money from Belfield, he states that most of the mad YouTuber’s content doesn’t contain a thread of truth. Belfield simply looks at the day’s headlines and then makes up the rest. He tells his listeners that they could do the same and save themselves the time and expense of watching Belfield. All they have to do is go to the supermarket, pick up a paper, read the headline and then make up their own story. And then walk back home. They’ll have saved themselves money and had a walk. He also makes the point that while Belfield tells his viewers not to trust the mainstream media, all his stories come from that same media. He doesn’t do anything original. He leaves out information that contradicts his points and doesn’t provide links, though he will give a screen shot of the headline. But he’s also groomed his fans so that if someone questions him, he’ll set them off on a pile-on against that person. He did it the other day in Tweet about the Times journo he said banned him from YouTube.

The Pigeon also states that Belfield attacks and slams people all day to make money not caring whether what he says is true or not. But he’ll block anyone who questions him. He will never interview anyone who questions him. He’ll give his story on stage or on screen when no-one can interrupt or question him. The Pigeon also advises people not to give money to people on YouTube. But people have given donations to Belfield, who has not shown what he’s done with the money through providing bank records and so on. He points out how hypocritical this is coming from Belfield, who regularly attacks the Beeb for not showing what it is doing with the money donated to it. He compares his hold over his fans to that of a cult leader, who’s trained his followers to think like him and give him all their worldly possession. But after Belfield’s ban, he communication with his fans has come to a halt. There isn’t anything on YouTube and nothing on his Twitter feed except repeated requests to buy tickets for his shows, or join the mailing list for his shows, The Stoolie points out that all Belfield does is push their buttons to amplify their anger, while using some of the most disgusting and unfunny innuendos. His jokes come from 1977.

The Pigeon also corrects the view that the Beeb is taking Belfield to court. It’s not. Some of the Beeb’s employees or ex-employees are taking the mad YouTuber to court for defamation, and this could be expensive. If he loses, he’ll have to pay damages and court costs. He also being sued by 8 people on 12 counts of stalking. Belfield claims that the whole world is against him, but things like this don’t happen for no reason. And now he wants people to spend a pound a week for him to recycle the headlines. And all the while he’s laughing at them.

The video doesn’t consist of anything beyond the Pigeon’s dulcet Liverpudlian tones and caricature of Belfield. But it is a very effective demolition of him.

It’s also interesting reading some of the comments by people, who’ve also lost faith in him or seen how he cynically twists the news. For example, Swoop said: ‘Here’s one you’ll like: During one of Belfield’s livestreams last year he was spouting a load of rubbish about how the Army being called into Liverpool meant that people we’re going to be getting visited at home and having covid tests forced upon them by soldiers……I actually managed to get through to the phone in and asked him where on earth he was getting this rubbish from, when he inevitably became insulting I told him to put his money where his mouth is and make a bet on it. Since then I’ve not been able to get through again. Funny that innit? Alex Belfield owes me £500. Correction: Alex Belfield owes the RAF Benevolent Fund £500.’

And there’s this from Chocolate Frenzie: ‘

I followed Alex Belfield for over a year- sent him money twice and then a few months ago he had a rant and said something along the lines that he didn’t care about his followers continuing to follow him- I was so hurt I stopped listening to him after that – as for his phone in well I gave up on them a while back as I couldn’t stand listening to him making innuendoes to the female callers – goes a bit too far – drinks in wits out’

Alex C commented: ‘Agree 100 percent with every word on this video..well done..he grooms as you say,,he mind controls . He does not care one bit about the people he fleeces.He is driven. The things that please me… He was a radio 2 dj ..with hundreds of thousands of listeners,, And his circle keeps shrinking. Everytime he burns a bridge his world shrinks,less people…despite the money he yearns fo4 lots if people to adore him. He is twisted, bitter,,,and is a huge star in his own head. Remember he was once Bankrupt. Remember he was until his 20s plus a morbidly obese man. Remember he uses your money to live a great life. But his sheep enjoy being fleeced.’

And there’s more, much more, from people stating out that according to the Times it was the advertisers who pulled the plug on him. One of the things they disliked was his misogyny. Another commenter states that Belfield claimed to have set up a charity account for all the donations, then admitted he hadn’t.

If even some of these allegations are true, then it’s devastating and Belfield definitely shouldn’t have an audience.

Mad Right-Wing YouTuber Alex Belfield Banned by YouTube for Two Weeks

February 13, 2022

A day or two ago Alex Jones, the right-wing host of the Voice of Reason channel on YouTube, was handed a temporary ban for two weeks. At first it was thought that he’d been banned for three months, but Andy the Gabby Cabby, another YouTuber sympathetic to Belfield, has cleared that up. He’s been in communication with him, and apparently he’s only been suspended for a fortnight, but it was because he had already had two strikes against him within a three month period before suffering the third complaint resulting in his suspension. The Blackbelt Barrister, a YouTube legal expert, has also weighed in on the case. Citing expert legal opinion on the 2003 Information Act, the Barrister states that, in the opinion of the judicial authorities, the Act should only be used against communications that physically threaten a person’s safety or which stir up racial hatred. They should not be used to chill personal opinion or censor offensive views, even if those views make someone feel uncomfortable.

This is fine, but I don’t think Belfield has actually been charged with anything under the Act. Belfield has been banned from YouTube because it’s a private company, as are the other internet platforms. As private companies they are quite within their rights to set their own terms and conditions and restrict what may be said on them. The right got very upset about all this a few years ago when they started being censored for issues like misogyny, homophobia, racism, transphobia and so on. Left-wingers, however, pointed out that this was simply private industry acting as a private company and not in the public interest. They also pointed out how ironic it was this had happened to the right, who are staunch supporters of private companies against state-owned industries. There were even demands from some that the government should set up a nationalised internet platform to allow a proper exchange of views without censorship. Which would be really ironic considering that the right is worried about government censorship and attacks on free speech rather than that by powerful corporations.

So what brought about Belfield’s ban? Well, it seems from another post by the Gabby Cabby that it was a complaint against Belfield by Carol Vorderman because of his comments about her ‘assets’. The Cabby stated it was unclear whether this was about her property, or something rather more personal. Quite.

Belfield has regularly criticised the former Countdown star along with a number of other celebrities including Katie Price and Philip Schofield. This includes comments on her home or homes as well as more personal remarks about how she has apparently enhanced her bosom to retain the attention of the jaded public. He’s satirised her as a character ‘Carol Vordernorks’ in drag with fake breasts and a thick Brummie accent. I’ve never found this to be funny and it’s really just personal abuse. My sympathies in this instance are very firmly with Vorderman. I don’t know her, but she’s always come across as perfectly genial and polite on TV, and is herself an extremely intelligent woman. Not only does she have a degree in engineering from Oxford, but she’s also a pilot and a patron of the air cadets. She’s also active trying to get more people, especially girls, into science and flight, and has done her bit supporting the RAF. I really don’t know what Belfield has against her, as it doesn’t seem like there’s the same kind of personal feud he apparently has with the BBC and its producers, and the presenter Jeremy Vine, which have seen him involved in a legal battle over the past few years.

Belfield himself has thanked YouTube for paying for his house and giving him a livelihood, and claims his shows about the country are now sold out. He states that he will come back, but is going to launch a ‘secret VOR channel’ on the 28th of this month. This seems to confirm rumours that he’s about to vanish behind a paywall.

Belfield has some very right-wing views, some of which I regard as particularly dangerous. Like his demands that the NHS should be privatised, although in a video he made shortly before he was banned he urged people not to give to the NHS, because this would tell Johnson that we can be charged, ‘and then we’re all f***ed’. I wonder what he thinks will happen if he gets his way and the NHS is privatised. I am well aware that there are members of this blog who heartily despise Belfield. I watch some of his videos because he says openly what the rest of the right doesn’t, but who share his attitudes. And I do share his opposition to the transgender craze, but not trans people, which is causing real suffering to mentally and emotionally vulnerable young people. I firmly believe that some youngster are being misdiagnosed and put on a long course of medical treatment and physical transformation predominantly for ideological reasons and against their best interests. Some of the children now identified as transgender seem to be gay and come from extremely homophobic backgrounds, so it looks like a form of gay conversion therapy. This can be compared to the situation in Iran, where gays are given the choice of transitioning to the opposite sex or execution. I realise that such gender critical views are controversial, but the science behind them, to this layman’s eyes, seems solid. There is considerable censorship of such views, including threats and personal violence. Therefore, on this score, I support Belfield for posting against the transgender craze even if I find some of his other views mistaken, offensive and dangerous.

And rather than seeing anyone banned, I would prefer that people instead showed their opposition by blogging against them and winning arguments. I would rather have this done to make their views unpopular rather than censorship.

Because there are too many attempts already to censor what we can say with the Tories doing their best to outlaw public demonstrations against their monstrous policies.

Private Eye on New Labour Rigging Party Election in Rotherham

October 26, 2021

This comes from the ‘H.P. Sauce’ column in Private Eye’s edition for 30th November – 13th December 2012 nine years ago. It’s about how Tom Watson, Angela Eagle and Keith Vaz nobbled the party election in Rotherham to exclude the popular candidate and get their people in, to the disgust of the local party. The piece runs

Labour has a dismal record of fixing selection contests, but the “Rotherham fiasco” marks a new low.

After local MP Denis “expenses fiddler” MacShane was belatedly expelled from parliament, the party’s “special selections” committee arrived in South Yorkshire to draw up a shortlist for the by-election on 29 November.

MP Tom Watson presided, supported by Keith Vaz and Angela Eagle, and their first casualty was popular local councillor Mahroof Hussain. He was followed out the door by Yorkshire-based solicitor Richard Burgon, who had the support of nine affiliated trade unions – a record for any potential Labour candidate in recent times.

Watson and chums opted instead for the chief executive of a cancer relief charity, Sarah Champion, and one Sophy Gardner, an RAF Wing Commander. Realising their decision might not go down too well with the comrades, Watson demanded that the vote of the selections committee “not be recorded”.

Hearing of the “fix”, more than 80 members of Rotherham Labour Party duly walked out in disgust, leaving the two endorsed candidates to slug it out, with Champion receiving all of 13 votes to her rival’s 11.

Not everyone was cowed by the order “not to speak to the media.” After the mass exit, one disgruntled comrade told the Rotherham Advertiser: “These people who ‘arrive’ in Rotherham to further their careers and then decide they know enough about us to represent us, make me sick. What a slap in the face to impose someone who has been a card carrying member for two years and a union member for two weeks. You would have thought they had learned a lesson because they imposed MacShane and they say we aren’t capable of choosing a candidate! Excuse me while I go and puke.”‘

This shows just how long the Blairites have been rigging elections, though I’ve no doubt that there were cases going even further back when Blair was parachuting in his preferred candidates to safe Labour seats over the wishes of the local party. Given this piece of prime Blairite corruption, it should have been no surprise when Starmer started changing the selection rules against the Left.

Porton Down Germ Warfare Experiments Around Dorset in the Late 60s-early 70s

June 11, 2021

The Goblin Universe was a short-lived, small press version of the Fortean Times that briefly appeared in the 1990s. That decade was a brief golden age of the small magazine, when thanks to desktop publishing software if became cheap and easy for ordinary people to publish their own magazines on whatever interested them. Quite a number were produced by amateur writers’ groups, as well as sexual minorities like gays and transpeople. They had their own little magazine, Aeon – The Magazine of Transkind. And there were all manner of mags devoted to the occult, the strange and the weird. The Goblin Universe was one of these latter magazines, produced by Jon Downes and some of the same people responsible for the cryptozoological magazine, Animals and Men.

I found this brief piece below about the release of germs around the Dorset area, as well as London and the Southeast, by aircraft and ships as part of Porton Down bacteriological warfare research in issue five of the magazine. Part of it runs

Germ Warfare Experiments in the West Country

With friends like these…

Parts of London and the South East were used as test sites for germ warfare between 1964 and 1977, according to an admission by British defence secretary Michael Portillo. He stated, though, that there was no risk to public health. On 3 Feb 97 the Dorset Evening Echo carried a follow-up

“An urgent inquiry is being demanded into revelations that tens of thousands of people in south and west Dorset were exposed to germs during secret biological warfare tests. The government admitted that scientists released radioactive, chemical and biological agents into the air in a series of secret trials over 14 years…”

The report continues, “Microbiologists claim that some of the materials released are capable of causing a wide range of illnesses, including septicaemia and pneumonia…”

And we thought the Russians were the enemy at that time…

No-one actually seems to know what was released over the area, but if the materials were so harmless then why the continuing veil of secrecy about what was done and why? A later report, dated 28 Feb, covers ‘unexplained ailments’, cancer clusters and deformities suffered by various people, and says

“A ship sprayed clouds of cells and spores which mobile sampling stations … then attempted to collect and monitor.”

The rest of the article is a piece from Mark North, their cartoonist, speculating whether the fuel tank his father remembered falling off an RAF onto a smallholder’s field near the main Dorchester road may have been part of these experiments due to the speed with which the police and the MOD reacted. They were soon there to recover the tank, which they claimed were full of measuring instruments. The magazine also said that it was investigating rumours that similar experiments were being carried out in the Willand/Halberton area of East Devon, although the MOD was being suspiciously silent about the whole affair.

That said, I think it’s clear that it was the Russians who were behind the Skripal poisoning, despite my early doubts that this was so. However, it clear that there are still very good reasons not to trust the government when it comes to secret experiments like these.

Cole Morton Names the MPs and Lords Describing Desperate Channel Migrants as ‘Invaders’

August 11, 2020

The Tory campaign to divert us all from the horrific mess they’ve made of Britain and their mass killing of its people continues. Once again, it’s all about illegal immigrants. Mike and Zelo have put up several excellent articles this hate campaign, with Zelo Street pointing out that the number of these asylum seekers coming to this country is trivial: 4,000 compared to 40,000 applications for asylum last year, and 677,000 people immigrating to the UK in 2019. Nevertheless, the Tories are describing it as an invasion. Zelo Street today has posted an excellent Tweet from the author Cole Moreton, who has named these disgraceful bigots. Moreton writes

Here are the names of 23 MPs and Lords who claim the desperate men, women and children risking their lives to cross the Channel in tiny rubber boats in search of peace are “invading”. Anyone here on the coast who has met them knows how obscenely ludicrous that is.

They are

Sir John Hayes CBE MP, South Holland and the Deepings

Sir David Amess MP, Southend West

Lee Anderson MP, Ashfield

Gareth Bacon MP, Orpington

Scott Benton MP, Blackpool South,

Rob Blackman MP, Harrow East

Philip Davies MP, Shipley

Nikc Fletcher MP, Don Valley,

Sally-Ann Hart MP, Hastings and Rye,

Tom Hunt MP, Ipswich,

David Jones MP, Clwyd West,

Daniel Kawczynski MP, Shrewsbury and Atcham

Pauline Latham, OBE MP, Mid-Derbyshire

Jonathan Lord MP, Woking,

Sir Edward Leigh MP, Gainsborough

Karl McCartney JP MP, Lincoln,

Stephen Metcalfe MP, South Basildon and East Thurrock,

Craig McKinley MP, South Thanet,

Lia Nici MP, Great Grimsby,

Andrew Rosindell MP, Romford

Alexander Stafford MP, Rother Valley,

Henry Smith MP, Crawley,

Martin Vickers MP, Cleethorpes

Lord Horam

Lord Lilley,

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/migrant-row-wheres-mark-francois.html

And Mike’s also named a few names in a piece in his blog.

Mike notes that Priti ‘Vacant’ Patel was told back in November that her policy was forcing migrants to use more dangerous routes into the UK. She ignored the report because it recommended establishing more legal routes into the UK, as well as doing something about the reasons they were leaving their home countries in the first place. Patel’s innate ruthless caused her to reject all this. She just wants to stop them, and so is determined to make this route unviable. Mike notes that she uses the word ‘shameful’ in her Tweet about this, to divert attention from the fact that the real disgrace here is her.

Mike then goes to cite a Beeb report on one of the boats, where they were forced to use a plastic container to bail it out. When asked where they came from, the migrants replied ‘Syria’. In 2018 the UK voted to bomb Syria following reports that its government had bombed its own people. But the materials used to manufacture the bomb were supplied by Britain. Mike writes

Now, I don’t know the personal situations of the people on that boat, but it seems entirely likely that the UK is the reason they have been fleeing their own country.

If you approve of this behaviour by your country’s leaders then you are a jingoistic, sabre-rattling racist.

Fortunately, the evidence I’ve seen suggests that few people do. Most of us appear to have reacted with disgust – both at the government and at the BBC. 

He then provides a few tweets by people disgusted with this contemptible hate-mongering.

One of them is by Richard Murphy, who points out

We can apparently put the RAF over the Channel today to needlessly spot dinghies but have only allocated £5 million for emergency relief for Beirut. In terms of humitarian crisis management haven’t we got almost everything wrong?

Kerry-Ann Mendoza:

I’d like to say “I can’t believe England is calling for the extra-judicial murder of displaced people in dinghies” but I can believe it. There are great & compassionate communities in England. But others seem bent on regressing it into a spiteful, cold, grim little island.

Zarah Sultana MP:

People fleeing war, famine and persecution shouldn’t be confronted by gunships and hostility, but instead offered safe, legal routes to asylum. Our common humanity demands nothing less.

Carole Hawkins contrasted the attitude with Lebanon, which has accepted 1.5 million refugees

Lebanon with all its problems has accepted 1.5 MILLION REFUGEES & Spaffer/Patel going loopy over a few hundred so much so that Spaffer wants to change or make new laws. This is Trump politics – executive directives which Spaffer is also doing. Totally non democratic.

Mike points out that this demonisation may not stop if you vote for Labour, because of the right-wingers who voted to bomb Syria. According to Ben, they were

Stella Creasy

Liz Kendel

Yvette Cooper

Neil Coyle

Hilary Benn

Margaret Hodge

Margaret Beckett

Maria Eagle

Angela Eagle

Lucy Powell

Harriet Harmen

Bridget Phillipson

Alison McGovern

He concludes ‘This lot chose to destroy these migrants homes’. Yes, yes, they did. Not because they were outraged at a government killing its own people, but because they’re bog-standard Blairite neocons. The Likud-Republican alliance has a list of seven countries, whose governments they want overthrown because they’re a threat to Israel and an obstacle to American imperial interests. One of these is Syria, because the ruling class and government are a Shi’a sect and allied with Iran.

And he starts his piece with this brilliant meme:

Wise words from Tony Benn. And its exactly right. Food banks originally appeared under New Labour, when Blair and Brown passed legislation forbidding illegal immigrants from claiming benefits. Then the Tories decided that it would be a wizard system to inflict on the native, British population – by which I mean all Brits, who have been here for generations, Black and Asian as well as Brown – as they cut away the welfare state. The result is mass starvation.

Counterpunch and the late critic of the American empire, William Blum, have published several articles pointing out that what the west does to the rest of the world supporting Fascist dictators ultimately comes back home. Those same governments then set about militarising the police force and stripping back people’s civil rights, all in the name of protecting us from terrorism, of course.

After Patel has finished rounding up desperate men, women and children fleeing real war and violence in their countries of origin, she will try to turn to the guns on us. And scumbags like Hillary ‘Bomber’ Benn, Margaret ‘F***ing Anti-Semite’ Hodge, Angela ‘Gentler, Caring Politics’ Eagle and the rest will help her.

What did Orwell say the future was? ‘A jackboot stamping on a human face. Forever’. It’s in 1984. And Patel, the 23 Tory MPs and their New Labour collaborators are all ready to polish it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Savage and Guest Engineer Build Refrigerated Cooling Suit

June 19, 2020

Adam Savage is a Science Fiction fan and engineer/special effects technician on YouTube. I think he was also one half of Mythbusters, a cable/satellite TV series in which he and his co-host put to the test various popular myths. Such as whether a car door really could shield you from bullets as shown in any number of cop shows and films.

In his YouTube channel, Savage goes off to various SF conventions and gatherings, talking to stars, special effects people and fans. He also builds replica movie props and effects. In this video, he and his guest, biomedical engineer Kipp Bradford, build a refrigerated suit.

Savage says that he’s building it because a few years ago, he went to a convention wearing a replica of the spacesuits worn in the classic SF/horror movie Alien. Wearing its quilted material in such a hot environment, however, nearly gave him heatstroke. He went to another convention after that wearing a copy of the silver space suites from Kubrick’s 2001. This had a type of cooling system built into it to stop him becoming too hot, but it seems to have just circulated water around without being a refrigerator. The refrigerated cooling suit he and Bradford build uses the same kind of technology used in domestic fridges to keep food and drink cool. It works by pumping a refrigerated fluid around which takes heat from the objects to be cooled and radiates it away. In this case, the suit uses a miniature compressor and two heat exchangers. The miniature compressor was made by DARPA for the American armed forces. Nearly two decades ago after Gulf War II the American government called for a similar refrigerated suit to be developed to keep its squaddies cool in the desert heat. The project was abandoned when it was realised that if something went wrong with the suits, the soldiers would be seriously compromised.

The suit the two use for the device is an RAF cooling suit from c. 1975. It’s designed for the British air forces high altitude pilots, and Savage says he picked it up a few years ago at an auction. I have an idea it was a similar suit with tubes for circulating fluid that the costume/make up department of Dr. Who used for the Cybermen seen in the 1980s Peter Davison story Earthshock. 

I don’t think this is something that can be built at home by your average SF fan or DIY enthusiast. Obviously one of the issues is simply getting hold of the components. They mention that one of the compressors is available from a company that will provide single units. All the other companies providing refrigerator components will only supply them in bulk, so unless you order 10,000 of them, they won’t give you anything. They also use a proper, industrial refrigerant as the coolant. There’s a lot of joking about using alcohol, including vodka as the coolant, and they state that this is a viable option. But I really don’t think that is the stuff they eventually use. They do say, on the other hand, that it isn’t the freon used in older fridges in the 1970s, for example, that was one of the gases that put a hole in the ozone layer. That’s been replaced by more ecofriendly chemicals, so that the hole is actually now closing. Which is clearly a win for the environment, even if the planet is still suffering from massive pollution and the destruction of the natural environment and extinction of millions of endangered species.

For all the light, jokey tone, it’s clear that Bradford is an incredibly intelligent man. While Savage jokes that he’s only got honorary degrees, which aren’t worth anything, Bradford has a string of higher qualifications. He’s a biomechanical engineer, who has designed similar cooling units for medevac for injured American troopers.

The two manage to construct a small refrigerator and connect it to the suit. And it works! Through an infrared app on a mobile phone camera they show it lowering Savage’s temperature as he’s wearing it down to quite a cold level. The only drawback for this viewer is that they don’t create any kind of backpack for it enabling Savage to wear it with the suit. Wearing it, Savage remarks that it’s given him an insight into the achievement of the NASA scientists and engineers, who built the spacesuits. Not only did these include similar cooling systems, but they also had to include other vital systems like air.

I found this video particularly interesting as a fan of Dune. In Frank Herbert’s classic novel, the Fremen and other people survive the harsh conditions on the desert planet Arakis by wearing still suits. These reclaim the body’s moisture from sweat and wastes through semi-permeable membranes, treating it so that it becomes drinkable water. Fans of the Australian-American ’90s SF show, Farscape, will also remember the cooling suit worn by the villain Scorpius. Scorpius is half-Skaren, half-Sebatian. The Skarens are tough, reptile-like creatures with a high body temperature and craving for heat. The Sebatians, by contrast, are identical to humans but lack human’s ability to regulate their body temperature. They’re therefore vulnerable to overheating and falling into an incurable coma. In order to stop this, Scorpius wears a refrigerated suit specially designed for him, and has had surgery performed so that he can insert cooling rods into his skull to lower the temperature of his brain. Mercifully, no-one has suggested doing anything like that yet, although some extreme conditions are treated by placing the patient in a coma and lowering their body temperature. This nifty little piece of engineering shows that while we haven’t quite reached the ability to produce a still suit like Dune’s, we’re not far off it.

As you can also see from the video, Kipp Bradford’s Black or mixed-race. There’s a move to make science and engineering more diverse, with more women and Blacks and people from ethnic minorities. I therefore thought the video might also be of interest, as it clearly shows that Blacks are also capable of doing great, awesome science and engineering. Not that there should be any doubt of it. The ‘McCoy’ of the phrase ‘It’s the real McCoy!’, said of any great invention or clever device, was apparently an American naval engineer around about World War II, who became famous for the marvels he could work on board ships.

80s Space Comedy From Two of the Goodies

May 26, 2020

Astronauts, written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, 13 episodes of 25 minutes in length. First Broadcast ITV 1981 and 1983.

I hope everyone had a great Bank Holiday Monday yesterday, and Dominic Cummings’ hypocritical refusal to resign after repeatedly and flagrantly breaking the lockdown rules aren’t getting everyone too down. And now, for the SF fans, is something completely different as Monty Python used to say.

Astronauts was a low budget ITV sitcom from the very early ’80s. It was written by the two Goodies responsible for writing the scripts for their show, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, and based on the personal conflicts and squabbling of the American astronauts on the Skylab programme six years earlier. It was about three British astronauts, RAF officer, mission commander and pilot Malcolm Mattocks, chippy, left-wing working-class engineer David Ackroyd, coolly intellectual biologist Gentian Fraser,and their dog, Bimbo,  who are launched into space as the crew of the first all-British space station. Overseeing the mission is their American ground controller Lloyd Beadle. Although now largely forgotten, the show lasted two seasons, and there must have been some continuing demand for it, because it’s been released nearly forty years later as a DVD. Though not in such demand that I didn’t find it in DVD/CD bargain catalogue.

Low Budget

The show’s very low budget. Lower than the Beeb’s Blake’s 7, which often cited as an example of low budget British science fiction. There’s only one model used, that of their space station, which is very much like the factual Skylab. The shots of their spacecraft taking off are stock footage of a Saturn V launch, the giant rockets used in the Moon landings and for Skylab. There also seems to be only one special effects sequence in the show’s entire run, apart from outside shots. That’s when an accident causes the station to move disastrously out of its orbit, losing gravity as it does so. Cheap matte/ Chromakey effects are used to show Mattocks rising horizontally from his bunk, where he’s been lying, while Bimbo floats through the bedroom door.

Class in Astronauts and Red Dwarf

It’s hard not to compare it with the later, rather more spectacular Red Dwarf, which appeared in 1986, three years after Astronaut’s last season. Both shows centre around a restricted regular cast. In Red Dwarf this was initially just Lister, Holly and the Cat before the appearance of Kryten. Much of the comedy in Red Dwarf is also driven by their similar situation to their counterparts in Astronauts – personality clashes in the cramped, isolated environment of a spacecraft. The two shows are also similar in that part of this conflict from class and a Conservative military type versus working class cynic/ liberal. In Red Dwarf it’s Rimmer as the Conservative militarist, while Lister is the working class rebel. In Astronauts the military man is Mattocks, a patriotic RAF pilot, while Ackroyd, the engineer, is left-wing, Green, and affects to be working class. The three Astronauts also debate the class issue, accusing each other of being posh before establishing each other’s place in the class hierarchy. Mattocks is posh, but not as posh as Foster. Foster’s working class credentials are, however, destroyed during an on-air phone call with his mother, who is very definitely middle or upper class, and talks about going to the Conservative club. In this conflict, it’s hard not to see a similarity with the Goodies and the conflict there between the Conservative screen persona of Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie’s left-wing, working class character.

Class, however, plays a much smaller role in Red Dwarf. Lister is more underclass than working class, and the show, set further in the future, has less overt references to contemporary class divisions and politics. The humour in Red Dwarf is also somewhat bleaker. The crew are alone three million years in the future, with the human race vanished or extinct with the exception of Lister. Rimmer is an ambitious failure. For all he dreams of being an officer, he has failed the exam multiple times and the B.Sc he claims is Batchelor of Science is really BSC – Bronze Swimming Certificate. Both he and Lister are at the lowest peg of the ship’s hierarchy in Red Dwarf. They’re maintenance engineers, whose chief duties is unblocking the nozzles of vending machines. Lister’s background is rough. Very rough. While others went scrumping for apples, he and his friends went scrumping for cars. The only famous person in his class was a man who ate his wife. The three heroes of Astronauts, however, are all competent, intelligent professionals despite their bickering. Another difference is that while both series have characters riddled with self-loathing, in Red Dwarf it’s the would-be officer Rimmer, while in Astronauts is working class engineer Ackroyd.

Britain Lagging Behind in Space

Other issues in Astronauts include Britain’s low status as a space power. In a speech in the first episode, the crew express their pride at being the first British mission, while paying tribute to their American predecessors in the Apollo missions. The Ealing comedy The Mouse on the Moon did something similar. And yet Britain at the time had been the third space power. Only a few years before, the British rocket Black Arrow had been successfully launched from Woomera in Australia, successfully taking a British satellite into orbit.

Personal Conflicts

There are also conflicts over the cleaning and ship maintenance duties, personal taste in music – Mattocks irritates Ackroyd by playing Tubular Bells, publicity or lack of it – in one episode, the crew are annoyed because it seems the media back on Earth have forgotten them – and disgust at the limited menu. Mattocks is also shocked to find that Foster has been killing and dissecting the mice he’s been playing with, and is afraid that she’ll do it to the dog. Sexism and sexual tension also rear their heads. Mattocks fancies Foster, but Ackroyd doesn’t, leading to further conflict between them and her. Foster, who naturally wants to be seen as an equal and ‘one of the boys’ tries to stop this by embarrassing them. She cuts her crew uniform into a bikini and then dances erotically in front of the two men, before jumping on them both crying ‘I’ll have both of you!’ This does the job, and shames them, but Beadle, watching them gets a bit too taken with the display, shouting ‘Work it! Work it! Boy! I wish I was up there with you boys!’ Foster also objects to Mattocks because he doesn’t help his wife, Valerie, out with the domestic chores at home. Mattocks also suspects that his wife is having an affair, which she is, in a sort-of relationship with Beadle. There’s also a dig at the attitudes of some magazines. In the press conference before the three go on their mission, Foster is asked by Woman’s Own if she’s going to do any cooking and cleaning in space. Beadle and his team reply that she’s a highly trained specialist no different from the men. The joke’s interesting because in this case the butt of the humour is the sexism in a certain type of women’s magazine, rather than chauvinist male attitudes.

Cold War Espionage

Other subjects include the tense geopolitical situation of the time. Mattocks is revealed to have been running a secret espionage programme, photographing Russian bases as the station flies over them in its orbit. The others object, and Ackroyd is finally able to persuade Beadle to allow them to use the technology to photograph illegal Russian whaling in the Pacific. This is used to embarrass the Russians at an international summit, but the questions about the origin of the photos leads to the espionage programme being abandoned. The crew also catch sight of a mysterious spacecraft in the same orbit, and start receiving communications in a strange language. After initially considering that it just might be UFOs, it’s revealed that they do, in fact, come from a lonely Russian cosmonaut. Foster speaks Russian, and starts up a friendship. When Mattocks finds out, he is first very suspicious, but then after speaking to the Russian in English, he too becomes friends. He’s the most affected when the Russian is killed after his craft’s orbit decays and burns up re-entering the atmosphere.

Soft Drink Sponsorship

There are also digs at commercial sponsorship. The mission is sponsored by Ribozade, whose name is a portmanteau of the British drinks Ribeena and Lucozade. Ribozade tastes foul, but the crew nevertheless have it on board and must keep drinking it. This is not Science Fiction. One of the American missions was sponsored by Coca Cola, I believe, and so one of the space stations had a Coke machine on board. And when Helen Sharman went into space later in the decade aboard a Russian rocket to the space station Mir, she was originally to be sponsored by Mars and other British companies.

God, Philosophy and Nicholas Parsons

The show also includes arguments over the existence or not of the Almighty. Mattocks believes He exists, and has shown His special favour to them by guiding his hand in an earlier crisis. Mattocks was able to save them, despite having no idea what he was doing. Ackroyd, the sceptic, replies that he can’t say the Lord doesn’t exist, but can’t see how God could possibly create Nicholas Parsons and Sale of the Century, one of the popular game shows on ITV at the time, if He did. As Mattocks is supposed to be guiding them down from orbit, his admission that he really didn’t know what he was doing to rescue the station naturally alarms Foster and Ackroyd so that they don’t trust his ability to get them down intact.

Red Dwarf also has its jokes about contemporary issues and politics. Two of the most memorable are about the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer being covered with a gigantic toupee, and the despair squid, whose ink causes its prey to become suicidal and which has thus destroyed all other life on its world in the episode ‘Back to Reality’. Other jokes include everyone knowing where they were when Cliff Richard got shot. Red Dwarf, however, is much more fantastic and goes further in dealing with philosophical issues, such as when Rimmer is incarcerated in a space prison where justice is definitely retributive. If you do something illegal, it comes back to happen to you. This is demonstrated when Lister follows Rimmer’s instruction and tries to set his sheets alight. He shortly finds that his own black leather jacket has caught fire.

Conclusion

Red Dwarf is able to go much further in exploring these and other bizarre scenarios as it’s definitely Science Fiction. Astronauts is, I would argue, space fiction without the SF. It’s fictional, but based solidly on fact, including generating gravity through centrifugal force. But critically for any comedy is the question whether its funny. Everyone’s taste is different, but in my opinion, yes, Astronauts is. It’s dated and very much of its time, but the humour still stands up four decades later. It had me laughing at any rate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is This the Most Insulting Comment Aliens Have Said to an Abductee?

April 29, 2020

I’ve just finished reading Dr. David Clarke’s The UFO Files, a history of UFOs in Britain from the phantom airship scares of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the abduction experiences from the 60s onwards, the 70’s craze created by Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, right up to the years immediately preceding the book’s publication in 2009. The book was written to accompany the release of the government’s files on UFOs by the National Archives, and is naturally based on the records compiled by the MOD, the Air Ministry, RAF and armed forces, and the Airmiss inquiry group, which investigates near misses between aircraft.

It’s a fascinating book that shows that UFOs have been around for over a century and that the government and the British military don’t really know any more about them than anyone else. The aliens haven’t established secret bases in Britain, and neither to the RAF or anyone else for that matter have alien bodies stashed away in a secret hangar somewhere. The official government line, repeated over and again, is that UFOs or of ‘no defence significance’, and they really don’t want to get involved unless it’s absolutely necessary. They’ve therefore investigate UFO sightings and encounters when it affects national security, such as if the UFOs may actually be foreign planes. The last government report on the phenomenon concluded that most of them were generated by people wrongly identifying a variety of artificial objects and natural phenomena. Those that couldn’t be properly identified, were probably poorly understood meteorological phenomena, electromagnetic plasmas, which could also create hallucinations through interfering with the brains of witnesses. This part of the report was, however, attacked by scientists on its release as pseudoscience.

But very many of the UFOs reported over the years have been people mistaking a variety of normal objects and phenomena for alien craft. During the First World War, an anti-aircraft crew at an army base in Cumbria fired at what they honestly believed was a German Zeppelin. Except that an officer, arriving at the scene, reported that he saw them staring at a star. It was discovered during the Second World War that flocks of migrating birds could make radar trails very much like approaching enemy aircraft, although the airmen sent up to intercept them would find no-one except themselves up there. During the Cold War, UFO reports were generated by the Americans releasing the Mogul spy balloons from their base in Scotland, as well as later flights by spy planes like the U2 and SR-71. These were so secret, the Americans didn’t inform their NATO allies in the countries across which the planes and balloons traveled on their way to the USSR. As a result, RAF jets were scrambled to intercept these unidentified aircraft, while there was a spate of UFO reports along the German border.

Some UFO sightings were also caused by particularly spectacular fireball meteors burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. One of these was responsible for the Berwyn mountain crash, dubbed by some ‘the Welsh Roswell’. A series of meteors were seen over England, followed by an earthquake measuring 4-5 on the Richter scale centred in Bala. It was feared that a military plane had crashed on the mountain, as several had done so previously. The RAF therefore sent up a mountain rescue squad, which found nothing and came back down again. This was subsequently inflated into stories of the RAF’s retrieval of a crashed UFO and alien bodies.

Other sightings were caused by the re-entry of Soviet spacecraft burning up in the atmosphere. This is believed to be the cause of the Rendlesham Forest incident, ‘the British Roswell’, in which a group of American squaddies from a USAF base entered the forest to encounter a triangular UFO in 1980. It seems that the Americans seen the rocket for a Soviet Cosmos spy satellite re-entering, and then the lights from a nearby lighthouse, believing they came from an alien spacecraft.

One MOD scientific/intelligence officer believed that most UFO reports could be satisfactorily explained if they had been investigated immediately they occurred, rather than sometime afterwards. Nevertheless, there are encounters that are still genuinely perplexing. Such as the report a trucker driving through Devon in the ’70s made at a local police station. He had been driving along the main road there when a craft shaped like a mushroom descended, landing on the road ahead, out of which came six short figures wearing uniforms. After gesturing at him, the creatures eventually got in their spacecraft, which lifted up into the air and flew on, leaving the trucker shaken by the experience.

And then there’s the encounter reported by a gent in Basingstoke in 1968. The fellow had been walking down by the canal one morning when a UFO descended and he was taken aboard by their occupants. They examined him, before telling the poor chap, “You can go. You are too old and infirm for our purposes.” Popular SF, which seems to have strongly influenced the content of UFO encounters, has been full of tales of evil aliens coming to other to conquer and enslaved humanity, and carry off people off for breeding purposes. It’s usually females, as in the SF B-movie Mars Needs Women, but sometimes men as in the 1949 Hammer flick, Devil Girl from Mars. This episode occurred around about the time of the Villas Boas encounter, when a Brazilian farmer of that name had been abducted by aliens and forced to have sex with a red-headed alien woman. Possibly the crew of the Basingstoke UFO also had something similar in mind. If so, both they and the poor bloke they abducted were out of luck. Or perhaps they had in mind something far more unpleasant, in which case their intended victim was lucky. The Contactees, who met peaceful aliens in the 1950s, and the abductees from the 1980s onwards, were given messages by humanity by the aliens they encountered. These tend to moralistic sermons preaching international and intergalactic brotherhood, peace, an end to nuclear weapons and concern for the environment. Sometimes they include descriptions of the aliens’ own planets and their societies. Sometimes they’re even whisked away on journeys to these distant worlds. This poor fellow didn’t get any of that, just the blunt statement that he was too old and infirm for them. He was spared the horror and humiliation of being examined and experimented upon, but their comments still seem just a tiny bit insulting. They could have put it a bit more tactfully.

My own feeling is that UFOs, when they aren’t misidentified normal objects or phenomena, are internal visionary experiences drawing on the imagery of Science Fiction, but expressing deep-seated human fears and needs. I don’t know what generates them. I think some are probably the result of poorly understood psychological states, such as sleep paralysis. But I also wonder if others are genuine encounters with something paranormal, something that in previous centuries took the form of fairies and other supernatural beings, and now takes the form of aliens and spaceships as images more suitable for our technological society.

While David Clarke’s done excellent work researching the government’s UFO archives, and has shown that very many of them have entirely rational explanations, there may still be something genuinely paranormal out there. But it didn’t want the man from Basingstoke it encountered on that day in 1968.

Pictures of Britain’s Wartime Flying Ladies and Engineers

April 5, 2020

A little while ago I put up a post about a series of books written by Captain W.E. Johns. These were naturally about the female counterpart of his great hero, Biggles, a longtime favourite of British children’s fiction. This was Worrals, a member of the ATA, the wartime aviation service, which included women that delivered new planes to the RAF. In a series of three books, Worrals and her friend Frecks became uncovered a Gestapo plot, eventually parachuting into occupied France to fight the Nazis responsible.

One of the other books I ordered from the same mail order company specialising in bargain books, was Britain in Pictures: Aviation (Lewes: Ammonite Press/Press Association 2012). This is a collection of photographs of aircraft in Britain from the very earliest flights, such as the gas balloons used by the army during the First World War, right up to today’s high performance jets and helicopters. It also includes a photograph of the Swiss aviator, Yves Rossy, who successfully crossed the Channel in 2008 on a homemade, jet propelled wing. A far less successful attempt, also reproduced in the book, was that of Frenchman Stephane Rousson, who tried to fly from Hythe in Kent to Calais in a pedal-powered airship, the Mlle. Louise. Sadly, high winds preventing him from completing his journey. But I like and admire the inventors, hobbyists and eccentrics who create new aircraft to take to the skies like the great pioneers of aviation over a century ago.

The book also contains photographs of the women of the ATA – Air Transport Auxiliary – and WAAF – the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Here are a few of them.

This one is of Pauline Mary de Peauly Gower in a de Havilland Tiger Moth trainer. She was a pilot and author, and was the head of the women’s branch of the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. Sadly she died in childbirth in 1947.

This one is of a group of ATA women pilots in their flying gear, ready to go to work, from 1939. The book says that they received no conversion training for new aircraft. They were simply given the machine’s handbook and expected to get on with it!

This is a photo of three of the first nine women to join the ATA – Mrs Marion Wilberforce, Miss Rosemary Rees and Mrs G. Patterson. All three of these ladies survived the War.

This photo is of two flight mechanics from the WAAF painting squadron markings on the fuselage of a Hawker Hurricane. Members of the WAAF didn’t fly, but they did perform a number of other valuable duties during the War.

It was ladies like these, who did their bit to defeat the Fascist threat. I salute them, and the women and men, who have followed them into aviation, to ‘slip the surly bonds of Earth, and touch the face of God’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worrals of the WAAF – Captain W.E. John’s Flying Heroine for Girls

March 23, 2020

Captain W.E. Johns, illustrated by Matt Kindt, Worrals of the WAAF (London: Indie Books 2013).

Captain W.E. Johns, illustrated by Matt Kindt, Worrals Carries on (London: Indie Books 2013).

Captain W.E. Johns, illustrated by Matt Kindt, Worrals Flies Again (London: Indie Books 2013).

Captain W.E. Johns was the creator of that great British hero, ‘Biggles’ Bigglesworth, an RAF fighter ace, who with his friends Algy and Ginger foiled the evil designs of the German menace in a series of tales set in the First and Second World Wars. They’re classics of British children’s literature. They appeal mostly, but by no means exclusively to boys – they’re have been plenty of female readers. Even though they’re now somewhat passe, they’re influence on British popular culture is still noticeable. In the 1980s there was an attempt to translate the character into film with an SF twist. Johns’ hero was still a World War II airman, but was sent into the present day by time warp. The character was so much a staple of British literature, that he was lampooned, I believe, by Punch’s Alan Coren in his short story, ‘Biggles Strikes Camp’. More recently, the square-jawed space pilot, ‘Ace’ Rimmer, the heroic alter ego of the cowardly, egotistical and sneering Rimmer in TV’s Red Dwarf, seems to be something of a mixture of Biggles and that other great British hero, Dan Dare, the pilot of the future.

But during the Second World War, Johns was also determined to thrill and inspire girls with a similar figure for them. And so he wrote a series of three books about Joan Worralson, ‘Worrals’, and her friend Frecks. They were pilots in the WAAF, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, which was set up to deliver aircraft to the RAF. Although not combat pilots, Worrals and Flecks soon found themselves actively fighting the Nazi menace in Britain, and then France. The books were republished in 2013 by Indie Books. There’s also some connection there with the RAF Museum, as that institution has its logo proudly printed on the back cover.

I found them in a recent catalogue for Postscript, a mail order firm specialising in bargain books. They were there, alongside serious histories of women in aviation and the WAAF. I liked the ‘Biggles’ books when I was a schoolboy, and decided to order them to see what his female counterpart was like. A decision helped by the fact that they were £2.95 each. They came shortly before the shutdown last week. I haven’t read them yet, but will probably give them a full review when I do. In the meantime, here’s the blurbs for them:

1: Worrals of the WAAF

Britain: 1940

Joan Worralson – Worrals to her many friends – is ferrying a replacement aircraft to a RAF fighter station when she is plunged into combat with a mysterious plane.

Later, she and her friend Frecks investigate what that plane was up to – and fall into a nest of spies.

With their own airfield the target for destruction, the two girls will need every ounce opf skill and daring to save the day.

2: Worrals Carries On

Britain: 1941

While Britain reels from nightly air attacks, Worrals and Frecks are stuck in the routine of delivering new planes to the RAF – until a chance discovery put them on the trail of a Nazi spy.

The hunt leads them to London at the height of the Blitz and even into occupied France. Cut could it be that the traitor is right in their midst? And ready to hand them over to the Gestapo?

3: Worrals Flies Again

1941: Occupied France

British agents are risking their lives behind enemy lines. But how to get that vital information back home?

MI6 need a pilot who speaks French like a native and with the courage to take on an operation so crazy that it might just work. A job for Worrals.

But when she and Frecks fly to the isolated French castle that is to be their base, they discover that nothing is what it seems – and the Gestapo have got there first.

Like other professions and employers, the RAF is trying to diversify its ranks and recruit more women and people of BAME backgrounds. This was shown very clearly a few months ago on the One Show, in a section where pilot and former Countdown numbers person, Carol Vorderman, herself a pilot, talked about the winners of a competition by the Air Cadets  and the RAF to find their best and most promising members. There were three, two of whom were girls, while the third was a Black lad. As a reward, they were given a tour of the vast American factory where they were building the new high performance jets that were due to come into service over this side of the Pond, and talk to some of the American Air Forces pilots. These included a young woman, who was so thrilled with flying these machines that she told them she couldn’t believe she got paid for doing it. There was also a little subtext informing the viewer that young women could still fly these deadly war machines without sacrificing their femininity. One of the girl cadets was a blogger, who specialised in makeup and beauty. And there’s also a more general drive within aviation to recruit more women as pilots, for example in civil, passenger flight.

There have clearly been for a long time women interested in flight and careers in the armed forces. I don’t know how many girls were encouraged to join the WAAF or take to the air by reading Worrals – I suspect they more likely to be influenced by the ‘Biggles’ stories. There was also an attempt to launch a comic strip which featured a group of female pilots fighting for Britain in the WAAF or RAF in the girls’ comics. This was mentioned in the excellent short BBC documentary series, Comics Britannia. However, the strip didn’t prove popular with female readers and was closed down. The comic asked them what they’d rather read instead, and they said, ‘a good cry’. This resulted in a series of strips of unrelenting misery in their comics, including ‘Child Slaves of War Orphan Farm’. I think stories about heroic female pilots sticking it to the Nazis would have been far healthier, but the girls of the time obviously didn’t want it. I don’t know if the books would have any greater success now, when writers are trying to create strong role models for girls in fiction.

I haven’t read them yet – they’re on my ‘to read’ list, along with many others. But I intend to read them eventually. I’m interested in finding out what they’re like, and how they stand up to today’s changed ideas about gender roles. And more importantly, whether they’re any fun. I look forward to finding out.

And my mother wants to read them afterwards.