Yours, Clueless in Hades New Town

Robinince's Blog

Just mucking about with words. Thoughts may not be my own.

I would like to be certain.

It must feel like a much more secure position.

I read people who are certain. I watch them on discussion shows. I hear them on radio phone ins. It don’t think it’s an act. They are sure that they are sure.

Unfortunately, due to the company I keep and the books on my shelves, my ignorance is flamboyant. Each effort to cure it just puts another peacock feather in it. The problem with being driven by curiosity rather than a raging desire to be right, is that your 100%, definite, this is the correct answer, the right way forward, the dogma that drives me to Olympus, gets further and further away.

Politics seems the hardest to grasp. It’s news coverage seems to be driven by creating penny dreadful melodramas, so the facts seem…

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A rant about British “democracy”

When you skip voting it’s not rebellion, it’s surrender

This was posted on a friend’s Facebook page earlier. Below is my reply, which I think stands alone as my feelings on the matter. I have only tweaked it slightly for context.

When voting becomes a matter of not just choosing the least bad option then I will wholeheartedly agree with this, but until they start putting “none of the above” options on ballot papers then whoever is elected, even if they are so with a tiny fraction of the population, will continue to believe that they speak on behalf of the majority of the country.

The Conservatives here were elected in 2010 with 36% of the vote on a 65% turnout – i.e. less then a quarter of the country voted for them, and more people didn’t vote *at all* than voted for them, but yet there they are. It doesn’t help that all three major parties here are just variations on a theme of awful.

Even the Liberal Democrats, who claimed before entering government that they’d try to curb some of the more extreme tendencies of their coalition partners, swiftly capitulated on most of their principles once they got their grubby little mitts on some actual power.

Politics on both sides of the Atlantic has been tainted by the rise and rise of the professional politician. Here it’s no longer the person with a vested interest in their local community being elected; now it’s the high-flyers with their Oxbridge PPE degrees that rise up the party ranks and get pushed into safe seats who reach the highest levels of government, fuelled all the way by rich backers who naturally seek to influence their parliamentary puppets once they’ve achieved office.

Until the “none of the above” option appears I shall continue to hold my nose as I take my ballot paper, go into the booth and mark my ballot for the least awful option available, but I don’t pretend that this is democracy as it should be, and I’m certainly not happy about it.

Spicy lamb stew recipe

I had a random burst of improvisation in the kitchen tonight which went really well, so I thought I’d a) preserve what I did for posterity and b) share it in case anyone fancies trying it. I had the initial thought of doing an Irish stew, but somewhere between that thought and actually getting to the shop it turned into something else. Something very tasty, apparently. Any way, here goes, I hope you like it if you try it.

Ingredients (all approximate):

  • 800g (1¾ lb) diced lamb
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, sliced thickly
  • 1 lamb stock cube
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 3tsp dried rosemary
  • 3tsp dried thyme
  • 3tsp steak spice mix
  • 1tsp chilli sea salt
  • 200ml stout/porter
  • ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in a casserole dish on a high heat. Brown the lamb in batches and lift out with a slotted spoon for later.
  2. Cook the onion and carrot in the lamb juices for ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally, then add the rosemary and thyme and stir for another minute or so.
  3. Return the lamb to the casserole dish, then add the stock and stout (I used Murphy’s), and the seasoning.
  4. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat. Cover, and cook for 1½ to 2 hours.

I served with bread tonight, but I imagine it would be great with potatoes. If we had a larger casserole dish I’d have put potatoes in the stew, but ah well.

I used to be a friendly child…

I used to be a friendly child, but that seems ever such a long time ago now. I don’t quite know when my current attitude of bitterness and cynicism first took hold, but I suspect it was around the time when I saw my godfather pretending to be Father Christmas that it all began. My world was rocked – if Father Christmas didn’t exist, then what else had my parents lied to me about? The Tooth Fairy? But there was still money under my pillow, who was putting that there? The Easter Bunny? But then where did chocolate eggs come from? A factory, I suppose. What was next? You’ll be telling me next that there’s no such thing as summer holidays and our parents and teachers had been drugging us, leaving us in hibernation pods and then going off and enjoying six children-free weeks each summer.

Well, that last one was true, certainly. It wasn’t until I hit puberty early that the effects of the soporific gas they used to pump into our classrooms didn’t work on me any more, and while my classmates slumped around me I was whisked out of the school into a special camp they had for pubescents like me. Yeah, if you want to know why us teenagers are so bloody grumpy all the time, those camps weren’t like the wholesome summer camps you see on schmaltzy American movies. No, more like bloody Lord of the Flies they were.

We never actually killed anyone like that poor fat kid in the book, but having a bunch of kids around each other for six weeks with very little adult supervision meant we felt like it a lot, and talked about it a lot more. Certainly being in that kind of environment imbues you with a whole lot of distrust in your fellow man, distrust that it takes a lot to get back. In my case it took me until my mid-twenties before I could finally begin opening up to people again, the damage that had been done to me was so great.

I Hate Surprises…

I hate surprises, but this one was worse than most. Well, dying could be considered right up there as being pretty damn awful, and I certainly did. I mean, being brutally tortured could be considered a worse surprise, especially if you weren’t expecting it (and who actually does, really?), but no, dying is about the worst surprise you could have.

I imagine it came as a surprise to my murderer as well, given that he wasn’t expecting to encounter me on his way out of the bank. I was a bit cautious going past it, given all the wailing alarms and flashing lights and all that, but even so, I didn’t expect a balaclava-wearing man to rush out, knock me to the ground, swear incomprehensively at me and then blow my head off with his sawn-off shotgun.

It was so unfair as well, what had I ever done to him? Oh, foiling the bank robbery. I’ve got you. But apart from that. He didn’t have to shoot me, after all. I hadn’t seen his face, I barely knew what was going on, in fact. But there you go. Shoot me he did, and die I did.

It’s a pity too, because I was on my way to somewhere pretty important. Yes, yes, it’s a pity for all sorts of reasons, but in the context of this particular day it was a pity because I was going to meet a man about a dog. Literally. I know people say that just to get out of doing they don’t particularly want to do, but in this case I really was going to see a man about a dog.

“Why?” you might ask. Well, this particular dog was owned by this particular man, and I needed this particular dog for a very particular purpose. You see, that dog was the last of its line, a line that had gone back a very long way along the paternal line of my family. Some way along that line the connection twixt dog and human had been broken owing to some long-since owed gambling debt or something – the line of dogs being something pretty pedigree-ish – and it was high time that that connection was remade.

“But why was this so important?” you might also ask. Well, that’s a good question. It’s because I’m the last of my family. No, no brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, or anything. So this was the last chance. And now that chance has gone. Like I say, it’s all so unfair.

I’m sure the man with the gun also thought it was unfair, that idiotic man spoiling his perfect bank robbery then getting himself shot, causing our antagonist to be sent down for a great many years, but frankly I have little sympathy for him. Dying trumps jail, in my book, so sorry, Mr Bank Robber, sucks to be you.

To vote, or not to vote. That is the question.

To vote, or not to vote. That is the question.

I can see both sides of this argument, and would tend to side with Webb over Brand (although Brand was extremely persuasive in his Newsnight interview recently), but also very much sympathise with the futility of voting for the sake of it. If none of the candidates for which you can vote represents your views, then by not voting you can’t really complain about who gets in if they don’t do what you want; conversely voting for the least bad option is giving tacit concent to that candidate.

What makes it even more frustrating is when the candidate and/or party you vote for gets into government and then completely ignores virtually all of the principles and manifesto commitments it made before the election. If that’s going to happen, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it (other than pretend it won’t happen again when you vote), then perhaps there really isn’t a point in voting.

And don’t get me started on tactical voting.

Like I said, I’d tend to side with Webb’s argument. That Canada Bill Jones quote springs to mind, however, and it makes me sad.

Amy Farrah Fowler and Indiana Jones

Spoiler alert for those not on Season 7 of The Big Bang Theory – if you’re caught up or just don’t care, read on…

In the most recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Amy suggests that the outcome of Raiders of the Lost Ark would have been unaffected by Indiana Jones not actually being in the film; specifically that even without Indy the Nazis would still have acquired the Ark of the Covenant, they would still have opened the Ark, and they would all still have had their faces melted off. All very true so far.

However, this wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing. Without Indy having been contacted by some Feds he would never have travelled to Nepal and hooked up with Marian Ravenwood again, and we would have been spared the mind-shredding awfulness of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

All of that being said I still think Raiders is the best film of the franchise, despite all the terribleness that it spawned.

What are you gonna vote?

Crowd (in unison): None of the above!

The news of late is full of more tales of politicians becoming ever-more removed from the needs of the country and the reality of their decisions. It is very difficult to see who I would vote for in 2015 based on the current state of the main parties.

  • Con: seemingly ideologically driven to sell off as much of the state as they can, demonising the poor, the sick and the foreign along the way while making life ever more difficult.
  • Lab: haven’t made a particularly credible opposition to the coalition, difficult to see how they would do well in government.
  • LD: cravenly abandoned most of their principles for a chance of power.
  • Green: would ideally love to vote for them, but too many wacky/quacky ideas to be a serious contender.
  • UKIP: “Howls of derisive laughter, Bruce.”

So yeah, “none of the above” seems to be winning at the moment. Pity.