26th August 2011
The Crawf PC is going off for repairs. And the Crawfs are going to Cornwall for a week.
Normal service should reappear in early September.
Ignore Slot Machines In Las Vegas
2nd September 2010
In Las Vegas later this month and looking for something cool to do away from the casinos?
This could be interesting.
Malta: Fancy Dress
2nd April 2010
My site's ratings for March soared to new heights with lots of interest from Malta.
It is not easy to follow the fusillades of insults between rival tendencies there.
According to Daphne Caruana Galizia, her political opponents (primarily Malta Labour supporters) have set up a website to attack her as a trans-sexual and her husband is a pufta having affairs with women while her children are spawned by the devil because trans-sexuals can’t breed.
Nornal good-humoured knockabout stuff like that.
Daphne has hit back by publishing some photographs which, she says, were going to be posted against her on that hostile site.
Including one which takes fancy dress innovation to, er, a quite different level.
But at least I make a forlorn comeback cameo role in the comments, as some sort of Maltese Double Identity thing:
F’ghoxx G*onzi taghkom, mela vera qabda cwiec li ma tafux tuzaw l-internet.
#22 Vladilala 2010-04-01 18:58
Vladi’s associate’s are all falling into place now .
We know that La Redouute is a family member but ahhhh here is the scoop .
The Bus Conducter is non other than Mr Charles Crawford .The i have only visited Malta for a holiday Guy .
I know this Charles & you know how i know it ,Slipped up earlier did we not ?
Update: I spoke too soon. I make a triumphant appearance in the Malta Independent today, reincarnated as a shifty spin-doctor.
This is not Andy Warhol's puny 15 minutes of Maltese fame. It is now at least 18 minutes.
And going strong.
16th January 2010
Today a belated Seasons Greetings card made it to my door.
It came from 'all at Binani House'. It had been addressed to me at the Britsh Embassy in Belgrade. To judge by the envelope it indeed reached the Embassy and was processed in Security (zdravo Zorane!) then forwarded back to me in England. A carbon-intensive trip of some 2100 miles.
No-one had written anything in the card. And whoever sent it to me was going by a directory of some sort which is now at least five years' out of date.
Who or what is Binani House?
Hard to tell from the Internet. Various Import and Export agents appear to reside at that address in St Johns (sic) Wood in London, including Metal Distributors UK Ltd.
Hi there, Binani House wellwishers! You may remove me from your lists.
More On Vampyres
1st November 2009
A few days ago I recommended The Historian, a long and elegantly intelligent modern reworking of the Dracula story with lots of well-tuned Balkan detail:
Here for those who want More is a gripping look by Andrew Stuttaford at one of my favourite films, Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre:
Stuttaford describes how Herzog develops the ideas and imagery of a 1922 expressionist classic film by Friedrich Murnau but ingeniously echoes contemporary oppressiveness and evil:
So it’s perhaps fitting that the consequences of that evil resonate in the very locations where Herzog’s movie was shot. The sequences filmed in then-Communist Czechoslovakia were a reminder of an Eastern Europe torn apart and cut off by the catastrophes of the 1930s and 1940s.
In 1979, this region seemed irrevocably lost as, in a different way, so much of the Lübeck and Wismar of Murnau’s Nosferatu were; many of those cities’ centuries-old buildings had been devastated by Allied bombing and, in Wismar’s case, the malice of the East German state. Despite one notable sequence featuring the same row of Lübeck buildings that Murnau had, Herzog’s Wismar (he dropped the idea of “Wisborg”) was largely represented by the Dutch city of Delft — gorgeous, intact, and, by its very architectural survival, a pointed comment on all that Germany had lost.
But destruction isn’t only physical. When Dracula brings an army of rats (Herzog imported 11,000 of them from Hungary, painting each of them gray) and, with them, plague, into Wismar, its buildings endure as the city empties out. Among the most striking characteristics of Herzog’s Nosferatu is the way the director uses images of great beauty to tell a story of great horror. This is never more so than in the film’s depiction of Wismar’s losing its elegance as its people lose their lives; the shreds of their civilization are shown unraveling in astounding, merciless sequences of ravishing desolation...
Dracula himself is soft-spoken, his words slow, deliberate, and almost hesitant, his voice sometimes caressing, sometimes menacing, and always weary. He comes across as an exhausted figure, still powerful, yes, but tired of his own power.
He is at the crossroads of human, demon, animal, and even insect, but he is still painfully conscious of the traces of humanity within him; he is alienated, isolated, lonely, envious, and resentful.
Check out the scene in a night-struck Wismar where Dracula (illuminated an almost electric blue) peers through a window that reveals a cozy, candle-lit domestic scene: Satan gazing at a Vermeer interior, and mourning, and wanting and craving. To watch Kinski’s evocative face for just those few moments is to understand how the loneliness that envelops Dracula will lead this iron-willed predator into vulnerability and danger
What beautiful writing. Read the whole thing.
And, for less than £4.00 from Amazon.co.uk, this DVD is a bargain to sink one's teeth into.
Even if that means ending a sentence with a preposition.
Not Only Gweat Leader: Gweat Singer Too
18th October 2009
Hippies Three Miles From Molkom
20th September 2009
There one is, pushing one's little godson round the back streets of Lewes, amazed at his genius as he points things out along the way.
And then, suddenly, he has grown up and his first full-length film is launched.
Rob Cannan and Corinna Villari-McFarlane have produced an impressive debut movie, a documentary called Three Miles North of Molkom.
It takes a group of people thrown together at a hippy-style No Mind Festival in leafy Sweden and watches how they each react to the various events laid on to help them connect with nature and their Inner Selves.
An Australian rugby coach somehow ends up among them and of course is wittily scathing about the whole business, fire-walking, tantric sex, hippy burbling mumbo-jumbo, and real-life hugging of real-life trees.
But then ...
A couple of good reviews reviews are here and here.
The scene where one gormless woman is knocked flying as her innermost cosmic rays fail to deflect an incoming onslaught from the smarmy instructor is alone worth the price of admission.
Not to forget that it is possibly the cheapest film ever made?
All in all, a deft, perceptive and ultimately touching piece of work, all the more impressive for being lifted and edited so smoothly from countless hours of filming.
Go and see it.
Batted By Reality
6th September 2009
There I was yesterday evening, busy tidying the main room to welcome our guests after dinner.
I laid a wood fire organically collected from my garden, and placed my LP of the Roomates in a handy position near my Linn deck, ready to charm said guests with my exquisite and diverse musical taste.
All was going fine until the end of dessert loomed.
Then - Horror.
News came that a bat had entered the main room and was circling at huge speed.
Aaargh. Successive attempts to trap and/or eject said bat failed.
So we were driven into another room instead.
All ideas for getting bats out of rooms welcome, please.
24th August 2009
Did you know that August in the USA is National Make-a-Will Month?
So get cracking.
A-Level Grade Inflation
20th August 2009
Yet more UK pupils are getting A grades at A-Level.
Since on the face of it there is no evidence that our progeny are smarter than we are (and plenty pointing in exactly the opposite direction), is the only explanation that the exams are getting easier? Thus:
A survey found that teachers believe A-levels have become so straightforward that monkeys could be trained to answer the questions.
The poll, for think-tank Civitas, revealed that teachers believe the systems allows the same calibre of students to achieve higher grades.
A director of A-levels from a school in the North West said: 'The A-level is not aimed at the same people as it was 30 years ago; a larger cohort must have easier exams or too many would fail.
'You could train a monkey to do the questions today!'
One in eight children achieved 3 As.
Disaster? Are we as a nation getting more dopey and (worse) thinking that we are getting smarter?
Yet, as the A grades are clocked up, a warm glow of satisfaction seeps through even the most cynical parent, namely me. Hey, you can only do your best, whatever the standard someone else sets.
Where a good education gets you these days:
From Uffington White Horse To CIA
17th August 2009
So we wheezed our way up the windy hill to see the legendary White Horse near Uffington, an elegant ancient horse motif cut into the Wessex chalk uplands.
When we got there, two things immediately struck us.
First, the Horse is not obvious.
All you can see are slender lines of chalky areas surrounded by grass. The Horse is wonderful if you are high in the sky, otherwise pretty hopeless. Odd that our distant ancestors did not cut the figure into a steeply sloping area just below, where one would have seen it from on high as well as from a nearby rise. Bit of a Bronze Age failure to think sensibly about the future tourist industry?
Second, a group of trans-Atlantic-sounding New Age tourists of all known genders were perched on the hillside above the Horse. They were listening intently to a guide explaining how the CIA had funded America's scary 1950s alien invasion movies aiming to create a national mood of fear both of other nations and of Otherness in general. And the Catholic Church had for centuries whipped up fear of Nature's Spirituality, or somesuch.
Well, we never knew all that.
So, back down we went. All the wiser.
Too Many Charles Crawfords
7th August 2009
Most of you would think correctly that one of us was enough.
Maybe some people looking for me end up with the Abandoned Bunny.
Just as people needing an Abandoned Bunny with some sharp Boston IT skills end up here.
It's all just too darn confusing.
The Cost Of Sustainability: Aeron Chairs
23rd June 2009
What does something cost? In the biggest, most abstract sense.
You buy a bicycle. What are you buying? Not just a bike.
The market price includes an element for all the myriad components included. The metals, rubber and paint. The innovation which went into creating those metals and rubber and paint, and the bike's design.
The cost of transporting that bike to the showroom where you bought it (oh, and you also have the cost of getting it home).
The cost of all the marketing. The cost of the showroom and its electricity powering the cash register. The cost of the labour of everyone involved.
And so on. Only a market can make that happen smoothly.
What environmentalists are also arguing is that in addition to those immediate and more or less direct costs are the later costs to humankind as a whole associated with getting rid of the bike once its life's work is done. Surely it is better to make the bike's many parts re-useable, so that Nature is a tiny bit less depleted when new products are made?
Well, yes. But if one dumps the old bike in a forest or a municipal tip it sooner or later will be consumed and re-used by Nature anyway, even if that takes thousands or millions of years.
And what if recycling waste products is more expensive in cash terms than just dumping them and making new ones? How to factor in longer-term environmental 'costs' borne by our children and theirs eg in the global warming drama? (Note: not apparently a weighty consideration when we are embarking on a stunning spending binge to create a Bigger State.)
One way to go is to make products which have the opposite of built-in obsolescence - products which are engineered not only to work superbly but also to last a long time, and so save resources that way.
But they will tend to be more expensive. Better quality materials and build, more sophisticated engineering.
What I sit on write this blog is an old wooden 'captain's chair' I bought in South Africa years ago. Rather nice looking. An antique of sorts, made from all natural materials, which has lasted for some decades and is still going strong.
But not very comfortable. Not at all.
Take instead the Aeron chair as made by Herman Miller.
It looks like a cross between a fancy cappuccino machine and something from a Dan Dare spaceship.
But because it is so efficient and elegant, not only does it sell well at its full (and significant) price, a market in second-hand Aeron chairs has appeared.
And it is manufactured with so-called Cradle-to-Cradle environmental principles in mind - an eye on the environmental impact at each stage of the process and for the product over its lifetime.
So as usual you get what you pay for.
But it's maybe a wise move now and again to invest in something strong and good.
Because in paying that higher price you are capturing not only the costs of the article itself today, but also the longer-term total costs as we (at this stage) can hope to measure them?
An Aeron chair which saves the planet (a bit) is good.
A chair which saves one's buttocks is even better.
Sales And Marketing
20th June 2009
Alert readers will notice that I have reorganised the site a little, to make the Search function better and to give greater emphasis to the various excellent services I offer - see the new buttons on the left.
This blogging business takes a lot of time, but generates zero revenue. So I hope that that will change. It must.
The one area I would like to develop is Mediation. I probably have done more top-end Mediation training than anyone else in the UK, building on years of diplomatic mediation-style work eg in the Balkans. But it is not easy to get started professionally as a mediator if one is not where disputes and disagreements and misunderstandings are unfolding (viz in a lawyer's office).
Just this week I have been involved in a business negotiation aimed at finding a better outcome rather than resorting to a litigation jungle. It was interesting to see how a friendly style looking to a positive future rather than dwelling on the rancorous past can keep difficult issues under better control.
The trick is not to try to solve everything, but to reshape the questions and make different parts of a complex problem more manageable. To move from Positions to Interests, as they say in the trade.
So if anyone out there has a dispute/disagreement or even a problem needing a different look and approach, just press email@example.com
Or, indeed, if you need your website rewriting, or a speech knocked out, or advice on a CV, or ideas for a PowerPoint presentation, or a draft article/thesis sharpened up. Or whatever.
Go on. Press.
You know you want to.
A Scientific Basis For Racism?
10th May 2009
Are there such things as distinct 'races' of human beings having distinct physical and intellectual (or even moral sense?) features?
The classic answer is, these days, "Hell, no!"
But what if DNA research did start to show disconcerting patterns - different categories of people could be identified with high levels of accuracy?
Are 'nations' in part genetic entities?
And if so, does any policy need to emerge from that thought?
One intriguing consequence of EU citizens moving to and fro is that these historical DNA patterns may become blurred, so making it harder to know where we all came from:
As you can see, there is population substructure within Germany. We need to map these things out now before the EU mobility wipes clear many of the historical information signals.
These data will be a great boon to historians trying to understand the patterns of ethnogenesis in pre-modern Europe. There are textual support for the contention that the medieval German drive to the east resulted in the Germanization of many West Slavic peoples; these sorts of data can test these hypotheses.
Blood and Soil. Does today's science show us that it should be no surprise that 'nationalistic' or even 'anti-European' ideas are so ingrained in so many people?
Poland's Drunk Cyclists
11th April 2009
The BBC reports a ruling by a top Polish court that Poland's cyclists may face imprisonment for riding while intoxicated, as do drivers of motor vehicles.
This has to be the right answer, despite the ingenious but specious counter argument that cyclists should be treated as pedestrians who face lesser punishment for being drunk on public roads, as in both cases they are using their own muscle power to move along.
Unless you have seen it with your own eyes, it is hard to grasp just how blind drunk people on bicycles and indeed pedestrians can be in former Communist Europe, especially in rural areas (although the wide boulevards of Moscow late at night are also prone to appalling accidents involving drunk pedestrians reeling around aimlessly far from the pavement).
Once I was being driven by Embassy driving legend George (Jerzy) towards Poznan along a country road. We rounded a corner. There immediately ahead of us was a man on a bicycle wobbling precariously in our direction.
He had a zero chance of not falling off the bike.
The 100% chance of falling off divided neatly: either a 50% chance of falling across the road and being flattened and maybe causing us to be seriously injured too; or a 50% chance of falling the other way into the ditch.
Fate smiled on him as on us. Into the ditch he sprawled.
On a separate occasion when on the 2006 Marie Curie 500km bike ride across Poland our group of riders stopped for a breather. We watched the police appear from nowhere and apprehend a local yokel cyclist scarely able to stand, let alone ride. Later some of our riders watched an elderly intoxicated Polish woman cyclist wobble her way into a ditch. She got up, somehow managed to get back on her bike, and wobbled off down the road.
This Balkan YouTube clip gives the general idea of the law enforcement issues at stake (plenty more examples if you want to be depressed at the human condition):
80 Dirty Cats And One Doggie
27th March 2009
This story of awesome feline squalour (plus one dog) reminded me of Nick Lowe's song Marie Provost:
She was a winner, who became the doggie's dinner
The Wikipedia account of the real Marie Prevost is here, claiming that her dachshund Maxie had not eaten her but nipped at her legs after she died trying to revive her.
Britblog Round-up 198
1st December 2008
I have a mention this week at Philbiblon.
These quixotic round-ups invariably take one to places one otherwise just would not go.
Such as High on Rebellion, analysing the Guardian's coverage of feminism: unsatisfactory, as evidenced by its coverage of the Tube Cleaners Strike.
And Elizabeth Chadwick, giving us all we needed to know (and quite a lot more) on mediaeval lavatorial customs - amazing what one did with moss.
28th November 2008
A good friend of mine died on Tuesday, after a long life (not quite 100) and a fairly short final decline. I was there.
She had been in hospital in London for some weeks, suffering from accumulating ailments brought about (I suppose) by sheer old age. I had tried to visit when I could, which meant some six times in so many weeks. Other friends who lived closer had been more often.
On Tuesday evening I arrived to see how she was. The previous week she had looked notably better.
Now she was in a deathly state. And, as it happened, within a few minutes she silently passed away.
She had lived in that part of London for many decades. She died as a stranger in a hospital ward down the road from her home, staffed by people from all over the world who had dealt with her final illness (and accompanying pain and sheer frustration) with businesslike dignity.
And there was I.
Of all the hundreds of relatives, friends, foes, colleagues and acquaintances she had known down all those long years, it somehow fell to me to be with her in that small darken anonymous ward for those final silent few minutes.
One never knows which friendships and relationships last, and quite why.
Where one touches someone in a special way.
So that as life takes its last faltering breath only to flicker out, fate so organises things that one is not quite Alone.
Many Moral Problems
23rd November 2008
So little time, so many genders, so much immorality.
Dr. Sa’d Al-’Inzi: A man is not allowed to expose the area between his navel and his knees. Nobody is allowed to see his private parts. Someone who goes to these parlors and exposes this part of his body is, undoubtedly, committing a crime both in terms of the shari’a and the law, and he should be punished for this. The same goes for women. I don’t know if there are massage parlors for women...
Moderator: Yes, there are.
Dr. Sa’d Al-’Inzi: Then the catastrophe is even greater, because just like there is a “third gender,” there might be a “fourth gender” as well... Imagine that a woman gets undressed, and in walks a butch masseuse, who gets on with it – this might cause many moral problems.
But hey, fun to watch?
Engage Charles Crawford as