Thursday, 28 November 2013

Alex Salmond

This Scottish Nationalist chappie Alex Salmond gives me the pip. He wants a divorce but expects to keep all the future income from an enterprise - North Sea oil - which was a joint venture funded by the UK as a whole. Meanwhile, he expects to have access to The UK's financial reserves and expertise in currency management through retaining Sterling. Presumably he would be content to take some of the structural deficit and National Debt as well. He hopes to retain the (arguable) benefits of a nuclear deterrent but without the inconvenience of it. He expects to retain membership of the EU by virtue of the UK's membership, ignoring the possibility that the UK intends to renegotiate the terms of membership and perhaps withdraw. Meanwhile he forgets that the legality is that if Scotland were truly independent it would have to apply to join the EU as such and gain the agreement of all the EU member states to Scotland's accession, which would be conditional on an undertaking to adopt the Euro as its currency. And he expects people in Scotland to vote for Independence based only on these and other hopes and intentions, none of which will have been agreed upon with the UK at the time of the referendum.
He's a plonker driven by some outmoded notion of nationalism which is totally irrelevant in today's pluralist society which is governed essentially by a globalised neo-liberalist capitalist economic system transcending such anachronistic and sentimental concepts of nation-state boundaries. Salmond, and other nationalists of whatever ilk, should take George Orwell's advice# and separate his emotional questions of identity from his mental processes and allow them to sit side by side with reality.
# Notes on Nationalism, 1945.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Η Κτηματολόγιο

Xorg Inter-Galactic are pleased to announce the inaugural presentation of the Most Useless Land Registry In The World Award. Step forward the Cyprus Department of Lands and Surveys! Regular readers will be aware of our ongoing struggle to get our overseas estate properly registered with the authorities here. A long story, but suffice it to say that it has been labyrinthine if not Kafkaesque. (Kafka would not have held out the tantalising prospect that there might be a conclusion). We have been back and forth, paid fees, been back and forth again and even done some photocopying for them, but still the Land Registry have not managed to sign off the title deeds. El Presidente was promised on her last visit that the documents would be ready for her next visit but, no, nada, not ready yet. This time around we helped them out by going into the office and actually moving the file from one room to another in order to get some stuff signed. Sadly, that is where it has remained and we are promised for the fourth time that the deeds will be ready for our next visit. Meanwhile, despite the property not being registered we have had to pay the Property Tax...

Economic Intervention

We continue to do our bit to inject some life into the Cyprus economy, providing further employment to our good friend Mixalaki the plumber. The auxiliary water tank which was installed some years ago when Cyprus was in the grip of a drought developed a leak because of a faulty valve. Mixalaki duly fixed the valve but on consideration, and taking account of the fact that the water in the auxiliary tank tended to get a bit pongy as it wasn't being used, it was decided to isolate it altogether. This meant having to empty it of 30 metric tonnes of water and at this point we discovered that the drains were blocked again, so Mixalaki had to sort that out first. Any road up it all got done eventually and we now have an empty isolated tank sitting there. Mixalaki advises that when he finds a use for it, he'll take it away but there being little building work going on this might not happen just yet. Any road up, our next visit will involve a considerable amount of reinstatement investment. (Picture shows Mixalaki engaged in negotiations with EL Presidente, whilst Old Foghorn from downstairs faffs about).

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Works Outings

The Entertainments Committee would like to apologise for the death of the ex-President of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides. Whilst not unexpected, the poor timing of his demise led to the cancellation of two planned excursions. Old Glefcos curled his toes up at 6pm on Friday and this prompted The Powers That Be to close all Government Offices and cancel all public engagements for two days. Consequently the demonstration on Sunday by the Rithmos Dance Association of 'Dances from Around the World' got the kybosh, much to the disappointment of the Xorg Inter-Galactic Terpsichoral Society. To make matters worse, the performance that evening by The Old Company Choir of the Union of Cypriot Pensioners (featuring a tribute to Mikis Theodorakis) also got the chop, much to chagrin of the Old Codgers' Sub-Group. But that is the way of things; our lives hang by threads such as these. 

Social Mobility

John Major and David Cameron have been making utterances about 'social mobility'. Mr Major says he is shocked that the upper echelons of society are dominated by the privately educated (codewords for Eton/Oxford toffs, presumably). Major of course is the only known example of someone who ran away from the circus to become an accountant and subsequently a very boring and somewhat inept Prime Minister. Cameron meanwhile says that it is for the working class to show aspiration, ambition and enterprise and thus to climb the social hierarchy. He too is somewhat inept but merely vacuous rather than boring. Whereas Major had to use cunning and duplicity to rise through the political ranks, Cameron merely had to rely on the old boy network as he was already in the upper echelons.
A big problem with all this talk of social mobility is that, by definition, in a globalised neo-liberalist economy we can't all be at the top even if we all have the ability or inclination to get to the top. The political system reflects this model of competitive market forces, as does the social hierarchy.
Meanwhile, you have to ask yourself who has the most to lose from a structural change to bring about a 'classless' society? One where nepotism, money, low cunning and duplicity do not determine outcomes and where we have ditched the concept of the 'upper echelons'? Obviously, it is those in the 'upper echelons', sometimes known as the 'ruling class'. And how would those in the ruling class fend off resentment and potential revolution from those in the working class? Apart from oppression and violence, that is. Easy peasy, by persuading those in the lower orders that they too could join the 'upper echelons' through aspiration, ambition and enterprise (cunning and duplicity coming in handy too, although this is left unsaid).So what you do is come up with this idea of 'social mobility' and you allow sufficient numbers to rise up the greasy pole to make it credible. What you don't do is restructure the political, social and economic system so that class is not an issue and there are no 'upper echelons'.  

Friday, 15 November 2013


Some books wot I been reading, like recently.
Eminent Victorians - Lytton Strachey
Strachey exposes the hypocrisy, obtuse attitudes and prejudices of key figures (and contextual events) of the Victorian era who had hitherto been considered role models. Feet of clay irreverently exposed.
P G Wodehouse - Damsel in Distress
A farcical pastiche of Shakespearean plotting involving false identities, buffoons, dithering idiots, and smart women. Plus silly names.
J D Salinger - Catcher in The Rye
Written in 1951 (ish), and concerning adolescent angst, alienation, confused identity and rebellion. Consequently we get vulgar language, blasphemy, the undermining of family values and lying. No wonder American conservatives want it banned - even now. I liked it.
P G Wodehouse - Ukridge
Not exactly a novel, but several short stories that follow on from each other. Hilarious in places and the usual wonderful language. And silly names. You get the feeling that Wodehouse is having fun while writing and breaking off now and then for a jolly good chortle.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

David Cameron: Evil or Stupid?

Maybe it's simple ignorance resulting from his sheltered upbringing and cossetted existence. When you've inherited £30 million from your father and your wife is set to collect another £25 million when her Baronet daddy pops his clogs, you might understandably have an insular view of life and fail to grasp what's going on around you.
Here he is, speaking at The Lord Mayor's banquet at a gilded lectern, dressed in white tie and tails echoing his Bullingdon Club attire, telling us that we must expect austerity measures to continue for years to come. Just a tad insensitive there, Dave. He mangled a metaphor about 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' hoping to illustrate that you can't use taxpayers' money to improve living standards. The idea, Dave, is that you collect higher taxes from those with loadsamoney and redistribute it to those with hardly enough to live on, not that you take it from those without enough money to live on and give it to those without enough money to live on. Democratic societies generally use a progressive income tax system to facilitate a redistribution of wealth, Dave, so bung the top rate of tax up to 60% and save us all a lot of grief.
Mr Cameron also babbled on about teaching capitalism, and promoting business and enterprise in schools. He seems not to have noticed that capitalism failed in 2008 when the relentless and unregulated pursuit of profit caused the financial system to collapse, and that it was State intervention - which he would call a socialist measure - was needed to rescue it. If Governments had stuck to capitalist 'principles' the banks would have been left to fail,  not nationalised and propped up with 'Quantitative Easing'. And this from a chap who, apparently, has a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Perhaps that results from the practice, initiated and promoted by a Conservative Government, of teaching to the exam rather than actually learning anything.
Bugger off, Dave.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Works Outings

Entertainments Officer Doris Orifice writes:
It's been an exciting couple of weeks for the Xorg Inter-Galactic Works Outing Sub-Committee and we've enjoyed a number of fab and groovy musical trips.
It was off to the massive shed known as the O2 Arena in Greenwich for a gig by the inimitable Peter Gabriel, who still works and performs according to his own criteria. The centrepiece of the show was a performance of Gabriel's hit album 'SO' and Gabriel recruited a top-notch band for the job, who had played on the original album. Some new songs and Greatest Hits bracketed 'SO', culminating with a dazzling if mystifying special effects finale. We assume Mr Gabriel knows what it all means.
****. One star deducted for the O2's crap acoustics.
Next stop was the Festival Hall for a concert by the London Philharmonic Orchestra of works by Francis Poulenc and Sergei Prokofiev. The Prokofiev symphony is commendable but not outstanding although the LPO did it justice. Poulenc's piano concerto was performed with some verve, but this piece is something of a satire - Poulenc threw in all sorts of stuff and I suspect he was having a laugh. But everything was put into the shade by the performance of Poulenc's 'Stabat Mater' for which the LPO was joined by a 100-voice choir. This is one of the most beautiful and dramatic pieces of music ever written. 
Back to the Festival Hall a week later for a concert by the BBC Concert Orchestra, and others, of Frank Zappa's '200 Motels'. This is something we have waited 42 years to hear, the original premiere having been banned by the Powers That Be at the Albert Hall on grounds of obscenity.The chumps missed the point that this is a satire of life on the road with a rock band, but is meanwhile serious classical music. Thankfully, the world has now caught up with Mr Zappa and so Bob's yer uncle. A truly wonderful piece of music, very ably performed. It was recorded by the BBC and is currently available on the BBC iPlayer.
(The Committee would like to apologise for the trip to Larnaca Municipal Theatre for a performance by the Larnaca Police Band and the Choir of the Progressive Movement. This was every bit as dreadful as the previous occasion on which he heard this bunch of tone deaf clods. They still don't tune their instruments beforehand.)

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Damien Hirst: Plagiarist

Damien Hirst has always been a deliberately controversial artist and one could say that the whole basis of his work is to provoke. Pickled animals and so forth, outrageously expensive items, sausages, a beach ball, ashtrays, bits of junk stuck together in a frame, and many more. It seems all he has to do is put it all together nicely and give it a weird or clever name and people will lap it up. Fair enough - whether or not you or I agree that this is art is irrelevant: he says it is, his customers agree and they buy it. *
But I think we may have rumbled him and his 'Spot Paintings'.
He's made squillions out of these. Moreover, he employs underlings to churn them out for him and he's flogged them for up to $3.5 million. But he pinched the idea from an unknown and no doubt underpaid designer at the Clarvan Corporation (see picture). They called the pattern 'Mardi Gras' and it was used on a variety of kitchen products manufactured using 'Vinylite' plastic from the Bakelite Corporation, part of Union Carbide. Perhaps Mr Hirst is making an ironic post-modernist statement. Or not. But luckily for Mr Hirst the Clarvan Corporation is now defunct otherwise he might be facing legal action for copyright infringement.
[* for an erudite discussion on what art might or might not be, check out Grayson Perry's Reith Lectures]

Friday, 8 November 2013

Why Convert to an Academy?

Of course, the main incentive for a school to become an Academy is financial. The school gets the proportion of funding that might otherwise have gone to the Local Education Authority (LEA) so, if your LEA hitherto took 15% your school gets a 15% increase in finance. But the Academy now has to pay directly for services previously provided by the LEA (payroll, training, advisers, insurance etc) so you need to do your sums carefully. The Academy is also free to drop the National Curriculum, and becomes a 'Publicly Funded Independent School'. (Meanwhile, Michael Gove buggers about with the National Curriculum so that maintained schools won't know whether they are coming or going). So essentially, the policy aims to move schools from the public sector under Local Authorities, to the independent sector - a cynic might term this privatisation by another name.
The justification for this is, of course, ideological but it is claimed that the aim is to 'raise standards'. However, if you were to check OFSTED's recent statistics you would find that 78% of maintained (i.e. LEA schools) have been assessed as 'Good' or 'Outstanding' whereas only 62% of independent schools are assessed as 'Good' or 'Outstanding'. This would suggest that becoming independent is more likely to lower standards.
But no. This is where Michael Gove and his Band of Devious Bastards have worked the trick - you shift the good or outstanding maintained schools into the independent sector and Bingo your ideology is justified as the independent sector shows a rapid raising of standards!

Where's Todd?

Todd is currently assisting Ringo Starr. Buenos Aires tonight and tomorrow.