Monday, 22 December 2014


Over at Extreme Energy's website you can find a very, very detailed map of the state of play re: shale gas extraction plans for the UK. I think anyone living in (say) Margate might find it especially interesting.

Looking at the South East in general, I think we can anticipate some wondrous ideological contortions from right-wing MPs, councillors, and newspaper columnists. The 'fracking is vital for Britain' brigade will struggle to explain why the view from their French windows should take precedence over their nation's future. But I'm sure they'll think of something.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Mail's Mandy Misogyny

So, Mandy Rice-Davies died, and the Daily Mail referred to her as a 'call girl'. This is old-time newstalk for 'white prostitute with posh or at least upper-middle-class clients'. And no, I am not linking to this or any other story in the Mail, as a public service to you, gentle reader. Thank me later. I could go on about the fact that Ms Davies was never a prostitute, but that would merely be challenging the Mail on a matter of record. Why bother? They never cared about facts. So let's have a crack at the 'tude behind the inaccurate description.

First, the phrase itself. The dead language of cliché and worse, that's what our newspapers use. We're used to it, don't think about how bad it is, unless we happen to read it aloud. Words like 'reveller' when they mean 'someone who's been to the pub'. Except, of course, when they use 'pubgoer'. Anything rather than refer to people as people, and use ordinary people's language, it seems. So it's not surprising that 'call girl' is still in the Mail's lexicon. I wouldn't be surprised if the Express used the term as well.

But of course they had to use a sexually-charged and rather grubby term when a woman famous for the (unwitting) fallout from a sexual encounter died. Why? The right-wing press is apparently run by misogynists, who also manage - through efficient time-management - to be racist, homophobic, anti-intellectual, and a leering, slobbering interest in teenage girls.

Yes, I know journos have to make a living and someone who works for, say, Murdoch money isn't necessarily as horrible as Old Rupe, (Randy Ol' Rupe is this horrible, btw,) But, given that we live in a world where journos can make a difference for the better in oppressive states, very few seem to try and do the right thing in the relatively free UK,

But it's not just Murdoch. The Mail is part of a news empire owned by the fourth Viscount Rothermere, who lives in France to avoid paying UK taxes. (France is a country the newspapers he owns routinely tell us is hostile to free enterprise - go figure). The first Lord Rothermere worshipped Hitler, sending him fan-mail, terming him 'Adolf the Great', and predicting that he would become immensely popular with ordinary Brits. Oh, and Rothermere also wanted to King of Hungary, presumably on the basis that Adolf the Great owed him that much. He died in 1940, a very apposite date.

During the run-up to WW2 Rothermere didn't just spin for Hitler, he paid thousands to a Nazi agent, She may have been his mistress. Certainly if the Mail were publishing this item today, that's what would be heavily hinted at, so why not? 'Did Daily Mail Founder Shag Hitler's Call Girl?' - one possible headline for a belated non-scoop of the sort the paper specialises in. Oddly enough, though, it's not customary in the press these days to refer to 'Nazi sympathiser and possible traitor Lord Rothermere'. One law for call girls, it seems, another for long-dead, pro-fascist loons.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

An Illuminating Interview

You know how, back in the day (i.e. before the 15th century), people had to write all those long books out by hand? And how that Gutenberg bloke came along and started printing stuff, which led to More Books?

Right, now we're on the same page - so to speak - here's a link to an illuminated MS that's been created by modern scribes. None of them are monks, so far as I know, and they are unlikely to be struck down at any moment by marauding Vikings, or the Black Death. Otherwise, though, they are perfectly legit scribes. With ink.

It does look a bit odd, because of course mediaeval manuscripts were chock full of weird images of naughty/crazy people, strange mythical beasts etc. Here the scribes have done a cracking job of illustrating the piece with images of the Saturn V, Apollo spacecraft etc.

Anyway, they've produced a spiffing volume of illuminated writings about sundry topics. At the link you can see an interview with physicist and science writer Paul Davies. It's an interesting interview in itself.

I think Davies makes a good point re: Richard Dawkins, in that the latter's books made biology sexy, whereas before The Selfish Gene it had been seen as the rather dull, worthy cousin of physics and astronomy.

Re: written science fiction, there is the thorny question of whether it should - or can be - more optimistic. Davies makes the key point that the Cold War led to the Space Age because of intense competition for prestige between two power blocs. But if military strategy had been the sole issue, there'd have been no real need to try and convert/upgrade ICBMs to take men to the Moon and probes far beyond. Similar competition might produce a 'Second Space Age' fuelled by the rivalry of (say) India and China.

Sadly, Davies also makes the point that our culture seems increasingly rootless, or rudderless. Where material acquisitiveness is everything, nothing is meaningful. At the same time, he's right to argue that things are better now in many ways than they were in the Sixties or Seventies. What we lack is a 'framing narrative', a common core of myth or idealism. I don't see literary sf delivering that, but I could be wrong. Renaissance humanism only affected a small minority of people in theory, as only a few could read. But many more were touched by art, music, and the general spirit of the age.