Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Hypocrisy has a capital H - Innocent Until Proven Guilty


In June 1963 Thich Quang Duc sat in the lotus position as a brother monk poured petrol over him before Thich Quang Duc lit a match setting fire to himself. This act of self-immolation was in protest of South Vietnam's Diem regime's discriminatory laws that were not merely anti-Buddhist but persecuted all Buddhist's. The rights and wrongs to Thich Quang Duc's act to one side, I can neither condone nor condemn suicide but would rather concentrate on how a man, be he Buddhist or not, can defy pain in the way Thich Quang Duc did. Eyewitnesses who observed the protest heard the monk say these words...
"Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngó Dinh Diém to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organize in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism."
David Halberstam, an American Journalist who was at the scene of the immolation said this of what he saw...
"Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think ... As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him." 
During the second world war when Zen Monk's were captured before being executed without cause, without having broken any law apart from being on the wrong side, they not so much surprised the Japanese soldiers set the task of executioners as utterly amazed them. Zen Buddhist monks do not fear death. For them, death is nothing merely a natural process. Nor do they feel pain the way others do for they have total control of themselves, their bodies and their minds. They would walk up to the captors, kneel and thrust their heads out ready for the fall of the sword.  
Not everyone is Zen Buddhist but even Zen Buddhists deserve the rule of law. No one should be executed without first having been found guilty, with empirical facts proving their guilt. As far as I am concerned any nation who has the death penalty is backward and morally bankrupt.
There is no comparison between Thich Quang Duc's protest suicide and the recent outrage as performed on journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Nor are there many similarities between the execution of Zen Buddhist prisoners of war even though both Zen Monks and Jamal Khashoggi were executed without trial, without any jurisprudence. No one is above the law. Jamal Khashoggi's murder was beyond comprehension, beyond the laws of any faith. Jamal Khashoggi was a dissident. He was anti the Suadi regime. Jamal Khashoggi was dismembered whilst still alive. His limbs, feet, hands and all the rest cut away. The man that performed the dismemberment is thought to have been Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy. Despite his name, Tubaigy is not a Muslim.  He may say he is but no member of Islam would enact such a brutal execution. Tubaigy was equipped with a bone saw. This vile abomination can have nothing to do with faith for there is no faith that supports such action.  This was political. 
Donald Trump is said to have spoken with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who "totally denied any knowledge of what took place" in Istanbul. Trump said MBS told him "that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter". I am unconvinced President Trump will pursue this atrocity for reasons unclear to me and many others. Saudi Arabia is the epicentre of radical Islam even if those extremists are not true Muslim's in the sense they break the rules as laid down in the Koran. Saudi Arabia has invaded Yemen. In March 2015, the Saudi's launched a vicious bombing campaign, killing over 6,000 Yemenis, mostly civilians, hitting markets, schools, hospitals, residences and wedding parties, and displacing over 2.5 million people.
There are similarities between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both nations invade other nation states. Israel has been bombing and invading Gaza since 2008. In 2014 the Israeli military killed 2,104 people, mostly civilians and destroyed 17,200 homes leaving 475,000 Palestinians living in emergency conditions. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel use weapons that have been internationally banned. Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza; Saudis used cluster bombs in Yemen. Both nations have extreme right-wing governments who make Donald Trump look positively moderate by comparison.
They both spend many millions of dollars to influence US policy. The Israeli government is aligned with the U.S. lobby AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), which is the most influential foreign policy lobby group in the United States. The Saudis have just started their own version called SAPRAC (Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee). For years they have been buying influence by contracting influential public relations and law firms like the Podesta Group and donating to the Clinton Foundation, the Carter Foundation and dozens of think tanks and Ivy League universities. They are both long-time allies of the United States. US administrations have supported Israel since its founding in 1948; they have also supported an array of Saudi kings since the founding of that nation in 1932. The US has helped guarantee the security of both nations. US taxpayers give over $3 billion a year to support the Israeli military; the US military guards the Persian Gulf for the Saudi royalty, and Saudi Arabia is the number one purchaser of US weapons.

Hypocrisy has long been a watchword of the USA, a nation who sells more arms to other nations be they a Democracy, a Republic or under Authoritarian control. Profit is by far and away the greatest concern of America. But the hypocrisy doesn't stop there. Surely there will be an uproar regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? Yet there has been little said about Barak Obama's 'Drone Tuesday,' a day when without trial or proof of guilt the moderate Republican President fired missiles at those he suspected of crimes against the USA. Jamal Khashoggi's murder is reprehensible but no less so than firing missiles which when they explode dismember all those it they kill. Apparently, the man who dismembered Jamal wore headphones as he sawed away listening to music. Perhaps the music helped him forget what it was he was doing.

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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Life With The Lump 8




I had the scheduled CT scan last Tuesday after I had my second dose of radiotherapy. It was rather late and made so due to the fact a lady, in a far worse state than me and who told me she wouldn't live to see the coming Christmas, had to be shoehorned in front of me. I was due to have the radio wotsit at 4.45 but had to wait until long after five. I had no problem with that. How could I? The poor woman looked beaten, defeated and frankly ready in her mind to die. The other chaps and chappettes sitting in the waiting room all either gave her a kiss or patted her face or grasped her hand. This is the second time I have encountered someone whilst in hospital about to die. The last time was after my heart attack. That made me feel emotional too. As I have said, death doesn't bother me, my own death that is. My singular concern has always been since I first learned I had cancer and as I have written here, was my daughter's feelings, their fear of losing me. That concerns me far more than knowing I am not going to live forever. However, seeing someone so close to death is disturbing. Why? I don't know. She said she had grandchildren, therefore, she must have children. Perhaps it was that that I empathised with.

With all this sitting about waiting for treatment, I am lucky to have a book Thumbscrew bought me. It is by Robert Wright the American journalist. He also teaches at psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He, much like me, is a critic of organised atheism but also like me see's the definition of God as being something greater than the limiting way the word is often used. As Eckhart Tolle said, belief in a conceptual God is a poor substitute for the reality. The book's title is 'Why Buddhism is True.' At first, I challenged that assertion. Yes, there is undoubtedly truth within Buddhism but so is there in many other philosophies and even organised religions but is Buddhism True? Robert Wright deals with my issue early on in the book by stating he realizes by using the word true he seems to be asserting the truth. Asserting anything is a tricky business. However, there are unassailable truths within Buddhism even if Buddhism, a group Lord Buddha did not want to be created in his name any more than Jesus of Nazareth wanted a religion named after him. The truths within the philosophy are available to all and there are many a Christian who practises Buddhism because it makes them a better Christian. their words not mine. It is a good book, an enjoyable read especially when confronted with long waits in hospital or the imminent possibility of chemotherapy. 

I am an only child and come ready made with all the downsides being the only son of parents who thought, a mother certainly, the males were far more important than daughters. In fairness, Dad wasn't like that. He loved Thumbscrew above and beyond that old, antiquated concept. I recall telling Jamie off when a child after he had struck Emily. I learned then my eldest daughters nature. She leapt to his defence. She told me to leave Jamie alone as he was HER brother. Through thick and, thin Emily defended her sibling. You really wouldn't want to mess with my family if Emily is near. When the shit hits the fan the one person you want on your side is she who makes a wolverine look tame when roused. Even though we clash at times I know the one person, not to dismiss Grace too as she is passionate about what she sees as her family who helps me whenever she can, is Thumbscrew. You really wouldn't want to be an 'outsider' who messes with her family. The book was a kind gesture from one who I know I drive crazy at times, who said to me 'I love you, Russ, even though you are  a pain in the arse sometimes.' I know exactly what she means as I feel the same about her. Love is a funny old thing, isn't it?

Among the many rituals I have to perform are a set of daily Jaw Mobility exercises. I do each of these exercises five times a day. After finishing there is a dull ache a bit like having been bollocked by the headmaster. Once he's gone though it's back to the business of disrupting school activity or, in this case, onto the next set of things to do. I have to mouthwash using Caphosol dispersible four times a day. I also have to drink at least two litres of liquid a day which means I now pee for Britain. Once the bladder is full I pee into a pre-marked jug which I then record the results of on a supplied sheet of paper. I can now assert I can out pee anyone reading this post. The temptation, as when I was at school, is to pee as high as possible up a wall. As this would mean urinating up the tiles of a shared bathroom and possibly rusting the fittings, I desist and pee, as instructed into said jug.   Image result for Jaw mobility exercises following radiotherapyImage result for Jaw mobility exercises following radiotherapy

Since last Monday I have had five sets of Radiotherapy treatment today being my sixth, the one CT Scan as previously mentioned, a blood test which is also a weekly process and a visit to the diabetic clinic. No, I am not really counting nor am I after comments suggesting that I am going through a lot. I am not. What I am doing is putting my trust in medical professionals and working with them to win the Battle of Oral Cancer. If I need to whine or moan about anything at all it is Arriva Bus Company whose number 7's and 8's that should be available outside the hospital grounds are infrequent, badly run and provide an appalling service especially late in the evening. One night I expected to catch a number 7 home which was scheduled to arrive at 7.30. It didn't arrive until 8.30 delaying my getting home and my having my regular injection of insulin until 9 which is 2 hours later than it should be. As I said Arriva run an appalling, woefully inadequate service at the best of times let alone late at night or when you need them.

The visit to the Diabetes Clinic to see Doctor Alquist, a man I haven't seen for nigh on 16 years, went well leaving me with a swollen head and an overlarge ego. He reviewed my blood sugar control over the course of the past twenty or so years and declared I should receive not the one medal I already have but another as I, so he told me, was the perfect example of a well-controlled diabetic. It's nice to know that I at least got one thing right in my life. 

Last Friday I believed I would have the results of last weeks CT scan. My having had two maybe three TIA's needs clearing up. Not the fact I had them if indeed I did have three but the confirmation that my brain has healed. That is the bleeds have stopped bleeding and are now either repaired or repairing. I can't have any chemo, not that I truly want chemo unless the Oncology team are confident they can proceed and this depends on the result of the scan. It should take 48 hours before the CT scan report is available and in the hands of Doctor Madhavan, the Oncologist expert. It has now been a week. By and large, I am fine with the wait but my daughters aren't. They are worried sick and as my major concern is and always has been them and how they are coping with all this today I was unusually on tenterhooks. I see it in their eyes. That dreadful fear that they may be about to lose someone they love. When my mum died we had long known about it. It had been on the cards for nearly ten years. She was also 91 so, as much as we all loved my mum, their Big Grammy, the fact we knew about her COPD and the fact that at 91 it is no great shock when someone dies. My kids see me as the silly old fart who used to shape his body into a slide for them to climb. They recall my reading them 'The Hobbit' with an accent that was part Pakistani part Welsh or 'Watership Down' where I'd take on the personas of Bigwig, Hazel, Fiver and, of course, Keehar who swears in the book which I copied and which they loved hearing as they knew their Mum hated such language. Yes, this trial is proving hard for them not made any easier perhaps by my detachment from the fear of my death. Times like this makes you realise just how much you love someone or in this case someones.

They need to know the results of the CT scan. Grace is terrified I might have another minor stroke. She deals with stroke victims, that is the elderly who have had multiple strokes and as a consequence are glassy-eyed and wholly dependent on carers. Not that she has any problem with caring for victims but the thought of my being one frightens her. She would rather I had a massive heart attack and died instantly than go like a vegetable. I so needed to learn the results but they still are not available. I am a little gutted by that fact but have to wait until later this week.

The issue I had regarding my handling of my daughters need to know exactly where I am at every stage of the process I think I have addressed. I now phone Thumbscrew before anyone else informing her of that day's developments. It is hard as I am not really interested. I give my trust and myself to the medics urging them to tell me what they want from me and I will give it. My kids though need that info prior to treatment. It is they, as I have said before, that I am fighting this disease for. Not that I want to die but a dad is not the owner of his offspring. They didn't ask to be born. I have a responsibility to them. Nor is the father key or central to a family. The mother is as we all know.

Until the next time. Take care. Much love.
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Melmoth by Sarah Perry




There was a time, a time not so long ago, not so long ago from my perspective as my perspective is that of a man growing old when the majority of my reading would have been science fiction, horror, ghost stories or stories of a highly imaginative sort. The sort of fiction as now labelled by those that label everything as New Weird perhaps. My youth was spent reading the likes Edgar Rice Burroughs, Issac Asimov, James Herbert, Stephen King, Brian K Aldiss Clifford Simak, John Wyndham, J. R.R. Tolkien and George Orwell, The latter is the exception here as his essays and novels were not of that ilk at all although some, specifically the wonderful '1984' and 'Animal Farm' are not what they appear or rather not what a small few would have you believe they are. Of course, I read more than just that spectrum of fiction but from it arose the springboard that helped me develop a taste for more and of a different flavour. Now, having followed the late Terry Pratchett's advice and read all I can and across a broad range of tastes that include poetry, autobiographies, philosophical works and what is called literary works, I am returning more and more to the roots of where I was fifty years ago. Less the Anthony Buckeridge and Captain W.E Johns.

This novel, Sarah Perry's third, fulfils all the requirements I seek in fiction. It is not Sci-Fi nor horror yet it is highly imaginative, extremely creative and there are elements, flourishes of the ghost or horror story within it. The construction of the narrative is immaculate. Sarah Perry defines her characters, and this very much a story led by character development, well. Each of her protagonists has their distinct personalities with their individual foibles and flaws. We meet Helen, Helen Franklin, centre, core and key to the story. Also there is Thea, the former barrister, the woman crippled by a stroke and her lover Doctor Karel Prazan and Adaya and Albina Horákova. But there are more and each additional character is as vital and as important to the overall story as the others. Josef Hoffman features large. His personal story is both an echo and resonance of the terror that creeps through the tale as it features the horrors perpetrated by humanity against humanity both historically and currently especially in light of the worlds current political climate. By some intelligent writing, Sarah Perry creates an overwhelming sense of unease, of horror glimpsed through a variety of lenses with a singular focus of divine retribution. Divine is not the correct noun nor does it give the proper sense of the book's title, the character of Melmoth, a woman who at the time of The Christ bears witness to the cruelties heaped not only on the one but the many but who does nothing by way of stopping them, preventing them or even giving voice in protest against them and is then cursed by Yahweh to forever wander the earth barefooted as a witness to humankind's evil. 

By revealing the sins of the past committed by the characters in the tale we view how insanely psychotic humankind is and always has been and how easily the individual within the collective turns not the other cheek but the eye and the mind away when convenient. Horrors mount, tension increases. Melmoth is forever in the shade of night, a form embraced by shadows but there if not as a physical presence but a moral, spectral shape haunting the fears and phobias of those who are fully aware of their own sins. You find yourself questioning whether Melmoth exists or is just irrational fear.

The whole book is a delight to read even if it is disarming. Sensations flood from page to the reader. A palpable disquiet that leaves a lasting mark. This is Gothic writing at its very best. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone.

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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Félicien Rops

PornokratèsLa dame au cochon


Félicien Rops was born on the 7th July 1833 and died some sixty-five years later on 23rd August 1898. He was a Belgian artist and printmaker. He is remembered for his drawings depicting erotic and often Satanic images. He is also held in high regard for his pioneering work in Belgian comics. 

He was first discovered after attending the University of Brussels where as a student he illustrated periodicals which in turn caught the eye of publishers. He worked for one satirical journal, Uylenspiegel where he drew for them. Moving to Paris he worked in the studio of Henri-Alfred Jacquemart where he produced two memorable works - the “Absinthe Drinker” and in 1871 “Lady with the Puppet.”

Saint Theresa's ecstasy

Bearing in mind how shocking the above art is now in the 21st century, just imagine how it would have been received in eighteen hundred's. Rops was one of the decadents. His work showed a side of life that was hedonistic. It railled against the society it was constrained by in much the same way as the Beats did post second world war. It was challenging of authority and of society in general. It knew no boundaries and dismissed all polite societal rules.


by Felicien Rops â“‚:

What I see, what I feel, is a man disgusted not with the acts he represents here but the hypocrisy of the society he lived in who judged such acts as deviances, as abhorrent behaviours, unholy, wrong or, in some cases, acts against the deity they believed in and being cast as acts on Satan could condone. His art is, much like Dada or Surrealism, a provocation. It is an attack on the warped mores of a corrupt, unhealthy society. And to this day society remains unhealthy which is why these works of art resonate still. Félicien Rops was a man before his time. His art proves that.


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 Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Return of Doctor Who - The Woman Who Fell To Earth.

The new Doctor Who insignia for Jodie Whittaker's new Doctor (BBC, HF)
And I thought that perhaps Peter Capaldi's Doctor was too dark for the audience who had previously enjoyed Matt Smith's version. I thought that the scriptwriters had taken the show to a new audience, a more mature group and in doing so left the regular watchers behind. I see now that I worried unnecessarily as both stories and the amazing Peter Capaldi's version was spot on. I enjoyed Peter's time on the show. I found it suited my tastes perfectly. Not so my son-in-law and not so many others who pinned for another David Tennant or Matt Smith. What on Earth will those doubters think now as Jodie Whitaker takes on the role. Was she what the fans wanted bearing in mind the fans have so often been proven wrong? I think she stepped up to and went far  beyond the mark. He entry,  falling from the skies through the roof of a moving train was as spectacular and dramatic an entrance as could be conceived. Best of all though was the monsters. All new. No tragic cop-out and regurgitating past creations. These two, yes there was two, were, especially the one whose face was made up of victims teeth, creepy, scary and terrifying.  Course I wasn't scared as I'm a big boy but Squid? Well, she's just a soppy girl. The monster in question kills people which isn't unheard of in Doctor Who but no monster has been quite as monstrous before. When the Stenza makes its  entrance it is more like something from Predator than your standard Doctor Who baddie.

The show was pace perfect and Jodie Whittaker's delivery, her entry as the new Doctor was as good as Matt Smith's way back when. I loved it when a female cop addressed the new doctor as Madam. The Doctor, still regenerating is puzzled that someone has called him madam and asks why? "Because you are female" answers the cop. "Am I?," replies the Doctor looking rather shocked, "twenty minutes ago I was a Scotsman with grey hair." A great line so well delivered. There was humour but there was tension and a modicum of fear just as there always has been since the days of William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and of course Tom Baker. The balance between the two was well crafted with an especial nod to Bradley Walsh one of the four new companions who was a revelation as Graham. The whole team were impressive but only time will tell, as time is vital for a bunch of people teamed up with The Doctor, how the mix will pan out but thus far it looks very promising. They will now be known as friends rather than companions as the whole series is based around relationships.

Glad to see a new villain or villains in the shape of the Stenza and, according to a source found on the internet, there will be no Dalek's this season which I think is a blessing. I also enjoyed watching the making of a new sonic screwdriver which the Doctor described as more a Swiss Army Knife but without the knife. The death of one of the key protagonists adds an emotional quality to the programme. As this could be a spoiler moment I won't say more.

Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole as Yasmin and Ryan respectively look well set to compliment the series.  I for one as am excited as I was when I watched the show through the sixties, seventies and beyond. It all looks great and promises to push the envelope as far as the Doctor's adventures and character go. Only one week until episode 2 and I am all ready anticipating great stuff.

Image result for doctor who 2018
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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