Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Competent followers

One of the most fascinating and revealing aspects of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership qualities is that he doesn’t have any. He could neither organise nor inspire the proverbial piss up in a brewery.

However, his followers are competent enough to keep the circus going. They put him there and maintain the leadership facade which keeps him in place. Yet there is no leadership – the old coot isn’t up to it.

There are wider lessons to be learned here, but that's the trivia out of the way. Now what about possible names for the latest royal baby?

Sunday, 22 April 2018

It’s a grotesque country

For those able to stomach more stories about the seemingly unending conflict in Syria, CapX has an interesting article.

Both Western and Russian security analysts have long documented the utter decrepitude and disintegration of Assad’s forces. Tobias Schneider, an analyst who follows internal regime dynamics very closely, wrote in August 2016 that “the government’s fighting force today consists of a dizzying array of hyper-local militias aligned with various factions, domestic and foreign sponsors, and local warlords. Among these groups, only a handful are still capable of anything close to offensive action”.

Thanks to recent interviews with Russian regular and special forces as well as commanders and fighters from the more opaque Wagner mercenary group, we know that these assessments broadly reflect the reality on the ground. A recent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interview with three Wagner commanders gives an insight into just what the Russians think of their comrades-in-arms.

“The Syrians can’t fight,” said one commander. “I’ve seen it many times. At the drop of a hat they’ll abandon their positions and flee. ‘Go, go, Russia, go!’ they’ll yell. Where are you going, god damn it, let’s defend the position! But no. When there’s an assault, for instance, we’ll take the high ground, hand it over to the Syrians in the evening, come morning, no Syrians.”

The Russians regard the poor fighting capacity of the regime forces as connected to what they see as moral failings. “It’s a grotesque country,” said the commander to RFE/RL. “Faggotry flourishes there. They’ve all got it to a man.”

It is worth reading the whole piece. 

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Motoring under a blue sky

Wall tile from Coleton Fishacre

What a fine day - too sunny for gardening or even walking so we went for a drive around Derbyshire. Off to Buxton followed by a meandering return journey via Bakewell taking in three coffee stops along the way. 

With the top down under a blue sky and copious quantities of sunshine it was easy enough to imagine why motoring caught the imagination. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Roll on winter

It was log day today, one of my favourite jobs, stacking a new load of logs for next winter. Once those fleeting moments of sunshine we refer to as "summer" are out of the way we'll be back in front of the log burner. 

Monday, 16 April 2018

The radiance of a gorgeous tropic day?

It has been one of my commonest experiences, and one of the most interesting to me, to note that nearly all of my keenest experiences intellectually, my most gorgeous rapprochements and swiftest developments mentally, have been by, to, and through men, not women, although there have been several exceptions to this. Nearly every turning point in my career has been signalized by my meeting some man of great force, to whom I owe some of the most ecstatic intellectual hours of my life, hours in which life seemed to bloom forth into new aspects, glowed as with the radiance of a gorgeous tropic day.

Theodore Dreiser – Twelve Men (1919)

It isn’t easy to know what to make of this. I can go along with - my keenest experiences intellectually have been by, to, and through men, not women, and in my case there have also been several exceptions to this. So far so good, it is merely a statement of personal experience.

However I have certainly never had any ecstatic intellectual hours of my life, hours in which life seemed to bloom forth into new aspects, glowed as with the radiance of a gorgeous tropic day. In my case it was much more subdued, much more incremental.

The obvious conclusion is that this is merely Dreiser’s hype. Obvious but not particularly interesting so maybe he was writing of a world further removed from ours than we might suppose. Yes that’s much more interesting. Not quite radiant but more interesting.

Maybe Dreiser’s world was one where personal contact, personal influence and inspiration were more important than they are today, a world where it was easier to be inspired by others. A world where intellectual exploration was reaching some kind of peak from which it has since declined under the stultifying pressures of money, celebrity culture and political virtue signalling.

In any event, Dreiser’s must have been a world of great contrasts but not the remote and politically contrived contrasts we see today. In his world the contrasts were to be found only a few streets away and they were stark indeed. Fatally sharp contrasts between competent and incompetent, lucky and unlucky, winners and losers, skilled and unskilled, wanted and unwanted. It must have engendered a vast and pervasive clarity we no longer have.

Maybe we have lost that level of clarity as we prospered in a world we never planned and perhaps never would have planned had we seen and understood what the future was likely to bring.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Old film

Last week Grandson told me about what he called “an old film” he’d watched recently. It was a monster film and although he enjoyed it he thought the graphics weren’t very good. I asked him when the film was made and he told me 1981.

“Crikey, a film made in 1981 isn’t old,” I thought, but of course it is to him. My immediate notion of an “old film” was a black and white film made no later than the fifties, but on reflection one made in 1981 would probably seem old to me too. Films soon become dated. For one thing some or even most of the actors in a 1981 film could be dead by now.

All those decades and all those films we watched. They haven’t improved much, if at all.

That conversation with Grandson reminded me of another film-watching incident. Mrs H and I recently watched a definitely old film from the 1940s and for once managed to hear every word. It had been remastered but the dialogue was clear enough for our ageing ears. Just as well because it was mostly dialogue.

However, a recently watched modern film starring Nicholas Cage was entirely different – we had to use the Bluetooth headphones to make out what the man was saying. The quality of film actors' diction seems to have declined over the decades, but dialogue seems to have become less significant too, as if the image is more important than the words.