February 2006

28 February 2006
If you are in the early stages of a Mishima infatuation, my advice is to quit now

I was struck by this book review (via A&L) by Victoria James.  She says:

For most of 1998, I read nothing but the works of Yukio Mishima. The following year, having consumed everything available in English translation, I moved to Tokyo to learn Japanese, the better to read the rest: 40 novels, 20 volumes of short stories and almost that number of plays. I stayed in Japan for five years, as did Christopher Ross, the author of Mishima’s Sword.

Some thoughts:

  • I may not have gone quite that far but at about the same time I did pick up a fair number of his novels.  I eventually came to the conclusion that his writing was pretty much worthless.
  • I think there are all sorts of reasons why so many are fascinated by him in the West.  Mainly due to the manner of his death.
  • We probably shouldn’t be so fascinated.

So, who is this Mishima guy?

  • Japanese novelist and playwright.  On 25 November 1970, he and four colleagues entered the headquarters of the Tokyo garrison of Japan’s Self-Defence Force, taking its commander hostage.  Having failed to induce the garrison to rebel, Mishima and a colleague committed suicide by ritual disembowelment (seppuku)

So, why are so many fascinated by him?

  • I think it is largely the nature of his death.
    • Western democracy is (thankfully) rather dull and predictable.  Those who think they can inject some drama into proceedings (Tejero is another example) are few and far between.
    • He committed ritual suicide.  That takes a lot of guts (so to speak) - especially when you don’t have a superior or some sort of code of honour to encourage you.  One tends to think he must have meant something by his actions.
  • He also managed to inspire a great movie

  • I can’t help but think that the date of his death is in some way significant.  1970 was the year the Sixties ended, culturally as well as numerically.  Idealism was giving way to disillusion.

So, did his death have meaning?

  • I’m sure he meant something by it but that doesn’t mean he was right.  History is littered with the corpses of men who were both brave and wrong - Adolf Hitler, Patrick Pearse, Guy Fawkes, Mohammed Atta just to name a few.

By the way, what did he want?

  • Difficult to say.  He didn’t exactly leave behind a detailed manifesto.  It was something about Japan regaining its soul.  Anyway, it may not have been an entirely political act.  One of his worries was growing old and ugly.  He may just have wanted to check out before it was too late.
The wonder of RSS

Blithering Bunny has been on hiatus for ages but that’s just fine because he’s still right up there near the top of my Bloglines feed list.  And so, when he does decide to show up for duty once again I am amongst the first to know about it.  Which is good.  It would be even better, mind, if he had a full text feed but, I guess you can’t have it all.

Dies Irae has been running a poll to find out who was the best President of the 20th Century. And the winner, with an astonishing 4 votes is Calvin Coolidge. Quite right too.
This week Behind the Sofa are reviewing Unearthly Child, the very first episode of Doctor who which has recently been cleaned up and (along with other things) been released on DVD. They reckon it's a bit of a classic.
27 February 2006
The abolition of Parliament.  Is it really such a bad thing?

I notice quite a lot of people have been getting steamed up over the Abolition of Parliament Bill (not real name).  They seem to think Parliament is a Good Thing.  Which begs the question: is it?

The truth is that Parliament doesn’t matter all that much.  It is no longer the place where the issues of the day are resolved.  That role is now fulfilled by means of the mass media, opinion polls and elections, occasionally supplemented by referendums and insurrection.  And because it is not the place where issues are resolved it can no longer attract talented people to fill its benches.

There are good reasons why Parliament is so weak.  Almost every MP knows full well that he owes his seat to his party and its leader which is why he toes the party line.  He owes his seat to his party and leader because elections are fought on a national basis.  They are fought on a national basis because the media is national.

Now, I am not saying that the executive shouldn’t be held to account - far from it - but perhaps it is time we accepted that Parliament isn’t the way to do it.

The Conspiracy

Ken Windschuttle (via A&L) talks about the modern left:

For the past three decades and more, many of the leading opinion makers in our universities, the media and the arts have regarded Western culture as, at best, something to be ashamed of, or at worst, something to be opposed.

Meanwhile Eric S Raymond talks about the damage done when the Soviets stated reading Gramsci:

The Soviets consciously followed the Gramscian prescription; they pursued a war of position, subverting the “leading elements” of society through their agents of influence. (See, for example, Stephen Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals; summary by Koch here) This worked exactly as expected; their memes seeped into Western popular culture and are repeated endlessly in (for example) the products of Hollywood.

And RottyPup (noting how Gramsicians and Islamists seem to be best buddies nowadays) supposes that:

To most Gramscians, the bearded crazies are simply next in line for an extinction-event after all those pesky rich, white males have been dealt with.

(Though he thinks the crazies may have other plans)

A few thoughts:

  1. I am pretty sure there is a conspiracy out there and that it is aimed at the destruction of Western civilisation.  It helps explain a lot of what the left say and do.
  2. I don’t think it’s the sort of conspiracy carried out in hushed tones in dark, smokeless rooms.  No, it’s more one where the actors, having read a bit of Gramsci don’t have to be told what to do and when to do it.
  3. I am never quite sure whether to mention it or not.  It’s really for internal (right-wing) consumption only.  I rather feel that arguments have to be won on their merits.  I am also aware that the Gramscians get a lot of support from people who have never read Gramsci - people who are convinced by the arguments - or whatever it is that they are convinced by.  I am not sure it’s helpful to tell these people that they are nihilist cat’s paws.
  4. Gramsci was jailed by Mussolini.  Say what you like about the bald Italian dictator but he knew a bad ‘un when he saw one.
26 February 2006
Metrication’s been in the news this week - I have some thoughts …link
24 February 2006
Shenzhen Ren is getting a touch cynical:
This concept is called “customer service” and will one day be a normal part of daily life in China. At present, having to get up and walk three feet is considered a major inconvenience, but at some time in the future, in a dusty dungeon of an office piled high with learned and obscure manuscripts by long forgotten authors, a Chinese professor will write a paper which will enshrine his name forever in the annals of Chinese trade. He will put forward the hypothesis that a customer that goes to a place to transact business should be treated as an asset and not as a problem. He will suggest that people in the business actually help the customer. He will suggest that by making the customer happy, they will return and do more business. Only then, when it has been “invented” by the Chinese will customer service become something which the rest of the world can look to and attempt to emulate.
He was only trying to pay his electricity bill.
The Wembley hoax

So, Wembley’s going to be delayed again, eh?  Yeah, well, I’d lay some pretty heavy odds on it being delayed again and a few more times after that.  For, I think it’s about time we revealed the truth.  There is no Wembley Stadium.  It’s a hoax.

You see, the reality is that Wembley Stadium is an 80-year-long, three-card trick played on unsuspecting foreigners.  First we put it up.  Second, driven mad with envy at this symbol of national virility, and at massive cost to their bedraggled taxpayers, insecure foreigners (you know: Aussies and Frenchmen) build their own.  Third, we tear ours down thus demonstrating that national stadiums are a complete waste of time and leaving Johnny Foreigner to admire his folly.

Don’t believe me?  Well, just look at the success of the England Road Show, in which the team have travelled up and down the land and had a whale of a time. 

Ah, but what are all these photos, then?  A six-year old, a Meccano set and a bit of Photoshopping.

But, what about all these head honchos at the FA getting all steamed up?  All part of the plan.  It’s World Cup year and the last thing anyone wants is the FA putting their fingers into the team’s pies.  Best to keep them occupied.

Let’s face it, who in his right mind is going to spend £120m on a national stadium?  That would be stupid.

22 February 2006
Mexico City from the air

There’s a whole bunch of these here


Hat tip: Freedom and Whisky

20 February 2006
How essential is freedom of speech?

Oh , it’s essential to me, of course, but then I am a libertarian.  But what about Western civilisation in general?  I ask because it occurs to me that freedom of speech has had a hard time of it over the years.  If one thinks back to the Medieval period it was not pleasant to be a protestant in a Catholic country.  And then, during the Reformation, it wasn’t so hot to be a Catholic in a (by then) protestant country.  Hey, it wasn’t so great to be the wrong sort of protestant.  During the 1820s all sorts of efforts were made to suppress seditious publications.  And, as recently as the 1970s, Gay News was prosecuted under the blasphemy laws.

And yet, despite all this Western civilisation has gone on.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am four-square behind the publication of the Danish cartoons.  I think this is likely to be the defining moment in the clash of civilisations.  I very much hope that someone will explain to me that, yes, in fact, freedom of speech, or something pretty close to it, really is essential, but, well, you know, sometimes it’s worth playing Devil’s Advocate.

52% of NHS trusts have temporarily closed wards - I have some thoughts …link
16 February 2006
More appendicitis

A couple more entries to Appendicitis Central.

Andrew Duffin writes:

I NEARLY had a really really bad one on the NHS. They’d realised what was wrong, and were going to leave it overnight “to see how things develop”.

Then I said I was insured, and an hour later I was in the theatre and the job was done.

Reader - it was gangrenous, it would have ruptured overnight, and I might therefore not now be telling you this tale.

Not quite sure how to categorise that one.  NHS bad for sure, but does it also get entered in the (so far) non-existent UK private column?  It sounds as if it is even more complicated than that as it was an operation carried out by the NHS but paid for privately.  Does that still happen?  And, more importantly does it count as NHS or private?  I am going to say private for the time being.

The other one comes from Akiko who tells me about a friend who had a perfectly good appendectomy in Cambridge in the early 1990s.

So, the scores:

UK (NHS): 2 good, 3 bad
UK (Private): 1 good, 0 bad
Japan: 1 good, 0 bad
France: 2 good, 0 bad
Italy: 1 good, 0 bad

14 February 2006
What do you do if you're organising industrial action but your members are all too busy to take part? Why, you hire yourself some pickets
10 February 2006
'“Unfortunately, on this occasion, my client let his frustration get the better of him” = He is a violent thug.' The Magistrate lists some of the more common excuses he has to put up with

I guess just about everything that can be said about those cartoons has already been said but I think this article by Medworth is well worth taking in. 

As he says:

Many people, in this country and elsewhere, seem to have grasped on some level that our response to this issue is the latest in a series of defining moments for the future of civilisation.

He goes on to say:

Showing backbone ... would have many good effects: it would renew the confidence of our people in their rights, and it would show our enemies that we have the moral confidence, as well as the physical power, necessary to win the battle in which we are currently engaged.

Before putting the boot in:

What the militants realise, which the moderates may not, is that once you inject any Enlightenment values into religion, its days are numbered.


“It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago” - and there are 25 26 27 million of us at it …link
04 February 2006
They’re not comparable (probably)

In a posting from sometime ago and almost in passing Clive Davis reminds us of a fairly common argument:

How long was it before I overheard the standard comment that, you know, more Americans die on the roads in a year than perished in the towers? How long? A day or two. That’s all.

I find that line of reasoning so irritating.  But I don’t know why.  I am sure it’s a fallacy, a real whopper, but I can’t demolish it.  The only thing I can think of is that the comparison being made is between something that was intended by human being ie the result of human wickedness and something that was the result of human error which is entirely normal.  But I am not happy.  I am missing something here.

02 February 2006

So, there I was wondering why France and Britain are so different and then, almost by magic, a half-way decent explanation comes along:

First, France is under normal circumstances an immensely disciplined country: disciplined by manners, social custom, law, protocol, taxes. A phrase you will hear almost every day, if you live in France, is ça ne se fait pas, meaning, that is not done; these words are a key to understanding French culture. France is far more disciplined, on a daily basis, than the United States; it is also more disciplined than almost any other European country, save perhaps Germany. (This is a point, by the way, that I stress in the chapter of my book titled “The Hell with Europe”. ) It is entirely natural that this discipline exacts a psychological cost, one that is paid regularly every few years in riots, anarchy, lawlessness and a great eagerness to get into the streets and do damage. This has been a feature of French life for centuries.

Claire Berlinski via Instapundit

01 February 2006
So the pint of milk is about to be banned, eh? Actually...no …link
Jonathan Wilde wonders if Google has done anything wrong in trading with China. It's about time someone did …link
"Lanarkshire tops British league for generating ‘affordable’ businesses" Huh?  …link