I’m having a brief ‘breather’ from taking care of my daughter and her husband, as they are currently spending 3 nights in Bangkok – returning tomorrow. I had originally planned to accompany them to Bangkok with Noo, but one way or another I didn’t really feel up to it, and anyway we have Noo’s son with us which would have complicated things.
On the health front, it really is a bit of a mixed message. On some days, I feel pretty good, and even after my afternoon walk, I am still more or less OK; but increasingly, I seem to get tired and feel under the weather. I often feel very fatigued in the evening and have to go to bed much earlier than previously. I can only assume that some days my heart valve is working more efficiently than on other days – it is the only thing I can think of that might account for the frequent fluctuations in my overall condition.
It’s the same with my blood pressure. For a while, I thought that I was finally getting my BP under control, as even at the end of the day, when the meds were at their least effective, my BP was pretty much within bounds; but over the last few days, it is back to the old routine, high readings at night and in the morning, just before I take a new bunch of meds, and low readings when the meds are at their most ‘productive’ period.
My daughter and her husband will go back to the UK on April 16th, after which Noo will take her son back to Nong Khai, staying for for 3 nights, leaving me all alone. She will be back in time to accompany me back to hospital for my 3 days of tests on 25th April
Mobi’s Hobby Horses
Here are a few updates on some of my particular ‘Hobby Horses’, that I rant about from time to time in this blog.
Bahrain and Formula One
Despite the obscenely rich midget’s continual assurances that the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix will go ahead this year, I note recently that there is an ever louder chorus of critical rumblings, which may after all, put the staging of the event in doubt.
The latest ‘defector’ to the cause is none other than former Champion Formula One driver, Damon Hill, the son of the late, great Graham Hill. Considering that Damon has a vested interest in the Grand Prix going ahead, not least because he is paid as a television commentator, I applaud his stand.
He has called on Formula One bosses to reconsider going ahead with this month’s controversial Bahrain Grand Prix and warned that the sport’s image could suffer if the race is held. The 1996 champion had previously supported the race after taking part in a fact-finding visit to Bahrain in December last year.
But he now feels a re-think is necessary for the event that was cancelled in 2011, following prolonged civil unrest that claimed more than 40 lives.
Hill said: “What we must put above all else is what will be the penalty, in terms of human cost, if the race goes ahead? It would be a bad state of affairs, bad for F1, to be seen to be enforcing martial law to hold the race. Looking at it today, you’d have to say that it could be creating more problems than its solving. The protests have not abated and may even have become more determined and calculated. It is a worrying state of affairs.”
The authorities are trying to convince us that the days of protest are over and that a process of reconciliation is under way. Yet there are still dozens of political prisoners serving long sentences, including one who is near to death on a hunger strike; and barely a month ago police in Bahrain fired tear gas and stun grenades at thousands of protesters, blocking a march to the former site of the Lulu Roundabout, or Pearl Square, in Manama, the capital.
A final word on this from Damon: “I’m just saying we have to tread carefully. I hope that events in Bahrain are not seen as they are often sold, as a bunch of yobs throwing Molotov cocktails, because that’s a gross simplification. You don’t get 100,000 people risking their lives in protest for nothing…”
Good on ya Damon…at least the millions of dollars you once earned don’t seemed to have completely clouded your sense of what is right and wrong in this wicked world of ours.
The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka
I recently penned a piece concerning the unspeakable crimes against humanity that were perpetrated in Sri Lanka during the recent civil war, and the UN’s recent condemnation of these nefarious activities. I noted at the time that despite the Sri Lankan government’s assurances to the contrary, violent suppression of the Tamil minority was still continuing unabated.
As recently as a few days ago – the 6th April to be precise – two prominent political activists and leaders of the People’s Struggle Movement in Sri Lanka ‘disappeared’. Prior to their disappearance, both activists had been preparing for the first convention of the Frontline Socialist Party, a party formed by a dissident group from the opposition party. Party members have received credible information that both activists were under intense Government surveillance, shortly before their disappearance. There is currently no information regarding their fate or whereabouts.
One of the missing leaders had been instrumental in forming the new FSP political party which was due to be launched officially on 9th April 2012 and he was expected to be appointed as its head.
He is believed to have been abducted from his temporary residence on 6th April and he was last seen by a party member who dropped him at his residence at around 5 pm on 6th April following a party meeting. At around 11 pm that day, he asked to be picked up from his residence at 5 am the following day (7th April), and has not been seen or heard from since.
The second missing activist, a woman, was last seen by a party leader who dropped her at a bus stand in the Colombo District at around 6pm on 6th April. She confirmed that she was going to her residence although she did not answer her mobile phone the following morning even though it had been ringing till about 11am.
This is just one of dozens of reports of recent incidents of repression, abduction and even the killing of dissidents and critics of the Sri Lankan government.The sooner the US sponsored UN committee gets their act together, and holds this criminal government to account, the better.
I noted with interest the other day that even one of the most dedicated opponents of the Obama Health care bill in the USA, conceded in a recent interview that if Congress had opted to take the conventional ‘tax route’ to fund the massive cost of implementing and administering their new legislation, the government would not be in the courts today, and there would have been nothing the Republicans could have done to stop this high-spending roller coaster.
But Obama and his smart-arsed legal advisers decided to be extra clever and try to fund the bill in such a manner that would have the minimum ‘fall-out’ on their popularity. They knew that if they had to raise additional taxes to pay for the legislation, the move would prove very unpopular, so what did they do?
They figured out a tricky little manoeuvre whereby it became a legal requirement for all citizens to buy compulsory healthcare insurance and if they refused, then they would be forced to pay a penalty.
Sounds reasonable? Well it might have been almost acceptable if the young and able bodied workers were given to freedom to buy the insurance they needed, which in most cases would have been simply catastrophic insurance, to protect them from major accidents or serious health issues, as for day to day requirements, most of them could afford to pay for routine medical matters out of their own pockets.
But this wouldn’t work too well for the new Obama healthcare system, as they needed all these young, fit workers to help fund the insurance costs for their older, disadvantaged and not so fit, fellow citizens.
So instead of going the tax route, as the rest of the world has done, the administration came up with a convoluted system whereby all its citizens were obliged to buy a certain type of health insurance – which many of them didn’t want or need – and making them pay a penalty if they refused.
I won’t go into the ‘why’s and wherefors’ of all this, but it is certainly looking as though the supreme court in America is going to declare this part of the Obama Health Care law as unconstitutional.
You can almost smell the whiff of fear in Obama’s nostrils, as if this specific part of the law is thrown out by the eminent judges, then it is highly likely that the entire Obama Healthcare law will be thrown out, and that would be a massive blow to his prestige and standing. After all, Obama-Care was the flagship legislation of his first term in office, and to see it all fall apart at the final hurdle would be extremely damaging to his credibility.
He has even resorted to attacking the Supreme Court – accusing them of ‘activism’ which has been seen by many as a pathetic attempt to intimidate them. I really don’t believe he helped his case by so doing.
Whichever way it goes, I – no doubt along with millions of Americans – will be following these events with much interest, but whatever happens, I wonder if even he realises just how lucky he is to have such a weak candidate fielded against him?
Poetry through Music
I recently watched Steven Fry’s BBC documentary series ‘Fry’s Planet Word’, which was a five part series about the origins and the development of language by the Homo Sapiens species for the purpose of communicating with each other.
The series was interesting and amusing in places but on the whole I found it a bit patchy and somewhat disappointing. The whole thing looked to me to have been a bit of a lazy effort and Fry’s jaunts across the world seemed to have been excuses for a series of ‘jollies’.
There were some good bits – episode one held my attention quite well, as did episode five – but I have to admit that the three episodes in between had the amazing effect of sending me to sleep.
Although based on a slightly different aspect of this subject, I couldn’t help comparing ‘Fry’s Planet Word’ series with the excellent book written by Bill Bryson some years ago entitled ‘Mother Tongue’. Bryson’s book is specifically about the English language, as opposed to the use of all languages per se, but in writing his book, he comes as close to telling us about the history of languages as Fry did in his documentary. Bryson’s book is brilliantly researched, contains so much interesting information and all the while is amusing and thoroughly entertaining.
I have been a great admirer of Fry throughout his distinguished and occasionally chequered career, but do have the sense that in this particular piece of work, he sort of took the easy – dare I say lazy – options for his ‘pieces of silver’.
‘What has all this got to do with ‘Poetry through Music’? You may ask.
Well, episode five of Fry’s documentary was devoted to literature. It contained some interesting stuff, but at the end of the day, it was simply an excuse for Fry to inform us who were his favourite authors and for him to provide us with some snippets of the authors’ works, which were either read by his favourite actor friends or were extracts from film adaptations.
But towards the end of the final episode, Fry moved on to the subject of poetry and interviewed a gentleman (his name escapes me) who was one of the foremost critics, reviewers and writers about poetry and poets – both ancient and modern. The gentleman was in his seventies and was clearly an academic of some standing and an expert on his subject.
Imagine my astonishment when after extolling the virtues of some of the nation’s finest poets, he actually started to talk about song lyrics; and not just any old song lyrics – but popular song lyrics. It all started with a reading of W.H. Auden’s memorable poem ‘Funeral Blues’, first published as a lyric for a song in 1936, and then this learned gentleman went on to say that song lyrics can be every bit as powerful and meaningful as pure poetry. He raved about Dylan’s lyrics, and even extolled the lyrics of a song by Cold Play.
The point was made – which I completely agree with – that even if the lyrics are not quite as polished or ‘inspirational’ in their own right as some of our best loved poems, the process of mixing them with music increases their lyrical potency and the resultant effect on our emotions.
Of course this was ‘music’ – or is it poetry? – ‘to my ears’ – as, while admittedly living in the somewhat rarefied world of Pattaya, I had never before encountered any literary academic actually agreeing with me on this subject. In fact, I have never heard of anyone who agreed with me that there is poetry to be found through popular music.
So this enthusiastic approval from academia has encouraged me to publish more of my favourite song lyrics over the coming months.
But for today, I will publish the above mentioned, wonderful little piece by W.H. Auden.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Read it set to background music by Funeral Blues, set to music by Apocalyptica: HERE
Or listen to it read by John Hannah from ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’: HERE
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot!….