Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, August 31, 2012

Obvious Liberal Baez

While Googling to make sure I was spelling the title of the previous post correctly, I cam upon this recording, whose existence I had not suspected. Too many strings, but great singing from the sisters.

My favourite recording of Mimi is this one (despite the Youtube titles, Richard was dead when she recorded this, with a wonderful arrangement by Peter Schickele - one of whose lighter pieces gave this blog its title).

And (pardon the spoiler if you haven't seen the film - but why haven't you? it's been out for forty years) here to even things up is Joan singing a marvellous song by Mr Schickele in the final scene and closing credits of Douglas Trumbull's terrific film Silent Running.

What's Bin Yid and What's Bin Hid

Just in case anyone thinks I only blog about attacks (of whatever kind) on Muslims - this is vile. You won't see it reported on the Islamophobic sites that pretend to care about antisemitic hate crimes, though, because the perpetrators were American whites, not Muslims (or people who could be portrayed as Muslims). And attacks by white right-wing Americans are so uninteresting.

All the best from EKN to Zachary Tennen for a speedy recovery, as well as some recourse to justice.

Fake News from Islamophobes

This piece from Loonwatch is a great expose of the lengths to which career Islamophobes will go to spread hatred. Lies, fakery: doesn't matter, as lying in the cause of religious hatred is perfectly acceptable to them. (You know, that taqqiya business of which they constantly - and ludicrously - accuse Muslims.)

I scarcely need to add that with the minimum amount of Googling I find that Bonni the New York Nazi has propagated every single one of the fake stories cited.

In some ways the most disturbing thing about the relabelling of the Syrian video as a Tunisian one is the free pass it gives to the Free Syrian Army. They may be the "good guys" insofar as they're not President Assad, but they need to be held to account. After all, nobody cared too much about rebel atrocities when the rebels were fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. And what happened to those rebel guys?

One for the ladies

No apologies from me here for linking to a viral piece of humour. The comments under this Amazon page are probably the funniest things I've read online all year.

We Dance Alone

I include below a post I put up yesterday on Facebook. I didn't originally intend to copy it here, as while I have many Facebook friends who knew Bill there are few if any of my blog readers who did. But you never know.

Yesterday was Chris Eyre's 59th birthday. Therefore it follows as the night the day that today is William Fisher's 58th - wherever he is.

Those of you in Durham with Chris and myself will remember Bill, who in those days went by his birth name of Liddle. If you didn't know him then (and you missed something, let me tell you) you may have met him when he was best man at my wedding. In the following years, Bill changed his name to Fisher following the deaths of his parents: he had a complex (though I believe loving) relationship with them both, but clearly felt a need to put that Cheshire life behind him and move on. Then he emigrated to Japan, specifically to Tokyo: after which he simply fell off everybody's radar. This was in the pre-Facebook, pre-email even, days, back in the early 1980s. The letters stopped arriving, not just to me but to everyone else: he simply vanished.

Never a year passes without my wondering what happened to him: his is a very present absence. I have invented all kinds of jokey scenarios, imagining that one day he'll be spotted on a National Geographic documentary as the abbot of a Zen monastery somewhere, or that he offended a yakuza with his mordant wit and now has permanent residency in bridge support #37 of the Tokyo Expressway. The reality will be more mundane. Maybe he was hit by a car, or was electrocuted by his toaster. Maybe he got ill and died: food poisoning perhaps (Bill was a great lover of exotic food, though it would have to be vegetarian) or something insect-borne. Or maybe having moved on from Liddlehood, he wanted to take the next step and move on from the whole of hos former life. Maybe he's out there, protected by the formidable linguistic barrier from all but the most determined searches, living out his life, quietly or not, on his own terms.

In the words of the Buddhist mantra, may he be well, may he be happy, may he be free from suffering. Alive or dead, I can wish him no better than that.

Of course, alive or dead, Bill would be horrified at the thought of anyone getting maudlin, or even serious over his passing on (in some sense or other). So here is a piece of music we both enjoyed hugely (and used to sing along to). From the wonderful wacky send-up album Flash Fearless v the Zorg Women Parts 5 & 6 (I still have it on vinyl), I give you Alice Cooper. If you knew Bill you will be able to imagine him karaoke-ing to this one.

Not surprisingly, thinking about Bill made me receptive to thoughts about death and disappearance, so when reading in a biography of Sandy Denny about her funeral I felt like copying this extract. It may help to know that at the time Richard Thompson was living in a kind of Sufi commune (his wife having left it and taken the children).

Among the things Richard felt compelled to say was in response to something voiced by a grieving Dave Cousins, but was an undercurrent in many a mourner's thoughts, "What a terrible thing to happen. All this music that she should have written." Richard turned to him and relied, "No, she wasn't destined to write any more music, she was destined to die when she died."

That may not have been what Dave Cousins wanted to hear, but it seems pretty good advice to me, and actually quite comforting. It reminds me of a line in Richard Bach's Illusions: Confessions of a Reluctant Messiah: "Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't." It also reminded me that my own mother, solidly Church of England, always told me when I was small that there was no point in worrying about death because when it was your time to die, you'd die: no sooner, and no later.

Of course, the point with Bill is that none of us knows whether he is dead or alive: we have no closure. In that respect we are in the same situation as those whose relatives have been "disappeared" by governments or terrorists, unsure whether to hope or to let go. So here's a final piece of music, which I'd forgotten all about until I began this post. I don't know whether Bill ever heard it, but I suspect he would have loved it as much as I do.

Sting - They Dance Alone by jpdc11

Inventing the inventors

The ever-risible Bonni links in another post to this site, listing "Israel's Top 45 Inventions". I haven't had the patience to wade through all of them, but at #2 we have Israelis inventing drip irrigation. Hmm. Modern drip irrigation was in fact invented in Afghanistan (yeah, by these "backward" Muslims) in the 19th century, developed further in the University of Colorado, refined in Germany, then further developed in Australia. Finally a little extra tweak was given by two Israelis. So far from Israel giving drip irrigation to the world, the world gave it to Israel. I can't find out when exactly Hannis Thill made the Australian advance, but the three earlier stages of development were complete before Israel even existed!

Or how about #5, where the cherry tomato was invented by Israeli genetic engineers? Or then again, how about where they were developed by the Aztecs in the 15th century? hey, come on, it's only 500 years before Israel itself was invented.

You know what really seems to be Israel's greatest invention? Invention. As in, making stuff up. Lying. Hasbara.

The funniest thing about all this? The Israeli invention (or perhaps that should be "Israeli Invention") she's posting about is a device to help prevent date rape. But the person she wants to become Vice President agrees with Todd Akin that there's no such thing.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

If you want the audience to continue to SIT you have to provide some COM

Like Gollum, like Darth Vader, even Bonni the Bayside Nazi of BareNakedIslam has her uses sometimes. She recently posted (approvingly) a link to this article from the Daily Mail about the new BBC sitcom Citizen Khan. I'd noticed its appearance, but reviews before it aired suggested it wasn't really very funny, so I didn't bother. Well, now I watched some of the first episode, and you know what? It wasn't very funny. Not offensive so much as bo-ring. And I say that as one who watched hundreds of episodes of Mr Ed in my childhood.

I'm clearly not alone in that assessment. Here's Arifa Akbar in the Independent. Here's the reviewer in Metro Blogs.

Like Akbar, I loved Four Lions and Goodness Gracious Me. Not because they were any more politically correct than Citizen Khan (Four Lions is about a bunch of incompetent terrorist wannabes!) but because they were funny. The reason people didn't object to Father Ted (or maybe they did: in the era before Twitter and Facebook it took a lot more people to get an outrage going) is that they found it funny (never liked it myself but I can see why some people did).

No, I think I'll just stick with those crappy old 1960s sitcoms. I mean, this one may have been voted second worst series of all time (after the Jerry Springer Show) but I found I could still remember all of the theme song 47 years later, which sort of makes up for its paper-thin humour.

Of course, if we're talking about sitcoms which attracted sackloads of complaints, how about Heil Honey I'm Home! which was pulled after only its pilot was aired?

UPDATE: There's no pleasing some folk. One of Bonni's commenters bemoans the fact that the BBC (famed, as we all know, for its pro-Muslim bias....NOT) is trying with this series to make out that Muslims are just normal people like anyone else. Terrible! However, in view of the (British but not BBC) sitcom pilot I link above, I thought this comment was funny (HHIH aired in 1990, though):

Too bad back in the 1930s the “Beeb” hadn’t come up with a radio comedy about a German Nazi family living in London in which the kids rush to put on their swastika armbands and pick up “Mein Kampf” when Father comes goose-stepping through the door. Hilarious! And shows how there’s nothing to fear from these folks and that loudmouth leader of theirs with the toothbrush mustasche. They’re just like us!

BBC - all the news that's fit to suppress

This is an excellent article setting out recent examples of the BBC's all-pervading institutional pro-Israel bias in reporting.

Regular readers will remember that I have posted on the BBC's biased reporting before. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. And here.

HYC stands for "Here's your cold-call"

Yesterday, I was standing at the bus stop in the pouring rain and my mobile went off. Didn't recognise the (Manchester) number. "Hi, I'm (whoever) from HYC, calling to see if you've received your refund yet." Me: "I'm not expecting a refund, I think you must have the wrong number. What's this in connection with?"

Whereat the chap launches into a spiel about have-you-heard-about PPI-you know-banks-are-being-made-to-compensate-customers-for-mis-selling-bla-bla-bla.

Here's the thing: We have exactly the right type and amount of protection insurance on our home loan.

Here's another: I used to work for the bank we have it with.

And another: I have an aversion to being cold-called.

Especially on my mobile.

Especially by someone who assumes I'm a moron.

My normal recourse, which is to ask these guys to hang on a minute, then put down the phone and get on with my life until they get tired of waiting, doesn't work with cellphones, so I took considerable pleasure in telling him to fuck off. Phoning up to try to sell junk: fair enough, folk have to make a living. Phoning up to try to scam money out of people you think are dumb enough to fall for you: no respect, sorry. As far as I'm concerned, HYC fall into the same category as the folk who ring up from the "Computer Helpdesk" about my problems with Windows. And I have emailed to tell them so.

You have been warned.

Warning Zions

Regular readers of this blog will know that my feelings about boycotting Israeli artists are complex. When the Jerusalem Quartet, proudly announcing their affiliation to the IDF, appeared in Edinburgh, I was one of those calling for the cancellation of their concert. However, I didn't take part in the disruption of it, which seemed wrong-headed in many ways: as likely to lose sympathy for one's arguments as to win it, and requiring the purchase of tickets for the very concert you believe should not be taking place. Last year there was a similar protest during the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra's appearance at the BBC Proms. Again, I was opposed to the disruption, and to be honest could see no good reason to boycott the concert at all, for various reasons set out in this post (read the comments too).

Well, here we are again. The Batsheva Dance Company is performing at the Edinburgh Playhouse tonight as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, and there have been the inevitable calls for the show to be cancelled. As before, my feelings are that the dance company has no special linkage to the IDF or the Israeli government (though it receives funding from the latter). I don't know what its ethnic composition is, but from my knowledge of Israeli society I would be surprised if a majority of its members did not personally oppose the occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and most likely the treatment of Israel's domestic Arab minority as well. So not a particularly appropriate target. As for threats to disrupt the performance, as I have said before, I view those as counter-productive. I dare say that the protest outside, especially with a planned counter-protest by the Zionist Federation, will be entertaining enough, though I do wish people would show a little more imagination about these things. (If you want to disrupt the performance and don't mind being arrested, you could avoid paying for a ticket and simply disrupt the broadcast/recording by targetting the BBC's mobile truck outside, either by occupying it or by chainsawing through its cables. All the attantion, all the publicity, no tickets, no messy shouting. Not that I'm advocating such an act, of course....)

I shan't be going. No doubt if the protestors cause enough disruption it will make it onto the news and I can post again.

UPDATE: apparently the show had to be stopped three times. Ho hum.

Not that it's any of my business, but....

It's easy to characterize Barack Obama's presidency as a disappointment, what with Guantanamo Bay still operating, Israel still walking all over America's foreign policy, and plenty of other things. But then you have to remember that he's been fighting a Republican party which in almost every case has put partisan hatred of America's first black president above concern for America, and even above common sense. Here is a list of the main things that Pres. Obama has achieved in his three and a half years, and actually he's not doing too badly.

It always amuses me, though when Republicans complain that Obama is a "socialist" (or even a "Marxist", when actually his policies are more right-wing than those of our Conservative Party.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

EN and RT

A couple of Richard Thompson classics with London connections.

Both songs from his Mock Tudor album, and both clips from the same Scottish TV appearance. Amazing to think this was thirteen years ago. Who knows where the time goes, indeed?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Brave Israeli settlers send out their children to carry out their terror attacks

We hear a lot (most but not all hugely exaggerated) about how Palestinian children are brought up to hate Jews. Well, here are some splendid examples....of Israeli children who have clearly been brought up to hate Palestinians, and to try to kill them. It's pretty ugly whoever's kids are doing it, but it would be nice if Israel, having occupied the West Bank for 45 years, could now abandon its other equally illegitimate occupation, viz. that of the moral high ground over child indoctrination.

Here is a video clip illustrating the point.

Israeli adults, in the illegal settlements at least, set the children no kind of example. See the video of the crowd of assorted skinheads and other thugs beating up Palestinian farmers in this post.

Monday, August 27, 2012

More bollocks from Bonni the Nazi

Bonni Benstock-Intall, New York Nazi and Holocaust denier, has some pretty risible stuff posted right now on her frequently broken (awww...) site.

Under a post about a Texan billboard equating President Obama to Osama bin Laden as a "threat to America" (easily done if your spelling is crap) we have this marvellous comment from "Ubin Bushwhacked":

"American’s should be proud they, for the time being, can still speak their minds. If the hate and divisiveness of classes from the Liberal/Socialist/Marxist left does not stop soon, our freedoms of speech WILL be a thing of the past. Then you will be silenced by the International law (UN) that the Obama administration wants to invoke in America. If this billboard were a bumper sticker in many European and even Western countries, Muzzies as well as many of the Left would burn you car to the ground. Civil war IS on the horizon. The Religion of Hate/Death will see to that."

Let's leave aside the fact that America, like everywhere else (though Israel does its best to pretend otherwise) is already subject to international law (ever heard of the Geneva Convention, dumb-fuck?). Don't you just love the throwaway "European or even Western"? Aww, me no unnerstand: me just Oriental Blit.

Oh, and apparently because senior government officials condemned Pastor Terry Jones for his Qu'ran-burning stunts, this proves that Sharia law has already replaced the Bill of Rights. The anonymous joker in the video goes on about how her disagrees with book burning, but it's OK that he and Terry Jones disagree because there is free speech in America. But when Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Gen Petraeus disagree with Pastor Jones's actions, that proves that the Bill of Rights has been replaced with sharia law, even though that's all that they did: expressed a contrary opinion. And regarding the hundreds of Pashtun bibles shipped out to some wacko soldier in Afghanistan which were trashed by the Army (seeing as how conversion of Afghanistan to Christianity is no part of Operation Enduring Freedom), he expresses disbelief that Afghans wouldn't want missionaries trying to convert them, since Islam is supposed to be a religion of peace. (Hmm... Christianity is supposed to be a religion of peace, so I guess if someone wanted to set up a place for Muslims to try to convert Christians, say in downtown Manhattan, that would be welcomed with open arms, right?) Oh, and he makes up quotes from the Qu'ran, assuming like Bonni that we won't check. Qu'ran 9:31 does indeed say that God condemns Christians and Jews for claiming that there are sons of God. Nowhere does it say that Jews and Christians are to be destroyed: that's just his fantasy talking.

In some strange way, a video mostly showing political demos around Europe is supposed to show that Muslims haven't integrated. (Because normal Europeans never demonstrate about anything, right?) One segment shows a couple of guys who resemble skinheads more than Muslims giving a TV reporter grief. Another - I'm not making this up - shows two people on a train arguing about a bicycle which fell over. How this is supposed to be relevant to Muslim integration is not made clear. What is made clear is Bonni's view of Muslims as a "Plague, an epidemic that will eventually cause the deaths of millions of Christians and other non-Muslims" and is to be cured by mass deportations.

This one is really funny. Bonni has tried the "srael is the ONLY country in the Middle East that fully supports Gay rights" lie before, and I shall repeat my response then:

Israel is NOT the only country in the Middle East giving gays full equal rights. Gays in Israel do NOT have full equal rights (try marrying your gay partner there), and while homosexual activity is completely legal, it has been legal in Jordan (and thus in the Occupied West Bank which continued the Jordanian law) a full twelve years longer. Oh, and it's legal in Iraq, too.

So praise to Israel for belatedly catching up with Jordan (and Palestine!) over gay rights, but some way to go yet before it "fully" supports them. (and, as before, some of Bonni's commenters make it clear they aren't in favour of any gay rights at all:

Homosexuality is and will always be an anathema before the eyes of our Holy Lord. The brain-dead moose limbs are just more serious than other faithful in stamping it out.

Finally, a post on a "Politically Incorrect Coloring Book" entitled "We shall never forget 9/11 - Vol II". I don't have a problem in principle with the book: it seems pretty mild compared with much of Bonni's own stuff, and it does accept - unlike Bonni - that not all terrorists are Muslims. Still, a few questions do come to mind:

(1) By including Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as "terrorists" are you intending to show that you are simply using "terrorist" to mean "political opponent"?

(2) If using bombs to destroy property with no harm to people is terrorism, then Bill Ayers is indeed a terrorist. However Major Nidal Malik Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter) is not (and is not s defined by the FBI) since all his victims were serving members of the armed forces. Do you consider any soldier fighting the USA to be a terrorist?

(3) By what criterion do you include Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) as a terrorist? What "terroris"t acts has he planned or carried out? How many people has he killed or injured? You are simply using "terrorist" to mean "political opponent", aren't you?

(4) If "terrorist" means "political opponent" is that why Anders Breivik isn't counted as a terrorist? It can't be that he didn't kill Americans, because neither President Assad nor President Ahmadinejad has ever killed an American either.

On the plus side, good to see Timothy McVeigh given his due as the perpetrator of America's worst terror attack before 9/11. Especially since his anti-government survivalist views are shared by so many of Bonni's regulars.

Flowers? Powers?

I've just been watching a TV documentary about "Easy Listening" music, beginning with Percy Faith, Ray Conniff and Bert Kampfaert and moving on through James Last, Herb Alpert, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Carpenters and Richard Clayderman up to The Lighthouse Family. There were contributions from Mike Flowers, and I must confess I'd never heard of him. From his outfits and general style it was clear his was a kind of Austin Powers-ish ironic view of easy listening, and I Googled him afterwards. Colour me mostly not especially impressed (the joke wears thin pretty quickly), but I must say I was very taken with his Velvet Underground Medley. How can anyone not love an easy listening version of All Tomorrow's Parties?

So I shall carry on listening to the inscrutable Mr F, and no doubt every now and then I shall find a speck of gold among the dross.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eyes, it obstructs your vision. (Hsi-Tang)

When Muslims get excited about blasphemy, whether it's Danish cartoons or desecration of the Qu'ran, there is a tendency to assume that this is something uniquely Islamic. Even when people are reminded that we had a prosecution for blasphemy here in Britain back in my student days, to say nothing of all the more recent unofficial protests by Christians over books or artworks deemed sacrilegious (Dan Brown, anybody?) they still tend to assume that OK, if it isn't just Muslims it's Muslims and Christians (generally categorising the Christians as a lunatic fringe while sweeping all Muslims into the net).

Buddhists are often cited by comparison as religious folk who don't get upset over blasphemy. Well, that myth can be definitely laid to rest, now that a Sri Lankan court has imposed jail terms (albeit suspended ones) on three French tourists for photographing each other in silly poses with statues of Buddha.

While not at all in sympathy with imprisonment for that kind of thing (see recent posts on Pussy Riot) I do wonder whether the tourists should be locked up for sheer stupidity, given that they (a) used old-fashioned chemical cameras to take the pictures and (b) had the films processed in Sri Lanka. Duh.....

Let's all sing along to this, from the Carolyn Hester Coalition (another album I used to possess back in my younger days). Enjoy the somewhat dated cover....

The possibilities for prequels are considerable

And here are two performers who were very much part of my early childhood: Rolf Harris and Joe Brown. The song is an old music-hall classic.

One of a kind

I'm currently reading a biography of Sandy Denny (No More Sad Refrains, by Clinton Heylin), so have had her music on my mind. The first record of hers I got, as a teenager, was an LP she made which alternated tracks of her and of Johnny Silvo. I don't still have it, but the track that I remember best is this one:

Not sure who the uncredited second guitar is, but it could well be Al Stewart.

This song, according to the book, is one of the few she actually learned from her Scottish grandmother:

And here's my favourite of all her solo tracks:

Here is a lovely cover of a Buddy Holly song (which I DO still have on vinyl).

And another from the same album:

Consciousness is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as (wildlife)

I thought this was interesting. Not that I haven't always believed that other animals had some kind of consciousness: it's just good to see general scientific acceptance of what was previously just a matter of belief.

No doubt vegetarians will be massively encouraged, though I doubt their numbers will be greatly swelled by the news. If it helps to reduce the ills of industrial slaughterhouses and battery farming it will be a start, though I doubt it will have much impact there either.

But I couldn't help thinking of this:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vino, Veritas, Vita

The lyrics of this are definitely NSFW (no suitable fir weans) but it's very funny. Readers who dinnae speak Glesca will just have to take my word for it that the translation is completely accurate (mutatis mutandis as they say at Glasgow University).

Every workplace needs a womp

Friday, August 24, 2012

So they loaded up the truck....

Linking the Beverly Hillbillies music for that last post, I discovered the very first episode, which I'd never seen. My family watch the Hillbillies every week for years, but we may simply not have had a set that got ITV when it first came out (though we can't have missed by much).

Astonishing to think that it's only a month short of half a century since the first episode aired (26 September 1962). the humour was always a little hit and miss, and latterly got a bit far-fetched (as though the basic premise weren't that already...) but there was a lot to love in the series: great performances (esp from Buddy Ebsen as Jed and Irene Ryan as Granny, as well as Nancy Kulp as Miss Hathaway), and sometimes very witty scripts, especially the ones making best use of Jed's homespun wisdom.

I suppose the reason we never produced a domestic equivalent of the Beverly Hillbillies is partly that in the 1960s Britain was more obsessed by class than by money, so a country bumpkin with $25 million wouldn't have commanded the same awestruck obsequiousness that Jed received. Partly it's that in those days there was no obvious route by which a British country bumpkin could get that rich (a few years down the line and pop stardom would provide an obvious route). And partly it's that the best gags about people dropped into roles for which they were unprepared had already been bagged by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Anyway, here, warts and all, is the very first time the Clampett family crashed onto America's TV screens. I have to say, it takes me back to my childhood.

(If you find this post via Google's cache it may still show my blooper where I typed "Meg Ryan" for "Irene Ryan". Now Meg Ryan as Ellie Mae I could believe....)

And puir Bonni's bonnie bank has nae money...

Bonni the Bayside Nazi at BareNakedIslam has been off the air again, and is now back. For whatever reason (legal fees to keep her sorry ass out of jail, or bribes to Mossad to stop hacking her site) her blog now opens with a begging letter. It's bad news when an Islamophobic hate site can't make ends meet, eh?

I look forward to the imminent demise of one of the vilest hate sites around. Unless of course on of the inbred survivalists who comprise Bonni's core audience happens to be a millionaire like Jed Clampett....

Oh, and easily the best of the present crop of Bonni's dumb-ass headlines:

Is Barack Hussein Obama finally planning to out himself as a Muslim at the DNC Convention?


There, that was easy.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

OK, take it away Olivier....

We don't (obviously) have any recordings of J S Bach improvising at the organ, but supposedly it was worth hearing.

Next best thing? Here is Olivier Messaien, reckoned by most people to be the greatest composer for the organ since JSB, improvising at the Church of the Sainte-Trinité in Paris.

I liked the comment on Youtube from "guillaumedeslandres":

Baptisé à La Trinité en 1957, j'ai tous les dimanches de mon enfance entendu Olivier Messiaen improviser à la messe dominicale. A la fin de la messe, tout le monde sortait pour aller à la pâtisserie (!), mais mon père nous interdisait de nous lever tant que le Maître n'avait pas fini de jouer. La musique d'Olivier Messiaen est ainsi devenu comme une "seconde langue maternelle "pour moi. C'est magnifique de le voir ici improviser...

(Baptised at Holy Trinity in 1957, I heard Olivier Messaien improvise every Sunday at mass when I was a child. At the end of the service, everyone got up to go for coffee and cakes (!) but my father made us keep our seats until the master had finished playing. In this way the music of Olivier Messaien became a kind of second language for me. It's great to see him improvise.....)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Republicans Against Muslim Misogyny.....

Clive Stafford Smith, Edinburgh Book Festival, 14 August

Clive Stafford Smith, world-famous lawyer, campaigner against the death penalty and founder of Reprieve, was at the Book festival to promote his new book Injustice. The book deals with the case of Kris Maharaj, an innocent (and in this case it would be giving the prosecution credibility it definitely doesn't deserve to use the word "allegedly") British man in prison in Florida. The case has involved bribes, death threats to witnesses' families, and representatives of a Medellin drug cartel. We learned a lot about Kris's case which I shan't try to sum up here, but the most significant things I learned were:

- In the USA, whether someone can be shown to be innocent or not is not admissible when decisions are being made over whether or not he should be executed (this arises from the US Supreme Court decision in Herrera v Collins, and CSS is trying to get it overturned).

- In the USA, prosecutors are elected officials and tend to be self-selected as people who believe in the infallibility of the system. In a recent survey, 50% of US prosecutors did not believe in the presumption of innocence: they felt that if someone had been arrested he was probably guilty (a view shared by American police officers).

- In the USA, prosecution files are not made available to the defence until after conviction.

We also learned how to fool a lie detector, how to avoid being mugged (say "I'm a defence lawyer - go mug a prosecutor, you might need me one day!" - it's worked for CSS a few times!) and how CSS prefers to defend guilty defendants to innocent ones. (Innocent ones are they own worst enemies, as - convinced that their innocence will be obvious to all - they cheerfully waive all sorts of rights and safeguards on which they might need to rely in court.) We probably already knew that the UK is nowhere near the top of the table when it comes to violent crime, but CSS told us that the top three countries are Honduras, Costa Rica and Colombia (I bet most folk guessed Colombia would be at the top).

Clive told us about some really unlikely murder cases involving sleepwalking. There was a guy who got up in the middle of the night, drove across town, killed his mother and tried to kill his father, drove back and went to bed. The only thing that saved him from execution was his father's rock solid testimony that there was no way the guy was awake when he had attacked him. There was another case of a guy who had put his baby into the freezer while he was sleepwalking. Clive reckoned no jury would believe the truth with that one: can't remember how he got him off in the end (I think he picked some hole in the prosecution case which raised enough doubt). He told us he knows of literally dozens of cases where people have done something to a baby in their sleep: as he said, new parents tend to be sleep-deprived anyway, so it;s not all that surprising.

He told us that he was once accused by the US authorities of smuggling a pair of Speedos into Guantanamo Bay. He didn't, of course (he reckoned anyone who wears Speedos would deserve to be locked up in Gitmo), so pointed out to the authorities that he had been under video surveillance the whole time so it would probably have been noticed at the time if he'd stripped off to transfer a pair of swimming trunks. He suggested, seeing as how the only standing water to which his prisoner had access was his toilet, that the Gitmos administrators put a sign up saying "We don't piss in your swimming pool - please don't swim in our toilet".

He said that watching men die was always affecting. He's watched six executions: two each of gas chamber, electric chair and lethal injection. He still has flashbacks of one of the electrocutions.

He also bemoaned the fact that whereas once upon a time British justice was largely free from the revenge elements so obvious in the USA (where for example victims' relatives have a say in sentencing), Tony Blair during his incumbency had done as much as he could to move us in the American direction (as though we needed any more reasons to loathe the man).

Asked about the risks to himself of the work he does, he said he receives death threats and does take them seriously, but they just convince him he's doing something right. He will shortly be accompanying Imran Khan on his peace march into Waziristan to protest about US drone strikes on civilians: as he said, that will be rather risky.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The province of Punjab lies on the Western edge of India, up against Pakistan, and its people comprise the normal religious mix in India of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and other (including Christian) minorities. Punjab, though, is the heartland of the Sikh religion, whose holiest shrine is the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Sikhs are famous as warriors, and certainly not prone to allowing their religion to be walked on. Remember that not long after she had sent Indian troops into the Golden Temple to break up an occupation there, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was murdered by her Sikh bodyguards. Not to be messed with, the Sikhs.

All of which is simply to point out that the concept of a "self-hating Sikh" is inconceivable, and therefore any Islamophobes tempted to put this heartening story of religious tolerance and co-operation down to "self-hating Sikhs" or "Hindus in name only" simply show how little they know about religion in India.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wonders and Smashers

Further to my last post on the death of Harry Harrison, I just found this while Googling references to Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers. I look forward to reading more from this blog, not only because its writer clearly likes SSOTGR (and has the honesty to admit he didn't get it when he first read it as a child) but because his experience with Seven Ancient Wonders exactly parallels my own. I too almost never abandon books, but I too was perfectly happy to leave 7AW unfinished. Yes, it really is that bad.

Harry Harrison - RIP

One of the greats of science fiction has just died: Harry Harrison. All the obits correctly say that his most important work is Make Room, Make Room! on which the film Soylent Green was based, and his best-known arguably the Stainless Steel Rat series. I have a Stainless Steel Rat gamebook - one of those programmed-text affairs that predate the computer game era, where you are posed questions and jump to different chapter numbers depending on your answers. The thing that I always loved about Jim deGriz (the titular Rat) was the way he always had the right gadget handy, and never ran out of ammunition: like an SF James Bond.

My personal favourite of Harrison's books, though, is easily Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, a parody of the "backyard spaceship" sub-genre in which two smart kids invent a starship drive based on irradiated cheese ("Cheddite"). They head off into space and encounter hosts of wittily-named aliens such as the Garnishee, and my personal favourites the Hagg-Inder and the Hagg-Loos (maybe that only works if you remember that in Greek the doubled gamma is pronounced -"ng-"?). Invariably these aliens speak human languages (including English) because their incredibly powerful radio receivers have been tuning in to Earth broadcasts for many years. (I especially loved the denizens of a planet where everyone speaks English with terribly upper-class accents because they've been listening to the broadcasts of a country called "BBC Third Programme".)

Harry, we'll miss you.

Peterloo, finally facing up to Peterloo

As massive over-reactions to political protests go, the Peterloo Massacre in my old home town of Manchester is one of history's biggies. Yet it's never been properly commemorated by any kind of monument  or memorial at the site. Now there is a campaign aiming to change that. Read about it here in Socialist Worker.

And let's not forget that the massacre has resonances in the present day.

Pussy Riot Testimonies

Modern Poetry in Translation magazine has a feature on the Pussy Riot trial, and has published their testimonies (closing statements) from their trial, translated by Sandra Dugdale. I reproduce them here in full.

Pussy Riot Testimonies

By Sasha Dugdale, Pussy Riot

The trial of three women who climbed onto the ambo of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow to sing a protest 'punk prayer' has been international news. There has been widespread condemnation of the harsh treatment meted out to these young women, who caused no damage or injury, and yet have spent five months in remand prison and now face a three-year prison sentence.

Their trial was described by Russian and international observers alike as 'unobjective', a 'show-trial', and was compared to the famous trial against Joseph Brodsky, sent into internal exile for an equally trivial crime.

MPT, committed to a free exchange across all frontiers, is publishing the final testimonies of the three women, made in court on the 8 August 2012. They are translated by MPT Editor Sasha Dugdale.


These testimonies were made on 8 August at the Khamovnichesky Court. Each speech was met with applause and the judge saying repeatedly, ‘we are not in a theatre’.

When the girls left the court they had a standing ovation. This testimony was recorded by Andrei Kozenko for Lenta.ru

Nadya Tolokonnikova

It is not really three PUSSY RIOT vocalists who are on trial here. If that were the case, then what happened here would have no significance. On trial here is the state system of the Russian Federation. This imitation of the judicial process is reaching its pre-determined end, such were the prosecutor, judge and investigator we had. And those who stand behind them as well, those who gave the political order to repress. Where should the blame lie for the performance in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral and the subsequent trial? It lies with the authoritarian nature of the political system. PUSSY RIOT makes oppositional art, or you could call it politics in the guise of art. In either case it is a type of civic action, taken as a response to the state’s erosion of basic human rights.

Many people are rising up: people who have spent the first decade of the new millennium being mercilessly and methodically flayed of their liberties.

We searched for real beauty and sincerity, and found it in our punk performances. Our passion, openness, naivety are above the hypocrisy, deceit and the feigned decency which masks criminals. The first men of the state stand in the cathedral with righteousness upon their faces, but their sins are far greater than ours. We did our punk performances because what reigns supreme in the Russian state is a caste system, a closed system, a system set in stone. And the politics are led by narrow corporate interests. So much so that even the air in Russia causes pain to us.

We are absolutely against and feel compelled to act against the measures of force used to regulate society, harsh mechanisms to control our citizens’ behaviour. We are against the passivity which is forced upon the majority of the population, and the complete domination by executive power over judicial and legal processes. We are also honestly angered by the low level of political culture. It is a scandal and the result of fear, and it is deliberately and constantly maintained by the state system and its henchmen. Just hear what Patriarch Kirill says: ‘Orthodox believers do not attend political protests.’ We are angered by the scandalous weakness of non-hierarchical structures in society. We do not like the way in which the state manipulates public opinion through the strict control of the vast majority of media outlets. One very clear example is the media campaign against Pussy Riot, unprecedented in its cynicism and its selective use of facts and words. It has been conducted through most of the Russian media, with the exception of a few independents outlets.

Nonetheless, I am watching the disintegration of this political system, made manifest by the trial of three members of PUSSY RIOT. The system relied upon something happening that did not happen, to its own misfortune: the whole of Russia did not condemn us, more and more people believe us, believe in us, and believe that we should be free, and not behind bars. I see it through the people I meet; the people who represent the system, who work for its organisations. I see the people who are in prison. And every day we see more and more that our political act was justified. People say to us, your gesture was right, you’ve laid bare the weeping wounds of this political system, you struck against the very snakes’ nest which has now attacked you. These people try to make our lives easier as far as they can, and we are very grateful to them for doing so.

We are grateful to all of those who have voluntarily offered their support – it’s a huge number of people, I know that. I know that a huge number of Orthodox believers also defend us, and some are even praying for us outside the court. We’ve been shown little books which believers are handing out, with prayers in them for those who are in prison. And this alone shows that there is no single social group of Orthodox believers, as the prosecuting counsel would have us believe. Believers are more and more coming to the defence of PUSSY RIOT. They consider that what we did does not deserve five months in remand prison, let alone a three-year sentence, as the prosecutor wants. Every day it dawns more and more on people that if this political system has armed itself to the teeth against three girls who performed in Christ the Saviour Cathedral, then that only means that the system is scared of the truth, afraid of the sincerity and directness we represent. We were never ever devious – not even for a moment during this trial, and the opposing side has been far too devious, and people feel it.

Yesterday Madonna had a concert, and she appeared on stage with PUSSY RIOT written on her back. I am amazed by the ever-increasing numbers of people who see that we have been falsely accused and unlawfully imprisoned. I am amazed that truth really does win out over lies, even if we are here in a cage. We are freer than all those who sit opposite us on the side of the prosecutor, because we can say what we please and we do, and they can only say what the political censor has allowed them to say. They can’t even say words like ‘punk-prayer’ or ‘Virgin Mary, chase out Putin’. They can’t even say the lines from our punk-prayer, which concern the political system. Perhaps they think that it would be good to send us down because we oppose Putin and his system, too, but they can’t say it, because they’re not allowed to. It is sad to say but their mouths are sewn shut, they are just puppets here. I hope they will realize this and follow the road to freedom, truth, sincerity, because all of these are high above this feigned decency, this rigidity and hypocrisy.

Man is an imperfect creature, always making mistakes. He strives for wisdom, but never possesses it. And that is how philosophy was born –for a philosopher is one who strives for wisdom, but never possesses it. That is what sent us in to the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, and I believe that Christianity, as I understand it from my studies of the Old and New Testament, promotes the search for truth and the constant overcoming of oneself.

It also seems to me that the speeches of the lawyers on the opposing side are controlled by higher forces, time and time again they slip up, say the wrong words and they call us ‘victims’. Almost all the lawyers do this, even Larisa Pavlova who is very hostile to us, but all the same some higher force makes her call us ‘victims’, rather than the ones she is defending.

I want to weep when I look at how the Russian Federation’s legal and judicial system is debased by the tactics of the inquisition. But from the moment of our arrest we have not been able to weep, we have forgotten how to cry. We shouted at our punk concerts the best we could, shouted out about the unlawfulness of the government, and look! They stole our voice. During the whole trial they have refused to listen to us, or to understand us.

But instead, to our misfortune and that of the whole country, the court has listened to the prosecutor, who over and over again, without fear of retribution, has twisted our words and statements in an attempt to reduce them. The flagrant rejection of the basic adversarial principle even seems to serve as an example. On 30 July, the first day of the trial we gave our response to the indignation of those upset by our behaviour in the cathedral. We apologized. But the court did not even give us the chance to read our text, our lawyer Volkova read it. This was the first opportunity in five months of imprisonment of speaking for ourselves. We talked about a dialogue with those who, for some reason, see us as enemies. But they made fun of us – that was their answer, they spat on our outstretched hand. They told us that we were ‘insincere’. They shouldn’t have. They shouldn’t judge others by themselves. We are in desperate circumstances, but we are not desperate. We are persecuted, but we are not alone. Open, sincere people are easy to humiliate and bring down, but when I am powerless I am strong.

Listen to us and not to what Arkady Mamontov says about us. Do not twist our words, or quote us selectively, allow us to meet in dialogue, to be in contact with the country, it is our country, it belongs to us too, not just to Putin and those around him. I, like Solzhenitsyn, believe that the word, in the end, will prove stronger than concrete.

I, Katya and Masha are in prison, in a cage, but I do not believe we have suffered defeat. Just as dissidents didn’t lose when they disappeared into asylums and prisons. Just as the oberiu (absurdist) poets remained artists to the very end, although they were purged in 1937. One of them Aleksandr Vvedensky wrote ‘The incomprehensible gives us pleasure, the inexplicable is our friend’. The official version is that he died on 20 December 1941, the cause unknown, perhaps dysentery in a cattle truck, or a guard’s bullet. The place: somewhere on a railway line between Voronezh and Kazan. PUSSY RIOT are students and disciples of Vvedensky, his ‘bad rhyme’ principle seems natural to us. He wrote ‘it sometimes happens that two rhymes come to mind, a good one and a bad one and I choose the bad one, because that’s the exactly right one.’ The oberiu poets proved with the loss of their own lives, that a sense of meaninglessness suited the ‘nerve’ of that time. The price of this proof, of participating in the creation of history, is always out of proportion, always too great. But in it, and in this participating is all the salt of our existence. To be a pauper and yet to make others rich, to have nothing, and yet possess it all. Punished, yes, but they live on.

I believe that if the government, tsars, presidents, elders and premiers, the nation, the judges understood what ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’ meant, then they wouldn’t condemn the innocent. Our government rushes to condemn and offers no mercy. Oh yes, thank you Dmitry Anatolevich Medvedev for another one of your aphorisms. He characterized his own term of presidential office with the slogan ‘freedom is better than no freedom’, and thanks to Medvedev’s happy turn of phrase a third term for Putin might go under the new slogan ‘Prison is better than stoning’.

As we really had and have in us no hatred for religion, our accusers have had no option but to turn to false witnesses. One of these – Motil’da Ivashenko – was ashamed and didn’t come to court. All that was left were the false witnesses: the experts Troitsky, Ponkin, and Mrs Abramenkova, and apart from this so-called expertise, there is no other proof of the existence of this hatred and enmity. And so the court, if it were honest and judicious, would have had to throw out this proof, because it is no strong, scientific and objective text, but the false and soiled papers of the Inquisition.

The prosecution does not feel able to use excerpts from interviews with PUSSY RIOT as they are proof of a complete lack of motive. I will once again read this excerpt, it seems important to me. It is from an interview with ‘Russian Reporter’, given on the day after the performance in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. ‘We have respect for religion, and particularly Russian Orthodox religion, and that is why we are indignant about the way in which the great and good Christian philosophy is so soiled. We are furious at the way that a beautiful and pure thing has been dragged through the mud.’ We are still furious, it causes us real pain to witness all of this.

And last of all I would like to quote a PUSSY RIOT song, because, strange as it seems, all of our songs have been prophetic, including the one that goes: The head of the KGB is their big saint man, loading protesters in a prison van.’ But what I want to quote now is the next line:

‘Open all the doors, rip the stripes from your sleeve, and breathe with us our liberty.’

Maria Alyokhina

Each stage in this trial has been the quintessence of depravity. We planned a small performance to start with, but the state of Russia has long resembled an utterly sick body, and this sense of sickness was not just apparent, but was a resonating explosion at this performance. That is what happens when you touch an abscess ready to burst.

Talking about Putin, we do not mean Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin himself, but Putin the System. The hierarchy he has created, a hierarchy which takes no notice of the opinions of the masses, and, what troubles me more, takes no notice of the opinions of younger generations. We think that the ineffectiveness of this government can be felt in absolutely everything, and here, in my final testimony I want to briefly describe the experience I have had of this system.

Education, the beginning of the formation of the individual in society, effectively ignores the particular nature of each personality, there is no approach based on the individual, there is no study of philosophy, nor the basic principles of contemporary art culture. These subjects exist formally, but they are taught using the Soviet model, and as a result we have ‘the average citizen’ not interested in thinking in philosophical terms, favouring gender discrimination, their civil rights brushed into a far corner. Today’s educational institutes teach people to live ‘on automatic’ from an early age, without ever asking the vital questions, they develop in them cruelty and a hatred of alternative ways of thinking. From the earliest age their liberties are forgotten.

And now it takes thousands of people from all across the world to prove the obvious – that we are innocent. We are innocent – the whole world is saying it. The whole world says it at concerts, the whole world says it on the internet and in the press. In parliaments they say it. The British Prime Minister did not greet our President with a speech about the Olympics. He asked why three innocent girls were in prison. How shameful.

But what’s even more terrible is that people do not believe they have the power to influence their government. During a period of environmental pickets and protests, when I was collecting signatures in Krasnodar for a petition to save the Utrishsky Reserve, many people asked me, and with genuine bewilderment, what it had to do with them, this forest – possibly the only Russian forest of such a rare kind. What did it have to do with them, that the wife of the Prime Minister was about to build her residence and destroy in the making the only juniper reserve in Russia? Our people have stopped feeling that the country’s territory belongs to them, the citizens. These people have stopped thinking of themselves as citizens, they feel themselves to be just the masses. They have no sense that even the forest right by their homes belongs to them. I even doubt that they have any sense of their own homes belonging to them. If a digger drove up to the entrance and they were told ‘Excuse me, we’re about to knock down your house, this will be the residence of an important official’, these people would probably just collect up their things, pack their bags resignedly and go and sit out on the street until the government told them what to do next. They are totally amorphous and that is very sad.

After nearly six months in remand prison I have realized that prison is Russia in miniature. Start with the power systems: it's the same hierarchy. No issue can be dealt with without the direct interference of the one in power, there is no ‘horizontal’ assignment of duties which would make life much easier for everyone, there is no individual initiative, informers and mutual suspicion are rampant. In jail as in the rest of our country everything depends on the depersonalization of the individual, on turning the individual into a function, the function of a prisoner or a guard. You rapidly become used to the monotonous and senseless regime. It’s much like the one we were dropped into at birth. Within such limits people begin to value the smallest things, in prison, for example, the tablecloth or plastic cups and plates, which you can only get hold of with the express permission of the head warder – outside prison there is another corresponding role – that of status, which people place huge value on.

You might say that we are against Putin’s chaos, which only from the outside might be described as a regime. Our opinion is that there has been a mutation of almost all institutions within the system – whilst preserving external appearances – and it is destroying the civil society we value so much. It is strange that the government, in reacting to our action, has not given the least consideration to the historical precedent for such displays of alternative thinking. ‘ The country in which straightforward honesty is seen at best as heroism, and at worst, as mental illness, is an unlucky one.’ The dissident Vladimir Bukovsky said that in the 1970s. Not much time has passed and it’s just as if nothing happened: neither the purges, nor Brezhnev’s stagnation, nor the attempts to resist them.

The Russian Orthodox Church treats the Gospels as static religious truths. The Gospels are not the revelation they were at the very beginning, but rather some monolithic block to be broken down into quotations, which can be plastered around, shoved into any piece of writing, for any end. But a religious truth shouldn’t be static, it is a process and not an end in itself. It is given sense by philosophy, art, and yes, even contemporary art. I am extremely angered by the phrase ‘so-called’ which the State Prosecutor uses to refer to contemporary art. I would like to draw attention to the fact that during the trial of Brodsky exactly the same phrase was used. His poems were referred to as ‘so-called poetry’, and the witnesses hadn’t even read them. Just as a number of our witnesses had not actually seen what had happened.

Our apologies were clearly also thought of by the collective prosecution as ‘so-called’. And that is insulting, because they were truthful. You haven’t yet understood, or perhaps it is your slyness which makes you refer to our apologies as insincere. I don’t know what you would need to hear to convince you.

And if that’s how it is, then for me at least this trial is just a ‘so-called’ trial. I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ‘so-called’ trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.

Ekaterina Samutsevich

I have no regrets about what we have done. Instead I wish to give my thoughts on why this has happened to us. When a former colleague of Putin, Kirill Gundyaev, got the top job in the Orthodox church, it was clear that the Christ the Saviour Cathedral had become an important symbol of our government’s politics. And after this the Christ the Saviour Cathedral became a site for the politics of power structures, which are the basic source of power. Why did Putin need to use the Orthodox religion and its aesthetic? Putin could have used his own secular instruments of power: national corporations, for example, or his own terrifying policing systems. Or his obedient judicial system. Perhaps it’s because of the harsh and unsuccessful policies of Putin’s government: the Kursk submarine incident; the unexpected explosions in the blocks of flats of peaceful civilians – all these and other unhappy moments in his political career might have made him stop and wonder whether the citizens of Russia might just give him a helping hand with his resignation. And that must have been the point when he needed to find a unique, cast-iron guarantee of a long life at the summit of power.

This is when the need arose to use the aesthetic of Orthodox religion, associated historically with the most successful imperial ages in Russia, when power came from God, and not from civil society. But how did he manage it? After all we have a secular state. And any crossover between the religious and the political must also cut through our vigilant and critically alert society. The government clearly made use of the Orthodox aesthetic from Soviet times, when religion had the halo of a lost piece in the history and culture of the country, downtrodden and defeated by Soviet totalitarian rule. Religion was in opposition then.

The government authorities decided to use this historical ‘effect’ and build its own new political project on it, a project which had barely anything to do with a sincere desire to preserve the history and culture of Orthodoxy. Seems fairly logical as well that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has long had mystical links with power, is the force for carrying out this concept. It takes no small amount of professional lighting equipment and airtime on the main channels for live broadcasts from the cathedral lasting many hours. The Patriarch made elegant speeches helping the devout to make the right choice during those difficult days for Putin.

Our appearance in the cathedral with the song ‘Virgin Mary, chase out Putin’ destroyed the integrity of this image, created and managed over such a long time, and it exposed its falseness. We dared to present as one image Orthodox culture and the culture of protest without the blessing of the Patriarch, and in doing so, encouraged intelligent people to consider whether Orthodox culture didn’t just belong to the church, the Patriarch and Putin, but might also be on the side of the civil revolt and protest movement in Russia.

It is possible that the unpleasant and large-scale consequences of our ‘media gate-crashing’ of the Cathedral were unforeseen, even by the government. To begin with they attempted to pass off our performance as an attack by soulless militant atheists, but they failed as we were by that time already famous as an anti-Putin feminist punk group. And only when they had weighed up the political and symbolic damage that we had inflicted with our art did they decide to protect society against us and our convictions. And that is how this complicated punk-adventure ended.

I have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand we are waiting for the verdict of guilty to be passed. On the other, we have won, because the case against us is fabricated and the state is not able to hide the repressive nature of the judicial process. Russia once again does not appear in the eyes of the world as Vladimir Putin wishes to portray it in his daily international meetings. All the steps he promised to take towards a legal state were clearly never taken. And his announcements that our trial would be objective are just another deception, practised on the country and the world community.

Thank you. That is all.

Then there was the Greek pastrycook who supported Pussy Riot by baking brightly-coloured baklavas.....(sorry)

Here is the new single from Pussy Riot, who seem to be acquiring a place in the popular imagination somewhere between the Dixie Chicks and Dmitri Shostakovich. But with balaclavas.

(For anyone who's wondering, I removed the embedded video of the Femen protest of a topless woman chainsawing down a cross for the simple reason that whenever I viewed my blog the damned thing began to play, overlaying its soundtrack over whatever else I was listening to. Messaien organ improvisations are not improved by chainsaw sound effects.....)

I depict a riot

Sent today:

Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh
67 Ennismore Gardens

Your Holiness

Please forgive my emailing you in this way, but I do so in the hope that you will use your influence within the Russian Orthodox Church to condemn the excessively intolerant stance taken by some of its Russian clergy (including the Patriarch himself) during the trial and sentencing of the members of the Russian punk bank "Pussy Riot". Whatever one may think of protests within churches, their undeniably political act was in response to the Patriarch's own open political act of support for President Putin. I can sympathize with those who say that a church is not the place for such a protest, and I doubt whether the members of Pussy Riot themselves expected to get away unpunished. However, the calls from the Church for draconian sentences, and the refusal of its hierarchy to make any calls for clemency until after the sentences had been passed, suggest that the Orthodox Church in Russia has lost its bearings, lost its humanity, and forgotten the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I surely do not need to remind you that Our Lord was not averse to mounting a protest in a place of worship when he considered that its primary purpose had been subverted from worship to commerce. For "commerce" substitute "party politics" and you have the "punk prayer" protest. Unlike Jesus, the ladies of Pussy Riot did not use violence during their demonstration. Two of them have young children. Under these circumstances it escapes me how the authorities of a Christian church could demand - and obtain - harsh sentencing.

Forgive me, Your Holiness, if you have already spoken out on this matter, but I have read nothing from you so hoped that you might take a more clement line than your colleagues in Russia, and moreover that you might be prepared to speak out against this injustice. Denounce the protest from the pulpit if you wish, but denounce too the inhumane sentences passed. And - if you dare - denounce the Church in which you are a respected figure for having so lost sight of Our Lord's example.

Yours sincerely

Rob Saunders

Ripping Yarns

To the cinema today to see Brave, which I very much enjoyed. Main characters voiced by Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly, with Robbie Coltrane in there as well, so the acting was in good hands. (And if any sceptics are wondering how authentically Scottish the (half-Scottish) Emma Thompson can sound, I refer then to the BBC serial Tutti Frutti, which also provided Mr Coltrane with an early acting opportunity.)

And I loved La Luna, the Pixar short which preceded it. Not a bucketload of laughs like some of the Pixar shorts (Presto, say, or Lifted), but a lovely old-fashioned sort of film, and a joy to watch.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"When you want to sit - sit. When you want to stand - stand. Above all - don't wobble." (Zen Master)

LIMBO by R.S. Thomas

They say the virtuous pagans dwell in Limbo
There, in umbrageous groves, the hoary sages
Lean against olive trees with arms akimbo,
Arguing gently down the endless ages.

The climate there is neither hot nor wintry:
Lacks Heaven's bliss, and Hell's perpetual arson.
It all reminds me of a night at Fintry
I spent discoursing with a cultured parson,

A peaceful night of mild and muggy weather.
Outside, young lovers down the lanes were strolling,
The Beltane-fires were burning in the heather,
And in the shed MacGregor's mare was foaling.

But never rumour came to our seclusion
Of birth or death, the snowflake or the swallow:
And that was when I came to the conclusion
That Hell and Heaven both beat Limbo hollow.

I saw this poem a long time ago, framed on the wall in a house named Fintry in Surrey. From the context it's pretty clear that it's the Scottish village of that name that Thomas is referring to, but having it in the house was  a nice thought, especially as Fintry plays host to many a religio-philosophical disputation, being as it is the headquarters of The Universal Order.

“A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order.” (Jean-Luc Godard)

A little behind the times, I know, but I've just found out that the next film in the Narnia series will be The Magician's Nephew, which I think is my favourite. I managed to miss The Voyage of the Dawntreader at the cinema but am looking forward to the new one.

The comments under the report (in the Guardian last year) included this one, which I thought very true.

JonathanCR 23 March 2011 2:17PM

"I don't know why they didn't start with MNeph in the first place - probably because unless you have read the series and know it, most people don't know it. Likewise the Hobbit is going to be made after LOTR was."

"The Magician's Nephew" may be set chronologically before all the others, but it was written later and meant to be read later. (Yes, I know that Lewis mentioned in a later letter that it should probably come first, but he was - at that stage - wrong.)

Part of the charm of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" is that it has all these crazy magical things in that don't make a whole lot of sense. Why would going into a big wardrobe take you to a magical country? Why is there a lamp post in the middle of a forest? Why is there a White Witch at all? None of these things is explained, and that's what makes them fun.

The idea of "The Magician's Nephew" is that it goes back and explains all this stuff and plenty more. But part of the fun of that is that we're already familiar with these things. When we learn the origins of the lamp post, that's interesting because we've already met the lamp post in the first book, and now we find out why it was there.

If you put "The Magician's Nephew" first and only afterwards read or watch "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", it messes both of them up. It removes the wonder of discovering a strange new world from the one, and removes the fun of finding out the explanations for all the weird stuff from the other.

It's like watching the Star Wars prequels before the original trilogy. When you watch the original trilogy for the first time, you're not meant to know beforehand that Vader is Luke's father or that Leia is his sister. They weren't made to be watched by people who knew the backstory. The interest of the prequel trilogy (such as it is) is that it tells the backstory to a story that we already know. It's the same with "The Magician's Nephew".

The idea of a story working most effectively if plot points are revealed in reverse, as it were, reminded me of the SF short story "Happy Ending" by Henry Kuttner, which takes a story which would be pretty banal if told in sequence but which has a tremendous impact when given the TLTWATW/MN approach. (These stories are different from ones like Harold Pinter's "Betrayal", where telling the story in reverse doesn't provide plot explication but does add to the emotional depth of scenes whose eventual outcome you already know when you watch them.)

One thing Henry Kuttner missed (though his description of someone in the future putting a $24 stamp on a postcard might have led him to it) is that a million dollars now seems a ridiculously tiny sum for what it's buying. Even a billion nowadays would seem like a bargain. Anyway, enjoy.


HAPPY ENDING by Henry Kuttner

This is the way the story ended:

James Kelvin concentrated very hard on the thought of the chemist with the red moustache who had promised him a million dollars. It was simply a matter of tuning in on the man's brain, establishing a rapport. He had done it before. Now it was more important than ever that he do it this one last time. He pressed the button on the gadget the robot had given him, and thought hard.

Far off, across limitless distances, he found the rapport.

He clamped on the mental tight beam.

He rode it. ...

The red-moustached man looked up, gaped, and grinned delightedly.

"So there you are!" he said. "I didn't hear you come in. Good grief, I've been trying to find you for two weeks."

"Tell me one thing quick," Kelvin said. "What's your name?"

"George Bailey. Incidentally, what's yours?"

But Kelvin didn't answer. He had suddenly remembered the other thing the robot had told him about that gadget which established rapport when he pressed the button. He pressed it now-and nothing happened. The gadget had gone dead. Its task, was finished, which obviously meant he had at last achieved health, fame and fortune. The robot had warned him, of course. The thing was set to do one specialized job. Once he got what he wanted, it would work no more.

So Kelvin got the million dollars.

And he lived happily ever after. ...


This is the middle of the story:

As he pushed aside the canvas curtain something-a carelessly hung rope-swung down at his face, knocking the horn-rimmed glasses askew. Simultaneously a vivid bluish light blazed into his unprotected eyes. He felt a curious, sharp sense of disorientation, a shifting motion that was almost instantly gone.

Things steadied before him. He let the curtain fall back into place, making legible again the painted inscription: HOROSCOPES--LEARN YOUR FUTURE--and he stood staring at the remarkable horomancer.

It was a-oh, impossible!

The robot said in a flat, precise voice, "You are James Kelvin. You are a reporter. You are thirty years old, unmarried, and you came to Los Angeles from Chicago today on the advice of your physician. Is that correct?"

In his astonishment Kelvin called on the Deity. Then he settled his glasses more firmly and tried to remember an expose of charlatans he had once written. There was some obvious way they worked things like this, miraculous as it sounded.

The robot looked at him impassively out of its faceted eye.

"On reading your mind," it continued in the pedantic voice, "I find this is the year nineteen forty-nine. My plans will have to be revised. I had meant to arrive in the year nineteen seventy. I will ask you to assist me."

Kelvin put his hands in his pockets and grinned.

"With money, naturally," he said. "You had. me going for a minute. How do you do it, anyhow? Mirrors? Or like Maelzel's chess player?"

"I am not a machine operated by a dwarf, nor am I an optical illusion," the robot assured him. "I am an artificially created living organism, originating at a period far in your future."

"And I'm not the sucker you take me for," Kelvin remarked pleasantly. "I came in here to-"

"You lost your baggage checks," the robot said. "While wondering what to do about it, you had a few drinks and took the Wilshire bus at exactly-exactly eight thirty-five post meridian."

"Lay off the mind-reading," Kelvin said. "And don't tell me you've been running this joint very long with a line like that. The cops would be after you. If you're a real robot, ha, ha."

"I have been running this joint," the robot said, "for approximately five minutes. My predecessor is unconscious behind that chest in the corner. Your arrival here was sheer coincidence." It paused very briefly, and Kelvin had the curious impression that it was watching to see if the story so far had gone over well.
The impression was curious because Kelvin had no feeling at all that there was a man in the large, jointed figure before him. If such as a thing as a robot were possible, he would have believed implicitly that he confronted a genuine specimen. Such things being impossible, he waited to see what the gimmick would be.

"My arrival here was also accidental," the robot informed him. "This being the case, my equipment will have to be altered slightly. I will require certain substitute mechanisms. For that, I gather as I read your
mind, I will have to engage in your peculiar barter system of economics. In a word, coinage or gold or silver certificates will be necessary. Thus I am-temporarily -a horomancer."

"Sure, sure," Kelvin said. "Why not a simple mugging? If you're a robot, you could do a super-mugging job with a quick twist of the gears."

"It would attract attention. Above all, I require secrecy. As a matter of fact, I am-" the robot paused, searched Kelvin's brain for the right phrase, and said, "-on the lam. In my era, time-traveling is strictly forbidden, even by accident, unless government-sponsored."

There was a fallacy there somewhere, Kelvin thought, but he couldn't quite spot it. He blinked at the robot intently. It looked pretty unconvincing.

"What proof do you need?" the creature asked. "I read your brain the minute you came in, didn't I? You must have felt the temporary amnesia as I drew out the knowledge and then replaced it."

"So that's what happened," Kelvin said. He took a cautious step backward. "Well, I think I'll be getting along."

"Wait," the robot commanded. "I see you have begun to distrust me. Apparently you now regret having suggested a mugging job. You fear I may act on the suggestion. Allow me to reassure you. It is true that I could take your money and assure secrecy by killing you, but I am not permitted to kill humans. The alternative is to engage in the barter system. I can offer you something valuable in return for a small amount of gold. Let me see." The faceted gaze swept around the tent, dwelt piercingly for a moment on Kelvin. "A horoscope," the robot said. "It is supposed to help you achieve health, fame and fortune. Astrology, however, is out of my line. I can merely offer a logical scientific method of attaining the same results."

"Uh-huh," Kelvin-said skeptically. "How much? And why haven't you used that method?"

"I have other ambitions," the robot said in a cryptic manner. "Take this." There was a brief clicking. A panel opened in the metallic chest. The robot extracted a small, flat case and handed it to Kelvin, who automatically closed his fingers on the cold metal.

"Be careful. Don't push that button until-"

But Kelvin had pushed it. ...

He was driving a figurative car that had got out of control. There was somebody else inside his head. There was a schizophrenic, double-tracked locomotive that was running wild and his hand on the throttle couldn't slow it down an instant. His mental steering-wheel had snapped.

Somebody else was thinking for him!

Not quite a human being. Not quite sane, probably, from Kelvin's standards. But awfully sane from his own. Sane enough to have mastered the most intricate principles of non-Euclidean geometry in the nursery.
The senses got synthesized in the brain into a sort of common language, a master-tongue. Part of it was auditory, part pictorial, and there were smells and tastes and tactile sensations that were sometimes familiar and sometimes spiced with the absolutely alien. And it was chaotic.

Something like this, perhaps. . . .

"-Big Lizards getting too numerous this season- tame threvvars have the same eyes not on Callisto though-vacation soon-preferably galactic-solar system claustrophobic-byanding tomorrow if square rootola and upsliding three-"

But that was merely the word-symbolism. Subjectively, it was far more detailed and very frightening. Luckily, reflex had lifted Kelvin's fingers from the button almost instantly, and he stood there motionless, shivering slightly.

He was afraid now.

The robot said, "You should not have begun the rapport until I instructed you. Now there will be danger. Wait." His eye changed color. Yes . . . there is . . . Tharn, yes. Beware of Tharn."

"I don't want any part of it," Kelvin said quickly. "Here, take this thing back."

"Then you will be unprotected against Tharn. Keep the device. It will, as I promised, insure your health, fame and fortune, far more effectively than a-a horoscope."

"No, thanks. I don't know how you managed that trick-subsonics, maybe, but I don't-"

"Wait," the robot said. "When you pressed that button, you were in the mind of someone who exists very far in the future. It created a temporal rapport. You can bring about that rapport any time you press the button."

"Heaven forfend," Kelvin said, still sweating a little.

"Consider the opportunities. Suppose a troglodyte of the far past had access to your brain? He could achieve anything he wanted."

It had become important, somehow, to find a logical rebuttal to the robot's arguments. Like St. Anthony- or was it Luther?-arguing with the devil, Kelvin thought dizzily. His headache was worse, and he suspected he had drunk more than was good for him. But he merely said: "How could a troglodyte understand what's in my brain? He couldn't apply the knowledge without the same conditioning I've had."

"Have you ever had sudden and apparently illogical ideas? Compulsions? So that you seem forced to think of certain things, count up to certain numbers, work out particular problems? Well, the man in the future on whom my device is focused doesn't know he's en rapport with you, Kelvin. But he's vulnerable to com-pulsions. All you have to do is concentrate on a problem and then press the button. Your rapport will be compelled-illogically, from his viewpoint-to solve that problem. And you'll be reading his brain. You'll find out how it works. There are limitations; you'll learn those too. And the device will insure health, wealth and fame for you."

"It would insure anything, if it really worked that way. I could do anything. That's why I'm not buying!"

"I said there were limitations. As soon as you've successfully achieved health, fame and fortune, the device will become useless. I've taken care of that., But meanwhile you can use it to solve all your problems by tapping the brain of the more intelligent specimen in the future. The important point is to concentrate on your problems before you press the button. Otherwise you may get more than Tharn on your track."

"Tharn? What-"

"I think an-an android," the robot said, looking at nothing. "An artificial human . . . However, let us consider my own problem. I need a small amount of gold."

"So that's the kicker," Kelvin said, feeling oddly relieved. He said, "I haven't got any."

"Your watch."

Kelvin jerked his arm so that his wristwatch showed. "Oh, no. That watch cost plenty."

"All I need is the gold-plating," the robot said, shooting out a reddish gray from its eye. "Thank you." The watch was now dull gray metal.

"Hey!" Kelvin cried.

"If you use the rapport device, your health, fame and fortune will be assured," the robot said rapidly. "You will be as happy as any man of this era can be. It will solve all your problems-including Tharn. Wait a minute." The creature took a backward step and disappeared behind a hanging Oriental rug that had never been east of Peoria.

There was silence.

Kelvin looked from his altered watch to the flat, enigmatic object in his palm. It was about two inches by two inches, and no thicker than a woman's vanity-case, and there was a sunken push-button on its side.

He dropped it into his pocket and took a few steps forward. He looked behind the pseudo-Oriental rug, to find nothing except emptiness and a flapping slit cut in the canvas wall of the booth. The robot, it seemed, had taken a powder. Kelvin peered out through the slit. There was the light and sound of Ocean Park amusement pier, that was all. And the silvered, moving blackness of the Pacific Ocean, stretching to where small lights showed Malibu far up the invisible curve of the coastal cliffs.

So he came back inside the booth and looked around. A fat man in a swami's costume was unconscious behind the carved chest the robot had indicated. His breath, plus a process of deduction, told Kelvin that the man had been drinking.

Not knowing what else to do, Kelvin called on the Deity again. He found suddenly that he was thinking about someone or something called Tharn, who was an android.

Horomancy . . . time . . . rapport . . . no! Protective disbelief slid like plate armor around his mind. A practical robot couldn't be made. He knew that. He'd have heard-he was a reporter, wasn't he?

Sure he was.

Desiring noise and company, he went along to the shooting gallery and knocked down a few ducks. The flat case burned in his pocket. The dully burnished metal of his wristwatch burned in his memory. The remembrance of that drainage from his brain, and the immediate replacement, burned in his mind. Presently bar whiskey burned in his stomach.

He'd left Chicago because of sinusitis, recurrent and annoying. Ordinary sinusitis. Not schizophrenia or hallucinations or accusing voices coming from the walls. Not because he had been seeing bats or robots.

That thing hadn't really been a robot. It all had a perfectly natural explanation. Oh, sure.

Health, fame and fortune. And if -


The thought crashed with thunderbolt impact into his head.

And then another thought: I am going nuts!

A silent voice began to mutter insistently over and over. "Tharn-Tharn-Tharn-Tharn-"

And another voice, the voice of sanity and safety, answered it and drowned it out. Half aloud, Kelvin muttered: "I'm James Noel Kelvin. I'm a reporter-special features, legwork, rewrite. I'm thirty years old, unmarried, and I came to Los Angeles today and lost my baggage checks and-and I'm going to have 'another , drink and find a hotel. Anyhow, the climate seems to be curing my sinusitis."

Tharn, the muffled drum-beat said almost below the threshold of realization. Tharn, Tharn.


He ordered another drink and reached in his pocket for a coin. His hand touched the metal case. And simultaneously he felt a light pressure on his shoulder.

Instinctively he glanced around. It was a seven-fingered, spidery hand tightening-hairless, without nails -and white as smooth ivory.

The one, overwhelming necessity that sprang into Kelvin's mind was a simple longing to place as much space as possible between himself and the owner of that disgusting hand. It was a vital requirement, but one difficult of fulfillment, a problem that excluded everything else from Kelvin's thoughts. He knew, vaguely, that he was gripping the flat case in his pocket as though that could save him, but all he was thinking about was: I've got to get away from here.

The monstrous, alien thoughts of someone in the future spun him insanely along their current. It could not have taken a moment while that skilled, competent, trained mind, wise in the lore of an unthinkable future, solved the random problem that had come so suddenly, with such curious compulsion.

Three methods of transportation were simultaneously clear to Kelvin. Two he discarded; motorplates were obviously inventions yet to come, and quirling- involving, as it did, a sensory coil-helmet-was beyond him.

But the third method -

Already the memory was fading. And that hand was still tightening on his shoulder. He clutched at the vanishing ideas and desperately made his brain and his muscles move along the unlikely direction the future man had visualized.

And he was out in the open, a cold night wind blowing on him, still in a sitting position, but with nothing but empty air between his spine and the sid-walk.

He sat down suddenly.

Passers-by on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga were not much surprised at the'sight of a dark, lanky man sitting by the curb. Only one woman had noticed Kelvin's actual arrival, and she knew when she was well off. She went right on home.

Kelvin got up laughing with soft hysteria. "Teleportation," he said. "How did I work it? It's gone. . . . Hard to remember afterward, eh? I'll have to start carrying a notebook again."

And then- "But what about Tharn?"

He looked around, frightened. Reassurance came only after half an hour had passed without additional miracles. Kelvin walked along the Boulevard, keeping a sharp lookout. No Tharn, though.

Occasionally he slid a hand into his pocket and touched the cold metal of the case. Health, fame and fortune.

Why, he could -

But he did not press the button. Too vivid was the memory of that shocking, alien disorientation he had felt. The mind, the experiences, the habit-patterns of the far future were uncomfortably strong.

He would use the little case again - oh, yes. But there was no hurry. First he'd have to work out a few angles. His disbelief was completely gone.

Tharn showed up the next night and scared the daylights out of Kelvin again. Prior to that, the reporter had failed to find his baggage tickets, and was only consoled by the two hundred bucks in his wallet. He took a room-paying in advance-at a medium-good hotel, and began wondering how he might apply his pipeline to the future. Very sensibly, he decided to continue a normal life until something developed. At any rate, he'd have to make a few connections. He tried the Times, the Examiner, the News, and some others. But these things develop slowly, except in the movies. That night Kelvin was in his hotel room when his unwelcome guest appeared.

It was, of course, Tharn.

He wore a very large white turban, approximately twice the size of his head. He had a dapper black moustache, waxed downward at the tips like the moustache of a mandarin or a catfish. He stared urgently at
Kelvin out of the bathroom mirror.

Kelvin had been wondering whether or not he needed a shave before going out to dinner. He was rubbing his chin thoughtfully at the moment Tharn put in an appearance, and there was a perceptible mental lag between occurrence and perception, so that to Kelvin it seemed that he himself had mysteriously sprouted a long moustache. He reached for his upper lip. It was smooth. But in the glass the black waxed hairs quivered as Tharn pushed his face up against the surface of the mirror.

It was so shockingly disorienting, somehow, that Kelvin was quite unable to think at all. He took a quick step backward. The edge of the bathtub caught him behind the knees and distracted him momentarily, fortunately for his sanity. When he looked again there was only his own appalled face reflected above the washbowl. But after a second or two the face seemed to develop a cloud of white turban, and mandarinlike whiskers began to form sketchily.

Kelvin clapped a hand to his eyes and spun away.

In about fifteen seconds he spread his fingers enough to peep through them at the glass. He kept his palm pressed desperately to his upper lip, in some wild hope of inhibiting the sudden sprouting of a moustache.
What peeped back at him from the mirror looked like himself. At least it had no turban, and it wore hornrimmed glasses. He risked snatching his hand away from a quick look, and clapped it in place again just in time to prevent Tharn from taking shape in the glass.

Still shielding his face, he went unsteadily into the bedroom and took the flat case out of his coat pocket. But he didn't press the button that would close a mental synapse between two incongruous eras. He didn't want to do that again, he realized. More horrible, somehow, than what was happening now was the thought of reentering that alien brain.

He was standing before the bureau, and in the mirror one eye looked out at him between reflected fingers. It was a wild eye behind the gleaming spectacle-lens, but it seemed to be his own. Tentatively he took his hand away. . . .

This mirror showed more of Tharn. Kelvin wished it hadn't. Tharn was wearing white knee-boots of some glittering plastic. Between them and the turban he wore nothing whatever except a minimum of loincloth, also glittering plastic. Tharn was very thin, but he looked active. He looked quite active enough to spring right into the hotel room. His skin was whiter than his turban, and his hands had seven fingers each, all right.
Kelvin abruptly turned away, but Tharn was resourceful. The dark window made enough of a reflecting surface to show a lean, loinclothed figure. The feet showed bare and they were less normal than Tharn's hands. And the polished brass of a lamp base gave back the picture of a small, distorted face not Kelvin's own.

Kelvin found a corner without reflecting surfaces and pushed into it, his hands shielding his face. He was still holding the flat case.

Oh, fine, he thought bitterly. Everything's got a string on it. What good will this rapport gadget do me if
Tharn's going to show up every day? Maybe I'm only crazy. I hope so.

Something would have to be done unless Kelvin was prepared to go through life with his face buried in his hands. The worst of it was that Tharn had a haunting look of familiarity. Kelvin discarded a dozen possibilities, from reincarnation to the deja vu phenomenon, but -

He peeped through his hands, in time to see Tharn raising a cylindrical gadget of some sort and leveling it like a gun. That gesture formed Kelvin's decision. He'd have to do something, and fast. So, concentrating on the problem- I want out! - he pressed the button in the surface of the flat case.

And instantly the teleportation method he had forgotten was perfectly clear to him. Other matters, however, were obscure. The smells-someone was thinking - were adding up to a - there was no word for that, only a shocking visio-auditory ideation that was simply dizzying. Someone named Three Million and Ninety Pink had written a new natch. And there was the physical sensation of licking a twenty-four-dollar stamp and sticking it on a postcard.

But, most important, the man in the future had had - or would have-a compulsion to think about the teleportation method, and as Kelvin snapped back into his own mind and time, he instantly used that method. ...
He was falling.

Icy water attacked him hard. Miraculously he kept his grip on the flat case. He had a whirling vision of stars in a night sky, and the phosphorescent sheen of silvery light on a dark sea. Then brine stung his nostrils.

Kelvin had never learned how to swim.

As he went down for the last time, bubbling a scream, he literally clutched at the proverbial straw he
was holding. His finger pushed the button down again. There was no need to concentrate on the problem; he couldn't think of anything else.

Mental chaos, fantastic images - and the answer.

It took concentration, and there wasn't much time left. Bubbles streamed up past his face. He felt them, but he couldn't see them. All around, pressing in avidly, was the horrible coldness of the salt water. . . .
But he did know the method now, and he knew how it worked. He thought along the lines the future mind had indicated. Something happened. Radiation-that was the nearest familiar term-poured out of his brain and did peculiar things to his lung-tissues. His blood cells adapted themselves. . . .

He was breathing water, and it was no longer strangling him.

But Kelvin had also learned that his emergency adaptation could not be maintained for very long. Tele-portation was the answer to that. And surely he could remember the method now. He had actually used it to escape from Tharn only a few minutes ago.

Yet he could not remember. The memory was expunged cleanly from his mind. So there was nothing else to do but press the button again, and Kelvin did that, most reluctantly.

Dripping wet, he was standing on an unfamiliar street. It was no street he knew, but apparently it was in his own time and on his own planet. Luckily, tele-portation seemed to have limitations. The wind was cold.
Kelvin stood in a puddle that grew rapidly around his feet. He stared around.

He picked out a sign up the street that offered Turkish Baths, and headed moistly hi that direction. His thoughts were mostly profane. . . .

He was in New Orleans, of all places. Presently he was drunk in New Orleans. His thoughts kept going around in circles, and Scotch was a fine palliative, an excellent brake. He needed to get control again. He had an almost miraculous power, and he wanted to be able to use it effectively before the unexpected happened again. Tharn . . .

He sat in a hotel room and swigged Scotch. Gotta be logical!

He sneezed.

The trouble was, of course, that there were so few points of contact between his own mind and that of the future-man. Moreover, he'd got the rapport only in tunes of crisis. Like having access to the Alexandrian Library, five seconds a day. In five seconds you couldn't even start translating. . . .

Health, fame and fortune. He sneezed again. The robot had been a liar. His health seemed to be going fast.
What about that robot? How had he got involved anyway? He said he'd fallen into this era from the future, but robots are notorious liars. Gotta be logical.

Apparently the future was peopled by creatures not unlike the cast of a Frankenstein picture. Androids, robots, so-called men whose minds were shockingly different . . . Sneeze. Another drink.

The robot had said that the case would lose its power after Kelvin had achieved health, fame and fortune. Which was a distressing thought. Suppose he attained those enviable goals, found the little push-button useless, and then Tharn showed up? Oh, no. That called for another shot.

Sobriety was the wrong condition in which to approach a matter that in itself was as wild as delirium tremens, even though, Kelvin knew, the science he had stumbled on was all theoretically quite possible. But not in this day and age. Sneeze.

The trick would be to pose the right problem and use the case at some time when you weren't drowning or being menaced by the bewhiskered android with his seven-fingered hands and his ominous rodlike weapon.
Find the problem.

But that future-mind was hideous.

And suddenly, with drunken clarity, Kelvin realized that he was profoundly drawn to that dim, shadowy world of the future.

He could not see its complete pattern, but he sensed it somehow. He knew that it was right, a far better world and tune than his. If he could be that unknown man who dwelt there, all would go well.

Man must needs love the highest, he thought wryly. Oh, well. He shook the bottle. How much had he absorbed? He felt fine.

Gotta be logical.

Outside the window street-lights blinked off and on. Neons traced goblin languages against the night. It seemed rather alien, too, but so did Kelvin's own body. He started to laugh, but a sneeze choked that off.
All I want, he thought, is health, fame and fortune. Then I'll settle down and live happily ever after, without a care or worry. I won't need this enchanted case after that. Happy ending.

On impulse he took out the box and examined it. He tried to pry it open and failed. His finger hovered over the button.

How can I - he thought, and his finger moved half an inch. . . .

It wasn't so alien now that he was drunk. The future man's name was Quarra Vee. Odd he had never realized that before, but how often does a man think of his own name? Quarra Vee was playing some sort of game vaguely reminiscent of chess, but his opponent was on a planet of Sirius, some distance away. The chessmen were all unfamiliar. Complicated, dizzying space-time gambits flashed through Quarra Vee's mind as Kelvin listened in. Then Kelvin's problem thrust through, the compulsion hit Quarra Vee, and -

It was all mixed up. There were two problems, really. How to cure a cold - coryza. And how to become healthy, rich and famous in a practically prehistoric era-for Quarra Vee.

A small problem, however, to Quarra Vee. He solved it and went back to his game with the Sirian. Kelvin was back in the hotel room in New Orleans. He was very drunk or he wouldn't have risked it. The method involved using his brain to tune in on another brain in this present twentieth century that had exactly the wavelength he required. All sorts of factors would build up to the sum total of that wavelength- experience, opportunity, position, knowledge, imagination, honesty-but he found it at last, after hesitation among three totals that were all nearly right. Still, one was Tighter, to three decimal points. Still drunk as a lord, Kelvin clamped on a mental tight beam, turned on the teleportation, and rode the beam across America to a well-equipped laboratory, where a man sat reading.

The man was bald and had a bristling red moustache. He looked up sharply at some sound Kelvin made.

"Hey!" he said. "How did you get in here?"

"Ask Quarra Vee," Kelvin said.

"Who? What?" The man put down his book. Kelvin called on his memory. It seemed to be slipping. He used the rapport case for an instant, and refreshed his mind. Not so unpleasant this time, either. He was beginning to understand Quarra Vee's world a little. He liked it. However, he supposed he'd forget that too.

"An improvement on Woodward's protein analogues," he told the red-moustached man. "Simple synthesis will do it."

"Who the devil are you?"

"Call me Jim," Kelvin said simply. "And shut up and listen." He began to explain, as to a small, stupid child. (The man before him was one of America's foremost chemists.) "Proteins are made of amino acids. There are about thirty-three amino acids-" "There aren't."

"There are. Shut up. Their molecules can be arranged in lots of ways. So we get an almost infinite variety of proteins. And all living things are forms of protein. The absolute synthesis involves a chain of amino acids long enough to recognize clearly as a protein molecule. That's been the trouble."

The man with the red moustache seemed quite interested. "Fischer assembled a chain of eighteen," he said, blinking. "Abderhalden got up to nineteen, and Woodward, of course, has made chains ten thousand units long. But as for testing-"

"The complete protein molecule consists of complete sets of sequences. But if you test only one or two sections of an analogue you can't be sure of the others. Wait a minute." Kelvin used the rapport case again. "Now I know. Well, you can make almost anything out of synthesized protein. Silk, wool, hair-but the main thing, of course," he said, sneezing, "is a cure for coryza."
"Now look-" said the red-moustached man.
"Some of the viruses are chains of amino acids, aren't they? Well, modify their structure. Make 'em harmless. Bacteria, too. And synthesize antibiotics."

"I wish I could. However, Mr.-"

"Just call me Jim."

"Yes. However, all this is old stuff."

"Grab your pencil," Kelvin said. "From now on it'll be solid, with riffs. The method of synthesizing and testing is as follows -"

He explained, very thoroughly and clearly. He had to use the rapport case only twice. And when he had finished, the man with the red moustache laid down his pencil and stared.

"This is incredible," he said. "If it works -"

"I want health, fame and fortune," Kelvin said stubbornly. "It'll work."

"Yes, but - my good man-"

However, Kelvin insisted. Luckily for himself, the mental testing of the red-moustached man had included briefing for honesty and opportunity, and it ended with the chemist agreeing to sign partnership papers with Kelvin. The commercial possibilities of the process were unbounded. Du Pont or GM would be glad to buy it.

"I want lots of money. A fortune."

"You'll make a million dollars," the red-moustached man said patiently.

"Then I want a receipt. Have to have this in black and white. Unless you want to give me my million now."

Frowning, the chemist shook his head. "I can't do that. I'll have to run tests, open negotiations-but don't worry about that. Your discovery is certainly worth a million. You'll be famous, too."

"And healthy?"

"There won't be any more disease, after a while," the chemist said quietly. "That's the real miracle."

"Write it down," Kelvin clamored.

"All right. We can have partnership papers drawn up tomorrow. This will do temporarily. Understand, the actual credit belongs to you."

"It's got to be in ink. A pencil won't do."

"Just a minute, then," the red-moustached man said, and went away in search of ink. Kelvin looked around the laboratory, beaming happily.

Tharn materialized three feet away. Tharn was holding the rod-weapon. He lifted it.

Kelvin instantly used the rapport case. Then he thumbed his nose at Tharn and teleported himself far away.

He was immediately in a cornfield, somewhere, but undistilled corn was not what Kelvin wanted. He tried again. This time he reached Seattle.

That was the beginning of Kelvin's monumental two-week combination binge and chase. His thoughts weren't pleasant.

He had a frightful hangover, ten cents in his pocket, and an overdue hotel bill. A fortnight of keeping one jump ahead of Tharn, via teleportation, had frazzled his nerves so unendurably that only liquor had kept
him going. Now even that stimulus was failing. The drink died in him and left what felt like a corpse.

Kelvin groaned and blinked miserably. He took off his glasses and cleaned them, but that didn't help.

What a fool.

He didn't even know the name of the chemist!

There was health, wealth and fame waiting for him just around the corner, but what corner? Someday he'd find out, probably, when the news of the new protein synthesis was publicized, but when would that be? In the meantime, what about Tharn?

Moreover, the chemist couldn't locate him, either. The man knew Kelvin only as Jim. Which had somehow seemed a good idea at the time, but not now.

Kelvin took out the rapport case and stared at it with red eyes. Quarra Vee, eh? He rather liked Quarra Vee now. Trouble was, a half hour after his rapport, at most, he could forget all the details.

This time he used the push-button almost as Tharn snapped into bodily existence a few feet away.

The teleportation angle again. He was sitting in the middle of a desert. Cactus and Joshua trees were all the scenery. There was a purple range of mountains far away.

No Tharn, though.

Kelvin began to be thirsty. Suppose the case stopped working now? Oh, this couldn't go on. A decision hanging fire for a week finally crystallized into a conclusion so obvious he felt like kicking himself. Perfectly obvious!

Why hadn't he thought of it at the very beginning?

He concentrated on the problem: How can I get rid of Tharn? He pushed the button. . . .

And a moment later, he knew the answer. It would be simple, really.

The pressing urgency was gone suddenly. That seemed to release a fresh flow of thought. Everything became quite clear.

He waited for Tharn.

He did not have to wait long. There was a tremor in the shimmering air, and the turbaned, pallid figure sprang into tangible reality.

The rod-weapon was poised.

Taking no chances, Kelvin posed his problem again, pressed the button, and instantly reassured himself as to the method. He simply thought in a very special and peculiar way-the way Quarra Vee had indicated.

Tharn was flung back a few feet. The moustached mouth gaped open as he uttered a cry.

"Don't!" the android cried. "I've been trying to-"

Kelvin focused harder on his thought. Mental energy, he felt, was pouring out toward the android.

Tharn croaked. "Trying-you didn't-give me- chance-"

And then Tharn was lying motionless on the hot sand, staring blindly up. The seven-fingered hands twitched once and were still. The artificial life that had animated the android was gone. It would not return.

Kelvin turned his back and drew a long, shuddering breath. He was safe. He closed his mind to all thoughts but one, all problems but one.

How can I find the red-moustached man?

He pressed the button.


This is the way the story starts:

Quarra Vee sat in the temporal warp with his android Tharn, and made sure everything was under control.

"How do I look?" he asked.

"You'll pass," Tharn said. "Nobody will be suspicious in the era you're going to. It didn't take long to synthesize the equipment."

"Not long. Clothes-they look enough like real wool and linen, I suppose. Wristwatch, money-everything in order. Wristwatch-that's odd, isn't it? Imagine people who need machinery to tell time!"

"Don't forget the spectacles," Tharn said.

Quarra Vee put them on. "Ugh. But I suppose-"

"It'll be safer. The optical properties in the lenses are a guard you may need against mental radiations. Don't take them off, or the robot may try some tricks."

"He'd better not," Quarra Vee said. "That so-and-so runaway robot! What's he up to, anyway, I wonder? He always was a malcontent, but at least he knew his place. I'm sorry I ever had him made. No telling what he'll do in a semi-prehistoric world if we don't catch him and bring him home."

"He's in that horomancy booth," Tharn said, leaning out of the time-warp. "Just arrived. You'll have to catch him by surprise. And you'll need your wits about you, too. Try not to go off into any more of those deep-thought compulsions you've been having. They could be dangerous. That robot will use some of his tricks if he gets the chance. I don't know what powers he's developed by himself, but I do know he's an expert at hypnosis and memory erasure already. If you aren't careful he'll snap your memory-track and substitute a false brain-pattern. Keep those glasses on. If anything should go wrong, I'll use the rehabilitation ray on you, eh?" And he held up a small rodlike projector.

Quarra Vee nodded. "Don't worry. I'll be back before you know it. I have an appointment with that Sirian to finish our game this evening."

It was an appointment he never kept.

Quarra Vee stepped out of the temporal warp and strolled along the boardwalk toward the booth. The clothing he wore felt tight, uncomfortable, rough. He wriggled a little in it. The booth stood before him now, with its painted sign.

He pushed aside the canvas curtain and something  - a carelessly hung rope - swung down at his face, knocking the horn-rimmed glasses askew. Simultaneously a vivid bluish light blazed into his unprotected eyes. He felt a curious, sharp sensation of disorientation, a shifting motion that almost instantly was gone.

The robot said, "You are James Kelvin."