Monday, 5 December 2016

calling time

They used to play You'll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers at chucking out time, I'm not in the mood for mawkish though, so I'll be breaking with tradition. Speaking of mawkish, how do you get to that from witty bitter and sardonic in one easy step? The answer is, translate Jacques Brel into English.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Dunno if you've noticed...

A caricature from a few years ago, that didn't get submitted for publication.

...but after more than a few years of comparative rarity,  political caricatures have made an instant come back. In the UK we had a quite active tradition of occasionally biting, usually cruel satire that has suffered quite a bit from censorship and a circumspection that is understandable taken in the light of the French experience.

Private Eye our erstwhile most prominent organ in the field of satire, has been for a decade or so, occupied with the more cosy coffee table type of material. Slightly ironically,  the kind of material that used to be the source of such contempt from Private Eye when that form of humour was practiced by Punch. The Eye's still worth a read though because, ironically again, it's become Britain's last real newspaper.

This resurrection of a passed art form has arrived courtesy of one political figure, who by happy coincidence, not only shares his christian name with a prominent cartoon character, his surname also happens to be transposable with some onomatopoeia and--he has a ridiculous hair style. It's game on for the caricaturists I think.

BTW, no I didn't draw the above on soiled bogroll, it's chip paper marked with a ring from a mug of tea. If you want to submit cartoons for publication, my advice is that political caricatures are treated like breakfast at the captain's table, you have to be invited first. As such you only see that kind of caricature from established contributors, all other topics are fair game though.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Politics

I've been thinking these last few days, mulling solemn events of more than a little significance. Wondering if there's finally a chance that certain people will finally have to face up to some reality. Realistically I have to put the odds at no better than 1 in 10, and the odds that some justice will be administered even lower, at least though there's a chance now. I'm not talking about e-mail servers, I'm not talking about Syria or the fictional distinction between good insurgents and bad insurgents. I'm not even talking about Iraq, I'm talking about where it all began, the Balkans. So long ago now it seems more than a lifetime and for more than a few, it has been exactly that.

The Balkan conflict in the former Yugoslavia is significant because it's when we started lying to ourselves. It's point the marks the departure from partisan bias in the media and the transition to state serving propaganda. And you know what, it's been a fucking trial living with it but at least now, I have that extra bit of insight into what living under an autocratic regime feels like; even if my level of comfort and safety has been maintained far above the level of those burdened by such circumstance. That's the irony really, it was done in the name of my benefit and for those in other nations and yet would the twin towers still stand had the a certain foreign intelligence agency, not been busily doing business with individuals like Osama in the Balkans? Would I be able to travel across the Atlantic without getting my privates groped?

A cynic would say: hens coming to roost, I am a cynic but those words are too bitter and too callous for me and the implication is not true. Consequences follow inevitably but the price seems always to be enacted upon the innocent, men and women at work. Of course, none of us are so innocent any more, the taint of guilt runs deep, it marks the complacent and acquiescent in equal measure. It seems fitting that like those without conviction in a significant cause, we're left chasing flags of no meaning in purgatory, as our culture decays into paltry divisions.

Maybe there's a way out, I dunno I don't have a crystal ball but here's hoping.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Master and Commander


Even though it's a slightly bowdlerised adaptation, What a fantastic film Master and Commander (The Far Side of the World) is. Somehow this particular clip seems very appropriate today.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Light the blue touch paper and then retire,
Another choice is also to be found
I talk of a worm that crawls through the ground
Not the crow that surmounts the lofty spire.
There's so very little for to us admire
When thieves stake their claim 'pon hallowed ground.
Trouble follows soon and I'll be bound
There'll be just a few illusions to expire.

We've seen it all before, maybe though this time,
We should take break to ponder why
It will be that Donald or Goldman's bank
That drives that nation down to the tank.
Who'll be the 'man' to make dead pilgrims cry
Speak, have your say, soon that'll be a crime.





Sunday, 6 November 2016

Tackle

The Rocket Fishing Rod
The Rocket Launcher Fishing Rod
With the videos above it's a case of spot the parody, the original Rocket Fishing Rod and its associated promotion, seem to me to be a particularly cruel hoax to spring on the naive. It's a case to ponder just how embarrassing it must be to turn up at a water, all bright eyed and expectant, with what is essentially a toy. Facing down the ridicule and coping with the concomitant disillusion, is not something I think children should be subjected to, neither should their unfortunate, possibly gullible, parents. None the less, The Rocket Fishing Rod became a bit of a cult item, with more than a few of us anglers, eager to seek out this bizarre artefact. When I tried to track one down, I found it was unavailable, either withdrawn or out of stock. A MkII version made a brief appearance on the market a couple of years later, with an extendible section, complete with plastic rod rings but by then my interest had waned and I wanted the original, in all its gaudy faux plastic awfulness.

Australia's Alvey Reel
Fishing and the tackle concomitant with the practise, is an interesting subject to ponder. The means methods and equipment we use to catch fish, are subject to culturally acquired notions and as such, the variations in such culture are reflected in the differing equipment favoured by differing cultures. A good indicator of such divergence, is the esteem in Australia held in regard for the locally produced Alvey Reel. The Alvey seems a bit of a monster to eyes such as mine, seemingly crude even by comparison with to the long expired patterns of yesteryear's reels. But those are my culturally acquired notions at work, to be honest, British anglers are prone to displaying some bizarre tackle preferences when taken in the cold light of practicality. Such an example would be spending close to £300 on a custom built Abu or other multiplier to pursue flounder, when you could really get away with a old wooden Lincoln centrepin, the sort of thing that used to run a fiver at a junk shop. If you think fishing is about catching fish though, then you've probably never been fishing. You could spend all day pulling out fingerling pollack in Weymouth harbour if you want to catch fish and after pollock number 3,458, there's a chance you'll begin to understand.

I do have a collection of Australian fishing magazines from several decades ago, the Alvey features reasonably prominently in the articles concerned with beach angling, although even then, some of the more exotic equipment is evident. Since then, I believe the Alvey star has faded somewhat but they're still taken seriously as options. They've even produced geared reels to enhance their performance but the quoted 2:1 retrieve ratio is cause for slight concern.  I think possibly, a lack of engineering finesse is betrayed there, because a 2:1 gear ratio will not be optimised for wear according to the hunting tooth principle.

A 'pimped' reel
Into this cauldron of culturally acquired notions and expectations, there enters Jamie and his business of 'pimping' reels. Pimping in this case, essentially means adding magnets to assist braking on multiplier reels, along with some other bits and pieces. To be honest, I'm not really sure what magnets are for on multiplier reel, other than for fulfilling the task you should be using your thumb for that is. I've heard a few people moan about getting their thumb burnt as they brake the spool with it but seriously, are you kidding me, just how frail are you? Even the leader knot doesn't smart if it catches your thumb, yet you still hear this persistent myth, perhaps it's gay thing, 'Ooh no, ma poor thumbsie'. On second thoughts, I shouldn't cast aspersions upon our gay angling brethren, not least because distance casting is certainly a hairy chested, full on butch endeavour for any angler to undertake.

You'll encounter the term pendulum in reference to distance casting and as a technique I can tell you it works, I'm not so sure about the prescribed equipment though. And I say this through dint of experience, I do constrain my efforts with the pendulum because it's just such a beast to unleash and that whine it elicits from the reel is truly alarming as you think, when will it flippin' stop? The idea though that you need a tricked out reel is a bit misleading. I recall a trip just west of Selsey, a sandbank lay sullenly some distance off shore. 'I'll aim for that sandbank,' I said somewhat wryly and my quip was received with a yeah right look. I had in my possession, probably the jokiest reel in the world with which to attempt such a feat, only slightly less embarrassing the rocket fishing rod. A reel I purchased in state of crass naivety, an Abu AG Seven. Replete with level wind and sans ball races, it had just the bare bronze of plain bush bearings to facilitate the task. So I make my effort and... about a minute and a half later the lead hits water, the gentle sound of a distant splash belied the torrential fountain of water that accompanied the feat. I tried hard to remain sanguine, yeah like I do that every day but it was just impossible, my reaction was more like: what the fu... just happened?

I don't quite recall if I caught any fish that day, maybe some black bream after we'd moved back towards Selsey, The sandbank location had been a spot explored in the quest for a daytime tope, the huge bait required for such a quest, probably accounting for the distance during casting. The received wisdom concerning tope, states that they're only catchable at night or during the low light of dawn or dusk but I'd since had one steal a chum bag while fishing at a location where the ebb draws a current perpendicular to the shore, a brief mania to catch one during the day had taken hold.

The media is a key vector in establishing our broader culturally acquired notions, we rely on news gathering institutions for a great deal of the information we base our view of the world on. The same mechanism is at work on a smaller scale with angling and the press that services that interest, only if you thought the broader media was jaundiced by bias, then wait till you get hold of an angling periodical. It's not quite so bad today as it was a decade or so ago but they're still pretty much just dedicated to selling you tackle or promoting some personality who--wants to sell you tackle. Just how pervasive the bias and misrepresentation is in the angling press is, was brought home to me during a period when I was skirting its periphery and became aware of a notable contributor who it seems was entirely ghost written. Ghost writing is associated in the broader world, with personalities promoting their image rather than their ability, people concerned with looks and style, film stars and such like. It was something of a surprise to me that the individual of concern here was not writing his own material because--well, he's was no film star.

The concept of discreet culturally acquired attitudes is reasonably well recognized, as is the problems associated with it. It's so well recognized that a certain abuse has arisen in regard to it. I'm thinking of the terms bandied so thoughtlessly in the media and by politicians, terms like knife culture. My assurance has let me down again because I'm not really sure what knife culture is it supposed to mean, there's a group of people occupied with the adoration of knives or something?

At the moment, I'm saving very hard for my special reel, I'm not too sure I like the term pimped, sorry Jamie, good luck selling those reels. I'm not a pimp, though perhaps if I were I could afford one of your reels. Hey, maybe I could buy an Alvey, get one shipped over from the land of Oz. I'd need to work on my biceps but perhaps if I shared some tips on audio recording with the sales manager, I could swing a discount.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Things they don't tell you

We had a bit of barney in the papers and news media this weekend, the Russians are coming, or rather they came and went their way through one of the world's busiest shipping routes. The headlines engaging this topic were just a teensy bit bizarre, I'm not that sure how often war ships are spotted in the English Channel but it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to learn it was something like, every bloody day. Of course this is a special case because while we're not exactly at war--yet, with the Russians we are engaged in a degree conflict because we're allied to the powers trying to bring down the Syrian state, while the Russians on the other hand, are Syria's ally. I suppose there's something to be grateful for in the fact that the conflict with Russia, at present, takes the form of an exchange of stern words rather than anything more dangerous. It has though, been a certain cause for bewilderment that the credibility of the public pronouncements accompanying episodes such as this, is quite so tenuous, or is it really such a surprise?

Just suppose for a moment that uncle Vlad was every bit as bad as implied by our politicians and the media. That he circumvented and suppressed democracy in his country and held on to power by the most brutal means. One of the means would be a clandestine paramilitary force associated with the ruling party. While the association would be close and the loyalty of that paramilitary group unquestioned, it wouldn't be wholly financed by Vlad or his party, rather it were left to its own devices to raise funds for both its own activities and Vlad's party. Such means would include blackmail, extortion, drug trafficking, prostitution and murder. What a shocking state of affairs that would be, how do you think it would play in the British press? I'm thinking we'd be hearing about it a lot, every day in fact, with accounts of this abhorrent behavior emblazoned across the newsstands.

Of course there's been no such paramilitary involvement in mainstream European politics since Nazi Germany has there? Oh really, well let me tell you about an organization you've never heard of: Service d'Action Civique. You've never heard of 'em because--well not a very convenient fact to be bandying about in the media really. Thankfully this organization was consigned to history, when the voters in their country, France in case you hadn't guessed, got fed up with the party ruling their country since the end of the war and voted in someone else. Thing is though, this paramilitary group was alive and kicking through the 60's, 70's and into the 80's, merrily going about their business and how did the British government react? Were there any trade sanctions or angry speeches in the house of commons? Er no--what the government in fact did was get into bed with Frenchy and open up the British market to his industry and agriculture.

So how does this relate to the current difficulties in our relations with Russia? My explanations is that, all sins are forgivable (if not publicly so) if there's something in it for the lads. So uncle Vlad, yeah he probably isn't someone you'd want to annoy and he is, let's face it, a politician so he's subject to the same circumspection we should reserve for all politicians. As for the other stuff, the things that're hinted at, like political rivals at home and abroad being subject to threats and assassination, well who knows? What I do know is though, if he were French and he were doing it in 1964, everything would be just fine.