All the comforts of home

You will need a computer, telephone line and broadband connection before you can begin our online admissions process…

An online services company, Arise Virtual Solutions Inc, has posted an ad on Tip Top Job, looking for home-based people to do something-or-other for their important portfolio, that now includes Sky and BT. Apparently, I can service from the comfort of my own home, gaining access to the hours of my choice from my choice of their clients.

It’s clearly a choice position these days, servicing. And in comfort, too.

Despite my having listed Tip Top Job as Spam, not because they are evil but just because my initial subscription to their information bulletin has proved annoyingly pointless, the message cleverly arises in my inbox this morning.

Of course, as I don’t have a computer, a telephone line or a broadband connection, I didn’t get the message. Or the Tip Top Job, sadly.

Damn.

It’s a virtual problem, choosing. I think I’ll stick to comfort.

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A new dawn

Fame and acclaim can be yours. People are impressed by your ability to create beauty and style wherever you go. Don’t be surprised if someone asks to write a profile on you for a blog or magazine. Of course, you’ll want to look your best for a photograph. This would be a great time to buy a new outfit or update your image. Have you been contemplating a career change? Start looking for jobs that appeal to your artistic side.

Yahoo! Horoscope

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Looking my best for the photographers

And why not? As I mince through life’s highway, beauty and style just flow from me. Magazine bloggers puff and pant in my wake, profile-pens at the ready, but they are hard-pressed to keep up as I speed on wings of fame towards my new career, buying outfits in the latest, most updated artistic image. I am a stranger to surprise, frankly, for my every waking moment brings new acclaim, fresh jobs, impressed people, photographs; art, and yet more stylish art-fame. Life is sweet. Life is good. Life is art.

Penurious old age sucks, don’t it? Compared with what is yet to be?

Dear Beanbags

I am sorry to go banging on about this once again. No, really, I am.

No doubt some of you even think it is quite acceptable behavior on the part of your computer system software provider to terminate your activities without warning or apology at approximately 10 am every day for five days in a row in order to download fresh patches to make up for the dodgy old crap they downloaded last week, as it is almost certainly written somewhere in their endless licensing conditions that, as you have paid for the pleasure, they can do what they bloody well like.

After terminating my program, interrupting my train of thought, preventing me from working (illegal, surely?) carefully dismantling my desktop, plunging me into darkness and the gloom of despair and ensuring that my lengthy download (from a CD) of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s The Case of the 3-Sided Dream in Audio Color couldn’t quite complete before Media Player froze and wouldn’t unlock, The Microsoft Security Center window then popped in, to remind me my system is being monitored for further glitches, so I’ll quickly say this.

If you’re monitoring this, Microsoft, why don’t you stick something sharp and painful up your useless, fat, furry American ass, and twizzle on your beanbag through all Eternity?

Oh, maybe you already have!

FUCK YOU. AGAIN.

The Omega version

January 14th, 1991. The Marketing Manager leaned forward, pushing an object the size of a small paving slab across the boardroom table. Resting on it, connected by a curly cord, was a telephone handset. ‘Do you think there could be a consumer market for these?’ he asked. The Creative Director gazed at the mobile phone, before replying: ‘Only if you can get the price under fifty quid.’
May 4th, 2001. Wrestling an object the size and thickness of a cigarette packet from his trousers pocket, the Creative Director flipped open the clamshell cover and peered at the tiny screen. His daughter was calling, but as he tried to answer the car drove under a bridge and he lost the call. Emerging the other side, he pulled over in a bus-stop layby and started to key the number. Battery Low, came the message. ‘Bloody technology!’ he snarled. It was all rather dispiriting.
July 19th, 2014. The Creative Director, now retired, wandered into the high-street store and placed his battered phone on the counter. ‘I’ve had a text to say my contract is up this month’, he began. ‘So I’m due an upgrade?’ ‘Certainly’, brightened the assistant. ‘We have this, or this … or the new iPhone…’ Opening a small box, he produced a wafer-thin, shiny tablet, little bigger than a credit card. ‘It has 3Gb memory, global-positioning, 250Mb of internet access, 14 megapixel camera, face recognition, High Definition video…’ ‘Does it make phone calls?’ the Creative Director asked, half-joking.
September 6th, 2020. Silvery-haired and deaf in one ear, the Creative Director limped into the store, and with nervous reluctance accosted the diffident youth behind the counter. ‘I’m due another upgrade,’ he announced speculatively. The young man jabbed at a button on the virtual keypad in front of him, and a curled strip of something shiny extruded from the printer. It looked like an ordinary till receipt. ‘So, where’s the phone?’ asked the Creative Director. ‘That IS the phone’, the assistant replied, tearing it off and handing it to him. The molecule-thin strip of graphene lit up. ‘You have five emails from your ex-wife’, it announced brightly. ‘Should I call your lawyer?’
January 4th, 2025. Leaning breathlessly on his Zimmer frame, the Creative Director fixed the shop assistant with a rheumy eye. ‘Upgrade’, he whispered hoarsely. ‘Phone. What have you got?’ ‘That’s fine’, breezed the assistant. ‘All done.’ ‘What do you mean?’ asked the old man. ”Where’s the phone?’ ‘This IS the phone’, said the young man, gesturing vaguely around the room, to the street outside. ‘You’re the phone. I’m the phone. It’s all the phone.’ ‘So how do I make a call?’ ‘You just… call. There’s no trick to it. Look, who would you like to call?’ ‘My daughter in California?’ suggested the Creative Director, hopelessly. ‘Hi Dad’, said a familiar voice, apparently inside his head. He seemed to be floating in a grey mist.
June 14th, 2026. ‘Poor old guy’, said the paramedic, with brisk finality. ‘He was due an upgrade. Looks like he got the Omega version.’

The thief of Baghdad

As the strange and brutal force of jihadi mercenaries known as ISIS draws ever nearer to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, supported in large part by the Sunni muslim populations of the towns it has overrun in its path, frustrated by their lack of political influence under a largely Shia-dominated, corrupt and incompetent government, it is perhaps worth reflecting on the turbulent history of the region, and the sometimes earth-shaking events that periodically occur there.

In 1258, the Mongol general Hulagu, grandson (and who wasn’t?) of the famous Genghiz, swatted aside (or, rather, broke some dams and drowned) the Abbassid Caliph’s army and laid siege to the city of Baghdad, most influential in the Islamic world.

In a relatively short time, the city fell. Hulagu, a Buddhist married to a Christian woman, had been enjoined by his brother, the Grand Khan Mongke, to be merciful to those who submitted immediately but ruthless to any who opposed him. The Caliph resisted, albeit briefly: Hulagu ordered that Baghdad be destroyed.

Hundreds of years of civilization in the form of Islamic libraries, schools, art and architecture were simply expunged. It was said the Tigris ran black with ink. Then it ran red with the blood of anything up to a million citizens. No-one was spared. Having been forced to watch the mass beheadings, the Caliph was rolled in a carpet, to prevent his body from defiling the ground, and Hulagu sent his cavalry to trample him to death. (This might seem a relatively merciful act, unless you give credence to the version that they first removed his skin. Unfortunately, we have only the testimony of the unreliable Venetian traveller, Marco-pedia, for much of our knowledge of goings-on in the courts of the khans.)

Among the other results of Mongke’s (and his successor, Kublai’s) campaigns against the muslim empire, was the founding in Persia of an Ikhanate, a prototype of modern-day Iran, under Hulagu. The Persian civilization was briefly restored to greatness, and the Parsi language replaced Arabic as the official currency of politics, poetry, philosophy.

But the story of the Mongol conquests is incredibly convoluted and has tremendous resonance in the region today. For, had things turned out even a little differently, it seems unlikely that our modern world would be even remotely recognisable as we know it!

Hulagu enjoined with the crusading Franks in what is now Lebanon and the Armenians to the north, essentially to create a Christian force, and turning from his conquest of Iraq overran what is now Syria, taking Aleppo and then Damascus in 1260, where he celebrated a victorious Christian mass in the Grand Mosque.

He then sent out envoys with letters of mark, to try to recruit an alliance of the European monarchies against the muslims, whose centre of power had now shifted to the Mamluk dynasty in Cairo. But his strategy was frustrated by King Manfred of Sicily, an ally of the Mamluks, who intercepted the envoys. Hulagu’s letters seem never to have reached their destinations, and in 1265 he died in Persia, putting an end to his grand design to rid the world of the Islamic caliphates.

And after that, the fiercesome Mongols start to disappear quietly from history.

Despite further conquests that brought the Mongols an empire stretching from Austria to China, decades of infighting over the succession to the Khanate among Genghiz’s numerous descendants and the religious conversions of  later khans rapidly led to the almost complete dissolution of the Mongol empire, and the reascendence under the Ummayyids of modern-day Islam.

But for those letters that were never received – a failure, if you like, of the 13th-century postal service – or, more likely, were simply ignored (at the time, the Plantaganet Henry 111 of England was too busy surrendering his Anjevin lands to Louis 1X of France), it is quite possible that there would today be no politically fractured, yet nevertheless resurgent Islamic republic stretching from Morocco to Indonesia; no civil war raging in Syria, no Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan; no threat to the southern flank of the Russian empire; no al-Shabab atrocities in west-central Africa, no post-9/11 failure of the American project for the 21st Century and no ISIS insurgents, well-funded and armed by the puritanical Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia,  supposedly a Western ally, currently slaughtering their way eastwards towards the trembling citizenry of Baghdad.

Ironically, then, the USA and its European allies, who must be held largely responsible first for inventing, and then accidentally or carelessly destabilising the geopolitical situation in Mesopotamia, are now appealing to the very ‘axis of evil’ that once, seven hundred and fifty years ago, potentially stood in the way of the complete Islamic domination of the region, not to say half of the then-known world, to step in and save Iraq from fragmenting into three warring parts.

One fears, however, that any intervention by Shia Iran can now only come too late to prevent a Salafist fundamentalist takeover and possibly, another bloodbath in Baghdad on the way to a new caliphate stretching from Bradford to Batavia.

Once again, the ‘Franks’ have missed their chance.

Postscriptum

26 June. Reports say that the USA, which is still havering over sending drones or planes to hit ISIS convoys, has confirmed that Assad of Syria has already preempted them and that Syrian airforce jets have been in action against ISIS forces in Iraq, in support of the al Malaki government.

The thick plottens, as my old granny used to say.

No-one is in charge

I’m so bored.

I thought about maybe going for Sexy Russian Bride, Anastasia19, who is ‘waiting for me’. It seems an odd name, usually it’s just letters and no numerals. Unless it’s a password, maybe. Anyway, it seemed an attractive proposition, a sexy new bride and free Russian lessons thrown in, romantic sour-cream (is there any other kind?) blinis for breakfast, cosy potato suppers washed down with copious drafts of freezing vodka… visits with the in-laws, conducted via some of the world’s dodgiest airlines… readings from Pushkin and Gogol… Rachmaninov wheezing on the wind-up gramophone… smiling, toothless babushkas dancing the (That’s enough scenes from contemporary Russian life. Ed.)

But then Sex Offender Alerts – Child Predator in Your Area sends a warning chill down my evil, perverted old spine. Is 19 still a child, I wondered? Compared with me, I suppose. Eccentric old blogger, hunchbacked, one-eyed, alopecia, lives alone (apart from a cat with an evil eye and a boy with a trumpet, who claims to be moving out today)… puts the garbage out in his pyjamas… reads books… shouts incoherently at drivers exceeding the 30mph limit… Perfect candidate for a pitchfork lynching by the neighbours.

They’re probably as bored as I am.

And why are we so bored?

Because this morning, we awoke once more to the merry sound of a jackhammer attachment on a rented minidigger, crunching through tarmac, pitiless men with huge anglegrinders and torsos of teak, carving up the road outside, across from my gate, amid choking clouds of dust and four-letter oaths.

Yes, the gang from Welsh Water is here – again.

I say again, because it seems like only last Friday they were here with their little traffic-disruptors, digging up the selfsame bit of road, a pipe-trench they religiously filled-in and tarmacked over before they left for their weekend homes and their Caribbean weekend fishing trips.

And now they’re back, digging that sucker up again, opening her up, ripping her open, crunching and grinding, with arms of mahogany, to lay those pipes.

I could understand it. There’s a new estate across the road of traditional-looking little houses with no chimneys and a block of flats they made from big sections of cardboard. The new owners are impatient to get in, they come most weekends and sit in their little cars parked on the as-yet unmade road and gaze longingly at their new homes while the little children run about laughing, unaware of sex predators in the area. But they can’t get in yet, because for some reason known only to themselves the builders decided to build the houses and flats first, and then put in the underground water supplies, the sewerage, the electricity and phone cables, the ‘service utilitiess’, presumably as an afterthought.

Consequently, the little houses are surrounded by mounds of earth and rubble, blocking the doorways up to window height. While, ominously, around the corner the engineers from British Telecom have the other road up just by the phone distribution box, poised to dig up the main road again after the Welsh Water men have filled-in their trench and departed.

And it has been going on for months, and months, and months and still more months, since the developer moved onto the old brownfield site below the flood plain that was two feet underwater in June two years ago, as if they didn’t notice, where a small hotel had once stood, fond in the memory of the area, and began clearing it of the original piles of earth and rubble, grubbing-out the buddleia and sending the grumpy old watchman packing.

It is possibly like this because there is no main contractor. The entire job is being done by small tradesmen in white vans. Dozens of them are parked all around the sidestreets, taking our spaces, sometimes overnight. Lunchtimes there you see them, sitting in their vans, washing down their sandwiches with Thermoses of sugary tea, perusing The Sun newspaper, if it can be called that, in their yellow hardhats, or snoozing, steel-capped Caterpillar boots resting nonchalantly on the dash, legs of bronze protruding from (That’s enough homoerotic imagery. Ed.).

No-one appears to be in charge of this shambles. Surely a whatever-the-word is, paradigm, de nos jours?

Normal service will be resumed

To all my friendly Spammers, Followers, Commentators and whatnots

Normal service has been broken in bits by the death of yet another hard drive on my little laptop, this time with no hope of data recovery. It has been in hospital for a week and is now home, but every photo, file, bookmark, reinvented CV and most of my downloaded software including the entire MS Office suite has gone forever.

I have signed-up too late to some kind of external backup operation, as I urge you to do if you have not already done so, but they want more money than I’ve got in my account to ‘protect’ me for a year and so I am stuck. WordPress of course is unaffected and so The Boglington Post lives on, while some useful data may still be contained in attachments to past emails and so be partly recoverable.

Not sure I am, though. Yesterday, I received from HM Department of Work and Pensions, my invitation to apply now (while stocks last) for my old-age pension (for every five weeks you put off applying, you get an extra 1% added on. George Osborne must be fucking desperate!).

It may not be the end of the beginning, but it is possibly the beginning of the end, to misquote a Great Man.

– Uncle Bogler

Postscriptum

A minor miracle.

Yesterday while reviewing a photo I had just taken of my garden on my little Coolpix camera I accidentally went too far and there was a picture of Hunzi I remembered taking eighteen months ago…. It was but the first of over 300 recoverable photos that are still there, stored on my camera’s little chip. Despite the fact that I asked it to delete them when I downloaded them to my laptop, it has kept them all safe, my children, my guitars, my little house, knowing that one day, my hard drive might die.

Bless.