The BogPo and our friends over at The Pumpkin would like to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year in 2019.
But we just can’t.
The Warped and the Woof: a doggy shag story
“Britain’s dogs are becoming less fertile. Researchers who have systematically examined canine sperm over a span of 26 years say that overall sperm quality has been in decline. Environmental chemicals are implicated. And the study may throw light on the fertility changes in male humans.” (BBC Science report)
At one and the same time we are reminded, are we gnotte?, of the futility of existence.
On the one hand, you may say, there are too many people in the world. A decline in fertility, that has been noted – the average human birthrate globally is now only 2.4, not far off the point of non-replacement of populations – possibly due to plastics and their chemical emissions, may be seen as both a good and a bad thing. But worth researching.
On the other, discovering that your fate as an adult, having spent perhaps 20 years in fulltime education to emerge with a Doctorate of Philosophy specializing in biomedical science, is to be employed for 26 years to masturbate dogs and minutely examine the outcome; to know this, is more than a non-scientist can bear.
There surely has to be a higher purpose, as well as a statistical number, to existence.
The demeaning of life
And we find it, seemingly, in utter uselessness:
“The crash, at about 10am GMT, caused Amazon customers to complain about not being able to play festive songs, turn on their living room lights or get cooking instructions for Christmas dinner.”
Yes, throughout Europe no-one expanding until the surplus flesh consumed their sofa was able to put on the radio, recognize a light-switch and grasp its primary functions, or stick a fucking turkey in the oven with a fistful of packet stuffing and some cranberries up its arse.
Not without their little virtual assistant, whose circuits had become overloaded owing to the population of Alexas now exceeding that of the entire useless human race, reduced to complete helplessness as this little fucker cheerfully plays ‘We Built This City on Sausage Rolls’, this year’s Number One hit in Britain (yes, thanks to Brexit we have gone collectively crazy), while secretly sending messages back home to the big computer that works out what to sell you next, because you’re so glutted with stuff you no longer know what you want or need or are good for, financially. But that’s okay, here, have some more credit.)
I have tried not sneering at friends and relations who admit, with a little wiggle of shame and some suspicious coloration of the cheeks, that in their innocence and confusion they have already acquired one of these pernicious advertising devices, without realizing that this little tabletop fucker reports every fart, groan of pleasure or expression of disgust for the TV Christmas schedules back to its masters in California, even when it’s off.
But that’s okay, because it’s so useful to have a personal thing that can tell you to take an umbrella out in case those big lumpy gray things up there in the sky might contain water that could fall down and ruin your hair extensions.
You might want to look over on The Guardian website this morning, Boxing Day, and read about Amazon executives collaborating with the US security service in designing new systems for surveillance, and pause for a moment to wonder if there might be a connection?
Amazon and its evil owner, baldy Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest 1970s Dr Who villain, have enslaved the workforce everywhere, turning desperate workplace drones into abysmally paid bio-automata strapped to timing and management devices; having to pee in bottles to avoid sanctions for timing-out.
They’re doing the same to you in your home. You think Alexa is the robot? Think again. It’s you.
Already we’ve had the first instance of an Alexa advising its owner to kill his mother-in-law. A survey by NBC TV showed that 20% of Alexa owners ask for advice on boiling an egg.
I’m having none of it, myself. I can switch on my own light, thanks.
When I can afford it.
Christmas is so over!
Speaking of selling us things, isn’t it just excessively aggravating on Boxing Day* to get a continuous trickle of pleading emails from retailers who spent £millions on trying to sell you stuff at bargain prices BEFORE Christmas, still pathetically wheedling the day after that it’s not too late to reconsider your decision not to buy anything from them, now that prices are even more affordable?
I accept that people have to make a living somehow. However, if you have ever visited parts of the world like Cairo or Marrakesh or New Delhi, you will know the misery of being constantly pursued through the bazaar by packs of barefoot street-Arabs with their grimy hands out, pleading for baksheesh; while indigent and portly carpet salesmen grasp at your clothing and try to hustle you into the Stygian gloom of their overstocked emporia, smelling badly of goats.
It’s all just a bit… undignified?
I have a modest proposal: ban all internet advertising on 26 December.
Just calm down, dears. Accept it:
*(for Americans, the day after Happy Holiday was when tradesmen in olden days would go around collecting small gratuities from their regular customers for the staff Christmas Box. It was in the days when shops used to deliv… er…, right.)
(Guitar bore alert)
Getting the Lowdown
And talking of dogs, the little cat, Cats, has instantaneously developed a relationship with my new guitar. What is that about?
I wrote a few days ago about how I dropped a chair on my old Taylor. I was being facetious, I didn’t ‘drop’ it exactly, the desk chair tipped over as I stood up painfully to pee (catchup: I pee by painful contraction into a bag attached to my leg, in some ways it’s quite handy) and the guitar was on its stand behind me where I can reach it easily, and the back of the chair… it’s a bit horrible to relate, actually.
Anyway, for some reason the price of guitars has crept up and up in recent years, it’s like the guitar industry is competing to see who can charge the most for a chunk of wood, a stick, some gloss paint and some wires. You’ll be expected to pay six or seven grand even for a solid-body Gibson Les Paul Custom ’59 these days. They only make thousands a year and they still haven’t conquered the neck-straining weight problem.
So I had to pitch the insurance company to cough up £500 more than I paid for the guitar three years ago, as that is the price of a new one today, if you can find one – the world of luthiery moves on. With their blessing, I took the opportunity to upgrade, and paid the difference to acquire at last one of the many guitars of my dreams – a Lowden.
This would be, I thought, a rare and fabulous thing, an instrument made and blessed by the great George Lowden himself – until the shop I bought it from followed yesterday morning’s exciting delivery with an email offering me a choice of 59 more they have in stock, just to remind me of how very not special I am; as if I haven’t spent my life knowing it.
It makes for well over 100 I have now found online
After scouring the internet for one I could afford, I now realize George is in the business of cashing in on his reputation for excellence by flooding the market with mass-manufactured guitars, albeit ‘hand-crafted’, which will undoubtedly affect the resale value should I ever need to sell it – which I usually do as I’m always running out of money.
My appreciation of the fabulous tone and sheer playability of my new Lowden, that are not really in doubt; my desire not to resell it, to hang on to it at all costs, has become sullied by mere commercial considerations. Happy New Year, George.
But Cats has no such apprehensions. Never a lap-cat, the moment I took it from its case and started appreciatively strumming a chord I know, she jumped up on the sofa beside me and tried to get onto my lap, pawing at me with a strange light in her eye. Fearful of another accident, I took the guitar back to its case and lovingly replaced it – it’s still a tight fit.
And since then I find her sitting speculatively on the lid of the case, which for reasons of space is lying flat across the arms of the armchair I never sit in, in the corner behind the door.
It could be the mildly pungent, not unpleasant smell of the new wood, the cedar and the rosewood, the mahogany, the varnish, combining to create a sort of musical catnip, I don’t know.
Whatever the reason, I got up late this morning and there was no sign of Cats, who often breakfasts at several houses across the dangerous road before trotting home to breakfast at hers.
I worry when she isn’t there by the time I’m dressed, she has a magical ability to sense from wherever she is in her world that I’m up and about and ready to feed her, and comes hurtling in through the bathroom window. She has invented a game where she stops on every step going downstairs, and I have to pretend to tread on her squidgily. One day she’ll break my neck; a fitting end, I sometimes think. But not today.
Anyway, coffee made and cooling, after carefully washing my hands I take out the guitar and start to play through the circle of fourths, whatever, and moments later as if by magic Cats appears in the doorway, a little barrel-shaped audience of one. Over in the corner, Hunzi balefully ignores us, the only things standing between him and his morning walk.
Patiently putting the guitar away again, together we go in the kitchen and open another packet of catfood and, as usual, she looks at me pityingly, as if to say, is this muck the best you can do? I get Beluga catviar across the street; and stalks off, tail twitching provocatively.
I guess if I serenade her, she’ll come back to finish it.
And the Lowdown on Persuasion
An article in The Guardian by George Monbiot warning us of the dangers of advertising, as if Vance Packard hadn’t done that fifty years ago, offers a possible explanation for the seeming idiocy of offering me 59 more guitars, many like the one I just spent a barely affordable fortune on the previous day but several seductively planted among them, that cost twice as much.
It’s called ‘FOMO’, Fear Of Missing Out, and it’s a psychological technique designed to plant in my brain the worry that if I weren’t so inadequate I might have done even better, which will linger for months or years until I dissolve into a puddle of angst that my brilliant Lowden guitar is maybe not quite the best thing since hot buttered toast, and round we go again.
But George, that’s half the fun!
Thinking of The Hidden Persuaders, there were two other seminal books warning us of the choppy seas our civilization was heading into, that came out at about the same time in the 1960s and early 70s.
Rachel Carson in Silent Spring drew our attention to the fact that the agrochemical industry was poisoning our world and shredding the web of life. EF Schumacher proposed a theory of Green economics, Small is Beautiful: ‘As if people mattered.’
Totally prescient, spot-on, and we’ve paid no attention whatsoever, and now thanks to neoliberal capitalism and the cult of the shareholder we’re in the shit up to our desperately pleading eyeballs.
Another unwanted pres(id)ent
The Pumpkin writes:
Mr Trump and the First Lady, who seems to have had a payrise recently as she no longer looks so miserable whenever she has to be in the same room as her everloving faithful-to-other-women hubby, descended with little notice on a Marine base in Iraq for festive selfies and another astonishing outburst of self-aggrandizement aimed at keeping his dumbfuck voter base happy while Mueller tightens the noose.
Not only did the gurning orange lunatic insist on posing for the White House TV channel with a supposedly clandestine bunch of Navy SEALs, completely uncensored, easily identified by unit and not even pixellated – thanks for the gross breach of normal security protocols, that could get them killed – claiming modestly that only since he became President has IS been defeated, which everyone is trying to tell him it hasn’t been – but he also told the assembled grunts that thanks to his persuasive charm they’d be getting a 10% – no, make it more! – payrise, the first raise they’ll have had in ten years!
Except that according to the fact-checkers they’ve had a payrise averaging 1.8% every year for the past thirty years, and 2.6% voted through already for 2019….
He is totally shameless.
And as he was terrified of leaving the security of the US base (not for himself, you understand, but for the safety of the First Lady – a creature made from sharpened iron nails, unlike ‘President Bone Spurs*) – the Iraqi Prime Minister refused to meet him on the grounds that visiting a US military base at Christmas was not a good look; while various local warlords, unaware of the visit in advance, are hopping up and down, threatening to throw the Yankee imperialists out of their country.
Well done, Donald, you and your gut sure know how to conduct foreign policy.
*As you know, back in the 1970s a chiropodist got him a draft deferment on grounds that he was afflicted with bone spurs on his feet. TYT has just reported, the late doctor’s daughters have confirmed that he had told them many times how Donald’s dad had paid him to make the diagnosis up.)
French toll-roads operator Vinci has bought a controlling stake in Gatwick airport for £2.9 billion, adding to their collection of 46 airports around Europe, from the American investment fund owners, GIP, who appear to have lost on the deal as they’ve spent £2.9 billion over 10 years just on redecorating.
The deal comes as something of a disappointment to your Uncle Bogler, too, who has been suggesting for some time – ever since Boris Johnson as Mayor of London thought of creating an island in the Thames to get round the problem of where to site Heathrow’s third runway – that Britain could lease a part of the otherwise pretty much useless but temptingly flat Pas de Calais to build another airport for London, only 90 minutes away by Eurostar train.
Too late now. Instead, we have another French company owning a major capital asset in the south of England, and Paris gets its sixth airport. Welcome to post-Brexit Europe.
UB sees too that Vinci owns Lyon St Exupèry, where he had one of the weirdest experiences of his life, having to persuade the staff to call out an engineer at 2 a.m. to free his mobile phone from a charging booth, only to realize with a frisson of horror that his (identical) phone was still in his pocket, and spending the rest of the night hiding under an overpass until his flight was called….
The 2019 Pointless Endeavor Award goes to M. Jean-Jacques Savin, a 71-year-old Frenchman and former paratrooper, who has set off in a bid to become the first person to float freely across the Atlantic in a ten-foot wooden barrel.
One off the bucket-list.
GW: Roasting Matilda
Australia: A “Christmas heatwave continues to sweep across the country, with a near record-breaking 49C (120F) forecast for Western Australia, and fire danger, health and air quality warnings issued across the nation. By 8.40am on Thursday (20 Dec) Marble Bar had already recorded 43.4C, with the worst of the heat to come. It later hit 49.3C. Temperatures in the south are 10C to 14C higher than average, the bureau said on Wednesday.” (BBC News) “Catastrophic” fire conditions are anticipated as winds pick up.
And who would want to live in…
USA: “Two powerful winter storms were moving across the country Friday, one bringing blizzard conditions to the northern Plains and Upper Midwest and a second spreading heavy snow from Arizona to the Texas Panhandle. The heaviest snowfall is likely in central and eastern New Mexico, with up to 2 feet in the highest terrain. Strong winds will accompany the snowfall, bringing the possibility of blizzard conditions.” 2 dead.
“In the Southeast, as of late Thursday almost 50 million people were under flood watches. Widespread rainfall, locally heavy at times, will continue to spread north and eastward from the Lower Mississippi Valley to the Mid-Atlantic. Flooding and flash flooding will be a threat throughout Friday.
Saturday: Rain and thunderstorms are drenching areas from the northern Gulf Coast to the eastern Carolinas. Clara, Mississippi, recorded 11.5 inches of rainfall. (The Weather Channel) Six eastern states had their wettest-ever year, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina receiving just on 140 cm, 55 in. Climate change? Meteorologist Bob Henson writes: “…rainfall amounts in some places were larger than anything produced by natural variability in the last hundred-plus years.”
“Severe thunderstorms that could spawn tornadoes were also forecast in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and western Tennessee late Thursday. Storms were also possible for parts of Iowa, western Illinois and northern Missouri. (from USA Today)
“Stanford Earth System Science Professor Noah Diffenbaugh stated that atmospheric conditions for California wildfires are expected to worsen in the future because of the effects of climate change.” Wikipedia concludes: “The 2018 wildfire season (was) the most destructive and deadly wildfire season on record in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha).” Human cost: 98 civilians, 6 firefighters. (USA Today)
A report in Scientific American proposes that there have been two civilization-ending ‘megadroughts’ in the West and northern Mexico in the past 1200 years, and the past 19 years suggests that a third is in progress. The region has warmed by 1.5 degrees in the past 120 years and the resulting increase in transpiration means what rainfall there is has less effect in the soil – a classic feedback loop.
The Philippines: “More than 60 people have died after a powerful storm struck the Philippines (29 Dec.), with locals reportedly taken by surprise by its strength. Storm Usman hit the Bicol region southeast of capital Manila on Saturday”, triggering landslides. “At least 17 people are missing and the death toll is expected to rise.” (BBC) More than 40 thousand people have been displaced by flooding.
Indonesia: “The death toll from a landslide that crashed into a hilly village on Indonesia’s main island of Java has risen to 15 after rescuers found 6 more bodies buried in the mud on Tuesday.” (Guardian) 30 houses were buried. “Seasonal rains” have triggered dozens of landslips and caused extensive flooding.
Iceland: Against the average daytime temperature at this time of year of 36F, 2C, Reykjavik yesterday was enjoying a balmy 48F, 9C. Many people in parts of Canada are also complaining that it’s still up in the 50s. It’s been mild here in the west of the UK too, under a gray blanket of cloud we haven’t seen the sun since the day before Christmas Eve.
Observing the isobars over the shoulder of the BBC Weather presenter, Louise Lear, as she summarises the prospects for the New Year week ahead, what they are clearly not talking about are the atmospheric rivers streaming up into the Arctic, and the intense lows – three of them – pushing warm water and high waves up past Greenland. What used to be an east>west flow of winds now seems almost permanently south>north; as evidenced by the relentless storm pattern in the eastern US – while a view of the circumpolar jetstream, presented in a voice betraying no alarm or even curiosity, shows it forming huge, lazy southward loops and breaks betokening even greater weather contrasts and stormy arctic conditions for the eastern USA.
Europe: A powerful cyclone is bringing very windy conditions and high waves to Finland and the Baltic states. The storm has been cited as the probable cause of a railway accident in Denmark that killed 6. More significantly, a ‘Sudden Stratospheric Warming’ event up in the polar region in which temperatures in the frigid upper atmosphere may rise 60C above normal in a few days is likely to cause a lengthy spell of very cold weather in northern Europe and a warming trend in the Arctic from about the third week in January. (Severe-weather.eu).
Yellowstone: The Steamboat geyser (biggest in the park) – The Blessed Mary Greeley reports eruption number 32 since March, on Christmas Day; crowning an excessively active year. The previous record year saw 29 in 1964; however most years get only two or three and several in the record none at all.
Cartoon of the Year