Thursday, 23 August 2007

Christmas Catalogues

Today, Thursday August the 23rd, I received the first, of no doubt many, Christmas Catalogues!
There is every reason to believe there will be more, possibly many more, and also possibly, before this month is out! This was just a small thing, a few irrelevant cards and one or two gifts, on a few glossy pages. Now it is clear the proceeds go to a very good cause, one I have supported in the past, but man it's August! I still have not had last years holiday yet, let alone this years, and Xmas has begun already. I will be looking carefully at the shop windows as I pass, I am certain the tinsle and gift wrapping will be appearing as soon as this weeks long weekend holiday is over.

Rejoice for sure, but not yet!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Xenophon 'The Persian Expedition'

'The Persian Expedition' by Xenophon is the latest book to have ended up bruised and battered on the shelf. Nothing better than sitting in a bath reading the tale of one man's endeavours in long lost Persia. Xenophon joined his friend Proxenus in the war to support Cyrus and his attempt to deal with his enemies, then discovered that in reality Cyrus wanted to depose his brother Artaxerxes as king. The Greek mercenaries, however dubious they were, followed on mostly because of the promise of booty and reward as opposed to love of Cyrus. Xenophon tells of they battle being lost, however unreliable his account of the battle may be, and they journey home through Persia, Kurdistan, Armenia in the snow covered mountains, and along the top of what is now Turkey. Under constant attack, and understandably so, from the locals. Taking what they wanted, the ten thousand ploughed on their journey. It was an epic journey whatever they cause. Desert plain and high mountain passes, cold, hot, hungry, well fed, camping in the snow at one place and in villages or town at another. Even the temptation to build a new city in hostile territory comes to them, well to Xenophon at least. Maybe they ought to have made a go of it? When they eventually get back to Greek held Byzantium they were not wanted anyway. Who wants an army on their doorstep?

Xenophon comes out of this story as the hero leader. Taking control and ensuring all opposition is dealt with. Starting as a mere friend of a leading man, and in the end being 'top dog.' At least, that is what he would have us believe! Did he distort events to make his role better than it was, it seems likely. Politicians today unfailingly inform us, in their autobiographies, how good they were, and why it succeeded or went wrong. They are not to be blamed! Xenophon is no different. Writing years after the events his memory would be untrustworthy, as anyone over fifty can testify! His general impressions however would remain, although possibly polarised through time.

is this book worth reading? Oh yes! the incidental impressions of the time alone are worth it. The acceptance of slavery. Those captured in battle or during raids are sold as slaves. This was they way things were done. Nobody questioned the rights or wrongs of this trade - it just happened, and that's how things were done. Women were hardly mentioned, but seen as chattels and rarely more. Other sources do speak of the power women had of course, but that is not seen here. Understandable in an army tramping through foreign lands. The arbitrary use of power and the manner in which Kings could be influenced by those near to them is seen, especially in the Thracian adventure. Democracy, much lauded by some, is seen in the way the Greeks discussed their situations often. 'Might is right' is seen also in the manner in which they abused any they wished. Democracy did not win power in Greece of the day. In Athens and other places it had been seen to have an influence, but in the end intrigue and the military power of the Spartans put it down!

Xenophon does all right in this expedition. Going back to his Spartan friends, although he was a leading Athenian, and enjoying his estates and writing his books. All right for some.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Strolling Through the Town Tonight

I took a stroll tonight, about nine o'clock, across the park opposite. The dusk grants us the wonderful sight of deep blue skies and clouds tinged with the remnants of a setting sun. The trees stand tall, darkly silhouetted against the sky. Far off a star twinkles in one direction and an aeroplane slowly arcs round in another.
Leaving the darkness of the park the street lights seem harsh and even painful. However, the air is remains warm and still. The streets quiet. Only when one reaches the town centre proper does the Saturday life appear. Couples and small groups wander towards their destination, the club or one of the, oh so many, public houses. From 'The Swan' blaring, and decidedly unmusical, music breaches the decibel limit. A noise made worse for the occupants by the assistance it receives from several inmates. A thin young man waits while his shapely girlfriend collects cash from the 'hole in the wall,' then, hand on backside, hers, not his, they happily head to a watering place.
Large, suited men, stand outside the club and several public houses. How nice to know that the local doormen have all received a certificate from an authorising organisation granting them permission to bash someone's head in while assisting his flight for the door. I find that reassuring somehow. At one door, three hoplites banter with the collection of adolescents sitting in the marketplace. Adolescents full of testosterone, fear, ignorance and a desperate desire to be old enough to enter the premises so well guarded by the bruisers. Drivers opposite rush to their cars to deliver the 'chicken and chips,' or 'Special Kebabs,' to hungry souls to
lazy, or to drunk, to cook for themselves.
People pass another of the three pubs in the market square, intent on their evening. What are their thoughts? Are they happy? We all love a good time, and they appear happy. This is the entertainment centre for the town, that's why they are here. A penny for their thoughts, especially in the morning!
Wandering past the taxis ranked in a row, drivers mostly standing chatting, awaiting the evenings end when they would earn their keep and overcharge to their hearts content, I pass to girls headed the other way. I noticed them, well as much as one can notice to young lassies with their skirts up to their backsides and legs that stretch all the way to the ground. As they passed, their eyes watched me suspiciously. Did they think they had overdone it? Were they too noticeable? Was I just another dirty old man? Well yes! Of course I am. How old were they? They looked sixteen to me but were probably at least eighteen, maybe older. The two noses had raised themselves in the air as they passed, I suspected their legs would be finding a similar position before the dawn broke, although they may not actually be sober enough to be conscious of it at the time themselves.
A typical Saturday night and wandering around I thought 'I miss this.' But do I?
Having a ball is, well, a ball! But is this what my life is about? I miss the social life, but do I want to be drunk and wasting life again? Jesus has made himself known and that life, however much fun it can be, does not satisfy! There is more to life than that!
I saw also my inadequacies as I passed by. The inability to relate to folks. I am always so far from normality it seems to me. Too self conscious, to much a wimp, too dumb. Just too inadequate. I wonder if I will ever relate to folk normally.
The love of Jesus must be stronger than I thought. How could he want me when there is so many worthwhile folk out there?

Friday, 10 August 2007


Today's word is 'awesome!'
Yes, 'awesome.' This is the word that is at present getting right up my nose!
A short while ago, as my reader will remember, I complained about the American illiterates use of the word, 'Cool,' for any and every situation. Instead of giving a 'yes' or a 'no' answer to a question, or as a response to any given situation, the American youth appeared to have only one word to use in response - the word 'Cool!' Glad to say this appears to have drifted out of fashion at the moment, and hopefully will remain so. However now the word of the moment is 'awesome.'

'Awesome' is used to describe a score line in a baseball encounter (we might get round to putting 'baseball' in it's place one day also by the way), can be noted as describing a child's first steps, or even a woman's bust. One feels other more appropriate words can be found with a short search of a thesaurus. (Thesaurus might need explaining to passing Americans. This is a collection of words, in book form, with are gathered together enabling the reader to find words of similar meaning. A useful source usually ignored by tabloid journalists)

It reflects somewhat on a nation that the word 'awesome' can be devalued by inappropriate and over use. once upon a time a sunset, or a Tornado (for instance) could be happily described as 'awesome. Something which once seen could never be forgotten. A baseball score, and a woman's bust do not, in my humble opinion, come into the same league here. However while browsing blogger it is possible, if you can find blogs which are not adverts or porn these days, it is possible as I was saying , to find blogs using 'awesome' to describe a letter from a serviceman in Iraq, as in 'How awesome to hear from one of our hero's.' We will avoid the misuse of the US military, the mistreatment of Iraqi's, the 'uranium tipped shells that have killed 500000 children from cancer, and the fact that they should not have been there in the first place, an stick to the word concerned. 'Awesome' is heard because the sun shines, snow is found on the window ledge, or the view from a New York, sorry, 'Noo Yark' apartment window shows thousands of people pushing, shoving and scowling their way through the ridiculously high glass fronted buildings which block out the light and all hope of survival for humanity. The word pops up when a wee lass is given her exam results, when a birthday cake is presented, and when a pair of shorts is discovered in a shop somewhere in Iowa. 'Awesome? No!

The 'greatest democracy in the world' @ any American you ever hear, is of course one of the most illiterate and ignorant in the world. On the one hand many of her citizens understand how the world works and genuinely wish the world well, however far to many are clearly unstable, think Iraq is run by the Taliban and the Soviet Union, know that Aliens have kidnapped the woman over the street (Awesome! She has been gone for days! Man that's cool! and awesome!) and these folks expect the Chinese to dig tunnels under the US of A before invading in a few years time.

The only thing 'Awesome,' is the combined intellect of far too many citizens of the US of A!
Awesome man.....

Friday, 3 August 2007

How Blogger disappoints

Blogger is a great idea! The chance to see discover so many blogs from so many parts of the world is fantastic, and something I appreciate. The fact that nobody ever comes across mine, and the world is left bereft of my cogitation is of course to be mourned. However there are many interesting, and sometimes really useful, blogs to uncover. There is great satisfaction to be found in using the 'Next Blog' button and coming across a blog, from near or far, that entertains or informs, or just takes you out of yourself and into a world you might never otherwise come across.
Blogger is to be congratulated for this.

There is an increasingly annoying down side to all this however. Far too many are not genuine blogs at all, merely adverts, and dubious adverts at that. Far too many are porn sites, and Blogger seems to make no effort to remove either of these. Are we to suppose that so many of these sites are paying Blogger to post? How much does Blogger make from porn, and is this legal I ask? Now we all like to look at naked women at times, but when every other blog the 'Next Button' brings is porn in one guise or other it gets a bit wearing! There is a time and a place and surely Blogger is not one of them.

Those sites advertising would be similarly tolerable if there was not so many! Blogger must be raking it in from the 10% the get! But I find it irritating on two counts. First, there is far to many, to often, and obviously linked. Too many are also just fronts for more porn. Also many do not have the 'Next Blog' button and it is a hassle moving to the next. Why are these blogs allowed to be posted? How much do Blogger rake in from them?

Surely it is not beyond Blogger to ensure porn never reaches the posting stage? How come the 'Next' button is removable and not compulsory? If it's part of the site, why remove it?
Blogger is a great idea, although folks pics of their new baby can be as wearing as anything known to man, and the selection of blogs obtainable through the 'Next' button appears very limited at any time.

Time Blogger cleaned up its act as it is a service worth using.