Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The House of Lorraine Has Never Flown So High

I'm feeling a little embarrassed right now.  I've just written yet another birthday greetings, my fifty fifth since I started this blog.  However I titled it "Birthday Greetings #54".  Why?  On going back through my blog entries over the years I found that I had given two separate birthday greetings to Francis of Lorraine of all people.  Francis wasn't even a spectacular failure like Nero.  He was just a mundane failure of the type you can run into anywhere.

Nevertheless I inadvertently saw fit to grace him with two birthday greetings while genuine talents like Marcus Aurelius have had to make do with one.  Fortunately I didn't contradict myself otherwise people may well have doubted the quality of my research on these little biographical pieces.  Allow me to assure you that my research is as good as wikipedia can make it with the added assistance of some broad but not particularly coherent reading.  If there any any mistakes I can assure you that they are simply due to laziness, disinterest or an outright desire to deceive.

Nevertheless doubling up on Francis has brought something slightly unpleasant to my mind.  None of you noticed!!  Is anybody reading this blog?  In my more fanciful moments (most of them) I like to think that people source my blog when studying history, or politics or environmental science or at least the prevalence of mental illness in today's society.  According to the hit counter there have been over thirty thousand hits on my blog since its inception only about half of which are mine.  Thirty thousand isn't actually a lot for a blog that has been going for several years and now it appears that even the handful who do read it (hi Mum) aren't actually paying close attention.

One of the most popular entries I've written in recent times was actually a write up of the latest Jurassic Park movie which I entitled "Dinosaur Snuff Porn".  I was a little surprised that this struck such a chord with the internet community until I worked out that a lot of people had googled "snuff porn" and had been directed to that blog entry by mistake.  On the one hand, thanks for the hits.  On the other hand, eww!

Still it does give me an idea.  After each movie I watch from now on I will write a blog entry with a title referring to some deeply disturbing sexual practice.  The blog hits should explode.  I just hope none of the readers can trace me.  In the meantime I will just have to be satisfied with the knowledge that I have given Francis of Lorraine probably more publicity than he ever expected and certainly more than he warranted.  Hopefully my Order of Maria Theresa is in the post.

Birthday Greetings #54

Yes, another birthday greetings.  The last one was for Nero who ruled when the Roman empire was still shiny and new.  This one is for a third century ruler when the empire was starting to look distinctly frayed around the edges.  Our boy would patch it back together again, at least for his lifetime.

So, happy birthday to Diocletian, Roman emperor.  Diocletian had the traditional career path for a Roman emperor during the third century.  Low birth, military service, promotion to a position near the emperor who then conveniently died (of lightning strike according to Diocletian which seems unlikely as he wasn't playing golf at the time).  The emperor's son took over but shortly afterwards he came down with a serious case of death as well and with Diocletian hanging around looking professional and imperial there really wasn't any opposition. Well there was, the dead emperor had a brother and some other guy thought he'd try his chances as well but Diocletian swiftly stomped them flat and settled down to rule.

Ruling turned out to be a little difficult.  The last fifty years hadn't been good to the empire.  There had been twenty six "legitimate" emperors and any number of pretenders.  A legitimate emperor was pretty much a pretender who persuaded the senate to legitimise his revolt after the event.  The empire split up, fought countless civil wars, suffered barbarian invasions, plague and economic collapse.

Things had calmed down just a little by the time Diocletian added his name to the list of ambitious generals engaged in self promotion but things were still rather a mess.  Once in charge Diocletian beat up some troublesome barbarians (there were always some) and then took stock of what he had actually taken over.  What he had taken over was a surly, near bankrupt empire full of ambitious soldiers some of whom were already having themselves measured for purple robes.  In addition it was so damned big!  If there was a revolt in Britain (and there was always a revolt in Britain) it could be months before he heard about it.  If something happened in Armenia at the same time his only choice would be which threat he was going to ignore.

Diocletian came up with a unique solution.  The problem, he decided, was that Rome didn't have enough emperors.  It needed more, so they could be in the right places making decisions in something approximating real time and getting things done.  Without any sons of his own Diocletian promoted an old army buddy to the rank of Caesar making him official (although junior) co-emperor.  His name was Maximian and he was sent to take care of the western half of the empire while Diocletian headed east.  Diocletian fought the Sarmatians to a draw and beat the Persians.  Unfortunately Maximian wasn't doing so well in the west.

There had been another revolt in Britain.  This doesn't mean the British revolted.  For the most part they didn't really seem to care.  What it meant was that the Roman troops in Britain revolted.  In this case as a result of an anti piracy campaign gone badly wrong.  The guy Maximian sent out to stop the pirates turned out to be, well, a pirate.  He was keeping all the loot from captured pirate vessels for himself.  Maximian demanded that he explain himself whereupon he fled to Britain, raised the legions there in revolt and persuaded those in northern Gaul to follow suit.  Diocletian dropped in on Maximian who it is fair to say had some explaining to do of his own.

Obviously two emperors wasn't quite enough so Diocletian knocked up a couple more.  This was the Tetrarchy a brilliant solution to the empire's governance issues just as long as Diocletian was around to enforce it.  Maximian was raised to the level of Augustus (ie equal of Diocletian).  Then each of the now joint emperors took a junior partner whom they made Caesar.  Each emperor would rule a quarter of the empire but with the two junior emperors reporting to their superior and the two senior emperors consulting on all matters of interest to the state at large.  As his Caesar Diocletian took his son-in-law Galerius.  Maximian selected his own son-in-law (likely at Diocletian's strong suggestion) as his own Caesar and dropped the British revolt into his lap.  Possibly to his chagrin the son-in-law cleaned up the entire mess.

Diocletian meanwhile went back to the east where he fought another war (his third) against the Sarmatians and this time managed to beat them sufficiently to persuade them to keep out of the way for a few decades.  Then Galerius got himself badly spanked in a fresh war with Persia.  Diocletian may or may not have been present at the time but all the blame was dumped on Galerius.  The new method of imperial government did have its uses for the man at the top after all.  Galerius (and possibly Diocletian) eventually beat the Persians and settled down to persecute the Christians.

Christians irritated Roman emperors.  All that tedious "one god" crap.  It was bound to annoy all the other gods and it meant that the Christians refused to worship at the shrines of deified emperors which was pretty damn close to treason.  The Jews were just as bad but at least they'd been doing it for millennia (the Romans loved tradition), the Christians weren't even as old as the empire itself and they expected to be taken seriously as a religion.  Honestly they were just asking to be fed to various animals.

Despite a lion induced life expectancy shortage the Christians refused to go away.  They were weird, blasphemous and definitely unRoman.  Diocletian wanted none of them.  Neither it appeared did anybody else.  Tentatively Diocletian suggested that Christians be excluded from government positions.  Galerius suggested that they just kill them all.  Ultimately Diocletian went with option B.

One of the reasons for excluding Christians from the government was that suddenly there was a lot more government to exclude them from.  Diocletian's multiplication of emperors naturally led to a multiplication of bureaucracy as each of them needed staff.  More than this though Diocletian expanded and regularised the civil service.  Up until him the Roman empire had been possibly the least governed empire in history.  There had been an emperor, various governors and a handful of support staff for each.  This along with a certain number of legal officials and a whacking big army had been sufficient.  Nobody really expected the government to fight crime, educate children, promote trade or indeed do anything much at all.  The government made war, protected the citizens (from foreigners, not each other) and killed anyone who dissed the emperor, that was more or less it.  Now Diocletian as part of a deliberate policy built up a powerful bureaucratic machine.

The main purpose behind this policy was not to improve government but to exalt the person of the emperor by making him a remote, godlike figure beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.  With any luck that would stop people trying to kill him.  Diocletian dressed himself up in sumptuous robes, smothered himself in jewels, painted his face red and demanded that everybody kiss the hem of his clothing.  Apparently the Roman idea of a remote, godlike figure rather resembled an egocentric transvestite with more money than taste.  Reflecting on their gods for a moment they may well have nailed it.

Diocletian stabilised the empire after half a century of chaos.  He built the system which for better or worse would hold it together for a century and a half after he was dead (and for an extra thousand years in Byzantium).  He couldn't restore the economy but that was probably beyond his ability despite the fact that he didn't have any economists to get in his way.  He didn't wipe out the Christians either but they've proved to be a tediously resilient bunch over the centuries.

After twenty one years on the throne Diocletian introduced yet another innovation into Roman imperial politics.  He quit.  His system of government required the two senior emperors to retire after a time allowing the two junior emperors to step up and appoint their own juniors.  In such a way the empire would be ruled by an endless succession of mature competent men who had had on the job training.  This lasted about as long as you might expect.  Maximian, who Diocletian forced to retire with him, didn't wait long before coming out of retirement and bidding for his old job.  Meanwhile Maximian's replacement had died and his son was angling for his position.  Maximian's son wanted a piece of the action too.  History records that Constantine, the son of Maximian's junior colleague came out on top much to the relief of the public.  History records this because Constantine made damn sure he wrote it.

As for Diocletian, he turned his back on the chaos of Roman politics and spent his last days peacefully gardening at his palace in Split (now in Croatia).  He died quietly and without fanfare.  Constantine, who had become a sort of Christian, blackened his name but took over his structure of government pretty much intact.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I'm Prepared to "Like" Christmas on Facebook

The foyer of the building I work in is getting a little cluttered these days.  Not only is there a honking great tree bedecked with various tasteless gold gewgaws but a significant amount of floor space appears to have been taken over by a group of itinerant buskers playing Christmas carols.  For some reason they didn't look impressed when I tossed a coin in their direction as I went past.

Building management has certainly decked the halls and the slight inconvenience in fighting my way into the office to do some work is surely compensated for by the joys of the season.  One of the joys of the season that is bringing me particular joy at the moment is an endless list of facebook posts exhorting me to fight back against the "war on Christmas".  If it wasn't for these facebook entries I wouldn't even know there was a war on Christmas.  Does anybody know where I can go to surrender?

Apparently despite the blanket Christmas themed advertising, the government mandated days off, the proliferation of Christmas themed wrapping paper in the shops and alcohol sodden corporate parties Christmas has not yet been completely trashed and somebody is trying to finish it off.  Who?  No idea, I've never encountered anyone trying to wipe out Christmas (although most of the above mentioned activities are doing a good job incidentally).  All I've encountered is other people complaining about those trying to wipe out Christmas.

Christmas has proved to be tediously resilient because the war goes on every year.  I know this because the same "fightback" messages turn up on facebook about the same time.  At what point do you persuade these people to declare victory and just shut up?

Don't misunderstand me; that there might be people desperately trying to abolish Christmas doesn't actually surprise me.  The PC loony left are populated by the same type of demented imbeciles who populate the irrational right.  These two groups can be safely left to fight it out in the sure and certain knowledge that any casualties on either side aren't anyone the human race will miss.  The rest of us can ignore them both and enjoy Christmas.  I'm going to enjoy Christmas despite being an atheist and I hope Jews, Pagans, Buddhists and Muslims enjoy it too.  I don't even mind if Christians enjoy it.  It's Christmas I'm prepared to be charitable.  Not charitable in the sense of handing out money to anyone but charitable in a vague "like it on facebook" sort of way.

I absolutely support Christmas if only because eventually it will be over and that means those damn buskers in the foyer will have to leave.  If there was no Christmas they might feel entitled to stay.  I'm hoping the tree will make itself scarce sometime after December 25th as well.

Happy non gender specific, anti religious, bigotry free, misogyny avoiding holidays which we are apparently having for no particular reason.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Colour is Your Carbon?

A climate accord was recently signed in Paris.  All sorts of countries promised to do all sorts of things to help combat global warming and all of the other countries pretended to believe them.  It was announced as a staggering success and indeed it was.  Thousands of delegates sat down and hammered out agreements nobody is going to follow and argued furiously about exactly what is was that they were going to pretend to do.  So now the world is officially saved and we can all go back to sleep.

Um, ok wake up now, apparently we need to talk about mangroves.  This is what an article said on The Sydney Morning Herald's website today.  Furthermore this conversation should involve a little more than bitching about how smelly, humid and mosquito ridden they are.  It is fair to say that mangroves don't have great press.  However apparently when they aren't reeking up the joint and facilitating disease mangroves are our unsung climate warriors.

Mangroves apparently hold vast stocks of "blue" carbon.  Blue carbon is like black carbon only bluer.  Coastal wetlands lock up massive amounts of carbon (designated blue presumably to indicate that its difficult to run a power station on it) which would otherwise go to less helpful places like the atmosphere.  Environment hating psychopaths who prefer marinas, seaside resorts and their children not dying of malaria are sweeping mangroves away.  This is bad.  Well its bad for the mangroves obviously but it might also be bad for us as everytime we do so apparently we are unleashing hordes of blue carbon onto an already suffering world.

More study is needed to determine exactly how much carbon the wetlands are storing and how this should be factored into the planet saving activities that we won't be getting up to as a result of the Paris conference.  While figures are rubbery at the moment initial indications are that mangroves are the ultimate carbon storage system.  If we covered the planet in mangroves the only climate change we would have to worry about is ice ages and presumably we could fix that by burning some of them.

Sadly there's a problem.  Mangroves, sea grasses and the like are simultaneously aesthetically displeasing and situated on land that would be highly desirable if it wasn't for all the damn mangroves and sea grass.  As a result mangroves and sea grass are swiftly vanishing from the world's surface.  An expert from UTS claims that developed and developing countries have destroyed their coastal habitats.  If you exclude developed and developing countries from any list I don't actually think you have anything left.  So the mangrove situation is parlous to say the least.

Let me be the first to issue a clarion call for the mangroves survival.  Compared with most of the stuff we're supposed to do to save the planet putting up with a handful of stinking swamps seems pretty cheap and easy really.  I'm doing my part.  I live near the Cooks River, a handsome waterway flowing through southern Sydney.  It reeks like an open sewer and the principal decoration on the riverbanks are signs warning you not to eat any fish you might catch there.  It is tidal and, yes folks, there are mangroves.  Not many as the suburbs have encroached as close as they dare but some.  So far despite the smell and the presence of mosquitos in squadrons I have resisted the temptation to take an axe to a single tree.

Birthday Greetings #54

Happy birthday to Nero, Roman emperor.  Nero was everything an emperor should be with dissolute parties, poisonings, extravagant building plans, conspiracies, revolts being crushed all over the place (although not, significantly, the last one) tortures, persecutions and all of the other stuff that makes for really great history.  Certainly the historians of the time really went to town and the general impression is of Nero as a vicious, self indulgent wastrel.

But was this the truth?  Who cares?  It's fun.  If we rehabilitate Nero we'd have to do Attila the Hun next.  According to the same historians who tell us he was a monster we learn that his mother was a manipulative psychopath as well.  This charmer (by the name of Agrippina the Younger) married the then emperor Claudius and persuaded him to adopt Nero, her son from an earlier marriage.  Claudius was also Nero's great uncle so there was already a family tie there of sorts.

Claudius died (poisoned by Agrippina according to Suetonius) and with his natural son being well under age his adoptive son Nero was proclaimed emperor.  His three closest advisors were his mother (poisoner), Seneca (philosopher, author, loan shark and sleazebag) and Burrus (praetorian prefect and thug).  All of these three had their talents but spent most of their time arguing with each other (although Burrus and Seneca were united in advising Nero to watch out for his mother).

As time went by Nero listened to his mother less.  She responded in a mature and sensible way; she cultivated Britannicus (the natural son of Claudius) now reaching his majority in the hopes of having him proclaimed as emperor in Nero's place.  Nero had learnt Mother's lessons well however and Britannicus died of a sudden attack of poison.  A few years later after she apparently found someone else to promote to the throne Nero had his mother murdered as well.  A fancy, collapsible boat was created designed to fall apart as Agrippina was being transported home unfortunately nobody bothered to check if she could swim.  When she emerged from the waters dripping and furious Nero had no choice but to send in the praetorians with sharp implements.  It was dressed up as suicide.

Meanwhile Burrus died (surprisingly of natural causes) and Seneca (facing embezzlement charges) withdrew into private life; after being implicated in a plot against Nero he withdrew into private death.  Nero was on his own.  On the one hand promoting the arts and athletic competitions is certainly not a bad thing.  He won a war with Parthia (well his generals did but he got the credit) and a revolt in Britain was crushed.  He toured Greece, participated in the Olympic Games and returned to Rome loaded with prizes he hadn't earned.  Certain tax exemptions and a promotion of the theatre gained popularity.  On the other hand the murders kept coming and while a certain amount of hanging out in brothels and sleeping with the wives of your subordinates was considered de rigeur Nero took it to slightly ridiculous lengths.  He also performed on stage which was shocking, demeaning to his office and apparently he wasn't very good.

Having ditched the wife his mother foisted on him he took up with another wife.  Specifically Poppaea was the wife of Otho, one of his mates, party companions and general hangers on.  Nero packed Otho off as governor of Portugal and moved the guy's wife into the imperial palace.  She later died, vicious rumours suggested Nero had kicked her in the stomache while she was pregnant.  This may or may not be true but its certain Nero was devastated by her loss going so far as to castrate a slave who looked like her and marry him.  Any chances that this particular union might have had a happy ending were scotched by Nero's absent minded habit of calling him Poppaea.

Then Rome burnt down.  Not all of it but a considerable amount of it.  This allowed rumour mongering historians to blame Nero for the conflagration.  Perhaps sensing a public relations opportunity Nero was active in the rescue work and paid for a lot of disaster relief out of his own pocket.  He then blew all of that popularity by spending public funds building himself a massive house on the ruins.

Sensing that he was losing the love of the people Nero blamed the fire on an obscure and rather irritating religious sect known as the Christians and had them slaughtered in creative and appalling ways.  By this time everybody was sick to death of Nero's rule.  It is important to note that "everybody" in this sense meant "everybody important enough to catch the attention of the historians".  He retained his popularity with the masses.  Unfortunately the masses didn't command legions.  Way over in Judea the Jews were revolting and troops were sent to put them down.  While this was going on the troops of the Rhine legions grew restive. 

The governor of one of the Gallic provinces revolted, largely as a tax protest (something the Americans would do with more success several centuries later).  Loyalish troops from the Rhine put down the revolt but simultaneously Galba, until then inoffensively governing Spain, claimed the throne.  Support for Nero collapsed and Nero panicked.  In fact had he toughed it out he may well have won or at least saved his life.  As it was he seems to have had a bit of a meltdown.  He ran in circles, fled Rome, returned to Rome, fled again and when a delegation from the Senate turned up to negotiate an honourable retirement he lost it completely and screwing up all of his courage (or rather, screwing up a slave's courage) got one of his retainers to run him through with a sword.

So what to make of Nero?  That he was a vicious, self indulgent thug with pretensions to artistic skill seems to be pretty much agreed.  Whether he was any worse than most people in that day and age is more debateable.  Certainly there were some good initiatives in the early days of his reign when he still had the advice of Seneca and Burrus and its also true that the loathing and discontent of the ruling elite wasn't matched by the populace.  But if you're going to be an emperor then keeping the ruling elite onside while not completely sacrificing the opinion of the mob is a circle you have to square.  At this Nero failed and once he realised that he'd failed lost his shit so completely that he killed himself when he most likely didn't have to.  Compared to Caligula he was probably an improvement.  Compared with Vespasian or Marcus Aurelius he was a dissolute nobody playing a role.  And as mentioned earlier, his acting skills sucked.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Silly After Action Report Part 2 - In Which the Predictable Becomes the Inevitable

Ivan Kent and I met up (in the electronic sense) to complete Scenario AP59 - Taking Heads.  People who bothered to pay attention to the first entry will note that at the end of Part One my all conquering Japanese had swept the miserable Filipino rabble before them and were poised to attack the village and make official an inevitable victory.  Purely out of modesty I had noted that the rabble sweeping had taken a little longer than was really desirable and that possibly, just possibly, I might be a gnats squeezed for time.  I might also have mentioned in terms of constructive criticism the inability of the massed firepower of three of my elite squads to deal with a single one of Ivan's nestled in a foxhole.

So with hope in my heart and a song on my lips (or possibly a song in my heart and hope on my lips) I resumed battle.  We started with Ivan's turn 4 which saw his troops slinking away from their flashing eyed Japanese foes and finding holes to hide in.  The only ones who couldn't slink off were the broken units stuck out in the open and I took a sadistic delight in slaughtering these with my defensive fire.  Since time was short I needed to amass victory points swiftly and that was four gained for no more effort than shooting.  Ivan also moved his half track around to the east of the board so its 75mm could cover the approach my troops were obviously going to use.  I had seized his 37mm anti tank gun in the rally phase and more for laughs than anything else I shot at the half track as it went by.  I didn't hit it but the number was so low that I could feel Ivan sweating over Skype.

End of Turn 4.  Ivan has pulled back and I'm about to start my despairing run.

Ivan's redeployment tightened up his position and solidified his position in the village.  I would have to punch him out of it and here is where two things conspired against me.  Firstly, having dawdled in the beginning I was short of time and would thus have to take risks and secondly my inability to harm his flank defenders in the slightest meant that what I originally intended as a flanking manoeuvre would now unpleasantly resemble a headlong dash into the teeth of his defences.

Firstly I wanted a little more smoke to protect my advance, I turned to my trusty mortar who chose this moment to reveal that he had donated his smoke rounds to a children's party.  I had another mortar but he was not in a useful position.  Still, having decided to bite the bullet I moved out.  Over on the right I slid troops through the trees and kunai until I was adjacent to one of his squads.  In the centre I pushed troops down the road and over the roadblock taking advantage of the cover provided by a merrily burning halftrack (remember that?) in doing so.  I sidled up to one of the victory buildings and somehow survived the defensive fire and prepared to advance in.  I had decided to try and mince my way through in close combat.  To put it bluntly my guys ran out in the open and charged towards buildings and jungle occupied by enemy soldiers.  If this sounds stupid that's because it was but I was running out of time.  Soon I would be running out of troops.  Before that happened though I gained a minor victory on the far left where my mortar finally broke a half squad that had been guarding the flank all game.  My accompanying squad galloped forward and killed it for failure to rout, another victory point to me which was countered when the 75mm on his halftrack reduced one of my squads to a red smear on the earth.

Here two close combats rage, both of which would result in disaster.

Uttering a prayer to the dice gods I launched my guys into close combat.  The dice gods are bastards!
I failed to inflict any injuries on his force and in return he killed a squad and a half of mine.  I fired into both melees in my next fire phase resulting in a pin on one of his squads.  On the other a morale check resulted in Ivan getting heat of battle which resulted in fanaticism and hero creation.  Because he wasn't doing well enough already apparently.  My personal morale collapsed at this point.  My spearpoint had been shattered and I would now have to do exactly the same thing again with my surviving troops only now against better opponents.

Two interesting things happened in Ivan's turn, attempting to shore up his last line of defence he dashed a squad and mmg across a road in full view of one of my surviving squads.  My dice roll was low and it was Ivan's turn to wash some of his casualties off the street.  The other was the blessed malfunctioning of his damn 75mm gun which had created carnage up until that point.  At least now my guys would only be hit by small calibre weapons.  Or smallish, there was still a .50cal machine gun out there somewhere.  I assumed it would be in the church steeple (wrong)and I attempted to make its job of hitting me harder by dropping some smoke.  My other mortar came up trumps and a beautiful smoke cloud billowed over his troops.  The very next turn on the weather check I rolled up gusts and blew it all away, so much for the cover.

Things were now desperate, that is they were more desperate than they had been a short while ago.  Somehow I managed to move more troops into close combat with his newly fanaticised troops over on the right while some desperate running down the street resulted in more deaths but also placed squads near a couple of victory buildings.  At which point Ivan revealed his .50cal not in the church steeple but in a building right next door to where one of my squads had just arrived, panting and lathered with sweat.  Just to prove that the dice gods are equal opportunity bastards Ivan promptly broke the thing with his first shot and it took no more part in the game.

Not that there was much of the game left.  I did finally manage to seize one of the victory buildings (the one next to the blaze) but in the close combat to the east Ivan rolled snakes and not only killed more of my troops but added an 8-0 officer to his hero and fanatic squad.  If I'd attacked one more time he would probably have wound up with a tank.  But there was no more attacking, I was done.  I had in total about six squads left of the thirteen I had started with.  I had killed some units and captured a building but the price had been far too high and the rest of the village was beyond the grasp of my remaining troops.  With one turn to go I conceded.  

In retrospect two things contributed to my defeat.  I was far too cautious at the beginning which meant I was slow in getting up near the village.  This put me under time pressure.  The other was my absolute inability to deal with his flanking troops.  It was never my intention to charge straight up the middle but rather ease around a flank.  With his flanks solid I had to attack frontally and naturally paid a horrible price in doing so.

Thanks to Ivan for the game, next time I swear I'm going to get you even if I have to make a human sacrifice to the dice gods.  On that note I think I might invite my brother over for "tea".

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I Want A Day

I'm sitting here under a fine coating of pumice stone.  This means I've either been ground zero for an unambitious volcano or I've been to the dentist.

For an hour or so I lay in a chair while a cheerful, chatty woman bombarded my innocent teeth with pulverised rock.  As a side effect a fair amount of the upper part of my body is covered with grey dust.  I resemble a slightly animated inhabitant of Pompeii.  Thanks to this avalanche writ small I now have gleamy, clean teeth.  Or at least half my teeth are gleamy clean.  The other half are the shabby mess they've always been.

If she had cleaned alternate teeth I would have at least had a symmetrical pattern happening but instead she did one side of my mouth and left it at that.  The result is that my mouth feels somewhat lopsided.  On the positive side apart from a couple of holes and general neglect my actual teeth are in moderately goodish condition.

My mouth may be lopsided now but when the other half of my teeth are cleaned I will apparently possess a mouth of unparalleled beauty.  Or I would do if it weren't for the fact that my next dental appointment isn't for a month so by the time the other side gets cleaned the first lot will be back to their usual shabby state.  Thus I am doomed to spend the rest of my life with a lopsided mouth.

I won't play on my newfound disability too much.  I won't park in disabled parking spots or apply for welfare.  I will, of course, expect preferential treatment in restaurants and for people to give up their seat to me on the train.  That seems only fair.  Those of us who suffer from Lopsided Mouth Syndrome (LMS) are the modern day's tragic heroes.  We nobly bear our disability and ask for very little in return.

Sadly the lack of awareness of LMS means that I and my fellow sufferers (I presume there are some) are frequently the target of abuse by the ignorant and misinformed.  More than once some doddering pensioner or pregnant woman has responded with hostility when I demand their seat on a bus.  Several restaurant owners point blank refuse to accept my right to priority seating, churlishly demanding that I make a reservation and be prepared to pay the bill.  Even the police are unsympathetic, moving me along everytime I try to raise money for LMS by appealing to the kindness of people in the street.

To combat such blatant prejudice I've written to the United Nations demanding a day to raise awareness for LMS and SBS has approached me in relation to a fifteen part documentary about the difficulties of living with LMS.  At least I think that was what it was about, it was a little difficult to understand the person on the other end of the phone.  Most importantly of all I have produced our very own coloured ribbon to hand out to people at railway stations and intersections.  Its a sort of off yellow colour with brown streaks.

With a UN day and a coloured ribbon to pin to our clothing I think everyone would agree that there is simply nothing more to be done to assist sufferers of LMS and that all I have to do now is sit back and wait for the good times to be hand delivered to my door.  Which explains why I took the rest of the day off.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Have You Done Your Anti-Corruption Day Shopping?

Following hard on the heels of Love Your Lawyer Day comes its ideological twin.  The United Nations has announced that December 9th will be Anti-Corruption Day.  That's right quinoa got an entire year but anti-corruption gets twenty four hours.

For those of you who can't help thinking that the UN promoting Anti-Corruption Day is rather like hyenas promoting Anti-Scavenger Day I would respectfully point out that this is the same organisation that put Cuba, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia on its human rights commission.  For those of you who think that western civilisation is the source of all evil in the world I might just mention that the USA and the UK are members too so no matter what your ideological bent the human rights commission has something to disgust everybody.

Anti Corruption Day is being sponsored (if that's the right word) by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Organised Crime.  I didn't realise that the UN had such a body and I must admit I fail to see its point.  Drug trafficking and organised crime have been flourishing for years, I'm sure they don't need the assistance of the UN.  Nevertheless its good to see them raising awareness about corruption.

This is what the day is all about, raising awareness.   Essentially it is a UN organised shout out; "Hey! Corruption happens!  And, on balance, its probably a bad thing!  Can I have some money now?"  With such weapons does the UN fight the ingrained habits of several thousand years of human behaviour. 

Let's face it, corruption has been with us a long time.  The opportunity to abuse a position of trust is traditionally one of the perks of having it.  Its only in the last few centuries that people, or at least some people, have been getting all uppity about the fact that their office bearers and civil servants are no more trustworthy than they are.  Indeed corruption has been woven in with the human condition for so long that we could probably claim any attempt to remove it is an act of cultural genocide and utterly disrespectful of the traditional rites and practices of the indigenous population (whoever and wherever they may be).  I would love to see the UN trying to wrap their collective skulls around that one.

One would think most people would be pretty aware of corruption whether its because some sleazebag politician rezoned the land next to the local school for a lead refinery or because a friend who's a police officer just helped you out with a speeding ticket.  Nevertheless the UN feels that awareness needs to be raised and I'm doing my little bit to help.  So with corruption dealt a mortal blow at the hands of the crusaders (or jihadists if you prefer) at the UN we can all look forward to a happier, healthier and wealthier tomorrow.  Except, of course, for all of the people who used to be corrupt.  Those suckers are going to starve.