It's been over four years since I wrote anything on this blog and to be honest, I'm very rusty about how to use it.
This is a test entry to see if I can get links working.
Does it hyperlink?
It's been over four years since I wrote anything on this blog and to be honest, I'm very rusty about how to use it.
This is a test entry to see if I can get links working.
Does it hyperlink?
It’s not often that a multiple murderer gives you a guided online tour of his home, so anyone interested in the psychology of homicidal loners should check out George Sodini’s Youtube clips before someone demands that they be taken down. Sodini killed three women in a planned attack at a Pittsburgh gym in 2009, injuring nine others and killing himself. Afterwards a profile emerged of a healthy and relatively prosperous man, with no strong political or religious convictions who worked as a systems analyst for a law firm and lived alone.
He had given hints on his blog of his deadly intentions, but no intervention ever took place. Perhaps there was nobody reading his site. In it, the 48-year old Sodini wrote of his loneliness and sexual frustration, having not had sex for 18 years and not spent a full night with a girlfriend for 26 years.
His life might have been simpler if he’d been willing to settle for a woman of his own age, but he instead became a disciple of the seduction ‘guru’ R. Don Steele (RDS) whose books and seminars claim to teach men over 35 how to attract women aged 18-34. As part of the groundwork for one of these courses, Sodini filmed these two clips: one telling of how he concealed his unhappiness and another showing his home environment.
What’s striking about the home tour is how antiseptic his house seems. The walls have no decoration at all. There is little sign that he had any hobbies or interests apart from mention of some music MP3s. I can’t see any books apart from the self-help seduction manuals he displays on the coffee table. There’s nothing threatening to be seen, just a glaring emptiness.
I wonder whether there are a lot of men out there like him. There can’t be many things more embarrassing than to be a heterosexual man who just can’t seem to attract women. The feeling of failure must be crushing, and yet for Sodini, much of the problem stemmed from his circumstances. He was a non-lawyer in a legal firm; in a technical specialty that required a problem-solving mind with little scope for interpersonal development. The majority of people in his line of work would have been male, whilst the women he saw at work would probably have ignored him, as he was in a support function rather than a lawyer. There is mention in his writings of a terrible family background – especially a bullying older brother. I wonder whether he was mildly autistic. For all the clear signs of frustration, there’s little sign of human empathy. But that could be a result of decades of being ignored. It’s hard to know what’s cause and effect here.
Our police and security services are often on the lookout for the impressionable young muslim male and the angry white male with fanatical religious, racial or political opinions, but I can’t help thinking we should also watch out for those who are lonely through little fault of their own. In decades past, families were larger and more people belonged to churches and political associations (or even trade unions). As much as anything else, these provided safe settings for the sexes to mingle. As these have declined in significance, the danger grows of there being more and more lonely individuals who can’t reach out without seeming desperate and ensuring their own rejection, as clearly happened to Sodini. In the end, they may decide to die famously than be ignored for the rest of their solitary lives.
I read one of Agatha Christie's earlier novels last week. The following extracts are quite revealing. From "The Seven Dials Mystery" (1929):
He slipped his hand into the pocket of the dark blue suit into which he had just changed and held out something for Bill's inspection.
'A real, genuine blue-nosed automatic', he said with modest pride.
'No, I say,' said Bill. 'Is it really?' He was undoubtedly impressed.
'Stevens, my man, got him for me. Warranted clean and methodical in his habits. You press the button and Leopold* does the rest'.
* for some unexplained reason, he calls the gun Leopold.
Loraine rose and dressed herself in a tweed coat and skirt. Into one pocket of the coat she dropped an electric torch. Then she opened the drawer of her dressing table and took out a small ivory-handled pistol - almost a toy in appearance. She had bought it the day before at Harrods and she was very pleased with it.
So in 1929, you could buy a gun in a department store. You didn't even have to show up in person - just send your butler to buy it for you. Of course you had to be careful whom you shot.
'I'm glad you didn't shoot', said Jimmy. 'I'm a bit tired of being shot at'.
'I might easily have done so' said Mr Bateman.
'It would be dead against the law if you did', said Jimmy. 'You've got to make quite sure the beggar's house-breaking, you know, before you pot at him. You mustn't jump to conclusions. Otherwise you'd have to explain why you shot a guest on a perfectly innocent errand like mine.'
Luckily we live in more enlightened times when guns are not available to the general public and of course we enjoy far lower levels of crime than they did in 1929. /<sarcasm>
Saw an interesting interview with Ben Goldacre of Badscience on his site. In it he relates how journalists get sources for their stories. They use a service called Response Source. It connects the worlds of journalism and PR. Tell it that you're a journalist and fill in the form to get a press release to crib from! That's the hard work done, so off to the pub, trebles all round. If you're wondering why you should pay money to read a re-written press release, you can just log onto Response Source and see the latest releases as they come out.
So that's the 'news' covered. What about readers' opinions? Well there's no need to bother trawling through the idiocy on message boards like Have Your Say or AOL comment any more. Just go to the Twat-O-Tron at Speak You're bRanes and read some frighteningly lifelike computer-generated drivel. It's the closest thing you'll see to a successful Turing Test. Click 'new' to get a sample and you'll never need to talk to a cab driver again. Here are a few:
"Oh here we go again. the bbc pretends its not true but EnviroMENTALists are promoting homosexualism becaus Gordon is too busy lining his pockets. when will this government smash the system. What a mess.
"I read about this in the Daily Mail here come the pc brigaed and the annny state! the British sheeple are interfering in our lives againb ecause they are trying to cover up their mistakes, Come on get tough, If you disagree SHUT UP!!!!!
glos, United Kingdom"
and so on....
'Ist er ein Junge oder ein Vater?' - That's my main memory of being taken to a coastal resort in Germany when I was 13 - a little girl asking whether I was a boy or a father. Of course the two are not mutually exclusive, as we are reminded by the case of 13-year olf Alfie Patten shown in this video with his offspring.
Many people are expressing their shock. For me the real eye-opener comes in this exchange with the reporter:
Reporter: "What will you do financially?
Alfie: "What's 'financially'?
Marvellous. He's 13 and doesn't know the meaning of the word 'financially'. I've often speculated that the problem with telling young people to use condoms is that it assumes that they can read the instructions on the packet.
New visa rules came into force yesterday for those wishing to enter the United States. UK visitors will no longer be able to fill in the Visa Waiver form on the aircraft and must instead be pre-cleared with ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) at least three days before departure. Already there are unscrupulous operators trying to charge money for this free service, so in order to save you from wasting money, here is the correct link from the website of the US embassy in London:
From the embassy's site:
Travelers don't need to have specific travel plans in order to register. Registration is valid for two years or the life of the traveler's passport, whichever is shorter. So far, 99.6% of those registering have been approved - most within four seconds.
I've been arguing with idiots again. I'd really cut down on this, since I gave up reading the Hendon Mob and Gutshot forums a couple of years ago, but I got drawn in again on the AOL comments section today. If you think that the people who write on the BBC's 'Have your say' page are morons (and I do) then wait until you've read the comments on AOL stories. On a recent piece about immigration, someone actually wrote 'Bring back Enoch Powell'. I kid you not. This sort of thing is so commonly parodied that you forget that such idiocy still exists.
I got involved on AOL today after reading a story about rural house prices and seeing some old git giving it the 'In my day blah blah blah' crap. Apparently in the past people saved for housing. Well I never. Anyway, after reading how young people are supposed to 'SACRIFICE!' I said:
"I love it when people who bought houses when they were at low multiples of average earnings start lecturing those of us born later to 'sacrifice'."
I went on to say that I wasn't wanting anything to be given to the young, just a more liberal planning regime. I won't bore regular readers of this site with any more detail; you know the score. Anyway, at the end I said: "The baby-boomer generation is perhaps the most selfish in history". There are clearly a lot of people around who don't know what the term 'baby-boomer' means because the next comment I got back from Mr "SACRIFICE!" was to tell me that I should be grateful to them for winning two world wars. LOL. Anyway, when I went on to explain what I was really addressing the generation born after that, I got taken to task by someone called 'Baby Boomer' who said, among other things:
"WE Sir, are the children of heroes. When we were at school in the 50's and 60's we were taught by heroes (in my case by a decorated ex-RAF officer with a DSO and DFC and two bars from The Battle of Britain in 1940) We looked up to these people because they had something to say...and we listened . In fact we we are the last generation that got told to "sit down shut up and listen" and (without wailing or making a complaint) and we got a stiff belt around the ear if we didn't. We actually went to school in school uniform because that was just the way it was. We also went there to LEARN and NOT to " take on" the system like some barrack room lawyer or to "know our rights" over the wearing of inappropriate clothes, religious head dresses, make up and jewellery."
I don't know when kids stopped wearing school uniforms. They still do where I live, but it's the stuff about respecting the older people that sounds false to me. I'd love to think it was true but I suspect there's a huge element of selective memory here and to present my rebuttal, I'd like to call four witnesses to the court. Their names are John, Paul, George and Ringo.A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964)
Watch how these four young men, born between 1940 and 1943 (slightly older than the textbook boomers) treat Paul's grandfather; not a lot of respect for the older generation there. Later there's this classic exchange with a war veteran at around 4 mins 50 seconds into the clip:
Johnson: 'I fought the war for your sort.'
Ringo: 'Bet you're sorry you won.'
Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.
UPDATE: Note that John Lennon clearly 'snorts coke' at 2 mins 26 seconds. Later we see Paul and John, then in their twenties, harassing teenage schoolgirls. Ringo is shown smoking. Fat chance you'd see any of that in an S Club 7 film today.
I saw an unintentionally hilarious interview with Channel 4's 'property expert' Kirsty Allsopp in the London Lite newspaper about a month ago. Sadly I was not able to find it online. In it she answered various questions about the credit crunch and gave some stunningly stupid answers. Asked about whether buy-to-let was still a good investment opportunity, she ended her reply by saying 'It was never about making a quick buck anyway'. Huh? What planet has she been living on? That's exactly what most people thought they were getting themselves into, especially in the last four or five years of the boom. Asked about the prospects of a given area, she said something along the lines of 'I'm not a believer in buying in specific areas. I'm more interested in buying specific properties'. That's all well and good, but her show is called 'Location, Location, Location'!
However this is as nothing to her masterpiece at the Channel 4 website, where she's surpassed herself with this incredible analysis of the current fortunes of the property market. The money quote:
Words truly fail me.
She really seems to think that the slowdown in the market is due to Stamp Duty. She's utterly delusional. It's incredible that to be able to sell someone a few grand in shares you have to pass exams and be qualified, but you can advise strangers on the biggest investment decision they will ever make and be a total ignoramus about Economics. Allsopp reminds me of the person who claims to have had ten years experience, but has actually had one experience that's lasted ten years.
Oh the humanity! One day you're a perfectly respectable son of a notorious wartime fascist lunatic, with a fascination for Nazi sex-games and the next day the News of the World photographs you standing next to Bernie Ecclestone.
Ouch! That's got to hurt.
I don't know why the News of the World goes to such lengths to point out that Mosley is a masochist and a sadist. I would have thought that this was obvious given that he
a) watches Formula One.
b) expects others to watch it too.
At least the NOTW didn't consult the opinion of the Holocaust Educational Trust, as the Times did in a fit of righteous indignation designed to put a holier-than-thou face on what is basically a salacious story with no wider public significance -
And quite why the Trust felt the need to comment I don't know. Does nobody say 'No Comment' any more? What about 'This has absolutely nothing to do with us'?
India's getting richer. Indians are getting richer. That's great news, isn't it? Well I certainly think so. But apparently, there is a downside to this. According to this BBC report, there is a danger that India is developing a much more "hire and fire" commercial culture and in future it will be harder to have a job for life if you're not performing at your work.
Perhaps I'd need to work for the BBC to understand why this is a bad thing.
Welcome back in 2008. Happy New Year.
There are lots of serious topics to write about already this year - the future of Pakistan and the US primaries for instance. Huge amounts have been written about both, much of it already proved wrong. Pakistan has been calmer than Kenya, despite hundred of column inches in the press forecasting total meltdown (though it still can't be ruled out). The polls and the pundits have been taken by surprise in New Hampshire.
Perhaps the real truth is that nobody knows anything.
Except for one lady - Alexyss Tylor. Last year ended with me criticising some of the "women's" writers in the Times. Their advice appeared contradictory and inane. What a relief then, to discover Ms Tylor, who broadcasts on Public Access Television in Atlanta. Accompanied by her mother, she offers informed and reasoned commentary on relationships and sexual matters. Her mother, a retired minister of 34 years experience, acts as consiglieri, refraining from comment most of the time, but occasionally interupting proceedings to cross-examine her daughter's thinking with the forensic skills of the late Robin Day.
Tylor doesn't shy away from using graphic language to educate her viewers, so it's perhaps advisable not to watch the following nuggets of wisdom if you are at work. Instead, wait until you get home and get a pen and paper ready to make notes as you learn things you simply never knew.
A cousin of mine (female) sent me a link to an article in the Times about a month ago. It was about the need for commitment in relationships. She strongly agreed with the sentiment expressed, as did most of the respondents, and asked my opinion. I can't recall what I said at the time, except that I mentioned financial factors behind men's unwillingness to commit to marriage. Looking at the comments again, I see that Liz from Plymouth says it best:
Many men don't want to marry for fear of being stripped of their economic status should it go wrong. Who can blame them?
When I put this to my cousin she wasn't impressed that I'd brought money into the calculation, but I pointed out that a link on the same page she'd sent me argued that mothers mostly need male partners for financial support.
Although I've read the Times on and off for years, I had never really noticed that it has a strand of comment pieces concerning women and their relations with men (written by women of course). Now that I've found it I'm hooked. Today I read someone called India Knight writing about girls who have sex with footballers without asking for payment in return! Apparently a 19-year girl who had sex with some famous footballers is a victim. Can that be right? If the 19-year old David Young had slept with his favorite Hollywood actresses of the late 1980s, I don't think anyone would have called him a victim. Ho hum.
So if sex with attractive famous people isn't what women really want or should want, what is? Well according to another Times Women's writer, that answer is 'attention'. I have to say that I found this last article to be one of the most insulting pieces about women I've ever read. I don't think the woman who wrote it meant it that way, it's just that if you read it and mentally substitute 'six-year olds' for 'women', it makes just as much sense. Try it yourself - here are examples:
You can also guarantee that any woman [6 year old] – with the possible exception of the hedge-fund huntress – will resent being given what she wants if she has had to ask for it or prompt the giver in any way. This is because what a woman [6 year old] really wants, above all things, is for someone (a man) [(a parent)] to be so focused on her desires, so attentive to her every whim, that he will know what she needs....
... We want attention and we want attentive presents. Indulgent presents. Spoiling, decadent, surplus-to-requirement presents that flatter the most superficial aspects of our nature. Maybe even presents designed to get us more attention, like a little gold jacket, some big gold shoes or one of those cashmere scarves that looks as if it was knitted for a giant in a fairy tale.
Deeply depressing reading. It makes you understand why men who can't play football turn to guys like this for his gems of dating advice, such as why you should never take a woman to dinner until after you've slept with her.
"The average age of teenagers murdered on the streets of London is just 16, an Evening Standard study has revealed."
Is it heartless of me to point out that the average age of ALL teenagers is 16?
A few months ago a contestant at the Miss Teen USA contest was mocked for an answer she gave in the Q&A section. Told that twenty per cent of Americans could not find the USA on a world map and asked why this was, she rambled incoherently:
Some TV executives felt sorry for her and invited her on to a breakfast show to give a better answer (after showing her in her bikini). The second time around she said that she doubted the accuracy of the survey but, if true, it showed the need for a greater emphasis on Geography in school. She was wrong. The real reason that so many Americans don't know the answer to the question is that they just don't care. There is no great penalty for being ignorant if you live in an idiot culture.
Before any British readers start pointing the finger though, I think they should read this next story. A Polish schoolboy who came to Britain two years ago, hoping to improve his education, has gone back to Poland, complaining that he was 'treading water' in the British school system.
I find this story interesting, because he doesn't just blame the system. His chief problem was the the apathy of the other students -
"The boys were childish, they didn't read papers and weren't interested in anything ... And the girls only talked about shopping and what they were going to do on Friday night... In Poland you have to know the names of all countries, even the rivers. But in England hardly anyone could place Kenya or Poland on the map. The teachers didn't test knowledge, only effort."
It's the idiot culture again. You can walk into a newsagent store here and find half a dozen magazines full of fluff about Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. How can people buy this garbage without embarrassment? Is it just an Anglo-Saxon thing or is it a feature of all prosperous countries - that general knowledge and current affairs are seen as irrelevant to people who have enough to live on?
To fix this, what's needed isn't more money thrown at education. It's the return of ridicule. We need to make fun of people who don't take an interest in the world around them. It would cost nothing.
I doubt any of this will interest Miss Teen South Carolina though. She's now living in a luxury appartment in Manhattan with a modelling contract that according to reports 'could earn her $30,000 per day'.
There's a dream I get from time to time in which I am looking at a map or a globe and I notice a country that I've never seen before. It's usually landlocked in Canada or Russia. Nothing much happens. I just stare at it.
I had a similar experience this week while reading a comment on Pete Birks' blog. Birks had written about the various 'stans' of Central Asia, some of which are nation states, others merely regions of Russia and that prompted someone else to post a map of the regions of Russia and the remark: 'I'm intrigued by the autonomous oblast in the lower right-hand corner, labelled "Jewish"...'
I assumed it was some sort of joke but, lo and behold, there it was:
It's the blue one in the far east. It turns out that in the 1920s Stalin had some idea of promoting a dedicated Jewish region. It's a fascinating story and I recommend you read about it -
Check out the flag and the coat of arms too. The former is a bit like the 'gay rainbow' flag, while the latter has a tiger on it!
Intriguingly, Russia also has a republic that is officially Buddhist. It's Kalmykia, the green-coloured one in the west, marked with an 8, just above Dagestan. It amuses me that the jewish region is in the Asian part of Russia, just above China, while the Buddhist one is in Europe!
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