Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sacred nonsense

I’m disappointed. This outrageous Monty Python sketch should have been censored in every self-respecting god-fearing Christian nation throughout the world. Not only does it contain images of half-naked children; it also has kids pronouncing in song the pornographic word “sperm”… which is really a bit too much.

For optimal viewing, click on YouTube and full screen

This dark video contains more than enough to shock dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church. And I would hope that such mother-fuckers are indeed profoundly shocked.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Yanks in control of an Aussie Eden

If I were still residing out in my native land, I would surely react strongly to this ugly case of a total sell-out to American capitalism. Click here to see what I’m talking about. Settled down in France, far away from this sad situation, I can’t do much, and I no longer really care too much. Australia, after all, has become a total sell-out to global capitalism. Aussie voters—including the much-celebrated social wage-earning class known as battlers—are solely concerned with paying off the mortgage on their dull little homes. So, who gives a brass razoo (or a fuck, for that matter) about the presence of Yankee capitalism on an exotic West Australian island.

All the same, I’m immensely saddened by this story. But there’s surely worse to come…

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hairy hues

The name of this pretty fellow is Nasser Ben Ali al-Anassi. He was proud to claim credit for ordering the Charlie massacres in Paris.

Now that the nasty bastard has been droned, we may never know the intriguing secret of the method he used to obtain a multicolored beard. Was the subtle watercolor effect the result of artistic brushwork? I suspect that he was keen on Yemeni soups with exotic spices.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Registration of a birth in England

Having examined countless BMD records [births, marriages and deaths] in the context of my personal genealogical research, I was delighted to come upon this copy of a quite ordinary birth record, bearing today’s date.

Click to enlarge

The informant was the child’s father, who signed the registration simply by means of his given name: William. He and the baby’s mother, Catherine Middleton, have unusual occupations. The father apparently earns his living as a prince of the United Kingdom. And the mother works in the same kind of job, as a princess of the United Kingdom. As the saying goes, it takes all sorts to make a world. As for the offspring, a girl, she was born 3 days ago in a Westminster hospital. I always feel a little sorry for babies born in the middle of big cities. But I realize they're capable of growing up just as happily as us country kids.

They sound like a nice little family. The only thing that upsets me a little is the terribly complicated name they’ve given to the baby, composed of no less than 9 terms: Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge. What I mean to say is that I know a couple who simply named their little female baby Zoé. I reckon they would have been happy with the single letter Z... except that the registry office wouldn't have agreed. But everybody, of course, has different attitudes towards inventing names for babies.

There’s another minor detail, of a puzzling nature. I’m incapable of fathoming out the family’s simple surname. Concerning the mother, there’s no problem: she was a Middleton. On the other hand, the father’s surname is hard to define. But that’s neither here nor there. I may have already said that it takes all kinds to make a world.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Energy where it's wanted, at home

In France, the production and distribution of electricity have always been handled by a gigantic state-owned monopoly, EDF [Electricité de France]. A decade ago, sensing that private citizens were interested in the installation of solar panels on their rooftops, EDF set up a subsidiary named EDF ENR.

Imaginative graphic designers replaced the first letter of EDF by a lower-case “e”, announcing apparently (somewhat tardily) the start of the monopoly’s Internet era. As for the appended ENR acronym, these three letters designate a clumsy French notion that might be translated as distributed new energies. It’s a clumsy expression in the sense that “renewable” would be a more relevant adjective than “new”, whereas the idea that energy should be distributed (instead of being stored up in a mysterious piggy bank?) seems to be self-evident. Appending an awkward three-letter acronym to an existing long-established three-letter acronym smacks of amateurishness. In a nutshell, there’s simply too much coded data in the new logo for it to be effective.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof that this EDF ENR entity is a flop is the fact that it is now being served up to citizens in all sorts of spammish circumstances. Hardly a week goes by without my receiving spam phone calls from mysterious callers who know my name and address, but can’t quite pronounce “Skyvington”. They always start out by claiming that they’re phoning me on behalf of the illustrious old-time EDF monopoly. Claiming that they’re on a technological mission, they say: “If I understand correctly, you’re the owner of a property at Choranche. Is that correct?” And that’s the moment at which I tell them politely to fuck off…

After talking about this situation with my son François Skyvington, I realize that I’m not alone in being pursued by unscrupulous people who would like to make themselves out to be representatives of EDF ENR. François has even invented a panoply of imaginative scenarios for getting fun out of getting rid of these spam merchants. The guiding principle is simple. The callers have your name, address and phone number… but they know nothing more about you. So, you can really have fun in leading them up all kinds of garden paths.

• If you’re really nasty and intrepid, you can of course produce unexpected gasps to simulate an on-line heart attack. But you might have to explain to your local authorities, later on, that you don’t know why an ambulance and a police vehicle have arrived at your house. It's preferable, for local credibility, to avoid such a Cry Wolf event.

• A simple solution is The Man from Snowy River syndrome.
There was movement at the station,
for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses—
he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding
where the wild bush horses are,
And the stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight.
In a nutshell, in the middle of your caller’s explanations about solar panels on your rooftop, you suddenly scream out: “Shit, the stallion has just escaped onto the highway!”

• An amusing variation on this theme of a sudden major happening is what I might refer to as the My friend the pope syndrome, which is quite simple to enact. You start out by explaining calmly to your caller, concerned with solar panels, that you do in fact live at a high altitude, where the sun’s impact would be optimal. That gets your caller excited. You go on to explain to your caller (who, of course, knows fuck all about the true geography of your abode) that your house is located on a mountainous pinnacle that entices all kinds of visitors. Then you scream out: “Hey, I have to interrupt our conversation. My friend the pope promised me that he would drop in today. Holy shit! There’s a papal helicopter hovering over the house. I must leave you, because His Holiness has just landed on my front lawn.”

• My son François is a moralistic fellow, like me (not surprisingly). One of his pet themes (with which my dog Fitzroy and I happen to agree wholeheartedly) is that we should go out of our way, whenever the occasion arises, to establish momentary contacts with unknown individuals whose paths happen to cross ours, even for a fleeting instant. François is therefore the unexpected friend of isolated individuals at autoroute stations, for example, who receive his payment in the middle of the night. Often it's no more than a simple greeting, enhanced by reflections about the weather. He delights in introducing a tiny but real element of human contact into all kinds of otherwise robotic situations. And this is no doubt the exceptional quality of my son that has led to his successful career as a French TV host…

Let me get back to the substance of the present article: the reason why I started out talking about the production and distribution of electric energy. A major earth-shaking announcement has just been made.

Click here to see the explicit details.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Knowing Indonesia

At the start of 1962, when I sailed from Sydney for the Old World, my grandfather was surprised, indeed slightly shocked, that a young Australian might venture out into the Northern Hemisphere without having first visited Outback Australia and our neighboring New Zealand. Today, in a way, I agree with him. But I’ve never, of course, regretted for an instant my profound relationship with France, along with parts of Britain and the Mediterranean (particularly Greece and Israel). For me, travel has always been an almost sacred affair, carried out necessarily in solitude, akin to setting foot in an ancient monastery. Consequently, I’ve never really traveled very much at all, except maybe into my own metaphorical “heart and soul”.

For Australians in general, Indonesia is a very special nation, since they’re our closest northern neighbors. Personally, I’ve never set foot there. As a schoolchild in Grafton, in the 1950s, I was thrilled when my paternal grandparents, in the context of an exchange program, welcomed a male Indonesian student into their home for a short time. (It’s not impossible that his name is going to spring into my mind, one night, in a dream.) He was so intelligent, refined and friendly that we tended to look upon him as an exhibit in a cultural museum. I would love to know what he thought of us.

Click to enlarge

Today, in my native land, everybody is shocked (like me too) because, in the early hours of the morning, Indonesian police dragged a couple of nice Australian fellows out of their beds in Bali, and stood them up for execution in front of firing squads. Needless to say, I disagree entirely with this kind of barbarian manslaughter, which serves no useful purpose. Here in France, on 18 September 1981, the great lawyer Robert Badinter made a moving speech to the National Assembly that culminated in the abolition of the death penalty.

« J'ai l'honneur,
au nom du Gouvernement de la République,
de demander à l'Assemblée nationale
l'abolition de la peine de mort en France... »

It would be marvelous if every civilized nation in the world were to abandon forever the disgusting death penalty… but we’re nowhere near the achievement of this goal. Just look at Texas. Meanwhile, it would be good if Australia were to make an effort in getting to know our northern neighbor, instead of reducing the Indonesian nation to the sole silly low-cost pleasure-ground of Bali.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

Centenary of a terrible Turkish crime

The French media are full of in-depth articles about a horrendous crime perpetrated by the precursors of present-day Turkey exactly a century ago, starting on 24 April 1915. But it had nothing to do with the Anzac fiasco at Gallipoli on the following day. The tragedy that concerns European historians, politicians and intellectuals of all kinds was the revolting Armenian Genocide, which resulted in the massacre of between 800,000 and 1.5 million victims.

An Armenian woman kneeling beside a dead child in a field near Aleppo.

The modern state of Turkey refuses stubbornly and stupidly to condone the use of the term “genocide” to designate what happened. To see the list of nations that respect the notion of an Armenian genocide (such as France), alongside those that don’t (such as Australia), click here.

Meanwhile, in my native Clarence River region, they’ve been “celebrating” gaily and naively the Anzac fiasco of 1915 (totally ignored by French media) by means of joyous horseback cavalcades, meant to symbolize the participation of Australia’s Light Horse Brigade. In reality, of course, there were never any Aussie horses at Gallipoli…

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Anzac Day madness

Within the forthcoming 48 hours, my native land will be moving massively into a lugubrious funereal mode of existence, incorrectly labeled as a national celebration of soldiery and martyrdom.

Mourning the death of a warrior is meaningful in the special case of relatives who were once in personal contact with the fallen individual. Celebrating the bravery of a military hero is a different affair, which can be meaningful for observers whose knowledge of the heroic individual comes from written records and hearsay. Today, through the simple arithmetic of dates and ages, there are no longer any living Australians who might mourn an ancestral World War I martyr. Consequently, we are faced with the unique possibility of praising the bravery of the precious few who did indeed perform proven acts of bravery.

One such soldier was my father’s uncle Francis Pickering [1897-1945], who was awarded a Military Medal for his “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the attack on the village of Joncourt on the 1st October 1918”.

The exploits of "King" Pickering (whose nickname became my father's official given name) are outlined in my book They Sought the Last of Lands – My Father’s Forebears [Gamone Press, 2014].

I’ve always been nauseated by Australia’s constant attempts to glorify the utter madness of the terrible events that took place in Turkey on 25 April 1915. When I was a youth in Grafton, a pair of ridiculous dates—Anzac Day and, a month later, Empire Day—sickened me constantly by their obvious absurdity. Why should the youth of Australia be expected to celebrate the nasty deeds and archaic illusions of the blood-thirsty old lion on the other side of the planet?

And who was this fragile but pretentious and depressive Victorian dandy named Winston Churchill, a future alcoholic rejected by his father, whose crazy appreciations of military conquest resulted in an entire generation of young Australians being sent to a certain death? Shame on his name!

These days, I’m saddened whenever I see young Aussies falling into the crazy trap of a would-be “celebration” of Anzac Day madness, fueled emotionally but superficially by the senseless romantic lament of a lone bugle and bagpipes at dawn. What utter nonsense! Such Australian visitors would do better to spend their time in Istanbul (ancient Constantinople), admiring the splendors of our Byzantine heritage. And those who are adamant upon visiting the horror sites of the Western Front would do far better, in my humble opinion, to make an effort to establish authentic in-depth contacts with modern France and Europe…

I’m now including the addresses of three interesting but quite different videos that illustrate the negative aspects of Australia’s Anzac Day madness. They’re lengthy (well over an hour) and dense. But I advise you strongly to take time off and settle down comfortably to view them.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Woodpecker drops in for sunflower seeds

I’ve often seen this fellow drumming on a wooden pole alongside the tiled box in which I put sunflower seeds for the flock of great tits [mésanges in French] that spend the winter months at Gamone.

He’s a great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus major) [pic épeiche in French]. A red patch on the nape of his neck identifies this specimen as a male. Today, I discovered for the first time that he’s interested in the sunflower seeds inside the box.

Clearly, he had realized that the box contained good stuff for birds. He inspected the situation closely for a while, to make sure that it would be perfectly feasible to move inside for a feed. At one stage, he even made an aggressive gesture towards a great tit that had dared to fly into the box from an opening on the other side. Needless to say, the tit was no doubt surprised to encounter the large head of a woodpecker gazing into the seed box, and it promptly darted off to safety in a nearby shrub.

Finally, the woodpecker decided to venture into the box, where it stayed (out of sight) for a minute or so. It returned to its familiar wooden pole to break open the shell of a sunflower seed, but I suspect that it had rapidly opened and consumed seeds during its short stay inside the box. All afternoon, the bird returned regularly to the pole and the seed box to take advantage of its newly-discovered source of food.