One Palestine, Completed

I finished reading One Palestine Complete, the history of Palestine during the British Mandate. Predictably enough the violence between the Jews and the Arabs gets worse, with Arabs doing their small scale terrorist thing and Jews setting up people’s malitias armed and trained with a blind eye turned by the British. Although the Zionists had licence to immigrate as many Jews as they wanted they took relitavely low numbers to keep the economy running smoothly. When fascism took hold in Europe they knew they could not take all the Jews being persecuted and prioritised only fit, male, educated people. They were happy at the number of suitable candidates fascism supplied them, Ben-Gurion (later first Prime Minister of Israel) said “We want Hitler to be destroyed but as long as he exists we are interested in exploiting that for the good of Palestine”. People with mental disabilities were not allowed to immigrate, and a fund was set up to return those who had become mentally ill. Eventually the British realised they weren’t going to solve the problems of Palestine and it was costing a lot of money, so they packed up and left. The UN vote for partition caused a worldwide diplomatic campaign with bribery on a huge scale, the Jewish Agency set aside a million dollars for it. On Nover 29 1947 they voted to split Palestine into two states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs. The Arabs were against the plan, being in the majority they would be happy with one democratic state. The Zionists accepted but everyone knew it was an unworkable plan with a long contorted border that would still leave a majority of Arabs in the proposed boundary. Towards the end of the mandate the Zionist malitias (Haganah, Palmach, Etzel and Lechi) invaded several Arab cities and areas including Tiberias, Safed, Haifa and Jaffa. The Arabs were unorganised and leaderless and deserted the invaded cities. The British handed over control to the Jewish Agency and the UN, completing the task set out in the Balfour declaration and UN mandate to advance the Jewish state, while ignoring the needs of those already living there.

I also read The Lord of the Flies, which was good but probably better read as a 10-13 year old. And I got Derren Brown, Tricks of the Mind, for Christmas, a lightweight and fun introduction to memory techniques, hypnotism, mind reading (obviously not literally, but reading the clues in peoples speech and body movements) and NLP (a very good pyramid scheme).

One Palestine, Complete

I’m reading a book called “One Palestine, Complete” about the British invation and rule of Palestine during the first world war up to the second. Palestine was the last country to be invaded for the British Empire with the dual purpose of attacking the German allied Turkish Ottoman empire who ruled it at the time and promising it to the Zionists. Please the Zionists, the British government thought, and Jews would help keep the US fighting the war and stop the Russians from making peace with Germany. The invasion went smoothly with a train line built from Egypt to bring supplies and the Turks politely leaving Jerusalem without destroying its valuable history.

The Paris Peace Conference was a year long meeting to create the new face of the world after the first world war, new nations were created and old ones re-created. A mandate was a new spin on colonialism for the 20th century and Palestine ended up as a British Mandate, ruled by a civil administration and self-financing. The British run government created a stable judiciary, built roads and ensured the post was reliable. They tended to see the Arabs as primitive natives to whom they could bring some civilisation, but were also happy for them to keep their local customs.

Of course the trouble with promising the land to one people is that there was a large population already there. The Colonial Office had a general policy of allowing Jewish immigration in the hope that after a couple of generations the Jewish population would outnumber the Arab and the stated aim of a Jewish homeland would be possible. When a Jewish Englishman is appointed the high commissioner the Arabs get understandably upset and riots break out in the streets.

I’m only about half way through this fascinating book. I wonder what happens in the end.

The need for a Scottish Podcast

A while ago I gained an ipod shuffle in a fraudulent illegal lottery I helped to set up. My guilt at helping with this immoral website (you know the type “get an ipod for 20 pounds, once 20 other people have got one besides you” and then profiteering from it was second only to the fact I had no need for the thing. I quite like being able to concentrate and appreciate the world when I’m out and about. However long commutes to England and elsewhere and I’ve got more into the habit of using it, especially with the BBC doing some interesting podcasts like Newsnight, From our Own Correspondant and The Now Show.

Even Channel 4 has some interesting stuff on their channel4radio.com site, an attempt to get into new media which allows downloads in MP3 (their music shows are only streamed in MP3 using cookies and I guess user agent to stop you downloading the stuff, annoying if understandable and better than WMV which they only use for the occational audio books that they try to sell). 4radio also serves to convince the world they are worthy of gaining the second UK wide DAB licence, which should be fun.

But nobody is doing a decent Scottish news podcast, so I have no way to catch up with news stories relevant to me and instead have to listen to more englandandwales stories which the London broadcasters think are relevant to everyone. The only relevent thing I’ve found is the First Ministers Questions podcast, but the Scottish parliament is increasingly ya-boo politics like the UK parliament. Hopefully BBC Scotland will get into podcasting soon since nobody else thinks it worth making news in Scotland with an international agenda and the only such problem which exists is Good Morning Scotland at 6am.

Tipton

Kirssy has moved from one of the poshest places in England – Twekesbury home of marinas, St George’s day parades and teenage repellant machines – to one of the most schemie – Tipton.

If you phone up national rail enquiries and ask for a train from Hell they automatically know that you mean Birminham New Street. Well Tipton is the place that people from Birmingham look down on. (Allegedly Tipton is a separate town from Birmingham, although as far as I can tell the whole area between Birmingham and Wolverhampton is one large breeze block).

Tipton has more burnt out houses per street than anywhere else in the UK (I made that up, but it’s true). It was described during the last by-election as one of the only places in Britain with no middle class. It also has three BNP councillors on the local council, which might explain the curious sense of humour of the council’s licensing board. They refused to allow any more pubs to open until one was named after the head of the board, that pub has now been renamed Pie-Factory.

However unlike Tewekesbury the vet’s practice is run by nice people, so in general it’s a step up. Plus they have the best all you can eat curry buffet’s there is.

Twekesbury and the Mosquito Teenage Repellent

Tewkesbury in Englandshire is just the sort of place English towns ought to be like. A large abbey, genuine tudor houses that look like they’re about to fall down any minute, no discernable sight of industry save for an early 19th century flower mill still in heavy use, a marina filled with very expensive looking boats and even the rough parts of town look like suburban bliss. They also have more St George’s crosses flying than I’ve ever seen before.

Like all small towns it has groups of teenagers, but these are not the schemies I lived with in Bridge of Allan, here they sit around making polite conversation about Proust. However the owner of the video shop thinks that teenagers have no business being out and about socialising and should be at home playing computer games or something so has installed a Mosquito teenage repellent device which emits a loud high pitched sound on the edge of human hearing, teenagers can hear the unpleasant noise it makes but most adults can not. Except me. I find it very depressing that people think it’s acceptable to create a public nuisance and harrass innocent people just because they are teenagers. Which is what I told her, she didn’t have much of an argument in reply and it was turned off this time but if she turns it back on I’ll report her to the polis.

Science, Magic and Mass

I went to some more lectures in the Science Festival. The first was about the psychology of magic and showed some of the tricks used by magicians to deceive us. Most interesting was a video where we were told to count the number of times the basket ball was passed between players. On second viewing though the surprising thing was a man in a gorilla suit walking through the middle of the players without anyone noticing. Then we went to a talk about the supercomputers run at Edinburgh university. These machines not only cost a lot but also use fantastic amounts of electricity to run and almost as much to keep cool, a lot of supercomputers now are using more slower lower powered chips since that keeps the electricity usage more reasonable. Finally I went to a talk on tall buildings and how they are made, mildly interesting but didn’t help me understand much about how they stay upright. Between talks Beth invited me to go to Catholic Mass, this was about the most scary event of my life. Four men stand at the front saying meaningless stuff while everyone else chants back at them, they all just know what to chant back. This is a fantastic waste of time and money, I would have hoped that these four people who get paid full time saleries to say a quarter of a mass each a day could be better put to use on pretty much anything else.

Adam Hart Davis at the Edinburgh Science Festival

Sadly some people I know read OK magazine and watch soap operas and enjoy similar such low entertainment. These people sometimes laugh at my naivety of not knowing random famous people like Joan Collins. I’ve been asked who my preferred type of celebrity is but generally I’d say I don’t have one until I noticed that Adam Hart Davis was speaking at the Science Festival. He’s cool because he rides a pink bicycles and does interesting TV programmes like Local Heroes. His talk was slightly disapointing in that it wasn’t about anything much, he gave something of his background and TV career then showed some interesting science themed photography he has done answered some questions then went to sign copies of the book he was pimping. Also he had no bicycles. But he’s still cool.

Diss to a Haggis

The sad thing about Burns night is how few people are willing to even read out a poem. It’s only once a year for goodness sakes! But at my Burns’ Supper last night Alex got into the mood by writing his own response to Address to a Haggis.

M.C. Haggis

Yo haggis, what.
We ain't down wit yo
Fat ma'am
Jinxin' wit yo butler

Represent!
Dat meat free brethren,
He be solid
Jolly good.

I say!
Haggis, what?
Gonna take you out
For trout
Ain't no doubt, yo
We is gonna make you pay

I say!
Nigella ain't gonna do you
Cuz you is lilly-livered
Your homosexual tendencies
We ain't missin'
Stiff upper lip,
An' you take this dissin!

Scottish Power are Evil

Well not quite evil but close to it. I chose Scottish Gas for electricity/gas supply because they would let me sign up online. Scottish Power’s website only gave me a big notice saying “you need to use Internet Explorer”. So an easy choice there.

Today someone from Scottish Power comes round saying they are reviewing my details and want to check to see if I’m paying the correct amount. Somewhat suspicious I point out that I’m not a customer of Scottish Power but oh no Scottish Power are indeed my actual supplyer (true, for some definition of supplyer) and it’s important that they review to make sure I’m paying the correct amount. Is this a marketing call? No. Being the trusting sort, and brought up to believe that no means no I show the bills. So she looks at the bills, tuts at how I’m paying for an estimated amount, tuts at the kilowatt hours I’m paying and says it should really be only 1.7, a bit more scribbles etc. She looks at the metres, somehow making it believable that she is doing something with them when it’s quite clear she’s using it as an excuse to get into the house and not be left standing on the doorstep. Is this me on the bills? Oh but one of them is spelt wrong and one of them isn’t taken by direct debit, would I like to change my direct debit to be joint on both bills? Yes I would actually but that’s none of your business since I’m not your customer. You seem to be filling in a form for change of supplyer. No no, we are already your supplyer, she’s just changing it so I’m only going through one company instead of two. Politely told her I don’t wish to change supplyer thank you and I have good reasons for going with their competition (i.e. the website that mostly works).

When I lived in Bridge of Allan an incompetant salesman from npower came round and tried to get me to buy electricity from them, unlike this women he didn’t lie he said he didn’t “actually know how the supplyer thing works”, he had a list of prices so I could see what I would be paying if I changed and he had an interesting product (wind power only, I’m into those sorts of things) so he got his commission. Scottish Power’s website looks like it does work with something other than IE now but there’s no way I’m changing my supplyer to one which will lie to me.

Revelator Band and Swing

A few weeks ago I went to the Scottish Hobo Society, a fun night at the Bongo Club, Edinburgh’s non-commercial nightclub. Best band of the night was the Revelator Band. Screaming, stomping gothic voodoo blues. They knew how to put on a show and play cool music.

I’ve also been to a couple of swing dancing nights, regular Tuesday events at the Bongo Club. Swing is pretty much the sort of partner dancing that you do naturally when you’re not trying to do any paticular style of dancing. Those clever Americans turned it into a style of dancing which looks easy and is easy until you actually starting learning it.

Apocalyse

There’s still quite a lot of the Bible after Jesus dies. His apostles go out and start spreading what becomes christianity to anyone who will listen. This mostly means non-Jews. A lot of it is long and boring and involves explaining what Jesus ment. Sometimes it gets a bit nasty as someone gets thrown in jail or tortured to death. One of the apostles gets thrown in jail and manages to protest all the way to up Caesar but the version I was reading never covered any actual trial with Caesar which is a shame. One day an apostle is wandering along when Jesus starts talking in the sky and starts showing him heaven, hell and the apocalyps. Heaven is very well lit and has lots of thrones and lots of angelic types worshiping around god all day every day. He has a pet sheep there for some reason. There’s an apocalypse with horsemen and everything, it’s all a bit Terry Pratchett. The bible ends with a warning that anyone who adds or removes anything from it will be burned in hell, which probably expains why the abreviated version I was reading is written anonymously.

I read Harry Potter after that, it was much more exciting.

Rebuilding and Jesus

In my quest to read through an abridged version of the Bible in time for the World Gathering of Young Friends I’ve finished the first testament and got a good chunk through the second. The first ends when the Israelis get allowed back to Jerusalem by the Babylonians and they rebuild it and the temple and all live happily ever after.

Then one day a woman who never had a child and who’s husband is a distant grandchild of King David gets visited by some angels and gets told that she will have a child who turns out to be Jon the Baptist who is later revealed to be Elijah, some profit dude. A few months after Jon is born he gets a cousin by a woman called Mary. Mary, Joseph and Jesus have to run away to Egypt to not get killed by Herod. When Herod dies they come back and live a perfectly normal life until Jesus turns 30 and starts going around preaching to the masses and doing miracles. He does lots and lots of miracles and starts claiming to be the messiah which means he ought to bring peace on earth. But he fails to do this. Understandably this annoys the religious leaders somewhat, if you’re going to be the messiah at least do the job properly and actually bring peace on earth. So they plot to kill him, which seems like a bit of a drastic reaction. When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem the crowds welcome him with palms and cheering but later when Pontious Pilot asks the crowd who they want to kill they all want Jesus killed, it’s not clear at all what makes the change. He gets tortured to death and put in a cave but then comes back to life and starts talking to people again most of whom don’t recognise him. Jesus is a definite improvement over the old testament god with his new improved love your neighbour and enemy attitude but I find the “just believe I’m the messiah or you’re all sinners” attitude a bit unfair, people demand proof and quite right too. Since he doesn’t live up to the description of the messiah and doesn’t bring peace on earth there’s no reason to believe him and call him christ.

Kings, Exodus

Kings is a long and boring part of the Bible. It starts with David who seems to disobey pretty much every commandment this is (murdering Goliath, lots of adultery, suggestions of a homosexual relationship too which is quite refreshing) yet ends up being considered a wise King. Then there is a long line of kings none of whom are very interesting. Some a good because they believe in god which means god helps them kill all their enemies, most are bad and worship other gods/idols which means they get beaten by all their enemies. There’s one recognisable story when a profit called Jonah is sent by god to tell the King at the time that he’s not being respectful enough and is about to be thrashed by some Philistines. Jonah gets scared and runs away to sea but god sends a storm and the sailors throw him overboard to stop the storm and Jonah gets eaten by a fish. Jonah prays a lot and god lets him out so he delivers the message to the King who them throws him in jail. Not sure what the message is in that.

Eventually they all forget to worship god and everyone gets captured by King Nebucanezzer of the Babylonians. He’s cool because it’s named after Morpheous’s ship in The Matrix. Some of the Israelies get high up positions in Nebucanezzer’s government because they worship god and It helps them advise the King. Daniel is one of these and the other advisers of the King get jelous and get him thrown to the lions to be eaten, only they don’t eat him because he worships god and Nebucanezzer throws the advisers to the lions instead, they all get eaten.

There’s a mention of a saviour who will be sent by god and bring peace on earth, which I suspect is leading into a sequel.

Judges, Kings

In this book Joshua led the invation by the Israelies of the land called Canaan which is now Israel and Palestine. He did a nifty trick of circling the city of Jericho for 7 days then blowing some horns and the city walls fell murdering everyone in them. He succeeds in taking over the whole place. Eventually he dies and a generation later all the Israelies forget about him and start worshiping other gods. God god gets jelous and lets other nations start invading the Israelies until they have to start worshiping God god again and he helps them kill all the invaders. This happens several times, apparantly the memory of these people is only one generation long. Samson is probably the most famous of the leaders during the strange phase. He gets his super powers from his hair and stupidly tells his wife that who then tells the invading philistines who chop it all off. Then he kills them all by collapsing a temple on them. Charming.

One day the Israelies are really distrustful of God god and they decide they need a King, so God god gives them a King who was called Saul. Saul gets superhero powers and goes around causing genocide on anyone who isn’t Israelie. Except that during one genocide he decides to spare some sheep and causing God to get mad and take away his superhero powers and make some dude called David King instead.

Harry Potter Launch in Edinburgh

This is as close as I could get to the castle espianade where Joanne was reading from the new Harry Potter. 90 children got to use the Tatoo stands to watch her read with nifty lighting and fire on the castle. Everyone else only got this view.

This is the start of the queue at Waterstons on Princes Street.

And several hundred metres away this is the end.

I need a tripod.

Exodus, Numbers

After Genisis (the book where God decides to drown the entire population of the planet except for one family) things turn a bit nasty as God gets dictatorial (lots of commandments, and “cursed is he who..”), homophobic (I checked that up, the book I’m reading puts that sentence in suspiciously stronger language than the King James Bible) and racist with his “chosen people” who march around the Middle East waging war against nations ansd taking over the riches of other’s land. Suspiciously similar to current day politics infact.

New home, New Edinburgh Suma, Grow Wild

Moved to a new flat in Polwarth so I’m looking for a flatmate now.

Just took order of a muckle Suma order, every self respecting modern hippy buys their food in bulk from Suma, the wholesales people for all the health food shops. Probably the cheapest way to buy organic food. They have a curious attitude to potential customers, if you live near a health food shop they won’t give you an account. Of course you can always get away with using someone else’s account if you know it. I’m not sure what possessed me to buy 5kg of apples but it’ll be interesting finding things to do with them.

I’ve ordered a fortnightly fruit and veg box from Grow Wild to further reduce my need to ever leave the flat. Quite disappointed, you don’t get much for your 10 quid, there’s no tatties and none of the produce seems to be paticularly local. We were getting much more from East Coast Organics but they have an even worse website.

The Story

Today I started reading a book called The Story which is a readable version of the bible. This is preparation for the World Gathering of Young Friends where there will be lots of Christian types so I thought I should catch up on the whole idea a bit like having to read Lord of the Rings before the films came out. It starts of with sexism (man is incharge of woman), has crazy continuity errors (how did Cain marry when there was nobody else around?) and then there’s incest with lots of marrying close family members. God seems to be just about the most cruel creator you could imagine, as soon as people start achieveing anything he punishes them so Adam and Eve got kicked out their garden for being inquisitive and the people got split up into speaking different languages because they were achieving too much (Tower of Babel etc) as one group. There’s this guy called Job who gets his farm slaughtered, family killed and given a nasty plauge just because God wanted to see if Job would still worship him. And that’s just Gensis. Sounds like just the sort of God I wouldn’t want to worship. I believe he gets a makeover in part 2 but that’s still a long way off.

Dancing

Everyone in this country is familiar with Ceilidh dancing. What makes Ceilidh dancing good is that you can learn a dance in 5 minutes. None of the moves are very subtle and everything is coreographed so you get told where to step and when.

By contrast Salsa dancing is freeform which means you have to decide what to do and you keep bumping into people. Salsa has 3 or 4 basic steps which all involve stepping off and onto a central point, you always rest on the fourth beat. The leader (male) has to give hand signals to the follower (female) on what the next step will be. That’s tricky, especially when you’ve been taught by different teachers with different ideas of which hand signals means what.

The Edinburgh Tango Society do free beginners classes on Sundays. Tango is even more subtle than Salsa. There are only 3 basic steps: back, foward and sideways. Generally the leader only does forwards and the follower only backwards. It’s very easy to bump into people if they arn’t going fast enough. You have to be graceful too, whereas in Ceilidh and Salsa you’re ment to bop around lots, in Tango you have to keep your head steady when walking around. You signal with your body which means the follower has to spend their time staring at the torso of the leader.

Suggestions for other interesting styles of dance to learn welcome.