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The Last Post - ish

Tuesday, December 29, 2009
As those of you who know me on Facebook and bother fighting through the endless screeds of solipsisms from the average Facebook-ista to find anything noteworthy will already know, I am moving house today.

As I will be leaving Croydon - and no, I am not going to start slagging it off once I'm out of here - it strikes me as being a bit wrong to carry on blogging as Croydonian.  So, I have already taken the liberty of land grabbing a suitable geographic indicator.  Anyway, should I use the new name or carry on with the old one?

Over to you.


A thousand years ago....

Sunday, December 27, 2009
'De mortuis nil nisi bonum' and all that, but I have not forgotten this David Taylor 'witticism':

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Minister care to deny the scurrilous rumours that, to encourage the people of Essex to be more involved, it is intended that the sports of putting the medallion and throwing the white high heels should be included?


Anyone feel up to mustering some synthetic outrage?

If so, here's the EUTube 'Christmas' video.

Take it away....

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It's the detail that matters, or a very brief DPRK update

I'm supposed to be working today (bet you are all jealous of the merry life of a freelancer...), but it would be selfish not to share this:

"The Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm has come into being in Wonhung area in Samsok District, Pyongyang. Until last year, the area had remained a small rural community consisting of a few outdated villages with a zigzag river and uneven paddy and dry fields".


"In a matter of less than a year, the villages have all moved and nestled under a hill, the river course changed, a large hill totally disappeared and the patches turned into a large-scale orchard".

I'm sure the doubtless good people of the Wonhung area were just delighted about having their area insulted and then having the fun of being relocated like so.

Anyway, onwards:

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il visited the farm and enjoyed a bird's-eye view of the orchard with pleasure. Taking an appetizing apple weighing 550g (1.2lb) in his hand, he said Korea has one more pride, the eleventh scenic spot of the Songun era, this year when the Korean people's dreams have come true".

Hmm, I cannot think of many countries where even the prettiest fruit farm would make the top thousand most scenic spots.And note, there is no mention of KJI having eaten the apple.  Maybe if he had, he might have acquired knowledge of good and evil.....


A Boxing Day entertainment

Saturday, December 26, 2009
And evidence that I live and breathe.  Maybe this was photoshopped, but even if it was, it is still amusing:



Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Apologies for recent radio silence, but shall we say that my plate is more than a little over-burdened - some good, some not so good.

Anyway, service, after a fashion, will resume at some point.

Amusing link o' the day

Friday, December 18, 2009
The Morgan Freeman chain of command, from God downwards. 

Anyway, enjoy.


The DPRK update

Thursday, December 17, 2009
The company KJI and his cronies keep:

"Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly, met and had a talk with the delegation of U.S. businessmen headed by *General* Charles Boyd, president and CEO of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS), at the Mansudae Assembly Hall on Wednesday when it paid a courtesy call on him".

And what do BENS do?

Business Executives for National Security (BENS), a nationwide, non-partisan organization, is the primary channel through which senior business executives can help enhance the nation's security. Source

Can't say I would have expecgted them to be welcomed with open arms.  And the good general himself? "Boyd is a highly decorated combat pilot who served in Vietnam; and is the only Vietnam War prisoner of war (1966-1973) to reach the four-star rank (1992). His final Air Force assignment was as deputy commander in chief, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany. He retired from the Air Force in 1995 and has remained active in the national security realm, including as a program director of the Council on Foreign Relations".  I think he might well have the ear of some DC players.  Source

Meanwhile, "Among the People" Vol. 84 was brought out by the Workers' Party of Korea Publishing House".  That's almost as many as in the 'Now that's what I call music' series.  Maybe they could have called it 'Now that's what I call reminisences', or 'Son of', or 'What KIS did next'.

And what a page turner it appears to be - "
Reminiscences "Encouraging Servicepersons to Create New 'Vinalon Speed'" recount story that the President visited the construction site of the February 8 Vinalon Factory at that time, leading the People's Army to make a breakthrough in socialist construction. Reminiscences titled "'Our Officials Should Pay Primary Attention to the Supply Service'" and "Paying Primary Attention to Securing Life of Workers" tell about the great benevolence shown by the President for the workers". 

Almost certainly not available even at good bookshops...

Meanwhile, KJI has friends in unexpected places:

General Secretary Kim Jong Il was awarded the title of honorary citizen by the Changcay Municipality, Huaral District, Lima Province of Peru.

Elsewhere, "General Secretary Kim Jong Il provided field guidance to the Rason Taehung Trading Company", but the tale is none too thrilling.


What's nearly ten times the size of the UK, but invisible to the naked eye?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sniffing around on the UN site, I discovered this thrilling news:

"Acting without a vote, the Sixth Committee (Legal) today approved a resolution to grant observer status in the work of the General Assembly for the 25‑member Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, while also deciding to request that the General Assembly consider how best the Council of Presidents of the General Assembly could contribute its unique expertise to the Organization’s work once a resolution on recommending observer status for the group was withdrawn".

Which is nice.

The list of members given on the UN site looks like this:

"Established in Amman, Jordan, and headquartered in Malta, the Assembly had a membership comprised of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Syria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia and Turkey".

A number of points spring to mind:

Serbia, Jordan and Macedonia do not have coasts, 'Palestine' is not a sovereign state, and neither Algeria nor Spain appear to be members.  Both would be in the top ten for Med coastlines.  Bosnia and Monaco might manage coastlines of a few miles each.  

A look at the PAM's site left me little the wiser, although I discovered that Algeria is a member.  Perhaps the Spaniards have the decency to refuse to chow down with Syria and Libya, something that clearly eludes the birthplace of democracy and our French chums.

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How long does it take to come to an agreement on bananas?

18 years, that's how long.

It started here:

In July 1991, Costa Rica expressed concern in the GATT Council meeting that an impending EU banana import regime would discriminate against Central American countries. It urged agreement in the Uruguay Round for free trade in bananas. Colombia, Honduras, Peru, Venezuela and Mexico shared this concern....
Nevertheless, within this context the parties continued to work in search of a solution. After more than 100 meetings lasting a total of approximately 400 hours, the parties announced a comprehensive agreement on Tuesday 15 December 2009.

Anyone would think the dispute was over nuclear reactors.

My take on 'Imperial Preference', 'Fair Trade' or whatever they are calling it this week can be found here.


The indignities the Union Flag has to suffer

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Spotted this at Serb daily Blic:

The jowly chap is Our Man in Belgrade, so presumably the photo was taken at the embassy.  It is possible that the photo has been horizontally flipped and the flag is not upside down, but I doubt it.  Either way, it is just horrible, and the Caledonian element will be entitled to be peeved about the blue used. 

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'No compromise with the electorate', French style

An IFOP poll:

'Would you hope that certain [French] regions will be run by the Greens after the next elections'?

And came the answer from Green supporters, 96% yes, 4 % no.....

Mind you, there is plenty more weird where that came from, as 46% of Gaullists agree.  Perhaps this on the basis that once the Khmer Vert have reduced Picardy or Savoy to penury that will ensure that it never gets it mung bean-stained hands on the Elysee.    73% of the generally tolerably sensible voters for the MoDem also agree, as do a majority of Socialists and the alphabet soup far left.

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Now who's a eurosceptic.....

Or ask a silly question (c/o eurobarometer - p20):

'Could you tell me whether you totally agree, tend to agree, tend to disagree or totally disagree that there is corruption within the institutions of the EU?'

And the award for having eyes the widest open goes to our Swedish, Slovene and Greek chums, with some 85% in agreement.  We are joint sixth at 79%.  Even the euroenthusiast Poles and Romanians (and wouldn't you be keen if you were frolicking amidst the money sprinklers?) see 58% thinking there might be something rotten in, erm, the City of Brussels.    Shame on the quarter of all Bulgars who could not muster an opinion.  On the other hand, it is rather touching that 24% of Danes do not think there is corruption in EU institutions.

Anyway, the chart in question:


Fun with mushroom cloud statisitics

Over at Gizmodo, they have a rather interesting map of nuclear explosions from Alamogordo to date.  It is quite a size, and does not lend itself  to being 'borrowed'.

Anyway, I've made use of their stats to knock up a chart showing tests by country. 

Note quite how trigger happy our French friends are, realitive to the size of their nuclear arsenal, and the Miracle on the Med does not appear to have done any testing at all, although the richter scale event in the southern Indian Ocean in '79 was believed - at the time - to be a joint South African / Israeli enterprise.

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What Kim Jong Il did next....

Thursday, December 10, 2009
He went to the Kanggye Stock Farm, and what a lot of adventures he had too:

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il provided field guidance to the newly-built Kanggye Stock Farm.
The farm covering a vast area of fields along the Kubong Pass and in Uijin is a large comprehensive stock-breeding base for raising goats, rabbits, ducks and milch cows and other grass-eating domestic animals".

Must be a new variety of duck.

"Fisting (sic) his eyes on the farm reminiscent of a picture--its branches at the foot of each mountain, modern dwelling houses, production buildings and entertainment and service facilities that stand in rows at the sunny foot of a mountain--, he noted that there is one more spectacular scenery on the bank of the brightly lit River Jangja".


Elsewhere, the DPRK is a bit unhappy with JapanAgain:

"It is an invariable wild ambition of Japan and its strategic goal for emerging a military power to go nuclear...Japan's nuclear weaponization is becoming a reality, not just speculation and hypothesis. The danger of such moves lies in that Japan seeks to launch overseas aggression for world domination after going nuclear.

If Japan had wanted to go nuclear, it would have done so decades ago....


Quiz time / headline o' the day

Who's this, rendered in doll form?:

She was deeply famous in the late 70s / early 80s.   It would look as though she is not going to sue as she's signed the doll.

The answer's here.

Sticking with South Eastern Europe, what about this for a poor use of capital letters:

So that would make it a 4.6m piece band, give or take a few thousand.  They'd need a pretty big stage.


Are the British the world's second greatest rubes?

According to a survey by worldpublicopinion.org, that's what we think:

In general, when [Country] government negotiates with other countries do you think that the government tends to be too willing to compromise and is often taken advantage of?

And 65% of us agreed.  Only the South Koreans thought less of their government's negotiating prowess, with 71% thinking they get taken for a ride.

On the flip side, just 14% of Turks think that their government gets the less pleasant end of the stick.


The world's ten ugliest buildings, as nominated by someone on the internet. And there's a DPRK connection....

Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Virtualtourist.com's list is headed up by this horror:

It is the - admittedly boarded up - Morris A Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore.  Wonder why they didn't use it in 'The Wire'.

The Pompidou Centre, which I rather like, makes #4.

And at #10 with a bullet, the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang:

Of this, the random person on the internet says: "Riddled with issues that range from lack of money to poor construction to rumored collapse, this still unfinished nightmare has been under some form of construction for over 20 years. Started in 1987, construction was halted a few years later and left untouched until fairly recently."

Last year's top ten featured a few horrors from these shores, including Birmingham Library, the Scottish Assembly and the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool.

My nomination is this:

It is New Zealand House, to be found at the bottom of Haymarket, and it is jaw-dropping in both its ugliness and architectural inappropriateness. 

Further nominations would be welcome.


The Disintegration of Yugoslavia, pt 306

This, from Blic:

"Argumentation by Croatian representative Andreja Metelko Zgombic before the International Court of Justice in The Hague in which she insisted on constitutional right to secession by the autonomous province of former SFRY was taken in Belgrade as a ‘serious blow’ and as an ‘act of hostility’ that Serbia shall have to respond to, ‘Blic’ was told by well informed circles in Belgrade. In Serbia the argumentation in favor of Kosovo secession was understood as alluding to Vojvodina. 

Here is a 1990 ethnic map of Yugoslavia:

It would appear there are (were...) plenty of Croats in the Vojvodina, which is what Zgombic is alluding to, I would thinkThe most recent census has it at 2.5%.

Note, however, the green patches in Slavonia and Dalmatia where Serbs were a majority, these roughly equating to the Hapsburg military frontier, Serbs having been encouraged to settle there some centuries back.  Perhaps Zgombic is in favour of self-determination for Karlovacka, Sisacko-Moslavacka and Zadarska, inter alia, these having a historic Serb majority, per the map above.  Even if this were to be the case, let us revisit Operation Storm, wherein Croatia achieved the following: "Approximately 150,000 to 200,000 Serbs fled approaching Croat forces to Serb-held parts of Bosnia and Serbia. The European Union Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia Carl Bildt called it on Aug. 7, 1995, "the most efficient ethnic cleansing we've seen in the Balkans".  Still, everyone seems to have forgotten about that.....

It might not be a popular to have any sympathies with the national aspirations of the Serbs, but the sooner the ridiculous entity of Bosnia Herzegovina is dismantled and Republika Srpska joined to Serbia proper the better.

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Headline o' the day, or let's shoot the messenger

This, from the Moscow Times:

The text of the article has Mayor Luzhkov, for it is he, moaning about forecasting abilities of Muscovite meteorologists rather than their snowmaking prowess.  Twas too good to pass over though.  

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Surveys o' the day

Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Yes, they are French.

First up, do not ring a 15-17 year old boy on his mobile, as a rather loathsome 22% admit to using it in the loo.  Compared to 8% of the wider public.    Equally, 32% of girls 12-17% are looking for trouble as they use their mobiles in the bathroom.  4% of the Plain People of France use their mobiles in the cellar.  Presumably the rest cannot get a signal.   41% of Gauls use their mobiles as torches, which is odd.

Elsewhere, 16% consider mobiles bad for French society.  91% of adolescents think that mobiles are good for adolescents, whereas only 32% of the 40+ cohort agree.  Probably because they are paying for them....

Sticking with our Gallic chums, just 29% of them can, unprompted, name their regional president. My old friend Ségolène Royal does rather better, with 83% naming her as the head honchette of Poitou-Charentes.  The Prexies of Centre and Nord Pas de Calais muster a laughable 7% and 8% respectively.  Proving that stupidity is indeed the basic building block of the universe, fewer than two-thirds can name the political colour of their home region.   

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Link o' the day

Over at Abebooks.co.uk (who, incidentally offer a marvelous service for finding second hand books, and no - I am not being paid to write this) a collection of weird books have been listed.

To whet everyone's appetite, note the following:

  • 'How You Can Bowl Better Using Self-Hypnosis'
  • 'Jewish Chess Masters On Stamps' 
  • '50 Sad Chairs'
  • 'Oedipus In Disneyland'
  • 'Help! A Bear Is Eating Me'
  • 'Nuclear War: What's In It For You'

You can thank me later.

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'A searing indictment of our times'. Or somesuch

Monday, December 07, 2009

Or maybe just someone with sharp fingernails and a certain degree of puckishness on the loose.


The last word in fashionable attire for Swedish boulevardiers

An All Seeing Eye, being a splendid chap passed on this omega 3 / roughage-rich nugget of DPRK-related goodness, which he spotted in Swedish daily The Local:

"A trio of young Swedish entrepreneurs will on Friday launch what it calls the first-ever brand of North Korea-made jeans.  The first 1,100 individually numbered jeans" will initially be sold in a Stockholm department store and on the Internet, and then in selected stores elsewhere, Noko Jeans said".

Showing the usual savvy approach to commerce that one expects of the DPRK, things were not exactly plain sailing:

"The trio first contacted North Korean officials in mid-2007 by email, after finding an official website about outsourcing production to North Korea. "The first year, we spent time trying to gain access to the country," Ohlsson explained, adding that the trio visited North Korea twice, once to choose a factory and the second time to oversee production. Production of Noko's two models of jeans began in mid-2009 after a series of obstacles that included "being turned down by the biggest garment company in North Korea."  

Should anyone fancy forking out some £131 for a pair of NoKo jeans, a link to the Swedish site is here, and here is  a promo video featuring some novel english pronunciation:

HELLO IT'S Noko Jeans! from Noko Jeans on Vimeo.

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And as a contrast to yesterday's headline o' the day...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009
This, from the land of the two headed eagle:

"When the Berlin Wall fell in Germany, Albania was still under dictatorship. Facing the pressure of events, the regime released its grip slowly, holding multiparty elections in 1991 and finally ceding power altogether the next year....In time, though, [leader Ramiz Alia] and his cohorts were swept away as the country turned its back on the legacy of Enver Hoxha, the totalitarian ruler whose paranoia and uncompromising Stalinism had made Albania the most isolated nation in Europe."Albania has become another country since the fall of communism," says Remzi Lani, former editor of the newspaper Voice of Youth. "Nostalgia for communism in, say, Hungary is understandable. But Albania's regime was so brutal and extreme that our poverty has left no room for nostalgia." 

Sensible people, those Shqiptars.

Anyway, blogging will be light to non-existent for the next few days.


Rock stars - is there anything they don't know?

Not content with trading off a time before most of this country's population, let alone that of the world, were born, a certain member of the light entertainment aristocracy has a new way to annoy the populace:

"The European Parliament will host a major event on global warming and food policy on Thursday 3 December when the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri and environmental activist Sir Paul McCartney will urge legislators and experts to focus on what an individual can do to fight climate change, for example by eating less meat.  The "Global Warming and Food Policy: Less Meat = Less Heat" hearing takes place on Thursday 3 December in Parliament's plenary chamber in Brussels, from 10.00h to 12h30, and will be chaired by EP Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott".

Mine's a bacon & black  pudding sandwich, thanks.

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