The Search for the new Dalai Lama

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After the death of His Holiness, the fourteen Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the search for the fifteenth and final Dalai Lama began. In the partial shade of cedar trees, mourners wearing silk khata scarves, clutching prayer beads and muttering incantations trudged up the rocky path to his private chapel in Dharamasala, in North India, to join the crowd already waiting among ramshackle buildings to pay their respects to the compassionate one, his body bathed in incense, his face still smiling.

All male children born in Tibet in the year after his death were registered in a data base. Tissue samples were taken for biometric testing. A watchlist of five candidates were established. Satellites circling in space utilised the latest face tracking software and were able to zoom in on the candidate’s parents. Drones, with a resolution high enough to pick out individual eyelashes, were also used to monitor an illiterate farmer’s son in Lhano Thondrup. They took thermal readings and tracked human movements inside  their simple dwelling and were  able to differentiate them from a dzo, a kind of yak, which shared their home. New sensor systems hovered and listened to the boy’s parents praying over the child and heard the child coughing. Scientists were able to determine it was a simple chest cold the child was suffering from.

President Xi Jinping was informed of their findings.  Dissident Tibetan Buddhist monks  quietly disappeared, taken into custody.  They were shown  pictures of babies,  but not informed who they were.  There was a lot of eye rolling and dissent among the dissidents and a refusal to cooperate, but eye-tracking software showed one candidate was favoured in almost ninety-two percent of the cases.

President Xi was able to tell the world that the world’s most advanced civilisation was once more home to the fifteen Dalai Lama. His peasant parents from Thondrup had agreed to move to Beijing. Their son would be best placed to study the ancient Chinese religion of his choice in a safe environment and the Communist Party had spent $500 million renovating Tibetan’s ancient monasteries. The Dalai Lama had finally come home.

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Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is a modern Joan of Arc, a secular saint. A stick on for a Nobel Peace Prize, and other useless baubles, she’s telling you like it is, ‘our house is on fire’.

Saints are compelled to speak the truth. We know that Greta stopped speaking at the age of eleven, she’s sixteen now. Victims of violence often display signs of elective mutism. Harpie on ABCtales, for example, stopped speaking after being sent to a children’s home, after her father killed her mother and began raping her. Greta chose to stop speaking for a different reason. We can guess what it was because when she did speak it was in front of the Biksadag in Stockholm. ‘I am doing this because you adults are shits,’ she is reported to have said.

The Prophet Abraham’s dialogue with God before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed involved a bit more give and take. God agreed not to destroy the cities if 50 just men could be found. Abraham wangled God down to an agreement the cities would not be destroyed if ten just men could be found. Fire and brimstone to the losers, Lot’s wife suffered the consolation prize of being turned into a pillar of salt for looking the wrong way.

President Trump one of ‘the adult shits’ is also looking the other way. God knows, he’s really a petulant child and bully boy, deleting mentions of global warming from government bodies and websites that depend on federal funding. He also smashed seventy years of carefully framed environmental legislation and withdrawn the biggest debtor nation from the Paris agreement on reduced carbon emissions.

The Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declared Thunberg and climate activists the biggest threat to the fossil fuel industry. They demand to leave fossil fuels in the ground as a starting point for turning around global warming. Sackcloth and ashes is no longer enough. The moron’s moron in the Whitehouse is, of course, their biggest and most vocal friend.

Adults should leave their children a better world. Our generation will leave the next, the mass extinction of species. More deaths than the first and second world wars combined. The black death of global warming will mean every stream and river will be a battlefield between competing nations.

Saints, even the secular variety, suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder.  The Prophet Muhammad tried to escape from God by hiding in his wife’s lap. God is like gravity, you can’t escape whatever way you twist and turn. Thunberg argues we can escape global warming. I’d like to believe her. We’d need to see a change of men’s heart. We’d need to see a miracle. Secular saints don’t do miracles. There’s no reason for it. We just need to rely on human reason and good sense. That worries me most of all.

If God can find 50 just and rational men…or even women.

 

Louis Theroux: Surviving America’s Most Hated Family. BBC 2, BBC iPlayer.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0006vv7/louis-theroux-surviving-americas-most-hated-family

I watch most of Louis Theroux’s documentaries. I thought I’d already seen this one. My tag-line was the Phelps’s family were no longer America’s most hated family, because that was the Trump’s.  Wishful thinking. Theroux has got some good mileage out of the Phelps’s family, but paradoxically the Phelps’s family has also got something back from Theroux, new members, new recruits. The latest a man from Bradford, of all places, married one of the Phelp’s girls.

Another potential recruit described himself as pan-sexual. For a group premised on hate of the other and gays in particular that’s like a Jew joining the SS because he likes the cut of their cloth.  For the Phelps’s family Jews killed Jesus and your Pastor is a whore, pansexualism isn’t really their thing.

That old line there is no such thing as bad publicity is amplified here. Pastor Fred Phelps, patriarch and leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas died in 2014. We already knew that from the last episode. The big news here was he recanted before he died (allegedly) and told gay members of the community across from them that they weren’t bad people after all. Phelps, of course, thought everybody would burn in hell, including fellow evangelist Billy Graham.’ Gramps’ was the exception to the rule and whoever followed his doctrine were exceptional people and on the right path. Do what I say, not do what I do.

Since ‘Gramp’ Phelps died there has been a change of management in the church. They still wave signs such as God Hates Fags at military funerals and other churches. But with the advent of that old pussy grabber in chief, thief and money launderer, Trump, who orchestrates hate campaigns that ‘Gramp’ Phelps would cream his pants over, they no longer seem so out there, or in your face. Seem a little boring. What lies can they tell us that can trump the Trump? What can they do next to entertain us? Get elected to Congress? Lead the American nation into a Third World War and the apocalypse at the Book of Revelations promised. Gramp Phelps couldn’t but the moron’s moron may, God help us. That worries me. Phelps, in comparison, are child’s play.

Even poker-face Louis got in on the act, mimicking Gramps Phelps and drawling, in the old man’s dialect, ‘Donald Trump you’re going straight to hell and going to split it in two’. Amen to that, the sooner the better.

What is also noticeable is the way the thin and photogenic Phelps’s women age so quickly. Look at the first documentary and Theroux has hardly changed, a little thinner in the face, but basically the same. Westboro Baptist Church breeds its own members. Even with family defections, that keeps the numbers up. If you go back to the first programme a six-year old girl is holding a placard with a hate message she can’t explain, but her mum told her to do it, so it’s good. Here that girl has grown up and is marrying a recent recruit. Man is master in the house. She’ll no longer have a voice. Nothing new here. A repackaging of same-old, same-old, but still strangely watchable.

Chasing the Moon, a film by Robert Stone. A Place Beyond the Sky (part 1 and 2)

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0006vrs/chasing-the-moon-series-1-1-a-place-beyond-the-sky-part-one

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0006vrv/chasing-the-moon-series-1-2-a-place-beyond-the-sky-part-two

This six part serial set at the height of the Cold War tells us everything we need to know about the relationship between politics and technology. United States triumphalism that they had won the war, although unofficial acknowledgement some fading nations and bankrupt colonial powers such as Britain might have helped, were undermined when the USSR launched Sputnik 1 on 4 October 1957.

‘Kaputnik’ was one American newspaper headline. By 12th April 1961 the USSR was a man and a dog ahead. I can’t remember the name of the dog, but Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot, cosmonaut, and national hero. As well as being a test pilot he was small, which meant he could fit inside the capsule. He’d be on the front page of every newspaper in the world and he was discovered to be photogenic, which helped. What makes this documentary watchable is we also get the Soviet perspective. Sergei Khrushchev, whose father Nikita, led the Soviet Union during this era, gives us some insider information on what was the right stuff from over there.

Newly elected President John F Kennedy was looking for that big idea that would win the ongoing propaganda war against Communism, in general, and the USSR in particular and reasserts the dominance of Capitalism and its superior technology that had produced the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Lyndon B Johnstone then a senator had bemoaned the fact that the Soviet had taken four years to produce an atomic bomb of their own and a mere nine months to produce a hydrogen bomb. He made no mention of the helping hand of Soviet spies stealing their blueprints. Now with Sputniks in the skies, one commentator remembered drills and practicing hiding under school desks. Soviet satellite technology was aligned with the threat of nuclear capability to create a moral and existential panic.

Congress approved an initial budget of $1.7 billion, or $10 for every man, woman or child in America, on the understanding that the flag flying on the moon wouldn’t be the hammer and sickle but the stars and stripes.

NASA were reliant of an team of German scientist and former Nazis, led by Werner von Braun who developed the V1 rocket that bombed London. The Saturn rocket that successfully launched astronaut on 20th February 1962, a marine colonel named John Glenn and orbited the Earth was a bigger, souped-up version of the V1. Rocket flight hasn’t changed that much. Essentially it’s a pencil nib on top of a three or four storey casing of highly explosive fuel. The trick was to keep the astronaut, and later astronauts that went to the moon alive, and bring them back. Even with national prestige at stake, with budget overruns JFK was considering scaling back NASA’s budget and America’s ambition. He even proposed a joint mission to the moon with the USSR.

As we know this didn’t happen in his lifetime. And a new word entered our consciousness, software. Programmers such as Margaret Hamilton designed the on-board computer system that allowed the Neil Armstrong to utter those immortal words, ‘The Eagle had landed’. A computer system and memory so basic it wouldn’t power a modern calculator.

‘Whitey on the moon’ was Gil-Scott Heron’s take on it. Captain Edward J Dwight test pilot and a black kid didn’t make the grade. No accident. No malfunction. Not much has changed in fifty years.  The moron’s moron and friend of the KKK in the White House is keen on picking up Ronald Reagan’s hyperbole and aborted Star Wars programme. The military industrial complex that swallows sixty-percent of the US budget, but can’t find a nickel or cent for welfare, for the poor.  Different planet now, same rules apply.

 

Pat Black (2019) The Family

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I read this book when it was first published. I’ve read some of Pat Black’s short stories. Some of them are outstanding. A novel is just a bigger story. It’s no great surprise that Black knows what he’s doing. The Family is an interesting title. A bit bland, unless you’re Charles Manson and his Family. And this is Charles Manson territory.  There are evil people out there and more worryingly within us. We’ve got to channel them.

Here’s a little message to the narrator, Rebecca (Becky) Morgan from the guy with size fourteen, padded, boots.

I killed your mother. I killed your father. I killed your sister. I killed your baby brother. And it was the best day of my life.

Becky Morgan is in a word, ballsy. She knows the killer is out there. And she follows cold cases of families that have disappeared and families that have been, ritualistically, slaughtered, like her family was in the South of France in the idyllic Grange aux la Croix valley. She was the only one of her family to escape, but she’s not undamaged. She also does some damage, beating men up that piss her off. It only becomes a problem when she reaches the bottom of the glass.

Morgan is a journalist. It’s one of those coveted jobs us non-writers imagine would be full of fun, like those journalists in The Washington Post, writing witty stories about the moron’s moron and harking back to days when there was a scandal about the then President –allegedly – having an affair with a woman called of all things, Jennifer Flowers. Making up puns about de-flowering, but, you get the drift and I’ve lost the plot.

Journalism here is like the White House with the KKK on speed-dial. Anybody that’s any good has already left. Morgan takes a sabbatical from journalism to hunt the serial killer that she knows is out there.  It’s the twentieth anniversary of her families slaughter and its pay-back time.

Becky sums it up in this way.

Asking me if I thought about revenge is a bit like asking Godzilla if he ever thinks about Tokyo.

If I was being political and, choosing sides, if there was anything worse than the moron’s moron, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his kinship network then it is the bag carrier, Nigel Farage.  Here he pops up in Brussels as a loosely sketched bloke called Edwin Galbraith (no dark relation to the J K Galbraith, who penned the post-war settlement).

Brussels is his home and the source of his extremely comfortable lifestyle for a decade – a sublime irony.

When does a concentration of camps, such as Butlin’s (Skegness being my mate’s favourite) become tagged as concentration camps they can turn their backs on such as those of the far-right institutions of bonhomie in Brussels?  Becky goes undercover and offers her service to our Edwin. She’s young and pretty and has the right colour of skin. Least important of all she has public relations skills, so of course Galbraith wants her in, in the same way that Clinton wanted Flowers in.

Drat! Galbraith fingered her.

Her wires thrumming with adrenalin, Becky’s natural inclination was to bite back.

I’d suggest re-writing here.  Mixed metaphors make Galbraith a dull boy. If there was any justice in this world (or the next) he’d be murdered by a serial killer. But I’m not allowed to say that or call him a paedophile, or serial killer. He’s just a normal bloke. Very blockey.

Becky finds whatever way she turns her friends keep dying. Other folk might be a trifle paranoid about his development, but that’s part of her bloody past. She keeps ploughing forward through the bodies.

The serial killer shape shifts and seems to know all of her next moves. He’s one step ahead and one step behind her. No wonder she likes to drink. I like to drink too and I’ve not even got a stalker.

The denouement when it hits her, is a bit too reddy for me. Raw meet. Read on. This really is a page turner.

Tear along dotted line – the Celtic season starts here.

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Most Celtic supporters I’ve talked to would be happy with another domestic treble, perhaps with a European Cup thrown in for good measure. In Lennie we trust (well kinda).

Lennon got us over the line last year, winning the Scottish Cup  and the treble. There was a minimum and maximum as there is this year. I’d guess the minimum is a domestic double, Scottish League and one other trophy. In terms of Europe, qualification for the group stage of the Europa League.

The Europa League is a bit boring. We really want Champions League nights. Money and prestige are stitched together here. If Lenny gets Celtic through four qualifiers and into the Champions League group stages then he’s half way to being able to say job done. Then we can start kidding ourselves that other teams hate coming to Parkhead. The truth is the bigger teams love playing in a packed-out stadium where they always win. Yes, I do remember Tony Watt’s goal against Barcelona, loved every second of it, but freak results do happen. That’s why domestically Celtic are unlikely to win the treble again this year. They are the best team in Scotland, but an off day and we’re out of the cup.

Qualifying for Europe also means the squad is stretched and we’ve more games to play. After Rodger’s first season we began to regularly look vulnerable and drop points to teams like Kilmarnock and Hearts.

Strangely, despite Celtic’s treble-treble Rangers’ fans believe again. Their optimism is based on Celtic not spending and taking  two steps backwards in the last two seasons and Rangers finally going four or five games unbeaten. Rangers can win the league this year, but only if Celtic go into meltdown.

Celtic’s biggest buy of the season and long overdue is a centre-half in Christopher Julien. I’ve not seen him, but sometimes you just get that feeling…Kris Ayer will probably play alongside him in the centre of defence. Both are six-foot five, both are good with the ball at their feet. Both are called Chris. If they play to their potential Celtic will continue to monitor all players called Chris/Kris and try and integrate them into the Celtic family for Christmas.

I guess Jozo Simunovic will be the odd man out. He’d a great end of season, scoring that goal in the 67th minute and honouring Billy McNeil while wearing number 5. He looked like a half-decent defender at Parkhead, which must give Jack Hendry hope.

Lustig also had a fine end to the season and his Celtic career, but any winger with pace gave him a chasing, so it was thanks and no thanks. Anthony Ralston, for the moment, holds the jersey. Ironically, it was the young right back for Hearts in the last game of the season and in the Scottish Cup Final, a former Celtic graduate, who showed Ralston how it should be done.  I guess Celtic need to strengthen here. The Heart’s boy would be worth a punt, but we’ll go for the tried and tested, although I’m not sure who.

Arsenal and Napoli are interested in Kieran Tierney. He’s injured. He’s been injured quite a lot recently. The selling price is allegedly £25 million. I’d like to see Tierney stay. He’s a Celtic man and the best left back since Anton Rogan of Lisburn Distillery, but that might have been taking things a bit too far. Kieran Tierney is one of us, a fan, blessed with ability. Stay.

Johnny Hayes has been filling in at left back. I like Hayes, he’s street-smart, but never Celtic class (see Anton Rogan) and neither is he good enough to play as an out and out winger.

With Tierney out in the short, and perhaps longer term, Celtic have brought in a replacement. Under Rodgers it tended to be of the loan-deal variety. We paid more than £3 million for  Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo. He talks a good game. Telling us he has pace and…we’ll wait and see, but if Tierney stays, he’s our improved model of Emilio Izaguirre (good luck to the Honduran, but never a good idea to bring an old player back, hopefully the same thing doesn’t apply to an old manager).

In midfield we were always stacked with riches. Let’s start with the one that wants away. Olivier Ntcham had a few good games. He had a few bad games. You’ve got to laugh when he comes out with the excuse Scottish football is holding him back excuse. It never held back Henrik Larsson or  Harald Brattbakk or Virgil van Dijk. Two of these went on to lift the European Cup. Nitcham looks more of a Harald with every word that comes out of his mouth. He’s decided to go. Celtic want to sell. We’re waiting, but we’ll drop the price until someone takes him.

Ironically, I’m a big fan of Scottish, under-twenty-one international, Ewan Henderson who has fallen down the pecking order. Henderson, like his brother Liam, is Celtic class. I did predict years ago that Celtic would build their team around Liam. I’m not going to predict they’re going to build their team around Ewan (although I am tempted).

Remember Eboue Kouassi? He’s still there. He might do a Ryan Christie, you never know. Nah, he willnae. But wishful thinking is allowed.

Lewis Morgan is of that ilk. He went to Sunderland on loan and came back. We’ll probably send him out again somewhere. Special pre-seaon offer, three-for-one deal with Kouassi and Jack Henry.   Not bad players. Just not good enough for Celtic.

Scott Sinclair is on the final year of his contract. Anybody comes in, he can go. He’ll spend a lot of time on the bench if he doesn’t. He’ll be the type of player we bring on in the 85th minute hoping he can reproduce some of his penalty-box poacher- magic of his first two seasons.

Daniel Arzani lasted five minutes at Celtic, before getting injured. He’s got a chance, but only if young Karamoko Dembele  is thought too young for the first team.

Maryan Shved is a winger that excited Celtic fans, without playing a game for us. It was all highlights from abroad. Need to wait and see. Here’s hoping.

I’ve not mentioned James Forrest, the Celtic winger, who Lennon played through the middle in friendlies. Lennon brought Forrest into the team when he was here the last time. He used to talk him up and we’d be watching the same game and thinking…Whit? Lennon had a good season. Rodgers loved him. Lennon does too. He’ll play all the big games and most of the little ones. It’s going to be a big season for James Forrest.

Mikey Johnstone looks to be a Forrest stand in. Johnstone has plenty of trickery. He scores goals. He’s a Celt, here’s hoping he follows the Forrest pathway.

Scott Brown does what Scott Brown does. Lennon trusts him as did Rodgers before him. He’ll play the majority of our games.

Nobody played more games for club and country than Callum McGregor. If Forrest was Lennon’s love child, McGregor was Rodger’s. He played in almost every position for Rodgers apart from striker and goalie. I’m sure Rodgers would have handed him the gloves. There’s talk of a £20 million bid from the Leicester manager. That’s a wait and see.

Tom Rogic is another wait and see project. He didn’t look out of place when we played Manchester City in the Champions League under Rodgers. As good as anyone. But prone to injuries. Scores goals in big games, but in the Scottish Cup final (I can’t even remember if he played) and games against Rangers, in fact, most of last season, a wash out.  If clubs are offering £9 million or £10 million, I’d be very tempted to take it and bring back Paddy McCourt.

Ryan Christie wrote the script of the forgotten man biding his time. After losing out on John McGinn we were dreadful against a long-ball Hearts team at Tynecastle. Christie came on and scored and turned the game around. He was a goal-a-game man afterwards. Automatic first pick. His energy was of the Stuart Armstrong variety, but he had a better touch, better end product, a better player. But then that dreadful injury. He’s back but what Ryan Christie will emerge?

Luca Connell was coveted by other teams. Here’s hoping Lennie knew of him from his Bolton days. He’s young, which is always good. Is he ready for the first team?

Odsonne Edouard is our main striker. He missed a penalty in our last friendly in Switzerland against Gallen. Nobody cares about that, as long as he scores goals. He can be deceptively brilliant or just deceptive. He’s scored in big games, at crucial times in a match. He won us the league and Scottish Cup, but he doesn’t score enough. Maybe this season?

Leigh Griffiths is back. That’s fucking magic. Remember Griffiths once scored 40 plus goals in one season. He is a striker. No messing. There is a fair chance Lennon will play two strikers in games. Griffiths will get his chance. It’s really up to him. Here’s hoping.

I’d high hopes for the Ivorian international Vakoun Issouf Bayo. His strength is in the air. Lennon knows more than most, when pressed, as we were at Ibrox, a big target man gives you the route out of your half and adds goals. Recently, he’s been injured. That’s been a pattern. We don’t need any more projects. We don’t need another Kouassi. We need Bayo to force his way into the team in the same way Christie did, by scoring goals.

Are we stronger than last year? Yeh, we’ve been crying out for a decent centre-half for the last four years. One man doesn’t make a team, but it’s a start. We need a right-back, pronto. Perhaps Bayo won’t be good enough, then we need another striker. We might need a back-up centre-half for the back-up centre-half. If we sell Rogic or McGregor, we need another midfielder. The joker we have in the pack is Dembele. He looks a player. This might be his season. We’re in Sarajevo, let’s hope we can win and make the second leg a formality.

 

Alison (2017) directed by Uga Carlini

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=85&v=WIvFTrJGWCY

This drama-documentary has a fairy-story feel, a story of good triumphing over evil, of before and after the fall. Rape and murder are commonplace. Currently, only four-percent of reported rapes in the United Kingdom, for example, are successfully prosecuted.  When Alison Botha was abducted at knife-point in 1994, after dropping her friend off, near her home in South Africa, she hoped for the best. But she got the worst. There would be no escaping. Her would-be rapist picked up a friend. She looked in the mirror and into the back seat and into his eyes and all hope was gone. She recognised he was evil. The man sitting in the driving seat beside her seemed more affable. Later, he said he was possessed by the devil. They had already committed a number of rapes. Alison Botha was just another body. They took her to a nature reserve and took turns raping her. They’d already decided they didn’t want to leave any witnesses and they’d kill her. Tie up those loose ends.

Disembowelled, Alison couldn’t crawl. Somehow she had to stand up, despite her throat being cut from ear to ear and being stabbed more than thirty-six times. Nobody expected her to live. When she did make it out of the nature reserve and onto a main road, the first car passed, swerved round her bleeding body, and continued on. The next car stopped (the guy later went to university and trained to become a medical doctor). He held her hand and travelled in the ambulance with her. The ambulance crew didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry. They knew she’d be dead on arrival. She needed not just one surgeon, but two surgeons specialising in different fields. The surgeon that put her stomach back washed out the grit and glass in her intestines that she’d picked up as she crawled. It was a labour of love. Alison wouldn’t survive the surgery. They knew that.

Let’s jump forward. Her rapists were caught. She had to identify them. The police officer that took them to court told the viewers he didn’t put them in handcuffs. He wanted them to run so he could shoot them. They didn’t run. They did get convicted. The death penalty had been abolished. The judge sent them down for life, with a special note stating they should never be realised.

Nobody, of course, reads special notices. They are due for parole. They have girlfriends that visit. But this is not a story about them.

Alison Botha is a living miracle. Death visited her. She has wrestled with evil. Yet, neither of these factors defines her. Alison Botha offers a vision of radical hope for the future. Sometimes life is larger than life.