Monday, October 12, 2015

Photoshop Phraud

Recently, and all over the globe, an epidemic of scandals has broken out concerning the horrible and hypocrite use of the Photoshop program to jazz things up and make people appear far more sexy and youthful than they are in their flesh and blood. I must say the indignation of the public is justified. The things you see are shocking! Society matrons who are far beyond their sell-by date are made to look like fillies straight out of the stud farm; top models are moulded and polished and liposucked the pixel way until they are beyond all recognition; and even politicians are being digitally enhanced so as to increase their potential to attract electoral attention (I mean… does anybody really think that hair on Mr Trump’s skull is real??)

Now, normally, Alfred B Mittington could not care less about such Vanitas Vanitatum of the under-aged world into which he was born far too early… But he draws the line, dear reader, there where these Digital Reprobates and Barefacebookies tamper with the respectable appearance of a dear old close personal friend of his, who cannot defend himself for being dead! How dare they! J’Accuse with a vengeance, and I will soon take legal action against the lads and lassies who dared to turn this picture of dear old Winston:

Into THIS shocking travesty of truth for the advertisements of a top hat manufacturer:

Shame, I say! Shame shame shame…!!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ten selfies of the Invisible Man

Now that the holidays are over, it is time to share our snapshots with the rest of humanity. As I myself do not use them modern digital devices, and the tripod of the Camera Obscurae really becomes a little too heavy and clumsy to schlepp around at my age, I have asked a good old friend to provide me with his holiday pictures. And so I offer you today, dear reader, a unique peek into the Selfies of the Invisible Man, snapped during his recent World Tour.

In the Kheops Burial chamber, Giza

At the Victoria Falls

Before the Coliseum, Rome


Père Lachaise, Paris

Taking coffee in Florence with his wife

In front of the Tree of Ténéré, Niger

At the Norwegian coast

Sitting on the Toros de Guisando, Avila, Spain

South Pole !!!!

Friday, July 3, 2015

It is Scylla and Charybdis for our time!

Dear reader, I cannot tell what the Greeks should vote in the coming Referendum. The choice between the Scylla and Charybdis of the Oxi and the Nai, the Yes or No, the sink or founder, is like asking them to chose between death by hanging or by electric chair. So Alfred B Mittingon refrains from taking a position, and from making predictions as to what will happen next Sunday.

What I do know, however, is that the Brussels Eurogues will use the outcome, whatever it is, to get rid of the Syriza government. They will use a No vote to the Austerity Deal as a convenient excuse to refuse any further dialogue with ‘an intransigent regime of upstart radicals’ (or words to that effect), and allow Greece to plunge into total chaos, which will lead to new elections; while a Yes vote implies that the Syriza government has lost its mandate to resist the Abominable Troika, and has no choice but to step down.

Soon after, through new elections or – preferably of course – by simple backroom horse trading, the previous government will return to power. A government led by Mr Samaras of Nea Demokratia, in combination with the good old PASOK and a few more spineless fringe parties; the same folk, that is, who plunged Greece into its present plight by their corruption, clientelism, cronyism and abuse of public funds. The same who lied through their teeth to have Greece join the Euro. The same who borrowed to their heart’s delight to buy votes and fill their party coffers. Europe will welcome them with open arms, because ‘they may be bastards, but they are OUR bastards’. They are our friends. They are our lackeys, who will do our bidding and follow orders.

And here is the true irony. As soon as this new obedient rogue regime has taken office, the Troika and the Brussels Nomenklatura will miraculously see the light, and grand the country a gigantic debt relief (to be shouldered by the European taxpayer) because they suddenly recognize that not in a thousand years a tiny country in the present state of depression can repay the entire burden of institutional debts (why do you think the ever cautious IMF yesterday hinted at precisely such a thing?) Thus, the friendly new cabinet of yesterday’s kleptocrats will be granted the very deal which would have made Mr Tsipras and Mr Varufakis gladly accept the ‘rescue’ program.

But it could not be done before, you see; because doing so would have given a lease on life to a rebellious regime which dared to stand up to EU Diktats. And that was unthinkable. For getting rid of the elected enemy has been the first priority of our Brussels Masters in what they passed off as negotiations ever since January. Syriza had to be crushed. And crushed they will be.

I leave you with a dark and gloomy thought: when all is said and done and the bottom line is reached, Mr Tsipras has been doing the Brussels Beurocracy the greatest imaginable favour an adversary ever bestowed on his foe. It was obvious from the start, and got clearer by the day, that the Greek debt situation was going to implode and lead to Grexit if not worse. Now, however, the Junckers and the Dijsselbloems, the Merkels and the Schläubes, the Tusks, the Schulzes, the Draghis and all the other heartless Eurogues can blame the denouement, not on the rotten structure of their Eurozone, but on the evil doings of a handful of communist radicals.

I hear a sigh of relief from the banks of the Spree, the Seine and the Senne. I hear the flexing of monstrous muscles in preparation of the next move…

Brace yourselves, ye Europeans! Very soon Scylla and Charybdis will be coming for you as well!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Golden Quotebook: Charles Colson on the Family Jewels

The tangle, the defiance, the challenge and the reckless gamble by all involved in the coming Greek referendum, immediately brought to my mind a somewhat rough, but certainly utterly honest observation by Charles “Chuck” Wendell Colson.

Mr Colson used to be a special assistant to President Richard Nixon back in the 70s, and in that capacity performed a number of rather disreputable tasks, among other things (the more amusing ones you can read up on here) the organisation of the Watergate burglary that ultimately brought the Nixon administration down. For this and many other transgressions he served a prison term, after which – to his credit – he saw the Light, found the Lord and did his best to make up for his many sins as a preacher and a conscientious Christian.

Chuck Colson was, if anything, a ruthless Realpolitker (it was said by one who did not even dislike him all that much, that he was ‘The Evil Genius of an Evil Administration’, who wouldn’t think twice about walking over his own grandmother if this were necessary to win a re-election…), and he believed that the way to political popularity often involved a certain dose of pressure. Or, as he himself put it in far more flowery terms than my own:

Once you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow…!

This, dear reader, is of course what today the Brussels Nomenklatura firmly believes about the Greek populace. Let them sweat! Let them starve! Let them panic and make them bleed! Never give in an inch, and then they will learn to love us!

They may well be right, for bullying often works wonders. But anybody who – like myself - has ever read a history book about the roughly 2,500 years of Greek history, say from the Battle of Thermopylae through the Ottoman Empire to the Greek War of Independence and the German Occupation, surely will share my doubts… Yes, the Greeks may be a little bad and a little mad, but you cannot beat them when it comes to pride and dignity.

Next Sunday will tell…

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Obituary of the Undead and the Immortal

A sad week this is, dear reader. Two fine men passed away in the last few days.

The first is Sir Christopher Lee, who for my generation will always be the first, the foremost and the ultimate Dracula to fill the silver screen with his glittering performance. A man of taste and sophistication, with a splendid war record and a host of exquisite roles to his name, Lee defied the Grim Reaper for many decades on end. He lived to 93, no less! Which is a bit of an irony, since – as a highly educated man with an extensive knowledge of the classics – he must have known Menander’s famous dictum: ‘Those whom the gods love, die young.’ His solution out of this tangle was ingenious: as the Undead Count from Transylvania, he simply died a thousands deaths in twenty vampire movies, only to resuscitate again for any next performance. What a glorious manner to prove a Greek playwright wrong!

The other lamentable loss this week is Ornette Coleman, the controversial, ever innovative saxophone player who took Free Jazz to a whole new level. I only had the pleasure of seeing him perform in public once, at a jazz festival in Groningen (the utmost north of the Netherlands) back in 1980, where three feet away from me, he performed a feat I have never witnessed since: playing uninterruptedly for nearly ten minutes by the technique of circular breathing (i.e. the performer fills his cheeks with air like a chipmunk hoarding nuts; then uses that air to continue playing while he fills his lungs with fresh air through his nose; and repeating that process again so that the stream of music is never interrupted for a single moment while taking breath). It was magnificent. It was close to divine. And it reminded me that for the ancient Egyptians, as for the ancient Jews, air and breath equalled soul and life. A man who is physically capable of pulling off such a feat, certainly deserves his undying fame and immortality.

RIP both of you fine fellows!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Victory has many orphans...

A victory of King Phyrrus

It is remarkable, dear reader, how electoral results can be differently perceived by different cultures. Allow me to explain.

Last Sunday 24 May, municipal and provincial elections were held in Spain. The results were not surprising (since they had been pretty adequately predicted) but still represented a thorough shake-up of dusty things.

On a national scale, the governing PP, conservative, pocketed some 27 % of the vote. This was down about 10 % from earlier elections, both general and local, in 2011. The opposition PSOE, socialist, reached some 25 %, about 5 % less than in 2011. Two new upstart parties, scions of the economic crisis and popular indignation over widespread corruption, did not do too badly. The centre-left-yet-often-right-of-centre (yeah, square me that circle!) Cuidadanos party got almost 7 % of the vote nationwide, and the flamboyant, radical left Podemos, in so far as it may be calculated (for politico-philosophical reasons, they did not participate in every town and province), seems to attract anywhere between 10 and 20 %.

How would you read these results (assuming you are not yourself Spanish)? Well: in any northern democracy based on Proportional Representation, this would count as a resounding victory for the PP. Not only the party won the most votes nationwide, but it also ended up as the biggest party in most towns, cities and provinces. Yes, of course they lost a big chunk of the vote compared with previous elections; but their performance is not short of a miracle, considering that the party has been in office for four hard years; that its mayor accomplishment consists in not making the economic situation any worse; that, in order to do so, its government took from the poor to give to the rich; and finally that it is riddled with so many cases of astounding, shameless, mind-boggling corruption from the very highest levels to the lowest, that it might be said to be corrupt up to its bone-marrow.

But how are these results read by Spaniards themselves, on television, in the papers, and in the social media? Well, rather differently, to put it mildly. There is deep depression and near panic in the PP, and jubilant euphoria in all their adversaries, because the reigning party has suffered such a considerable setback. The crux seems to be, that losing Power Absolute, which the PP enjoyed in countless places and still enjoys in the national parliament, and which, apparently, is seen as the only manner of governing efficiently, equals total defeat, a thing of horrible shame, a catastrophe of epic proportions.

Meanwhile, the two new upstart parties tire not of pointing out that Change has now begun and that the old tradition bi-party system of the last 40 years, which divided and alternated power equally between PP and PSOE, has come to a final end. A fresh new rosy-fingered dawn is here to stay and usher in the Millennium…

On the bottom right: sour grapes

Where they get it from frankly beats me. For the above results - in the humble view of Alfred B Mittington - spell neither catastrophe for the PP nor the Glorious Dawning of The Age of Aquarius for our fresh new players in the Spanish political arena.

For starters: it remains to be seen if the unstoppable forward march of the new ‘third way parties’ indeed holds out, or if, in due time, things swing back, the ‘waters return to their riverbed’ as the Spaniards say, and ‘bi-partyism’ re-establishes itself once again. Podemos, for one, typically peaked last December, and Ciudadanos may have done well for a first time contender, but 7 % of the vote is not exactly a landslide…

More importantly still is the fact that Ciudadanos and Podemos did not arrogate to themselves the main part of their vote from the two traditional behemoths, but got their gains mainly from earlier ‘third way’ small groupings. Ciudadanos simply obliterated a party called UPyD, with whom it even tried to merge a few months ago; while Podemos absorbed an immense share of the vote from the old, senior far-left party Izquierda Unida. So much for Crucial Change.

Lastly, there is the little hurdle of Spanish electoral law which – much as I find it impossible to truly fathom – has all the qualities and pitfalls of Britain’s First Past The Post system, heavily favouring the bigger parties and local chauvinistic ones. If in the General Elections of next autumn, the results are numerically comparable to the ones of last Sunday, both new parties will attract a nice share of the vote, but will see their gains reduced to smithereens when it comes to seats in Parliament. This was always the fate of Izquierda Unida, which invariably got loads of votes nationwide, which then translated into a mere handful of seats; while localist and separatist parties, concentrated in a single linguistic and cultural area, got many more seats for far fewer votes (1). Just as in Britain (remember Ukip, the Greens and the SNP), the weight of your vote depends on where you cast it; almost as if different kinds of gravity were at work in different spots of the electoral landscape.

What next? Well, everything is really on hold until the next General Elections this autumn. Due to the splintered results, in all sorts of town halls and most provinces, coalition governments must somehow be welded together. This is no easy thing in Spain, where parties thoroughly dislike and despise one another and ruling by unassailable absolute majority is the greatest political pleasure. In some spots, where various national and local opposition parties have raked in sufficient seats, both traditional big parties may perhaps be kept out of local government. But in many others where either PP or PSOE made a strong enough showing, life is going to be a bitch. For neither Ciudadanos nor Podemos – whose very essence and trademark is the battle again the bi-party system – can for the moment afford to be seen as just another spineless coalition partner helping to power one of the big parties whom they always said they abhorred.

Naturally, Ciudadanos has it easier here than Podemos. The I’m-as-right-wing-as-I’m-left-wing formation can conceivably strike some deals with the PP and some with the PSOE, say something lofty about Governability and putting the Country First, and maintain their immaculate political virginity since they sleep with both opponents. Podemos, however, does not have that option. It can and will never strike a deal with the arch-enemy PP, and so has to reveal itself as the handmaid to the Social Democrats or, alternatively, open itself up to criticism of only wanting total power and not helping out to give citizens good governance. In short: whatever they do, they are doomed.

It will be a true mess over the next six months; but will there be true change? I doubt it. And so good old Alfred B Mittington, who has seen it all over a long long lifetime, predicts that there will be no earthquake at all next November. There will only be a minor landslide of mud.

(1) Essentially this system was designed back in the late 1970s to ensure the support of the Basque and Catalan nationalistic forces for the post-Dictatorship Constitution. As such it made sense at the time. The consequences are, however, somewhat wry. In the 2008 general elections, for instance, Izquierda Unida, with 1,000,000 votes, received 2 seats in the Cortes. The bourgeois-nationalistic Catalan CiU, with 775,000, got 11 seats. The left radical Catalan ERC scored 3 seats on the basis of 300,000 votes. And - top of the pops! – the bourgeois-nationalistic Basque PNV got 6 seats for a mere 303,000 votes, which means three times more MPs for a third of the votes raked in by IU… A factor of 9!