Beeblebrox is startled to find the passengers sleeping, when they all instantly wake up screaming. A robotic steward later explains to him that the ship crashed while searching for lemon-flavoured napkins. With none available, the passengers have been placed in stasis until a civilisation capable of producing lemon-flavoured napkins can arise, at which point their journey will resume. They are revived once a year for coffee and biscuits, explaining their extreme reaction to a being with two heads.
The story, tall as it is, sprang to my mind after cancelling my Internet subscription a few days ago. For reasons of the type easy to imagine in our current economic climate, but which good taste dictates are still best kept to oneself, the decision has been made to disconnnect oneself from the online community until such time as its activation can be justified again.
Although this might seem hard to believe, it isn't really going to be much of a loss. This is the first time I've been online in days. I have not broken into cold sweats, nor been observed muttering to myself on the streets of Lanarkshire, or certainly no more than usual, at least as far as the muttering's concerned. Life goes on. There was life before the Internet, and there will be life after it. Blogging is a uniquely self-renewing medium. My best man The Big Lad has recently started his own blog, and a very good one it is as well. He has my best wishes for its success. Without wishing to engage in a maudlin 'Vitai Lampada', this kind of churn in creative personnel amongst bloggers is a good thing, a very good thing, for it keeps the medium fresh.
And having had more retirements from blogging than Frank Sinatra from Caesar's Palace, it's a fair bet I'll be back at some point, God willing.
With that in mind, I thought I'd give some last random thoughts before my blogging career goes to the Great Dashboard in the Sky, where everyone can read HTML and nothing is overcoded.
While Orlando Figes may at times have been mercurial and capricious in his personal dealings, his brilliance as a Russianist cannot be doubted. 'The Whisperers' makes the case that Stalin set out to destroy private life in Russia. There never was any real need for eight or nine families to be sharing apartments, but it suited the ideological agenda; fifty people sharing one toilet, and that indoors, can have few secrets from each other.
Having read that book, one can wonder whether neoliberalism has a similar agenda for the destruction of public life. The constant assaults on workers' rights to withdraw their labour - shamefully abetted by leaders of the Labour Party who have never seen a strike, no matter how just, which they haven't deplored and whose consistently spineless failure to defend working people's use of their bargaining chip of last resort will hopefully cause historians of the future to spit their names with venom - the petty indignities inflicted upon Scout troops unable to go to the park or the seaside because they don't have insurance and so on, all seem to indicate the workings of an ideology totally opposed to people having any kind of communal lives, either in the workplace or in pursuit of a shared interest. If it's true then it's rather sad, if only because it's so pathetic.
Murdo Fraser MSP wishes to become leader of the Scottish Conservatives and then reform the party into oblivion. The application of Occam's Razor makes me wonder why he just doesn't resign from the party he's in and start his own.
I am still getting to grips with the new English translation of the Mass. The overly pre-Free State Irish, at times overly-clericalised nature of much Catholic worship in Scotland may have been why the old lady behind me, 85 years old if she was a day, was bobbing up and down with slothlike nimbleness. It would be very sad to think she was putting herself through a set of physical jerks worthy of a Nazi summer camp in order to satisfy her conscience that she has tried to do everything a priest has told her to do. For the first few weeks, a little bit of the Mass's dignity was, to my mind, stripped away as worshippers seemed to be engaged in some sort of arthritic Pilates, a geriatric Zumba class for people who don't yet understand whether they should be standing up or kneeling down for the 'Agnus Dei'. Seeing the apparent discomfort of some of the old, and not so old, people around me at this point in the worship they have chosen to join, I have to confess that an uncharitable recollection concerning public comments made by the Scottish Catholic Church's spokesman regarding the Hokey Cokey has flashed through my head more than once. However, the element of unexpected physicality introduced by the new translation seems to be settling down now. Maybe the hip replacements are finally screaming for mercy. I'm also puzzled by some of the wording. In the Creed, the words 'of one being with the Father' have been replaced with 'consubstantial with the Father'. One would have thought that the words 'of one being' have precisely the same meaning as the word 'consubstantial', while also being very much easier to explain to young children. The more mean-spirited might think that 'consubstantial' is the sort of word best tossed out as refectory repartee, and while theologically exact doesn't really sit well with those, like me, who have no desire to be the most accomplished theologian in the graveyard, particularly when a very much clearer alternative is being pushed aside in its favour. These matters are not in my hands, thank Goodness, but for the first few weeks I was extremely disoriented, a sensation I never handle very well - quiet mutterings, quieter raspberries and all that - and came to understand and develop great sympathy for those souls who must have been disoriented by hearing the Mass in English for the first time. Given that the Mass is, or should be, an act of orientation towards the ultimate, I hope that the grace of the God who has guided the production of this new translation will descend upon His worshippers and lead them to appreciate its subtleties.
While I was not party to the negotiations, and have great sympathy for their loss as a family no matter whatever foibles some of them might possess or have possessed as individuals, the compensation reported as having been paid or which is becoming payable to the family of Milly Dowler by News International for the hacking of her mobile phone seems excessively high.
Earlier this evening, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary entitled 'The Wonderful World of Tony Blair'. This is a very good title for any item which is either written or broadcast about that gentleman, so good in fact that I used it as the title for an article I wrote for 'The Washington Dispatch' almost exactly nine years ago.
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