Stealing the honest way

An Englishman stole three buns from a bakery and said to his friend, “That took skill and guile. The owner doesn’t know a thing about it.”

His Irish friend said, “That’s simple thievery. I’ll do the same but honestly and in front of the owners eyes.” He called over the owner and said, “I’d like to show you a magic trick with three buns.”

The owner was intrigued- who wouldn’t be?- and said, “Carry on.”

The Irishman then ate a bun in front of the owner. He asked for two more and ate them as well. He said, “Well that’s it.”

The owner said, “But what’s the trick?”

Look in the Englishman’s pocket.”

Ray H.

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Film Review: Sorry to bother you (Lakieth Stanfield and Armie Hammer)

Black director Boots Riley has outshone Spike Lee’s BlackkKansman. Riley has simultaneously created a searing indictment of institutional and unconscious racism, a satire on telemarketing and a vicious attack on American capitalism.

Cassius Green (Lakieth Stanfield) is a wonderful character. He is a hapless loser, living in a garage, but his formidable skills as a telemarketing salesman transform him. He is promoted to a powerful position at RegalView. Once he’s left the telemarketing floor he realises that his skills are being used promoting all-American 21st century slavery. His principal skill is talking in such way that he literally enters people’s lives. One spectacular directorial triumph is having Green successfully selling a service to a man who’s sitting on a toilet. He also speaks ‘white’. Riley has dubbed Green’s speech with that of a white actor. This grimly underlines everyday racism shared by the audience.

Green’s works on behalf of WorryFree. One worry their workers don’t have is money. They aren’t paid. The analogy is Far Eastern sweat shops. Terrible working conditions, housing in battery-hen style dormitories and with fuel loosely described as food.

Armie Hammer plays the arch capitalist Steve Lift. The denouement is Stanfield’s character Cassius Green becoming a strike-breaker and later discovering the true horror of WorryFree’s business plan. Horror piles on horror as Green publicises this horror-show. He discovers American capitalism believes transforming people into docile animals is a wonderful idea.

A brilliant film, hard hitting and yet with a light touch.

Why you should watch this film: It’s fun and is filled with thoughtful insights

Why you shouldn’t watch this film: The final scenes are straight out of Oh Lucky Man and are deeply upsetting to the sensitive viewer (I didn’t like them).


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The Two Obadiah’s

When just a boy, I asked Dad
What’s the oldest song you know?
He pulled the music stool out
And while playing he began to sing.

It turns out that when Dad was a boy
He asked his own Grandad
That very same question
His Granddad told him “The two Obadiah’s”.

Dad could only remember the first verse
It was a jaunty little number
About a Grand-father and Grand-son
They both liked to drink.

It wasn’t until last week
When my friend Andy, said
“He could find most songs
On the internet”.

“I bet you won’t be able to find
An old song my Dad sang to me
But I only know that it was called
The Two Obadiah’s”.

The next day, Andy presented
The full version with words and music
Apparently the words and music were
Penned by an H.P.LYSTE.

Written in  1751, this song must be old
It would be a least 10 generations
Before I was born, I am 74 now
Such is the power of the Internet.

Said the young Obadiah, to the old Obadiah
“I am dry, Obadiah, I am dry,”
Said the old Obadiah, to the young Obadiah,
“Well that’s queer, Obadiah, so am I.”



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Why posh boys and girls run the Arts

Not long ago, my wife, a composer, asked me if I would ever advise a student from a low-income family to pursue a career in the arts.

What do you mean? Of course.”


If that’s what they wanted to do, and they had talent.”

But they don’t have money.”

If a student were really passionate and talented, she’d figure out a way.” That’s always been something my parents told me. “Think about what you’d do if money were no object. And then work hard. You’ll find a way to make money.”

Your parents give you $28,000 a year. They paid for your tuition. They made it possible for you to do what you’d do if money were no object—because money was no object for you.”

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The defeat of cholera

New epidemic diseases are always terrifying.1 Cholera arrived in Britain in 1832 when Britain didn’t have a medical-scientific infrastructure to cope. Favoured explanations for cholera were Miasma, (roughly, ‘bad air’), moral turpitude and God’s anger. Victorian Britain’s rationalists looked for evidence based explanations. After the third epidemic of 1854

Timeline for cholera

they dismissed miasma, God and other fanciful theories out of hand. This epidemic brought Snow’s theory of polluted water. His statistical analysis of the London outbreak identified precisely why the outbreak emerged where it did and why its victims were its victims. Cholera’s coup de grace came with the ground-breaking research of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch. Their work plus engineer Joseph Bazalgette’s sewage systems eradicated cholera from first world countries.

King Cholera in a London slum

It was a commonplace belief that cholera struck poor areas because of the vile living conditions that existed in their neighbourhoods. The miasma theory fitted the narrative perfectly. Poor neighbourhoods stank making people feel ill just breathing and therefore they were ill because of bad air. John Snow lived in Soho, London, where the 1854 outbreak was virulent. His acute analytical mind dismissed the miasma theory when he saw people were dying in clusters. In brief everyone was breathing the same air but only some were dying.2

John Snow’s map of cholera in Soho, London

The miasma theory encouraged the belief that cholera victims were really victims of poor lifestyles. Therefore improving their lifestyle would prevent cholera.

Broadside issued by the New York Sanatory Committee during the cholera epidemic of 1849.

The dead hand of traditional knowledge3 denied Snow’s insight but an engineering solution was in hand with the creation of London’s sewage system. In 1858 London came to halt when the open sewer which was the River Thames erupted into virulent unpleasantness during a very hot summer. The miasma theory ironically came into its own. A gagging stench shut parliament and provoked action. Joseph Bazalgette, the chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, was financed for a stupendous public works project.4

London’s post- 1858 sewer system

Two great continental scientists Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch proved beyond doubt that cholera was transmitted by polluted water. Pasteur stroke of genius was to connect his work on beer to the wider problem of the transmission of disease. He developed the germ theory of transmission and Koch did the fundamental work establishing a new paradigm. Medical scientists could never again look beyond their work.

Louis Pasteur’s intellectual journey

The conquest of cholera was driven by non-medical analysis. Snow ‘knew’ that water caused cholera but was unable to demonstrate it: to prove it. The miasma theory took a long time to die but it’s final contribution was the investment in sewers following the Great Stink of 1858. Pasteur and Koch laid the intellectual foundations of modern medicine with their research. However cholera is still an ever present in the third world where the infrastructure of clean safe water is patchy. This was shown in Haiti in 2010-2 when UN provided peacekeepers inadvertently brought cholera with them from Nepal. Complacency is a killer where cholera is concerned.

1 Compare the Black Death, 1349, the Great Plague, 1665-6 and Ebola 2014-6.

2 …the Southwark and Vauxhall water company, your water is taken from the river directly downstream of a sewage outfall pipe. Snow’s great insight was to recognise that people who breathed the same air didn’t all die, and that S&V customers were dying at a rate 22 times higher than those of the Lambeth Water Company, whose intake was upstream of the outfall pipes.

3 Thomas Kuhn in 1962 described the way that science is dominated by paradigms which people build their careers on turning them into certainties. Attacking a paradigm is therefore more than just presenting a new thesis, if successful, it can end careers. Snow’s destruction of the miasma theory was resisted by many medical-scientists as it would overturn the basis of the transmission of disease rendering their knowledge obsolete. See

4 Amazingly Bazalgette’s work was opposed on the grounds that prevented the use of human waste as a resource regardless of the presumption that sewers saved lives.

There was outrage in 19th-century England when Bazalgette’s sewers wasted good excrement by transporting it into the sea. Excrement was a useful fertiliser, and suddenly London was making it useless by diluting it with drinking water. (Karl) Marx fumed at the monetary loss of so much good fertiliser.


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Two priests on holiday in Hawaii

Two priests went to Hawaii on vacation without worrying about stereotypes. When they landed they bought shorts, shirts, sandals, sunglasses, etc. so they’d fit in.

An attractive holiday maker, dressed in a bikini, said ‘Good Morning, Father. Good Morning, Father,’ to both priests as she walked past them on the beach.

They were both stunned. ‘How did she know they were priests?’

The next day they returned to the beach and exactly the same thing happened.

One of the priests said, ‘Can I speak to you for a minute?’

‘Yes, Father?’

‘We’re priests and proud of it, but I have to know, how in the world do you know we’re priests, dressed as we are?’

‘Father, it’s me, Sister Kathleen’.

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Book Review: Sven Hassel ~ The Commissar (Translator Tim Bowie)

Sven Hassell is very controversial in Denmark where his ‘fact based semi-autobiographical’ novels have been scrutinised and found to be (astonishingly!) fiction. The style Hassel writes in does lead the reader to believe that there is an underlying truth hard at work. Apparently Hassel was little more than a criminal chancer in the war but mingled with Danish SS soldiers immediately post-war garnering stories and colour. This problem illustrates the brilliance of Hassel’s novels. They appear true because of the vivid authenticity of the writing

Hassel’s stories are fiercely located in a Nazi Panzer unit. He has an enduring list of characters all of whom are well drawn and complementary. A Nazi fanatic in the same crew as a Hamburg gutter rat Tiny and Albert, a black German driver. They loot, use Soviet Kalaskinov’s in preference to German guns, commit war crimes and crimes against humanity without a second thought. They routinely denounce Hitler, disobey officers and are perpetually drunk. They’re lousy, have only filthy rags for clothes and are Darwinian man personified.

Chapter one Panzer Attack is 50+ pages of stunning writing about the actuality of warfare. It’s required reading for any war crazed politican (are listening Tony Blair et al?) and chapter four is a superb satire on the pomposity of the Nazi regime. Unrelentingly non-politically correct language pours over the reader and numbs liberal sensibility with sheer thrilling writing in this war novel.

Why you should read this novel: It’s a vivid and brilliant page turner

Why you shouldn’t read this novel: In many ways it’s hateful apparently glorying in carnage.

Buy it at


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