January 26, 2018

Civil War in Finland and the Ukraine I THE GREAT WAR Week 183

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Germany, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

The Great War
Published on 25 Jan 2018

This week in the Great War, two more wars start – the Finnish Civil War and the Ukrainian War of Independence. Meanwhile, David Lloyd George pulls some strings in France, even as Ludendorff settles on a target for Germany’s upcoming Spring Offensive.

Ursula K. Le Guin, RIP

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I’m sorry to say that I’ve never read any of her work, but this obituary by Jude Karabus (especially this section) makes me think I missed out:

A lot of her work – like that of all the literary greats – had to do with thought experiments: What if the relationship between power and gender were different; what if you didn’t – for good or for bad – have to think about whether you wanted to have sex with someone when you interacted with them? What of the profit motive and humankind’s uneasy relationship with war, the environment and its own nature. Her work was, of course, unflinchingly feminist, humanist also.

There is a yellowed, slightly dog-eared copy of 1974’s The Dispossessed, complete with art nouveau-style illustration, on the shelf of the William Morris Gallery in London. It has a placard beneath it that reads something like: “This is the type of thing Morris was banging on about”. (Morris was a 19th-century English textile designer and social activist who brought art to the ‘lower’ classes by mass-producing tiles, wallpaper and other fine furnishings.)

It seems an odd choice by the curator; it’s the only book in the display that wasn’t literally written by a Morris compatriot or a known influence on him, and she was born years after he died. They were certainly of similar political bent, wanted to make art affordable etc, but only if you squint a little. The book was also written before I was born. There’s probably a connection I didn’t understand; perhaps the cover art was “a Morris” (he also painted and wrote poetry) – the terse note propped up against it doesn’t make it clear. But I like to think the curator was grabbed by the throat by her prose, like I was, and was simply looking for any excuse to say: “Here. Sit down. Read this! No really. Read this.”

A quick overview of the life and work of William Morris here.

Day 11 Cuban Missile Crisis – Will President Kennedy invade Cuba after all?

Filed under: Americas, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 30 Nov 2017

On 26 October 1962, USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev is preparing to offer the US an olive branch. Meanwhile US President John F Kennedy continue to plan an invasion of Cuba. While the politicians make new plans, their previous military plans take on a life of their own

British sex workers create a “National Ugly Mugs” database to avoid sketchy customers

Filed under: Britain, Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At The Register, Iain Thomson reports on a study of professional sex workers in Britain:

A study into the effect of the internet on professional sex workers has shown the online world keeps them safer, happier in their job, and more able to weed out creepy customers.

Researchers at the universities of Leicester and Strathclyde in the UK interviewed 641 courtesans – with a roughly 80/20 per cent female to male split – and found [PDF] more than three quarters found using online channels to find and vet punters made them safer in their trade. Online forums also gave then a valuable tool in staying safe and countering loneliness or depression.

“Girls are very open because obviously we started talking about the safety from the very get-go,” Milena, 32, an independent escort providing BDSM services. “If you didn’t have that internet … everything would have been underground and everybody would be scared.”


“I’d say the worst bit of the job is constantly feeling like you’ve got to look over your shoulder,” said Jane, 40, a BDSM specialist. “Even though I’m working legally, I’m constantly worried.”

Sex workers in the UK have also set up a National Ugly Mugs database, whereby abusive punters are flagged up by their email addresses or social media handles, which 85 per cent of the respondents used. Sharing this information between themselves made is much less likely that the workers would come to harm.

Support groups for people in the business have been greatly enabled by the online world.

Prostitution is legal in the UK, but not in a brothel or via a pimp. Going online meant that 89 per cent of respondents used online communications to eliminate the need for a third party to manage their affairs, 82 per cent went online to make sure they weren’t breaking the law, and 78 per cent said it had improved the quality of their lives.

Tank Chats #21 Mark V

Filed under: Britain, History, Military, Technology, WW1 — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Tank Museum
Published on 27 May 2016

Although similar in appearance to earlier models the Mark V was a much better tank, more powerful and easier to drive.

It was equipped with a new engine and steering system which meant that one man could handle all the controls, compared with four in the Mark IV.

Commanded by a young officer named Whittenbury the Museum’s Mark V tank, seen in this video, took part in the Battle of Amiens and its young commander was awarded the Military Cross.

QotD: Britain’s boozy parliamentarians

Filed under: Books, Britain, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is Wright’s contention [in his book Order! Order!] that alcohol has as many benefits as it does drawbacks. Not only does it help loosen ties and tongues it also boosts confidence and dilutes stress. Most prime ministers drank, many to excess. Herbert Asquith went by the nickname “Squiffy Asquith” and regularly appeared in the Commons three sheets to the wind. Margaret Thatcher did her best to promote the whisky industry, the uncapping of a bottle of Bell’s marking the end of the working day. She believed that whisky rather than gin was good for you because “it will give you energy”, which I fear could be a hard fact to prove scientifically.

Tony Blair, whose reign ushered in an era of 24-hour drinking, thought his relatively modest drinking was getting out of control because he calculated it exceeded the government’s weekly recommended limit. This did not impress Dr John Reid, Bellshill’s finest, who once drank like a navvy. “Where I come from,” Reid told GMTV, “a gin and tonic, two glasses of wine, you wouldn’t give that to a budgie.” Blair, of course, did not have to look further than next door to find an explanation why his consumption increased over the years. Gordon Brown, his nemesis, was fond of Champagne – Möet & Chandon no less – which he did not nurse but washed down in a gulp. “He was like the cookie monster,” recalled one aide. “Down in one, whoosh!” Drinking is of course one of those areas in which we Scots have long punched above our weight and Wright’s pages are replete with examples of intoxicated Jocks carousing nights away and causing mayhem. Former Labour leader John Smith was one such. Occasionally I encountered him on the overnight train that carried Scottish MPs home from Westminster on a Thursday night. Known as “the sleeper of death”, it was a mobile pub that never closed until it reached Waverley, whereupon politicians were disgorged red-eyed and pie-eyed among bemused early morning commuters.

Alan Taylor, “Lush tales of our political classes’ drinking exploits”, The National, 2016-06-20.

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