Thursday, 19 June 2008


I am not anti American. Indeed when I served with the 8th United States Air Force on the Berlin Airlift some of my best friends were Americans; though of course I would not like some of them to have married my daughters.

The Yanks - as they liked to be called- were warm, witty and loyal; pathologically generous, though sadly sexually obsessed ....which I find the defining American characteristic. This is after all the country that gave us the pin up, the knickerless film heroine and Frank Sinatra. Not to mention AIDS and during World War 2 a rapid increase in the incidence of social diseases.

What I am against is the Hollywoodisation of not only British culture, but their own. America is a country where everyone seems to want to be reborn as John Wayne; that draft dodging icon who sold his colleagues down the Red River during the McCarthy period.

Where New Labour is not aping generations of conservatives it is recreating the White House in our green and increasingly unpleasant land and aping that Land of the Unfree.

From America we have imported the tribal rhythms of Chubby Checkers and improved on them, if that is the word I want.

Yet this is also the land that gave us the world’s finest entertainers, the moving picture - at its height, in my view, in the animated cartoon and the spectacular musical; who gave us in Hemingway, an author who changed the language of literature and journalism; the great wits of the thirties, and so much else.,

Without American scholarship we wouldn’t have Boswell’s journals, a library at Yale devoted to Walpole. There are more of our literary artefacts stateside than there are here. But it’s a notoriously long winded scholarship and it has swamped our publishing industry. That can’t be good.

We seem ashamed of our own culture. There was a lot of good in our Empire; the D’Oyly Carte was a unique British tradition, abandoned by the Arts Council. Pageantry is going; blimey, even beef eating was illegal.
What is the attraction of American culture? Copeland, the Algonquin wits, Norman Rockwell the American musical film, Disney?. But they are all pre 1950

What is to be admired now about a culture that is symbolised by an unwashed hippie with flowers and lice vying for possession of his hair, riding a Harley Davidson to the music of Chubby Checkers? Ought we not to take a leaf out of the French book and enact laws to preserve the British way of life ?

The political press in this country was pretty united in criticising David Davis. It was obvious the inhabitants of the Westminster village could not understand why anyone would give up the privileges which abound in the neighbourhood on a mere matter of principle. That is when I realised we really are in a bad way and are yet again clutching to our bosom the worst aspects of America


At the non-mystical level at which I can appreciate them, the Ten Commandments seem to me nothing more than bye-laws. We would only have to adhere to them to live civilised and happy lives. Or at least the last six.

I believe in a single creator because nothing else makes sense; but sculpture, swearing and keeping the Sabbath are all, it seems to me, matters of personal decision.

However, if we did no murder, adultery, false witness bearing or coveting other men’s wives, life, though a great deal duller, would at least be peaceful.

Are the commandments still as relevant to our times as they were to the desert tribes?

One of them contravenes race relations legislation. If someone took Moses to a tribunal for insisting there was only one god he would lose. The graven image ban would close all the art galleries and how could you swear an oath without taking the name in vain?

Are we to believe that the Commandments were handed down from heaven or was that a device for making them binding on primitive desert tribes?

Perhaps religion itself is old-fashioned? I heard a Rabbi on R4 dismiss the notion that God answers prayers and calling them superstitious juju.


Gladstone claimed he had known eleven prime ministers and nine of them were adulterers.

But can you imagine Mrs Gladstone being forced to go public on her pious husband’s nightly street patrols to save fallen women? “Save one for me!“ was the popular cry.

For my money the so-called Clinton scandals were the non-stories of the year, Entirely manufactured by the American Press with our uncreative media joining in the barking like starving street curs. Believe me, as a member of that media for half a century our eagerness to commit adultery would make Clinton appear monk like.

The British have their own Cads Cartel which began with Palmerston, included Wellington and is at present enthusiastically indulged in by much of the House of Commons.

Surely, as the home life of our own dear Lloyd George demonstrates, powerful men have powerful urges.

Jefferson’s daughter brought a teenage slave girl to the White House. And it wasn’t long before she was Jefferson’s. Palmerston harnessed naked women in silken reins and drove them round the drawing room; Wellington gave his name to a number of old boots. Didn’t make any of them less able. Disraeli said that if people found out that in old age Palmerston had fathered a child they would never get him out of Downing Street.


Calling it a conflict of interests is putting it lightly. The Los Angeles Times reports that a closely watched obscenity trial in a Los Angeles federal court was suspended after the judge acknowledged maintaining his own publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.

Alex Kozinski said in an interview with the paper that he had posted sexual content on his site.

"Among the images were a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. He defended some of the adult content as 'funny' but conceded that other postings were inappropriate," the LA Times reports with a very straight face.


Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.
Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.
The campaign started a couple of years ago when the Health Ministry began beating the drums for a medical condition that few Japanese had ever heard of — metabolic syndrome — a collection of factors that heighten the risk of developing vascular disease and diabetes. Those include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and high levels of blood glucose and cholesterol. In no time, the scary-sounding condition was popularly shortened to the funny-sounding metabo, and it has become the nation’s shorthand for overweight.
The mayor of one town in Mie, a prefecture near here, became so wrapped up in the anti-metabo campaign that he and six other town officials formed a weight-loss group called “The Seven Metabo Samurai.” That campaign ended abruptly after a 47-year-old member with a 39-inch waistline died of a heart attack while jogging.
Still, at a city gym in Amagasaki recently, dozens of residents — few of whom appeared overweight — danced to the city’s anti-metabo song, which warned against trouser buttons popping and flying away, “pyun-pyun-pyun!”
“Goodbye, metabolic. Let’s get our checkups together. Go! Go! Go!
Goodbye, metabolic. Don’t wait till you get sick. No! No! No!”
NY Times

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