Category: Alternative

The Moonlight Sonata: Beethoven’s Psychedelic Danube Journey

Posted by – April 28, 2011

The Moonlight Sonata, accompanied by a video making full use of selective saturation in an attempt to emulate the experience of drug-induced psychosis.


I’m about to leave the Netherlands for good, so naturally I felt that that during my last full weekend I needed to experience the main thing the Netherlands is famous for: tulips. However, since the famous Keukenhof is an hour away by bus, and since my level of interest in tulips approaches zero, I decided instead to purchase four grams of exotic herbs from one of the many “coffee shops” that do business openly and freely in The Hague, bake it into cakes and consume it at the rate of one gram per day for every day of the Easter weekend.

I then attempted to document the experience using a cheap camera and a somewhat complex but powerful video editing computer language, Avisynth.


A while ago I posted an article to this website arguing that the experience of psychedelic drugs (which these Dutch herbs may fairly be called when eaten rather than smoked) and schizophrenic psychosis are probably very similar experiences, the main difference being that involuntary psychosis quickly becomes an experience of attempting to deal with a complicated modern world while in an altered state of mind unsuited to such a task.

“Psychosis” is often thought of as having something to do with axe murderers and violent mad people, but really (at least in my view) the word should be reserved for the distinct and usually peaceful state of mind that I outlined in my previous article on the subject.

Although I’ve (thankfully) never experienced involuntary psychosis, I have experienced temporary “psychosis” due to consuming psilocybin mushrooms during a period when they were widely believed to be legal in the UK, and were sold openly in high street shops. I have also experienced the effects of eating large amounts of cannabis, since I live in the Netherlands where cannabis is also sold openly and, for all practical purposes, legally. While the two drugs are very different, they share some interesting common features.

One of the most striking, and to me the most enjoyable, aspects of the experience provided by both of these psychedelic drugs — also experienced by many people who are becoming involuntarily psychotic — is the curious effect psychosis has on the perception of colors, which I’ve attempted to reproduce in this video.

It’s impossible to truly render this effect in film, but certainly one can create a crude approximation of it. The effect involves certain colors glowing, to the point where it can become intensely pleasurable to look at them. Psychedelic drugs tend to cause all colors to become more vivid, or “saturated”, beyond the point that one could ever experience in normal life. But often certain specific colors in a given scene will glow far more intensely than all the others.

For reasons that I can only speculate on, purple seems to be the color most likely to be affected in this way, at least for me. During my first experience of an effective dose of mushrooms, I remember staring joyfully at a purple UK 20-pound note. I found it interesting, therefore, that when the UK sports presenter David Icke began to undergo some curious psychological experiences that some have called a breakdown, he became obsessed with the color turquoise, which he wore at all times.

A Color You’ll Never See on a TV Screen

Why purple might be more readily subject to this effect than other colors, I don’t know, except that I might observe that purple is close to violet, a color which in scientific terms carries the most energy per photon of any hue of visible light.

Violet is an unusual color when you think about it. Computers, televisions and most printed media cannot reproduce this color whatsoever; they can only produce a purple approximation of it. If you want to see violet, you can look at the very edge of a rainbow, where it fades into invisibility at the opposite edge to red, always on the lower edge of the rainbow while red is always at the upper edge. But you can’t look at a photograph of a rainbow (at least not on your computer), because violet won’t be there. You will see only purple.

Beyond violet, the rainbow fades out into invisibility. In fact the rainbow is still there, but it has transitioned into a range of hues that human beings cannot see, known collectively as “ultra-violet”. Insects can see these hues however, and flowers that rely on insects for pollination are secretly zoned in ultraviolet hues, the zones pointing the way to the flower’s nectar and pollen.

Whether the tendency of purple and violet to glow under psychosis has anything to do with all this is anyone’s guess.

Selective Saturation

Other colors can absolutely also be affected this way in the psychotic state of mind. For instance I once consumed a biscuit laced with cannabis while in a coffee shop with a friend (this was an actual coffee shop, in the English sense, with coffee); a girl walked in wearing yellow shoes and carrying a yellow bag. Suddenly my eyes matched the yellow bag with the shoes and some more yellow that they found behind the counter, adorning the labels of drinks bottles. The entire scene appeared to me as a beautiful riot of matching yellow objects.

There’s no way to reproduce this effect on video, since you’d have to turn up the saturation control in the visual cortex of the person observing the video. But a crude and far less lovely approximation can be rendered by desaturating all the colors in a video except for one or two specific colors, which you make more saturated.

This effect is very similar to the “selective coloration” you can see in the film Schindler’s List, where a girl wearing a bright red coat appears in an otherwise black-and-white scene. However, there you see one particular object in color, whereas in the video above, certain hues are over-saturated while others are removed. I’ve also experimented with over-saturating only the most saturated colors in a scene, while desaturating the others, and with changing the hue of the selected colors.

Avisynth allows you to do all of this, as well as allowing you to edit and dub video clips.

Footage for this video was taken over the Easter weekend in The Hague (Den Haag), and in Budapest last month.

There’s one common object that I didn’t include in the video and probably should have. While tripping on my first ever effective dose of mushrooms (purchased apparently legally from an “alternative” shop in a busy Cambridge high street), I happened to come across a set of traffic lights near dusk. They amused me no end, since instead of changing to red, then to orange and then green, they seemed to change to an outrageously strong shade of red, followed by an incredibly vivid shade of orange, and then to a green the like of which I had never previously seen.

It was as if red had been replaced by an enormous display of red fireworks and red lasers, followed by a vast crowd of people wearing orange and throwing oranges into the air while holding orange floodlights, followed by …. but you get the idea. The degree of effort the traffic lights appeared to put into their work seemed hilarious at the time.

Once you’ve experienced these curious effects, you are liable to find yourself looking at ordinary scenes and mentally picking out the most saturated hue. It can become a habit, always looking for the most vivid shades of color in everything you see.

If you read people’s experience of psychedelic drugs at, you’ll see that this effect is much sought-after by connoisseurs of the psychedelic experience. Yet it always remains elusive. I’ve taken psilocybin mushrooms several times (in the interests of science, you understand) but have only fully experienced this effect once. I have also eaten large quantities of cannabis on several occasions, baked into cakes or biscuits. Only perhaps two or three times did I fully experience these delightful glowing colors. It’s as if something gets used up in your brain, and after a while the experience becomes mostly inaccessible.

This may explain why the psychedelic drug experience often seems to be primarily visual (as well as psychological of course), while schizophrenia is more closely associated with audible hallucinations. The visual effects of psychosis tend to decrease rapidly with time, while audible hallucinations (which I have scarcely experienced at all) seem to become more prominent with repeated exposure.

Possibly color saturation is related to rising levels of the psychosis-inducing substance in the brain, while audible effects tend to reflect more a general mental disorganization, which requires time to really get going.

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The Hall of Spam: Weird and Wonderful Comments Left By People You’d Rather Not Hear From

Posted by – April 21, 2011


A painting by Hieronymus Bosch, illustrating what happens to people who leave spam comments on websites.

For the past couple of months I’ve been working on two blogs in order to build up my understanding of SEO and blogging, as well as just for fun. You’re reading one of them right now. During this time I’ve been received many, many wonderful comments. The only problem is, most of them came from random people who apparently hadn’t even glanced at the article they were commenting on.

(Incidentally, if you left a genuine comment on my blog, thanks!)

Why, you may be wondering, would a person leave comments on a blog page without reading the page? Part of the answer is of course that this blog, like many others, allows you to enter a URL alongside your comment. So the commenter gets a bit of free advertising by leaving his or her URL on a throwaway comment.

How Google Inadvertently Drives Spam

But there’s another answer too, one that I suspect is the real driver behind most of the spam. Google determines a site’s popularity by looking at how many other sites link to it. The more popular a site is, the higher Google places it in relevant search results. Therefore one way of getting more traffic to your site is to get it a higher position in Google’s search results by acquiring lots of links to it. And how can you do that? There are several possibilities:

  1. Write really useful and interesting articles that other people will eventually link to. Be patient.
  2. Submit your site to blog carnivals, thus getting free links that bring you targeted visitors.
  3. While you’re reading other people’s blogs, leave relevant and insightful comments on them, including your URL.
  4. Place random stupid comments on any blog or website you can find.

When I first started creating blogs myself, not so very long ago, I experimented with option (3). However, I quickly tired of it. Now I include my site URLs when I happen to comment on another blog, but since I don’t read many blogs, I don’t leave many comments. In any case, I’ve discovered that SEO is quite effective in itself; I use it all the time on my other blog, which I intend to eventually have a commerical focus. As for this one, I’m content to let it pick up visitors at its own pace, and now I usually see at least 30 visitors a day, which suits me fine for a site full of random stuff.

However, many people apparently feel that option (4) is the way to go, and I’ve collected some of the most annoying/hilarious comments here for your enjoyment.

Oddly enough these commenters seem to be undeterred by the fact that I manually approve comments before they appear on this site and nearly always consign the spam to the trash bin, or the fact that the comments on this blog are “nofollow”, meaning that Google will ignore them in any case. This makes me think that many of these spammers either don’t understand English, or else they are robots.

Spam or Not Spam?

Should you be in any doubt that these comments are indeed spam, feel free to paste them into Google. You can usually find many, many other blogs that the commenter has left the same comment on — either the exact same comment, or very minor elaborations of the exact same comment.

Also notice that none of them refer to anything specifically connected to the article they are commenting on; they are designed to be left on many web pages without alteration, as indeed they are.

Needless to say, all of these comments link to websites that appear to have been put up overnight in an attempt to sell some product or other.

But without further ado, here are just a few of the insightful and thoughtful comments that random spammers have left on my blogs recently.

The Hall of Spam

What a write!! Very informative also easy to understand. Looking for more such posts!! Do you have a myspace? I recommended it on digg. The only thing that it’s missing is a bit of new design. Anyway thank you for this blog.

What a great compliment. I suppose I did ought to redesign the site, especially since I’ve only just designed it.

“Oh my god! an amazing article dude. Thank you. However I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

You might as well fuck with people’s heads while you’re spamming them!

Congratulations on possessing actually certainly one of one of the crucial sophisticated blogs Ive arrive throughout in a while! Its simply wonderful how much you’ll be capable of take into account away from a thing mainly merely due to how visually gorgeous it is. Youve place collectively an amazing weblog web site space –great graphics, films, layout. This is actually a should-see web site!

The flattery is laid on with a trowel, but the effect spoiled somewhat by the vast number of other websites that the same comment has been left on.

Now to my question: Does Chronic Diabetic Neuropathy pain qualify for Medicinal Marijuana use under MI rules?

On an article titled “Finally, a Straightforward Way of Making Money at Home?” Answer: I don’t care, I live in the Netherlands and I’m already stoned far too much as it is. OK, if you really have chronic pain of any kind, you damn well ought to be allowed a smoke now and then. But using this question to promote a web hosting advertising site??? Please!

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Short and to the point!

My mom is amazingly talented at composing. She has been hearing this her whole life long. She disregards all this. I’ve finally convinced her to start composing on the web-just for self-expression. Any concept of the best forum? She normally writes of her own experiences.How does one create a weblog? What is required to be done?

Did your “mom” really name you “buy spy camera”? An unusual choice of name for a child. I suggest she stays well clear of the web.

Heya, already been reading your blogging site for a long time. I manage a comparable blog page but I keep receiving a pile of spam comments, how can you maintain your blog page so clean?

By trashing comments like this one.

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This comment goes on in the same vein for many more lines. I think you get the idea.

Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

Amazingly, the author feels the exact same way about hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands of other blogs. Seems a clear-cut case of pre-senile dementia. Or LSD intoxication?

You’ve to be tough as well naive not to get a point of view in this a single, this is truly a leading post from your additional post, thanks for this.

How true my friend, how true.

Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car

On an article about food additives. Relevant, or what?

I liked as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The comic strip is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an edginess over that you would like be handing over the following. sick for sure come further formerly again as precisely the same nearly a lot often inside case you protect this increase.

Comic strip? Where? I like how this one degenerates into a series of random words.

Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this website. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and appearance. I must say that you’ve done a great job with this. In addition, the blog loads extremely quick for me on Chrome. Exceptional Blog!

How kind of you to say so to me and 5000 other people, Mr. Bose Companion 5 Sale.

Your weblog seems astounding – complete with top quality content.. and so on. I believe you are going to get even greater achievement with including some far more video clips and photographs. What do you believe. Even though I’ve bookmarked it. Many thanks.

I believe you’re a spammer! Although of course this is all perfectly true.

Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content seem to be running off the screen in Opera. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Many thanks

Why not waste lots of people’s time while you’re trying to sell notebook computers? Since I mostly designed the site in Opera and based it on a popular standard template to start with, no surprise that it has terrible issues like these …. oh God ….

I quite enjoy what you submit right here. Particularly insightful and intelligent. One concern though. I’m running Firefox with Debian and parts of your current web design pieces are a little wonky. I realize it’s not a popular set up. But it’s an issue to hold in the mind. I wish that it will probably help and keep the top rated quality writing.

Yeah, I worry a lot about people running Firefox with Debian. Although, judging by the number of identical comments left on other sites with variations of the same name, a lot of sites have this problem. Almost all sites seems to have it to some degree. Wait, unless …. you’re a spammer ….

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Don’t want to boast, but that is one thing I am not in need of.

Great post. I simply loved this a lot that i posted a link to your web site in my web site: click on on my website to look at the backlink. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful information specially the last half I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this particular information for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

Wonderfully non-specific in its specificity, and only left on a few hundred other blogs.

t is not simple, but i believe you just have to be objective about your self and recognize that occasionally when somebody is criticizing they’re only giving their opinion and not usually practicing points they preach.

Hard to disagree with that! And I’ve always wanted one of those “Forensic psychology masters degrees” you’re selling ….

Would you be interested in exchanging links?

No, Mr. Acne Remedies, I’m afraid not.

Maybe you will want to add a facebook button to your site. I just marked down the site, but I had to complete it by hand. Simply my 2 cents.

From a man called “Car Hire”. And there’s already a Facebook button on my site.

Hey there, great article. Excellent website. Its invigorating and applicative. The climacteric internal & external transitions are impeccable. I’m very awed with your writing. I would like to invite you to ghostwrite in your spare time.
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Wow that’s great! And I hear you only charge aspiring authors 45 dollars a month! What a bargain.

My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be what precisely I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content for yourself? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome weblog!

Funny how many spammers talk about their spouses. And then witter on about guest writers.

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I’m not even totally sure what this one is advertising. Besides, I haven’t got any tape.

I love this blog. In fact I have been trying to commence one like this too, however I am not savvy enough on how to do it. What is this “WordPress” portal? Is it difficult? Is it required to be knowledgable in computers to create a blog? I am hoping to design a simple blog for my learn english writing related website. Can a blog be placed into a current website?

Why not ask for advice when you’re busy creating a website full of totally random extracts from publications long since out of copyright?

Along with every thing which appears to be building inside this specific area, a significant percentage of perspectives are generally relatively refreshing. Nevertheless, I am sorry, because I can not subscribe to your entire theory, all be it exhilarating none the less. It appears to everyone that your comments are generally not completely rationalized and in actuality you are generally your self not even totally convinced of your assertion. In any case I did appreciate reading through it.

It’s probably best not to leave the identical same comment on multiple completely different pages, especially not while calling yourself “Films Online”. Also you might want to check if the pages in question actually contain a theory or not.

Thanks for making the effort to describe the terminlogy towards the newbies!

This is one of the most common comments on the Internet, and appears on your pages regardless of their content. Hmm, maybe I should buy some of those sneakers he’s selling.

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Looks like your spamming software needs a little work! But at least I now have proof that I am being spammed by robots. Damn those robots!

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Again, very common. It could be genuine, but since the link sells headphones and since gazillions of similar comments use the same kind of language (awaiting upgrades, improvements, etc) , I don’t think so ….

hey there and thank you for your info – I have definitely picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical issues using this site, since I experienced to reload the website many times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I’m adding this RSS to my e-mail and can look out for a lot more of your respective fascinating content. Ensure that you update this again very soon.

On an article entitled: Scientists Recreate Hitler’s Head From DNA, Attached to Body of Monkey. No doubt the author picked up a few new things alright. Unfortunately spelling and grammar weren’t among them. Fortunately I don’t give a fig about my Google placement, or I might have been worried — had this article not sprung up like fungus an a zillion other sites, selling the same rubbish.

I do enjoy the manner in which you have presented this particular challenge and it really does give us a lot of fodder for consideration. However, through everything that I have witnessed, I just simply hope as other remarks stack on that people today keep on issue and not start on a soap box regarding the news of the day. All the same, thank you for this outstanding piece and though I do not really go along with it in totality, I respect the standpoint.

On that article again, “Scientists Recreate Hitler’s Head From DNA, Attached to Body of Monkey”. Glad to hear the author respects my standpoint. Who wouldn’t?

Sadly I’ve lost a great comment I got recently, which was downright insulting (in a highly non-specific manner)! Well, you’ve tried flattery, you’ve tried fake insight … why not be obnoxious?

And once again, to anyone who has left a genuine comment on my site, thanks! Hope I didn’t confuse you with a spammer ….

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Three Fast-Growing Easy Houseplants

Posted by – March 2, 2011

Here are three easy-to-grow, fast-growing and interesting houseplants that will flourish in your house with just a smidgeon of care and attention. The first two plants on this list will even stand substantial neglect — but to get the best out of them you’ll need to water them just a little when the soil’s dry-ish and don’t do anything crazy like leaving the curtains shut for three months ….

(Incidentally this photo is Mimosa pudica, which you can find more about here. Mimosa is easy to grow but not as easy as the three plants we’re about to discuss. On the other hand, it does move when you touch it!



Tradescantia comes in various forms, but basically they all have tough, slightly rubbery leaves and are sold as tiny little plants for about two dollars/euros in most plant shops and not a few supermarkets. To get the best out of them, transfer to a larger pot using houseplant potting compost, also typically available from large supermarkets. Tradescantia will cascade down from your shelves in a quite spectacular fashion and can easily grow two meters in a good summer. If you want more tradescantia, just cut a bit off, just below a pair of leaves. Take off the two lowest leaves so that now you’ve got a few leaves and a bit of stem. Stick this into some soil and water it. Then wait. It’ll take root and start growing more leaves quicker than you can blink. Well OK, not quite that quick …

Spider Plant

spider plant

Ah, that old stand by, the spider plant! You can find these anywhere that sells house plants. Put it on a shelf somewhere and it’ll do just fine as long as you water it occasionally and let it get a little sunlight (you do have windows in your house, right?). Little baby plants will grow on the edges of long shoots. You can put these baby plants into soil and they’ll take root and grow into big plants pretty quickly. Spider plants can actually grow quite large given a couple of years, and with care and attention they look fantastic. Without care and attention, they still look OK most of the time.

Banana Tree

banana tree

What? Banana trees? Yes, while banana trees are just a smidgeon harder to grow than tradescantia or spider plants, they’re really not that hard. If you are one of those people who tells everyone that they kill anything they touch, then you’d best stick to tradescantia and spider plants. But if you don’t mind giving your houseplants just a little bit of thought, you can easily grow one of these beasts. Bananas like light and will take as much of it as you’ve got, but also generally do OK a little bit in the shade. If possible put them near a window. They can grow very big, very fast. But they aren’t woody like trees so you won’t find yourself sawing them up with a hacksaw when you need to get rid of them (but don’t quote me on that). While you might one day be blessed with your own banana crop, the real advantage of banana plants is that they produce a lot of very elegant foliage quite quickly. With lots of sunlight, a big pot and some fertilizer, they might even grow a meter or two in just a few months. Try keeping them in a smaller pot if you don’t want them to get out of hand. You can find banana plants for sale in many good houseplant shops, and garden centers sometimes sell them in cute little test tube type things, from which they can be carefully transplanted into potting compost.

For more more houseplant ideas including plants that camouflage themselves, move, hunt and speak (just joking about that last one), check out my article Top Ten Freaky Houseplants.

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Is Europe Set To Become an Islamic State?

Posted by – March 2, 2011


Ten years ago a relative of mine moved to a small town in Northern England. My relative was looking for somewhere cheap to live, so he was willing to live on a street where prostitutes plied their trade outside his door and drug pushers sold drugs on the corner. But my relative hadn’t lived there long when a strange transformation began to take place. Muslims from Kashmir and Pakistan began to move in to the area, one family at a time.

The area’s new inhabitants weren’t happy about some of the unsavoury activities that took place in the town. They began to hold nightly marches and vigils until the prostitutes and drug dealers finally gave up and left.

Applications for lap-dancing clubs were similarly met with opposition by the Muslim community. Every time an application was made to open a new lap-dancing club in an empty building, Muslim organisations would buy the building and turn it into a Muslim Learning Center. At one point I believe there were around five Muslim Learning Centers on the town’s main street.

Today the town is an almost exclusively Muslim area. The Muslims are generally friendly towards my relative and he feels safe leaving his house, at least during the day. The town has acquired a new vibrancy and is no longer the terrible place to live that it once was.

But the Muslim community brought some new problems with it. Honor killings began to occur in the town; a girl who committed adultery or who wanted to leave her arranged marriage was liable to end up being killed by her own relatives. Supposedly a favored technique was to throw boiling vegetable oil on the girl, set fire to it and then claim that her death was a cooking accident.

The local police found it impossible to investigate these killings; the local Muslim men refused to speak to the police and the women were afraid to.

Furthermore, recently a gang of Muslim men were convicted of preying on young girls; the gang enticed girls as young as twelve into their car, took them home and pushed them into having sex with them. Previously I had believed allegations of Muslim gangs preying on “young white girls” to be lurid fantasies invented by white nationalists, but now members of this gang have confessed to their crimes and are in prison, after several of the girls bravely spoke to the police about what had happened to them.

While it’s worth emphasising that honor killings and the rape of underage girls are activities carried out by a tiny minority of the Muslim community, it’s fair to say that what happened in my relative’s town — both the good and the bad — will be happening in more European towns in the future.

Interesting Demographics


A video created by evangelical Christians has been circulating on the Internet for a while now; the video claims that the birth rate of Muslims in Europe is so high compared to the birth rate of non-Muslims that the whole of Europe will be an Islamic state within only a few decades.

It’s hard to get to the bottom of the figures presented in this alarmist video (alarmist if you’re not a Muslim, that is!); the figures it presents seem distinctly exaggerated.

The birth rate of non-white Muslims is certain higher than that of white European inhabitants; Muslim women are often pressed into arranged marriages at an early age and are expected to stay at home and have children. Western women on the other hand are having children later and later in life, choosing careers over families, and making good use of modern contraceptives.

The changes that have taken place in Western society have led to a declining birth rate and falling population levels among the white population of Europe. One manifestation of this is that the working population is increasingly struggling to support the elderly, and the problem is projected to get much worse.

Faced by the probability of eventually having to levy enormous taxes on the working population or else allow more immigrants into their countries, the politicians of Europe have overwhelmingly opted for more immigration. Meanwhile, predominantly Islamic countries such as Pakistan and Iran currently have enormous population growth rates, Pakistan standing at 1.6% per year and Iran at 1.2%; by comparison the UK’s growth rate (including immigration) stands at 0.6%, France at 0.5% and Italy at 0.4% per year. Muslims from relatively poor countries are flocking into Europe in the hope of a better life, many of them bringing a hardline, primitive version of Islam with them.

This appears to be one of the driving factors behind the explosion of Islamic immigration into Europe. The electorate demands reduced immigration and lower taxes, but they cannot have both unless they sudddenly start having a lot of children. Unwilling to confront their voters with this brute fact, politicians instead quietly pursue “soft” policies on immigration.

Yet immigration ebbs and flows and not all Muslims are radical fundamentalists. In recent years the birth rate of Iran has dropped, and immigration into Western Europe from the former Eastern-bloc European countries has increased.

But supposing Islamic immigration and growth rates continue as they are; what kind of place will Europe be in fifty or a hundred years?

The United Islamic States of Eurabia

It’s safe to say that the Europe of the future will be different to the Europe of today; Europe now is not the same place it was a century ago, and few consider the changes wholly negative.

If the Muslim population continues to grow in Europe (and that’s a big “if”), it’s unclear whether countries like the UK, Germany and the Netherlands will end up being progressive, secular states like Turkey or frankly oppressive, aggressively Islamic states like Iran.

There are some negative signs. Once the Muslim population has increased to a certain point, Muslims will be free to vote in whatever kind of government they want, and it seems that as many as 40% of British Muslims would like to see British law replaced with Islamic, or Shariah law to some degree.

In 2004, in the famously-tolerant society of the Netherlands, Dutch film director The van Gogh produced a film called Submission which was critical of Islam. He was promptly assasinated by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim.

The current coalition Dutch government is able to govern only with the support of the PVV, a political party formed by Geert Wilders around a platform of opposition to Islamic immigration. The party is currently the third largest in the Netherlands. Wilders lives with round-the-clock protection and moves from place to place to evade would-be assasins. The man who many consider to be Wilders’ predecessor, Pim Fortuyn, was shot near his home — ironically not be a Muslim fanatic but by a white animal rights fanatic who believed Fortuyn to be “the next Hitler”.

In the UK a politician was recently knifed (fortunately surviving the attack) by a Muslim woman, solely because he had voted in favour of the war against Iraq. Muslim fanatics shouted support for her as she was sentenced to life in prison.

Muslims vs. Christians: How Bad Can It Get?

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Possibly the most worrying scenario for a future Europe is demonstrated by the recent history of the Balkans. In the 1990s, parts of the Balkan peninsula dissolved into chaos as Serbia, led by Slobodan Milošević, ceased to recognize the autonomy of the majority-Muslim region, Kosovo.

From the standpoint of most of the outside world, Milošević had whipped up hatred against the Kosovans and brutally attacked them — while at the same time Kosovans carried out brutal reprise attacks against Serbians. The Balkan war appeared to most of us to be an almost-incomprehensible affair, with one Balkan state fighting another.

From Milošević’s own disturbing perspective however, things were very simple. Kosovo, a region that had once been largely Christian, a region considered by the culturally-Christian Serbs to be the “cradle” of their national identity and where many ancient Christian churches could be found, had been taken over by a burgeoning Islamic population and was trying to declare independence from Serbian rule. As leader of Serbia, Milošević attempted to “restore order” by sending in the troops, many of whom subsequently carried out massacres — according to Milošević, against his wishes.

Milošević died while in custody in The Hague for his alleged war crimes, and it’s fair to say that his testimony must be taken, to say the least, as dubious.

Nonetheless, the Balkans presents us with a sort of worst-case scenario for future Muslim-Christian relations in Europe, raising the spectre of two ethnic factions locked in hand-to-hand combat.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Many European states have both large culturally-Muslim and large culturally-Christian populations and yet exist as stable entities with little or no conflict. The island of Cyprus, for instance, is roughly half Muslim and half Christian, and while subject to various ongoing disputes, is nevertheless a largely prosperous and stable place — well, at least since 1974.

Turkey, of course, is a great example of a modern, secular Muslim-majority country where the rights of Christians and others are respected. And if we go further back in time, we find many examples of Muslims and Christians living in peace. While most of Europe was sunk deep in the dark ages, Medieval Islamic Spain was a thriving center of science and culture, tolerant much of the time to its non-Muslim residents.

Please No More Nazis


However the future of Europe plays out, one thing that must never happen again is the resurgence of the violent right. Western culture today is heavily colored by the memory of what happened under the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s. The Nazis asserted that a non-Christian minority population, the Jews, were “too powerful” and “racially degenerate” and embarked on a nearly-successful project to wipe them out.

Europe must never again allow the horrific state-sponsored herding of men, women and children into gas chambers — an event by comparison with which the events in Kosovo seem almost mild.

If we learn anything from the lessons of the past, surely it should be that one way or another we must find ways to live together peacefully and with tolerance and respect for each other’s differences.

Selected References:

“Honor” Killings; The crimewave that shames the world

Muslim Demographics – fact vs. fiction

Muslim Europe: the demographic time bomb transforming our continent [UK Telegraph]

Disproving the Muslim Demographics sums

The EU’s baby blues [BBC News]

The 6th Munich Economic Summit: Ageing Europe confronts demographic time bomb [The Times, UK]

CIA World Factbook: Population Growth Rate

Poll reveals 40pc of Muslims want sharia law in UK

Theo van Gogh (film director) [Wikipedia article]

Curse the judge, shout fanatics as the Muslim girl who knifed MP smiles as she gets life

Geert Wilders

Pim Fortuyn [Wikipedia]

Cyprus [Wikipedia]

Al-Andalus [Wikipedia]

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Is Global Warming a Good Thing?

Posted by – February 25, 2011

Alpine Glacier

Alpine Glacier

Global Warming and Climate Change are on everyone’s lips these days. But are we in fact in the middle of a brief pause in a vicious ice age — an ice age which may soon return with a vengeance?

As a former student of physics, I’ve long been perplexed by the apparent scientific consensus on climate change. If the newspapers can be believed, scientists basically all agree that human beings are pumping enough carbon dioxide into the air to destroy the planet.

And yet the science of how carbon dioxide — a harmless gas exhaled by mammals and vital to plant life — traps the sun’s rays is well understood. From a physics point of view, we’d expect the global temperature to rise by perhaps 2 degrees as a result of the carbon dioxide we’re pumping into it.

No doubt any change whatsoever will cause big problems for large numbers of people, but there’s equally little doubt that many would be benefitted by a small rise in temperature. Indeed, the Earth’s climate has been wildly unstable ever since it came into existence, so future stability is unlikely. Why then, I’ve been wondering, all the prognostications of doom and destruction?

A Scientific Theory Or Just Speculation?

It seems that scientists are somewhat perplexed by the sheer apparent instability of the Earth’s past climate. Changes in carbon dioxide levels appear to occur after rises in global temperature, rather than preceeding the changes. So some scientists have decided that, “probably”, changes in carbon dioxide levels can trigger some kind of feedback effect that accounts for the past changeability of the Earth’s climate.

This theory may or may not be correct; in a sense it’s not a scientific theory at all, since there’s no way to test the hypothesis. We can’t go back in time and alter the carbon dioxide levels to see what happens.

But let’s say they’re right; let’s say that carbon dioxide can precipitate large climate fluctuations. I can’t help but wonder — might it be a good idea if we were to take account of the fact that we are in the middle of a brief pause in a gigantic ice age?

We Are In An Ice Age


It seems that the Earth may have been entirely free of ice at various points in its history. Several million years ago an ice age began, known as the Quaternary Glaciation. Permanent ice caps settled at the poles, and for a couple of million years or so the Earth was basically covered in ice.

Then, practically a couple of years ago — well, OK, 10-15,000 years ago — the ice retreated somewhat, giving humanity a breathing space in which we were able to create civilisation. Yet the ice threatens to return at any moment — and according to some studies, once it starts it really gets going, the entire climate changing in perhaps as little as a few days.

Unholy Alliances

Given the uncertainty over global warming, why is the theory so damn popular? Back in the late 80′s, when the theory first began to really gain ground, global warming seemed like a godsend to many of us. We were sick of the rampant environmental destruction and ruthless expoitation that seemed — and still seems — to characterise our society. And yet we had no single, clear way of arguing that it should be restrained by legal means. Global warming gave us the argument that we wanted. Finally we could say “stop polluting or the planet will explode” — or some such thing.

The tragedy is that we unknowingly played right into the hands of the large corporations that are responsible for much of the pollution. Thanks to the focus on carbon dioxide, a gas vital to all life on the planet, the pressure was taken off many far more pressing pollutants, such as mercury, lead and PCBs to name but a few. Even quite recently it was finally recognized that certain types of fish contain so much mercury (thanks to our own efforts) that they should almost be regarded as inedible.

Not only that, but the big corporations seized the chance to knock off their competitors. If you’re a large oil company, do you care if oil — sorry, carbon, is taxed? Of course not — your smaller competitors may go under, but you’ll do just fine. People need oil. And maybe you can sell more “cleaner” natural gas into the bargain.

Scientists too leapt on the bandwagon. Suddenly the success of your grant application could be ensured merely by putting the magic words “global warming” into the title of your study — even if your study really had little or nothing to do with global warming.

David vs. David — Who Will Win?


The debate is perhaps summed up by the diverse stances taken by veteran BBC TV presenters David Bellamy and David Attenborough. Bellamy, a bone fide botanist, feels that we should stop wasting our time complaining about carbon dioxide, which he points out is actually good for plants, and instead worry about “real” pollution. Attenborough on the other hand, a great and learned man if ever there was one but not (as far as I know) any sort of qualified scientist, feels that man-made global warming is certainly a reality.

Strangely, Bellamy hasn’t been much on our TV screens since he started asserting that global warming is poppycock.

Pro-Neurotoxin Environmentalists: Update September 2011

Last week I happened to read a news article about the demise of the 60-watt bulb. The 60-watt bulb, in case you’ve never thought about it, is a thing made mostly from glass and harmless metal. EU legislation is apparently about to render the manufacture of the 60-watt bulb illegal, or as good as. Why? In order to meet climate change targets on carbon dioxide emissions. The 60-watt bulb is to be replaced by a device that contains neurotoxic mercury and releases mercury when it’s thrown away and gets broken, as most surely will be. Mercury is already present in our environment in sufficient quantities to potentially damage us; now we are going to get even more of it, thanks to the efforts of environmentalists who, for the most part, are generally ignorant of any actual science. And this looks set to be only the first of many great victories for the global warming movement ….

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Whatever Happened To David Irving?

Posted by – February 16, 2011

David Irving’s Uprising is certainly one of the most exciting and gripping books that I’ve ever read. Not only is Uprising thrilling, it’s also a true story. Uprising is a factual account of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet occupation in 1956, an uprising that saw 12-year-old boys successfully destroying Soviet tanks and that, for a period of four days, actually appeared to succeed before the Russians rolled back in and 200,000 Hungarians rolled out, most never to return.

David Irving

The tragic failed uprising nevertheless partially succeeded, since the hated ÁVH, the Hungarian secret police installed by the communists, were quickly disbanded, never to return. But Hungary was not to free itself from the communist grip until 1989, when the country began allowing people to cross the iron curtain freely into Austria, an act which ultimately spelt the end of the USSR.

On the whole, David Irving has done a fantastic job of chronicling the events of the failed revolution. So why is it that no large bookshop sells this book, and indeed the book can apparently only be had a reasonable price direct from Irving himself?

There is one simple, unfortunate answer to that question: David Irving believes that the Jewish Holocaust, that terrible low point in European history in which around six million Jews and five million non-Jews were gassed by the Nazis, never happened.

As soon as I discovered Irving’s views, I was intrigued. How can a man who has spent his life studying history, a man with obvious dedication and passion to his craft, come to a conclusion that contradicts the evidence of many eye witness accounts, as well as being sharply at variance with the opinion of all mainstream historians?

Reading Irving’s own books doesn’t really help to answer this question definitively, but elsewhere Irving states that it was the publication of the Leuchter Report that convinced him that the Holocaust never happened.

Amateur Chemistry

In 1988, an American by the name of Fred Leuchter secretly visited the former gas chambers at Auschwitz and took samples from the brickwork inside the chambers. Leuchter sent the samples to a chemist, Dr. James Roth, who, not knowing what they were, ground them up and analysed them for cyanide content. Roth found little or no cyanide in the samples; a result which was, as a horrified Roth later explained, entirely unsurprising. The techniques that Roth had used to analyse the samples were completely useless for the purpose Leuchter had in mind. Roth later said that analysing entire ground-up chunks of brick for cyanide that was potentially adsorbed onto the surface was like “analyzing paint on a wall by analyzing the timber that’s behind it”.

And yet such considerations have little impact on Irving’s opinion. Rather, Irving states that chemical tests of this kind represent cast-iron evidence, worth more in his view than the eye-witness testimony even of the Nazi guards who poured cyanide crystals into the gas chambers or the survivors who were forced to clear away the gassed bodies.

So here we have a man who in many ways is a brilliant historian, and yet who seems to be so insanely anti-semitic that he is prepared to take deeply flawed chemical evidence over and above the evidence of numerous eye-witnesses, not to mention a vast body of evidence documenting the barbarism of the Nazis and Hitler’s avowed intention to wipe out the Jews. What exactly happened to Irving that caused him to form such bizarre views?

The Destruction of Dresden

Irving apparently studied for a while at two British universities; then in 1959 he spent a year working as a steel worker in Germany, where he perfected his German. Indeed Irving now speaks with a German accent and at times gives the distinct impression of being more fluent in German than English. Prior to his time in Germany, he had apparently already displayed some tendencies towards being sympathetic with fascism and Nazism, among other things seconding the British fascist Oswald Mosley in a university debate.

David Irving Interview, 2008: “I was beaten heavily at school.”

While in Germany, Irving says that he was startled by the first-hand accounts he heard of the bombing of Dresden — a somewhat ironic statement given Irving’s later dismissal of eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust. Irving subsequently wrote a controversial but highly-acclaimed book, The Destruction of Dresden (1963). Irving would go on to write a biography of Adolf Hitler, Hilter’s War in 1977, a book which, as Irving’s intended publisher pointed out, failed to mention the wholesale gassing of the Jewish people. Perhaps this was the real beginning of the Jewish backlash against Irving and his works, a backlash that was to culminate in Irving’s books being removed from major bookshops, while major book publishers refused to publish Irving’s works.

Irving began to see himself as the victim of an organised international Jewish conspiracy directed against himself. Indeed, Jewish organisations had correctly identified a new and virulent possible source of anti-semitism in Irving; Irving was intelligent, methodical, charismatic — and willing to radically reinterpret the facts to suit his own anti-semitic view of history.

The understandable Jewish backlash against his work was perhaps the thing that finally pushed Irving towards the unsettling position he holds today, but his growing doubts about the Holocaust were undoubtedly fostered by his own research methods.

While researching Hitler’s War, Irving was remarkably good at getting the wives and former associates of dead Nazis to talk to him and hand over important documents, and Irving developed a style of historical research that involved laboriously getting to know the handwriting of former Nazis, reading their journals, diaries and memos and gradually piecing together an independent view of history.

Irving asserts that he found no evidence of the Holocaust anywhere in these documents; and indeed the Nazis were scrupulous in referring to the gas chambers by such vile euphemisms as “special treatment” or “resettlement”. A combination of his own fascist sympathies, the cameraderie he enjoyed with former Nazis, an excessive focus on documentation at the expense of eye-witness accounts, together with the Jewish reaction to his works, all seem to have combined to lead David Irving to the views he holds today.

Irving continues to sell books via his website and to tour the world giving talks. Besides the obvious tragedy that a man of Irving’s calibre has allied himself with anti-semites, thus ensuring that his books continue to be eschewed by major book stores and publishers, Irving’s historical research is also a casualty of his Nazi sympathies. Regarding his otherwise-excellent book, Uprising, Irving claims that he uncovered evidence that the Hungarian uprising started as an anti-Jewish pogrom. To bolster his claims, Irving reports a handful of comments regarding the Jewish origin of four of the leaders of the post-war communist government in Hungary. Yet his own book nowhere supports the idea that the uprising was any sort of pogrom.

Perhaps the bulk of Irving’s remaining audience now positively demands that his books be anti-semitic.

“I would like you to believe me. I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections took place. I would like you to believe that these atrocities happened because I was there.”

– Oskar Gröning, former member of the SS stationed at Auschwitz concentration camp

Selected references:

Uprising! Hungary 1956: One Nation’s Nightmare

David Irving [Wikipedia article]

Focal Point Publications

Holocaust Denial On Trial

Leuchter Report [Wikipedia article]

Leuchter Report

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The Shocking Truth of How Money Is Created

Posted by – February 13, 2011

Those who like sausages and justice should never watch either being made, so goes the old saying. Maybe it’s time to add money to that list.

When you understand what I’m about to tell you, you’ll find yourself wondering how we will stop the banks from eventually owning everything. I’ve been wondering the same thing myself since I discovered the horrifying truth about money a few years ago.

Money as Debt — A rather paranoid but nonetheless enlightening video.

Do you remember how, when you were at school, your teachers showed you videos in which bank notes were being printed out on impressive-looking printing presses? You were probably left with the impression that that’s how money is usually created.

Of course, we’re in the electronic age now, so maybe the old printing presses have been replaced by figures held in computers, but the principle’s the same, right?

Nope. Here’s the awful truth about how 95% of all money comes into being.

Suppose you want to start a business. It’s not easy to start a business without money and few of us have tens of thousands of dollars lying around in drawers, so naturally you borrow money from a bank. Let’s call it Bank X. For the sake of simplicity, pretend that Bank X is the only bank in the world.

You then use the money to rent a shop for a year, let’s say. The owner of the shop gratefully receives the money and pays it into his own bank account, also with Bank X.

Bank X can then lend the money out again to someone else, once again charging interest on the money it lends out.

But wait a minute, doesn’t that mean that the money goes around in circles, the overall supply of money in society steadily increasing while Bank X collects ever more and more interest payments?

The answer is yes, that’s exactly what happens. A small amount of money lent out to someone like you or me can quickly mushroom into a hundred times the original amount of money, with the banks collecting interest payments on it every step of the way.

It’s this process that governments attempt to control using interest rates (via their central banks — did someone just mention foxes guarding chicken coops?). By increasing interest rates, central banks make people less inclined to borrow money. They also make it harder for people who are already in debt to repay their debt.

This economic system means that on average, everyone is in debt to the banks. At any given time, the money that circulates in society must be matched by a nearly equal amount of debt, because that’s how most money is basically created. Incredible! It’s literally nearly impossible for everyone to pay off their debts without the economy completely collapsing.

But as recent events show, there’s no need to worry; although the world economy sounds as though it must be horrendously unstable, and although the world’s greatest currency trader, George Soros, claims that the entire system continually tends towards instability, basically the world’s governments have got the whole thing under control and aren’t in a horrifying and unsustainable amount of debt at all …. oh, wait a minute ….

National Stereotypes: Pizzas, Drugs, Telephone Boxes and Béla Lugosi

Posted by – February 11, 2011

Apparently the British Foreign Office once published a guide to foreigners featuring fair and helpful comments such as “Serbs: violent and nationalistic. Croats: hard-working. Hate Italians. Italians: extrovert, hate Croats” etc, etc. This isn’t what the Foreign Office actually said — but it was along those lines.

(If you know where I can find this fascinating document, in the name of GOD please tell me!).

A decade ago I would have said that this was all prejudiced nonsense, and so it is. But now that I’ve lived in four different countries (counting Scotland and England separately!), I can’t help but notice that there’s a grain of truth in certain national stereotypes.

So here’s my take on the whole business. I haven’t included many nationalities since I haven’t met enough people from most places to figure out to what extent the stereotypes match up to reality, but maybe you can help me complete the list …

The stereotypes listed here are just for fun — please don’t take them too seriously! On one level, people are basically the same everywhere, and in any country most people most of the time stubbornly refuse conform to racial and ethnic stereotypes.

So on that note, here we go with Squiffy’s “Foreign Office” Guide to Those Pesky Foreigners.


Source: (Paul Vlaar); Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic
British Telephone Box

I may as well admit up front — I’m English myself. Here’s what others seems to think of English people, my own opinions aside. We’re reserved, a little boring but wealthy (if only!). We make good music and TV but our food sucks. While the stereotype of the English gentleman or gentlewoman still exists (and some ‘foreigners’ really rave about England, bless them!), sad to say I’ve heard the following phrase applied to us from the lips of people from a number of different countries: “loud, rude and drunk”. Unfortunately lots of English people like to go on holiday and get very, very drunk. Sigh. Bye bye international reputation ….


Source: (Scott Bauer); public domain
American Apple Pie

Just after World War II, we all loved Americans to bits. We still love them, but now we also hate them at the same time. Americans are reputed to be loud, friendly, rich as Hell, and astonishingly naive about their own government’s foreign policy. European children love Hollywood films and McDonalds, but adults grow suspicious and cynical about both. Meanwhile America’s military ventures attract both fear and loathing, and at the same time sometimes gratitude. For instance last week I was talking to a guy from Afghanistan who thought the military war waged by America over there (my own country tagging along behind like a sort of military puppy) is really a great thing. I don’t know why, but that’s not what I expected. Maybe I’ve read too much Noam Chomsky. The bottom line with Americans as individuals is — they’re excellent people, but sometimes you might need to take along a pair of ear plugs. Oh, and they really hate communists! That’s probably a good thing …


A Typical Ordinary German

Germans are serious people. Fortunately these days they’re seriously into peace and prosperity, but when they have a war, boy do they go at it. Stereotypes of German people revolve around them being serious, precise, intelligent and occasionally built like Schwarzenegger (who himself is actually Austrian-American). The stereotypes doubtless have something to do with people like the pioneering electronic band Kraftwerk and advertisements for Audi cars featuring cool-headed engineers speaking in precise Germanic tones. Unfortunately lingering memories of the Nazis throughout Europe still color perceptions of Germany today just a little bit. Thankfully those days are gone, and today Berlin is possibly one of the most interesting towns to visit in Europe.


Source: Original photo by Yvwv (Wikipedia) Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Dutch Cheese

Dutch people are widely regarded as pragmatic, tolerant and easy-going. There’s a lot of truth in this. They are also, by their own admission, obsessed with money and taxes. This is the nation that gave rise to the expression “going Dutch”, meaning sharing a bill equally. Perhaps this isn’t surprising, since the Dutch invented the stock exchange, the corporation and now enjoy tax rates of as much as 52%. Foreigners are sometimes inclined to see the Netherlands (aka Holland) as an exciting place, this view being based upon the Dutch legal toleration of cannabis and prostitution. However, the open sale of sex and drugs is more about tolerance and practicality in the Netherlands, rather than hedonism; far from being a wildly exciting place, the Netherlands is really just an extremely practical and down-to-Earth sort of a place. You might even call it boring. If you ever meet a Dutch person, expect an extremely tolerant and reasonable conversation — provided you don’t mention money. And get used to gazing upwards, because the Dutch are the tallest people in Europe, outstripping their closest rivals, the Scandanavians, by about an inch.


Source: Wikipedia (Author: Lppa); GNU Free Documentation License
Pizza. Thankyou, Italy

Italians are seen as extrovert, warm, passionate and good at cooking. They are also, dare I mention, somewhat associated with organised crime in the public mind; an association which is both negative and, thanks to the appeal of a certain classic film (The Godfather!), strangely positive. The book Pinocchio, a children’s story about a rambunctious puppet who has trouble with rules but wants to be good in his heart, is often claimed by Italians themselves to sum up the national character. Italians often see themselves as belonging primarily to the region they come from rather than the country as whole. In fact the Italian language only attained full coverage of the country with the advent of television; even now, many Italians grow up speaking a regional language that is incomprehensible to people three kilometres away. If you meet an Italian, whatever you do don’t mention Silvio Berlusconi. This man has the power to reduce many fully-grown Italians to a brooding, angry silence. And yet strangely they can’t stop voting for him. But do ask your Italian to tell you some Italian recipes — these people know their food. FACT.


Béla Lugosi

I must mention Hungarians on this page, because I’ve decided to move to the country shortly. Hungary has a strangely low profile, at least in the West. If you ask around, you might find someone who will tell you that “a Hungarian is a person who will enter a revolving door behind you and come out ahead of you”. I’ve been trying to work out what that means — does the Hungarian come out ahead due to their fiendish intelligence? After all, the country has more Nobel Prize winners per capita than any other country (24 at the last count), and the Hungarian language, which is unrelated to most other European languages, is so fiendishly complex that it surely must do something whacky to their brains.

OR — does the Hungarian stick a knife in you inside the revolving door? The legend of Dracula seems to have given Hungarians a slight, but highly undeserved reputation for violence; Béla Lugosi was Hungarian, and Transylvania used to be a part of Hungary. While I think of it, I’d better warn you that Hungarians are still hopping mad about the treaty of Trianon, which deprived them of 72% of their territory and removed them from their position of a dominant global power. Neither do Hungarians share the Western obsession with communism; in spite of (or because of) emerging from forty-four years of communism in 1989 and being extremely glad to see the back of it, and in spite of being instrumental in the destruction of the iron curtain, Hungarians appear to be not exactly wild about revisiting their communist past, and a museum that opened in Budapest a few years ago commemorating victims of the notorious AVO secret police was met with a mixed reception. Hungarians are reputed to be intelligent, direct, a little pessimistic and to enjoy black humour.

Well, that’s it for the moment. This is a very limited and eclectic selection of national stereotypes, I admit. Most countries I know nothing about people’s views of, much less what the countries are like in themselves. Other countries I just don’t want to comment on, since the stereotypes I’ve heard are too horrendously unfair! Tell me what you think via this page’s comments, and maybe we can build up a definitive list of our biased and unfair prejudices!

Five of the Creepiest Food Additives You Wish You’d Never Heard About

Posted by – February 11, 2011

If you like processed food, it’s probably best if you don’t read this article. Of course I want you to read it and I’m happy you’re here on my website, but this stuff is really going to turn your stomach.

You see, for years now you’ve been eating sand, animal waste, human hair and ground-up insects without necessarily realising it. Or else not thinking about it — which was probably the right thing to do.

To be fair, the additives on this list are not identical to the substances I’ve mentioned next to their E-numbers, but are extracted from those substances. Clearly that makes a difference. How much difference, I’ll leave it to you to decide.

So, just in case you’re still reading, here’s my list of the permitted food additives from Hell, together with their assigned European Union “E” numbers, just in case you don’t believe me.

5. E551: Sand (silicon dioxide)

Sand. Source: Rosino on Flickr. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Apparently putting sand in our food is entirely legal. Silicon dioxide, known to most of us as “sand”, is widely used in the food industry as an anti-caking agent, to stop powders such as table salt and powdered milk solidifying into cakes. Well, I guess it does the trick alright.

4. E172: Rust (iron oxides)

Rust. Author: Laitr Keiows. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Mmmmmm! Rust tastes good! Not. But yes, rust is a good way of making things rust-coloured — if you’re sick in the head! Or a food manufacturer.

3. E252: Animal Waste (potassium nitrate)

This picture was taken by en:User:Acatenazzi at La Vieja Island, Paracas National Reserve, Departamento Ica, Peru, in July 2003. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Potassium nitrate may cause cancer and it may be implicated in heart disease, but it can still legally be added to our food. Why? It’s your fault. You’ve been eating bacon and sausages without ever asking yourself how it’s possible for meat to be kept so long without going off … this chemical is the answer! The Dutch, who are all crazy, also like to use it in cheese, as a preservative. But then again I suppose bacon does taste good, so whatever the hell.

Bat droppings and rotted animal urine are the traditional sources of potassium nitrate. But don’t worry, these days it’s mostly made from other animal waste. Just kidding … some of it is made from animal waste. The rest is made from … other stuff.

If you want to read more about potassium nitrate (and who wouldn’t), check out my article Five Surprising Facts About Gunpowder

2. E120: Insects (cochineal)

Cochineal. Source: The Houshold Cyclopedia printed in 1881; Author: Henry Hartshorne, M.D. License: public domain (copyright expired)

This lovely red food coloring is basically nothing other than ground-up mites. Think of that next time you choose the red pill over the blue one. Still, at least it’s organic (as opposed to inorganic).

1. E910: human hair (L-cysteine)

Author: Esby (talk) 15:09, 20 October 2009 (UTC); Photograph taken during the 2009 edition of the Comic Strip Festival named O Tour de la Bulle of Montpellier. License: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

I’ll be honest with you, I felt quite sick when I found out about this one. As I implied earlier, human hair and L-cysteine are not the same thing; but at least some L-cysteine is extracted from human hair (and feathers), typically the hair of third-world women. L-cysteine is used to give things meaty flavours (now I really feel sick!) or to make things springy. Bagels, for instance. Springy, meaty hair extract! Tasty! It’s also widely added to cigarettes, although no-one outside the tobacco industry seems to know why. Potassium nitrate is also an important cigarette additive (it keeps them alight), so now you know what to do when you need your fix of animal waste and human hair clipping extracts.

So that’s it for the food additives … but don’t stop now! I’ve written about even more disgusting things …. check this out: Brain Parasites: There’s a 1 in 6 Chance That You’re Infected.

Freaky Houseplants: The Top Ten Alternative Plants to Grow In Your Home

Posted by – February 10, 2011

Image: Mimosa Pudica, Pavan Srinath. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant)

No house is complete without houseplants. But why grow those old boring standbys, when you can grow mind-blowing, weird and beautiful plants like the following?

(Well OK, perhaps mind-blowing is going a bit far; I’ve left psychedelic plants off this list for legal reasons, but weird and beautiful I can definitely give you).

Looking for houseplants that move? Houseplants that taste good? Houseplants that reproduce faster than rabbits, disguise themselves as inanimate objects, grow without soil or cover themselves in fur? Look no further … Here they are, in reverse order of wonderfulness, my top ten weird and alternative houseplants.

10. Climbing Fig

The climbing fig is a relative of the fig tree and other rubber plants. It’s important, when assembling a truly strange collection of indoor plants, to have at least one plant that creeps up your walls and looks as though it might strangle you in the night. This one’s a popular candidate, although there are other possibilities too.

9. Tradescantia

So you’ve got your upward-creeping plants sorted out; now you need something that will cascade downwards when you grow it on top of shelves or wardrobes. Tradescantia’s what you need. Very easily grown from cuttings, tradescantia is often to be found on sale in such places as supermarkets and hardware shops. Once placed in a decent-sized pot and exposed to some sunlight from nearby windows, it will grow at a deliciously alarming rate — although maybe not till summer if you live somewhere like England. During a good English summer, a handful of two-inch cuttings can easily grow to cover an entire wardrobe in greenery.

8. Banana

Image: banana. Source: Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.); Flora de Filipinas [...] Gran edicion [...] [Atlas I]. License: public domain.

Various types of banana grow happily indoors, and may — just may — provide you with bananas. But the best reason for growing these plants is that they grow like crazy! So maybe you’ve got creeping plants and cascading plants covered; your walls are now totally hidden behind curtains of green foliage; what are you going to do about all that space in the middle of your room? Bananas are the answer! You can buy little banana plants, half-grown plants or else just grow them yourself from seeds. Provided you keep them in a big pot, let them get direct sunlight from a window, keep them warm and water them a lot with a high-nitrogen fertilizer (stuff sold for tomatoes is good), these beauties might easily put on eight feet in a year. Although considered by many to be a tree, really they are a sort of tall shrub. There’s no woody trunk as such, just a bunch of enormous leaves that wrap into a tube to form the trunk.

7. Old Man Cactus

Once your entire living room is packed solid with foliage, you’ll need some curiosities to liven things up a bit. That’s what this is; a curiosity. The Old Man Cactus is nothing other than a cactus that covers itself in fur; or, more precisely, wiry hairs. You can’t stroke it like a cat since it’s far too spiky and wiry, but it sure looks like you can. Along with most other cacti, Old Man Cactus is easily grown from seed. But be warned, it’ll grow at roughly one centimeter a year or so. You’d better start now!

6. Living Stones

Not a British rock group but a type of plant, the Living Stones have evolved to resemble stones, presumably with the aim of not being eaten in mind. And boy do they look like stones. It’s really quite uncanny. Makes me wonder if one day plants will evolve to resemble cigarette ends and discarded crisp packets. Their cover is broken only once in a while when they flower, the flower miraculously emerging from what appears to be a simple stone. Living stones are fairly easy to grow from seeds with a little attention to detail; read up on growing cacti — you need sandy potting compost and not too much water. The seeds are extremely small, so that for several weeks you’ll find yourself peering closely at them, trying to figure out if they’re sprouting yet or not. Once they get going, they grow slowly, so don’t hold your breath.

5. Basil

Surprised? Well basil actually makes a great houseplant. It’s not hugely decorative but who cares — it grows fast and you can eat it. In fact it tastes really, really good when the leaves are young; later on they get bitter. You can easily grow it from seeds which are on sale all over the place. It’s not too fussy about soil; just buy a bag of potting compost from a large supermarket or wherever. Grow it on a windowsill, or a little inside your room if your windowsill is really, really sunny. Your entire room (which I trust is by now completely filled with foliage) will smell delightfully of basil — a clean, fresh, minty smell. When the times comes to eat it, I recommend either making your own pesto or else try that classic bourgeois meal or snack, the basil, mozzarella, olive oil and sun-dried tomato sandwich. Delicious!

4. Air Plants

The term ‘air plant’ covers a variety of beasts, united by the singular fact that they don’t require soil to grow. Tillandsia are probably my favourites. You can find these plants on sale in the sort of places that sell weird plants, such as houseplant shops and garden centers. Considered by some to be a little passé, maybe because you so often find them glued to tacky ornamentation, nevertheless there’s something majestic and striking about a good tillandsia. Airplants grow slowly and like to be fed via special food from a mister, but on the other hand you don’t have to mess about with pots.

3. Venus Flytrap

Image: Venus Flytrap. Source: Noah Elhardt. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
Venus Flytrap

Well of course I had to include this little monster! Venus fly traps aren’t all that easy to grow; their native environment is the swamp (like you’d expect from such a creepy plant!) and consequently they tend to do badly in the dry air in modern houses. But they often do OK in bathrooms, and you can use various tricks to increase moisture in the air around them — consult a book on houseplants for details. The great thing about them is that they eat flies. You can trigger their elegant ‘traps’ yourself by touching the sensitive hairs inside them with a pen or whatever; but don’t do it too often or they’ll get exhausted. Some people also like to feed them little bits of meat ….

2. Mexican Hat Plant

Also known by various other names, the weird thing about this plant is that it continually produces hundreds of little plants on the edges of its leaves. The little plants will even grow roots, until they fall off and poison your pet dog, or alternatively, take root in the soil around the mother plant. The plant will also flower sometimes; the flowers are unspectacular tube-shaped affairs. From memory I think the flowers are followed by black seeds, but unfortunately I can’t remember that I ever definitely managed to succesfully produce mature seeds — or else if I did, I didn’t attempt to grow them. Which I regret, because you rarely seem to see seeds for this intriguing plant, and you don’t often see the actual plants in shops either.

1. Sensitive Plant

Some regard this plant as straggly and unlovable, but to me it’s magical. The Sensitive Plant is easily grown from its brown disc-shaped seeds; soak the seeds in water in a warm room till they start to sprout, then put them in soil. The amazing thing about sensitive plants is that, provided they’re warm enough (at least 21 celsius), they move when you touch them. Individual leaves fold up when you nudge them, and entire branches fold up and appear to instantaneously die if you gently shake them, only to recover fully twenty minutes later. Apparently lots of mimosas show some degree of movement if you look closely, but Mimosa pudica has really made an art of it. This strange (for a plant) behaviour probably helps them to avoid being eaten by insects. This plant’s flowers are also rather beautiful, to my mind. The plant itself tends to grow long, thorny and spindly, but you can make it less spindly by judiciously pinching out the growing buds if you want to.

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