..and Thanks for the Fish

Thanks to all commenters at my antepenultimate post for their kind words. As you can see, my final curtain call was about as final as that of any “Grande Dame du théatre”.
Three things persuaded me that I couldn’t go on like this. First, a symptom of our success is that it is impossible to comment intelligently on the climate sceptic scene at the moment without first consulting the ever-growing number of intelligent climate sceptic sites, which takes an enormous amount of time.

Secondly, as a result of my promise to act as an ambassador between the French and English-speaking sites, I found myself consulting even more sites than before. And commenting in French (which I’ve been doing on all sorts of subjects) costs me no little intellectual effort.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I find myself more and more in disagreement with the sceptical consensus, which seems to be that we’re winning the scientific argument, and we only have to wait for our opponents to acknowledge the fact and roll over and die. Unlike many of the hard scientists and engineers in the sceptic camp, I believe in the importance (and validity) of the social sciences. Society moves in mysterious ways, and they’re not always rational.

Catweazle’s comment above can serve as an example of what I mean. I feel honoured to have readers like Catweazle, who is obviously infinitely more intelligent than Cameron, Hollande, or Obama. But intelligence butters no parsnips when the planet is in danger.
And of course, the ecological danger facing the planet tends to obscure certain other things happening. Has anyone noticed that one European democracy (Russia) has just invaded another European democracy (Ukraine)? (Putin, like it or not, was elected). Remember Fukuyama and the End of History?

Has anyone noticed that two thousand bonkers bandits just routed the 200,000 strong Iraqi army last June, while everyone was watching the football? The only journalist to my knowledge to give a rational explanation of events in Iraq is the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn. His father Claud Cockburn edited a communist scandal sheet in the thirties, and was resurrected by Private Eye in the seventies. His brother, the recently deceased Alexander Cockburn, was one of the founders of the American leftwing blog Counterpunch, who dared to defy the global warming consensus in a number of articles, before being silenced by George Monbiot.

Which brings me to a fourth reason why I’m going to have less time for blogging. I’ve taken to political activism for the first time in several decades, and I’ll be campaigning for our local communist candidate in the coming weeks in the election for the “Conseils Générals” (= County Councils).

The communists locally have allied themselves with the socialists, but not with the Greens. Our département (= county) has been socialist for 16 years, providing a county-wide bus service for a flat fare of one euro, and a wide range of financing for the handicapped, the young unemployed, etc. It’s a toss up whether the département gets taken over by the right (which has already taken over two thirds of the département’s communes, privatising and selling off all they can to their wives, concubines and associates) or by the far right – the Front National, whose President Jean Marie le Pen used to boast about having torturing Arabs, until it became a crime, whereupon he claimed he’d been lying and denied having tortured Arabs.

But there’s a fifth reason. I used to be an illustrator, drawing polar bears for children’s comics (oh the irony), images of Christ, Buddha and various Hindu Gods (and, dare I say it, Muhammad?) for school text books on religious instruction, and even the odd (and I mean odd) illustration for gay contact magazines.

I’ve got this ambition to illustrate the Orlando Furioso of Ludovico Ariosto, and even the Orlando Innamorato of Matteo Boiardo. Others have done it before me, (and by others I mean Fragonard, Gustave Doré and Fabrizio Clerici, not to mention Rubens and Delacroix) but no one’s got it quite right. There’s an 80-year-old guy in Marseille who’s had a good try, a couple of twins in California who’ve done some wonderful stuff, and a German lady into bondage at http://www.janthor.com/ who’s got to the heart of the problem with some witty collages. I’ve got a lot of ideas on the subject, and I really think I can do better than any of them.

The Orlando epic starts In the corner of the south of France where I happen to live, where (according to the Orlando epics) Charlemagne’s paladins fought the son of the Emperor of China, and lost.

In the local university where I used to teach there are two thousand Chinese students who are way ahead of the local French students in terms of motivation and in terms of their level of English. One of them recently murdered the secretary of the sociology department, who happened to be the mother of a student he fancied. He is currently interned in a psychiatric hospital in France. The university invited us to provide any evidence we might have as to his psychological state. I didn’t reply. His English is excellent. He told me he wanted to go to Paris to see the tennis at the Paris Open. My evidence as to his evident intelligence and sanity could have led to him being repatriated and executed.

It’s also the corner of France where a half a million Spanish anarchists arrived in 1939 in what Nancy Mitford described in her comic novel “the Pursuit of Love” as “the greatest displacement of population in history” (There have been greater since) and where they were interned in concentration camps. It’s also where the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado and the great German communist journalist Walter Benjamin both died within months of each other, one having escaped from Spain, the other having tried in vain to escape there.

Ariosto’s Orlando epic moves swiftly from the south of France to St Andrew’s in Scotland (where my daughter did her Erasmus year) before circumnavigating the globe (several years before Magellan) moving on to the Moon and back, via Japan, the Middle East and Africa.

It’s taken me a certain effort to understand sixteenth century Italian, especially the Padano dialect of Matteo Baiardo. Believe me, it’s much more difficult, (and more interesting) than the temperature records of this or that 12’X12′ squared portion of the globe. Things happened in 16th century Europe. (Macchiavelli, Erasmus.. and then there was Giordano Bruno, who wrote to his friend, our own Sir Philip Sidney, warning him of the whiles of women, before being burned at the stake for heresy…)

It’s possible (although we’ll never know for certain) that word came to the tiny state of Ferrara of Columbus’s voyages, as well of who-knows-what voyage to the East via Venice. Whatever, it’s sure that the delicious JanThor and her images from Japanese porn sites have more to tell us about the mindset of Renaissance courtiers like Boiardo and Ariosto than the witterings of academics in a hundred Italian Literature departments.

Do enjoy the images of the very fit Jan Thor, and of the Californian brothers whose names escape me. Go to the National Gallery and appreciate their collection of paintings of the Ferrarese school – the best outside Italy. And expect something soon from me on WordPress.

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