Repost – Island Thinking

Written 20th March 2020 so some of the stats are out of date. In fact, they are now worse!

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(photo taken by me – 8th March)

Having successfully locked down and killed off the initial virus, ironically China is now suffering from the return of Covid-19. Most of the new infections in China have come from the UK. Singapore has called our modelling irresponsible and also closed its border. Unlike most of Europe we have not locked down our country citing herd immunity. Not only was Boris’ initial language full of encouraging but hazy language, he then informed us he’d be closing the pubs and cafes down on a Saturday morning giving us a Friday night to spread it amongst ourselves. Who the fuck does this? And on 20th March, 12 days after the outbreak.

South Korea and Taiwan have successfully managed corona despite less warning and without a lockdown. How? By planning and implementing the plan. They relied on widespread testing and aggressively following up on the disease. We have done none of this despite the extra month to get the test from these countries, secure the ventilators or get enough protective garb for our medical personnel. We can’t even test them to see if they are infected or infecting. It’s incompetence on a criminal level. Now of course, some people would die but the government seemed content with that. A sacrifice worth paying like it is the Battle of the Somme or the Crimea War. Again, unthinkable you would have thought.

Due to the lack of testing, we essentially don’t know where the virus is which also explains our unprecedented 81% testing/death rate ratio. Korea has a ratio of around 2%. This sort of neglect would be unthinkable in any project. Our herd mentality idea is not only callous, but will have real long implications for the nation beyond Brexit. The idea seemed to be that we will be able to hang on until a vaccine arrives. The stupidity and short-sightedness of this policy should be clear. Firstly, we have no idea when a vaccine will arrive or what the country will look like then. We also don’t know right now whether after infection and recovery, we become immune. If we are not, then we’re just another time bomb and untouchable until vaccinated.

Another reasoning given is to not tank the economy. A recession is coming to all nations this year so let’s not worry about that. But the economy will recover unlike the thousands of victims. Not only is this policy a danger to our own people but who is going to invite UK business into their country right now? We’ll be isolated from Europe and countries are looking at us in bewilderment. If you think the US is going to prioritise the UK over others, you clearly don’t understand Trump’s focus or frankly any recent US President. Do you not remember that Reagan refused our request for an aircraft carrier for the Falklands War citing their relationship with the Argentinian junta. Furthermore, any trade deal would naturally favour the US. We don’t have any bargaining chips except to give up.

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So recently, not only have we isolated ourselves from the EU, but any British company wishing to do projects abroad simply won’t let us in until this clears. The delay could be interminable. In other eyes, we’ve not played our part. Other European states have suffered more than the UK right now, but they’ve also taken comprehensive and unequivocal action to stem this which has shown results elsewhere and for the long-term health of the nation.

Why did we act this way? I’ve numerous theories from our recent political instability, to the bumbling nature of Boris, an ill-fated determination to save the economy, the British sense of exceptionalism and an ill-feeling with extreme government intervention. While it’s naturally a mix of all these, the first and last two factors stand out to me. The former prevented us from being united and prepared for catastrophe while the latters have impaired our true understanding of the virus and who we are. We aren’t exceptional. This crisis is showing that to us. When we get used to that idea and our politicians stop playing up to it for power, then we’ll find our strength again.

The Corona Blame Game

The blame game has restarted. US officials have referred to the virus as the Wuhan or Chinese virus. China retorts with claims of xenophobia and conspiracy. It is inevitable in an election year in the US and from such an administration. And when millions more around the world are blighted by it, attention would naturally return to China and the causes of this pandemic. At stake is the reputation as a global player, and China knows it.

The exact biological cause is in many ways unimportant to most. It rose in Wuhan, China, likely from animal to human contact within wet food markets. Despite Russia’s usual disinformation campaign and the attempts by China to mystify the origins by starting a counter-narrative suggesting it was planted in Wuhan by the US military, the basic and generally unarguable evidence points to a virus doing what it has often done: pathogens jumping to the wrong place.

What’s in a name?

President Trump has repeatedly referred to the virus as the Chinese virus and is being criticised by the Chinese government and a few agencies such as the WHO who point to the risk of stigmatising the Chinese. While banging a drum is not helpful, in an election year, when the global economy is likely to head into recession as a result of this pandemic, this drum is going to be banged louder and repeatedly. Add to that, as sport and general life is disrupted, eyes are going to turn east.

A question is is Trump wrong? He might often be so but if the reference here is to the evidence, evidence suggests Chinese food safety practices have led to this. Indeed, there was little counter-argument from the Chinese government until it spread to Europe and the US. If this does lead to a recession which becomes an issue within the US elections, you can guarantee the criticism of China will be magnified. Agencies like the WHO have done little to protect other nations, instead demurring to China and trade

Xi talked last week about being a world partner, sending help to Italy and Iran and a supporter of the world order. Gathering ‘friends’ has been an active part of Chinese foreign policy for the last decade and the direction of state responses to this outbreak was closely monitored and categorised. This won’t be forgotten. Chinese aid rarely comes without tight strings (see the Belt and Road initiative) and being a supporter of the world order essentially means the nation state, as a way to neutralise any criticism of what happens within its own borders. However, help is needed more than words and restorative actions will be remembered more than words.

Trump is no diplomat and isn’t striving to be one. He knows his market and plays to his consumers. Stigmatising the Chinese people is the wrong solution and won’t solve this present crisis. However, the pressure should be on the Chinese Government. The location and likely cause of the outbreak are known knowns. The hushed up reaction is known too costs us time and lives. The defensive pressure on small countries is also known. The belated, poor response of many governments is also known.

China defensively protecting its pride is an unsavoury and unsatisfactory route. Denying or ignoring the facts brings us back to one of the primary, starting points for the pandemic itself. Accepting the responsibility and learning from a fall can mature the right strains of nationalistic pride.

The Rubbish Side of India

Movies of that last decade 2010–20

  1. Get Out — I never read film review or watch trailers. But I’ll glance at the rating to get an idea. I want an immersive story. Get Out has it all; it’s funny, its social commentary is revealing and the twists are unseen. You walk out smiling with amazement.
  2. The Social Network — a brilliant character study of a smart coward which he continues to be.
  3. Departures — while this Japanese movie is from 2008, I saw it in 2011/12 and it elucidates a confused area in Japan. Ancestors are revered there with little shrines on the mantelpiece, but those who deal with death, undertakers and morticians, are considered to be practising a dark art. Their actions are respected, but not envied. Undertakers are part of the burakumin in Japan, an underclass that is still discriminated against. Working as one is considered unclean. The movie which is hilarious, wondrous and sad in equal measure, is a must watch if you want to understand Japan beyond Hello Kitty.
  4. The Act of Killing — an award winning documentary about the pogroms in Indonesia in the mid 1960s’. Like Departures, the silences tell you more about Indonesia than is possible from the brusque and delusional interviews with the perpetrators. It’s dark history but fascinating to watch telling you much about the complex Indonesia.

Harry and the Great Escape

img_20200109_113355_863I’m no anti-royalist. I see the value in the tradition and seeming prestige of a royal family looking all regal and elegant giving citizens and tourists something to gawk at in lieu of genuine positive change in their life. But today Prince Harry decided to become Harry in all but name. All his life he has been raised, educated and protected at others’ (the taxpayers’) expense, and now he wants to use those advantages and connections, that social and cultural capital to make his own economic capital, to cash in on his name and fame.

While I am sure Meghan is going to take the brunt of the media offensive which will no doubt prove their reasoning, I doubt she is to blame, but the media won’t care. The Queen will be disappointed and not understand the rejection of this duty, but she is the old guard. Maybe being born into something doesn’t fit the modern mind of individualism and pride built on self. Alas we all want a bit of escape but then spend the  subsequent time looking for some foundation. That rejection of the comforts of conformity and with it the modern drift from larger families to 30% of housing being occupied by a sole tenant, to the rejection of marriage and children in Japan, the disinterest in religion to the celebration of new lifestyle cults are with us all. It may leave us bereft and lonelier. It seems a little inhuman.

Harry as he is now known to most people, formality only exists in formal circles, now wants to be his own man. Or possibly just to be left alone. He might be a test case. He might even start the beginning of the end for the British Royal Family’s status. Certainly after the Queen dies, interest will dwindle and the unfairness will be clear. Harry will need to give up his official title. After all, you can keep saying you work for the CIA (odd choice I know) when you don’t. He’ll have to hand back the keys to the palaces and join everyone else in the line at the airport until he can afford it for himself.

I won’t miss him. I don’t miss any of them. But I like history and possibly this is the beginning of their history.

See you next year!

So the decade flew by and I ask myself what happened? Well when 2009 ended it was all pre-Nottingham, Oxford, Middle East, Singapore. Before so many new people, before social media really became so ‘vital.’ I’ve travelled and studied more, but read less, all while gently drifting away places, ideas and people. I had 2 main goals for the last decade (re-education and money) and now that is secure, I want to find out who I can be. Enjoy 2020, hope to see you x

Rest Well Dave

img_20191230_011122So Dave Berman, the greatest songwriter of his generation, died this year. He hung himself. Not a surprising end considering his mental history but its timing made it more saddening. Berman had just returned from 10 years in self-imposed exile. Living with his wife, occasionally put out well-received poetry, he refrained from singing in public for 10 years and put out no material. Then, suddenly, we heard he was back with a new album, a really good new album. A few weeks after its release and just days before the tour was about to start, he died. It was an ‘end to his wanting.’

Why was he great? Wordplay (who else can rhyme schadenfreude?), characters, simplicity and heart. The last album was written after his marriage separation and the death of his mother. ‘I loved being my mother’s son’ is a song title that needs no explanation. In I’m the Only One for Me, he has one of the funniest lines you will ever see ‘if no one’s fond of fucking me, maybe no one’s fucking fond of me.’ 

Dave was a man for all seasons even though he knew ‘he would crumble in crunch’. He had a song for every moment you need to reflect on. So often I have celebrated the lyrical dexterity and lauded him to friends. I never saw Dave play live. I would have found any way to see him on this proposed tour. It wasn’t to be. But Dave noted ‘friends are warmer than gold when you’re old’ and I’m warmed by the fact that I will be listening, discussing and celebrating one of my very best friends for the rest of my days. 

Dave in happier times

A further eulogy below


So we went to see the WWE this week. Yes, that of Hulk Hogan’s ilk. I can’t explain it, maybe it’s my age but I’ve seen more wrestling in the last 18 months than in the previous 20 years. Like very old people saying they are 86 and half years old, I’ve become more playful as I get older.  I suppose you need to when you don’t have kids. You don’t need to tell me…we all know it’s choreographed but the action still involves bumps and no doubt these guys hurt the next day. It still reminds me of being a kid.

Recently mostly we’ve seen the local brand of wrestling called Singapore Professional Wrestling (SPW). It’s the same as WWE but on a local scale, yet with no less effort. Being able to pay $25 and be ringside with beers has been awesome fun as hear every slap and crash, flee as the wrestlers hurl each other through the punter’s chairs and chant along as Singaporeans finally break some taboos and tell someone they suck. This might be the only place (bar one prominent Youtuber) where locals let their tongues loose. Yet it’s still moderate and good-natured, all it could be in Singapore.

The athleticism and effort for what are basically amateurs is impressive. Backflips off the top rope to the outside, choreographed action sequences and the usual story lines involving faces (good guys) and heels (bad guys) baiting the crowd has been very fun. After all that, you get to meet them and get some photos. Its silliness in action and we’ve loved it,

Back to WWE, it was worth the steep price. We had good seats prime view, side-on. But apart seeing some big names like Jericho, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe but being a touring show, you felt they held something back, wary of getting injured and threw in too much pantomime. But then maybe the TV still creates magic which can’t trick your eyes. Maybe that doesn’t matter. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime and I smiled throughout.


What We Do In The Shadows – ridiculous NZ comedy. Its documentary style and pretty funny.

I Give It a Year – British romcom with a lot of stupidity and plenty of very funny crude moments.

Hector and the Pursuit of Happiness – decent start, common concept, Simon Pegg playing his usual role, easy ending. Seemed very edited and therefore confused. Some nice, if simplistic set pieces and scenery from Tibet, and French generalising about Africa.

Dom Hemingway – Jude Law again. Probably made as a favour for a friend, Jude acts out in the typical UK crime comedy feature rough jokes, ridiculous set pieces, tough acts, Richard E Grant and a bunch of other stereotypes. Its thankful short but it’s also not bad entertainment for that short time.

Spy – now this is very funny. Melissa McCarthy is brilliant. The lanky English woman is herself, annoying.

Get Hard – disappointing with a few genuinely big laughs.

Ex-Machina – not quite as clever as it should be but then it is Alex Garland so you cant expect much.

Ant-Man – This is pretty godo to be honest. Of course its stupid but its meant to be. Its a superhero movie.

Jurassic World – predictable watchable nonsense.

Mission Impossible Something Somewhere. – Tom does it again but having watched the Scientology documentary with him, his conviction in himself is madness.

Trainwreck – disappointing even though its pretty good. It falls for the lame endings and is more romantic comedy than comedy. Boo

Ted 2 – far. Some laughs but seen it before in Family Guy. Seth needs a new idea.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief – my fucking god. Madness. Must see.

Dan’s Remarkable and Brilliant EPL Predictions (based on one game and a lot of bull shit prejudices)


Yes they blew the first game and it looks like last season again where they lost the season in the first two months. Guess what, it just happened again. They have still yet to focus on the issues of a good scoring striker and a powerhouse in the midfield and will continue to challenge for 3rd place.

Aston Villa

Sherwood is a dickhead who has found his level. I am happy for him. He’ll do a decent job at Villa and I am happy for them. I have a soft spot for them. They’re hardworking and increasingly creative and that will keep them challenging for the top 10 without ever getting there.


I know very little about these guys and yet I will still say with confidence, they will try hard, have  agreat home win against one of the big teams, beat Spurs at away and get relegated before the end of the season.


What the fuck is Jose going on about with his Dr. Clearly he has exaggerated the issue but probably for his own reasons. She will be gone by Christmas. Chelsea aren’t as good as last year. They dont have the aura. However while they will struggle in the Champion League (relatively) and get knocked out in the quarters, they’ll win the league by 5 points. If they get a striker who can stay fit and score, they’ll dominate again.

Crystal Palace

Alan Fucking Pardew is a good manager. Newcastle fans know it. And he has brought in decent players in Cabaye and held onto some good ones. They will have a good cup run and have no worries in the league, beating United at Old Trafford.


Martinez has struggled despite inheriting a team with a rock solid defence including some real quality in Jagielka and Coleman and now with some quality going forward in Barkley, Osman and Lukaku. Yet that last name says it all. Lukaku makes ex Exeter City captain Russel Coughlin look hard working (random memory). He has talent but not ethic. Plus he is a dickhead. If Lukaku fires, Everton will finish in the top 6.

Leicester City

Pearson got wrongly fired for having a racist son and being a tool. But mostly he got fired because the Thais in charge have no idea what they are doing. They will bring down the club and started brilliantly by hiring Ranieri, one of the shittest managers of the last 15 years who somehow manages to get new jobs. This is apparently his last. The sense of relief is like you’ve been dying for a piss. Leicester might stay up but it wont be by much.


Rodgers is under pressure after an average last season but ignoring the delusions of grandeur, Liverpool aren’t the team they used to be. They are meant to finish outside the top four. A lot of their buys for the last 2 summers have been baffling. Benteke is a beast but behind him play a squad of averageness. Rodgers is a good coach but his buying policy might get him fired by the end of the season.

Manchester City

Well Pellegrini is a makeweight, mostly because the delusions of an average club thrown tax free money from a despot is now modern football. All dickhead fans long for a murderous regime to come in and give them Champions League football. Man City haven’t improved for two years. Toure is still a fine player. All of the guff said about him by old pros is ridiculous. Aguero is the best striker in the world on his game. Kompany and Hart are overrated. Sterling aint worth that much sterling. They lack cohesion and defence. Of course they will challenge for the league but have a bad March and drop of out the CL and the league race.

Manchester United

Van Gaal is going to struggle this season to finish 4th. The players still aren’t good enough in defence and they still have no idea what they are doing. Van Gaal will blame the players but if the students don’t under the concepts, its the tutor’s fault. Depay is balls, Rooney will get a red in a big game, Smalling is the best of his defenders ironically (Rojo is gash, Phil Jones is Bournemouth), De Gea will rightly leave and United might not finish 4th. That would be the end of so much.

Newcastle United

Ahh is it a new season? Are we optimistic again? Hell yeah. First game of the season showed that Newcastle can look good but also have holes to be exposed by good coaches and pace. So it will be standard season of some glorious wins, amazing escapes and remarkable capitulations. McClaren is average and his recent record is poor but sadly that’s what we deserve under Ashley. I am hopeful for Mitrovic. You know he will get a few goals, a few punch ups, a few drunkens nights and a last minute bullet header to beat the Mackems.

Norwich City

No fucking idea beyond probably will get relegated. How about that for a review?


Great team. Great coach. Fantastic purchases and nice style of play. Might struggle in defence this season but much to admire and will challenge for 6th.


My fuck they have bought and bought often well. Shaqiri should be a helluva talent. If Hughes can integrate them all, they will try and fail magnificently. Stoke of course, aren’t going anywhere. 10th.


Ahh what a disaster. Terrible start to the season and will remain another season of struggle. They’ve bought terribly. They should just about stay up and Defoe will get 12. Then Dick will retreat back into his pants.


Yet another excellent club with good players who will move on next season to bigger things. This will be the end of Gary Monks who is doing well but will fail sooner rather than later. There you go. That’s a prediction for next season. This season they will finish 9th and have a good cup run.


Quiet times at Spurs as Levy presumably realises they are a second rank club who won’t win shit. I like Pinocchio! He can organise a team well but his lack of strikers will see them struggle as their defence won’t be able to handle the pressure. This is the end of the recent optimism as they’ll simmer down to 8th.


Bought a 100 players and have a good coach. They might just make it and it started well. Of course they will struggle and use the wrong brand of football but they’ll be okay.

West Brom

Pulis is a good manager and has bought well. I like a lot about them despite Pulis’ reputation. I like stadium. I like the nickname, the Baggies and I dont understand anything they say. But then I am not listening. 13th.

West Ham

I loved Bilic in Euro 96. He looked determined and focused alongside Stimac and the other guy. Then in the World Cup 1998, he proved himself to be a dickhead, feigning injury to get Blanc banned form the final. Bellend. However despite struggling relatively, they have decent players and will finish close to the top 10.