Charlie Hebdo Ate My Puppy

which is clearly not the case. Here is a picture of my ten week old puppy and she is zipping round our rented cottage like a pixie on amphetamines.

Puppy at rest. 5.5 kg and enjoying teddy bear #1

Charlie never so much as laid a tooth on the little creature. To accuse him of doing such a thing (as I implied in the title) is to cause Charlie grievous offense as Charlie is an animal lover and he used to regularly play with my puppy, who is quite the looker and is extremely well socialized, gentle and very playful, thanks to Charlie. In a sense I am way out of line accusing Charlie of puppy eating. I know the truth about Charlie. I know he is a good man, or I thought I did. And here I am flagrantly violating his ‘good’ name, and knowingly doing so, which is a low blow. The idea that I am free to spread lies about Charlie, to upset him with impunity, to ruin his life, simply because I have the power to do so is horrible. It is a monstrous act, especially because Charlie knows I write for a living, and I can sit here and fabricate things about him that might even sound credible. So I guess I am not free to do what I please. In fact I know Charlie spends his time rescuing animals and is a militant vegetarian. He believes deeply in animal rights. This of course adds hugely to the insult I am perpetrating on him if I were to write the Charlie Hebdo Puppy Eating Story. I think over the damage I am doing to his good name. I am attacking one of the pillars of his ethical stances. Its simply not on. I cant use my freedom to exploit another’s personal space, right to a good name, or in any other way hurt him, simply because I can. There is a core of natural rights belonging to Charlie Hebdo (and everyone else) that prevents him from being subject to my puppy eating accusations.

But then something happens in my long and warm friendship with Charlie. There is a room in his house I can never get into. Its always locked. I am a curious man. One day I find the key. Its filled with Nazi Paraphernalia.  I discover current membership cards for extreme far right organizations espousing xenophobic, racist political views. I make copies of the room and the cards and whatever else I can find just for the sake of having evidence. But it doesn’t matter. Deep down I am crushed. My bitter disappointment in my friend leads me to write a novel about him, this warm hearted charming fascist racist bigoted friend of mine. It sells five million copies and I am rescued from complete financial disaster.

But success is not without its suffering and its cost. Charlie sues me for defamation of character and loss of income (he lost his job after his party membership was revealed). Charlie and I are no longer speaking of course. He has put up his house for sale as he used to live near me. He wrote me a long bitter letter telling me what a terrible egomaniacal person I am and how little I care who I cause offense to so long as I can profit from the views of others. These views are private Charlie tells me. These views, Charlie says others have the right to uphold. After all, he says, he wasn’t hurting anyone holding these views. Millions hold these views. My novel sparks a huge debate. I didn’t actually think very much of my novel. I thought it was rushed and written with fire brigade emotions in my heart.

Oh, I forgot to mention the death threats. Charlie’s friends are going to kill me, my family, and my puppy. They are part of the same far-right groups Charlie was a part of. They nailed a dead cat to my door last night. Maybe Charlie had a right to his views. Maybe I should have left well enough alone.  Maybe I will survive this attempt on my life. Maybe the next time I write something, it will get me killed. I don’t know. I am not writing anything that is untrue. I am an enemy of extremism. I use my gifts to pillory the stupid, the bigoted and the downright dangerous. I cant help myself. Its who I am. I don’t discriminate between who I choose to satirise and those I exclude. After all Last time I wrote about Charlie Hebdo. And Charlie Hebdo was a long term friend of mine.


“100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing!”

Remembering Sarah Sunflower Lundberg

I just came across this blog. Its excellent.

My Site

The inimitable Sarah Lundberg The inimitable Sarah Lundberg

I first met Sarah Lundberg in Bowes Pub in Fleet Street in Dublin where her ‘Seven Towers’ company had been in Open Mic session for some weeks. There would be many changes of venue  in subsequent years but her monthly ‘Last Wednesday’ would always be a fixture, presided over by Sarah and skillfully MC’d by Declan McLoughlin. It was here that many younger, and not a few of us older, poets and writers got a chance to float some new pieces and see how they sounded. And everyone was assured of a fair hearing. No heckling (although occasional shouts of praise were permitted!) and no going on and on and on, taking up more that the 7-10 minutes, a practice that afflicts so many of our city’s open mics. There was law and order and plenty of socialising, an aspect of the open mic that was never neglected by Sarah. She well understood that a writer’s…

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I love reading. I read about 3 books a week. I know many people who read more, much more. Reading and writing goes back about thirty thousand years. The act of scribbling things down in various formats, from stone walls to tablets to wax to wood to paper to print to computers forms a method of recording everything, from casual notes to high culture to science. Its  is one of the essential elements for a species’ survival and advancement. Without text civilization would suffer failure. In other words civilizations that don’t  record things, pass on technology and skillsets and develop, well they simply collapse. Equally true is the fact that a society with superior technology and recorded skillsets will rule others. Knowledge is power. Its a cliché, but things become clichés for a reason.

One of the more under-discussed, under-reported and unexplored things that I have frankly been haunted about is the fact that in recent years the multinational Google are big readers. They have surpassed their goal of reading every book that has ever been written and making it available online in Google Books. Google say that 129 264 880 books are the total on the planet. I think its into the billions myself, not to mention the exponential speed of text growth since the inception of the internet. More to the point Google’s reading experiment, no doubt hugely successful, has changed our civilization forever.  It’s not simply because all the reading and scanning  of all of those millions of books without the permission of the copyright holders resulted in a much publicized lawsuit. Its because knowledge is the most valuable asset and the most useful currency available. If it is, as I hold it to be, then why do this?  Why would Google want to read and store every book available? What’s so interesting about reading every book ever written? I was intrigued. Then I read how Google had gotten into robotics and artificial intelligence.

Put this way, a book represents the most complete representation of a human thought process, the most comprehensive working out of human interactions in the world as recorded in language in fiction history, geography, poetry, maths, philosophy, science and the arts. One mirrors the human experience through reading, especially books. A book comprises an approximation of a complete act of consciousness, moving from premises, accumulating data, putting forward arguments, telling a narrative, drawing strands of various objections to opposing arguments, reflecting on emotions and human and non human interactions at many levels of complexities, and finally reaching what we understand as a satisfying conclusion to the book. Added together in all the books we get something approximating the deposit of recorded human experience. From there we move on into music, the plastic arts, painting and so on. So, one of the most perfect sources for a schematic of human consciousness and intelligence’s grasp of the many problems of life in constructing Artificial Intelligence is in reading.

Reading is not so much an obligation, but for the most part, enjoyable. Wonderfully enjoyable. In fact it can become an addiction. I would go further and say that people who read little or nothing except what their work demands or the daily tabloids are missing out on not only one of the great pleasures of life, but one of the truly great consciousness expanding experiences possible for anyone. Regarding the act of reading as something that is the purview of students or academics or nerds is simply a type of anti intellectual prejudice about something that is essential for living. I shudder to think what might be the effects of this kind of attitude if were to become more widespread.

But to get back to what Google might be working on. If they build a working AI, which seems a little more than likely, then it will become an essential component for all high functioning robots. If this happens, then the technology will undoubtedly become cloned and copied and cheaper and widespread very quickly. AI technology will then become part of what we now know as the internet, but will transform the internet utterly into something we no longer recognize as the web.

AI will do everything we do. It will perform all automated functions, will run departments, do accounting, become part of scientific work, build roads and ships and planes, look after our children and run our hospitals and operate our transport systems. AI will be field tested in battle and become the indispensable weapon for every modern army.

In fact as predicted in so many science fiction novels, AI will grow exponentially in sophistication to such an extent that they will probably be regarded as people at a certain point, that is if and when they pass something akin to the Turing Test.  Some wont, of course and will be left in another new sentient life form classification.

As so much work will be done so much more efficiently by AI, populations will drop hugely because it will become economically unviable to have anything more than two children, as there will simply be no work for them and average incomes will drop as work done previously by humans will now be done by AI. Its hard to believe that it could happen but AI will sadly increase even further the gap between rich and poor, and will lead to more wars.

New missions to find habitable planets will increase in effectiveness exponentially with the use of AI, and it won’t be long before people will begin to ship off world to find new places to live. New colonies and new sources of wealth will be discovered off world and life will be discovered on other planets. All this is speculation on my part. I know that.

I also could go on. The possibilities get wider and wider and wilder and wilder. My views are also pretty dystopian on this AI development. But I am not going to speculate further. But from all this one thing is highly likely. It is this: like so many revolutions before, the act of reading as a mirror for all that we know, all that we are, has become yet another key starting point for a new technological revolution.  



The mad road from Karpacz to Jelenia Góra

Poland New  Year 2015

Holidays were over. It was new Years Day 2015. We walked down the icy snowy road to the bus stop carrying or partly wheeling our baggage on the last day of our Christmas break to take a bus from Karpacz to Jelenia Góra.

From there we would be getting a train on to Wroclav. It was a complicated journey, but certainly preferable to the excruciatingly stiflingly hot three hour bus trip from Wroclav to Jelenia Góra ten days before, when I honestly thought I would pass out from the dry heat and the constant din of eighties pop music the indefatigably affable bus driver seemed to enjoy so much. This trip I decided, would be smoother, more comfortable, and faster. There was one wrinkle to my naive idealizations. This was  a bus stop on new years day 2015 in Karpatch, South Poland and two men were talking and talking and talking right beside us. It was driving me crazy. They were clearly drunk. They were moving into that phase of drunkness and hung-overness where conversation and loud debate was the only way to presumably prolong the experience of New Year’s Eve festivities. One of the duo had cuts and scratches on his face. He was not saying much now, and was nodding and trying to interject even a single word. No use.Then he seemed to give up and listened with an occasional smiling nod to his friends loud over cheerful monologue. I had to stop them. Executive action had to be taken. I looked around in our bag and found the Solution to all of Life’s Diplomatic Difficulties: Ferrero Rocher Chocolates. I went over to the guys. They looked questioningly at this hairy man for a moment, and, after I offered them Ferrero Rocher, smiled in anticipation and took a couple each. Finally and might I say, blissfully, they stopped their incessant chatter. Then, to cover my tracks I offered a few more around and we all went back to our silent waiting. Ten Minutes. Twenty. Traffic was busy for a new years afternoon. The the bus came. And the thing was – it was small. Very small. I mean you might think a mini is small, but this was one small white bus. It seated no more than twenty five people. And it was full when we arrived. What was to be done? We discussed the possibility of getting a taxi to Jelenia Góra. Then we dismissed it as people began to disembark the vehicle. Anyway what taxi would want to drive to Jelenia Góra on New Years Day in the freeze and the snow?

Besides, we delusionally mused, we might even get a seat on the mini mini bus. As if. We got on and the bus driver enthusiastically squeezed as many on as he could. Ten more squeezed along the isle between the twenty five seated grimly gazing dozing poles. Then another five or six laughing travelling teenage girls who brought huge backpacks with them as they laughed at each other and happily handed their luggage down for to be piled on top of anything or anyone. This is insane I laughed. Stop laughing I told myself. The only people laughing were the teenage girls and they are obviously stoned, I decided. Stoned and under the influence of some weird gypsy curse. Either that or they are some type of super heroes in disguise invulnerable to potential death by car crash. My worst black humour was coming out to deal with this situation. The bus was chugging along now. I commented out loud about how someone driving this bus was disobeying all the laws of maximum occupancy. I received a stern look from Izabela. I decided it was going to be a miracle if this mini mini bus even arrived at its destination. Poles are experts at driving in the snow. Often they learn in winter, a time when they casually encounter and consequently learn to steer and drive up and down and around hills with black ice, packed snow covered roads and all kinds of potential sub zero death traps that would scare the living bejeepers out of lesser mortals. But this experience was something else. The bus was so overfull the driver might have to get out to make room for the amount of passengers he had allowed on.

2015-01-01 14.49.44

Two more got on. O god. With luggage. Dear Heaven. Ho hum, I thought. Perhaps they might have to sit on the drivers lap. Its times like this one wonders had one made a living will or had good health insurance. I had neither. We passed what looked like a military listening station, replete with huge choppers and trucks and ground vehicles. The teenage girls laughed as they made room for three people to get off and four get on. A lady indicated to the distinctly cheerful military looking young man in semi tactical clothing that the hard edge of a backpack was digging into her spine. I then understood she had been silently suffering this situation for twenty minutes. He moved it away from her. We drove on at speed through the ice and snow. The driver was chatting amiably to whoever was up there with him and the noisy girls had found seats for themselves. As had we, as the lady who had suffered the bag bruising had since gotten off with her friend who had been sitting with her. Her disembarkation was undignified. She practically had to climb over the tops of others. Nobody seemed to mind. Poles can be grimly fatalistically accepting of situations that would for instance have me reaching for my angry letter of complaint writing equipment. And so it goes. So we bounced and hopped along the road from Karpacz to Jelenia Góra at warp factor eight and arrived with no injuries, with a still smiling bus driver who made doubly sure everyone had their bags and waved us off. And save my shattered nervous system and a proportion of my body weight lost in sweat and nervous energy consumption, I was okay.