Tag Archives: Mike Magee

Mad Mike Magee is dead: thank the fuck for that

ABERDONIAN and self-confessed individual Mike Magee has passed on into the vale wherever the vale is.

He was a lazy, self-obsessed bastard and often got cross at things, even things that he didn’t need to be cross about. In fact, I can’t think of a positive thing to say about the git.

He leaves, as his legacy, nobody that gives a flying fuck. He paid all his bills and left his puny life without owing the taxman anything.

He will be missed, grievously, by HMRC, the tax people who had hoped to extract more from him before he croaked. Let’s hope and pray that he goes to a tax free zone. (Not Switzerland, Ed.) 

Tony Dennis: 15 October 1956 to 15th February 2016

Tony Dennis in the Wheatsheaf

Tony Dennis in the Wheatsheaf

 

This is the text of a tribute I made to dear Tony Dennis at his funeral on the 7th of March 2016. Later we adjourned to his local, The Wheatsheaf, in Ewell,  where we all drank to the health of his family, friends and many colleagues.

Tone the Phone beer

 

“I talked to Tony Dennis just a few days before he died. He was cheerful, optimistic, even enthusiastic about the future and had a writing project lined up that sounded full of promise. We were going to meet up in the near future, a future that he was never to see.

“I couldn’t imagine then that just three weeks later I would be standing here in front of his family, his friends and his colleagues, paying this small tribute to him and his memory.

“I first met Tony in, I think 1989, when I was editing a weekly magazine for IDG. That would be the same year I first met the very lovely Dave Evans who we’ve also lost. The three of us became the best of friends over the years at one period meeting every Monday, for many years, in one or other of our favourite pubs in Soho or Fitzrovia.

“Tony was unfailingly kind and helpful to his colleagues and would go well out of his way to make people feel comfortable and to give them useful guidance if they were new to the world of tech journalism. He was just kind.

“He was tremendously popular with his journalistic colleagues and that’s shown by the outpouring of tributes to him on social media. I know that he had a wide circle of friends outside journalism and no doubt they feel the same grief as we hacks do.

“I will miss Tony Dennis hugely but have nothing but the fondest memories of him. I’m sure that’s the way we all feel. I will never forget him.”

The Wheatsheaf, Ewell

We invoice Texas congress geezer Will Hurd

DEAR #HurdontheHill also known as Will Hurd, the congressman for the 23rd district of Texas, wherever that is.

Thank you so much for using our TechEye story on your website.

But, as we say in Scotland, everything has  a price.  Therefore please consider this to be an invoice for £10,000.  Our terms are 30 days net.  You don’t need to pay VAT.

Nick Farrell and yours truly are looking forward to an early payment. Thank you for syndicating our content and a pleasure to do business with you! 

Oseney Abbey

 

 

 

Beautiful Ganesha found in Ashmolean

IT IS beautiful, but it makes the human beings sitting on top like mites.  

ashmoleanganesh

Rice Bags and Singhalese Celibates: Part Two

This is the second part of an article first printed in Values magazine in the mid 1970s.  The first part is here. You can find more details of the colourful Mahendranath, here. ♦

All this leaves one bewildered but the Vinaya Pitaka is Theravada’s greatest imposture. It is not easy to understand how Buddhists who claim loyalty to Gautama the Buddha can pervert his memory by putting into his mouth such a vast collection of petty and meaningless rules [There are 227 rules of conduct – Editor (John Spiers)]. Would Gautama have wasted so much time in such useless activity? The Theravadins overlook the fact that it is only bad, delinquent and perverted rascals, parading in the yellow robes of Buddhist monks, who require so many rules to be made.  Why was the Buddhist monk communty so corrupt that so many rules were required? For more than 5,000 years of known history Indian sadhus and sannyasins of many sects have lived entirely without rules and regulations.  Why were Buddhist bhikkus unable to do so and cannot do so, even today?  It can only mean that Hindus renounced the world with a deep sincerity to live a certain life and attain something, yet Buddhists must have lacked the sincerity and so the Vinaya had to be introduced.
Avalokiteshvaraavalokscript
If the Buddha was really an enlightened or realised soul, he would have known what rules were necessary without the Theravadins inventing them and putting them into his mouth in the meanest way. Some of the rules in the Vinaya were due to naughty bhikkhus doing naughty things. Apparently one of the prime occupations of Buddhist monks was to spend their time spying on each other. When they detected something which they thought ought not to be done, they wheedled their way into the presence of Gautama and made a secret report. Then the Buddha had to make yet another rule. One could imagine that the Buddha would have reminded the spies that their duty as bhikkus was to watch their own conduct and strive for the goal instead of watching other monks. But the Theravadins needed rules and this is how they claim to have obtained them.

The Vinaya of the Theravadins also makes it clear that although Gautama attained the highest state of enlightenment, he seems to have also had the highest record for collecting perverts in his following.  The Indian public always gave freely to sadhus of all sects, but among Gautama’s boys there were a few wags who wanted bed with their breakfast. They preyed on the simple housewives by telling them that giving sexual intercourse to bhikkhus obtained the highest merit and good karma. It is quite evident from the Vinaya that some bhikkhus preferred bedrooms to meditation rooms.  Then bang, into the Vinaya goes a number of rules to abate the nuisance. Do rules ever stop misdeeds?  The Theravadins do not credit the Buddha with much intelligence to suggest he imagined that bad monks and backsliders could be made good by making laws and rules.

The Vinaya Pataka does not make pretty reading and some day the Theravada monks will wake up and burn this epitome of entanglements and meaningless ideas. A sincere person, striving towards a spiritual goal, does not need it.  If it has any need, it can only be among those people who should never take to the life or pose as renunciates. But few in Theravada today can see the difference between polished head piety and the real goal.

To suggest that poor old Gautama really had any relationship with the Theravada mob can only be an act of disrespect and a slander against one of the world’s outstanding do-gooders. If he were alive today, he would see very little relationship between the horde of yellow-robed indolents playing hide and seek all day in their myriad temples, and the ideals he tried to teach. Ceylon, Burma and Thailand would either break his heart or cause him to roll on the ground with uncontrollable laughter.  Truth does not wear a mask of piety and real renunciation does not wear a robe.

Theravada tradition tells us that the Buddha renounced his home and family and wandered naked for about six years. At the end of this period and resulting from the sincerity of his modesy life, he attained enlightenment.  If tradition believes this was true of the Buddha, why do not the Theravadins try the same thing, at least for the same period? What meaning can their theories have if they are never put into practice? Today, Gautama and the Buddhist religion of Theravada stand poles apart. To accept one requires us to reject the other.

Although Theravada thinks it has moved so far away and beyond its Hindu origins, there is nothing taught in these teachings which have real meaning, which will not be found in Hindu scriptures also. The Theravadins tell us that Moksha is Hindu but Nirvana is Buddhist. But Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, uses the world Nirvana in Ch. vi.15 as being the goal of yoga. Theravada tells us that when the Buddha was asked about the Absolute, he refused to answer. The Upanishads and other texts do exactly the same thing. Nowhere will we find an attempt to define or describe the Supreme Reality. The Buddha believed in ghosts, devatas and spirits. He abhorred magic display of psychic powers. The two great contemporaries of the Buddha, and often themselves known as Buddas, were the Jain leader Mahavira and Gosala who founded the Ajivika sect. Both were completely naked and so were their sadhu disciples. The Buddha Gautama was most likely naked also for it was a day and age where those who renounced the world renounced the services of tailors also. It was a period of naked saints and little respect could be expected from the public by one who posed as a renunciate and wore clothes. Surely it is only a fool who would want to wear clothes when it was publically accepted and did not deny any convention to enjoy the freedom of nakedness.

Centuries of Theravada Buddhism have never produced a realized soul or an Arahat. In Burma, every family claims to have produced a living Buddhist saint of various degrees. A Burmense gentleman, in Rangood, spoke up frankly about this.

“Mahatma,” he said, “do not believe all these false claims which families are making about their having great saints now alive. I can assure these claims are entirely false.”  He moved his face closer to mind and then said in a half whisper, “But as it happens we do have an Arahat in our family.”

Like Old Mother Hubbard, a peep in the Theravada larder will not even find an old bone which would make an authentic holy relic. Gautama was much of a pagan while Theravada compares mostly more with Christian puritanism.  If Gautama was a typical guru of his age we can be sure he would encourage men to search within and not to take his word as the final authority.  He would have been the last to suggest that his way was the only and most perfect way. We can be quite certain that a chaste or celibate life crept into Theravada from sources other than that of Gautama.  If Gautama stressed the importance of meditation we must remember that all other gurus did so too. The word buddha comes from intelligence and means an awakened one.  In itself it does not mean or imply complete enlightenment. But as a courtesy title many gurus and saints of India were known as Bauddhas or Buddhas in those days, and probably as common as modern sannyasins display their doctor degrees.

Generally speaking, waggish Westerners are welcome in most Theravada countries and generally encouraged to “have a go”.  Only be careful and don’t take the whole thing too seriously.  You can do a great many things so long as you do it in secret and not in the view of temple supporters.  If you meditate too much you will be asked to leave and the welcome mat quickly rolled up. Monks will tell you, you are setting a bad example to the public, who start hinting that they should do the same.  But how can they? They have school to attend, examinations to prepare for, degrees to obtain, and relatives to visit. How can a bhikku allow meditation to interfere with such important duties?  The goal of Nirvana is no longer the real goal of Theravada.

Discussions generally bring forward an emphatic denial that they believe in God or a god.  A few minutes later you will be told that the Buddha is himself God and rules in the Buddha Heaven.  This explains why bhikkus accept a teaching whereby Gautama entered his final Nirvana, and had no further existence either material or spiritual.  Since they deny that anybody, including Gautama, has a soul, this would not be existing either.  This only leads to a final conclusion that nothing which was Gautama existed after his death.  But those who affirm this annihilation on all levels, will tell you he is the Great God living in the Highest Heaven.  So they pray to the Compassion Buddha for all things, but not, of course, for Nirvana.  But not all bhikkhus go to heaven.

Most modern people have now grown out of the threadbare delusion that all religions teach the same truth or that all goals and gods are the same.  Yet there are more comparisons to be made with Christianity and Theravada Buddhism than any other two religions.  They are both soul and happiness abnegating. Both hold as a virtue the unnatural perversion of chastity and abstention from sexual pleasures.  One can jump from Christianity into Buddhism with the greatest of ease and vice versa.

Both are prepared to bury and stifle you under an enormous pile of rules, regulations and restrictions.  Both are relative and dualistic from start to finish.  Smiling, pleasure and happiness is tolerated but never encouraged.  A Buddhist monk is forbidden to sing or dance and both seem to be designated as evil. They do ignore the rule about not handling money but they do abide by the rule against joy and rhythm.

If Theravada has been unable to produce a single Buddha in centuries, it is time they began to re-estimate their whole system.  When any religion or pattern of priestcraft has outlived its purpose, it is time to pull the chain.  The Absolute will do this in good time and perhaps free the Lion Race from their miserable existence, no better than a tribe of monkeys.  If left-wing poltics have made big inroads into Ceylon’s political life, it is the Theravada priestcraft which has mostly helped the process.

Though Buddhism developed great and brilliant intellects in the Mahayana patterns, Theravadins degenerated only into ricebags and not a single new intellectual concept has been permitted to appear since it first took root in Ceylon.  The brilliant awakening of Ch’an and Zen has gone completely unnoticed except when an opportunity avails itself to revile it.  Can Theravada ever hope to boast of the vast parade of Patriarchs and Masters which China and Japan have seen, and what, in a thousand years, have they added to the world’s store of wisdom?

Councils can’t cost FOI

mikeonabeachI had two rather sweet replies to my most recent freedom of information requests to Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

I had asked them if they could tell me and the world+dog how much it cost to fulfil their legal obligations to provide info about stuff.

Oxford City Council said: “Dear Mr Magee

”Further to the acknowledgement below, I can respond to your FOI request received on 3rd January 2014 as follows :

”There is no specific budget for dealing with Freedom of Information Act requests. The Corporate Secretariat Manager acts as the Council’s Freedom of Information Officer – it is not a full-time role. He is supported by an administrative assistant who works 20 hours per week. In addition, individual departments have officers who provide information to the Freedom of Information Officer so that responses can be sent. It is very difficult to ascertain the costs involved.

”Yours sincerely

”Michael Newman
Corporate Secretariat Manager
Oxford City Council”

→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→

Oxfordshire County Council said much the same: “Dear Mr Magee,

”Thank you for your request of 3rd January 2014 in which you requested
information about the estimated annual cost of administering and
responding to Freedom of Information requests.

”Oxfordshire County Council does not hold information relating to your
request. This is because the role of administering freedom of information
requests is carried out as part of an officers wider role.

”In order to advise and assist, the Council has co-ordinators in each
Directorate of the Council who assist with FOI requests as well as other
administrative tasks. The Corporate Team has two members of staff who
advise on FOI legislation but they also have other roles, such as logging
corporate complaints which are made in writing or via the telephone as
well as responding to Information Commissioner and Local Government
Ombudsman investigations. Therefore it is not possible to provide you with
a figure, estimated or otherwise, as to the cost of administering FOI
requests in isolation.

“Please let me know if you have further enquiries. I would be grateful if
you could use the reference number given at the top of this email.

”Yours sincerely,

”Claire V Buller
Complaints and Freedom of Information Officer
Oxfordshire County Council
Law and Culture
County Hall”

You can make FOI requests of your own, at this excellent site,  here.

I wasn’t supposed to live, but I did

Panch HanumanI wasn’t supposed to live when I was born, with Mars and Saturn straddling the midheaven at 6AM on the 7th of December 1949. That is what my father told me – for some weeks I hovered between life and death because of gastroentiritis. That meant that I escaped baptism for some three or four weeks. Saturn and Mars – the two great malefics of astrology – have passed by to say hello several times since in my life. I quite like them really, they rule Saturday and Tuesday respectively. I got baptised two months after I was born, according to my birth certificate. Didn’t they want me to go to heaven? Was Limbo an option?

My father was a civil servant in Aberdeen – he was in charge of the National Assistance Board at Regent’s Quay, close to the trawlers that sailed in the North Sea and beyond to catch the then plentiful herring and cod in those waters. He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne – his father was born in Dublin.  As the IRA blew up the Public Records Office in 1922, I am unable to substantiate my father’s claim that the Magees are descendants of the kings of  the Hills of Tara. A friend of mine, much later in life, also had a father of Irish descent who claimed descent from kings – wittily, but rather cruelly, she said his royal antecendent was the most successful of royals, the King Edward.

My mother was born in Aberdeen and loved the city. She loved the Scottish traditions too – there was nothing she loved more than the sound of the pipes, dancing to Scottish airs. Her father was a seedsman, not that far from Regent’s Quay. He died in 1928 but was accomplished in bee keeping – he won medals in apiculture. I never knew my grandmother on this side of my family either – she died the year before I was born. My mother said she herself was the seventh born of a seventh born – this is supposed to bestow psychic abilities and she did profess to read tea leaves and the like, as well as allowing the possibility of fortunes being told.

I was the second born  – my elder brother is three and a half years older  and my earliest memory is easy to date. Her Brittanic Majesty Queen Elizabeth the IInd was crowned in June 1953 – just three days later my younger brother was born. I remember the coronation as it was celebrated in Aberdeen, with flags, floats and large fires and just a few days later remember that I was kicked out of my cot to make way for my younger brother. I didn’t resent it in the slightest – I was just slightly surprised.  I was told I fell out of my pram when I was 18 months old and my head hit the deck. I don’t remember this. I have often been accused of throwing my toys out of my pram. I remember what my pram looked like, because my younger brother took it over – a beautiful perambulator of the 50s kind.

During the Second World War, my father was in the RAF – shipped first to Skye where he told me later the inhabitants all spoke Gaelic and had never seen a bus – he later got shipped to India, where he described the flying fish before he tipped up in Delhi. My mum was a Wren – working for the Admiralty. Her brother-in-law  had run the Indian North West railways but after independence had moved to Ballater, not far from Balmoral. He owned a garage “by Royal Appointment”. I stayed at their lovely house, full of Indian curios and memories. When my father went to India, he used to tell me and my brothers of how “Uncle Mac” had hired an entire luxurious carriage for him, shunted around the Presidency, as Maharashtra was known in the pre-Independence days.

I never went to nursery school – instead one day my mother took me down to St Peter’s School in Aberdeen and told me that this was my first day at school. The day was heaven – we were given heaps of toys to play with, and I was given paint and a brush which I used to create my first and probably best painting ever, a red jug. Unfortunately, the paint was not yet dry when the teacher put it up on the wall. Fortunately, the paint dripped from the lip of the jug so it looked pretty OK, almost as if I’d intended it.

Day Two at St Peter’s was a different kettle of fish. We started to learn our ABCs and our 123s, using slate, chalk and an abacus. I also had my first taste of school dinner – the teacher told us that if I closed my eyes as we said grace, I would see Jesus. I closed my eyes and couldn’t see him. And said so. Trouble.  My mother was forced, as a Presbyterian, to adopt the Catholic faith when she married, and bring her children up as papists. Somehow or other, she managed to imbue me with some scepticism for the Catholic faith.

It’s 1956. My Uncle Mac is driving me and my elder brother around some sights not far from Aberdeen, including a statue of the hated Rob Roy. As an owner of a garage in Ballater, he was obviously rather upset by the Suez Crisis. He threw a newspaper into the back of the car, where Ian and I sat, not far from the Devil’s Elbow, and said “look at that, Michael”. The newspapers, all under D Notices, had decided to print blank spaces where their stories had been censored.

This was my first introduction to journalism.

Pre-oil Aberdeen was most interesting. Based primarily on the fishing and the granite industry, I saw most of it. Over in the fishing part of the town, there were basking sharks hung up to dry. The granite industry was in some ways harder than the fishing industry – the poor buggers had to grind stuff into shape and determine the “Silver City” – Aberdeen. Grinding marble and stuff into shape is not my idea of a job of work, but that’s what needed to be done and it was.

My father promised me early on that he would take me out on a trawler into the treacherous North Sea but regularly in the newspaper called the Aberdeen Press & Journal there were reports of what happened to the trawlers. On their way to catch cod, herring and other fish, the masts of the ships would ice up, and all hands would be lost.

This happened so regularly when I was at St Peter’s School in Old Aberdeen that several of my schoolmates lost their fathers at sea. I could not help look on and sympathise and empathise.

My father took me to see what happened when trawlers came back to port, successfully. Their chapped hands were only matched by the chapped hands of the women in the fish market. As the trawlers disgorged the fish into the docks, a whole army of women set to work to gullet the fish, empty the intestines into the waiting maw of numerous gulls, and despatch them south, for people to liberate the fish by eating them – probably with chips.

I have an undying memory of seeing these women work in the fish market, not very far from Regent’s Quay. My father said, look, look at what these people have to do to live. The women would slash the throats of the fish, gullet them, and despatch them into crates for distribution southwards.

They were always kind to me, a slight observer, and showed me what happened to the herring, rather than the cod. The women would separate the fish, and the herring would go to a place full of brown paper, a cancerous place, said my father, where they would become “Aberdeen Smokies”.

The men on the trawlers were hard working men and needed a tot or two when they hit the dry land of Aberdeen. They, I think, were on shift rates, so could only earn money when they trawled in the sea. Sometimes there were off periods, so they applied to the National Assistance Board (NAB)  for assistance. My daddy said in the 1950s that the work was so hard that they would resort to shoe polish for a drink. Quite a few of the kids in my school lost their daddies as trawlers toppled in the search for fish. I never did get taken out on a trawler.

Aberdeen was hit very  hard by the Nazis in the Second World War, as I saw when I was a kid in the 1950s. For some reason, the bombers rained huge explosives on the city, probably because we were the nearest thing to Norway. For some reason, some Germans hated Norway. It was then, with some interest, that my dad said when I was seven, come down to Regent’s Quay, son. There I was escorted onto a Norwegian schooner, all made of wood, and we were piped aboard. Perhaps Norway and North Scotland do, after all, have something in common. The schooner was beautiful and the Norwegian sailors delightful, in the extreme.

Aberdeen, pre-Oil, was beautiful in the 1950s. Forget Ballater, and forget Balmoral, the city between the Don and the Dee was delightful. The beaches were fine too. In the rock pools, you could find every species of fish known to man and woman. The museum in Aberdeen showed you how beautiful Scotland was, by demonstrating fowl, fish, flora, fauna and animals native to Caledonia and Alba. The summers now, seem to me have been warm and pleasant. The winters were a bugger. Snow fell so hard that we often had to dig ourselves out of the house, with high walls of snow separating us from the rest of the community. Coming back from school one day, all the buses stopped because of a dreadful blizzard. I had to walk back from school but in between times laid down in a drift. A guy lifted me up, I managed to tell him where I lived, and he took me back home to Hillcrest Place. A grateful mum gave him a tot of whisky. Lying in a snow dirft is not unpleasant – I guess if I’d lain there much longer, I’d have been one of the casualties, rather than a guy kissed by Saturn.

Culture, too, was not unknown in Aberdeen. We had the example of the Aberdonian witches burnt at the stake to remember. We even once caught sight of the Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, and Marischal College, a centre of culture. Maybe.

Let me tell you how beautiful Dyce was in the 1950s – then it was an airport but a pre-oil airport in Aberdeen. My mother took her three sons brambling then, we collected a huge amount of berries which when washed and the grubs were washed out, made an enormous amount of very beautiful jams, all carefully labelled so we knew when and how and where the brambles were collected. The streams were clean, in Ballater, on the Dee, you could even guddle trout, you could see the Cairngorms from my house, and walk a few miles you would be in the middle of a rural idyll – well, it’s Scotland. But the Red Admirals flew, the summers were sunny, and the light was pure and free, without taint of American missionaries in the Western Isles.

Dyce is now a nightmare of helicopters and international frights.

In my childhood there was a lot of conflict between the Presbyterians and the Catholics. The Boy’s Brigade was the Protestant version of the Cubs and Scouts. As I had been brought up a Catholic, therefore I was expected to adhere to the Catholic Cubs and Scouts. Guess what? I got expelled, actually framed. This was an East Coast version of the war between Protestants and Catholics in Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast. As I was a hybrid, I could never quite answer the Aberdonian question. “Fit are ye?” – my mum was a proddie and my dad a Catholic. A beating up always ensued as I attempted to cut the Gordian Knot.

I learned gang warfare in Aberdeen. There was the Mastrick Gang, our gang, and another gang based in the estates. We were the hunted, we learned to fear the gang from the estate because it had no chivalry, nor beauty. They just wanted to hunt us through the beautiful parts of Aberdeen. We were the Cummings Park Gang. We saw what Old Aberdeen was like, complete with Gypsy caravanserai. We were just kiddies, but gang warfare in the 1950s in Aberdeen was far, far more vicious than in Central South LA today. There was little mercy, and far less compassion. The mean gang not only tortured kids, but tortured animals. When I saw the mean gang roasting a tortoise to the sound of skylarks and peewits, I realised Aberdeen was no paradise.

England was a very very rude awakening after the sort of very but not so  beautiful Auld Aberdeen.