Just a boring news post

So I have eight days left in Brazil, and then I shall be boarding a flight back to the freezing dismalness that is Britain. Actually, I won’t be staying put for long as a week after I arrive I shall be boarding another flight to spend a few days in the even freezinger but less dismal New York, followed by a few more days in North Carolina to visit an old school friend whom I have not seen for more than twenty years. After that, I shall return to Oxford and actually try to find somewhere to live, although a trip to Australia to visit the recently emigrated brother, almost certainly returning via Thailand to visit the other, long emigrated, brother is on the cards: when that will happen I am uncertain, as there are both financial constraints and issues around actually staying put in the UK for more than a week or two. But the travels are certainly not over.

Neither, I’m afraid, is the blogging. I started this blog as a way to feel some kind of purpose following the collapse of my PhD, and though it pattered along quietly for the first year or so, Brazil has been good for it, as it has provided me with things to blog about, and I’ve even started to garner a respectable number of likes and follows from people I don’t immediately know. So I’ve decided to up the ante a bit, and in April will be doing the A to Z blogging challenge: it seems a fun little project, the idea of which is to write a blog post every day in April, except Sundays, with a topic for each day starting with consecutive letters of the alphabet.

The blog posts can be on anything (as long as it starts with the day’s letter), or one can have an overall theme and make the day’s letter a subtopic of that. I haven’t decided on an overall theme, so I’m throwing it open to suggestions from you. Contributions in the comments, please! Those of you who know me know the kind of thing I like to write and rant about; for those who don’t, why not take this as an opportunity to raise my hit count and browse the archives a bit? Politics, publishing, academia, science, music, and the odd snifter of a gin and tonic are recurring themes, but I’m open to anything interesting or challenging.

Though the return to the freezing wasteland depresses me somewhat, this will be largely offset by seeing friends and those members of my family who have not fled to the other side of the globe to escape my tedious presence.

Brazil, I shall miss you, as ever. But you know I’ll be back. Até volto!

The Sunday Sermon

To get to the little casazinha in which I stay in Picinguaba, you climb some stairs from the beach to an old Catholic chapel. Constructed in the traditional style of Brazil, it had long been out of use—as the Evangelicals have something of a hold here—and was thus quaintly dilapidated, with rusty streaks and incipient lichen on the whitewashed walls. But in the two years that I’ve been away, it has returned to use—two Sundays a month—and has been spruced up and given a lick of paint. They are singing there, now, glorifying God; and it says something about the state of religion in this country that I am happier for them to do so there than in the rapacious Evangelical church down the road, with its smartly-suited unsmiling doormen and bottomless collection plate.

From the chapel, the quickest way to my house is across a small patch of grass, maybe twenty foot by ten. But during the day, at least, I will not pass this way, because it is infested with marimbondos, and they put the fear of God into me in a way that the brimstone preachers of the chapel will never achieve. Marimbondos are a type of wasp—though to make that claim to one who has never seen anything but the British variant of this genus is analogous to describing the ocean as a type of pond. They are two or three inches long, black as the devil, and aggressively protective of this small patch of grass. As well they might be, for below that grass, in burrows that they have built, their children are growing to adulthood.

And how! The marimbondos terrify me because their sting is notoriously painful, but what they do to another species—well that is something else again. The burrows under the grass contain not just marimbondo larvae: each larva has been lovingly, caringly deposited upon the inert but living body of a spider, paralysed—but not killed—by this same sting, and dragged into the burrow by the mother wasp, there to provide all the nutrients that her child needs. So sophisticated, so well-designed is this rearing system that the larvae even instinctively leave the spider’s vital organs to last, as they slowly consume it. The larva thus has the freshest possible food—for it is still living—for its entire infancy.

The marimbondos terrify me, indeed; but the God they are glorifying in the building next door to them terrifies me more. For He created this wasp, this creature whose act of supreme loving care for her offspring involves the prolonged torture of another creature. He saw fit to design a world thus, where the horrible slow demise of one being is necessary for the very survival of another. As His worshippers leave their church later this evening, having raised their voices in song praising his goodness and all-lovingness, I wonder how many of them will glance at that small patch of scrubbish grass to their right, and think upon the viciousness and sadism encapsulated there—not of the marimbondo, who is only acting as she must to continue her species, but of her Creator who designed her, and made her a torturer.

The Catholic church in Picinguaba

The Catholic church in Picinguaba

An individual less regretted?

So ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Āl Saʿūd has died.

David Cameron is “saddened,” and has praised his “commitment to peace,” a commitment which apparently requires £80 billion in arms from the UK alone, and the suspension of our justice system.

Prince Charles, who counted ʿAbd Allāh as a personal friend, is flying to Riyadh to pay his condolences.

Whitehall and Westminster Abbey are flying the flag at half-mast, and it has fallen to a UKIP MP to suggest that this might be “an extraordinary misjudgment.”

Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, has said that ʿAbd Allāh—in whose country women could not drive, vote, or leave their own house without being in the company of a male relative—was “a strong advocate of women.”

Is there any real need to rehearse the catalogue of awfulness that is the Saʿūd regime? The public beheadings, the lashings, the torture, the corruption, the hypocrisy? Short of North Korea, I can think of no country run by a more despicable, vile, medieval collection of irredeemable shites.

The obsequious fawning of our establishment over this unlamentable demise exposes—if it really ever was not blindingly obvious—how pathetically paper-thin our own rulers’ morality is: their principles for sale for a few million barrels of oil a day. The late king, in a moment of supreme hypocrisy, sent a representative to the Charlie Hebdo march—whilst his own regime continues the seven-year imprisonment and 1,000 lashes of Raif Badawi. As he was so keen to defend this institution, I can think of no more fitting tribute to this man and his relationship with our own spineless leaders than a Charlie Hebdo-style cartoon of David Cameron sucking ʿAbd Allāh’s oil pineline of a cock. Our leaders were nothing but eager whores to this monumental bastard. I hold little hope that the situation will change with his successor—or, regrettably, with theirs.

Sickening, sickening, sickening.