Monday, October 29, 2007

Can you snort a ghost?

In today's news, it turns out Liam Gallagher of the popular band Oasis believes he is haunted.

Okay, first of all, believing you're haunted isn't the same as being haunted. There are plenty of alternative explanations for bizarre events, and all of those have to be ruled out before a haunting can be considered. I'm not saying he's not haunted. I'm saying he thinks he is, and the press have jumped on the story.

Well, that's what the press does, so I suppose I can't blame them for it. Any musician making any out-of-the-ordinary claim is going to be big news. The press have never been troubled by the twin demons of truth and accuracy. Only sales figures count.

Anyway, Liam claims to have met the ghost of John Lennon.

Raised eyebrows all round. Seeing and speaking to famous dead people is akin to thinking you're Napoleon, usually. The rubber room awaits.

On the other hand, Liam Gallagher is a guitarist in a famous band from Liverpool. They're doing exceptionally well. John Lennon was also in a band from Liverpool, called the 'Beatles', I believe. I think they did quite well too. So there is a connection. So it's not impossible. If John Lennon is still here, he might well be floating around his home town. He might decide to check out the local bands.

However, there's another aspect of this case that means I wouldn't be too interested in investigating. It's connected to Liam's stories of what sound like paranoid episodes, where he lies awake convinced that someone's watching him.

Mr. Gallagher, if past news is anything to go by, has been known to partake of some of the more esoteric pharmaceuticals available to those in his profession. Paranoid episodes, panic attacks and hallucinations figure highly among the long-term after-effects of some of these non-prescription chemical brain-removers.

I think this particular paranormal report (while I'm still not saying it isn't real. You never know) is very likely to have an explanation that lies within the bounds of an entirely different scientific discipline.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Apocalypse Now.

The UK-based satellite TV channel, Living TV, runs a program called 'Most Haunted'. Once in a while they have a live-TV event.

There's one on now, in the days leading up to Halloween. I have mixed feelings about the show: while it stimulates public interest in my subject area, it does encourage a lot of people to do very silly and dangerous things.

I'm not just talking about the paranormal, either. People will wander around allegedly haunted locations without checking the area in daylight first. Holes in the ground, broken floors, loose masonry and so on are not clearly visible at night. I hope most will have the sense to check their location first but I'm certain many won't.

What's possibly worse is that the show's presenters will call out challenges to spirits, sometimes with a cruel or impatient tone. Sometimes they deliberately try to provoke malign spirits into a reaction. That's like going into a Glasgow pub and throwing a beer at the biggest guy. You know the one: the man-mountain with three teeth and a head shaved so as to emphasise the absence of a forehead. Then expecting him to react by tapping the wall. If you want to talk to spirits, don't follow the examples on that show. Ghosts are dead people. They react to tone of voice the same way you do.

If you're watching the show, be aware that any spirits that might be around your house might not be able to tell the difference between a TV voice and someone in the room. That challenge to spirits goes nationwide. Something that needs to be thought about, I'd say.

The show prattles on about orbs far too much. Orbs are bunk. They've had better events on the program, but spoiled a few of them. I mentioned before about the moving object caught on film - but it wasn't all in shot. There was much to-do about a scratching in the walls of an old house. Old houses can be occupied by mice. That's what these noises sounded like. Nonetheless, they have sometimes come up with events that have no obvious explanation.

The current live show will include five locations. The locations have been chosen to form the five points of a star. As the producers take great delight in telling us, they are forming a pentagram of ghostly activity in preparation for Halloween. A pentagram the size of the UK. Possibly the biggest pentagram ever formed. They will provoke and annoy spirits at the points of this star, in the run-up to one of the most highly charged times of the year.

I don't know about you, but my first thought on hearing this was 'You f*%&ing idiots'. My second and third thoughts followed in similar vein.

The spirits are not toys. They are not there for us to play games with. Some of them are unreasonable. A few are downright nasty. All can be empowered by certain shapes, sounds, even (in some cases) just by thinking about them. A pentagram is not just a pretty shape from some past era of thought. Seances aren't parlour tricks. There are many who use these things in a playful or fraudulent manner, but they are like children playing 'cowboys' with real guns.

I don't know what will happen when a pentagram is formed on this scale. It's never been done before. One thing's for sure, I'm very glad I'm currently at the north end of the country, and therefore nowhere near the middle of it. That might not be a pleasant place to be.

Normally, magical practitioners would stand inside their circle and compel spirits into a triangular 'containment area'. In this case, the spirits are being agitated and provoked within the circle itself. That's not good.

With luck, it won't work. With luck, their angles won't be right, the star points won't be set into a true circle, the pentagram will be incorrect and fail. The thing is, I don't know how much tolerance is acceptable in these figures. I don't know how close to perfect they have to be. I don't know the exact locations of their investigations. They're keeping that quiet to avoid drawing crowds.

What happens if it does work? I've no idea. I suspect it won't be good.

It will certainly be interesting to watch. From a safe distance. If there is one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Jacobite reprise.

The little town of Inverurie lies just to the north-east of Aberdeen. It’s an area that’s been inhabited since the early 1100’s, in recorded history. Before that, there were Picts. The place is two miles long and half a mile wide. There’s a Pictish stone in the middle of it and three stone circles within walking distance. There are Pictish stones in the graveyards.

Yet the place is relatively ghostless. It’s not a place for the party-minded, admittedly. Old people’s homes occupy most of it. There is no cinema, no bowling alley. Even MacDonald’s don’t have an outlet here. Something for which I daily thank whatever God there may be. It does mean that it’s possible the place is so dull even the dead can’t bear to stay.

Inverurie gets a mention on the Paranormal Database but the only sighting in town is likely to be a hooded teenager going through a gap in the fence. Since I’ve been here, I could add to that database. There’s a cenotaph in the town centre (for those who don’t do ‘dead’, a cenotaph is a monument to the dead, usually those who died in war). There are no bodies buried beneath. This cenotaph has at least one attendant spirit, not one of the war-dead, but one of the grieving relatives. I’ll look into that in another post. There’s a lot more in Aberdeen, but then it’s a much bigger place.

This post is about the Jacobite rebellion.

Missing out all the political hoo-hah, the Jacobites were in opposition to the ruling house of Hanover, and there was a war. The Jacobites eventually lost it.

The battle of Inverurie was the third-last battle to be fought on British soil (so far) and happened in December 1745. The Hanoverians occupied Inverurie, the Jacobites marched from Aberdeen in two columns.

Now, Inverurie is set at the junction of the rivers Ury and Don. The first group of Jacobites came over the Don, and consisted of about 60 men. They took a beating.

Meanwhile, the rest of the army came over the Ury and hit the Hanoverians from the side. The Jacobites won that battle because of those tactics, but the 60 men who came over the Don weren’t among the celebrants. Details of this battle are all over the Internet so I won’t go into that now.

What’s not all over the Internet is the re-enactment of that Don crossing every year. When it happened isn’t totally clear: most sources put it at December 23rd, but local sources say December 22nd. It appears to have happened overnight on the 22nd leading into the morning of the 23rd, if what I’ve found out is right.

I suspect this is a ‘recording’ phenomenon rather than any real spirit haunting. It’s interesting anyway. I’m in the area so I plan to have a look.

I have found nobody here who has seen this. That’s not too surprising. It’s north of Aberdeen and the river walk isn’t pleasant in December unless you’re partial to way-below-zero temperatures, icy winds and snow. Even rain hurts at that time of year.

I’ll try anyway. There might be something and since I’m not a Druid I won’t be busy on the 22nd. Apart from the cenotaph, there seems to be little else in town of interest.

Here’s what the river looks like at the moment. The weather’s unusually gentle at the moment. It hasn’t rained for over an hour.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

How to spot the baddies.

You have to wonder, after watching this, whether there isn't some background wardrobe-manager who kits out the sides according to some kind of script.

Looking back, it's as if the second world war was written by Hollywood before it even started!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A growth of administrators.

I'm sure that's the collective noun for administrators. If it's not, it should be.

Moves are afoot to prosecute a hospital for negligence, perhaps even manslaughter. If it happens, it won't be the last one.

Why? Well, there are cleaner pigstys in the UK. People have been dying of hospital-acquired infection at an appalling rate, and this hospital's management (like others) did nothing about it other than try to hide it. Farm animal housing is subject to strict regulation: it appears housing our sick is not. If you treat an animal the way some of those patients were treated you'd be in prison now.

The article includes a little picture of the sink in the 'clean' facility. Click on it if you dare, and try to imagine the areas that aren't designated 'clean'.

The blame for this lies with administrators, as always, but they will deftly shift it onto medical staff. They have even tried to blame visitors to the hospital for carrying in the disease. Evidently, the fact that the sick people are in the hospital, and visitors are generally fairly healthy (as long as they don't visit too often) has escaped them.

Administrators, not doctors, run our hospitals, They are run as if they were a business, and a badly-run business at that. If you get sick, you're better off self-medicating from a supermarket. They're much cleaner, and are most likely staffed by trained nurses who have been 'downsized' from the local hospital so that the Grand Idiot of Admin can have a new carpet in his office.

The once-feared Matron is no more, a casualty of our wonderful government's money-stealing policies. Hospitals' own cleaning staff similarly went into the dole queue in favour of inexperienced, inefficient, but most of all cheap private firms. Since this administration was responsible for removing everyone whose job it was to ensure the place is clean, why are they now so surprised to find it's not?

The current furore is all down to our new Prime Minibrain's wish to make himself look good by 'cleaning up' hospitals. This 'cleaning up' involves him taking more money from them, funnily enough.

What he thinks we've all forgotten is that, before he moved up to the top job, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer for ten years. The man in charge of the national budget, in other words.

The same man who cut back on real staff in hospitals and filled them with worthless managers.

Yes, he's now promising to clean up the mess he made. I won't hold my breath, unless I happen to be in a hospital in which case I won't eat, drink or breathe until I'm clear.

He must think we have the memories of goldfish. Does he believe the entire population wake up each morning with no memory of the day before? It seems many do, but there are still a few who retain some measure of recall. A few who won't forget, and who will remind those who do that our empty-promise-maker of the day is the same man who caused all the problems he's promising to fix. He won't fix them. He can't. The cushy managerial jobs are all occupied by his pals.

Some of these hospital managers have spent tens of thousands on consultants who apparently tell them ways to save money. Isn't it the manager's job to know how to do this?

This tells me two things:

One, the managers aren't capable of doing the job they're paid to do and should be fired.

Two, the managers are wasteful of taxpayer's money and should be fired.

Scratch fired. They should be publicly humiliated and then infected with something disgusting.

It won't happen. Administrators are a cancer in the body of the UK. Admin departments grow, they never shrink. They consume all resources and supplant real workers until the business dies. The only cure is surgery, and the only ones who can order the surgery are politicians. Since politicians are a country's brain tumour, the order will never come.

Perhaps it should be 'a malignancy of administrators'? I think I prefer that one. It's more accurate.

Watch for the prosecutions. The hospitals will be fined, the staff will be cut, but no administrators will leave. New administrators will be employed to work out how best to squeeze the last drops of life from the one remaining doctor and two nurses who now run fifteen wards and an emergency department.

Further malignancies of administrators will work out whether the doctor could manage just as well with one nurse. Or no nurses.

Finally, there will be whole subgroup of committees (a metastasis of administration?) dedicated to ensuring that if anything goes wrong, it can be definitely shown to be the doctor's fault.

If you're planning to visit the UK, drive carefully. Very, very carefully. If you injure yourself, wrap it in parcel tape until you get home. Under no circumstances do you want to end up in a hospital here.

Unless your interests include collecting unusual intestinal diseases.