Sunday, December 24, 2006

Portrait of a soul.

The man gently arose from his slumber.

He had long decided that this would be the day. Never one to procrastinate, he quickly got out of bed and prepared himself for the morning ahead. He had followed the same routine for years now - a shower, followed by carefully trimming his beard, which he kept cut close to his face. As he did this, he stared into the mirror, contemplating his life. Though he was old, he was still hale, and his body remained that of a man in his prime. Born in Italy, he had long ceased to regard that country as his homeland.

Finally he finished his wash, and dressed. His suit had been tailored for him by Saville Row's finest. Such were his tastes. He had always demanded the best, and having made his fortune as a young man trading in luxuries such as silks, he could well afford them. He lived among the trappings of his wealth. Having made his first fortune, he had only built on it over his long life, though wise investments and an uncanny knack of understanding when to take a chance. He was, by now, wealthy beyond the dreams of most men. His apartment was spectacular. A large penthouse in central London, it was decorated in a manner that spoke of his elegant taste. He had been living there, under an assumed name, for the better part of a decade. He hadn't gone by his actual name in a long, long time.

While he was wealthy, he chose not to live ostentatiously. He owned an apartment in London, where he based himself, and one on New York's Fifth Avenue. The majority of his belongings, the belonging that he actually cared about, were stored in a large vault of an established English bank. Periodically he would visit this vault, to add to it or take something away, or sometimes just to sit for a time and lose himself in the past. As a matter of fact, it had been something he had been doing increasing often of late, and in the past few years found himself spending most of his waking hours there. It was because of this that he had decided on today's course of action.

After dressing, he ate a simple breakfast of oatmeal, followed by an orange. Oranges had always been his favourite fruit, and he made it a habit to have at least one every day. He cleaned up after himself, and left the apartment. It was a sunny morning, and most of the morning traffic of people commuting to work had died off. Still, London was a city never entirely quiet, which to him was one of the reasons he was attracted to it. It reminded him of Bruges, his home city, in the time he had lived there. He briskly walked to the grand building where his vault was located. After the usual security checks - though he was well known at the bank, procedure had to be followed, he was allowed access to the vault.

The vault itself was a large room located beneath the bank, and was one of several that he had leased out, moving his belongings between them at regularly to avoid questions being asked. He moved through the vault slowly, inspecting items at random, and recalling the reasons why they remained special to him, and the events of his life they were involved in. Finally he stopped before the jewel of the collection, his wife's wedding dress. A splendid gown of dark green velvet and silk, he had taken great pains throughout the years to ensure it remained in as good a condition as possible. However, he was unable to stop time itself, and the gown was slowly deteriorating. He had not dared touch it in years, but today he ran his hands over it, remembering his wedding day.

In retrospect, it had been the best day of his life, and foreshadowed everything after that. His marriage had been the happiest time of his life, and after his wife had died, he had consumed himself in his work, whatever it happened to be at the time. However, even that could no longer hold his interest.

He did not know why God had chosen him to live as long as he had, but he did know that there were others like him, people he had encountered over the years, who doubtlessly lived secretively and hid their identity as closely as he did.

When he was done reminiscing, he left the bank and walked to the next building on his agenda, the National Gallery. Without paying attention to any other pieces of artwork, he went straight to a particular piece, and gazed up at it. His own face looked back at him. The portrait of his wedding day. He knew that this would be the last time he looked upon his wife, so his attention remained on her, and not the picture of himself staring sternly at the artist.

Eventually, he had enough. Whispering farewell to his wife, he turned and left the gallery. As he left, a crowd of tourists stopped before the painting, and a tour guide spoke: "And here is the famous painting "Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife". It's one of my favourites. Painted almost six hundred years ago by Jan Van Eyck, it is..."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Up in Donegal...

So I'm up in Donegal this weekend and I decided I'd do this "free assocation" / "random thought" type blog.

And yes, they've got broadband up here (just no trains or motorways!!!). Joking of course - Donegal is a fantastic place to be and I do love it. The scenery around here alone is enough reason to live here.

One of the great things about country houses is that , in my experience, nearly all of them have Stanley stoves. Not only do they provide an oven / cooker thingy, but they also seem to keep the house really really warm too.
Anyways this blog will have to be finished later as my fincee wants the laptop back...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My old blog...

God knows what happened my old blog, but the page went belly-up on me. So I'm after re-publishing my entire blog. No big difference, really, except that all my old articles have more recent dates than they should have...

The Benefits of a Benevolent Dictatorship and the Misfortunes of Freedom...

The Bards tell that there 'twas a time not so long ago of a country where the populous threw off the shackles of democracy, placed their trust in their Leader and found happiness.

The Leader of this country was a powerful and charismatic man. When political scandal and social unrest plagued the country, he rose to become the leader of a party that gained massive public support and subsequently took power. But let us not get ahead of ourselves...

For years prior to the advent of the Leader, the country had faced increasing social problems - rising criminality and a corrupt government seemingly unable to keep its own people in line. As the situation got worse and worse, gangs of criminals, who had initially been a petty problem, grew more daring.
The country's police force, while competent, simply did not have the staff, resources or cash to combat the problem effectively. Matters came to a head when one particularly violent criminal stood trial, only to be found not guilty of his sins. The reason for this, it later emerged, was that he had been able to intimidate the jury by threatening them and their family members.

This event set a precedent for all other criminals to follow. Soon, no one was punished for his or her crimes.

The Court system collapsed.

In addition to this, the government itself had its own problems. Completely corrupt, the politicians were more concerned with their own personal gain than the crippling problems that faced them. Proverbial "brown paper bags" were commonly passed to them from those eager to serve themselves.
Land was re-zoned, laws changed arbitrarily, etc, all without thought of consequence on society. Of course when this behaviour become public knowledge it did nothing to help the peoples confidence in their supposed representatives.

And so things continued. The numerous problems in society need not be listed here. The workforce suffered as people perceived that now crime did indeed pay, and was a far easier option than actually working. In fact, all law-abiding people suffered as they saw everything they had worked for and earned collapse around them. And people began to think:

All this because of the weakness of Democracy.

The people of the country finally realised that it was the system that had failed, and that while complete freedom was a great ideal, in practise it caused chaos. In short, democracy simply didn't work. Eventually, the problems in their society caused civil unrest, and it was at this point that the Leader emerged. A respected officer in the army, he understood that action must be taken if his country was to be saved. He appealed to the people of the country to support and join him, and overwhelmingly they did. The army and police too gave him their full support.

And so, on a day known as "White Monday", the Leader publicly announced that he intended to march on the government and remove them from power. Tens of thousands turned out to cheer him on as he marched on the government buildings with the army behind him. He arrested every corrupt politician and jailed them all (later, when concentration camps were set up, they were transferred to them).

The Leader then declared himself the new head of government and swore to end the problems that society had suffered. One of his first laws was to unburden people with the duty of voting. As democracy had failed, he would remain leader of the country indefinitely.

This was simply the first of many radical moves the Leader enacted to better society. He targeted crime by executing all the more notorious criminals and their families. He made it clear that it would not only be the criminal punished, but that their family would also suffer. Police were given greater powers to help prevent crime.

He demanded that the officials that he appointed were above corruption. He ensured this by giving these officials ample perks for their duties. Any that failed in this regard were sent to concentration camps.

Of course, having total power, he was above corruption himself. And with his power, he was able to allocate his governments money where it was most needed. He brought down unemployment rates by employing people to help improve the infrastructure of the country. Education was also important, and stressing the difficulties and problems of the past was always part of that education. After a year, crime rates had dropped dramatically and employment rates had risen.

Within five years, the country had flourished, the economy was strong and the people well off. Support for the Leader was stronger than ever. A healthy level of fear had effectively ended crime. People now had something far greater than the small liberty they had given up - they were happy and content...

They were a people united - with One Leader and One Voice.

Websites to check out... - A very funny website, one of my favourites. - Online encyclopedia. Way more interesting than it sounds! - Everything you need to know about movies & TV shows. - A bit hit and miss, but some good stuff here. - America's finest news source!

Obituary for Winston Marx, "Class Warrior"...

It is with great sadness that the family of Winston Marx announce his death.

For those who are unaware of this great man, a brief history of his life follows:

Winston Marx was born into relative poverty. His mother, Carla, was unmarried, and was thus a single mother struggling against a cruel world. She was greatly helped however, by her partner Lenny Vladmir, whom she never married. He worked as a labourer but as this was “cash in hand” employment, and thus declared himself as unemployed. It suited the family better this way, and besides, declaring oneself unemployed while still in gainful employment was something of a tradition in the neighbourhood where they lived.

As a child, Winston grew up despising the state for what he saw as a hugely inadequate level of support the government gave those who were socially disadvantaged. The grass appeared to be greener south of the border (the local river that divided the two communities).
Despite these feelings, or perhaps because of them, Winston worked hard and excelled at his local public school. Again, he noted the difference of facilities in his local, state sponsored school, and the private one that the other community had. However, thanks to the help of his dedicated teachers, these less luxurious surroundings did not stop Winston from doing exceptionally well in his final exams. His friends from the locality could not understand his need to do well. After all, once they had finished school, they intended to sign on like everyone else and begin to raise large, benefit generating families.

After the completion of his free education, Winston decided to move into politics, where he felt he could help the downtrodden from communities such as his. A true social activist, he founded a new party, the “Social Benefit” party, which would represent “the little people”.
The “Social Benefit” party became a huge success in his town, and other towns like his. They fought to ensure that people who did not wish to work still would receive state support, and not the “just enough” support that Winston’s family had received when he was a child.
After all, there were rich in the community that could surely be taxed a little more for the good of people with less money. What was it to them to give up some of their hard earned wealth to help those that just weren’t able or couldn’t be bothered?

The “Social Benefit” party’s image was often tarnished in the right wing controlled media however, who regularly exposed the fact that most of their elected representatives were former criminals and ex-cons. Also a vigilante group called the RIA had sprung up which was widely accepted to be controlled by the leadership of the “Social Benefit” party. Winston strongly disavowed any relation between the two groups but “understood what their issues were”. Winston often defended the RIA when they engaged in criminal activities such as bank robbery and kneecappings.

To list the aims of the “Social Benefit” party in full here would be against the point, but suffice to say they were in favour of high taxes for the rich, state controlled companies (for obvious reasons), and were reasonably left wing in all their views.

As an older man, Winston lost none of his zeal for the Socialist cause, and was often seen campaigning for it long after his retirement. Just prior to his death, the now ever growing “Social Benefit” party held a ceremony for him in which they declared him “a true Class Warrior”.

Winston Marx passed away peacefully in his local public hospital.

Old Man Halligans Dislikes...

Hmmm, where do I begin???

Not being with Clare, Sinn Fein, Labour, Finna Fail, Green Party, Socialist Party, any centre to left wing politics, boy bands, cider, shopping centres, shopping in general, commuting, soap operas, paying bills, boy bands, religious fanatics, Louis Walsh, urban jungles, all those channels on Sky that no one ever watches, Big Brother (the TV version), reality TV in general, the cult of celebrity, the fact that I still haven't won the lotto, boy bands, people who plagerise my blog / ideas (to be continued...).