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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 130: June 2005

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

100 uses for tofu containers
You probably thought I was not serious if you read in last month's Colm the proposal to cover 100 Uses for Tofu Containers. But I am. Well, not a hundred different use but a hundred nevertheless, well, one use for a hundred containers really. [What a cop out or come down - Ed] Firstly, it has not come to our attention that some people may not know what a tofu container is, but I'll tell you anyway It's a plastic tray, with slightly sloping sides, measuring about 20 x 15 cms and the sides about 5 cms height. Fresh tofu is sold in it (not to be confused with long life cartons of tofu).

The use? Seed and indoor herb trays. Simply take two tofu containers, pierce the bottom of one several times with a sharp round object (as in a bradawl) to allow for drainage, fill with potting compost and place it inside another, whole tray. This means that if you over-water the tray you can easily drain it off and it's easier to check whether you have watered it enough. This size of tray I find much more flexible for normal horticultural use in a 'normal' household than the larger trays you get in garden centres. And they are perfect for growing basil on a window sill right around the year. Nothing could be simpler. And if you're looking for some and don't have any, well I just might be able to spare a few (dozen).....

I confess that I have reverted to peat-based potting compost again for indoor use after trying to use peat-free for two springs in a row. The make I was using was a reputable brand but the results were totally rubbish - the garden centre where I buy told me subsequently that peat-free composts had rated very poorly in tests. I start a lot of seedlings indoors and my seeds sprouted all right, grew a little bit, and then sat there - the roots did get inordinately long, presumably the plant searching for food. I don't know if the problem is whether the milling process for the peat-free compost leaves a very coarse mixture which leaves seedlings and plants unable to take up any added nutrition/fertiliser. Anyhow, transferring my weak seedlings to a peat multi-purpose mixture allowed them to recover and grow. But I felt sad that no, I wasn't being a good custodian of Ireland's bogland. I hope they are able to get their peat-free compost act together soon.

I hasten to add that outside, if it's for mulching or other purposes, I would continue to use peat-free composts if buying any. It's for indoor growing when you need a sterile medium for seeds that's the issue. I do compost any plant and vegetable material that I possibly can but that is not suitable for indoor use with all manner of wildlife present (mainly worms, I am pleased to say).

Terms of endearment
I wrote last time about the skills of a travelling salesman. I thought I would give you a list this time of some of the terms beloved of advertisers [well, it is a while since we had one of your Liszts so we can't complain too much - Ed]. Here is your handy cut-out-and-keep guide (WARNING: don't take the scissors to your computer!) to some everyday terms you may encounter in the privacy of your own home thanks to advertising in the media or anywhere outside, be it billboards, buses, shops or on anything you pick up or handle. Here is what these terms really mean -

Natural/natural ingredients: We have not used any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in the production of this product. As to whether the actual ingredients/components, or combination of ingredients/components, are actually safe, well, we obviously can't say because then you wouldn't buy our product.

Original: We are either one of the original imitators or we have been making this product for so long (at least a few weeks) that it feels original. It is original to us, we have produced some rubbish in our time but never made anything quite as rubbishy as this before.
Unique: as Original except our product has special toxic qualities no one else has been able to emulate.

Enhanced/now even better: This product may be really rubbish now but the one you were buying previously - it was really really rubbish. Oh, and the effect on the environment is now enhanced, it's much worse for the environment.

Farm: A food production unit (factory, battery unit etc) situated vaguely in the countryside or what was once the countryside before we spoiled it.

Fresh: It was fresh when we produced it, it would pretty much have to be by definition, wouldn't it, but that was a long time ago.

Biological: A cunning term we use to confuse people with the word used in some other languages for 'organic'. And it sounds good. In the case of washing powder it just means it's more destructive of the environment.
Farm Fresh: Combination of 'Farm' and 'Fresh' above.

Ingredients: What we are legally obliged to tell you about what is in our product. Of course this is all written in such tiny writing and obtuse terminology ('aqua' for water) that even if you want to check your toothpaste hasn't got poisonous Tricoslan in it, it's going to be damned hard for you to find out. If you're that worried, why didn't you bring your magnifying glass and your dictionary of chemicals?

Reassuringly expensive: We're really putting the boot into consumers with this price which is designed to make people think it's a quality product when in fact most of the cost is made up of advertising to make people think it's a quality product.

Luxurious: We also export it to Luxor in Egypt. And we are trying to get rich selling it so we can live in luxury.

You can't do without it: Why haven't you already bought our product, you mean, ungrateful wretch? Buy it or we'll get you.

As seen on TV: Well, maybe it was a shopping channel, and if it wasn't then you're still paying a lot extra for either a) the promotion and freebies to get it on TV, or b) the advertising.

Specially made for you: We have made this product specially for you, as for every other inhabitant of the known universe. We don't mind who we make our money off.

On sale: Come and buy more than you need so that our profits still increase.

Dermatologically tested: Dermatologically tested, only we're not going to tell you how or what the results are. Insofar as it was tested on humans we can guarantee that no one whose skin it was tested on was immediately rushed to their nearest Accident and Emergency unit. As to the longer term effects, well, who can tell? Oh, and it may have been tested in the eyes of rabbits.

Lifetime guarantee: The product's lifetime, not yours. It lasts as long as it lasts. And even if it did mean your lifetime then either a) we'll have gone out of business way before then, or b) you'll never find us, or c) returning the defective product to China, where we will have relocated, will be more expensive than buying a new one.

Optional extended warranty: Selling the product isn't making us rich fast enough. You can pay through the nose for 'peace of mind' when paying directly for repair or replacement is almost certain to be a better deal. Our insurance department is adding to our profits.

Our no nonsense approach: We won't stand for any nonsense. So buy now or get lost.

Buy now while stocks last: We can't give it away, we're getting desperate.

Special opening offer: You're certainly not going to want to buy this without a specially reduced price.

New packaging: Even less inside for your money.

Quality at a price you can afford: Rubbish at a price you can't afford.

Here's to Lisa Kalvelage
Been listening to the double CD album "Where Have All The Flowers Gone - The Songs of Pete Seeger" (Appleseed, 1998), songs written by or associated with Pete Seeger and sung by a wide variety of artists. It begins with the title track sung by Tommy Sands with Dolores Keane and Vedran Smailovic - a brilliant version a number of you locally and elsewhere may be familiar with. It's all a collection of songs from one of the twentieth century's best English-language singer songwriters. Obviously with a collection like this you'll like some more than others as there are a wide variety of styles within a broadly folk idiom, apart from the variety of content in the lyrics.

But there is one song I wanted to talk about here - 'My name is Lisa Kalvelage', a very powerful song from the time of the Vietnam war, performed by Ani Difranco, and based on events from 1965. Lisa Kalvelage speaks in the song, as she did in court at the time, about an action which she and two other women took in blocking a shipment of napalm going to Vietnam to horrifically burn the people there. She had been born in Nuremberg (Germany, as in Trials) and was a girl, 'at most a teenager in the years Hitler ruled our state'.

As a potential G.I. bride sometime after the war, she was interviewed by a US consular official before being permitted to join her potential husband in the States. Initially she was refused permission to emigrate because the official wasn't convinced that she had learnt her lessons about responsibility for the things which had been done by the Nazi state. Eventually she was allowed to go to the US. But all this had forced her to think, and to accept responsibility. In the States she was frequently asked about her involvement in Nazi era Germany, and where were her mother and father at the time. Being accused of mass guilt once was enough in one lifetime, when there were crimes that she could see and know, so she took action. She couldn't take it a second time, which is why she ended up in the dock. Her children would not need to be silent when asked "Where was your mother when......"

This is all a very powerful statement and a reminder that liberators can become oppressors and, at a personal level, the power of human responses to violence.

Lisa Kalvelage herself is now elderly and lives in California. Although I like the song very much, some of the words/lyrics are difficult to get in Ani Difranco's version but they are available in writing if you do a web search.

The elect
Some Christians have the concept of 'the elect', those saved souls who are destined or predestined to eternal salvation. Another group of 'the elect' are those who were elected in both the recent elections for the Westminster Parliament and local councils in Norn Iron. For some successful candidates who expressed immediate thanks to the deity for their election, the two concepts seemed to fuse together, as in the elect getting elected. But presumably not everyone who considered themselves a member of the elect got elected. So perhaps you could say only the select elect got elected. [Stop it - Ed]. But then some gave a thank-the-returning-officer-and-knife-your-opponents lecture as their victory speech which you might say was a lecture from the select elect elected.

With some exceptions the main interest in Norn Iron elections is who fares how within each 'side'. Occasionally someone sneaks a fast one, so to speak, as in Alisdair McDonnell becoming an SDLP gain at Westminster for South Belfast, coming up on the back rail with the unionist vote split between DUP and UUP candidates (each of whom declared they were the only unionist who could hold the seat for unionism.....). Living in the electoral ward which includes Short Strand in Belfast it was going to be particularly interesting to see what happened to the Sinn Féin vote there in the light of the McCartney murder, and in the event it was lost with Alliance picking up a local seat. But what was fascinating at this very local level was that our house only received canvassers twice at its doors - and both were from Sinn Féin in what is basically a mixed middle class part of the area; they were working desperately hard to retain the seat but it didn't work.

Alliance complained bitterly about dirty tricks in some areas with leaflets in Alliance colours calling on people to 'lend' their votes to the UUP (said leaflets were linked to printers who do UUP printing). One place where Alliance voters did 'lend their votes' in some numbers was North Down where they helped Sylvia Hermon to retain the one Westminister UUP seat. The Alliance candidate in the area, David Alderdice, even humorously thanked Alliance voters after the count, "some of whom even voted for me" he said.

At times in the lead up to the election it looked like the UUP was so desperate it was trying to outdo the DUP with statements and leaflets which could be inflammatory. And one aspect that probably backfired was its widespread poster indicating that "Decent People Vote.....Ulster Unionist Party". Well, undoubtedly some decent people do but the use of the term 'decent' raises questions as to whether all decent people vote UUP and if you don't vote UUP you're indecent or not decent or some such. It rightly got a bit of an outcry from unionists of different shades, decent people that they are.

There weren't a lot of silver linings in all this. One was perhaps the election of 3 Green Party councillors. And the non-sectarian middle-of-the-road (where people get knocked over) Alliance Party held up quite well at local level but at 5% overall it can only have a significant role in some places. However the link between religious-cultural identity and political allegiance is at least as strong as ever. C'est la vie-sign, as they say. When those two sides are going to deal remains to be seen but bets should be in years rather than weeks or months. However expecting the unexpected should always be a rule of thumb for Norn Iron.

- - - -

Well, summer is a-coming in, I'm pleased to say only another month or so to the Twelfth when Norn Iron shuts up shop and the pace gets easier, the Republic takes a bit longer to slow down. If it's long and hot I hope that's the weather and not the politics and violence. And if you're involved in debt protests and/or the G8-related gatherings in Edinburgh or Gleneagles, have a Gr8 time [I already used that pun - Ed]. Anyway, I'll see you again at the start of July, aye, so until then, yours, Billy.

Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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