I wanted to let you know that I will only be posting every second Monday from now on. I have to focus very hard on my latest novel and the real world tends to intrude as well so I don’t have to much time.
If you really want exclusive inside information on what I am working on, what is coming up, competitions freebies AND THREE FREE THRILLERS, then you need to sign up for the Lazlo Newsletter.
You will always find a page with the link to the Newsletter in the menu at the top of all my blog pages.
First of all, because this is a post which includes information about air warfare, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of victims from the terrible Shoreham Air Show crash on Saturday.
I am working hard on a new book. I don’t want to reveal the plot but I will give you a clue:
With all the tension between North Korea and South Korea at the moment, it’s sad for me to think that my father fought for the United Nations trying to push back the oppressive North Korean regime when it invaded the South in 1950. Lim Jong-un has taken over from his father now but sadly, the regime still starves its citizens and shakes its fist at other countries. Of course the conflict has a complex history and if you don’t know much about it, here is what wikipedia says about the Korean War:
The Korean War (in South Korean Hangul: 한국전쟁, Hanja: 韓國戰爭, Hanguk Jeonjaeng, “Korean War”; in North Korean Chosungul: 조국해방전쟁, Joguk Haebang Jeonjaeng, “Fatherland Liberation War”; 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953)[a] was a war between North and South Korea, in which a United Nations force led by the United States of America fought for the South, and China fought for the North, which was also assisted by the Soviet Union. The war arose from the division of Korea at the end of World War II and from the global tensions of the Cold War that developed immediately afterwards.
Here are some interesting facts about the Korean War (1950 – 1953):
The Korean War was the first military action of the Cold War.
There are still more than 7,000 U.S. soldier missing in action from the war.
Although the British Army was present on the ground, the RAF had no squadrons based in Korea. They did however suffer casualties because pilots exchanged with pilots from the United States Air Force (USAF) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), both having squadrons present.
The North Korean pilots flew many MiG-15s, generally reckoned to be the best jet fighter at the time. I outclassed by a large margin the RAF’s best jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, which may have been a reason the RAF did not want to send its squadrons there.
The RAAF did however send it’s own Meteors, making its pilots sitting ducks.
Even the USAF’s best fighter, the F-86 Sabre, was no match for the faster and more agile MiG-15 for the first year of the War. Later updates allowed the American fighter to deal with the Russian jet on a more equal basis.
The Russians denied they had their own pilots in Korea but it is highly likely that they did. None were ever take prisoner to prove this.
The MiG-15 used a copy of the Rolls Royce designed Nene engine. The British had give the Russians 25 Nene engines in 1946 as a political gesture of good will, believing it would take the Russians too long to copy the engine for them to be threat. The Russians tricked the British and worked out the secrets so fast that they had the MiG-15 flying within 2 years. It went on to be the most successful jet fighter of all time, thanks mainly to the British-designed engine, while the British never used the engine themselves in large numbers. Some MiG-15s are still in service today with the The Korean People’s Army Air Force (North Korean air force).
The Korean War took a heavy toll—up to a total of 5 million dead, wounded, or missing, and half of them civilians.
North Koreans who were born after the Korean War in the late 1950s are on average about 2 inches shorter than South Koreans.
During the Korean War, the South Korean government provided women for its troops. According to one account, the government standard of performance for such women was to service at least 29 men a day. Intercourse should not last longer 30 minutes so the prostitute could move on to other men and make the maximum daily profit. There is heated and ongoing debate about how much the U.S. military was involved in providing prostitutes for its men.
The U.S. Army used approximately 1,500 dogs during the Korean War and 4,000 in the Vietnam War.
There were 7,245 American POWs during the Korean War. Of these, 2,806 died while in captivity and 4,418 were eventually returned to military control. Twenty-one refused repatriation.
An estimated 86,300 Korean War veterans are women, making up 7% of the estimated number of all female veterans.
According to the 1990 Census, of the 4.9 million Korean War veterans in the U.S., 4.5 million (92%) were white; 339,400 (7%) were African American; 30,400 (less than 1%) were American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut; 39,300 (less than 1%) were Pacific Islander; and 35,000 were of other races. There were an estimated 133,500 Hispanic (who may be of any race) Korean War veterans.
The world’s first all-jet dogfight occurred ruing the Korean War on September 8, 1950.
The United States still keeps troops in South Korea in case North Korea ever attempts to invade again.
The capital of South Korea, Seoul, changed hands four times during the Korean War. It was first captured by the North Koreans on June 28, 1950, and then retaken by UN forces that September. The Chinese seized the city in January 1951, but gave it up two months later.
One of the most brutal battles of the Korean War was the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, fought from November 27 to December 13, 1950. What made it different from other fierce fighting was the intensely cold and bitter weather. Temperatures dropped to -54° F. One survivor of the battle designed a bumper sticker that read: “Once Upon a Time Hell Froze Over. We Were There.
Up until WW II, Korea had been one nation, known as the Korean Peninsula, and was part of Japan. After WW II, the winners of the war divided it into two countries. The Soviet Union took the northern half, and the U.S. took control of the southern half. It was divided at the 38th parallel.
In occupied areas of North Korea, the North Korean Army executed every educated person (such as those who held education, government, and religious positions) who could lead a resistance against North Korea.
There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.
In many ways this is the hardest post I have made about the 1960s and it has taken me a long time to decide to make it. Many writers have tried and failed to capture the magic and disillusionment of 60s music and I most surely must fail too. But that won’t stop me ‘taking a shot’ at it, as Americans like to say, or ‘having a ago’ as Brits like to say.
I am not just talking about something in remote history when I talk about music from that era; I actually remember music of the 1960s. The first song I remember is Puppet on a String, which of course won the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest (yes, we had it then too!) for Sandie Shaw. I would have been 5 but I well remember the catchy tune blasting out of BBC Radio 1 on our little, blue radio set in the kitchen, or in my bedroom when I was sick, which was often.
I also remember Windmill in Old Amsterdam (There was a mouse! Where? There on the Stair!) by Ronnie Hilton. This was a hit in 1965 so I may not actually remember hearing the original recording on the radio but my mum sang it to me a lot. I think she was trying to teach me to sing.
The first Beatles song I remember is Yellow Submarine; a hit in 1969. Somebody played it at my school during a break and almost all the children danced spontaneously to it in the playground. The strange thing is that we thought this song must have been ancient; around since the beginning of time. We put it in the same bracket as hymns, nursery rhymes and folk songs, something that people had sung since the dawn of time. I laugh now to think this but we also put Cat Stevens’ Morning has Broken in the same category, classing it as a hymn, would you believe?
I was often ill in my childhood so stuck at home and my mum would always put the radio by my bed at these times to keep me company. I listen to a lot of contemporary music, usually on Radio 1. Now you might think that listening to the radio would bring me a cornucopia of psychedelic songs from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Mamas and the Papas and so on. But you would be wrong.
First of all, Radio 1 was pretty conservative in what they broadcast and the mornings were usually divided up between Jimmy Young and Jimmy Saville. They played The Beatles, but stuck to the more traditional songs like Yesterday, Yellow Submarine, Help! and a few other of the older hits like From me To You. I don’t remember hearing any Rolling Stone except perhaps Satisfaction later in the 60s.
And I didn’t have access to Radio Caroline, the pirate radio station broadcast from a former light ship, moored in the English Channel and manned by such luminary figures as Emperor Rosko, Kenny Everett and Tony Blackburn.
In fact, I don’t think I could even get Radio Luxembourg in the Chiltern Hills, where we lived. Even some TV programmes would phase out in poor weather conditions. Twiddle as I might with the tuning knob on the radio, I remained stuck with Radio 1, 2 and 4, a few French stations and possibly the occasional bit of static from Germany and Russia.
But what I did get was a wealth of what I would call medium level Brit bands like The Small Faces, Steampacket (featuring a very young Rod Stewart), Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich (Bend It was played a lot on Radio One), Mary Hopkin. I was also subjected to a welter of novelty records by people like Max Bygraves, Benny Hill, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and Peter Sellers, but the less said about them the better! Incidentally, the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the name of the main character in my book, The Ice Boat, among the list of acts above.
These bands were unashamedly British and flaunted it, often regressing into a kind of Cockney utopian vision as their careers progressed. This may have been in imitation of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper, which was a paean to Englishness if ever there was one. But while Sergeant Pepper sounded almost triumphant, combining as it did Englishness with a hunger for a global culture, other bands would find this road harder and end up becoming more inward looking.
A good example is The Small Faces, hence my choice of image for the head of this post. Itchycoo Park was catchy and the writers even now claim they attempted some kind of commentary on the extreme trajectory of hippy culture with it. This drug-fueled culture pervaded everything in England at the time; even my father, who was a conservative voter, wore flared trousers. So you would have thought this song would be refreshing. It was certainly catchy and I remember it being only second to I’d like to Teach the World To Sing for the frequency with which it was played.
But the problem was that the producers of the record had gone for a ‘light’ feel. It sounded so upbeat that you couldn’t possibly see it as anything other than a catchy ditty. The Small Faces‘ Lazy Sunday was even worse, featuring the feigned Cockney accent which Steve Marriot began to use so heavily. I’m sorry to say that many lead singers in the 1960s used the Cockney accent to show how British they were. It probably wasn’t their fault; few bands would have had as much control over their music as the Beatles and most would have been forced to go for the common denominator, which turned out to be light, breezy songs which neither threatened or challenged anyone. Later the Cockney accent would be used by Bowie to better effect but that’s another story.
The Small Faces album really entered the realm of mystical Englishness with their album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. Take a look at the cover opposite!
It’s almost as if they are trying to contact, through the medium of music, some spirit of bygone Englishness. And you find a lot of bands doing this. Whether they were pining for better days – going through some valedictory last hoorah! – I don’t know but things certainly seemed to implode. There was no widespread embracing of different cultures from abroad, no quest for the global village. This came only from The Beatles and a a few other very select bands. Instead, on Radio 1, which I guess most people were forced to listen to, just like me, we had a headlong dive back to essential, conservative Englishness which led us into the more insular and sombre 70s.
So what did we have at the peak of the 60s explosion of music? Well forget Hendrix! I didn’t even know about his existence until I was in my late teens, and my dad listened to Santana, Osibisa and Gong in the late 60s, so he was no slouch in musical taste! No, even he hadn’t heard of Jimi Hendrix. Instead we had a paper-thin serving of art in our music. It was almost like a papier mâché utopia, a cardboard Heaven that could be cut through by the pre-pubescent mind of any 5-year old. Indeed, as a 5 year old in 1967, I often felt the music was too childish for me! I tended to seek out classical music quite often as a respite – yes I even turned the dial surreptitiously to Radio 4.
In short, what most of us were subjected to, day in, day out, in the music on Radio 1 was a kind of artistic, cardboard world. I wouldn’t call it a mediocre world, for that word would be too harsh. But it certainly was one that could be knocked down or seen through by any over-curious child, or could be dissembled just as easily and reassembled somewhere else on Earth where it might be wanted. But it never was.
What are your memories of the 1960s? Leave a comment below.
Aaaages ago, I wrote a post to you guys telling you that I had been asked to write an article for REglam magazine.
Well a lot has changed since then. I’m now much more involved with the company and I’ve been starting to take over the PR & Communications side over the past week.
REglam is a fashion magazine which helps to promote positive body image, with roots in the health, fashion and eating disorder communities. It’s almost brand new and lots of exciting things are being planned right now for its near future so it’s a great thing to check out.
My thoughts have been building on this for a while and this may be little more than a rant but I want to put my ideas up for discussion.
Let me paint you three pictures:
1. I recently had to scrap my 1995 BMW 3 series car. I had always serviced it at a BMW dealer, often paying more than £1000 per year on things like new suspension, brakes, etc and the thing was as well-maintained as a 20 year old car can be. And yet its market value was less than the price of a replacement bonnet! I had bumped into a van which had high bumpers and these had pushed in the grill, thus bending the bonnet. The lights also needed realigning and possibly the grill needed replacing but the damage was minimal. Think of all the complexity of a car like that, a system that tells you when it needs servicing, air-bags, h-plane adjustable seats, sun-roof, electric windows and a beautifully reliable and powerful engine. And yet its total value was less than a basic piece of pressed steel which probably cost all of £20 to make. Luckily, because my car had been well-maintained I got an offer near the maximum for a car of that age but if it had been tatty it could have been worth only £150 or even less. What a waste of metal and technology! What a wasteful society we live in! That car could have run for another 20 years with a new bonnet.
2. Tesco recently stopped doing their old line of reusable shopping bags and replaced them with a new one that has much thinner plastic and handles that are poorly bonded to the main bag. They probably saved a few pence on each one and so make a slightly bigger profit, but the new ones cannot hold as much shopping. The first three times I used them, one of my bags broke each time on the way home, dumping my shopping on the ground. Because I have OCD, this meant throwing most of it away. I wasn’t happy. All in the name of a few pennies more for them and about £5 less for me! I complained but they just told me to buy more bags, which is what I have had to do. But this also goes against the idea of cutting down on our consumption of bags, doesn’t it? Where has Tesco’s sustainability initiative gone now?
3. I recently had to buy a plastic bin for my kitchen. It needed to be a certain size because my kitchen has limited space so I researched a lot of bins! They were all different prices, from £6 (about $8) upward, but imagine my horror when I saw one for about £420! I couldn’t believe it. There wasn’t even anything special about it; plastic, slightly smaller than a wheelie bin. But it was marketed as a ‘Local Council bin.’ I have no doubt they are hoping some councils will find an excuse to buy the most expensive bin and it reminds me of rumours in the 80s of Nasa buying screws for $1000 and hammers for $10000 from unscrupulous companies, aware of the giant government budgets available. However, the effect in the bin market is to push up the price of all bins. There were many over £150. How could anyone afford these? What happens if bin manufacturers slowly phase out smaller bins in favour of bigger, more expensive ones. People will have no choice but to buy.
These three examples show free market capitalism out of control. Instead of supply and demand, you have the suppliers making the demands!
So what is the answer. Well, recently, with the growth of social media, and in particular Facebook, there has been a lot of talk about Social Capitalism. Here is it’s definition according to Wikipidia
In sociology, social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups.
This is definitely not what I advocate. It sounds like the sort of economy that creeps up on your or at least sits underneath the regulated economy. While I see the value of social interaction and that social networks can increase productivity, taking this route alone will not address the problems I see for us.
I believe in a regulated economy. Yes, I believe in government intervention. I believe that the cost of physical products should be matched against what the consumer can afford. No longer should we have people forced to pay high prices for products they can’t afford; fridges, cookers, cars.
I think the way forward is a derivative of the Social Market Economy.
A Social Market Economy is basically what sort of economy Germany runs, hence the picture of Angela Merkel. Here is the definition of a Social Market Ecomomy:
The social market economy is a form of market capitalism combined with a social policy favoring social insurance, and is sometimes classified as a coordinated market economy.
Nobody can doubt the impressive success of the German economy. The country has become the powerhouse of Europe, its citizens live in luxury (on the whole) and it has done it all by removing barriers to trade, a typical intervention by state.
And I would like to go further. I would like to see an income figure assessed each year for a low earner and medium earner (we can assume there will always be high income earners and that they will want luxury goods).
Then I would like to see a list made of everything a typical individual, couple or family might have to buy each year to achieve a happy lifestyle. The happy lifestyle cost would need to be independently assessed, but would include things like holidays, bins, clothes and even a car.
One would arrive at a figure for the total cost, and I have no doubt, at the moment this would be way beyond the reach of a low income earner.
The cost would probably be within the reach of a medium income earner and that is fine.
The Government would then regulate the prices to bring the total cost within reach of a low earner. More expensive items could be allowed for medium income earners but the manufacturer would have to pay a small tax on their income to produce these products.
Of course high income earners are going to want luxury items, well beyond the means of low income earners. If a company chooses to make these (Rolls Royce would be a good example) they would have to pay a large tax on their income.
I am quite sure the happiness rating for the UK would go up as a result!
And look out for the deluxe, illustrated edition soon!
Get all 3 books: Too Bright the Sun, Unknown Place, Unknown Universe and Worlds Like Dust together for the price-busting $8.99!! making a saving of nearly of nearly $4!!
Too Bright the Sun A man hell-bent on revenge for the death of his friend, in battle!
Seeking revenge for the death of a friend ten long years ago, Major Jake Nanden has pursued his own personal demons with an almost religious fervour through life and through battle.
He is a soldier so highly decorated for bravery that his fame reaches far beyond the desolate Jupiter moon, Io, where his battalion is stationed. His victories in the Jupiter Wars are hollow though, for he is a man scared of his own soul.
His life seems to be a trap from which he cannot escape. His is the Replicant Company, and replicants, or clones, are despised by all.
Follow the life of Jake and his son, Stone, as they battle to save Earth from the Ischian alien invaders.
Unknown Place, Unknown Universe
Three rookie space cadets crash on an unknown planet with aliens hot on their tail!
While a dissident alien scientist struggles to control time, he discovers that his wife will betray him. His favourite student discovers a way to see into the past but find himself surrounded by enemies in a complex, fragmenting culture.
Meanwhile, Stone, douchebag son of Iron Cross winner Jake Nanden, a nerd and a feminist from the Space Fleet Academy crash-land on an unknown planet after falling through a worm-hole in this gripping and visionary science fiction thriller.
Called Anubians by humans, the jackal-headed aliens are now revealed as Ischians but they are hiding something on this unknown planet in an unknown universe.
Stone’s world is shattered while he tries to escape and warn Earth of danger.
Worlds Like Dust
Domes now cover Earth’s big cities and soon a force field will trap Earth inside!
The jackal-headed Ischians are here! When General Jake Nanden retired from the USAC, he could never have guessed that his greatest battle was still to come.
Since then, he has joined a spiritual cult called the Blue Path, trying to establish communication with a few peaceful Ischians.
But now his world has been torn apart; his wife and youngest son have been killed, probably his eldest too and the Los Angeles and Washington citizens sweat it out under inescapable alien domes.
His son, Stone, warned him of the invasion and he joined up with Gary Enquine to form a rudimentary resistance network.
Now, they must find a way to rise up and defeat the conquerors of Earth! Nanden must escape and unite the remaining human and clone forces, scattered across the Solar System.
Don’t forget, the deluxe, illustrated edition is coming soon!