30 November 2006

Robot Clones of the World! Fight the Educational Oppressors!

What is one of the best things about being an adult? No longer having to prove yourself with exams. You can go your entire life, if you so choose, without having to meet anyone elses criteria of "good". As long as you're happy with you good you are, then why bother; I'm Number 1, so whay try harder? This, of course, is another of those bags of mess I keep mentioning, of which I have loads round the back of The Palace; must have a clean up before Christmas.

So, what is the goal of the education system? Are we trying to develop well-rounded young adults with a range of skills and interests, or are we simply cranking the handle on the robot machine to create more clones?

I feel it's the latter, as industry has long been bemoaning the skills of the graduates our higher education institutions are disgorging. So, what is the point of increasing A-level difficulty? All it means is that students will now have to spend more time studying to reach the levels required to gain entry to their university of choice, only for it to vomit them, unemployable, into the job market where their narrow skill set makes them of little value to businesses?

The government has been trying to get more people into University for a while now, but, from the linked reports, it sounds like Universities are struggling to sort the wheat from the chaff as it is. Another case of lack of communication between the Government and the Real World.

Learning is a life's work. School, while merely the first step on the path, is the most important, as it should provide the foundations on which a lifetime of knowledge is based. Forcing people to "specialise" in passing exams is the equivalent of building the house on the sandy shore.

Raising the "A" level pass criteria will result in less well-rounded and less-employable graduates, not the reverse.

29 November 2006

The Movies: All Filler No Killer (Except Bond)

Being a parent and somewhat lazy / unorganised, I frequented a moving picture establishment for the first time in several months yesterday to view Mr Campbell's presentation of Mr Flemings Bond, James Bond in a Casino. Which I thought was excellent by the way. Blond James Blond is also very good.

Much has been made of the blatant product placement in the film, but I found it considerably less of a burden to bear than the half an hour of crap I had to sit through in order to have Sony Vaios and Sony Ericsson phones waved at me for two and a bit hours.

Now, half an hour may not sound like much to those of you in the world where they transmit messages from their sponsors every two seconds because they know you can't focus on the feature presentation without going to the bathroom every five minutes, or to nip outside for a smoke and a pancake.

But as someone who paid good money to watch Mr Bond chase Msr Parkour through a building site, I didn't expect a poundsworth of that to be adverts. I'd rather stroll in after half and hour and pay a quid less. Maybe when I'm retired and reach the "I don't give a shit what you think, I'm old" stage, I will.

There was the usual "turn off your phone" message, except its now three, infommercial-grade mini-series. The Chanel No5 ad with Nicole Kidman had fucking credits! Baz Luhrmann needs to take his head out of his arse. There was even a tourism advert exhorting people to visit precisely the country in which we were viewing said ad.

In amongst all this... my vocabulary fails me at this point... shit, there was one trailer. So, evidently, people who watch James Bond may only be interested in romantic comedies featuring actors fighting for promotion to or against relegation from the A List.

So, out of nearly three hours, I had only two and a bit of the stuff I had paid for. It occurred to me that this was the Sausage Situation in movie format. Pork Sausage Panavision. Meat vs Rusk - Now In Technicolour. The BBFC should introduce an edict; any cinema showing more than 15% by length of cinematic cereal and gristle will not be able to advertise their presentations as films / movies.

They'll have to come up with some name that identifies them as not having the required percentage of actual content. So, alongside U, PG and all the ages between 1 and 100, there should be an "G" rating: G for Gristle.

You wouldn't stand for it if you went to dinner and they made you eat a plate of stuff they scooped out of the bins. Can we expect our dinner plates to bear sponsor logs? When you polish off your Virgin Curry (religious-themed entity forbid), will Richard Branson's bewhiskered mug be beaming out at you twixt poppadom and corriander1?

I guess this is a rant peculiar to those of us who are not rabid consumers. I rarely buy anything beyond basic sustenance, therefore the wiles of advertising are lost on me. I can't even recall any of the things that were advertised. Thirty Minutes of my life sitting in the dark watching visual filler intended to alter my habits.

We're a set of eyelid retractors away from A Clockwork Orange, people!

1 This would mean you could stab him, or smash him.

27 November 2006

Them: We're sorry about Slavery. Us: WE DON'T CARE!!!

I've mentioned this in the past, but I really don't think public apologies are worth the hot air.

Getting Tony Blair to apologise for slavery is Stupid Full Stop Capital Letter, even before we get to the "saying sorry to The World" part. Hell, even the woman who says that all countries involved in slavery should apologies says that "words mean nothing". Reading the big, bold, capital letters between the lines, she wants cash and plenty of it. This has, of course, been tried before. Namibia wanted Germany to cough up some Euros for some genocide during an uprising when it was a colony, which I'll bet they never did.

The Church has voted to apologise, but therein lie discrepancies;
1. Since when was religion a democracy? Maybe in the same way as the United Federation of Planets. When it's fictional, it can be anything you want...
2. If they're apologising for slavery, then can we expect apologies for Rape, Pillage, Murder, Genocide, Slavery and all the other shit they've got away with over the centuries.
But let's not get me going on religion again...

So, does anyone REALLY care that no-one apologies for things that happened so long ago? The only thing I can think of is to keep the memory of the act alive and highlight the evil nature of it, that it may never be repeated. If this is the case, then Job Done. We already know that Rape, Pillage, etc are Bad. Does saying "sorry" really make absolutes any more absolute?

So, we apparently expect people to say sorry for things that happened a few hundred years ago? So what about apologies for all the wars in those years? If Saddam was made to say sorry, would the peoples of Iraq really give two shits either way? In the future, are the United Nations of Earth going to have to apologise to the Galactic Alien Horde for Neil Armstrong walking on the moon because the US didn't know it was a graveyard for the WJKRTREK people?

This is all about people wanting to make money out of someone's suffering, it's just that the "people" are the same people as the "someone". Anyway, let us not forget that this is The Real World. If Pirates still exist, then you can be damn sure that Slavery still does. You want someone to say sorry; catch some slavers and make THEM sorry.

The slavery they want an apology for happened beyond living memory, so to whom are we apologising? Descendants; people several generations removed from the act itself. People who are now probably all living in the First World somewhere with access to education and healthcare and flushing toilets. So, we'll say sorry if you're happy to put aside the world into which you were so unfairly thrust (purely by dint of procreation) and return to the nomadic, hunter-gatherer existence of your forefathers? No? You do surprise me.

02 November 2006

Life Isn't Fair

We know this. We've been told this so many times, we're sick of it. Time and time again, RocketBootDad has, in response to my cries of "That's not fair!", said "Life isn't fair." But why? Is there any reason why it can't be fair?

When you think about it, what we're actually doing is telling our kids, from an early age, that Justice is flawed, that the concepts of Right and Wrong are completely pointless and that what it boils down to is what you can get away with, and what you can't; Risk vs Reward.

Before children are beaten with The "Life Isn't Fair" Stick to the point where Hope, Justice and Possibility lie Shattered beneath the Iron Jackboot of Cynicism, they ask The Right Question. Which is? Why.

There is a stage where a child will ask of its parent "Why?", to which the parent will inevitably give some hastily fabricated web of nonsense. Undeflected, the child persists and eventually the exasperated parent roars "Because it just IS!!!!!!!". Now, as I constantly find myself telling RocketBootKidKid, that's not a real reason.

"Because it is" is the universal excuse given by all The Worlds adults to their offspring for the shit they're going to inherit. Now, we rationalise this by saying that we want to protect them from the harsh realities of life. But my point is really; why do they need protected? Do there have to be any harsh realities?

To everyone whose brain has just gone "Yes", I will say "Why?", and then I'll say "My point exactly!" Is there some genetic or biological or cosmological or any-ological reason why we can't sort all the things which we rationalise by saying "Life isn't fair"? I think we should all be able look at things and ask "Why?", without our brain automatically answering "Because it just is."

Because if we can't, I fear it may be the death of us.

18 October 2006

On the Sixth Day, he panicked...

What follows is a dramatic reconstruction of the events that happened in Heaven, on Day 6 of the Great Universe Build-off. God has just finished watching Match of The Day and is just finishing off a few odds and ends...

Right, what's left to do? Oo, Korea. Right, there's Korea, bit more of a bend in it...there! Right, stick it onto China.....rrrr, come on! Right, it's hammer time! {BANG-BANG-BANG-SNAP!} Bugger. OK, North Korea and South Korea. That's OK. Need to stick them together; there's too many islands as it is, especially after I dropped Canada onto Greece. Shit, no glue left. What do we have? Oh well, landmines it is then. There...

Geologic faults. Best close my eyes for this one. {THUD-CRACK!} There! Wo, what are the chances. Those cities aren't going to last long. Mind you, that may sort out the moral fibre issues. Thursday afternoon was not great.

Next...North Africa. I've wasted enough time on this already; I just can't decide what to put there. Hmmm, all out of trees but I do have a big load of sand left. But every other land at that latitude is pretty green; it'll look shoddy. Oh well, desert it is {SAND}.

Err... Greenland. I'll just cover that in snow and ice {SNOW & ICE}; that'll keep them guessing. And I'll give it to.....this tiny flat country down with the guys with the pointy helmets. Give them somewhere to row to. Hope what's left of Canada isn't too much of a mess. I'll just make it really cold like Greenland and no-one will go there.

Right, still lots of odds and ends in the animals parts bin. We have.....duck feet and bills.....dolphin tails....pouches.....a shitload of little furry bodies.....hippo faces.....long bones.....long spiral horns. Throw them in the air, where they land...{TOSS-SPLAT!}..huh! That...sorta works. A little rabbit-thing with duck bits and pockets. I'll just put them down the bottom; maybe no-one will notice. Oops, the horns fell onto those whales.....dude, cool!

OK, a few minutes left. Let's put some brown people over here in the white country and some white people in the brown country and we'll just see who lasts longest. Just make sure that all the hotel room bedside tables have Bibles in them....Good.

Right, last but not least, the piece de resistance, Tolerance, Wisdom, Restraint, Respect; my finest creations. Without them, this world will be Hel...{BEEPETY-BEEP}..What's that beeping? Oh shit, it's Midnight! It's Sunday! Fuck! The whole week out the window. Oh, Man!, these guys are so screwed!

Don't underestimate the Commies!

The Red Peril is alive and well! And I'm not talking about the threat of nuclear annihilation from the East (or West, depending on where you live and about whom you think I'm talking). Some people might pour scorn on the ability of a communist country these days to field a workable nuclear arsenal. I am in no doubt, and I'll tell you why.

Communists do processions like no one else. No one can get several thousand people to stand in big square, all wearing grey, wearing hats, waving The Little Red Book, chanting the same mantra and making sure they know the words quite like a Communist country. I bet we couldn't do that in a Democracy (if such a thing exists). We couldn't get several hundred thousand people to turn up in one place at the same time, wearing the same stuff, all with the same gear and all knowing the same words3.

Firstly, all you need is for one person to say "Make me!" and you're buggered. "Aww, we're not allowed to make you, it's a democracy! You have to want to stand outside looking and sounding like everyone else."

Next up, there is not one universal garment we all own. So, assuming we'd turn up at all, it would look shoddy, not nice and neat like a Communist parade. That's the problem; give people a choice and they'll all buy different stuff, which ruins the effect at mass rallies to praise the dear leader.

There is also the critical mass of people to consider. Put one hundred thousand Communists in a square and they'll happily wave Little Red Flags all day because they're not having to work twenty hours down t' pit, or being shot. Put one hundred thousand capitalists in a square and tell them to wave a flag and it'll kick off within thirty seconds.

It's a logistics problem. Over here there would be problems at the Little Blue Flag factory and arguments in the tabloid press about the exact wording of the Party Song and the precise breakdown of minorities in the civilian ranks and how to make everyone look uniform when they aren't. A democratic government just couldn't put on as good a procession as communist one. There just aren't words in North Korean for "health and safety" or "liability".

So, checklist for really kick-ass parade;
1. Hundreds of thousands of civilians, wearing the same clothes, waving the same flag, moving and singing the same song in unison,
2. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, goose-stepping really fast in unison,
3. Several Hundred gun-metal grey-green battle tanks1 trundling alongside, their gun barrels elevated just so,
4. Fly past of Eighties-vintage ex-Soviet gun-metal grey-green fighter-bombers strewn with missiles2.
5. Vast parade ground surrounded by monolithic state departments strewn with vast nationalistic flags.
6. Last, and most importantly, a balding, bespectacled pervert alcoholic, with the power to kill everyone who doesn't wave in unison or know the words, to wave and smile.

All in all, if there was a World Championships for processions, and Communist countries attended, they would kick Yankee imperialist ass. And if they can out-procession us, who knows what else they can do...

1 Is there another kind of tank? "Where's the ICBM?" "Over there behind the Notting Hill Carnival Peace and Love Tank."
2 Why do Communist missiles always have twice as many fins on them than Democratic missiles? They do. You see them on the news; you can barely see the missile for fins. Maybe there's a permanent shortage at the missile factory, while fin production proceeds on schedule, so they think "Fuck it, just stick them all on."
3 The closest you'd get would be the final of the World Cup, but there would always be at least two colours and two versions of the words.

16 October 2006

Veiled Threat?

I don't pretend to understand why some Muslin women wear veils and to be perfectly honest I don't want to. I find that if things have to be explained to me then I'm not going to understand the reasoning. Any reason I am given, though no doubt logical and obvious to the person giving it, will not necessarily make me go "Ahhhh, I see. Well, that's OK then."

All I need to do to is accept that, for whatever reason, some people in this country choose to wear a different style of dress to me1. Why should Muslim women wearing a veil be any different to a youth wearing a hooded top? Why should either of these groups be any more dangerous than someone whose face is unobscured?

The only reason the discussion about veils and hooded tops is even an issue is because of the scare tactics we've borrowed from the Americans. If you can't identify someone, you can't track their movements. The quote I keep coming back to is "You can make people do anything if they're scared enough". To be honest, when it comes to obscuring identity, I'm considerably more worried about the ne'er-do-wells who don't care if you see their face.

What's the next step? Banning all loose fitting garments; overcoats, skirts, jackets, because you could be hiding a bomb? Banning clothing altogether because it is possible to incorporate explosives into the garment? Will there come a time where we are all forced to wear government-mandated unitards, colour-coded to identify our race? There's a fucking scary thought... What about facial hair? Will you be forced to shave every day because you can hide your true appearance under a beard?

Surely veils and such like can be classed as National dress? Are they going to ban all forms of national dress just because of the connotations? They banned kilts back in the day, so I wouldn't put it past them. It comes down to what we associate clothes with. Tie = office worker, Jeans / No belt = construction worker, wetsuit = Tory MP, etc. All this bollocks does is forever link the veil / burka / etc with the idea of female suicide bombers.

The veils thing is all window-dressing anyway; it's just fog obscuring The Real Issue; that which is really at stake here. Society. The notion of different peoples living togther in peace, sharing their culture and ideas. Britain The Island is historically anti this sort of thing, because in the past, cultural exchange meant dropping bombs on each other. The fear of foreign influence is so ingrained it will not go away overnight.

The solution? Accept it. Accept that we don't understand, accept that different is not necessarily bad, accept that it will take time, accept that not everyone means you harm, accept the new blood into our Society and realise that we are stronger because of it. Take action. Do nothing.

1 Being a Scot, I am accustomed to wearing "a different style of dress", not that the kilt is a dress, you understand...

05 October 2006

Talks: All mouth and no exploding trousers.

Talks. Only politicians and diplomats can have Talks. Everyone else has conversations, chats, arguments, gossips, you name it, they do it. But they never Talk, oh no.

There are other things that politicians and diplomats do that involves talking, but they're not Talks. Conferences are where they talk to their people and their people can stand up and clap and go "Bravo, you're a stand up guy!". Summits1 are where all the leaders get together in a locked room, drink brandy, tell knock-knock jokes and make fun of the President of Guatemala whose wig isn't on straight. Meetings are where they get together their closest people and decide who gets to go on Paxman and draw straws to see who gets fired for this weeks balls-up.

Talks are where they get everyone in a big round room and sit them round a big round table with headphones on while all their minions run about in the background carrying bits of paper from one the President of Uzbekistan to the Prime Minister of Kenya asking "Have you got a mint?".

One by one, they all get up in front of a microphone and;
1/ If they're from South-somewhere-or-other, they make loud, angry statements about the First World bastards and all their evil doings,
2/ If they're from East-somewhere-else, they make cryptic, veiled threats about the intrusion of the First World gaijin bastards into their back-yard nuclear programmes, because they didn't sign any non-proliferation treaty and, besides, you guys don't hold to your agreements anyway, so why should we? Hello, Kyoto? The UN?,
3/ If they're from Middle-somewhere, they decry the validity of the talks, their infidel First World bastard hosts and their oil-grabbing-poorly-disguised-as-nation-building foreign policy,
3/ If they're First World bastards, they roll their eyes and make placating statements about striving for peace and protecting their way of life.

All this is then relayed, via interpreters, into the headphones of all the people who don't speak Kreplakistani. Basically, the single Kreplakistani interpreter could say anything he likes because no-one can call him on it. That's why, when Talks are televised, the people with the headphones on are all smiling while the guy with the microphone is all red and shouty; the interpreter is telling them the joke he heard from the Kreplakistani ambassador about the Swedish flight attendant and the ping pong ball.

So they all come out much later on and are collared by reporters who ask how the Talks are going, to which they reply that progress is being made and that it's a difficult process. "Progress" means that each hour they sit there is an hour nearer the end of the talks and "Difficult" means that each hour they sit there is another hour they won't get back.

Then they all climb into black S-class Mercedes and are ferried back to their embassies, official residences or high-class knocking shops around the corner where the South-somewhere and East-somewhere types can get their freak on. What goes on tour, stays on tour.

At the end of it all, nothing is resolved, everyones prejudicies have been confirmed, thousands of litres of Evian have been quaffed, many knock-knock jokes told, many S-classes soiled by twice, maybe three times as many oiled-up escort girls, opinions have been voiced, grievances aired, canapes scoffed, hands shaken, toupees glued and hotels secured.

Everyone goes back to their stomping ground and, having wined, dined and soixante-neufed anthing that wasn't nailed down while away, they then proceed to pee on the media fires that their absence has generated.

Who'd be a politiplomat, eh?

1 Why are these never held on top of mountains?

02 October 2006

Precision Munitions vs Dirty Bombs

Progress. The only positive byproduct of human existence beyond basic procreation. The Number One Catalyst? War. War has been, and probably is, the biggest driver for technological innovation ever. Most advancements have been directly or indirectly involved in ending lives as efficiently as possible, or preventing it from happening.

America spends God-knows how much on Defence each year. Their prototypes are an estimated ten to fifteen years ahead technologically of anything in service today. Think about the state of your household tech in the Eighties compared to now and imagine how gucci their kit is now.

The sad thing, leaving aside the necessity of having to have weapons in the first place, is that the effectiveness of a weapon has NOTHING to do with technology. You could invent a time machine, go forward to the point just before weapons are abolished, buy the most advanced weapon available, bring it back, and it can be rendered completely useless by the lack of the will to employ it (ignoring the possibility of it ceasing to exist, depending on your understanding of the joys of time travel).

First World society has evolved to the point where "jetting off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man" does just not cut it with the folks with the votes. So all this expenditure on clever bullets and so forth is kinda pointless. America knows this only too well. After Vietnam, it knows that wars are won at home, with the hearts and minds of the people who pay for it. Get the public onside and you can do anything. Hell, you can ignore the UN if you feel like it.

And all these technological advances are designed to combat any enemy that does not exist. For example, designing bullets that can penetrate ceramic armour which they only invented themselves last week and which no-one else has had a chance to buy / steal yet. Basically, they're designing weapons to fight other First World powers, of which there aren't any, at least not militarily.

The enemies of the First World are not kevlar-clad laser-guided super-soldiers with an IQ of 120 and a Masters in International Relations, toting 200 IQ points worth of processing power in their fanny packs. They are barely-educated, poorly fed tribespeople with Religion at their side and an AK on their back who are pissed that some foreign infidel has deemed their way of life to be a threat.

The mere act of attacking first-generation enemies with fifth-generation weapons inevitably means that the tech-level of your enemy is increased, because, like Star Wars, the designers never envisage the possibility that a guy with a rifle could possibly shoot one bullet down a small tube and make the whole thing go boom, and everything that didn't go boom can and will be used against you in a warzone near you soon.

Take Afghanistan; the only instance of a country bombed forward into the Stone Age. Even before George's "Global War on Terror" tour hit town, they had been fighting the Russians not that long before, using weapons supplied to them by the CIA and bits and pieces of busted Hind helicopters.

If the recent history of warfare is anything to go by, fighting fire with fuel-air explosives ends in defeat. Trying to kill a guy in a cave in Afghanistan by carpet bombing him with B-52s has been probably been as successful as it was when they carpet bombed guys in black pajamas in the South East Asian jungle. Although I haven't checked with Sun Tzu on this, there must come a time where the level of force is so disproportionate that it ceases to be effective. Laser-Guided Smart Bomb + Politics = Pointy Stick.

Think of it like trying to kill a fly with the World's Biggest Fly Swatter. Because it's the World's Biggest, the fly is small enough to fit through the gaps unscathed.
Or trying to shoot down a WW1 fighter with a F-15. Even if radar would pick him up, the guy would be on the ground enjoying an espresso before the Eagle Driver had gained enough space to turn around, lock on and fire before overshooting.

So if you want to defeat a low-tech enemy, you have to get low-tech, or try to employ your high-tech in a low-tech way, if your morals or political will can handle it. If you have to fight, you've already lost. But if you want to fight and can't, you shouldn't even play the game.

13 July 2006

Russians Launch White Elephant

Being an engineer, I'm as happy to applaud endeavour and practical success as am to grimace at the possibilites for messy public disaster.

Take the new Inflatable Space Hotel that was launched today aboard a converted Russian ICBM. While the concept of a zero-G bouncy castle can only appeal, I for one will not be among the first to sample the embarrassment of a vacuum toilet or the endless waits strapped to a wall while they eject all the disorientation-induced hurl1 into space.

Those of you who enjoy some sort of recreational solo sport (yes, thank you!) that requires sharing the playing surface with other, slower people, will doubtless not be looking forward to being clobbered by out-of-control younger-brothers who have been flung through the void, spinning and throwing up with gay abandon.

Even if you're happy to spend some time on the company of others whose brains are trying (and failing) to deal with the concept of "There is no up", there are other considerations. "I thought her unsinkable and I based my opinion on the best expert advice." Thus spake Phillip Franklin, White Star Line Vice President on the "unsinkability" of RMS Titanic.

Flash forward to today, when hotel tycoon Robert Bigelow said in reference to his extraterrestrial blimp, "It's extremely durable and resistant to any puncture or penetration". Note the word "resistant". No doubt Mr Bigelow is aware of the parallels. I doubt that anything inflatible will be able to withstand a micrometeorite going 15km/s. I wonder how far and fast the escaping air at breathable pressures could propel an inflatible hotel before supplies were exhausted. I bet that's not a question that's come up. Be fun to find out though.

In launch terms, it's a more constructive use of ICBMs than MAD. Who knowsI what the Americans have done with theirs (probably kept them) but at least the Russians are using their Cold War Communist hardware to embrace Capitalism and kick Uncle Sam's ass in the process.

I wonder what the Russians think of putting a bouncy castle in orbit. They'd probably be perfectly happy with an earth-based one. I get the impression that putting things in orbit is as old-hat and commonplace to the average Russian as waiting in line, while the West bangs on about it at length. I bet they have a good old laugh at the all the requests they get. "Hey Yuri, look at this. Some American идиот wants to put a beach ball into orbit. Do we let him?"

Anyway, cool idea, go for it, hope very hard it doesn't go bang with a load of kids / nuns inside....

1 See "vomit".

11 July 2006

Chairman of The Bored

You think you're bored? You think, just because you clicked the "Next Site" button on your StumbleUpon toolbar and it said you've visited every single link in its entire link database, that means you're bored? Think again, my friend. That just means that you get off on clicking the next "Next Site" button. It's browser masturbation.

Let me tell you about boredom. You clear a space on your desk. On it you place a fresh pad of paper and a freshly sharpened biro. You clear your mind of all save the seed of innovation: I need just one idea to make me a millionaire. The pen and paper stare at you. You stare back, your mind empty now of even the seed of innovation. The pen and paper start to whistle. Even the pen and paper are bored, for goodness sake!

The pen and paper represent Possibility, that which may yet come to pass. However, it represents Failure, your inability to create. Your oeuvre cries out for attention. Neglected, it has developed serious personality issues. The hungry child cries out for the Chocolate Biscuits of Ideas, locked safe in the Kitchen Cabinet of the Fruitless Mind.

My oeuvre deserves better. It could complain more than it does. It makes do with video games and the occasional book, but it needs to be stretched. It purpose is to be filled with wondrous creations, but the mind does not oblige.

The mind is a seamless ball and contains all the ideas. The oeuvre surrounds the mind. Typically, the mind is transparent. The oeuvre can see the ideas, but is powerless to free them. I'm amazed it's still sane.

Unlocking this vault of ides and innovation is the key to fulfillment. An oeuvre that is bursting at the seams is a happy one. A mind unfettered by unrealised potential is then free to progress.

The search for The Key continues.

03 July 2006

England. World Cup and World Domination

It is generally accepted that there are only two sure things in life; death and taxes. I think we can safely add a third; the England football team crashing out of a major tournament on penalties. It's getting to the point where there is no drama anymore. While I'm not English, my heart rate barely rose at all when watching the penalty shoot-out. How can there be any tension when the result can be foretold by even the ost myopic seer?

David Beckham said it was "one of those days, again", meaning, I assume, that he considered them unlucky to lose. But "one of those days" and "again" are mutually exclusive. If every day becomes "one of those days", then they stop being "those days". "Those Days" become the norm.

I don't believe that this phenomenon is the recourse purely of the national football team. "England Expects" seems to capture it best. Originally, that meant that they expected "every man to do his duty", along the lines of "play up, play up and play the game". These days, it means that England is expected to win, in the same way that Brazil is expected to win. Brazil, at least, have good reason for these expectations.

The English media are the worst enemies of England. They seem determined to undermine any forward-thinking attempts and lambast, vilify and undermine achievers by whatever means necessary. They hype the public face of England, in the form of the national teams, then snipe and destroy them for anything less then total victory, which smacks of the Colombian or Iraqi approach to sporting failure. "Welcome home. Don't worry about it. Here, come into this sound-proofed room for a cup of tea. Just ignore the firing squad....I mean, 21 gun salute."

I think it is partly down to England suffering from Post-Imperial malaise. Yes, I know that was a while ago, but history and all that. England is still culturally used to having its own way. It's the whole "going to the Costa del Sol and having Sausage, Egg and Chips in the english pub", "Do you speak English? Why not?" thing. Deep down, I don't think they believe these colonial johnnies can beat them at their own game (although they do, regularly and with ease).

England was the pre-eminent World Power until not that long ago; we're talking a handful of generations. Not quite living memory, but not far off. Eddie Izzard, bless him, encapsulated this, when referring to the leadership of the world as a ball; "America has the ball. Britain has a memory of a ball. Hitler had a picture of a ball."

You would have thought that some measure of realism may have crept in since England had to give back all its colonies after the war, but no. England, and hence Britain, are still feasting on the legacy of the Empire, gorging on the accumulated wealth it brought. But, like any inbred Old Money aristo fop, selling off the family estate for a swanky Mayfair pad and an easy life, this situation cannot be maintained. Daddy's pair of Holland & Holland Number Ones won't pay the bills for ever.

16 June 2006

Microsoft UK Challenge 06 - Ayrshire & Arran

My brain has just about recovered to the point where I can commit my actions to the Ether without the remembrance causing painful flashbacks.

From the 7th - 11th June 2006 (last week to you and me), I was being tortured by The Microsoft Corporation. And I wasn't alone. Myself and four colleagues were coerced into attending a inter-company competition, only to find ourselves locked in a Battle Royale, if you will, with representatives from 115 other companies.

And the authorities were in on it. I personally cycled past two Officers Of The Law, whose efforts my company support with their endeavours, and requested that they take me into custody for Crimes Against Humanity; i.e. me. Their response? Derisive laughter, if you please! I pay their salaries! Hmph, evidently a mere gratuity next to The Corporations dollar.

And did the hated Corporation furnish its gladiators with any weapons with which to do battle? Nay. Our chief weapon was cunning, our greatest ally, hope. That, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.....no, wait, that's not right. I mean, That, and a mountain bike, a device that inflicts more damage to the wielder than the wieldee1.

Six stages spread over for days and nights. Building a waterwheel at 11pm? Mountain Biking, Kayaking and Running in the same day? Six hours of cycling and running up mountains? A whole HOUR of puzzles? Ha! These trials hold no fear for me, for I have endured them all, and overcome.

Out of 116 teams, we placed 47th, above teams who had actually TRAINED, who had multiple substitutes and support teams and all manner of what have you! You'd think you'd learn things after something like that? And you'd be right.

1. You can be the fastest runner in the world, but if you're running in the wrong direction.....
2. You can always push yourself further than you think.
3. You can always achieve more as a team.
4. You will always be better at something new than you think.

Sunday dawned. The Corporation released their captives back into the world, so that we may go forth and take news of the experience to the masses. And what pearl of wisdom did I invariably impart to those who prayed at my font of knowledge?

"It was hard, but good".


1I don't suppose "wieldee" is a word, is it?

09 March 2006

The View from My Window 9/3/06

Monthly progress report on the building site next door. For those keeping track, you can view last months report here.

The site has been cleared and BigYellowDigger has been fired and replaced with BIGYellowDigger, who spent the last two weeks making big mounds of earth. It didn't take two weeks to make mounds of earth with a digger. Oh no. It took two weeks to move the mounds of earth around the site until the got them where they wanted them, where they looked nice. And then they removed them completely.

While the mounds of earth were around, BIGYellowDigger took to sitting on top of them. As if being BIG and Yellow weren't enough, it has to build itself a cushioned pedestal on which to place its caterpillar tracks.

I've been off for a couple of days. Before I went, there were guys with theodelites going round surveying the site. Now I've come back and the guys have gone and there are lots of little crosses around the place. Evidently BIGYellowDigger went off on one and squished all the theodelite guys. In a morbid touch, the crosses are all yellow, no doubt to remind us of their little yellow coats and who perpetrated the heinous crime. And BIGYellowDigger, the murderer, is still there, merrily digging like nothing happened.

06 March 2006

People are Boring. Celebrities doubly so.

I think it was good old Winnie Churchill who said "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on". I don't think, I know. I just copied this off a webpage somewhere. But while the wording may be off, the truth of the statement is fully clothed.

Global communication being what it is, we info-consumers now have larger info-voids to fill than we used to. It used to be that one could fruitfully spend ones life reading the paper and then going round to friends houses to discuss this and that and whatnot over a snifter of brandy in the library.

Now there is less latency in the reporting system, there is more space for information. However, supply has yet to meet with demand, which is why the slack is taken up with talking heads and "entertainment news" and lifestyle mags for bored housewives. All of which leads to the inescapable fact.

People are boring.

And if people are boring, Celebrities are at least twice as boring. Turn on your idiot box at any hour of the day and there will be some made-up person who has some level of fame being asked questions to which we already know the answer. And that's not because we heard the answer before, it's because the questions are formulaic and those of you who "do" mathematics will know that for a formula, there are a limited number of correct1 answers.

Take the Oscars2. I haven't watched any of this years ceremony and I won't watch the "highlights". Because I don't have to. They will consist of:

  • Some wiseass comedian presenter, who is the most interesting and talented person there

  • A tearful acceptance speech by an actress you hoped would know better

  • A boring acceptance speech by a middle-aged actor who could only be interesting and amusing with the right script and several million bucks dangling in front of him, or his cobblers in a vice

  • Close ups of losing nominees trying to look happy for the winner and turning up much better performances than in the films for which they were nominated

  • Post-ceremony interviews with nominees saying they didn't mind not winning, especially when the person who did is so beautiful / talented / whatever!

  • Some sort of wardrobe malfunction

  • Random starlets with their tits hanging out (which I whole-heartedly endorse, by the way, if you're reading this.)

  • Vacuous interviewers with lower dresses, higher hems and fewer brains trying to pry backstage goss from movie-types who would only indulge if there was a pre-backstage-shenanigan agreement in place

Its all very formulaic and you can basically toss the whole lot in the air and it'd all fall back roughly into place and voila! Next years Oscars.

Showbiz appears to be the place for people with no conversational skills and some other random physical attribute to go and be made to look interesting. Bob de Niro may be a great actor, but you just know he's dull as shit to talk to. He, at least, doesn't try to be interesting. The worst people are those who are dull and try to act bright.

But there's a lot of that about, and it's not limited to famous / celebrity people either. We all know someone who hijacks parties and conversations and tries to fill it with stories of their brilliance. We, the witty, urbane, sophisticates that we are, stand there casually, nodding at their inanities and rolling our eyes at each other.

If you're not interesting, be realistic. You're not going to be, especially if you try. And if you think you are interesting, newsflash; that's a sure sign that you aren't. It's like telling a joke; if you can, do. But, and be truthful, if you can't, please don't. People like the truth. If you go to a party and say "Who wants to sleep with me? I'm the most interesting person here!", you'll be sharing the cab home with a kebab as per usual.

To paraphrase, it's better to keep quiet and be thought boring, than to speak and remove all possible doubt. At least keeping schtum means you can be the conundrum, the "mystery guest". Don't be famous. Being an unknown is way more interesting.

1 By "correct", I mean "not career-threatening".
2 Please. Far away.

01 March 2006

This Post Has No Title. Or Content.

I'm still here. Just struggling for material. Repeat after me; "The best material is no material". Keep repeating that until you believe it.

If pushed to come up with a feature exhibit at the Tate Modern, I would submit a piece of paper with a pencil on it, which I would call "Possibility". Either that or "The Reflected Brilliance of the World as Seen by a Blind Man wearing Red Shorts"; just to keep the Art bods happy1.

So, what do you write when there is nothing to write? What do you say when everything has been said? I should ask a tabloid journalist. However, I'm not content to supply the words for pictures of Jordan doing something purile. I could probably come up with suitable malapropisms, just to keep people "a-breast" of her situation, but I'd feel bad about having to do it. P.S. Did you see what I did there? Aren't I clever? Gary Bushell, eat your heart out.

So, if I'm not content with commenting on the nocturnal activities of people whose name I know but not what they do, then what do I talk about? I appear, in the sixty or so posts to date, to have tackled most of the spiky bits in my particular piece of mental lawn and I don't think there's any benefit mowing it again. The spiky bits will always be there; I just develop thicker skin so I can walk barefoot through my brain without stepping on Racism and Intolerance that even the most caustic weedkiller cannot eradicate.

Speaking of gardens, an allegory has arrived. Society has swept the Scythe of Justice over the world, believing that all errant blades of sedition and wrongdoing have been neatly trimmed and is putting all its efforts into chasing dodgy politicians and coming up with very specific legislation to prevent Mrs Betty Green of Newport Pagnell from letting her little yappy-type dog make little yappy barks between lunch and afternoon tea. While Mrs Green feels the full force of Justice, the blades of scum and villainy, who merely ducked while The Scythe passed overhead, are growing happily in the rich manure left in Society's wake.

The next source of material; what other people write about. I do make the effort to read what other people write in online newspapers and blogs, but only rarely do I find anything thought-provoking. More evidence that everything has been said. There are no new ideas; merely old ideas in a new hat. I could roll out some old ideas in new hats, but the intelligent people who read this blog would say "Oy, that's an old idea in a new hat" and I'd sigh and say, "Yes, but what a hat".

That's what new things are. The Internet is just the telephone with extra pockets, the airliner is just a bus with a big hat, a train is just some buses that all arrive at once2, genetic engineering just evolution with running shoes on. Romeo and Juliet is just the classic Boy Meets Girl, Boy Marries Girl, Boy and Girl Die in Tragic Love Pact, but with knobs on. Which is a downbeat way of looking at Man's achievements.

I guess, having dressed up core arguments in my own fancy dress up 'til now, I'm no longer happy doing that. I want people to be dressing up my ideas.

The Big Question: Do I have the mental furniture to come up with new ideas? Am I a philosophical fashion designer? Can I craft Fendi shoes and Gucci handbags, ideas that do not require dressing up? Can I arrive at the mental Little Black Dress?

Watch this space (but be prepared to wait).

1 I can't understand how Arty types see what they see when they look at Art. I guess its interpretation; they see waves breaking on a beach of shimmering amethyst, I see a brick.
2 So, just like buses then.

15 February 2006

Media Memory: I thought he was dead.

That was my first thought when I read the linked article a few days back; "I thought he was dead". Which of course he isn't, as far as I know. Unless Israeli medicine is so far advanced of modern medicine that operating on a dead man is anything other than a fantastic waste of time. It's possible; if they can surgically destroy Palestinian civilians with Cobra gunships, while only denting the intended Hamas targets, who know what they can do.

This post only came about when reading a previous post about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I realised that the only news I have heard recently about the wake of Katrina is that the US have magnanimously decided to share the blame across all levels of government. Which is big of them. What I haven't heard is what shape New Orleans is in, are its citizens still spread across the remaining Lower 471, did anyone get fired over it, are they bothering to do anything about it?

Who knows? Certainly people outside the US only get sporadic information, when a news station does a news special: "Katrina: One Month / Year On". I'll wager even most Americans don't know; you tell me, does the local TV station2 tell you these things?

It's scary to think that even today with 24-Hour news, we only find out what they tell us. Well, duh! OK, what I mean is that someone decides what is News. Some Editor somewhere looks at all the possible stories and decides what the News is and that's what we get. Just another example of how the MSM (a blogger-specific term wot I just learned - MainStream Media) manipulates our world.

I get the feeling that the editorial decision to just cover breaking and recent stories may account for the existence, success and demise of things like Fathers4Justice. In order that someone's plight is recognised, something newsworthy needs to happen to highlight their predicament, whether its pelting Tone with flour, or climbing up the side of the Queen, or poking the London Eye. Only big, public changes to a situation make the news.

But I'm also thinking, having written the above paragraph, that what I'm asking may be outside the remit of the News. If News is meant to cover "new" stories, then asking them to recover old stories would not be up to them. Maybe what we need is an accompanyment to the News. So after the Nine O'Clock News, we get the NineThirty Olds. Sir Trevor could be persuaded to present follow-ups to stories that aren't new enough to make the news.

I think I may have stumbled upon the reason for programmes like Newsnight and....the other political discussion programmes that barely register on my TV radar. They serve as bookends for the News, highlighting the news of the future and picking over its remains once its anniversaries are due. Plus it gives Paxman somewhere to submit the ne'er-do-well du jour to his own brand of Righteous Justice.

So, remember that what you see on the News is not everything. What you saw on the News yesterday is still going on. The repercussions of the news a year ago are still being felt. Keep the Olds alive!

1 I doubt any of the evacuees were lucky enough to get sent to Hawaii, or unlucky enough to get sent to Alaska.
2 If only US TV and Radio station names were allowed in Scrabble. Imagine the points you could get with "WKXY" and a Triple Word Score!

14 February 2006

Valentines Day, brought to you by Hallmark

I sold out, I admit it. I went to the LargeGenericFoodShop yesterday and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a piece of red card folded in two and an envelope. Ridiculous not because the card was big, only because it's just a piece of card folded in two! And it only took five minutes to choose because 95% of the cards were stilted, stereotypical drivel and only half the remaining 5% were physically visible amid the reams of red roses and ridiculous ribbons.

We always bang on about people like Microsoft charging hundreds of your local currency units for software of debatable quality and have no qualms about paying anything up to ten of your local currency units on a card to give to your beau / significant other / spouse just because Hallmark thinks you should. OK, if the card it played "Unchained Melody" when opened, I can accept it costing 10 local currency units. However, I'd never buy one because I'd be too busy packing my bags to go live in self-inflicted solitude for even contemplating buying one.

Valentines Day has some history behind it, I'll admit, but the history has been hijacked to make money. At least it has more of a basis than Mothers and Fathers Days, which are inventions entirely fabricated by the card companies to make you spend money.

What are traditional Valentines1 gifts meant to imply anyway? "Here's some chocolates = You're too skinny". Or "Here's a bunch of flowers which were killed by a slave in a field in the Third World, put on a plane burning fossil fuels at a ferocious rate, so that you can enjoy them for the next two hours before they melt into a wilted and possibly contagious puddle = Our love is doomed to die."
"Here's a card = I got this at the petrol station on the way home, got sneered at by the attendant for being a thoughtless, typical man and I wrote things in it five minutes ago while you were downstairs making my lunch".

And why do we need themed days anyway? It seems like every day or so its Knicker Elastic Awareness Week, or Stop Beating Your Family to Death Month, or Groundhog Day. These are all things you should think about all the time, especially when it comes to Valentines Day. If the Valentinee is a spouse or girl/boyfriend, then every day should be Valentines Day. If expressions of love and affection were only bestowed annually, I guarantee there would be no-one on which to bestow your monster card and bunch of fragrant, yet decomposing, posies.

If the Valentinee is not someone with whom you are currently making the beast with two backs, then a Valentines card is unlikely to further your cause any because;
1. If you make it anonymous, then you've spent lots of money and gained nothing,
2. If you didn't make it anonymous, then you're a creep without the guts to speak to the Valentinee to their face. You're a stalker who's using Valentines as cover.

A Valentines card is not a certificate ("This card certifies that the bearer loves the Valentinee for the period of one calendar year"), or legal tender ("I promise to love the bearer on demand for one calendar year"). At best it says "Look, I bought a card, I followed convention, I did what was expected; now I'm going to the pub / the golf course / my girlfriends house". It's worthless, merely a physical projection of a feeling, albeit strewn with cartoon rabbits, flowers and dirty limericks, for which there are no metaphysical equivalents.

So, if you love someone, tell them every day. Don't wait until Valentines Day to tell them. And don't waste money on corporate crap. Let Hallmark's pain be your joy.

PS I hope you bought one. It's really not worth the hassle.

1 See, even I'm doing it. Using the term Valentines in the context of tradition. Sure, it dates back to the 1800s, but that's hardly tradition, unless you come from a country that only sprang into being since.

11 February 2006

My Blog Phase 3: Answers in a Can, Please.

I've been blogging for over 6 months now and have submitted many wrongs to the harsh light of Truth. The shine, however, is coming off. I don't mean that I don't enjoy it anymore, because I do, despite the feeling that I'm starting to pick at old wounds.

What worries me more is having gone through the thought processes and arriving at conclusions, I have now made up my mind, I've decided my position on things. So when I go into grown-up conversations, my answers are canned. I'm merely regurgitating things I have arrived at in isolation.

What this does is make me feel like how I perceive politicians to act; always dispensing well-worn lines in response to pointed, direct questions. Take Prime Ministers Questions. An opposition cabinet member is granted to the chance to lob a interrogative hand grendade at the PM, who removes the pin and throws it back with "I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago". And that's just bollocks. While the PM can reasonably say that he is merely avoiding repeating himself (and neatly removing the possibility of contradicting himself), the process is adding no value.

Just like any new skill, blogging, while incomprehensible to those who do not blog, takes time to learn. I started out merely regurgitating a few sorta funny things I'd had taking up valuable trivia space in my brain. I then moved into documenting my thought processes on the news du jour. Which is the Phase to which I feel I am coming to the end1. Sure, there have been small diversions into adding pictures and linking into other blogs and other posts. But what I'm really after is the "killer app" for Phase 3 of my blogging career.

What I need is to go forth into the blogsphere, make friends and influence people. However, this means finding blogs that are covering the same sort of stuff as me. A couple of such people have found me (w00t to Ash and Golgotha_Tramp!) but I need to innovate and seek new advances.

If anyone wants to suggest good blogs or techniques for finding them, I'm all eyes. I'm perfectly happy to stand on the shoulders of blogiants.

1 Not splitting infinitives(?) does make for wierd english sometimes, well, most times. As Winston Churchill famously stated "This is the sort of english up with which I will not put".

10 February 2006

The View from My Window 9/2/06

A bit of a departure for this blog. I have done "view from my window" posts before; see Getting The Brush Off Day 1 and Day 2.

From where I work (up a hill to the south of Glasgow), I have an unfettered view over the silvery Clyde and its environs to the snow-capped mountains of the majestic Highlands over 30 miles away..yada yada yada... No, it isn't raining. Sunny actually, although I did have to wear my Antarctic immersion suit to walk into work this morning. The "Wearing the wrong clothes? Just wait five minutes" effect in full flow.

However, the focus of my attention today is somewhat closer at hand. They are going to build a new building next door to mine. To get access they are having to denude the vegitation which has taken root on the spare ground and cut down a few trees.

Yesterday, first thing, a BigGreenTractor arrived, complete with FoliageMuncher20001 strapped to the back. It then proceeded to reverse into all the foliage and munched it all up. For those of you who have yet to enjoy this experience, the FoliageMuncher2000 consists of big, spinny blades. As well as munching up all the baby trees (Awww!), it also managed to inflict quite heavy damage to my boss' car. From thirty feet away. FM2000 obviously picked up a rock or piece of tree or squirrel and fired it into his bonnet. Dented it and the wing. Mucho expensivo.

Today, a BigYellowDigger has joined BigGreenTractor. It's starting to look like an episode of Bob The Builder. No evidence of pink concrete yet, but all we need is SmallAnnoyingOrangeCementMixer, TimidBlueCrane and MischeviousButHarmlessScarecrow and we'll be there. I'll keep you posted.

I'm hoping that, in the process of digging holes, they'll uncover "a series of small walls". The words "a series of small walls" are doubtless ingrained in the nation's psyche after having watched Tony Robinson's Time Team serial unearthing of said walls in every part of the Kingdom. They get in their funcky GeoPhys(ics) guy who walks around the place with a high-filutin' metal detector thingy from which they get a map with the merest suggestion of lines on it. From that, the graphical artist comes up with some fabrication of what it might have looked like in Roman Times. I'd love to get that job; Tony would come to me to see what I'd come up with and I'd present him with a full-colour rendition of Disneyland Florida.

It is both sad and impressive to witness the speed at which a "bloke in BigYellowDigger" followed by "bloke with a chainsaw" can denude a small stand of trees. At some level it is satisfying to see an ordered, uncluttered space appearing from the tangled undergrowth. As humans, we prefer order to chaos and the modern world is a result of our attempts to impose our will on the planet. However, being able to breathe aside, trees are just nice things to have around.

By some device or o'er, the BigYellowDigger has managed to get its jib hooked over a branch and is now swinging gaily like a lyrca-clad Orang Utan. Not really, but that would have been cool. In actual fact, the BlokeswithChainsaws, for there are two, cut the trees most of the way through and then BigYellowDigger comes along and pushes them over, much like elephants do. This seems unfair to me. I would rather BigYellowDigger did the deed without assistance from BlokeswithChainsaws. As well as being a non-macho colour, it can't even push over a little tree on its own. Pussy.

To continue the "Bob The Builder" theme, two new characters have been introduced; Maimy and Loppy, the Chainsaw Twins, join the gang. Much hilarity and dismemberment ensues, although everything gets sewn back on and they have a big laugh at the end.

Another sad but funny thought just occurred; I bet there are unfortunate Native American children who are named BigYellowDigger and BlokeswithChainsaws, just because when they were born, their parents looked out and saw the construction site invading their reservation. I'm reminded of the joke in which a young brave asks his father how he got his name, to which his father replies "Why do you ask, Two Dogs Screwing?".

Well, we've reached the end of the day. No-one cut anyone else's bits off with chainsaws, or pushed them over with diggers. Fingers Crossed for tomorrow!

1 FoliageMuncher2000 is not a trademark. However, if I was in the business of foliage munchification, this is what I would call it.

08 February 2006

Muhammed Mouse: Cartoons spark Jihad

"Four killed in cartoon protests". If the reality wasn't so bad, it's a headline you might expect come April 1st. You can just imagine Sir Trevor, were he still reading the news, trying to inject some gravitas into reports of Wile E Coyote blowing up The Simpsons and throwing Porky Pig off a cliff. "Cartoons spark Religious War" is the improbable but accurate headline for what is going on.

They say that there is no such thing as a new idea; merely new combinations of old ideas. That's what this post feels like; sticking together elements of previous posts. We've got a soupcon of religious intolerance, a smattering of ignorance and a big fat dollop of media fuckwittery. But that's the world we live in. We lurch from one faux pas to the next, lifting our foot from one debacle only to put it down in a new one. We'd leave it in mid-air, if only the standing foot wasn't squashing someone's human rights.

There is no safe ground anymore. Society has become self-violating. "Free" is not the absolute it was perceived to be. The only place where you can exercise your freedom of speech is in your room with your pillow over your face. It's like that Gary Larsson cartoon; "If a tree falls in a forest, and it hits a mime, does anyone care?". Similarly, if you voice a contentious opinion, and no-one hears you, have you actually exercised Free Speech, or caused offense? Neither? Both?

Whether the publishing of a craven image was intentional or simply down to ignorance matters little at this stage. Republishing it after it has caused uproar and outrage is just stupid. It goes beyond stupid, but I lack the words to express just how stupid. Billy Connolly was right; there are times when only swear words can convey the complete and total nature of the point one is making. "It's broken" leaves us in doubt as to how broken it is. "It's fucked", while crude, achieves clarity.

So, the medias choice to reprint material they knew would cause offense was fucking stupid. It's like someone saying "It hurts when I do this", to which we inevitably shout WELL STOP DOING IT, YOU IRRETRIEVABLE BERK! Jyllands-Posten can claim ignorance, or pretend it was done to provoke a response to an issue swept under the rug, but every other paper who ran the offending image have fallen into the Jodie Marsh trap. Do something that offends someone (desecrate a religous image, wear nothing but some belts in public) and watch the media fall over itself in a salivating frenzy for the right to print it, full-spread and in colour, so they can point and go "Look at this!", like a prudish, middle-class housewife watching an entire episode of "Pornography: A Secret History" just so they can "tut" for an hour.

The ill deeds perpetrated by the First World in becoming the First World appear to be coming back to haunt us. Like a Catholic priest, whose multifarious progeny appear from the woodwork once word is out, our "right" to abuse those we believe to be beneath us is rightly being punished. The First World is fast becoming a tiny "majority", with the remaining 5 billion the put-upon, vocal "minority". Everytime we rollout a stereotype on TV, or patronise a non-First-World person on the News, our imperial war-mongering and post-war carve-ups are thrust, fizzing, in our face. All we can safely do is be apologetic and print stories about cats up trees and the state of public transport.

I'm not sure what it says about the major religions, but I'm convinced that if Al Jazeera were to run a series of animated cartoons with Jesus "doing" George Dubya, the western world would laugh its collective ass off, probably accompanied by whooping and shouts of "Go, Jesus! Go, Jesus!". That doesn't follow though; the depiction of God and Jesus is allowed, as long as it is tasteful and not profane. Chapel ceilings are a Vatican favourite. However, I don't recall hearing about rioting in the American Midwest the week after I received by email a picture of a fibreglass Jesus, grinning, winking, thumbs up and pointing, which bore the legend "Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you're a c**t!".

I think this inter-racial war, real or imaginary, comes down to people behaving how they are treated. If you treat a kid like a kid, they'll behave like a kid. Treat them with respect, like a grown-up, and they'll reciprocate. Similarly, if you treat an entire racial group like they're all potential suicide bombers, then chances are some of them will be, and some more will become them because they have been treated like one. I can see the thought process; "They assume I'm a suicide bomber, so I may as well strike a blow. I've nothing to lose."

Nothing I say here, or in any other post, provides answers. I don't know how to resolve these problems. The problem seems to be that we know what to do, it's just that we don't want to do it. It's like "Don't, under any circumstances, push The Big Red Button".

07 February 2006

Lost and Found, Soon to Be Extinct

What's is the first thing you do when you find something valuable? Keep it a secret. What you don't do is go global, tell the world, especially if you expect to go back next year and find it still there.

Scientists are a wierd lot, full of brains, but not much common sense. They're a duplicitous bunch who evidently have no understanding of things outside the precepts of "laboratory conditions". Which is why I'm bemoaning the announcement of a new Lost World somewhere in Malaysia. They've found lots of things we thought were extinct, along with some new things we never knew existed. Like when you move house; you move the furniture and discover Auntie Agnes (who arrived to visit in 1983 and who no-one could recall seeing leave) and some mould on the fast track to cognisence.

The problem with this, although it makes us feel marginally less guilty about global warming and human expansion, is that we've now told The Naughty Men where they are. It's like a big sign pointing right at the rare and exotic treasures who are too naive to run away. And unlike "Golf Sale", this is a sign of which someone might take note. Will take note. One imagines wealthy and insane billionaires the world over putting in orders for Long-Beaked Echidna posing pouches and Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo jumpers (sorry).

It's like saying to a child; "Here is more chocolate than you can comfortably eat. I'm going to go over there and when I come back, I expect all this expensive, imported chocolate to still be here." You know what's going to happen. You can see it their eyes. You'll come back to be confronted by a chocolate-coated, child-centred abomination, who when asked "Did you eat the chocolate?" will quite innocently reply "No", the undertone being "And I'm quite hurt that you don't trust me".

If you want something this valuable scientifically to remain safe from poachers and the like, it would seem more sensible to wait until the whole lot has been documented and written down, before you leak the location. Even then, it would be wiser to lie about the location; at least be deliberately evasive. "So, you've discovered the extremely rare Long-Necked Spotted Tree Eater, thought to be extinct. And you're sure it's not just a giraffe? In Southern Canada, you say? When it has only ever been seen up one tree in Madagascar? By a myopic lemur with a penchant for cocaine and a flair for the dramatic? OK, you sold me, get me on the next plane to Winnipeg".

I fear that the scientists will get back next year, armed with specialised Echidna detectors and Kangaroo jump leads (again, sorry), to find a three storey white stucco mansion populated with bronzed, aging millionaires sporting Golden-mantled toupees and drinking Krug from suspiciously Long-Beaked champagne flutes.

01 February 2006

Women vs Men: The Worm that Turned

The power struggle between men and women is, and has been, ongoing and the women are currently on top (no sniggering at the back). Many feel that Men are being marginalised in favour of women, the only reason for which seems to be as some payback for years of "opression" and male rule.

The following excerpt from the linked article quite succinctly captures the moderm dynamic between Men and Women; "While the female takes care of swimming and eating, the male fish, with its enormous (relatively speaking) testes, is charged with the task of aiding reproduction". The article also uses the term "Sexual parasite"; terminology which women probably quite readily apply to men.

The Two Ronnies' "The Worm That Turned" serial sketch depicted an England where Women were in charge, and men stayed at home. Since this was the Seventies, the women were depicted as goose-stepping dominatrixes and the men as stereotypical stay-at-homes, complete with hairnets, flower-pattern dresses, pastel overcoats and handbags. The men then form an underground movement, a resistance against female authority. Obviously decades ahead of its time, it is mirrored today by the rise of Men's Movements around the world.

Obviously, the labels "Men" and "Women", and our preconceptions associated with those terms, are a far cry from the qualities of the individual man or woman. Like Tommy Lee Jones says in Men in Black: "A person is smart. People are stupid, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it".

But why do women feel that they are devalued? Why do they want to the same jobs as men? Who says men's jobs are all brilliant? Do women want to work down sewers, or washing skyscraper windows, or scraping barnacles off the bottom of supertankers? I'm quite happy for them to do all these things, but why does it need to be at the expense of men?

The statement that women are powerless, or that they have no value in society, is utter rubbish. Who is the one person in your life who has done the most to shape you into the person you are today? Your mum, right? And everyone had one of those, right?
The last lines of William Ross Wallace's (1819-1881) poem reads "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world." No argument there. So, assuming that George Dubya had a mother (although we might assume he didn't know his father), Barbara Bush is the most powerful person in the world.

What we have here is system lag. As with Inflation and Unemployment lagging Interest Rate changes, Women's Rights overtaking those of Men is a result of a system attempting to reach parity. Unfortunately, the effects of the changes made take so long to appear, that the next change is made just as the effects of the first appear. Like a car travelling at 200mph, the system is responding to inputs received some time ago.

While Men may come from Mars and Women may be from Venus, it doesn't stop us all being humans, supposedly each with the sames rights as the next person. Maybe we should all come back down to Earth, ignore the fact that it is broken, behave like adult human beings. And here's me always banging on about idealists....still, I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right. So there.

27 January 2006

Fashion: Style of The Day

What does Fashion have in common with Scottish weather? The answer of course being that if you find yourself wearing the wrong clothes, just wait five minutes.

Fashion, eh? What possible use is it? The only thing that springs to mind is that it makes us look stylish while we're being dragged into the lathe by our couture. But that doesn't happen, because, like concept cars, catwalk fashion never makes it to the street. We never see women in see-thru tops in the street. But, unlike sleek motorshow mockups, it is probably just as well see-thru tops aren't more common, as the promise of a wonderbra-enhanced cleavage is usually a far cry from the pancaky or pendulous reality of the average unfettered bosom.

If one was of a mind, one could report catwalk fashion to OFCOM for unrepresentative advertising under "The Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 (2000)".
The impression is that one can walk down the street on stupid shoes beneath a stupid hat wearing a see-thru plastic onesy and no knickers and the only impact would be appreciative mumurs from discerning shoppers. When in reality, one would be plagued by laughing kids, drooling teens, coarse workmen and tutting grannies, and would leave a trail of men nursing slapped faces and thunderous girlfriends while you were bundled into the police van, wearing fetching policemen's helmet accoutrement, for Public Indecency.

It appears that most quotes about fashion are derisory. Fashion, it seems, is merely this weeks interpretation of style. Style is eternal; fashion is transient, ugly and vulgar. So Fashion, then, is like taking up smoking aged twelve, or getting your ear pierced, or dying your hair black. They're fashionable at the time, but as you move on, these traits are abandoned in favour of fresher lunacy in the endless pursuit of style; your own interpretation of "cool".

Having watched Sacha Baron Cohen's fictional fashion reporter Bruno interviewing fashion types, my opinion of Fashion as a home for those arty types who didn't make it in the cut-and-thrust world of digital homeshopping channels is only enforced.
Cohen masterfully manages to ask questions that makes them visibly have to make something up, only for his next question to make them refute and debunk their previous statement in its hastily-constructed entirety. Sort of like the government establishing a task force to tackle the public bon mot du jour, only for it to implode messily a few years on when, ironically, everyone is looking.

Indeed, catwalk fashion and the stick thin women from the Ministry of Silly Walks probably play a large part in the modern "thin equals beautiful" image that forces women into ever more desparate eating disorders and financially-draining gym memberships. It appears that I have been brainwashed by Fashion into being attracted to thin women, rather than the "earth mothers" who would historically be the better choice when it came to the bearing of children. These days, it looks like someone opening a side door at the wrong moment would be all it took for an ubermodel to take flight, lifted from the 'walk by a particularly floaty hat. They have to be careful how deeply they breathe as well; one ill-advised breath and they could suddenly displace more than their weight and float off. I submit that this is the real reason Naomi Cambell fell off those shoes a while back: she breathed too deeply, someone opened a side door and down she went. A series of unfortunate events even Lemony Snicket could not have forseen.

And the hats. Take the above for example. Who could possibly buy this with the thought of wearing it where another person may see it? Presumably you would have to wear the see-thru number next to it to take the focus from the frozen explosion on your head. Maybe that's the point of fashion. Each piece is carefully crafted to take the focus of every other piece. A devious fashionista could arrange an ensemble that would induce violent headaches in anyone unlucky enough to look straight at it. Like a Medusa in training, or a WW2 battleship, or an M.C.Esher woodprint.

I think the idea is that catwalk fashion is what drives high street fashion a few months down the line. But are we likely to see anything like the "AIDS-virus-in-ice" hat on the high street? The closest we'll get is a white fleecy hat with bobbles on it to be worn by toddlers, whose attempts to remove the offending item will be foiled by matching mittens joined together with elastic.

Either way, fashion only really matters to the people in fashion. It is self-sustaining, its value only driven by the insistence that it has value. If someone were to point this out, the whole thing would unravel and we'd all have to wear leather and carry sawn-off shotguns. That's how it was in Mad Max. There was no nuclear war. The cast of Priscilla, Queen of The Desert happened to walk past a mirror, saw what they really looked like and the whole thing went South from there.

In short, it's a padded cell where people can make dresses out of cardboard and shoes out of buckets and be applauded by the rest of the loonies. Just don't give them any scissors. I dread to think what an escaped fashion designer would do with a pair of scissors when pushed to come up with a Fall line at short notice.

25 January 2006

Public Penitence: Bringing Society to its Knees

As Sean Connery so eloquently put it, as Prof. Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, "Only the penitent man shall pass.". But was he right? Are we really forgiven our sins when we repent? If our name is spread across the tabloids, does the Average Joe care or remember if we say sorry?

The most obvious sign of this societal trait is the most Poisoned of all Poisoned Chalices, the position of England Football Manager. Sven-Goran Ericsson, a man who has seen England through a few good years and good results, is being hounded out by the press, and for what? Making some comments to this "fake-sheikh" about members of the team? So what? Sven is a victim of his own stubborness. That he and his team have enjoyed a few years of good results has granted him some leeway with the press, but the pressure in the media has been growing.

Like a kettle boiling over, the pent-up fury of the press has escaped and Sven is being forced to walk. What confuses me is what the tabloid in question hoped to gain from these sheik-y shennanigans. They get this guy to lure Sven into some apparently "ill-advised" comments and then tell everyone about it. Why? Is it because they feel that a stint of over a year is too long for an England manager and it's time for a change? Is it because his results have been poor? Have the recent previous England managers been so brilliant that they feel the need to get another one in?

All the most qualified people in English football have been tried and then publically hung after their 6 month grace period. You could put a small dog in charge and it would last as long as any other manager. In fact, once the current crop of English managers have been culled, the only things left for the job will be club mascots.

It appears to take a non-Englishman to run England. How many of the top clubs in the Premiership are helmed by home-grown managers? The top five clubs are run by non-English. What does that tell you? Either, English managers suck or you need a foreigner to get the best from a team. I can't imagine why any sane person would drink from that cup. It's not like it's the World Cup anyway...

The ousting of the Swede aside, public apologies are all the rage these days. Anyone whose name is known to people outside their office and who make a mistake are forced to publically say sorry and then usually resign. These people are usually in positions of responsibility and all share the same personality fault: they are human beings. This means that people make mistakes, they make bad decisions. While we can look furtive and wipe it up, these people have to quit their job.

I can't help feeling that a lot of time and money is wasted this way. These people have been trained and worked their way to where they are. If you fire them and get someone else to do it, you have lost some value from your organisation. Plus the replacement can be rubbish for the first year and blame it on the mess left by the last guy. It's like cabinet reshuffles; every so often, they play musical chairs with the Cabinet positions, the proviso seeming to be that you can't do the same job you did last time. This means that by the time you've got your head round how to do Education, or the Home Office, whoops!, time for a re-org. You're Department of Sandwiches now. The only explanation I can think of is that they are giving everyone a taste of each area with the view to them becoming Prime Minister. But how many Prime Ministers have been any good? Have more than a handful of World Leaders ever been any good?

I don't know about the rest of you, but can you remember who, in the last few years, has been forced to leave a position of prominence, and why? Me neither. I don't think the man in the street gives the tiniest damn who is in charge of what, as long as they can have chips for dinner, watch Corrie of an evening and go to the footie on Saturday. So forcing people they've never heard of, who work inside the most complex and convulted institutions in the country, to apologise for making a simple, human error which probably wasn't their fault, is a waste of everybody's time and of their money.

So if we don't care, to whom are they apologising? It's like a parent getting an errant child to apologise to a dog for throwing a stick at it, only to find that the dog is now a hundred yards away humping a tree. The parent may feel all parenty, and the child suitably chastised, but the dog really does not care. All it does is make the child feel childish and more likely to cover up the evidence next time.

Public trial-and-execution-by-media serves no-one but the media. The media in the UK are like the US in the World. They have taken it upon themselves to force their views of right and wrong upon the rest of us and, let's not forget, make us pay for it in the process. They can print their own agenda and if they get sued, well, tomorrows run will pay for that and the next one.

So please give it a rest. We're all fallible. We're very bored of hearing about people we don't know about who work for companies we've never heard of making mistakes we don't care about. Leave justice to the courts and print some actual news. There must be something going on out there! What's behind that tree over there? Well, look, you lazy tabloid bastard!

23 January 2006

Blogger goes Baby Bonkers!

I'm a big fan of Blogger's "Next Blog" button, but someone has hijacked it. Pretty much every third site it takes me to today is something to do with babies. Now, either someone out there is sending a bizarre message to bloggers ("Stop typing and start having babies!") or my sub-conscious has managed to connect to Blogger on some unseen level and is presenting me with baby information.

I'm happy to receive baby information; having been one myself, it's nice to know how babies are doing these days. It's like a newsletter for former pupils, letting you know just you successful the school bully is these days. The problem is, the information is garbage. Here's an extract: "is 1276834 I into which normal I a I 2 time though is baby gift list a bankroll of Just the Lady MSBC times $30+$3 are + BABY GIFT LIST Limit smart the also never need the When (1988) will post..."

This isn't even Engrish. It's garbish, that's what it is. There are barely a string of more than three words which are allowed to live next to each other within the rules of English grammar.

Just tried again: "What it out there And we up From included others have the have what? and pay talking lie, has have for folds". Again, garbish. If they're trying to sell us something, it's not working. If its Marketing, or PR, its not working. The only thing that springs to mind is that aliens are sending us plans for interstellar spacecraft and somehow Blogger is interpreting these signals as baby information, which it is then presenting to the world as blogs. Its like the Hollywood Sci-fi Carl Sagan motion picture experience Contact. We need Jodie Foster up in here.

I want to analyse this stuff, but it defies analysis. OK, fragments. "What it out there". Could be a typo, "What is out there?" is a lucid, if broad, question. "And we up From". Has From fallen over? Are you helping him up? "pay talking lie". Politics? "has have for folds". Obesity? My brain hurts.

Now its giving me nothing but porn! I should state that at no point have I specified "babies" or "porn" when using Blogger. At my age, I have enough experience with babies and considerable experience with porn. I do not need to be presented with either in a work environment. It is also spawning lots of other windows and minimising in a corner. These are all symptoms of psychological disorders: Multiple Personality Disorder with at least two dominant personalities, one baby and one pervert; cowering in the corner sounds like child abuse or some such.

Someone somewhere is being very mean to Blogger and I want them to stop. I'm getting mixed messages here...

18 January 2006

Cultural Knowledge: Blog Society Onwards

Trying to articulate this one has been a proper bastard. Every time I think I've got an angle on it, it spins round and fires Righteous Blocks at me.

This year, I hit thirty and RocketBootDad will hit sixty. Some people don't like reaching these ages with a zero on the end. RocketBootDad and I are of a mind on this. His take on hitting these milestones is that he is the age he is; everyone else is either older, or younger. Or, least probably, the same age.

Obviously, this type of epiphanic statement can only come after decades of experience. The children may be our future, but the elderly are our past, our memory, our conscience. They have seen it all come and go; the current generation really have seen it all. In fact, those alive today have witnessed some of Man's greatest achievements, interspersed with our most heinous crimes.

The fact that old people have more time and experience means they know most about life and how to live it. They would love to pass on this knowledge but the young do not want to hear it. Elderly people are not valued in most Western Countries.

It seems to be a common factor that older civilizations and societies that exist in the Arab and African do value their elders greatly; more so than in First world countries, excepting Japan. Since practical skills are more applicable in Arab and African countries, and the adults are the most adept at these skills, the youth understand that to survive, it is imperative to respect and learn from ones elders, rather than cut a new furrow and reinvent the wheel themselves.

Essentially what I'm driving at1 is the question: Why does the World work such that the people with the knowledge cannot pass on this knowledge? Why, in the main, are young people dismissive of their elders when it comes to imparting knowledge? Why are we resigned to taking five steps forward, four steps back?

People prefer to find things out for themselves, learning things through bitter or painful experience, for it is only through experience that knowledge is truly learned. One can read all the books in the world, but unless the world is experienced, one has no real-world hooks on which to hang the book-learned knowledge.

I can't help feeling, despite having been the same in my youth, that not learning from our elders means that their life's work, their brain, will have been for naught. They spent every waking moment learning and experiencing, and then the next gen comes along and starts all over. As I seem to be repeatedly saying at the moment, history is what made the World today what it is and we who live in it what we are. Old People are History that can talk.

The only solution that comes to mind is that people should make an effort to change society for the better, to hardwire their experiences and knowledge into the fabric of society. That way, each new generation will pick up these advances and drive them forward. This is why I think blogging is such a great idea. I'm writing my memoirs as I go, not waiting until my twilight years when events are hazy and lessons distant.

So, welcome to my part of the attempt to make a difference, to ensure that the lessons learned by this generation are not lost. I hope you're all taking notes. Come the time of reckoning, there will be a test.

1 ...with my synaptic satnav on the fritz...

Sci Fi writers have postulated a contruct into which the memories of dying indivuduals are loaded on their death, their collective personality becoming a cultural memory which then serves as the conscience of a society.

17 January 2006

History: Blast from The Past

The worst thing about being a blogger is when you don't really know that much about what it is you are writing about. You have an idea for a post, but when you think about it, you find that what you think you know has no grounding in fact and cannot be borne out by your own experiences. So, do you can the post and wait for something you do know about to raise its ugly head? Or do you press on and write any old rubbish? Yes. That's what I'm about to do. Its not like anyone ever comments on this stuff anyway.

So to History. I never took History at school. Couldn't see the point. Will being able to recite the Kings of England in order get me a job at Burger King? Doubtful. It may get me a job in the press, but who these days can go home to their parents, hold their head up high and say "Mum, Dad, I work for a newspaper." without being disowned? Its society-sponsored lies. Here's fifty pence. Print what you like.

I never did History when I was a kid because I couldn't see the point of learning about things that were done and dusted. How can something that happened hundreds of years ago be of any interest to me? Looking back, knowing what I know now, this is a short-sighted view. But I was only in my early teens, and this was back when being in your early teens didn't necessarily mean you smoked Malboro Reds and had a kid with Kevin from 3B.

As I've said before, History explains why people do what they do. Society is the result of everything that has happened in the World to date. Which is why I don't think teaching children History has any benefit. Having no personal history means that you don't appreciate how history applies to you. It's not until you have some History, and appreciate how History has shaped you, that it begins to interest you.

I know nothing about how the Israel - Palestine situation came about. I know very little about the make-up of the World before Dubya Dubya's One and Two. But being a product of society might mean that the reasons for everything to date becomes hardwired into you brain. For example, being a cynic, product of a cynical society, I would guess that the Middle East is a mess because of post-war share-outs between the victors. This is what screwed up Korea. This is what screwed up Europe.

My point exactly. I have said "This is.." and been very sure all through this post, and I have no knowledge to back it up. So this is what it is like to write for a newspaper...

12 January 2006

Wind: The Ultimate in Peer Pressure

Where is it all going in such a goddamned hurry? Basically, rumour of a new low pressure area spreads throughout the Wind community, like the opening of a new Ikea, and all the Wind flocks to see it.

Low Pressure areas are like new malls. And like new malls, everyone goes there when it opens, only to find that, while it is twice the size of the old mall, this just means that there are twice as many crap shops in it.

So when all the Wind gets there, it goes "Is this it? Somehow I was expecting more this time around. Don't know why; seems like we've been running around this planet forever looking at new low pressure areas, and they're never any good!". And then word arrives of another one and, disappointment forgotten, they all clap their nebulous hands together and bugger off somewhere else.

All this to-ing and fro-ing does have consequences for us on the ground. If word of a particularly juicy-sounding low pressure area gets around, the effects of Wind can be severe. Entire oceans, forests, mountain ranges and herds of animals can be consumed and liberally sprinkled across the world, like an out-of-control game of British Bulldogs in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

If the low pressure area is Up North or Down South, those returning, shivering and disappointed from yet another crappy low pressure area experience, get under the feet of those still hurrying to get there, and you end up with a hurricane.

Even a gentle breeze carries with it an air of possibility unrealised. The Wind gets in sight of the low pressure area: "Is that it over there? It can't be. It is, you know. Oh, man! Again?" and slows down to a disconsolate crawl.

Wind is the ultimate in peer1 pressure. Forget kids smoking in toilets, or sheep; wind is worse. Imagine you were shopping in Oxford Street, and word arrived that Steve Jobs was distributing free iPod Nanos from the top of Nelson's Column, wearing a naked Pamela Anderson as a rucksack. That's the kind of mad, group hysteria, run-or-die situation Wind finds itself in nearly every day. Like the running of the bulls in Pamplona; you can't decide not to go see the low pressure area this time. That isn't an option. You have to go, or risk being trampled by everyone else.

So next time you feel the need to jump on that bandwagon and "be one of the gang", think about the Wind, be original, look The Risk Of Being Trampled in the eye and say "No!".

1 Surely the word "peer" implies someone who pees? You know, Number 1? If a skier skies and a Seer sees, why doesn't a Peer pee? Of course, everyone pees. It does, however, make the House of Lords and the Hereditary Peers look even more ridiculous. "Yes, I inherited my peerage from my father." Yeuch!