Blu Tack

We’re going to get our cat chipped, and I mentioned, casually, to our little ones that it would be a good time to get them chipped as well, so we could keep an eye on them.

Cue massive and sustained uproar from the back seat of the car lol.  I had to confirm that I was “definitely joking” before they calmed down.

But it made me think how much mobile phones curtail your freedom.  Of course, they are handy, but there are no free lunches. 

When I was “scheming school” (local slang for playing truant) as a kid in the ’70s and ’80s, fortunately there were no mobile phones. We had a free annual public bus-pass which you were only supposed to use on your relevant Ulsterbus route, i.e., home village to school and back again, but you could usually get away with trips further afield if you acted natural

So, when checking up on me, the Headmaster could only call my parents on the house landline phone. On most of those phones, you could unscrew the earpiece cover – see the cream coloured one in the middle below:

Inside was the circular aluminium device, with some audio holes in it. The trick was to fill those holes with Blu Tack (an adhesive, re-usable putty), and cover it with Scotch tape. That prevented the Blu Tack from being squeezed out when you replaced the earpiece cover.

The effect (as reported back) was hilarious, as my folks were unable to hear a thing, due to all the ear-piece sound holes being stuffed full of Blu Tack. The caller’s voice was reduced to a faint, inaudible squawk. Yet the caller (e.g., my headmaster) could hear my folks perfectly, and so knew the line was good.

I heard afterwards (from the brother of a teacher in my school) that the Head was always in a foul mood after he rang my parents, as he assumed that they were either deaf as posts, or quite mad, as they just kept saying “WHAT?” and “SPEAK UP, PLEASE” and “EH?” and “WHO IS THIS?” and “THIS PHONE ISN’T WORKING AGAIN“, and never heard a word he had to say.  

That Headmaster, when he nabbed you in some suspected misdemeanour, and you were lying though your teeth to him, invariably would say: “You’ll have to speak up, lad – I can’t hear you“.  He knew well that being asked to repeat a lie more loudly was more stressful, and would test your acting skills more thoroughly, than if he let you away with a mumbled excuse.  So the knowledge that my parents were always turning the tables on him by yelling at him to “speak up” and saying that they “couldn’t hear” him always made me chuckle. 

My folks then would drive to a public phone or neighbours house and telephone the phone company (BT), and, next day (service was good in these days before they improved everything), a wee man in a blue van would come out, check the phone and line, and go away scratching his head, having pronounced all to be in perfect working order (again). Which it was, as by then I of course had removed all traces of Blu Tack and Scotch tape. He must have thought that my poor parents were some sort of telephone hypochondriacs … 

You’d never get away with it nowadays.

Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés

Aged 15, in RE class at school, our teacher asked whether we considered the world to be primarily friendly, or unfriendly. The class split roughly into friendly and unfriendly camps. When the teacher asked me what I thought, I remember saying “neither“, and that the world largely was “indifferent“.

I’ve always had that view. As the old pop song puts it:

Don’t tell me your troubles
I got troubles of my own

The mass of people primarily are focussed on themselves. They barely notice you. Even when they do, their attentions are fleeting, shallow, and invariably lightly-informed.

So the vulgar modern urge to take photographs of your own face and post them online, while earnestly banging on about whatever personal issue you may or may not be having, always struck me as illogical, and futile, stemming as it does from both a vast over-estimation of: (i) one’s true significance in most people’s lives; and (ii) the acuity of any advice they might offer.

Essentially, I consider that therapy is a waste of time. Faced with a personal dilemma, go for a walk by yourself, write down your options in private, sleep on it, then act. End of. You sort out your own stuff, and you should seek to bring fun to others, not intractable problems.

This is not a popular attitude nowadays:

I know from my own healing journey that silence has been the least effective remedy,”

– Prince Harry.

There’s no escape, folks. Harry is a product of his insecure and over-sharing times, and he is convinced that, when in doubt, letting it all hang out is always the best policy. Like half the world nowadays, I’m not sure that Harry has any clear concept of privacy.

(And, frankly, if you ever hear of anyone speaking about their “journey“, reach for your gun.)

The contrast with his late grandfather, Philip, is instructive – from a Daily Express article::

That said, I know from someone close to him that he thought Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was ‘madness‘ and ‘no good would come of it’.

What did worry him was the couple’s preoccupation with their own problems and their willingness to talk about them in public.Give TV interviews, by all means,’ he said, ‘but don’t talk about yourself.’

He told me more than once: ‘It’s a big mistake to think about yourself. No one is interested in you in the long run. Don’t court popularity. It doesn’t last. Remember that the attention comes because of the position you are privileged to hold, not because of who you are. If you think it’s all about you, you’ll never be happy.’

As the French say, “pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés“. (To live happily, live hidden.)

Even if you do so in plain sight.

Is Taylor Swift Our Greatest Living Poet?

That, ladies and gentlemen, was the jaw-dropping title of a recent BBC podcast.

There is a species of pop-cultural revisionism, put about by arrogant white millennial women who are very lightly-informed about pop and rock before they were born, that “strong women in pop” started in the 1990s with so-called “girl-power” bands etc.  (Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, now all spinning in their graves.)

Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls were bands that were selected, validated and directed by blokes.  Destiny’s Child were pushed into stardom by Beyoncé Knowles’ father.  The Spice Girls were created by two dull blokes, Chris and Bob Herbert from Heart Management, who ran the auditions and selected the band members.  “Independence”, my foot. To compare those empty-headed, Thatcher-ite (avowedly, in the case of the Spice Girls) mediocrities with the genuinely-independent women artists of the 1970s and 1980s is a shocking dereliction of critical duty.

And we’re now also meant to believe (unless we’re sexist) that bland, conservative women such as Swift are exceptional artists.  Seriously?

Swift, like Madonna, primarily is talented at selling.  Her music has never even been interesting enough to be offensive.  It’s bland chyme – pleasant, artistically unambitious and completely forgettable.  I lost half an hour of my life trying not to fall asleep, ploughing through this sugary, phoney, dross. Bland country to blander, formulaic pop ballads and formulaic shakers – Swift’s entire career is built on a careful avoidance of anything that might offend the average pop fan. Would Swift sell as much if she wasn’t a white American blonde?  Doubtful.

By contrast, the 1970s and the 1980s were full of great, genuinely-independent women artists; artists who have pride of place in my collection; artists who aren’t good “because they’re women”; rather, artists who are good because they’re good: Suzi Quatro, Lydia Lunch, Blondie, Joni Mitchell, Selecter, Siouxsie Sioux, Bjork, Cocteau Twins, Patti Smith, Bananarama, Joan Jett, Go Gos, Slits, Marine Girls, Raincoats, Dolly Mixtures, Girlschool, Xmal Deutschland, Pretenders, Roxette, Eurythmics, X-Ray Spex, Toyah, Lisa Gerrard, Grace Jones, Tracey Thorn, etc.

And here’s another relatively-unsung gem – Rhiannon Giddens. This is her rendition of the old US folk song, Wayfaring Stranger (believed to be a development of an earlier Scottish folk song, The Dowie Dens of Yarrow). I’ve never heard a better version. No woke quotas needed here folks:

I didn’t write these:

Nor did anybody else.

Everything in italics was produced, in a few seconds, by ChatGPT:

Joy Division – overview:

Joy Division was a post-punk band that was formed in Manchester, England in 1976. The band consisted of Ian Curtis (vocals), Bernard Sumner (guitar), Peter Hook (bass), and Stephen Morris (drums).

Joy Division was known for their unique blend of punk and new wave influences, which resulted in a sound that was moody, atmospheric, and introspective. Their music was characterized by its use of unconventional time signatures, unconventional song structures, and the distinctive voice and lyrics of Ian Curtis, who was known for his distinctive singing style and often bleak and introspective lyrics.

The band released two studio albums during their brief career, “Unknown Pleasures” (1979) and “Closer” (1980). Joy Division’s music has had a lasting impact on the post-punk and alternative rock genres and the band has been widely cited as an influence by many other artists. Despite the untimely death of Ian Curtis in 1980, Joy Division’s music continues to be celebrated and enjoyed by fans around the world.

VW Golf GTi Mk. II – overview:

The Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark II is a compact hatchback that was produced by Volkswagen from 1984 to 1992. It was the second generation of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, and it was based on the second-generation Volkswagen Golf (also known as the Golf Mk2).

The Golf GTI Mark II was available in three-door and five-door hatchback body styles, and it was powered by a range of four-cylinder petrol engines. The base engine was a 1.8-liter engine that produced 110 horsepower, but there was also a higher-performance version called the GTI 16v that was equipped with a 1.8-liter engine that produced 128 horsepower.

The Golf GTI Mark II was known for its sporty handling and refined driving experience, and it was popular among enthusiasts and drivers who wanted a practical and fun-to-drive car. It was also praised for its build quality and reliability.

The Golf GTI Mark II was succeeded by the Golf GTI Mark III in 1992.

The Troubles – overview:

The Troubles were a period of sectarian conflict and political violence in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. The conflict was primarily between two main groups: the mainly Protestant unionists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the mainly Catholic nationalists, who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland.

The Troubles were characterized by sectarian violence, bombings, and shootings, and they resulted in the deaths of over 3,500 people. The conflict was fueled by deep-seated religious and cultural differences, as well as political and economic issues.

The Troubles began in the late 1960s, when civil rights protests by Catholics were met with violence by the Protestant-dominated police force and loyalist paramilitaries. The violence escalated over the following decades, and it was exacerbated by the emergence of paramilitary groups on both sides, such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Efforts to find a resolution to the conflict included the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973, the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and the St. Andrews Agreement in 2006. These agreements established power-sharing arrangements between the two main political parties in Northern Ireland and led to a significant reduction in violence. However, tensions and political divisions have continued to persist in Northern Ireland.

Mark E. Smith – overview:

Mark E. Smith was the lead singer and primary songwriter of the English post-punk band the Fall, which he founded in 1976. Smith was known for his abrasive and confrontational stage presence, as well as his distinctive singing style and lyrics, which often featured unconventional and surrealistic themes.

Smith was also known for his controversial and difficult personality, which often resulted in conflicts with bandmates and others. He had a reputation for being difficult to work with and for making demands of those around him, and he was known for frequently changing the lineup of the Fall. Despite this, Smith was highly influential in the post-punk and indie rock scenes, and the Fall released over 30 studio albums during his lifetime.

Smith passed away in 2018 at the age of 60.

Not bad, albeit this AI script generator chatbot has an obvious American bias (the Golf GTi has more power outside of the US, 112hbp for the 8-valve version, and 139bhp for the 16-valve version), and US spellings dominate. The style is blandly competent, and politically fairly even-handed.

I have mixed feelings about it.

College course-work is fucked, of course, certainly at undergraduate level. Of course, this is easily solved by doing what they used to do “in my day” – assessment 100% by in-person final exams. But whither now for Masters and DPhils?

And if (through inertia), in relation to history, politics, current affairs, economics, etc, smart AI chatbots start to become de facto meta narrative controllers, we really will enter into the electric sheep[1] era. The possibilities for subtle autocracy are legion.

[1] Copyright PKD

Planely biased

Note how there is such an assault on ICE engines in cars, while ICE engines in ‘planes are not subject to any compulsory end date, despite being responsible for way more pollution – even though cars are way more important to most people than ‘planes are.

If I gave you a choice – you can either never fly again or never drive again, most people would choose their car. The vast majority of flights – business meetings that could be done over zoom, going to Malaga to get trolleyed – are simply not necessary. But, for a rural dweller with non-existent public transport, going to the shop to taking your kids to school is necessary.

Yet airlines (owned by billionaires) get a free pass while cars (owned by the hoi polloi) are hammered.

Go figure.

On progress

Much criminality results from inadequate parenting, especially when kids are very young, i.e., before the age of 2. Society depends on there being well-adjusted children, but is too stupid to realise this. Lack of parental leave exacerbates the problem. 

About 60 years ago, the capitalists turned feminist when they realised that increasing female participation in the rat-race meant that they could practically double the cost of key consumer items, principally houses.

Prior to what was then called “women’s liberation”, primarily it was men (many of whom coped by excessive drinking) who were rats on the wheel. The greatest trick of capitalism was to dress up the hamster wheel as liberation, and thereby conning women into becoming as downtrodden and hollowed-out as the majority of men. 

Of course, you not allowed to say any of the foregoing lol. The foregoing is offensive to conventional (linear progress) feminist thinking; and it is just as offensive to simpering HR departments and to today’s post-union hipster pleb class (men and women alike), who collectively are dumb enough to be convinced that that bosses and employees are “in it together”.

The difference between “popular” and “populism”

Lots of gnashy Brexiters react furiously to being described as “populist”. They reject the implicit insult.

Instead, they spin “populism” as a salt-of-the-earth approach which merely refers to political activities or ideas that claim to promote the interests and opinions of ordinary people.

Similarly, feminism spins itself as being merely about equality. 

In reality, much feminism is animated by an animus against men.

Unfortunately, that self-serving definition of populism is self-pitying pish.

Worthy ideas (such as charity, or the NHS) can be popular. But “populist” refers to the kind of popularity which is obtained through deception and cynical over-simplification.

In reality, “populism” refers to simplistic, slogan-based “solutions” to complex issues (such as “get Brexit done” (without even defining how lol), or “take back control“, or “too many foreigners“), and usually proffered cynically, in the knowledge that the “solution” won’t work in reality (Brexit has of course failed on every count) – but it will build up enough of a head of emotional steam (in a socially fractured internet age) to create short-term political changes.

Britain’s Nigel Farage is a master at this side-line expert schtick – full of simple, megaphone solutions, but without the guts to take part in real politics himself.  Shouting beery slogans from the side-lines is as good as it gets for this 7-times political loser.  We saw what happened when short-lived British PM Truss attempted a populist solution – chaos, and the world’s fastest u-turn lol.

My sincerest wish is that Farage’s new “party” – “Reform” – win a thumping majority and actually get into power, instead of wanking endlessly on the sidelines.  It’d be the most fun spectator sport ever, watching choleric armchair theorists trying to govern on the basis of emotion.  You’d have the IMF in inside a decade, after the destruction of the monarchy and the mass disorder and food riots. 

And how ironic is this – Farage’s Reform party is not even a party in the truest sense, but a registered company with centralised control. It had been a Farage vehicle, but is now led by Richard Tice, a property investor turned political agitator.

That is, the man who advocated that Britain should “take back control” has set up an unaccountable apparatus ran primarily by a small cabal.

Smells like the 1930s folks. 

When V.A.G. was hip

Back in the 70s and 80s, VWs and Audis were cool.

These 2 classic ads make the point.

Subtly, of course.

Not obvious now, but the “tell Charles I’m on my way” TV ad below, featuring a Yuppie wanker, was a sly dig at BMW drivers of the period:

And the magazine ad below (featuring a Vauxhall wanker in the grey car, shoulder chips firmly in place) also is very true to life. In those days, the VW GTi badge was an aggression magnet:

Schrödinger’s ball

The relevant rule is:

The ball is out of play when it has wholly passed over the goal line or touchline on the ground or in the air.

Clearly, the ball in the Japan-Spain game was no longer physically in contact with the end line:

However, the ball was fractionally also overhanging the outermost edge of the end line, in the air, as indicated for convenience by the light spot on the ball.

(This overhang / oversail aspect is interesting.  Consider, in passing, the analogous position of a player who deliberately leaves the field of play during the game (this is a yellow card offence).  If any player stepped outside the playing area (both feet outside), would any referee deem that player still to be in the playing area merely because he kept his head leaned over the playing area?  Good luck with that one.) 

(The ball, being 3 dimensional, is capable of being partly on the ground and partly in the air at the same time; and, being a sphere, is capable also of simultaneously not touching the white line on the ground while overhanging it in the air.)  

In this case, the argument (for holding that the ball had not gone out of play) is that, while the ball had passed over the line on the ground, it had not fully done so in the air.

Ergo, case closed, the ball was not fully out. 

But there is an ambiguity in the wording.

The rule is phrased as either / or.

The rule does not state that:

The ball is out of play when it has wholly passed over the goal line or touchline on the ground AND in the air.

The question then is – does a ball, rolling on the ground, “pass over” the line as soon as: (i) it ceases to touch the line – or (ii) when it ALSO ceases to overhang the line?

If (ii), then we must read into the rule some words which are not present, namely:

The ball is out of play when it has wholly passed over the goal line or touchline on the ground or in the air, [and, when it passes over the goal line or touchline on the ground, no part of the ball which is in the air must overhang the goal line or touchline]”

There would have been no ambiguity had the rule merely said:

The ball is out of play when it has wholly passed over the goal line or touchline.

In that shortened version, all of the ball must have passed over, in all circumstances, full stop – including not physically touching and not overhanging.  No ambiguity. 

But the rule does not say that. 

The rule as written is an either / or rule.

That is, the rule states that the ball can be out in either of 2 different ways. 

The ball is out if EITHER it passes over on the ground OR in the air.

The “or” is disjunctive.  If we are to give words their ordinary, everyday meaning, “or” is always disjunctive.  And, in that premise, the first way that the ball is allowed to be out, “on the ground”, specifically excludes the operation of the second limb of the rule, namely, “in the air”. 

Accordingly, according to the way the rule is written, the ball can be out “on the ground” without needing to be out “in the air”. 

If the ball must be both over the line on the ground and in the air when it crosses on the ground and crosses in the air, then the last 7 words of the rule are redundant / tautologous, and add nothing.

And that cannot be right.

In construing drafting, there is always a presumption against meaninglessness, or redundancy. We only conclude that the wording of a rule (or a contract, or a statute) is gibberish (and therefore should be ignored) if we can attribute no meaning or utility whatsoever to it.

Otherwise, we enter a dark world where lawyers and administrators, subjectively and unilaterally, can decide to ignore any words in laws or in contracts that they don’t like.

But it is not difficult to ascribe meaning to the last 7 words of the rule.

They simply draw a distinction between passing over on the ground, and passing over in the air. We do not need to grasp for obscure or forced meanings.

And, since we must afford semantic heft to the last 7 words, it follows that there must be a difference between passing over on the ground and passing over in the air.

For if there is no difference at all between the two physical states of “on the ground” or “in the air”, then the distinction would not need to have been made in the first place.

And the only difference can be is that a ball passes over on the ground once it no longer touches, and it passes over in the air when it does not overhang.

Otherwise, there is no difference.

Accordingly, the ball in the Japan-Spain game fulfilled one limb of the definition and was out.  The subsequent goal should not have stood.  

Everyone will say – oh for f***’s sake, you’re reading too much into it.

I’m not.

Either we follow the rules of football, or we don’t. 

And, in following the rules, we must take care to follow what the rules say, and work out precisely what they mean; and not to rely on second-hand interpretations.