Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: beauty

Speaking to my sister by moonlight

Beauty and its beholders  

A political note

Solution (from an occasional series)                             

What is right?

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This North Atlantic island slum, consisting mainly of a row of rain-soaked wooden shacks with one or two storm-battered overambitious would-be villas along the ridge above the harbour, and a congeries of small shops, concrete storehouses and parking lots for all manner of marine gear down around the quays, is to my mind one of the finest spots on earth to live.  Not as well set up with all the inconveniences of modern life as modern homo negotians would like, or indeed insists on, which is undoubtedly part of its attraction.  We are not yet equipped with e-communications reliable enough to be worth using, which at least gives some protection against e-malfeasance.  It is certainly one of the few remaining redoubts in the northern hemisphere not minutely documented and analysed for potential profit – ha! profit?! – by the dark forces of the net.  But there are times when one can welcome some contacts with the outside world.  Yesterday Kevin brought a delightful surprise, along with the rainwater pouring off his anorak and over the notes I had spread out across the floor in preparation for my plea to the senators to have this office granted diplomatic immunity.  It is the first letter in a long time from Isabelita.  For those who have only recently come across this journal, Isabelita of the many talents was for more than a year the effective directrix of the office when it included five irascible journalists (or similar), even though nominally she was just an assistant.  Any remaining traces of order and organisation are owed to her.   Still in remarkably good form to judge from the picture she included, even if it is sexist to say so.  No longer competes internationally, but apparently twice a week leads parties of old age pensioners down to La Playa de los Frailes for two or three hours of beach volleyball.  Ecuadorian academic life’s gain has been the rest of the world’s loss.

            However, it may be that even in plucky little Ecuador the path to ruin may be surveyed to see how it may be opened up.  The mountainous regions of the country are still richly covered with the original forests, not yet seriously damaged by ‘development’, and the forested mountains are inhabited by one of the most splendid arrays of strikingly coloured birds of any country on the planet.  One reaction is to call for this region to be preserved as a wonderful example of a natural environment such as has already been despoiled in many other regions.  Another reaction to such a landscape in many countries has been to ‘monetise’ it, negotiating with the government, or whoever controls a territory de facto, with a view to extracting all extractable resources, mineral, arboreal, or hydrological.  (It has, after centuries, become somewhat harder to exploit human resources, though if you consider the actual conditions of the poor of this earth living in ‘third world’ countries, you will find it easy to doubt that claim.)  There is also a third reaction which in America might well be called ‘monetisation-lite’.  When the attractions of a landscape are undeniable, this can lead to well-fed businessmen staying in expensive hotels in the nearest capital city where they can be heard muttering to one another phrases such as ‘touristic potential’, ‘ecological experience’ and ‘high season occupancy’, and to prove it there are former fishing villages that have irremediably lost their virtue all along the coasts of Spain, and in the islands of Greece and Thailand and the Pacific.  Nobody can know the motive or combination of motives which may have brought forth ideas for one or more chains of pylons allowing passengers to travel along the magnificent Sierra and view the landscape.  I have nothing against pylons in themselves; if you forget the chocolate box associations and conventional attitudes most pylons are without doubt  more graceful than the average castle.  (Would it help if the pylons were built with pre-installed ivy and maybe miniature watchtowers at the summit?)  But why might one want to erect pylons on those mountains?  It may well be a simple unadulterated desire to let foreigners see the beauty of the country, perhaps at cost price only, perhaps even free?  But, however pure the intention, future events remain unpredictable events.  Whoever would have thought that Cameron’s kindly efforts to free the Libyan shore of the Mediterranean from tyranny would lead to the horrors of the past three years?  Let  a destination get some reputation as an interesting or beautiful or famous place to visit (fame alone can be enough of a magnet, with or without historical accuracy – cf many of the alleged ancient battle sites in assorted countries, which now look like perfectly ordinary countryside – and then a trickle of visitors can become a stream, justifying ‘tourist facilities’ which soon let the stream become a torrent, which is followed by the destination featuring temptingly in countless websites selling holidays and travel, and finally local citizens are effectively driven out of their own homes for half the year.  Just ask the inhabitants of Barcelona, or gaze in dismay at the monstrous arks impudently dwarfing the incomparable buildings of Venice which one of them will one day, statistics and cruise ships being what they are, destroy.

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In this world of ‘us’ and ‘them’ (a.k.a. tribalism; so that’s what the development of civilised politics has brought us to) Theresa must be thanking her lucky stars, little red stars it seems, that once again as she faced yet another near insurmountable hurdle in keeping her finger-tip hold on 10 Downing Street the Russians came galloping onto the scene to save her bacon.  You might almost think Putin was trying to make sure she stays in office, and if you think that then be cautious; you don’t know what you might catch yourself thinking next.  Monty, our esteemed contact in London, once a bold buccaneer of free speech, is increasingly cautious about saying anything to anybody about any topic but he has given me permission to pass on this observation, that nobody should believe that story about the senior UK ministers being posted to various destinations in Europe over the summer in order to cajole the locals into agreeing to her Chequers plan – a political hologram if ever there was one –  and figs to the Irish.  Those ministers were sent round Europe to keep them out of London and apart, so that they couldn’t gather together and stage a coup against her.

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Another of our solutions to longstanding problems

Society may be ready to recognise that it pays a shocking price in terms of accidents for the right to own and drive private cars.  And then there is the air pollution, and the costs to the nation of importing oil, and the massive contribution to climate change.  Some would add the corrosive effects on social cohesion (deliberately stimulated by some of the manufacturers.)  Far less obtrusive but perhaps much more pervasive is another factor often left out of account partly because it is exceedingly difficult to pin down the details of its profile and partly because it has somehow infiltrated society in such a way as to leave the poor harassed citizen assuming it is an inevitable part of modern life.  I am of course referring to stress.  Difficult to pin down it may be, but there will be few readers who do not feel they have more of it than they want.  There will often be dispute as to how far any particular accident or ailment or failure results from stress but few will doubt that stress can be an important and baleful factor in all those situations.  And few will doubt that the acquisition, ownership, maintenance, and use of private cars in their millions has a prime place in the roster of causes.  You don’t need to read this journal to be told that.  What you need is to be offered a remedy, and this journal has one.  It is so obvious that it may have been proposed already elsewhere, but if so the news hasn’t reached this office, and there’s certainly no harm in putting it on view here.  The key is to ban the simple ownership of private cars.  It will be replaced by a system where one buys a car licensed to be on public roads only on a specified day of the week with fierce penalties for any owner whose car breaks that rule.  Thus as Nigel Smith-Farquharson sees his neighbour Jamila Cottesloe walking to the station on Monday morning, does he toot derisively and congratulate himself  on buying a Monday car?  Possibly, but far more likely not, because he knows well that she has a Tuesday car and has always been willing to give him the ride needed.  (In fact the two, from wary beginnings based purely on practicality, have become co-operating friends.  Both help run the same food bank at weekends.)  Naturally there is a special higher-priced category of car to be bought which can be used on both Saturdays and Sundays (but definitely not covering late trips home early Monday morning.  The change of day at midnight and the penalty for cheating will yield impressive improvements in the road safety record).  Identification of cheating drivers will be easy because the license plates for different days of the week will have different colours and shapes.  Needless to say there will be a new richly satisfying income stream for whichever department receives it.  Misers and curmudgeons who cannot work out suitable agreements with other travellers will cycle or walk, with consequent benefit to their physical condition and saving of costs to the health service.  A small proportion of the well-heeled may buy enough cars for the whole week (to the applause of car manufacturers) but overall the effects on air quality, climate change, and so on will all tend to be positive, while congestion and stress with all its ill effects will be vastly reduced

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If you did not enjoy that item you may also dislike this:

Presumably certain officials in the  militant/extremist wing of the British Home Office are temporarily keeping their heads below the parapet until the public’s current awareness of injustices perpetrated against the weak, the unimportant and the poor slips back below the headlines and allows them to consider what to do next.  No doubt some will be ruminating on the fact that same-sex marriage is now a fait accompli, and will have noticed that the arguments for accepting solemnly and legally attested relationships between partners of the same sex – consent, adulthood, no objections from previous partners, and so on – would appear to be available for campaigns in favour of polygamy (and polyandry).  Also for interspecies marriage.  (And I leave it to you whether you feel there are any other situations that might be considered relevant.)

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The next regular posting is scheduled for 16 October

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MMQQ 8

WARNING! this posting may contain favourable references to Vladimir Putin. I have done my best to weed them out – just this morning I threw one out which described him as telling rather fewer barefaced  lies than some other well-known national leaders (named), and another which blatantly failed to maintain that he won re-election only by cunning manipulation of the Russian electoral system with the help of North Korean hackers, without which as every right-thinking westerner knows he would have got under 20% of the votes, with 60% going to Sobchak. (Memo to self: check Faux for those figures.)  But someone – Twitter? dark websters? George Soros? undercover Russian moles in Washington? – keeps putting the wretched messages up when the computer is catching its breath after a brisk ten minutes of typo production.  AND another one just in this minute as I write!  “Trump call to bring Putin into G8: only good thing he’s said all year.  Just because you have problems with someone is why you should talk to them.  Least bad move of Brits losing empire – talked peace with ex-terrorists.  Even Churchill said it: ‘jaw-jaw is better than war, war.”  Time out, I think, for my morning ten-minute blank screen thought-free sanity break (prescribed by Dr. Zee Hubris III of New Exeter University’s Institute of the Gymnastic Brain).

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DNA (1)

The shock news for neonazis world wide (though we don’t have any reliable figures on how many were hoping  that Hitler was still alive somewhere in South America  and preparing an allegedly well funded return) is that definitive evidence was provided last month through Agence France Presse of their former leader’s demise, in the shape of authenticated fragments of the late Herr Schickelgruber, including enough to indicate that his death was caused by a shot to the head.  Enough, also and interestingly, to allow in principle a DNA analysis.  Rumours have already begun to circulate, some of which may have unpredictable political ramifications.  For instance one magazine with a small circulation in Lower Saxony (until last month – it reports that it is now having to arrange massive extra print runs and hiring 24-hour security patrols) claimed that DNA analysis has already been carried out and showed that Hitler was of mixed ancestry with a major input from West  Africa.  Another source alleges that the material was actually made available to experts in a centre specialising in gene therapy some months ago, for undisclosed purposes.  There is as yet no reliable evidence for the claims that the institute where they worked has had to be closed down, with many of the staff needing hospital treatment following injuries received during attacks by swarms of aggressive white mice, some of which are said to have escaped and been observed in large organised groups as far away as 40 kilometres.  More credence is being placed on the reports that a well-respected university archaeological department has confirmed that it is applying to have access to an authenticated version of the DNA with a view to seeing if it will cast light on Europe’s first recorded major battle.  This battle, which involved many hundreds of casualties, took place somewhat over 5,000 years ago, and few inhabitants of the EU will be surprised to hear that it was fought in north-eastern Germany (at Tollense) but so far there is complete uncertainty as to which tribes were involved (if indeed it was not a domestic dispute which, as they so often do, spiralled out of control.)  A different and less problematic development, obeying modern norms of acceptable practice, has been a burst of energetic attempts to monetise the discovery.  A number of groups are already busy selling print-outs of Hitler’s DNA (popular with students as wall charts apparently); such a project could the more easily bring profit since there is no obvious reason why the representation on the charts should be genuine, and little risk of breach of copyright even if it is.

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DNA (2)

Amazing news this past week: the claim of success in a project that could have short-circuited the threat of yet another war in the Balkans.  As everybody knows, the region which under Yugoslavia was called Macedonia, is next to a part of northern Greece which under Greece (of course) is called Macedonia.  The members of homo sapiens (sic) who live in either place have for 27 years maintained a situation of admirably determined hostility.  The EU handed the northern Macedonia the short straw at the start by refusing to agree to that nation joining the EU or Nato unless it stopped calling itself Macedonia, despite the fact it was a separate nation calling itself Macedonia, while the Greek Macedonia was only a province, and despite the fact that EU and Nato, and the UN, were actually eager to enfold Macedonia (the independent one) in their warm and wholly altruistic embraces.  With resolute  patriotic indignation Macedonia refused to stop calling itself Macedonia in the decades which followed, and scorned weaselly proposals from unprincipled bodies, like the UN, to ask the Macedonians (in Greece) to call the Macedonians (in Macedonia) ‘Macedonians of the North’ or something of the sort – up until 12th of this month when the Balkans were thunderstruck to hear that agreement had been reached to let the Macedonians use the name ‘Northern Macedonia’, and thus induce regional instability by becoming eligible to join the EU, Nato, conferences to deplore global warming, and all manner of freeby-generating organisations.  However, normality returned within 24 hours.  Senior politicians in Macedonia (in Greece) launched heavy attacks on the proposal, and at the same time the president of Macedonia (the other one) denounced the idea as something he could never agree to.  The threat of unsettling stability has been removed.  Some heard the EU breathe a sigh of relief.

            The curious fact, though, is that the issue might have been settled years ago, if sensible arrangements had been made for mass testing of the DNA of the two populations.  According to eminent historians the two regions became depopulated during the incessant wars and Völkerwanderungen after Justinian’s time and were re-settled mainly by Avars, Bulgars, Serbs and other Slavic peoples, so that none of the present populations (Greeks included, though you had better not mention that to them) can fairly claim any real link to the Macedonians of Alexander the Great, or to his legacy, and therefore they had no proper basis for hostility in the matter.  Whether this would have resulted in a delightful period of peace and tranquillity over the past 27 years is of course another question.

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Difficile est satiram scribere

The British National Health Service is in the news again, for the usual reason.  On reasonable and independent estimates it has in recent years faced hugely increasing gaps between expenses and funding in nearly all sectors (except revenue collection from those, such as doctors and patients, who need to park in hospital car parks, and in nurses’ pay which in real terms has been dropping disgracefully, a circumstance possibly connected with the increasing shortages of nursing staff, and the sharp decline in applications from overseas to join the NHS).  One would have imagined that British governments might have made efforts to maintain standards of care for the population, if only to get more work out of them, but one might be mistaken.  And this is not an unavoidable accident that has crept up on UK governments.  The following is, verbatim, from one of Berthold’s despatches in 2015: it was at the time intended satirically.  But can you call something satire when it matches observable data so closely?    …. ‘This legislation is to be followed up by a wide raft of measures to be introduced by the Ministry of Health.  The overall aim will be to progressively downgrade both the range of services provided by the National Health Service, and the treatments available within each of those.  In addition there will be a number of new charges for medical and related care, and increases in the levels of existing fees.  At the same time there are to be drastic cuts in the numbers of staff employed in all areas.  The overall strategy is to promote deterioration in the National Health Service so as to stimulate members of the public to take better care of their own health, and to learn to pay proper and full attention to the avoidance of accidents at work and in the home.  The government is confident that this imaginative and unconventional approach to reform when combined with further exploration of the possibilities offered by co-operation with private investment will produce immensely more satisfying results.’

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Personal view The dead and those with life-changing injuries from Grenfell should be remembered with career-changing penalties for those responsible. (Yes ‘responsible’ is as sharply defined as a cumulus cloud; but if you check you will see the cloud really is there.)    (J.N.N. Manchester)

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Personal view  T. May comes closer than any other well-known politician in the past century to fitting the description which the alcoholically inspired Aneurin Bevan fastened on Stafford Cripps back in the 1940s, of being ‘a desiccated calculating machine’ (a term used in the middle ages for ‘computer’).  (And yes they had austerity in those days too, though you ought to bear in mind they had had a world war; they weren’t doing austerity just to set society up in a pattern which members of the governing class felt comfortable with.) (D.C.McNaught, Lisbon)

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Editor’s note: I am getting off-piste, having to do so much of this stuff single-handed, with only occasional notes from Berthold and even rarer contributions from the Baron Philipp, and Monty in London (who is showing a kindly streak in his personality which I had never spotted before, working all hours trying to force-feed some basics about rational thought and constitutional proprieties into the May government.  I hope he fails because if they proceed along the same path, a Brexit calamity of historic proportions is going to  lead to the extinction of a party which once in the long ago was a model of what guided democracy in a country with traditions of fair play could achieve in its better moments, but which has now become a contemptible bandwagon, crammed with all manner of unsavoury characters jostling in a struggle to peel off all the carriage’s remaining gold leaf to stuff it in their already well-stuffed pockets, or to tear out any parts of the bodywork they can lever off with a view to profitable private sale, hurling insults and obvious untruths at all and sundry as they pass.

 

Exuberant irrationality

Readers’ letters   Victorian spaceships   royal assets   Tea Party policy?   Marathon times     next distribution scheduled 30-9-12

Jeremy:  Hallo, Jeremy and Simon here!  Welcome all!  This is going to be a bit different from the usual Cold Salad distributions…

Simon: Good thing too!

Jeremy: With my best French accent – Attention au cake-hole, you idiot.  They’re almost certain to read what we’ve sent out when they come back.

Simon: Doubt it.  They never read stuff after they’ve sent it out.  Never even open readers’  letters.

Jeremy: Anyway all our big boys are away on their holidays.  Editor staying with his sister in Eastbourne …

Simon: In detox probably.

Jeremy: Oh you are a nasty boy today!  Do shut up.  As I was saying, Deputy Ed is checking his native Scotland is still there.  The lovely Isabelita…

Simon: Our princess.

Jeremy: As you rightly say, our princess.   Off with her uncle in Italy.  Long holidays they must have where he comes from.  Manos is still in London, doubtless driving Mervyn King nuts.   No risk of the Mad Doc coming in because his wife’s got an exhibition in Dublin all through September.  So we are keeping base clean…

Simon: !

Jeremy: …sort of, and we have permission to push something out if anything interesting comes in from Luddites  Now they didn’t actually say we couldn’t push out anything else so this is what we have on the menu.  First we are going to attend to some of those readers’ letters, then maybe add a comment or two about things that have gone out in the past few weeks where we two weren’t allowed to give an opinion, and then finish up with one or two ideas of our own.  We found the letters in a bin in the backyard.  Simon and me usually come in the back way so we don’t have to get past the dog, and I suppose some cats had a fight and knocked the bin over.  Anyway here is Fanny Carasheen writing from Hartlepool back in May and she wants to know why this distribution system is called Cold Salad.  Actually, Fanny it’s what you call an acronym; it comes from the initial letters of Club of obstinate lunatics determined to struggle against lies and distortions which was how someone described them when they were getting started and they were actually rather proud.  But the editors are trying to go quiet on it now because they found out some malicious hacker had changed it everywhere to Compendium of leaks from the Department of specious allegations, lies, ambiguities and denials.

  Next letter.  Nathanael Apomba, of Kirkwall – that’s in Norway, isn’t it?  “That bit you sent out back in April, about the alien onions, I’ve been thinking about it.  I had this idea.  Suppose you could muck about with the geans of a kid, you could save a lot on electricity for nightlights for kids if you got one of those geans from jellyfish and put it in him, because then he would glow sort of green colour in the dark.”   Hmm!  Enough said really.

Simon: I like it.  But what about the tentacles?  And better make sure you never take the kid to the seaside.

Jeremy: Whatever.  Anyway here’s another.  Oh, this is a sad one.  “I like it when the sky is blue, and birdies chirrup sweet and true.  My friends come round and ask to play and then we go down to the bay.” Some kid heard about the poetaster job we’re offering.  ‘Gillian’, no other name, no address.  Editors should have put some age limit in the ad.  Erm, oh!  Ah, now I’m not so sure I was right on first impression.  Hear this; verse 5: “I lie beside him in the grass, he rubs his hand across m …”  No.  Definitely not our style Simon.

Simon: Not yours, you mean, don’t you?

Jeremy: Ahem.  Now this one’s from dear old Oz.  Oh dear me!  Sooo formal!  “Sirs, Ruminating on the introduction of computerised voting machines in certain  countries, is this not a golden opportunity to make use of the idea of the negative vote?  It is only too plausible that the voter will discover there is no candidate for whom he feels able to cast a positive ballot, but quite probable that there is at least one whom he knows to be an outright scoundrel.  He should be able to cast a negative vote to subtract one from the total otherwise accumulated by said candidate.

Simon: Brilliant idea!  Bit boring though.  Let me have one to read.  What about this? “Dear Sirs, I wonder if you would consider helping me by publicising a museum I have set up.  I have been fortunate in acquiring a good few pieces of equipment, decorations, and furnishings such as leather armchairs, gaslamps and antimacassars, all of which I am reliably assured are authentic relics from early Victorian spaceships before the programme was abandoned owing to the costs of the Crimean adventure.  My museum…”  Oh jeez, poor loon!  He’s even enclosed a photograph, though why there’s a diver’s helmet … Oh I see.  Someone must have told him it was from a spacesuit.  Back in the bin for that.  Him as well would be a good idea.  Wow, this next one has a sticker on the envelope, ‘Fiends of Latvian literature’.  Don’t think I’ll risk opening that one.  Oh, let’s ditch the rest of the letters.  Weren’t we going to add some intelligent comments on what the top brass have been distributing?

Jeremy: Actually, the only thing I’d add is that the Chinese sending their millions on trips abroad to keep them out of political business is a pain in the backside to the rest of us.  Try and get a gondola ride in Venice, and they’re all booked up for the next six hours by Chinese tour groups, even the Huns can’t get in.  Can’t get a decent photograph of a friend standing under the Eiffel tower because of dense crowds of elderly chin-high Chinese milling around in the way or squinting through their glasses at your camera and then shuffling off giggling.

Simon: Too right.  Except the ones laughing at your camera will be Japanese.  But didn’t you want to say something of your own about the royal tits?  Sounds like a flying version of the royal corgis, doesn’t it?

Jeremy: Ah, the holiday snaps of la belle duchesse!  Except I don’t think marrying into the family makes you personally royal, does it?  I suppose if you had a complete blood transfusion from one of them, maybe that would count.  Do they ever give blood?

Simon: I doubt it, because if they did somebody by now would certainly have stolen some and put it on eBay.

Jeremy: That’s no proof because you could put a test tube up for sale and just say ‘believed to be genuinely royal’, like a coach saying ‘we all believe this great athlete is dope-free’; and if you were American you’d probably put blue dye in the test tube to really convince the punters.  I expect people do it all the time, but MI6 probably have an ultra-efficient cyberguillotine which cuts the advert into tiny electrons before it ever sets foot in cyberspace.

Sinon: You’re trying to change the subject.  Jealous?

Jeremy: I don’t know what you could possibly be referring to.  But to be serious, I really can’t see what the fuss is about.  I mean, nobody has done anything, all that’s happened is that now we all have evidence she’s a thoroughly normal woman, which is what the masses all assume and want anyway.  Was anybody suspecting she was hiding something else inside the clothing, a couple of cornish pasties for a quick snack or something?  If the photos showed that she didn’t have normal female equipment in there, then there might have been a reason for trying to suppress the pictures.  It’s not as if they’re a rare female feature.  All normal woman are born to be like that if they grow up – lucky them.

Simon: Meaning, Jeremy?

Jeremy: After all, very few statues of female human beauty try to pretend they’re not there.  Now, I don’t want to talk about that any more, if you don’t mind.  Isn’t it time we went upstairs to throw the whalemeat down to the dog?

Simon: Oh jeez, I forgot!  He didn’t get any this morning because I couldn’t get the window open, and I meant to go back and oil the lock, but when I came down there was that story on the television about scientists working on viruses to attack specific occupations, especially politicians.  Remember?  They reckon 85% of politicians have particular patterns in their DNA which are rare in the normal population and that it should be possible to redesign viruses so they will attack just that group.

Jeremy: Those Tea Party scientists you mean?  Said they really know a way to cut the size of government?

Simon: Tea Party?

Jeremy: Yes.  But what you saw was just the intro.  Then you went out to get the croissants and the olives.  Those weren’t real scientists, they were just actors, acting out the dreams of some of the more enthusiastic supporters of the Tea Party.  Actually, it sounded like cutting the size of government is just a side issue with that lot.  Near the end, they brought on this old chap, looked as if he’d walked straight out of one of those films about plantation-owners before the Civil War, and he seemed to sum it all up rather simply: ‘What we want is freedom.  I don’t want Washington taking any of my money to share round causes other than me, and I want Washington to scrap every one of those damn rules that are stopping me doing what I want’.

Simon: Surprise me some more.  Anyway, haven’t we got enough now?

Jeremy:I reckon that’ll do.  But didn’t you want to do a challenge of the month or something?

Simon: Oh fetid kidneys.  I forgot that.  But I’ve got one ready, just let me find it.  Right!  Mr Ryan, vice-presidential candidate, claimed on radio this August that his best time for the marathon was ‘two hours and fifty-something’.  But it turns out he has only run a marathon once, an event called ‘Grandma’s Marathon’ in 1990, and at the time he finished in four hours, one minute, and a bit.  So the challenge is: if we assume that this amazing improvement, over twenty-one years, could be matched by the world’s top marathon runners, starting from now (two hours, three minutes and thirty-eight seconds) what is the earliest year in which it will be possible to report that some runner somewhere must have finished the race before he started?

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honor honestique floreant

Preservation or decay

1) Beautifully preserved  2) Flat slogans  3) Queen in ‘doping’ shock

Next distribution scheduled 17th August (but earlier gibbous supplement not excluded)

Science News (Luddites’ Gazette)

Not long ago a leather shoe was picked up in a remote cave in a remote part of Armenia.  From the undisturbed appearance of the cave, the finder guessed it could be several hundred years old, but it wasn’t.  Tests showed that it was 5,500 years old give or take a decade or two.  Yet it was in excellent  condition, better than thousands of that style lying at this moment in teenagers’ bedrooms in the western world; it is in a moccasin style still part of living tradition under the name ‘opanke’ (in the Balkans) or ‘pampootie’ (western Ireland), which has now fallen into the trawling net of the fashion industry where it is considered a highly desirable item.  Here is a picture of the Armenian shoe,  showing that even the laces and the grass used to pad it are still almost as new, side by side with another pampootie made a year or two ago in the Aran Islands. 

  The archaeologists who explored the cave determined that although conditions in it for preservation were generally very good the most important factor in the  wonderful preservation of the shoe was that it had been buried in a layer of sheep droppings on the floor of the cave.  This has interesting implications in more than one direction.  The first is for those wealthy individuals who have paid large sums to have their bodies frozen at the moment of death with a view to being preserved until advances in medical science make it possible for them to be not merely revived but ideally revived with  thorough servicing, upgrading, and retuning, so as to function as supercharged teenagers. (They are curiously unworried by the possibility of being revived into a world where socialism has triumphed.)  So far scientific investigations have only found this process to have much chance of success with the larvae of fruit flies, so they would probably do better to spend their money on having themselves enveloped in sheep droppings.  Here is a picture of the chest  and forearm of Ötzi, who probably through no choice of his own adopted the glacial method (literally, in the Hauslabjoch glacier ) going into the frozen state about 5,250 years ago and staying in it until a temporary warming, without revival, in 1991.  It is pretty clear which technique has the advantage.  There is also the point which would probably be appreciated by most wealthy individuals, that the sheep dropping procedure clearly has vastly cheaper running costs, approximately zero, quite apart from the fact that almost certainly there will sooner or later be an interruption to any electricity supply that keeps iced coffins functioning.

  But these concerns are really only a side issue.  The far bigger implications are those that will arise when the remarkable potency of sheep droppings as a preservative for biological tissue are taken on board by the cosmetics industry.

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Opinion feature  (Luddites’ Gazette)

Mr. Bradshaw Bullingley (former Senior English Master at Greysford Grammar School) writes

  There is no population in Europe so ovinely submissive as the British to the whims and self-aggrandisement of those who consider themselves in a position of authority.  Who now remembers one of the most common remarks of the language fifty years ago?  If, for example, a petty official saw a chance to pump up his self-importance at the expense of a girl who had innocently plucked a flower (my young sister as it happens), he was likely in those days to get the retort, “It’s a free country.”  Not in 2012.

  However I am not concerned with the arrogance of the megacircus now occupying London – overpaid, oversexed, and over here, to adopt what we said of the Americans arriving in 1943 and 1944 to take up their share of – or perhaps I should say ‘to claim the leading part  in’ – the fight in the western sphere of the war against Hitler.  (Not but what it may be of interest to students of human herd behaviour to see how easily the sound of trumpets, the waving of flags and the repetition of Göbbelesque assertions that the nation is united in joy can bamboozle a population out of common rights and freedoms it has enjoyed ever since it emerged as a nation out of the European tribal scrum.)

  To resume: as well as its major impositions the circus has brought a ready supply of minor irritations, among them the multiplication ad nauseam of one of the ugliest ‘logos’ ever designed (oddly, though, suggesting to me at least a drunken man stumbling and falling to his left, which makes it a little easier to endure for the half-second needed to switch to another television channel if one is so battle-wearied by the constant struggle to maintain standards as to be watching television in the first place).  Another intrusion is a plethora of some of the most banal slogans ever paid for by overwrought publicity budgets.  Now I quite accept that by the side of the major predators gnawing at the vitals of our civilisation, lies, greed, advertising and so on, linguistic banality takes on the proportion of a maggot chewing at one of the less attractive toes, but that is no reason to let it have its emetic way, and I believe that my experience of many years serving as a schoolmaster in the defence of Shakespeare’s tongue equips me to tackle the topic of banality in language.

  Two lines converged a few years ago on the graph of British decline given below – the plunging blue line representing the average amount of effort plus attention put into any given task (not least homework in schools!), the soaring red showing the tendency of computer programming these days to muscle in on the performance of a task, no matter whether it improves it or not.  (I suspect indeed that at this point I should essay a provisional apology in advance since these two same factors make it only too likely that the graphic element I intend will disappear from this piece of mine somewhere along the transmission line leading to publication.)  One result has been the appearance of computer programmes which claim to all but construct advertisements for the ‘busy advertising executive’, including of course the slogan which most such effusions incorporate along with the text and the visual fiction.  Such programmes are naturally spurned by the few that are truly creative (who, let me be just, do exist!), but are now widely used by most in the curiously named advertising ‘industry’ – as one can guess only too easily from the generally lamentable results.  Complex as such programmes may be, those aspects dealing with the slogan are of the simplest.  For any given subject matter, some catchpenny scheme, a political campaign, a holiday suggestion, or whatever else it might be, the programme will generate templates, offering some dozens of variants in different colours and typefaces, with or without various surrounding symbols and ‘icons’, all based on a handful of ‘skeletons’ relevant to the subject matter.  For the holiday theme it might well produce this skeleton among others:

You will always  α  when you go to  β  for   x

Minimal guidance is given to the less dynamic executive on filling in the slots, eg that β should name the destination the the customer wishes to promote, α should contain some expression of feeling excited in a positive way, with x indicating an activity that might be favoured by the targeted consumers, subject to local regulations about obscene publication.  In the case of the Olympics – no claptrap here about censoring the English vocabulary! – another programme has currently been offering to its customers the following skeleton. (It must have been difficult to come up with this one!)

              the   α  Games ever!

The guidance is that α should be filled in with the superlative (instructions on the formation of English superlatives are given) of some ‘quality’ considered admirable or desirable, and, lest that guidance should be too exiguous for the programme’s users it offered ‘greatest’ and ‘most olympian’ as suggestions!   Perhaps I can be more helpful.  I simply picked up a couple of left-wing newspapers from my local newsagent, and went through marking some of the adjectives which in the current climate of this country are regarded by many as desirable or admirable, and in five minutes I had assembled the collection below.  I originally intended no more than to offer one or two to friends of mine as parodies of the sort of ‘public English’ that debases the very thoughtways of our nation today, and is certainly a contributory element in the constant decline in the linguistic competence of pupils entering our schools, as colleagues still active in the profession tell me.  Yet to my dismay as I proceeded I found that each has a certain ring of actuality, and I would make no wager, were I a gambler, on any one of them not to have been picked up and proudly bruited abroad by the partisans of this or that sectional interest.  It would be interesting to learn if my dismay is justified.  Sightings if indeed encountered may be reported to me through Luddites’ Gazette, by kind permission of the editors.

  sharing; organic; passionate; soft; harmless; ecological; joined-up; tasty; deodorised; fragrant; cuddly; pet-friendly; legal; yellow; handwoven; aggressive (to  some minds a positive quality!); recyclable; market-oriented; democratic; socialist; crunchy; cool; obedient; Venusian; gender-neutral; gender-parity-conscious

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Late News  (Luddites’ Gazette)

Queen in ‘doping’ scare

A security assistant at the Olympic site was held in custody for several hours last night after having attempted to detain the Queen on suspicion of having consumed a non-permitted  substance.  As the Queen passed one of the concealed sensors which instantly analyse the breath of passing visitors, its alarm went off.  These sensors are reportedly able to detect recent consumption of any of 2,365 excluded substances, including any drink other than those of the officially accredited sponsors and plain water.  When the alarm sounded the 19-year-old assistant stepped forward apparently intending to question her but was immediately wrestled to the ground by two of the military personnel who were on duty nearby.  It was promptly discovered that the sensor was faulty, and it was put out of commission.  After the briefest of delays, the Queen who seemed quite undisturbed by the incident continued her visit.  She later asked for the assistant to be released without charge as he had simply been following rules, and insisted that no harm had been done.

honor honestique floreant