Schedule for next regular posting 16 June
Krill Scientists (who else would it be?) recently discovered that vast swarms of tiny shrimps, with a collective biomass which dwarfs anything that migrating wildebeest or North American bison could ever put into play, are pulsating deep below the surface of the world’s polar oceans. They flick their tails in such enormous numbers that they have a detectible impact on ocean currents. Scientists believe there is a genuine possibility that a change in their ancestral migrations could lead to a major change in the circulation of oceanic currents, diverting the Gulf Stream for instance, so as to no longer bring mild Caribbean waters flowing to Europe in the winter. There have been various reactions around the globe. Representatives of the Munster Winter Sports Association are already in Colorado for discussions about establishing a chain of Irish ski resorts if, as the scientists believe possible, an abrupt halt to the North Atlantic Circulation results in Alpine winters for the Southwest of Ireland. Whitehall has already received a proposal from a retired British admiral for attempts to ‘train’ the shoals so as to control their movements, on the basis that if a flying goose can bring down an airliner then a marine phenomenon as big as this might cause serious problems to a Russian nuclear submarine. (The scientists commented that it might be easier to train shrimps than retired admirals, or the dolphins they’d made attempts with earlier. The dolphins had quickly spotted that the backpacks that were strapped onto their backs were only too likely to have unpleasant effects for themselves whatever else might happen.) (The ‘dolphins’ which patrol up and down the coast of Gaza with a regularity which has attracted the admiration of border security agencies around the world are in fact tiger sharks. Theresa May is said to have instructed an ad hoc team to investigate whether similar recruits could be incorporated into her programme to control ‘free’ movement after Brexit.) Meanwhile several fleets of Dutch fishermen are already more than halfway to the poles, followed by support vessels dwarfing mere Med cruise liners, bearing fishing gear that could bring up the Albert Hall if it was down there. Tweets from Donald Trump this morning initially declared the existence of these massive swarms to be a dangerous threat to the peaceful passage of shipping in the Gulf, and he blamed Iran for stoking up regional tensions. It emerged later that the president had confused the Gulf referred to when talking about the ‘Gulf Stream’ with the different Gulf which some of us who took geography in school have always called the ‘Persian Gulf’ (though according to others it has, even more always, been called the Arabian Gulf.)
Today’s Voice of Protest (This posting’s contrary voice is that of Professor Sid Karaosmanoglu, Associate Professor of Domestic Sanitation for Block 43 and the ground floor of Block 45 in the City Campus of Bognor Sophia.) ‘As I see it, all those Windrush people did very well out of our country while they were here, shouldn’t be grumbling. Besides they weren’t mostly proper British, anyway. Very few out of them all really hated foreigners, far as I could see.’
We are interested to hear that in his spare time (every day after 6pm, and weekends except for alternate Saturdays) Professor Sid is a keen advocate of gender equality. In particular he feels it is unfair that most major beauty contests still refuse to admit male candidates, including himself.
Serious stuff Let me state categorically again that the inhabitants of the UK did NOT vote to leave the EU. The claim that they did is paired with bizarre twists of the notion of democracy. Somewhere about the generation of John Stuart Mill, theorists safely detached from close proximity to the conditions of most of the population, purveyed an idea that democracy entailed dealing with a problem (e.g. ‘who shall run the country and how?’) by collecting ideas from all and sundry, setting them before all those who would be affected by the various possible answers, corralling those answers into explicit formulations, and letting the assembled company have simple votes on which would be accepted. This is a neat way to run your local badminton club, so long as it has no over-ebullient members. It was distant from the way government was actually run even then, when ‘democracy’ meant a daring revolutionary proposal, that all adult males (provided they were not in prison or members of an unfavoured minority)(race didn’t even come into it ) should be allowed to vote once, every few years, on which small oligarchy should hold power up to and including decisions to send the populace to war, in the next few years. From small acorns mighty oaks! Now a population of millions has the virtually useless right to form itself, once every few years, into groups of tens of thousands, which each choose one representative, who can proceed to a second stage where six hundred or so such representatives can decide which tiny group among themselves will actually get their hands on the controls, including decisions to go to war, for the next handful of years. All this, observed by a moderately rational visitor from an alien star system will (or perhaps, if we but knew, does) have him, her or it gibbering at the various moons whizzing round the night sky. It doesn’t stop there. Since hundreds of different issues will face the nation at the time of the ‘election’ and there is only one voting day it cannot in practice be anything more than a popularity poll, and since, throughout, 98% of the electorate have no better chance to assess the candidates than seeing them walking on stage or addressing a carefully managed television audience, or reading – as most do not – the claims and assertions made in the course of hugely expensive and carefully crafted campaigns of political advertising (sorry – I nearly wrote ‘information’ there) the whole shebang has as much similarity to consulting the population on their considered views on the whole range of issues to come up in the next five or six years as Theresa May’s acceptance speech outside No. 10 has to her practice in office (and in earlier years, we now learn).
The biggest mystery is how great swathes of the population seem to think they believe (sic) that something like the theory is approximately similar to what does happen. Actually if there are any ways that ideas and desires among the population have any influence on the governing elite, the holding of democratic elections is most certainly not one of them. Just look at some of those who get into high positions. (I’d suggest dinner parties in Hampstead, or sharing rooms when fresh out of university or getting born in a well-placed family would all be many times more effective.) Perhaps someone will defend the system on the grounds that there should be a place for farce in politics. Certainly it has had some outlandish political effects. Macron is acclaimed as the French president now leading Europe. The elegant French variation on democratic election got him there with a final vote of only about 42.5% of the French electorate, even though he ended up facing a single opponent, who was one of the most unpopular politicians in the country. As for the Brexit referendum it is recorded in black and white that ‘Leave’ attracted about one third, only, of the adult electorate, voting (as should now be obvious to even those determined to take a view unclouded by objectivity) about a sealed prospectus, with only one factor identified out of many dozens heavily relevant. But never mind, Britain is a good, respectable, democratic country, so that’s all right then.
Speculative investment Experts specialising in intellectual property say that they are seeing manufacturers of their products increasingly shifting their interest to the ‘tried and tested’ side of the market. Why waste time and money developing new projects when you can simply make a few tweaks to something that has already proved its worth with a public lobotomised by the constant barrage of consumerism, mount a high-powered promotional campaign for your ‘fantastic’ ‘all-new’ whatever-it-is, and carry on adding to the bonus package of your CEO and his board? But analysts are puzzled by a continuing weakness in the imagination sector. While certain niche products are holding steady, for instance Japanese manga, the sector as a whole has been in decline since the beginning of the year. This is despite the steady flow of new products of this type arriving on the market, with all the promotional publicity you could want (and then a lot more to make sure), about wonderful advances, boasting that – with smartphones for instance – the latest new model has 8% higher pixel density than anything seen before, or it has a ‘uniquely’ curving carapace modelled on ancient Greek pillars on Syros, or it can project a laughing zombie sitting cross-legged front centre of the picture when you let someone use it for a selfie if you don’t tell them how to turn that feature off. Every week brings new ‘fantastic ways to lose weight and enhance your endurance while eating three wonderful health-giving meals a day’. One analyst has suggested that for so long each new idea has so regularly been ‘even more exciting’ than the one before, that customers have come to regard ‘even more exciting’ as equivalent to ‘much the same as the sort of stuff we already know about so let’s just go out for a pizza tonight’. (Known to some as the Musk effect.) Last month for instance, Lui Phoo of the Taiwan Institute of Phrenology announced she had found a way to turn divorced French retirées into animal rights activists, but nobody turned up to the press conference she had arranged. Willie Storey, a farmer (and footballer) of Cumberland believes that success in sheepdog trials is partly down to telepathy between master (or mistress) and dog, and wants to find out if this discovery can be put to any less practical use, but his appeals for investigators have fallen on deaf ears. An Illinois student is still appealing for crowdfunding to support him writing a dictionary of the world’s best ideas that nobody has ever yet had. ($118-50c in 13 months so far.) At present the decline looks set to continue given the great volume of increasingly poor quality imagination and outright fake imagination, flowing onto the net, simply reproducing effects or images or plotlines taken from Hollywood movies or American novels, or directly from news reports, even though this practice can cause problems of its own. A well-known author last year lifted what he thought was a news report to put in his collection of fifty one-page stories which won him a ‘New Writing’ award. It turned out that the ‘news report’ had been run up by a journalist in a hurry to fill a column, reworking a tale she found in a 1935 book, ‘Bedtime Stories for Billy’. The author is now being sued for plagiarism.
Apology (Editor writes.) I am fed up with the irritating whines that news outlets usually give you: ‘My remarks were taken out of context; and there wasn’t really anything wrong anyway, but if there was it wasn’t my fault, and I remember anyway back in 2015 you did something slightly similar which was much, much worse so let’s concentrate on that then!’ By comparison with that sort of crap one might almost respect – no, not really – the bare-faced effrontery of what might be called the papal gambit. Two or three popes ago one of them, the one who used to be in the SS, upset large chunks of such of the world’s population as pay any attention to him, by some outrageous remark, and when asked to apologise announced that he was sorry that those who had heard him had got themselves in a lather about it. Enough of these fraudsters: We sincerely apologise to Lady Margaret Hall for our mistaken report that LMH had any hand in the education of Theresa May. Our fault for not checking.
Isn’t it time we heard the report from the OPCW, the initial report that is, not the one to come out about Douma? Or didn’t it come out the way that Theresa wanted? And by the way, isn’t it time there was a message from the Skriepal woman (not just a message from the Met saying they were speaking on her behalf. British procedures are supposed to be a bit above the level of small Third-world dictatorships.)
Mahathir back after fourteen years taking it easy. If it really is Mahathir. But how could he have teeth like that at 92? Or is it a body-double? If it is really Mahathir, a worrying thought looms – Bersluconi is only 81.