Notice I wrote ‘Thutsday’? That’s because many of the keys on this, muh li’l silver Asus happity-lappity-toppity thing have completely worn out. Despite 40 years in the writing business, I never did learn to touch-type. I can’t bring myself to spend the money on a new one, or bear the thought of having to reload all that garbage: the programs, the passwords, my photos and music files – Office…
You’ll ust have to pur up with it.
Anyway, some kind soul has again written to me about SEO, urging me to put more Hs in my ping to ensure optimistic rankins. My son is coming to stay for a bit, I’ll ask him.
It could apparently enable me to persuade more of you to send me $2 every time you steal another one of my Posts to upgrade your ideas-bank, and I can buy new keys.
So, farewell then, the Greatest. Another celebrity gone, age 74. A red-letter year, for sure.
Three-times WBC Heavyweight Champion of the World, garrulous self-promoter, principled draft-resister, tireless ambassador for sport despite developing Parkinson’s at an early age, possibly due to being hit about the head a lot, before you embraced Islam you were the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay, who took on the world.
Your ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ dancing style of fighting led to the famous ‘Rhumba in the Jungle’ (urg, sorry!), and made you a legend at a time when uglier heavyweights lumbered around the ring like raging bulls, bellowing in frustration as they failed to connect with you. On reading some statistics about you once, I was delighted to discover that, if I stretch out my arms like so, my own ‘reach’ is two inches greater than yours! The difference being, I suppose, that the only time I ever tried to hit someone, I missed and broke my hand on a wall. I was twelve years old.
Cassius. Not the sort of name that’s current among African-Americans these days. ‘Yon Cassius hath a lean and hungry look. Let me have men about me who are fat!’ cries Caesar in the Shakespeare play, shortly before Cassius puts him down for the count. You were a beautiful-looking man in your prime, so women told me. After you retired you did put on a bit of weight, as most supremely muscular athletes tend to do. More to the point, you had something to say – and by God you said it. Several people are describing you as the greatest human being who ever lived. It’s a stretch, but who am I to argue at a sad time like this? Someone has to be.
And Sir Peter Shaffer, 90.
Who, I hear you ask?
Listen, if I had written ‘Amadeus’, ‘Equus’ and ‘The Royal Hunt of the Sun’, three of the greatest plays of modern times, and still made it to 90, I’d die happy too.
Speaking out against racism
Speaking of greatness, if Change dot Org should start a petition today, it’s to overturn a shocking decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions. I imagine at least 300,000 people would put their names to it.
In his heyday, Paul Gascoigne was one of the most talented native footballers this country has ever produced. Sadly, his career on the slide, he retired early in 2004 owing to mental health problems, and has battled for years with alcoholism, on some occasions coming close to death.
His celebrity is on a par with that of George Best, who was by universal acclaim the greatest ever player in British footballing history, after Stanley Matthews, and his Northern Irish compatriot, the brilliant snooker champion Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, neither of whom was able to cope with pop-star levels of fame and subsequently drank themselves to death.
It has equally been exploited by unscrupulous promoters, frequently making the fragile Gascoigne a national figure of fun, scorn or pity, depending on your attitude.
Recently while appearing onstage in Wolverhampton in a live show called ‘An Evening With Gazza’, he made some stupid remark about not being able to see if a black security guard, who was standing in a darkened part of the theatre, was smiling or not. The remark was reported to the police, and the DPP decided, quite rightly, that it was such an innocuous and possibly even affectionate thing to say that it did not merit prosecution.
The complainant, whoever they were, being a person apparently with a skin as thin as Durex’s finest gossamer; or perhaps merely being someone who imagines that his supposed abuser remains a person of wealth and importance, and thus fair game, decided however to persist: and under the so-called ‘victims’ charter’, the DPP has been forced by law to have Gascoigne brought up on a charge of ‘aggravated racial behaviour’, of the same degree presumably that led to the lynching of African-Americans in Alabama in the 1930s and ’40s.
It could well kill him, and one wonders who may be the ‘victim’ in all of this.
Racialism is a discredited C19th pseudo-science, holding (on the basis of a profound misunderstanding, both of Mendelian genetics and the theory of evolution, if not merely on blind prejudice), that there exists within common Humankind, a hierarchy of ‘races’ of descending mental capacities; just as it was widely believed by credulous baboons, on the basis of some ancient nonsense in the Bible, that there is a hierarchy of ‘species’ generally in the world, that places Mankind at the top.
Cases like this make me doubt that.
What are we like?
It’s been a week of news about kids. And I don’t mean Donald Trump.
Some popular schadenfreude, it’s true, has greeted the decision by the US Professional Golf Association to relocate this year’s world championships to his beloved Mexico as they have security worries about the Florida venue he owns. He’s not a happy Trumpy. Maybe he could charge fans for going through the wall?
I’m not referring, either, to Gorilla Boy. Nor do I mean the four-year-old who destroyed a dubious artwork it had taken the constructor three days to make out of Lego, for an exhibition in China. That showed critical judgement.
And we don’t want to talk about the Christian aid worker who sexually abused all those little kiddies in Malaysia. The thing about life in gaol for these people is they can smile inwardly. You can’t put shit back.
No, it’s the story of the boy missing now for a week* in a mountain forest on Japan’s Hokkaido island after his parents pretended to abandon him for a few minutes to ‘teach him a lesson’ not to throw stones at people, that has resonance.
Wouahouaha…. eerie flashback music….
Many, many years ago, 62 to be exact, while on holiday in the uninhabited wild west of Ireland, I threw a hysterical fit, crying and shouting and stamping my little feet, after my father stopped the car in the middle of Connemara and announced a proposal to give my mother an impromptu first-ever driving lesson.
I genuinely feared we were all going to die.
As a consequence of refusing to calm down, I was put out of the car by the roadside and watched incredulously as my life-support system dwindled into the distance, until complete and shocking silence descended; only the wind and the mountains.
I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet.
But you know how unworthy thoughts crowd in… wandering alone in the forest, the boy could have been killed by bears, or kidnapped by Ainu aboriginals. All I could think was, why did no-one tell him the war was over?
What are we like?
*Latest is, he’s been found alive – in a deserted Army jungle warfare training camp. Does my brain really do this stuff?
A Book at Bad Time
Some Posts ago, I remarked that we might be expected to pay rather a lot for the Chilcot Report on the 1993 invasion of Iraq when it finally comes out in July. On top, that is, of the £10 million the seven-year inquiry has actually cost (by no means a record. The Bloody Sunday inquiry into the shooting of 13 people on a march in Derry in 1972 took 12 years and cost at least £42 million).
I suggested, somewhat dishonourably, that you’d be getting a lot of blacked-out redacted bits of Chilcot for your money, given that he sent it across to MI6 to give it the once-over, but apparently they’ve cut those bits out. (That’s a bit of satire; actually, Chilcot swears there weren’t any.)
Now we know.
You can read it for free on-line. The printer hasn’t been invented yet, that won’t need its expensive ink cartridges changing at least seventeen times to churn out all the pages: no-one is able to tell me how many there are. If you’re closely related to somebody killed in Iraq, you can buy the Executive Summary for only £30; and if you attend the formal reading you can inspect a copy for nothing.
A hard copy will otherwise set you back £767.
That’s actually not so bad for a limited edition, compared with some specialist academic publications, a subscription to all 42 Sky porn channels, or a complete DVD box-set of guitar virtuoso John McLaughlin’s appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival (£917!). Nevertheless the ‘families’ are up in arms.
Comparisons with ‘War and Peace’ suggest that Tolstoy was a mere bantamweight compared with Sir John, managing only 560,000 words as against 2.6 million. The difference lies in how you define the work being measured: Tolstoy crammed it all into one doorstep volume, whereas Chilcot’s rival ‘War and No Peace’ is published in twelve bite-sized chunks (contains no Russians). He probably also had help writing it.
There seems to be a remarkable amount of disagreement as to what are the longest works of fiction ever written. A website called Mental Floss declares the winner of the longest book to be one Nigel Tomm, post-punk pop artist and author of ‘4 Fashion Doll Gangbangers Decided: Books or Bags?’, whose 2008 ‘The Blah Story’ (never ‘eard of it. Ed.) runs to over 7,300 pages and 3.38 million carefully chosen words. ‘Marienbad my Love’ by Mark Leach matches Chilcot at 2.5 million, ‘supposedly the longest published novel in English.’*
Wikipedia has a completely different list, topped by French writer Jules Romains, whose 1932-46 novel sequence ‘Men of Goodwill’ runs to 27 volumes and just over two million words. You can buy it in paperback for under twenty quid. Proust’s monumental ‘Remembrance of Times Past’ manages only 1,267,069. (I’ve looked all this stuff up so you don’t have to.) With commendably patriotic attention to the cornerstones of English literature, the Daily Mail commented that Chilcot is ‘longer than the King James Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare combined’.
Then, neither King James nor Shakespeare had the benefit of a digital quill.
Unlike our irrelevant and stupid referendum, Swiss voters are going to the polls this weekend to vote on a brilliant idea first trailed almost 500 years ago in Sir Thomas More’s 15-something philosophical tract, ‘Utopia’, just to pay everyone in the country a basic living wage of £1,700 a month, whether they’ve got a job or not.
The impetus comes from a thought I myself have Posted a few times, that (despite what Conservative politicians would like you to think) automation is making work increasingly unnecessary. Huge numbers of middle-income earners are having their salaries driven down by technological and geo-economics trends over which they have no control. If you’re prepared to shovel shit in a call-centre for £7.20 an hour, you’ve got a job. Or you can persuade the Board to vote you a £6 million salary and a three-times-salary bonus package for increasing shareholder dividends by sacking more middle-income workers.
There’s not a lot inbetween.
As Senior Copywriter in an advertising agency, my lifetime’s earnings peaked in 1989/90 at £36,000. After I was made redundant, along with the entire senior management tier, despite starting my own business and having other executive roles it was all downhill. I still get regular daily job alerts, from which I see that the salaries offered to Copywriters with four years’ experience in medium-sized agencies range between £25,000 and £35,000; 26 years on. I gather my experience is not atypical: US middle-incomes have remained virtually static in real terms since the 1990s.
It seems however that conservative Swiss politicians are against the idea. They think it will discourage people from seeking work and make the Swiss fat and lazy. They fear it might encourage immigrants. Apart from making me want to punch smug Swiss politicians in the face, this is surely missing the point: the jobs most people aspire to are rapidly disappearing, either outsourced or automated.
Others question how a country can afford to pay everyone a living wage? My solution is simple. Companies should pay an automation dividend. For every job they shed as a result of automation – including robots, smart systems and AI – they should pay additional Corporation Tax to the government, which redistributes the money in the National Basic Wage.
Of course, the company would not have the cost of paying the Basic Wage to its employees: they would pay only an incremental net wage, so the wages bill will be lower and they can employ more people!
Governments should like this, it is something like Ian Duncan Smith’s Universal Benefit that he has been struggling to implement in the UK, designed to unify all the current out-of-work and disability benefits, saving money on admin (only without the element of sadistic punishment that, as an average Tory cunt, he has to build-in). The difference being, you wouldn’t have to be unemployed to benefit: there would be no benefits. Work would be voluntary, a means of topping-up your National Basic Wage. That would be an incentive to work, which keeping people in enforced poverty clearly isn’t.
The profits generated by automated systems would be ‘unitised’, and the units they ‘earn’ for their companies monetised through the tax system, so that a unit of automation in effect pays all or part of the salary of a human who might otherwise be doing the same job.
A kind of ‘adopt a human’ scheme for robots.
(You could pay the entire adult population of the UK £30,000 a year each, if GNP was equally divided between us and not wasted on hospitals and the rich!)
The stuffy Swiss nincompoops have voted against, by a huge majority. It was one of the best ideas going and they’ve blown it.
This Colourful World of Spam: A regular new feature, inspired by Donald Trump:
‘Mesh’ at xataclysm.newsx Comments on ‘How to Live in a Stately Home’ (1,000 words, 2012):
I do agree with all the ideas you’ve presented in your post. They’re really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are very short for beginners. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.
Well, thanks for the Spam, Mesh. This one’s probably going to be longer, we’ll see.
Researchers at Sussex University have discovered that it takes snails only two connections between brain cells (neurons) to determine whether or not they are eating lettuce.
Now you know how I do it.