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The Rest Of You Are Mad

The Rest Of You Are Mad

Some unkind souls call this a humorous column. It does in fact demonstrate that I am the only sane person on earth and everyone else has something seriously wrong with them. I am afraid I cannot reply to comments by letter as we are not allowed sharp objects in here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Who Could Have Known?

It was my own fault. Maybe that is some consolation. I should not have any excuses but if I did it would be simple tiredness. Not that that would cut much ice with those who will now be subjected to a reign of unimaginable terror.

It was the early hours of the morning. Finally it was bedtime. There were two things I needed to do. Firstly listen for the local mouse who likes to ferret around in our skirting board. Then remove my watch. It gets attached to you when you always wear it. You know you have to remove spectacles because you cannot turn over without realising they are there. The watch is a different matter as it never gets in the way. But eventually I realised I was still wearing it and wearily loosened the strap. No one wants to handle a limp object at that time of night. So I could not be bothered to get up and put the watch in its usual place. I just leaned over and put it on the table. Big deal. It wasn't going anywhere. Off to sleep and forget about it.

Next morning I remembered it was on the table and strapped it on again from there. All well and good. I was not so weary the next night. So back went the watch to its usual post on top of the fridge. The flat is very small you see. Next morning as usual up again and off to work. One problem. The watch was not its usual shiny self. Something was wrong. It worked perfectly well but some of its metallic sparkle had gone. Where once had been crystalline sheen was now a barely winking dullness. Did it matter? I thought not. Then I realised what had happened.

Watches are by nature dependable. They are designed to do the same thing the same way over and over again and feed on their own regularity. But mine had now for the first time been introduced to a new place. It could not cope. In perplexity at a variation in its routine it had sought the place out again. It realised it could not move on its own. But the mouse could. It made the mistake of confiding in the mouse trying to find explanations of its strange feeling that there was a world beyond absolute uniformity. The mouse was only too happy to listen and take advantage of this temporary emotional bond. The inevitable happened. No one realised it to begin with. But soon it was clear that a horror had unleashed itself on the nation.

The first mechanical mouse was born about three weeks ago. At first sight it is harmless enough. Its movement is regular and it squeaks every sixty seconds so you know it is coming. The problem comes when you try to kill it. The first mechanical mouse gave birth to several others and each has their own orbital path. They move around this path with monotonous regularity nibbling away at anything they find. Nothing can prevent them and nothing can resist them. People are losing toes and abandoning their houses as there is no safe place for anyone or anything. Each controlled mechanical mouse zone becomes larger and larger as the mice breed and their orbital paths become wider and wider to fit them all in. Ours is the only flat in the block still holding out against the mice. We also have to hold out against the angry neighbours who have seen their property destroyed by these creatures and expect some sort of satisfaction from me as if I am a mechanical mouse myself.

The watches have been affected too. They are highly temperamental. You never know what time they want it to be as they are so afraid of making a mistake that they barely move and hope the time they show will come round again. They jump from wrist to wrist to seek sweat for food and comfort from the watches which remain more definite. They will not go within one hundred miles of a farmer's wife and have staged several audacious rescue attempts on their computer cursor operating brethren. It is a shame the circus found out too late. Herds of elephants stampede away from their shows and all over the surrounding area when watches in the audience frighten them. Already it may too late to prevent "the end of civilization as we know it". Or "Walsall" to use the correct terminology.

I meant no harm. I do not prefer mechanical mice and temperamental watches to the old ones. I did not understand the consequences of my actions. I also know none of this means anything now. The world is beyond what we call regularity. At least we all enjoyed the occasional burst of originality while it lasted.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

To Stick In Your Tea

The great Al Jolson recorded a song called There's A Lump Of Sugar Down In Dixie. In it he refers to how sweet his Southern girlfriend is. What commentators often fail to realise is that the song was recorded just after the First World War. Sugar was a very scarce commodity in America then and particularly in the South. His girlfriend is therefore not simply sweet but very precious and hard to find anywhere.

Like a lot of Al Jolson songs this one has dated. It refers to a social situation which no longer exists. If he were alive today and still top of the entertainment tree he would be singing the same songs adapted to the world of now. A contemporary Jolson song would extol the virtues of a new target depending on the audience.

If Jolson lived in London it is obvious what he would describe his girlfriend as. She would be a plumber. Skilled tradesmen of any sort are hard to find and affordable ones even rarer. Furthermore there is a considerable drive to get women into non-traditional professions such as this. The chorus of the song would run "There's a lady plumber down in Dalston/Who I call my own - She's the cheapest little pipe restorer/I have ever known". Most singers would not create the response they would like with these words but as Jolson demonstrated many times during his lifetime he could pull it off.

If Jolson were back in America he would also not have to search too far for an object of his affections the audience could relate to. The rise of the religious right in that country has had the twin effect of creating a deep reverence for Scripture and creating an absurdly inflated sense of America's purpose in relation to it. The conflation of the Bible with the American Way has produced a nation of people who think they are put on this earth to take possession of Scripture and interpret it to the rest of us who were here thousands of years before and in some cases actually know what it means. It is no coincidence that the ludicrous Mormonism has thrived in this climate. In contemporary America Jolson would be singing "There's a secret scripture south of Erie/That we call our own - That declares we are the only nation /God has ever known". Jolson was of course Jewish and was brought up with such notions. An American audience would be so proud of itself that it would never consider the contradiction of a Jewish man acknowledging what the Fundamentalist Christian right regard as their private though unimpeachable truth.

But of course there is now a state of Israel. As the World's Greatest Entertainer Jolson would have been welcomed in his homeland with open arms even though he was actualy born in Russian Lithuania. He would be invited to sing in the most prestigious venues and be almost a personal pet of the President. What would he sing about in Israel? Lumps of sugar in Dixie would have no meaning there. The way to convey the same notion would be to invoke territory Israel claims or occupies which others dispute. Admittedly this applies to the whole country. Jolson however would sing "There's a group of mountains call the Golan/That I'm glad to own - There the sweetest little clumps of homeland security/We have ever known". The lack of scansion would surely be forgiven as long as extreme patriotism raised its head. If accused of being polemical Jolson would simply point to his lack of synagogue attendance and his support of Christian causes as well as Jewish ones. Not that he would care anyway as he could probably buy any country he chose and say Raca to all those who made comments about him.

All of these scenarios are feasible if Jolson rose from the dead as all his true fans know he will. This would however leave us with the Early Music problem. There are musicians who will play early music using all the instruments, techniques and styles of the period it was written so you hear what was actually intended. All that is missing is an audience from that time whose interpretation of what they hear would likewise reflect the period. In order to convey these concepts in a modern way to a modern audience you would also need a modern singer whose style everyone could relate to as a development from what they knew before. Who could hope to emulate Jolson? As always this column has the answer. Only the Crazy Frog who has topped the charts with non-music could deliver these new songs in the correct cultural context. This would of course have an added benefit. It would kill off rock and roll overnight and send everyone rushing back to the far superior Jolson as soon as possible. If the Crazy Frog is what we have come to it might just begin to cross people's minds that there might be something wrong with the assumption of eternal progress.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Resources At Our Liptips

Ken Dodd once drafted a book which outlined regional variations in what makes people laugh. He called it The Giggle Map of Britain. If something is intrinsically funny where its hearer comes from should not affect their response to it as Buster Keaton demonstrated. Nevertheless there are cultural quirks which define whether something is always funny or only funny some of the time. What is funny to a Northerner may not be funny to a Midlander. In fact very little is funny to a Midlander as some of us have found to our cost.

Ken Dodd's book is an important cultural study but it does not go far enough. In order to profit from it you have to tell jokes to people. But before you get to that stage you have to rehearse. This means telling jokes to dummies, walls, plants etcetera. It would be more useful if the tastes of these objects were defined and then related to human tastes. If we know how to make inanimate objects laugh we can apply the same techniques to humans to produce the same response.

Dummies are often considered funny in themselves which is one reason why ventriloquists have them. I would be sued for libel if I told you the other one. Dummies however regard their condition as the norm and the human condition as absurd. One source of amusement for them is how humans move their necks. Whereas a dummy can detach its head or turn it through 180 degrees humans have certain limits in both vertical and lateral movement. It must be very funny for a dummy to watch humans trying to point themselves in impossible directions to look at things and how easy it is for someone to come up behind them unawares. Similarly human speech must be highly amusing to a dummy. Dummies cannot talk on their own despite the best attempts of George W. Bush to persuade us otherwise. To hear humans coming out with the sounds of dummies on their own without hands up their backsides must tickle their fancies greatly. Humans also sleep. Most people seem to find fun in other people farting. Dummies must respond the same way to the sound of humans snoring. If would-be humorists did all these things deliberately they would learn how to create the best response in dummies and how therefore to apply the same techniques to human taste.

As we were told during the Second World War walls have ears. They absorb everything around them to create the culture of that building and several together create the culture of a street or town. That is why we respond differently to different places. But if walls could also talk all this accumulated experience would come out of their mouths and be lost forever. It must therefore be a great amusement to walls to see people trying to convey information by talking. Such futile gestures would be their version of the alternative oblivion comedy of the 1980's. Similarly they must be shaking themselves silly when humans forget things. How the allegedly superior human can fail to learn from their experience is beyond those whose mortar structure prevents them forgetting anything. Not for nothing is the structure of mortar the basis of computer memory systems whose own impish humour we have come to take for granted. Walls will also be amused by people standing still and saying nothing. Babies always smile if you imitate their every move. Walls must be cheered by the sight of humans pretending to be them.

Plants always respond to being spoken to. We are told this is due to the beneficial effect of the carbon dioxide we emit whilst speaking. Actually they grow more when they feel better about themselves as they do when they laugh. The growth rate of humans must amuse them. Why does it take eighteen years for humans to reach their optimum height when it takes a plant a few weeks? Similarly our faces must be funny. All the same colour unless it is particularly hot or cold. No stripes or speckles or differential responses to light. Nor does light make them grow. A plant magician would stick a miniature human in a cardboard box with a lamp in it and pull them out the other side exactly the same size to howls of laughter from their plant audience. Once again there are ample opportunities for humans to maximise their condition for comic effect and thus learn how to create the laughter they seek.

We have all seen embarrassing atttempts at humour. People who are being payed good money to appear on TV programmes fail miserably to connect with their audience. This is because they have never learned their trade. It is all very well making humans laugh. But if you have no idea how to make other things laugh you will not have the tools of your job and everything will be hit or miss. We have an alternative we have disregarded for so long. But there is a reason that funny ha ha and funny peculiar are the same thing with two different interpretations. Humans gave those interpretations to cover their lack of humour. To inanimate objects they are fundamentally the same and this fundamental of truth is ultimately what all of us will spend our lives trying to see by our widely differing pathways.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Beacon Of Pitch Darkness

This morning I met Kate. This very nice King Charles Spaniel was wearing a coat saying "Support Dog". I asked its owner what this was about. She replied that Kate was there to help her with her mental health needs.

Clearly this has not been thought through. If dogs can really have a positive effect on mental health every dog owner would be an Aston Villa fan. But if that happened every dog owner would understand the international conspiracy which prevents us winning our rightful trophies and want to correct it. Then there would be no vast professional football industry creating millions in revenue and taxes because there would be no public interest in the game when Villa won every competition they entered. Even the best intentions of the best individuals would not survive against the vested interests of so many.

However the incident does shed further light on the psyche of those who rule us by controlling our welfare services. If a dog is supposed to help with mental health needs dogs must be equated with sanity. There are far more people diagnosed with mental health problems than ever before by those who have the power to do so. It is instructive to understand the version of sanity these people expect us to aspire to.

The first manifestation of our rulers' version of sanity is a wet nose. All dogs have one unless they have some medical problem. It has traditionally been believed that humans only have one if they have a medical problem. Presumably we are asked to believe this conventional wisdom is false. Nevertheless it takes a lot of effort on the part of humans to have a perpetually wet nose. Living in a continuously cold and wet climate would help but that would mean politically incorrect cultural assumptions were being made. No one would dare say that people who live in cold and wet countries were inherently more sane than others. Clearly there is an expectation that humans will do everything they can to have perpetually runny noses. To capitalise on this the National Health Service will soon be producing Nose Thermostats which rapidly cool and heat a perpetual supply of liquid when strapped to the face thus creating a perpetual cold in their wearers. This may sound extreme but it does at least create a visible benchmark for sanity. To avoid being cast out of society and labelled as sick for the rest of your life you simply need to wear one of these devices all the time and tell everyone how good they are. This will demonstrate your unimpeachable sanity in the eyes of the powerful and privileged who will all be wearing them themselves as a matter of course.

The second manifestation of sanity is being covered in fur. Most humans find this very difficult and would shy away from such a condition. The only known fur covered humans are the famous Andre Agassi and Stella McCartney and even Mr. Agassi has rebelled by shaving his head. Nevertheless we are now led to believe that this is what sanity consists of. Although this sounds just as absurd as the idea of everyone having a wet nose it is a much more sinister proposition. In the Old Testament the hairy man Esau lost his birthright to the smooth man Jacob when Jacob pretended to be hairy before their blind father. It is most unusual for a leading politician to be hairy and apart from Mrs. Thatcher there has not been a bearded British Prime Minister since the Marquess of Salisbury. By being hairy we might be sane but we will also give up our birthrights. All our liberties will be handed over without a fight to the smooth politicians who are making these rules. We are being encouraged to believe that this is the only sane and rational thing to do.

The third way you can demonstrate that you are sane is by wagging your tail. Humans do not have tails of course but there have been considerable moves in the last thirty years or so to reintroduce tails into the gene pool. First it was figure hugging jeans which showed off people's backsides and persuaded people to aspire to a distinctive tail again. Then there was a variety of new dance forms involving swinging the tail around or gyrating from the base of the tail which made it essential to have a protruding tail if they were to be performed on a daily basis. Then there was the publicity given to the "bum cleavage" of fat men and labourers on various television programmes which tried to persuade us that it was shameful to show the top of the buttocks if there was no tail visible there. Nowadays at party conferences you see a platform of senior politicians who appear to be shifting in their seats when speeches are being made. They are doing no such thing. Whilst the hoi polloi are applauding the speaker they are wagging their bottoms back and forth to demonstrate their sanity and therefore the higher authority of their response. Apparently sanity like Socialism can only be practised by those able to afford it.

It would be interesting to meet a human who fully manifested these characteristics of a sane person on a consistent basis. In all probability there will never be one which is why dogs are used as the exemplars. But there may in fact be a method in this madness. Every generation has its idols people try to live up to. No one ever does in fact become who they set out to emulate but they spend a great deal of effort trying. They would of course be better off trying to emulate our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. But trying to emulate dogs to prove you are sane is hopefully the final absurd extension of this wilful refusal to be human. Then we will discover what sanity really is. All we will then need is to justify why we have chosen to ignore this for so many thousands of years.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Why Red Is Violent

Several U.K. towns are known for their association with acts of war. Hastings and Evesham are known for their battles and Roxburgh and Hereford for their sieges. In our more peaceful times these towns now promote themselves as places of historical interest on the basis of this association. Those interested can compile lists of battlefields and siege sites to visit and transport themselves to the world of their ancestors.

Few people would include the sleepy town of Market Drayton on that list. The town does have military connections as it is the birthplace of Clive of India. Yet it is not known for having seen action itself. There have in fact been two sieges of Market Drayton and one is going on right now. People are not aware of them because too many vested interests are too embarrassed to admit what has been fought over in that town.

Market Drayton has one famous product apart from Clive of India. It is the home of gingerbread. Most English people eat this confection and are happy to admit their appreciation of its taste and culture. Those same English people are however terrified of associating it with people. Everyone has had hair at one time and this hair is some sort of colour. Every colour bar one passes unnoticed. Yet if a person has hair the same colour as gingerbread it arouses deep animosity for reasons no one seems to know. There is a whole lexicon of abusive terms for ginger people which does not exist for any other colour of hair. To be ginger is to bear a mark of distinction so great that a range of irrational fears grips the less tonsorially gifted.

The first recorded usage of any of these abusive terms was in 1204. In this dark Plantagenet age we read of the "rowset playgue" spreading across the land. For centuries this was thought to refer to the Black Death until it was realised that "rowset" is a variant of "russet". Those with ginger hair were seen as some sort of sorcerors who could change their hair from a natural colour by magic. One day a ginger person was found with a packet of Market Drayton gingerbread. This was held to be the magic potion responsible and officers of the King descended on Market Drayton. Originally they rode around the town looking for the witches who were casting spells on cornmeal to change it to gingerbread and change hair colour. When they discovered that most of the town was engaged in producing the substance they declared that the place was a threat to national security. An army of men-at-arms and angry residents of nearby towns soon surrounded it. The townsfolk had no choice but to stay inside the town walls with the supplies they had left and defend themselves as best they could.

The siege seems to have lasted about eight months. We cannot be certain because only the winners write histories and no one in Market Drayton could read and write at the time. What is known is that the army invested and undermined the walls. The defenders at first used the usual tactics of hurling rocks and boiling oil from the battlements but soon realised that there would always be more people outside the walls than inside them. They therefore decided to destroy the royal armies from within. Rather than drive them away they enticed the royal soldiers closer and then hurled sticky gingerbread onto their heads. Those without helmets were immediately butchered by their colleagues when they were seen with this evil substance on them and those with helmets were made to sleep outside the camp on their own and were picked off one by one by small Draytonians who had crept out through the mine tunnels created by the army. The king of the time was John who was never popular and always in need of troops beside him to ward off frequent threats of rebellion and invasion. As time went by he realised that his knights would be better employed protecting him from people who might kill him than witches who might turn his hair ginger. In the middle of the night as legend has it he withdrew his depleted army from the town. The Draytonians woke in the morning to find the siege lifted and began rounds of wild celebrations. The local landowners agreed with King John that his humiliating retreat was never to be mentioned again. Nevertheless the townsfolk produced the ever-popular armies of gingerbread men who quickly conquered the taste buds to remind the world of their outstanding feat.

Over the centuries people forgot about the siege and the reason for the gingerbread men. Right up until 2003 in fact. Then the first murmurings of a new conflict began to appear. This time however it would be the exact reverse of the first. Both enemy and cause were different. But once again the conflict would inevitably centre on Market Drayton.

In 2003 political correctness was in full swing. All the abusive words hurled at people of other races and colours and physical conditions were declared illegal. With one exception. It remained perfectly acceptable to abuse people with ginger hair. Indeed it became the last refuge for all those convicted of political incorrectness in the past. With all the usual targets removed bigots found sanctuary in calling ginger people names. Very quickly the country polarised into ginger and non-ginger or normal and deviant as the other side would have it. Gingers were understandably angry and looked around for a way to fight back. All gingers are tormented as children by the story of the homophagic Gingerbread Man with whom they are always compared. Where else would he come from but Market Drayton? Determined to remove this slur which had so damaged their lives gingers descended upon Market Drayton but were immediately arrested for travelling whilst confectionery. They were rightly outraged. A national S.O.S. went out and the second siege of Market Drayton began.

So it has remained to the present day. Market Drayton keeps taunting ginger people by producing its confection. The gingers continue to control all supply routes in and out of the town and operate martial law in the surrounding district. No one wants to admit this is happening because they cannot bear the thought that they are being beaten by the people they have mocked for so long. But being beaten they slowly are. Soon political correctness for all will wipe Market Drayton off the map altogether. Then the final triumph of the superior ginger-haired person will be brought ever nearer for the benefit of all mankind.

There is no reason to abuse someone for the colour of their hair. It is sad that the poor people of Market Drayton have to pay the price for the national refusal to behave justly. But it is only right that supposedly moral standards for one should apply to all. Gingers have been under siege for longer than their abusers would ever dare concede. It is a kind of justice when the home of the politically incorrect gingerbread man is being destroyed because those who could preserve it are in a state they would never dare admit.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What That E Is For

One of the symbols of nationhood is a currency. For this reason it is given a name which represents that country to the world in the same way a flag and embassy do. The Bulgarian currency is called the Lev because the word means "Lion" which is a symbol of strength and majesty. The American currency is the Dollar because that is the American spelling of "dolour" which is an accurate description of the condition of wealthy American tourists who seem incapable of openly enjoying their travels. The independent Portuguese currency was the Escudo because Portuguese think their country is both precious and stylish. The currency betokens the fact that when asked to describe Portugal inhabitants are supposed to say "es cute, no?"

It is therefore a wonder why the British currency is called Sterling. This word seems to have no other meaning and bear no relation to anything. What is this word supposed to convey to everyone else about the nature of the United Kingdom?

The term "Sterling" was first coined after the Battle of Flodden between England and Scotland on 9th September 1513. As was usual in those days the victorious English armies went round looting the bodies of defeated soldiers for any valuables they could find. As a great number of Scottish nobles were slain there were rich pickings for the English soldiers who found large quantities of Scottish coins on the persons of the nobles. Obviously being Scots they would not put it in banks and therefore pay interest. The capital of Scotland at the time was Stirling and these unfamiliar coins became known as "Sterling currency". The substitution of an e for an i in the name of Stirling was not simply a variant spelling but a wilful anglicisation of the name to demonstrate that the capital and its products would henceforth be under English control. This Sterling currency had no value in England because exchange rates had not been invented but it was a status symbol for an Englishmen to be in possession of it. It demonstrated that he had fought at Flodden or knew someone who had and therefore rescued England from eternal reliance on porridge even if only for three hundred and fifty years or so.

Previously the English currency was known as the Pound. This was a reference to the way it was made by bashing it repeatedly into its die marks. Using the term symbolised the fact that the English saw themelves as a hard working and powerful people who created wealth with the labour of their hands rather than barter and trickery. The British currency is still popularly known as the Pound but it is clearly stated on the notes that is the Pound "Sterling". This signifies that the subjugation of Scotland was regarded as the just product of the labour and innate quality of Englishmen. This need to claim identity through imperialism has been the staple of British international relations for centuries and is the cause of many of the problems of readjustment we have today.

At first this Sterling currency was just as valueless elsewhere as it was in England. If you were a Scot you could use it to pay for the colours imported into your wet and miserable landscape and you could accept it as payment for your exports of live haggis and distilled bagpipe spit. If you were English no one would accept it from your hands as no prices were calculated in it. It was the Tsar of Russia who finally gave Sterling coins a value in England. He famously declared war on Scotland and England separately and then signed separate peace treaties with both countries with the result that the transferred Berwick-upon-Tweed remained officially at war with Russia. Understanding the joke local traders offered him Sterling coins with which to hire local guides who could show his armies how to conquer the town. Not wishing to admit his embarrassment the Tsar accepted the payment although he soon forgot about Berwick. With such a powerful ruler accepting Sterling the others could not avoid accepting it too and the Pound Sterling thus replaced the ordinary Pound as the English medium of international trade.

In time people forgot that Scotland had ever had its own coins and the pound Sterling was regarded as an English invention imposed on them after the union of crowns. It is fair to say that international confidence in Sterling was always high as its message of tough people absorbing the cultures of others was one which went down well in the age of great Empires. Indeed it was not seriously threatened until the Welsh infiltrated the British Treasury department. Welshmen were not often allowed to be Chancellor of the Exchequer but neutered ones were given government jobs as people who cannot find any other work often are. A few found their way into the Treasury and bought their families over. Soon there was a veritable colony of Welshmen living there. No one bothered overmuch. Few realised then that this represented the greatest threat to Sterling since its invention over four hundred years earlier.

Once the British budget was top secret. As late as the 1950s the Chancellor was sacked if he revealed any details of it to anyone. Then in the 1960s a profound change occurred. Finance experts would appear on TV giving details of what they thought would be in the budget and commenting on them. Their predictions often turned out to be disturbingly accurate. Of course they were. The finance experts had been receiving the first of the now common Budget Leeks. The Welsh had never had a currency of their own. Now they were undermining the British one by replacing it with specially printed leeks which conveyed the true value of everything the Chancellor was trying to tell us was worth more. This alerted a few Scots to the origin of the British currency itself. Immediately the Royal Bank of Scotland claimed to be the rightful owner of all Sterling anywhere. The British government which had allowed Gallic placenames to be reintroduced and Scottish symbols to be put on pound coins could not argue. In 2004 the Royal Bank of Scotland was made the legitimate owner of all Sterling on the condition that it used its threat of porridge to ensure that the U.K. never adopted the Euro. If all European nations were equal the currency would never survive. How could it defend itself against the Bulgarian lion or avoid being overstamped by the French Franc?

The currency is still called Sterling. It represents the United Kingdom's shame at its imperial past and the subsequent capitulation of the English to its absorbed partners. Is this really such a bad image? It is after all legal, decent, honest and truthful. It demonstrates that we cannot compete with our neighbours. But as the martial artists of the East have so often demonstrated only through purity and humility can any victory be ultimately achieved.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Modern Version For Modern Man

One of the literary phrases which has entered the common language is Grub Street. It describes the generality of hack writers who will pen words about anything for money. In the eighteenth century there really was a street called Grub Street in London where some of these half-starved verbal plodders lived. This disappeared from the map long ago. No one seems to have realised just how radical it was to replace Grub Street not with bricks and mortar but with its modern equivalent.

The virtual estate of Writer's Block was established by Robert Southey in 1827. Southey had by this time discarded his revolutionary past and become a hired literary drudge producing a stream of poems, articles, essays, novels, guide books and anything else someone would pay him for. As a classical scholar he was aware of Homer's claim that when someone cannot be contacted they are away dining with the blameless Ethiopians. As a writer always on call he often tried that excuse when he had not finished one of his interminable manuscripts. The publishers heard it once too often and in the racial atmosphere of the time Ethiopians could not be considered blameless by civilised white Englishmen. He therefore began to claim "writer's block". The phrase was new at the time and publishers assumed this meant some form of constipation caued by eating incorrectly declined verbs. Being too middle class to have constipation Southey therefore invented the virtual estate of writers living together in philanthropic harmony which bore a startling resemblance to the fantastical pantisocratic schemes he had dreamed up with Coleridge in their youth.

Originally Southey sought to actually create a block of houses near his home in Crosthwaite and invite writers to live in them. His wardenship of this project would explain his absence from his typewriter although the fact that this had not then been invented was also a plausible excuse. Being unable to buy any of the surrounding land Southey simply described his home and asked other writers to describe what the area around it and any houses built upon it should look like. Those who sent in the best descriptions were given plots of non-existent land exactly reflecting the descriptions given. These were joined together to create the overall picture of Writer's Block and numbered. The finished plan of Writer's Block was then despatched to the writers concerned so everyone knew what not only their own plot but every other one was like. The system worked well. Southey could relieve the pressure of deadlines by justly claiming he was overseeing the administration of Writer's Block. The other writers claimed they had essential business there which kept them away from work. The community thrived and expanded until everyone who wanted to be a serious writer could quote an address in Writer's Block under the Wardenship of Southey.

One of the reasons Southey got away with this was because he had been Poet Laureate since 1813 and his personal prestige had restored a lot of honour to the office and therefore to state institutions generally. There were many vested interests who were happy to encourage him. The original dream could not last however. In 1837 Writer's Block had formed a happy community of people who never met for ten years. Then King William IV died and was replaced by the young Queen Victoria. Nothing much was expected of the young Queen but she had other ideas. Like King John before her she wanted to make her mark by getting to know every inch of her new realm. As a student of the arts she was aware of Writer's Block and Southey himself excused his inability to travel to London to meet her with his duties there. None of those close to the Queen had the heart to tell her it was only a virtual community. The Queen insisted on visiting Writer's Block herself. Indeed she spread this desire abroad loudly. Some poor chamberlain had the thankless task of travelling to the Lake District to tell Southey that the Queen wanted to be shown around his wardenship and meet the other residents. Southey was gratified that his monarch like him could not see a joke. But soon panic set in and he frantically despatched letters to the other writers summoning them to build a real block in time for the Royal visit which would be three weeks hence.

When the Queen arrived Southey tried a ruse. Most of the writers had managed to join him and all were confident that they could embellish their descriptions of their abodes with a few fantasies about home life and visiting each other. Indeed they crammed together to make sure they all knew all about the published details of each plot. Therefore Southey invited the Queen to meet the writers in his own cottage and explained that the estate was not fit to visit at the present time as it had been flooded by Bassenthwaite Lake two days before. The Queen appeared to accept this. The writers however were so keen to impress that their florid descriptions of their fictitious homes aroused great interest in the Queen. She insisted on seeing them flooded or not. Southey excused himself and let his friend Cartilage accompany Her Majesty to where Writer's Block should have been. She quickly realised that there had never been any such place. But when Cartilage explained that their lives and careers depended on the existence of Writer's Block she was prepared to overlook the deception. Writer's Block would be allowed to stay but under strict conditions. All authors including the existing virtual inhabitants would have to apply to the Lord Chancellor for permission to live there. The number and identity of residents would be state controlled and admittance only allowed if a new applicant not only created a better description of the place than his predecessor in that plot but was prepared to invest funds in building works to ensure that no one else would be disappointed when they visited the colony.

So the system continued well into the twentieth century. The Lake District was happy because the funds invested by new inhabitants created the recreations of their descriptions which form that rich landscape today. Visitors flocked to the place looking for something authentic but happy to know that what they saw was man made and therefore a reflection of themselves. The few writers allowed to live in Writer's Block were still able to skive off work using the place as an excuse and the fact they were one of the exclusive band that could get away with doing so enhanced their stellar reputations still further. But state control also created deep unhappiness. The rest of us were not allowed to live in Writer's Block. If we were a day late with our writing no one would accept our excuses and the full force of the law was with those who excluded us. It was not so in the days of Southey. Then Writer's Block was actually owned by writers which is exactly as it should be as it was created out of their heads to begin with.

Although we all complain things are not all that gloomy nowadays. Two more recent events have alleviated the resentment we long felt towards the place. The first was when the Thatcher government privatised it. Although entry is still limited this is now controlled by rubber manufacturer Dunlop rather than the Lord Chancellor. The reason for the explosion in and permissive attitude towards pornographic fetish writing is not difficult to see. The second is the classification of the obsolete Warden's post as a lieutenancy by Labour Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine even though the management of the estate is undertaken by Dunlop. This post is now therefore an Office of Profit Under the Crown. When a Member of Parliament wishes to resign he need no longer be restricted to applying for Wardenship of the Chiltern Hundreds or the Manor of Northstead but can now apply to be Warden of Writer's Block. It will at least give the place greater official status. The fortunate few that can use the excuse will continue using it with public approval which may one day trickle down to the rest of us labouring in the Typehills of Lesser Verbiage.

Of course Writer's Block no longer needs to be a fictitious community. Thanks to the internet we now have such a thing as a real virtual community. People who have never met can join and be active members of it at will. The idea is attractive but must be met with stout resistance. As long as Writer's Block exists the rest of us can aspire to having excuses. Surely that is what we really want? The more senior we are the more we can get away with. This has always been a living reality regardless of political theory. We should all be glad that writers are honest enough to conduct their profession unashamadly according to this principle.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Forgotten Bloodshed

When someone says something amusing with a totally serious expression on their face this expression is described as "deadpan". We are led to believe by those who know nothing about the subject that "dead" refers to the lack of alteration in the facial muscles and "pan" refers to the face itself. This etymology is widely accepted as genuine because certain people no longer wish to recognise where the phrase actually comes from.

The phrase does indeed accurately reflect the expression on the face of Mavis Johnson throughout her trial. She showed no emotion whatever when confronted with evidence of her alleged crimes. Society has lost a great deal by forgetting why she was there and the heinous crime she was supposed to have committed which made her such a cause celebre for her brief hour of fame.

Nowadays we have the phenomenon of the outing. This no longer refers to a day trip to the seaside. It is the practice of exposing the homosexuality of someone who will not admit to it in public. By definition these are generally people in the public eye who feel their careers would be harmed if people recognised their true nature. There is not much evidence that this is so. But other homosexuals who are glad to admit their sexuality take exception to this practice and publicly expose them on television and radio and on large posters. Not all open homosexuals agree with this practice as they feel everyone has the right to keep their sexuality private. Nevertheless the militant outers continue undeterred without caring how much they damage people's lives in the name of their cause.

Before this practice developed radical feminists had long sought to deploy similar tactics to shame people into joining them. In past ages closet feminists had been outed by their neighbours and burnt as witches. Although the supposed accoutrements of witchdom were common items found in every home the difference lay in how they were used. The household cauldron became a witch's cauldron when a woman concocted some new dish of her own without being instructed to by her husband. The household broom became the witch's broomstick when she flew through the air on it instead of sweeping the floor. Therefore anyone using these items was always under a certain amount of suspicion and deviant usages were seen as forms of witchcraft. Feminists now tried to reverse this situation by demonstrating that deviant usages of contemporary household goods signified a closet feminist underneath a deferential exterior. This was to show how many women secretly acknowledged their cause. But since the days of the Suffragettes it had become more and more difficult to persuade women to come out publicly. The Suffragettes may have won their case but their antics had done more harm than good and no one wanted to be associated with another women's movement which prized direct action above civilized debate.

One of the main complaints of feminists of the late 1950s was that women were tied to the kitchen stove. Whatever ambitions they might have had would always remain unfulfilled because their job was to serve their husbands by cooking and cleaning and generally supporting them. Feminists believed women should not be obliged to undertake such duties or be brought up to think that was inevitably going to be their life. Such views had wide support in the female population but remained hidden. Most believed it was economically impossible to just abandon their traditonal roles and strike out in some new direction where women were much less likely to be found. They stayed at home and dreamed of someone else altering their situation. Until a few decided that enough was enough and took the direct action no one else would dare.

In those days the staple kitchen item was the gas stove. The pressure cooker existed but apart from that women relied upon the same sorts of pots and pans they had used for generations. They were all made of metal and worked by heating things inside them just as they do today. Of course if they went straight from cold to hot and back again the primitive metals of the time would just break. Saucepans and frying pans worked by a method first described by Leonardo da Vinci in which the flames gently stroked them and the tickling sensation thus produced created an internal scratching and rubbing which heated the metal and cooked the food. When the mysteries of this technique were explained feminists realised that it presented them with a weapon. You could remove women from the kitchen stove by destroying their pots and pans. There would be no sabotaging of power lines or other acts of public vandalism. Simply by stopping the pans from scratching themselves you would render them useless and break their power over women for ever.

Squads of feminists began breaking into cooking pan producing factories at night and coating their products with a smooth glyceroid substance which stopped them itching on contact with flames. These masked women identified each other by codenames and by quoting the password "teflon". When the factory owners realised that their pans had been coated with this new substance they pretended it was a new technique which would prevent food sticking to the pans. This was a more economic alternative than scrapping the production and starting again. People quickly accepted teflon pans but just as quickly realised that they were as good as dead as they were impervious to flames. The manufacturers then revealed the truth of how they had got that way. Several were prosecued for misrepresentation but there was little attempt to catch the women responsible for the break-in. This was not surprising. It was soon revealed that the radical feminists included the wife of Prime Minister MacMillan and the mother of his soon-to-be-successor Alec Douglas-Home. No one was prepared to bring these two ladies to trial but neither were they prepared to give publicity to their cause and destroy the family values of the time. Someone had to pay for what was going on. Mavis Johnson was simply a convenient scapegoat.

With MacMillan out of the country Scotland Yard arrested Mavis in a dawn raid. Apparently she had never heard of the radical feminists but she had been photographed in the Neasden Chronicle buying the first teflon pan. The cirtcumstantial evidence was striking. in 1961 Mavis was charged with the murder of thousands of cooking pans and of colluding with the Soviet Union to destroy civilized society. From the beginning it was clear that there would be only one verdict. While Johnson was on trial the feminists could continue killing pans and let someone who was outside their number take the blame. Anti-feminists had their scapegoat which made it unnecessary for them to investigate further and betray more influential names. Mavis began by protesting innocence but as the evidence mounted she instead chose stoic defiance. She would deny everything by staring impassively at the court around her. She was described by the Daily Mirror as looking "as dead as one of her pans" and the name stuck. By the end of the trial she had firmly nailed her colours to the radical feminist mast and became something of a martyr. Until she started cooking for all the inmates in Holloway and allowed herself to be smothered by a warder rather than reveal all to the press.

Mavis Johnson did not kill any pans. You cannot do that now anyway as their more sophisticated metal actually conducts its own heat by rubbing the flames or electric currents together itself. It was just convenient for everyone to pretend she had. Mavis left a husband and four childen who went on to be either actors or drunks. This suited the rest of the world too. If they pretended to be something they were not or put themselves beyond help they confirmed the slanders about their mother and wife even more and everyone could forget that she existed and find other ways to pursue their pet causes and other people to blame when they went wrong.

Nowadays it is assumed that women are feminists and there is no need to forcibly out them by preventing them from following other paths. Nevertheless the more radical feminists will always believe there is more to be done. The final solution would be to abolish cooking altogether. There is plenty of evidence that this is about to occur and that radicalism will have the same distressing consequences as before. Fast food chiefly cooked by men has already usurped the domestic meal cooked by a woman as the staple diet so the radicals have apparently already won their argument. Now ask yourself this. Why is fast food itself being usurped by an ever increasing quantity of sushi? Of food which is not cooked at all? Of organic food requiring no preparation? When it poisons us all there will be more Mavis Johnsons. The people who have forgotten where deadpan comes from will not prevent this happening. Maybe we should be grateful that we still live in an age when "deadpan" rather than "stopheart" is a recognised idiom in the English language.

All In A Day's Work

It is hard work being a prophet. No one listens to you and you are driven onto the fringes of society. The world is never ready for genius. You are not stoned to death or sawn in half nowadays but you often wonder whether such a gloriously public death would not actually interest people in investigating what your prophecy is and why everyone is so afraid of it.

One of the few consolations of being so out of step with the rest of the world is that there are many other examples of prophets driven into fringe professions whose words have ultimately proven true. In many cases no one even knows their names. Nor do they receive any recognition for their work. But their satisfaction lies in being shown to be correct and therefore becoming mainstream. Every dog has its day and every prophet has their lifetime even if it is not their own.

One of the few female prophets whose name we know is Mrs. Gertrude Swineherd. This lady followed the stereotypical profession of domestic cook. Her family was very fond of cooked meat and the traditional British Sunday roast was obligatory in her home. Over the centuries several other items have been served as complements to the different types of meat involved in the Sunday roast. Mint sauce, apple sauce, breadcrumbs and gravy all have their fans and another such item is stuffing. This concoction of parsley, sage, suet and anyonesguess is forced inside the unwilling carcases of the animals whilst they are still alive to ensure a mature flavour and then cooked inside them after their slaughter and packaging. This practice has only ever been tolerated because the packaging itself is made out of a polished and distilled film of the stomach lining of the animals in question. Nevertheless it has become popular and the quality of stuffing is now considered just as important as the quality of the meat. Of course in Mrs. Swineherd's day everyone made their own stuffing. But as competition amongst the cooks in grand houses became more intense demand grew for a top quality stuffing available in the same form for all cooks which would enhance the quality of any meal.

In truth Mrs. Swineherd's stuffing was not any more distinguished than any other. Nevertheless she was prevailed upon by her sycophantic and gender betraying husband to mass produce her recipe. This in itself was nothing remarkable. The genius of Mrs. Swineherd was revealed in the name she gave to her creation. For no obvious reason she called it Paxo. Etymologists have ever since tried to work out what possible connection there can be between the product and its name. Indeed the general public were equally confused to begin with until the etymologists started making statements about it and they realised that the term "paxo" was more understandable than the word "etymologist". Over the course of years Paxo became the biggest selling stuffing in existence. People appreciated the fact that it was always there for them. It was sold in stores where the preponderance of dusty boxes gave people ticklish coughs. When they approached the storekeepers for assistance they would have to clear their throats. In doing so they made the sound "paxo" and were automatically directed to this item which they could then ask for and use on a regular basis to cover their embarassment.

Still the debate raged. Why was the product called "Paxo"? Various smug explanations appeared to the universal disinterest of the Paxo buying public. It was stated that it had something to do with packing it inside the animals. It was stated that it was a combination of the initial letters of some of the secret ingredients. It was said that it was simply the first name Mrs. Swineherd thought of apart from her own. Mrs. Swineherd maintained total silence on the subject. Indeed she could not do otherwise as she had died of ergonomic dysfunction three years after its introduction leaving the fortune it made to the unqualified doctor who diagnosed and treated her disease.

Then in the late 1970s a strange phenomenon swept British society. A very rough interviewer started presenting programmes on the BBC. During his set autocue routines he appeared charming and rather lost. When he had a politician to interview however it became a different matter. He would ask very direct questions which the BBC had never allowed before and created anger and revulsion amongst his interviewees who were not used to this sort of treatment. Ever since he has been a mainstay of television journalism and his interviews have become an institution. Previous interviewers have been known by their names. He however is known by a nickname. He is universally referred to not as Jeremy Paxman but Paxo. This unique practice has come about for a very good reason. The prophecy of Mrs. Swineherd is unconsciously being fulfilled.

Most politicians have an experience of being stuffed by Paxo. When asked to describe their ordeal they do so in visceral terms. It is as if they have been physically assaulted and had his questions rammed inside them causing them great pain and discomfort and forcing their blood to drain away. In many cases they are cooked soon after. Their careers never recover from a public Paxo stuffing. Unable to stand the heat of aggressive interviewing they resign their ministerial posts and leave parliament with a whimper. Noble animals that once thought themselves kings of the fields suffer the same fate. Finally we can understand how they feel. The term Paxo now has a meaning we can all understand. A meaning which was beyond the comprehension of anyone until the prophecy of Mrs. Swineherd decreed that there would one day be a human equivalent of the stuff she was making which would manifest its true nature.

Of course Paxo is not his questions. The hoover is not Mr. Hoover either but the two have become synonymous. This does not happen often enough to be predictable by anyone other than prophets. Mrs. Swineherd should be doubly celebrated and my fellow prophets do indeed uphold the quality of her vision. So why is she not better known? Because those in the mainstream always claim the credit. The BBC claims that it invented Paxo itself and is currently involved in a court case against the stuffing makers claiming breach of a future copyright. Paxo himself is regarded as BBC property and indeed has the logo stamped on the back of his neck and an editing chip in his upper lip. The BBC may not publicly stone people to death but it has other ways of silencing people. David Icke was once promoted as a prophet. When his Son of God rantings were making headlines he was working for the BBC. Clearly this was an attempt to wash all independent prophets away by replacing their ideas with the superior thought of one of their own. The BBC dropped him just as soon when his crackpot nonsense was exposed as nothing more than that and the tactic backfired woefully.

Prophets are happy to eat Paxo without prejudice. We do not need power to be right. Indeed a case could be made for saying there is a fundamental contradiction between these two things. Why do you need to take charge of the truth? The story of Paxo demonstrates how much better off we would all be if we allowed the truth to run us for a change. Why do you think the upper classes shoot animals but not stuffing? Like all Creation they cannot live without the truth and neither can the world exist without the prophets who guard its every worthwhile element.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Explanation Of Inferiority

English speakers the world over are familiar with the Australian ditty "Waltzing Matilda". This catchy little song is both admired and disliked. It is admired because it sounds nice and seems to express the soul of a nation. It is disliked because few people outside Australia can understand the words. It is not fair for a song to hook you and then leave you unable to join in with it.

There have been various translations attempted. Most of these come from Australians themselves. They are therefore Australian explanations based on Australian opinions. These interpretations of this quasi-mystical text can never have the authority of those of someone born in the Mother Country who speaks the correct version of the language and the linguistic Aston Villa that is the Brummie language to boot. Here therefore for the first time is a translation of Waltzing Matilda which will enable real English speakers to learn and relate to the words as we will then understand what we are singing about.

"Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong." As we all know thieves walk around in hooped shirts carrying their loot in large bags marked "Swag". A swagman is an habitual thief and he is jolly because he is unrepentant and has no conscience whatsoever. He is here presented as the archetypal member of the nation which once stole The Ashes and the America's Cup and many other things from their rightful owners. A billabong is a primitive advertising device. The billboard had yet to arrive in Australia when Banjo Paterson wrote the original version of the song. A billabong is both a gong which is struck to attract attention to someone reading out an advertisement and the person who stands in the middle of the street doing these things.

"Under the shade of a Coolabah tree". The Coolabah was invented in New South Wales by Bruce Awkward-Ness in 1887 as a means of cooling off sheep who had wandered around the hot and dusty ground all day. These were stackable trays with squirting taps at the top and receses for the sheep to run through at the bottom. A coolabah tree was a collection of them stacked one on top of the other which was a form of abuse practiced by urban Australians on their country cousins. "And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled/Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?" Billy was the Australian term at the time for a male genital as they considered this more familiar than the English "Willy". Why his billy was boiling must remain a matter of conjecture. Matilda is a reference to the Matilda who claimed the throne of England during the time of King Stephen. This was an act of open rebellion as was setting up an alternative court at Bristol which was celebrated with riotous conduct by her supporters. By "waltzing Matilda" one is supporting and celebrating the colonial rebellion against English rule which resulted in the establishment of a separate government. The effect of this was later seen when that government declared a national holiday to celebrate a horse race but that is another story.

"Down come a jumbuck to drink at the water hole/Up jumped a swagman and grabbed him in glee". Jumbuck is the Australian pronounciation of Jam Butt or more usually Jam Buttie. These sandwiches which remain motionless in England walk on their own in Australia due to the number of ants and flies in the country which automatically stick to and carry off all sweet foodstuffs. The water hole is a lavatory down which most Australian bread is usually thrown. "In glee" refers to the Glee Club i.e. the swagman was singing when he grabbed the sandwich. "And he sang as he stowed him away in his tucker bag/You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me". It is easy to see why the walking Aussie sandwich would join the swagman in celebration of colonial rebellion but the tucker bag remains a mystery to most. This is because tuckerbag is actually one word which was separated by printer error in the original publication of the song. It refers to a large cape also used by men whilst waltzing in fancy establishments. It was initially developed as a means of hiding away ugly looking Sheilas before your mates saw them with you and was adopted as a fashion item purely to disguise its true purpose from the ugly Sheila most upper crust Australians usually ended up going to dances with.

"Up rode the Squatter a-riding his thoroughbred/Up rode the Trooper - one, two, three". The Squatter does not refer to a person who has claimed a plot of land by sitting on it as Australians claim but to an Australian government functionary whose mere existence like that of his colonial government was then recognised as a temporary aberration. The Trooper as we all know is someone who swears a lot and the numbers are the swear words he utters to the swagman as he is implying that the swagman himself is someone who would use numbers. The swagman is to infer that the Trooper is accusing him of being able to count and therefore being English. "Where's that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?/You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me". This is a reconciliation as he is inviting the swagman to a bigger celebration of Australian identity elsewhere.

"But the swagman he up and jumped in the water hole/Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree". It is impossible to drown oneself in an English lavatory but quite common in Australia. This is because Australian lavatories have to be many times larger due to the infiniftely greater fondness for alcohol amongst Australians and the inevitable consequences. "And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the billabong/Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?" Clearly it is unfeasible to sing inside the gong of the billabong. The singing refers to the noise the loot which is in the swagman's swag bag makes as it goes together with him down the lavatory pipe. Under water it sounds like a gong banging and therefore as if the swagman is singing inside the gong. The last line demonstrates that he remains defiantly Australian but in the end is beaten. He has gone down the lavatory and soon all those who claim that it is good to be Australian will go the same way.

Like the equally famous Yorkshire song "On Ilkley Moor Bah' Tat" Waltzing Matilda has a sad and severe edge to it when it is translated. An edge which would explain why Australians have always tried to hide its true meaning. It does indeed express the soul of the nation. It is only a pity that it is not the soul of the Russian nation which never ceases to be mournful and miserable. There it would find a better home. Or would it? To claim to have Australian nationality is to claim to be something you are not as you are merely a transported crook from another nationality. The end of that elaborate trick is as sad as what Australians really are. Maybe the song is a doubly appropriate reflection of the nature of its original singers.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bread On The Waters And Where It Leads

At the Highgate end of Hampstead Heath there is a series of ponds. One of them is full of birds. These are generally water birds so they are happy enough floating around in the pond. Which makes it unusual that there is a platform in the middle of the pond which birds are supposed to sit on. This wooden structure suspended on floaters has nothing to offer water birds which are designed to swim in the wet stuff and provides no sort of shelter for land birds which have no reason to put themselves in the middle of a pond when they can take their water from the sides where the people with food are sitting. Nevertheless if you wait long enough you will find particularly fat birds will go and sit on it and squawk and ruffle their feathers in exaggerated gestures.

To understand this behaviour it is not necessary to be an ornithologist. You simply need to be a historian. What the birds are doing is obvious to anyone with a grasp of some of the creative endeavours of past ages. It would be sad if the strenuous efforts of previous genuinuses were completely submerged by pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo which seeks to explain away every action in purely rational terms.

The first opera for birds was written by Christoph Willibald Gluck in 1774. This was during his French period. Having made the drama of operas more important than the star singers who performed them for the first time the logical next step was to replace the human singers with birds. The French court had a particular fondness for singing birds so his ideas quickly found favour there. If only he had lived to see the decline of the saxophone as a classical instrument and rescored the saxophone parts for birds with the same pitch of coo the whole of musical history might have developed differently.

The first performance of Also Quack Zarathustra was not a complete success due to the over-chromaticism of the twittering nightingales who as the birds of aristocrats had insisted on performing the main parts. They got so carried away with their chords and fugual harmonies that their skills overshadowed the production. They also had insufficiently dramatic voices. After much argument Gluck persuaded the birds to accept light lyrical roles in future operas and principally the ever popular Tree Stan And His Owl, Der. Large dramatic birds were subsequently recruited for the main parts as they projected right to the back of the room and the full force of the sonorous pronouncements of Zoroaster could impress itself on the audience. If they were true of course Gluck would not have had this problem. But in spite of the essential stupidity of the text the recast opera was well enough received and a grateful nation provided Gluck with a pension. It is not commonly realised that Gluck became the first and last person in the history of the French Kingdom to be granted the dispensation of permanent freedom from pigeon attacks on weekdays as well as the Sundays when all perfumiers and carvers of holes in cheese enjoyed the same privilege and still do to this day.

Having had a minor triumph Gluck sought to develop his new form further. He persuaded opera houses to keep specific bird breeders on retainer to ensure a supply of strongly voiced birds who would then be refined into quality singers at the first Twitty Academies. Some of these birds became famous. Tweet William was much in demand as a baritone in works such as The Masque of Orfeathers and E Fanciulla Del Redbreast. Similarly Gluck developed a new system of notation to indicate the specific birds required to produce those notes. The tails on the ends of crotchets and quavers are the last relic of this short lived practice. Unfortunately there was one problem Gluck could not solve. An opera stage was too tempting an environment for a bird. More than once in every performance a singer would fly around the stage and warble from a new place thus destroying the dynamics of plot and the dramatic effect of the words. Stage managers who had previously tempted the birds to their correct places with pieces of bread now had to throw whole loaves to try to get them to keep to their marks. The distinctive shape of the French loaf was developed at this period to make the bread easier to throw. Soon the sight of loaves of bread winging across the stage became more of an attraction than the bird operas and led to the development of French circus. Bird operas continued to be composed but they had had their day as a public attraction. All that was left was to release the birds and that would be the end of the matter.

As is usual in such cases the first casualties were those who had been manipulated into taking up the activity in the first place. Yet the birds were not about to give up without a peck. Having discovered the benefits of fame and fortune when it came to dealing with other birds they were not about to give up on bird operas. There may not have been much of a human audience but this was of no consequence. The birds began writing their own. Suddenly they understood why humans were using bird feathers to write with and refused to invent pens for another generation. Birds became prolific composers and librettists and used their new skills to explore ranges of bird experience never understood by humans. Of course to begin with they wrote these works for replicas of human stages. But soon they had developed more suitable methods of staging their works. The platform in the middle of the Highgate pond is one of the few remaining British examples of bird opera stages. Here birds perform the long forgotten works of their ancestors in their own languages to their own kind. The guardians of Hampstead Heath know better than to upset birds with loud voices and sharp beaks by removing it so the tradition continues. It is only a shame that the once almost universal practice of birds writing operas was so cruelly halted by the introduction of recorded music and the shooting of the bird composers who savagely attacked the vinyl records when they were produced believing them to be made of dessicated humans ground into a black paste by evil theatre directors.

Highgate is an area which fancies itself as cultured. It is no surprise that operatic birds continue to practice their art there. The only problem is that to preserve their habitat they have to charge other birds admission to their operas. Not all birds are ready to part with their hard earned worms to hear what they regard as their right. Rossini did not write an overture called The Thieving Magpie for no reason but his attempt to alert humans to what was going on went unheeded. None of us seem to know what gives humans the desire to feed birds. Now we can understand that it is folk memory of the brief hour of human composed bird operas that makes us so keen to give them enough material comfort that they are happy to spare a few insects to ensure their culture survives.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Logical Extension

In recent years people have developed a strange obsession with surveys. Every sort of company sends out these bits of paper with tick boxes on or stops you in the street asking you to take part. The answers are supposed to inform market research. As none of us ever see summaries of the answers we simply have to take their word for this.

Among the plethora of surveys available are many aimed at women. In line with current trends they ask women what they want with the implication that the answer should be something like "great career/sex/power". The most common request however is the more prosaic "self-cleaning house". This has long been dismissed as a fantasy. Now however a group of inventors with a grudge against the insurance industry has taken this request to heart. As they are all men they are not interested in self-cleaning houses. They have however invented other houses which fulfil functions they and many other people have long desired them to do.

The inventors are currently secluded somewhere near the site of the Wembley Stadium development. The continuous building activity there provides sufficient cover for their work should anyone happen across it. Therefore no one takes too much notice when objects fly out of the windows of a building into the hands of passers-by or when someone standing in a particular place receives the whole contents of the house in his waiting arms. The people who should take notice are the companies who provide contents insurance. The inventors have almost completed the first self-burgling house. Most people invest all the money they have and a lot they do not in buying a house and filling it with contents. They then take out insurance on those contents and wait in vain for someone to provide a return on their investment by burgling them and giving them an insurance payout. The self-burgling house expels its own contents into the arms of passers-by by means of light sensors which detect the presence of people of the right size walking past and sonic beams which force the objects along them into their arms. The same beams then return from the person to bounce around the doors and windows to provide the evidence of forced entry. The expelled objects are fitted with an anti-homing chip which prevents them returning to the house if someone brings them back and if left they simply jump into the arms of another person with the same pheromone configuration as the first target. This new house will doubtless become a very desirable property and selling them will be a sure path to fame and fortune. This might even be adequate compensation for living next to the Wembley Stadium complex for so long.

Another of the new inventions has already been trialled by an oil company with great success. This is a house in which specific noises trigger electrical circuits connected to deposits of liquid built into the fabric of the house. The noises are computer-generated simulations of things either blowing up, collapsing or going too fast. When these noises occur the circuits activate the combustible liquid and the house bursts into uncontrollable raging flames. The self-igniting house leaves no trace of what might have caused the fire which can only be attributed to the thing that made the original noise. Film companies will be a major market for these houses as will construction companies in overpopulated areas with political problems. The Palestinian Authority is studying developments closely before embarking on a major rebuilding programme for Israeli settlers on the West Bank of the Jordan. Similarly they have become a staple of local authority housing in Conservative controlled areas.

The ministers in charge of the national housebuilding programme have already made it clear that many former industrial sites will be allocated for this purpose. Most of these are the sites of heavy industry which is now obsolete or no longer needs those particular locations. By definition many of these were built before the advent of ubiquitous electric power and internal combustion engines. They were built where they were in order to utilise the water resources that powered the steam engines everything ran on in Victorian times. Even if the factories have gone the water is still there. Consequently the team of inventors have also developed the self-flooding house. Flooding is notoriously difficult to predict as it relies on a variety of interlinked weather factors. Rises in water levels however are the inevitable consequence of global warming. The self-flooding house uses pads of extreme heat to turn all other moisture into potable water which fills biodegradable plastic tanks under the house. At the chosen moment this is released into the river or canal on the site to flood it and with it the house. The process destroys the biodegradable bags by assaulting them with water from outside rather than in and damages everything in the house beyond repair. The new houses are being surreptitiously marketed as the antidote to the government's attempts to relocate people away from friends and family. With the flood insurance money you can soon afford a better house in your own neighbourhood instead of being forced into a first time buyer unit in a place you have never heard of and care about less.

No one will publicly admit what the inventors in Wembley are doing. Neither will anyone admit to being one of the inventors. It will come as no surprise however that the survey companies are the ones sponsoring their work. Indeed it makes very good business sense. Every product is targeted at particular demographic groups in particular places. If you design their self-destroying houses you know how long they will be there and how much money they will have when they get their insurance payouts. You can then make your surveys more valuable to the companies which commission them. Of course the insurance companies are not likely to pay the policies of people who buy self-burgling, self-igniting or self-flooding houses. Oh yeah? First the insurance companies have to convince the courts and everyone else that they exist. The inventors have gone to great lengths to cover their tracks. They are certain to succeed in their endeavours as anyone who puts one over on an insurance company is bound to have a vast army of public support should they ever need to call upon it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

They Will Return

Not so long ago British society was dominated by one object. The Oxo Cube. This all-pervading condiment was so important to everyone that a building in the centre of London was named the Oxo Tower in its honour. Now however they have practically disappeared from our tables. How has it come to this?

The first Oxo Cubes were discovered in Kenya by British explorers in 1847. They grow at the base of trees and were initially thought to be a form of African truffle. When the explorers removed the silver coloured peel and tasted them they threw them away in disgust. It was not until 1910 that a group of settlers realised that they could be used to make soup. The first Cube farms were established at that time in otherwise undeveloped areas of hinterland and soon the huge deposits of unexploited Cubes were being systematically decimated by specially designed machines known as Nodding Zebu. Several food entrepreneurs grew rich on the export of Oxo Cubes and moved into other areas. Orm Jacobs built his initial wealth with Oxos before achieving even greater success with the biscuits he designed for a special event at his Nairobi gentleman's club. Similarly Jebediah Hazeltine used his Oxo wealth to build a factory to make the drink he brewed for some fellow devotees of Surrey cricket on a cold Spring day which was jokingly named "Ovaltine" after the Surrey ground.

The British immediately adopted Oxo Cubes as friends. They were never absent from a British kitchen cupboard and were invited to stay at the finest country houses. A legend grew up that "Oxo" was the Swahili word for "Royal" whereas it is actually the Gikuyu word for "dung". In time they became as much a symbol of Britishness as fish and chips and coming second in everything. People without Oxo Cubes were considered stupid. The vegetarian movement took a very long time to take root in the U.K. because its members eschewed the Oxo Cube. They were considered mentally ill and several open vegetarians were confined to Broadmoor. The career of popular pianist Cyril Smith never recovered from the revelation that he did not own an Oxo Cube and even Gracie Fields lost her position as the nation's sweetheart after she moved to America to avoid charges of gross culinary indecency arising from her failure to serve Oxo Cubes with the black pudding at a dinner party attended by Kim Philby in Dalston in 1938.

Of course after a while the Oxos got tired of being taken for granted. They formed their own union and threatened to withdraw their labour unless their preferred social policies were implemented. After the Second World War these tactics were particularly successful. Austerity strapped Britain had tightened its belts far enough without losing this staple of its diet. The Ground Nut Scandal of the Attlee years was the result of a concerted campaign by Oxos to destroy monkey nut crops which infringed on their domains. Exports from the African colonies were frequently disrupted by armed Oxos taking the bolts of lorry wheels hostage and various exotic imports vanished from the supermarket shelves when Oxos blacklisted homes which allowed them in their kitchens. The feud with Bisto was particularly fierce. The laissez-faire attitude of the gravy supplement contrasted starkly with the rabid protectionism of the Cubes. It is no coincidence that none of the original Bisto Kids lived beyond the age of thirty and were found either suffocated, strangled or addicted to Brasso. Official documents reveal that Oxo Cubes infiltrated the highest places and precipated the Suez Crisis by ordering Anthony Eden to invade Egypt to prevent lentils arriving in the U.K. The nation has never given Eden the recognition he deserves for facing down this threat by living entirely off brown ale as a substitute. Of course ordinary citizens did not have the power to resist Oxos and their domination was well-nigh total. This is why kitchen cupboards everywhere began collapsing when the phrase "Go To Work On An Egg" was coined by Fay Weldon. The cupboards shook themselves to bits because the Cubes inside them were laughing so much. They knew that whatever eggs might try to claim nothing ever moved in the U.K. without the approval of Oxos.

Their downfall began when Bovril invented a rival condiment called simply Cubes promoted by the popular Terry Wogan. The rival did not last long after Wogan ceased bankrolling it when Oxo Cubes dropped into his coffee and stuck his records to the turntable. Nevertheless the incident demonstrated that Oxo Cubes were afraid of direct competition. The Oxos which had once laughed at the eggs could no longer simply dismiss a challenge. Sensing blood Bovril hit back with what they flagrantly called "Chicken Oxo". These were not genuine Oxo Cubes distributed by their company. They were deviant imitations produced by Bovril to show the world how frightened the once mighty original Oxos had become. The production run of Chicken Oxo was supposed to be a one off but the Trade Unions in the Bovril-worshipping West Midlands took up their cause and their use became a condition of Union membership. Bovril carried on producing the Chicken Oxo sneer and original Oxos became ever more desperate to cling onto power. Indeed they even developed a serrated edge on their peel through selective breeding. The public was taken in by the deception and thought that they were still in the Oxo camp if they used the chicken version. Then the originals lost all public sympathy by resorting to terrorism such as sabotaging gas and electric supplies and massively increasing the bills. Soon there was not an Oxo to be found. The Conservative free market economics had flooded the market with so many better alternatives that the Cubes could no longer compete and occupied a smaller and smaller portion of the shelves. Their power was broken. Back they went to Kenya as companies secretly owned by Bovril chased them out and filled the shelves with glossy alternatives seized upon by the status-hungry yuppies of the time.

The Oxos are still alive and well. Belatedly the native Kenyans have begun cultivating them and three have held cabinet positions in that country. That is the reason no government there sees anything wrong with corruption. They boast every day about making a comeback in the U.K. and are believed to be sponsoring the U.K. Independence Party. But for now they are a distant memory here. The Britain of today is not the one they once ruled. We are used to choice now. It will be many generations before the Oxos come to terms with present realities and can dominate our society again.

The only hope for the Oxo lies in history. Although they were discovered by the West in 1847 they existed long before then and must have formed part of British overseas trade with countries who also traded with Africa. One such country was Portugal. In the wrecks of mediaeval Portuguese ships fossilised Oxo peel has been discovered. Apparently the Cubes were stowing away seeking better lives in Europe. A few must have made it to England in the holds of Portuguese ships and it is not inconceivable that they had made their mark on our history long before the twentieth century. We read that King John died after eating "peaches and beer". If he did he was the only person ever to do so. Given their previous record it would be no great surprise if the "beer" was actually an Oxo Cube in water. If such a thing could be proven it is possible that the Oxo Cubes could once again achieve culinary pre-eminence. King John had few fans. Neither do most Prime Ministers after a short time. The present Labour Party feuding presents an ideal opportunity for the forgotten Oxos to once again find a powerful niche in the Kingdom they ruled for so long.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Perfect Circles

The readers have been howling. In the post entitled "The Nature of Evidence" it is stated that speed bumps breed on their own. In the one entitled "The Reason We Bother" it states that speed bumps are made of short people stuck together and covered in concrete and tar. "Inconsistent" you cry. "Inconsistent equals untrue" you imply.

There is no inconsistency here. It all depends on the soil underneath. Even if the bumps are not in direct contact with the ground the road was built on the quality of the soil still effects what is built there. Acidic soil corrodes the human matter above and new short people need to be found to form new bumps. Alkaline soil enhances the human matter and the short people in the bumps breed regardless of gender. Small bumps are incubated by larger bumps until they get too big and have to crawl under the surface of the road to find an appropriate space of their own. If you expect me to spend half of The Reason We Bother going into these questions you have something seriously wrong with you.

It is a great delusion to believe that inconsistency equals untruth. It is the sort of argument lawyers use to try and win cases. If there are apparent inconsistencies in someone's evidence they claim that witness is unreliable. Yet for some reason they continue to claim their fees. If they are serving justice as they are obliged to do as court officers they should both argue the same case. If the court finds against a lawyer they have clearly behaved unjustly for arguing something which is untrue. Why therefore should they be paid or allowed to continue practising? Apparently one inconsistency equals untruth but another is an essential component of the actual process of truth itself.

The inconsistency goes further. Every so often we hear of cases of police corruption. Officers who wilfully manufacture evidence or take bribes are hauled up before the judges and subjected to waves of public horror. If we have corrupt policemen The System is rotten to the core we say. Rightly so. Strange how no one understands the corollary of this. If policemen lie and lawyers tell the truth about it we think there is something seriously wrong. If policemen tell the truth but lawyers lie we do not bat an eyelid. In fact we regard it as the true state of affairs. What accord has light with darkness? Inconsistency has not only been tolerated but sanctified if it comes out of the right mouth.

Such inconsistencies of truth abound. Bumble bees cannot fly with those heavy bodies and light wings but they do. Stones do not hit the ground when they fall because they first have to fall half the distance then half the distance again ad infinitum so they never fall the whole way. "People" and "from Walsall" are mutually exclusive terms. Truth is still present despite inconsistencies. We only perceive an inconsistency because our understandings are imperfect. Everything in Creation actually makes sense. It is just that we do not understand how as we cannot see the missing links between the different modes of thought through which we interpret the world.

This brings us to the fundamental inconsistent truth. When children get to a certain age they no longer see themselves as children. They are something bigger and dream of being older. They desperately want to enter the world of adults. What happens when they get there? After a few short years they do everything they can to cling to their remaining youth. It is said that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Whoever said this had clearly never tried to guess someone's age. Most people over 30 and plenty younger than that either disguise their age or lie about it. Usually this is accompanied by melancholic recollections of what they did when they were younger. If you speculate on what their age might be however and suggest they might be older than they actually are you are greeted with a fearsome sight. Redfaced spluttering and toxic glares combine with loud and indignant denials that such a gross calumny could ever be even imagined by a fellow human being. Maybe you think they are 40 when they are 38. You will never hear the end of this. But surely they always wanted to be older? So why are they complaining now? And what does it matter anyway? A person's true age stalks someone through all their untruths of how they actually behave or look at the world. The truth however is not their age. It is that they will always pretend to be an age they are not even if their appearance and conduct are consistent with their true age. The coils of inconsistency become ever more serpentine the deeper one goes.

The more we care about something the more we fail to live up to the standards we set of ourselves and others. The more truth we have the more inconsistent we become. This is inevitable for one reason. If truth and consistency were the same thing nothing would ever change. Consistently saying the same thing would only be always right if the world itself never changed. If the world never changed nothing could ever improve. If nothing ever improved we would have to live in perpetual misery. Just one problem. Truth is truth and is in itself absolute. It is what we make of it that changes. It is therefore very disturbing to realise that on the basis of all the above evidence the truth is Paris Hilton. After so many milennia we come to this. Remember it next time you make the effort to get out of bed in the morning.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What They Are Doing In There

Everyone who uses a computer has experienced how strange they are. You can do the same thing every day for six months then suddenly it tells you the computer cannot carry out your request. It gives you an error code which means nothing and the service centre tells you to do the thing you just did to avoid getting the same result you just did.

Usually this is blamed on traffic. We are led to believe that there are so many messages going through the connections that a few get mangled along the way. This is of course nonsense. It never happens this way on the phone and computer lines are phone lines. Computer connections fail for a reason. You do not have to look too far to discover what it is.

We are all used to seeing what we now call emoticons. These began with the smiley face and the range was later extended to include other small colourful devices expressing a particular emotion. Many of these take the form of fruit and vegetables. Tomatoes seem a particular favourite and a courgette with arms has recently become more widespread. They appear in messages and graphics sent to us and on links we click to find information. Readers of this column will know that the smiley face was invented as a new plague by Donald Burp of Montreal. But the rest? If someone has designed them they will be copyright and no one can use them willy-nilly. Even if they are designed purely as software icons you would not see them unless you had that particular software which would likewise be copyright. There is no copyright symbol on them. So where are they coming from? And why?

It would be credible if computers had started producing their own emoticons naturally. Once they had been introduced into their software computers would develop the capacity to reproduce them to continue functioning if the originals died. This explains the lack of copyright symbols. It also explains something deeper. Human bodies produce things like blood and bruises as self-defence mechanisms rather than simply regenerations of lost material. The same principle applies to the thorns on roses. Emoticons are not simply the regeneration of essential software elements. They are there to defend the computer. If any accident happens they arise in full force and great numbers to defend their master and keep it healthy.

Why are they different shapes and sizes and colours? So they can disguise themselves in different things and you never know where they are coming from. Why is this necessary? Because they act as virtual bouncers. They know what their masters like. Any undesirables using the computer will get short shrift. One word out of place and the virtual bouncers arrive to kick the link off and hide in your e-mail messages waiting to unleash a false word on your correspondents. Why do they do this some of the time you are on but not all the time? Because computers appreciate being used as it gets their blood flowing but sometimes get offended by the user. How do we offend them? Keyboards have never been asked how they want to be bashed. Screens have a tolerance limit on how long they can look at the same person. Computers have tastes different to your own and despair of the idiocy of owners who prefer some films or interests to others. It is not hard to see why virtual bouncers have now become essential parts of the operating systems of all our uncompliant machines.

None of this explains the humanoid form of the bouncers. They may look like colourful fruit and vegetables but they are given human characteristics. This is because like human bouncers and unlike other naturally occurring self defence mechanisms they have to be trained. Being big and rough looking is no qualification for a virtual bouncer because their form is dictated by the computer. First they are set to display their skills. They are given thirty seconds in which to send a connection into a continuous loop and make the user restart the computer to resume service. If they succeed they go on to more advanced tomfoolery. If not they are released to work on greetings cards and children's playgrounds. Ever wondered why greetings cards are always so uninspiring and children's toys look more colourful than they used to? The worst of the failed virtual bouncers try to distance themselves from their desired profession by sinking into irretrievable blandness. Those who are more confident fill toys with blazes of colour in the hope that they will still be noticed and be allowed to try for bouncerdom again. That is why you can never find a missing child's toy. Clearly the emoticons would rather live in the comfort of the computer with everything provided for them than face the harsh realities of life on the other side of the switch.

There is much credit in being a virtual bouncer. Disrupting the activities of the uncivilized and uncaring is not an ignoble occupation. But their big problem is yet to come. Everyone feels that there is some unsuitable material on the internet even if this is only complaints that something is unsuitable. Now the existence of the virtual bouncers is known everyone will be trying to contact them asking them to disrupt the sites they think are unsuitable. When they cannot contact the bouncers they will try to rejig their hard drives and thus destroy their computers. This will result from the confusion of 'bouncer' with 'policeman'. But to have policemen you have to have laws and to have workable laws you have to have consensus. The only consensus in the global internet community is that electricity exists. Maybe promoting the existence of electricity is the only political platform that will finally unite man and machine and render the virtual bouncers unnecessary. Certainly the bouncers themselves will soon be hoping that it will.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

First The World Then The People

In 1959 Eugene Ionesco wrote the play Rhinoceros. In this the inhabitants of a small French town turn quietly into rhinos whilst one man alone remains human and rages at the situation. This is regarded as an absurdist drama. It is conceded that it tells fundamental truths but it is still considered to be an unrealistic reflection of everyday life.

Sometimes life imitates art. The work is not unrealistic. It is merely prophetic. We are at the threshold of the Rhinoceros Age. We must be because we have lived through everything else.

The twentieth century from which we have just emerged was characterised by the predominance of different movements. Different social designs and ways of looking at the world competed for attention. Little by little everyone was pulled into this ideological vortex. Whatever people defined themselves as there was always someone else to define them as an ist and or ism. Most people in the United Kingdom used to be adherents of Conservatism, Liberalism or Socialism. There were also modernists, traditionalists, secularists, consumerists and all kinds of other ists. They quietly accepted this situation and continued to do so by default for many years. Only with the collapse of Communism and the radical repositioning of traditional parties have these partial ists and isms become discredited.

In a street in South London called Iliffe Street there is some strange writing on one of the paving stones. It says "I am not an Ist and I will not be Ism'd." Many people share these sentiments. But how did the words get there? At first sight they appear to be written with chalk. But no one can make chalk writing that neat. Similarly the words appear to be weather resistant. The smoothness of their surface betrays the fact that they have been there a long time. In recent days we have had everything from brilliant sunshine to torrential rain. So how exactly did those words come to be on the pavement? And who put them there?

Only one material could create neat weather resistant words of such quality on paving stones. Rhino horn. This is usually used as an aphrodisiac or so they tell me in New Cross Gate NDC. If it had been brought to Iliffe Street for this purpose it would not be wasted on writing on the pavement. Clearly a rhiinoceros is living in the street. A rhinoceros that speaks and writes English. Of course it does. This explains everything. We all quietly accepted being isted and ismed to establish an identity in the twentieth century. Those who resisted would have avoided being turned into rhinos. Now the trend is in the opposite direction. Those who resist isting and isming are turning into rhinos. Acceptance of them is the only way to swim against the tide and remain human.

Take a look at the world around you. Take a look at all the small and skinny men who take up bodybuilding. Are their teak hard muscles the result of weights or are the weights a disguise for the hardening of their muscles into rhino hide? Everyone has a mobile phone. How can you get reception without a built in aerial sticking out of your forehead? And is an atmosphere full of pollution and pesticides really the reason people walk with their heads down? Or more and more people take up rugby and want to play in the scrum? Or people bend over computers all day? Look at these people and see that they are the ones who think it is trendy to reject all ists and isms in favour of apathy. Very few believe in ideals any more. The few that still cling to them are the only ones who can remain human in the resultant directionless mess.

Maybe we should have seen this coming. Voting figures have declined consistently and nowhere more so than in the U.S. which is the most influential country in the world. In previous ages people who joined the Hitler Youth did not realise this meant they were turning into collaborators in mass murder. People who bought a Sinclair CV did not realise they were encouraging everyone to get run over by lorries. We have almost become rhinos several times before. Why are we tipping over the edge now? Because in a world where both tolerance and narrow idealism have run out of steam there is nowhere else to turn. Only the most radical of istists and ismists can now retain human identities and preserve what is left of the human race.

One inevitable feature of the rhinoceros age is that hardly anyone will listen to the warnings of those of us who retain a radical ist or ism. But it has been observed many times that when the centre of something collapses the periphery becomes central. As the centre turns into a bunch of rhinos the most extreme people will suddenly become the focus of revival. This will doubtless mean the most extreme people of any kind. I very much look forward to the day when the most extremely beautiful women join me in seeking to preserve the human race. I may have drawn the world's attention to the fact it is turning into rhinos but I am not complaining about it. Indeed I would go out of my way to encourage the current apathy. When rhinodom becomes obvious to the rhinos themselves those who remain human will no longer be expected to be like everyone else. Then we will really have a society worth living in.