Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Unpopular things

1. Cockney rhyming slang. Well, maybe it's unpopular.

2. Privatised railways. "The unpopularity of rail privatisation is an odd phenomenon. ... The story of rail usage under British Rail was one of inexorable decline. Between 1960 and 1995, passenger numbers fell by about a third. Since 1995, they have more than doubled. The dramatic trend reversal coincides exactly with privatisation. ... privatisation has achieved many of the things its proponents hoped it would: better trains, new timetables, more responsiveness to passenger needs." So says John Kay.

3. Gunslingers, now extinct. Here is the TLS, in 1928, in an elegiac mood for the Old West.

4. Quantum Russian roulette. This is "a version of Schrödinger’s cat in which the experimenter stands in for the unfortunate animal. In some futures, he will be killed. In some, he will remain alive. But since, from his point of view, he will be aware only of the latter, he will always perceive that he survives." Actually this might be very popular across the multiverse, just not so much so locally.

Friday, 21 August 2015

How Snoopy killed Peanuts

This explains why. (In fact, the title is a little misleading: Charles Schulz (on the thesis of the article) killed Peanuts and Snoopy's development was only a symptom of the disease. But we'll let that pass. Perhaps Woodstock killed Peanuts.)

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Trump, Corbyn, UKIP - that lot

Here's Ezra Klein in Vox: "it's not that Trump is a moderate Republican. It's that he's a moderate, full stop. And he's the kind of moderate that really exists, not the kind of moderate Washington likes to pretend exists — which is to say, his policy ideas, such as they exist, are often extreme, but they can't easily be classified as left or right."

Klein discusses a pollster who has looked into what Americans actually believe: ""A lot of people say we should have a universal health-care system run by the state like the British," Broockman told me in July 2014. "A lot of people say we should deport all undocumented immigrants immediately with no due process."" I suspect UKIP's views on hospital parking charges would also go down well with these people. (More below.)

Monday, 17 August 2015

Is this the worst story about homophobia ever?

Brace yourself:

"we were wearing purple tops with pro-LGBT messages picked out in white lettering. Since it was a glorious day I decided to walk to the start of the parade at Baker Street. I had just passed the offices of the Bar Council when a group of young men were coming the other way. They were strung out across the pavement. Now, High Holborn is a street I have walked up and down many hundreds of times of the day, including in the early hours of the morning. I have never felt remotely intimidated in the past but, as this group approached, and as they appeared to be staring at the slogans on the T-shirt, in what appeared to me a rather menacing way, my heart started to beat faster and I don’t mind admitting that I felt vulnerable and somewhat scared. As it happens, the group of men walked past without incident and I was able to get on unhindered. That experience, however brief and insignificant, gave me a flavour, at least, of what sort of things gay people have to put up with, day in and day out, even in today’s society. It emphasised the courage that is required to live a life true to one’s own in-built sexuality."

So he was walking down a road while other people walked the other way and nothing happened. From that, the Chairman of the Bar Council (it is from his column that I take these words of wisdom) managed to draw some rather sweeping conclusions about modern British society. For judges, this sort of thing has to happen (or rather, not happen) on the Clapham Omnibus for it to count, but Alistair MacDonald QC can find a moral on the pavement outside his office.

While reading MacDonald's article I was reminded of that time Alan Partridge listens to a guest tell a story about losing her luggage and then replies: "It’s not an anecdote. You’ve got down here in your press release 'anecdote'. And that’s dishonest." 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Seymour Hersh and that story about the Bin Laden killing

"Who believes, or ever believed, that bin Laden presented such a threat to twenty-three fully armed SEALs that he had to be shot in self-defense? And yet this is still the administration’s official story."

That's from this, an interesting piece about a few things including those which American journalists find terribly interesting (American journalism and other American journalists) but also some things of much wider importance, e.g. "the administration’s efforts to cover up the February 2010 massacre of five innocent people, including two pregnant women, by US Special Forces operators in Gardez, a provincial capital in Afghanistan. US officials told reporters the massacre was the result of an honor killing carried out by Taliban militants."

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Monday, 3 August 2015

Camille Paglia

It's a long interview with her, in three parts: part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Camille Paglia, PG Wodehouse and Caitlin Moran: the style is part of the message; when you read them, you suspect that there must be repetition as the seam that is being mined is relatively small, and yet there is not - there is always something fresh, recognisable yet new; and they are all entertaining. 

Here is Paglia: "And then in the case of Monica Lewinsky–I mean, the failure on the part of Gloria Steinem and company to protect her was an absolute disgrace in feminist history! What bigger power differential could there be than between the president of the United States and this poor innocent girl? Not only an intern but clearly a girl who had a kind of pleading, open look to her–somebody who was looking for a father figure." It's the last sentence that puts the Paglia twist on something that no doubt many other people have thought. And then it's on to late-Victorian necrophilia, Sex and the City, her grandmothers, Christopher Hitchens' chapter titles, Hillary Clinton ("She has no discernible political skills of any kind"), the Republican presidential candidates ("Rand Paul has obviously had his eye on the presidency for years, so it’s astonishing that he apparently has never given any thought to how he should dress or cut his hair or even stand in front of cameras" - who else says that?) and away we go. Enjoy the ride.

An assortment of links

1. Great costumes from Star Trek: the Next Generation. As a bonus, here's a weird story about a bad Fantastic Four film.

2. Gone With the Wind is a cracking good read, says Cass Sunstein of all people.

3. Bad people are bad, not just banal. This is an interesting piece.

4. A couple of interesting pieces from Aeon: (a) nowadays, schizophrenics make sense - reality has caught up with paranoid delusions ("Another subject was actually working on a reality TV series but came to believe that his fellow crew members were secretly filming him, and was constantly expecting the This-Is-Your-Life moment when the cameras would flip and reveal that he was the true star of the show.") and (b) a suggestive piece on Buddhist logic (but where are all the female Buddhist philosophers? not playing the game?).

5. This. Laugh? Cry? Don't know. In bad taste? Almost certainly. (It's from the GS Elevator chappy.)

6. Everyone is right.