The Two-Star Rating…

I’m sorry to have to tell you that my dinner one night last week only got a two-star rating. That low number was a worry but the most concerning thing about it was the fact that I wasn’t involved in the measuring process  – someone else who packaged it got to do the  pre-dinner criticism.

I actually thought it was a pretty good meal – I put a frozen Herbert Adams beef and mushroom pie into the oven for 60 minutes and was rewarded with a beef and mushroom pie. It had beef and mushrooms – to which I added gravy, peas, and spinach. Meat, pastry, gravy, and two kinds of greens seems to meet some of the goals of the world – it certainly met mine. But the fact that there was a star rating on the side of the packet raises a few questions:

a. Who does the rating? Nowhere on the package does it say.

b. What actually do they rate? Taste? Texture? Amount of gluten? Amount of Lewisite?

c. What is the scale of the rating? 1 is poisonous and 5 confers immortality?

d. Is this a load of bullshit? If it is, is it mandated bullshit or just some advertising executive’s way to fill up a blank space on the cardboard package?

I note that the next package in the freezer – a Herbert Adams chicken and leek pie has gotten three stars…and a logo that says RSPCA Approved Farming. Begging the question whether the beef pie was frowned upon severely.

Being a chicken pie, I guess it would not contain bullshit. But the sauce is white and I’ve seen what chickens do in the chicken run…

 

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Secede From Success

I suppose I should be grateful to the people of Quebec. I might not have felt so in 1957 when I lived in Montreal and had to endure the indignities of Grade 5. The school system was split between English-speaking teachers and French-speaking ones and there were times when the kids were the football between the teams. Thankfully they had to teach English literature in English and mathematics in numbers and the odd intrusion en Francais could be endured.

Later, the pressure to teach every school child in Canada some French extended out as far as Alberta and British Columbia and I got at least two years of basic grammar in the early 60’s. I can fumble my way through a French magazine if there are pictures with short captions. If there are girlie pictures I fumble slower.

But they did contribute enough political whining and pressure to raise a great debate about ” Bi-culturalism ” and we school kids got onto the gravy train. We wrote essays, made speeches, and in some cases collected free trips to Ottawa to pretend that we were the future of the country. We were overwhelmingly snot-nosed, mealy-mouthed, and cynical, and I guess that if we had pursued that course over the time one of us could be Prime Minister of Canada right now. Come to think of it…

I didn’t win the Ottawa trip on the strength of my speech, but I won a job at the local newspaper doing anything that no-one else wanted to do. I loved it, and it has given me a taste for writing, photography, and cynicism ever since.

Secede? Oh the political pundits sometimes come out with the business of Quebec seceding from Canada and becoming an independent nation. They toy with it every few years…just long enough to get more federal money. The awkward thing is that the rest of Canada may see it as a good idea one day and take them up on it.

On one condition. Quebec gets Trudeau. All the Trudeaus…

” It Was Just A Prank, Officer…”

‘ Prank ‘ seems to be defined as a practical joke or mischievous act – both suggesting some form of lightheartedness. ‘ jape ‘, ‘ trick ‘, ‘ antic ‘, ‘stunt ‘, ‘ caper ‘, all are mentioned  – merry times, eh?

Gets a little darker when you get to the next line; ‘ fraud ‘, ‘ hoax ‘, ‘ escapade ‘…Go just that little further and you can get into ‘ assault ‘ and ‘ attack ‘ , and the magistrate starts to become involved…

With the rise of the smart-aleck radio and television teams who make program copy out of embarrassing and harassing people and the easy anonymity of the internet social forums, active meanness like this becomes all too possible. The commercial networks may be a little less inclined to indulge their sophomore announcers and actors as they are answerable to sponsors with lawyers. Governmental stations can do it more – they pretend such a respect for free speech ( as long as it supports their politics ) that they get away with sadder and meaner productions.

The saddest and meanest thing about it is the fact that they please an audience – who are always ready to excuse them. The actors have to fire extremely low – the viewers are not only riding Shetlands, they are riding them in trenches…

I don’t mind a good practical joke if it is actually funny. No-one must be hurt, and embarrassment caused should be private. Above all, the joke must be gentle enough that the victim can see the fun of it as well – otherwise it is just a bullying assault.

None of the above applies to that thing we did with the vat of glue and the lawnmower. The guy had it coming.

” Your Internet Will Be Cut Off…”

It was one of the Indian scam callers. You know the routine as well as I do:

a. Dead silence.

b. Pause.

c. Sound of a busy steam room in the background and a small woman’s* voice.

d. ” Hello this the Technical Department of Mumblemumble. My name is Vaguely Western Sounding In A Hindi Accent. How are you? ”

At this point in these calls I become ” Kindly Olde Uncle Dick ” – those of you who know what this involves may want to close and dog the hatches and pressurize the turret.

Kindliness and age mean that I am slow. And simple. And polite. It is by far the best way to encourage effective communication with the sub-continent and my days are open to amusement anyway. I want this one to last…

e. ” This is to inform you that your internet will be cut off .”

Goodness, that sounds serious. Is there anything that I can do to prevent this. Tell me what I need to do…

Now at this point I would expect to be told to go to the portal button and begin the process that would let the caller control my bank account. Or send iTunes cards to an address in Dacca. Or any number of suitable stings. And who better to fall victim to it all – an old, bumbling person who is at home in the middle of the day and is ready to obey instructions.

But what does she do? She hangs up. And no call-back from the next level up in her scammer’s organisation. Nothing. I’ve never been so annoyed in my life…

Am I not good enough for them? Do I not sound stupid enough to fall for their tired routine? Am I not frail or aged enough? What do I need to do to be scammed?

What sort of incompetents are they hiring in Indian scam rooms these days? Have they no pride in their work? Where has good old-fashioned patient malignance gone these days?

DO I HAVE TO ROB MYSELF, HERE?

Service! Service…!

*  Presumably Mother India. Or, if she was ringing Samuel L. Jackson, Motherf*****g India…

 

 

 

If You Don’t Have…

I’ve just seen one of those cooking sites that specifies extra virgin water grown on the slopes of the Gobi desert and kept under magical moonbeams for one of their ” signature ” dishes. I’m left with a number of questions…at least one of them pertinent:

a. What is a ” signature ” dish?

Is it a dish that has been signed? By whom? In what? Ketchup?

Would the bank accept a plate of ravioli at the bottom of a cheque?

Are there people who forge cutlets?

b. I get virgin. Not as often as I might like, but I do understand the concept. Something that has been previously untouched by human hands or any of the other parts. It’s a one-off thing.

But what is extra-virgin? Virgin on steroids? Virgin with attitude? The sort of virgin that marches in protests and yells at the police?

c. Water. It isn’t virgin now and hasn’t been for aeons. Every molecule going has been through something before: an animal gut, a pore, a plant tubule. Some molecules have been through every single Tom Cruise movie…but then you have to sort of admire that.

But all water is experienced. It knows its way around. It might appear in lite beer but not willingly.

It does appear in bullshit…and some cooking sites.

d. I’ve seen pictures of the Gobi desert. It looks like the Simpson desert or the Mojave. Without the taco stands. If you want water in the Gobi you need to order it waaaaay in advance. Like the Pleistocene era.

e. Magical moonbeams. Well thank God we’ve returned to sanity. I was starting to suspect a scam for a while there. No-one who has ever read J. K. Rowlings’ books …or for that matter her bank statement…could ever doubt the power of magic.

For my part, I prefer the recipes that allow some wiggle room in the pan. When they specify shrimp they will equally accept chicken or rat. I do draw a line at the medical advice columns that deal in substitutes, though. The one that said you could substitute wasabi for Murine wised me up.

On Ne Passe Pas

I just read several new posts on Facebook telling of incredible incidents…and I realised that I have been a Facebook criminal for many years.

The posts were from someone repeating posts from a third person, and were so vague as to be untraceable. That didn’t stop them from being sensational reading, mind – they spoke of stirring world events and social mores and the call to virtue and vice. All the good stuff.

The trouble was, they were very likely apocryphal. Legendary. Those are intellectual words for lies. Good lies, entertaining lies, educational lies – lies repeated by a person who is a very good person in other respects…but lies nevertheless. I’ve been seeing these lies for years – as long as I have subscribed to the main Facebook feed – and I’ve been complicit all that time.

Complicit? Why? Because I have just let them pass – pass along to the next person. Pass along to someone who might believe them and then pass them further. Some of the lies won’t do much harm or much good, but the constant stream of them must wear away any support for truth on the internet and eventually for truth in general society.

I repent of my crime. I shall reform. I will adopt the motto of Robert Nivelle. In the future the lies shall not pass.

Heading Image: A fine painted model French Poilu from the 2017 plastic model exhibition.

The Fraud Guide – Brought To You By The BGA – Part Three

” Oh what a tangled web we weave – when first we practice to deceive… ”

Take heart. if you put in enough dedicated practice, you can straighten out that web and make it tough enough to act as a crash barrier. Lies need not be complex nor involved – they can be simple and straightforward. And people appreciate this – they will reward your efforts to make up things in a way that is easily understood. No-one likes confusion – if you can make falsehoods regular and simple you will be doing a public service.

Lies should not be big to start with – and the best ones need never grow to unmanageable proportions. Take the business of Father Christmas.  Stripped of all the commercial hype and cultural nonsense, Santa Claus becomes a simple cautionary tale that can be used to keep the children quiet for at least one month in the year. You needn’t embellish it with science and computer letters to the North Pole. Elf On The Shelf is seasonal totalitarian oppression, and is not needed. It is far easier to just threaten the tykes early in the piece and let imagination do the rest. If all goes well they will be cowed into obedience for 30 or so days – if it goes badly you can save on the cost of presents.

The really interesting thing is the business we alluded to in the first post – the bit about ” wrongful ” deception. It argues that there is also a  ” righteous ” variety. And the “criminal ” part can also be counterbalanced by the thought of ” legal ” deceit. If something has to be defined carefully as bad, there must be good as well. All we need to do is find it.

I should start looking at the local council level – at the bit on the rates notice you get each year that refers to ” Security “. Have you ever stopped to think about exactly what security your local council provides? These are the people who cannot collect a bin from the verge on time and without spilling the contents. People who are not sworn police officers. People who start at 9:00 and finish at 5:00. They are likely to be kind and decent people, while the criminals who steal and assault you are not. Guess who is more likely to turn up at your door at 2:00 AM…

Yet…we pay the levy for security and we pretend that it exists and that we are reassured by it. Deceit with a receipt.

There are any number of deceptive practices that are served to us as ” services ” by other institutions in our daily lives. We are told of ” products ” that have no more reality than a scheme of words of paper. In some cases they never actually make paper – they are just a series of dots on a phosphor screen. Nearly all of them are sanctioned.

The role of the BGA in these things is not to debunk nor to promote them. It is simply to make the Guild member aware that there is a world of possibility between the dawn and the dusk, and a wise explorer looks carefully before he steps.