With A Cherry On The Bottom

We are often presented with some grandiose scheme or excessive product and told that it is glorious because it has everything plus a cherry on top. Pooh. This is nothing but commercial hype – and puerile hype at that.

It is postulated upon the idea of the ice cream sundae – layers of bad dairy decisions topped with watery chocolate and a preserved Maraschino cherry. The sort of thing that looks better in 1940’s illustrations than ever it does in real life. Well, you can put it out of your mind.

If you want the best experience, lower the cherry. You can still have the artificial fruit but remove the ice cream and substitute 2 ounces of rye whiskey, one ounce of red vermouth, and a dash of bitters. It is called the Manhattan cocktail and it will do more for you than the ice cream ever would. You can still get fat on it – it has as many calories as the soda fountain concoction – but you will have a much better chance to get drunk, wise, and laid. Believe me, all these things are better than ice cream.

Note: One good Manhattan is not enough and two are too many. The same is true for a good Mint Julep. Years of experimental work are recommended to discover how to achieve a perfect balance. You may not end up a scientist or a natural philosopher, but you will have had decades of enjoyment. They’ll bury you with a smile on your face.

The man or woman who invents a practical use for the cherry stem after you have finished the cocktail will win the Nobel prize for happiness.

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Pense-ing About…

It makes a difference whether you do it in France or Soho. You’ll be elected a fellow of the Academie in one instance and arrested on suspicion in the other. Neither is considered much of an honour.

This illustrates the problem we have in modern society – so many of the languages that we use are derived from other ones that we do not. Cross-overs, appropriations, intrusions, and slang all combine to muddy the pure streams of communication. And despite the efforts of  academic societies and their government stooges, the mixture is just going to get worse. As people migrate they haul languages with them.

Pensez – ” to think ” in French – has given a name to a small government stipend called the pension. In its turn, this has become the name for dingy hotels that people receiving the money inhabit. They are dingy because they are cheap – that government money does not go far. The end result of it all is that the inhabitants are reduced to thinking how they would like to have more money so that they could move away and not have to think any more.

There is a deal of thinking going on at the government offices, too. Some of the workers think about how they can stop giving out the stipend, and some think about how long they will have to stay at the counter dealing with angry citizens – in short, how long until they can get a pension and go and think for themselves. It is complex and disturbing,

In contrast, the Soho ponce just hangs around street corners and bars soliciting vice and corruption. Their only worry is when the pubs will open and whether the cops are watching. It is a much more settled and comfortable existence and I should recommend it to all.

Note: I have been informed that if I spell pense with a ‘c’ and a capital ‘P’ I will be put under official scrutiny by the FBI. Okay. Anything to get readers…

 

Throwing Up On Facebook

I have friends who throw up on Facebook. It is possible that they also throw up on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram – users of social media often have multiple receptacles available to them. This is a great convenience – they might not be at home or near a work computer when something overcomes them.

Of course, no one has ever solved the age-old mystery of where the tomatoes and sweet corn come from ( I didn’t eat either of those – I only had 14 pints of ale…) but that is rarely a problem on social media. The really peculiar thing is where people get the stuff they do ” share “…

Oh, wait. I may have given you the wrong impression. I wasn’t talking about emesis. I was talking about the racist, nationalist, sexist, and political material that is posted daily. The half thought half-thought-through that nevertheless  appears repeatedly. Talk about things coming up again…

I’d normally just step round the stuff if it was on the footpath in front of the kebab shop. As it is I can make it go away with two clicks of the computer mouse…and I am starting to realise that I can do that a lot these days. Suggested posts that are thinly veilled information fishing exercises are one thing that go out immediately. I know nothing and tell less.

Then the Trump posts. None of the people I know  who throw up anti-Trump memes have any connection to the United States, to the Presidency, or to Mr. Trump. Their shared memes and snarky comments are irrelevant. Gone.

Then the vagaries. I am bad at guessing games and worse when the games are psychological. I cannot imagine what some of the posters are on about – the only clear message that comes through is that there is no clear message. I can get that by turning the radio dial a quarter inch to the left off-station.

I do pause at cats and dogs. They can stay, as can hot rod cars and panda bears. I do also study semi-official posts that ask me to look out for a missing person – though I do wish that when a person is found that someone will also notify us of that.

And I am a sucker for domino races or improbable collections of mechanical operations that eventually turn on a popcorn maker. The engineering students with nothing to do for three days are always good for a laugh.

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.

Achtung! – Part Four – The Mindfield

Well, so far we have explored a number of ways to be horrible. As this is not a paid column I must keep some of the better ones back – they can result in money and it would not do to let this out.

But let us now deal with doing something amazing – making people think. You may not be able to make them think well, or think good things, but with a little effort you can at least get them going.

Remember we advised that books are a good mine? Well, they are, and if you select the right ones you can do a great deal of good. Okay, you can use the mindfield to get rid of all the marginal press that you have encumbered your own shelves with, and laugh at the thought of someone eagerly unwrapping a parcel that they have surreptitiously smuggled into the house…to find that it is the Road Boards Report from 1923. Laugh a minute, that one.

But who knows – the thing might inspire the reader to look up road-building on Google, or go to the Main Roads website, or ( gasp! ) go to the library and take out an engineering volume or a biography of McAdam. You might start a career in civil engineering with your mindfield.

Hard to say these days how limited people’s knowledge of the world might be. I have talked to perfectly sane young people of 25 and found that their schooling denied them any knowledge of the most basic of facts. One chap seriously did not know who Mussolini was…The discovery of a book in a mindfield might just supply something that modern society does not. Of course if the book is actual rubbish, like the quasi-mystical things that the new-agers sell, there won’t be much good done – but we can always hope that the inadvertent reader will recognise the valuelessness of the thing and fling it out of the window into the dungheap.

Note: I have rarely ever done this. The last time I can remember deliberately binning a set of books was in the 1980’s when I discarded a series purportedly written by an author called George Hayduke. It detailed ways to get revenge upon people. These were either highly imaginative pieces of humour or rather sordid encouragements to viciousness. I was willing to accept the one aspect but not the other…

 

Your Job Has Been Replaced By A Robot

What is the next thing you do?

Why you go out and attack someone. If you are a low-level employee of a small business, you will have only a few local options – the firm that lately employed you, the bank that loaned them the money for the robots, and Chinese people. This last on the irrational basis that the robots were probably built in China* and they’re all supposed to all look alike anyway…

The fact that the person with the Asian appearance might be a citizen of your own country, born there, and of longer residence than you, may make this seem awkward. Plus if they are not Chinese you look like a fool. It’s even more difficult if you are Chinese yourself and the robots put you out of a job as well. Then you don’t exactly know who to tackle…

Well, here’s a suggestion: whoever you are, wherever you are, tackle yourself. Look carefully at what education you’ve got, whether it can be used to go get another job, or whether it needs to be boosted or replaced. Be honest with yourself, without being brutal. Tell yourself the truth, even if you need to start off whispering it. If you can eventually say it right out loud, you’ll be making progress.

This isn’t just a retiree’s twaddle – I faced business failure in 2007 squarely and had to take stock of myself. I had to think why I’d failed and what resources I still had to start again. I was fortunate in that I had some secondary skill that an employer was willing to take a punt on, but I found out that I had to increase my technical and trade training while on the job to make myself a useful part of the organisation. Thank goodness I read and retained and I could spend spare time out of work testing out the things I needed to know in the day. Thank goodness there were enough sources of information to supply the answers. Thank goodness it worked for 8 years.

The only twaddle advice I can give is to keep yourself lean. I don’t mean physically lean – you can sort out for yourself what sort of body you want to have. I mean fiscally lean. Whatever you do, even in a time of full and fat employment, do not take on debt that is unavoidable. Particularly do not take on big debt. It may seem bearable while you have a steady income, but it’ll bear you to the ground if that income support falls away.

When anyone offers you credit, say thank you, but pay cash. If it hurts to pay cash, it will hurt more to pay credit. If paying cash means you have to go light on possessions and status symbols, take this as a wonderful opportunity to own a good character instead of a shed full of stuff.

And don’t help the robots. Shop at a real physical store that has a real human doing the checkout. Go to the counter and order your burger – don’t punch in an app on your phone that talks to a robot menu. Better yet, ditch the phone, shop at the greengrocer, and do your own cooking.

PS: Better not to attack a Chinese person. They watch Kung Fu videos too, practice all the moves, and they don’t need the subtitles…

*  And then again they probably weren’t. There are a lot of robots coming out of Europe right now. Most of them watch soccer.