What Would Genghis Do?

There must have been times when even the great Khan was stumped for an answer. When ordering the death of a city or the poisoning of a well just didn’t seem to satisfy the palate. Off days on the great grassy plain.

Well, GK, if that’s not being too familiar, we are still having those days now. We are living far away from your region and have fewer opportunities to swarm over civilisation and destroy it but we still long to make our small mark on the wall.

For most of us it comes down to what we can do at work, in school, or within the family circle. We are beset with laws forbidding pillage and murder. Wholesale destruction of cities  has become so complicated with zoning laws and metropolitan renewal schemes that it is left to the road building firms. The best most of us can do is post snide memes on social media.

Yet we still look to you for inspiration in the times of trouble. We think ” If it worked for Genghis Khan, it’ll work for me. ” and all we need is the boldness to put down the iPad, pick up a  butter knife, and go out and start slitting throats. If we could only inculcate this sense of irresponsibility in our youth…

Team Building Weekend

AKA load of horse shit fobbed onto the management by some pseud who they have not had the good sense or courage to throw out of the building.

I have never been on a team-building exercise – to the best of my knowledge I have never been on a team. And no part of my psyche seems to have suffered.

I have been part of a workforce in a company, and part of a student body on many occasions. I have been the principal of a practice. I am a husband and a father and have been a son and grandson in the day. None of these involved crawling under barbed wire or sitting in a sauna or confessing my flaws – indeed the success of a number of these positions involved hiding them. Whatever I am or am not now has been a result of me and not the team.

If that sounds arrogant – it isn’t. I’m not a very big hill of beans. But the beans are me, not some construct of a psych department attached to a promotions company. If you hired me you got me…not anyone else.

Please Undress In The Cubicle

And present yourself once you are ready.

There seems to be a great deal of fuss made about romance, love, and sex these days that is somewhat superfluous. Not that the subject is not delightful and horrid in equal parts, but the set of rituals that have developed around it are becoming increasingly strange.

Once it was simple. Arrive at puberty, find someone else also at that stage and contract a marriage. Gain permission to live together from whatever relatives were handy, pay a small fee to the local priest for magic words, and start living together. Some societies just did the pairing up for you – you were married to whoever the relatives or ruler said you would marry and that was the end of it.

Now you need to meet, fall in love, romance each other, inspect the goods, try the mechanism, and get a lawyer to draw up deeds specifying who gets the cat if you divorce. This is time-consuming, tedious, expensive, and no-one ever asks the cats’ opinion.

If you decide to skip the legal bit you’ll be presented with it later – and neither side will be happy with the division of anything. Dividing the cat will be the most distressing aspect, not least to the cat.

There must be an easier way. Of course fundamentalist societies revert to Plan A and then fight it out from there on. Hippy societies have no plan, and still fight it out, but with a messier result. We need the intervention of the Vulcans and their logic to solve the problems.

I propose that before the ship of eternal marriage sets sail, the local authorities inspect the lifeboats. There must be an adequate provision for alternate lovers and/or spouses before the first lot are wed. It should be simple to draw up a list of secondary and tertiary partners to whom the prospective lovers will be sent in case of a breakup. If these individuals are taken up in the meantime suitable alternatives must be inserted into their planned marriage contracts. That way there is no uncertainty about where the affections will be directed or the infections  contracted.


Using Up The Paint

Canadians of a ” Certain Age ” will remember painting the back porch. It was in the days before plastic or aluminium siding with built-in colour and finish. The back porch was made of wood and eventually the seasons took their toll of the surface. You put it off as long as you could, but – like resurfacing the frost-heaved driveway – eventually you had to give in and waste a summer week.

It was a week, too – because you had to scrape the old finish off to some extent before covering it with the new. Like painting a ship – rust knocking first. After you finished and the yard looked like three varieties of hell, it came time to get the paint.

No Canadian worth their salt ever went to the hardware store and bought new paint. It just wasn’t done, eh?

You went into the garage and got all the old tins of paint that had been used to do other jobs around the place and tipped them into the biggest can. This was mixed with a big stick or a screwdriver chucked into an electric drill and the result thinned with something that may well have been turpentine originally. Then out with the brushes ( two sizes; too big and too small…) and up on apple crate scaffolding to start the painting.

Three days and two falls later it was done. And one could put the remains of the porch paint back into the big can in the garage. And this is where the Canadian Miracle occurred. We never knew how and no scientist could ever explain it, but when the Canadian porch was painted:

a. No-one ever remembered buying paint…ever. Where the half-full tins came from was a mystery. Paint faeries were mooted but we were too old for that sort of thing.

b. It was either salmon pink or medium grey. That is the only two colours you can make when you mix leftovers – no matter what you started with.

c. There was more paint after you finished than when you started.

d. The brushes were always carefully saved for the next time. Not cleaned, mind – just saved. Rigid, misshapen, disgusting, but saved. We were frugal, eh?

Are You A Secret Soviet Spy?

Take our simple quiz to find out.

a. Do you support Vladimir Putin?

b. If you answered ” yes ” you may go.

c. If you answered ” No “, drink this…

In spite of my cynicism about the Russians I have to admire the way they control what the rest of us see of them. It speaks of a large and effective machine to manage international press coverage. Of course it is matched by an equally efficient division that manages internal information – that has been a feature of the nation since well before the October revolution.

The various Czars’ police forces worked throughout their land on a regular basis, regardless of who was on the throne. You might regard them as sort of social gardeners – weeding out any opposition. They had it easier in the 19th century – the monarchy was single-minded who the enemy was and could apply constant pressure. They were wrong to do it but right in their perception of the threat. It eventually bit them in the ass and shot them in the basement.

The current Czar has been on the throne for some 20 years or so, and has made arrangements to continue for the foreseeable future. The peasants support him as they are generally uncomfortable with short-term change. He also has the support of the orthodox church, as he allows them to have the souls of the peasants and a dip of the coffers every now and then. The aristocrats support him as he does not enquire into their souls and allows more dips, more often. The military support him because he will let them buy more sabres and rattle them. He’s also found them a soft target that they can shoot up to their heart’s content.

There is a small matter of the occasional poisoning of an opposition politician…but this is done on a far less frequent basis than the old Stalinist purges or the Romanov pogroms. So, apart from the EU and the BBC squalling, it can largely be ignored.

Well, that cleared that up. I’m glad my cynicism has gone away. I think I’ll have a vodka and tonic.

I Hope To Interest Science

I hope to be of interest to science. Not in the path lab specimen jar sort of way, but as an interesting study in psychology. The problem that I have right now is deciding whether I wish to be a shining example or a horrible result.

Good has its attractions. You spend less time in court or on the gallows and history is kind to you. Of course, if you are skilled at doctoring history in the first place you can pretty much please yourself what you do in your spare time.

Evil is a difficult thing to present to others – they always seem so judgemental when you are a mass murderer or sell fat-free grills on the Shopping Channel. The old excuse of being mis-understood has largely gone by the board…when you explain yourself it all sounds so much worse. Best to just destroy civilisation and keep silent about it.

Science has gotten a bad rap lately with the anti-vaccination zealots and the electronic virus conspirators. Even proving mathematical formulae can lead to you being stoned in the marketplace. Don’t mention the sun or the planets…

But I still hope to be given my own place in the species charts when they re-do the scientific classification of the world. I cannot say whether it would be better to be an animal, a vegetable, or a mineral, but whichever I end up being I hope to have a cool-sounding scientific name. One that people can spell correctly.

It’s Hard To Find A Universal Bad Guy

And this is a real problem for the entertainment industry – particularly the television and movie ones that hope to make money.

The audiences for the visual stories are all over the world today; the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia. And Manangatang. A bid to get them to watch some action thriller needs to have a good guy who triumphs and a bad guy who dies – but it is awkward trying to place praise and blame these days – everyone wants their country/culture/religion to be on the good side. Few accept being cast as villains…or worse – as savages. Even if they have been eating raw human livers until last Tuesday they still want to be seen as modern, cool, and sophisticated.

As a practical illustration, who would you portray as baddies; the Chinese or the Japanese? Depends entirely on which century you’re filming, which decade, which war, or which government. And where you expect to sell the most screenings.

That idea gets even murkier for other countries in the Asian market: Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, or any one of the numerous Koreas. They are all sensitive people who try to be polite and never cause trouble to each other unless they’re sure they can get away with it.

So no Asian villains. Russians? Well, Slavs in general are angered by any suggestion that they are not peace-loving, and they have the tanks and anti-aircraft batteries to back that up with. Plus they may have invested heavily in the film production company. It’s safer to have babushka dolls and balalaika music and let it go at that.

Jews and Muslims? Israelis and Arabs? Well, there you go. Choose your side and whoever is on the other one is wrong…but if you want to sell your film in their cinema you can’t say that.

Of course you can always go the classics: Kaiser Wilhelm II if your audience is into period films and smart enough to tell the difference between Wilhelm and Edward VII. Even there the German audience will boo you out as they know the truth about Willi and Eddy.

Hitler? Good choice. Nothing there to like…but you can’t add him to every film or people will start to realise that you have run out of ideas.

The Americans? Well, you can sell them as enemies to the UK, Canada, Australian and New Zealand, and any other former allies – they’ll accept the idea. Bit awkward if you need them again, but if push comes to shove you can always destroy the video tapes. And blame the CIA. Or General Lee.

Or you can get Mike Myers to be evil. He’s Canadian so it’s easy.

You’re Entitled To Your Opinion

At least here you are. We live in a free country that will let you think what you like. You can also say what you like…but with a few restrictions to prevent harm to others. By and large it is a good system and altogether a good country.

But note: the freedom you exercise to think and speak is also granted to everyone else. And it goes further – we have a great deal of freedom to listen to what you say, to commit it to memory, and to think about it.

We are allowed to agree or disagree with you… and within certain limits to let you know that we do. And you, more or less, have to put up with either decision.

Which conflicts with the attitude and pronouncements of some people in the chattering classes. They form groups, collectives, and cabals that try to silence any dissent or disagreement. As these can be found in schools, universities, cultural institutions, and businesses, it can destroy the very freedom of speech that they cry for.

The humorous part of this – if hypocrisy is humour – is that they will insist that they be allowed public display and disruption to push their barrow.

Is there an answer to it all? Well, you’re reading it. the weblog column. The internet posting. It can be read by all – it can be criticised by all – it can be ignored by all. It hardly ever garners a legal protest or challenge and mostly just hangs around in electronic space to embarrass or discredit decades later.

Another answer would be a Speaker’s Corner in a central public park that could be open to all for untrammelled oratory. Of course that would mean that the speakers and listeners would have to abide by rules of conduct. We may be too far down the road to either political correctness or political chaos for that. Plus it would need two cops to oversee the venue.




The Audience

Everyone who presents something to an audience hopes for a good one – but the nature of what they are doing sometimes needs markedly different receptors. Here is a guide to what to aim for.

a. If you are putting out a political message, try to get your supporters in the audience and gee them up to squeal and hoot whenever the television cameras are turned on. It is a technique that is as old as history, and just as vile.

If you can locate anti-aircraft searchlights, line them up on the stage either side of you. Arrange the audience in a large rectangle in front of you. Leave adequate aisles that will allow marching groups to move forward at suitable intervals with banners held high.

Get a good cinematographer to film it for you. It’ll be a triumph…It will…

b. If you are putting forward an altogether more spiritual message, try to have suitable acolytes arranged in pods in front of you, waving like sea grass in a warm current. If they refuse to wave, club them until they do.

Incense, sitar music, and free drugs are also a good ploy. Be mysterious and Eastern. If you are brown, you’re down…

c. If you need laughs – like a drug addict needs a hit – aim for Catskill stand-up in front of an audience that knows the jokes already. Give them a buffet with shrimp and you have them in the palm of your hand. Remember that schmaltz will make everything move slicker.

d. If you can arrange for an audience that is comprised of equal portions of offendable millennials, semi-Red academics, and lapsed Methodists, you can gain notoriety and publicity by reading a phone book. Or a tram ticket. Anything you say will be wrong, and as you are starting from such a reliable base, you can actually say anything you like.

This is the dream audience – you can cast the truth upon them and watch them writhe. You can lie shamelessly to them and get the same reaction. You can stand there silent and whip them with their own tortured guilt.

Knock yourself out.

What’s In A Name

Dr. Thomas Bowdler thought that he did us all a great service when he published
The Family Shakespeare ” and removed all words and concepts that he felt should not be seen within the family. His name has gone down in history ” bowdlerism ” as a mark for prissy, interfering, pecksniffery in arts and literature.

Stalin established a particular form of socialist control from above by a ruthless dictator and we know it as ” stalinism “.

These were before our time but we can make use of the words as a convenient shorthand – and we are very lucky. We can also use some of our modern pop celebrity figures to enrich the language:

a. We need a term for mindless use of children as talking puppets for political plotting. Something that the old can get and the young can get with…I propose that when we see crowds of schoolchildren marching with crayon banners to the chants supplied by their controllers – marching past the television news cameras and making gestures so that they can be recognised later on the news by their friends…that we inaugurate the term:

” self- Greta – fication ”

It may disappear as fast as it came, but then that’s show-biz.

b. When we need a word to describe someone who mines the culture for something to complain about, fastens upon a trivial word, ignores protest, and pesters with outrage anyone who is foolish enough to listen, I suggest we introduce:

” Haganist ”

Don’t be too judgemental. Everyone needs to have a gimmick to get in the spotlight. If it all seems a bit cheesy, well that’s show biz.

c. We’ve all been a ” has-been ” at some stage of the game. If we haven’t yet, we will be. It is a sad state of affairs for some…but a blessed relief for others. If you have been, you generally need not be again, and at modern prices that is a saving. But it needs a nicer term:

” Fondism ”

Never mid the flak over the name. Any publicity is good and Hanoi Jane needs all the attention she can get these days. Be aware that being a good Fondist may involve going to jail in heavy makeup – choose a good foundation. Remember you has been in show biz.

d. What shall we do when we want to describe a politician who can weasel out of nearly any embarrassing circumstance or past indiscretion based upon the inertia of his electorate? It is a tricky one: ” Teflon Teddy ” was once suggested but after the model for the term became a running joke – See the comic strip ” Shoe ” by Gary Brookins – the wind went out of his bag.

I think the dictionary and the political press will appreciate the suggestion of :

” Dusky Justin ”

Yowzah, yowzah. Be like a codfish off the Grand Banks and watch for the next Canadian gaffe. Show biz, eh?