Clasting Icons For Fun And Profit

I have just finished a book by Bertrand Russell and have been surprised by three things; that it would ever end, that I would stick to reading it until the last page, and that I would thoroughly enjoy it.

It was written in 1930, and treats of happiness – in this case by seeking the conquest of it. It is apparently well within Russell’s style of clear composition presenting muddled thought. The stream of consciousness is not that muddy, however, and most of what BR has to say is pretty sensible. As he does not jolt upright and thrust his politics into the face of the reader more than 3 or 4 times, the main part of the essay is actually useful.

It’s certainly drawn an echo from some of the circumstances of my life, and I think the experiences over the years have opened me to be able to read him – where I threw his books in the figurative fire as a youth.

It’s rather fun to be able to read an English philosopher who writes in comparatively modern times and who can be seen to be wrong about as many times as he is right by his public pronouncements…and private secrets. One need not reverence him but can just pick the kernels of wisdom out of the unpopped thoughts.

I wonder if it is safe to read any of the rest of his stuff? If I do, I shall want the real thing and not a history teacher’s précis.

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Why Are We Entertained By…?

Why are we entertained by:

a. Depictions of murder.

What is attractive about reading or seeing the death of someone? If we need to have mysteries to puzzle and thrills to seek, why can they not be mysteries and thrills of discovery or accomplishment rather than bloodshed. Remember the movies that depicted the lives of Pasteur and Ehrlich.

Look at it this way; no-one wants to be injured or murdered themselves. It is something the sane person runs from. Goggling and gawping over that same sad fate for others calls into question a lot of our real morality.

b. Depictions of sex.

We may well be entertained ( or appalled ) by sex itself as it applies to us – the snorting , scooching, splashing, heaving , etc that occurs. But none of that touches us if it is just on a page or a screen.

Better to go look for a snort and a scooch in the real world. What you do when you find it should be a private matter.

c. Depictions of fantasy dragons, unicorns, and mystical wizards.

We’re old enough to know that none of that is real. There are enough exciting things in adult life without going back to the faerie tales. Feed your imagination for a while and then use that healthy imagination to live well in the real world.

d. Comic book movies.

Reading a comic book is fine, as is drawing and collecting them. What you see is what you get – and your imagination can supply well over half of the experience. When the motion picture industry steps in and tries to turn the simple into the complex or vice versa they do our minds a disservice. When they fill shops with plastic toy memorabilia they tax our wallets needlessly.

e. Political chaos.

No-one benefits from disastrous politics in Moscow, New York, or Sydney. Snorfling, meming, and giggling at the failings of the politicians to keep us safe, fed, and employed does no good whatsoever.

f. The antics of the rich and entitled.

Some of them are very pleasant to encounter in real life while some are positively dangerous. If these latter were less rewarded with sycophancy and celebrity, they might just fade off to their tax havens and leave the rest of us alone.

Worry Sex

When I was a kid I worried about sex.

What was it? What was it like? What did people do? What were they supposed to do? How did they know they were doing it? What happened after they did it? What would happen  if they did it wrong?

Later, when I came closer to the subject, the worries intensified. When was I going to have sex?  What was I supposed to do/say/feel/remember/forget? What if I became pregnant?

Finally I got to worry about what was it all supposed to have been like. What did I do? What did I miss? Did other people do it better? Where was I when they did?

I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever other things sex might be, most of what it is –  most of the time – is worry.

But am I worrying well enough…?

How Much Is Your Name Worth?

If it is Elon Musk or Richard Branson, apparently quite a lot.

If it is Harvey Weinstein, somewhat less…

And for those of us in the middle? Well, it’s worth just what other people think it is. And therein lies the danger. If you have been a good person forever and are a good person now, your name and reputation will still be available for people to throw darts at as long as you are within range. You are not in control of the darts nor of their throwing arms – you can only control the range.

This is a sad thought if you are a people person. If your life needs human contact and constant approval, you are always going to be within range of the very human trait of animosity. You need not provoke it – it is there all the time ready for use. Sort of the frozen pizza of emotions. Just stand still for long enough, close enough, and there you go.

How to protect yourself from it? Either stay far enough away from others so that you never fall under their notice, or please everyone in every way all the time, or put safeguards in place. Never see anyone alone. Never say anything remotely objectionable to anyone. Never borrow anything , nor lend it. Never win a contest. Never write a book, blog, or laundry ticket. Never ask and never tell. Never know.

For those of you out there contemplating sex, forget it. Cold showers and prayer are your only recourse. Shun dating, marriage, adultery, celibacy, and strip joints. Avoid the movies, particularly if you are producing them. Do not send pictures of any portion of your body to anyone at all, ever. Avoid stimulating foods like lukewarm gruel and dry toast.

As far as finances go, remember about not being a borrower or lender. Also do not spend any money and take particular care that you are not seen to be saving it – you would be a miser.

Of course politics are a minefield of offence. Minefields are also a minefield. In fact just plain fields will get the more committed ecologist quite livid with anger. You may be wise to curl up under your desk and make no sound whatsoever.

But cheer up – do all this and you will have a good name. King Tutankhamen has been quiet for centuries and no-one has a bad word for him.

Cooking Classes For The Tasteless

We are always being bombarded with the phrases ” Good Taste ” and ” Bad Taste ” but the people who scold us about these things never seem to be able to offer a practical way to differentiate the two. Often it amounts to waiting until something goes from one to the other – and there are instances of some things switching from one camp to the other several times within a century. You need to have some way to predict which side of the fence you should be on when it blows down.

Here is the current BGA guide to Good and Bad Taste:

a. Name calling is always in bad taste unless the name is really quite clever or trendy and you have a position as a sometime journalist with a small suburban paper. As no-one really reads the thing before they wrap cat scraps in it, you can use it as a platform to be as rude as you please.

b. Bullying is similarly in bad taste. The unfortunate thing is that there is no direct opposite to the word ” bullying ” that can be praised as good taste so the campaigns to stop it can be a little weak. It’s hard to tell someone to take to their tormentors with a fire axe and make it sound like good taste…though it may be good fun.

c. Beige is nearly always good taste and nipple pink nearly always bad. But here again real life can be maddening – at one stage of the Second World War the British experimented with painting some Spitfires ” Nipple Pink ” as a form of dawn camouflage.

d. Nutritionists and health writers are fond of telling us that anything fried is in bad taste. Cooks, on the other hand, frequently fry things and make them taste very good. A case of reality being falsely advertised or vice versa.

e. Comedy is often in bad taste – and jokes in good taste are frequently so weak as to expire before any resuscitation can be attempted. They are greeted with fashionable silence. The cry of ” Quieter and Sadder ” may come from the back of the hall…

f. Anything that involves excretions is in bad taste – the equipment, the occasions, the produce. Just a bad idea.

g. Kittens and puppies are nearly always in good taste. Small owls and otters as well, though the latter may leave damp patches ( see (f.) above. Use your discretion and have a cloth handy.

h. Self aggrandisement, boasting, skiting, bragging, and generally arrogant behaviour is in bad taste until one becomes media promoter, entertainment celebrity, or political candidate. Then it becomes a good idea, if not exactly good taste.

 

No Fool Like An Old Fool

We old fools are well served by that folk saying – it has the right ring about it to let young people laugh and lose interest in us. And then we can carry on with our nefarious plans. By the time they realise how dangerous we are it is too late.

Now I don’t want to alarm people – old folks are not demons incarnate, unless you are speaking about Rolf Harris, Bill Cosby, or Hilary Clinton. Most of us are cuddly and lovable and do not make stains on the carpet. But we are dangerous enough in our own right to require a bit of caution. Above all we should not be left unattended near the bookshelf or the computer. Some of us cannot be trusted.

The young have the advantage of us in that they have stamina, health, and sex to look forward to. We have the counter in that we had sex and it was better than the stuff you get nowadays ( including the nice-crispy sex you got before the war ) and that stamina and health are over-rated. Being sick means you get to do a lot more complaining.

We are allowed a great deal more latitude than the young, but they don’t realise that in most cases we do not need it. If people are going to be so indulgent as to forgive us our foibles that is all well and good – but they fail to understand that we don’t care whether we are forgiven or not. We are content to have a good time ( before 8:30 in the evening ) and let it go at that.

Folly, as it happens, is generally a youthful activity. They can love and hate and invest and war and over-eat with little sad consequence – we have learned differently, and know that any deviation from good sense brings bad times. So we are wise in spite of ourselves. It doesn’t preserve us, of course, but it does make us quieter in public places.

Dance For Me, My Pretty…

If someone were to say the words ” Exotic Dancer ” to you, what would you think of?

Would you think of someone doing a dance that is well outside of your normal culture? Perhaps a Middle Eastern dancer in the Persian, Turkish, or Egyptian Styles? Perhaps a Bollywood dancer in a brilliant costume. Perhaps an African doing a tribal dance. Perhaps an Israeli whirling in a hora. A Hopi dancing to ensure a good corn harvest…

Or would you think of a stripper? Boom dooma doom dooma doom. Bah.

Some people say it is the dance that has become corrupted, but I think it is just the imprecision of the language. ” Exotic ” means ” foreign ” – but the strippers who dance in our local clubs are really mostly domestic. I grant that ” Normal Dancers ” winking on a neon sign over a sleazy nightclub would not quite have the same pull as ” Exotic Dancers ” but really, after the outer garments were shed, the end result would be pretty much the same. Whether they start out wearing tracky daks and woollen jumpers or small triangles of sequins is just a detail.

” Erotic Dancer ” might be a better choice, but from all reports, the dancers don’t feel all that hepped up on a cold night out on the runway. ” Erotic Customers ” might be more accurate, though again reports suggest that it would be better to substitute ” Erratic “…

I propose that we change all the advertising. Instead of ” Exotic Dancers ” or ” Erotic Dancers ” we headline the bill with ” Mystery Dancers “. No-one will know when they sit down at the ringside table whether they are going to get Gypsy Rose Lee in a bikini or Harvey Weinstein on a bender. The anticipation should be electric. And no-one would know what was going to happen till the first pasty landed in the audience.