Sunday, 30 March 2014

RIP the Times of London

...once a monument, a national treasure. With pride I used to do some of the Times Crossword, used to look forward to what Bernard Levin et al had to say this week. In those days I trusted the Times (rightly or wrongly) and felt that there existed a moderate and moderately proud newspaper that stood for the values I believed in.

Nous avons changez tout cela, along with much else I valued. In order to appeal to a wider demographic, and, I suppose, to compete with TV and web-based news sources newspapers have - in a desperate struggle to avoid their certain doom - included "Lifestyle" sections.

We all know perfectly well that these sections are modelled on women's magazines for particular age-groups etc. The Guardian seem to direct their comments and Lifestyle sections at militant feminists. Amusingly, I think between 5 and 10 times as many women read the Daily Mail in the UK - a newspaper much hated by Guardianistas, a focus for all their fulminations against sexism, xenophobia etc

All good fun. It's interesting that the Times seem to be going the same way as the Guardian, and include more and more pieces where women complain about feeling victimised or excluded in some way because of their life choices. They feel society is against them because they have children/don't have children/are single/divorced/married/have a career/stay at home and look after kids... You name it, if it's a basic life choice then someone has written a whinge in a national newspaper about how unjustly they have been treated for making it. Society, we are told, has the wrong attitude about it, and needs correcting.

We arrive at the impetus for my rant: Janice Turner's recent piece on Mother's Day (£). She tells a lengthy anecdote before announcing

It struck me then that there has never been a worse time in history to be childless.

She then embarks upon a torrent of generalisations and unverifiable (not to say meaningless) claims. Here are some highlights.

In the absence of religious faith, we believe only in our own DNA and push around our household gods in Bugaboos. Parenthood is no longer a phase of everyday life, but a revered state. The world is not an adult domain into which children must learn to fit, but increasingly organised around childish needs. As [MP Rory] Stewart told Radio Times, babies are the new “opium of the masses”....As for motherhood being the hardest job in the world: really? Unless you have a disabled child and/or live in poverty, now we don’t wring cloth nappies through mangles or darn socks, it’s chiefly a test of patience and boredom threshold.

That last sentence seems to come from the Barbara Ellen charm school. The rest reads like hyperbole from a teenager's diary.

The comments section underneath the article is truly a thing of beauty. Comments range from inane agreement to things resembling "Nonsense, I have 5 kids and it never did me any harm". There are a few snarky remarks, less than half of them from men, and there is the obligatory side-swipe about the "anti-women" nature of "some of these comments" without specifying who, or why they are such misogynists. There's often a comment like that lurking under online journalism.

Finally there is a comment so deranged, and with such innovative punctuation, that I'm afraid to quote from it, lest I summon some creature of Cthulu from the depths. 

I shan't mince my words. Turner's piece is embarrassing rubbish, the commenters all belong in a special hospital unit of some kind. (Yes I commented). That is about all. Have a nice day :)

Friday, 10 January 2014

Wiki irony? Wiki deadpan?

Reading the Wiki page for the US/UK counterculture of the 1960s, we come across this item:

The availability of new and more effective forms of birth control was a key underpinning of the sexual revolution. The notion of "recreational sex" without the threat of unwanted pregnancy radically changed the social dynamic and permitted both women and men much greater freedom in the selection of sexual lifestyles outside the confines of traditional marriage. With this change in attitude, by the 1990s the ratio of children born out of wedlock rose from 5% to 25% for Whites and from 25% to 66% for African-Americans

Which does strike me as funny - intentionally or otherwise. I don't think the following precis is unfair:

Sex "without the threat of unwanted pregnancy" permitted people much greater freedom in the selection of lifestyles outside marriage. Thus the ratio of children born out of wedlock at least tripled.

Not sure how much more obvious I can make it.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Tony and Toni

My town has it's own bus company, that hasn't been subject (yet) to a takeover by one of the bigger operators. That's probably quite something in this day and age. A fellow I know called Tony worked there for most of his life.

I hadn't seen him for a while but he came to chat today as I busked - this is one of the reasons why I so love what I do,  surely one of the most pleasantly sociable jobs in the world. He'd worked with that same company for for 42 years - 42 years - most or maybe all of his working life. People used to do this sort of thing. He perhaps went to work there as a boy of 18 - maybe 16. Was his first job to make people tea, and endure the jokes of the older drivers? He himself was a driver for a while.

He was promoted, a step at a time, and worked in all areas. As a manager he seemed keen to muck in when someone was ill, or something needed doing. Once we phoned the company for news about one service and it was he who answered the phone "Yes" he said "we're running a service, if you can call it that"  Nowadays, we live in an age of cover-my-ass experts, but he was so gloriously tactless - saying things that noone would ever dare to say now. I like to think that the reason he got away with it was because he was what people are pleased to call a 'character'. Whenever I saw him there was always something going on around him - usually laughter.

I was rather pleased today, when he came to chat. "42 years" he said as he turned away, "so many memories" I watched him go, and wondered about this. I've never been able to stand even 10 years in one job. When I did I saw the depths of human small-mindedness. We were all so bored - yet here was a man who made the best of his work with one company for all those years.

As I watched him walk down the street with his wife, I wondered why more people couldn't be like Tony. But then I guess if they were, he wouldn't have been so special.

-----------------------

I tend to have coffee in town several times a week - sometimes as much to warm up as anything else. It's always a small latte and it's always in the same coffee shop, where Toni works. She's occasionally made my coffee for a few years now. She's pretty, of Italian ancestry (but speaks with no accent), and unfailingly friendly and kind.

I don't know about you, but that she stays so polite every day seemed like an achievement worthy of note to me.

Toni is leaving her place of employ tomorrow. I bought her some flowers - something I rarely do - with a note inside. I didn't tell her, in it, how much her kindness has meant to me. It wouldn't do, I think, to tell her how much I love her, and how I'll miss her.

I don't know what sort of love it is. At my age, perhaps one ought to. But there it is, and she's leaving. How I am going to find another person like this, I do not know. It's a feeling I'm accustomed to. Some people leave a big hole when they move on. I hope I see her again. Soon.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

12 Varieties of modern British Bullshit - #3 - "Diversity"

This isn't authentically British bullshit. I apologise for claiming ownership of yet another stupid idea we saw fit to import from the States.

What can I possibly add to the debate about diversity?

Just this: the 'diversity' racket is nothing more than an attack on meritocracy. The principle is this: to not employ people on merit, but simply because they are not white British straight male. Any deviation from that template, the more the better, and you'll probably get the job.

It takes the most intellectually challenged of ninnyish nincompoops to not see that this is racial discrimination, also gender discrimination and, yes, discrimination based on sexuality. Every one of the things the political Left in Britain have lectured us about the evils of, all neatly packaged together in one word - and the Left cannot get enough of it.

Furthermore, I can't get over the tone of voice with which leftists deny this is true: the intellectual vanity of those who say "don't be ridiculous, you can't be racist towards whites" (#2 in our series), as if it were the most obvious thing under the sun. Or the vacuous claim that "underrepresentation" is sufficient reason to discriminate against me, and screw the consequences.

To conclude, the fight against discrimination has become just a ploy to bury the white man, It's number 3 on our chart. It's corrosive crap.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

12 Varieties of modern British Bullshit - #2 - "You can't be racist towards whites"

Part the second of our series, here is a quote from an interview with Jo Brand: 

"My personal opinion is that you can't be racist towards white people. ...I think the definition of racism also encompasses political power. So you can't be racist towards a race that’s politically more powerful than a minority. That to me is the correct definition of racism"

This thoroughly dishonest argument is unfortunately not something that originated with Jo Brand, and gets wheeled out every time someone like Diane Abbott makes a stupid remark about white people.

I think it's funny how Brand's personal opinion happens to tally with what some very leftist journalists want her to think; even funnier how she explains to us what the correct definition of a word is - as though it was up to her - a correct definition that depends on some nebulous, unspecified definition of power.

In reality, if a man is being beaten up for being white, do you think he'd be comforted to be told that a small number of others of the same colour as him have "political power"? Because I sure as hell don't have political power - and grouping me with them is another variety of identifying me by colour, which used to be technically called racism (1 or 2 political re-definitions ago)

What Brand says comes from a culture that values the political power to be gained by competitive victimhood. If you can claim to be more of a victim, and can persuade those in power to be act out of guilt, there is plenty of leverage to be got. In this culture, I know if I so much as mention that Brand is a somewhat overweight feminist, I will be accused of first degree 'hatred' - but these facts may go some way to explaining why her 'personal opinion' so closely tallies with the victimhood brigade 

It's #2 on our varieties of British bullshit. It's crap

Friday, 1 November 2013

Things wrong with gender politics #34057

I can hear you asking, so what's number 764? ..and sniggering. Anyway here we go:

Recently, I was enjoying a Youtube video of a young woman playing a Bach piece on the guitar ... till I saw this comment underneath it:

"The guys complimenting? her looks are undoubtedly nice and well-intentioned but miss the fact that as a woman, it is frustrating to spend so much of your life being judged on your looks. Even here, her appearance is being used as a measure of her quality.

She's put so much love into her craft, and it shows in her sublime musicianship. Honour that dedication by talking about that"

Let's do a quick run-down of what the Youtube user has got wrong:
  1. she has taken offence on someone else's behalf. In point of fact the guitarist in question has agreed to to use her looks for publicity. ie: to gain an advantage
  2. she is telling men what to think and what to talk about. Does noone else think this is ridiculously bossy?
  3. she confuses commenting on the woman's looks with judging her on her looks
I'm not sure what "judging someone on their looks" actually means, but it seems to be an invention of modern feminists. I believe I am at liberty to comment on a woman's looks if I want to. Men like to do so, and if someone doesn't like that fact than why on earth should I or anyone else care?

There is this perpetual and entirely unjustified complaint that women have to work twice as hard to be judged on anything other than their looks - as though the same might not be equally true of men. Is it not distinctly possible that a woman may not only have the advantage of being able to use her looks to create a favourable impression, but also the advantage of countless imagined injustices like this swaying people's minds - a thousand reasons in her favour other than her ability?

If I comment that someone is pretty it doesn't mean I don't value any other part of her. It merely reflects my own instinctive thoughts and feelings, and I'm ..excuse me.. buggered if I'm going to be told what to think, feel and say by a feminist who is enjoying a whinge about totally imaginary unfairness.

This merely reflects the fact that feminists have got way way too confident about their right to tell men what to do based on the most spurious justification that they can dream up on the spot. You wonder if they do this at the office and in the home, in their social lives...


UPDATE: And Another Thing: note the feminist's words about the young woman's "sublime musicianship". It's likely that the reason she is gushing in such flowery terms about the (perfectly competent) performance on the video, is that the performer is a woman.

Because of the perceived and very dubious injustice in judgements of ability, she elects to give excessive praise to a woman - almost certainly more than she'd give to a man playing the same piece, no matter how well he played it.

She may be doing so not for the reasons I've outlined, but merely because of a kind of sisterly solidarity with another woman - whether the woman wants it or not. The justifications for this sort of thing tend to come thick and fast, but the ultimate result is discrimination, pure and simple - which is surely precisely what feminists claim to be angry about.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Was Alfred really Great, was Aethelred really Unready?

I have to say that I'm very attached to the very pro-Anglo-Saxon history I grew up with. I tend to side with Voltaire when he says that History is a "pack of lies we play on the dead". But if we're going to deal in lies, we may as well make it a patriotic

Yep, Mr Logic, Mr look-for-evidence, and I'm happy with a patriotic history. I'm afraid it's a reflection on how much contempt I have for the academic study of history, as compared with Mathematics and some of the sciences.

But we all still love a well-told piece of history. You can still find Michael Wood's "In search of the Dark Ages" on Youtube (why is there no DVD??) and it's an absolute treasure. This evening, my partner and I watched the sorry tale of Aethelred the Unready, and I found myself reading more about this much-maligned King.

It's interesting stuff but it was the work of a few minutes to find yet more examples of historians' woolly thinking. Around the same time as Michael Wood was making this program (and wondering out loud why on earth didn't Aethelred think of doing something other than trying to pay the Vikings off) a historian named Simon Keynes started publishing books trying to resurrect Aethelred's reputation. I came across an excerpt from a book hotly contesting Keynes' view.

The argument is a strange one. It seems that "one popular explanation advaced for Alfred's victory, and Aethelred's defeat is that the two kings faced quite different threats. This would seem a simple case of comparing the evidence for the sizes of the armies faced by both kings. But the ensuing argument in the book doesn't look at any evidence given by Keynes, but says that if we go by the sources, the armies were of similar size, if we discard the sources as untrustworthy, then we are left with "mere speculation".

At which point I start to think that someone has messed up here. Has a whole book been written using mere speculation? Or did the second author simply fail to read it? HE goes on to say

"Alfred's victory, and Aethelred's defeat cannot be explained simply by ... differences in the forces arrayed against them. Rather, we must return to the kings themselves"

And right there we've hit another piece of nonsense. Why must we return to the kings themselves? The story of Aethelred's reign is the story of appalling internecine struggle, which must have crippled any attempts to form a united front against the Vikings. Of course, Aethelred may have been a failure at keeping his various leaders on-side, but once again we're left with the phrase "mere speculation" - which seems to be the hallmark of every piece of academic history I ever study. There is endless listing of "supporting" evidence and not very cogent argument at all to explain why anyone should take this view rather than the other.

Never trust history.