Nope, you ‘Lost’ me.

The ‘Last’ Jedi? Doubt it.

This is a review of StarWars; The Last Jedi – there be spoilers. Also, I might take a while to get to the film itself – so consider yourself warned on all fronts.

In 2004 I was taking serious drugs. Hardcore opiates.

And I can report that Oxycodone is bloody lovely.

Of course, I had a smashed leg and broken ribs and open wounds, so I had an excuse; Car crashes will do that to you. But the oxycodone was equal to the task for the most part and I do recall being left alone in the apartment one morning, taking my pills, and then staring at a crystal vase on the window sill as the light fractured into the most beautiful rainbow stars. It was 8am.

time travel

The next thing I knew someone was bringing me lunch.

Oxycodone is that good. It can make just about anything bearable.

Except Lost.

Lost was the big hit that year. And the trailer was enough to get anyone interested. A plane is pulled apart in mid-air, people screaming and then they are all stuck on an island together. Who wouldn’t want to watch that? It is a helluva hook.

But even with the oxycodone and the fact that I was immobilised on a couch I still didn’t want to watch Lost. I started watching it, sure, but gave up about half way through the second episode despite J.J. Abrams best efforts to keep me intrigued.

Why?

Because opioids or not it was abundantly clear to me that JJ was going to spend a long time bamboozling me. Ages, in fact. It seemed all too apparent that this was going to be one big long tease and that the pay off to make that tease worthwhile would be beyond the abilities of a mere TV show.

Remember, I could be taking drugs and watching light refract through a crystal vase here so the bar was set pretty high.

And now JJ is at it again with Star Wars. It isn’t as obvious as Lost was but it is the same technique.

The Last Jedi is an okay film – and my sympathies lie with JJ and Rian. This is the franchise that invented franchises (almost, but then Bond never inspired a dedicated fan base or much in the way of cosplay) and this is the one that started the merchandise model of business. Star Wars changed lives and it changed how we looked at cinema – it’s a shitload to live up to quite frankly and anyone who takes the job is on a hiding from the get go. In any other franchise you would get away with it but not Star Wars.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? This isn’t a review of a movie. It’s a review of a franchise.

Having watched it twice I can see what they are aiming for- the entire film is designed around the idea of moving on; killing off the previous heroes and bringing it back to a base line; reducing it to rubble so that it can be built again new and fresh. They aren’t getting rid of characters just for the sake of it and I suspect that even without the tragic loss of Carrie Fisher the character of Princess Leia Organa would not have survived the next episode.

The film does many things well – it raises the profile of all the female characters and plays on the theme of what a hero is. I enjoy all of that. I also enjoy the start of the movie, I enjoy the humour and I don’t mind the Porgs (little bird things) or the caretakers. The humour is very Star Wars – and I like it. It can even be found at the end when General Hux is reduced to repeating the orders of Kylo Ren but with shouting. Even at this tense moment there is a little humorous double take from Adam Driver. I love all that.

So what the hell are you bitching about Mackay?

Well, there’s the middle of the film –  but it’s more than that, much more. The middle of the film resembles an episode of Battlestar Galactica interspersed with an episode of Firefly but with bigger budgets and less care. Finn and Rose are sent away on a mission that has no appreciable effect on the film, the plot or them. If you take it out and write a small minor scene putting the two of them together then you come out with the same result. The middle of the film is a nonsense. It sets up characters and questions that it clearly has no intention of developing or answering.

JJ Abrams and his crew are taking us down the Lost route. Or, down the prequels route if you will. I strongly suspect that lazy writing is setting up problems further down the line.

Thems the rules

When writing Science Fiction or Fantasy there is one hard and fast rule. Don’t break the fucking rules.

You can make the rules anything you like but once you do then you have to stick to them. It’s the only way your story stays believable. It’s the only way your story will carry us along and keep us watching. Once you break the rules we don’t hear the explanation. It’s just a lot of blah, blah, blah because a viewer is smart. We know when it means something and when it doesn’t. If it doesn’t mean anything then why should we watch?

And I don’t trust Abrams.

An example, you say? Okay. Snoke.

Snoke is the Supreme Leader – he has been behind events for two films. Mysterious and distant. Powerful and intelligent. He is the Emperor in all but name.

And he’s dead. Just like that.

Within thirty seconds of him explaining how his powerful mastery of the force allowed him to deceive both Rey and Kylo Ren, within twenty seconds of him explaining that Kylo Ren could never betray him in return what happens? Kylo Ren deceives and betrays him, that’s what happens. Snoke dies more easily than a monster in Jabba’s pit, or even Jabba himself come to think of it. We don’t know where he came from, we don’t know what his powers really were but it doesn’t matter now because he’s dead.

In an interview Rian Johnson stated that it was not important to him in this movie. That knowing who Snoke was did not have any impact on the film he was making.

Everyone knows that old white blokes are the most dangerous people in the universe.

Sorry Rian, you’re just wrong there. We need to know what the jeopardy is for the characters. We need to know what choices they are making and what struggles they are going through. Snoke was just a CGI ex-machina device at this point and now when I see him there is no sense of menace, no sense of anything at all.  The scene on Snoke’s ship, when Rey is finally brought before him is a near carbon copy of the end of Return of the Jedi. But Return of the Jedi carried actual menace. The Emperor managed to be more malevolent sitting still and talking than Snoke was with all his displays of power.

And then he dies.

I won’t go into the fight that takes place after that – it looks like a dance routine more than it does combat. Red-armoured guards who seem to be wearing something that can protect them from weapons that resemble light sabers but not from light sabers themselves. Again, more rules broken.

It goes on.

The fact that the escaping ships can be spotted using a de-cloaking scan – A fucking what? Oh, forget it. What was the point of having them able to be cloaked in the first place?

They can track us through light speed.

Can they?

But only one ship at a time. Only the lead ship can do the active tracking.

What if we blow it up?

Well that won’t work because then another ship will be the lead ship.

So, basically, the technology that allows this is the words ‘lead ship’? Do give over.

There seems to be such a penchant for astral projection in this film I am surprised that anyone even bothers to use communications channels at all and whilst I am on the subject can someone explain to me that if darkness and light are in balance then where are all the dark side force ghosts? Where the fuck is Darth Maul when Ben needs a bit of advice?

I could go on. There are so many examples of lazy writing that I could fill blog upon blog. Yes, we might get answers to some of this. Rey’s parents? Don’t know. How did Kylo Ren manage to deceive Snoke but fail to spot that Luke wasn’t even there? Dunno. It might get explained in the next one. We might find out who Snoke was. We might find out that he was the old Emperor back from his holidays. Or that he was Luke’s other uncle, or… we’re not going to are we?

Here’s my prediction – most of this just won’t get explained at all. Or it will get explained with some midichlorians type of nonsense. When a jump to light speed lets the characters escape next time then that’s what will happen – they’ll invent some kind of counter-tracking-widget-bollocks instead of actually just thinking about it.

And before you say anything I know this isn’t real. I’m not getting into the laws of physics here – not expecting it all to make perfect sense. But it has to make sense on its own terms or why the hell would we bother? They called this film the last jedi and then promptly made it clear at the end that said Jedi was not Luke Skywalker -we can’t even trust the bloody title.

It is my fervent wish that this is a long term strategy – that they are clearing the decks so a new and more coherent Star Wars can emerge. By getting rid of the legends they allow the mythos to come to the fore. The universe they have created becomes the main character. That’s my wish. I don’t think I will get it, because I don’t think they have the discipline to write those films.

At some point in the future I foresee an accumulation of bad decisions and lazy writing forcing me to abandon Star Wars which is a bloody shame – because I no longer have any excuse to get a prescription for oxycodone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rise of the robots or… how Southampton FC saved the world

I can’t be arsed copying out these bibles!

Imagine, if you will, that you need to do something. It can be an important thing, or not, it does not matter. It could be licking a stamp or flying through the air. Each are equally valid for our purposes here today.

Now imagine that you are incapable or unwilling to achieve this yourself. You might not like the taste of stamps after all. What’s to be done?

Well, you might invent a machine to do it. It’s worked in the past. Lots of times. And that single impulse of sheer laziness is pretty much responsible for all human advancement. From the first lever to the latest in AI. Same principle. Only now we are closing in on the final invention – a machine that can invent other machines. We can’t even be arsed to do our own inventing any more.

And what if you don’t need a machine? Or a machine will not suffice? Say, for example, you have a pressing need to indulge in trade – well, you’ll need money – or some means of keeping track at the very least. You’ll need a process, a system of thinking and agreeing and getting the right result. That’s your humanity in a nutshell right there. Machines and processes. What else could you want? Quite a lot as it happens.

What if the machine doesn’t work, for example? Or the process? What if you keep getting the wrong result?

Still lights up quicker than an eco bulb

If your telly had no picture. If your car did not move. Would you simply sit staring at the glass in front of you? Either the black reflection of the the TV or the unmoving frame of your windscreen? No. No you would not. And you wouldn’t buy a replacement that was exactly the same – that would be madness.

Edison famously stated that he had not ‘failed’ he had simply found 10,000 ways of not doing it and this only spurred him into further efforts.

Here’s what he didn’t do. He didn’t sell the non-functioning items and expect everyone to sit in the dark – paying for that non-light as they did so.

But that is what we are doing, right now. Sitting in the dark and paying for the privilege.

Take the process of Democracy – is it working? No it bloody well isn’t.

If you live in the United States for example then the process of Democracy used to be an equation that looked like this…

 

 

 

A system designed to produce the best person for the job of leading that country. Currently, however, it looks like this….

 

 

 

 

Which isn’t the desired result or anything like it. A system  that is supposed to get the best person for the job produces not just a less-than-optimal result but the absolute worst result. And only because it is forced to produce a (loosely) human-shaped outcome, otherwise it would have come up with a box filled with shit. Actually, hold on, that wouldn’t be worse because that works out cheaper to protect, plays less golf and forms speech closer to actual sentences.

But just how do we get these things working again?

Well, to decide that you first have to decide what ‘working’ would look like. And therein lies the problem. We never do decide what working would look like because we can’t even decide who decides. Or what system we might use for deciding who decides or… If your head is pickled right now then I don’t blame you – this is an easy thing on the surface but as soon as you start to move in any given direction it becomes near impossible. So we don’t decide anything at all. We just keep looking at the black TV or we keep sitting in the car. Hoping against hope that someone will magically make the picture appear – or that some mechanic will happen by – madness.

Or is it? Maybe not. Maybe an answer will just appear.

I started thinking, as I normally do, from a sense of deep rage. I get over it eventually but it seems to be my de facto starting point. And the source of my rage was adverts. Not just any adverts but the adverts that appear on my facebook feed. Specifically, the fact that they were different from the adverts on other facebook feeds. I tend to get very few suggested links for certain things and yet countless links for other things.

My facebook profile has me aged at 106 years – so I tend not to get too many adverts for life insurance now and more adverts from these people than I would like.

As well as suggesting incontinence remedies, the Facebook has decided that I am beyond dating but I might enjoy a trip to Canada before it is too late. And who knows? That sounds about right. The point is that the algorithms are aimed at what it already perceives me to be.

I don’t get adverts for relaxing holidays filled with baking, balinese dancing lessons or bull fighting – but I might want to might I not?

The algorithms are complex and growing ever more so but what I cannot understand is why they are always evil and limiting. They seem to have vast computer capacity for finding people who might want to do something rebellious, or finding someone in need of specialised underwear but they can’t find a test that might detect Harvey Weinstein?

Southampton FC (gratuitous plug for the club) are well known for having an outstanding transfer and training set up. They have a room with a little black box in it that crunches numbers and finds bargains in the transfer market before anyone else. They then buy these players and sell them later at enormous profit and therefore they keep their systems a closely guarded secret.

Idiot liar remembers he’s a lying idiot.

So my question becomes… why aren’t we using these things to solve other problems? If computers and stats can do this you’re telling me they can’t find someone better than this half wit?

It might sound ridiculous but are we not an organisation that needs the right people in the right place at the right price? I will grant that Saints are still in need of a decent striker but this type of thinking seems to work. The problem isn’t too many machines, or automation or AI. The problem is that we aren’t using these things enough.

Given recent events I would almost prefer a machine to be making decisions rather than trusting the electorate. If the machines are that smart then why can’t they be programmed to show me things I don’t already know but might quite like?

We are, I believe, on the brink of a new age. Now, it can be a new stone age, if we all just lose the plot and start hoofing missiles around the place in a quest for oil, water, the last rolo… or it can be a different age altogether but for that to happen we will have to do something else before we go creating A.I.

We will  have to decide what the priorities are. Either the machines and the systems work for us or we work for them. Which is it to be? And remember, before you decide, that you are currently working to support a system that produced these pieces of s**t. You are paying to sit in the dark with a broken light bulb.

If you gave the computers the problem – maximise the happiness of humanity – do you honestly think they would come up with the same answers we’re getting right now?

I know people might not like the idea of machines being in charge but I for one would welcome our robotic overlords. They sure are a step up from the clowns we have at the moment and with just a little tweaking you never know – I might be quite good at balinese dancing. Or Saints might find a striker.

 

 

 

 

 

A quick aside, a minor point… about men.

I want to talk about the world at large, I really do. I want to talk about Trump and Putin and the middle east and the stuff on all continents. There’s trouble in Africa and South America – Christ, There’s even trouble in the arctic -we might all be underwater soon, and no one is doing anything about the asteroid threat – we might be wiped out at any minute.

So… there’s all that.

And there’s my girls.

You haven’t met my girls. They are fucking amazing.

My mother makes the best soup in the history of soup. Even my daughters say so and they hate anything that isn’t promoted on youtube by a Californian teenager.

My wife teaches children -and not just our children – she’s just a teacher. Which says all that needs to be said

My daughters are creatures of pure empathy. They worry about others – they don’t even understand selfishness yet. They are 10 and 8 years old.

And I haven’t even mentioned my friends:Some of whom have put up with my shit even longer than my wife has (although not longer than my mother) and they still all count me as a friend. Some of them deal with kids, some deal with criminals….

These are my women – I would love to show you pictures of them – and frankly they deserve that level of recognition at the bare minimum but with the world being what it is they shouldn’t have to endure pain just because they happen to love me.

And they do love me. I know this.

It is the one thing that keeps me alive.

Their love is like gravity – you don’t see it, you don’t even feel it. It’s just there. It keeps you grounded, it keeps you attached to the world.

And they do love me. I know this.

Which is all very well, we have heard such platitudes before, but what’s the point?

Well, I am glad you asked. Why, indeed, do they love me?

And the answer is not a popular one. The answer is…because I am a man.

They love me as a person – and I know that – but the fact of the matter is that I could not be that person, I could not be the subject of that love if I was not a man.

Men can be evil creatures. Make no mistake, I am sure that I can be an evil creature. But… but….

We’re not that creature… are we?

We’re mostly not monsters, we’re mostly not snakes or evil or… in fact… we’re mostly fucking angels.

Think about it. Think about the men in your life.

Yes. Some are… wankers. And then… some are even worse.

But for most people. Let’s be honest… for most girls… their guardian, their protector… is a bloke.

I look at my girls – all of them (daughters, wife, mother, friends) and I am speechless. They render me wordless in their perfection.

 

Yes, you can criticise men – and you are right to do so – we’ll take that.

But here’s what else we’ll take.

We’ll take your worries.

We’ll take your doubts.

We’ll fight your enemies.

We’ll lift you up.

We’ll stand behind you.

We’ll stand in front.

We’ll take the blame.

We’ll do all of these things because we love you. Because we are men.

Men get a bad rap. But I see all my women  – and I know I would give my life for them. Not in any metaphorical sense you understand. I look at my daughters and know… I would gladly die for them.

They don’t even have to ask.

That’s what men are.

Turn around. And ,if you have a man in your life, take a look at him… chances are he’ll give his

life for you, he will lay down and die – because men are like that.

We can be better,  you need to help us, we can be…

Oh, you’ll see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The making of the man…

I have a sister. She frequently talks nonsense but I do remember one thing she said that was right. She has no idea why. She likely can’t remember saying it. And I’m not telling her.. so neither should you, but what she said was this..

‘You should have kids. It would be the making of you’

And she was right. My kids taught me what love was really was. That one simple lesson that I had managed to go 40 years without learning fully.

They are both girls and I am prouder of them than anything.

You will not be seeing photos of them here. Because… well… because the world is full of men.

And lately that is a problem. We have seen over these last days and weeks that there is a fundamental flaw in the make up of the world; that there is something wrong with men. Not all men, no, we can’t say that it is all men – just some men. But that’s enough isn’t it? There seem to be enough broken ones to have a look at the production process. There are pests,  predators, those who hurt with their fists, those who use their power and those who use weapons.  I used to work in a phone factory as a quality control inspector and we wouldn’t

have put up with this level of malfunction. In fact, in any given shift, it went like this.

One bad phone – note that down, let the supervisor know.

Second bad phone – Hang on, let’s have a meeting. Is this the same problem? Is it likely to happen again?

Third bad phone – Stop production. Recall all the phones made that night. Check them all. Every. Single. One.

And society seems to be churning out a lot of broken men. Maybe we should look at the production line? Maybe it is time for a meeting?

Chair: Right, the agenda is… all these broken men we keep producing.

Men: Absolutely! Let’s get this sorted out.

Women: About bloody time!

Chair: Good oh. Has anyone got any ideas?

Men: Well, I think its obvious is it not? It’s a manufacturing issue.

Chair: Meaning?

Men: Well, who is actually making these broken units? Where are they coming from?

Women: Now just wait a fucking minute!!!

The fact of the matter is that we have been churning out broken individuals this whole time. And where phone production has a distinct advantage is that there is at least a blueprint to work from; An example of a phone that works perfectly well – the desired outcome is a known factor. That doesn’t seem to be true of men. You see there are many aspects of men that are laudable and desirable and some that are the exact opposite. It is unfortunate that people don’t seem to agree on what goes into each category. Nor is it handy that the  category definitions change over time.

Chair: This is hopeless. Can we just agree on what they should be like?

Men: Well, you’ll want them rugged, durable. You want them to last.

Women: That would make a change.

Men: See! There you have it…

Women: One that vibrates is fine.

Chair: This isn’t helping at all. What do you want?

Women: We don’t care about size, we don’t care what colour it is and we don’t care about value for money. All that is needed is something you can communicate with that doesn’t blow up and maim you if you push the wrong buttons.

Men: Hold on. Are we still talking about Men?

Women: We might have lied about the size thing. But otherwise, yes. Hate to say it but this is a design issue.

In Western societies men are badly designed and badly produced. A great many of them are fundamentally unfit for purpose – if they only knew what that purpose was. I am certainly not going to define the purpose of all men here – and I am even more certain that I am not defining what qualifies as sexual harassment. That’s for women to decide but then, and this is important, it is for everyone to engage in implementing the results.

You (and your gender is irrelevant here) are part of the system. Everyone seems to be running around trying to throw the blame somewhere but can we just stop and take a step back?
This didn’t just happen last week – this has been going on for ages. Yes, men are broken but so is the society that produces them. They don’t take us away in primary school to give us special classes in being wankers. We are raised by the same parents girls are raised by.

So, why is it then that when men malfunction it ends up being so much more painful for everyone else? Las Vegas shooter, Harvey Weinstein, Stalin…

This good looking bastard with the killer hair is your Russian dictator. Doesn’t look like a mass murderer at all.

the list is endless. And all of them wankers of the highest/lowest order.

Clearly, the same upbringing and the same environment just isn’t going to cut it. Men are going to need another way of working and another way of being.  They used to have things like rules and duty and responsibilities to keep them out of trouble. There was a clear goal and a path. They could look at other models that had come off the production line previously and copy that.

But lots of those early models were broken and so they were copying the errors. In fact if you want to see what copying errors looks like on a systemic basis then you need only look to those societies where the rules have remained the same.

Now I know what you are going to say. Well, women don’t go psycho crazy. We have needs but you don’t catch us abusing our power. Why should we have to make allowances for men?

You make a good point but here’s the thing. Whilst that might be right it isn’t getting us anywhere. Blame never fixes anything.

Say, for example, you buy a new phone and it is faulty – which might not be obvious right away. That shouldn’t happen. This is a new phone and you should be able to enjoy it. It just shouldn’t be faulty. And you can moan about it. But moaning won’t help – nothing will change. It  now needs to be fixed, or replaced.

The thing we need to remember is that the problem isn’t all men (in this society or any other). Some of us (the vast majority) looked at the previous models and decided not to copy that design. The vast majority of us aren’t abusing our partners or shooting people or raping people or doing any of the other horrific things men are capable of.

Yes, there should be some new rules but if you think you can change the fundamental nature of men I think we are setting ourselves up for failure and losing a great deal in the process. If we are going to put flirting in the same box as serious sexual predation then two things will happen.

  1. Nobody gets to flirt – and that seems like a shame.
  2. It won’t work anyway.

If you think rules can override sexual impulse then you haven’t been paying attention – no abstinence policy in the world has ever worked and societies have been systematically trying to erase homosexuality since the dawn of time. Never works. Ever.

Can we not just look at the process in a logical fashion – what we are trying to get rid of is the abuse of power, not the sexual attraction bit. What is needed here is more (and earlier) quality control. A means of identifying broken units and fixing the problems before they get catastrophic. A means of reporting issues that actually gets some action and a more open manufacturing process – one that doesn’t produce the same old faulty units but creates men you can communicate with that don’t explode and maim you if you push a few wrong buttons. Can we have an education system (society & family) that teaches men about both sex and power? Can we get rid of the puritanical shame so that men can be taught these things at an early age and not have their emotional education left to the football terraces and internet porn?

Every other problem on earth seems to be solved by education except this one – why?

I will be returning to the concept of broken systems in my next blog but for now can I just leave you with this.

These old bastards are the Rolling Stones and I am sure they have been responsible for some reprehensible behaviour in the past (or present). I could have picked another band or I could have picked another song. I could have picked a book or a film to make my point. Anyway, this is the end of ‘Start me up’.

You might not like the song or the people but loads of other folk do so a decision has to be made and once that decision is made then education follows.

What men need is the ability to know that ‘You make a dead man come’ is suitable in some places and not in others. Having a fun encounter on equal terms? Fine. Working with someone who has less power than you? Not fine.

What we don’t need is to be getting rid of rock ‘n’ roll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re past the worst of it

A bit of a different post this time. Not that the iniquities of Brexit and Trump and the delay on Scottish independence have been solved, you understand – merely put on hold whilst I subject myself to other tortures. Those who follow me on facebook will be aware of some of them. In my fiftieth year I have taken to…

Climbing hills.

Which is a frankly ludicrous thing to do and I wouldn’t even have started it had it not been for a job. Some young people we work with decided that they needed to ‘achieve’ something so they picked (and this is why you don’t listen to young people)… climbing Ben Nevis.

Oooh, look at the views!

Here is the offending mountain on a day I wasn’t there. And neither were very many other people by the looks of it. This photo only glorifies the place and gives no real notion of the stupidity of climbing the thing.

This is a better representation – two-thirds of the way up. There is a cloud in it and this will only get worse. That view behind these half-wits? It will vanish. There are sharp rocks in it and these will only become more prevalent. In fact, you will soon be in an alien landscape covered with them. I do believe they were going to carpet it in upturned razor blades but the rocks were already there and do the job just as well.

The full top third of Ben Nevis is covered in scree (an onomatopoeic moniker that echoes the noises you make when you walk) and as I approached this section I was already in bad shape. People on the way down would walk past my colleagues but then stop at me and ask ‘Are you all right?’ So I would smile and tell them a joke to prove that I was not in need of a helicopter.

Sunday Morning walk for the papers in Paisley.

Then you approach the summit. You don’t know that of course because you could be on Paisley High Street going by the view and that fella on the right? he disappeared into the mist; history does not relate what happened to him after that.

Then you reach the summit itself. Which looks like this. Celebrating is not compulsory but you do feel like doing it just because it means you don’t have to climb any more.

And then you have to go back down.

Which is even worse. By the time I came out of the cloud again I needed a hip replacement and my feet felt like Annie Wilkes had been at them with a hammer.

And all through this we were accompanied by our guide – Sally.

She’s a trained physicist from England who went to the University of Edinburgh and just hadn’t found the hills big enough in her native Yorkshire so she moved to Fort William.

Sally is slim and healthy like you always dreamed of being.

She climbs Ben Nevis four times a week and it is an inconsequential bump in the landscape to her. She walks to the summit and back in the same way that you or I would walk to the kitchen and back. Sally is now so healthy that the countryside is essentially flat  and not really a challenge until it gets vertical.

Oh… And Sally is a lying liar.

Like all people who encounter someone struggling up a hill she tells the same lie. No matter where you are on the hill you’ll hear a variation of;

“You’re past the worst of it”

Which is a lie (or at least it is as far as she knows) because by the end of this trek. With the bottom in sight and a mere 300 metres to descend, my feet felt like I was the little fucking mermaid

Those feet haven’t climbed Ben Nevis.

who had abandoned the sea in search of true love. They couldn’t have hurt more if you’d taken to them with a hatchet and I swear to you that if I had stood on a lego brick in the car park I would have gone down and never got up again.

We spent 8 and a half hours getting to the top and back down again. It would have been quicker but I was the slowest of us and my chums did the decent thing and waited for me instead of abandoning me like proper people would. As we descended the last 150 metres Sally asked me if I had enjoyed it.

Enjoyed it?

I was dreaming about walking on snooker tables for the rest of my life; snooker tables made of green jelly actually and yet Sally seemed quite surprised when I said.

‘No Sally, I have not’

And ever since then I have struggled to explain that whilst I am glad I did it: That it is, indeed, an achievement. I did not enjoy it.

It was eight and a half hours of pure torture. If you put someone in a room and subjected them to that much pain for that much time you would have created a PTSD patient and breached the Geneva convention.

And yet still – glad I did it.

The closest analogy I have come up with is that of a maths exam. You put your head down at the start and you just keep going to the end. There are bits that are easier and bits that are harder. You don’t know any more at the end than you did at the beginning and it is not pleasant – but you achieved something.

If you ever sat a maths exam then you know what it is like to climb Ben Nevis.

Sally meant to lie when she said you are over the worst. She knew that there were steeper sections, more pain and harder questions to come – but she was actually right. The worst bit isn’t the exam or the mountain. The worst bit is the night before worrying if you can do it.

If I can, you can.

 

 

How Did That Happen?

I have come up with an idea to assist the Indy movement. Well, I say I have come up with an idea – what I have done is noticed a viable idea that seems to be working for other folks in moving their agendas.

In a way it is entirely unsurprising that it took me this long to formulate this notion but it is  fairly ironic that what I am about to propose has been around for a while and I just never noticed the possible connection. The thing I am talking about is…

Erm, not quite.

Ninjas! Actually, no.

As much as they tend to dominate TV series and they are handy with swords they are of very little use in the politics of these islands.

They do, however, exhibit the one trait which might be useful, a trait shared with…

Handy, but no…

These things.

Bombers. No, you don’t need bombers any more than you need swords but what you do need is what they have in common.

Stealth.

All across the world the bad guys are using stealth to advance their principles or their agendas. They are achieving their ends not in a single bound but by moving slowly – a step at a time.

Every new law on privacy takes a little from the population and places a little more control in the hands of the central authority. Every new bill that gets passed, every new policy… designed, not by any Illuminati but rather moving through general principles – across longer periods of time. Like evolution.

And just as life changes through genetic modification so the culture changes through stealth – tiny incremental changes that result in a complete transformation.

Don’t believe me? What about the NHS? That’s not being privatised all at once – No, no, no. But small parts of it are outsourced, mere admin in the beginning, or laundry, or catering and eventually it is ambulance services, then you can move on to testing and… you get the idea.

Stealth.

And just as I was writing in my last post that the Tories are somewhat stupid for not stealing the other side’s policies it occurred to me that perhaps the independence movement are being stupid as well.

If you think Scotland should be an indepedent country then that is an agenda that you would want to move forward. Why not use the same techniques they use?

Much has been made of the birthday honours list this year. But let’s look at it from a Scottish view point. I have heard many rail against these fellas…

Now, I grew up listening to Billy Connolly and rolling on the floor laughing with tears in my eyes. There were tears of a different sort when Andy Murray finally won Wimbledon. He cried and so did I. They are pictured here accepting accolades from the royalty of the United Kingdom and that rubs some folk the wrong way. Personally, they are currently citizens of the UK and perfectly at liberty to accept such rewards are as on offer.

But what if there were Scottish ones? Don’t you think they’d be pleased to accept them?

Westminster and the English throne have excelled at soft power for centuries. That’s not just me saying it, even Angela Merkel is in awe of the pageantry on display in London. Even the insane clown Trump seeks it out.

If you want to be thought of as a country you have to have this kind of thing. Does it have to be so ostentatious? No.

Does it have to be the old boys network?

No.

What it does have to be is visible. Visible and desirable.

Wrong gongs

There should be some pomp when you reward people for services to Scotland. It works.

We need gongs.

Scotland has already started the process by setting up offices in foreign countries to promote interests, culture and industry – a fine start. Now it should start behaving like a country so that by the time everyone figures out why the mood has shifted it will be too late and they’ll be saying

“How the hell did that happen?”

 

Free Advice (with swearing)

For Fucking Fuck’s Sake!

I try to be a bit civilized on here and generally manage to get my point across without resorting to my favourite words but… fuck, the tories make it difficult.

It is Father’s Day, Sunday 18th of June and in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster (because that is what it is) Phillip Hammond is on the Andrew Marr show. Here is what he had to say about fitting sprinklers.

“If the conclusion of a proper technical evaluation is that [fitting sprinklers] is the best way to deal with the problem, then of course. But my understanding is that the best advice is that retrofitting sprinklers may not always be the best technical way of ensuring fire safety in a building,”

I have watched the segment a couple of times now and he takes valuable air and time to make absolutely sure he isn’t tying himself down in any way. And I have no idea why.

The tories seem to do this a lot. They are making unforced error after unforced error these days and it seems like every day.

What they don’t seem to realize is that they are being given golden opportunities every day. This is going to sound callous (not as callous as Tories can be, but callous all the same). Theresa May should have been secretly fucking delighted with the Grenfell Tower tragedy. She should have been out on Downing Street in the middle of the night professing her horror and then walking back into number 10 giving it Cameron’s ‘tum-te-tum tum’ tune.

Why?

Because it was a chance to change the story from her calamitous election decision and the even more calamitous alliance with the Satanists DUP. All she had to do was be a human being. Actually, scrap that. All she had to do was not be a complete cunt.

But she couldn’t manage it.

And neither could Phillip Hammond. At every point in this story they could have turned this around.

Carrying on her winning strategy from the election Theresa May ducked the chance to talk to anyone who wasn’t working for her when any politician of any party in any country would have been straight down there and putting an arm around those poor unfortunate survivors. Even if you were doing it for selfish political gain you would go down there. But Theresa is terrified that someone will shout at her and so she only talked to people who are paid to do what she wants.

The excuse? Security.

Which is a fucking riot given that the Queen didn’t seem to need the security but maybe they are putting her in harm’s way to create another story.

Okay Theresa you fucked it up but the excuse was nearly as bad as the mistake. All you had to say was ‘Actually I went straight back to Downing Street to get working on helping those people’

You are a fucking incompetent.

Then there was the £5 million pound emergency fund.  I can see them now, all smiles and self-congratulations as they come up with what they think is a big number. This will impress the voters thinks Theresa.

No, no it won’t. We might be poor but we know what a colossal deal this is. What you should have done is come out and said what the Americans would say (except Trump, he’s as much a shitpouch as Theresa) and what they say in these situations is.

They’ll have everything they need.

Every Democratic President Ever

That’s it. Five words. Nobody was expecting a figure. You made that up and you released the information because you thought it would sound good. Even if someone asked you for a number you could have said ‘An initial five million’.

You have left the Fire Brigade to deal with it. You left the Borough to deal with it. When any other country would call it the catastrophe it is and send in the Army to help out. I hate seeing soldiers on the streets and I would have cheered that decision.

And now the aftermath. The survivors are living on a tenner – christ! – and there is talk about whether the cladding was illegal and what might be done to fix this shitstorm so that it doesn’t happen in the future. Which brings me back to Phillip Hammond and his nit-picking over whether or not sprinklers are the absolute best solution as told to him by a fire safety expert (weren’t we tired of experts?) anyway.

What he is saying is that you need to get the best solution for the money. Hmmmm, hold on.

 

No You Fucking Don’t !!!!

I don’t know how to make this any clearer. Phillip, what you should have said is

‘Yep, sprinklers. And even where it isn’t the 100% best system we’ll put the best system in AND the fucking sprinklers’

Because people want to feel safe and the safety of the population is your first and most important duty you useless shitstain. We don’t care what it fucking costs. Go find the money or move the fuck out of the way and let someone else have a go. Idiot.

In all of this I was actually glad to hear that he has consulted a fire safety expert.

Why? Because it shows me they are actually willing to hire in the skills when they don’t have them.

So, given that they are a bunch of cunts lacking basic human empathy or any clue as to what a human being might do in any given situation I will now dispense my free advice.

Hire a human being. Anyone will do. Any of the people reading this blog would be able to advise you on how to react. I’ll do it. Send my consultancy fee to the survivors of Grenfell Tower. Just phone me up, day or night.

Scott, there’s been an airplane crash at Heathrow, should we send Boris to the scene?

Have a fucking guess.

Actually don’t. Hire someone who hates you. And run every idea you have past them.

Here’s my last piece of advice – stop being tory cunts, start being people.

The Tempest

Strange Bedfellows

Anyone who knows me knows that my daughters are central to my thinking in just about every way (except music, I don’t know what it is they are listening to but it ain’t music) and politics is a major factor in all of our lives so the overlap is enormous. I make most of my judgements on what is politically right based on how it impacts, or might impact, them.

I don’t want anyone else to be making choices regarding their bodies when they grow up, for example and  I am pro-indy because I think they should be able to rise as far as their talents will let them; The London-centric old boys network that is UK politics does not seem conducive to that.

Bear with me on this. I was delighted lately to be able to take them to see Wonder Woman. A strong and powerful woman with a moral centre and her own agenda. What’s not to like? Truth told it was a bit much for my youngest but they both still loved it. A reaction echoed around the world by girls young and old.

And now, finally, it seems that the country is in the hands of women.

And how I had hoped for more. Are men better than women? Absolutely-fucking-not. I have never thought so and never will. But a small part of me had hoped that women would be better than men. It turns out they aren’t.

The moves made lately are typical of political operatives be they male or female and a cynical call to the polls has resulted in the three above coming together in an unholy alliance.

misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Does Arlene Foster have any affection for Theresa May? We may never know but I doubt it. What we do know is that her beliefs are anathema to Ruth Davidson. Do we think for one moment that Theresa May was looking forward to dealing with Arlene? Of course not, this government has tried its hardest to ignore the issues in Northern Ireland.

Who among us had really been following the breakdown of powersharing at Stormont? Go on, be honest. I know I have spent more time watching the Trump Train Wreck than I have watching events in Ulster – and I used to bloody live there!

The DUP leader holds the whip hand with her 10 MPs but then the exact same thing can be said can be said about Ruth and her 13 staunch combatants. Somehow, we have no idea how, Theresa May has to keep them both happy. The DUP are going to be looking for extra cash and if Ruth doesn’t get the same then neither Kezia nor Nicola are going to be shy about shouting the odds in Holyrood.

If Mrs May had just that to deal with then maybe she would look forward with some small glimmer of hope. She still could, if she would stop reacting to individual issues as they arise…

Misery

Shame about the Brexit thing. She has to negotiate a complex trade relationship with a party standing behind her that is nowhere near unified. If Ruth asks for a soft Brexit and the 1922 committee ask for hard then who does she serve?

Theresa May might be forgiven for thinking she has been somewhat unlucky.  Sure, even someone like the PM has to admit that she has made a few errors of judgement.  The Dementia Tax can’t really be placed at anyone else’s door; the attack at Borough Market though?

That just happened to highlight the police cuts as we went into the final days of the campaign and I am sure Theresa will be telling herself that had it not occurred then she might not be having meetings with Arlene.

Equally, Brexit was not her doing. She’s been dealt a bad hand as a new Prime Minister. Take the election campaign  – that strategy could also be placed at other doors besides No 10.

Lynton Crosby might take a little blame  and the disgraced advisors might take a little more…

And now there is the Grenfell tower – I am not English, nor do I live in London but you would have to be inhuman (or a vicar’s daughter) to be unmoved by the stories coming out of this horrible, horrible event – an event that does not play well for her either.

Can you blame the Grenfell tower directly on Theresa May? I doubt it. Can you hound other Tories for their housing policies and their votes on building regulations? More likely, much more likely.

So Theresa might understandably be sitting in No 10 moaning like a teenager convinced that it does, actually, all happen to her. It is Boris in the meeting telling someone to get stuffed. It is Cameron on video promising to gut the Health & Safety community. Not Theresa’s fault at all.

Problem after problem, blow after blow.

But it doesn’t have to be.

What we are seeing is the logical result of flawed thinking – for decades (yes, I include the other parties in this) we have seen an adherence to political and economic policies that increase inequality. Am I saying that Theresa May decided Manchester could suffer an attack and it would be all right? No, I am not. Neither am I saying anything similar about the  attack in London. But the police cuts were made in the name of an economic policy that benefits corporations and the wealthy. Would the events have happened if we had not made these cuts? We will never know. But the Police think they would have had a better chance.

And the fire services are also cut to the bone.

As is the NHS.

One cannot draw a line between decisions and consequences in these cases. It’s just not that simple – but what we are seeing, in my opinion, is more than just a streak of bad luck.

Inevitable unless they find their humanity

This is a tempest conjured out of politics. By ignoring the population and simply assuming that we will get by whatever privation is visited upon us the people at the top (who happen to be women at the moment) guarantee further problems. Like continental plates pressing against one another something has to give sooner or later. A build up of pressure can only be released by an earthquake, preceded by tremors. Theresa, you are now feeling the tremors.

This isn’t going to stop because life doesn’t do that. There will be a train wreck, or a bridge collapse or… it doesn’t matter what the actual event is. The upshot will be yet another graphic example of how the political class have weakened the fabric of our society. They have set it up to serve the few and it can be no surprise then when it fails to meet our needs. You can’t expect it to carry all our weight when the politicians have been removing the supports year after year.

No, there will be more events, more tremors and what needs to be done is to evacuate the political area you currently inhabit. The lower orders have been treated like kine for long enough and are you surprised that they are turning to Jeremy Corbyn?  A man who sees them as people (or at least, gives that impression) is about to upend your precious order if you are not careful.

Strangely, he is doing it using tools that would once have been labelled as women’s specialities. Compassion, caring, empathy and a focus on things other than money and war. Theresa May, Ruth Davidson and Arlene Foster are playing the game of the past and ignoring the warning shocks of the future – which is a shame.

We always hoped that female leaders would bring these aspects to the world of politics and now it seems they will… in the form of a middle-aged bloke.

 

The road most travelled…

Theresa’s strong weak leadership.

Here we go. It used to be that elections came along every few years and now it seems unusual if we go a year without some vote or other. Which drives some people crazy but is great for certain special interest groups like journalists, bloggers and primary school kids desperate for yet another unscheduled day off.

And of course it is the journalists who are making hay right now.  They do not need to sit in editorial meetings pitching stories when the stories come to them so easily and even when there is a paucity of actual facts (‘what’ is the announcement? Soon became ‘why?’) then they can all stand around guessing at the motives of Mrs May.

And what guesses we got.

Theresa was either cunning or brave or ruthless or astute or… all manner of things, mostly said with either respect or a grudging admission that it made sense for her and her party. The common factor in all of this being that the decision was, at least, decisive.

But it isn’t.

I don’t normally recommend reading below the line but if you bob your head into the sheep dip that lies beneath a Daily Mail article (or on their twitter feed) you soon find orgasmic haters delighted at the ‘strong leadership’ being shown. They see May as a person driving the agenda – outfoxing her opponents before they have even thought of their move.

But she isn’t.

All Theresa May does is look down the road. And then identify the places where decisions must be made.

She sees the points in the story where things will fall one way or the other, for good or ill. (Not our good or our ill; her good)

And then she chooses. The problem with Theresa is that she always makes the same choice and it’s never the right one.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost

Mr Frost spoke of deliberately taking the unpopular route; of choosing a path that others would not have chosen. Theresa May is the exact opposite.

Look at the issues raised.

Brexit

Theresa was a remainer. Not a strong remainer because she doesn’t actually have strong opinions about anything (National Insurance included, thankfully).

By simply agreeing with everyone she became leader of her party and Prime Minister. It was easier to concede to the EurOgres in her party than do anything else.  Pretending that her hands were tied by the ‘Will of the people’.

Moving on from that she has carefully decided not to reveal her Brexit strategy. An easier choice to make when there is no strategy to reveal. You only have to see David Davis admit that they haven’t even costed out a ‘no-deal’ scenario to realise they don’t know what they are doing.

Indy

When Theresa May realises that there is no good option she makes no decision at all. David Cameron famously ‘checked his socks’ every time he came out of a meeting with Alex Salmond and (never thought I would be saying this) you have to give him credit for even trying.

Theresa doesn’t engage with Nicola Sturgeon because she knows she’s on a hiding. Now is not the time? Really? When Theresa thinks she is going to lose, she just doesn’t show.

Election Fraud

The new MP accommodation block was very popular.

With the CPS looking at 30 individuals in the Conservative apparatus this was the most pressing reason to take another path. There would have been by-elections and they would not have gone well for the tories.

This was going to be the scandal of her time in office. Perhaps as many as a dozen seats up for grabs with Tory politicians walking in and out of court as police personnel look on.

Can’t have that. So, a poll appears showing Theresa is well liked, her party are ahead and Labour have been in the doldrums for so long that they seem to have forgotten where the ship was headed in the first place.

It is a big decision, but an easy one to make in the end. Election!

And now we come to the most telling example…

Debate

Theresa has stated right at the top of the show – there will be no debate.

Er… what?

This is about Brexit, she said. This is about having strong and stable leadership, she said.

But we don’t get to see her be a leader. We have to give her the authority to argue the case against 27 other states (represented by highly educated and capable politicians) and we have to trust in her ability to manage that process when she is unwilling to go up against Paul Nuttall.

Scarier than Donald Tusk apparently.

Theresa must know she is going to get hammered for this. I am already writing about it and the press, for all their faults, are asking questions about it.

Why would she let herself in for that kind of abuse?

Because it is the easier road. For both Labour and the Conservatives this election is impossible to fight in soundbites. They can’t have one message because they managed to split the country in half with that stupid Brexit nonsense. Whatever position the Prime Minister takes on the podium there will be someone on either side of her who can attack anything she might say. Put aside for the moment that Brexit is an act of irreparable self-harm, put aside that she doesn’t really believe in anything she might say. Theresa May would need to enter that debate with answers – and she doesn’t have any.

Brexit is already tumbling off the cliff.

Not having a debate attracts uncomfortable questions, but not as many as a debate would.

And Theresa doesn’t show up when she is going to get beat.

Theresa has taken the easy option again and she will continue to do so. This election will be fought with platitudes on the TV and location-specific lies on the ground. In areas where Remain was strong the tories will state that a mandate would allow her to soften the blow. That she would have the base to create a soft-brexit. Where Leave held sway they will be on the ground telling voters that they need a strong leader to show the Europeans we mean business.

Theresa May did not call the election because she is a strong leader. A strong leader does not need 100 extra bodies. No, she called it because she is a weak leader in need of back up.

When this is finished she will still be inherently weak and she will always, always take the path of least resistance, More austerity, more tax breaks for the corporations, more cuts and less humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

How I learned to love worrying.

This is my new profile picture. And yes, it has been photoshopped a bit.This one makes me look taller – with a better complexion and whiter teeth. But this is me sure enough. As it turns 6am on Easter Sunday I have been out in the back garden depositing chocolate eggs (and rabbits and rolos) for some reason I am not quite sure of.

Which is insane on several levels.

We’ll get the obvious one out of the way first. What the hell is he doing celebrating Easter when he is a stone-cold atheist? And I could yadda, yadda, yadda, pagan ritual really, yadda but the truth of the matter is that sometimes (not all the time) I just like a quiet life and sometimes (most times) there is chocolate left over for me.

But that’s not the biggest piece of insanity in this tableau of madness. The astute reader (if such I have) will have spotted the truly alarming aspect as being the fact that I am awake and alert at 6am on a Sunday.

What the hell is he doing up at that time? I can hear him/her asking.

I was supposed to get up at 6.30am. So I got up at 4.14am. That wasn’t my first wake up. No no no. I had already woken up at … 00.34am having gone to bed at 10.22pm the previous night. All in all this amounts to not very much sleep before doing 5 hours of driving on twisty roads. A crap idea.

And only made possible through worry. If I hadn’t been worried about getting up then I would have slept like a baby. I did not sleep like a baby and the worry achieved what worry generally achieves. Fuck all.

And there seems to be a lot of worry going about at the moment. I was worried about being in Argyll in time to pick up my family but if you don’t have that there is plenty else to be worrying about.

There’s all this for a start. And that’s before you start adding on all the personal stuff that you might have on your plate. The kids, your health, someone else’s health. There’s money and work and the inability of your team’s strikers to score goals. It’s literally endless.

I have now established that there is no point, no point at all, in not worrying. It would not have assisted me in any way to have someone there telling me that I should get some sleep. Actually that would have only caused more problems since my wife was 120 miles away and who would this other person be, exactly?

So, I can toss and turn in bed or I can wander about the back garden placing chocolate confections in unlikely locations just so that my kids can wander about the next day picking them up and shouting ‘Thank you Easter Bunny!’

Dealing with their illogical certainty in a magical bunny delivering chocolate foodstuffs is actually perfect training for dealing with other things in life that I find nonsensical (Trump voters are a fine example here) and I move forward in the hope that this is a temporary state of affairs. I shall be just equally alarmed four years from now  should they still be adamant that bunnies lay eggs and Trump is still President. But there is nothing I can do about that.

If you are blessed with a lack of worry then I welcome you. We are in desperate need of optimists right now because (as I have shown) worry can actually cause the very thing you might be worried about. It is actually beneficial for us to have people with a sunny point of view; People who sleep soundly and then get up on time.

In my case that is never going to happen – so, I embrace it. I get up at 4.14am. I put eggs in the garden as the sun rises and I am exhausted by mid day.

But…

Everything was achieved that had to be achieved and if you think you might have cause to worry then you can always ask me. I’m an expert.