Decent People

March 8, 2008

In months where I have had few heart- warming thoughts there has been one: people are fundamentally decent.

I lie, there has been more than one heart warming thought but all the others are either pornographic or involve ideas for elaborate practical jokes- one in particular needing access to 1005 garden gnomes and a thermonuclear warhead.

But as far as sensible, heart-warming thoughts go (or sensible thoughts at all) it can be, pretty much, whittled down to just the one. In case you have already forgotten it is that people are fundamentally decent.

The proof is in Democracy. In order to get people in a democracy to support ideas that are not fundamentally decent you have to lie to them (or blackmail them, bribe them or offer them sex). The failings of modern democracies like the USA, the UK and some of the European countries comes down to information. The gathering of it, the access to it, the dissemination of it and how much it is valued by people. You and I are being lied to every day and most of the time we don’t realise it.

We are never taught, either by our parents or in school, how to value information. We are not shown how to look at and absorb information we find abhorrent and that conflicts with our world view. We are not shown how to look for jewels of information in sludge or great ideas from those we dislike or hate.

We are taught to reject ideas or thoughts based on the people who presented them to us rather than the merits of the ideas. It is possible that one day Paris Hilton will say something insightful- possibly off a cue card. It is possible that George Bush will be vindicated by history- possibly on mental grounds and it is possible that, one day, the world will look back on Donald Trump’s hair as the beginning of a fashion trend. Yet these are things I just cannot accept in my reality. It’s a bit too far beyond “The Matrix”. But I try to keep that mind open.

What school needs teach is a critical mind. Less regurgitation of the traditional national exports of Mongolia and more thought on whether what their tutor just said is utter bollocks.

People are basically decent. But we are also basically ignorant and the ignorant cannot choose a government because their “choice” isn’t theirs. It belongs to whoever fed them the information.

But, then again. Perhaps I am wrong.

Maybe there is someone out there willing to offer me money or sex to change my opinion… it’s worth a shot. I am a flexible guy.

Sex and KFC

November 27, 2007

We can no longer trust our major media to report the news properly any more because of corporate interference trying to sell us hot pants and fast food which, you would think, are fairly mutually exclusive items*- if we’re lucky. The other area where it affects us heavily is medicine. It was pointed out long ago by concerned research scientists that if you put combating disease in the hands of profit-oriented companies alone without having government labs involved what you will get is only treatments- not cures. A cure, after all, is only for Christmas- a treatment is for life.

The first truly awful science of my generation was the way AIDS was handled in the 80’s. Cargo-cult science from a doctor of dubious repute connected a retrovirus to a syndrome and transmission to sex and we were told, with the usual enthusiasm of the tabloid media, of the bodies piled high on the streets come the year 2000. Sex sells. Sex kills. Those alive, paying attention and not out shopping for hot pants holding a bucket of KFC would have caught, at the time, the BBC Panorama documentary which questioned the science and pointed out that the odds on contracting the HIV retrovirus, should it exist, from sex was thousands to one**. The threat increased to one in hundreds only if both partners had an open wound on their genitalia. I personally lack the commitment to have sex hundreds of time with my penis bleeding profusely and even if I did I lack the charm, I feel, to talk another person into rigorous sex whilst suffering from severe blood loss.

Lunatic fringe thinker, I, joined only by Nicholas Regush of ABC News, Harpers, a few Nobel Prize winners for chemistry and around ten thousand scientists outside the USA whose income is not dependant on companies making billions from HIV treatments in thinking there is some less than robust thinking here are now re-joined by the BBC.

The method that has been proposed (but never proved) by which the retrovirus kills our T-cells has as much credibility as a trial lawyer representing OJ Simpson or Robert Downey Jnr. according to, for all my dissing Americans, a study led by Emory University in Atlanta. In reporting the story the Beeb, though, fearful of the American treatment of the English language, decided to get a quote from a trustworthy British scientist at Imperial College, Cambridge. Professor Jaroslav (very British) Stark said: “Scientists have never had a full understanding of the processes by which T helper cells are depleted in HIV, and therefore they’ve been unable to fully explain why HIV destroys the body’s supply of these cells at such a slow rate. Our new interdisciplinary research has thrown serious doubt on one popular theory of how HIV affects these cells, and means that further studies are required to understand the mechanism behind HIV’s distinctive slow process of cellular destruction.”

What’s worrying is this: they decided HIV causes AIDS by killing T-cells without ever understanding or proving the process by which it happens. Then how do you know that HIV is doing it, exactly? There is a word for this kind of thing: it is called a guess. Guessing, as you may conclude, is not great science. Guessing is what loses you huge amounts of money at the track. Guessing is what you do when you try and win the lottery. Guessing is not something you want from, say, a person packing your parachute, deciding on the length of your bungee cord or sending you to a foreign country to find weapons of mass destruction. So filling yourself with toxic chemicals to kill a retrovirus which may be sitting around, chilling, and generally showing the activity and work ethic of a procrastinating grandma on a weeks break in Torremelinos based on a guess may be considered to be less than smart.

The problem is the way we demand answers from medicine. Other sciences get to dabble around and have fun trying to make the universe accidentally fold up or putting new elements together to see how big a bang we can get. We, as individuals, don’t really care so we place no pressure on them. But we want to be cured of every tiny ill. Since none of us really believe in heaven any more we are afraid of death, otherwise we would let ourselves be “taken” at the first opportunity. Lying there, measle-infected, “See God,” we could utter, “it’s not suicide- just your will. See you in a minute- put my sexy birds on ice and pour me a Martini.” So we believe in something new: we have faith in medicine. Which is dumb. Medicine is reason and evidence. And profit. When we substitute reason and evidence for faith we end up with faith and prophet. Possibly one called Mohamed, or Jesus, or Dave The Amazing Faith healer. Or GlaxoSmithKline.

It is really our fault. Our brain seeks conclusions to problems and it seeks them quickly. We are designed to suffer anxiety about the unknown because early humans who were not quick to decide the best option when faced with, say, a large and pretty kitty with sharp teeth and savage claws, never got to decide anything ever again… least of all who to accidentally get pregnant at the prom.

So we get betrayed, every day, by our Selves. Our Selves are not something to be trusted. They will fuck with us at every given opportunity making us think our hair looks bad, our hot-pants don’t suit us and make us buy another bucket of comfort-KFC. We tend to believe what will make us happy and accepted rather than what is inconvenient and, quite possibly, true.

One of those things is: you’re going to die. Get over it. Stop worrying about it. Get laid. And use a condom not because you think you’re going to die from some random infection but because you’re considerate, because you are careful, and because if you have kids they will want you to send them to school and college and will want to borrow your car- which will eat into your drinking money and destroy your social life. Who wants that? Honestly.

*- bridged by the diet supplement market.

**- “Male-to-female transmission was approximately eight times more efficient than female-to-male transmission …The constant per-contact infectivity for male-to-female transmission was estimated to be 0.0009 [Meaning that female-to-male would be 0.00001125 or about 1/10,000]…We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study…No transmission occurred among the 25% of couples who did not use their condoms consistently, nor among the 47 couples who intermittently practiced unsafe sex during the entire duration of follow-up. This evidence argues for low infectivity in the absence of either needle sharing and/or other cofactors” Padian NS et al. Heterosexual Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Northern California: Results from a Ten-Year Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Aug;146(4):350-7

http://www.aras.ab.ca/

The important thing about modern western civilization is successful lying. Not only to others but yourself. We spend all day being bombarded with lies so outrageous that we become immune to recognising them: this pill will make you thin, this dress will make you gorgeous, that car will get you laid, Iraq/Iran/Israel/ The Disney Corporation is your enemy, Crocs are so comfortable people will forgive you for looking like a moron, that Presidential candidate is completely different from the others and will represent your best interests and these sunglasses will protect your eyes whilst making you look cool and not at all like some half-bug-half-human from a ‘B’ horror movie.

If tasty food full of sauces and decadent pastries make you fat why do the French have one of the lowest obesity rates in the western world? If those sunglasses make you look so cool why wasn’t anyone wearing them 5yrs ago? Fashion is not new technology. If that Presidential candidate is so much your bitch- who gave them the money to run their campaign? Was it you? Didn’t think so… tight-arse.

But the first point (about the French) is true: they consume lots of all the food you shouldn’t eat, they have no worries over “low fat” options and what do you get? Not Texas, surprisingly. You get a country that is in shape despite having the same affinity for gymnasiums as the Bhurka- wearing women of Iran do for the beach. The French do have the advantage of having none of their food created in labs. This is, after all, the country where a terrorist organisation bombed a McDonalds not because they were anti- American but because they thought the food was offensive to the French Culinary Tradition. These are my kinda terrorists: clear thinkers. Why hate a group of people you’ve never met? Hating bad food. That is smart!

The difference between the French and the rest of us is the size of our TVs. The French spend less time working and worrying about acquiring material possessions and more time hanging out with family and friends, having tasty meals and remembering that their boss is just another arsehole who can go jump because, quite frankly, the whole of London will not freeze to death if his company’s line of pullovers arrive a day late. More is the pity, she thinks, as the English are notoriously dour.

So, you’re overweight because you work too hard.

If a comment like that would, as in my case, result in everyone you know falling down in fits of paralytic laughter there is another excuse. That is: more than 50% of you is not even “you”. You see, you are not just a product of your own DNA but a super-organism made of streams of bacteria that have sweet f-a (the technical term) to do with human genetics. You have a kilo of bacteria working for you in your gut, alone. There are 100 trillion cells of “not you” and only a few trillion that are.

This is why you are overweight: it’s not you, it’s them,  and it may be time to break up. The bad news is you need this bacteria to survive. Without it you die. This will guarantee thinness- if that’s what you’re into.

It also explains why people who use anti-bacterial soap always look a little anaemic.

http://independent.com/news/2007/oct/25/eating-french/

http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/news/2004/10/65252

On the high side of life

October 26, 2007

Just as the British government is considering reclassifying Cannabis a class 3 drug after decriminalising possession some years ago a report is released showing possession amongst 16-24yr olds is down 7% in the last decade. This is hardly a shock to anyone who remembers being young. If any enterprising innovators want to cut out recreational drug use altogether they should make it a compulsory lesson in school. I’m betting just before calculus would be best. Sure, it sounds like it would be fun at first but, in truth, by the time you turned 12 the novelty would have totally worn off.*

But governments aren’t famous for their clear, innovative, well- balanced decisions. Neither are musical artists but Radiohead have reportedly sold 1.2 million copies of their new album inrainbows in the first week by offering it to you for whatever you want to pay- even nothing. A western world sick of capitalism apparently, voluntarily gave an average of $5 for the downloadable album meaning the band did about 5 times better than if they had sold it through a record company.

This is what happens when you give people who take drugs power over their lives: they get all touchy- feely and believe people are just, like, “fundamentally good and generous and shit”. They go and annoy all of us by making millions proving it right. Piety and wealth! I say we burn them at the stake. The album’s quite good, though. I paid $5.

lizdean.jpg

For all those who think that artists taking drugs/ living it up/ driving too fast and dying young is a bad example for the youth I give you the comparison of Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. Which do you think is a better role model, Mad Liz or the man who said “dream as if you will live forever, live as though you will die today.”? Imagine if Michael had died in a rollercoaster accident before he was accused for the 17th time of being a kiddie fiddler. If Paul McCartney had never joined “Wings”. How much better would our lives be?

Thank you Jimi, Kurt, Janis, John and, of course, James. From a time when artists were more considerate of their fans.

*- what the hell is an 11yr old doing calculus for- that is madness!

The most important issue about the latest Bin Laden tape has been skirted over and the world at large is just lucky to have such a prescient mind as mine at the ready to catch it: who does Osama Bin Laden’s beard- dye and trim job? It is so wonderfully stylish. He looks 20 years younger. Perhaps only 70… maybe 73.

The lack of hair salons and convenient chemists in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan are legendary, leading to a tourist trade limited to Islamic fundamentalists, opium- questing hippies and Boris Johnson*. One is led to assume, therefore, that over the last 6 years or so Bin Laden has not only kitted out his cave with the necessary dialysis machine for his failing kidneys and video editing studio (running on linux to foil American Imperialism- ahaha ahaha hahahahahah!) but now, too, a hair salon.

Perhaps the US forces in Afghanistan on Bin Laden’s tail should start looking out for particularly well groomed shepherds and, with what one hears about shepherds, particularly well groomed sheep, too. They should consider, and investigate, the possibility that Bin Laden has brought in an image consultant to help with his new promotional idea of “one peaceful Iraq with every Islamic U.S.A. purchased.” It sounds like a television shopping idea to me. But wait… don’t buy now! Could Al Qaeda finally be tapping into the American market’s sensibilities and shopping patterns?

I expect to see the next video with him in a hot- tub with 12 virgins promoting the benefits of an Islamic martyr’s life or, more precisely, death**. Capitalism creeps in everywhere and, as things continue forward, Al Qaeda could allow the infidel to pay for their ignorance with VISA rather than, as is usual, their lifeblood and that of their families, their friends, their aunts, their dogs and chickens.

Look out Pat Robertson… here comes an Obama for the Whitehouse and an Osama for the lighthouse.***

*- running for mayor of London, has stupid hair… do catch up.
**- that, as always, would be in the small print which is read very quickly at the end of the advert and never discernible to anyone.
***- seeing the light: a dig a Christians. Yes, I know it’s lame and doesn’t really work terribly well. So what? It rhymes, it’s 1am in the morning and I, quite frankly, am beyond caring.

With all our world leaders jostling with one another to explain how safe they are going to make us we have ended up with some pretty bloody stupid airport security around the world in the last few years*.

The fact is that any team of 5 people determined enough and willing to sacrifice their lives can bring down an aircraft without bringing a single, solitary weapon on board. De-pressurizing an aeroplane in just the right way is easy and enough and all you have to do for the flimsy thing to go pffffft and leave a whole lot of people regretting that they are now tied to an extremely heavy seat shortening their life span by a good minute or so.

If after that little revelation you’re too paranoid to get in aircraft that means (1) that you have an appalling ability to assess and compare dangers and (2) we get to keep a glacier for another minute and three seconds and I get another four days before I have to start building anti- flood barriers around my house and, well, every bit helps.

But if you genuinely want top notch security in airports, the best in the world, for free, you sell gambling rights, right there in the departure lounges, to top Casino companies. Everyone knows that Casinos, to protect their cash, have the very best security in the whole world. Make them apply that knowledge in defending your planes and you will be far better off than you are with 50c an hour security guards trying to stick their fingers up your butt while you turn on your laptop computer. And their tax is making sure nothing bad happens- or they lose their contract and investment.

No more missing luggage, either. Anyone trying to nick your iPod from your suitcase will find themselves at the bottom of a nearby river and you, after having the iPod replaced, will have a free three night stay in a suite at one of their casino hotels. Hookers and cocaine an optional extra.

These people know how to protect their assets. You do not have to trust them- just their motivations.

*- You cannot make a bomb on a plane using liquids. You just cannot. You blow your hands off/ burn them beyond use long before you can create anything damaging. You can easily get a laptop computer to turn on and boot up with loads of space available inside it for all sorts of dodgy shit that you CAN blow an aeroplane up with.

It’s been demonstrated all over the world but the best recent example of why local government is important is in comparing Switzerland and the USA when it comes to that ‘ol favourite, guns. Oddly enough, when it comes to guns the USA has, in government structure, the right idea. They had to get something right eventually. Here is why.

I am assuming, first of all, that we are dealing with a gun-toting, trigger-happy nation. It will probably come as a massive surprise to anyone reading this that the Swiss are, indeed, keen on drilling small pieces of metal into inanimate things and furry creatures at high speed. This has come about because the Swiss government has a ruling stating that every soldier in the country MUST have a gun in the house. An unregistered gun.

All of this, according to a leading psychiatrist who lives in my head, has a lot to do with insecurity over the jokes made about their deadly Swiss army knives and their masses of experience on the front lines of conflicts. That experience consisting mostly of standing behind their bankers, wearing odd clothing, yodelling and cursing their little red knives, unable to get the cork out of a recently pillaged (I mean ‘donated’) bottle of Chardonnay since the corkscrew attachment is rubbish, as said bankers quietly melt the gold picked out of dead soldiers and civilians teeth. Not that I am being nasty or judgemental or anything.

Not me.

This wide spectrum gun- ownership is by no means a bad thing since it at least adds a level of excitement to a country officially voted the second dullest on earth after Sweden. By who, you ask? Me, as it happens. Five minutes ago, shortly before consulting the aforementioned imaginary psychiatrist. It’s been that kind of day. So Switzerland has quite a lot of deaths with people going nuts and killing their families, office colleagues and, thankfully, themselves as well.

The American government, however keeps these issues local. South Carolina, it seems, site of a fun day out with death and carnage at Virginia Tech (when a graduate student decided he was sick to death of whiny rich kids bitching about nothing and decided to kill as many of them as possible- a reasonable guy by any standards), has decided to make the carrying of concealed weapons on campus legal. Presumably to make any future shoot-outs a little more fair. Given the American love of “friendly fire” this seems perfectly in keeping with their national psyche.

Why is it better to do this locally rather than nationally? Well… personal tragedy, rights of man and general compassion aside it’s to do with having a successful democracy and the advancement of the human race in general.

If you have these sorts of gun policies locally it has to be supported by the community. This means that most (more than 50%) of the community is dumb (or the smart people are too apathetic to do anything about it which is just as bad). The smart, non- apathetic, people then move away from the nut-balls to somewhere safer and more sensible, like Iraq or Beirut, tipping the balance even further. Now, if someone goes on a rampage there is a far better than average chance that the people killed will be dumb. Bigger shoot-outs due to armed civilians and masses of “friendly fire” will ensue between civilians all over dumb areas culling the herd on a regular basis and lowering the chances of idiot politicians winning a national vote and increasing the country’s average intelligence.

If you allow it nationally it offers no benefit as the odds of someone in the smarter 50% of your population being killed are the same as for the stupider 50%. This has no benefits to the nation whatsoever.

Localised gun control rocks…!

It’s an old phrase but I have, in my life, failed to find a better combination of just 3 experiences. These three most definitely add up to more than the whole.

Analysing it each of the things kick up one sure-fire flag that they are fun. Plenty of people disapprove of them. But it’s the combination that works incredibly well. Replace drugs, for instance, with yoghurt and it all kind of falls apart.

Or, alteratively, sex, drugs and Yanni… it would need to be a lot of drugs. Going to the Post Office, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll lacks a certain something although it might make an amusing story later. Leaving sex out of the three is just ludicrous anyway.

Sex, Caring for the Elderly and Rock ‘n Roll somehow lacks some of the joi de vivre that drugs bring to the party and could get you in trouble if anyone filmed it… Although there is the possibility of stealing the drugs from the elderly but that just takes us back to Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll, anyway.

Trying to knock up another three that more usually go together and offer the same level of excitement doesn’t seem to work either. Daytime TV, Ironing and Crisps, for instance, doesn’t compare terribly well. A movie, popcorn and loud people two rows back annoying you doesn’t come close either. Not even a little.

And let’s not forget that there are so many variables in Sex Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll that you are unlikely to run out and get bored before you die of an overdose, syphilis or a dislocated Tibia*. So, no loss there, then.

The only true leeway does appear to be in the selection of music although Enya or any one- man- band is always a mistake, especially live. He always stares. Enya would just send everyone to go into a coma, and that’s what the drugs are for. Funk would probably work, too, as would Latin but it would be important to match the music up to the right drugs.

Remember, sex between 2 people is a beautiful thing, sex between 3 is fantastic!

There is a reason what was promoted in the 70s has lasted through the test of over 30 years. Admittedly, we laid off the oily hair after a short while because it sucked but they couldn’t get everything right, could they? We owe a lot to a generation that reminded us, after all the crap of the Victorian era, what partying was all about.

*- a town in Sudan, I think.

Enjoy a lower cost of living- because you’re not!
Guaranteed no suicidal tendencies if you fail a year!
No sports and, hence, no jocks to deal with.
Smell more, care less.
Discount clothes from ‘Zombies r Us’

A wide range of extra curricular activities…

Enrolment in the “Thriller Re-Enactments’ and the Neverland Ranch
Weekend ‘extras’ trips to Hollywood.
Scare-O-grams

Free eulogy with every enrolment. Urn of your choice with “don’t discriminate, hire post-cremate” sticker and complimentary dustbuster for those awkward family moments…

33 places already gone… apply soon.

I have been waiting for a psychological backlash to the most shallow generation in history: the tweeny label- whores from hell. What we may come to see as the “bling” generation.

Sucked into the advertising mire more than any generation in history. People have sought guidance and self- definition through the ages from Drugs, Religions, Warlords, Pacifists, Prophets, the Famous and the Fatuous. This was the first to start to look to possessions for guidance. The pendulum always swings back and forth and, as usual, at the tip of the conservative end of the swing was an annoying war that finally sends the pendulum back. It has been building, though, for quite some time and just needed (mixing my metaphors badly) a trigger.

I remember well this from fight club, Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

Born in the 70’s I have been through the swing away from the Love, Liberalism and Peace of the late 60s and early 70s to the money- orientated conservatism, large hair and bad pastel suits of the early 80s, through the grunge gender anonymity and unshaven women of the late 80s and early 90s and on to the vicious capitalist label feeding frenzy of the turn of the century.

This global warming thing we finally noticed (I did a school project on it in 1984- took the governments of the world 23 yrs to catch up to a student who spent less time in class than George W. does at work), of course, will not be stopped and I wonder how, at the tip of the green touchy- feely renaissance the other end of society will spin things and what they will place on the table to get society to start the swing back towards conservatism.

Will recreational space flight be it? Immersive computer games to get away from the mess when people get exhausted from over-caring? Or are they smart enough to have worked out enough ways to market the new green movement in such a way that they can profit from it? I think so. I take all 3 but in reverse order.

Looked at dispassionately neither side of the swing has any better claim to sanity. From the one side of rich warmongers and authority to the poor vegan touchy- feely side there is plenty of nonsense. But if there is nonsense to be had I prefer the pendulum at the point where we stop caring too much about possessions, allow dull people to take drugs to make them more interesting, stop caring too much about our jobs and start enjoying our sexuality more but women still shave their armpits.

Pools have a shallow end and a deep end. So, sometimes, do I.