The blame game

Oh the Hollywood Weinstein scandal, the gift that keeps on giving. Where sexual acts are traded for roles in movies. What a whole canning factory of worms and vice has been opened across the board. There are panderers, pimps and whores all over the place. Which is what the general public has suspected for years.

One of the things that occurred to me while reading the multiple sources of outrage over this affair is that the law has been broken by all sides of the argument. So I went and took a look at the California legal codes covering sexual assault and prostitution. Oh dear. This does not look good for either Weinstein or his coterie of tearstained accusers.

Let me explain; what Weinstein did was not rape or sexual assault. He is guilty of neither of those crimes for one simple reason; he was influence peddling. Trading movie roles and influence for sex. Under Californian law he is probably guilty of soliciting prostitution. Telling his ‘victims’ that they could have what they wanted (A movie role) for what can easily be defined as a ‘lewd’ act (A sexual act like a blow job or full sex). Which, according the rather useful Findlaw web site, is a crime under Californian law. Because prostitution laws make it a crime to offer, agree to, or engage in a sexual act for compensation.

Now, for those who delight in irony this is amusing for one solid sterling reason. There are no innocent parties here. Why? Because in order for a successful prosecution of Harvey Weinstein under the laws of California for soliciting sex, they have to find his accusers guilty of prostitution. Any enablers, like female personal assistants etc who ‘left the room’ for Harvey to make certain actresses an offer they could have refused, could also find themselves in court under the pimping provisions of the same legislation.

Oh my.

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The future of transport

There’s a lot of political motion about transport at the present moment. First there’s the ban on sales of Internal Combustion Engine powered vehicles from 2040, which California looks like replicating in order to ‘save the planet’. These impending bans to reduce air pollution due to ICE powered vehicles are all well intentioned but one is tempted to ask, what will said proscriptions actually achieve?

For practical purposes not much, because the nature of logistics within cities is already changing. But the future does not lie with self driving electric cars. Nor electric cars or any variant thereof. Except on an extremely limited scale. For reasons as discussed here. The changes that are coming are more far reaching than a simple change in how tin boxes are powered and controlled. For a given value of ‘simple’. Which has already turned into a whole different, and over-subsidised bunch of complicated.

For example; both Mrs S and I ‘telecommute’ every day using video and other online messaging services, rarely needing to physically visit clients or sites more than once a year. Up until ten years ago our jobs didn’t, couldn’t exist. But thanks to the dear old Interweb, we earn a reasonable crust and pay our way in the world without too much drama. Yes, we have a car, and in the next five years this will have to be replaced and a motorcycle added to our means of getting about two or three times a week. But we don’t need to commute every day. Which adds hours to our productive working days. Which means we can pick our time of day to go out to enjoy a bit of a drive. As well as keep things up to snuff at home without losing precious ‘us’ time. And there’s a growing number like us who don’t have to turn up at the office to put in a (very) full day’s work. We’re also contractors, so we don’t show up in public employment stats. Like the people who run small businesses off a laptop over a coffee shops wi-fi link and cell phone. There’s part of the future, and it’s already here.

The coming changes will be as radical as the migration of methods between travel by horse and the first steam powered railways and they are right on our doorstep. Indeed, delivery companies and start-ups are already experimenting with what was up until recently merely a toy. Especially in heavily congested areas. Particularly for small, highly specialised manufacturers and distributors. Amazon have been running trials and there are a bunch of other startups which recognise that where drones will really come into their own is in the short run courier business, at first as an adjunct to, then as a replacement for, inner city bicycle and motorcycle couriers. Point to point small packages, high speed and high security with the capability to home in on a mobile phone or tablet so that no matter where the recipient is within a given radius, they will be able to receive a physical document or critical replacement part at exactly the time the text or component are required. Or medical supplies on a Just in time basis.

As for personal transport, no matter how it is powered, as the ability to deliver to a precise location at an exact time improves, the need for someone to physically get in a car and drive across town to an appointment or to hire an expensive courier will slowly decrease, therefore so will the road congestion of the inner cities. In short, we’ll stop needing to drive everywhere quite so much. That’s where the future lies. Not Electric Self driving cars. Batteries will never be that good, but they will be good enough to transport small packages a hundred miles or so. Like John Hopkins Medicine managed with this trial, beating Team Roadrunners previous 97 mile record, set in May 2017. In the UK, Centrica have run trials for remote inspection of production sites out in Morecambe bay. And that’s only three examples.

This is the way real change for the better begins. Not with governments, but with people utilising an idea in new ways.

Now there is a major impediment. Legislation. Whether lawmakers fail or succeed to address the benefits of point to point lightweight deliveries. From a purely safety perspective, Drones with semi-autonomous Artificial Intelligence packages can be made to navigate crowded airspace to and from sensitive locations, but this must be mandated by clear laws that lay down a simple legal framework for the new technology to operate within. Simply banning their use does nothing but stave off the inevitable.

Of course, early adopters will (and probably do) already include your friendly local illicit substance provider and smuggler. A drone that can fly more than twenty plus kilometres carrying a kilo or two of whatever substance the market demands is no more detectable than a bird. The only real risks to drones being the territorial instincts of large birds, such as with Wedge Tailed Eagles in Australia, or the French and Dutch Police training Bald Eagles to take down unauthorised UAV’s.

On the topic of drone interdiction, Mr Trumps much vaunted border wall is no more use than the proverbial chocolate teapot at preventing cross border drug trafficking by drone. Short of shooting at everything that crosses a certain line, and that would be simply impractical. For example, two people with backpack sized controls and half a dozen drones could run rings around any number of border guards, eliminating the risks and expense of human ‘mules’ and couriers across say, the US-Mexican or US-Canadian borders. Who is to say this is not already happening. Because it already is.

Thus far, even prison walls have proved little use against drones, like with this smuggling operation into a prison. Although contrariwise, Enforcement monitoring Drones will be, (are and have been) used to remotely monitor and detect illegal activity so that flying squads of border agents can home in and make arrests. However, so far these drones are of the larger, military types and have so far proven uneconomic, but as quadcopter technology improves, the cost per enforcement unit will decrease. For example; Los Angeles Police Department is even experimenting with smaller drones.

What overall effect this technology may have on cities is covered in this interesting little TED talk by Julio Gil (See below). And he’s right. The technology is almost with us. In fact it’s so close early adopters are already using much of it. The rest is trying methodologies until we find one that really works.

I particularly like his idea of the mobile drone delivery platform. Post office or delivery van pootles down suburban or rural road while a squadron of drones busily drop mail and small packages off on doorsteps leaving the driver (and maybe a helper for the heavier stuff) free to concentrate on dropping off the bigger packages. Maybe even some form of pickup device could be provided to save on postal delivery people having to traipse around emptying mailboxes. Drone picks up your mail, reads a printed address bar code or number and pre-sorts it before the delivery van even arrives back at the distribution hub.

While much of the above may be conjecture one thing is certain; the future is almost here, and that future contains Drones.

I’m puzzled…

… by the behaviour of Madame Tracy over the BREXIT negotiations. First there was Florence, which was essentially seen as a climbdown, now in this morning’s FT I read of yet another backpedal where Juncker et al are demanding more and more to leave their exclusive little club. Whose cookie is beginning to crumble further around the edges in Austria, Poland, Catalonia and Hungary.

My own suspicion is that this is a bargaining ploy, a delaying tactic to keep the markets stable and see how far the Eurocrats will go to try and up the Ante before telling them to get lost and open the doors to other nations, who if they’ve got any sense already have their own low level negotiating teams in setting up trading deals for when UK Plc drops off the edge of Europe. However, I may be completely wrong and this may only be a ploy to feed to the Brexiteers that “Oh my God dwawleengs it’s too, too difficult to get out so we’ll have to stay in. Sorry, just not poss…etc.” But that would bury the Tories for a generation and leave the poor old UK to drop headlong into the hands of the weird and definitely not wonderful Corbynista’s and subsequent economic free fall. So what is going on?

The Catalan situation seems to be bubbling under, with two separatist leaders under arrest for ‘sedition’, also two Police Officers for getting in the way of the Guardia Civil riot Police. See the France24 video below for the situation as of 17th October. Can’t say I like the smug look of the Spanish deputy PM as she stepped up to the podium. There’s a cat that’s got first lick of the cream and no mistake.

Then there’s the Austrian election results. Which has the Eurocrats rattled. We’re told that the results are a victory for the ‘extreme right’ but how ‘extreme’ is not wanting to import unspecified numbers of welfare dependents for which the Austrian taxpayer will have to foot the bill?

As for ‘rising extremism’, how extreme is doing what the Americans call “Voting your cheque book”? Which is what electorates around the world are beginning to do. For example there’s a widespread view that the EU is a monster which has grown too large and needs to go on a serious diet. Same for the US Government. Too big, too much power, too intrusive and rapacious.

In Canada we’re still on the upslope of that statist bell curve with the Federal Government changing the tax regs to prevent ‘Income salting’ (Sharing tax allowances between family members) which will hit working families with stay at home mums the worst. Not the ‘rich’ like that idiot fop Trudeau in Ottawa says. Even Mrs S and I have been forced to formalise our business relationship so that everything I buy or do for her business is logged and subject to detailed internal invoice. Which is a pain, but these are the toothpaste tubes big government forces everyone into. Should they try and throw my invoices out, I will simply stop the forty or so hours a month I put in on my wife’s business’ behalf and close my ears to all the cries for help from the next door office because I don’t work for nothing.

A good edge

As someone who enjoys cooking, I like to get reasonable tools for the job. To be specific, knives. Recently I picked up some reasonable German made knives as part of an end of line promotion, which filled a gap in my culinary toolbox. I needed a decent Santoku for chopping, Japanese style, which was part of the set, but, and this is a big but, they’re not so satisfying to use as my ten inch wood handled full-tang Sabatier K, a handy Chef’s knife I bought when we were down in South Carolina on our 2016 cross-USA road trip.

There’s nothing fancy about it as a cooks knife because it’s simply a stamped and forged flat blank with a riveted hardwood handle. Yet none of my other cooking knives can hold a candle to it as far as holding an edge is concerned. Yes it’s heavy, the web of the blade is over 3.5mm (3/16ths of an inch) thick and the handle is pretty chunky and unrefined, but no other blade out of my serried collection of carbon and stainless steel cutting implements handles so well on the cutting board for day to day slicing and chopping. I’ve even sliced soft bread with it. Try that with a traditional cooks knife without squashing the grain of the loaf. Yet there’s nothing really special about it. Perhaps that explains why this particular piece of kit holds the place of prominence it does on my kitchen counter. Because of the sheer weight of steel in the blade it will also chop and hack as well as a light cleaver. Which is very useful for those days when bone or cartilage needs to be cut through with a single sharp blow. Yes it can and does cut beef and pork ribs. No nicks in the blade so far and it’s seen fourteen months of daily abuse at my hands. I’d say it was good kit.

Yes, and I’ve finally potted out my tomato plants which as you can see by the picture below are doing quite nicely.

So that’s it for the moment. The pantomime of BREXIT continues with the drunken lord making ridiculous pronouncements from stage left and the Demon King pops up and down through a handy trapdoor like a demented Yo-yo. Sterling is rising slowly again, well it has been over the last week, but no doubt one market panic will send it slithering back down again.

To close, I just saw the trailer for this amusing little Armando Iannucci movie which won’t be released over here. Which is a great pity. Rather like with Brian Cox in ‘Churchill‘, there’s no Canadian or US release date. There should be.

Because the cast is terrific and would make a welcome change from the usual Hollywood blockbuster bullshit.

Confirmation of bias

Well, today I potted out my tomato plants into two larger receptacles for window ledges and made a few more handy little tripod supports for my (hopefully) impending crop of fresh tomatoes, the first tranche of which should be ready in a few months. The winds are picking up, the temperature has dropped over ten degrees since September and we’re getting some rain at long last. It’s been a long hot summer, which generally presages a very sharp cold Winter, so I’m glad Mrs S and I will be visiting family in the fabled land of Oz this festering season.

So, what’s in the ‘olds’* this week? Hollywood Producer falls from grace and is finally denounced by all the women he took sexual advantage of? Well is this news? Not really. Hollywood is a corrupt and gilded sewer, it cannot help be anything else. Showbiz has long been known as a haven for those with ‘diverse’ sexual interests. Actors, Actresses, Producers and Directors make other people happy, so they want to be made happy in return. Sex, drugs, whatever floats their boat. Unless they’re happy to be working in Repertory where the rewards are small.

As for certain actresses, some would argue that some are no better than they should be and that using their sexual appeal to bolster their careers is hard wired into their profession. Why? Because theatrical folk have long been known for such excesses. Indeed, fame has long been considered a bulwark against negative outcomes for licentious and what some would call immoral behaviour. Anyone who has read Molière (17th century) in particular Tartuffe or any of his other works would understand this. Molière held up a mirror to the misdeeds of his time and merits careful examination. In England too, theatres for centuries had the reputation of ‘Bawdy houses‘. Not to mention that the history of the theatre is richly laced with the taint of alcoholic and sexual excess. Going all the way back before Marlowe in the 16th Century. In the 20th century there was the Hollywood ‘Rat Pack’ whose alcoholic and sexual exploits are near legendary.

Also the irony of having someone whose main talent lies in portraying exaggerated emotion and parroting the words of others lecture the public on moral issues. Which comes across as, mm, how can I say this? No, there’s no other word for it; nauseating. The posturing of some people at ‘awards’ ceremonies is hard to stomach.

That irony doubles down because a number of the accusers who have only surfaced when it’s safe to do so, are those who have publicly decried sexism and racism and pretended to stand up for the rights of ‘wimmen’. Forgive me if I’m not convinced of their virtue. The very self same people have previously publicly defended Weinstein and the like. No, honestly, nothing to see here. Pass the champagne and let’s go party hearty. Forgive me for thinking that they don’t just hold double, but quintuple standards.

As for anyone pretending to be ‘shocked’ oh come on. Casting couch and similar tales have been filtering out ever since the first movies were made. Sexually abused child ‘stars’. Thespians literally prostituting themselves to those with the money and power over who does what. Young women spreading their legs to anyone who can get them a part in a movie. Sorry folks, but to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, this is just not news. So why the hell is anyone even remotely surprised? Just because the biggest turd has now been flushed out doesn’t stop it being a sewer.

*’News’ to some. To the informed, not so much.

Cognitive dissonance

Famous anniversaries post coming up. Some might have noticed, although I’d have missed it completely unless reminded that it’s fifty years since a blood soaked psychopath met his end in front of a South American firing squad.

A mass murderer and torturer executed? Good riddance to bad rubbish one might say, and you’d be right. Yet the very self same blood soaked psycho is lauded in some circles as a hero. Indeed, his likeness is found posted on many a Western Universities student union wall and t-shirt to celebrate left wing revolutionary fervour. Movies have been made of his life before he became a mass murderer. Yet this person is celebrated, even deified, despite the many evils he perpetrated.

So let’s look at his bio; Scion of a wealthy family, Medical School dropout, socialist revolutionary, Gay hater, child murderer, mass executioner. All of these things are absolutely true. Or to put it another way; a homophobic psychotic killer, rapist, racist and wastrel. A child murderer to boot. Not exactly the sort of person one would be inclined to invite to dinner.

Yet his image is deified in all places as the Winnipeg museum of Human Rights. I’ve seen it. Although I can’t be sure if it’s there as an exemplar or a warning. Even though it doesn’t flag up on the museums web site. Like the documentation of the Holocaust (11 million killed in death camps by the National Socialism) the Ukrainian Holodomor (12-20 million starved to death by the forced collectivism of Lenin and Stalin). The killing fields of Cambodia clocked up just shy of 1.4 million by Pol Pots communist regime. Well, that’s the actual number of dead they’ve found to date. Estimates of that era’s Cambodian atrocities head north of 3.4 million. Some simply for the ‘crimes’ of talking to western missionaries or selling produce to feed their families. Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Ba’athist (ostensibly Socialist) regime for mass murder of Kurds and Marsh Arabs in the late 1980’s managed barely 200,000 according to some estimates.

By the by, other 20th and early 21st century genocides by right leaning and religious governments have struggled to reach even Cuban levels. Which by contrast was small potatoes, barely reaching hundreds of thousands in body count. For which the icon of veneration below was partially responsible. We might as well venerate people like ex-Catholic Priest and Nazi collaborator Petar Brzica, an horrific individual who boasted of killing 1360 Serbians, Jews and Roma, as well as Croat and Bosniak dissidents, in a single session. With a knife, no less.

There is a strange cognitive dissonance native to those with extreme left or right wing political views, which says that killing people is the way to effect change for the better for a very strange value of ‘better’. In this way these extremists can be seen to be very stupid, because they don’t seem to understand that you can’t change the mind of a corpse, or kill an idea simply by first dehumanising, then murdering people. Because then they aren’t really people any more are they? And ideas can exist independently of individuals. The same can be said of various religious nutters from the Catholics of the medieval period to the modern resurrection of extreme Islam. In spite of the many religious wars and mass killings that flared throughout Medieval Europe, Judaism, Protestantism and Islam are still with us. There are still witches despite all those witch burnings and Cathars are still known in Southern France despite centuries of repression.

By way of contrast, it might be noted that one of the most, and rightly reviled political figures of the 20th century, also responsible for tens of millions of human extinctions, was a Europhile child and dog-loving vegan anti-smoking athiest(?) with strong environmentalist views. No prizes for guessing who that was.

All that the above have in common is that they wanted to force their chosen way of life on others and were more than happy to kill to do so. Yet leftist killers are applauded, venerated and even worshipped within some modern day seats of learning. Interesting, eh?

A little rogue English

Sometimes things just pop out. Especially if you haven’t done your zip up properly, but that’s another matter. Yesterday’s little turn of phrase turned up when I was out in the car, signaling left for the next set of lights when some dimwit in a grey Dodge Caravan carved across my path at speed then back into the lane to my right. I think there was less than six inches between us for a brief heart in mouth experience moment. Mrs S, in the passenger seat braced for an impact I was able to avoid by some pretty lively braking (Good reflexes there Bill) and shrieked loudly, it was that close. To the lack of road etiquette I responded loudly “What the fuck are you on, blue eyes?” and indicated my displeasure to the offending driver, if you could call what she was doing driving, with a single upraised digit. Not that the zombiform item supposedly in control of the offending vehicle paid any attention, she seemed to think that smiling and waving made it all better. Goddamn stoner chick posing as a soccer mum.

Had I possessed a little more presence of mind I’d have logged her registration number and reported her as a possible Driving under the influence. But it’s easy to say that in hindsight. When you’re trying to avoid a large insurance claim, your attention tends to be a little more tightly focussed on your driving.

From the passenger seat came sudden peals of laughter. Which rather puzzled me despite briefly enjoying a little vented road rage at the offending driver. “Oh I must remember that one!” Exclaimed my lady wife.
“One what?”
“That saying.”
“Pardon?” I pulled up at the red stop light in the left hand filter, furrowing my brow.
“What the fuck are you on, blue eyes?” She repeated.
“Oh that. Didn’t you see that crazy bitch?” I responded, still a trifle miffed at almost being run off the road into oncoming traffic.
“You do come up with them.”
“Up with what?” The filter light went green and we pulled out and turned left, watching for morons turning right into my lane instead of taking their turn like they’re supposed to.
“These rogue English sayings of yours.”
“Sorry.” I don’t swear that often. Not in real life anyway.
“No Bill. You make me laugh.”
“That bad, huh?” We turned into the car park and a parking space, watching all the time for more charm school dropouts.
“Not bad, just funny.”
“Sorry love, I just get fed up with the blind deaf and dumb sometimes. I have to vent.”
“You keep on venting like that. It keeps me amused.”
“Well I’m glad about that. Rogue English, eh? I like it.” I replied. Then I stalked off to the grocery store, still vibrating a bit from the anger, while she went to the pharmacy.

She was still grinning about it when I came back from my own errands.

Oh well. Whatever makes you happy…

I know those streets


…the streets of Barcelona. It’s one of the jewels of continental Europe and now the ground zero of the Catalan secession movement. I’ve sat and drunk coffee in front of the main cathedral, listened to the chatter around me, navigated the nearby flagstoned alleyways and peoplewatched the other tourists being startled by the dozen or so living statue mime artists that make a living at the foot of the Cathedral steps. It is one of my favourite European cities, one with a cultural identity you could bend rebar around. Like Seville, but not so much Madrid.

Now the Catelonians have voted for independence in a referendum the Madrid government and probably the EU, didn’t want them to have. The actions of the National Police riot squad have become global news which the Madrid government has totally mishandled. See this report from CGTN Africa below.

Regardless of whether the referendum itself was illegal, riot police beating up old ladies people for no better reason than they wanted to vote is like pointing a loaded gun at your foot, pulling the trigger and wondering why it hurts so bloody much. There is no way that is protecting anyone’s rights, or any form of justice, as claimed by the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, save that of wielding naked power for it’s own sake. Reporters on the ground say even the local city cops or ‘Mossos’, got in the way of the cruise shipped in riot police when ‘unofficial’ polling stations were raided. See the France24 video below and the linked story on RT.

And you thought that BREXIT was a big issue. Think of it this way, the Catalans are getting a dose of what the Spanish authorities have been doling out to the Basque since before 1876. This time however, the ‘rebels’ have tried to do things the right way, the peaceful and democratic way, yet the heavy hand of the Spanish authoritarian state has fallen upon them. As many libertarians and those who have fallen foul of any government department would say; “The State is not your friend.”

Update: After reading around and doing a little historical background I note that this is not the first ‘illegal’ referendum on Catalan independence.  The last was 2014 and before that smaller versions throughout 2009 to 2011.

Here’s a post referendum interview from Vlogger Tim Pool of expat journalist Simon Harris who is based in Barcelona.  Very enlightening insider perspective on Spanish political attitudes.

 

On the nature of trolls

Every so often in the Scriblerus group we get various types of trolling attacks. Which some justify with the WW2 derived dictum; “If you’re taking flak, you must be over the target.” Yes, we occasionally get abuse, which is why many of us have some form of moderation on our comments section because without it we’d be forever chasing our tails deleting dozens off topic comments intended to drag a discussion thread into a morass of a given trolls own unhinged obsessions. Whatever those might be.

For me this isn’t a problem, as I tend to have a rather simple ‘delete and ban’ policy toward provocateurs and police my WordPress spam filter assiduously. Theres also a handy feature in WordPress that blocks some anonymous proxies which I make use of to keep out the unwanted. My comments policy for this blog lays down some very simple rules which boil down to the following: if you’ve something to say and are willing to be civil, no problem. If you’re just abusively trolling just to see if I’ll bite, don’t even bother. You’ll waste your time and energy, not mine.

But what makes a troll? I’d call it a behaviour rather than a person. Someone who disagrees with me might indulge in a trollish attack, which in footballing terms would be called ‘playing the man, not the ball’ or if you prefer, foul play or underhand tactics. Lurking under bridges, attacking the unwary. Attacking the person, not addressing their arguments. Now that’s being a troll.

You can’t call someone Troll either simply for voicing an alternative or simply criticising a given point of view, as has been described by many of the more thin-skinned commentators out there. To them, any opposition is the work of ‘Internet Trolls’. Which isn’t true. At worst it’s heckling. A heckler openly tells you you’re being an idiot. A troll is the person who tries to push a speaker off their soapbox, throws rocks or tries to shut them up using the power of social media. Indeed, the Twitter and Facebook hate mobs who infest those benighted platforms are being trolls if they ‘go after’ someone for simply holding an opinion they don’t like, costing someone their job or damaging any other part of their social life. Which isn’t fair play by anyone’s standards.

In the words of Gomez Addams;

As for the Scriblerus group of bloggers, one thing we do when under attack is co-operate, acting as a mutual support group where an outside threat is trying to disrupt one or more of the contributors. This is a purely informal arrangement, but seeing as certain of our members have extensive experience of Interweb related stuff and a great deal of real-life experience, it works quite well. For any would be attacker I would point out that nothing on the internet is truly anonymous, just as there’s no such thing as a burglar proof house. There are only degrees of difficulty in tracking. So don’t be surprised if your nastiness comes back to bite you.

This is not to say that we in the Scriblerus group agree on everything (or anything), far from it, we might not fight like cats in a sack, but we can disagree without it turning into a mudslinging bitch-fest, regardless of style or content. It’s called maturity. We’re grown-ups (mostly). And we’ve retained our own individual senses of fun. With the emphasis on ‘our own’. So a little light ribbing between members does not lead to meltdowns or petty vendettas. Because we’re all (I think) about freedom of speech and opinion, in varying degrees. So long as it’s not destructive or abusive.

As for those taking umbrage at any point of view espoused within our loose coalition I’d say; “Just because you’re offended, it doesn’t make you right.”

Of course, this blog only reflects my personal view, you’d have to ask the other members of Scriblerus for theirs.

Like wot I wrote

Yesterday I was meandering through the back channels of the FT and came upon an article which intrigued me. It linked to a series of six youtube videos concerning active and passive phrasing in English. Fairly dry stuff you might think. Not so dear reader. There is considerable dusty passion raised within the grammarian community on this issue, even about misquoting Orwell over his famous active vs passive quote. What Professor Pullum says about Strunk & White, long thought the short cut to grammar expertise, is highly entertaining. Well, at least to anyone even vaguely interested in constructing cogent prose.

Most people’s eyes will glaze over and go away to watch a funny cat video when he starts talking about transitive verbs, but I found his six talks highly enlightening and a classic example of how groupthink and widely promoted misinformation can degrade a subject. Particularly such a critical one as English.

Like quoting out of context, because in communicating an idea, context is everything. Particularly from Orwell’s much quoted essay “Politics and the English language” in which he says;

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Now point iv is the one writing ‘gurus’ always trot out, but this raises the question; have they been abusing this quotation all along? Now I think point vi is the money shot because it tells the reader to ignore all of the above rules rather than write something which lacks clarity.

Because clarity in communicating ideas is everything and a soft word spoken truly is sharper than a swung Katana.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad trying to stay in the middle of the road without getting run over.

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