The Life and Opinions of Kapitano Shandy


I've been starting to write a lot of posts, but not finishing them over the last few days - and so not posting. Rather than knock them into shape or throw them away, here's the posts what I did wroted, as they stand.

I seem to have been quite opinionated lately.

Friday.

"Mayor of London" sounds like an honourary title with no power. Unfortunately it comes with quite a lot of power, which until yesterday was in the hands of Ken Livingstone - arch-sellout and one of those politicians who's always been a former socialist. Everyone knows that in the past he was a good principled leftist - but if you pick any point in his career, it was in some indeterminate period before that.

Now the mayor is Boris Johnson - arch-buffoon and rightwing muppet. This is the man who was invited on chatshows because he was guaranteed to be ignorant, offensive and opinionated - but it was funny because he was harmlessly silly. Now he's a big voice in the capital city.

Sometimes it's nice when the boss is a blithering idiot, because then the sensible people a few layers down can actually make things work without interference. Unfortunately those below Boris don't want to make things work - they just want to make money.

There was supposed to be a serious challenge from a genuinely left candidate, Lindsey German, but initially promising public support just evaporated. Seeing as I'm somewhere in the Russian-doll-like structure of left groups she represented, I'll have to go to some dispirited meetings to discuss the disaster. While avoiding words like "disaster" and "meltdown".

Saturday.

SkyOne reimagined Battlestar Galactica - as an angsty soap opera. The BBC reimagined Doctor Who - as an angsty soap opera. The movie reimaginings of Spiderman, Fantastic Four, The X-Men and now Ironman are full of handsome youngsters with superpowers getting caught up in their tedious emotions.

Now SkyOne are trying to reimagine Blake's 7, and I for one hope they fail. B7 Enterprises tried the same thing and got bogged down in egos and truely abysmal scripts about telepathic badgers, before eventually turning out some audio adventures that, astoundingly, were quite good.

SkyOne also recently tried to remake The Prisoner recently, an endevour which thankfully fell to ego clashes before the abysmal scripts could even be written. You think I'm being unfair? Then imagine The Prisoner - ambiguous, enigmatic, left-leaning with zero love interest - filtered through the puerile minds that gave us Roswell High and Mutant X.

There's a reason all these old shows and comics are being reprocessed. It's because those in the entertainment business are cowards with no imagination. They're afraid to take risks, afraid of anything new and afraid to pitch above the lowest denominator.

There's also a reason why these new-for-old products are uniformally crap. And it's the same reason.

Sunday.

Item on the news: There is a "huge number" of illegal immigrants in the UK - "up to 57,000". And it would cost "the taxpayer" five million pounds to deport them all.

Some thoughts on this, in no particular order:

* The take-home message: "There's an army of them, they steal our wages, then they rob us again just so we can get rid of them."

* Supporting a faltering economy by removing its supply of invisible labour is...an innovative approach to economics.

* Five million pounds is a tiny amount. It would be a large personal fortune for the taxpayer, whoever that is, to pay. In governmental terms, it's a droplet in the ocean.

* "Up to 57,000" doesn't mean "57,000", just like "you could win up to a million dollars" doesn't mean "If you win you'll get a million dollars".

* 57,000 is one in a thousand people in the UK. Now, if you're extremely gregarious you might know a hundred people. If each of them knows a hundred people, with no overlap, then you might know one person who knows one person who's an illegal immigrant. Truly a mighty army.

* Some civil servant was instructed to quantify the unquantifiable - to count the number of people who aren't in a database. So most likely they pulled the figure of "maybe one in a thousand" out of the air, and it became the official figure.

* We're now casually talking about "deporting them all".

* This country stinks. My instinct is to leave, and in a few years if the smell has faded somewhat, then think about coming back. Maybe.

Monday.

Today I got covered in shit and cut my wrists.

The shit was dried pigeon poo, covering the neglected books and furniture I was carting up and down stairs. The wrists are from stray metal nails in some of the furniture I (rather gleefully) smashed up with a hammer to make it fit in the skip.

The less smashworthy furniture was taken away by a white van that happened to be passing. A local landlord saw by chance that we were throwing stuff out on the street for anyone to take if they wanted it...and somewhat eagerly offered to take it all. He bought us canned beers too.

The fellow obviously thought he was ripping off some gullible rich folk. When he tries to install the furniture in whatever property he's renting out to nonrich folk, he may change his mind.

Tuesday.

A day of quiet house-sitting while my parents relax in their little holiday cottage, munch on a picnic, walk the dogs, and doze.

A day for getting an OD of TV on TVOD, including three CSIs (of the Los Angeles flavour), two Waking The Deads, and Derren Brown's Trick or Treat - in which Brown appeared to teach an ordinary man to memorise facts from hundreds of books in a week. From what was shown, he used a hybrid of Howard Berg's "Mega Speedreading" (with its use of spaced fingers as an eye guide) and Paul Scheele's "Photoreading" method (with its notion of letting all the info sink into the subconscious, which then regurgitates the relevant facts in cryptic form when needed).

Now, Berg's method does work, but needs years of constant practice. Scheele's method, so far as I know, simply doesn't work - the only evidence I've seen is both positive and anecdotal, which is a sure sign of a con.

So how did Brown or the man do it? Brown says he doesn't use stooges - but he also says he uses NLP, which is obviously untrue because NLP has always been a dismal failure. Not surprising, as it's based on Dianetics and EST, with sprinklings of misunderstood early chomskyian grammar and cod freudian psychology.

Derren Brown is a showman and a magician - doubly untrustworthy. If he were a politician too he'd be off the scale.

He demonstrated the effectiveness of his memorisation technique by instantly committing to memory the positions of a thousand or so coffee beans - so he could spot the single bean added when he wasn't looking. As I recall, the world record for memorising the sequence of a deck of cards (using mnemonics) is twenty seven seconds. So either Derren brown is several orders of magnitude better than the world record holder...or it's a magic trick.

Most magic is insultingly simple, and the simplest of all is to use a stooge, and the simplest way to convince viewers you're not using a stooge is to lie about it, just like you lie about everything else in your act.

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