Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Go on, say you're sorry.

500 years ago a small band of Spanish thugs and some local allies arrived at the capital of the Aztec empire, the city of Tenochtitlán that is now Mexico City, and began the process that would put an end to the indigenous culture of an entire people. Though almost entirely motivated by greed and savagery, they got one thing right - the Aztec religion was based on warfare and human sacrifice. If it existed today, it would be the subject of the sort of attention that the fanatics of the "Islamic State" have recently received.

What makes me bring up this topic (and it was part of my special subject for A level history so I do know a little bit about it) is the story in today's Guardian that the president of Mexico has written to Spain's king Felipe VI asking for an apology for all the nastiness of the conquest. The Spanish government has rejected the idea. They could, of course, have acceded with something on the following lines.

"Dear El Presidente,
I hope you are well, we are all quite well here and looking forward to the summer hols.
My mum told me I am awfully sorry about the bad things that were done long ago by some of the big boys and promise not to do it again, really, even though it wasn't me and it wasn't my fault. I accept that you will stop my pocket money until the royal palace has been reconstructed.
Felipe R.

That might be enough to prevent hordes of swaggering, sombrero-wearing banditos from marching on the Spanish embassy before firing bullets into the air, swigging tequila and then slumping down in front of the cantina as a protest but it will surely open the floodgates. What else might we expect?

  • Descendants of King Harold demand compensation from Queen Elizabeth II for an eye-related injury caused by her distant ancestor.
  • "Romans must apologise for Iceni massacre" says leader of Norfolk Council.
  • The RSPCA sues God for forcing animals into unnatural living conditions on the Ark
 and no doubt you can think of others.

If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this piece and need counselling or if you feel you have the basis for a valid claim against any historical personage on any grounds whatsoever then call us now. Terms and conditions apply and will be based on either current or historic laws according to whatever is most to our advantage. Claims against fictional characters, aliens from Tharg and anyone from before the Ice Age will not be considered.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dr. Commuter advises ... Mrs June*

* name disguised  

Dr. Commuter writes: Some times what seems perfectly rational behaviour to one person can, in reality, be obsessional and self-destructive. Symptoms include a refusal to accept what is apparent to everyone else, the belief that everyone else must be mistaken despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and the delusion that if something is repeated enough times it becomes true.

Recently I have been working with a lady whose high-powered position in public life means her anonymity must be protected. I have therefore used the back entrance to No 10 Downing Street and only the Cabinet Secretary has been privy to our meetings. Treatment begins with trying to reach an agreed starting point and then building up in stages as I win round the patient's confidence. For example I might say "It is a nice day today", to which she replies "Yes it seems to be".

I say "I did enjoy last night's EastEnders, such a richly realistic portrayal of everyday life" and she will nod approvingly.

Then I make the first attempt to alter her perceptions.
"Such a shame that your plan to leave the EU is being rubbished on all sides, isn't it?".
This is what we doctors call the moment of putting the boot in. From now on it could go one of two ways. If the patient is on the road to recovery she will say "You are absolutely right, what was I thinking of, I have nearly done great and utterly unnecessary damage to my country, I will think again". But if she replies "I am right, everyone else is wrong and all my enemies will be as dust beneath my chariot wheels for surely God will smite them for their disbelief" then, alas, I must book a further set of appointments and ask her to delay the Brexit process for another few months.


If you have any questions for Dr. Commuter please sit on them for a while as it does appear that the anonymous patient whose condition is discussed in this column is going to need a great deal of attention in the near future.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Poetry Corner

A type of short poem called a "Cherita" has recently come to my attention. Created in 1997 by Ai Li (who is also, I learn from her website, an evidential spiritualist medium) it take the form of a one line, two line and three line stanza. This makes for very short pieces indeed and you might think that if you buy one of her books you will get at least one of these fragments per page. Not so. Every other page is blank so that "the reader can pause and for the words to echo in the after silence"

Here is an example of a Cherita (I hope it is ok to reproduce but as it was on a flyer widely distributed in a public space I don't see why not). Starting each line in lower case seems to be the norm with this style, by the way.

your reading glasses

are still
where you left them

on an old page
the silverfish
miss you

I am not able to insert a blank page here because, well,  because this is a column on a Google blog not a printed book, so you'll just have to pause and imagine one while the words echo in the after silence. I find myself thinking about how I would go about squishing the silverfish and then trying to get the stains off the old page, and probably sitting on your reading glasses but that just serves you right for leaving them on the sofa in the first place.

I think the echoes will have died down by now and you should have the idea of Cheritas, and assuming the spirits are happy (Is there anybody there? No, I didn't really think so) here are a few of my own to get you pausing. Don't forget to add an after silence, length optional, as you read each one.


the computer monitor

is black
and not responding

oh why do these
windows updates
take so bloody long?


i hear a knock

is it the

no, it is
just another
pizza delivery leaflet


the platform is crowded

my train is not

many eyes strain
upward but the indicator board
gives no answer


masterchef is on the telly tonight

it would be nice to
have some peanuts

but there are none
the house


I think that's enough to be getting on with. If you would like to see your own efforts published in these columns please send them in to the usual address. Terms and conditions ... oh sod it, let's do this properly

terms and conditions apply

the editor's
decision is final

no correspondence
can be entered into
so don't waste our time with it, ok?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Identity Crisis

The Government's proposal to institute an age check on UK internet users who wish to visit pornographic websites is so staggeringly inept it would defy belief - would it not that these are the same people making our country a laughing stock over Brexit. They have, it appears (but this may not be confirmed) entrusted the verification process to a US business called MindGeek (and that name alone should put the shivers up anyone who cares about the misuse of personal data). MindGeek, I learn from The Guardian is itself in the pornography business through its ownership of a number of websites. It will run the checks through another subsidiary AgeID*

Apparently if you want to look at naughty things in future you must either supply your passport or driving licence or similar to AgeID or - and this really does make my mind boggle - buy a pass from your friendly local newsagent which will be valid on a particular device. Yes. Your newsagent.

Scene: A small village. A newsagent. At the counter Mr Jones busies himself marking up papers for delivery. Enter Mr Smith, a little nervously. He speaks quietly so that the old ladies having tea in the corner cannot hear.

Jones: "A fine morning to you, Mr Smith. How is young Jayne's rash doing?"
Smith "Clearing up thanks, Mr Jones."
Jones "And what can I do for you today? Your usual gums and a lottery ticket?"
Smith "Yes, yes of course... but actually I was wondering ... er, my friend was wondering ... he is doing some, ah, research, into art, yes, that's it, art, and there are certain websites he needs to visit and apparently for some of them he needs to prove his age and has to come here to have it done, as it were. He can't make it - he's laid up with the gout, poor chap - so he asked me if I could just get one of these pass things for him. To go on my iphone, which I shall be lending him later on. Er, you needn't tell Mrs Smith, she disapproves of art"
Jones "Yes of course Mr Smith. Your - er, your friend's privacy - is assured at all times. ENID, MR SMITH AT NUMBER 38 WANTS A PORN PASS, WHERE HAVE YOU PUT THEM?"

The stupidity of the Government, or whoever is advising them, lies in the following:
  • Giving huge amounts of sensitive personal data of UK citizens to an American commercial enterprise can only end badly. Unless AgeID is based here and controlled by responsible UK citizens subject to UK law then we might as well put the whole lot on the internet for sale to the highest bidder. Which will happen anyway as soon as this outfit gets hacked.
  • Giving the data to an outfit that has a vested interest in as many people seeing pornography as possible is like asking the Mafia to advise on a new anti-racketeering initiative.
  • What on earth stops an adult (say an 18 year old) handing his phone to his 17 year old mate and saying "Have a look a this, it's brilliant"?
  • What will stop the computer literate from signing up to a Virtual Private Network service, which will then obscure their IP address and spoof it such that the websites they subsequently connect to will not be able to identify them as UK-based?
  • The scheme relies on some sort of block being put in place by UK ISPs. Will they really be able to act quickly as new websites pop up to replace each one that is blocked?
  • And given the dreadful events in New Zealand, isn't it obvious that the real threat to us all is hate and extremism?

* Not to be confused with the highly respectable charity AgeUK, for which your correspondent used to do voluntary work.