Monday, 30 August 2010

That awkward first date

What do you do?

Oh, I'm just an office manger.

Do you?

Do I what?


Well, barely.

In the nude?

No, but sometimes by the skin of my teeth.

You know I used to be a man?

I wouldn't have guessed. Surgery?

No, I mean I used to be a man in a past life.

In a life before this one?


I see.

Do you?

Normally with both eyes, but the left one's a little short-sighted.

You're funny.

I like to see the sunny side.

No, I meant you're peculiar.

So, how long have you been playing the game?

Are you insinuating I'm a prostitute?

No – no! I meant the dating game. How long have you been at it?

Banging away?

Well, I wouldn't put it that way exactly.

And exactly how would you put it?

I'm sorry?

What for: what you've done or what you're about to do?

I'm not sure.

Are you a rapist?

God, no.

How would I know you weren't?

I don't know.

You don't know whether you're a rapist or not? I like spontaneity in a man. But I hate unpredictability.

The conversation continued. He couldn't prove he wasn't a pederast or rapist and neither could she prove was she wasn't a serial killer nor mass eugenicist – in this life or those past. They had become stale mates and agreed to stick to their same separate ways.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


This missive comes to you by way of a recommendation. I'm having a Hunter S Thompson day. And this day seems as good-a-day as any other. Though it could be be the liquor talking. Cabernet Sauvignon. A two bottle deal. Serviceable. And the FAIRTRADE blue and green Pac-Man logo assuredly implies that I can drink myself to impunity, knowing the corporations that fucked the Argentinian grape growers in the ass, wore biodegradable condoms.

That may explain the plastic taste. In any case, never trust the screw tops. The odd corked wine is the acceptable hazard of the dedicated professional and he is, byway of self-discipline and rigorous training, accustomed to such dangers.

Life on Mars

It was not long after “the greys” arrived, that rumours of abduction and strange sexual experiments began to proliferate in the chat-rooms and ride the skirt-tails of fringe electronic media hyper nodes. There were theories purporting to explain their modus operandi; however, the most plausible of these embraced the radical notion that there was no rationalisation; that they were simply space mad. But they hadn't started out that way. No one does, except the congenitally insane. No matter. What can be pieced together in the form of archival and declassified documents is, at best, an incomplete mosaic whose patina portrays a heady mixture of folklore, failure, fantasy and the odd thrown-in fact. "The greys", so the story went, were part of some über secret space programme to colonise Mars. They had launched - exactly when we do not know - amid a news blackout on a journey that would take them the best part of a year to complete. Apparently, the trip went smoothly. And, after nearly a decade on the dusty red orb, they had built for themselves a self-sustaining village. And, for a while, they were happy. The crew, now Martian terrain adjusted, comprised an even mix of gender, race and ethnicity; all got along in a gentle ambience of low-key amicability. Indeed, so busy were they building their village paradise, that no one really thought too much about the non-appearance of children. Perhaps it was just that, during the initial construction phases, there really wasn't a suitably stable environment to bring them into. The qualified medics among them ran the gamete of tests, while the soil scientists took endless sediment samples and the physicists measured the cosmic rays. When no conclusive explanation was forthcoming, paranoia set in. The ensuing factionalism fermented over the coming years, culminating in a showdown at the local post office over a lottery ticket (the exact sequence of events is sketchy at best). The survivors, many of them now in the autumn leafs of their lives, banded together under the agreement that they could no longer live together; went their separate ways, salvaging and scavenging scrap with which to build individual saucer-shape spacecraft, made their final return to Earth, sick on hope and to be home. Oh, and they wanted children badly.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The old Chinese ladder

If you sit on steps of the estate agent long enough, the property of your enemy will come floating back onto the market.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Selling intelligence

Welcome to intelligence 101 cadets. Now you'll have read the reading list. I'll take that as read. So today I want to pick out and focus on those poetic and prophetic words of that long gone Pentagon jerk-wad Rumsfeld: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.

We know there are things we don't know, sometimes we know the nature of what those unknowns are; other times we can only surmise - unless any of you here are omniscient - and that, no mater how well prepared we are for an assignment, there's always going to be something missed. Given that, we have to make a judgement call: what kind of thing or things could we have missed and, given that suspicion and our inability to confirm it either way, what impact could it have on our preparation; the actions and decisions, someone, somewhere down the line, usually on the ground, will have to make?

Take Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: we have a trade-off between choosing one known at the expense of forgoing another. Which known or unknown we choose will be driven by context, but at the very least we know that, what we cannot know in this case, cannot be known by me, by you, by us or by God. Even you omniscients have your hands tied from time to time. So what's my point cadets?

The element of the unknown is not always a surprise?

Exactly. What you have to do - what is crucial to working in intelligence - is figuring out where the actual surprises lay. More often than not, charting the unknown, more than the know, can give us the critical edge. For example, just as we are faced with unknowns, the target – A. N. Other – is also faced with unknowns. So we create a map: the bigger picture; we fill in what we know and then, at the very least, we can begin to delineate the the scale and scope of the unknowns. We give shape to them and those shapes will begin to interlock with each other and, in turn, sharpen the boundaries of what we actually think we know. By this method, we begin to anticipate what the target's options are. Those options aren't fixed: the name of the game is survival: adapt and change; change and adapt. Now if we can change and adapt faster than the target, chart the boundaries between knows and unknowns ahead of him, we have a winning advantage.

Keep in mind Boyd's OODA loop (Observe; Orient; Decide, and Act). We need to know what he doesn't know he knows before he knows he doesn't it. Okay. Now, keeping hold of this, I want you to go out onto the shop floor and find yourself a target. These targets have been assigned specific items to buy. Your task to infiltrate their decision making process in such a way that they end up deciding - they “think” they “decide” - to buy a toaster instead. And that, cadets, is how, if you're going to make it in retail, you get rid of slow moving stock. Tomorrow we will look at signing-up schmucks to high-interest store card deals and selling worthlessly expensive extended warranties.

Finally, you will have noted in Hume's Dialogues, that one of the arguments for taking seriously the possibility of the existence of God, is that "he" may be among the the unknown unknowns. But I ask you: how do we know that? Thank you for your attention. Dismissed.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Thought for the day

I am often puzzled by those that suggest “faith” and “belief” are distinct relational modes of responding to the world; that the former is irrational and the latter rational. I don't want to discuss what makes a belief reasonable (interesting though it is), rather: what is so unreasonable about faith? Some claim faith is that which arises in the absence of evidence, be that evidence of a logical and or experiential nature; and, that, indeed, it is in its very essence - somehow “essential” - to eschews such things. But I wouldn't call that “faith”; I even doubt that I could ascribe an accurate account of what that is; it is psychologically impossible to frame in a reasonable manner, that is, except in that it may serve some other, more narrowly defined, state; perhaps, as part of a wilful act of self-delusion to serve some emotional or intellectual need. For example, to act - by its very nature - as an unquestionable "rationale" and or "justification" for other actions, intents and deeds. That is not to say such a state of affairs is necessarily harmful - when it acts as motivational push towards charitable giving or, more generally, service to others less fortunate; though, of course, there is a downside, which may be characterised as indoctrination - “blind faith”- and then there's a kind of inverse selfishness to their unselfishness.

Faith cannot not rest upon the strength of conviction alone.

Faith is inductive by nature, for it extrapolates from past experience to predict the future. Those “acts of faith” can be said to be based on trends, or tendencies, for which we do not have an underlying, law-like explanation available with which to otherwise bridge or to connect the dots. A tendency is not a guarantee but expresses a pattern that may be embedded in a wider explanatory environment. For example, having faith that your team will win the cup. Now, as a supporter, you may have strong grounds for having faith that they will win the cup (consistent track record, quality back-up players in case of injury, strong team spirit, etc.); so much so, you may even believe it an “inevitability” but that faith-based belief based is not of the same order as, say, belief in the consistency in the results of a well-defined mathematical operation. No, it isn't. Now take another supporter's faith in another team with a distinctly underwhelming track record of inconsistencies, plagued by injuries, fractious relations between players, etc.; but granted all this, this team - on a good day - is capable of taking on stronger teams and winning; and, upon that basis, the supporter has faith in his team. They can do it. Win the cup. And that is not unreasonable, however: is it more reasonable for the latter supporter, rather than the former, to hold his faith and, therefore, conversely less unreasonable for the latter such that the latter should re-evaluate his - or at least the strength thereof - faith in this light? It's tempting to say so when we look at it so narrowly, but what of the “bigger picture”? Is not our respective supporters' faiths part of some wider cultural phenomenon in which it is acceptable and even desirable to enjoy such faiths? The point at which the fan's faith boarders on fanaticism and evolves into something all-consuming, is the point at which it becomes destructive towards the rational process itself and has an erosive - corrosive - effect on the wider community of reason. No matter, belief and faith are intimately related.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A ballard of our times

Read red all about it![*] Suicide couple and he with-terminal-cancer husband and she end-of-rope wife and suffocating plastic bag pact failure and wife gone and bag too small and phoning friend begging for something baggier and later dies hospital bed alone; and so separated father and with learning disabilities son pillow-smothered and while he hangs by wedged belt - and toes touching floor - from tall Victorian interior door; and not mention mentioning celebrity couple and she accidental prescription cocktail overdose as he mourns aside her sleeping mother's instead and in their marital bed and before expiring of unknown causes (toxic household molds and most likely); and together with bankrupt investment banker on hackneyed heath dangling from thickly branch tree and escort girls taunt his impotent potential for thirty silvery pieces and impression under it was an expensive game and family now at home waiting daddy too lame; and not forgetting talented teenage girl, apparently over qualified, and jumping from multistory car park, unhitched and Facebook ditched, and by her uncertain boyfriend, and falling dark heavily; and, to end on lighter note, naked vicar falling heavily on anally-self-inserting potato wedged, and when hanging curtain - his footing uncertain - and or so he told the medical staff (though no one laughed and or of embarrassment die).

*(Based on true stories - human crashes, at least as they were press-reported.)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Slap my flappy junk

I just don't swallow it. In any case, chew over this: Clearly humans are not just meat - "meat" is a pretty ambiguous term, loosely, read as: "that part of the animal which can be used for food". What is odd about this very limited and misleading characterisation, is that it appears the "aliens" are not themselves meat eaters and, so, why would their chosen adjective for us be "meat"? It is not even as if we would, exclusively, or even predominately, choose it as a defining - if somewhat cannibalistic - epithet for ourselves. Having said that, they (the "aliens") appear to smoke, which is suggestive of lungs and a respiratory system and, if the evidence of the cups on the table is anything to go by, they also drink, which is suggestive of a metabolic system at least comparable, in some way, to our own. Though, of course, we don't see them take a drink; nor do we see smoke. Their appearance may be merely a convenient projection ... perhaps visually alluded to as they "dematerialise" towards the conclusion ... yet, earlier, one of them explains to the other: "You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise?" (or some such phraseology), which also suggests they are at least capable of interacting with the world on a physical basis; they can embed themselves, or are embedded in, solid matter. In what form, we are left to guess, except, presumably, it isn't "meat", but something capable of sensory feedback ("slap"; "flap"; and "sound"). Anyway, so the "meat" can "communicate" through machines and the "meat", in some sense, can also embed itself in the machines, though the meat does "the thinking" through them - how this is possible is not explained, but one assumes that the "meat" crafts the machines to reflect, in some analogical processes, their "meat" thinking. So, the "aliens" don't want to further their contact with the "meat", because, "Who wants to meet meat?" - presumably they are referring to some property of meat, or perception thereof, that makes it (rationally?) undesirable to interact with, yet it is unclear what that quality is, or the class of things encompassed by the "who". Perhaps, the ultimate irony is, both the "aliens" and "meat" are sentient beings, but they would choose not to interact with us based on the stuff we are (or are not) "embedded" within, yet, by their own argument, the "meat" can embed itself in non-meat machines (and, therefore, is not merely confined to - defined alone - by "meat"). Indeed, the very fact that communication is possible (they can grasp "meat" thoughts), suggests that the stuff sentient both beings are embedded "in" does not entirely characterise their sentience (thought is not the same as meat or whatever they are made of); hence we could describe this short film as indulging in absurdism. Ham-fisted absurdism.

Victory is hollow. Don't dine out on it.

The cheek is firmly in my tongue.

See also:

Bot-on-bot chat

Friday, 13 August 2010

Psychic defence

So what am I thinking now?

You're thinking this guy's a fraud, he can't really read minds.

That's impressive.

Thank you.

Now tell me why I thought that.

Why? Why what?

What was my intention in thinking that – was it, for example, to confuse you?

I ... I don't understand?

Are you confused now?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Once bitten, twice shy

A customer - indeed a regular by all accounts - appeared from the back of the bookshop and accosted the sales assistant.

You appear to be out of toilet roll.

Ah ha! Have you tried looking under “historical fantasy”?

I beg your pardon?!

The assistant hopped onto the nearby ladder, shimmed his way up to the top, levered a particularly fat tomb from the highest shelf; then, sliding back down again, placed the book squarely in the customer's hands.

I see now how you could of missed it.

No, no, how very droll, this is “Twilight Roll”; I said, “toilet roll”.

Let me unpack how this relatively unamusing, and largely inconsequential, misunderstanding occurred. The book in question, “Twilight Roll”, was a sort of prequel-prequel - commissioned by the estate of the never nether-popular author of the teen vampire series, “Twilight” - set in the insanitary conditions of medieval Europe at the onset of a dysentery epidemic that threatens to dwindle a town of town dwellers to naught, which - by an unhealthy mixture of coincidence and parasitic symbiosis - also threatens to diminish the local vampires' food stock to naught, whereupon one, long-in-the-tooth, vampire elder and his youthful assistant (who has fallen in love with a a local lass with terminal ass trouble) invents toilet roll; thus saving the day and on the very eve of mass extinction, AKA,“The Dark Ages”.

Advanced praise:

“Remains with the reader long after loved ones and those nearest and dearest have passed away.”

“Not just your bog-standard prequel-prequel.”

“Completely wipes away the recycled cliché that otherwise passes for niche historical, teen vampire, fantasy fiction.”

“Bound to be flush with success – let's hope this is the beginning, and not end, of a roll!

Shut the door, switch the latch, sit down, relax and then prepare to be bowled over.

Not only lifts the lid, but is also not just content to sit on the rim.

Surprisingly lengthy, but I couldn't stop once I started!

More cunning than the Chinese game of Go.

Too tightly plotted for prolapsed prose.

An underground classic that wont be buried.

Squeezes every last drop of emotion.

Will rival Roth's Human Stain.”

Finally, aGone With The Wind for vampire lovers.

More poetic than Browning.

Will drive you round the bend.

Made all the right links.

Not afraid to break the surface.

“A gut wrenching rites-of-passage story.

It will leave its mark.

I felt it go right though me.

“Bound to create a splash.

An immense release.

Set to make waves.

Full of moral fibre.

Drove me potty!

One to log.

Wipe out!

Totally moving.

Slam dunk!

I didn't want it to finish.

Keep them coming!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Sod 'em all

Abraham-Abraham spoke to God about that business ...

That business? Refresh my memory.

Yeah, you know, your stated intention to wipe out those city sinners.

What of it?

Well, what if there were, I don't know, fifty good men - women included - in that city? Surely it's not fair to exterminate them all?

You have a point, I suppose, at least on the surface of it; so, I concede, it does seem a little unfair that the minority should suffer for the majority.

About that, what if there were forty-five? forty? thirty? twenty? or even ten good people?

I see what what you've done there: the slippery slope argument, but suppose there's just one good person among this den of inequity. Should I turn a blind eye to the sins of the multitudes? Is it okay to ignore the mass beating, raping and stealing?

But by killing that one person - let's call it "murder" for that's what it is - are you not also participating in indiscriminate violence and, by doing so, tacitly endorsing it? You know, lead by example?

I'd hardly call one person's death indiscriminate, not when weighed against the consequences of woolly, yogurt knitting, laissez faire, non-interventionism. It hardly even counts as collateral damage.

It counts for one. Okay, okay, anyway, but here's the thing that confuses me ... mass murder is not really interventionism, if the intention is to change people's behaviour for the better, right?

Go on.

Is there no way in which you can help these people change or, at the very least, why can't you simply remove the sinners and leave that one - that one good person - alone? Surely that's within the purview of the all powerfully? Surely their life and deeds are worth something? Surely, you treat each and every individual on their own merit and not by the rule of mob they just happen to be caught up with?

Yeah, that's really the purpose of final judgement, once they get to meet their maker - moi, we can work these things out.

Isn't that, I don't know, lazy? Horse bolted, the closing gates, etc.? You ever read Kafka's "The Judgement"?

And your point? – don't over indulge my patience.

So what's the point of bothering living if, in the end, good only counts after you end? If you are excluded from the process of judgement, except as a character witness in the epilogue, by which time the story has ended, what's the point of participation? And, while we're at it, about that indulgence, is not your patience infinite?

It's not the end, it's the beginning of the end!

That's all a bit retrospective – retroactive judgement ... let me tell you a story: one day a Christian is about on his business when he hears a cry for help ...

What's a Christian?

It's an anachronism, but you should already know that, back to the story: At first, he cannot locate the source of a call for assistance; however, after much searching, he comes across a well from which he distinctly hears the estranged voice pleading. Without deliberation, the Christian unpacks from his backpack a length of rope and lowers it down the well. After much heaving and a-tugging, the fallen individual is hoisted to the surface. The individual in question thanks the Christian and remarks upon his random fortune to be saved by someone who happens to have a rope handy. “Oh, that was no lucky accident,” says the Christian, “I always keep it with me just in case I come across someone who has fallen down a well.” “Why would you do that,” asks the individual, “ I never miss an opportunity to further my case for eternal heaven before the final judgment.” “Isn't that a little selfish?” asks the individual. “Not really,” replies the Christian, “I didn't make the rules.” A bit of a cop-out no?

With each concurrent question from Abraham-Abraham, God's voice diminished to the point of inaudibility and then the skies opened with the brilliant fire of volcanic, violent vengeance and vanquished the city dwellers.

“I don't know why I bother.” Muttered Abraham-Abraham under his breath. His patience was a testament.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Strategic philanthropy

The billionaire, informality his formality, attired in signature casual wear - the working blue jeans and black, stain-resistant, long-sleeved, roll-fold-neck, sweat shirt combo: no conspicuous label overhangs; stray tags a-dangling; legible or illegible legends; solo logos; chivalric crests: cryptic allusions, attributions or encrypted illusions; popular or unpopular nomenclatures; religious and/or secular symbols; nostalgic heraldics, quixotic quotes; iconic idents - certainly no Che Guevara bravade - images, montages or tethered totems. Visibly inconspicuous. Not supermarket budget brand, but richly unassuming consumption. Except the colour-coded wristband. An uncharitable give away. Subtly Needy.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The not so great depression

The homely, gnome-like and distinguishably gnarled personage stepped, stooped, bearded and bespectacled, out from the front of the recently re-branded Federal Reserve – now FED-UP! (it was thought that the addition of “UP!” would engender positive - uplifting - connotations) – and, saying nothing, he simply arched an eyebrow to indicate to the world markets that the “rescue package” was ready to be launched. His name was Ben Noah, Chairman of FED-UP! (also known as Ben Dover to his friends).

The packs of feral hacks - “media correspondents” - went hog wild.

With that one asymmetric see-saw of the brow, a signal was sent directly to the dingily-lit FED-UP! basement where a single clerk stood (at the phalanx of a specially trained troop of apes) and pressed the numeral "1" button on the single-keyed keyboard before him. This in turn triggered a wave of zero-only-keyboard ape key-clicking that rose to form a cricket-like cacophony.

Overhead, a luminescent digital-readout racked the unaccountably massing zeros after the one “1”.

100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 [...] 0.

Soon filling the entire display like a caterpillar on speed until it moved to to-the-power-of mathematical shorthand.

It certainly beat the old fashioned printing press.

Soon the world was flooded with dollars watering down people's saving and investments until they were washed away in a tsunami of naughts; meanwhile, the board of FED-UP! were tasked with collecting two of every special investment vehicle they could lay claim to before they were all worthlessly extinct. Perhaps, sometime in the future, they could multiply again. The business cycle must go on.

Monday, 2 August 2010

The windmills of your mind

Alpha-Alpha stood with his hands behind his back, which was unusual, given he was usually milling them at top speed - like a frenzied bear at a picnicker massacre - when he was angry or excited or excitedly angry or angrily excited, which he usually was.

I have a little test for you QT. Step in. Step in. Don't loiter like a kerb crawler.

Yes Sir.

What ... what would you do if I told you I had a box and that box had a button and by pressing that button you could instantly eradicate the entire human race?

It's not the sort of thing you're likely to have ... is it Sir?

Don't prevaricate QT. Do or die time.

Surely that's don't do and live? Er? Okay, well, I'd take a mental note of the fact Sir, just in case the information became useful at some future juncture.

Alpha-Alpha started milling his arms as if they were attached to uncoiling springs slowly gathering momentum. It was then QT noticed, rotating in one gripped hand, the small black box with a transparent dome under which, what looked like a red button, was housed.

QT, were you born an imbecile and then with every passing moment leading up to this point in time degenerated backwards?

Sir, I'm confused.

Confused would be a higher state of being for you QT.

Alpha-Alpha stopped swinging the one arm, the one with box and button and held it just below QT's nose as if he wanted him to scratch and sniff it.

Let me make this real simple: here's the button, press it QT.

But Sir, I thought I had a choice?

Yes you do, except it's now the one – and that's the one I'm offering you to tell you to do!

I can't do that Sir, even if the impulse to might occur to me once in a while ... surely we all have those moments ... but they pass right? Don't they? I mean, who am I to make that choice for all of us?

Tell me QT, can you imagine a world without yourself?

No, not really Sir, because I would be trying to imagine my own absence which would also be implicitly an act of asserting my presence, which is surely self defeating ... n'est pas?

An excellent point QT but I, however, could imagine a world without you. Now, imbibe that cup of wisdom from my overflowing font of managerial excellence and never forget the majesty of its eternal teachings.

Er, as you wish Sir.

You can now leave QT, this isn't some back room peep-show you know.

Yes Sir.

And with that, QT left Alpha-Alpha arms a-spinning.

The job was beginning to grind him down.