Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Ship of Theseus

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrus Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question as to things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending it was not the same.
(Plutarch 1880, 7-8)

Consider this: A wooden ship of old is exalted beyond all other seafaring vessels and the proud townsfolk decide to maintain the ship in the harbour in pristine condition. Every year a plank of wood is replaced. This continues for many long year until every original plank, the rigging and every bronze nail has been supplanted. The ship looks exactly the same as the day it was commissioned, with all pomp and ceremony and much  blustering by self important officials culminating with the then incumbent Mayoress, Dame Lilly Magumbo, shattering a bottle of ‘Blue Nun’ on its glistening newly commissioned hull. I’m staring to digress. The ship even displays the same name plate, ‘Salty Ferret’ and conforms to all the original dimensions in every regard. The point is: Although every piece of the original ship has been changed we end up with a structure that looks the same as the original ship and bears the same name. Would you consider this to be the same ship that slid off the slipway all those eons ago? 

Consider a second scenario: During the protracted restoration process a long line of boat yard enthusiasts decide to collect all the old pieces of the original ship and lovingly preserve the discarded bits. You know the type. The sort of folk who  hang around train stations with a notebook, pencil, single lens reflex camera and a hope in their heart that they will catch a glimpse of the 2.13pm Dudley to Tipton express. Invariably they work as office clerks and share a slovenly house with an elderly widowed mother with a penchant for cats.    

Said enthusiasts decide, after a very long collection period, to rebuild the original ship in all its majestic glory. After toil, lovingly given, a new/old ship is completely restored and floats resplendent next to the ‘Salty Ferret’. The enthusiasts ponder mightily, and after much deliberation and consideration, unanimously decide to call the ‘new’ ship, ‘Salty Ferret’. The townsfolk are nonplussed and discombobulated and berate the enthusiasts, thusly: “Hold hard Sir, we already have the original ‘Salty Ferret’ here in the harbour. Tis imperative that you name this impostor ship by another moniker- why not call it ‘Salty Ferret II’. But the upstarts (for it is they) retort: “Surely, our ship is the true ‘Salty Ferret’ as it contains all the original wood and rigging. Your ship, Sir, is the impostor”.

So which ship is the correct ‘Salty Ferret’? Those who hold dear in their heart the version that endured eons of despoliation and repair or those who hold true to the version lavishly constructed from the original material? What we can agree upon is that both ships cannot be the original ‘Salty Ferret’- or can they?

This is not a trivial question as it may first seem. It carries grave metaphysical consequences which have engaged clever minds for well over two thousand years and questions our fundamental conception of what is ‘identity through time'. We know that the human body changes all its cells over a period of approximately seven years. During this time interval our cells are gradually replaced and from the perspective of physical composition we are not the same organism that existed seven years ago, nevertheless we are still considered the same person. In simple terms we consider the object more than the some of the parts. And from this viewpoint both ships can lay legitimate claim to be the original 'Salty Ferret' albeit separated by material and construction. Confusing, ain't it?

Stretching the concept to the human condition, once again: What happens at the time of death? Surely the body is just a vessel and once life has ceased the person no longer remains even though, initially at least, the material composition is virtually identical to the state of life just prior to biological death. Our human existence and identity is clearly more than the accumulation of cells and even biological activity. Does our essence lie exclusively within the neurons and tissue of the brain? Is what makes us an individual- consciousness? What is consciousness anyway and how is it related to the myriad of interconnected neurons and electrical activity? Those of a religious inclination would suggest that continuity is maintained through the conception of the soul. This is, to me, a highly unsatisfactory explanation. And I would argue that it offers no new rational information to an already dense and opaque problem. After all, are we not simply layering an unintelligible concept onto an already complex and obscure problem?

I've strayed from our mythical ship and extended the metaphor into dark, murky philosophical territory. A deceptively simple problem, at least on first appraisal, has become intellectually abstruse and probably unsolvable by mortal minds. Contemplation of this and similar questions deepens our understanding of existence (maybe) even though we seem no closer to any firm and intellectually satisfying solution. All the best questions in life, the ones that enrich our intellectual existence, are invariably elusive and ultimately unanswerable.      

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Macrocephaly and other jolly japes........

Shit on a stick!

Make-up on: check. Ragged skirt: check. Stylish purple bag: check. Tits hanging out of top: double check. Have you noticed the cellulite?  Frankly I can't see anything else.

Dat man's got a big head. I suspect this felon/melon resisted arrest and received a little light attention around the noggin with assorted cudgels. Otherwise we have to assume that his head is always this shape- reminiscent of a light bulb. Should we chortle at this man's lamentable predicament? Yes, except on the planet Kroton where it is deemed to be bad taste.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Woe unto the Tiptonites!

Woden sees all

Lo, in the land of the Tiptonites, the High Priestess went forth unto the land and declared a census of all the people. I come with tidings of great felicity and declare that on the eighth day of the sixth month there shall be a tally of great import.

And the populace did roll their eyes and whispered thusly, O bugger.

And they waxed wroth against the High Priestess and said, Didst thou not sware, unto the multitude, that thou wouldst not call an early election?

And the High Priestess said, Yea, I lied. For Brexit descend upon us, and I must contend with the Europeanites and sundry wretched tribes. And I must put on the armour of a strong majority in the people’s house. Therefore go ye out and be counted.

And there came from the temple pollsters, who said, Surely this woman will wax great. For her enemy is chaff and shall be dispersed to the four winds like dispersed things. For the enemy is shite and found wanting. Surely the sword of righteousness will cut them down like ripe corn.

And the High Priestess said, No shit.

And there came from the wastelands a wastrel prophet, whose name was Jeremiah. He came from the political wilderness and his beard was long enough to hide a brace of ferrets. His garments were dishevelled and smelt of pee. And he whispered  in a small voice, Behold, I bring you new taxes.

And suddenly there was a host of young people who harked at his proclamation. And he said unto them, Ye shall study and grow wise in all things, and I shall not ask ye for gold. And the sick shall be made well. And he promised unto them all manner of goodly things with money that belonged to him not at all.

And the young people said unto him, How shall these things be rendered unto us, seeing that thou hast no gold or silver in thy bare coffers?

And he spake unto them in a voice of booming bass and said, Soak the middle-class for the rich evade my wiles and the poor have fuck all except wide screen tellies.

And the young folk said, we like these words muchly. Woe to the 'boomers' for they will be punished until the fourth generation for their folly!

And they hearkened unto the word of Jeremiah, and fell hook line and sinker for his honeyed words. For they said unto themselves, Lo, he bringeth unto us the desire of our hearts. He cometh by bicycle, with a mighty helm strapped to his ragged, lice ridden bonce. And he eateth neither flesh nor fowl, according to the Scriptures. For man cannot live by bread alone, but tofu is quite okay.

And the High Priestess saw all these things and waxed with ire. And she gathered unto her the chief scribes and the Pharisees and said unto them, What the fuck is going on?

And they said unto her, Tis merely an aberration and not reflective of reality; freteth not.

But they sayest unto themselves, When the multitude upheld her Standards, this woman was formidable. But now that she has gone abroad unto every corner of the land, she stumbleth. For surely it is written in the scrolls that ruling multitudes requires a wisdom not given to all.

And the Pharisees spake amongst themselves, saying, Jeremiah’s tongue drippeth with falsehood and spittle. He hides intention within his threadbare cloak. And he means to spend gold that belongs to others.

And nobody paid any attention, because they failed maths at scribe school.

And the Elders rose up and said to the young people, If ye vouch for Jeremiah, he will bring great wailing. And perhaps even gnashing of teeth. Do ye not remember the plague of ferrets in the 1970s?

And the young people said, What the fuck is the 1970s?

And the Elders spake again, and said to the young people, Hark, for he gave solace in olden times to the I.R.A.

And the young people said, The what?

And the young people said, Jeremiah will bring us prosperity by taking money from those who toil greatly. Surely we will not have to lift a finger but profit from the sweat of others. And he will break the engines of war. The Trident shall be blunted and cast to the bottom of the sea. And he showeth respect for all peoples, even unto Gypos and other assorted scum and weirdos.

And the Elders tore the clothes from their breast and lamented sorely.

And it came to pass that the Islamites came into the land, with the sword, and engines of destruction. And many of the heads of the faithful flopped unto the floor. And great was the lamentation.

And the High Priestess waxed exceeding wroth and said to the people, I shall right the transgressions and take sword and fire to the Islamites. And there came again pollsters from the temple, who said, Will the people not vote for her in this hour of need?

And the multitude of the Tiptonites heedeth not at all.

And it came to pass that the potsherds where thrown on the ground to be counted.

And the Elders went up to vote, as did the young people. And the young people were as a mighty host. And in the hours of darkness there was much counting. And there came in the morning news that the High Priestess had vanquished the prophet Jeremiah but only by a ferret's whisker. And the High Priestess was super-pissed. And in her vexation she gnashed her teeth verily.

And there was great carousing amidst the young horde. And they imbibed strong wine, and did feast upon suckling kebabs and the streets did run with urine.
And of the pollsters there was no sign. For as usual, they had fucked up mightily and fucked off.

And the people saw Jeremiah and said, surely this man has won? Doth he not sayeth so?

And there was great murmuring among the Elders. And they said unto themselves, Fear not. For the High Priestess doth but prepare the way for the one who is greater than she.

And they said, Behold, for the hour of the redeemer is upon us. And his name shall be called Bright, the Prince of Light. His hair will shine like spun gold. And they cried in one voice, Boris the Redeemer.

And the young people said, Oh, fuck. And the Pharisees said, Oh fuck.

And the Lord saw the whole thing, laughed and went back to playing golf (three under par).  

And then the people said, Lord, what shall we do regarding Brexit? For henceforth the High Priestess shall be as weak as a newborn ferret with a gammy leg. How shall we hope for continued access to the single market?

And the Lord sayeth, Looks like you are all well and truly, fucked.

So endeth the lesson......

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Tis National Taser Day

Tipton celebrates national Taser Day! The mayor of Tipton, Mr Enoch ‘Baby Doc’ Vowel proudly encouraged Tipton denizens to take part in the celebration of Taser inspired festivities and inaugurated Tipton’s free ‘Taser Booth’ in the High Street. Citizens can now receive over 500,000 volts totally gratis in what is described as the ultimate hair-raising experience. Within 15 minutes of the booth becoming live, a queue stretching down the High Street had formed and a carnival-like atmosphere descended upon the populace like a miasma of doom. A lifelong resident of the soporific  town, Mrs Edna O’Mugumbo, had this to say as she snaked through the grime and vermin infested street: “Oooh yes, it reminds me of the war when we had to queue for a thimbleful of eggs and rat droppings as that nice Mr Hitler rained down incendiaries,  high explosive and Rudolph Hess upon our scrofula encrusted heads".

Bring out your dad
Later today, gangs of Taser laden thugs will roam the begrimed streets looking for the hapless elderly with heart conditions. Mr Vowel proudly announced, “It will do the old folk a power of good to receive a high voltage jolt across the chest”. When asked about the possibility of deaths as a consequence of Taser-related japes, Vowel exposited thusly: “This time of year is always a bumper period for elderly demise and we see no reason why this shouldn’t continue. This initiative is in no way connected with the council led plan to reduce the spending on old age benefits by 90%. This will be achieved by natural wastage”.

Mr Khan, of Mr Khan’s Cheap, Crap, Emporium of Total Shit, was delighted and enthused at the prospect of dumping loads of cheap, tacky, Chi damaged, but highly effective Tasers, on the general public.

Little Tommy Atkins (of no fixed abode) had already converted his latest widget/fidget spinner- ‘Malcolm the Magnificent’ into a deadly Taser of ultimate destruction. “Yea it’s great, innit. I can chuck it into a crowd and watch as it causes a vast swathe of writhing twitching bodies, innit. I haven’t had this much fun since Kim un-Jong (no relation) visited the Principality and personally bestowed unto me the ultimate accolade: 'Medal for not dying of malnutrition in a totalitarian state".

Nuff Said.

Tiny Tim at the 'Medal Cemetery'

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Operation Snowflake

There is a part of society, mostly young, but not exclusively so, that are self centred, self seeking,  unrepentant and entitled. They criticise the older generation: we have destroyed economic security; we have robbed the wealth so the young will remain poor; we are smug hypocrites that secretly control the world! Haha, haha haha, haha (that's supposedly diabolical laughter). They seem to forget that the vast majority of us older folk are entirely powerless to affect and influence wider economic forces. If we have economic security it's because we worked bloody hard for it.  We, as a collective, have not conspired to ensure that younger generations are economically shafted. Destiny lies within the hands of the individual. The world is indeed a tough place, but it has always been so. No one profits from whining. Endeavour and hard work are no guarantee to success, but sitting on your arse whingeing and moaning achieves nowt but frustration and inaction. Go do shit.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Tuesday's Bollocks

The above abstract snatched from a 'research paper' is clearly a spoof and penned by two philosophy professors under assumed names. They claim no expertise in the area of 'gender studies' and made no effort to research the topic in hand, whatsoever. The difference between my particular brand of madness and the above is that the above was published in a supposed academically respectable, open access, journal. A journal which operates a peer review process. Peer review is the Gold Standard for weeding out poor quality papers and downright fraud. Or indeed pranks carried out by academics with a wicked sense of humour.

The paper managed to get published in a journal which operates the pay to publish model. In this case, the cost of publishing an article is met by the author(s). For the privilege, you should expect to pay about US$600. The viewing public, just a small clutch of academics, can access the journal article for free. Compare this to the established publishing method where the author pays nothing.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the pay to publish model if it operates correctly and abides by rigorous academic review standards. I wrote an article a while back about the pay to view publishing method where I illustrated a few of its pitfalls. You can access it here.

If the abstract cited is a foretaste of what is to come, the main body of the article should be a hoot and a masterpiece of derision and quiet absurdity. And frankly, we are not disappointed. Consider these choice snippets. The opening sentence.......
The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.

And this....
The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.

Manspreading — a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide — is akin to raping the empty space around him.

Burn me now, for surely I am a sinner.

The conceptual penis presents significant problems for gender identity and reproductive identity within social and family dynamics, is exclusionary to disenfranchised communities based upon gender or reproductive identity, is an enduring source of abuse for women and other gender-marginalized groups and individuals, is the universal performative source of rape, and is the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.

Climate change and gender studies- of course, there must be a coherent connection. Why didn't I notice it before? 

The paper continues with 3,000 words of unmitigated drivel and nonsense, all in a similar vein. And so it goes on. The paper is patently ridiculous and ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that the penis shouldn’t be thought of as the male genital organ but as damaging social construction. The authors place a lot of jargon-laced crap that is consistent with this kind of ‘gender studies' insanity/inanity, such as: 'post-structuralist discursive gender theory’ and ‘gender-performative, highly fluid social construct’.

Although the paper is obviously absurd it did hit the necessary trigger points for publication in a ‘gender studies’ journal. The main thrust of the learned piece is easy understood despite the impenetrable jargon: maleness is bad and the penis even more so. The penis is a nasty phallocentric hegemonic cudgel berating wimmin everywhere and doubly so in malaria infested Congo. From there we can earnestly argue that the penis is irrevocably linked to global warming through mechanisms involving the rape of the ozone layer as the member thrusts skywards, glistening and moist on a rampant rampage of sticky tumescence (steady Flaxen). Here is the relevant passage in the paper relating penises and global warming. Concerning the penis: an enduring source of abuse for women and other gender-marginalised groups and individuals, is the universal performative source of rape, and the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.

One of the esteemed reviewers raved thusly: “It capturs [sic] the issue of hypermasculinity through a nonlinear process”. Makes perfect sense especially after drinking 15 pints of Auld Ferret, superior ale.

The fact that this piece was published underscores how ridiculous ‘gender studies’ has become. A field driven by ideology and hate propagated by fanatical feminists of both genders. Hang on a second. A correction is required as Facebook recognises at least 50 distinct genders. Don’t want to offend those who consider themselves, gender fluid. The paper is so farcical and caricatured it beggars belief how anything of such poor academic standing could have passed through the peer review and editorial filters and manage to achieve publication in a ‘serious academic journal’.     

Now, gentle readers, you know why I like burning stuff, and occasionally, people. Arse.