Memory Needs Every Method Of Nurturing Its Capacity

If a piece of knowledge is only useless when it’s never used will you ever know it’s useless?

No.

The logic here follows that by the time you realise you will never find out, say if climbing a tree is the best way to avoid a charging Rhino, its probably too late.

If on the other hand you find yourself in a South African forest staring one down you will know. One way, or another.

My head is chock full of such potentially useless pieces of information just waiting for such an eventuality, however unlikely it might be.

Some of the information I put there on purpose because I wanted to keep it or knew it would be useful, such as my bank card pin number or those special moments, those times when you squeeze your eyes tight together and try to fix the feeling, or the sight or the smell, in your head. Other information was gifted to me like tying my shoe laces or knowing that getting punched hurts and then there are the Rhino facts, these just snuck in without me knowing.

If I ever thought my brain had a finite amount of storage I might consider having a rummage around to clear it out. Even I recognize I probably don’t need to know it’s a very bad idea to meet your mum when you travel back in time, or the gestation period of mice.

Fortunately though I don’t think the human brain has a limit on its storage capacity and if it does I doubt I am anywhere close to it.

Three weeks. Try forgetting that now.

So here I am, a few years shy of fifty, I can remember my home phone number from fifteen years ago but don’t know my mobile number of today. I can tell you the identification callsign of a warship which has long since been turned into golf clubs and garden furniture but never remember anyone’s birthday, other than my own. I have encyclopedic knowledge about some very obscure things but couldn’t name more than three characters from Harry Potter.

The current state of technological advancement is incredible, within the relatively short period of time I have been alive the world has changed beyond recognition, I can’t imagine how it would feel to be twenty or thirty years older. That generation must feel like they are living on an alien planet.

Some commentators would say we are living in a golden age of technological advancement however I think this is a case of present moment vanity. Everyone wants their time to be special but I would imagine the people living at the turn of the 20th century felt similarly what with motor cars, railways, telephones, airplanes and the like. The Romans probably thought the same when they sat on a toilet or luxuriated in a warm spa bath. Its only with the hindsight of a few hundred years can someone say such a thing with any level of accuracy. We might, or we might not, be living through a period of world changing change. It just ‘feels’ like it to us because we have no other perspective other than the here and now.

Take this blog for example. I have been ‘writing’ it since 2009 but I have never written even a draft by hand, with a pen or a pencil. Not one. Everything going back the eight or so years I have been churning it out has been typed directly into a variety of increasingly slimmer computers. I can’t remember the last hand written letter I wrote but I remember writing them almost every day when I was travelling years ago.

This is one of the skills I’ve retained in my mega sized, but largely empty, brain, I choose not to use it though and take one of the simpler and easier options available to me these days.

I don’t think its a wild prediction to say that the skill of writing something by hand legibly will disappear within my lifetime. It will move from the mainstream to the fringes, a bit like dry stone dyking.

Today my children still have to learn handwriting at school though. Much to their dismay its remains part of the curriculum to write neatly and legibly but in this regard their school is not in the majority anymore. I approve of the schools stance on this but can’t explain why.

In the real world, outside of school, the art of hand writing anything beyond a post it note doesn’t exist so why do children still need to learn this outdated communication medium?

The only answers I can come up with are unsatisfying and tend to end up with me just saying ‘because I said so’ or worse still make me feel like I am turning into a ‘get off my lawn’ old person all consumed with worry about the influence the music of today is having on the kids.

What else?

I practice mental arithmetic, it helps me in my job but also think its kinda cool to be able to come up with the answer before someone in the meeting has had the opportunity to check on their calculator or spreadsheet. Yes, I know what you are thinking but there you go.

Will maths or arithmetic also be taken out of school given its enough today to know how to enter things into a black box and the black box gives you the answer?

What about the holier than holy, reading and, god forbid, books? If audio books overtake print will reading be removed from the curriculum as well?

If you could fast forward two hundred years and lets assume technology maintains its current trajectory what do you think will remain on a school’s curriculum aside from learning how to enter something into a black box or what black box to use in any particular circumstance?

Based on how things are going not a lot I fear but then the next logical thought would be; who designs the boxes, or develops the technology inside the box?

Probably a small group of elite people, educated properly, who understand how the boxes work. This probably shadowy group understand the ‘what’ but they also understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.

But then as I continue down this path I pause and remember it wasn’t that long ago when only a few chosen people could read and understood the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. Back then the masses had to enter preordained buildings to receive the knowledge which was written down in an obscure language long enough dead so as to dissuade people from even trying to read it for themselves. The few poor souls who did try to translate this knowledge into a language everyone could understand found themselves quickly strapped to a tree with a kindling bonfire below them.

I then pause again and shake my head laughing at myself and the ridiculousness of the Orwellian post-educational-apocalyptic world I have just created based on nothing more than a slight change in the education standards today.

Schools are just trying to educate and fill our children’s heads with knowledge which will be useful to them in the real world – as it exists today. What’s the point of knowing how to avoid an animal safely if it will be extinct soon anyway?

I continue to chuckle to myself as I sharpen a well worn and chewed pencil then hand it to my sulking eight-year-old son and have him write down:

MI-SSI-SSI-PPI

Ten times.

Neatly.

Round Peg ≠ Square Hole

1981 was a landmark year.

It was in 1981 that the space shuttle Columbia was first launched and Ronald Reagan became president. This was also the year Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was caught and imprisoned and Lady Diana wore a pretty dress to a fancy, but ill-fated, do at St Pauls. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time this year and it was in or around this time that I learned and understood the duality of purpose for the little things dangling between my legs.

It came to me, if you forgive the pun, from multiple angles. Aside from my own investigations, the facts of life were whispered and giggled around the playground, random magazines were discovered in the woods and the Scottish education system at the time deemed 11 years old to be the appropriate age to start teaching such things.

So yes 1981 was very much a landmark year all round. It was a complex and changing world, we were on the cusp of a greed is good economic boom, socialism and trade unions were enjoying what would be their respective swansongs. The first cracks in the iron curtain were starting to appear out of the shipyards of Gdansk. Personal computers were cropping up, fashion and design was waking up from a lost decade and decent music was becoming mainstream again.

But even with all that social, political, technological and artistic turmoil one thing remained constant; gender.

I knew about gender long before 1981.

I probably didn’t know the real purpose behind there being an opposite sex but I knew they existed. I do have a sister, I have a mother and I went to a school with girls.

The things I knew about girls was limited. I did know girls couldn’t make proper snowballs, the sort packed hard with ice that really hurt. They could only make the ones which would disintegrate before they reached the target or just hang limply, sticking to the wool on their gloves. They were also rubbish at football or performing any sort of trick on their bikes. They had no interest in fishing, climbing trees or sneaking into the garden of the old mental alcoholic guy down the street, just for the dare.

Dogs & wasps were more interesting than girls.

But even with their seeming absence of utility, I knew the universal biological binary rule on gender; there were two types, and only two types; girls and boys.

And now we have a third.

According to Wikipedia third gender, or third sex is a ‘concept in which individuals are categorised, either by themselves or society, as neither man nor woman’.

As Darwin pointed out some time ago, things evolve. Darwin would speak in terms of millions of years and over those timescales science has proved things definitely change. Pointless parts and bad design is constantly evolving and improving. Eventually evolution will decide for example, after a couple of million years of men being kicked in the genitals, to correct this and once and for all move them safely inside, well away from those fast-moving feet, or footballs.

I’m not sure how third gender fits with Darwin’s theories if at all but regardless of their nature and how they got here they exist now, and they didn’t before.

But third sex isn’t really another singular sex at all. The term third sex is a catch all classification. Third in this context means ‘other’ and within ‘other’ there could be lots and lots more but definitely more than one.

The question really is, who cares? Or does it really matter?

For me no it doesn’t. I am a man and I like women so I fit well within the accepted societal norm. I have never been confused or felt myself constrained by the designs of my body.

I would think for people who consider themselves as neither sex having an agreed label would come as a some relief although I’m not sure how much comfort could be taken from being described as ‘other’.

No, it doesn’t really matter at all, well up to a point it doesn’t.

Throughout my life I have found the general principle of live and let live to serve me well. If you are a nice person and nice to me I don’t really care what you call yourself or how you genetically feel. If you want to dress up as a woman and grow a beard at the same time, go right ahead. I might laugh a bit but don’t worry, it would never be to your face.

The problems only start to surface when you start trying to accommodate every variation on what was once a simple either/or issue.

The entire world is designed around men and women so if you simply drop a bunch of new genders into the mix and try to meet everyone’s needs equally you are going to fail, unless you blow it all up and start again. Everything from toilets through to language.

It’s a no-win situation, if you try to accommodate everyone you are guaranteed to fail and face the wrath of people like me. If you don’t you will have a lot of non-men/non-women/others seriously upset and this group might be small, but they can be quite loud and get offended very easily.

Things have changed a lot since the last century. Most of the monsters we perceive today are just made up for political expediency, it certainly does no harm as you work your way up the political ladder if you can rally everyone around a common foe. It’s a fact though that nothing today presents the real and present danger which palpably existed over the course of the last century

With these threats gone you would hope that the world could move to higher plain and become the utopia mankind has been trying to achieve ever since Eve got a little hungry and noticed an apple.

But instead we seem to be moving in an ugly, complicated and self-indulgent direction. Third sex didn’t ‘exist’ 36 years ago not because they didn’t ‘exist’ but because there were other things to think about. Today we still have other things to think about but none are truly world ending so our priorities seem to have become a little skewed. Its just one of those inconvenient truths that there just isn’t always going to be a perfectly formed hole to fit every peg into.

And if we continue trying to find them we will slowly, and quite deliberately end up sticking ourselves up our own all-accepting and grammatically non-offensive arses.

My daughter asked me the other day if fat people are lazy. This is the same wee girl who asked for a pet dwarf for Christmas to play with. She is too young to understand nuanced political correctness and in time will learn but I do hope as she grows up and sensitises her language she doesn’t find herself hamstrung in an unnecessary minefield of our own making.

I want her to have opinions. I want her to listen to other people’s opinions, good and bad. I want her to make her own mind up and express herself, loudly and perhaps offend some people in the process. I want her to make mistakes.

Way back in 1981, I could do this without fear of serious reprisal. That world was very far away from perfect back then but it certainly was a lot less complicated.

As Salman Rushdie once said, “Nobody has the right to not be offended”.

If you are looking for some common sense to cut through the thick fog of today you probably don’t need to look much further than that.

 

Gordian Knot

Logically as you get older first time things happen less often, but every so often they still happen.

Last week, and for the first time in my adult life, I was told by a young and bored looking girl at Paris’s Charles de Gaul airport that I had to use the non-EU passport queue. i.e. the longer one filled with people who had that look.That ‘if you dress and look like that you are going to be heavily scrutinised and annoy everyone behind you’ look.

The cover of my passport has worn off with time and use so I assumed it was an honest mistake on her behalf. I politely explained to her that it was a British passport, and opened it to prove it. She nodded, chewed gum and told me that I was now no longer allowed to use the EU line. She was speaking to me without looking at me, the contents of her phone immeasurably more interesting than me and my battered ex-European passport.

It was then that it twigged.

‘Not yet’ I said to no one in particular and proceeded to join my fellow Europeans moving quickly towards the wooden booth guarding the border.

So a first shot in the battle for Brexit or just an honest mistake from a disinterested millennial?

I think the latter because I don’t believe Brexit will happen.

Not in a fingers in your ears, lalalalalala, not listening to you, just make it go away sort of way. No, in an it would be unimaginable, unthinkable, unfair and, I would argue, impossible for it happen sort of way.

Let me explain.

We find ourselves in the rather odd situation where both parties to this divorce fundamentally don’t want it to happen.

With the exception of a few grinning imbeciles most people in government and the important UK political parties think leaving the EU is a bad idea. A few hundred miles south of London almost everyone is shaking their heads in disbelief wondering what the hell is going on.

The only people who want Brexit are the people who voted for it.

So who are these people?

After the referendum as the dust settled the average yes voter was quickly profiled. On a whole they were categorised as English, white and old. Basically it was the baby boomers and generation X (my generation) who voted for Brexit. We are the people who have enjoyed membership of the EU for most of our lives. We gave the world Rock n Roll, free love, Led Zeppelin, global warming and a spend and live like there is no tomorrow mentality. The mañana generation and it seems, once again, they have proved there is no limit to their selfishness.

The referendum was delivered in a binary, yes/no, form though.

Yes prevailed but what does yes actually mean? Yes we want to leave everything and go it alone? Yes we want bits but don’t want the other bits. Yes to the free market, no to free movement of people?

Brexit means Brexit as the twitching sparrow is oft to repeat but I bet even she doesn’t know what this actually means. That’s because a yes/no referendum on thousands of different rules, regulations, laws and treaties is wide open to interpretation.

So if neither party to the divorce wants the divorce but they are being forced to why not just live together, or why not go all the way and join together in a civil partnership?

You still get to cohabit, sleep with each other, share bank accounts, pensions, toothpaste and Netflix accounts you just cant say you are married. Its not an ideal solution but definitely more agreeable than the alternative of a political vanity driven cluster-fuck of proportions only Stephen Hawking could conceive.

Yes, yes I know. It would piss off Mr middle income Anon Smith, white, aged 45 to 65 years old living out his make Britain great again fantasy in a green and pleasant Grimsby. We might get the odd protest but if we use the time wisely this slight of hand might not even be noticed.

If the leave campaign can generate enough spin behind a bus load of lies to win a majority surely the combined powers of parliament can do something similar with the old-fashioned concept of facts and the truth.

How about explaining that immigration will not be tangibly affected whether we are in the EU or otherwise. Allowing the French, the Germans, the Spanish into the country has never been the problem, it’s the ‘undesirables’ from outside the EU and the odd country inside which seem to be the problem.

How about explaining that Britain has never signed up to the Schengen agreement and therefore every person coming into the country by normal means has always had to go through a control.

How about pointing out that the UK has the best natural border on the continent, a whopping great big natural moat – the English channel.

How about explaining that Brexit will not be able to improve on the status quo, other than to stop allowing other Europeans to come over and live, work and study, and of course the British reciprocally?

If we can agree on the question of immigration, how about we go a step further and agree to pay an amount, lets just say for arguments sake we set it at exactly the same as our current contributions, to retain access to the free market?

If we can remove these two questions from the table then as I see it the rest is just heavy breathing and fishing rights.

So if we are to fast forward 10 years and the UK is not part of the EU but still operating in the same way we always did what will this exercise in pure democracy have delivered us?

Tangibly, three years of uncertainty, billions in value wiped off the currency and stock markets, an incalculable loss of business and human capital. A nation divided and our European neighbours looking at us like we have just cheated on them by sodomising their mothers.

But on the plus side it has delivered a huge bonanza payday for accountants, lawyers and bankers working on the fine print. So that’s good. I guess.

And if we don’t take a lesson from Alexander and take simple, elegant, easy route, what then?

Well smartphone Sophie at CDG airport will one day be correct.

And this, just cannot be allowed to happen.

Enough is Enough.

Statistics are wonderful.

They can tell you the likelihood that action A caused outcome B. They can tell you anything and everything. With enough data, statistics can rationally explain the past and also reasonably predict the future. Statistics are therefore magic.

They are also rather dull.

Statistics are the person at the party sipping ice water shaking their head and telling you how bad you are going to feel in the morning. They’re that post orgasmic clarity. They’re that point in the lesson when you realise how hard it’s going to be.

They are grey reality.

No one wants to know they will never win the lottery? Or that the chances of Scotland winning the world cup are a gazillion to one?

Statistics can also be wrong. But they’re generally not, statistically speaking that is.

I am currently travelling at 294KPH cocooned in a super-material composite tube with wheels. A young lady has just served me a breakfast of coffee, yoghurt and warm bread. The WIFI isn’t working but the toilets are clean. The ambiance is calm and quiet. People respectfully leave to take their phone calls in the vestibule between carriages and even the small children two rows away have managed to channel their explosive noise and energy into a civilised game of quietly finish the jigsaw.

Soon I will have to leave this tranquillity and return to noise, announcements, crowds and the ever-present trolley bag tripping danger.

To be granted access to this oasis I had to progress through multiple layers of security.

It started well away from the station with suspicious looks from serious looking men and women wearing dark uniforms and holding guns and eventually concluded with a full x-ray of my bags, clothes and body cavities.

It took a while but it works. I feel safer because of it. Which I think is the intention.

I take this for granted nowadays as I move between places. But its not always been this way, uniforms, guns and an x-ray doesn’t necessarily guarantee a calm ambience.

As with a lot of things in life its how its used, where its placed and how serious you look when doing it.

In the case of security – looks DO matter.

A few years ago I was travelling through Egypt doing my Indiana Jones thing. It was after that atrocity occurred near Luxor when 40+ British and Swiss tourists were mowed down indiscriminately by a nut job in search of paradise. Subsequently security needed to be stepped up to protect the vital tourist dollars so Egypt created the ‘Tourist Police’.

This hurriedly formed army seemed to be made up of untrained, or barely trained, students. The Egyptian authorities then issued them with a one size does not fit all uniform and more worryingly a gun.

This did not inspire confidence in me, in fact quite the opposite.

Would you feel safe if you turned up at a desert temple or pyramid to see a gang of young men smoking, laughing, drinking tea and twirling their guns around like Jesse James trying to impress the girls?

Thought not.

But anyway, this morning the French version looked nothing like their Egyptian counterparts from back then, and if we can take anything positive from the recent events in Paris and London its that these guys and girls don’t just look the part, they have shown they are very capable of doing what is required to be done when necessary.

Statistically though we are more likely to die falling down the stairs, being electrocuted at home or in some another equally unlikely scenario than we ever are of being caught up in a terrorist attack.

The big ones really prove the point; Tobacco 600x more likely, Alcohol 200x more likely, general violence on the street, with or without guns, 50x more likely. I think even without any experience in statistics its pretty clear, terrorism falls very low down on the list of ways to die.

Those numbers I have quoted are global numbers, if you live in the west, the chances drop to close to zero. In the US you are four times more likely to be struck by lightning, twice, than to be the victim of a terror attack.

To put todays situation into context if I look at my lifetime I was in much graver danger of being caught up in a terrorist attack in the 1970s & 1980s than I am now.

So with all that said does it really make sense for me to walk around London or Paris today with a heightened state of awareness, or fear? Does it make sense to glance around the cabin of the airplane I have just boarded seeking out the lunatic with a set of exploding underpants? Or worse, not get on the airplane at all?

Of course not, that would be silly, foolish, restrictive and doing exactly what the monsters who carry out such heinous crimes want.

They know that today with social media and the newly created fake news outlet in the white house that a little bit of disruption can go a very long way. They are banking on us all getting scared, changing what we do, sending more troops into harm’s way and disrupting our way of life. This is their goal.

But they’re failing.

It pleases me immensely to see the populations of whatever city has just gone through an attack to basically stick two fingers up, say fuck you, is that all you got? Carry on regardless.

Its not the Blitz spirit, nor is it the solidarity of the French or German discipline. Its good old fashioned common sense with a bit of defiance and dark humour thrown in for good measure. The drinks and language might be different but the reactions are basically the same.

Take a walk around Paris on pretty much any evening of the week. Every single bistro, of which there are thousands, is filled to bursting point with families and children, young dating couples, groups of young people, old people, office workers and street cleaners squashed in laughing, chatting, kissing and arguing. That old woman in the corner with her nose buried in a book is still there. The queues for the museums, the art, the music, the joie de vivre – very much present, and alive.

This scene is repeated in every city around Europe you might have the good fortune to visit.

The average person is just getting on with life, as they always have. The perpetual pursuit of happiness and it will take a whole lot more than a rag tag bunch of ideological lunatics with kitchen knives or guns to stop this.

Of course the political classes try to make capital from these events. Who can provide the best, most secure security? Who is willing to say enough is enough and take it a step further to show that they are doing something more, or better than the other party.

So, what exactly is that thing that they will do that we haven’t done already? Enough is enough sounds like they have only been playing at things so far and now the time has come to take the gloves to come off. Turn everywhere into a militarised zone, ban people on the streets? Vehicles? Travel? What exactly?

It’s a political game but there are those who still buy into it. Think the ill-conceived Muslim ban in the US for example. Some people actually believe this is the sensible and correct course of action given the real and present danger they face even though the official odds of dying from an attack by someone who has passed through the current visa waiver program is 0-1.

That’s zero chance just in case you misread it.

Arm all the police in the UK?

Judging from the events a couple of weeks ago it seems that the British police managed pretty well without having to resort to adding thousands of more guns into their cities.

But anyway, if you want to live in fear or imagine there are jihadi monsters under your bed, go ahead, nothing I say will stop you, but for almost everyone they are not real.

If you don’t believe me just ask a magic statistician to fire up his flux capacitor and read your palm.

If you smoke, drink, are fat, lazy, swallow swords or have the unusual hobby of playing golf in electrical storms you might not like what he going to tell you but with the odds of being killed by an illegal immigrant currently set today at 138,000,000 to 1 its unlikely he’s going to discuss them.

And there’s nothing alternative about that fact.

First World Problems

I had a revelation the other day.

The catalyst for this revelation came in a barber shop. A Turkish barber shop. It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon. Middle eastern MTV blared out as young men with beards went about their business wielding buzzing trimmers and cut throat razors.

It was in this barber shop that I had my ears waxed.

I don’t know who you are or where you are physically located. I don’t know your age, your sex nor do I know your social economic standing. I therefore don’t know if you are someone who considers man ear waxing as a normal thing. Or if you even know such a ‘thing’ exists.

Well it does, and when this ‘new’ thing was offered to me mid haircut, for a very reasonable additional sum and carrying promises such as ‘No need to worry about ear hair for a month’ or ‘Your lady is going to love it’ I jumped at the chance.

What self-respecting 46-year-old man wouldn’t want lady friendly ears?

As it turns out, and for the rest of my living days. Me.

Its now been a month since I handed over hard-earned cash to have my ears ripped off.

Nothing has grown out of my ears since the moment I was exposed to rendition levels of pain and violence. I’m genuinely worried that nothing will ever grow there again, nor my skin ever return to its normal colour.

It was later that day, as I slathered ointment on the sides of my head, that I had my revelation.

Why has ear waxing become something I would be willing to pay money for? Has my life come down to this? Have I been working, studying, travelling and sucking it up for all these years just so I can afford to buy smooth ears? Or for that matter an echo dot? Or a Netflix account. Or two ply toilet roll? Or organic Ginger Beer? The answer to these questions, and many many more is, sadly yes.

Now that I have sufficient money coming into my account to cover the basics of food, shelter, safety and transportation any surplus gets applied to the next thing on my hierarchy of needs. Sitting way up on top, where the air is thin, teetering right on the summit, are two bald ears.

This is the pinnacle of my life.

I have the TV, the smartphone, the car, the holiday and a modest wardrobe. I am not wealthy but I have everything I need so now my life has moved on to the things I think I need. I was gifted my life by my parents. I had the good fortune to be born in a place where liberty is a given so what else is there but the pursuit of happiness?

This is the first world I live in and most people who have the hardware and the connectivity to read this live in a similar pllace. Hierarchies, like people, are unique but the thing which links us all is the pursuit of more.

Without this inherent human desire to acquire the world would be a very different place.

I’m not saying it would be a better place, Marx tried that some time ago and we know all how that ended up.

It might not be better, but it certainly would be very different.

The huge majority of companies in the world only exist to satisfy this need, Apple are certainly the biggest and exemplify this perfectly. You could argue long and hard if they actually offer anything different or something better than its nearest competitor. But who cares about that? Apple offer cool. Their products clearly have a desirability factor which sets them apart.

Q: Do you really need a new iPhone 8? A: No.

Q: Do you want one…?

Its this, almost unconscious, pursuit of more which fuels companies like Apple and all the others; cars, clothing, food, cosmetics, hardware, software and on and on and on.

I have a Mont Blanc pen and an IWC watch. Both are very nice things.

My watch manages to lose a minute every day, it has stopped working twice since I bought it five years ago and I have managed to work my way through two wrist straps in this time. This watch was 1,000x more expensive than my other watch, a Casio digital, which has not lost a second since I got it and has a strap which will easily last a millennia, or two.

My expensive pen does write as good as a bic though – so that’s good.

I am as guilty as anyone for buying into the marketing and the lifestyle of these companies. I also want more.

I absorb it consciously or unconsciously and without even knowing why, I want something. I might take longer than most to determine if I really need it, weighing up the utility vs the desirability but in the end desirability normally wins the day.

Of course, as we all know, the purchase satisfaction is short lived and then I am left with the utility, if it ever existed.

Once I have my iPhone 8, I may spend a few days playing with whatever new features it offers me but pretty fast it normalises and I’m then off in search of covers or apps or something else to maintain the feeling I had when I purchased it in the first place.

So what to do?

Well, if I have an unconscious desire for more sickness then the cure has to be to a conscious desire for less.

So this was my barber shop revelation – to realise I simply do not need everything I have and that the things I have give me little pleasure.

That’s that then. Simple solution – want less.

Well no, of course not. Just like trying to stop smoking or anything else I’m addicted to it will take time and it will take effort. But in all seriousness, all joking aside, I am going to do this.

But first I need to make a list and determine what things I need to help me understand the things I don’t.

I need to understand the base level of my needs hierarchy to create this list of the things I really need to survive.

And the first item on that list?

Hairy ears.

Killing Time

Recently I had some time to kill and thought what better way to do so but with a popcorn, pick n mix, alien invasion flick?

I don’t watch a lot of television but when I do I tend to choose it specifically rather than channel flick randomly wasting time.

So I specifically chose Arrival but my expectations were pre-set at a little above the formulaic level of Independence day or the like; Aliens invade, Jeff Goldblum has been warning everyone about it in advance with his home-made invasion detector. Everyone scoffs. The aliens invade and their intentions aren’t good from the get go. Jeff and co run around a green screen devastation set before a few heroes step up to the plate, a ragged mixed bag each with their own particular proclivities and skill sets. Fox force 5 to the rescue.

The movie ends with salutes, chest thumping, hooyahs, a tattered American flag and the delivery of a moral, real world message.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Arrival had none of that.

The only common denominators were aliens arriving and an understated and limited smattering of CGI. Arrival is an alien invasion movie for grown-ups, it makes you think about things you wouldn’t ordinarily think about. It makes you consider your own life, the world and your own mortality.

In short it’s movie making of the best sort and off the top of my head very few fall into my own personal top ten list of this type of movie. Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not a film snob, I have a long list of movies which I have really enjoyed for their sheer entertainment value but not many hit the same sweet spot Arrival did. My few ‘thin air’ movie list includes the likes of Moon, Open Your Eyes, La Haine, Reservoir Dogs, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and now I’m carrying Arrival up there.

But these movies come as a double edged sword in that they really make you think about things.

The only moment you are really alive is right now.

At this very moment you are alive and even as you think about what you have just read the moment is gone, replaced with another. And then another.

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow doesn’t exist, yet. The only thing which really exists is your current breath.

I started writing this ten miles up on an airplane sipping Air France tea, that was my alive moment then. I tried to write some more on the metro but failed. It sat for a day or two and now I’ve picked it back up again after the kids are asleep.

Where or when I finish it, who knows? Its ongoing but when I do eventually finish it I will post it and move on. Each time I touch it I am alive and by extension it is also alive, outside of these times it’s just a lifeless pile of static kilobytes. And when its complete this is exactly what it will become.

Time is a linear but abstract concept, it’s the most used measurement in the world and of the most commonly used ones the only one which has no beginning and no end. For me it’s a bit like the concept of infinite space, something I struggle to grasp. I understand the basics, of course, what I cannot grasp is the profound nature of it.

My favourite museum is the British Museum and my favourite part of the British Museum is the Assyrian reliefs depicting in particular the lion hunting escapades of King Ashurbanipal.

If you have never been just keep going past the hordes of selfie taking tourists gathering around the Rosetta stone and keep looking left until you see two colossal bearded man-horse thingy statues and you’re there, trust me you won’t be disappointed.

Anyway, just behind the reliefs is another artefact, a very important but aesthetically dull one, it’s a small clay cylinder called the Cyrus cylinder.

The Cyrus cylinder dates from 539BC and is inscribed amongst other things with a description of the king Cyrus the Great’s conquest of Babylon. Cyrus the Great, as his name would suggest, was an important king who lived 2,500 years ago and he himself was fascinated with history. Apparently he would go on archaeological expeditions to discover artefacts which were at the time thousands of years old.

And this is where I start losing the link between myself right now and the relative nature of time.

As I stand there and marvel at the beautiful stone works just beyond the ‘do not touch’ barrier I can see a very thin link between myself and the artist(s) who created them.

Its there but barely, then its gone, like that Belgium radio station which sometimes barges onto my MW radio at night then fades away to static as if it didn’t happen at all. If I let my mind wander a bit to think about the king immortalised in stone being alive and staring in awe at other artefacts as old as these ones are when he was alive I struggle.

The problem is, I don’t think of the brave lion hunting king as a real person, really being alive that is. I don’t think of him doing what he did and being alive in the moment, having air in his lungs. I don’t.

Rationally I know it is true but it’s a truth I would rather walk away from than confront. What about the person who created the 5,000-year-old artefact?

So I watched Arrival and it presented this unpleasant reality to me in the guise of a high definition Dolby surround sound digital sci-fi movie. I was conned.

The Assyrian kings chiselled their stories into stone and some survived. Cyrus was so great his story comes down to us through many mediums, not least a small clay cylinder in London. Today we are all recording and writing our own stories in various electronic forms.

I don’t know what the future for this vast amount of data will be but given explosive speed of change we are witnessing I can’t imagine it’s a positive one.

But somehow I hope this isn’t the case.

I hope in 2,500 years from now someone is able to read something about now. I hope this person reads it and is in awe thinking about us looking at the reliefs. I hope this person feels the same confusion I feel when he or she thinks about it.

Because at the end of the day, all the data from ever to now and from now to ever only represents one thing.

A breath that once was.

Coffee & Underpants

Its Christmas day, 7pm. I’m cuddling my 5-year-old daughter on the couch and watching the movie Elf. The dwarf scene with Will Ferrell and Peter Dinklage has just come on.

Daughter: ‘Daddy is he real, really real? Not movie real.’

Me: ‘Who him?’ I ask, pointing at Peter Dinklage.

Daughter: ‘Yes, him. The little man. Is he really real?’

Me: ‘Yes Juliet, he’s really real, not movie real.’ I am smiling, stroking her hair and using my grown up, worldly wise, voice.

Daughter: ‘That’s sooo cool daddy.’

The scene progresses. She’s watching but deep in thought. After a while she looks up at me with a serious expression on her face.

‘Daddy?’

‘Yes?’

‘Can I have one of those little men for next Christmas?’

Thankfully the movie moved on at that point and I didn’t have to bore her with a chat about societal prejudices, discrimination and why most dwarfs, or elves or hobbits for that matter, probably wouldn’t find her early next year’s Santa list appropriate.

Clearly my daughter isn’t heightist. She’s just five and using the leeway we afford little people as they stare or point at the disabled, answer honestly when asked about someone’s appearance and say loudly for all to hear in your favourite restaurant that ‘the fat lady is returning to the table with the drinks’.

She is following a thought process that if dwarfs are really real, not movie real and about the same height as her then they must be good fun to play with. The logic is flawed but I understand why she thinks that she wants a dwarf for Christmas. Her logic is as good as saying that because Roger Federer is the best tennis player to have ever played the sport then he must be an expert on coffee machines, or mobile phones, or underpants, or Audi cars.

This is the logic of a five-year-old.

My daughter assumes that height, or a lack of, is directly linked to a fun play mate. Us grown-ups assume that good tennis playing is linked to extensive knowledge on pretty much everything.

She will quickly grow to understand the flaws in her logic. She will learn soon enough that dwarfs can be narky wee fuckers, should be avoided at all costs and can’t be purchased. But we will continue to buy our Roger endorsed coffee machines.

In marketing its called the halo effect and no one has a halo as big or as shiny as Roger. Good looking, male, graceful on court, happily married to his childhood sweetheart, beautiful children, family man. No scandal or closet worth speaking of.

He’s a marketers dream.

Tiger woods was a marketers dream once as well and we all know how that ended up.

I doubt Roger will fall from grace in such a dramatic fashion though, but I can still hope. I say hope because I have a long standing bet with a close friend that it will happen.

Personally I can’t believe anyone can be as perfect as Roger, he’s only a human being like the rest of us. He’s not a saint. At least not yet he’s not.

I believe that some enterprising reporter will eventually find and open his Swiss closet currently held securely deep in a Geneva vault.

And when his deviant proclivities are revealed for all to see I will be the proud owner of a £500 bottle of malt whiskey.

But Swiss goat fiddling aside what is it that makes us gravitate towards products which are being used by the great and the good looking?

We all know the answer to this, it’s the lifestyle we are buying into. If George Clooney drinks Nespresso, and I drink Nespresso then I can capture just a little bit of George’s life. I might not have the villa on Lago de Como or the super-lawyer wife or the boat or the plane or everything else he might have but my morning expresso will taste the same as his.

I sometimes wonder if the celebrities actually use the products they are endorsing or do they stand there smile and take a sip or a shave, collect their paycheck and go home dropping the product in the bin on the way.

So even if I can’t actually be George Clooney or Roger Federer, will having just a soupçon of their lives make me happier? If I feel even just 1% like George?

No, of course it bloody well wont. I know this, you know this, so whats is the point of companies spending millions to pay superstars to drink, wear or use their products?

Because it works that’s why.

People still buy the coffee because George drinks it and they still wear Roger’s underpants. Not his actual underpants you understand, I would imagine those would command a substantial premium, but ones with his name printed on them.

So there, I’ve managed to contradicted myself and in doing so shown that I really don’t have any plan worth speaking of when I set out to write one of these.

On one hand I have said we all know what’s going on, we know the ploy and understand the trick, but on the other hand we all still fall for it. Every time.

In the comic strip Peanuts there is a long running gag where Lucy persuades Charlie Brown to kick a ball she is holding. He normally refuses at first, having fallen for it before, but eventually she says something to persuade him. When he goes to kick the ball she moves it and he flies into the air and falls. It always ends with Lucy laughing and pointing out that he should not have trusted her.

Well it appears we are all, myself included, Charlie Brown.

I drink Nespresso almost every single day and it makes me feel nothing like George Clooney but I still buy into the whole lifestyle trick they are playing on me. The coffee’s not bad, its not great, but certainly not the best I have tasted. Yet I still buy it.

I am writing this on a Mac, why? Well you probably guessed why.

I could go on listing everything I own from my socks up but this would be dull and unnecessarily weird.

Basically for the most part we don’t buy stuff for the utility it offers us. I would argue that utility comes very far down the list of reasons why we purchase something and if you step back and actually think about this, it’s a bit silly really.

Anyway, as it’s that time of year, my new year’s resolution will be to avoid the marketing tricks, sidestep the fake lifestyle toothpaste and ignore the six pack ab-building beer. My coffee will be the tastiest but not the prettiest and my clothes will most certainly be endorsement free.

I will maintain this bland Tesco unbranded stonewash life right up until the day I see Clooney’s Own™ brand of pet Elves.

Because at the end of the day, Juliet is worth it.

Bonne Annee!   Gutes Neues Jahr!   Happy New Year!

A cup of post truth tea

anicecupofteaandabiscuit2Last week. 10km up. Somewhere over Europe.

The seatbelt sign has disappeared and I’m pretending to work on my laptop as two metal trollies slowly work a stop-start pincer manoeuvre from the front and back towards my middle-of-the-plane seat.

The captain informed us earlier that it will only take forty-five minutes to fly from Dusseldorf to Zurich.

Eventually the trollies collide next to me and I am asked to choose my beverage. There’s only twenty-five minutes left before we land so I opt for tea.

She asks what type. I say normal. Blank look.

I elaborate, in my pigeon German; English breakfast, proper, normal, brown tea….bitte.

The young lady flicks through a rolodex of tea bags announcing them as she does. Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Green, White, Orange or Strawberry infusion, Camomile and so on.

I shake my head, repeat my order and receive the look of someone who’s just been asked for a skinny, vanilla latte with a side of salted edamame beans.

I take a glass of water and continue with my pretend working.

I would submit to you that not all progress is good progress.

Something’s were better left the way they were. I liked the world when the only choice of tea, outside of India and China, was brown tea. Aka, the kind I drink.

Now in saying this I fully accept that this lack of choice puts the minority groups who actually enjoy drinking a cup of hot water with a few lemon and bark flavoured twigs at a disadvantage. But such is life.

We don’t really need such choices, they serve no purpose other than to confuse, and slow things down.

We live in a world where we have come to expect that we get what we want, when we want it. Be it a ten kilometre high fruity infusion, instant Netflix, free pornography, retail therapy or amazon reordering our toilet roll.

So when things don’t happen the way we think they should we are becoming unequipped to deal with them.

The two seismic democratic results this year and specifically ‘our’ reactions to them are wonderful real world examples of something not happening in the way we believed they should have.

And what did we do?

We cried foul, we protested, we sought therapy, we stomped our feet, we rattled the bars of our respective cribs, we blamed Facebook and turned (and continue to turn) every legal stone to try to reverse what was a fair and unfettered democratic result.

Democracy, it would seem and to quote Churchill, is only the best worst form of government when it delivers a result along our accepted norms.

And both Brexit and Trump were anything but our accepted norms.

Don’t get me wrong I too was as bemused as the next person when I woke to discover the world had gone mad. I even started questioning the principle of universal suffrage. Can there not be a intelligence test or some other hurdle before they give out the right to vote?

I was shocked and surprised. Who on earth thought that Brexit was a good idea or that voting a misogynistic bully with stupid hair into the white house was wise?

Well, as it turns out, quite a lot of people.

I started realising that what I thought were the accepted norms of the world aren’t actually the accepted norms, they are my norms, not shared by what a democratic textbook would define as the majority.

Oddly the majority of the world care more about the prospect of a job and their ability to put food on their family’s table than the plight of immigrants or the right of some members of the LBGTQ community to pee in whichever toilet they choose.

This majority are apparently willing to look beyond the offensive or borderline illegal statements or whether the person is actually telling the truth if he or she can deliver something different to what has not been delivered for them in the last thirty years or so. They ignored the crap and focused on what will make a difference for them, not all Trump supporters support his views or are sexist xenophobes – they just believed he could deliver more than the next man, or woman as the case was.

My shock and surprise at both results lasted probably about a day or so and once I had worked out the how it happened to my own satisfaction I put all my toys back in my pram, and immediately cancelled my therapy sessions.

The majority of the world doesn’t exist in the same world as me nor most of the people I know. I haven’t met the majority. I don’t know them and I clearly don’t think like them. Politicians the world over don’t seem to understand them either and this is the most troubling aspect of this year, aside from David Bowie, Prince and Terry Wogan of course.

The leadership of the United Kingdom and the United States, regardless of political affiliation, got it very badly wrong. The rest of the world’s leaders are now sitting up and taking notice like a bunch of startled Meerkats.

They were so far out of touch with the bulk of the electorate that they allowed such catastrophes to occur. Yes I blame them, and now with the luxury of hindsight it doesn’t seem that surprising. I don’t agree with these results, but I can understand why they have occurred.

It seems for every big issue, be it terrorism, immigration or the economy, the majority would move right and the political class would move left, the chasm this created delivered us Brexit and now Trump. Merkel will probably be next and lets see what happens in France in the coming months.

So what to do now?

Well there’s not much to do really.

Protesting is something I do believe in. If enough people protest and raise an issue it will get done, politicians will only do what we tell them to, they value their jobs far more than what they have said they believe in, just listen to Paul Ryan now as a case in point. It’s been quite some time since a politician stuck to his or her beliefs regardless of the implications.

Protesting against a vote result is a wasted protest though, you might as well be protesting against the bad weather. Save your protests up for when you really need them, for the policy statements or the bad legislation or another war.

Rioting will help even less.

If you will allow here’s my advice. I suggest you accept that not everyone in the world has the same beliefs as you. Try to understand like I am that you are not always right and I know this is difficult. Try to understand that whatever that cause or issue you feel so strongly about might not hold the same weight with others. Lots of others.

You can call them what you want but there is more of them than you or me.

When Lenin stepped off that train in Petrograd 1917 after years of living in exile he promised ‘Peace, Bread and Land’ to the masses and it worked. A simple promise. Easy to understand and to rally behind.

This simple promise was never fulfilled but that’s a just being pedantic. The majority believed him, like the majority believe Trump or believed Farage, Gove and Johnson.

Promising something and delivering something is altogether different and if we could fast forward four years I bet you the post Brexit or Trump administration world is a very different one to the one they have painted for us. Where Brexit is concerned I hope not, with Trump, well that’s a different blog altogether.

It will be different though and when it is I certainly hope proper debate and discourse returns and is the only mechanism used to determine how we all move forward from that point.

Because regardless of the result, this ‘post truth’ world we appear to have landed in isn’t one I like. Nor do I approve of it or want it to continue.

It’s a bit like that cup of milky Earl Grey offered as a substitute to proper tea when you have no other choice.

Its weak, totally devoid of substance, it has a nice name but ultimately when all is said and done, it will deliver you nothing.

Napoleon

p00w1tw2A wise old pig called Napoleon famously once said that all animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

George Orwell lifted part of this directly from the fledgling United States of America’s declaration of Independence, a document which was written well before independence had actually even been achieved.

History tells us that independence was ultimately achieved though and twelve years later another document, the Constitution, was drawn up to act as the supreme law of this new country. Including its amendments its idealistic in nature and goes a long way to show how much the founding fathers wanted to break free from the shackles of the old world and to create something better.

Something not absorbed with the petty squabbling and continual wars which would or should have no bearing on this new utopian society.

Say what you want about America but its hard to criticise the intentions of the founding fathers and the pure idealism they adopted when putting pen to paper and then actually putting this theory into practice. In the 18th century they were creating the promised land based on the norms of the day. And people flocked to join it.

In retrospect its easy to say things like they were still engaged in slavery or that the 2nd amendment has lead to the crazy situation today where we have obese finger licking Texans walking around armed like they are about to do battle with Predator just because the constitution says they can. Yes its all too easy to criticise something with 250 years of hindsight.

You just try kicking the strongest army and navy at the time out of your country with a ragtag bunch of militias. And then go ahead and create a country from scratch. Using a blank sheet of paper.

Its not easy and the odd error should, in my view, be forgiven.

Normally documents like these are safely kept under glass, in a museum or the like and used to educate and inform. Documents like the Magna Carta, the founding document of democracy can be seen and studied. As can the declaration of independence and the constitution.

Quite right too, they are very important historical documents.

But that is all they are. Or that’s all they should be.

The current pantomime which is the US presidential election is gaining far more attention than it actually should. Whoever wins; Clinton or the clown we will have seen a seismic shift in the accepted norms when it comes to the democratic process. One from which I don’t think there is a return. The Brexit vote was just the start, Austria was a very close call, France is always teetering on the brink and now we face the prospect that the self proclaimed leader of the free world could very well be an misogynistic, bigoted, small handed, islamaphobe, with a penchant for sexually assaulting women, and bad hair.

That said, there is a part of me, a small part I admit, which hopes he actually prevails. Just to see what happens.

Every aspect of this election is being covered in microscopic detail, from the candidates, the differences in policy (or lack of policy) right through to the process itself and it was here that I very recently learned about the Electoral College.

The electoral college is a group of 538 elected individuals and it’s these people who actually elect the president. This select bunch of citizens cast their vote and the person who receive the majority, 270 votes, wins the election. Each state has a number of electoral college members allotted to them according to population size so California has 55 and North Dakota has 3 to keep things proportionately fair.

Keeping up?

Each member of the electoral college is then expected to vote in accordance with the voting in their state, but here’s the rub; they don’t have to.

In the UK you don’t vote for a prime minister, you vote for your local MP and your local MP most likely will be a member of a party. Each of these parties have a leader and whichever party wins the most MP’s wins the election and the leader of that party then becomes Prime Minister. Reasonably straightforward I think. There are grumblings that some MPs have more people in their constituency or less and thus the winning party might not be representative of the will of all the people, or rather its not proportionately representative but that’s for another discussion.

In the US though, they do vote directly for their president. Quite a difference and its this which makes me think an electoral college is a redundant concept. Why is it even necessary when the presidential election should basically be a referendum? Everyone votes and the person with the most votes wins.

By overlaying what they call the popular vote with the electoral college they are essentially disenfranchising the individual voter. Or as Mr Orwell would say they are more equal than everyone else.

The electoral college is a hangover from the constitution, like the right to bear arms, which were necessary 250 years ago but today, in my opinion, is in dire need of a rethink.

So back to this current, preposterous election.

What happens if say, Mr Trump wins the popular vote but the college decides that putting that lunatic into the white house is too dangerous? Which isn’t that unrealistic a scenario.

Given the amount of talk about rigged elections already, well before the outcome is even known I would guess if this did happen then it would probably be enough of a spark to light what is already a tinder box ready to combust.

So yes, I have immense respect for the founding fathers of the US and what they achieved. I also believe they never thought their words would still be used as a mechanism to impede progress, by their very actions they embraced progress and thus I don’t believe for one second they would be standing up to support these redundant laws. Because they would recognise they were written nearly 250 years ago in a very very different world.

Progress is constant and the laws and rules which underpin our respective democracies must be adapted and altered to keep up.

I am sure there are a lot of people out there who would disagree with me on this but I’m also sure that this disagreement would be grounded in the ‘what am I going to lose’ argument, be it guns, be it representation, be it tax breaks, etc.

I would strongly argue though that this cannot be the basis for law or policy setting. Ever.

The moment it is, will be the moment we are welcoming a pig called Napoleon into the White House, or 10 Downing Street.

And no matter how bad his hair is or how small his hand are, no matter what he says or how pink his skin is, no matter how many walls he promises to build or how many enemies of the state he fabricates to support a made up argument he still shouldn’t get your vote.

Because fundamentally, deep down and hidden behind an ugly facade, he’s still a pig.

A walk in the mall

messi-badSkinny vs. regular jeans is a discussion for which I have nothing to add.

Fashion as a subject, is a bit like quantum physics to me, I know absolutely nothing about it and have even less of an inclination to spend anytime finding out about it.

From the outside looking in I see a dull, gossamer thin, vacant subject populated with airheads, bulimics and self obsessed cocaine addicts. I don’t like its total focus on aesthetics and the implied substance which comes with it; If you look good, you must be.

Of course I am doing a Hillary Clinton here and being grossly generalistic. I am sure not all in the fashion industry belong in the basket labelled ‘brain power of a retarded red setter’ but from my perspective it does seem this way, that’s all I’m saying.

I do know what bad looks like though.

I can tell when someone, or myself for that matter, looks stupid thankfully. Eddie Izzard was spot on when he explained how close super high fashion comes to looking like a badly dressed peacock during mating season.

In sleeping position terms they would be spooning. Think the fashion model walking down the catwalk with an Antelopes arse on her head and a dress made from reinforced concrete. Think Lady Gaga in her meat dress, think Lionel Messi in his red suit. They all have stepped over the line and moved from spoonie to spooner.

Yes, I did just call the second greatest football player to have ever played the game a spooner.

And yes I am that childish.

I also dislike shopping centers. I cant stand them.

The incessant muzak, polished floors, the attempt to create a normality within an abnormal environment. The trees, the water fountains, coffee shops and nail bars. The heady excitement of a purchase, the short-lived joy when the cashier hands over the bag and wishes you a good day. The crowds. The noise.

Yup, I dislike them immensely.

So you can imagine my horror when I arrived in the local shopping mall last weekend and walked straight into a wall of rock concert level noise and equally impenetrable crowds.

They were having a fashion show and the whole of Switzerland had turned up to watch.

Everyone seemed to be having a grand old time watching the pretty young girls and boys stride out on the catwalk.

The models would effuse confidence, stand at the end of the walkway smiling, or not depending on what they were wearing. They would then turn and walk back to huge cheers and some incomprehensible babble from the commentator. They were being applauded for walking and smiling.

I walk and smile all the time (well sometimes), no one claps me.

It did seem like there were thousands gathered around the bright lights, some surrounding the catwalk area and the rest peering down from the other levels clapping and dribbling over the latest C&A autumn, winter collection.

It was my own fault. I have no one to blame – I went on a Saturday, at 3pm.

Ordinarily on the odd occasion when I do have to go, I will go first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I walk straight to the shop I am there for, buy what I want and leave. I can easily be in and out of a shopping centre in less than five minutes.

The key is research.

Twenty minutes spent online finding the item, the correct shop and then mapping the fastest route from car park to shop is time very well spent. Good non-slip shoes help as well.

Don’t take children with you, don’t say hi to anyone, don’t glance left or right at the shiny pretty objects calling out to you and tempting you like Greek Sirens.

And never, never, never stop for a coffee, or visit drunk.

Christmas is worst possible time. Never go to a shopping mall at Christmas – you will die.

Early morning shopping centers are different places altogether though. I don’t mind them then. They are like the more mature, older and more sensible big brother version of the afternoon variety.

They are quiet and mildly pleasant places, very few people, steel shutters half open and the music set at level civilised. You can walk through safely without any fear of being accosted or having to take a detour to avoid speaking with that person you faintly recognise. They are empty and nice.

I was in a Mid West shopping center once and discovered that early morning elderly people engage in something called ‘walking the mall’. And its exactly that.

They stride around stick legged, clockwise, gripping Nordic walking poles and water bottles sticking out of their bum bags ready to hydrate as soon as they reach the Barnes & Nobel halfway rest point.

I sat there watching the caravan of retirees pass me, surprisingly quickly given their clearly well advanced years. I nodded and smiled as they rushed by. Outside it was deep snow and wind but inside, with the palm trees and blingy mobile phone cover stalls, it remained a constant 22c.

I couldn’t help think ‘only in America’ but then it probably isn’t only in America, its probably everywhere, I just don’t get to see it.

What happens when they leave the mall to take their firm leather skinned arses back to the dodge monster truck parked outside? Does the change in temperature or icy wind shock kill them?

I never found out, or rather there wasn’t a pile of octogenarian bodies heaped at the exit, so I have to assume they survived.

Or perhaps they just live there, sheltering from the harsh winter. And exercising.

Shopping centers were designed to be the perfect consumer kill zone. Get them in and never let them leave. Hit them from all angles with offers of stuff they dont need, fill their bags and don’t ever let them escape. Make the exit signs as small as regulations will allow, don’t line the escalators up, make them walk around to keep going up, or down.

Bombard them from the moment they arrive and keep it up until they do eventually manage to crawl out from under the weight of their bags and run back to the sanctuary of the car park and back into the real world.

And this is why I don’t understand why we all love them and keep flocking back most weekends to engage in ‘retail therapy’.

Which isn’t a real therapy by the way. It’s a phrase invented to give some substance to your act of spending money on stupid things, like fashion or a pink mobile phone cover. Just try buying something useful in a shopping center. Try buying a hammer, or a light bulb, or some soap. You cant.

Anyway from now on I’m going to boycott fashion and all shopping malls entirely.

I am going to either shop online, or at my local shop or possibly not at all.

I’m going to keep wearing my stone wash jeans and tie-dye t-shirts for a few more years.

I would invite you all to join me in this protest.

Only then will we set ourselves free from the retail prison we blindly walk into every weekend. The word ‘sale’ will eventually, over time, mean nothing to us.

Only then will we also be free from religiously following the latest vacuous fashion trend.

And once we have broken these chains will we be able to follow the path towards true happiness, and enlightenment.

You might look like shit but you’ll be happier, and have a lot more money.

To spend on nothing.