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Mystery wrapped inside an enigma: the Kampanaphobes

I think I have discovered a new religion.

I don’t mean I’ve received a visitation from an angel: I’ve always been spared that sort of thing for which I hope I’m duly grateful. If I ever am commanded by a divine messanger to write down a revelation I’ll post it here you may be sure.

I mean I found a phenomenon that can only be explained by some people having strange religious beliefs and practices that I am not familiar with.

I was just sitting down yesterday evening to play me Monday night game which is currently on-line as all my games are. I flicked through my e-mail queue to find the link to Zoom and noticed that the top message said that a parcel I had been expecting had been delivered ‘to a safe place’ because I hadn’t been in and a card had been posted.

No card by the door. No sign that anyone had tried to contact me in the hours they had said the parcel would be delivered. So I apologised to my players, got up and grabbed the keys, my walking stick and an umbrella and prepared to go out to search the environs of the block for where it had been left. It was pouring with rain outside and I was working myself up into a fine rant.

And I open my front door and it’s there in the corridor right in front of me. Plain as a pikestaff or rather as a cardboard box, which is probably even plainer than a pikestaff.

Now it hadn’t been there when I returned from my shopping at three-thirty. And (this is the mysterious bit) I hadn’t heard any sign of a bell ringing or a door being knocked on.

Why not? It wouldn’t have taken any longer to put the thing down and ring the bell. That’s what happened today when I got another parcel.

The only logical explanation I can come up with is: religion. There must be a religion in the world which regards knocking on doors or ringing doorbells as unclean.

I would love to know their doctrines that have led them to such a conclusion. I don’t recall any divine ordinance that applies, not even in Leviticus and they forbid everything under the sun in Leviticus. Does the prohibition apply only to certain times of the day? Or only certain days of the week?

And why do so many members of this cult end up in the delivery trade.

There’s a PhD in Anthropology or maybe Theology for the person who finds out.

According to the Phobia Wiki (and you thought I had too much time on my hands) Kampanaphobia is the unreasoning fear of bells. Do the cult members all have it? Or do they think all their customers do?

Of limited general interest

I was writing my monthly ‘zine for ALARUMS & EXCURSIONS a venerable apa about roleplaying games in theory and practice and the topic of which game systems we all like best came up, as it does every few years.

And towards the end of my piece on the subject I found myself saying ‘Oh if only there were a place on the web where I could store my list of games I have played at one point or another. Oh wait…’

Which is why I’m putting this here and those of you who don’t care about this can ignore it. I don’t pay any attention when some of my acquaintance go on about PERL programming or collecting antique motorcycles: I just nod and smile.

I’ve got a sneaky feeling that this isn’t all the games I’ve played because I’ve been doing this for a while and was not entirely sober at every game convention I’ve attended and I’m also getting old. But this is the vast majority of them.

This is in rough chronological order of first playing it: starting New Year’s Day 1976 with a DnD game at Dave Langford’s place.

& means I only ever played it the once.

@ means I’ve run or played extended campaigns of the game. I’m still in the early phases of my involvement with MASKS and WtA so who knows if they will run.

Dungeons & Dragons@. (But never, as far as I recall, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I did buy a copy of the Players and GM’s Guides but by then I was into RQ.)

Empire of the Petal Throne @

Traveller @

Tunnels and Trolls

En Garde (Mostly postally obviously though there was one disastrous face-to-face game in Coventry during the period chronicled in part of THE ELFISH GENE. I should probably mention the postal RPGs of the 1980s which gave me a fair bit of pleasure especially WHERE LIES THE POWER a game of far future politics, commerce and war that deserved its own tabletop game.)

Superhero 2044

Chivalry and Sorcery (Oh, the pain of remembering trying to create a drug-trance magician. Did you know medieval Europe had swarms of magicians who needed specially enchanted hallucinogens to work magic? It’s not in the OXFORD BOOK OF THE MIDDLE AGES but perhaps their lives were too tedious to be chronicled. The game experience certainly was.)

RuneQuest @ (2 and 3 and RQGlorantha but I skipped the ones in between though I own copies).

Lords of Creation

Dragonquest

Bushido @ (This was in the days when I couldn’t figure out a system didn’t work without playing it.)

Call of Cthulhu @

Man, Myth, and Magic &

Paranoia

Other Suns (We at least got as far as creating characters for this one but if we ever actually played it is gone from my memory)

Pendragon @ (Yes, yes. I tried to run THE GREAT PENDRAGON CAMPAIGN. We got as far as Arthur being on the throne and one of the players had become Duke of Kent. Then we had to go and lie down.)

Champions &

Rolemaster (I wish I had only played this the once…)

The Fantasy Trip

Lands of Adventure

Middle Earth Role Playing

Sandman  &

Skyrealms of Jorune

Ringworld

Maelstrom: The Turbulent Role-playing Game of Thieves, Rogues, Magick, and Mayhem &

Daredevils

GURPS @

Toon

Dream Park

TORG&

Elric! (or maybe I’m thinking of Stormbringer )

Talislanta &

Forgotten Futures

Vampire: The Masquerade @

Mage: The Ascension @

Over the Edge @

Everway @

Unknown Armies

Shadowrun

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Feng Shui @

Castle Falkenstein

HeroQuest @

In Nomine @

Savage Worlds @

Shadowrun

Buffy the Vampire Slayer @

The Deryni Adventure Game & (But in this case this doesn’t mean I don’t like the game just lack of opportunity to run it.)

Exalted (Half a & as I ran the same sample adventure with different groups and then gave up.)

Primetime Adventures

Tekumel: The Empire of the Petal Throne & (Only once and at a convention: but that’s the sort of odds I have against running anything Tekumelani…)

Ars Magica @

Reign @

In a Wicked Age

Donjon

Fiasco

A Taste For Murder  

Dogs In The Vineyard &

Trail of Cthulu

Microscope

Apocalypse World

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time And Space         

Dungeon World @

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game&

Forsooth&

The Quiet Year & (though I’m not sure that should count: it’s not quite an RPG)

The Laundry Files @

Last Best Hope&

Monster of the Week @

Night’s Black Agents @

The One Ring

FATE

The Fall of Magic&

Follow

Bethorm

Bluebeard’s Bride&

Genesys @

Blades in the Dark @

MASKS: A New Generation

Werewolf the Apocalypse

AGON&

And this doesn’t count the stuff I’ve adapted to other systems (most frequently GURPS and RQ): Like METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA, Tekumel, LACE & STEEL, Nexus: The Infinite City, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Harn and lots of other stuff I’ve forgotten.

Forever blowing bubbles

The good news is: it’s not me that’s going gaga, it’s the rest of you.

Anybody of my age or more has some reason to fear losing their faculties. The machinery and the wiring aren’t meant to last forever and sure enough they don’t. I’ve noticed over the past several years that I can find that I’ve already completed routine tasks around the house and when I look back I have no recollection of doing them at all. My mind… awa’ wi’ the fairies or more likely on some deeply important topic in stuff I’ve been reading lately.

(A chorus arises from my acquaintances who say I’ve been like that for years. I ignore them.)

Yesterday morning I got up to discover that rather than doing something and then forgetting, I’d not got around to putting the washing I did on Tuesday into the drier but I went and found a dry towel that hadn’t been in the wash and got myself showered, dressed and wrapped myself around a basic breakfast before going out.

I had risen early because I needed to go up to Amersham Hospital for an appointment with, well not Destiny but routine medical support.

Those of you of a sensitive disposition may care to look away as I reveal one of my Hidden Disabilities.

For the past twenty years, ever since I scraped my right calf across the mudguards of a bicycle that I was storing in my tiny bedsit (1) and the calf swelled up and had to be operated on for varicose veins I have worn elasticated support hose. Provided by a German company to the NHS they have kept my calves and their swelling, their creaky veins and all, under some control and I fear that I can no longer do without them: I feel horribly uncomfortable without them on.

But the fact that the NHS will only supply me with two pairs to last six months tries my patience every time. They don’t last that long and have runs and holes long before the six months is up. (2) And this time, the delays in getting new ones were made worse by the fact that the section that orders and dispenses them is down to one part-time worker who is a little overwhelmed.

Still, on Tuesday she rang me and said: Good news! Your stockings are in. Can you come and pick them up? No, we can’t deliver them to Wycombe General the way we normally do because COVID. (She didn’t put it that way, not being a Flash Young Person but a lady of respectable age.)

Well, I don’t have a car but there’s a bus from near Wycombe Station to right outside the hospital in Amersham Old Town so I said yes, anticipating the pleasure of my new stockings and not wanting them to go astray in the post.

I got on the bus, popped my bus pass on the scanner and then went and sat down. I got out my iPad and started to read my latest acquisition, a digital copy of Ken Hite’s SUPRESSED TRANSMISSION Volume 1. I was deep into his weird and sarcastic footnotes (about the tendency of the Earth’s poles to wander about, about whether some parts of the Egyptian dynasties were purely imaginary, about any connection between Dr John Dee and the disappearances at Roanoke) but I kept a weather eye out for my stop, knowing that there was a big roundabout the bus had to do a 180 turn at just before the road to the hospital.

When I found myself on the far side of Amersham, a mile from the hospital I decided that it must be me going gaga at last. I didn’t panic too much outwardly but I was very upset inside and worrying about what this absentmindedness might mean about my future use of public transport. I crossed to the other side of the road and stood there in the sunshine for twenty minutes waiting for a bus to come heading the other way. I rang the lady at the appliances department (3) to let her know I’d be late.

My left knee and hip began to complain. My right heel grumbled. They’re the reason I didn’t just set off on foot back to the hospital. I have limits on the amount of time I can stand or walk on them: I was to push those before the end of the day.

I got on the bus when it came and it strikes me now that the disadvantage of my bus pass is that I don’t have to tell the driver where I want to get to. So he doesn’t get to hear about my unreasonable expectation of him following the route that this bus always has followed in the past.

So I watch carefully for my stop and the next thing I know is I’m on the other side of Amersham at the stop by the crematorium and the driver’s telling me that no, they don’t stop at the Hospital. They haven’t stopped at the hospital for six months or more due to the works for the High Speed 2 link.

I need to go back to the far side of the road and get back to the Amersham Tesco roundabout and get the ‘feeder bus’ to Old Amersham and the hospital.

The worst thing about the whole day was, I think, the fact that his tone was saying “Why you pathetic old git, how can you possibly be ignorant of something that I know so well?”

People live in bubbles. I’ve been hearing it for a long time and it was never clearer to me than that moment. We live in our comfortable little bubbles and never think that the walls are mere shimmering illusions that will burst at the least pressure.

But God (in His Infinite Mercy) and Saints Turing and Flowers and Berners-Lee have given us a tool to burst the bubbles and spread our Good News to all nations, even we heathens who live in High Wycombe. We get the Internet in the jewel of South Buckinghamshire, you know, and I had in fact looked up the time table of the bus service before departing and bugger all word there was of any change in stopping places to be found there.

(I mentioned my reasonable expectation of up to date information to the members of my Wednesday night gaming group and they made mock of me, pointing out that I was lucky I didn’t find timetables from companies who no longer ran the service since it’s no-one’s job to make sure that things on the Internet are clear, informative and accurate.)

Now when he dropped me off at the Crematorium, I didn’t instantly believe him when he told me the best way to get to the hospital was to retrace my route. I could see where the hospital was geographically with relation to my current location on my phone and I set out to find a path. Doing this only caused me more delay and greater pain. The only direct route was now covered with workmen from HS2 and I quailed at trying to persuade me to go through their terribly important facilities.

I could get to the road bridge over the road where the hospital was and look down on the hospital and the bus stop I’d be at if the service was running normally. But any foot path was either blocked or would take ages to walk, most of it on unpaved verges.

So back to the bus stop by the crematorium where I couldn’t even sit down because the bus shelter was set back from the road and any bus would hurtle by before I was even aware it was approaching. Another twenty minutes to wait with not only growing pain in my foot, knee and hip but also the awareness that I would need a loo before journeying home.

I had a whole blogpost composed about my day while I was standing there. It took the shape of a letter from me to Almighty God complaining about the shoddy workmanship displayed by his product Homo Sapiens Sapiens and recommending better support if not an entire product recall.

But then there was a kind driver on the bus to the Tescos who ensured that I met with the kind driver of the ‘feeder bus’ who not returned during his break to pick me up after I’d got hold of my packages containing new stockings and had a chance to use the loos at the hospital. As I returned home I wasn’t exactly content but I wasn’t in the blazing fury that I had been while standing at the bus-stop by the crematorium.

This morning I got up late, I had a shower, I got ready to put on my nice new tight stockings. It’s one of the small sensuous pleasures left in my life and I try to make the most of them.

They were the wrong damn stockings.

They were black rather than the nasty beige colour I was expecting. They were the wrong model, lacking the rubberised grip at the top to keep them up. And most important of all they were three sizes too small.

The Teutonic efficiency of the manufacturers had failed for the first damn time in 20 years.

Speak not to me in apologetic tones of the effects of a worldwide pandemic. Your assurances that I will have the right stockings by the end of next week ring hollow as I fish the worn out ones from the waste bin.

I just want you to know that whatever the evidence may seem to show, I am one of the few people left with all their marbles and any problems you may be having are Somebody Else’s Fault. Clear?

(1) I blame my mother for this, God rest her. She worried that if I left the bike out in the hallway or locked up outside the building it would be stolen. Dutiful son that I was I listened to her fears. But the flat wasn’t big enough for me and the bike at least when I was stumbling from my bed to the loo and my right calf paid the price.

(2) For simplicity’s sake I leave out the saga of my attempts to buy extra stocking outside the NHS proviion.

(3) Well, alright to give it’s proper name the Orthotics department. How many of you knew that word before today. Hmm, quite a few is my guess given the age group my readership seems to tilt towards.

Another one bites the dust

Oh, damnit!

Now André Ptaszynski’s dead.

Don’t say ‘who’. He was a big deal André was. One of the three people I knew at Oxford who went on to be big cheeses in the theatre business. Only one of the three ever employed me and it wasn’t André but none the less I’m feeling sad and sentimental. A man does that at my age when he sees someone he’d known in his youth die.

Good sense of humour, Mr Ptaszynski had, which you need if you’re going to be a big cheese in theatre and a sense of history too. When the Savoy theatre (was it the Savoy?) burned to the ground while he had a lease on it he took a bottle and a glass outside it so he could quote what Sheridan said on a similar occasion: “A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.”

And here am I feeling sorry for myself because my foot hurts and though comfortable I have no prospect of doing anything significant with my life. Sad, self-pitying old git.

I didn’t mark the anniversary of my father’s death last weekend because I had nothing new to say. The isolation of the current emergency isn’t helping me create wonderful new things but rather is making me celebrate the tiniest victories of life, like making it to the shops and back or finding a new book I enjoy. The victories are getting tinier by the week, I tell you.

And what is more I’m getting more forgetful and crankier. I need to be politer to people, even bus drivers who go past my stop. Perhaps especially those.

You think I’m being miserable now? You wait until the winter comes! I won’t be able to take a trip to some sunny tropical island this year!

Ah, well. Back to the next project which is finding a good viewpoint and plot for a writing project and getting the research done for my next on-line RPG. We had a good session today as the Vampires of Oldcastle and it really should have cheered me up more than it did.

But then I had to go and flick through the obituaries in ANSIBLE and discover that another old comrade had gone. I should know better at my age.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/aug/04/andre-ptaszynski-obituary

EDITED TO ADD:

Not having posted anything here for a while I went back and read a lot of my earlier postings…

Which puffed up my vanity a bit and helped me feel a little less depressed.

Unfortunately, it also brought me to read up on Dunbar’s Number from a comment of my friend Roger’s on one of my posts.

And it strikes me that my number of relationships seems to have dropped a lot over the past year and I’m not sure I was ever near the 150 that Dunbar thought was our top limit. My memory for faces and people is bad at the best of times.

But what really got me back into my grumpy mood is the mention of our social networks being evolved from primates grooming each other. Fat chance of me doing any grooming of anybody just now! Not even a cat to brush! I’m even forgetting to comb my hair before going out most days.

I wonder what counts against Dunbar’s Number anyway? People where I can remember who they are and most of the times I’ve spoken to them are at the core. I suppose there are a few dozen of them.

Then there are the people who I know and I can even remember their names and faces and the contexts I’ve met them in… But I’ve never had a serious conversation with them and I couldn’t tell you their opinion on anything.

And then there’s the people where all I have is a context and maybe a name (“Mr what’s his name at the chemists”, “The nice lady at the library”).

But then there are the people who I don’t get frequent reminders of their existence but who I’ve woven into stories about myself that I keep telling myself. Is Mr Greenhaulgh my old Latin master (dead these many a long year) part of my relationship map? Is the boy who bullied me in primary school? Is Chris Davies (Hi Chris if you ever read this!) my old school friend who ended up a LibDem MEP part of it? Haven’t seen him for about a decade but he’s still alive. What about all the people I acted with: dozens more of them.

It’s no wonder I’m running out of space in which to note that I’ve just hung up my coat and put away my walking stick. No wonder I find myself suddenly further along in my routine than I thought I was with no memory of having done the intervening stages.

My brain needs a good uncluttering: been saying that for decades.

Geeky and tacky

Here’s something that just occurred to me. For all I know others have thought of it already.

According to the writers of the episodes she was in, River Song was not a Time Lord.

She was ‘just’ a normal human female born in the TARDIS and suffused with the energies of the ship. (The TARDIS apparantly liked her: they’re both cheerfully amoral.)

But…

If you believe the load of nonsense Chibnall wrote into the last series that doesn’t work. Because only the Gallifreyans who had been genetically altered to include the regenerative ability of the Timeless Child could regenerate.

And that’s not possible unless River was the child of the Doctor and not of Rory.

And that would mean the Doctor marrying his own daughter.

Geeky and tacky at once.

You see what trouble you get into when you don’t care about continuity?

A Red-Letter(ish) Day

Today I am a (Very Old) Man!

In the post today came my long awaited, much anticipated certificate of old-codgerdom: my bus-pass.

Drivers have been looking at me with surprise for nearly two years now: I staggered on their charabangs and insisted that I had to pay for my trip back home. Clearly the signs of eld and dotage have been on my brow (or somewhere, anyway) for some time now and they didn’t want to have to bother with the extra fiddle of issuing me a ticket.

You may judge for yourselves from the photo on the attached illustration whether they were right or not.

Ah well, one fewer chance for human interaction in my life. Swings and roundabouts!

And this is not all! For on Monday (according to a note from my old employers at the DWP) I shall receive the first payment of my old age pension. And then more largess every four weeks until either I or the British state fall off the perch, kick the bucket or join the choir eternal.

Until recently I had assumed it was going to be me that went first.

I feel as ambiguous as I normally do at these developments. I honestly thought at some stages that I would have a miserable and penurous old age. (A VOICE FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY: There’s still time yet!) but here I am with a nice flat, enough to live on and a little to spare. I hope I’m not ungrateful for all that.

But my health remains a little concerning, particularly the continuing problems with my right foot which leads on to problems with my weight and lack of exercise. For about two days this week I had the pleasant delusion that perhaps the paiin was finally going away and that after three years I’d finally come to the end of the condition. But today I’m less comfortable and more worried.

Still, I can get on board any bus in the country (after 9-30 am, 9.00 am in Buckinghamshire) and ride it to my heart’s content. Perhaps (if I can get myself up to the top deck still) I shall go on a tour.

For Your Eyes Only

My friend Lindy (hi, Lindy!) put me onto the fact that the Hay Literary Festival was free and online this year so I got in line to see if there were any spaces left to soak in their bandwidth and watch the presentations live.

It was worth it even though I only got there in time for a few of the things that interested me. Michael Wood on the history and literature of China. Paul Krugman on the rather depressing state of western democracy. I’ve got Sandi Toskvig to come this afternoon and this morning I sat at my computer in my underpants listening to A C Grayling talk about the reforms that are needed in our British way of government to prevent recurrence of the sickness Paul Krugman talked about.

To be honest I only agreed entirely with one of his points which was electoral reform. I’m only half heartedly in support of a written and embedded constitution because I can see it becoming a mill stone around the neck of later generations the way it has in America. And from then on his wish list becomes heavy on things I have doubts about. Separation of powers sounds fine but is contrary to practices that work pretty well: it will inevitably lead to the sort of deadlock you get in America when Presidency and Legislature aren’t in agreement. Giving the vote to 16 year olds not only reminds me what a plonker I was at that age but makes me wonder where you stop expanding the electorate. And term limits! He wants term limits! The man is supposed to be a philosopher! (When he said that I shouted abuse at the screen and my neighbours must have wondered what I was up to.)

But criticising Mr Grayling wasn’t what I wanted to talk about and I shall buy his book for my Kindle nonetheless.

What I wanted to say was to acknowledge a point he raised about the dangers of targeted political advertising. Nowadays, you can send people political communiques that are intended to punch their particular buttons. You can tell them the arguments your advisors think will appeal to them and not only will they not see the things that your opponents are saying but your opponents will have to dig hard to discover the things you are circulating.

And when he pointed that out I flashed on how I had reacted to seeing the Tories’ New Labour, New Danger poster of ill fame and repute. I came around the corner near the old Unemployment Office (where I had spent so many days of my youth) in High Wycombe that day in 1979 and saw a picture depicting Mr T.Blair (MA Oxon) with glowing red eyes.

And I burst out laughing.

I can’t have been alone. It was so over the top and ludicrous. On me, who was not part of its target audience, it not only didn’t encourage me to vote Tory, it made me (briefly) inclined to vote Labour out of sympathy for a party whose leader had been so obviously slandered.

And the laughter of their fellows may have made at least some people think twice before swallowing the propaganda.

But nowadays we get the little doses of vitriol spread privately. And there is a tendency to hug those arguments to oneself if your fellows mock them. We all get to live in little artificial tribes.

I don’t know how you fix this though. I can’t imagine a law being passed telling politicians that they had to use only print and broadcast media to argue their case. But it worries me.

This is probably a thought that other people have had before me and possibly more clearly than me. Maybe someone has come up with a clear and workable solution.

I sort of doubt it though.

Third time is enemy action

For the second time now I’ve come across Leave supporting material in some fiction I was reading.

Now, it has to be said that my preferred reading for relaxation isn’t most people’s. I’m a long time sf fan and I have a tendency to gobble up low grade pot-boilers as long as they’re SF or Fantasy. I’ll buy whole series of them in Kindle form and work through them in orgies of eye-strain. I accept that I’m going to end up with some clunkers that way but I get some good experiences (try Harry Connolly’s TWENTY PALACES sequence for gore-splattered modern fantasy-horror) and if I don’t like what I get I can stop reading.

But twice now I’ve found modern British writers of SF&F speaking as if departing the EU was the obvious, sensible and patriotic thing to do. And this is as bizarre to me as discovering a modern book of economics that praises feudalism or a contemporary book of medicine that holds the germ theory an unproven fad.

In the first, a time travel series with a humorous tone, there was a remark made in a scene set in our near future that someone who did an academic dissertation on the history of the EU wouldn’t have much material to master.

In the second, a modern fantasy police procedural (funny how many turn up in the wake of RIVERS OF LONDON) a Welsh police officer stoutly reminds Our Heroes that Wales voted Leave and that they, who come respectively from Geordie-land and rural Gloucestershire, must be on the side of the Angels too.

Now, a certain amount of satisfying of fantasies is baked into the two types of ‘speculative fiction’. I can’t remember who said it but it’s true that pornography and SF are two genres where the universe is an unreasonably hospitable place. However, both times my Disbelief Suspenders shattered against this evidence that there is a body  of opinion out there that plays in the same sandboxes as me but has a very different model of how people work.

Time machines, faster than light travel, human  immortality, ghouls and dragons… I can handle all the  stuff that non-sf readers find throw them  out of the story. But this is what does it for me and I find myself sitting there seeing all the creaky plotting and lazy writing that I was forgiving for the sake of the tale come rushing up into my consciousness.

One has always known that there are modern SF writers of a weirdly conservative bent but up to now most of them have been Americans. I remember feeling quite smug that we didn’t do this sort of thing when I read a story which involved Texas breaking away from the US because the newly elected first female President (a thinly veiled caricature of Hilary Clinton) made her lesbian lover the Chief of the General Staff, created an SS equivalent out of the Department of Health and went around forcing women to have abortions.

But now the plague of idiocy has reached Britain and I can’t even withdraw to my armchair to avoid it.

Dammit, I can’t change my reading habits this late in life. I wouldn’t be able to convert to literary fiction: reading about middle class persons having angst… It doesn’t bear thinking about! Do you think I could get people to put content warning on their books if they’re going to do this?

LATER EDITED TO ADD:

I read in my mail queue but seem to have lost a comment from my  friend Roger about how  I could maybe review before purchasing… But this would make me into the sort of sensitive snowflake that I am not in point of fact. It’s not that I can’t bear to read things that disagree with me. It’s that I see a trend and I want to mock it to death before it spreads.

If I allow myself to be depressed by the idiocy in modern public and intellectual life I shall shudder flabbily  down into a slough of perpetual despond and become even more of a disappointment to myself than I already am.

It would be nice if I could think of a way to use  the tropes of the genre to produce a little counter propaganda but I can’t just now. I can only hope that in a few decades time if anybody notices what I seem to see right now they will pay it the same sort of attention we now do to  the peculiar portrayal of the Jews in Christie, Sayers and Dennis Wheatley and the even more direct bigotry and antisemetism in John Buchan.

“Well,” our successors will say, “you have to understand the times it was written in…”

And the stern young people of those days will look at their middle-aged parents with disapproval and quite right too.

A problem in modern etiquette

How do you tell a business they don’t understand their customers?

Or rather how do you tell them that they could make money out of you… if they weren’t dedicated to making more money out of people who aren’t you?

Thing I’m worrying about at the moment is how long Google Hangouts is going to last. It’s already not supported as Google tries to shift everyone towards Google Meet, which is like Hangouts but with more features and focused on the business user. Oh and charging money.

Now just about everything charges except Discord (query: how does Discord make any money then?) but Google Meet’s pricing structure seems particularly useless. The Free version would be fine for my needs except that it’s limited to sixty minutes and I want to use  it to  run Role-Playing Games on line.

The ‘G Suite Essentials’ level looks like it gives me all that I want and is free until September… But it won’t recognise a ‘non-business e-mail’ as a valid basis for setting up an account and assuming I get used to it the charge is going to be $10.00 a month per user, 

Now, Zoom may have its faults (and the Internet rumour machine is pouring them in my ear every time I mention it) but it only charges a fixed fee of £11.99 a month for up to nine hosts and a hundred users. It’s branded as for ”small teams’ which should cover any hobby use.

Are Google not interested in the hobby user?

Who do I write to when I want to say: “Look here, you’re being prats and I want you to remember I told you so when the day comes you realise I was right all along.” Lots of means of contact if you want to complain they’ve done something wrong. None to tell them they’re doing something stupid.

Perhaps I should ask my niece in San Francisco.

Or perhaps I’m precisely the sort of boring old man with too much time on his hands that this non-contact system was set up to discourage.

Pleasures of the solitary life

I spent today at home wearing no trousers.

It was very pleasant just pottering around in my t-shirt and underpants. If society doesn’t return to normal soon, I may make this my regular attire.

I’m aware that this is only one step from the state of mind of the chap in my mum’s retirement home who decided (if anything so advanced can be said to be happening in his state of pleasant confusion) that even underpants were not necessary.

(That’s not him above: it’s Donald Swann, author of the musical number I link to below.)

At the moment though I’m putting off nudism until I can afford to live somewhere which isn’t so overlooked and to have some household staff who will protect me from sudden visitations by disapproving persons.

 

My  medieval society has cancelled its May Revel which is sad. We were going to take over a house in Suffolk  for a weekend of medieval arts, sciences and martial exercise. I now have to organise the election of a new monarch (or the re-election of the old one: we get a choice) without the ritual of hustings with the two candidates.

And one of the things that got cancelled with the Revel was the University Debate in which we sit around and pontificate about topics that appeal to me: because I’m the Rector of the University and that’s one of my major pleasures. I say I’m the Rector but actually my persona in the Society is and he’s a Cardinal Archbishop. So take what is written below as written by him.

Just yesterday I came up with what I think would have been an excellent topic for debate:

Is love always wise?

In common parlance, we would say no. We have sayings about the folly of lovers, about loving ‘not wisely but too well’.

But in Christianity (and not only there) love is recommended absolutely. Without it we cannot know God.

But then it says that God’s wisdom is folly in the eyes of the world. (1 Corinthians 3:19 EDITED TO ADD: No, drat it! Lindy is right (again) and I should have said 1 Corinthinans 1:25 ” For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” Something like that anyway…. I may have another quotation floating in my brain.).

But on the gripping hand if we conceive as divine love as too different from human love we move into the temptations of the mystics who seek internal ecstasies without manifesting love towards the actual people who surround them. The love the Apostle John speaks of in his letter is the actual practical, mundane, earthly and earthy love that we feel for our brothers and sisters, not an abstract or purely spiritual thing.

At least that’s what I would have led with if I had been allowed to get my theological ya-yahs out this year.

As for myself in my proper persona: I have always accentuated wisdom and now look at me: a man on his own wearing no trousers.

“I was a wise man: and now I am sorry. The wisdom of winter is madness in May.”