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Getting sensitive in my old age

I’ve written here before about one of the people who irritate me: the Baptist preacher in Wycombe High Street.

It was not only his Calvinist theology that irritated me but also his projection, his diction, his whole way of preaching. It grated at my aesthete’s sensibilities and I felt like heckling.

But I saw the same group in the High Street yesterday (I was going down to the British Heart Foundation to drop off a bunch of card games I’d culled from my collection: I’d forgotten how many MUNCHKIN varieties I owned.) and either they have improved or I’m getting less sensitive. They may have got themselves a new preacher: the one yesterday was a lot thinner than the fellow before as well as a lot less raucous. But both of those could be the result of COVID. Still didn’t like the theology but I got down to the charity shop in a vastly better mood.

And this leads to a reflection on idiots on the Internet, especially the ones on YouTube. Just like street preaching going on YouTube doesn’t require any actual ability to communicate. There are arrogant teenagers and twenty-somethings who think they’re terribly funny and are wrong. (Is this the feeling that my Dad got watching Monty Python.) There are fresh-faced young journalists giving their not terribly insightful comments on current affairs. Maybe one in a thousand of them may get to be the next generations Jeremy Paxman.

There are people who can’t judge how loud and insistent they are in front of a camera or down a microphone. (And yes there are some who are off the other way: who knew E.L.Wisty had so many offspring?) There are people I actually like, whose views I want to hear who I can’t stand to hear formulate them.

On the whole it’s people who hit too hard that put me off. I’m British, I’m middle-class, I’m older. While I want people to speak up and speak clearly (because I’m old) I don’t want agression from something I’m watching/listening to for pleasure or education.

I get a bad impression of the education in rhetoric that young people get, in the US or in the UK. The Americans seem to have received lessons in how to be clear and teach the point of what they are trying to get across. The British seem to have been told to ‘express themselves’ which some of them do to excess.

Should there be such a thing as communication education? Is there? I dunno. I’m sure there are a huge number of experts on the Internet who have five vital tips they will give you in return for your click.

(Nobody should listen to my podcast (Improvised Theatre With Dice) for evidence that I know what I’m talking about. It’s a place where Roger and I come together with a couple of topics and a list of the points we want to make to each other and we wrestle (intellectually speaking) with the theme and with each other. It gets messy sometimes with lots of ums and ahs. Sometimes it flies but those are our good days.)

There are a few who I go back to and think they know what they’re doing. It’s not always to the good (there are some very smooth people out there selling some very dodgy ideas) but at least I don’t grind my teeth. At the moment Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast REVISIONIST HISTORY is my indulgence: he does irritate me with some of his conclusions but he delivers them clearly and in interesting ways. (Now go ahead tell me your favourites and how you can’t stand Malcolm Gladwell. I’m braced.)


I’ve been involved in three or four coronations in my time, once as the one to be anointed. Admittedly, the Far Isles has never had the population of the United Kingdom, nor the budget. But I feel that I have enough experience to criticize.

Overall, Alpha, maybe even Alpha Plus. A solid performance of the traditional rituals with enough modifications to take the idea forward. The King probably wanted to go further but that would have required legislation that skirted the edge of constitutional reform. He got to stick in a prayer of his own and ensured the service went on about him being of service more than it went on about him being magnificent.

But every generation rewrites the ceremony a bit. The core of this one was written a little more than a hundred years ago.

A large number (for Britain) of minority participants in the ceremonial and a notable number of women among the clergy, courtiers and politicians. The Lord President of the Council (who is female but is still called ‘Lord’) looking particularly striking, in a dress whose colour and ornamentation reminded people, or so they said, of the Poundland chain of discount stores. She had been in training, so she said, for hefting the two swords she was responsible for.

(At one point about the middle of the procession into the Abbey that ended with the entry of the Queen and then the King, I swear I saw three women bearing white wands. Not a clue as to who they might be from the order of service. Others tell me they saw them too and have had similar lack of luck in their researches. I came to the conclusion that they were the representatives of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, Slytherin having refused to cow tow to a Muggle Monarch.)

And the anthem for the entry of the Queen and King was very fine. Enough ‘Vivats’ to satisfy even a member of the SCA who tend to vivat their monarchs until they’re deaf.

Watching the various noble and sacred persons reading their lines from bits of paper makes me happier that we had to do the same thing in the Far Isles.

Our coronations tended to feel under rehearsed and perhaps the same problem was what was making the Archbishop of Canterbury look so grumpy, though you did rather get the impression that he would rather not have shared the stage with all these non-Anglican persons. I’ve never heard ‘Christ is Risen!’ said in such a dyspeptic tone before.

The Moderator of the Church Of Scotland on the other hand, did his little bit beautifully, presenting a newly printed Bible with dignity and meaning.

(I wondered why the Orthodox representative had an Ulster accent, which is narrow minded of me.)

It was moving to hear ‘Zadok the Priest’ which has been part of the ceremony since Handel wrote it in its proper place, which is giving people something to interest them while the King is being anointed out of sight. And they got an anthem to knock the roof of the Abbey.

I didn’t actually see the Prince of Wales kiss the King after swearing fealty: I was probably too busy thinking that the FI did things better. Or possibly being irritated by the burst of chatter over the BBC’s comms that got heard by the world at large. (“Is that the Prince of Wales?” “Yes, close up on the Prince of Wales!”)

And then out to the Poor Bloody Infantry and the Damned Damp Cavalry in the rain outside with representative troops from around the Commonwealth (including four Mounties!) with water running off their hats to escort them back to the palace.
Not bad for a once in a lifetime (I very much hope) experience.

Ah well, Long Live The King! ” (Though not ‘May the King Live Forever’ because that never works.) Because if we have to do this again any time soon the only way we’ll afford a coronation is if we open it to commercial sponsorship. “And now as McDonald’s King Of Arms hands the Capita Sword of Justice to the Premier Inns Lord President of the Council…”

Alarming signs of humour in high places

What the actual flip? (Euphemism)

There’s a Church at the start of the London Road in High Wycombe just opposite my block of flats which is just before the London Road begins. And once again some drunken lackwit has demolished the low wall that separates the grounds of the United Reformed Church from the pavement.

This and similar incidents happen with monotonous regularity, not just at the festive season but all year round. Normally during the night when the roads are empty of most traffic and a fool coming from the roundabouts nearer to the centre of town can gain a bit of speed, come around the bend and… lose control and ram into something.

I normally sleep through it nowadays and awake to find that walls, signs, bollards and anything that might absorb the impact has been knocked down again. Heaven knows how many times the zebra crossing has been taken out of commission.

I stopped by the United Reformed Church to tut-tut at the damage and actually read what the tape wrapped around the damage said.

IDIOT. In bold black on yellow.

When did they start doing that?

Does it have any legal significance?

Are police… no actually it would have been fire and rescue people since their tape was also in evidence anyway are The Authorities allowed to defame people like that without a court verdict to sustain it?

Not that I disagree with the sentiment you understand but I have an appetite for legal niceties.

Enquiring minds want to know.

Like JARNDYCE v JARNDYCE but with Magic Missiles.

You may or may not have heard that there is a kerfuffle going on in the world of The World’s Most Popul;ar RPG Whose Initials Are D and D. The publishers have decided that from now on they want a cut of third party publisher’s profits above a certain level and not only that but the rights to the intellectual property that is thus generated. They have for decades had an Open Gaming Licence by which people who are not them can use their game system for their own publications and projects. No pay, no fuss and very little interference by Wizards of the Coast and their corporate masters at Haboro

But now they want to monetize this relationship

From now on if you were to found a YouTube channel and it became the next CRITICAL ROLE or publish a setting and it became the next PTOLUS or RAVENWOOD then not only would you have to pay Wiizards Of The Coast/Hasboro for the privilege but you would have to give them the fruits of your writing if they wanted it. So that they could use the setting you have so lovingly made and probably bugger it up horribly.

Now nobody seems to be saying they can’t do this (though lots and lots of people seem to be thinking it’s crazy and short sighted me included) but the punchline is that they want to retroactively convert the licences which they issued under the old Open Game Licences into ones under the the new more restrictive version, retroactively changing the deal by which material has been published for the last twenty years and more. A deal that was supposed to be perpetual and irrevocable.

Well, it behooves me (and it currently behooves THE BUNDLE OF HOLDING) to remind you that there are lots of other game systems with which you could run your super duper YouTube channel that will make you a fortune. Speaking as someone who hasn’t touched DnD since 1979, I would point to Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS and to the many variants of RUNEQUEST one of which (MYTHRAS) is in this new bundle.

I just hope that all of the people who are irritated with this move by Hasboro can agree to pool their legal resources and get the thing quashed in court before it does any damage to the hobby. I heard yesterday of a DOCTOR WHO game published using 5th Edition mechanics. Is Hasboro going to attempt to claim that all the Daleks are belong to them? Retroactively what’s more? I’m pretty sure that’s against the Laws of Time if not American intellectual property law.

On the fringes of fame and glory

Hey, you’ll never guess what! We got a nomination!

For what you ask? For Favourite ‘Talk’ RPG podcast on the ENWORLD (not the Ennies but a fellow can dream) website.

Personally I think KEN AND ROBIN TALK ABOUT STUFF will walk it as usual but it’s nice to know we’ve got enough listeners to get a nomination! (It’s a lonely life being a podcaster sometimes: a bit like shouting at the void.)

Tell your friends (assuming you have any that are interested in such arcana)!

What’s that? Oh, we’re IMPROVISED RADIO THEATRE WITH DICE, me and Roger Bell_West. Look us up! Listen to us! (But don’t feel you have to do that before voting for us of course….)

I am already writing my acceptance speech… Ot at least rejigging the one I never got to use at the Oscars….


As I believe I said last time, it wasn’t bad. I’m not prepared to say it was actually good but it wasn’t bad. Or at least not very bad and certainly not apocalyptically bad as I was rather afraid it might be. There, that will teach me to be more optimistic in future. (Spoiler: Oh, no it won’t.)

The faults lay in Chris Chibnall’s tendency to throw everything he could conceive of into the story and then treat the resulting mess as a special treat. He found time to include the horrid sight of the Master boogeying to the sound of Rah-Rah Rasputin but not to explain what ‘Forced Regeneration’ was and why it was so horrible. (The Master impersonating, replacing or just being Rasputin was a lovely idea: the boogeying was not.) There was a powerful Cosmic Thingumajig in the shape of a cute little girl sometimes and a giant electric dandelion seed at other times. That could have been the core of an interesting episode in itself but here it was just a side issue in the incoherent core narrative.

The major pleasure of the episode was the sheer amount of fan service it managed to put into it, cameos for five former Doctors in the main story (plus one more after the regeneration). Oh and I forgot about the appearance of the lady who was playing the Other Doctor, the Fugitive Doctor at the start of the last season. The BBC seems now to be explaining her as ‘one of the Doctor’s future selves’ which manages to make even less sense than Chris Chibnall’s explanation.

But it was the number of former companions that made the episode the joyous mess of fan pandering that it was. (I’m not complaining! I am clearly one of the target audience for this.) Not only Tegan and Ace (and Kate Stewart who was a fan favourite but not technically a companion) in the main story but by the end we had the first meeting of what we can only call Companions Anonymous with the addition of Graham, Dan, Mel, Jo and (for goodness sake!) Ian Chesterton from the first few seaons. Oh, I soaked it all up and enjoyed the nostalgia and soap opera stuff much more than the manic plot

(Reviewing the cast list at the end of the show I can see I forgot about Space Pilot Vinder who I didn’t think was special enough to revive him for this one appearance but maybe people other than me saw his appeal, )

The thing that puzzles me is why David Tennant gets to do the anniversay episodes. Is this saying that they don’t quite trust the new chap to do right by that historic occasion? It was done neatly, I will admit. I was just thinking: “Regenerating into a new set of clothes? Never done that before…” before I realised that we weren’t going to see the new chap just yet. (I’d been assuming that Tennant’s return was going to be another example of the Doctor’s incarnations meeting.)

And the thing that annoys me is that we aren’t going to get to Tennant D. as the Fourteenth Doctor until November next year. Seeth. It’s almost as if the BBC doesn’t want to make the series.

So this is what that feels like

If you’re British you must have wondered for years what it was going to feel like when she finally laid down her burden. And now here it is.

As with watching my mother’s death, the sheer repetitive strain of her last yeas took away a lot of the grief I felt was going to wsh over me. All that is left, as with my mother, is to say thank you and goodbye.

I already see the things that I anticipated would happen. Over optimistic republicans hoping that this means finally seeing some movement towards a ‘more rational’ constitution. I think that, like the Brexiteers who assumed that the EU would collapse without Britain holding it together, they are doomed to be disappointed.

Americans are popping up, asking to have things explained to them, often extremely unlikely hypothetical situations as in KING RALPH.

At least the Internet pundits who were spreading rumours that we would never have a King Charles III ‘because it was unlucky’ are termporarily embarrased .

I am not going to watch the Prime Minister’s statement because whether she does it well or ill it’sgoing to cause me pain.

I’ve thought a fair bit about how I feel about constitutional monarchy in the years waiting for this moment. And I’ve come to the conclusion that though I rather like a neutral, religio-political figurehead as the person the people look to as someone they can revere as an embodiment of the nation I am quite opposed to hereditary monarchy.

Because what hereditary monarchy does is rather like what the citizens of Omelas do in Ursula Le Guin’s short story.

Whilst they torture a small child to ensure the continuity of their perfect city, we British gently torment a whole family, twisting them out of shape in order to ensure we will always have someone dedicated to tradition, to duty, to the best aspects of the nation. Or at least someone capable of projecting such a persona to the general populace.

It’s true they get to do this in a most luxurious prison, with all the flattery they can eat. But nonetheless it bends them out of shape. Look at the care lined face of our new King if you doubt me. There’s a man who has been sacrificed to duty from an early age.

I’d go for an elective monarchy myself, perhaps restricted to the descendants of the Electress Sophia as at present and only decide who the new monarch is when the old one is safely buried. This is a Reform Movement that I am perhaps the only member of but I mean it quite sincerely.

Oh, dear the Tories will be expressing their loyalty all over the shop and enjoying being able to mock better people than them on the opposition benches if they even just say: “Well, do we really want to be carrying on with this rigmarole?”

It’s just as well my tee-shirts are all black: I don’t have a proper suit of mourning nor even a black armband.

There will be nothing but tributes and royal history on the BBC for a while, possibly until the funeral is done. There will be a new face and voice doing the Christmas message and presumably sometime next year (COVID permitting) a coronation. The image of the Archbishop of Canterbury in mask and full episcopal fig briefly entertains me.

And so to bed, knowing at last what the death of the Queen feels like.

Rwandan Whispers

I woke up to a BBC interview with Boris whose headline was:

PM: I will not undergo psychological transformation after poll defeat

​Was anybody expecting him to? Perhaps it’s one of the effects of him being in Rwanda. We all shout “You can bugger off now Boris! Bugger right off!”

And in the middele of a Commonwealth conference he hears: “You must undergo a psychological transformation, Prime Minister.”

I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m against transformation, pyschological, spiritual or even physical. But I feel that it’s best pursued when out of office. Once his time is his own again he can seek the road to Damascus or sit under a bo-tree until he achieves enlightenment. Or take an OU degree or take up squash. Just bugger off first, Prime Minister.

I’m detecting, by the way, a more and more intense fawning tone to the BBC’s news coverage nowadays. Greater and greater care not to upset the PM as he approaches his tragedic (and absurd) climax. Rather than gathering around like jackals waiting for the Great White Elephant to fall over, their reporters turn up with fresh towels, a jug of freshly made Pyms and a sympathetic ear. Call me a cynic but even Lord Reith wouldn’t have been sticking up for a PM this far gone.

I wonder what I meant by that

There’s this idea called confirmation bias. Meaning (I think) that we notice more the facts, statements and opinions that tend to confirm what we already know.

Which led to me observing how many philosophers go to great lengths and write huge books to demonstrate the things they believed at the begining.

(Old joke: A mathematics professor comes into the lecture hall and writes a statement in symbolic logic on the board. He turns to the students and says: “Ladies and gentlemen, I think that you will agree with me that this statement is obvious. Therefore…” And there he paused, looked at the board for a moment and asked to be excused. Half an hour later he came back, wild-eyed with a note book covered with scrawls. “Yes, yes! I was right: it is obvious!”)

It’s particularly noticeable in conservative political thinkers who want to prove that they are not only right but have been all this time and will be into the foreseeable future and in theologians who want to show the same for the beliefs they have held since childhood.

It’s astonishing how many people think that their particular tribe is the triumph of all human endeavour and that everyone else ought to become like them as soon as possible.

‘Progressives’, those whose hearts and homelands are in the future are no better. They tend to slip into cliches and ‘things that everybody knows’. Their TTEK are different from the reactionaries but they are no less traditional in their nature.

What I’m coming round to asking my vast acquaintance is: was there ever a philosopher who surprised himself by what he found himself thinking? Examples would be welcome but most philosophers seem to come to what they write and say already knowing what it is they want to show to be true.

Me included, insofar as I am a serious thinker at all.

By the way, I note that my preference for Number Fourteen where not followed. Never mind, I’ll give the new fella a fair trial though I won’t watch the thing he was best known for before, SEX EDUCATION, not because of any smuttiness (I follow Tom Lehrer’s philosophy with regard to that) but because the fact that it Americanised its depiction of British education causes my head to ache and my blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels.

The Joy of Outrage

I haven’t posted anything about the Easter DR WHO special for two reasons.

The first was that Eastercon wiped me out a bit. I’m going to have to take more care about taking advantage of the facilities for aging and unfit persons if I’m going to make conventions fun in the future. I’m thinking a shopping trolley for All My Stuff because carrying a shoulder bag sent the entire weight of the planet directly to my back. Or maybe one of the walkers that my mum had in her old age because they provide a place to sit down. The chairs in convention function rooms are not designed for comfort: the chairs in the bars are.

The second was that I didn’t have a lot to say. It was a perfectly adequate piece of co-production, producing a cross between a DR WHO episode and a 1980s Chinese Martial arts movie. There was flash, bang and wallop. There was fan service and a revived monster-of-the-week. It wasn’t bad.

Which isn’t to say that it was actually good but at this stage in Chris Chibnall’s tenure I’m prepared to settle for Not Bad. I am, let it be clearly understood, dreading his final program. He still wants to do the Grand Reboot that he has been hinting at and I am fearful he will wipe the series continuity just to show he can and leave things in a terrible mess.

But my wishy-washy and easy-going attitude has not been dupilicated on the Internet or at least not on the subset of it that I watch. Rage, rage against the total betrayal of their favourite (?) show no longer being as good as it once was. (Look, I remember Kandyman and that was when I was cheering because they were giving Sylvester McCoy better scripts than Colin Baker.) It’s not just the Doctor, the bile and invective about PICARD is just as ludicrous.

Is it age hitting the generation that was young in the 80s? Is it just the maddening effect of the Intertubes? Is it people channeling their other disappointments into fannish issues? I cannot tell but I don’t like it.

Or is it just that they like the feeling? Does being angry give them a charge which the rest of their life isn’t providing? I must admit that I’m getting more disagreeable as I get older. I sat in some of the panel items at the Eastercon and while some of my wrath must be ascribed to the pains in my back, my hips and my knees there was also a strain of thinking “This person is young and therefore wrong!” Or it could be that there has been a noticeable drop in the ability of panelists to come up with coherent and interesting material at short notice. An increase in sententiousness and poor sentence structure. A tendency to open their mouths and speak without knowing where the sentence is going to end.

Bah, I say, and likewise humbug. I’m going to have to be careful: outrage and judgementalism is a terrible drug.

I am also dreading RTD’s decision about the next Doctor (which is being played impressively close to the chest so far). I want the next Doctor to also be female, just to show that it can be done better. Well, yes having the heads of some of the nay-sayers explode is attractive to me but it’s really a side issue. I even have a candidate: Aisling Bea.

I know, I know but two previous Doctors have appeared in the show before being regenerated into the title character and we know that Romana managed to copy someone’s appearance. It’s perfectly rational and canon. Trust me on this.

I don’t (for once) envy the DR WHO showrunner. I must be getting old.