21 December 1998
These articles were written in 1988, and were my first attempt at writing. Some people when shown these fell about laughing, some smiled faintly - and some yawned.
I thought I was going to write a technical book, but it soon became apparent that I was much more interested in the people than the technology - and that is the main reason there are no drawings - although it might be rather good to do a couple of caricatures sometime.
Index of Friday Woodorker articles (and a means of access).
We are still redesigning The Other News From England. At last there are a few drawings (see below), and work has begun on putting together old articles form the early nineties. It will be somewhat sparse for some time yet
There is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).
Index of earlier issues.
New drawing this week.
I am working to make the sheet music accessible (some people have complained!) next.
The problem has been largely to do with file types.
Junk mail has been a problem for a long time now - not just because it is a nuisance that we could all do without, but also because it is ecologically very unsound and economically unnecessary. It is thoroughly wasteful of resources.
Laws have been developed in England that allow the recipients of junk mail to waste a lot of time, paper and expense telling various agencies that they do not wish to receive it, but new ones keep cropping up, and now the large monopolies (they call them utilities to hide the fact that they are monopolies) have taken to sending junk mail along with their quarterly accounts, which is totally unacceptable, and is probably done in an attempt to get round the legal requirements.
As far as I know, it is illegal for anybody to keep any details of you on a computer if you do not wish them to do so. This would seem to be the solution, but I rather think they would retaliate by telling you that they could not supply you with electricity (or whatever) if you so requested. Thus, they keep on junk mailing you when others might show a little restraint. But they`re still a nuisance.
Bearing this all in mind, when British Telecom sent me the quarterly bill with some junk mail inserted telling me how much more I could save (what a lot of old bollocks - I was spending all the time, and anyway they must have been overcharging before if they are able to be cheaper now) I sent it back to them in an envelope with no stamp, asking them not to send me any junk mail. If they persist and send more, I will send them a bundle of other paper junk, with a note in the middle asking them to stop sending me junk mail - and if this doesn`t work I will send them a parcel with no stamp.
The purpose of this to show that we consumers can fight back if we feel like it, and could be a great inconvenience to them. We could also send ecological statements along with our message, although it is unlikely a BT executive would be able to understand what they were about - what`s ecology? What they can understand, however, is the effect on their profits if the whole nation started doing this, and that is about as far as they are likely to bother to think. They have to sort out the contents, make a note on their computer to send no junk mail, and pay postage due, which is a lot more than standard post. The post bills alone could run to some pounds per response.
Well, this used to be called killing two birds with one stone, but as most of us are a little more civilised now I won`t call it that. I might just call it ecologically sensible.
What I would like to see is everybody who cares about (a) their own sanity, and (b) environmental issues, doing this - hopefully starting with you, because I have already started doing it some weeks ago for the junk mail that comes with bills, and some years ago for other junk mail - the only difference being that I go in with the big package straight away with the stuff that doesn`t come with a bill.
I can tell you it is most effective.
In this `season of goodwill` it might be a good idea to show a little goodwill towards other species.
I know - you were thinking I was referring to turkeys and the like. But I wasn`t, even though they deserve more than a word said on their behalf. I was actually thinking of trees, which are far more important to us than we seem to realise - the proof of this being that we are quite happy to cut them when they are 6 feet high, perform a few commercial ceremonies over them and then chuck them on the tip. I am actually aware that they are usually (though not by any means always) `toppings` taken off commercially grown trees to make the best of the main trunk, but as far as I can see this doesn`t justify the action. The bigger a tree is, the more it cleans the air and the more it attracts moisture, which in the long run allows us to grow more - but better than that, it helps nature to find a chance to grow a few other things.
The Forestry Commission would no doubt tell me that what they are doing is growing things and thereby saving nature the need. However, two million pinetrees is not quite the same as two million species.
I heard a man at the back talking about deserts, which one must assume are an important part of the biodiversity also. True, but an imbalance is dangerous, and there is a very great amount of evidence to show that many deserts are man-made (probably women too, though they might not be so keen to accept their share of responsibility), and even the most sceptical amongst us would be able to see that some American deserts are definitely man-made. These deserts, unless you are of the persuasion that as man is part of nature you must let him go on doing whatever he does until he destroys all in his path (and everywhere else), throw nature`s careful balance built over many millions of years before man came along into hopeless disarray, and threaten not only the whole of life, but by so doing threaten human life.
It may be a peculiarity of human beings that they cannot think of anything as having any importance at all unless they think of it in relationship to themselves (hence the ability of our minister for agriculture to perfectly seriously talk about `beneficial species`), and it is because of this extraordinary arrogance that I am writing this article.
What we probably really need is another species even more clever and even more stupid than us to land on earth and put us all in order.
Have a nice winter holiday/xmas/solstice/break/knees-up.
This one came during the past couple of days.
The young man going to a rehearsal with his guitar and no money in his pocket. A van pulls up and out jumps another young man who tells a long story about having taken a delivery of too many speakers, so that he now has two speakers worth #1800 that he can sell with no receipts for #300. The young man is cautious but broke, and sees a chance to make a profit, so he goes to the bank, where he has an overdraft facility of just #300, gets the money, says he will walk home, and demands that the speakers be delivered to his house before the money is handed over.
This is done, and the two young men with the van depart.
The speakers are boxes with bricks in them, the boxes being worth #30 if you can find a buyer.
This raises a whole series of issues which we have probably all had to deal with when we were young. First of all, does it not seem just that if he was willing to accept what might be stolen goods he should make some loss by so doing? Secondly, if he chooses to deal with people who are willing to be dishonest enough to accept an over-delivery of speakers without returning them then he is asking for trouble, and thirdly it does seem to me that this is a very good reason to neither take nor buy anything about which there might be any doubt - even if you could get away with it, which is by no means certain.
Well, that`s my sermon over, but a more serious aspect exists to this story. If people took money far less seriously, then theft would be less frequent. What they are trying to do by stealing things or conning someone is to get a piece of the cake without putting any effort into making it, which in most people`s minds (even those of thieves, I am told) is considered unacceptable behaviour. (another issue re the chance to participate in the economy comes up here too, but I chose to ignore it).
The fact that they probably put even more effort into crime than they would if they did something honest doesn`t normally occur to them.
Actually, come to think of it that is about all the City of London and Wall Street do for a living - parasiting off other people`s talent and efforts - and some people take them quite seriously.
I don`t recall a time when you could trust a politician.
So they have been bombing Iraq, and although not intending any harm to any individual citizens of Iraq they must have killed or maimed one or two. One lot of American politicians are saying that it has been timed to throw up a smokescreen and thereby avoid impeachment proceedings (themselves a smokescreen to hide some other thing - like how well the president is doing in certain fields) whilst the other lot say the moment came when they had to do it.
The big question for most people must be whether they believe the politicians who tell them that Iraq is building up huge supplies of weapons even more deadly than nuclear ones or not. If they do, then they must inevitably be asking themselves how long it is before Iraq decides to use them, and this will lead to the question `for what reason?` If they have decided that however long it takes the Iraqis must eventually use them, then the question of who they use them on and when will be of some importance to most, and to a few it will be not be so much a question of on whom as whether, because once something like that starts it could go on until most of the world (including Saddam) were wiped out.
Given that nobody trusts politicians, we are all in a bit of a quandary. Although it seems likely they are all telling the truth, one cannot be absolutely certain that they are (since they all contradict each other), and so (a) the weapons might not exist, (b) Saddam might not be the person the press have portrayed him as, (c)all may be love and light throughout Iraq, (d) Saddam may be the ideal and honorable leader, not a ghastly despot at all.
The problem, then, is whether to choose to believe Iraqi propaganda or Western propaganda, whether we feel that violence should be countered by violence or not, whether what goes on in Iraq is any business of the Western world, whether (if anyone is telling the truth) there is a more acceptable strategy than war. Pacifists would say there is, but I wonder what and I wonder if there would be any pacifists if there were not certain un-passive people to protect them - presumably most would have been executed for being passive.
I believe the region has much oil. This confuses the issue.
A slightly eccentric looking gentleman walked up the hill, and as he passed a very flashy BMW an obnoxious and officious-sounding police loud-haler style voice blared out at him "stand back please - security".
He shoved the car, so it said the same thing again.
So he walked on.
When he was another twenty yards or so up the hill he stopped for a think, and having arranged his thoughts picked up a brick from the side of the road and hurled it at the offensive beast.
"Stand back pl..." it yelled haltingly, and all was peaceful thereafter.
He walked on nonchalantly, smiling faintly as he went. When I passed it, it was completely silent.
I smiled faintly too.