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Topics - karlmark

The Daily Cut and Thrust / Those Dog People
Was going to post this in "What's Annoying Me Today" but it turned into a bit of a longer rant. This comes with the usual disclaimers that more interesting and better written rants are almost certainly available elsewhere on Talkback.

I have finally managed to convince my wife that we should get a dog. It's not that she is afraid of or against dogs, rather that she has up until now focused on the negative aspects such as house training et al. Anyway, it will do wonders for our daughter (for reasons which I won't bore you with right now).

So, decision made, should be easy right? I'm no dog snob and I want a thoroughbred mongrel; my preference is for a collie to have been involved somewhere in the dna as I had a collie crossbreed when I was younger and know they are great with kids. Upon finding what looks like the perfect cur, I fire off an email to the animal rescue centre detailing how much I would love to give the animal in question a loving home, how I work from home four days a week and so am able to keep it company and look forward to going for a walk for an hour in the middle of the day to get away from my desk. I further mention how much it would mean to us as a family and the companionship it would provide, yadayadayada...

Email sent and I'm feeling excited; working from home so much can get lonely and there is only so much sleep you can take before you get bored; besides, the cricket season is in a bit of a lull at the moment. I anxiously await the response. This morning I receive an email from the rescue centre: I'm quite nervous and excitedly open gmail on my phone:

A puppy needs far more than leaving your desk for an hour to have a walk it needs time and attention all day.

That's it. Shut off with one poorly written line. I've been reading rather a lot of late Victorian literature recently (hence my even more pretentious than usual tone) and was immediately struck by the thought "good day to you, SIR" as if I was beneath the contempt of the person writing the email. I picture a Land Rover driving middle-aged lady, with pretensions to the upper-middle class, arriving in her office in the rolling hills of East Sussex, unbuttoning her waxed Barbour gilet (it's pronounced shilay as in J'ai Onze ans - one of the first French sentences I remember learning) and unfolding her copy of the Daily Express for her daily outpouring of outrage at the moral decline in the world prior to quashing the dreams of any naive beings who may want to actually give a decent home to one of the dogs under her care. I shall call her Agatha, named for the Headmistress Agatha Trunchbull in Dahl's classic Matilda (a favourite of my daughter right now), overbearing on her staff and utterly dismissive of anyone who should want to take one of her charges from under her.

"Beg me to give you Alfie" bellows Agatha, "crawl on your hands and knees so that I can look down upon you and spit in your face before I relinquish my control over the beasts."

Ok, so maybe I'm going too far. The reality is that Agatha is probably one of those animal rights people who are so fixated on animal welfare that they believe anyone who wants to adopt a dog is only interested in them as a fashion accessory, seeking to establish a fur trade in the vision of Cruella de Vil. So I hold back from my immediate reaction, which is to compliment her (I'm assuming it's a her for some reason) on her customer service skills and ability to converse rationally with a human being and try a different approach.

I politely correct her assumption that I would only pay attention to the brute for one hour a day before casting it into the dungeon until it is once again required.

"Agatha," I say, "this dog would be the making of our family nay, it would be part of our family, making us complete in every way, both conceiveable and inconeivable. If you do not grant me permission to adopt the poor beloved wretch then my days will be forever spent in a torpor of depression, punctuated with thoughts of what my life could have been if only you had seen me fit to adopt Alfie" or something along those lines.

I feel like I am negotiating an international peace treaty. This is an unwanted puppy in a dog shelter in Sussex and I'm having to get on my hands and knees to beg them to take over the guardianship of the animal. I understand that they have undoubtedly seen some animals that have been treated awfully and they want to make sure that the person in question is not Cruella de Vil, but why start with the assumption about the absolute worst of people? Are these people, who are so protective of dogs they are willing to turn away genuine families, the same people who think of child refugees as animals? You cannot have this puppy because you cannot possibly understand how much work and love and attention is involved in bringing up a puppy, yet those refugee children are monsters, worse than animals, and must be sent back to the war and atrocity from whence they came.

Bill Bryson once pointed out that the RSPCA was granted a royal charter in 1837, yet the main charity for the benefit of children remains the NSPCC. I'm not saying that it is wrong that the Queen patronises an animal rescue charity (I'm of the sort who refuses to kill spiders), but what does it say about us that animals have more protection than kids? Above all else, I just want to have poor bloody Alfie!
The Daily Cut and Thrust / The Daily Excess and The Hate Mail
Thought about sticking this in one of the other threads, but figured they deserved their own tirade.

Anyway, I'm assuming everyone saw yesterday's Mail and Express headlines. For years I, and many others, laughed at the Express and Mail, writing them off as extremist nonsense. Then look at what happened. Now, job done with immigrants, they are turning to the enemy within. Anybody who is against Theresa Mayhem's plans is a traitor. In the Express editorial yesterday, they said that MPs who oppose the will of the people should be locked in the Tower. This may be tongue-in-cheek, but given the festering lunacy prevalent in some of the pro-Brexiteers and the path that has been trodden with respect to immigrants I don't feel that this language should be ignored.
If you have any qualms or concerns about how the country is heading then you are a traitor and are to be silenced. Parliament, elected to control the executive over which a civil war was fought, is now subservient to the so-called will of the people as declared in a single poorly worded and debated referendum. Anyone who opposes is anti-democracy and a traitor to the country.

Over-reaction on my part? Perhaps. However, the majority of people who do not believe the lies spouted by these propaganda rags ignored them for years and they became progressively more hard line, feeding like maggots on the carcass of the dispossessed and disaffected providing lies and scapegoats. The next step is to demonise those who disagree; I will be the reason why Brexit fails(if indeed it does). It will be my fault, not the fault of pompous pricks like Boris Johnson parading around declaring their vanity like some poorly-acted princely pantomime villain, or Nigel Farage, the pied Piper of Populism positioning himself as a fetish doll for the disaffected.
We all know that the reality of Farage is that he is an ignorant pugilist, defending sadistic narcissists and trampling unchallenged through our media: he is Nick Griffin with a private education; vitriol with a posh accent. The likes of Farage, Johnson et al have stolen political discourse, pumping lies and, where they cannot see reason, they make up their own and populate it with further lies.
And then we have Theresa Mayhem, seen by many as the safe pair of hands to guide us through troubled times. What did we get? The biggest outpouring of xenophobia since the days of Moseley and The Telegraph publishing an opinion piece (since deleted) praising Enoch Powell. Mayhem's Britain is modelled on a JEEP: Just Enough Essential Parts. If you are not with us, you are against us and you will feel our wrath. If you don't like it, then f*ck off.

It is my opinion - and I realise that many do not care but, at the moment at least, I am free to express it - that the b@stards have gone too far this time. In reality, they went too far years ago when they started their virulent campaign of racist abuse but they cannot be allowed to get away with it any more. The referendum caused deep divisions within society and I did not like the result or the way it was fought. What is needed is reconciliation and recognition that a large part of the population is not happy with the way we are heading.

Do I feel powerless when our media is not doing enough to challenge these charlatans? Yes. Is there a way of fighting back? Yes, but it will take more than the usual British laissez faire attitude. The only way to fight these pernicious despots is in their pockets. The Mail and Express rely on advertising to fund their hate campaigns. Companies such as John Lewis pay to advertise in the pages of what are nothing more than extremist propaganda rags. Shop at Waitrose or John Lewis? You are indirectly funding the b@stards. I have no idea if anyone cares enough (but if you don't then you should) but I will be working with some others to compose a list of advertisers in the Mail and Express and sharing them on the web in the hope of hurting their bottom line. It may have no effect whatsoever and the typical British attitude of 'I can't be bothered' or making a joke of it all may prevail, but at least I will have tried. If the b@stards truly divide the country as they seem to desire then you will have no choice but to sit back and take it; at least at the moment you have the ability to do something.
The Daily Cut and Thrust / This Europe Stuff
Instead of having to listen to racist fear-mongering from the anti-EU press and economic fear-mongering from the pro-EU side, I think we should have a legally binding vote on Talkback and ignore the next four months.

A short question with a big answer...
The Daily Cut and Thrust / Desk Bound?
As it's a Friday I guess it's a time for dumb questions.
Anyway, does anyone on Talkback use, or has ever used, a standing desk?
Now that I work from home three days a week I'm finding that I'm getting quite a lot of lower back pain plus aching knees. Some might just say that it's because I'm a tall c*nt and getting older, but to me that is only a contributory factor.
I've tested how feasible it is to work standing up by placing a load of technical reference books under one of the monitors, propping the keyboard on a load of the wife's trashy fiction books and the mouse resides on lots of DVD boxes plus a copy of Bradshaw's July 1922 railway guide which I inexplicably discovered when moving house. It seems that standing while working is feasible, but a desktop cluttered with books is not. Also, it's not very adjustable.
It's a long shot, but has anyone any experience with adjustable desks and can dispense any useful advice?

The Daily Cut and Thrust / The Scottish Question
Clearly this is the place to vote for the future of Scotland; whatever is happening up there is nothing to this messageboard.
So what are people's views?
I'm guessing that RD thinks they should be physically sawn from England and floated off towards the Arctic (albeit with one ey on his Scottish citizenship should it go pear shaped down here) and anyone who reads the Times/Telegraph/Sun/Mail/Express et al believes that they should be grateful to be a part of the greatest nation ever to have graced the universe.

For myself, I actually feel a little jealous. From watching the No campaign I have found myself believing that if I was Scottish I would fell incredibly patronised by their approach and am far from surprised that the polls show a large No majority shifting to something much more in the balance.
Of course, the No campaign seems, to me, to be symptomatic of the general malaise in the UK; there is general apathy towards politics because the main parties offer varying shades of grey within a system that is utterly stultified by the electoral process and the overwhelming conservatism of the mainstream media. The biggest issue in the UK being debated outside of Scotland right now (at least in the media) is the rise of UKIP and the future of Britain in the EU. Of course, UKIP does offer something different; pulling out of the EU would be a massive shake up economically and politically, but one feels that it would actually make little difference to the institutions and establishment within the UK itself.

Taking the NHS as an example, would pulling out of Europe stop the creeping privatisation? Would it mean that someone would finally have the balls to say that a privatised rail network is a costly mistake and should be taken back into private hands (see the evidence of how the East Coast Mainline was successful under public ownership)? Or the fact that I have to pay £80 to commute to London for one day should I decide to take the train? Everywhere you look in the UK right now there seems to be a silent agreement that the free market is the only way and anyone with a differing opinion is a heretical seventies throwback and asked if they want to go back to the winter of discontent.
"So what if we buy our trains from German companies? They make them cheaper than us and it is therefore more efficient." people say when we let our own companies go bankrupt whilst awarding contracts to foreign companies (for those who say the EU forces us to do this I suggest you travel by train in Germany or France and see how many of their trains are made by foreign companies).

Social cost is no longer a consideration; the fact that we might save some money is no compensation for loss of employment, dignity and social cohesion in the areas laid waste by such policies, not to mention the extra cost imposed by paying of benefits and loss of taxation revenue to those who have lost their jobs. Of course, there are plenty of other examples: the excessive cost of living in the UK, particularly in SE England where continually rising house prices are generally lauded as we seek to become a nation of landlords and property developers; thirty years ago the average wage was enough to pay your housing costs and have a family holiday once a year. In 2014 either one member of the family needs to be a big earner or both family members need to earn money in order to get close to achieving the same.

So, is Scotland giving a single finger salute to the current political hegemony? Scotland has long been more left-wing than most of the rest of the UK as reflected in the proportion of votes in general elections. Devolution has given them the opportunity to avoid some of the more regressive policies such as the bedroom tax and university tuition fees, but perhaps the thought of potentially being ruled by Boris Johnson, that bard-footed goat Machiavelli of establishment politics (someone who deserves to be roundly condemned rather than deified in the media; Prime Minister; really?), has proved just too much to bear and they will decide that actually they are not better together.

Ramble, ramble, ramble, occasional rant, etc., but perhaps the rest of Britain could be jolted from their celebrity obsession by a yes vote and acknowledge that mortgaging everything for short term satisfaction is not the way the country should be heading? I live in dreamland...
The Daily Cut and Thrust / If... don't like the Christmas theme imposed by Tricky then you can change it in your profile under Profile>Modify Profile>Look and Layout.
Of course, you may be happy with the online equivalent of a Christmas jumper.
The Daily Cut and Thrust / Inanimate Objects Misbehaving
Sitting in traffic this morning, I heard on the radio that the M25 was 'misbehaving itself'. I like it when inanimate objects develop buddhist-like properties and perform actions.

I have some of those myself. I charge a dongle overnight by the side of my bed (where better?) and the charger has a blue LED to show when it is charged. No matter what I do, the charger will flip itself over and cast blue light across the room.

Of course, wires regularly develop sentient properties; my laptop bag is an impenetrable tangle of wires the very second I close the zip even on the rare occasions when I bother to tidy them.
The wire I use to tether my phone to my netbook regularly removes itself from my laptop bag and finds its way into the study (clearly it is better at extricating itself from the aforementioned tangle of wires than I am yet to achieve).

When I was a smoker back in the days when smoking in pubs was allowed (seems so long ago and archaic now) my cigarette packet would, without fail, empty itself to leave one left for the morning no matter how many I left the house with earlier in the evening.

The biggest pain of all is my travel mug, which I fill with tea prior to setting of in the morning. Many times it manages to migrate to the radiator in the hall and then sends a subliminal message to my brain just as I've passed the point where it's too late to return and fetch it. This guarantees an angrier drive to work than usual.

More random mundane thoughts than anything else I guess...
The Daily Cut and Thrust / Mundane Moments
It's lonely in here so I'll talk to myself. The new Reading station is rather nice, but is singularly lacking in a train service which would seem to be somewhat more important than new platforms.
The Daily Cut and Thrust / The All New Talkback - With Bigger c*nts Than Ever
Welcome all to the new talkback.
We tried to restore the previous version, but after many hours of effort it became clear that it was unlikely to happen anytime soon, and the call for the ability to comment on Thatcher was too great.
Another problem was that we attempted to hack the metadata to fix it, but even if this worked it would have left us vulnerable to future crashes and upgrade issues. So apologies for losing many years of nonsense (with the odd good) posts, but it's time to start afresh.
Talkback is now open!