June 22, 2013
Over a second pint in a West End pub, Ben was explaining the new features of the iPhone 5 to his old mate Brad from back home in Sydney. Brad had just landed that morning in London – his first port on a whistle-stop tour of Europe.
“Ben, can you put the phone down for a minute, mate?” said Brad. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“No worries mate,” said Ben. “Just gonna show you a couple more Apps first, ok? I’ve got some proper little beauts on this.”
“Ben,” Brad said again. His voice was firmer this time, though a bit on the croaky side, too. Ben looked up and saw that bubbles of spit had gathered at the corners of his friend’s mouth; also, the bottom lip was shaky and a bit slobbery. It wasn’t very pleasant to look at, really.
“Ben, d’ya know why I’m here mate?” Brad’s voice had shot up a couple of notches and sounded kind of squeaky. “D’ya know why I’ve chosen to do my tour of Europe now mate, instead of waiting ‘til April like we’d talked about?”
Brad raised one sleeve of his shirt, dabbing first at his eyes, then his nose, and finally (to Ben’s relief) at his slippery mouth. There followed a brief, awkward silence during which Ben moved his eyes around a bit and nibbled at his bottom lip, in that way he did when he couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Ben, mate,” Brad went on, “What it is… I’ve got leukemia, mate. I’m gonna be doing the treatment – you know, chemo an’ that – as soon as I get back to Oz. So that’s why I’m here now, mate. Packing it all into six weeks. Thing is… they’re not sure what the chances are. You know. Of me pulling through.”
Ben looked down at his pint. He began to play with it, swirling the glass, trying to rejuvenate the lager’s once-frothy head; although you could never really get it back to how it was in the first place, of course – however much you whizzed it around, it never quite tasted the same. ‘Leukemia,’ he thought to himself. It wasn’t one of those words you could easily put an image to – like, for example, ‘Zebra’. You never heard anyone say ‘L is for Leukemia’. It was one of those mysterious words. ‘Leukemia.’ He rolled the word over in his mind. Was it four syllables or just three? He supposed it depended on how you said it. Most Brits, he reckoned, would drag it out over four. But if Ben’s old man was here, he’d get it out in three, no dramas: ‘Loo-keem-ya?’ Say what you like about Ben’s dad, he wasn’t one to mince his words.
“Hey Ben?” Brad’s voice startled him. “Ben, you okay mate?”
“Yeah mate,” said Ben. “I guess. I just got to thinking, ya know?”
Cancer. It didn’t matter who you were, it was out there. Lurking around in the shallows like a great white. Like a big, hungry, pissed-off great white, hell-bent on sinking its teeth into your leg; maybe even taking it clean off in one bite. You heard about those things happening; there were documentaries about it on the TV sometimes. Only this wasn’t TV – it was real life. And it was coming for his old mate, Brad.
Even Steve Jobs – even Jobsy, the smartest bloke in the universe – even old Jobaroo hadn’t been able to fight off the great white cancer shark. Still, he thought, at least Jobsy will be remembered for coming up with some pretty cool stuff; like the iPhone 5. He wasn’t sure if Brad would be remembered for anything, really.
December 7, 2012
For some reason this is only on BBC Scotland.
But it is on the iplayer- wahey!
Anyway, I laughed…
November 27, 2012
One of the all-time greats from the original Pabs…
The ‘Summat Different’ Principle
The history of this philosophical principle dates back to the early 21st Century, originating from D. Woolley. There are no written records to date explaining its functions, so the following is an attempt to sketch out the principle as an important step in contemporary ethical debate.
The principle is one that aims at the promotion of pleasure for an individual or group, where the value of the activity is to be found in its relative uniqueness to the subject’s totality of experiences.
In this way, it can be seen as a descendant of Aristotle’s thoughts on virtue ethics, where a ‘good citizen’ espouses key virtues such as honesty, strength, courage etc. Achieving a balance of these virtues at every moment is the means to overall happiness, or eudaimonia. The right way to act is established through achieving the mean of 2 extremes. A good citizen, on being approached by a bottle-wielding drunk, will respond not by running away crying (weakness), nor by charging in with a knife (foolhardiness), but with a considered, perhaps diplomatic intervention that results in minimal violence and resolves an immediately dangerous situation (courage).
The ‘Summat Different’ principle is one such mean of virtues that requires an important calculation. Its practical application can be seen in terms of choices of agents. Where the application is applied correctly, it will contribute to ones experience of eudaimonia, as it is in itself one of the contributory virtues.
Consider the following example, where our agent must choose between an old experience, one indeed from which he had derived some pleasure, versus choosing a new experience, one where the pleasure gained is unknown. The assumption with the theory is that the choice that provides the most pleasure is the right choice:
In the example:
X is the agent
Y is the act of going to a known drinking establishment close to ones home (where pleasure had previously been experienced)
Z is the act of visiting a previously unvisited drinking establishment (where there had been no prior experience of pleasure)
Previously, the utilitarian would have made a direct and logical jump from X to Y.
The ‘Summat Different’ principle allows us to jump form X to Z without committing a falsehood, and despite apparent paradox, maximising the pleasure of the agent.
This is achieved with a number of key assumptions:
- That there is inherent value in the experience of something new
- That the agent is sound of mind
- That the agent has the ability to judge
- That the choice that provides the most pleasure is the right choice
There is, however, a potential problem. At some stage, Y will have been Z – the agent at some stage would have visited the drinking establishment close to home for the first time, where it would have been an unchartered pleasure-seeking activity.
But this indeed is the beauty and strength of the principle: Woolley is highlighting the flaws of the lazy utilitarian. To derive greater pleasure in this one must choose Z for there to be Y. The more Z, the more pleasure is to be experienced.
Of course the principle requires a careful calculation on the part of the agent. The assumptions are key. Only a foolhardy agent would assume that Woolley means that to choose Y in every instant will be the right choice. Note:
That the agent is sound of mind
That the agent has the ability to judge
These assumptions rule out a ‘tabula rasa’ of decisions. This allows us to rule out ill-considered evenings spent in a Wetherspoons pub, but rather assumes a level of sound judgement, where the agent has at his expense a collection of empirical data, through the use, for example, of modern internet facilities or a verbal recommendation from a trusted agent (also of sound mind and judgement.)
In this way the principle goes further than previous ethical theories and provides the pleasure-seeking citizen with a useful tool to navigate his or her way through what are sometimes challenging ethical territories. The ‘Summat Different’ principle highlights not only the inadequacy of supine utilitarian logic, but actively encourages ethical responses that are both necessary and virtuous
November 20, 2012
(part of the Poems on the Underground series)
We sat like slum landlords around the board
buying each other out with fake banknotes,
until we lost more than we could afford,
or ever hope to pay back. Now our seats
are empty — one by one we left the game
to play for real, at first completely lost
in this other world, its building sites, its rain;
but slowly learned the rules and made our own,
stayed out of jail and kept our noses clean.
And now there’s only me — sole freeholder
of every empty office space in town,
and from the quayside I can count the cost
each low tide brings — the skeletons and rust
of boats, cars, hats, boots, iron, a terrier.
November 5, 2012
An excellent episode of Breaking Bad put me onto this poem, from Walt Whitman.
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
October 24, 2012
October 5, 2012
Not Welcome Round Here
A short play in one act, by DW
A small ex-mining community in the Welsh valleys. A number of the locals have gathered in the pub to discuss the recent revelations about Sir Jimmy Savile.
Owen: I say we hang the bastard!
Hugh: Aye, let’s hang him!
Maureen: Hanging’s too good for folk like that.
Johnno: We can’t hang him, he’s already dead!
Hugh: Serves him right, after what he’s done.
Gareth: How’s about that then, guys and gals?
Owen: It’s no laughing matter this, Gareth
Hugh: Are we hanging him or not then?
Johnno: No. He’s already dead.
Hugh: Can’t we dig him up and hang him again?
Maureen: Being dug up’s too good for folk like that.
Gareth: Now then, now then.
Owen: I’m warning you, Gareth…
Dafydd: I know, let’s give him a proper good fiddling. See how he likes it.
Hugh: But he’s been knighted hasn’t he? You can’t fiddle a knight; it goes against tradition.
Johnno: He’ll have rigor bloody mortis!
Owen: Rigor mortis’ll be the least of his bleedin’ worries when I get my hands on him…
Maureen: Rigor mortis is too good for folk like that.
As the conversation continues, the curtain falls.
October 3, 2012
The Business Development Manager
He talked endlessly about solutions
without ever actually offering one
and his very presence in your life
tended to present a problem
I had to call him once
(the reason escapes me now)
he answered the call
and explained that he was in a car park
at the supermarket
and the ground was icy
and his wife had just fallen over
and she seemed to be in distress
and would I mind if he called me back later?
because he needed to help his wife
we hung up
and I could picture him all too clearly:
the Business Development Manager
driving around the supermarket car park
assessing the various parking spaces
drawing up a mental shortlist
carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of each shortlisted space
ranking them in order of preference
completing another half lap
then pulling carefully into the chosen spot
perfectly oblivious to the large patch of ice underneath the passenger door
from which his long-suffering wife would exit