Call me Russ L

Vague/non-specific so that I don’t get done for Conduct Unbecoming

Posted in Modern Living, Stock Rants by Russ L on 7 December, 2009

1) A government department has a particular job to do.

2) This job is contracted out to a private firm, for no obvious reason beyond the fact that this is the sort of thing that apparently has to be done nowadays.

3) The private firm find themselves unable to devote the manpower needed to do it properly (or perhaps – a cynic might say – choose not to devote the manpower needed to do it properly because they know they’ll easily get away with it in this “private good, public bad” world).

4) The original public body ends up having to assign staff to help out the private firm that is still being paid public money to do the job.

Sweet baby Jesus and all the angels. Thatcher couldn’t have imagined it even in her most excitable of dreams.

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Stock Rant #7: IQ tests are one of the stupidest myths going

Posted in Modern Living, Stock Rants by Russ L on 14 June, 2007

I don’t care what your IQ is. If you think intelligence can be quantified then I question how much of it you have.

Stock Rant #6: Blatantly

Posted in Modern Living, Stock Rants by Russ L on 12 March, 2007

A message for The Youth Of Today: There are synonyms for the word ‘blatant.’ You are allowed to use one of them every now and again.

Stock Rant #5: For CRYING OUT LOUD, morons…

Posted in Modern Living, Stock Rants by Russ L on 20 December, 2006

If you’re out and about it’s not “the flu,” it’s “a cold.” This is definitional.

~ Russ L, saying ‘bah’ to blocked-nose related melodrama.

Stock Rant #4: Matriarchal Nomenclature

Posted in Modern Living, Stock Rants by Russ L on 12 May, 2006

Hairy-arsed ignorant northern barbarians say ‘mam.’ Effete southern nonce-types say ‘mum.’ True and righteous Midlanders say ‘mom.’

Do not try and tell us we’re adopting the American useage. The American useage is coincidental – this is what we’ve always said.

~ Russ L

Stock Rant #3: ‘Chavs’ are not going to eat your babies

Posted in Modern Living, Stock Rants by Russ L on 12 April, 2006

(I’m told there was a documentary on the telly not too long ago about something very similar to this. I didn’t see it, so if anything you want to say relates to that then you’ll need to explain in full).

There’s a ‘Special Report’ on ‘What Is Britain?’ on The Guardian website at the moment (an aside: Is the The Guardian’s site the first ever occurrence of the internet version of something having better spelling and grammar than its real-life counterpart?), and it includes this article. Inspired by Prince whatsisface having a jolly good guffaw with his Sandhurst chums by dressing up as one of those smelly normal people, it has a look at the nature of the class snobbery around at the moment. Unsurprisingly for a Guardian opinion piece, the whinging tone of the writing gets on my nerves but I do agree with the overall sentiment.

I hate the word ‘chav.’ Obviously there are plenty of little linguistic tropes that you can use to dismiss vast swathes of people without having to trouble yourself with any actual thought, but it really seems to me that this is the most commonly used and widely-accepted at the moment. Call someone ‘scum’ for wearing a baseball cap under a hood and no-one will argue.

People who say that sort of thing nearly always respond to the criticism in the same way. They affect the pose that they’re not generalising at all. Phrases like “The only criteria for being a chav is acting like a chav” abound. Claims that it’s purely a behavioral classification and has nothing to do with sociality or appearance will be chucked about with impunity.

I’m yet to see a single person who frequently flings around the word ‘chav’ live up to this idealism.

The media-pushed spread of the rich man’s fear to broader sections of the populace is not a new thing. Take mods, punks, teddy-boys, whatever-have-you: tough youth subcultures have nearly always presented in the media as bunches of ignorant barbarians, and a lot of people have always latched onto it and joined in. Civilisation has yet to collapse as promised. Decades after the fact we can see that these hen-clucking moral panics were nothing more than silliness, but at the time people would have insisted on how genuinely dangerous these young ‘ooligans were in just the same way that people reckon chavs are different to all that have gone before.

I’ll tell a story, if you’ll indulge me. It was a Saturday night in November 2004, and I was on a 126 bus heading home from a gig at the Jug Of Ale. A young-ish lad (wearing a Burberry cap, gloves, all the rest of it) tapped me on the shoulder to ask a favour.

It turns out he’d been around most of the bus, asking people if he could borrow their mobile. It’s not surprising that people were initially wary, but he was bending over backwards to try and allay any possible fears anyone might have had. He was offering to let people hold his bling gold chains for the duration of the call, and even for them to hold the phone against the side of his face while he spoke if they wanted. He wouldn’t have had the opportunity for any funny business. Mysteriously, though, no-one on the entire bus had any credit. Funny that, isn’t it? As he walked away from one pair of girls he overheard them mutter something about “Fucking chavs.”

Nice. Shall I tell you why he needed to make a call so desperately? He’d just got out of prison (apparently he was attacked but ended up getting convicted for defending himself. For the purposes of this it isn’t really important – whatever it was, he’d served his sentence) and was at a bail hostel. He had to be back for a certain time, but hadn’t realised what the traffic was like in town and was now going to be late. If he could manage to ring them, he might be able to sort out some leeway. If he couldn’t, he’d have broken his conditions and was going back inside.

Fate’s cruelty strikes at the worst of times, and I genuinely had no credit. I gave him my phone anyway to try a reversed charge call, but it seems that they didn’t work from mobiles at the time.

This lad had tears in his eyes. I’ve no idea what became of him, but I really, really hope he didn’t end up back inside purely because he was a ‘fucking chav.’

~ Russ L

Stock rant #2: Orthography

Posted in Modern Living, Stock Rants by Russ L on 16 February, 2006

We are witnessing the beginning of the deluge. Apparently children are leaving school unable to write in anything but text message language. Give it aroundabout fifty years and I suspect that, collectively, we won’t be able to communicate anything more complex than ‘fuk u dik :(‘ in written form.

Some will scoff and speak of the language’s need to evolve. I don’t argue – of course it does. It will not and should not remain static. This is, however, an irrelevant point. The abbreviations and silly little faces of mobile phones and the internet do nothing but devolve the language.

I’m not a linguist and I don’t pretend to be, but we need to look at what we have and what we’re replacing it with. Noam Chomsky (you may not like his politics but there’s no linguistic theorist more respected) describes current English spelling as a ‘near optimal system.’ This is largely due to its combination of both phonemic and symbolic elements. Some languages (Italian, for example) are written exactly as they sound, each letter in a word reflecting the phonetics of the pronunciation. Some languages are symbolic – each character represents a whole word or an idea (think Chinese) rather than attempting to express the pronunciation.

Written English does both. Words don’t exactly follow the way they sound but generally do so enough to give you a good idea. Meanwhile, symbolic elements do come into play by means of other structures in the way things are spelled. The example people tend to use is the silent ‘g’ in the word ‘sign’ – it isn’t pronounced, but gives you a semi-conscious link to the word ‘signature’ (in which the ‘g’ is pronounced). This is a massively useful feature of our language, one not shared by many. English speakers worldwide (with massively varying accents and dialects, and even people for whom English is not their first language) can glance at a text and get at least a fair idea of what’s being said. This does not apply to text message/internet language unless you’re already sure of what the abbreviations and little symbols mean in advance.

The thing that really gets my goat, of course, is when people use this sort of nonsense whilst simultaneously complaining about how people can’t make themselves understood properly on the internet, and how things like sarcasm cannot be expressed. It’s absolute nonsense. The English language has been around for a fair old while now, and on the whole writers haven’t had a great deal of trouble getting across what they mean. Those who would say otherwise are simply attempting to blame the rest of the world for the fact that they themselves can’t be bothered to take the time or trouble to put a bit more effort in and make themselves clear. Of course misunderstandings will come about occasionally, just as they do when you’re talking to someone face to face. There’s no reason why it should be habitual unless one of the two parties has some sort of problem.

I’ve digressed slightly, but people who complain about all that whilst writing in a patently unexpressive manner and relying on smilies to try and cover it really are asking for everything they get.

It’s a regression to a less flexible form – cave paintings of base symbols and little faces rolling their eyes. The trend towards it also seems to be irreversible. I wash my hands of it.

~ Russ L

Stock rant #1: What sort of music do you like?

Posted in Music, Stock Rants by Russ L on 6 February, 2006

The good sort. I dislike the bad sort. This is a qualitative rather than stylistic distinction. You can’t make the split between the two on a genre-by-genre basis (well, you can, but it’s stupid). It was expressed rather beautifuly by Steve Albini: “Greatness is greatness, irrespective of idiom.”

I don’t ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ any named genres. All of them contain both good and bad music. Similarly, I don’t consider myself a fan of anything in particular – as far as I can see, being a fan of a specific style means you’re obliged to listen to the mediocre bands as well as the good ‘uns. It doesn’t sound like fun to me.

I do think the reason that half of the more boring bands in the world actually exist is a direct result of this sort of nonsense thinking – if people insist on liking things of a specific style purely because they’re of that style, it’s hardly surprising that some will believe that merely adopting certain sets of characteristics will mean they’re doing something worthwhile.

Some genres, admittedly, have better good-to-crap record ratios than others. I don’t like doing this (it doesn’t equate to logic. The last few bands having been iffy gives no grounds to indicate that the next will be too), but I suppose you could use that as a basis for choosing which is ‘best.’ Force my hand on that one and suppose I’ll ask you if I can have ‘late 60s and early 70s American soul, both northern and southern branches’ as my pick, but that doesn’t mean I see that type of music as some sort of gestalt entity, superior to the rest.

If you insist on having it in these terms, just tell yourself that I like a bit of everything.

~ Russ L