Category Archives: musings

The betrayal of Scooby

Lego Scooby Gang

When I was child, I enjoyed childish things.  Like Scooby Doo and The Monkeys.  I loved Scooby, it introduced me to the concept of mysteries and crime fiction, something I love to this day.  I liked Velma’s irrepressible nature and her insistence on the rational.  There are no ghosts.  There must be something behind all this.  A man in a mask.  And through hard work and improbable traps, you can get to the bottom of it.  Oh, and we would have got away with it, too if it weren’t for you meddling kids.  Meddling kids and their triumph over conniving adults.

But when I became a woman, I put away childish things.  Until my own child became big enough to demand television.  And it was to my great delight that Scooby Doo is played endlessly on certain satellite channels and my even greater delight that my son loves to watch Scooby, too.  The original Scooby shows are still fantastic and one of the few cartoons that I can sit through without becoming annoyed.  Sometimes I watch them.  And sometimes I just let them flow over me, as comforting as a cradle song, while I do something else. There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about watching episodes about a man in a mask with an impossibly contrived scheme to bootleg records. Yes, actual LPs which were copied laboriously in a secret, creepy cave studio and then smuggled across a river by a henchman in  ghost pterodactyl hang glider contraption.   Oh, the days before peer to peer file sharing. If  you wanted a copy of Dixie Chicken live, you’d have to make a shady deal with a man who talked pterodactyl – Veek! Veek!

But these kids channels don’t just show the original Scooby and the series that followed in the original format. They show new modern Scooby, where Fred no longer sports a cravat.  They show a bizarre and poorly drawn spin-off which features only Shaggy and Scooby living in the home of their rich uncle with a robot butler that’s forever getting them out of scrapes.  And they show Scooby movies with complicated plots and commissioned soundtracks. 

Yes, they show those originals and they also show – on occasion – the ones with Scrappy Doo.

It sends a shiver down my spine.

Yesterday, there was a Scooby marathon and after they’d run out of the original and the next series and the movies, they showed some Scrappy Doo episodes as well.  Like every Gen-Xer, I hate Scrappy.  Scrappy is evil.  Scrappy is symbol of all things rotten.  And so Scrappy cannot be shown.  My son did not understand, but the channel was changed.

But watching Scrappy again as an adult as I did on one occasion not too long ago, I realise it’s not Scrappy’s fault.  Scrappy’s introduction to the show coincided with a complete change in format.  Instead of mysteries, it was random running around with ‘real’ supernatural elements.  No more looking for clues.  No more solving puzzles using ‘logic’.  No more nuance of personality from Fred and Velma and Daphne.  It might as well have been a different show.  And we Gen-Xers, only being young’uns at the time, didn’t see that they were dumbing the show down in a misplaced effort to salvage the ratings – instead we blamed Scrappy – who from an adult perspective isn’t as annoying as I remember.  It’s the whole show that’s annoying.  It’s a betrayal of Scooby and a betrayal of us as the audience.  There was no mystery to engage with, we were only being served up dross in the form of Scooby snacks to consume passively.   It was perhaps the first time we were aware of the entertainment industry treating us like morons – and we could never forgive the messenger. The live action Scooby movie even played on this – casting Scrappy as the ultimate villain (sorry for the spoiler, but honestly the film is pretty wretched).

The boy is only 3, so he screamed and wailed when I insisted that no further Scrappy shows can be watched in my house.  So long as I pay for the roof which shelters the tv that I bought receiving the satellite signal that I subscribe to there will be no Scrappy.

(Photo credit: fallentomato )

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Don't shoot a gift horse in the mouth

I take a lot of pictures and half way decent ones get uploaded to my Flickr account. Sometimes I get requests to use these photos.

It’s tempting to think that I could charge for the use of my pictures. But truthfully, although sometimes I take some great pictures, I’m not consistently good enough and I’m not willing to put in the effort to market my photos. And even if I were, the market for the kind of pictures that I like to take probably isn’t that big.

So when I started to get requests to use my photos from students or non-profit projects, I changed my license to a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license.  And then when I started to get requests from artists who don’t strictly fall under the non-commercial aspect or agencies working on behalf of local government or struggling bands or writers working on niche projects who were never going to pay me – I changed the license on some of my photos to a Creative Commons attribution license*.

Today I got a copy of book in which I have a photo credit.  It’s from a well known factual publisher and they never offered to pay me for it, although I was offered a free copy of the book.  (I was too lame and too paranoid to send them my address – I have my freaky moments).  Cool.

Pay me not for my peony

Today I also turned down the “opportunity” to have one of my photos featured in an online television show about teenage fashion designers  I was approached via my Flickr account and asked if they could use the photo with credit but without compensation – they just wanted to base some design elements off one of my peony pictures.   Fine by me.  Let me know which ones you want and I’ll let you use it.  Unless you want exclusive rights – in which case I’ll have to charge.

I’m sent a two page legal document with herefores and whereas and I have to give them my legal address (remember how I wouldn’t share my address to get a free book?).  Ummm, no.  If you want me to waste my time filling out your form, I really have to charge.  My day rate is not inconsiderable.

I get a buzz out of other people using my pictures.  But I take them because I want to.   I have no love of form filling.  I applied a Creative Commons attribution license to my peony pictures and told them there’s no way I’m filling out the form.

Use them or don’t use them.  I’m all about the gift economy and sharing knowledge and content.  But please, don’t shoot a gift horse in the mouth.

*Images of recognisable people, especially my son – I do not let people use for free.

Foxy

The other day I saw a fox nosing around our back door with his snout uncomfortably close to our kitty door.  I wasn’t sure if he could actually get through or not – but I was slightly worried.  Clearly he could smell our cat food.  For my American readers, urban foxes are not an uncommon occurrence.  Despite the fact I live in a big city, I’ve actually seen more foxes than rats.

As I was reaching into my coat pocket to grab a camera for  a snap, the kitty door slammed open and my cat Fancy burst out of the door chasing after the fox.  Mr Fox is about three times as big as our Fancy and I worried for my little kitty.

I guess it was a draw.  This morning the fox was back and hanging out on our shed roof.

I’ve seen a fox on the top of our shed before, but this fellow let me get quite close.  Bold as brass, he is.  Despite the fact that I was wandering around our postage stamp sized garden and our cat was giving him the stare of death.

Glance of doom

I hope all this cat v. fox posturing ends with the fox moving on to someone else’s house and not with my kitty with her paw in a sling.

There may be something in that

I saw you

Remember David Kelly, the UK government scientist who, was the inside source for exposing the dodginess of the dodgy dossier?  Just after he testified before the Parliamentary committee I saw him on the Underground, somewhere on the District line.  My guess is Embankment.  I’m notoriously poor at recognising celebrities so I stared at him extra hard.  He clocked me. And smiled broadly.  And I thought, well – that’s cool – he’s handling all this pressure really well.

Except he wasn’t.   He committed suicide and his body was found in a field near his home.

Or did he?

And you know the freaky thing.  The day I saw him was the same morning that he was found dead, having killed himself the previous evening.

Or did he?

I talked to my brother not too long after it happened and he asked me if the British public was awash with conspiratorial speculation.  Colleagues at work were stunned by the concept.  Although they shouldn’t have been .  Conspiracy theories were widely circulated a Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Baker ‘investigated’ his demise and had a lot of questions – implying that the British government (of which he’s a member of the loyal opposition) must have done him in.

If that’s the case, how could I have seen him in Central London on the day in question?  (Answer, clearly I couldn’t have.  I saw someone who looked a lot like David Kelly.  So much like him that I wasn’t the first person who ‘recognised’ him – and he was used to it).

Piss-up in a brewery

I’ve worked in and around government for a long time.  I know a little bit about how bureacracy works.  And it’s slow. And it’s difficult to get agreement on anything. And often you can’t get anything done at all. And keeping a secret?  Well, the best way to do that is to actually bury whatever little nugget of bad news it is in a whole pile of other stuff.

So when I hear about conspiracy theories in which some kind of government agency is the principal actor, I just have to laugh up my sleeve.   Look we can barely organise the things that people think are good things – you know like education or clean drinking water.  So, bringing down the Twin Towers?   Think of the competitor sites.  Think of the states which would have preferred to see a jetliner crash into some disastrous white elephant of a public building (think about how much Peter Mandelson would have liked some insurable disaster to befall the Dome by autumn 2001 if you need an example).   Contemplating the navigation of procurement rules alone for something like that  makes me shudder.

Twin Towers 2 by Andrew Coulter Enright on Flickr

True, I’ve never worked for agency that keeps black helicopters parked on its roof, but bureaucracy is bureaucracy.

For Christmas we received a copy of Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theories Have Shaped Modern History by David Aaronovitch.  The book singularly fails to live up to its title.   It isn’t really clear at all how they’ve shaped history – rather it’s an entertaining romp through various conspiracy theories  – e.g. the Jews have organised themselves into a worldwide cabal to run everything, Stalin’s show trials, JFK, Marilyn Monroe’s murder, 9/11 and a few more – and why these are so patently false.

In the introduction, Aaronovitch states his hope that the book will provide us with sufficient ammunition to dispel conspiracy theorists and I’d say it does a mixed job on that.  For example, only a bit on dispelling some of the crazy 9/11 theories (of course you can always go and check the Popular Mechanics piece if you want that), but an excellent expose on some of the 9/11 Truthers.

Only in the last Chapter does Aaronovitch try to bring the stories together into a revelatory narrative.  He gets awfully close to why these conspiracy theories are potentially damaging, but doesn’t quite hit on their greatest potential damage.

They are plotting

All human enterprise is full of conspiracy – or collaboration.  We’re often at our best when we work co-operatively to harness the skills, talents and efforts of groups of people.  We can buy people’s labour, but buying people’s silence is a more tricky thing.  Sure, people will often keep quiet about stuff for a while if they think it may help them keep their job.  They may even feel terribly conflicted about sharing information and try to leak it on the sly (like David Kelly).  But someone on the inside of a really big job will tell (at least in a relatively free society).   That’s why I don’t think that something as clear cut and yet so absolutely huge a job as ramming a couple planes in the twin towers is something that no one would ever tell about if it was an inside job.

Yet, clearly there was a conspiracy afoot around 9/11- more than one in fact.  Here are three, at least.

1. Al Qaeda conspired to cause mayhem and destruction.  It was a complicated and expensive plot.  But these people are fanatics not career bureacrats.

2. There was an ex post facto conspiracy (these are more common, I reckon)  in the US Government to cover up the lax way that Al Qaeda was being dealt with.  This conspiracy was probably largely uncovered through the 9/11 Commission – but it’s so complex that it’s difficult to comprehend.

3. There was a bizarre conspiracy among the Bush insiders to use the 9/11 attack as a means to attack Iraq.  This succeeded and it’s still being sifted through.

Spiked

Aaronovitch describes in the last chapter how he thinks that conspiracies are currently being almost accepted, mainstreamed.  For example, after the Katrina hurricane – there were a number of rumors circulating that the levees had been breached on purpose.  Basically to flood out the black people or some variation on that.

Now, I don’t believe that.  But I – as people quoted in the book – can sympathise with that point of view.  After all, there are people alive today who will have been alive when levees were dynamited to avoid damage to the City of New Orleans in the Great Flood of 1927. It wasn’t secret and people were warned.  But you know it was going to be the poor (black) areas which were sacrificed.  There was significant displacement generally and the conditions of camps housing the displaced were apparently ambominable.

So in a weird conflation of history you can see how the conspiracy theory arised.  But that really wasn’t what happened.  And it really wasn’t helpful for Spike Lee to present uncountered (nor supported) those theories in his film When the Levees Broke.

Because it lets people off the hook for the real conspiracy.  A conspiracy of inaction for which no one has really been held accountable.

Maintenance of the levees had been underfunded.  It was a Federal responsibility and though people had raised warnings, no one did much about it.  FEMA – the US domestic disaster relief and emergency management agency – had been brought under the newly established Homeland Security which was being run by a bunch of Bush cronies.  There’s little doubt in my mind they were unprepared and people died while they were trying sort their elbows from their posteriors.

But no one blew up the levees that time.    And wealthy neighborhoods of New Orleans went in the drink, too.   It’s just that the people who owned these homes had the means to get out and essentially enough trust in authority to take the hint to get out when they were told to.

Focusing on conspiracies which represent the depth of your anger – the truth that’s written on your soul – may make you feel better – but it diffuses accountability and wastes energy and makes it far more likely that lessons won’t be captured.

Too easy

Aaronovitch correctly identifies that believing in conspiracies can be a salve to those who feel they’ve lost out.  And he hints at the idea that they can be a salve to those who are uncomfortable with complexity and ambiguity.   It’s much easier to think that someone must be behind this rather than to accept that an assassination was a terrible event that the state failed to prevent through bad luck or just dropping the ball, or that there was a failure of policy and bureaucracy and people made a bad series of decisions.

Happy New Year!

New Year is a time for resolutions, sometimes of value and rarely kept.  But what’s a New Year without a few goals?  So this year my New Year’s resolution is to start blogging more, both personally and professionally.  And that means, at a minimum, four posts a week. At least twice on each site…including being much more linkety to other great posts out there.

And I’ve made a good start here… this is post one.

And here are some links to some good posts: (Sorry can’t be a bit more artful about this…I have a headache)

Is there a bah-humbug term for New Year’s?

Newscoma – and blogging unity in Tennessee Party-D

When taking advice on sexual health from popular music, consider the source.

Reflections on the first year in a new era for the Volunteers.

And an inspirational post from Tessy Britton…just give it away!

I hope you and yours have a wonderful New Year’s Day and a healthy, happy and productive 364 more.

_____

oh yeah, and probably something about more regular trips to the gym – drink more water – etc.

Gone to the market to buy a fat pig

I’m a grocery store, supermarket kinda girl.  I generally like buying my meat shrinkwrapped with a use-by date.   It’s fast, it’s easy, I don’t have to talk to anyone or reveal my lack of meat-buying nous and it’s – you know – OK.

But there’s a butchers on the edge of Wimbledon that we regularly pass by on the way to Richmond Park.  It’s nice looking.  I reckon it just may be where rich people buy their meat, and even if you’re not rich you need to have a reasonable net worth to shop there.  I’ve only ever bought cheap cuts there myself.

My brother makes some amazing ribs.  Tender, fall off the bone, sweet and crispy on the outside ribs.  The kind of ribs that would show a Memphis native that a Middle Tennessean has got ’em beat both ways on BBQ.    When he visits us in the summer, we usually set aside a day to make some ribs.   But the first time we tried this set up we had problems sourcing adequate ingredients.   We had been to a number of supermarkets and found some measly little piglet ribs smeared in suspicious red sauce in a little foil tray.

So, I suggested we try the butchers as a last resort, I’d never been in before.  We got there and saw some ribs in a slightly less scary sauce, but still marinaded up.   “Do you have any plain ribs?” we asked.  Out they brought the most amazing full side of ribs, plump and full of meat.   We had to get it cut up to fit in my giant boiling pot.  There was a slightly false start when they began cutting them into single ribs, but the butcher realised his mistake when my brother and I shouted “No!!!”

My goodness, high quality meat makes a difference.  Delish.

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I had planned to go to  the supermarket to buy a pork shoulder for Christmas, but was dreading the heave.

We passed by the buther shop  yesterday on our way to Simon’s birthday walk in the park.  We’ve had some lovely solitary walks in the park on his birthday in some very strange weather.  One year it was freezing mist and the park was silent but for the ice droplets falling from the trees.  Magical.

But yesterday was just plain miserable.  Rain.  Cold, cold drizzly rain falling on frozen paths.  It wasn’t even as festive as sleet.   We walked, slipping down (and Simon falling once) down to Isabella plantation and fed the ducks.

Who were very grateful for our meagre crusts.

Actually it was pretty amazing.  I counted up almost 30 pair of Mandarin ducks.  And a solitary wood duck. (These are pics from last year, because it was too wet to get my camera out.)

And then, because we were feeling very damp and cold.  We left.

In an attempt to salvage our journey I suggested we stop in the butchers on the way back and pick up a pork shoulder.  Which we did.  Excellent service as usual.  Freshly cut from a larger joint.   This year is the first time I’ve ever tried cooking pork shoulder and it’s pretty fantastic.

I’m even more excited about trying it with a really nice piece of meat.  A Merry Christmas indeed.

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On our visit to Wisley on Sunday I had a purple cabbage coleslaw in the restaurant.  It was fantastic and I thought it would make an excellent accompaniement to our pork shoulder roast.  But I can’t quite find just the right recipe for it.

However, I did find a recipe for a congealed coleslaw.  Yep, that’s right – coleslaw in jello (or jelly if you prefer), but there was no picture of the final product.   Which made me think about the Weight Watchers recipe cards which made me laugh til my sides hurt the first time I saw them – which unfortunately was at work.

And no my memory was not faulty.  Here’s what we could be having along with roast pork.  (Only sadly, I have no jelly mould).

That just ain’t right

Not too long ago (as in yesterday, I think – but my days are a blur right now) I saw this Douglas Adams quote:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

And I thought to myself….well, that ain’t right.  I’m not exactly an early adopter – but I’ve been kinda making a career around this social media thing for a little while (particularly as it relates to local government – I know snooze – if you’re interested you can check out my work blog where my latest blog posts deal with the complexities of applying for government funding, a host of links to data policy and a ‘fun’ post on library policy in the digital age).

I like to think of myself as fairly open minded and willing to think of the possibilities of new tech as applied to 1. my life 2. public policy and locally administered services.  I struggled to think of things tech that were invented after I turned 30 that I thought were dubious.  Frivolous and probably the recipe for softening the moral fibre of society, yes.   In violation of the universal constants as we knew them, no.

But last night as I walking up Victoria Street – I saw an add for wireless charging.  I’d read about this before but this was the first time I’d seen a genuine ad on a bus stop.

Ad for Powermat Wireless Charging

And I thought That just ain’t right.

How does it know where to send the electricity?  Won’t the electricity just be floating around doing strange things to our brains and nervous systems and turn us into weird half-human, half-portable electronic device susceptible to marketing messages delivered via electro-magnetic pulses.

And part of me is thinking, hey that looks kinda cool.  No wires.  You just lay your phone, whatever – on the mat and you’re charging.   But it’s not that simple…you can’t just buy the charging mat – you also have to buy a receiver (which appears to be in the shape of a case for your device or a battery door for Blackberries for example).   So, slightly less cool – and anyway – no doubt a contributor to the dissolute nature of modern youth and against the natural order of things.

________

Read more about inductive charging on wikipedia.