1 Wikipedia, 2 Wikipedias…

I’ve seen this linked a few times, and finally got time to read it. What an awesome article – there’s nothing in there that I couldn’t have thought up, but I didn’t and this guy did:

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn’t what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, “What you doing?” And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for the mouse.”

Jeremy Beadle

Jeremy Beadle, an ‘entertainer’ has died aged 59. I qualify the entertainer bit because a lot of his schtick was about embarrassing people using hidden cameras. Mostly folks would take this in good spirits, but I have a strong dislike of playing on people in this way, so while it was OK when I was seven I don’t rate it any more.

Having said that he was a smart guy, or at least one who knew a lot which is a fair substitute. That much I knew, but it turns out that he was also instrumental in raising £100 million for charity (that’s what, about 8 trillion dollars?) I don’t really believe in ‘better’ or ‘worse’ to describe people, but if I did I’d say he was a better person than me.

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Radio 4 had an interview with a guy (I’m being vague – I didn’t hear who or what he was, but it was definitely a man) who had been investigating the various beliefs of the British public. It is generally assumed that Brits are liberals, willing to defend the individual’s right to free speech and other liberties, but ready to provide a hand (through state intervention) to help those who are struggling. The research highlighted that this is really more of an ideal (no great surprise there), but one contingent on an element of communitarianism.

The thesis was that we’re willing to grant people rights, but they have to show that they deserve them by participating in the community. That participation can be pretty minimal. The interviewee pointed to the history of Chinese people in the UK; they have a tendency to keep to themselves in a number of Chinatowns, but that’s seen by the rest of the community as more of a preference than a harmful insularity, and more importantly they’re good neighbours. As trivial as that sounds, it is distinct from some Islamic communities, which (regardless of what the truth actually is) are seen to hold themselves separate and in some senses ‘better’ than the community at large, and also aren’t seen to ‘play the game’ as part of society.

This certainly struck a chord with me. I’m not naturally a Conservative voter, but I can sympathize with their frustration that so many people don’t play their part (regardless of Thatcher’s claim that there is no such thing as society). It’s difficult to image the transformation in any society if, for example, all criminals decided to go straight, or slackers decided to work harder, or everyone decided to volunteer just an hour a month to a cause. It’s an illusory hope, based on the idea that an individuals could improve their lot just by applying themselves, but a seductive one nonetheless.

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Generation Gap

AmericaBlog has a post about the difference in attitude between Baby Boomers and those who come after them. Rather than the traditional whine about the youth of today lacking commitment, it points out that employers aren’t willing to offer the assurances those heading toward retirement have enjoyed, so why should we offer them loyalty in return.

Whether conscious or not, society consists of bargains struck. X give up Y to get the assurance of Z, where X = pensioners or motorists or children, and both Y and Z are generally money or the things that money can buy. One of the assumptions inherent in these trade-offs is that my group is OK with other groups getting theirs, so long as we get ours. I don’t mind paying health insurance when I don’t really need it to keep your premiums, for example, but in due course someone will do the same for me.

This system can break down when one group doesn’t want to help another out, though in most cases a mixture of numbers and inertia prevents this from holding sway for long. The bigger threat is when a group gets so big that its desires can overwhelm those of smaller groups, but it isn’t big enough that its largesse can handle the needs of lesser collections. That could be the case with Baby Boomers in the next 20 years (until their numbers start to dwindle); the worries that they have over their futures could translate into demands that set unsustainable expectations for future generations, winning them the distinction of being the real ‘me’ generation.

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Just watching the Packers-Broncos game and noticed a player called Atari Bigby. Atari is a Japanese word meaning attack, but clearly that’s not its most prominent use. Perhaps in another decade or so we’ll have a Nintendo Morris in the league. I’m guessing XBox 360 Jones may not make it past college.