Ordinary Men

I know someone who's better screwed together than I and she's read, er… (thinks) yeah, I'd best get this back on track before the list of people who are better-screwed-together than I grows beyond my ego's comfort zone!

Anyway, she's been reading Christopher Browning's 'Ordinary Men'; it's an examination of the motivations of, in simplistic terms, a WWII Nazi-run extermination squad.

Not an easy read, by her account, not by any means. It got me thinking again of what minimal set of events would precipitate a decline into times in which our society could condone such events. You've had only to look casually at the TV in recent years to find programmes about 'Doomsday Preppers', disease-created zombies or worse, the shutdown of the electricity grid, aliens intent on extracting all our planet's resources before moving on to the next mining proposition…

Go on then, what, practically, could sow the seeds of our society's destruction?

Our reliance on complex but easily-interrupted food distribution chains, the effect of social media on the ability of looters to congregate on and to lay waste to city centres, the notion that terrorists could strike anywhere even with the complete absence of coherent attack strategies, the transmission of disease across international and across species boundaries, the emboldening of xenophobes as government administrations move towards embracing nativism-inspired lawmaking?

Yeah, fragile. So what can we do?

Nothing, apart from conform to normal societal rules and hope that like the winds of change, it'll all blow over us without too much damage. And that's the problem, as vested interest has the rules change, the moral compass becomes destabilised. Has anyone from any other previous era, outside of wartime, had the rules change literally overnight?

Maybe.

I've read (and watched 2 versions of) Orwell's 1984, read and listened to Orwell's Animal Farm, experienced the dread of imagining the speed of onset of a technological catastrophe during The Terminator series, read Asimov's Foundation series and felt a hope inspired by knowledge there may just be a shadowy organisation skilled in manipulating populations and then crushed as one man with abnormal skills brings it all crashing down… Then there's the similarities between 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead, and Shaun of the Dead; the gulf between the dystopian Star Wars and the utopian Star Trek; the time between the first screening of 'Metropolis' through The Twilight Zone's 'To Serve Man', to the present day's fascination with superhero movies. I'd best not mention 'The Matrix'. Do you remember Bird Flu, note that colds and flu last forever these days, and at any one time, someone you know could easily be carrying an antibiotic-resistant strain of some superbug that'll mean a few days off work, or death (whichever is the least benign?) And finally, during a recent bout of flooding in the northwest of England the entire nation's production of pink sandwich and custard cream biscuits stopped. Ok, really finally: when a major UK retailer decided the post-Brexit-announcement price rises after the consequent fall in the value of the GB Pound could not be passed directly on to the customer so the supplier's profit margin must take the hit; thus iconic products temporarily disappeared from shelves as people panic-bought - no Marmite!

Having an active imagination at a time like this isn't helpful.

Sign

I'm thinking of having a sign, a notice, a warning of sorts made up; a notification to those who would disturb my evenings or weekends with unsolicited offers to do work for or sell goods to us. The doorbell rings and… Ok, ok, I wrote about this phenomenon previously and about the telephone equivalent too.

Today I simply walked out of the front room into the kitchen, and ignored the second ring too. This visit would have fit the pattern: 'Hello, we've just finished some work in the area and…' I recognise the van.

Ah, the sign.

"The man of the house isn't immediately cheerful to unsolicited callers. Could we pay nothing now, at 0%, balance due by the then-homeowner in 35 years?"

Too wordy?

'Grammer'

Today brought two lifetime achievements, three if you include a small amount of good-natured Schadenfreude.

My mother-in-law is stopping over for a couple of nights. That's not it, no.

My youngest daughter, 7-1/3 years old, just corrected her grandma's grammar.

Maker's Mark review part 6

Drunk neat at room temperature or with ice: oh, no.

Maker's Mark Bourbon Whiskey smells amazing whether it's newly-poured into my favourite glass, or it's the remains evaporated overnight and sniffed during the tidy-up the following morning. (No, I've absolutely no idea why I did it the first time!)

But, after the initial welcome the taste becomes unpleasant to me. No Baz's seal of approval here I'm afraid.

There's a tad more to whiskey than a pleasant aroma, even my limited experience tells me that. The 2 preceding brands were pleasant, unchallenging. This, if it's an American favourite, seems analogous to the way I feel about Hershey's chocolate: it's to-me-unfathomably popular, explainable away by a blind obedience to the cult of historic nationhood, but there's no getting away from its' smelling, as it does, of sick.

Concluded early.

Privacy

Another sign personal responsibility is a thing of the past, this one related to the ubiquity of the mobile phone. It's an all-purpose privacy invader, child entertainer, burglar inviter, memory enhancer, space invader. In short, it's contributing to the decline of civilised society.

A post on my favourite medium-traffic low-visibility social network pnut.io reminded me of the number of times the mobile hasn't been my friend. The easiest way to do this is via the magic of a list.

A rant, actually.

  • Private meal, photos taken, in all likelihood shared on social media: (not mine this time) Why do they think it's ok to do this? A host and their home should be respected. In a bar it's almost ok. Why does no-one ask first anymore‽
  • The swimming baths changing room: man with phone blocking the aisle between the cubicles didn't take kindly to being asked to put it away, not even when the obvious sign he was stood next to was pointed out. No mobiles, no photography.
  • School sports days, Christmas plays: Advance notice of no photography, yet parents insisting it's their right to do so are sneaky about it.
  • The cinema: Yeah, looking at your full-brightness phone and taking selfies are simply antisocial; recording the movie would get you thrown out (though likely not prosecuted) if the grumpy old bastard behind is feeling vindictive.
  • Drivers: Is it too difficult to wait until you can find a safe place to stop before answering or making that call. It's been illegal to phone on the move for a while now, along with drinking anything, adjusting your stereo, and even picking your nose you dirty scrotum! Heck, being in the phone driving down the residential streets where you live and your children play is idiotic. Getting in your car after picking up your kids from school surely getting home safely is your highest priority. After driving at my wife and children.
  • Walking along the street, crossing the road: This should be obvious. Cars are hard, very hard indeed. Bouncing off mine might sting for a while, and though my elbow is less-likely to inflict permanent damage as I protect myself, my tongue is likely to be sharper than you realise.
  • It's lawful to take public photos of my daughters: I won't like it much, especially if it looks as-if you're doing it covertly. But I know it's your right to do so. Making you feel uncomfortable by staring at you until you leave is my right. One day I might even snap you.

Er…

I think it's time to have a go at composing part 6 of my Maker's Mark whiskey review series. (Surprisingly catharsis none while writing the preceding necessarily-incomplete diatribe.)

Maker's Mark review part 5

Drunk again with 1-1/2 ice cubes with me at room temperature, this time after recently eating strawberries & shaken (not whipped) cream: oh no, that unpleasant taste remains.

Still smells amazing, rich, sherry, butterscotch, etc; this really does bear repeating.

I'd better conclude this at some point…

Maker's Mark review part 4

Drunk again with a single ice cube with me at room temperature: oh no. There's a really unpleasant taste, unlike any of the preceding. Not sure what I'd eaten beforehand, but it's had quite the negative effect.

Smells more amazing than before, there is that.

To be continued…

Maker's Mark review part 119

oh my glob ive fallen and cant getup again waillll!!!2!¡

Beauty and the Beast

My youngest daughter and I went to the movies again today, to watch Beauty and the Beast, a film my oldest had seen mid-week. In my own inimitable fashion I enjoyed the tale yet again, and ignored the chance that I'd be offended by the peripheral fuss surrounding the movie.

I wouldn't have been, by the way; it'd pass unnoticed were it not for the fact I was expecting something. What sad lives people must have, picking apart harmless entertainment and ignoring history.

Anyway, afterwards we walked across to McDonald's and bought 2 chicken nugget Happy Meals, which we ate in the car. Mine came with an orange-roofed Smurf house.

The movie and the meal gain Baz's seal of approval.

Maker's Mark review part 3

I bowed to popular demand1 and wrote what follows about the third Bourbon Whiskey I've ever tried. Well, the fourth bottle of the stuff. My first experience was 2 consecutive bottles of Buffalo Trace, then one of Wild Turkey 101 and, as the subject line indicates, I'm now trialling Maker's Mark.

Ahhh, what a day that was…

No, no! It takes over a week per bottle, honestly! Jeez!

First though, my earlier post:

"Drunk with a single ice cube with me at room temperature: oh. Smells amazing. To be continued…"

From the guy who recommended it, the comment that precipitated this, an unprecedented same-day update:

"Enough about the smell. Do you like the taste? That was my favourite favourite."

Well…

No. Not yet.

It's rather nice to start with but there's an aftertaste which comes on quickly that I'll admit I'm not liking. It spans my first neat test, and today's single ice cube (just-melted.) Buffalo Trace seems to have a cleaner finish; Wild Turkey 101, though a bit too strongly alcoholic at 50.5% for me, seems to lack this unpleasant fall-off too. All pull back my gums and attack my lips to a greater or lesser extent, which is rather nice, if I let them.

No, I haven't a bloody clue what I'm talking about, especially if I'm using anything like understandable terminology, but I know what I like. Bear in mind that I've been drinking Scotch whisky for over 20 years, off-and-on, culminating in the utterly awesome Laphroaig 15-year-old, a whisky now withdrawn from general sale and thus prohibitively expensive. Incidentally, the 10 year old is a good substitute but don't make the mistake I did of trying the 'Select', it's completely unrepresentative of the fine brand.

Ok, the hardest bit about this experience so far is not admitting that I'm not too keen on the whiskey someone I trust recommended, nor is it the effort in typing right now not long after reaching the bottom of the second glass. No, it's getting through the melted plastic covering the Maker's Mark bottle cap. The pull-tab is utterly unsuitable for its intended purpose, so much so that I almost had to get the Swiss Army Knife out! It looks nice but I get the impression it took quite some time to design it to make it look as though it's an organic continuation of a product of a bygone age. Heck, it might be but I'm not sufficiently invested in it to find out.

However…

To be continued…


  1. Yes, you.