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Pamela Constable on her parents’ WASP values

Great piece in the Washington Post by one of their correspondents whose Republican parents would have hated what the party has become:

it occurred to me that our cerebral and courtly African American president, struggling against the tide of an angry, visceral age, had more in common with this elderly WASP gentleman than did many white Republican leaders of the moment.

Source: I rejected my parents’ WASP values. Now I see we need them more than ever. - The Washington Post

Pokémon Gone

I am so not a gamer.

Oh, I loved Asteroids back in the day. I solved Monument Valley, and I got on fine with Alto’s Adventure. But I’ve never got more sophisticated modern games. There’s a whole big post about that that I’ll maybe write one day.

But Pokémon Go has lit up the internet for the last week or so, and it sounded kind of fun. So I thought I’d give it a try. Probably more healthy than arguing about the Labour leadership crisis on Facebook, anyway.

I was just out at the shops, and I remembered I had it, and sure enough, there was a wild Golbat outside the local supermarket. You’ve got to throw the pokéball to catch them, right? I’ve seen enough of the TV series with my kids to get that.

A hovering Golbat superimposed on a shop called 'Local Supermarket'.

But could I catch it? Could I buggery. No matter how many times I flicked up on the screen to send the ball towards it, it just would not connect. I must have tried like fifty times, standing outside the shop like an idiot.

This is why I never get into games. I soon hit upon something frustrating and get bored with them. No doubt I was doing something wrong. I’ll try again, I suppose, but it’s very discouraging.

Oh, and I couldn’t get the name I wanted. “Devilgate” was taken, but so was it along with just about every suffix I could think of, including just random strings of numbers.

Kind of cool to see the pokéball rolling off under the vegetable racks, though.

How in the World are they Making that Sound?

OK, so why did no-one tell me that Jonathan Richman — of whom I am, or used to be, a fan — released a song back in 1992 or so, called “Velvet Underground”? I’ve been a fan of them since long before it was cool, as you know.1

OK, so though Jonathan wrote the mighty “Roadrunner” (and apparently was called by some, “The Godfather of Punk”, though I thought that was Iggy), he later moved to a much more mellow, quieter sound. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. We don’t always want to to be listening to the loudest stuff.2

But anyway, it turns out that there’s this song about the Velvet Underground, which is cool as fuck, as you might expect. Jonathan, of course, has been associated with the Velvets since the early days, roadieing for them and whatnot. So who better to write a song that tries to evoke the startling, shocking effect they had on people, on the music scene, back in 1966 or so?

Here’s his description of John Cale in action:

A spooky tone on a Fender bass
Played less notes and left more space
Stayed kind of still, looked kinda shy
Kinda far away, kinda dignified

They were “America at its best,” he says, and who could disagree? If you haven’t heard it, it’s on Apple Music, Spotify and even YouTube, where I understand the younglings like to go.

Both guitars got the fuzz tone on
The drummer’s standing upright pounding along
A howl, a tone, a feedback whine
Biker boys meet the college kind

After one of the choruses where he sings, “How in the world were they making that sound?/Velvet Underground,” he says, “Like this,” and launches into a verse of “Sister Ray.” It’s all very, very cool.


  1. Though to be fair, I should thank a group of friends from school that I’m not in touch with anymore for getting me into them. But let’s leave that aside for now. 

  2. Though let’s face it, we mostly do. If there was a god, and it didn’t want us to listen to loud music, then why would it have invented amplification? 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Books 2016, 9) 

This is an infuriatingly brilliant book. Or brilliantly infuriating. It’s about the tensions between magic and science in a world where both exist. The characters are great and annoying (which only adds to their greatness). The scientists don’t think of investigating magic scientifically, even when a witch helps them rescue someone from an experiment gone wrong, which is annoying. But not very, because it’s so lovely. I predict it will win awards.

Last day at work. My computer seems to know. It’s turned back to Windows 95.

Sixty-Three Percent

Future

Yesterday was the strangest day.

Anger, of course. Sadness. And confusion: how could this happen? Why did it happen?

What the hell is wrong with people?

But above all an overwhelming sense of change. Of everything having changed, and not in a good way.

I went out for a walk at lunchtime, and it all felt so strange. What it felt like was that the future had changed.

I know that sounds odd: how can the future change when it hasn’t happened yet? But that’s exactly how it felt. Like some time-meddler had taken the future and given it a twist, so that it was off by forty-five degrees or so.

It’s not like I’m constantly thinking about the future normally, but I guess we just have a kind of background-hum sense of where things are going, and that hum stopped in the early hours of Friday, or changed frequency.

Sums

Enough of the metaphors and similes. I did some basic arithmetic. On a turnout of 72%, 52% voted to have the UK leave the EU. That means 37% of the electorate voted to leave the EU.

Which means 63% of the electorate did not choose to leave.

It’s true that you can’t really assume the desires of the non-voters. But my thinking is that the decision to leave the EU is tantamount to a constitutional change. I don’t know what rules countries with written constitutions have regarding amendments, but my guess is that they will have a higher bar than a simple majority of the turnout. A two-thirds majority, or a majority of the electorate at least, I would expect and hope.

I had this conversation on The Guardian site yesterday, wherein the people I was discussing with were saying in effect, “You knew the rules when you went in.” Which is true enough, but unhelpful. My real point is that the rules should have been different. Now we, the voting public, obviously were not paying close enough attention back in 2015 when the legislation for the referendum was passed. But we have representative democracy, and our representatives — our MPs — should have been on top of this. The referendum should never have been brought with such a low threshold allowed for leave.

I’m surprised that Cameron himself didn’t ensure that it was hard to leave. Maybe he was a secret Brexiteer.

Or maybe he just didn’t believe that the public would ever actually vote to leave. I think with hindsight that that’s where I was: in my heart of hearts I couldn’t believe that this would happen. And that is probably the root of the cognitive dissonance I felt yesterday.

It’s too late now, of course. There’s not much we can do (though there is this petition, which has enough signatures already for parliament to consider it). I wonder if someone could mount some sort of legal challenge, maybe get a judicial review.

Because from where I’m sitting 63% of the UK electorate are about to be dragged out of the European Union without asking for it (or having actively stated their opposition). And that’s not even to mention the people who aren’t in the electorate, who will be most affected of all. My fifteen-year old daughter came home fuming yesterday; her whole school was in turmoil over this.

We’re failing a whole generation if they see possibilities being closed off before they’re even old enough to to vote.