When do we forgive?

Or maybe that should be, “when do we forget?” or, “When do we let it lie?”

I was thinking about the Saatchi ad agency, and how all decent people in Britain despised them throughout the eighties and nineties, because of their work in getting the Tories into power, and keeping them there.

You may remember how, just a year or two ago, Iain Banks admirably refused to go to some awards ceremony or other, because it was being held at the Saatchi gallery. “Words matter,” said the writer, correctly[1].

Indeed, it was that phrase that started this whole train of thought. On leaving work I noticed what I thought was one of the many casual misspellings that haunt our public spaces. In this case it was on a London Borough of Merton electronic noticeboard by Wimbledon station. “Run with the Wimbledon Windmilers”, it said, and I wondered whether it was a pun on the distance they run. Wimbledon has a windmill, though, and I somehow doubted that members of an athletic organisation would be that keen on wordplay. A quick websearch showed me that I was wrong, though.

Indeed, I imagined a literate member of the organisation complaining about it to their colleagues, and being told, “It doesn’t matter: it’s only a word”.

But it’s their name. And names matter. Words matter (the fact that I was mistaken, and there was no misspelling doesn’t matter, for the sake of this argument).

So when should we let the Saatchis — or at least their name — back into polite society? It’s hard to say; and not an immediately pressing matter, as I have no particular desire to visit their gallery, nor a need for an ad agency.

It’s not like that first time I bought South African wine after apartheid ended. That was both difficult, and positive. Difficult because I had developed such an ingrained reaction against South African goods; and positive because I could feel I was supporting the new regime.

That, of course, was several orders of magnitude more significant than the doings of a seedy little political party and their advertising lapdogs (hmm, I wonder whether the lapdog relationship was actually the other way round?)

I suppose, though, if it comes to making the decision, I should ask myself, “What would Iain Banks do?”


[1] Though I have to admit to doubting my memory when I find that Google can find no record of this event, either on the web or on Usenet. And, as I always say, if Google can’t find it, it’s probably not there.

Oh, the humiliation

I used to go to Edinburgh University. For the first two years I was nominally doing Astrophysics, until it proved too difficult, and I backed off to do plain Physics (which, in turn, I only just managed to pass; but that’s another story).

In our house we’re regular watchers of University Challenge. So imagine my excitement last night when Edinburgh were on with a team of scientists, including two astrophysicists.

And imagine my embarassment when they were roundly trounced by a team from Southampton.

It did seem slightly ominous when Paxo specifically said that they were weak on arts. It’s common for arts-heavy teams to be weak on science; but I’ve never seen a team of scientists that were so bad on arts.

Actually I don’t think I’ve ever seen a UC team that was all scientists before, but I’ve never met four scientists who knew so little bout the arts.

Maybe standards really are slipping? Or maybe today’s science students just aren’t reading enough Science Fiction. Who knows. Though by the look of that last link, even SFSoc don’t read much now.

Incidentally, when I was there, we didn’t have any of those websites. Because we didn’t even have the web. Seems hard to imagine now…

A first entry

The waiting emptiness of a new blog is even more intimidating than that of a blank page. Especially when, as with LiveJournal, there’s an already-existing community who all seem to know each other. It’s a bit like it must be to go to an SF convention when you don’t know anyone.

I once saw a guy in the bar on the Saturday night at a con, (I think it was that Eastercon in Docklands) sitting on his own, wearing a walkman. He seemed to be saying, “I want to be here, but it’s so hard to get in that I might as well make my own entertainment.” I kind of wanted to ask him to join our group, but I didn’t, partly because of my own reticence about approaching a stranger (and fear that I’d end up having to babysit a weirdo for the rest of the con, if I’m honest) and partly because, of course, the other thing his walkman was saying was, “Don’t talk to me.”

Now I don’t want to be saying that, so I’ve got all the comment options enabled. And fortunately I know *swisstone* and *zotz*. So that’s a start.

My reasons for joining the blogging revolution (not that I need to give any) are: ego (I want to be like Charlie Stross or Cory Doctorow or Doc Searls) and not wanting to miss out on a bandwagon (if I can paraphrase the Bard (of Barking): “So join the struggle while you may/The Revolution is just a text editor away).

And I’ve been meaning to set up a personal website for ages anyway. And one day I still will. But in the meantime (and after, in all likelihood) I’ll publish anything I want here.

Thank you for your attention.