Tuesday 22 September 2015

Pretty sure alcohol was involved.

"Hi, Omar."
"Yo, Bruno! Bruno, my man!"
"Have you been drinking, Omar?"
"No, no, no, no, hardly at all very much. A couple. Look, come see this."
"I really should get back to my work...."
"But this is work! You have to see this. This is so cool."
"Hmm. OK, then."
"Mauricio! José! Rodrigo! I found Bruno. Bring it over here, guys!"
"Er, why is Mauricio holding a chicken?"
"All will become clear, my friend, all will become clear. You know dinosaurs, right?"
"We're evolutionary biologists, Omar."
"I'll take that as a yes."
"What's the... has someone stuck fake fangs on that chicken's beak?"
"No, no. Maybe a bit. Doesn't matter. Look —"
"I think I have a meeting at ..."
"No, wait, look. We take a wooden spoon — Rodrigo, get the spoon!"
"Really, Omar, I —"
"And we attach it like so... and..."
[long pause]
"Et voila! T-Rex, am I right?"
"I can't be a party to this."
"Oh, come on, Bruno! We'll let you be lead author! Bruno! Come back!"

From this year's Ig Nobels:

BIOLOGY PRIZE — Bruno Grossi, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vásquez [CHILE], José Iriarte-Díaz [CHILE, USA], for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.

Why, yes, there is a video.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Wood, trees.

Singing God Save The Queen has nothing to do with God, the Queen, or wanting the latter to be saved by the former or by anyone else. (Saved from what, anyway? She's fine.) It's the fucking National Anthem.

Refusing to sing the National Anthem because you're a republican is like refusing to wear the Poppy because you don't like gardening.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

What the fuck?

In one of the most preposterous cases to make it before the courts in recent years, Gayle Newland has been found guilty. Newland was accused by a woman of pretending to be a man in order to have sex with her.

Well, OK, I'm sure that happens sometimes. People are dishonest and horny.

But Newland didn't wear a disguise. She simply insisted that the woman wear a blindfold during sex.

OK, well, that could be doable, I suppose. People are into some weird stuff — not that wearing a blindfold during sex is particularly weird, but never seeing your sexual partner when you're not having sex is fucking strange. But, you know, maybe during a one-night stand, arranged via some Web service....

But no, this wasn't a one-off. Newland is accused of keeping this up for two years. Two years. Her "victim" claims to have maintained a two-year-long sexual relationship with a person she had never ever seen.

So we're now well into the territory of the "victim" being stupid by the standards of stupid, but, to be fair, that shouldn't and doesn't disqualify her from the protection of the law. As I said, people are dishonest and horny. Maybe an unscrupulous predator could take advantage of a woman who wanted a regular long-term partner for anonymous blindfolded sex. I'm sure there are some people who do want exactly that, even if I never managed to find any of them.

But it's not that either. It wasn't just sex; it was also companionship, like in a proper relationship. They were engaged. We're now talking about a woman who got engaged to be married to a person she had never ever seen, but had had sex with. And she also knew Newland socially, as a woman — with the blindfold off, they were friends. So she knew Newland's voice. Yet claims that, for two years, she never noticed that her fiance had the same voice as her friend. She claims that Newland disguised her voice. A stranger could get away with that, certainly; a woman could do a deep masculine voice and convincingly pretend to be a man. But a friend? If a female friend of yours — someone you'd known for a couple of years — did a male voice at you, would you actually not recognise her? Not just once, but again and again, in person and on the phone and during sex, for years?

And we haven't even reached the insane bit yet.

They watched TV together.

The "victim" sat and watched TV. WITH A FUCKING BLINDFOLD ON.

Nigel Power QC, representing Ms Newland, said to the other woman: "... it is not normal to spend hours in your flat with your boyfriend watching television when you cannot see what it is on the screen."

She replied: "For us, that was what was normal. In hindsight I wish I had ripped that mask off sooner."


Newland reacted to the accusations, quite rightly, with sheer incredulity:

[Mr Corbett-Jones, prosecuting,] said: "She believed you were a man."

Ms Newland said: "Why would she believe that? She is an intelligent young woman, very very intelligent."

Mr Corbett-Jones replied: "Because you told her. You told her repeatedly over a period of two years."

Ms Newland said: "So she wore a blindfold the complete time. Really? Really? Is that what people do because I have not heard of that?

"And don't get me wrong, I'm not the most normal of people but I have never heard of that."

Aside from the say-so of her "victim", the real corroborable evidence against Miss Newland is, firstly, that she maintained a fake man's Facebook page in the not-at-all-fictitious-sounding name of Kye Fortune. Newland claims that she used the page in order to meet women in the first place, but would then, upon meeting them in real life, reveal that she was a woman. Since even the prosecution don't claim that she ever wore a disguise, and since she, you know, looks like an actual woman because she is one, this just does not sound all that unlikely. Certainly not when compared to the prosecution's story.

Secondly, after the couple's break-up — which the "victim" claims happened when she whipped off her blindfold during sex and discovered that Kye Fortune was actually Gayle Newland — Newland sent this text message:

I am sorry I said lies to hide lies but I did not lie about everything. It was me and still is.

That message would fit in with the prosecution's story, admittedly. But it would also fit perfectly well with dozens of other stories. It doesn't say what the lies are about. It's the sort of think people say to each other after break-ups. It's hardly damning.

Nigel Power QC, defending, ... said: "The deception as described is incredible, incapable of belief. It is impossible to believe."

Mr Power told the jury that it was being asked to believe that a bright young woman spent more than 100 hours in her company but never suspected it was her friend.

... Mr Power added: "We suggest that gut instinct, human experience, common sense and careful analysis all lead to the same conclusion - of course she knew."

Well, quite. But the jury at Chester Crown Court — a jury presumably devoid of gut instinct, human experience, and common sense, and incapable of careful analysis — a jury, one can only conclude, composed entirely of tongue-dragging, counting-to-three-on-their-thumbs fuckwits — somehow found Newland guilty.

It could have happened. The case, as presented by the prosecution, is possible. But it's vanishingly unlikely. I'm not one of those extremists who insists that witness testimony isn't evidence. It is. But it should be convincing. It should be combined with other evidence — at the very least, with the testimony of another witness. We're not supposed to convict people as criminals on the basis of one person's frankly fantastic say-so.

I support the jury system. But there is always a risk of stupid or gullible juries. It happens. But, to be fair to this jury, stupid though they do seem to have been, they should never have seen this case. The Crown Prosecution Service, currently congratulating themselves on a job well done, should be hanging their heads in shame over this. They're supposed to be exercising some judgement over which cases to take to court. And this case should have been filed with the complaints about nuclear alien mind-control lizards.

Newland shouted: "How can you send me down for something I have not done?"

She broke down in tears and repeatedly said "I don't understand, I don't understand", after the verdict was returned.

British justice.

Friday 11 September 2015

Abusive compliments.

I have a company ID card. It has my photo on it. The photo is a bit crap. So is almost everyone else's, even the good-looking people's. And the photos are on the company intranet too, so we can all look at each other's. Occasionally, some lucky bastard joins the firm on a day when there's really good lighting or something, and actually manages to end up with a decent photo. It is normal, when coming across such a rare artifact, to compliment it. You know, "Wow, that's a really good photo," or something along those lines. It's not a big deal.

Is it?

Well, actually, according to Charlotte Proudman, it's a huge fucking great deal. It's such a big deal, anyone who does it should have their name dragged through the muddiest parts of the Internet and be lambasted in the national press.

Miss Proudman appears to be holding up OK, despite being on the receiving end of this filth from one Alexander Carter-Silk:

Charlotte, delighted to connect, I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture!!! ... You definitely win the prize for the best LinkedIn picture I have ever seen

I can only imagine the trauma she must have experienced upon seeing those multiple exclamation marks. Oh, hang on, no, apparently that's not what bothered her. It's the compliment. Apparently, telling someone that their photograph — that they've spent money on having done professionally prior to putting it on the Web to make themselves look as good as possible — is brilliant is sexist. Miss Proudman repeats a claim I've heard a lot of late: that it is only ever women who are on the receiving end of this sort of disgusting trouser-rubbing lechery, never men. Men don't have to put up with comments about their personal appearance.

Now, I'm pretty sure that's true when it comes to comments like "Phwwooooaarrr! Nice arse, darlin'!" shouted in the street by total strangers. But that is really not what Miss Proudman is on about here. She just got told, by someone she already knew, that her photograph was excellent. And the idea that men never receive such comments is the purest undiluted bollocks.

I went out wearing my deadman's hat last night. I got quite a lot of compliments, including a couple from beautiful young ladies. (I'm not all that, but it really is a great hat.) I don't think I was being objectified on the basis of my physical appearance. I didn't find any of those compliments offensive. Possibly because THEY WERE COMPLIMENTS.

After recovering from the shock, Miss Proudman responded to these appalling slurs by demanding an apology, refusing to accept the apology, and then posting the message — without anonymising it — into evidence in the planet's court of public decency, a.k.a. Twitter. Unsurprisingly, she has faced a bit of a backlash.

In response to the backlash, she has said several things.

Firstly, she says that she has a thick skin. No, really. Speaking as someone who has performed live music in Glasgow, allow me to respond thusly: Pfffffffffffft.

Secondly, she says she made the message public

in order to see how many other women receive these types of messages ... on professional networking sites, as well as in the workplace

But, of course, she could have done that without saying who her message was from. She was very obviously trying to publicly shame Mr Carter-Silk. And, thanks to the sainted Jon Ronson, that's going out of vogue now.

Finally, she says she's been told she's going to lose work over this:

The human rights lawyer told the Daily Mail: ‘I have received messages saying: “You have ruined your career. You have bitten the hand that feeds you. There go your instructions from solicitors.”

... [Franklin Sinclair, a partner in one of the UK’s largest criminal law firms] suggested Miss Proudman would be ‘blacklisted’ by solicitors.

... When she responded saying she would not want to work for ‘sexist solicitors’, he replied: ‘I should think you’ve blacklisted yourself from more than just sexist ones!’

She really needed to take a step back from her obsession with seeing sexism everywhere and look at the big picture here. She's a barrister. Her job involves treating private communications in the strictest confidence at all times. Her job also involves representing people to the best of her ability no matter what she thinks of them, even if she thinks they're awful people. So does she really not understand how putting the details of a private conversation on Twitter just because she doesn't like it might be bad for business? I mean, if you needed a barrister, would you hire her? Would you talk to this woman in confidence? After this?

Thing is, I'm perfectly willing to believe Miss Proudman's broader point: that there are lots of men sending completely inappropriate come-ons to strangers and near-strangers on LinkedIn — because the Net is full of men being clueless sexist inappropriate fuckwits. (Seriously, who are these guys who are convinced that what a woman really really wants is to see a photograph of their penis? What has to happen in your life for you to be that wrong about anything?) She says there are men treating LinkedIn as if it's Tinder, and frankly I'd be amazed if that weren't true. But the one example Proudman has used doesn't illustrate that. At all. To anyone who's ever had a conversation with real humans, Mr Carter-Silk's comment was very obviously not any sort of come-on.

That raises two possibilities.

Firstly, if this example is the best she can come up with, that shows that she is not, contrary to her claims, receiving come-ons on LinkedIn.

Or secondly, if she is receiving come-ons on LinkedIn, and yet, of all the lewd messages she's received, this is the one she chose to make Exhibit A, she's a shit barrister.