If I Were a Tory

Leadership debates are good. Candidates are motivated to hold each other to account and they know the issues well enough to do so. They aren’t perfect, but in this Tory leadership race, I think they’ve been the best two hours of content you could have consumed. Props to them for turning up.

I have not been impressed with the candidates. If they haven’t got a plan to improve the lives of the worldwide poor, a plan for climate change and a suggestion to break the parliamentary deadlock, I’m not interested. Heck, a plan for just one of those would have been an improvement. I can only think of one possibly new idea — Javid’s Islamophobia instigation. Other than that, silence.

So, if I were a Tory, what would I have said? Let’s start with the world. People are suffering out there. A bold policy would be to seek for UK development money to be spent, not towards things that need to benefit the UK, but towards the causes that will have the most benefit. And this wouldn’t need to be purely altruistic — those countries and individuals would know that’s what we were doing. A more well world is a safer world for us. And the Tories could talk about how they are the party of competence. Secondly, they could offer to run a national charity which would do the same thing — your money spent in the way the UK government thinks is best for individuals. The government can get economies of scale, create and seize new opportunities, it has top people thinking about these issues. Perhaps they could offer to match the first billion pounds given each year?

Next climate change. Were there any new ideas here? Nope, just hand wringing. Not quite as bad as how hastily they all said there wouldn’t be another election (which all polling says they would lose), but still hardly noble. Someone could have said, as is true, that the 2050 deadline ignores the government’s own advice that we shouldn’t use international carbon credits — we shouldn’t be able to pay to “transfer” emissions and say we’ve reduced them. Someone could have put forward an ambitious plan to build nuclear power stations, to implement a carbon tax, to remove the subsidies on North Sea Oil. The UK could have had its own Tory Green Deal, which puts huge amounts of money into the green sector in order to develop technology, create jobs and save the planet. 

Finally then, Brexit. We are trapped in an insomniac state, unable to sleep, unable to wake up. We need to acknowledge that the current process isn’t working. In that sense Jon-Hun-Gov-Jav’s magical hand waving and Stewarts “same old, same old” are both bad. One is no solution, one is a failed solution. Stewart is right to say the only door out of the room is with Parliament, but that body has rejected May’s deal three times. We need new ideas.

The failed idea is the need to reduce immigration. There is a desire, sure, but where does it come from? I suggest falling wages and fear. I’ve heard from several directions about how it is mechanisation not immigration which causes such sluggish wage growth. I don’t know, but it is worth your consideration. As for fear, a fear that our culture is being lost, if British culture really is better, it must be in a way that is teachable and shareable to newcomers — if there are geographically located sorts of people who cannot learn about it, how does that differ from racism? I don’t see how you can think our culture is better and that other people cannot learn it, without eventually justifying killing those people to protect what you have. 

Andrew Yang puts forward that it’s mechanisation which is causing the working class’ ills

Brexit has changed. Originally it was all talk of how easy a deal would be, now people are saying that WTO is what they’ve always wanted. So it can change again. To break parliamentary deadlock we need new ideas and I suggest letting go of the hold on immigration will give Parliament the room it needs to vote a deal through. Norway+ might be able to get the agreement of MPs in a way that magical options or failed options will not. What’s more, it could be combined with an ambitious package of retraining/universal basic income/manufacturing subsidies to improve stagnant wages whilst delivering the “sovereignty” that Tory candidates say people voted for.

Theresa May did not fail due to a lack of resilience or gumption or “belief in Britain”. She failed due to a lack of ideas. Longform interviews and debates are a good way of hearing ideas, but what this week has taught me is that these candidates don’t have any.

Watch Football, Not Politics

I love politics. I love the shocks, the analysis, the numbers. I love the violence, the satire, the ups and downs. I can watch a huge amount of news, checking the updates like it’s the football. I can watch a huge amount of commentary. Left wing, right wing, classic liberal, progressive, analytical, self-reflective, unsubstantiated, dizzying, labyrinthine, unending.

This is a problem. And it’s my problem. It’s my fault – I’ve allowed myself to become addicted, like drugs for nice Christian boys, or even for less nice ones. I guess it’s your problem too. Either you watch with horror or glee each twist and turn of Brexit, the Middle East, Russia or you are so sick to the teeth of it all that you just don’t care.

Perhaps you think I’m being overly judgemental – I’m good at feeling guilty – but let’s take a moment to consider the place of politics (until quite recently) in my life. Perhaps this will chime with you:

  • I check the news constantly, wanting to know exactly what is happening; it is almost a nervous tick
  • I enjoy having “thoughts” on the current issues and discussing them with my friends
  • I enjoy controversial moments – I am ashamed to say have watched thug life style take down videos eg Vegan Apologist Destroys Bacon Eater (but not actually that one)
  • I watch commentary seeking new angles, I watch people I like and those I dislike.
  • I enjoy agreeing. I enjoy disagreeing
  • I watch videos which inform me of things I already know and rewatch important moments
  • I am not very politically engaged beyond discussing on facebook and twitter
  • I watch political commentary videos to relax
  • I check polls constantly
  • I stay up to watch important votes.
  • I would pay to see some of my favourite speakers

Reading that list it is clear that I was fairly far gone. But it is also clear what is going on. Politics is a sport to me. I was, unsurprisingly, never very good at football. But politics takes that place in my life. Read the list again, these are, with a few minor tweaks, entirely appropriate ways to feel about sport. Politics is like theatre to me. I feel emotional at the big moments; heck, I enjoyed watching the collapse of “my team” in several recent votes, horror is thrilling in its own way, laced with the over the top highs of twitter and youtube live streams.

Politics is not sport. It affects peoples lives. People live and die based on foreign policy, welfare policy, healthcare policy, abortion policy. And yet here I am watching another Peter Hitchens supercut. Another Owen Jones interview. Another BBC non-article. Another controversial Guardian think piece. The unending news cycle means I don’t actually consider any of the big issues. What have I done to affect the result of the Brexit referendum? Nothing. How much can I affect the Kavanaugh proceedings. Not. One. Jot.

Football is not the most important thing in the world. We love the twists and turns – a Leicester City season is a euphoric and perhaps once in a lifetime experience. But we know its place. We can talk about it endlessly from our armchairs because we do not play and it doesn’t matter. Footballers live glamorous unattainable lives because they can. We shouldn’t worship them, but we do, following their careers like Olympian gods, ready to turn on them when they disappoint us. This is often troubling, but it is made less so by its importance. Footballers do not decide whether we go to war or leave supranational blocs or whether to end 180,000 human lives a year. Our worship, if tawdry is at least meaningless.

Politics is not the same. Our votes do change things, and those we worship meaningfully affect our lives and others. What’s worse they weaponise our interest, keeping us scared or angry, thankful or confused. I don’t say this to damn politicians, this is surely an obvious truth. If the inner workings of Amazon or Tesla were as interesting to us, they would weaponise them for cash (spoiler: they do). It is a natural instinct to survive. But we play along, we love each Boris gaffe, debating each time whether he is really fit for leadership, without ever discussing his voting history let alone considering how many weeks we should talk about Boris per year. We dance merrily from antisemitism to Tory insurrection to party conference season, ever accompanied by the deafening drone tones of Brexit, an issue which we kid ourselves if we believe we can understand or predict (understanding and prediction are strongly linked) or change, certainly not by just reading and arguing.

We are complicit in a great news coliseum, loving the lions tearing apart the huddled captives without realising that one day we will have sand between our toes. Each week is a beautiful new season of fashion, gaudy or sophisticated, and yet the clothes that matter are always the same. Foreign policy, NHS, Free speech, economic productivity, etc, etc.

Has it always been thus? Or when and how have those things changed? And have I noticed? And have I affected it? And did I vote based on that? Or did I vote based on whether the Tory party seemed Strong and Stable or Weak and Wobbly. Or whether this week Jeremy is a freedom fighter or a nasty piece of work.

So perhaps I shouldn’t follow politics at all. This is, I think a more reasonable approach than you might think. I would not kid myself that I understood things I did not. But maybe you say you read the news in a healthy way. Seriously, ask yourself, “why do I follow politics?” Hold that answer in your head. Let’s examine some:

  • To understand the system
  • To predict what will happen
  • To understand things that have happened
  • To change things
  • To set expectations
  • To hold politicians to account

Now consider, if you really followed politics for the reason you said, how would you act? Do you act like that?

The first point is throw away. Understanding systems for their own sake is all well and good – my final year project was on the mathematically obtuse Khovanov Invariant, I am in no place to throw stones (nor are my atrophied muscles capable of it) – but is news/youtube/twitter really a good way to do this? Perhaps pick up a book on political systems. Furthermore, I doubt most of us love rules as much as I do and even I wouldn’t say this is the whole reason I’m interested. I guess that’s the case for you too. I think most of us understand things for the sake of predicting what will happen or knowing what happened in the past, rather than the pure elegance of the system itself.

Which brings us onto point two, predicting. I would say prediction is near the heart of understanding anyway. If you can’t predict (produce an accurate set of probabilities of) what is going to happen, do you really understand what is happening? There is an advantage to knowing what will happen. To knowing when the pasta will be ready or when your train will arrive. But in these examples we have much time to learn the systems  and the systems repeat many times in the same way (note though what happens to train timetables when something unpredictable happens). Political systems are not the same. This, from David Kahneman’s excellent book Thinking Fast and Slow: “If the environment is sufficiently regular and if the judge has had a chance to learn its regularities… You can trust [an expert]’s intuition”. Politics is neither regular, nor have any of us had the hundred lifetimes necessary to connect the cues to their effects, such as that snow means the trains might be late. Worse, we think we do know. This again from Thinking Fast and Slow:

[Phillip] Tetlock interviewed 284 people who made their living “commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends.” He asked them to assess the probabilities that certain events would occur in the not too distant future, both in areas of the world in which they specialized and in regions about which they had less knowledge … Respondents were asked to rate the probabilities of three alternative outcomes in every case: the persistence of the status quo, more of something such as political freedom or economic growth, or less of that thing.

 

The results were devastating. The experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned equal probabilities to each of the three potential outcomes. In other words, people who spend their time, and earn their living, studying a particular topic produce poorer predictions than dart-throwing monkeys who would have distributed their choices evenly over the options. Even in the region they knew best, experts were not significantly better than nonspecialists.

If you think you can predict political events accurately, you are wrong. You would have to be far smarter than the rest of us (why aren’t you earning millions? Why didn’t you get perfect grades? Tell me if you can consistently win money gambling on political events). So while I will not say understanding is worthless (it isn’t), we are terrible at predicting politics, so if you read the news each day for this purpose, you are doing so needlessly. I would recommend reading the same aggregate of polls every couple of weeks and even then pollsters are notoriously inaccurate. 

Something similar is true of understanding why things happened. If we are unable to predict recurrences accurately, do we really understand why things have happened? If World War III were about to happen, would we see it coming? The Doomsday Clock has been terrifyingly close to midnight for a while now and yet it is unclear if we are to wait around or soon be plunged into nuclear war. That said, I think we can probably have higher confidence about which particular events lead to what in the past, so there is some place for understanding. On the other hand, you’re almost certainly not going to find that out by reading today’s opinion columns, which are far too close to the events and without the tremendous value which hindsight provides.

If we read the news in order to actually change things, do we do so? When was the last time you tried to contribute to a major change?  I think voting matters because I think we should behave as we want everyone to behave, but the real effect comes from convincing many other people to change their opinion. I am, as you may have noticed, for reasoned discussion, but we must be willing to change our own minds if we are wrong. Once again though, do we follow politics as if this is the case? And if we seek to change things, what is the most effective way? Is it reading news? Is it discussing topics? Is it donating to advocacy bodies? Is it personal activism? If my reason for reading news is to change things, I must actually attempt to, or I’m just lying to myself to justify my habit.

If you follow politics to set your expectations, perhaps to help you prepare, fair enough. But how often do you need to actually check the news/social media for that to be the case? News which happens on any given day is always going to be a surprise, so you probably only need to be prepared for things which you could know beforehand – the election results or a war that might start. But how often do you really need to read the news to keep track of that? A couple of times a week? Recently I’ve found Wikipedia’s current events page useful. It contains hype free headlines for the major things which are happening. I don’t know whether it’s impartial, but Wikipedia serves me pretty well elsewhere.

Finally, holding the government to account. There is a real place for careful thorough investigative journalism. Think about the Panama Papers. The question here is, is that what you are reading? And when it happens, do you consider it as important as you might do? Or does a story of real import crop up and then quickly get washed away by the oncoming flood of This Week’s News. How important is it if a politician lies? Will you write a letter? Will it change how you vote? What if it’s your guy who’s doing the lying? Look at American Evangelicals changing their views on marital faithfulness before and after President Trump’s election. Perhaps they came to understand something better, but it seems awfully convenient. Will you vote based on the behaviour of the parties or will you vote how you want and justify it afterwards? If so, why bother reading about it, you know who you are voting for anyway.

I used to watch way too much politics. On occasion I still find myself watching videos for pleasure, sucking up opinions which I can regurgitate later. I’m trying to cut down. Surprisingly, I’ve found that I’m no less well informed, but I do have more space to consider what the big issues are and what to do about them. I talk less about politics than I used to, but hopefully there is a chance I will say more. If you’ve got good reasons to follow politics, think about how to best serve those aims, but if you want to be entertained, stick to football.

Virtue, People’s Vote & Competence

Far too much is written about Brexit. This may not help. I have a three points that I don’t often hear in the debate. If they are not shocking, that is to be expected – we should not want to constantly be shocked by our political discourse.

Firstly, we should behave decently to the people who have become like citizens of this country. That our country acts virtuously matters. Whether they are members of the Windrush generation or European citizens, people who have lived here for a long time have become part of an informal compact. Before we consider what their their actual rights are (and they may have the right to stay), we should treat them well and let them remain part of us. If we wished to keep the option open to stop such people being treated like citizens we should have made it clear to them decades or years ago respectively. In the American immigration debate, no party actually seems to wish to eject dreamers or illegal migrants who have lived there for some time and I suppose might be based on the same notion. We can imagine our friends who are not UK nationals and we don’t want to eject them even if we would like less immigration. This is right and reasonable. It is virtuous to treat well those who expected to be able to live here for the rest of their lives. Regardless of our position in the immigration discussion or indeed in negotiations, virtue is virtue.  We should have guaranteed the rights of such people ages ago. I think it is shameful that we used them as bargaining chips. Such behaviour undermines everyone’s faith that we are a just country, as opposed to a conniving and legalistic one.

Secondly, predictability in life is valuable. Life is at many points confusing and random. Predictability allows people to feel safe and make good choices. There is a reason that a surprise implausible twist in a book annoys us. The Eagles in the Hobbit for instance – if you didn’t know they could come, you would be upset for the way they blow the emotional payoff (let’s not get distracted by this analogy). We cannot perfectly insulate people from the frustrating randomness of life, but we can attempt to not make it worse.

For this reasons we should not have a second referendum. People were told they were making a genuine choice; the democratic process was explained to them in a particular way. Like every other part of the democratic process there were ‘no backsies’. They would not have predicted there would be another vote, so doing so will damage their trust in the system. What about running the same election twice or not getting involved because you can’t trust politicians to carry things out?

But wait, I hear you cry, what if the opinions of the public have changed? We have more than one election in our lives. Yes, I agree. But what was the expectation for this referendum. Like all the others I think the expectation was once in a generation. If remain had won, that would have “settled the issue” if leavers had asked for another. Why not have an election on Europe every two years? How will we ever know what the public actually thinks. Though of course there is another course of action. An election.

Elections force those who make promises to enact them if they are successful in the ballot boxes. The referendum had no such strictures, allowing individuals to promise the moon and then run to the sidelines to complain that it was not being delivered. A second referendum would further open the door for future such votes (what if the public votes to both lower taxes and raise public spending?). It will allow us, the public to think we understand complex political issues (we don’t) and that we understand how to enact policy (we don’t). We will have more exciting emotional campaigns rather than the occasional boredom which accompanies people who actually have to do what they promise. It will stop us believing in the current form of British democracy which has served us well for so many years. There will be be ever quicker news cycles distracting us from the issues which are important and always have been (abortion, the environment, world peace, cancer, heart disease, relations with Europe, America, the Middle East, issues of gender and sexuality, government power, the NHS, benefits, education, the economy – your list may be different but I don’t think it will be wildly so). Repeated referendums will mean that if we come to a difficult issue which should split parties and cause politicians to decide what they really believe, we will instead fudge it. And then fudge it again and again and again.

If the referendum was so great, why do we need another one?

Thirdly, I would like competence. Politicians should be wise, thorough, rational and ideological. I don’t believe the ends justify the means, but I think some means are more effective than others. I don’t think that economic stability should make us long to sell out every other thing we believe in, but rank incompetence is useless everywhere. National sovereignty might be valuable enough to risk everything upon, but losing Europe and getting nothing in return will be a bad move from those we have entrusted to lead our country. I would like politicians who are capable of telling me the hard truths and creating a vision we can get behind and enacting it.

I am not impressed by very many politicians I hear. Rarely do they seem to understand the few things I understand or to explain to me well the things I don’t. Rarely do they seem to keep the main thing the main thing or even to know what the main thing is. I don’t know why this is. Perhaps I read it wrong. Perhaps we are unlucky. Perhaps our education system is failing. Perhaps our ideological window is too narrow. Perhaps it is impossible – perhaps the current situation means that politicians are forced to say the sky is both green and yellow at the same time. I cannot predict the outcome of Brexit but with a weak political class the current situation is worse than it would otherwise be.

I don’t think we should be too anxious about Brexit – it looks to be going badly, but you and I don’t really know enough to say. All the opinions we share here will have little affect (I guess you should donate to an advocacy group instead), so it does not serve us to follow the minutiae. I think we should talk about the issues, though. About virtue and competence, about world peace and the economy, so we can think what really matters next time we go to the ballot box.

26 Thoughts on Avengers Infinity War (MCU Spoilers)

  1. Thanos is really well constructed which is a major step up from many single dimensional MCU villains. Compare him to Malekith, Ultron, etc and he is clearly superior.
  2. Marvel still struggles to develop memorable musical  themes. We’ve watched ~20 Marvel movies and can only just about remember the Avengers theme tune. Star Wars it ain’t.
  3. It felt like the finale of a TV show. We’ve had the character development in previous films and other than perhaps, Thor, Quill, Wanda and Thanos who got some this time. That’s fine, characters don’t always need to grow and watching new interacts was satisfying and fun.
  4. Thanos is the film’s hero. He is a paragon of sacrificing things for the greater good. Shame he’s a utilitarian.
  5. Sometimes fantasy tires me out in that it can seemingly only ever discuss the opposing views of Utilitarianism (the ends justify the means) and Deontologism (that some things are ultimately right and wrong, no matter their effects). This was a good film, but it was still every much in these lines. Any chance of a film discussing single payer vs free market healthcare? (ed. It’s been pointed out to us that Black Panther discusses isolationism vs interventionism/ open borders, so yeah, Black Panther was really great)
  6. That said, I wasn’t upset by the film’s oversimplistic philosophical masterplan. It is a comic book film and a large but flawed premise is fine. Also maybe Thanos genuinely has more experience, is insane or just believes in small government and his own corruptibility. Did we honestly expect them to send Peter Singer to debate with Thanos? No (because they’d probably agree #Burn)
  7. Marvel has created a wide and varied set of characters who it can use to play of one another. The MCU is a genuinely stratospheric cinematic achievement. That almost all films are good and a number are great particularly the latest is not to be taken for granted.
  8. We enjoyed it. It was a fun.
  9. The clear theme of sacrifice in which characters are willing to give themselves/ what is important to them for the greater good.  Thanos’ mission, Vision’s death, the exchange of the Time Stone all pointed towards questioning what should be sacrificed to achieve our aims. Notable was the march of a father and a child up a mountain ending in a sacrifice. Unlike the Biblical story, the child gets sacrificed.
  10. There were a lot of callback to other films. The drop pods and 6 armed monsters are very similar to Warhammer (not that I know anything about that.. shifty eyes). Ebony Maw’s death is very Alien:Resurrection (warning: very gruesome). The henchman (Corvus Glaive) reminded me of someone from World of Warcraft.
  11. The henchmen were set up as being difficult to kill, but died fairly easily to provide the heroes with success.
  12. That the henchmen were more interesting, was another significant improvement over Age of Ultron where the two power levels (useless grunt/Ultron) give no room for Black Widow/ Hawkeye to hold there own.
  13. It’s clear they are saving emotional resolution for the second film, with obvious cadences in the meeting of Iron Man/Captain America and the arrival of Hulk.
  14. Was Ant Man smuggled into the infinity gauntlet? We just don’t know. (Props to John for this idea)
  15. Did Strange MD do some mirror universing? I’d be pretty dissatisfied if this were the case, since Thanos really ought to know when that happens.
  16. The 50% of all life dying will clearly be reversed, though I was moved by that finale so it will be hard not to just do away with a really meaningful moment. We are hoping that the there will be satisfying costs to this recovery, perhaps to the original Avengers. No not those ones.
  17. This film is ambitious in a way that surprises me from the most franchisey of franchise films. Star Wars VII and VIII took nowhere near this many risks. Henry VIII arguably took more.
  18. Wouldn’t it have been funny if one planet of people we don’t like are unaffected because Thanos doesn’t consider them to be intelligent life. My vote is on Naboo.
  19. What is the choice of secondary characters who survive? It seems likely that beyond the original avengers, only Rocket, Nebula, War Machine, Valkyrie, Korg and Okoye really have the clout to join the team.
  20. Were the characters from Black Panther sidelined because of a lack of certainty on whether they would be well received by the public? Now that Black Panther was a huge success, will that affect editing of the next film (since it has already been shot).
  21. We expect to see Captain Marvel.
  22. The film goes for the classic generic visual style, rather than the more distinctive styles of both Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. We think that’s a shame.
  23. As the key romantic subplot in Thor: Ragnarok will we see Valkyrie and Black Widow fight over Bruce/Hulk.
  24. Marvel struggles to make key emotional cadences stick after the end of a film. Asgard is not a place its a people, half of whom die and who Thor quickly deserts. He is the god of storms with one eye, who quickly gets another eye and axe hammer thing. Bucky seems perfectly healed with only a Black Panther cut scene as explanation. Iron Man stops building extra suits but not actually. War Machine is functionally fine despite supposedly not being able to walk. Time and again, Marvel ends films satisfyingly with big payoffs which it quickly ignores in later films. We hope the final is not treated likewise.
  25. Since it is Thanos not Gomorra who grows from her death, I’d be satisfied by a Guardian of the Galaxy film about venturing into death to exchange the soul stone for her. Mecha-Cerberus, black hole as river Styx, a better version of Pirates of the Caribbean 3. I am open to being optioned for Dante’s Inferno meets Guardians.
  26. Preganancy did not work out for Paltrow in Se7en (I m34n r3411y?), will it work out for her this time?

By Tom Amos and Nathan Young

Stopping, not starting

Think of a hobby you used to do.  Why did you stop? Did you choose to or did the time-anaconda slowly sqeeze it out of your life?  How long did choosing to stop take? Now think about starting. How long did it take to start? Or to decide to. I’m a fairly neurotic guy, but even for me, starting is easier, as my litany of partial hobbies suggests.

It’s easy to want to try something new – a new game or sport, a new relationship, new food (well, I used to be a bit weird about food) and it’s usually pretty easy to argue the point – if I don’t meet this person now, when will I? I might love this thing, I should have a go. I just want to understand you/ it/ him. Stopping on the other hand is tough. It’s about not doing and not seeing, not tasting and feeling. And yet,  it’s a much more meaningful choice. By not doing things, you declare that the things you are doing are more important. If you stop playing squash so you can play with your children you are showing they are more important to you and you are taking responsibility. You are acknowledging your time is not unlimited and that some things matter more than others. That’s the decision of an adult.

Maybe you read that and think that you don’t do many things and that each new interaction is scary for you. Perhaps each new activity takes courage. That’s okay. But I don’t think it is the experience of many young Westerners (I could be wrong).

I think this is a key political notion. On almost any topic it’s easy to justify that we should do something. The more important question is, when should we stop.

Most people think we should have some armed forces. But once you have more than one soldier, where should you stop? Most people think we should tax people, but where should you stop? Most people think some freedom of speech should exist. But where should it stop? When should you stop paying for benefits or allowing people to own things that could be used as weapons or intervening in other countries.

Sorry to keep making similar points, but it’s important. Hospitals are good. As a country we should definitely finance at least one. But how many? 10, 100, every second building? There must be a number at which we stop building hospitals. It’s not that I don’t like hospitals, I do, but if we build a hospital every second building then we probably won’t have money for schools and houses.

This is true of ideologies in general. Freedom is good. But you can have too much of it. Should I be free to break into your house and move all your things around (maybe move some of them to my house)? No! So here we are at the same question of starting and stopping.

I think in our society it is far too easy to call anyone who voices restraint the enemy. Whether it’s brexit, Syria, free speech, the NHS, the list goes on. And yet, I imagine you think at least some of the things I have mentioned there should be more of, and some you think less. And frankly, we may not agree. Likewise you could accuse this of being a negative ideology – that I’m always thinking about stopping things. But when we talked about stopping squash to spend time with my children (who don’t currently exist, sorry Grammie) that wasn’t negative, it was a proper use of my time. The truth is, we can’t do everything. We just can’t. And we don’t want to allow everything (murder is wrong, right?).  So there must be a discussion of when to stop.

Ideologies so rarely seem to bother themselves with this most important of questions. When do free market capitalists need to stop the free market? (eg monopolies) When do we stop providing healthcare? (We cannot give everyone the gold standard treatment, and we don’t.) I know it’s scary to admit that there might not be free speech we don’t want to protect, or equality we don’t want to enshrine, but it must be the case (see: every second building a hospital) so until we discuss it, we pretend that we can and should keep on at every good thing, forever.

The person who does every activity has no time to do any of them well. That person isn’t free or focused, they are instead ruled by their hobbies. There would be not time for sleep or eating or any of the few things they really love. The ideology which has no room for stopping will grow and grow until it (or something worse) controls your whole life. So when someone next proposes something (and it can genuinely be a good and desirable thing) ask, “Great, so when will it stop?”

Photo by Kees Streefkerk on Unsplash

Street Harassment: My Thoughts

I wrote this article before a major shift in my thinking, but I’ll leave it here for transparency. I don’t know if I would write it now, but if I did it would not be focused around the gender binary and I would be more careful about loyalty to country/gender etc. It’s is nuanced – I like being what I am, but it is no better than that I were something else, nor am I more valuable for it.

I was reading a thread of tweets on a case of street harassment and it got me to thinking (feel free to read the account, below). It is, I think, a fairly normal account: man calls out to woman, man follows woman, woman brushes man off, man keeps following, woman brushes of again, main gets aggressive. It is an upsetting story and clearly one that shouldn’t happen.

My first response to these stories is nearly always the same. I am a human and like all humans I have a certain loyalty to those in my own “group”. I feel loyal to my family, to Christians, to the English, to the British, to Europeans and yes, to men. When a man does something bad, I almost always begin by attempting to justify how maybe it wasn’t that bad or maybe it was just this man who went off the rails. This is clearly problematic. It should be noted that I don’t think the above loyalty is bad – what’s wrong with being in favour of your family or nation – but that it must be tempered by greater things – the notions of truth and justice, a care for the oppressed.

The main issue with my response is that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I am not a woman. I have never been catcalled or harassed on the street. (I know it would be unpleasant but it’s not even easy to imagine myself in her shoes – if a woman showed interest in me on the street it be a compliment because it never happens). So now I would have to imagine what it must feel like to be harassed all the time and I’m not sure I can do that. I know it would be bad, but I struggle to put myself in that situation.) Likewise I have never catcalled or harassed a woman on the street. This is not due to feminist principles so much as never having wanted to. I don’t know what motivates men to do so (we’ll get to this later) so I don’t know what it is that I lack, but suffice it to say, if it is power, I don’t desire to force someone to talk to me. And if it is attraction, I’m a fairly numbers-focused evangelical Christian. The odds that a random woman on the street would be an evangelical Christian too are low, unless I’m walking around a Christian festival, in which case we cut to the chase and reveal that the idea of actively pursuing any kind of road-based romance terrifies and sickens me in equal measure (#slighthyperbole).

Picture of people at christian festival, Soul Survivor

I once mentioned Christian festivals at the pub and a woman literally choked up her drink

So back to the point. I’ve had an initial pro-men reaction which I’ve elected to ignore, followed by some reasoning on my complete lack of knowledge on the subject. A reasonable starting step seems to me to be to consider the injured party. Women say they are harassed on the street and that it is unpleasant. And this is not just a few women. I think it’s nearly all the women with whom I’ve discussed the subject and often to a much greater degree than I expect. In terms of the argument, it doesn’t seem credible to me that these women are lying and frankly I haven’t read anyone who accuses them of it. Street harassment seems universally disliked and almost universally experienced among the women I know. So why would we as a society condone an action that half of society hates? Is there any social benefit? Like, a lot of it?

Again I draw a blank. Now, I haven’t gone looking, but I imagine there are some men somewhere who say that shouting at women across the road is the best thing since sliced bread. This doesn’t satisfy me. Clearly there are other ways of dating women, you can get to know some through social activities, you can use an app, you can ask some of your female friends to introduce you to some. If men and women only met while walking the streets of inner cities, maybe we would have to cede a necessary social function to this unpleasant activity, but that’s not the case. There are clearly other options, and those ones don’t upset women.

The second argument would seem to be something along the lines of “Why can’t I tell her she’s pretty”. Now as I’ve said, I personally don’t understand why you’d want to do this on the street, but if you do, this argument seems to work based on social propriety: It’s good to compliment people and you can’t control it if they get upset. But that doesn’t make sense to me either – social propriety is a set of rules we create to all get along. If someone gets upset when you buy them a birthday card, that’s on them, but if the majority of a majority of the population hates the activity in question, maybe it shouldn’t be proper, maybe it should be socially improper. And what’s more, maybe you never cared about it being social proper in the first place. Let’s remember also, that because a proportion (which I don’t know) of men get aggressive/violent if refused, women are given no clue as to how men will respond if they are turned down, which makes the initial “compliment” likely all the more unnerving.

As we do this, it seems to me we force the discussion closer and closer to whether it is merely an exercise of power on the part of men. Once we get there the game is up – there is nothing moral or worthwhile in that explanation and I imagine if it was commonly agreed that street harassment was about power then it would probably stop. (I mean if it was actually known, can you imagine a frank discussion in which men admitted “I know we only do this for the sake of our own egos but we just think we are more valuable than you are”) It seems to me that if there is self deception going on here then it is what is keeping the street harassment boat afloat.

I’m not seeking to paint catcallers into a corner – if my logic is right, they are already painted in

Finally then, it seems to me you might argue it was a game of risk and reward. None of this is about the men who get violent, clearly their behavior is unacceptable. But for the other men, a thousand brush offs are balanced out by the chance that one woman might actually respond positively. Since the women that turn them down choose not to value them, the men give them no value in return and hence it’s okay to annoy a thousand valueless people in a row. As with much of this, this argument is almost completely alien to me. People have value. Full stop. We don’t get to choose who is valuable and who isn’t.

I have a feeling this won’t cut the mustard with those who disagree, so perhaps I’ll put it like this. Imagine there was a guy a work, who if you didn’t laugh at his jokes, didn’t consider you worth his time. Maybe you’d think he’s a bit of an asshole, but you’d just ignore each other. Now imagine that when you didn’t laugh at his jokes, he got angry or aggressive. Now the guy is a total douche-bag, insecure and probably the sort of person you would hate to have to work with. If you think street harassment is okay, it seems to me you are a version of guy. At best, if you always leave women alone after that initial brush off, you don’t care about the feelings of the women who aren’t attracted to you. At worst, if you carry on after that first brush off, you as bad as the most unreasonable man you’ve ever met.

Ahh, but Nathan, you say, I’m just paying compliments. That’s not like forcing someone to laugh at my jokes. But you aren’t paying compliments to people who want to hear them – only a very small percentage of people you speak to (from what I’ve heard) actually like your compliments. And by not taking those people’s feelings into account, you have chosen not to care about them. And why have you done that? Because of their lack of attraction to you. You’ve made their feelings for you be the sole judge of your treatment of them. And much like angry joke guy, women have free choice whether to choose to like you. To like me. To like any of us, as men. If we use that choice as the basis of whether or not to treat them as they would like to be treated, we are behaving like the guy who forces everyone to laugh at his jokes, who from our experience might become aggressive and violent at the drop of a hat. We would not appreciate jokes from that guy, not even funny ones. That’s like shouting “Mike” at everyone in the hope that occasionally you’ll get it right.

Henry VIII

Take my mate Henry, he’s hilarious, when he makes a joke, everyone loses their heads

It is not even obvious that this final case is even true, but like all the other cases clearly it is unjustifiable. Women do not like to be treated like this and there is no good reason that I can see as to why men ought to do it. It is indefensible on the grounds of necessity, social propriety, power dynamics or risk and reward. It is a thing that most of the women I’ve talked to strongly dislike and something no one I’ve talked to has every come up with a good defense of. It is the behavior of an asshole. So let’s just stop doing it.

Young’s First Law of Worldbuidling: Rules and Form

Read this joke, or watch this video:

A distillation of the first minute of this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yelG1h5XYZI

Ha ha, very funny. Or not. Whatever it is, it neatly skewers an issue with discussing fantasy: You can’t critique slightly unlikely events when the impossible happens all the time. That’s the joke.

But that’s obviously incorrect. I’m allowed to be confused when Harry Potter is blithely sent to walk in forest inhabited by monsters, but requires a slip from his guardians to go to a nearby town, even though that world has wands and goblins. It’s good to talk about what appears to be a gaping plot hole in Lord of the Rings (why Gandalf doesn’t just jump on an eagle and fly to Mount Doom), even though LOTR has elves and magic rings. It is reasonable to criticise the constantly changing nature of Magneto’s powers in the X-men films even though that universe has superpowers and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Just because a work contains impossible elements doesn’t put it beyond the realm of reasoned discussion.

Magneto on bridge

If you watch closely you’ll see that magnetos powers work differently in practically every scene. Someone should write a blog about it.

The key question is consistency. And what a work should be consistent with. I don’t care whether a work is reasonable compared the our world, I care whether it is consistent with itself and its own rules. Rom-coms rarely mirror reality – the people are too beautiful, funny and pair up  with too few issues – but we still get upset when characters do things which don’t make sense, like get together for the sake of a happy ending or use terrible dialogue. There are a set of agreed conditions at the start of  such a film which allow us to quickly get into the world we are watching, but once we are in that rom com world, we can critique it. Fantasy should be no different. It is no different. So here we are:

1st law:

a) A story should be reasonable once its own rules and form are taken into account.

b) These rules should not be criticised on their own account, but rather when a work breaks them or doesn’t use them logically.

c) Applying rules to each other in logical ways makes your world seem more realistic and can be used to engage the reader.

Let’s use Game of Thrones. It’s rules are things like:

  • There is a medieval world
  • There are dragons & magic
  • Tyrion is relli relli hard to kill

It’s form is that of a gritty fantasy novel with grand plots and a global scope. If we are going to criticise it, we have to take these rules and form into account.

Or Harry Potter:

  • There is a modern world
  • There is a secret world of medieval witches and wizards
  • There is magic and mythical creatures
  • There is a spell that disrupts people
  • There is a spell that kills people
  • There are a bagillion other spells

It’s form is of a children’s book which becomes grittier and more adult over time. Now I like Harry Potter, but I think using these rules and form, we can make some reasonable criticism. Throughout all human warfare people have used the best options available to them. Few poeple nowadays fight with swords. So once you have a good disruption spell and a good killing/stunning spell, that’s about all you need. There is that one fight where one person summons a giant snake then the other one turns it into a swarm of bees which the first guy freezes (or whatever). This doesn’t really make sense, why not just kill them with a zap of avada kedavra? And if this was in Harry Potter 1 – 3 I’d probably not worry since a children’s story don’t require high levels of internal consistency. In my opinion, gritty, young adult fiction does, so I think we can ask why everyone is so flashily inefficient in killing/subduing one another.

Time Turner

I don’t even want to talk about it

As a final example, let’s look at Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. It’s a young adult fantasy novel with the following rules:

  • There is a medieval world (feels like I type that a lot)
  • There are dragons
  • Magic means things happen instantly, but require the same amount of exertion
  • A load of other rules

There is a great scene, where the main character is low on cash but knows some magicians. He gets them to make silk clothing (which is time consuming but doesn’t require much physical strength) so rather than painstaking hours of dextrous enterprise, they can do it immediately. Our buddy Chris Paolini has used his rules to solve a problem in a neat way. Good job Chris. (For a good essay relating problem solving and magic follow this link.)

The thing is that we the readers could have made that jump of logic ourselves – all the tools were there. So by the author doing it in front of us, we realise the characters in the story are independent actors, capable of insight and epiphany. They aren’t just making the decision they are presented with, they are cheating and breaking the game. Much like we do.

The key thing is that particularly when we talk about fantasy we seem to mistake three things, which I’ll call the suspension of reality, disbelief and criticism. The world in the story is not like our world (reality), but is that so different from the suspension of disbelief required when we watch James Bond? We think we can judge the narratives of Shakespeare, but because Game of Thrones has dragons? All stories ask us to suspend our disbelief, some ask us to suspend our notions of reality but I don’t think we are ever required to stop being able to critique a work, whether it is War and Peace or Spongebob Squarepants.

I’m not saying you need to be that person who sits in the corner of the room always picking holes in things – I like many worlds which I think contain issues. Probably it is bad to ask why Tarly is still fat, mainly cos it doesn’t mean much. Rather, I think there are good and bad ways to critique fiction and hopefully learning them will help you to produce better fiction, building on your rules to create a world of growth and change. The plaintive cry, “but none of it is real anyway” is nonsensical and boring, and always has been.

This format piece is inspired by Sanderson’s Laws of Magic. The content was something that’s been bugging me for ages.

 

For What It’s Worth: Post-Brexit

The words that have been written about Brexit could no doubt fill a small library’s worth of books, or cover hundreds of rolls of Andrex with their occasionally snarky, tightly-written script. I don’t intend to expound the arguments of either side, nor tell you who or what to vote for. Perhaps some day, but not today.

A box saying "prevent this page from making additional dialogues"

If only

Much has been said over the last few days of the toxic climate of the debate. Particularly to the extent that it caused the awful murder of Jo Cox. I wonder if we would damn it so quickly had she not been murdered. Maybe we would just shrug and move on, not thinking about the words and images we have so quickly used to deride each others’ strongly held views.

We are going to vote on Thursday and we will either vote to leave or to remain. In either case there will be a significant minority who disagree with the result (perhaps as many as 2014’s 45% of Scottish voters). I’m not saying living together will be an issue; unless you behave like an arse, I think we’ll be okay, but building our country together could be more difficult.

With that in mind, it seems to me (for whatever that’s worth) that a few things are worth mentioning:

Migrants are not the problem. Migration perhaps, but individuals and families migrating to this country to improve their lot are doing a legal and reasonable thing. Whatever your thoughts on immigration policy, those people are not the immigration policy they are taking advantage of. They are people.

A picture of my friend and I

Okay, sometimes migrants are the problem

This isn’t winner takes all. In the possible case of a 55% leave vote, 45% of those who voted did not wish to leave, but will nonetheless. As a country we will have to seek out ways to leave which are particularly careful to suit the ideals those people stand for, whether they be workers rights or solidarity with mainland Europe. Likewise a 55% remain vote is hardly a vote of full confidence in the EU. We will have to push for reform of the issues which troubled those who voted to leave.

A picture of the game, 2048

There can be compromise. It’s not 2048

The the minority should pitch in. It seems to me that we all want the same things. Everyone I’ve talked to wants a reformed Europe (some of them just don’t want to be in it). Most want a strong British economy, good jobs for those less well off than themselves and a loving response to all those refugees who are fleeing crisis. All these things are more achievable, in my dubious opinion, if the minority group pushes for them with the same gusto with which they have fought for this debate…

…But not the same manner. If this debate has been toxic, misleading, unconcerned with reasoned argument, patronising, overly-memed, fearmongering and prone to desperate tactics, it is because we have made it so. We buy the papers and consume the media, we share the memes and write the ill-conceived facebook comments, we are rude to people we should care about and use argument to suit our position. I say “we” because I do this too (particularly the facebook comment one).

A dumb internet post

If your post looks anything like this.. Red flag

So what are the issues that matter to you? Honestly, take some time to think about a few issues that you have really cared about in this debate. Has it been sovereignty, immigration, the economy, TTIP, red tape, hospital funding, trade deals, workers’ rights, British values, green policy, European geopolitics, queues… Seriously, take a minute to think.

Dot

 

Dot Dot

Dot Dot Dot.

Stop reading this, it hasn’t been a minute.

 

Dot Dot Dot Dot.

Mine top issues are immigration, the EU’s structure, and the treatments of Greece. These are issues which I want to keep a track of and upon which I want to hold the government accountable. I shall be forced to read multiple news sources and perhaps occasionally write an email to my MP. We can’t all be informed about everything, but since I this referendum has probably shown you which issues are important to you, you know what you want from your elected representatives next time it comes to a vote. This is just one possible course of action, but it seems reasonable to me.

Illuminati Logo

This diagram shows the EU’s pyramid structure. (Kidding)

This vote is going to be over by Friday, and we’ll all live with each other afterwards. Whatever the result, we have a choice about how we move forward, and if we care about that choice we should act on it. I think our futures rest, not merely on a generational choice, but a generational opportunity to work together or succumb to infighting. I think they rest on improving the standard of public debate and holding our politicians to account. If you agree, then what are we going to do about it?

Short Story – For Josh’s Birthday

A café on the seafront, half empty.

Arnold tapped his fingers on the table, waiting for his coffee to arrive. He wore wore his simple three piece suit, cut in a mix of Hirlish and Hujang style – light brown in colour with slightly flared sleeves. Sitting alone, near the door, he imagined someone would come to talk to him soon, beginning with an anxious smile and “Do you speak Hirlish?” He was just as desperate to practise talking – his work at the docks afforded him little time for real conversation and he was always afraid of what he would share.

“Would you like to talk to me?” She was pretty, with something in her eyes that drew his answer immediately.

“Yes.” She smiled, her face white to match her gown, her lips a deep blue to match its embroidered trees and palaces.

“Where are you from?”

“Ausgarten, it’s in the south.” A lie, but an easy one. His fingers kept tapping and he played with his sleeve.

“So why did you come out here?” Slightly forward, but Arnold barely noticed.

“I just wanted to explore, I had a seen so little of the world.” This time he was not lying.

Her brown eyes pinned him for a moment, “Do you miss your country?”

“Yes,” the sea’s movement filled the silence, “though it is going through a difficult time at the moment.”

“So you do not support the republicans?” This shocked him slightly, most still referred to them as ‘revolutionaries’ despite their settled rule for the last five years.

“I suppose I do, though not their methods. They believe we should not be ruled by other men, in the value of the common man, that shifting should be taught to all. I believe all these things,” he said resignedly.

“So you do not support the Emperor?” she said, with mock horror.

“I support the Emperor, this is His land. But in my land I support the republicans, for everyone else ignores scriptures.” Arnold shifted, pushing the metal blocks, hidden underneath the back of his jacket, to lie flat against the back of the chair.

“Scripture?”

‘No man should rule over another, for each man’s weight is enough for his own legs, do not keep a man enslaved, for the King values his life as highly as yours.’

“This verse has been used for a thousand years to justify the monarchy, but it is clear in the surrounding verses that the King is God himself. The verse, and there are many like it, instead calls for an end to Kings and the systems that support them, though the current violence sickens me.” Every few months of he would hear more worrying reports from Hirland, recently he heard garbled stories that a group of the aristocracy had been tried and whose shifting had been been claimed as property of the state – they were then forced to marry their children into the commons or face death.

“You have friends among the aristocracy?” She placed the word carefully so to distance herself from its connotations.

“I did.” He grimaced, having bashed his finger hard against the table. Where was his coffee? He looked around, seeing one of the serving men talking to a man across the other side of the coffee shop. The man was a shifter, he could tell by his bearing.

“Filth,” he swore to himself. Turning to the woman he said, “I’m tremendously sorry, but I’m going to have to leave. What did you say your name was?”

“Jian,” she said smiling, then drew her eyes playfully to the mark he’d left in the table. A small circle around where he had bashed his finger was now made silvery metal instead of wood.

He stood quickly and quietly then began walking to the back of the room, past tables of customers, heading for the door to the servery. The room went quiet. He breathed in deeply.

Arnold turned, shifting the bottom and sides of his leather shoes into water. He fell a short distance and then his bare feet touched the wooden flooring. The man was running towards him. He was Hirlish, but dressed in black and white Hujang robes. Arnold tried to look surprised, perhaps it would make the man underestimate him. The man was about twenty meters away and had his dagger drawn. Grabbing a chair beside him, he sheared off a leg by  running his hand down its side and turning the joints into water. With the piece of wood in his hands, he shifted it into steel. The man was meters away. Arnold took a fighting stance, with his weight on his back foot and shifted the wood around his back food to steel, then brushing his toes over the  wood in front of him he shifted a huge chunk of the floor into water – his own footing stayed secure on the steel plate behind him. He had chosen this café carefully – it’s placement on the wharf meant the man would fall straight into the sea.

The man must have been expecting it. He only fell for a moment before using his own bare feet to turn the falling water into steel. Arnold immediately swung his metal chair leg towards the man’s head; the man blocked shakily, barely recovered from his fall. Just before the metals collided, Arnold shifted his weapon to water allowing it to continue past the defensive blade before returning it to metal to strike the man hard on the forehead. The man collapsed.

Arnold watched him carefully for several moments before relaxing. The man lay half in and half out of the metal depression in the floor, a falling sheet of water frozen in steel.  His upper body lolled onto the wood; his weapon lay discarded by his hand. Arnold shifted himself a metal section of the floor to kneel on and picked up the sword, levelling it to the man’s throat, before checking his pulse.

“Who was he?” Jian asked.

Arnold ignored her. The man was alive but unconscious. Arnold let out his held breath. He spoke then. “A Hurlish assassin. The third they’ve sent in as many years.”

“Who are you?”

“The thing a newly formed republic fears most. It’s rightful King.”

I don’t love Clifford the Big Red Dog

Class, for today’s lesson in media criticism, we are going to look at a 90’s classic: “Clifford the Big Red Dog” an endearing yet fantastical tale of a girl and her oversize hound. They got into adventures, he solved problems, he could talk to his two dog friends – who am I kidding? I don’t care, I basically have some big issues with the intro and you’re gonna hear them.

Watch the following video, remember to make notes in your copybooks.

“Hi, my names Emily Elizabeth and this is Clifford, my big red dog.” Perhaps slightly unnecessary but hey, solid character development here. Our protagonists are introduced. Not a significant complaint.

Singing begins.

“Clifford needed Emily, so she chose him for her own…” Laying aside the fact that Emily, despite being a little girl, is perceptive enough to know that a particular dog needs her (as the word “so” implies), Jason Michael does a charming rendition of this theme tune. It’s no “Pinky and the Brain”, but few things are.

“and her love made Clifford grow so big.” Now you might assume that this is my issue. But it ain’t. Can I believe that there is a world where love makes dogs grow bigger? Yes. Absolutely. It’s a fundamental principle of the show that there is a big dog. No more unreasonable than if there were is a dog that could talk or if pterodactyls and humans coexisted. Perhaps I’m labouring the point. It’s like there’s a ring that makes people invisible, but actually it’s a girl whose love makes dogs bigger.

So that’s fine. Though you do have to wonder why all the other normal-sized dog’s owners hate them so much.

“that the Howards had to leave their home” PROBLEM 1: This just reeks of chronic mismanagement. In the video we see that Clifford sticks his head out of the window of their apartment block. Why did they not pre-empt this? Surely once you have issues taking the dog through the door you don’t leave him inside the house to grow even larger? He clearly fills the entire block at this stage which means he’s not only destroyed their flat but the flat beneath them. Do they not understand the lack of housing that plagues most large cities? And how did they get the dog out. They had to knock down the house, that’s how. (I’m going to assume we were watching a timelapse of dog growth otherwise Emily Elizabeth REALLY grew to love that dog in a REALLY short time frame, let’s hope she never loves a person).

“Clifford’s the best friend anyone could know” Debatable surely? Also why is Emily riding without a saddle. Lax parenting. Not that we should be surprised.

“He’s the greatest dog ever, I really think so!” Do you, well that’s great. Are you qualified? Have you seen all the other dogs. I mean yeah, he’s big, but he occasionally does destroy your house. And where are we getting these massive dog biscuits from? This isn’t the Great British Bake Off.

“Clifford’s so loyal, he’s there when you call.” PROBLEM 2: WELL CLEARLY. Watch the video; she shouts and then the shot changes but you can still see her arm moving down, so no time has passed and he’s right in front of her. She shouts for him, not seeing the 25ft dog right in front of her. Of course he’s there when you call.

Wait, were we outside the same house as before? Yes, it looks like it.

“So they packed up the family car and the Howards left the city.” Yeah whatever, this is probably the only reasonable decision this family makes. Why did it take them so long? Guess they had to rebuild their house first . Their insurance doesn’t cover for acts of dog.

“They moved to Birdwell Island that now many the friends” (that’s not a typo. I listened to the song a lot of times and have no idea what those words actually are.) PROBLEM 3: REALLY! REALLY? You have a massive dog and you choose to take him to Island where he can’t run around and then you take him there on this tiny boat? Seems dreadfully unstable. I’m starting to feel this isn’t a real story.

Oversized animals coming in from the sea almost never cause problems to island populations. Also biodiversity.

“There to greet Clifford and Emily.” That’s right. All the tiny dogs. And their owners. Who despise them.

“Clifford’s so much fun, he’s a friend to us all.” He’s not a friend to me.

Why is he red? How did he become red? I’m starting to think it might be a genetic thing. How big are his parents? Perhaps he was even smaller to start with, maybe Clifford’s actually a kind of mushroom.

“I love Clifford the big red dog.” Sure. Believable. Fair enough.

Clifford woofs. Nearby houses collapse. Episode begins.

Clifford definitely changes in size throughout the video. Perhaps sometimes she doesn’t love him. It’s like the Prestige,

This has been overly analytical children’s show intros with Nathan. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.