It would cost you less grief to turn a cyclist into a boyfriend than a boyfriend into a cyclist.
Holds for many things really. One of the reluctant cyclists in my past could find and replace "cyclist" and "boyfriend" with "jazz lover" and "girlfriend".
I do love the song that this Youtube offering is a piss-take of. I love its vague angst and alienation and self-harming, and sometimes I think the whole fucking western world is shouting, Here we are now, entertain us, like Romans in the Colosseum.
But Weird Al Yankovic is very funny:-
And I forgot the next verse Oh well, I guess it pays to rehearse The lyric's sheet so hard to find, What are the words? Oh never mind. . .
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
The Act of Contrition (c1100) is really a model apology. You say you are greatly at fault, you don't offer excuses for doing what you did, and you don't say, by the way, I did other good stuff and my intentions were fine. Also, it is very short.
Not like Johann Hari's apology. He starts by explaining why he plagiarised - because the people he interviewed didn't produce good copy:-
The first concerns some people I interviewed over the years. When I recorded and typed up any conversation, I found something odd: points that sounded perfectly clear when you heard them being spoken often don’t translate to the page. They can be quite confusing and unclear. When this happened, if the interviewee had made a similar point in their writing (or, much more rarely, when they were speaking to somebody else), I would use those words instead.
He was doing them a favour you see. He was wanting to make a nice job of it. Just as an engineer, if he found a few cracks in a bridge he'd constructed, would put on extra thick paint to disguise this ugly appearance.
In my work, I’ve spent a lot of time dragging other people’s flaws into the light. I did it because I believe that every time you point out that somebody is going wrong, you give them a chance to get it right next time and so reduce the amount of wrongdoing in the world. That’s why, although it has been a really painful process and will surely continue to be for some time, I think in the end I’ll be grateful my flaws have also been dragged into the light in this way.
I, for one, don't believe that dragging other people's flaws into the light is motivated by a desire for their reform. Dragging other people's flaws into the light doesn't need lofty motives - it is jolly good fun, immensely gratifying and much practised by our opinion writers, professional and amateur. Think how many people would be pissed off if the targets of their criticism turned over new leaves. What would they have to write about in happy self-righteousness? (By the way, this gratitude for having one's flaws exposed is reminiscent of a prominent evangelical Christian caught with a tart and furry handcuffs saying that this is a visitation from the Lord to humiliate them and bring them low and closer to Him, Hallelujah).
As well as creating a succinct apology, the middle ages had a line in thorough penances. For inciting the death of Thomas a Becket, Henry II walked to Canterbury Cathedral in sack cloth and ashes and got the monks there to flog him.
Not so Johann Hari:-
So first, even though I stand by the articles which won the George Orwell Prize, I am returning it as an act of contrition for the errors I made elsewhere, in my interviews. But this isn’t much, since it has been reported that they are minded to take it away anyway. (I apologise to them for the time they’ve had to spend on this.) So second, I am going to take an unpaid leave of absence from The Independent until 2012, and at my own expense I will be undertaking a programme of journalism training. (I rose very fast in journalism straight from university.) And third, when I return, I will footnote all my articles online and post the audio online of any on-the-record conversations so that everyone can hear them and verify they were said directly to me.
After this he will no doubt appear on the Piers Morgan show, saying how this was a humbling experience but he has really learned from it and hopes he is a better person and a better journalist now.
A few months job training, a career at the end of it and a bit of journalism with footnotes? A bit flabby, Johann. No, we need the full-blown medieval pentitential work-out. Here's what you should do for you plagiarism, misrepresentation and lies.
Retrieve every article where you interviewed someone and then added words from the interviewee's own works or from other interviewers. Go through the articles and highlight every phrase that you have interpolated. Publish results on web. Leave the comments open and unmoderated. - the modern equivalent of the stocks.
Better still, act out your interview. For instance this one with Toni Negri:-
He looks at me very closely, with mild displeasure. He says in a level voice: “I never made an attempt on anyone’s life.” Then, with a shrug, he says to his translator: “I was accused of having committed hold-ups.” So, was that accusation accurate? He takes a long drag on his cigarette. “Stealing money, if it’s necessary, I can understand.” I wait for him to continue, but the sentence hangs there, like his fading smoke. Did you rob banks? “Brecht said that it’s hard to know which is a greater crime, to found a bank or to rob one,” he replies. More waiting, more smoke. He pushes his glasses on to the top of his head with his taut middle finger. “I agree with Brecht,” he says, waving his hand as though to physically push me on to another question.
So you can perform as Negri, with a cigarette as a prop.
Record this and put it on Youtube, Leave the comments open and unmoderated.
After a week or so read each comment aloud and record yourself reading it. Put that on Youtube. Leave the comments open and unmoderated. And so on . The sadism and schadenfreude of a chunky percentage of internet commenters is up there with our ancestors who chucked things at miscreants sitting in the stocks and cheered at heretic burnings.
Lazy and incompetent journalists who make stuff up to cover their laziness and incompetence are as old as journalism itself. Young Scrubbs was supposed to cover the parish meeting, couldn't be bothered, invented some copy and sent it in, only to find that at that meeting the parish hall had burned down and the mayor collapsed with a heart attack. But Hari's other crime, that of using sock puppets to edit Wikipedia entries, really belongs to the internet age.
The other thing I did wrong was that several years ago I started to notice some things I didn’t like in the Wikipedia entry about me, so I took them out. To do that, I created a user-name that wasn’t my own. Using that user-name, I continued to edit my own Wikipedia entry and some other people’s too. I took out nasty passages about people I admire – like Polly Toynbee, George Monbiot, Deborah Orr and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I factually corrected some other entries about other people. But in a few instances, I edited the entries of people I had clashed with in ways that were juvenile or malicious: I called one of them anti-Semitic and homophobic, and the other a drunk.
What is the pre-internet equivalent of that? Sending anonymous letters about your enemies to their spouses and employers? But how crazily malicious that sounds. Gossiping about them to all and sundry can be dangerous as it may blow back on you, so it is a crime that needs the anonymity of the internet and the invention of Wikipedia.
Hari says of this:-
I am mortified to have done this, because it breaches the most basic ethical rule: don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. I apologise to the latter group unreservedly and totally.
Of course it is a basic ethical rule taught to us as kiddies not to pull the cat's tail as how would you like it if the cat pulled your tail, but it isn't that which would stop most of us from inventing personae to edit people's Wikipedia entries. Hari did this hundreds of times, taking elaborate precautions and creating a whole cast of sock puppets. Most of us wouldn't do this because it makes you look like a crazy and obsessive loser. I can imagine some blog commenters that I know (in the internet sense) doing this, but a writer with a prestigious job on a national broadsheet? However, I was equally gob-smacked when Orlando Figes, a respected historian, did something similar. There really is nothing queerer than folk.
So to continue Hari's penance, he can edit each Wikipedia entry where he defamed someone and re-cast it, writing about their sobriety, homophilia, brilliance, tolerance and general sweetness. Also, since he sent his sock puppets around the internet to infiltrate threads where they abused his enemies and praised the works of Johann Hari he can retrieve each of those items and produce them in a handy compendium somewhere - eg seventhcircleofhell.blogspot.com. Comments open and unmoderated as above.
One year of this should be enough. By then he should be very sick of writing and the internet. However, he should have learned that it's a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive and honesty is the best policy and all such things his parents neglected to teach him. He may even become known as Honest Hari, the man who never tampered an odometer when he takes up his new career as a used-car salesman.
Did we need all that 10th anniversary coverage of 9/11? Every time the radio interviewed yet another fireman or American Muslim, I switched it off. So my radio has been ultra-switched off in the last few days. It was of course reasonable for the bereaved to have some sort of ceremony but the rest of us were forced to take part, willing or not.
Neglected here is that it was a stroke of evil genius for Channel 5 to run Celebrity Big Brother against assorted 9/11 tenth anniversary tellyfilla. Crap celebrity event telly wins against pseudo-concerned wanky-woo.
No, I can't be as cynically callous as that. But still. . .
I can get tearful on Remembrance Sunday when I listen to the ceremony at the Cenotaph, and Neville Chamberlain's constipated tones repeating that "I hev to tell you now that no such undertaking hez been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany" always make me solemn. But 9/11? Serious of course, an outrage for New York, a dreadful blow for those who lost family members. But why should I mourn this more than any other large death count from an attack on a country that isn't mine?
I found however that there are Americans who did not want to join in an enforced collective grief.
Q. Husband Doesn't Feel Sad About 9/11: I have been married for 2-plus years to a man who is wonderful in many ways. However, with all the 9/11 hoopla lately, it's been on my mind a lot and I asked him yesterday if he was thinking about it. He told me that he doesn't allow himself to feel bad about what happened because that doesn't help anything and it would be disrespectful to those who lost their lives that day and in the war since. I don't get his logic and am left wondering if this is normal, or should I be concerned? It bothers me that he doesn't feel what most everyone else feels when they think/talk about 9/11.
A: It sounds as if your husband does feel profound sadness about all the lives lost. But his decision to push the thoughts out of his mind—a luxury that family members don't have, of course—is a perfectly normal one that I'm sure many people made. You asked your husband a question about his emotional life, and he answered you honestly and openly. His answer is reasonable and he's entitled to his own reaction and is not required to feel what you think "everyone else" does.
The assumed feelings of "everyone else" enables the media to fill up their spaces with reminiscences and repeat broadcasts. Dissenters are regarded as hard-hearted or unpatriotic.
Q. Overkill: I was a member of the military who lost colleagues and friends on Sept. 11. This anniversary seemed to me like media hype, picking a scab rather than allowing it to heal. Did I mourn? Yes. But can we put this in context, finally, and move ahead? Surely there is more to our nation than the events of this one day.
A: Thanks for this perspective. To the letter writer worried about her husband, I'm hearing from many people who had reactions just like his.
I'm glad that Americans - sane, nice ones - feel like this as well.
According to this smarty-pants I haven't missed much by my minimal involvement with the 9/11 commemorations.
I tried insofar as possible to avoid all the 9/11 X ballyhoo, for a couple of reasons. First of all, with due respect to the very good writers who have tackled the subject, I have not read a blessed thing this month that has illuminated 9/11 -- as history, as event, as a social or political phenomenon or anything else that would make such an account worth reading.
I doubt if the USA will go on much longer commemorating this terrorist attack. To be commemorated an event in history must be a turning point in the nation's ultimate fate eg a great defeat like the Battle of Kosovo for the Serbians or Culloden for the Highlanders or a step on the road to victory like D Day of Bannockburn. World War II, the American civil war - and revolutions that really did change the society go on receiving some kind of public acknowledgement. They have a beginning (war declared, independence declared) and an ending (war won, independence won).
A terrorist attack is a side-show in the overall history of a nation. Even if it is a step, as in the case of Northern Ireland, towards a power shift it's not something the perpetrators are proud of, and the victims can't keep on proclaiming their victimhood. Of course the bereaved will commemorate the event that changed their lives but the nation should leave it alone. As the man above said, it's picking a scab instead of letting it heal.
The problem with holidays is that they are so much nicer than work that works feels five times as bad when you return to it. Holidays sensitise you to how unpleasant it is to spend the best part of five days a week being somewhere and doing things that no sane being would do except for the money. It takes a fortnight or so for me to get into the mood of numb acceptance that makes work endurable.
Everyone acknowledges this with their facetious:- "Glad to be back at work?"
Holidays should end with a hideous ordeal - being kidnapped by Somalian pirates, say, or interrogation by the Syrian police, so that work will seem like a haven of normality, and you might kiss your desk and computer when you see them again. "Return to work easing" it could be called.