Completely Out Of Control

One thing that strikes me about Tobacco Control, and their attempt to take control, is just how out of control everything actually is.

After all, we’re all living on the surface of a little, spinning, roughly-spherical planet which is in the company of a bunch of other planets eddying around a very, very hot star. And this solar system is completely out of control. There’s absolutely nothing we do about it. We can’t stop it, or put it into reverse. We can’t steer our planet to left or right, or up or down. We’re all more or less riding on a bus whose driver lies slumped dead over the steering wheel as it careers in a circle.

Yes, we’re pretty good at predicting where all these eddying rocks will go next, and we don’t seem to have too much to worry about right now as the bus careers in circles around the very, very hot star. But predicting what something will do isn’t the same as controlling it. It just provides the illusion of control.

And if the Earth in its orbit around the sun is completely out of control, pretty much everything that happens on the surface of it is also completely out of control. The continents strewn around the world are the products of titanic forces that push them and shove them and tear them apart. And these continents are up to their necks in the water in the oceans that sloshes to and fro around them. And they are buried under an atmosphere that is also sloshing around, and developing whirlpools with strong winds blowing round them. And all of it, the continents and the oceans and the atmosphere is completely out of our control. We can’t order up sunshine or rain or wind. We can’t even plan when to go on holiday to someplace where it won’t be raining. We can’t even predict the next day’s weather (as I was complaining a couple of days ago).

And then there are all the diseases that periodically afflict us. They’re all out of control as well. Nobody knows what causes cancer, so nobody knows how to cure it – although these days, of course, everybody knows with perfect certainty that smoking causes cancer and all other diseases as well. But what everybody knows is synonymous with what nobody knows. When the next great plague strikes, the medical profession will be caught flat-footed like it always is.

Nor is it that we are even in control of our own human societies. They also are like seas in which whirlpools and storms appear out of nowhere. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump were both tidal events in a tidal system. We are pushed together and torn apart like corks floating in a stream.

And are any of us even under our own personal control? Yes, I more or less control my own arms and legs, but that doesn’t stop me from periodically bumping into things, and stubbing my toes, or falling down. And my train of thought at any point of time is another perfect little storm of ideas, impressions, dreams, hopes, fears. Do I actually have any control at all over what I think? And am I anyway one single “I”? Don’t I have rival opinions competing in the rowdy parliament of my own mind?

In a comment this morning, Rose reported that

“The word ‘dementia’ describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.”

and I replied that I have been suffering from memory loss, and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving and language for my entire life. Ask me what I was doing on the morning of 23 January 1975, and I won’t remember. I won’t remember what I was doing the day before or the day after. In fact, I can barely remember anything I did in the entirety of 1975. And 1976.

And aren’t there always “difficulties in problem-solving”? Aren’t problems things that are inherently difficult to solve? And isn’t it always difficult to learn other languages than the one that nobody taught you.

So at what point does ordinary forgetfulness slip into dementia? Isn’t it more likely that the fog of forgetfulness just gets a bit thicker. And then so thick that you can’t remember what you were doing 10 minutes ago.

And even if there was a bus driver holding the steering wheel at the front of the bus, in what sense is he “in control” of it. He isn’t really in control at all. All he can do is exert a slight influence over the motion of bus, turning the wheel slightly this way or that, or slightly speeding or slowing it. He can’t stop it dead in its tracks, or move it sideways. The bus is always more or less out of control of its driver (who also suffers from dementia, of course, and has done all his life). And the same is true of all the other cars and trucks and bikes flowing into a busy junction and all just missing each other (except on the occasions when they don’t miss each other).

Everything is always out of control, all the time. Control is an illusion. Or an aspiration. We want to be in control, but we never are. Not really.

Tobacco Control is an illusion. It’s an aspiration. It’s wishful thinking. It will be torn apart by driving winds of change, heaving tides of fortune, and immeasurable centrifugal forces, like everything always is.

Now where did I put my tobacco? I had it a minute ago.

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My Custard Control Plan

It seems that the UK government has published a new Tobacco Control Plan. I’ve not read it. But Chris Snowdon seems to have read it, and hasn’t entirely panned it. It seems that the government may, as a direct consequence of Brexit, ease up on e-cigarettes:

PHE recommends that e-cigarette use is not covered by smokefree legislation and should not routinely be included in the requirements of an organisation’s smokefree policy.

Life will continue to be just as bad for tobacco smokers. In fact it will continue to get worse. That may be good news for vapers, but it’s bad news for smokers. And it will probably signal a deepening division between smokers and vapers, as the former are treated worse and worse, and the latter better and better. But we will see.

As for myself, I can’t help but notice the Orwellian language in the report. What they call “smokefree legislation” is what I call a “smoking ban”. But by introducing the word “free” they try to convert a restraint or restriction into a new form of freedom or liberation.

I also have trouble with the idea of the “Tobacco Control Plan” itself. Remove the “tobacco” and what’s left is a “control plan”. These people want to control other people, and they are making plans to do so. It’s not that they’re trying to control tobacco: they’re trying to control smokers – tobacco smokers. So really it should be called the “Tobacco Smokers Control Plan”.

And furthermore it’s not just tobacco smokers that they’re trying to control. They’re also after the Alcohol Drinkers and the Fast Food Eaters. The Tobacco Smokers Control Plan is well advanced. The Alcohol Drinkers Control Plan and the Fast Food Eaters Control Plan are slowly bringing up the rear. Coming soon, Custard Control, Lemon Meringue Pie Control, etc, etc.

Government, it seems, is now all about controlling people rather than representing them. Instead of the people deciding what’s good for them, the government decides. And it employs Experts who know better than ordinary people what’s good for them. We are now being governed by experts in every imaginable subject. If you want to exercise influence, become a well-paid Expert in something. Anything. And then set out to control it.

I think I’m going to set up Custard Control. Nobody else seems to have done it yet. And I’ll need a Custard Control Plan. I think I’ll need a few studies that show that hot custard kills. It’ll need some graphs. And I’ve just created one (right) showing that death rates rise with custard temperature. I’ll probably need one showing the variation of death rates with custard consistency, with children being killed more easily with hot, runny custard than with hot, solid custard. Or maybe the other way round. I’ll have to factor in custard sweetness, custard depth, custard colour as well. The really lethal custard is clearly hot, sweet, runny, pink custard that children are attracted to like moths to a candle flame.

See. It’s easy to become an Expert. I’m already a Custard Expert. You become an expert in something simply by thinking about it more than other people. How many people think much about custard temperature, consistency, sweetness, colour? Hardly any. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Well, about 10 minutes. And that’s 10 minutes more than anyone else.

Right, now that we’ve got some graphs, it might be an idea to write a few equations to generate the graphs. You start with the graphs you want, and then you write the equations to generate them.

Then obviously when you’ve got a product as lethal as hot, sweet, pink, runny custard being dished out by unscrupulous custard manufacturers – Big Custard – to innocent children, you have to regulate the trade. You have to introduce controls. Maximum and minimum temperatures, sugar contents, serving sizes, colours, and so forth.

One thing that obviously needs controlling is Secondhand Custard. This is the fine spray of custard that is thrown into the air whenever a spoon is pushed into a dish full of hot, sweet, runny, pink custard. Or which falls off the spoon onto the table, creating an impact explosion than can send custard particles hundreds of feet.

And Thirdhand Custard is the custard that has been left adhering to the dish and spoon (and table, chair, floor, ceiling), and which congeals slowly to rock-like hardness within weeks.

And then finally you need to have a Custard Control Plan for how to introduce these controls salami slice by salami slice. Or maybe custard slice by custard slice.

Finally, obviously, it’ll all need to be funded. Taking a leaf out of ASH’s book:

“Funding must be found if the Government is to achieve its vision of a “custardfree generation”. The custard industry should be made to pay a through a licence fee on the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Custard manufacturers are some of the most profitable companies on earth they can easily afford the costs of radical action to drive down custard deathrates.”

And then just sit back and watch the money pour in, while you gradually extend your Custard Control Plan to include blancmange and jelly and creme caramel.

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Fooled Again

Fooled again.

Last night I turned off all my computers, and physically disconnected them from both the electricity main and the telephone line. I pulled the plugs out of the wall. I didn’t want to pull dead microprocessor chips out of them, their legs bent and twisted and fried.

Why? Because there were thunderstorms coming up from the south. We were going to get two inches of rain in an hour. There was going to be wall-to-wall thunder and lightning, and torrential rain.

The local forecast was for it all to kick off at 7 p.m. So I was ready by then. I’d even closed all the windows.

I should’ve realised that something was amiss when I checked the local forecast again, and found that the deluge had been deferred to 11 p.m. But by then I’d seen the Telegraph simulation model showing the ugly storms tracking northward like wolves loping across the fields. They came in packs.

It was going to be one of those storms that knocked out the electricity supply in whole regions of England, demolished a few chimneys, and had flooded roads sweeping cars away. A few people would probably be killed.

But I was ready. I even had candles and torches ready for when the lights went out. At one point I even thought I could hear the distant thunder, and see the far-off lightning.

But when I fell asleep at 1:30 am, the storm still hadn’t come. Although I knew the thunder would wake me, if the lightning didn’t, or the water sluicing off the roof and down the windows.

Yet when I woke at 7:30 am, it was sunny, and the roads were dry. There weren’t even the tell-tale damp patches that indicate earlier rainfall.

There had been no storm.

It hadn’t even rained.

I’d just been fooled again by the experts. I’m always being fooled by experts. They’re probably having a good laugh about it right now. Tee hee.

In fact there actually was flooding in Cornwall.

Heavy rain which sent a 4ft torrent of water through a Cornish village has left a “devastating” scene, a fire chief said.

About 50 properties were damaged and several people had to be rescued in Coverack, on the Lizard Peninsula, as storms hit on Tuesday afternoon,

Water swept through the village, leaving roads in and out impassable. A school bus remains stranded.

Just not round here. The wolves didn’t come this far north. They stopped in Cornwall and savaged a village, unloading 4 feet of water on it.

So, OK. If it didn’t rain last night, it may still rain today.

When are the storms going to hit Manchester? There’s some horrendous weather heading our way

It’s like global warming. Or lung cancer. You know it’s coming. Everybody knows it’s coming, and everyone’s waiting with their computers unplugged, their candles and torches ready, and their trousers rolled up to just below their knees.

And then you gradually realise that you’ve just been fooled again. And you feel a bit sheepish about it. And hope that nobody noticed that you were wandering around with your trousers rolled up, and a torch in your hand.

Weather forecasts can only fool people for a day or two. But lung cancer warnings and global warming predictions can keep people fooled for years, even decades. Maybe centuries.

So, you may not have lung cancer yet – but just wait another 20 years, and you will.

So, the temperature outside may be the same as it always was, with trees and grass and stuff growing nice and green – but just wait another century, and it’s going to be a scorching desert.

You do believe me, don’t you? Good. I thought you would. I’m an expert.

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A Woman in a Miniskirt

Not sure what interested me about this story of a woman in a miniskirt walking along an empty road:

Apparently, it “caused a stir in Saudi Arabia.” In another report, it had “sparked outrage in Saudi Arabia.” And next it had “caused outrage worldwide.” And then it had sent the country “into a frenzy.” And then “Saudi Arabian officials hunting woman who allegedly broke strict dress code laws.” And she was being “sought by Saudi police.” Next, “Woman Could Go To Jail For Wearing A Miniskirt.”

I’ve yet to see any report saying that she should receive 500 lashes, or be beheaded. But I won’t be surprised if I do.

Back in May, Melania and Ivanka Trump did not observe the Saudi dress code laws while visiting Saudi Arabia. The laws only apply to the “little people”, as ever.

I think I see the connection:

Good thing she wasn’t smoking a cigarette as well.

Are smoking bans any different from strict dress codes? Aren’t both Wahhabi Islamic laws? Isn’t Deborah Arnott in effect head of the UK’s Islamic religious police? Is Deborah Arnott a Wahhabi Muslim? If not, why not?

Smoking bans may be regarded as part of a process of Islamisation. We already have halal meat. The invasion of Europe by Islamic fundamentalists is also part of the process, fully supported by European leaders like Angela Merkel. Is she another secret Muslim?

Isn’t outrage at seeing people smoking any different from outrage at seeing women in miniskirts? Isn’t the war on smoking a religious war?

Not unrelated. The continuing march of not so much the nanny state as the Islamic State: The UK will block online porn from next year.

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A Different Sort of Reality TV

I don’t watch TV these days. I don’t want to watch it. I stopped watching years ago.

I think I started to stop watching TV when they stopped allowing smoking on TV. And in the UK that was probably back in the 1990s, if not before.

I had a similar experience with movies. The old cinemas, back in the 50s and 60s, were warm, welcoming, smoky places. Sometime around 1990, maybe earlier, they were sterilised, when smoking was banned in them.

And of course the pubs and restaurants and cafes and clubs were all sterilised in 2007, when smoking was banned in them as well. I only ever sit outside them now, in the gardens where smoking hasn’t (yet) been banned.

Once smoking gets banned somewhere, I get banned there too. Or at least I’m no longer welcome there, so I may as well be banned. So when they banned smoking on TV, they banned me from TV. Or told me I wasn’t welcome there. So I’ve never wanted to appear on TV. Why should I want to appear someplace where I’m not welcome? Why should I want to watch something from which I’ve been banned?

The only time I’ve ever appeared on TV was when the BBC showed up at Stony Stratford and filmed me holding a placard saying “Enough Is Enough.” It now seems to have been all I ever wanted to say to the BBC anyway. If they ever come to interview me, I think I’ll just stand in front of the camera, saying nothing, and holding up a sign saying “Enough Is Enough”. I’ve still got it. On the other side it says “The Fightback Starts Here.” So maybe I’d stand in front of the cameras slowly flipping the sign between the two messages. It’s all I have to say to them.

The BBC no longer speaks for people like me. We’re the Deplorables. They deplore us. And we deplore them. They don’t seem to understand that the deploration(?) is mutual. They don’t like me. And I don’t like them. They want to eradicate me. And I want to eradicate them.

I was thinking this morning that the Smoky Drinky Bar is like watching TV. After all, it’s just watching a screen and listening to a loudspeaker. The difference is that in the Smoky Drinky Bar I can talk back. And I’m welcome there. I can speak to the TV, and engage in a conversation with it. The Smoky Drinky Bar is like watching Coronation Street, but also joining in the conversation in the Rovers Return.

Coronation Street is all entirely scripted. It’s edited and produced and shot on a set. But the Smoky Drinky Bar has no script. There’s no editing either. It’s a conversation. It’s a party. And just like real parties you can arrive too early, or leave too late, when there’s nobody there. It’s just like real life.

In recent years TV has tried to move towards real life. Back in the 1990s Channel 4 had a programme called After Dark, in which a bunch of people – mostly celebrities – sat in armchairs around a table, smoking and drinking and talking. It would go on for hours. I think it was shot live. Oliver Reed appeared in one episode, very very drunk.

Reality TV does a similar thing, putting ordinary people in some situation, and just watching them interacting. But the “reality” is often highly controlled. They’re locked in, for a start. Or locked out. There’s a reality programme called Love Island where – shock, horror -, everyone’s been smoking. I think some of them may have been having sex as well.

But none of these TV shows include the viewer like the Smoky Drinky Bar. It’s a different sort of reality TV. Ordinary TV is essentially a one-way broadcast medium. That’s just the nature of the technology. It’s the technology of top down control. And the top down control is being used to define the message that gets sent, and to normalise some behaviours, and denormalise others (e.g. smoking).

The Smoky Drinky Bar is a pub community. Over the past month of its existence, I’ve felt like I belonged to a community again. I’ve probably talked more in the past month than I have in the past year. It’s been a bit of an overdose, in fact.

I was thinking this morning that the Smoky Drinky Bar would be ideal for the elderly or disabled or hospitalised. From their beds and chairs they could hold long conversations with people all over the world, rather than just stare at a wall, waiting for someone to visit them once a week.

In fact, it might no longer be necessary to have hospitals, if the “hospitalised” were being watched over by hundreds of people all over the world, who were able to keep an eye on them, and raise an alarm if necessary, They could stay in their own homes. And their doctors could visit them via the Smoky Drinky Bar.

And they could smoke.

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Idle Conversation

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the day in 2011 when some 200 people showed up in Stony Stratford to protest against Councillor Paul Bartlett’s proposed street smoking ban. I drove across England to get there, with my home-made placard saying “Enough Is Enough” in the back of my car. I managed to get on BBC TV that day, for the only time in my life.

We succeeded in defeating Paul Bartlett, but my biggest disappointment with the occasion was that we didn’t spend much time talking to each other. I spent about 2 minutes talking to Dick Puddlecote, and 5 seconds talking to Chris Snowdon. For everyone jumped back into their cars and sped off home once all the speeches had been given.

If Stony Stratford was one occasion on which smokers briefly got together, the TICAP conferences were other occasions – although I never attended any of those.

But over the past couple of weeks smokers have been meeting up again in the Smoky Drinky Bar. We’ve had some illustrious visitors. There’s been Grandad from the Headrambles blog, and Leg-iron from Underdogsbiteupwards, and Junican from the Bolton Smokers’ Club. And there’s been Wiel Maessen from Holland. And then last night Iro Cyr looked in for a half an hour from Quebec. And Dick Puddlecote dropped in for a couple of hours too.

The Smoky Drinky Bar has become a new meeting place for smokers, I was thinking this morning, rather like Stony Stratford or the TICAP conferences. But it was much easier to get to than any of them. Nobody needed to get in a car and drive anywhere. Nobody need to fly anywhere. They could visit the Smoky Drinky Bar while sitting in the comfort of their own homes, which is exactly what Iro and Dick were doing. We all spent a while looking at Iro’s latest big painting as it sat on its easel, and at Dick’s papyrus depiction of the Egyptian Day of Judgement on the wall behind him.

There’s no agenda at the Smoky Drinky Bar. Nobody makes any speeches. The conversation ebbs and flows just like any pub conversation. People enter and leave, come and go, drink beer, make tea, and smoke. Dress is casual.

Can anything ever come out of such idle conversation? Yet I think that more or less everything that ever happens begins with such conversations.

And a couple of days back, something did happen. I’d just finished reading a passage from a book I’d been reading, when Vapingpoint Liz asked if she could read out a letter she’d written to Theresa May. We all listened as she read it out. And then I suggested she re-read it and record it on video. And now there’s a video of her reading the letter on YouTube, and it’s been seen by thousands of people. Maybe even Theresa May has seen it.

It wasn’t something I’d planned. It probably wasn’t anything Liz planned either. It was something that just happened, quite fortuitously.

I’m sure there’ll be other visitors. They’ll come in their own time. Last night we were even wondering whether Nigel Farage might show up. Why not? Why not anybody, from anywhere in the world?

My aim is simply to bring smokers together from all over the world, and get them talking and bouncing thoughts off each other. And it’s also my intention to unite them into an army or a swarm of such power that it will overthrow the satanic empire of Tobacco Control.

For I have become something of a revolutionary like Lenin or Trotsky, who played chess with each other in Geneva cafes, and plotted to overthrow the Tsar of Russia. How could such a thing be done, by such a small band of people? Was it even possible at all? They also organised conferences, and published papers. They probably smoked a lot as well.

Here’s the (slightly slow motion) Smoky Drinky Bar as it was last night, with intruders locked out, and with me plotting to throw packs of cigarettes into school playgrounds:


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Letter to Theresa May

Earlier this evening, I was in the Smoky Drinky Bar, which was quite busy at the time. Among those present was VapingPoint Liz (aka the Last Furlong). After I’d read out something I’d been reading today, she asked if she could read out a letter she’d written to Theresa May earlier this year, to which she hadn’t yet had a reply, in part because other events intervened, including a General Election.

As I listened to her reading it out, I wished I was recording it on video (I will only record the Smoky Drinky Bar with the prior consent of those present in it). And when she’d finished I asked if she could read it out again, for me to record, and publish on my blog (and also in the Smoky Drinky Blog). Liz readily agreed, but said she could record it herself, and send me the link. She did that an hour or two later.

So here’s her re-recorded letter to Theresa May:

I usually post new stuff on my blog at around midday. But on this occasion I decided to put it straight up on my blog at 11 pm.

I hope some other bloggers publish this video. I hope it goes viral. She’s asking questions of our Prime Minister that really need to be answered, questions about the way smokers are being treated. They’re questions that never get asked in the mainstream media, or on the BBC. It’s only via the internet and YouTube that people like Liz can get their voices heard.

Maybe one day she’ll even get a reply from Theresa May.

P.S. Liz’s letter and video are also published on her own blog.

P.P.S. Today (Saturday) Emily and I are going to try to record a bit of the Smoky Drinky Bar at 7 pm UK time. If you don’t want to appear on video, stay away. I’ll be locking the bar during the recording. Liz won’t be there: she’d celebrating her 41st wedding anniversary.

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