Friday, October 22, 2004

The Kid has been getting all hectoring and didactic again, as befits one of his age. I remember that period of my own life well, but as the master songsmith who can't sing a note puts it, ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

Anyway, and rather fittingly, the Kid has been wittering on about something called political infancy, which is, as far as I can make out, an inabilty to see the other side of an argument sufficiently well to engage with it, leaving political debate as little more than slanging matches and mutual recrimination. Needless to say, it is the left wing, liberal elite who are the worst offenders, never having had exposure to the reasoned and popular contrary positions espoused by all right thinking folk such as the Kid.

Almost every left-wing argument I have seen in favour of single-sex marriage or against free trade has shown this political infancy. Usually they are made as if the counter-arguments have never been made, because as far as the arguers are concerned, they never have been.

Well, since the Kid's preferred argument against gay marriage is that a man cannot be father to a pebble, it's not a charge many of the OVERWHELMINGLY LEFT WING MEDIA will lose much sleep over. Indeed, someone mentioned the pebble argument in the comments, to which the Kid responded by referring to another of his hectoring pieces about logical fallacies, saying that not all analogies are false. Well, no, but this one is, mate, and demonstrably so, by a mad Roman Emperor to boot.

Revisiting this subject, it came as quite a surprise to me that the famed pebble argument is not actually one of the Kid's, but was made by one Sam Schulman in the NRO:

However much I might wish to, I cannot be a father to a pebble — I cannot be a brother to a puppy — I cannot make my horse my consul. Just so, I cannot, and should not be able to, marry a man. If I want to be a brother to a puppy, are you abridging my rights by not permitting it? I may say what I please; saying it does not mean that it can be.

This is an argument that defeats itself and when it was put to the Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, AKA Caligula, by a trembling adviser in AD 40, it was dealt with in typically robust fashion. "So," the mad Emperor, looking for all the world like a young John Hurt, proclaimed, "you are telling me that I cannnot make Incitatus a consul? On the strength of the fact that a man cannot father a pebble? It is patently true a man cannot father a pebble. I have tried it myself, on several occasions. Sexual relations with a cliff face are not entirely unpleasant, but no matter how much seed is spilled and how often, neither rock nor pebble has ever been born of such a relationship. But what does this immutable fact have in common with the institution of consulship? I am Emperor of Rome. If I wish to re-define what it means to be a consul to include standing around looking horsy, shitting on the senate floor and eating oats, then it is in my gift to do so. It only needs what in centuries to come will be called the political will, and it can be done. You will have to come up with a better argument than that if you wish to stop me from going ahead with my plans."

Funnily enough, a better argument may have been forthcoming, because Caligula never did make his horse a consul, but at least the adviser shut up about, if you'll forgive the pun, fucking pebbles.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Walkers Cons the Nation

Laid back, not to say lazy, parent that I am, I've never worried unduly about what the kids stuffed down their throats, provided they got their fair share of decent food as well. The first two, boys, have always been able to eat what they like and remain thin as rakes. Indeed, the younger earned himself the name of Two Dinners Durkin for his outrage when he went to a friends to eat and then came home to find we hadn't cooked for him. "But you know I can always eat two dinners!" he protested. And it's true. Two dinners, two puddings and a heap of junk aswell and he still has the physique of David Beckham. (I'm biased, of course.)

Unfortunately my daughter is not quite so lucky. And, being an unobservant sort, it came as quite a surprise to me to find that at eight years of age, she was veering on the chunky side. Well, what do you do? Obesity is a worry, but so are eating disorders and I've read enough women's magazines to know that disasterous attitudes to food can start early and be kicked off by a single incautious phrase. So, over the past two years Mrs D and I have tried to keep the brakes on our daughter's junk intake without mentioning the f word, stressing the health benefits and wittering on about bad teeth to the extent that the poor kid'll probably develop a phobia of smiling.

And then there's the thorny issue of exercise. The boys, of course, were able to eat like gannets because they were never still. Football at every break time, charging up and down the street on their bikes, fighting, thundering up and down the stairs so much it used to drive us insane. But our dear daughter is cut from a different cloth. She is a quiet, diffident soul, with a stillness about her that is calming and tranquil, but not much good at raising the metabolic rate. She's a member of the groups of girls you see at the edge of the playground yattering on about who knows what and disdainful of those uncool, unsophisticated kids who actually have functioning legs.

We've tried everything. We've had her walking to school, cycling till her bum cries for mercy, walking the dog, playing badminton, swimming, hammering the PS2 dance mat for all it's worth, and while she has not complained about any of it, she is still not one of life's natural movers and she's still not exactly lissom.

So, it was with great interest that Mrs D and I found out that that nice Mr Linecker was going on the telly to get the nations fatties walking (Walkers, walking, geddit?) and to that end the junk purveyor whose shilling he takes is giving away little devices to measure the steps we take every day. Ten thousand is the target, apparently. Fair enough, think we, swallowing the natural cynicism which arises at such moments, it can't do any harm.

Can't it? It's a corporate scandal is what it is.

The little device arrives chez Durkin and is clipped on the belt of our daughter. After ten minutes of strolling nonchalently around the place as is her wont, we examined the total. Five hundred steps. Well done, girl you'll hit the 10K in no time, says I. Mrs D is less enthusiastic. Just reset it and walk around the kitchen, she orders. You know what's coming, I expect. Fifteen steps counted by three people, sixty two counted by the little device. A staggering four hundred and fourteen percent mark up.

A clear case of snack food giant conning the sedentary into eating ever more packets of fat laden potato based snacks, I think you'll agree.

Or it could have just broke in the post, I suppose.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

It gets boring trying to make you read Matthew Parris of a saturday, so I'll try and make you read Giles Coren instead.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The best political website in the world, ever.

We in the UK should have one.

Hat tip Dick Cheney, via Tom Watson.