Writing things
of a frivolous nature.


Christopher Eccleston On Dementia

On the NPR radio show Fresh Air, Christopher Eccleston talks about acting, faith and coping with his dad's dementia. He came to realise that he had to pretend to live in his dad's world (if his dad thought he was a taxi driver he would play along) and not impose his world on his dad (by telling him he was his dad's son).

“And as I'm writing it down into the crossword, I felt him staring at me very fiercely. And he said to me - are you related to me? And I looked at him, and I said yeah, I'm your son. And he said - what? You're my son? Where'd you get that from? I said, well, Dad, I'm Chris. I'm your son. And my dad became extremely agitated.”

Eccleston's dad then became very angry with his mother because his dad believed that this implied that he had a son out of wedlock.

“But I - from that moment on, I understood that I cannot impose reality on my father. I cannot bring him into my world. I have to go into his. So I stopped calling him dad. I would say call him mate or pal. And if he thought I was a taxi driver, then I was a taxi driver.”

During the period of dementia his dad did have some moments of lucidness.

“My mother was on the sofa. And my mom said - Ronnie, do you know who I am? And he looked at her, and he said yeah, of course I do. She said - well, who am I? And he looked at her, and he said - I don't know, but I love you.”

You can listen to the rest of the interview here.

I find stories like this quite heart breaking. It reminds me of part of a documentary on Terry Pratchett where he begins to stumble his words. I still find it a hard watch!

The EU Referendum

The European Referendum - the perfect time to try and work on an informed opinion about something. Do research, test my views and find my Authentic Voice (not just going along with other people). Attempting this was my first mistake. My second was to assume it would a relatively straightforward subject to research. Imagine opening a Jack in the Box but instead of the cute/terrifying clown popping out up comes both Nigel Farage and David Cameron to slap you round the face. Talk about nightmares. You would soon lock that box, put it in a dark place never to be opened again. This is what it was like researching the EU.

As I waded amongst the sludge of information about the EU itself (Schengen Area, the single market, the 7 institutions) and dodged the shit being flung from side to side of the #brexit campaign I discovered two independent organisations who were doing a much better job of making sense of it all. Please follow, subscribe and check them out:

Fullfact.org (Facebook, Twitter) are an independent fact checking service which checks claims by politicians and the media. The have a some great articles on the EU including Immigration, EU and UK law, and Norway, Switzerland and EU law. They also have a section for you to ask questions and are running a Kickstarter to fund more EU referendum fact checking stuff. I would suggest that fullfact.org is the best place to get unbiased information on the EU referendum and they are doing a grand job.

The Electoral Reform Society (Facebook, Twitter) review and provide reports on improving elections and referendums. They are kickstarting a tool to encourage people to hold local discussions about the EU referendum.

They are also trailing Citizens' Assemblies:

Hell Is Other People

In the Radio 4 programme Hell Is Other People, Byron Vincent discusses social anxiety. He tries out a number of methods to tackle the anxiety including a life coach, therapist and attending dinner parties. He does it all in good humour. I particularly enjoyed him narrating the thoughts going through his head whilst attempting different situations.

“Actually, I think this is going okay, I might not have to go to the bathroom and do a power stance in front of the mirror.”

Hell Is Other People: A Self-Help Guide to Social Anxiety.

In much the same way Steven from Buzzfeed attempts to reduce his social anxiety and learn how to make friends. He uncovers 7 tips:

  • Don’t put too much pressure on getting everything right on the first try.
  • You don’t need to become someone else to be social.
  • It’s not your responsibility on how the conversation will go.
  • Common interests are the foundation of a relationship.
  • Start conversations with simple questions.
  • Trading information is the key to a good conversation.
  • Focusing on the other person gives you the freedom to feel less self-conscious.

In Walking on Custard: How Physics Helps Anxious Humans, Neil Hughes tells the tale of the time he realised that anxiety was a bit like walking in custard. The consistency of custard is that if you tried to walk on it you would have to keep walking otherwise you would sink. His talk makes much more sense than I’ve just described! His tips for beating ‘custard traps’ include:

  • Self observation
  • Doing something different when you realise anxious thoughts occurring
  • Replacing long-term habits

And finally, in another Radio 4 programme, A Point of View, Adam Gopnik talks for 10 minutes about worrying. He talks about 4 types of anxiety:

  • Catastrophic - something terrible will happen such as a plane crashing.
  • Free floating - each worry is replaced by another.
  • Implanted - perpetuated by a news culture.
  • Existential - mortality is a dead cert.

I like his remedy for Catastrophic Anxiety - If something has over a 1 in 1000 chance of happening the probability of it happening to you is so low you can live your live in the conviction that it will never happen.

Cure for Anxiety

Paul Mason on PostCapitalism

Paul Mason discusses PostCapitalism and how the digital revolution will create a third economic sector which will affect how we work and generate an income.

A few notes from the talk:

  • The American median wage for men is the same in 2008 as it was in 1973.
  • Wages are suppressed which creates a rise in credit and this in turn creates a boom/bust cycle. 3 of which we have experienced in the past 15 years.
  • In the current economic model things which can be copied (e.g. digital music, software, information) should be free as they take very little materials or labour to re-create. Companies have artificially created scarcity.
  • Information delinks work from wages. We will no longer have to work to time but to targets and work can be modular.
  • Fear of automation means we create jobs which don't need to exist.
  • We used to wash our cars in automated car-washes but these are being undercut by cheap labour.
  • There has been an evolution of large companies to create barriers around information products (iTunes).
  • There has been a creation of a new sector which is not state or private but is built around products being offered for free, volunteering and co-operatives.

“If we all open-sourced our stuff then the leading edge of what is valuable, that has ultra-value, that is innovative would be far more identifiable.”

Sex in Strange Places

Sex in Strange Places is an episodic documentary covering the issues sex workers face in different countries. Stacey Dooley manages to connect with people in such a way that you get to see what's beneath the strong facade of the women and transsexual women - usually someone down on their luck, in need of money and ostracised from society. The episodes are on BBC Three and are worth a watch.

Some interesting notes from the first episode:

  • Prostitution of women is legal in Turkey and run by the state - the brothels have security guards and metal detectors.
  • The sex education in Turkey is so bad prostitutes sometimes get men being intimate with their belly buttons...
  • Transsexual prostitutes in Brazil have a life expectancy of 30!

Willpower might not be a finite source

The idea that we might have a finite source of willpower to tap into was put forward by Roy Baumeister and Dianne Tice. Imagine doing an impossible crossword whilst at the same time resisting a plate of biscuits on a table - you'll give up the crossword sooner than if there weren't any biscuits because you've been using up your willpower. They call this Ego Depletion. However, Slate reports on a new study which throws doubt on the theory:

“Taken at face value, the new Registered Replication Report doesn’t invalidate everything we thought we knew about willpower. A person’s self-control can lapse, of course. We just don’t know exactly when or why. It might even be the case that Baumeister has it exactly right—that people hold a reservoir of mental strength that drains each time we use it. But the two-task method that he and Tice invented 20 years ago now appears to be in doubt. As a result, an entire literature has been rendered suspect.”