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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Hoarse Whisperer

Except in my capacity as chair of the Academy Awards Prizes Committee I rarely watch movies. Yesterday, however, surfeited with festive food, I was to be found recumbent in an armchair in the vicinity of a television receiver, the remote control for which was inconveniently beyond my grasp. As a result I was subjected to a broadcast of 'The Hoarse Whisperer', a film in which the lead is played by my one-time student Robert Redford. I was suffering at the time from that itinerant mental condition, a wandering attention, so I cannot be sure that I understood entirely the plot of the film, but I gathered that its central character was a man who could calm highly strung animals through the soporific qualities of his voice. I can quite understand why Redford was cast for the part, given his mumbling incoherent speech patterns. Whether hoarse whisperers really  can exercise such powers over animals I cannot say for certain, but I am willing to believe it, as I was fast asleep myself before the first adverts.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Revenge pawn

I heard something on the radio this morning of a new social phenomenon called 'revenge pawn'. I didn't catch all of it, but I assume that piqued jiltees have been placing into hock the intimate possessions of their recent jilts, subsequently destroying the associated pawn tickets. The hapless jilt then suffers the embarrassment or frustration (depending on the nature of the pawned items) of seeing his or her most personal belongings on show to the world in the window of the pawn shop, where they are doomed to remain owing to the destruction of their tickets. I cannot believe such a phenomenon will ever catch on, as it seems to be a singularly un-redeeming experience for all concerned.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


I was somewhat surprised to learn yesterday that our 'government' had ordered a public enquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, since the facts of his murder had been firmly established some years ago by me working on a pro bono basis for our then PM Tony Blair. As the foremost expert in the toxic effects of ingested radio-active materials, it might be imagined that I would feel affronted by the decision to hold a fresh enquiry, since that could appear to question the reliability of my initial findings. Those in the know will take a different view: for them the unquestionable authority of my original judgement will prove that the new enquiry is a piece of political theatre, designed with the sole aim of embarrassing Putin. My surprise yesterday was that anyone should imagine that Putin's skin was sufficiently thin for him to stand the least chance of embarrassment by such an obvious load of old bolonium.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Rifts at the BBC

It has been a particular cause of sadness to me to witness the way in which the BBC has fallen, over the twenty seven years since I last worked there, from being a paragon of public service broadcasting to become a nest of back-stabbing, self-serving, egotists. I suppose, therefore, that I should not have been surprised this morning to catch the announcement on Radio 4 of a new series entitled 'Rifts at the BBC'. There, in one programme, we see the corrosive blend of introspection, dysfunctional behaviour, conceitedness, and uncontrolled self-publicity which has been the down-fall of a once-great institution.

It seems there is also the option for members of the public to visit the BBC website to vote for their favourite rift. I suspect that Miriam O-Reilly's 'ageism' court case will claim the number one spot, but my own favourite was the schism that grew in the board room of the BBC Trust over the question of whether Clarkson should be sacked for using the 'N-word'. We might just as well imagine the GMC asking if Shipman should have been struck-off for stealing NHS pens.

UPDATE: It seems that my prediction was incorrect. According to the public vote the number one rift was something to do with a gentleman by the name of Jimmy Page, and his electrical guitar playing on a composition entitled 'A Whole Lot of Love'. I must confess to being unfamiliar with the nature of the rift, but I am assured by my friend Brian Sewell that Mr Page's playing caused a frightful row.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A load of Butler Sloss

The Sushing neck muscles are this morning  all of an ache, no doubt from the depressed head-wagging which characterized my mien yesterday as I listened despondently to the small-minded and ill-informed protests over the appointment of Lizzie Butler-Sloss to oversee the new enquiry into child-abuse. The objection that she is related to a former Lord Chancellor I reject as fatuous. After-all, in our nepotistic legal system it would be almost impossible to find a credible chair for a public enquiry who wasn't in some way related to at least one former Lord Chancellor. However, what really saddened me was the failure by the media to recognise the subtle wisdom of the choice of the Baroness for this role.
I can reveal today that the appointment of Baroness Butler-Sloss was the result of my recommendations to the Cabinet Office, which in turn were the result of many years of research by the EDSRF into the effectiveness of public enquiries. That research has confirmed that enquires into historical events depend greatly for their success upon the ability of witnesses to recall with accuracy those events relevant to the subject of the enquiry. It is of supreme importance, therefore, that the chair of an enquiry should be equipped with every possible advantage for evoking vivid memories from those whom they interview. In the present case I determined that the good Baroness would be uniquely suited to the role owing to her passing resemblance to Jimmy Savile, which can be relied upon to provide a hefty sub-conscious nudge to the memories of those called to give evidence.

Agony Aunts

The latest manifestation of the misogyny which riddles the BBC was aired this morning on Radio 4 with the announcement of a new series of radio programmes entitled 'Agony Aunts'. I didn't catch all of it as I had Obama wittering to me on the 'phone, but from what I heard I assume each programme will be a review and critique of the work of a female journalist, beginning with Irma Kurtz. How the BBC continues to get away with singling out women in this way is beyond me. Fair enough, reading anything by Irma Kurtz may be agony, but there are plenty of male journalists whose work is equally almost as painful.  It's infuriating, I know, but I suppose it may help spur on those, like myself, who have for so long been tireless campaigners for women's rights that they wonder if they can be bothered making the effort any more.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

With respect to Kate

During the early decades of my long and eventful life the morals of British society were preserved and stabilized by respect. Children respected adults. Pupils respected teachers. Patients respected doctors. Civilians respected the police. Lower classes respected upper classes. And so on. At the lofty apex of the pyramid of respect was our monarchy, aloof and remote, yet loved and venerated throughout Britain and its empire.
Respect, in its turn, was preserved by formality- no first name terms in those days. No doubt my schoolmasters had a record of my first name, but to them I was always Sushing in class, and they were always Sir to me.
But since the sixties there has been a steady change- some might say decline- in the character of British society, a change paralleled by an increasing exposure of the lives of the royals. Our dear Queen, bless her, took the first step by allowing the BBC to film the Windsor family behind the scenes, allowing what was, for its day, an unprecedented degree of access. Successive generations of royals have indulged in exponentially greater media exposure.
There are some who debate the causal relationship between the debasing of the monarchy and the wider decline of standards in British society. For me, the pre-eminent sociologist and historian of our time, it is clear that the royal family has set, rather than followed, the trend: the more the monarchy has exposed its baser human facets in the media, the lower has become the moral tone throughout every stratum of UK society.
 Which leaves me struggling to imagine what cataclysmic decline in moral standards is likely to follow the latest and most abandoned act of royal exposure which came to my ears at my club this morning when I overheard a fellow member saying that there had been a rapid sell-out of tickets to see Kate's bush, which was showing for three nights at the Hammersmith Apollo in August. I say!
Mind you, much as one might lament the Caligulan excesses of our young royals, at least they are giving good value for money. The tickets are priced at £25 for a show that reportedly lasts two hours. I remember in Princess Anne's time it was fifty quid for a quick flash, and fifty quid as a lot of money in those days.

Genital Mutilation

At the risk to my reputation for omniscience I must confess that I was taken aback by figures announced on the BBC this morning indicating the sickening scale of female genital mutilation. I had no idea. Of course, we all remember the Bobbitt case, which caused so much outraged tabloid coverage, but there has since been little similar in the gutter press, leading one, mistakenly, to suppose it had been an isolated case. But today's figures, compiled by UNICEF, suggest that there are parts of the world where 90% of women are involved. The mind boggles. And yet, as a tireless campaigner for women's rights, I got over the shock sufficiently to note how typical it was of those misogynists at the BBC to pick on female genital mutilation, as if gender had anything to do with ones sense of outrage. Frankly I wouldn't want my genitals to be mutilated by anyone, female or otherwise.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Going for Gold

I had an extra reason to be proud of Lizzy Yarnold's triumph in the 'skeleton' at Sochi, as her sled had been subject to a unique preparatory treatment which virtually guaranteed her victory, the first practical application of my researches in macroscopic quantum effects. The process by which I improved the performance of Lizzy's sled is easy enough to appreciate in principle, although fiendishly difficult to apply in practice. Having first been polished optically-flat, the runners of the sled were cooled to a fraction above absolute zero, and a tune-able solid-state laser used to eject individual atomic imperfections from their surfaces. The runners were then passed through a Bose-Einstein condensate of rubidium, resulting in a film of rubidium, one atom thick, being deposited on the runners in a coherent macroscopic quantum state, yielding a perfectly friction-less surface. Owing to the extreme thinness of the rubidium coating, the absence of friction persists for a while even when the runners are returned to the relatively high temperature of the ice track. The rate at which the frictionless-effect breaks down depends upon the intensity of the ambient light, since photon absorption is the main causal agent. Unfortunately an ice-track illuminated for the purpose of a televised Olympic contest does not provide the darkest of circumstances, and the friction-less quality of the sled is sustained only for the first few seconds of the race, after which things go down hill rapidly; but even so, the initial advantage is more than enough to allow an athlete as gifted as Lizzy to seal a golden victory.
Ironically, the million dollars needed to prepare the sled that bore Lizzy to gold in Sochi was a gift to me from a grateful Russian government. Or, more accurately, a donation to my charitable research foundation from a grateful Vladimir Putin. Obama had been invited to join the gala dinner at which the donation was announced, held on the decennary of my birth, but he made his excuses. I know the real reason, of course. He is still smarting from the joke that Merkel and I played, when we spoofed a phone call about an imagined affair between Putin and Michelle, knowing that it would be eavesdropped by US intelligence and ultimately reported to their supreme chief of staff. His relationship with Putin has been another thing going down hill rapidly on my account.