Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Book I Read In October

'The Picador Book of the New Gothic', ed. by Patrick McGrath and Bradford Morrow
For the second month running I have been disappointed by a short story collection that I had hoped would be interesting and contained at least one story which I found so unpleasant that I decided to throw the book away rather than pass it on to someone else as I usually do.  This book is in large part an artificial creation and demonstrates that when it was published in 1991, it would have been wrong to have spoken of the 'New Gothic' if this is what it consists of.  The reviews and introduction speak of this genre as being about terror in the mind more than physical fears, though also suggests that the stories will often occur in traditional Gothic contexts.  In fact the collection falls down on both accounts.

'Ovando' by Jamaica Kincaid is an engaging story of the rise of a demon to great power in the world and is quite lyrical though rather too sweeping a subject for a short story.  'Horrorday' is an extract from 'London Fields' by Martin Amis (1989) with 'horror' appended to words in a story about an ordinary man involved in quite mundane activities and some violence in London and comes over as very artificial.  'Newton' by Jeanette Winterson is a strange story, with a reasonably unnerving edge, about a seemingly unconventional man in suburban USA that does not really develop.   'Banquo and the Black Banana' by Paul West is a rambling story about a ghost viewing various developments through history and with more coherence would have been an interesting story.  'Freniere' by Anne Rice is an extract from her novel 'Interview with the Vampire' (1976) which was dated even when this book was produced but I suppose fitted the rediscovery of vampires in the 1990s and is a decent enough story in itself, though of course by now looks doubly tired.

'Blood' by Janice Galloway, apart from the title, does not belong in this collection.  It is a mundane story about a girl whose mouth is bleeding when she has a tooth extracted who returns to school to do some piano practice and seems to have no connection with any era of Gothic.  'Didn't She Know' by Scott Bradfield perhaps comes close to what you could define as 'New Gothic' featuring a lower middle class woman exploiting her friendship with elderly men of various degrees of wealth for financial gain.  It has that kind of amorality and almost predestined outcome that is at least characteristic of film noir and probably a form of Gothic.  'Regulus and Maximus' by John Hawkes almost comes over as some kind of strange parable and only seems to be featured because it is about monks.  Two sets are fleeing from monasteries running contrasting regimes. 

'A Dead Summer' by Lynne Tillman consists of a series of fragments from the viewpoint of a girl/woman over a period of time.  This disjuncture and the things she sees actually make this worthy of being in this collection.  If there is one common theme in this book, it is how unpleasant suburban life, especially in the USA can be, and how unpleasantness is most unsettling when it is mundane.  This is sustained in 'Why Don't You Come Live With Me It's Time' by Joyce Carol Oates about a girl making a night-time visit to her grandmother's house and finding her not to be the woman she thought she was.  This reminded me of the style of Roald Dahl 'Tales of the Unexpected' stories and better than some of the others which have a child's perspective show that the adult world is difficult to judge and that its unfamiliarity can in itself seem sinister, but that does not mean that it is not indeed genuinely threatening or dangerous.

'The Dead Queen' by Robert Coover is a modern seeing of the Snow White fairy story and so of course now reminds me of the television series 'Once Upon A Time'.  It is decent, but probably does not exploit the actual Gothic aspects of fairy tales to the extent that it could have done.  'The Merchant of Shadows' by Angela Carter exploits that dark aspect of Hollywood cross-fertilised by European Expressionist cinema and if this story was made into a television drama Mark Gatiss would be involved.  It rather does not know how to end and the twist is rather too telegraphed.  However, compared to some of the other stories in the collection it seems to fit the 'New Gothic' designation.  'The Road to Nadeja' by Bradford Morrow, is another which is not stunning but not appalling.  It is about a kleptomaniac stealing from and deceiving her friend and reminded me of the movie 'Heavenly Creatures' (1994).  'For Dear Life' by Ruth Rendell is an extract from her novel 'King Solomon's Carpet' (1991) and is about a spoilt wealthy young woman dying on the underground really because she cannot simply cope with being so close to ordinary people.  Rendell is pretty good at dark contemporary tales such as 'A Fatal Inversion' (1987) and 'Gallowglass' (1990) and probably could be ascribed to 'New Gothic'.  Unfortunately in this story you care too little about the central character to feel any of her fear, with someone less privileged the story would have been more effective. In fact by the end you are quite glad to see the back of her and that reduces the potential to scare.

'Rigor Beach' by Emma Tennent is an account of a few hours in a beach house with a man and a woman.  It is well described but very little happens.  It is more a setting for a story than the story itself.  'The Smell' by Patrick McGrath, whilst again reminding me of Dahl, but maybe that is inevitable with edgy short stories, is probably the one story that deserves the 'New Gothic' tag and combines that terror from the mundane suburban life  with the macabre.  'The Kingdom of Heaven' by Peter Straub, is an extract from his novel 'Throat'.  He produced a novel called the 'The Throat' but that was not published until 1993, so this may have been a preceding shorter story; that is supposedly a successful horror book, but those elements seem to be missing from this extract.  Fine as it is, a well described story of US unit in the Vietnam War charged with collecting corpses of fallen soldiers.  The individuals and the scenes are well described, but it is too clinical for Gothic, it lacks that unearthliness, whether implied or exposed that is necessary for the Gothic sense.  'Fever' by John Edgar Wideman is pretty much the same, a good description of a black man in 18th century America dealing with the spread of disease and the racism he faces.  It describes these things well as a historical story, but lacks any Gothicism.

'J' by Kathy Acker is a waste of space, simply 'dropping the c bomb' as I have heard it described, using offensive words for the sake of it, rambling on about AIDS incoherently.  This certainly has no relevance to this book and is why I cannot send it to a charity shop.  Yes, AIDS is a terror of our time and there are effective stories using it as a horrific threat, involving deception and modern versions of Gothic settings and yet this story does not put such aspects to any effective use.  It revels in simply tossing these words around and in that way is no more impacting than a child waggling its tongue at you.

'The Grave of Lost Stories' by William T. Vollmann is clever, exploring what happens to those stories and the characters in them that authors do not complete.  It is whimsical rather than frightening but a good antidote to Acker's stuff.  Again if intended to be more Gothic, it would have portrayed the characters as being more threatening to the author's sanity.

Whilst there are some stories which are reasonable and many more which are poor, many of them have simply been cobbled into this collection without bearing much relevance to the theme.  Obscenity is not horror, to be genuinely frightening that has to be far more subtle, upfront, aggressive abuse is not that, it is too explicit to really terrify.  On the evidence of this book, I conclude that aside from some disparate writings there certainly was not a 'New Gothic' genre in the early 1990s.

Monday, 29 October 2012

What If The Tour De France Rankings Were Reallocated

Like Miguel Indurain, I still have doubts about the case made against Lance Armstrong on the grounds that he had performance enhancing chemicals during his career.  As I have noted before I feel a lot of this is more about international politics than about cycling.  On 22nd October, Armstrong was stripped of all of his seven wins of the Tour De France, i.e. 1999-2005.  However, the rankings have not been reallocated to other men who came in behind Armstrong.  Of course, many of these men have already suffered penalties as a result of their drug cheating, as 'The Guardian' noted on 13th October, 89 of the 190 men who had received a podium position in the Tour De France, Giro D'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, i.e. in the top 3 places in the race, since 1992, have now faced penalties. In fact I believe they have left out a number more who have done so. What interests me in this posting is, assuming that all of the drugs cheats had been eliminated, who would have been the winners of the Tour De France?  With Armstrong and these others gone, we see very interesting patterns appearing and men who are known only to cycling enthusiasts would probably be known across the world, the way Armstrong became.

Miguel Indurain won the Tour De France five times in a row, 1991-5 and with Armstrong gone is now an unrivalled record once more.  Indurain has never been found guilty of any drugs cheating so these wins would remain.  However, Claudio Chiappuci who came 2nd in 1992, Tony Rominger who came 2nd in 1993, Marco Pantani who came 2nd in 1994 and Alex Zulle who came 2nd and Bjarne Riis who came 3rd in 1995 would all be removed.  Bjarne Riis would also lose his 1st place in 1996, a year when the top three riders, Jan Ullrich and Richard Virenque being the other two, were all drugs cheats. 

Rather than writing out all the changes in text, a list is probably easier.  This in italics are riders who would have risen up the table if the drugs cheats had been removed:

1st Miguel Indurain (Spain)
2nd Gianni Bugno (Italy)
3rd Andrew Hampstein (USA)

Hampstein was twice winner of the Tour De Suisse and once the Giro D'Italia and only lost out to Bugno in the 1992 Tour De France in the final time trial.

1st Miguel Indurain (Spain)
2nd Zenon Jaskula (Poland)
3rd Álvaro Mejía (Colombia)

Jaskula had won the Volta a Portugal and stages of stage races and Mejia had won regional ones such as the tours of Galicia and Murcia.

1st Miguel Indurain (Spain)
2nd Piotr Ugrumov (Latvia)
3rd Roberto Conti (Italy)

Conti came 6th, his best ever position in the Tour De France, but the three riders above him, including Pantani, Luc Leblanc and Virenque have either been penalised or have admitted being drugs cheats.

1st Miguel Indurain (Spain)
2nd Melcior Mauri (Spain)
3rd Fernando Escartin (Spain)

Mauri won the Vuelta a Espana and Escartin came 2nd in that race twice.  Them stepping up the rankings from 6th and 7th place, would have made 1995 a clean sweep for the Spanish.

In 1996 and 1997, all of the top three finishers were drugs cheats, so after Indurain ended his reign, we would have seen men in this top spot that did not attract as much attention at the time.

1st Peter Luttenberger (Austria)
2nd Piotr Ugrumov (Latvia)
3rd Fernando Escartin (Spain)

Now, we begin to see history becoming changed. Luttenberger is basically unknown beyond tight circles, but is now becoming recognised as the 'real' winner in 1996.  Ugrumov would have won his second 2nd place and Escartin would have come 3rd two years running, meaning more attention would have been on these men and they would likely have attracted teams and support that was otherwise missing when they were just in the top 10.

1st Abraham Olano (Spain)
2nd Fernando Escartin (Spain)
3rd José María Jiménez (Spain)

With Ulrich, Virenque and Patani as the top 3 in 1997, again we would see different names coming to the fore, altering people's careers to a great extent.  Olano and his compatriots would have continued the Spanish predominance in the 1990s.  Like a number of the winners, he won the Vuelta a Espana.  Escartin would have been on the podium for the third year in a row.  This would no doubt have attracted attention to him to a greater extent than happened, he may have been seen the way Cadel Evans was in the latter 2000s as an 'almost man'.  He would have been a rare sprinter to win the race.  Of course, if he had held these positions, he may have been projected to win.  Jimenez would die of a heart attack only five years later at the age of 32.  However, no evidence of drugs cheating has come out against him.

1st Christophe Rinero (France)
2nd Michael Boogerd (Netherlands)
3rd Jean-Cyril Robin (France)

The 1998 tour was seen as the one in which doping came really to the fore, so eliminating many riders for taking ranking positions, again wiping out the top 3, Pantani, Ullrich and Bobby Julich.  Reassinging their positions brings the men skilled on climbs, Rinero and Boogerd to the fore.  This would have been seen as the year in which the French and the promising Dutch fought back against Spanish dominance of the race.

1st Fernando Escartin (Spain)
2nd Angel Casero (Spain)
3rd Abraham Olano (Spain)

The blip of 1998 would have been overcome and the Spanish would be back in control.  Escartin, the most consistent rider in the Tour of the late 1990s would finally have got his win.  By now he would be far more recognised than has been the case with others like Lance Armstrong, Alex Zulle and Jan Ullrich cheating to take the positions over this period.  However, a new personality would have been poised to step into the limelight and have the longest run of wins since Indurain.

1st Joseba Beloki (Spain)
2nd Santiago Botero (Colombia)
3rd Fernando Escartin (Spain)

As you will notice, with so many of the top cyclists taking drugs, we similarly see other names appearing on a regular basis with Beloki but also Escartin still on the podium. Though Beloki was investigated for doping, he was cleared in 2006.  Out of the top 6, the others being Armstrong, Ullrich, Christophe Moreau, Roberto Heras, Virenque, Beloki was a rare one in the top flight not to be taking drugs, or has so far been proven.

1st Joseba Beloki (Spain)
2nd Andrey Kivilev (Kazakhstan)
3rd Igor González (Spain)

The podium positions of the 2000 race: Armstrong, Ullrich, Beloki, were repeated in 2001.  However, eliminating the drugs cheats, still gives Beloki his second win of the race, but brings other names forward.  It certainly would have put Kazakhstan on the map of cycling to a much greater extent.  Some believe Kivilev should have won 2001 because of the subsequent suspicions around Beloki.  Whatever happened it would make his death in 2003 during the Paris-Nice race from injuries sustained even more poignant.  The Spanish would be continuing their pre-eminent position seen in the 1990s.

1st Joseba Beloki (Spain)
2nd Santiago Botero (Colombia)
3rd Igor González (Spain)

Beloki came 2nd in 2002, but taking out Armstrong would have given him his third consecutive win, and a very small group it is that have done that.  The Spanish would still be to the fore.

1st Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)
2nd Carlos Sastre (Spain)
3rd Denis Menchov (Russia)

With Armstrong, Ullrich, Alexandre Vinoukourov, Tyler Hamilton, Iban Mayo, Ivan Basso, Moreau and Francisco Macebo, eight of the top ten have all had drugs penalties.  Thus, even with a number of Spaniards now being caught, 2003 would see the continuing Spanish dominance.  It has been suggested to me, that by this stage the race organisers would have altered the routes to play down the mountains on which so many Spanish and Colombians are strong.

1st Andreas Klöden (Germany)
2nd José Azevedo (Portugal)
3rd Georg Totschnig (Austria)

2004 would have been like 1998, the year when the consistent line of Spanish victories was broken briefly.  Azevedo rode for Armstrong's team so may in future be proven to have been on drugs, but so far I cannot find a record of him being accused.  Klöden came 2nd anyway and is now being acclaimed as the 2004 winner by some.

1st Cadel Evans (Australia)
2nd Óscar Pereiro (Spain)
3rd Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)

With the top 6 riders having faced drugs penalties and three already having been disqualified: Armstrong, Ullrich and Levi Leipheimer, 2005 would have been the year of Cadel Evans first victory, six years earlier than has been recorded.  Australian riders were coming to the fore in this period, but it would be years before they reached the level that they should have done.  The number of drugs cheats, and it seems Yaroslav Popovych should be among them even though he has denied the charges, means that Zubeldia, originally 15th in the race and now 11th due to disqualifications, would have been back on the podium, reasserting Spain's standing.

1st Óscar Pereiro (Spain)
2nd Andreas Klöden (Germany)
3rd Carlos Sastre (Spain)

By 2006 we would be seeing the development of a leading clutch of riders, given that Evans came in 5th, moved up to 4th already now by the disqualification of Floyd Landis.  It would have been fascinating to see how close the quartet of Evans, Pereiro, Klöden and Sastre, probably Zubeldia too, would have been.  This was the first year that Armstrong was not the winner for seven years, but in this readjusted race, there would be a number of leading names, not seemingly as unassailable as Armstrong, but still with credit.

1st Cadel Evans (Australia)
2nd Carlos Sastre (Spain)
3rd Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)

Sastre would have clearly staked his claim as being the latest of the Spaniards who dominated the Tour De France in the 1990s and 2000s.  Evans would have won his second Tour after the disappointment of 2006.  In theory with Alberto Contador being removed for drugs Evans won this year anyway.


1st Carlos Sastre (Spain)
2nd Cadel Evans (Australia)
3rd Denis Menchov (Russia)

With the reassignment of positions, the rise of Sastre would be much clearer, with him stepping up the podium in succeeding years and developing a clear head-to-head battle with Evans.  Menchov, who it is often commented is the quiet man of the Tour would have again received greater recognition.

1st Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)
2nd Bradley Wiggins (UK)
3rd Andreas Klöden (Germany)

As it is, the winner of the race, Alberto Contador has been stripped of the title for drug cheating so Schleck is the actual winner.  With Armstrong also out, Wiggins's story changes and he arrives on the podium three years earlier than the history we know.  Klöden again shows he had not disappeared in the battle between Evans and the Spaniards.  Frank Schleck originally came 4th but has now been found to have been a cheat, possibly being fairer on his brother than I was on Popovych, I have left Andy in place until proven guilty.  If that does ever happen, then the 'Year of the British' would have come first in 2009 rather than 2012.

1st Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)
2nd Denis Menchov (Russia)
3rd Samuel Sanchez (Spain)

For the first time in two decades, there is no need to alter the rankings of the 2010 Tour De France.  With these changes, Schleck would have won his second consecutive tour and the arrival of Menchov in 2nd place after two 3rds over a seven year period would be less of a surprise.  Sanchez, no doubt, would be seen as the latest in a long line of Spaniards right at the top of the Tour.

1st Cadel Evans (Australia)
2nd Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)
3rd Thomas Voeckler (France)

With Frank Schleck removed from 3rd place for drugs, the ever popular Frenchman, Voeckler, a winner of some stunning stage victories would get on the podium, the first one since Rinero's victory in 1998.  Sanchez would have come 4th, showing that whilst to the end of the 2000s and into the 2010s, other nationalities were coming to the fore, Spain was not lagging too far.  Evans would have been winning his third victory at the Tour which would probably make him insufferable but also the winner with victories stretched out the longest, over seven years.

1st Bradley Wiggins (UK)
2nd Chris Froome (UK)
3rd Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)

Another, which as far as we know needs no alterations.  However, it would seem less incredible given Wiggins's 2nd place in 2009, though there would probably be even more discussion of where he had been in the meantime.

Thus, if we remove all the drugs cheats from the Tour De France rankings, we discover a difference race.  However, one, that seems to make more sense.  It is clear that Indurain ushered in a period of Spanish dominance of the race, even setting aside the Spaniards who have used drugs, and in this I am including EPO, doctored blood.  We see much more the rise of riders like Zubeldia, Pereiro and Sastre, even of Menchov.  There were interesting battles among a leading group of cyclists, which of course how the races have been shown, was ignored, because these men had been fighting sometimes for 10th place.  However, all were putting in good times and doing so through their own effort.

Doing the analysis for this posting, however, has probably brought me around to the UCI's view that the slots of those men disqualified should not be filled.  When you find the large majority of the top 10 or 20 of those who came home in any Tour De France were on substances of one kind or another, it makes nonsense of the whole process.  I do hope, as some commentators are doing, as on Wikipedia, that those men who rode clean and so ended up 5th or 11th or something similar because they were up against drugs cheats, will get the recognition that they should receive for their efforts.

Friday, 26 October 2012

‘You Can’t Handle The Truth’: Forced To Create A ‘Legend’ In The Workplace

As regular readers will know in the past few years I have suffered in jobs as a result of individual words and sentences that I have uttered. These were not rude words or offensive sentences, they just did not fit with very exacting standards that employers have around every word you might utter. I have got into trouble for saying ‘I am not a cleaner’ when in fact I was not a cleaner. I have got into trouble for trying to notify my manager of a hospital appointment connected with my diabetes. I have got into trouble discussing the curriculum that the boy who lived in my house was studying. I have got into trouble for saying that I was not responsible for organising an even date that, in fact, I truly was not responsible for organising. I guess one problem is that as yet I have not learnt how to suck up all the blame being levelled at my managers as if it was my own fault; I do not step forward fast enough or enthusiastically enough to take the blame off their shoulders and as a result it is open season to criticise me as ‘inappropriate’ or rude or incompetent.  The censorship and self-censorship that develops can harm companies, see:

Now, I know from people who have written to me, that I am not alone in suffering such problems and that schools should teach young people that in any job, no matter how competent they might, they must always expect to be the ‘fall guy’ for any errors made around them even if they are not connected to them. My mistake has been not been ready to do that. Ironically as a consequence I am portrayed as the one creating a ‘blame culture’ simply because I am not able to absorb the blame into myself quickly enough. In this I am hampered further as it seems I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Whilst I doubt it has worsened in recent years, the clear changes in UK society and in working culture mean that there are more pitfalls that I may be missing with heavy consequences for my job and thus for the rest of my life which has been largely wrecked this year.

I began a new job in September and was relieved that a lot of the behaviour I have noted above was absent. This was both relaxing and also reminded me how abnormal the previous places actually were. Workers should behave as adults not primary school children and certainly it seemed as if that was more the case where I am now working, despite the fact that the company, like most in the UK is facing hard economic times and so instability. However, the seemingly warm reception I received in this job clearly led me into a false sense of security. I had originally gone there, scared from my previous jobs to mention anything about my life outside work or my past. However, with people confiding in me about their cancer treatment, medical conditions, marital problems, etc., I too opened up especially about some of the things that have hit me this year. Partly this was also because I have had to speak with people so much about losing my job, my house and household that they have now become mundane; they are the ache that has become dull so to me these things are no longer a big issue. To start viewing this way and even letting down my guard a little has proven to be a big mistake.

On Friday I was summoned to see my line manager who outlined the complaints against me. Now, these differ in nature to the problems I have had before. These days I avoid making statements unprompted even to people I think will not distort them. However, when people ask me questions I respond truthfully. Given that the workplace has an atmosphere of being open, people have asked direct personal questions that they might not have done elsewhere. The first was that I had been asked why I was eating biscuits during a training session. I explained briefly that this was because as a diabetic I tend to have a low blood sugar in the late afternoon especially when I have been on a day’s training as had been the case that day and so ran the risk of hypoglaecemia. I know I should not have used the word ‘hypoglaecemia’ but when you have had a condition 24 years as I have done, you tend to slip into these things. I have explained my diabetes to hundreds of people, so think nothing of it.

The second one was I was asked why I had left the lovely town on the south coast that I have recently moved from, by someone who still lives close by but is also employed now by the same company as me. I responded, ‘because I lost my house’. Now that is the truthful answer, it is the only reason why I left, but again that was an unacceptable answer. A similar situation came when waiting for a meeting to start there were comments at how the set-up of the room resembled that for an interview. I was asked as a newly appointed member of staff, how many interviews I had had. Again I told the truth: ‘67 in the past 4 years’.

I have noted before how people feel somehow contaminated by reference to redundancy and unemployment:  However, when asked a direct question, and this may be as a result of Asperger’s, I have the tendency to give the truth. Yet, me describing what has happened to me or my medical condition, not in an unprompted way, but in response to a question, is these days seen as ‘inappropriate’ and even verging on the offensive. Clearly I cannot read the mind of the person asking me the question. I have been alerted to the fact by one company that has interviewed me three times, that I give an answer without first having ascertaining the type of answer the questioner is looking for. I missed out on the training on this approach to answering at school, university and in work. In fact, I received the opposite: answer a question as directly and truthfully as you can. I know I am enthusiastic when talking with people and these days they will not tolerate an answer which is shorter than the question asked. I thought I had cracked that with the answers given above. However, now I have to also quickly judge whether the truthful answer is what they are seeking.

I am in no position to say ‘well that is my business’ as I could clearly have done with these three personal questions or even ‘why are you asking that?’ as that would clearly been seen as rude. You cannot be defensive as that rouses suspicion. The truth, if it encompasses failure or illness or simply bad luck is also unacceptable whether given briefly or explained in full. Thus, my line manager has now advised me to come up with what I call a ‘legend’. This is the term used by spies and undercover police to describe the false identity they establish. It is a fiction, weaving in elements of the truth, but in general appealing to the assumptions of the people that the agent will be working with whilst distancing this fictional personality from the agent’s genuine one. I need to learn this legend well and be able to respond with aspects of it whenever I am asked a personal question again. I have to be careful, as, unfortunately, I have already revealed the truth about my life to quite a few people. I also have to avoid slip-ups that contradict or differ from what I have said before.

Now, from the troublesome questions I have faced recently, I have to come up with an explanation for why I might eat carbohydrates in the afternoon, which does not reference any medical condition nor makes me appear a glutton. I suppose in future I must sneak off to the toilet to eat them. This presents an ideological challenge for me. Back in 2005 when the UK law put diabetics into the disabled category, I took the decision to ‘come out’ as a diabetic. Now it appears I have to go back into the medical closet and conceal my condition as best I can. In terms of why I left the town, I am rather stumped what to say. All the suggestions about house prices seem to be equally as negative and something along the lines that the area was going down clearly are not true to people who know the town. If I say it is simply because I tired of the place, that might make me look feckless. Even saying that I moved to be closer to family would sound like there was bad luck if not for me then for them, so that is out. With the interviews, clearly I have to severely reduce the number. I cannot really guess what the tolerable number of interviews would be over a 4-year period, do readers think 10 still sounds excessive?

The one thing that I must bury even deeper in my legend, is a sense of indignation.  People accuse me of self-pity, however, it is impossible to keep lying to yourself that things will get better or to take all the blame on to yourself for how you have been mistreated; as it is, I cannot shake the sense of guilt at what I may have done wrong, not helped by people telling me that I am a 'natural victim', something which I reject entirely as that is the path to racism and disability discrimination, things I will have no truck with.  As the government tells us that we need to suffer for the sake of the country, people in many workplaces see it as wrong to even indicate that you are suffering as a consequence.  I cannot reveal how badly I have been treated in previous jobs, the social class discrimination, the disability discrimination and the simple maliciousness I have encountered. I cannot express my dismay at the fact that in 2009 I earned £42,000 per year and had 35 days leave and now earn £26,000 (what I was earning in 2002) and get 19 days and 2 hours leave (what is the point of 2 hours’ leave?). I have to pretend that my life has not gone down the drain in so many ways and that my chances of ever owning even a flat, let alone a house, are now zero.   I have to conceal how the pressure from the bad treatment I have received has worsened my blood pressure and consequently my eye sight. My legend has to show me as a successful man, going places despite the worst economic depression in 80 years. It has to pander to the assumptions of the people who ask me questions. It has to provide the answers that they find acceptable, because it has been made very clear to me that in fact, they cannot handle the truth.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

No Browser Choice

As you can see from the extended discussion following my posting in April many of us are battling to use the new Blogger interface.  It was introduced in April but then taken down again because so many users had problems with it.  Now it is back and for me it is worse than ever.  I struggle to get into the dashboard of my blog and edit or post without the whole system crashing time after time.  I have gone through three crashes to simply get this post up.

It appears that Blogger, in line with many companies, assumes that all users have the fastest and the best systems on the market.  Yes, I am sure some of them do, but the bulk of us cannot afford to keep updating, especially with such a high level of unemployment and rising living costs, it is even less feasible than five years ago.  I am now in a position where I cannot even connect my computer to the internet.  I am living in a house now with no wireless connection and a single PC connected to the internet.  This PC has a heavy firewall so I cannot download new software.  This means I can only use Internet Explorer as the browser, rather than Google Chrome or any other browser that so many companies feel they should bully us into using by shutting off so many webpages to the browser that so many of us choose or are compelled to use.  The same applies to my work computer.  IE is the browser for the company which employs over 1000 staff as it was from the company that I have just left which employed over 3700.  These are not obscure organisations, so if they still believe in IE, why is it that so many providers now effectively block IE users from accessing their content?

A lot of us adhere to the credo 'if it isn't broken, don't try to fix it'.  We see no point for the constant upgrades of every piece of software on our computers which keep on interrupting things that we actually want to do.  Companies get exasperated that we are not as ecstatically excited by the tiny change in the new version which they are pressing on us.  For many of us there is no noticeable difference and in cases such as the interface for this blog, the new version is far worse than the old one.  Remember Vista and what that promise only to blow up in the face of so many users?  Since moving to the new interface I have had to fight off automated spam being sent to this blog, day after day, something I never had a problem with using the old interface.

Companies need to realise that the bulk of users are not at the cutting edge.  Firefox has not yet ousted IE as the prime way the majority of people access the internet, just as shops have been compelled to continue selling DVDs alongside BluRay versions.  Not only do we lack the money to chase after every new version of everything, we see absolutely no need.  Realise that if something works, we do not feel the compulsion to change it, certainly not every six months.  I know I am not unusual in have a mobile phone which is 6 years old and a car which is 14 years old.  They both work to do the jobs that I bought them for.  When they stop doing that then I will replace them. 

Maybe this is me getting older.  You may say that a man in his forties is likely to be a 'stick in the mud'.  However, especially when it comes to bloggers, by definition you are going to get someone who puts in the time and the effort with things.  This is in fact the case even with those young bloggers who cover the latest fashions.  They take their time and analyse what the new trends are.  Newness does not inherently equal quality.  If you look at the growing number of 'classic' games let alone the number of remake movies, you see that in a previous time when there was not the constant drizzle of updates, actually things that are still seen as being of high quality remain popular and engaging.  In fact with the movie remakes, we are often simply reminded how much better the original was.

I am tired of being bullied by services which should be serving me, rather than me being their lapdog to be dragged from new application to new application when I simply want to get one with scratching and sniffing around where I am.  Companies do not seem to understand that we will be more loyal to those who do not use bullying tactics and let us make our own choices, especially those of us who are thoughtful adults.  Blogger does not seem to understand the reason why I have a blog here after five years, when I could have easily gone somewhere else, is because I once liked the service I was getting.