A few chance catches-of-the-day (Oct 15 2020)

October 16, 2020

The First One: 

 BBC 5pm News Radio 4

The following is not verbatim but indeed is as near to what was said as to have no different interpretation

Ten years ago the UK was exporting to the EU 48% of its exports; and importing from the EU

52% of its imports. Since that time these figures have declined [somewhat...]’

Now what might this statistic mean? And why was it used by the Radio 4 reporter?

It was a man. These guys who blurt over the national broadcasting radio flagship station for ‘news and views’, are almost exclusively ex-Oxbridge people, so can we allow them any leeway or slack, and so forgive them their mistakenness?

Or do we think that these ex-Oxbridge guys know what they’re doing – or even that they ought to know what they’re doing – and so either lay a blame of connivance or else a blame of negligence upon this guy this time around?

I’ll go into a few items which point up why we need to consider these issues of forgiveness , or of blame of one kind, or of blame of another kind - in this case.

a) UK exports and imports to and from the EU might indeed have decreased in percentage points over the past 10 years. At the same time, and in real terms, the UK might also be doing considerably more trade in exports and imports to and from the EU than it was ten years ago (I’d guess that the UK actually is)

i. Why should this matter? Because if one accepts that the economic prosperity of nations, including the UK, is based on the total amount of trade that that nation does – say per year- and in real terms; then the figures in real terms are more important than are percentages for a listener to know. By using the real terms figures, then actual damage and loss might better be prefigured in £ and in quantities of goods and services

b) By use of percentage points the reporter had emphasised, over above him emphasising real likely damage, the prima faci__e fact that a shift had occured, he did not say how big a shift, in percentages, but he left it at saying that exports and imports to and from the EU as percentages of all UK imports and exports, had shifted downwards. I forget how I did so, but I came away with an impression he was hinting ‘by not much’.

But this unascertained shift in percentage points, having been offered to listeners, and offered having no further context to dress its background, is able to declare only for suggesting that the UK is in a better position to leave the EU right now than it had been 10 years ago, when, it appears, exports and imports from and to UK and to and from EU were higher in percentage points than they are now. This suggestion is at best an incomplete truth; the missing pieces being

i. The actual loses right now to UK in £s and in quantities of goods and services exported/imported are not calculable or estimable

ii. The actual percentage losses over the ten year period, and so their degree, were covered over and not given

c) The decline in percentage points (and, if in fact any, in real terms) may well have been a result of there having been three or more years since the result of the UK referendum; and so of companies and businesses ‘taking stock’ and then refocusing on markets elsewhere in anticipation of a Brexit looming to be achieved? This especially when one considers the percentage figures of the past 12 months or so be would reflecting this trend heavily; since over that period Brexit has become, and has been much more likely, an almost certain proposition, than ever before. If my case is correct then:

i. The percentage points changes as a statistic mean nothing in terms of any objective unmotivated and casual shift away from the EU by British firms and commerce

ii. The percentage point changes are merely reflect a ‘cover your arse’ strategy being taken by UK industry and commerce

Nothing I have said in argument here seems to me to be anything but that which is very likely to be the case. So, to you, the jury, I ask, what is going on here? Why is the radio news presenter giving this sort of (useless) misinformation out on air to the nation? It is useless as a reliable thought-through guide. Can you think of any other motives why in this case such an approach to news should have been taken? Your answer to this question depends whom you trust I guess.

The Second One:

Let’s balance the political books a little. Today Andy Burnham Mayor of Greater Manchester stood on the steps of The Town Hall there and spoke a statement to reporters; this being his and his colleagues response to an announcement by National Government of a ‘tier 3’ ‘circuit-breaker’ action looming over Greater Manchester – cut through the smart tags and you get – a cordon and a curfew for the area.

Andy Burnham said in his statement response, among other things, that;

The (national) government intended to wind down greatly the economic life of Greater Manchester, so as to foster the economic benefit of richer southern areas of the nation.

These were not Mr Burnham’s actual words; his was an involved and overlong sentence and I freely admit he may well have lost control of it, and so have said this thought rather unhappily and maybe indavertently. He was quite passionate in his statement of rebuttal of the national government’s intended strategy for his city. That said, I do firmly believe I have the meaning of what, in his convoluted way, he said, and it is here placed above in plain terms of my own.

I believe that the meaning of these plain words cannot be made relevant to, or be though to be a consequence of any curfew or cordon of Manchester made by Central Government policy. Their meaning is I believe hyperbolic, and maybe adversarial for its own sake? Words said, and said in heat, and maybe not really intended to have been said. Such a thing happens and can happen to any of us.

Nonetheless, taking greater care of what one says, ought to be a first principle for any prominent person and especially for a prominent politician. Not allowing one’s feelings and political biases to get the better of one’s reasoning and speech should be of prime importance for such people. They may be talking to the crowd; but those persons of discernment in that crowd will be their critics and assessors in the longer run, and for ill or for good. I say no more.

The Third One:

On BBC Radio 3 this evening at 6.30 listening to ‘In Tune’ I heard the presenter announce and introduce and give air time to a person who said that she and her colleagues had been using and continue to use part of the liturgy of The Catholic Mass in song in their prayers - which her group offers up to nature.

This of course is heretical, if anybody out there is bothered about the fact. It is also I would assume not liked by Catholic persons hearing of it; maybe even offensive to them? In one view the act looks ridiculous in another view it looks extremely annoying. In one view toying with a sacred item – in another taking a wrench, and trying to use it to glue a patch on a vehicle’s punctured tube. Wildly inappropriate. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray’.

The act of using parts of The Catholic Mass in this way struck me as being another (silly) manifestation of where we are as a society these days. It is a manifestation of that ‘anything goes’ outlook which has given birth to some monstrous and outlandish deeds and thoughts and creations, and is still doing so. It is making the world, locally and across the continents, an even greater chaos and medley of melee - of imponderable absurdities. This the result of our pundits having said so often – let everyone do his/her own thing – all things are acceptable – don’t worry – be happy – and that dreadful lie set in verse in the late 19th century and running thus:

I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul”

God forbid!

The Fourth and Final One:

I read today in John Dover Wilson’s dusty-dated book “What Happens in Hamlet” the following footnote;

“I suggested that the identification should be made plain by dressing Lucianus in a black doublet like Hamlet’s. This, which I still think would add great theatrical force to the episode, I now fear is dramatically inadmissible, since it infers previous instructions as to costume by Hamlet, which again implies deliberate planning”

The gist is that Hamlet is wearing a black doublet, and also another in the play, suggests Mr Dover Wilson, should wear one of the exact same kind, because this other is acting out a part in a drama set within the play of Hamlet and this other’s part parallels Hamlet’s own situation. Hamlet had commissioned the drama be acted out.

Mr Dover Wilson rules out this his first thoughts - that another should also wear a black doublet – and he does so on the grounds that for that other to do so in a production would indicate to an audience that Hamlet himself had put that other, that player acting in the play-within-the-play, up to the ruse of wearing a black doublet like Hamlets’. Complicated, but I hope you follow and find it worthwhile doing so.

Mr Dover Wilson runs us through all this palaver so as to make a point that Hamlet’s spoken responses to the play-within-the-play, made as it is being acted out, are not premeditated responses being made by Hamlet. Hence, Mr Dover Wison draws the conclusion, the black doublet is completely out and non gratia – because on the contrary it signals that Hamlet had set the whole black doublet thing up, made it so, especially for his spoken responses to have their impact

I believe had Mr Dover Wison been a Christian he would have been a fundamentalist. A literalist. Sort of obsessive compulsive Creationist. Why?

Because he shows no awareness here – and elsewhere in his book – of the freedoms allowable to theatres, to audiences, and to imagination in producing and interpreting dramatic performances – these same freedoms are available to all the creative arts.

There is what is called a ‘fourth wall’ said to be in place in traditional theatre performances – where audiences are eavesdroppers lisening in and peeping Tom’s looking on. The drama itself as it were goes on, as a narrative demonstrated, as if the audience were not there. The circus clown who throws a bucket of paper rags over the front row audience is breaking that ‘fourth wall’.

But this ‘fourth wall’ applies not to the whole thing of traditional theatre performance and its audiences; indeed in many important respects actors and audiences communicate, and also communicate amongst themselves; and they do also even through the barrier of the ‘fourth wall.’

Imagine a football match; which also has a ‘fourth wall’, like a traditional theatre production has. In this time of Covid talk has been of playing matches to empty stadia, and only televising them. It’s never happened as far as I know. And I think this is because the roar of the crowd, like the laughter, or the gasps of shock, of theatre audiences, is lifeblood to players and teams, to actors acting.

I do really think that this black doublet affair lies well beyond the confines of the ‘fourth wall’ for audiences and for actors. It appears more than legitimate, even necessary and exciting, that a pair of black doubets could, maybe should, be used in a production to signal a telling dramatic parallelism to an audience, and that the fact of no premeditation on Hamlet’s part, can be held onto nonetheless every bit, if one wishes to do so.

The doubled-up black doublet would be a mere metatag, something like superscript in a document, or a piece of intelligent fun to be picked up and to be added to the enjoyment. A sign saying ‘aha!’.

Mr Dover Wilson is perhaps living too much ‘inside the play’ and sees it as a ‘real world’. It’s a story demonstrated rather than narrated. But the bag of tricks pertinent to the plain narrator are equally welcome for use by the actors, for the sakes of the audiences of any production. Is this not a great deal of the magic of literary and dramatic art?