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It’s that time of year again, innit.

Bollocks to summer
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Bollocks to: Facebook

It might be time to talk about Facebook. Advertisers are boycotting the platform for July because of Facebook’s stance — or lack of it — over hate speech and incitement. These advertisers include Unilever, Coca-Cola Starbucks, Adidas and many others. Facebook employees and contractors have staged virtual walkouts in protest. 

Of course, the position of the advertisers is not one of ethics in the sense you and I understand the word. They are worried about brand contamination; being associated with a platform that has become associated with racism. If the Facebook brand has become that toxic that even these nerveless behemoths are getting bothered, perhaps alarm bells ought to be ringing with us, the punters.

And the problems of Facebook do not begin or end with tolerating hate speech. 

I have just finished Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism and I urge everyone who spends time online to read it too. 

We have this image of Facebook scanning your profile to find out who your favourite bands are and what food you like so someone can buy ads from them. The truth is different and entirely insidious. Surveillance is a mild word for what they do. Facebook (and Google and many others) are engaged in a project to actually predict and modify your behaviour. This involves scraping your life — online and in the real — for every bit of data, every interaction, everything they can about you to build comprehensive behavioural models. In this, they are building on the work of behaviourists such as BF Skinner and his heirs. Skinner considered free will to be an illusion and believed human behaviour could be engineered to create a hive-like society. If you haven’t heard of Skinner, stop reading this and look him up now and become very alarmed. 

More, learning from techniques developed in the gambling industry, they have made their site deliberately addictive, designing it so that the user gets regular dopamine hits that encourage hypnotic engagement. 

And this combination of behaviour modification, addiction and the nature of the platform in which you become the subject of yourself, has caused all sorts of identity disorders among young users. 

Would we tolerate having our homes bugged for sound and vision so that we can be nudged into behaviours that are not our own? Probably not. But that’s qualitatively what these companies are doing. Today’s selfie is tomorrow’s biometric profile, as artist/academic/privacy activist Adam Harvey likes to say.

Going further, that data and the platform is being exploited by third parties to interfere in elections — the 2016 US general election, the Brexit vote, the last two UK general elections. Facebook knows about this and does nothing. 

Meanwhile, Facebook et al are using their huge money to lobby governments to exempt them from any kind of regulation that would inhibit them from doing whatever they decide they want. 

For sure, Facebook is not the only online abuser of our lives. Google and Amazon are almost as bad, and almost every online entity and seller of smart devices is abusing us too. Every time we do anything on Facebook — anything at all — we provide the company with yet more grist for its money mill. The direct revenue comes from advertising and selling data analysis tools but our lives are the raw material. 

Facebook top knob Mark Zuckerberg is sanguine about the boycott by Unilever et al. They’ll be back soon, he says. And he’s right. And the corporates are only protesting about one issue, one that conflicts with their brand. They aren’t protesting over the surveillance and all that flows from it because, of course, they use that data to make money out of us.

But what if the users began to withhold their data, Zuckerberg’s product, by staying away from the site? At least for a while. Might that be interesting? Might that be something to talk about?

Facebook loves you! Art by Nathan Hillyer
Art by Nathan Hillyer


Monday (July 6th), I was sitting in a branch of a well-known pub chain in Osaka having a pint and working on a draft of the above post, when, with exquisitely ironic timing, I got an email from Amazon. The email noted I was in this specific pub and pointed out that the location was also an Amazon ‘locker’. I could have stuff delivered by Amazon to pick up while having a beer. 

Amazon had tracked me to the pub. 

I was not on the free Wi-Fi there, so Amazon had tracked me through the cell network. 

Read more:

That book — The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

Facebook is out of control. If it were a country it would be North Korea — article by Carole Cadwalladr

Extend US Facebook boycott to Europe, campaigners urge — article by Alex Hern

Only bold state intervention will save us from a future owned by corporate giants — article by Joe Guinan and Martin O’Neill

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Too many people taking liberties by going to the beach, says PM

Too many people taking liberties by going to the beach, says PM whose chief advisor drove across the country during lockdown while infected with Covid19.

So here’s a little liberty I took earlier.

Where's that wally Dominic  Cummings?
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Sympathy for de Pfeffel

I have seen many pleas like this in recent days: Whatever your politics, have sympathy for Boris Johnson, he is after all just a human being like anyone else. 

Indeed, humanity and sympathy ought to be above base party politics. But look to whom you are offering your politics-free sympathy: 

This man supported DWP policies that have killed perhaps 130,000 of his fellow citizens. 

In the ten years his party has been in power, thousands of rough sleepers have died on the streets as his party put them there and then closed the support services that might have protected them. This man’s cynical careering led Britain out of the EU on a campaign of lies and manipulation, diminishing the life-opportunities of everyone in the country, while turning the place into an unregulated financial refuge for his entitled tribe. 

He comes from a bubble of privilege in which nepotism, self-interest and fucking dead pigs are the norm. 

He is an active part of an international trend that has brought us Trump, Erdogan, Bolsonar, Orban, Duterte, Modi and many others. 

He has trumpeted concern for environmental degradation while awarding lucrative licenses to the fossil fuel industry and blocking any legislation that might control the damage industry is doing to the planet. 

He is a hypocrite, making crisis announcements from a podium inscribed with pleas to protect a health service he and his kind have run into the ground ahead of selling to foreign buyers. 

He is a proven liar, racist, and philanderer. 

The crowning irony is that just a few weeks ago he was championing a government policy of herd immunity, which would have seen many thousands of people suffer or die of the same disease that now threatens his life. 

Now, in another illustration of the inequality with which his kind has infected Britain, it is certain he is receiving a level of medical care that is unavailable to the herd.

The market-fundamentalist/neoliberal ideology promoted by his party has caused inequality and insecurity on levels not seen since the early 20th century; the richest people in Britain have multiplied their wealth by a factor of about 10 in the last ten years while millions get by with food banks, zero-hour contracts, and Victorian working practices.

Demanding sympathy ‘whatever your politics’ is itself political, it asks for validation of for the harm he and his kind have done to the world. Political differences are not like supporting different sports teams, where ‘well-played’ and sporting prowess surmount tribal differences. Ideologies have the power to wreck lives or make them. 

Wishing Johnson well is like hoping Joseph Mengele gets over his nasty cold because, even though some people think his medical experiments are a bit controversial, at the end of the day he does work hard and he is a family man.

I do not wish suffering or death on anyone. That would be barbaric. So how about: ‘whatever your politics, you should condemn inhumanity.’ That’s a good sentiment, is it not? Can we try that? 

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Corona: What’s not in a name?

Corona: apart from being part of a deadly virus, it can be a halo of gasses around the sun, it can be a beer, it can even be part of a penis; it can be a great many improbable things. The word had permeated our world long before the virus did, and usually with less apocalyptic results.

The word corona gives us the word crown, and so coronet too. The sticky-uppy bits on the surface of the virus look to the chemical imagination of the scientists who named them, like a crown. To the rest of us, they look like comically distended suckers, or floppy golf tees, or alien antennae — they make those virions look like psychopathically ecstatic jelly balls. They are just revolting but that’s not scientific. No, we are supposed to see prongs, the prongs on royal headgear — now, that’s scientific.

The prongs/suckers are apparently composed of proteins that help the virus force entry into our own entirely innocent cells — appendages on a microscopic Harvey Weinstein, apparently, and thereby another association with penis.

Corona comes from the Latin word corona, and even deeper, from the Greek korṓnē — hence coronation, and by extension a piquant chicken dish.

The word gives us a large stone, the Stone of Scone (by its other name, the Coronation Stone) on which the kings and queens of these isles have been crowned for centuries.

Quite improbably, it gives us coroner, guardian of the pleas of the crown, the examiner of death. 

Corona can give us a heart attack, a coronary, named for the crown of tubes on our pumps. 

Corona gives us stars, those constellations that halo the top and the bottom of the world, Corona Borealis and Corona Australis.

Corona gives us architectural features, in the cornice (part of the top bit), and the east end of Canterbury Cathedral (all of it).

It gives us scores of songs, multitudes of musicians, it gives us footballers and towns, a soft drink, a typewriter, novels, games, and completely unreal people and places in novels and games. 

It gives us coronal bone, which for some will evoke boner, and takes us back to willies. Let’s not forget, it also gives us a cigar, and the overlap with anatomical meaning may explain some of the eccentric behaviour between a certain president of the United States and an intern.

Corona does not give us coronach, which is from an entirely different root, one that is banned in the current lockdown: it is from Scottish Gaelic, comh, ‘together’ plus rànach,‘outcry’. Though coronach itself has a poignant applicability to coronavirus, being a funeral song. 

Virus, on the other hand, gives us little other than itself and a host of debilitating symptoms; a rash of fear and an outbreak of paranoia. It’s a word that mostly does what it says on the box. And if you didn’t already know, it comes from the Latin for slimy, liquid poison, and as a name is probably better suited to Corona’s beer. In Middle English virus had a fleeting moment of cool when it became associated with the venom of snakes, but it quickly went back to its association with puddles of goo. 

But what part of a willy is the corona you are probably not dying to know?  It’s the — well, Google it, but not at work. Though you’re probably not at work because of the contagion. But the association with penis is highly appropriate because most thoughtful people look on coronavirus as a massive bellend. 

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Two for the price of none!

Silly me. I got it wrong again. 

I tweeted yesterday that you could get a free Kindle download of King of the Undies World through the 25th. Turns out I pressed the wrong button and made The Underpants Tree a free download instead. My apologies for the confusion. 

I tried to fix that but you can’t undo a KDP giveaway,. You can, however, do two at the same time. 

So now you can download free both King of the Undies World and The Underpants Tree — the latter being the sequel to the former.

Yes, you can read the entire Underpants of Fire trilogy in two volumes in Kindle for free. 

There is a limited time, of course, which means March 23rd through 25th for the simultaneous giveaway. 

The Underpants Tree giveaway has already started and will go through the 25th. The King of the Undies World giveaway will run from the 23rd through 27th

Here’s the URL for the books, and here are the hashtags. 

#SomethingToRead #FreeBooks #FreeKindle

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Should we make the European flag illegal?

So, Brexiteers are arguing it should be illegal to fly the European flag from now on, punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. 

I wonder how we should respond to that.

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Un-Tall Tales now in Kindle

It was in paperback, and now by popular demand of the author himself, Un-Tall Tales is in Kindle too. 

Un-Tall Tales is Chris Page’s collection of short fiction, flash fiction, poetry, and odds and ends, all in one slim volume with lots of white space, short paragraphs, and easy-to-read short sentences. 

And to mark this event, you can grab a copy for free. 

From January 18th, through the 22nd you can download a Kindle copy from the Kindle site, without paying the whopping £1.99 Un-Tall Tales would normally set you back. 

What’s in Un-Tall Tales for you?

The Freebie 

Is Billy Freeb the world’s most innovative musician or is he the world’s laziest man? Is he a genius or is he a plonker? Billy’s 15 minutes are upon him — will he survive?

Cats Die 

Middle age and disillusion are creeping up on our hero and he plans to take it lying down. His adulterous plan could bring him release or ruin. Or, of course, nothing in particular.


These poems, as all good poems should, explore underpants, teeth, chickens, and tombstones.

Dumb Novel

A lot of dumb novels are big hits, but in this story the hero becomes the biggest of hits for dumbest novel he didn’t write.


Houdini did it, so why not our hero? Well, he’s not Houdini, is he. On a whim, he has himself chained, locked in a box and dropped through a hole drilled in the Arctic ice cap. Will he survive? 


Extracts from a weblog by an author on the go. Talking cats, sausages, new uses for bananas, nuclear explosions in the office, sex on trains, more sausages — is it real or is it made up? You decide.

Un-Tall Tales is available, as are all Chris Page’s other stories, from the author’s Amazon page

And Un-Tall Tales (note to SEO manager: am I repeating the title enough times?) has a site of sorts of its own, where you can read extracts and see other bits and bobs.

The winter is long and cold, and late January is officially the most depressing time of the year, so this is a great opportunity to curl up in your basket with a good read without messing with the post holiday budget. 

Note: Un-Tall Tales includes The Freebie, which was published by the London Magazine in 2002, and in 2019 published by Psipook Press as a stand-alone ebook.

Another note: On this page I have linked to my Amazon UK author site, but for best downloading results, go to your regular regional Kindle store (ie, where you usually download your Kindle books).

Final note: Many people have understandable reservations about using Amazon. If you prefer, please contact me directly and I’ll send an ePub file.

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Let the healing begin? No, let’s not

Let the healing begin, Boris Johnson says.

No, let the healing not begin.

What healing can there be? This election was won on a campaign of outright lies, misinformation, and smears. It was the dirtiest campaign in generations. It is a template of things to come. The Tories made full use their funds to hijack opponents’ keywords on social media and run a huge online misinformation campaign that included the use of trolls. Lies were the language of their campaign.

The consequences of the election result and the way it was obtained are dire — for the economy, for our security, for the most vulnerable people, for minorities.

Let’s be clear: this is not a normal Conservative party, this is the most vicious rightwing gang of thugs that the country has ever seen. 

This Conservative win will have real consequences. This is not like seeing your favourite team lose the FA cup final. People are going to die. Already in the last 10 years upwards of 130,000 people have died due to Tory austerity politics. Now the party feels it has a mandate, it is going to lay into public services with a machete. 

An independent fact-checking group found 88 per cent of Tory election claims to be misleading.

Eighty-eight per cent. Against zero percent of Labour campaign claims. That’s 88 to nothing. Quite a scoreline.

The Conservatives made a wealth of promises about the NHS, about police numbers, about the number of presents Santa will bring you this year. Most of the promises were misleading and fake: the number of police officers (no actual increase), the numbers of new hospitals (there won’t be any), and, less than a week after the election, they are already backtracking on other promises such those about new nurses. Essentially, the promises were not true the moment they were made.

After 10 years of ideologically-driven austerity should anyone believe the Tories? Ten years? Forty years — since Margaret Thatcher became PM in 1979 they have pursued their agenda to dismantle the country and sell it to their friends. 

The Conservatives are free-market fundamentalists. Everything must be commodified and sold to you at a profit for private companies. This includes not just the infrastructure of the country, but your health and wellbeing too. This is in the DNA of the party. It’s why they exist. Do we really think they are now going to change over night, or do we think they made a lot of good noises to compete with the other parties and get your vote?

The Tories were helped to their win by billionaire press barons whose interests are aligned with the Tories’ backers. Those billionaire press barons own most of the commercial media in the UK. They produced an almost constant stream of propaganda for the Conservatives and against the other parties. Another fact check project found that Jeremy Corbyn was the most smeared political leader ever in Britain.

While Labour was smeared with the manufactured issue of anti-semitism, people elected a prime minister with a very public record of racism and homophobia. Since the general election less than a week ago, reports of racist and homophobic abuse have been on the rise. This continues a trend that started with the 2016 referendum. Latent hostility has been sanctioned and given free rein by Johnson and his fellow travellers like Farage. 

Many people think the press is in the Tories’ pocket. The opposite is true. The Conservative party is the representative on earth of powerful money interests. These interested parties comprise not only the media billionaires, but corporations, hedge funds, staggeringly wealthy individuals with an ideological axe to grind.

Once out of the EU, there will be a bonfire of the safeguards that cushion us from the worst excesses of the free market. Human rights, workers rights, health and safety, safeguards for the environment. These are all seen as inconveniences to these nameless, faceless corporates. This is what Brexit was all about for the Tories’ sponsors. This is why they have paid for it. And for this Tory win to facilitate it. 

Many of these interested parties are not even British. They are American and Russian libertarians enforcing a free market ideology for their own convenience. How is this taking back control?

A number of hedge funds have bet against Britain’s economy after Brexit — one reason they were so eager to fund the campaign.

This is not conspiracy theory: all this information is in the public domain. On top of that, Johnson’s own sister spilled the beans in an interview.

This is buying politics for your own advantage. Is this democracy?

The rich will get richer while ordinary people get poorer, and the already poor suffer more.

Already, Johnson’s government is planning on changing electoral law to help them stay in power indefinitely.

When Boris Johnson says let the healing begin, what he actually means, is ‘Let the submission begin!’

So why do we have to heal? Why make life easy for this gang of thugs?

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