Rather guiltily I was nursing a sense of schadenfreude when England were 2-0 behind against Croatia on Wednesday. And I was not at all anxious ahead of the earlier Israel v Russia match, which Russia had to lose (apparently unlikely, but it did happen) for England to stand a chance of qualifying for the 2008 European Championships (ie by beating Croatia). So England are out, and the manager Steve McClaren has been kicked into touch.

I don’t follow football so closely to judge whether this a fair comment on McClaren, and wish him no ill. In any event, as the Croatia game wore on, my nationalism was asserting itself, hoping for a reversal of the reversal. It came and went, England clawed back two goals and all too inevitably, it seemed, conceded a third.

But the reason for my mixed emotions was that I was secretly hoping that if McClaren went, the job would go to Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill, even though he’s ruled himself out today, it appears. The reason for my enthusiasm was simple. He once quoted William Goldman’s famous line: Continue reading ‘nobody knows anything (football version)’

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Tweet Times columnist Simon Barnes has endorsed those of us who wear our hunter-gatherer-ness on our sleeves. In a short essay on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Barnes spoke of the fans he has been accompanying on assignment while covering the Rugby World Cup in France:- The rest are here in pursuit of […]

Tweet “It ain’t over till it’s over,” Yogi Berra famously used to say. If you’re an English rugby fan, there can be no truer words to reflect your recent experience. I normally don’t follow rugby very closely, for various family reasons, but have a habit of walking in to watch the last 5 minutes of […]

Blogging orthodoxy seems to dictate that short posts of regular frequency represent the best strategy for maintaining a loyal readership. But here at the Knackered Hack we just keep “doing the opposite,” to quote Scott Page and Seinfeld’s George Costanza. It has indeed been a long time since the last (very short) post about memory. Sorry about that. It was not that I forgot — I’m not that dogmatic.

In a nutshell, I’ve been away. And a little busy. And also thinking hard. Now I’m back, both literally and metaphysically. So, “normal” service can now resume. But please be prepared for wide variations in post length, frequency and variety, and possibly more inclusions of pictures and other things to delight your limbic, as I get more of a handle on this Web 2.0 malarkey. Rather than a woeful lack of structure and organisation, I would frame this as a necessary preservation of playfulness and spontaneity in what might otherwise become a predictable yet likely unreadable blog.

Even less frequent a blogger is Nassim Taleb, the Knackered Hack’s favourite interviewee. He does not really have a blog in the terms understood above, but you can go here to see what he had to say about the current credit crunch. He is more regular with his home page notes, where he has an interesting item about fruits and their sweetness. (Hat tip to Paul Wilmott, whose company hosts the Taleb “blog”, while it is Art de Vany who highlights the discussion on the history of sweetness in fruits.)

In a future post I’m going to write about figs, which is connected with what Taleb is talking about. Here is a picture that includes figs, just to be going along with. Underneath all the basil is some parma ham – a delightful partner to fig.

2007 Sep Figs 001 Cropped

Meanwhile, de Vany says this in response to Taleb:-

The process for producing sweetness and tenderness is selective breeding, as you [Taleb] note, and selection for neotony, the retention of juvenile traits in the adult. Ah, it seems that is true of people these days as well. Many fail to achieve adulthood. On the other hand, humans evolved a form of neotony and retain their juvenile traits of playfulness and pleasure longer than chimps and other animals. It was an advantage for our large-brained, highly social species to retain aspects of youthfulness.”

Prior to this comment, de Vany’s emphasis on play has been having a quite profound effect on Knackered Hack thinking, and much of the Knackered Family’s time away from blogging has been spent head-scratching on that particular issue. Lots more on that in future posts. And, of course, de Vany is echoed in a slightly different context by today’s news, reported in a letter to the Daily Telegraph by a group of scientists, educationists, authors, and other advocates about toxic childhood and the declining quality of children’s play in the UK.

Compelling examples [of research supporting this view] have included Unicef’s alarming finding that Britain’s children are amongst the unhappiest in the developed world, and the children’s charity NCH’s report of an explosion in children’s clinically diagnosable mental health problems.

We believe that a key factor in this disturbing trend is the marked decline over the last 15 years in children’s play. Play – particularly outdoor, unstructured, loosely supervised play – appears to be vital to children’s all-round health and well-being.”

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From Knackered Downunder

Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in the US, is bemoaning the lack of connection that many Americans now have with culture. It may be a familiar argument, but Gioia’s point is that it wasn’t always so.

What’s also interesting is that Gioia — in a commencement speech at Stanford last week — claims that one of the side-effects has been the bifurcation of America into passive and active citizens; in other words, those who spend time as passive consumers of electronic entertainment, and another group which uses and enjoys the new technology.

They go out — to exercise, play sports, volunteer and do charity work at about three times the level of the first group. By every measure they are vastly more active and socially engaged than the first group. Continue reading ‘art for art’s sake’

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