Message found in a bottle of snake oil, in the Sargasso sea…

A friend of mine said, in a lovely,erudite presentation to some very smart folk:

“a weakness of my current thinking is a lack of explicitly encompassing the group, the social.”

Totally agree, we all lack this.

Re-examine page 49 of ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’, written by myself.

Then think about that botanical nostrum – Early Years textbooks teach that there are three kinds of play in young humans and many mammals: 

  • individual play
  • parallel play
  • social play

Know that this is botany – classifying plants by the shape of their leaves. We observe the spots of a leopard, but what is the mechanism that creates them?

What are the primitives, the atomic irreducible processes that underly the phenomena?

We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups. I  suspect they are incommensurable, like weather prediction after Lorenz.

We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups.

This has hamstrung playwork, education, professional football, orchestral performance, NASA budgetary oversight inquiries, Air Accident Investigation, Corporate Fraud Investigation, etcetera etcetera.

There are clues in the Miles Davis approach to group play.

There are clues in Taoism, and Zen.

But as Sapir, Whof and Wittgenstein, and probably Gibson (JJ not W) would tell you, language shapes thought and we do not have the language. 

Try explaining how to put oil into a car without using any car-related, or engine-related words. Go on, try it. Write it down, now go through it and strike out any car-related and engine-related words that crept in. We don’t have a big enough RAM, our short-term memory, to hold even one sentence of the resulting tedious arm-waving stuttering verbiage.

Why doesn’t the world move when I shake my head?


M’learned friend also said:

“This has many implications, but that main one is that we should judge education by the value created for stakeholders (laudate Tom) – this is fittingly complex and circular. 


Very pleased that you rate teecha Tom.

Not stakeholders, feck stakeholders. Leave that to the Tory Goovey Gradgrindians.

I  think you might mean participants? If so then I‘ll semi-agree.

How would you judge a Beth Chatto garden? Answer that and you’ll know how to judge education .


Read Seedstock by Frank Herbert… full text here…

I  cannot link to that story without rereading it, and when I  reread it, I  cannot help but be moved to tears.


Koan for you: “how can we value things without judging them?” asked the abbot.

Answers on a postcard to my fastness by Ruabon mountain, please, or via ‘e-mail’.


“It was a failure to think critically…”

“Let us pray, now, for science,” intoned a New York Times columnist back at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. The title of his article laid down the foundational faith of Trump-era liberalism: “Coronavirus is What You Get When You Ignore Science.”

“Ten months later, at the end of a scary article about the history of “gain of function” research and its possible role in the still ongoing Covid pandemic, Nicholson Baker wrote as follows: “This may be the great scientific meta-experiment of the 21st century. Could a world full of scientists do all kinds of reckless recombinant things with viral diseases for many years and successfully avoid a serious outbreak? The hypothesis was that, yes, it was doable. The risk was worth taking. There would be no pandemic.”

“Except there was. If it does indeed turn out that the lab-leak hypothesis is the right explanation for how it began — that the common people of the world have been forced into a real-life lab experiment, at tremendous cost — there is a moral earthquake on the way.

“Because if the hypothesis is right, it will soon start to dawn on people that our mistake was not insufficient reverence for scientists, or inadequate respect for expertise, or not enough censorship on Facebook. It was a failure to think critically about all of the above, to understand that there is no such thing as absolute expertise. Think of all the disasters of recent years: economic neoliberalism, destructive trade policies, the Iraq War, the housing bubble, banks that are “too big to fail,” mortgage-backed securities, the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016 — all of these disasters brought to you by the total, self-assured unanimity of the highly educated people who are supposed to know what they’re doing, plus the total complacency of the highly educated people who are supposed to be supervising them.”

Let’s make a distinction between:

1. ‘ignoring science’, which implies believing in something other than science, and,

2. ‘believing in science’, and

3. ‘not believing in things at all’.

By which I mean, not believing anything anyone says until you have thought about it. Which implies understanding how science works, which implies possessing the skill of ‘thinking critically’ about something.


People don’t like doing it.

It’s easier to believe, because then you don’t have to think.

Until something bad happens. Like Covid.

So if Covid escaped from a lab, who can we trust?

Answer, don’t trust anyone, gather information and think.

Thinking is underrated. ‘They’ don’t want you to do it, which is OK, but only if ‘they’ are doing the thinking for you.

Turns out they were lazy, and didn’t think.

And millions died.

Dr. Ian Malcolm :

“Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Jurassic Park (1993) – Jeff Goldblum as Malcolm – IMDb

Intersectional Torturers – Caitlin Johnstone

Brilliant writing. Read to the end. Brilliant sociopath riff.

No, I am not woke. My pronouns are fee, fi and fo and not fum.


They need more training (lessons will be learned)

I used to think that. I used to think that training was good. Then I started to have doubts and then I found finite and Infinite Games by James Cause. “Education is what’s left over after training” I think he said. And “All training is about the past, education is about the future” and i realised that training want the answer.

American cops don’t kneel on black necks for nine minutes because they haven’t been properly trained. They do it because they have an attitude towards other human beings. Also, driving around dressed like SWAT-style Starwars stormtroopers might have a negative affect on community-minded bonhomie.

Somebody, some CEO, think it was Jack Welch, CEO of General Electrics, I think said “Hire for attitude; all the rest can be learned on the job.” Notice he said learned.

Learning on the job, very effective. But, unlike training, which these days is mostly Gradgrindian instruction anyway, you can’t control what they learn on the job. You can’t control what people learn, full stop.

Maybe they’ll learn to accept bribes, you know, free doughnuts and coffee, and maybe later, brown envelopes.

You need to police them.

See what i did there? Policing the police. Quis custodiet custodiens? Who watches the watchmen?

In this case the answer is quite simple, managers. Managers exist to manage their workforce. When they’re not asleep after free doughnuts.

Haven’t seen any managers in the dock alongside George Floyd’s state-sponsored murderer.

What I’m saying is, too many cops have the wrong attitude and you can’t change attitudes with fecking Powerpoint slides.

Maybe you need to manage what they learn.

Because lessons won’t be learnt. Mainly because that sentence parses out as “the results of a training event will permanently change behaviour in the targeted cohort”

What are these lessons? Who is learning them?

I memorised the 8 times table and the King’s of Queens of England. I learned my lessons. They taught me to hate history, a parade of robbing scumbags, or so it seemed to me at the time. Quite like that Lucy Worseley on the telly don’t dress-up, mind. Posh people on the BBC, it’s like the 1950s again. Is rickets back yet? Dolly blue?

Yes, lessons will be learned. They need more training.

Kill me now.

No not you officer, it’s just a figure of speech, please don’t.

International Women Containers

Happy International Women’s Day.

‘Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth’.

“I know I have been guilty of that myself”

Said any man not a total git


Expand your mental containers!

Smaller Mirrors: shrinking containers, the senescence phase

trader culture in politics. Jane Jacobs

Adjacent possibles, brittleness fitness landscape. Stuart Kauffman

Life cycles

Evolution only goes forward, like politicians

All things pass gas (apologies to George Harrison)

Nearly half of the children of the greatest nation on earth live in poverty.

Dear Santa, I want one thing. (sic) I been a good girl and I want to ask you if you please get me a power wheelchair. My wheelchair is very old and it does not want to work. I am very sad. Please Santa, bring me a power wheelchair. I don’t want nothing else.

Dear Santa … My wish is money for my (sic) perents. $100 dollars would help us a lot. They are having a rough time with the bills.” 

Dear Santa, how are you and your reindeer? It must be cool riding a sled in the sky…. this year for Christmas I would really like a couch that is also a bed. The reason I would like a couch with a bed is because I have a[n] apartment that only has one room. My parents sleep in the living room on the couch and they always wake up with back pain. My dad works a lot, so his back pain stresses him out.” 

Even prior to the pandemic, the United States lagged other developed nations in child poverty levels. More than one out of every five American children lives in poverty, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data. As the pandemic continues to exacerbate the underlying crisis of American poverty, 45 percent of all children now live in households that have recently struggled with routine expenses, according to a report out this month from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP. Black and Latino households have been especially impacted by the economic starvation that the mishandling of this pandemic has wrought, and these populations were already disproportionately likely to grow up poor.

I like to think that never tell you what a great coffee I had in the Algarve…

But apparently people do. They call it journalling. It’s a way of inflicting your interesting thoughts about coffee or your new t-shirt.


“If journaling is on your 2021 goals list, then Day One needs to live on your macOS dock. It’s the best tool for journaling on the Appel (sic) platform with built-in sync from Mac to iPhone/iPad. Day One makes it easy to document the funny things your kids say, great school projects, or the best cup of coffee you had on an overseas trip.”

Kill me now.

Go ahead and jump, poodle!

A musicological socio-sexual gender-fluid analysis of a poodle-rock classic: ‘Jump’ by Van Halen.

If you are not pissing yourself laughing at this video within 45 seconds, you’re missing the point.

First observation: oestrogen or testosterone?

It doesn’t matter. Socioologists and endocrinologists and shagnologists will tell you that human sexual response is incredibly complex and that in part the female sex drive is governed, suprisingly, by male hormones and something complicated about blokes here also, whatever.

Let’s be more blunt – is this video gay? Now, to be clear, I don’t mean this in a homophobic way, I mean “are there aspects of this performative behavioural episode* which might be related to the sorts of performance traditionally embraced by the gay community, characterised by the extremes of anguished emotionality of such divas as Piaf, Mercury or Judy? 

Hell, yes.

Is this video camp?

Does the Pope shit in the woods?

Hegel** memorably said “All opposites shade ineluctably into their opposites”

“Ineluctably”, brilliant word. Very gay word. “early 17th century: from Latin ineluctabilis, from in- ‘not’ + eluctari ‘struggle out’.” As in ‘impossible not to fight its way out’.  How gay is that?

But we’re not here to mince words —LOL, I said mince— we’re here to discuss this song and the video. 

OK I lied. If you want all that arpeggiated B flat minor over the root in G, on F and G which gives it a Lydian feel, then this rather RAWK dude has all the muso-malarkey you desire. Did you know that part of the guitar solo was punched in? No? Well’ you do now. Don’t know what ‘punched in’ means? googlit, biatch. 

Rick Beato explains all here:

What Makes This Song Great? Ep.61 VAN HALEN (#2)

We’re actually here to discuss the video. WTF is it? For me it is a bunch of extremely heterosexual white males adopting the performative language of a southern Californian thirteen year old girl posing in her bedroom mirror.  Is that gay? Fucktifiknow.

Is David Lee Roth, sexually threatening? Yes. Is that a good thing? Depends, I’m not answering that.  Is he really sexually threatening? Nah. It’s too much of a parody of a parody to be that. Does he know what he is doing? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe at some level, whatever 

Check out the ‘hair-muss’ and head toss at 0:17.  Compare and contrast with a handy 13 year old girl.  (I haven’t actually done this, officer, so don’t call social services, thank you very much.) 100% the total self absorption of a teen gazing full-on into their bedroom mirror. slightly disconcerting. Meant to be. Gotcha!

At 0:34, the turn away – total teen girl.  The first of many, then at 0:37, MCU, and we see what he is wearing in detail for the first time. Are those leather chaps? I fear so, m’lud. Possibly rubber or vinyl, as if that makes a difference. A black mesh slip over a sleveless orange vest.  An outfit which a mere ten years earlier, if worn on Top of The Pops would cause every dad in the UK to splutter into his cocoa., and, when emulated by a teenage girl (or boy) would inelucatbly elicit the expostulation: “YOU ARE NOT GOING OUT DRESSED LIKE THAT, YOUNG LADY!!!”

Then the hands on the lower rib cage. Need I say more?

On the other hand, here’s the infamous Aztec Camera cover, in which a Devon fudge-toned Roddy Frame, takes the piss right back at the Halen’s for their their ‘twee guitar playing’ comment in the NME. Totally devoid of machismo, it’s a song to brighten any shoe-gazing indie boy’ bedroom.  Lot of ‘Sweet Jane’ in there, and a dash of ’Waiting for a Friend’ by the Glimmer twins.  you have to listen to the full long version with the ‘fuck you, I can rock’ guitar solo…

Hello! Hey you! Just found this. Boy in a band who looks like a girl ripping the piss out of a bloke in a band that looks like a girl for looking like a girl. Nice one, Rodders – live version:  At 2:16 is that a bit of Stairway? Or the intro to Layla?

But I digress…

At 0:59, some obligatory puppyish “we’re not gay”  male bonding

At 1:02 a drumkit so huge that it has its own postcode, constructed entirely from the ruins of vanquished T-800 Terminators. This is actually irrelevant, but I don’t care.

There is some debate about the origins of this song “”I heard this song was about some woman who sent David a letter saying “marry me or i jump off a bridge.”  see comments below the video. Is the song a response to her?  Search me guv. 

Others claim that the song has provoked suicide. When we say others, I probably mean Newt Gingrich or Nancy ‘Parental Advisory just say no’ Reagan. Whatever. Nice joke in response to that moral kerfuffle: from SMAXZO, 4 months ago “ “Your call to the Suicide Prevention Hotline is very important to us. Our crisis counselors are busy at the moment, please hold” this song is played while you’re on hold”. Find their comment, and the next one, here:

“There’s so many comments about suicide here, funny this is— most of those commenters may not know that David was inspired by a news coverage of someone jumping off of a building. However, the song is more “jump into love/life” rather than, well, kill yourself.”, opined one Keith Gunshot, probably not the name on his birth certificate.

If you believe official band websites, you can find the ‘fun facts’ here. 

Interestingly, they allegedly knocked ‘Karma Chameleon’   off the Billboard Number#1 position , a track that featured the massively gay but weirdly non-threatening, liked by your nan, cross-dressing, Boy George and Culture Club.  You have to feel for dads watching TOTP back then.

Where was I? Ah yes, ‘pouty stare’. At 1:24, the uber pouty stare. At this exact moment in time, Mick Jagger’s crown and cheekbones were passed to the next generation.

OMG! What’s this? At 1:57, Lap dancer pose! Don’t want to get too David Attenborough narrating mating dingos in the Outback, but this is classic female mating behaviour – the open mouth and all-fours pose, back slightly arched, signalling oestrus to  nearby males. We won’t mention anal glands, mainly because humans don’t have any, thankfully. 

“The estrous cycle or oestrus cycle (derived from Latin oestrus “frenzy”, originally from Greek οἶστρος oîstros “gadfly”) is the set of recurring physiological changes that are induced by reproductive hormones in most mammalian therian females. Estrous cycles start after sexual maturity in females and are interrupted by anestrous phases or by pregnancies. Typically, estrous cycles continue until death. Some animals may display bloody vaginal discharge, often mistaken for menstruation.”  Thanks for that, Wikipedia. 

Moving on, thankfully,  it gets traditionally rockist for the solo. At 2:19, what a nice smiley young man, says your mum. Followed by the Oberheim OB-Xa keyboard solo. Me want. Me wanna OB-Xa.

Followed by a reprise featuring aerobics and silly walks.

“All opposites shade ineluctably into their opposites”, said Hegel. The song has a reprise, so I can too. Whatever. How anyone could think this song encourages suicide is a fucking moron. 

Up, doesn’t begin to describe it. High on life maybe. 

Are we having fun yet?




(like a proper academic tosser)

*I made that up.

** Hegel. Bloody googlit yourself, I’m not doing all the work for you, jeez.

One of my less appealing habits

One of my less appealing habits is the consumption, stood over the sink, of a tin of sardines. Omega 3 n shit. Cause for celebration, I actually enjoyed them, little fishy tomatoey bony little fuckers that they are. Don’t ever get them from Lidl. Scales, yeurgh. Why am I telling you this? Because I actually enjoyed them.
I actually enjoyed them. I actually enjoyed them because…
…my sense of taste has come back! Not because of the covid, avoided so far, don’t touch wood, or plastic or metal, or your face. Well, because of the covid, but indirectly. Instead of dental extraction —don’t forget to brush regularly, unlike me— I’ve had two doses of antibiotics. Yep. Proper antibiotics. Metronizadole. One of the very few Antibiotics Of Last Resort.

Not an ordinary antibiotic. Ordinary antibiotic, being shortchanged from a fiver. Metrofuckazine, having your car stolen and watching them set it on fire. Hallucifuckingnations. Metallic taste in my mouth for 3 months. Every time I take the pill, 4 times a day, precisely two hours later, instant heavy flu symptoms. Ever-present metallic taste, throbbing headache, bunged sinuses, aches, pains. Two hours later, gone. Just in time for another fucking pill. And the ever-lasting metallic taste, like welsh mizzle, dreich of the palate, blehque, bleurgh. Ugh.

Today food tasted like actual food for the first time in months. Yay. Fuck you, covid. Yep, covid, because you don’t deserve a capital letter.

Cake in the rain

A friend is at home wishing she could attend her friend’s father’s funeral but she can’t because of lockdown, immediate family only. She could drive to Barnard Castle though. If she had a car. And knew how to drive.

It’s raining here. Good for the garden and the crops. I like it when it rains, it means I’m not pining to go out.

Not that i like the sun, it’s too hot. My favourite thing was sitting under an umbrella outside a pavement cafe, nursing a coffee or a tiny foreign beer, on a sunny day in Lisbon, watching people.

I like the idea of the sun more than the greasy sun cream, sand and flies, gusts of wind blowing my newspaper about, reality of it.

Rain is British. Once we are out of the EU with no deal it will rain incessantly and all the brown and black people will dissolve; there’ll just be muddy water stains on pavements and a faint smell of curry.

The NHS will dissolve as well, melting in the dark, like a cake in the rain.

Humans are betweeners

Donny knows it’s the inbetween not the things.

The material of playwork is relationships, connections. Between humans and between humans and things. It’s not about things. It’s not about Lou Spartz, it’s about our relationship with them. It’s all just junk if you think it is. That’s what that bloke Gibson is on about: affordances are the possibilities that you can see, observe, grasp.

Who are you when you are alone? Less human. That’s not a judgement, it’s an observation. I nearly wrote ‘just an observation’ as if a judgement is a bigger thing then an observation, which it isn’t. We get bigger, wider, deeper, when we are connected. Which is not to say that alone is less. It’s different.

LostWorkshops1: why lying to children is a parental dutyand lying to consultancy clients is a crime

This workshop, drawing on the work of Lakoff and Johnson, Postman and Weingartner, Dunbar, Tsoukas, Miyami, Minkoff, Vespuigi, Cohen and Stewart, Maturana and Hegel explores the complex relationship between truth, solidarity, tribal bonding, decision-making, leadership and socialisation, and the limitations of consultation and evaluation.

In today’s complex world of true lies and false facts, where the internet is blah blah.

To book this workshop contact Plexity. For more information, please reread.

Scarfolk Books have asked me to point out that they are not sponsoring this workshop and apologise for the misleading flyers.