The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

Blogged prose fiction by Joshua Gaskell


I am the WEBMASTER, and it is I that will be presenting to you, READER, the private journal of Donald Pincher, aspiring author. How I came to be possessed of it is no concern of yours. And in any case, if I did go about to tell you by what accident I obtained covert access to the file, it would in this unbelieving age pass for little more than the cant or jargon of the blogosphere. Suffice to say that he types Journal.doc on his computer (Windows ME) and, in his careless cyber-luddism, has left open a pathway vulnerable to exploitation by those of us who know the ways of data capture.
Pincher is a pious, small-c-conservative young fogey of the leftmost wing. He lives unfashionably in the London district of Forest Hill SE23, and devotes his life to writing entries in his Oxford Urban Dictionary, trying to find someone willing to publish his novel – five-hundred pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature – and to being fruitlessly apoplectic about the price of things in the capital. A privacy obsessive, much of his novel consists of (in equal measure) decrying the dangers of the Internet age, and mocking its pretentions. Which is why I thought it would be funny for him to write his own blog, even if it is one that he doesn’t know he’s writing.
Though the automatic-upload macro I’ve attached to Pincher’s journal makes me something of a deistical Prime Mover, I will occasionally deign to intervene in ‘the cool of the day’ (to footnote, to hyperlink, to tag, or otherwise curate). To this end you will know me by my dark-blue font.
Without further ado, I present to you what I’ve chosen to dub, in the idiom of its unwitting BLOGGER, The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

Thursday, 5th March 2015

Click through, v.

Pronunciation: /klɪk θruː/
Etymology: < click v. + through adv.

1. Theoret. To access an advertiser’s website by clicking on an advertisement on another web page.
2. Pract. To access an advertiser’s website by (accidentally) clicking on an advertisement on another web page.

Wednesday, 4th March 2015

This morning’s news that the government has sold its stake in Eurostar is an opportunity to reflect on the privatisation of Britain’s public assets, which has been taking place for the last four decades – mostly the last three – and shows no sign of abating. It’s a supply-side process (the public never having demanded it be relieved of its chattels) and will therefore presumably cease only when the supply runs out; when some future Chancellor privatises himself into a corner, sells the last square of Westminsterian carpet on which he’s standing, and finally shuts up shop.

The argument over whether or not £757.1 million for Eurostar is a good or bad deal misses the point. Making the calculation in the first place is cynical, in the Wildean sense of being carried out by those who know ‘the price of everything and the value of nothing’. Before today I could travel through the Chunnel with an abstract sense that the HS1 Eurostar service belonged to me; and, importantly, so could everyone else, making it, in aggregate, priceless. By reducing everyone to members of Patina Rail LLP, the government has put a price on priceless and thereby radically shrunk the value of the asset. The same was true of British Telecom, British Gas, British Airways, the water authorities, the electricity industry, and Royal Mail; and the same will be true of HS2 if and when, tens of billions of pounds having been spent, a future government sells that too.

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy has this to say under privatization:

[It] encourages ‘commodification’: changes to goods making them more market-friendly, such as turning them into distinctly priced units or solely developing their revenue-yielding properties. This has negative side-effects. Elephant populations in Zimbabwe increased after elephants were privatized. Yet, the value inherent in having ‘free-roaming creatures in their natural habitat’ is lost when individuals have control-conferring property rights over these creatures.

I don’t know about Zimbabwe, but in Britain this process of commodification has led to privatised gains and socialised losses: politicians have addicted themselves to the role of asset-stripping ivory merchants, whilst being unable to shirk the state’s duty of administering the elephants’ graveyard.

Tuesday, 3rd March 2015

Private vices, public virtues, phr.

Pronunciation: /ˈprʌɪvᵻt ˈvʌɪsɪz ˈpʌblɪk ˈvəːtjuːz/
Etymology: < pop. var. of subtitle: The Fable of the Bees, or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits (1714) by Bernard Mandeville.

1. Regarding eighteenth-century spending: Mandeville’s provocative assertion that the private vice of acquisitiveness is a necessary evil in creating the public virtue of a thriving market economy.
2. Regarding twenty-first-century borrowing: the Tories’ self-contradictory assertion that debt is natural for private individuals (student loans: hurrah!), but unnatural for the public purse (deficit: boo!).

Friday, 27th February 2015

The only case I’ve come across of two forms of the same word being listed in the OED as separate entries is that of transferable and transferrable. In other words, the only two OED headwords I know of that are ‘Capable of being transferred’ are those of which that is the definition. Spooky.

Thursday, 26th February 2015

Go (a-)travelling, v.

Pronunciation: /ɡəʊ (ə)ˈtravəlɪŋ/
Etymology: < go v. (+ a prep.) + travelling n. action of travel v.

To travel.


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