Archive | December, 2007

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Stopping Smoking – A Sport Psychology View

Posted on 31 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

The truth is – many top sportsmen do smoke. They always have done. And not the nearly men, either. Zinedine Zidane, Johann Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Shane Warne, the Charlton Brothers and Dino Zoff are all inarguable top achievers and all inarguable smokers. There’s a pretty talented British Division to add to the list: Paul Gascoigne, Freddie Flintoff, Jimmy Greaves.

Tiger Woods smokes.

So did I, and lists like these made me seethe with rage at having to stop. Why should I, when… but I knew why. Dark thoughts at the back of the mind: I didn’t want to shorten my precious life unavoidably. But still, to be leaving this kind of company! It’s something to have in common with men who I then saw as heroes, something to chalk up when other things like skill, tenacity and courage were lacking.

I had a bad time stopping. I didn’t really want to, for one thing. At that time, I owned a bound volume of back numbers from a 1930s 35mm photography magazine. It was clear from the ads in that that my grandparents didn’t have to worry about smoking. Everyone did it, and no one knew it was harmful. (I’ve learned since from talking to people who were alive and smoking at that time that they did suspect it was bad for them, but that they didn’t think they’d live long enough for it to make any real difference. If they’d known they were going to live so long, they’d have taken better care of themselves, etc..) Ready for your trip, 1930s man? Got your cigarettes, your lighter, your 35mm camera, your car keys, your hip flask? In that order? How I envied the dead their peace of mind, if not their World Wars. If Kingsley Amis’s letters are anything to go by, getting good tobacco in 39-45 was an absolute pain. To say nothing of beer.

I suppose fortunately, smoking was the third thing in the whole of my life about which I managed to be stubborn. (The first was first love and the second Oxford University). It took me 30+ attempts to stop, and led to a change in career. Smoking got me into psychology, professionally, in the same way as financial idiocy got me out of it again this year. I’ve already told the story of how an afternoon’s smoking whilst poring over Allen Carr’s Easyway To Stop Smoking Permanently put the idea of a business into my head, and how I then spent many months reading my way through the scientific literature and interviewing everyone who’d talk on the subject. This eventually led to my success in stopping, and in helping other people in time to stop too.

From a sport psychology point of view, stopping smoking is a good example of something really ruddy awkward. At this time of year, when people are writing New Year’s Resolutions, it points up the main differences between resolutions – which largely fail and make their owner feel bad – and goals, which have some chance of making it through.

“Resolutions” tend to be negative (stop smoking, lose weight), punitive (stop being so lazy/negative/nagging/depressed), not personally meaningful (they’ll be things, like stopping smoking, that we don’t want to do but which sound in principle like what a “proper person” would do or want), hard to envisage (smoking looks like.. that, but what does “not smoking” look like, or not eating, or not drinking, other than a great white nothing?) and above all, we generally won’t have a clear idea of how we mean to bring them about or how we intend them to fit into our lives as a whole, our social milieu.

Done properly, goals are quite different, and I’m going to be talking about them a great deal here over the next few weeks. They are different, at least in the way I do them, not only in that they are positive, meaningful and visible to you, not only in that there is at least some measure of planning involved to bring them down to specific actions you can take, but in that they obey certain rules. Here are the rules:

  • You must screw up, get things wrong, fail from time to time, to stay within the rules. This is human behaviour, and non-human behaviour just isn’t cricket where this is concerned.
  • You must forget to pursue your goals, you must drop them accidentally from time to time and find them again months or years later. Again, this is human behaviour, and non-human behaviour isn’t cricket.
  • Your goals are subsidiary to your life. This is a fact – life being what happens while you have other plans. But it’s an attitude, too – your goals must serve you, and the process of going after them must make your experience of life more rewarding in some way or it’s probably not worth it. Effort and suffering can be rewarding and meaningful, but be ready to court martial your goals if they start to work against you. This is about life becoming better, not about punishing you because you’re bad.

There are others, but all in good time.

Sports psychology splits goals into three main types, and knowing what these are helps a great deal in stopping smoking.

  1. Outcome Goals. If you are an athlete, this means winning – winning a signficant competition. Stopping smoking could be an outcome goal, but at this point take my word for it that it’s better off as one of the other two kinds.
  2. Performance Goals. If you are an athlete, a performance goal might be to achieve a certain time, or a certain distance, or a certain weight lifted. A performance goal is something your opponent can’t influence. You are in control. Performance goals overlap to some extent with the third type:
  3. Process Goals. Process goals are about technique. For a swimmer, the outcome goal might be an Olympic medal, the performance goal a certain time achieved, and a process goal perfecting a certain type of kick in the turn. I would put footballer’s Opta stats under process goals – so many passes completed, so many shots on target as a percentage.
  4. The problem with doing the obvious thing, and taking “stopping smoking” as an outcome goal, is that stopping smoking in of itself is rarely meaningful enough on its own to work well. You’ll have to lean on my experience in working with smokers in this – we spend (spent, now that I’m off piste for the time being) more time searching for what would make it meaningful, and making that real, than anything else.

    Why isn’t it meaningful? Why can’t it be a nice, simple outcome goal?

    Look at the reasons smokers give for wanting to stop. Health – I don’t want to get ill. Money – it’s expensive. Social – it’s a dirty habit, and fewer people do it; I feel like a pariah. The smell, the mess. Not wanting to be a slave to it anymore. Not wanting to feel stupid. And so forth.

    If your reasons for stopping have not been enough to actually stop you in the past, they are not going to do it now. They are not going to acquire superstrength overnight and begin to work where once they failed. All of these reasons are very good – but they just aren’t strong enough. Aside from health: if your doctor has told you that you are going to die in a few months’ time from smoking unless you stop (and there are few circumstances in which that might happen; smoking diseases, once underway, are very bad news and once the death sentence is passed, that’s generally it) and you believe him, that is sometimes strong enough. Pregnancy is very often strong enough.

    They aren’t meaningful because there is very little in it for you. If you stop smoking “cold turkey” on New Years’ Day, you will wait twenty years to find out whether or not you have saved your health. In the meantime, the improvement in your general health will be imperfect and glacially slow. What have you got to show for stopping smoking? A long wait – in my experience. The money you save will just vanish in some other way, most likely. What seems like a lot totted up over a year is actually just the equivalent of a round of drinks, or a joint of meat, or less than a cinema ticket or paperback book. And if you put the money into a tin on the mantlepiece.. you are doing better than most. I’d forget to do it after a few days. As for the smell, a promise: after you’ve stopped smoking, the smell of tobacco smoke will become far more disgusting to you and more headache-provoking than it ever was before you started. You will be worse off in that respect. (There are some people who find themselves eagerly sniffing the air for the smell – which goes to show that rules aren’t absolute. These people are going to have a job staying “stopped” – not because they’re weak or stupid, but because that difficulty goes with that experience).

    In short, the classic reasons for stopping smoking do not leave you better off in a way you can enjoy now. Not in a significant way. Outcome goals do leave you better off, so long as they are properly formed. Outcome goals have to make you, personally, feel better. We can’t always predict what will make us feel better, and indeed we are famously bad at such predictions. Stopping smoking does not transform the rest of life.

    But it can become part of something that does transform the rest of life. For me, stopping smoking became part of the wider goal of building my business and having the experiences that went with that. Helping others; ending up in unexpected places; meeting extraordinary people; finding that I was capable of more than I’d thought.

    For me, stopping smoking was a process goal. Or, rather, it was a series of process goals. Let me explain what I mean.

    As I’ve said, “stopping smoking” is a negative. You can see yourself washing up; you can see yourself not washing up (think of a sink full of pans and dishes). But thinking of an empty hand is unspecific. Your hands are empty much of the time. An empty hand doesn’t directly refer to “not smoking”.

    Fortunately, smoking is not a futile thing to do, and we can break it down into what it is actually doing for us – and then find a means of fulfilling those needs in better ways. Often, there’s a “universal” way of fulfilling those needs – by fulfilling greater needs that have a prevailing imperative over the ones smoking fulfils.

    Smoking does different things for different people living in their respective contexts and milieus. But these are what appear to be the most general benefits people gain from smoking:

  • Smoking helps you to relax.
  • Smoking helps you to concentrate
  • Smoking gives you something to do when bored
  • Smoking can keep you company when you’re lonely
  • Smoking gives you something to do with your hands
  • Smoking gives you social confidence, perhaps an air of “street”
  • Smoking looks elegant, even sexy
  • Smoking can mark special moments – after dinner, after sex
  • Smoking makes drinking better, and goes well with tea/coffee
  • Smoking is a powerful de-stresser
  • Smokers are the sociable ones
  • Smoking gives you a way to break the ice (“cigarette?” – proffers packet)
  • Smoking “scratches the big itch of life” (ht: Rob Kelly)
    1. Not all of those will be true for everyone, and some of them will be controversial to people with other ideas about the nature of smoking. The steady social dismissal of smoking makes many people reluctant to admit that there is anything at all to gain from smoking.

      But I’d argue that there are good reasons to break smoking down this way. For one thing, it explains smoking. Cigarettes went around the world at lightning speed – in sixty years changing from bizarre Ottoman Turk practice to that thing two thirds of the population did without thinking. Cigarettes did more for people, more easily, than any product ever known before or since. The Ipod isn’t the perfect product (and just you wait for the deafness epidemic..); a pack of Woodbines is. Smoking doesn’t stop you driving, flying, working machinery, making love, watching TV, shopping, eating; you can buy cigarettes anywhere 24/7 (only of petrol and junk food can the same be said) and they are, in the QVC phrase, so easy to use.

      For another, it restores the smoker’s sense of control. This is important. I found my own smoking infuriating, inexplicable. I could give up rowing, or concert-going. But not this. Why not? Because although the individual benefits I was getting from smoking were relatively small, they were cumulative (20 a day) and universal, amounting to a very large overall psychological benefit. What that means is that it’s an enormous tragedy that smoking should be so bad for health. It’s so good in so many other ways.

      For another, it should be apparent that these benefits can be obtained in other ways, from other things.

      Some people do go down the road of taking each benefit, each need, in turn and seeing how they can supply themselves with it in alternative ways from smoking. Others – and I count myself here – find more universal ways of doing it.

      Here’s where outcome goals do come in. If your outcome goal is deeply meaningful to you, and smoking is in the way of its achievement, then stopping smoking automatically becomes a process goal. What’s more, the psychological benefits of smoking recede. Because of your outcome goal, the benefits are now having to compensate you for not achieving this huge meaningful thing. And they, like the classic “reasons to stop smoking” are ultimately limited in their strength. They are not strong enough to compensate for disabling your outcome goal.

      For instance? I have had clients who were runners, and wanted to reach the next level. One I remember in particular, who had a race in mind, along the top of the Andes. We worked together to make it possible for them to see and feel that outcome – the spectacular scenery, the air in the lungs, the legs in that mode where it feels as though they can run forever.. we made every part of that outcome real. The feeling of being there, of actually having made it, the pride and satisfaction. And the steps to get there, the plan, the what-do-I-do-absolutely-next. At a certain point, the whole thing becomes clear; the person begins to trust themselves that they will take those specific steps, and thus they begin to believe, absolutely, that they will be there in the Andes. At that point, the achievement of making it there begins to work for them, in advance. They begin to enjoy the psychological benefits of the achievement, because of that element of self-trust. And the benefits of something that meaningful outweigh entirely what lies in the way – smoking. And when that happens, the habit just becomes an irrelevance, a left-over, and it crumples.

      Another example. A talented musician, whose dream was to become a professional, playing on stage. Hers was a wind instrument, and her tutor was aware of the depth of her ability. But because she smoked, her breathing was impaired, and her lung capacity reduced. Her tutor told her that she could make it – if only she stopped smoking! We worked together to make that prospect feel real and doable for her – every aspect of what it would really be like (including the mundane and the downsides, as unrealistic visions have no real power in them). She realised that smoking was in fact all that stood between her and her dream – and, once again, the benefits of the dream being realised more than compensated for the loss of the benefits of smoking. Smoking became an irrelevance, an outdated thing, and she stopped, effortlessly. She’s in Paris now, playing live with famous names.

      And then… there’s my story. Ahem. Not so glamorous or glorious, but the same principles apply. I began planning my business in the mid-90s, and one day I was having a drink with this bloke. We’re old friends, and as is sometimes the way with old friends, most of our conversations sound like all-out arguments. I’d been “sharing my plans” with him – the new techniques I’d pioneer, the consultancy I’d build, and would have built had I not been such a fool with money. He kind of listened, and then said something I’ll never forget:

      You’ll never stop smoking, James. You have an addictive personality.

      I thought, “I’ll show you, you *****”. That cigarette was my last. The prospect of an exciting new life (and it turned out to be that, for quite a lot of the time, at least at first) and of shoving his words back up his nose in perpetuity (and I do, unlovely as it is) outweighed the benefits of smoking and made them irrelevant to me. I haven’t smoked since.

      A word about “addiction”. There is no doubt at all that cigarettes, largely through the medium of nicotine, is highly psychoactive. It makes you feel different. Of course it is – otherwise, no benefits. Some people are in greater need of those benefits than others – especially sufferers from the various anxiety disorders and depressive conditions. It is clear to me that the task of stopping smoking is genuinely a great deal harder for such people, many of whom are undiagnosed or who, for the perfectly good reasons of protecting their own dignity and sense of self, would find diagnosis distasteful. It’s harder, and it’s not their fault it’s harder – no one brings such conditions upon themselves as these things are subject to fate and luck.

      Our understanding of the action of nicotine in the brain is far greater now than it was five years ago, and the growth of that understanding is accelerating. In my opinion, one result has been to utterly undermine the claims of most existing smoking cessation programmes but especially nicotine replacement therapy or NRT. Television adverts are accurate when they claim that NRT more than doubles your chances of success. It does, from about 2-4% to as high as between 10 and 16 percent. I leave you to decide if that amounts to abuse of statistics.

      In terms of addiction, I do not like most attempts to ram cigarettes, alcohol, heroin, cocaine, skunk, gambling, sex-lines and the rest in together under that heading – I don’t see how it helps our understanding or our attempts to provide effective treatments. Lance Dodes’ theory that “addiction” is a subset of more generally obsessive behaviour looks more promising than a thousand articles whittering on about dopamine. Luckily, what I think, or what anyone else thinks, isn’t crucial. Neuroscientific research has a habit of rendering old jargon, old concepts and old thinking irrelevant in spite of the personal biases of those involved.

      But if you accept that nicotine is essential – and I do – it’s worth considering that it’s essential, not in of itself, but what its effects mean to you personally, and where that meaning stacks up in your overall scheme of things. If your outcome goal is good enough, stopping smoking won’t be the most challenging process goal you’ll ever face.

      Of course, the Zinedanes and Cruyffs pose a problem. If fags don’t stop you making the World Cup Final… shhh…

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    Bobby Fischer in 1972

    Posted on 30 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    It’s hard not to feel that this film is really about cars and not chess. Some fine automobiles in evidence, including a Citroen DS and an early Range Rover.

    This was when the world was young. A year after the fall of Bretton Woods, but before the deployment of the Oil Bomb. Some consider 1972 the last full year of a golden age.

    It’s a beautiful film, anyway, and makes me wish I could feel interested in chess. Even meeting Nigel Short in 1993 (in St James’s Park during his spanking by Kasparov; he told me to go forth and multiply, if I remember rightly) didn’t manage that.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9XgReXHWw8&rel=1]

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    West Ham 2 Manchester United 1

    Posted on 30 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    A great game – victory for the underdogs, plenty of skill on display, and a crowd riot at the end.

    But you won’t find the highlights at 101 Great Goals. They’re here instead:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEy9AHw6yfw&rel=1]

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    Scottish Football in 1973

    Posted on 30 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    It was no small peak: the national side made it to the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1958, and took a genuinely competitive squad. Holland aside, it’s hard to identify who, really, were better than Scotland player for player at that time. Rangers were European Cup Winners Cup holders, and Celtic still had the pre-crash Jock Stein at the helm.

    This German documentary (in English) ought to be an out and out celebration, then:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPSi1cFbH7g&rel=1]

    Late in the year, Scotland played a friendly at Hampden against the hosts of the forthcoming tournament, West Germany. Netzer and Beckenbauer against Bremner and a young, young Dalglish. You’ll have to watch it if you can’t remember the score:

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    2007 Review

    Posted on 23 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    A hideous shipwreck of year, for me personally, with the sole and comparative comfort being that 2007 is not quite over: the first part of 2008 promises far worse and quickly.

    At first sight, the same might be said of sport. The BBC Sports Personality of the Year did its best to put on a brave face. But so little sport is there on the BBC these days that the show had the air of outsiders looking in. And how, exactly, did cousin Lewis fail to win?

    It was impossible not to feel for the Scotland national team too, pushed into second by the English rugby boys. But if you agree with me that Scotland have no excuse to regard themselves as giantkillers – France have not always been the better of the two sides and there are practical, copiable reasons why they are now – and think that it was Scotland’s resort to “passion and commitment” that led directly to Italy’s first Hampden goal – and want to know what happened to them in Georgia, exactly – and regard England rugby’s rapid decline as quite disgracefully avoidable – then the real team to feel sorry for is the Great Britain Cycling Team, which performed magnificently in Beijing.

    In some respects, 2007 was the best year for English football for some time. The Under 21 national team let noone down, to everyone’s surprise. And that, gentlemen, is how to lose a penalty shoot-out. But the relative success they’ve enjoyed makes me worry about Stuart Pearce becoming the next obviously-not-up-to-it candidate for the big job. Should Pearce come to succeed Fabio Capello in four/eight weeks/months/years (delete as appropriate) he will inspire pride in the dignity with which an obviously fine man will carry himself, in a small number of inspiring victories, and his grace following dismissal. But he will not have had the chance to learn his trade in the lower divisions, if it is there to be learned there in the absence of any English management training or development culture. Pearce won’t refuse his country should the call come. But he deserves considerably better than to be offered it under current conditions.

    It was a good year, too, in that the bullshit that has powered the national side for the last two years has been shown up. I won’t go back over the debacle. Simply – enough, enough of players welcoming Capello… it’s in such shocking taste. And so depressing sometimes. Thus, Micah Richards:

    I don’t know much about him apart from he is a big name in football and that his managerial record speaks for itself.

    I have been told he is a big believer in sports psychology and getting players’ mental preparation right.

    Is that important? Well, with what he is bringing to the table, it must be. You don’t win the things he has won without doing something different.

    For me, it will be nice to meet him and see what ideas he has got.

    Far more diverting were Steve Gibson’s pair of interviews in which he discussed Steve McClaren. First, we had this:

    We’re friendly enough now, we shake hands when we meet but he’s never been back since he left and he’s not on my Christmas card list. And we never want to get into that situation again, I don’t want a guy who is always thinking about the next rung on the ladder. If Steve McClaren said to me the grass is green, I would go out and check. He can be charming but he had this streak of ambition that was absolutely bloody ruthless and you can’t go through life always trying to achieve your ambitions at the expense of others. (..)He just saw us as a stepping stone and if you can make enemies at a club like ours, you’re going to be in trouble when things go wrong.

    Which was followed by this, apparently in apology!

    Despite their accuracy, my comments did not represent my thoughts and assessment of Steve’s five-year period at Middlesbrough.

    Utterly unfair, but thoroughly entertaining.

    On a more positive note, England is host to the most beautiful sight in the beautiful game: Arsene Wenger’s young Arsenal, playing quite dazzling football in that marvellous new stadium. Is there anyone in the English game really prepared, even now, to understand why there are so few young Englishmen in Wenger’s sides? It’s not just money. I saw this game in a cod-Irish pub in Earls Court in January:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJHdZAxw2T8&rel=1]

    Although what follows was probably the greatest individual performance by a team in 2007, it was certainly the most pointless.

    But that, really, is that. The news that Kingsley Amis’s three books on drink are to be republished in one volume by Bloomsbury, introduced by Christopher Hitchens, is of far more moment than anything 2007 or sporting. I’ll be needing that on my park bench.

    That, and the news, on a scrap of old newspaper I’m forcing under my shirt for warmth, that David Beckham is England captain once more. If it isn’t real, I’ll just have to dream it.

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    The Problems Facing Fabio Capello

    Posted on 17 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    My own pleasure at the appointment of Fabio Capello to the England manager’s post is largely down to non-footballing reasons. In England, there’s a sense that football is an acceptable interest for men, but more cultural pasttimes are suspect. Not so for the gastronome aesthete Capello.

    That’s not to argue that hinterland makes a manager. High intelligence does, as the careers of Busby, Stein, “Clough and Taylor” and Alex Ferguson demonstrate. But you don’t have to collect art or wine. That Capello does both is merely a refreshing change. It’s not one the British press are likely to understand or appreciate: it already has them looking over their shoulders at one another, giggling in that nervous, insecure way of boys in the crowd everywhere.

    Nevertheless, if there is one thing I’d like Capello to do whilst he’s here, it’s to place football in its rightful place in our culture. Something so beautiful and thrilling does not deserve to be the strictly-guarded preserve of a more than averagely paranoid and insular wing of national life. But he won’t be here long enough. He’ll have to satisfy himself with winning.

    It’s hard to tell whether there’s more or less opposition this time to the appointment of a foreign manager. As in 2000, there is general recognition that there’s no one of the required calibre here at the moment. There’s a reason for that: nothing is being done to create a cadre of top-level coaches. The pointless UEFA badges aside, there is no place of training for football management in the United Kingdom. Nor is there any especial call for one. I would like to see a member of the FA Executive urge a programme to create – not coaches to compete with the Europeans – but coaches far better than any in the world, coaches that foreign clubs and countries will compete for as they competed for the likes of Fred Pentland and Jimmy Hogan at the turn of the last century. Coaches with the creativity, imagination and management skills we see in other areas of British life. A Briton, Jonathan Ive, designed both the IMac and the IPod; we need to create the Ives of the football world and establish for ourselves an enduring lead over our rivals.

    There is the usual talk about an English manager understanding the unique mentality of the English player. There is no evidence at all that anything of the sort is true – if the idea has any internal logic to it at all. It’s not an issue applied to any other part of British sporting life. Do British swimmers have a unique mentality? Or British rugby league players? Or British tennis players? Of course not: it’s just the thrashing about of an insular, paranoid outlook that has been outflanked by events year after year.

    Nor should Capello’s appointment give English managers the idea that they cannot aspire to the top job. Because the real reason that they shouldn’t aspire to the top job is that they lack the ideas, the talent, the originality, the training and the courage. There are no English candidates coming through the ranks who look likely to change that. I almost wrote here, ‘where are our Steins, Busbys, Shanklys..’ before realising that I’d be listing a series of Scots. Yes, the Middleborough duo of Revie and “Clough-and-Taylor” might line up alongside Sir Bobby Robson and Joe Mercer as very good managers, but none of them are a Stein. This is an older problem than we give credit for.

    Capello himself seems to be of the thinking that the English players have a mental block about the national side, which would explain their failure to reproduce their club form for England. If he’s right, then it’s a relatively straightforward problem to solve. But I don’t think that’s the whole of his thinking on the subject. It’s just a soundbite. This is just as well, as the idea doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny.

    Which players, then, are failing to reproduce their club form for England? Not Micah Richards, or Ashley Cole, or David Beckham, or Michael Owen, or, recently, Wayne Rooney. Not Rio Ferdinand. Not Gareth Barry or Owen Hargreaves or Peter Crouch. Is Gerrard failing, or is what we see merely what Gerrard is when deprived of his Spanish midfield colleagues? Lampard might be: I suspect him, and others of his generation, of harbouring secret doubts as to the true extent of their ability. Is John Terry failing, or is he just a limited player unfortunate enough to be the object of tabloid fantasy, who want a British bulldog carrying the soul of a Churchill and get instead an unremarkable nightclub boy from the beerier end of the pedestrianized south-east?

    I can’t help feeling that this generation of players is suffering from a lack of vision, not a lack of form. The group has been together for quite a long time. It is now six years and more since England destroyed Germany in Munich, and yet of that team Owen, Heskey, Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Owen Hargreaves and Sol Campbell have featured within the last twelve months. Jamie Carragher and Paul Scholes both played; both are supposed to be Capello targets.

    That team saw the 2002 World Cup as perhaps a little early for them – but pencilled-in Euro 2004 as the tournament to attack. But Rooney was injured at the crucial moment, and the 2006 World Cup – which could have been merely the next opportunity to succeed – became at once both the team’s last chance to rescue themselves from their history and a nightmare arena in which the team would finally come apart.

    With 2004 gone, and 2006 gone, and English football culture hiding itself behind a tattered passion-and-commitment screen, qualification for 2008 was just more punishment. Capello needs to bring an idea of what the England team is for, what its story is going to be. When Brian Clough signed Dave Mackay for Derby in the late 1960s, he did it by changing Mackay’s view of the future. Capello needs to do the same for England.

    Will he do it with the same 2001-7 squad? England’s best recent performances only served to confirm Ericksson’s initial good judgement. Play Beckham; play Owen with a foil. If Scholes won’t play, Lampard plus Gerrard is about as good as you’re going to get. Defoe, Bent and co. fall short.

    I wonder what Ericksson would do now?

    At any rate, surely Capello can’t be as unfortunate as Ericksson with injuries. 2002: Gerrard, Neville, Beckham, Owen. 2004: Beckham again, Owen again, Rooney. 2006: Beckham again, Owen again, Rooney again, Neville again, Ashton.

    My suspicion is that Capello is going to start out creating what Revie called “a right bastard” of a side. A Wimbledon with polish, that will go out confident of avoiding defeat and taking satisfaction in creating discomfort and distress in more cultured opponents. We are going to bite legs for about eighteen months, and then we’re going to plug in Rooney and Walcott and start scoring goals.

    Let’s see if I’m right. And, isn’t it nice not to know what’s about to happen with England? It’s been a long time..

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    A First, Brief Look at Capello

    Posted on 15 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    From today’s Graun:

    The young centre-half listened to Mozart and Bach. He also adored jazz, particularly Ella Fitzgerald. He developed a love for the painting of Giorgio De Chirico, founder of the metaphysical school. He liked films too, arthouse movies by the likes of Visconti and Fellini.

    His interest in modern art endures. He has an extensive collection and particularly likes Mondrian and Klee. And he continues to love what he terms “good music”. Whenever he can, he goes to La Scala.

    Away from the stadium, Capello is a good conversationalist – particularly at table, for England’s new coach is a gourmet. Unlike many Italians, he is also an adventurous eater, relishing Indian, Arab and Japanese cuisine. He appreciates fine wines and had built up an extensive cellar. But it was ruined by his repeated moves from one club, and city, to the next.

    For Capello, travel is not a necessity, but a hobby. “I’ve had it in my blood,” he once told me. “I’ve always loved travelling, even since I was a boy.”

    He and his wife, Laura, choose their destinations after much thought, and are particularly interested in places where the world’s civilisations began. When they go to Mexico or Peru, it is because of the Mayas or the Incas. If they go to Sicily, it is on the track of the classical Greeks.

    Last summer he was in Tibet where he was fascinated by the profound silence of the mountains.

    I don’t know quite how it’s happened, ladies and gentlemen, but we have a “More Than Mind Games” manager. What can the interviews have been like? He must have run rings, Brooking aside.

    Have you noticed the way most of the journalism thus far is STILL – after everything – blindly salivating at a fantasy vision of fantasy primadonnas getting their fantasy behinds kicked? What strange, strange people some journalists must be. How do they bring up their children?

    It’s going to be interesting. And, as I say, I think we’ve won this one.

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    The Perfect Pub For Football – London and Environs

    Posted on 10 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    We all have our Platonic Pub ideal. Orwell’s Moon Under The Water comes closest to what most have in mind. But that’s a fictional tavern, and we know that when fictional taverns have the electricity applied to their nipples to bring them to life, terrible things result.

    Some Platonic Ideals have remarkable shadows, however. The White Bear in Hampstead – open fires, wood-panelled walls, good food, a decent wine list and plenty of guest beers – is a remarkable shadow. So was this place, once. And, when it rises again, so too will my other corner of a domestic field.

    But a football pub needs something that none of these have. A telly. And only a special kind of shadow can fit one in without destroying itself.

    Ye Olde White Bear does have one, it’s true. But what a waste to go there for that. They’d have been better off throwing it in through the window of the Duke Of Hamilton next door and hiring deckchairs outside for prospective fans.

    Pub plus telly plus fans must fit.

    I watched England v Croatia here. They’d probably describe themselves as “environs” rather than London per se, and the television was rather winningly propped up on a chair with its cable trailing along behind. And it was a real “telly”, big, fat and hot, the kind which you’d have had to hit on the side to get it going thirty years ago. The pub’s buildings are older than they look from the outside, and there are many nooks and crannies from which the TV couldn’t be seen. But the gentle cries and groans in warm West Country accents spoke for England. (They did – and now whoever wins from the shortlist, England get a proper manager. It’s a rare no-lose situation for the national side. Let’s enjoy it before it’s spoilt by any actual football).

    England v Germany, however, happened here, at what most people would recognise as a more central location. It’s an Arsenal pub, which I think helps although they aren’t my team. It’s one of Youngs’ refurbs, luckily one of those that took place after their wanton destruction of the Britannia in Allen Street. Leffe by the pint, that traditional British standby, and it’s the model for the Mother Black Cap in Withnail.. so the next MTMG meetup might happen here.

    Lamb’s Conduit Street used to be the ultimate pub street in Central London. Not only was there the immortal Lamb, but the Sun with its huge cellars and tens of real ales on tap at once – and a trucker’s caff yards away that had kept its plastic decor despite having been bought up by a culinary genius from Bangladesh (now demolished for a new hospital wing – I hear the NHS made the genius a rich man: good). The Lamb is still there, and so is Vats. But no one has a TV, so either bring a MW radio (this is mine; recommended) or use the Force.

    The last MTMG meetup took place in the Cardinal, near Victoria, on the evening of the Champions League Final. A great evening, but typical of the kind of year I’ve been having that they’d taken down their big screen and replaced it with Victorian lumber since my previous visit, and it was the next day before delegates learned ‘Pool’s terrible fate.

    Sam Smiles’ pubs are odd, aren’t they? Don’t try the wine, but their draught cider is OK, and most other things are extraordinarily cheap. The Cittie of Yorke is a great football pub, if you don’t mind the fact that it isn’t – everyone has drunk under the beady eye of those huge casks and mankilling stoves in the back chamber. And that’s part of the trouble: everyone’s still trying to, and you are driven to the Olde Mitre, (attn. TG) which is actually in a different bishopric to the one you were in five minutes before. I like this – it reminds me of Magdalen days, when my Bedfordshire home was in the Bishopric of Oxford, but my college was under Winchester, and college statutes allowed you to assault poor Richard Harries should he ever step inside.

    That’s five or six football pubs without a television, but one that does is the nearby Yorkshire Grey. But you’ll prefer the Ship and Shovell near the Strand at Charing Cross – a pub of two halves for a game notorious for something of the kind. I recommend the half on the northern side of the alleyway – really excellent beer lovingly kept and cheerfully served. And they show games… the Davy’s Wine Bar in the same alley isn’t bad, either.

    The best wine bar for football in London – at all, in fact – is Gordon’s Wine Bar on the Embankment. I once found a slew of blacked-out photographs on my phone and wondered for quite some time what they were of – they were of Gordon’s, where every day is like the immediate aftermath of some great victory, and you lost in the crowd and crush, the bar out of sight, your head subjected to repeated blows from invisible assailants and you not caring. It’s not so much watching the match – and this medieval cellar has no TV, only ghosts – it’s like being at the match, or, if you sit outside, abruptly quiet..

    The Wellesley Arms was my local, once, the only pub I have ever had where I never had to name my drink. I saw England qualify for the 1998 World Cup here, in that incredibly exciting 0-0 draw in Rome against Italy. Just as happiness writes white, so 0-0 draws don’t Youtube, so if you can’t remember, and it was nine years ago so many intelligent readers will be pushed to bring it to mind, it was the kind of game that got me reprimanded for standing on the tables (alongside my poor, new, Italian friend who found himself surrounded by drink and sympathy when the final whistle came). The pub has a secret passage to.. the Old Church or somewhere, allegedly.

    So, no 0-0. Have some live Stones instead:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joUGmDLB-Jw&rel=1]

    The best pub in Chelsea – like a good half of pubs in the area that I once knew – has closed. It was the King’s Head and Eight Bells, but for our purposes it was very much a rugby pub. One corner of it was devoted to the remnants of a cafe called the Blue Cockatoo, which closed in 1939, and had been home to a group of local artists and poets (the area around is still thronged by working studios, Julian Barrow’s stamping ground); the ancient leftovers from this would come in for shaky shorts and chasers every month, and I’d sit there in their absence.

    Once upon a time, Wimbledon was a place to go for watching football in civilised but beery surroundings. The Hand in Hand was where I saw Holland take apart Yugoslavia in Euro 2000 before not marching to the title itself. But it chavs me out, now, and the Crooked Billet is the place, for all the lack of a TV. (Look for the Edwardian photograph on the wall in the side corridor – the family in a woodland – striking and mightily hard to interpret. I’d like to know, though). For football, you go to the Rose and Crown, where I was once interviewed on the subject of hangovers. It’s almost too good for purpose – you have to bar-hang to get a good view of the screen, but the regulars are friendly and knowledgeable.

    It might seem odd to have discussed so many football pubs in which you can’t actually watch football. But consider. In 1999, my team completed the “treble” with an ending to a Final at once so unlikely and now so hackneyed that surely it is etched onto the memory of every fan who was there or who was, like me, in the middle of an ecstatic crowd.

    It must have been one of my great moments. I had it here. In the Marlborough Arms in Bloomsbury. I went back there this year to see England beat Russia, the time that they did. Beckham, both times. But my memory of the evening is of afterwards, chewing coffee in another bar nearby, trying to muster up some feeling for the event.

    When England lost to Argentina on penalties, I was in O’Neills in Sutton. It was a passionate crowd, chanting in unison, greeting each England penalty-taker with a roar of…something. This was English pride on display, English commitment. We are England!

    Batty missed. Everything went quiet. I took my hands from my eyes. Everyone had left. Immediately.

    That was probably the moment when I stopped listening to tales about passion and commitment. My pain at defeat was real, though – it was a long time, years before I could bear to watch England again. And when the football is on, and you can’t bear to watch it, and can’t bear to linger at home waiting for the shouts and groans to reach you from neighbours’ windows – that’s when you need a good football pub, one that doesn’t have any football.

    One like this, or this.

    UPDATE: Mentioning the Mother Black Cap above had me hunting around, and I think I’ve found the ultimate clip to tie this post together. It’s a realistic facial animation, in line with Paul Ekman’s research into emotion (see this site’s reading list for more from Ekman), based upon the episode in Withnail. All it needs is Kenneth Wolstenholm and I can die, my work complete. Here it is – the first part only is silent:

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    That Word “Soccer”

    Posted on 09 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    There have been a lot of – mostly – young – mostly – men on the web lately, all making the same point very loudly: it’s called “football”, in this country, yanks, not “soccer” (the real wastes of time will spell it “sawker” or some such at this point).

    Even sensible people can fall into the trap, it seems:

    And then there was his use of the “s” word: “soccer” this, “soccer” that. David, pet: we both know that’s not proper English, ain’ it? We both know you only said “soccer” to please the Yanks.

    (Incidentally, I’m cherrypicking – the rest of Dave’s article is excellent).

    There are plenty more examples where those came from should you really want to see some.

    Two assumptions run through all of this, often at the same time.

    1. It is in some way annoying or insulting that “soccer” is the coinage in the US, so much so that that annoyance or insult demands expression.
    2. Those who will admit that “soccer” is a word of English origin will usually get around that by claiming that a group of people who can be written off as “toffs” came up with it, and that it fell into disuse before the World Wars.

    In actual fact, the word has fallen into relative disuse in England, but only very recently. And the evidence is that it was, until recently, a “down-to-earth” “working class” word (I’m grinding my teeth here: can you tell?).

    What’s worse for my army of young men is that the word is in common international use, and not just in the US.

    Let’s start with some football annuals. All of the following are entirely British:

    Charles Buchan’s Soccer Gift Book 1955-6:
    charles-buchans-soccer-gift-book-1955-6.JPG

    Oh, Charlie: how could you use such non-English English? Surely lovely, plummy Ken Wolstenholme will put you right, ten years later? Or perhaps not…

    kennethwolstenholmesbookofworldsoccer.JPG

    “The Sun”‘s a patriotic, working class paper. They’ll sort it out, come the ’70s. Won’t they? Oh…

    sun-soccer-annual-1974.JPG

    Well, the England captain will show Becks up for what Dave Hill took him for (or, to be fair, didn’t). Or else he won’t.

    kevin-keegans-soccer-annual.JPG

    Didn’t it all die out in the ’80s, though?

    itv-saturday-soccer-special-1980.JPG

    But those are just annuals. Proper soccer mags used “football” didn’t they?

    soccer-star-1960s.JPG

    soccer-star-1959.JPG

    It’s actually harder to find one with “football” in the title, to tell you the truth. They must have all been closet yanks; it’s the only plausible explanation:

    top-soccer-magazine-1979.JPG

    I hate to tell you this, but even the FA are at it:

    soccer-insight-magazine.JPG

    And the leading scholarly historical football journal? Say it ain’t so, to coin a phrase..

    And we haven’t even got to abroad yet!

    The French guard their language with an intensity we can only wonder at, but what’s this? Quelle horreur, army of young men.

    But I’m sure my army of young men will want to raise an arm for the Germans, who are going through an insanely-anti-American phase at present.

    But you can always join the neckless skinhead crowds in Spain and call it football there if you want to.

    But, failing that, surely there’s Italy, unless you are going to be insulted by their calling it “Calcio”, which you really ought to be just for the sake of consistency.

    Of course, the ancient rumour is that an Oxford student, Charles Wreford Brown, coined “soccer” from a contraction of “Association Football” to mimic the contraction of “Rugger” from “Rugby Football”, but in the eyes of my army of young men, Oxford students are untermensch, so perhaps they’d prefer Duncan Edwards:

    tackle-soccer-this-way.jpg

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    What Will Remain Of Us Are Blogs

    Posted on 06 December 2007 by JamesHamilton

    When I first came across his blog, Damian Counsell was a research scientist in Cambridge. Then, in August 2005, it all changed. The Rosalind Franklin Centre closed down, and he moved to a new career in a totally different field, and to a different home, in Brighton. Damian is now regarded by discerning people as amongst the very best photographers in the south of England, producing images full of warmth and proper humour. He has also worked for the EU, and was a founder member of the blogosphere’s best known Oxford University alumnus group.

    But ever since Cambridge, there’s been a link on his blog pointing back to those days. It reads, “I used to be Damian Counsell”, and it’s a nonserious reminder of just how much our identity and our job can coincide. It’s always brought to mind for me a dusty Italian hillside, Roman soldiers, and hundreds of slaves in chains, who, threatened and challenged, one by one rise to their feet and cry “No! I used to be Damian Counsell!”

    Now it’s my turn to investigate that self-and-job concept. A mix of eighty percent personal incompetence and twenty percent Northern Rock crisis has brought my psychotherapy practice crashing down. A future, long in the planning and the subject of a decade’s work, is gone. As you read this, I, too, used to be Damien Counsell.

    It could be so much worse, of course. It’s only a job, and I could be Rachel From North London or Gary Farber or one of the many bloggers I read and benefit from whose lives have been a great deal less blessed than my own. (See if you can’t help Gary out while you’re there).

    Barriers to entry were what brought me to it initially. My generation left university in the middle of the last Tory recession, and the traditional graduate recruitment drive had closed for the duration. None of my friends entered their career of choice, or have made it there since. I ended up working in a series of London public libraries, in one of life’s “hidden jobs” which outsiders know nothing of beyond their own inaccurate clichees. I loved it, to tell the truth: no money, even less status, but it was a people job, and my colleagues were the best people in the world. Some later made names for themselves – the poet Paul Farley, for instance, or Film4′s correspondent Ali Catterall.

    My family had a tradition in business, however, and it was one I wanted to follow. But I had no capital – less than none after my first startup went for a burton in its first six weeks.

    Neuroscience and psychology were just hobby interests then. One sunny afternoon, I was sitting up on the mezzanine of my Earls Court flat, dragging on a cigarette and paging through Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking when it struck me, in true entrepeneurial fashion, that here was a problem that lots of people had. If I could find an answer to it, then I’d have a business on my hands, and one moreover requiring only minimal funds to get going. Who knew – I might even be able to stop smoking myself.

    I spent the next year wading through bluejacketed BMJ and Lancet archives, and their multifarious rivals, reading every peer-reviewed paper on the subject of smoking that I could find and get access to. No Google Scholar back then. And I talked to smokers, and stopped smokers, ad nauseam, more than a thousand of them in the end. Patterns emerged, which I used in half-day seminars in a West Kensington hotel. These were hard to fill, and those who came kept asking me if I was a hypnotherapist. I found that insulting at first.

    Barriers to entry, you see: had the resources been there, I’d have gone back into education and done a Raj Persaud double of qualifying both as a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist. Instead, I crept into the psychotherapy world by the back door, with a diploma in hypnotherapy. That’s not to cause offence to friends and colleagues, but it was how it felt and how it was. Once in, I intended to do my own thing anyway.

    That diploma was enough to set me up in professional practice.. How long ago it feels. And how wrong I was about so much. Private psychotherapy – for that’s what it became – is not a low-capital start-up. That was my fantasy, pure and simple, maintained because I wanted it to be true.

    I’d joined a clinic in Botley, west of Oxford. On my first day, Osney Island flooded and then froze. I waded it: there was radiator time for my suit trousers and shoes before my client arrived. Elsewhere in England, those hypnotherapists daft enough to turn out early on a wet, cold Sunday morning had either started with sufficient capital or else saw the job as a nice part-time hobby alongside their main income. Or else they were deluding themselves, as I was. The money in therapy is not in therapy itself, but in training, in seminars, in the provision of services to therapists. I know that now.

    The enjoyment in therapy isn’t in therapy, either. Daniel Gilbert’s written a minor bestseller about how askew our predictions are about what we will and won’t enjoy. I imagined a pleasant, book-lined room, confidence in what I was doing, satisfaction in the results I would help people to achieve. I saw myself broadcasting and using the gaps between client sessions to write books and articles on a walnut-cased laptop. (I know..)

    The reality has been a series of poorly-decorated rooms, along with my own perpetual and petulant dissatisfaction with the state of human knowledge about abnormal psychology – along with my obsession not with successes, but with the people whom, with the best will in the world, I was unable to help. The pleasures were elsewhere: planning student services in the Magdalen SCR as spring sunshine leapt through the coloured windows, or talking football with Jim White on camera, or lecturing in panelled rooms in London and Surrey, or spotting my byline in the Times. Whatever the reality and wherever the pleasures, the bottom line was always red.

    No one tells you what a solitary business it is. I have never spent so much time alone as I have in the last few years. In part, this is because of lack of funds. Invitations are refused, holidays not taken – nothing more than a weekend away in six years, and those all on tick. I don’t mind my own company, but…

    So I don’t think I’ll miss it all that much.

    I wonder how different it would have been had psychotherapy been a British invention.

    Therapy is the product of thought experiments conducted by a series of foreign men with a penchant for bow ties. In the time of Freud and Kraepelin, thought experiment was – almost – all you could do. Even in more recent times, significant numbers of the major psychiatric drugs, drugs which have saved the lives of millions, have been accidental discoveries.

    The foreign background matters. Mental health, for those of you who don’t follow the subject, is heavily culturally determined. Disorders that Freud saw every week are now rare birds, even in Vienna. Gone are the fugues, the glove anaesthesias, the hysterias. But they still crop up in the Far East and the Indian subcontinent, along with a host of uniquely local variations.

    I suspect on anecdotal evidence alone that there are even regional variations between places as close and connected as London and Surrey.

    Just as the problem is culturally determined, so is the solution. A solution devised to fit wealthy Viennese, or middle Americans, is one not devised with the British in mind. It’s always going to be a bendy bus, for all that it longs to be a Routemaster. It might just get you where you want to go, but it won’t be much of a ride, and half the time, you’ll get off in disgust and dive onto the tube instead.

    Little wonder there’s so much scepticism and suspicion of psychotherapy in Britain.

    It makes me wonder what kind of beast a British psychotherapy would be. I know one thing: it wouldn’t be called “psychotherapy.” Ugly word. All people want to do is feel better. I think it would be thoroughly peer-reviewed. It might have positive things to say about restrained emotional display. It would be unambitious but effective within its scope. It would be something your local doctor could take with him in his bag, or feel able to refer to without misgiving.

    It would be something Ben Goldacre might approve of. But the very existence of Ben’s column and website is a straw in the wind. For all his efforts, and those of the likes of Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, for all that it’s a stunning golden age of popular science writing, the wind’s in the east. I suspect that just my qualifying as a hypnotherapist helped that wind; if so, it’s something I regret.

    In the past, I’ve leaned to some extent on the knowledge that hypnotherapy has has a place in the NHS since the early 1950s, and that it’s recognized by the BMA. These things are still true. It’s just that I’ve come to question how much all that means. Homeopathy too is available on the NHS.

    Homeopathy has a deservedly bad reputation for obfuscating the research issue. Psychotherapy might do too. CBT, it’s true, has a host of research studies behind it, but until recently those studies had been made possible only by the discounting of hard-to-measure things like the relationship of therapist and client, which CBT practitioners are coming to regard as more important than they once did. (The likes of the impressive Professor Paul Salkovkis and certain of his peers are completely exempt from this – and I don’t want to make general aspersions anyway).

    There’s also something of a gulf between psychotherapy and neuroscience. (Less of one between psychiatry and neuroscience, as you might expect). For instance, the consequences of this paper for the basic theory behind CBT are surely devastating

    (https://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/extract/340/19/1476 Well worth registering for, by the way.)

    There is very little serious research on hypnosis or hypnotherapy in existence or underway. Nor is there much in the way of thinking what such research might consist of, or what questions it might seek to explore. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy roll on just outside the aegis of proper science, recipients of enthusiasm or disgust depending on the individual. As a therapist, when I heard my clients utter phrases such as “I’ve got a very open mind” or “I do believe in this sort of thing” I felt nothing but dread and pessimism. The placebo effect exists, but who would want to build a career on it? And, given that the placebo effect boils down to physical expression, chemically and electrically within the brain and body, neuroscience will overtake it sooner or later, with who knows what results. Pace Dawkins, but placebo might be one rainbow likely to be unwoven in time.

    Whatever the status or not of the relevant research, the fact remains that for an ever-increasing number of people, complementary and alternative medicine are very attractive ideas. Of course, cognitions have aesthetic as well as logical sides to them.

    I realize now that my Anglican faith was entirely a matter of aesthetics: I preferred the look and atmosphere of the Church of England to the ’70s pop culture on offer to my friends and myself. It had a more serious feel, an underpinning, a permanence and a point. I felt, only vaguely consciously, that there had to be something to an organizational tradition that had so much beautiful architecture, so much stunning music, painting, poetry and the loyalty of so many brilliant men and women through the ages. I loved the hole for the doughnut, in short. What the hole consisted of didn’t worry me very much, and yet it was the hole my non-Christian friends wanted to take issue with me over. I felt then that they were missing the point. We’d both missed different points, and that’s something I see happening time and time again as that debate moves into the media mainstream. I missed the logic and grammar; my opponents missed the aesthetics.

    But that’s how people work – I still function in this way over a myriad of things, and so do you. And the aesthetics of an idea have the prevailing imperative over the idea’s logical and grammatical integrity. What’s more, it can be hard to divide the parts up, often impossible. Western political discourse is strewn across with this. So’s political blogging.

    I consider myself fortunate to find beauty, awe and wonder in science. As I’ve said, I’ve lived through an era of fabulous science writing. At school, it looked dry, dull and limited; it won’t do again for me, but that impression remains with many or most people.

    In that context, alternative and complementary medicine look welcoming, colourful, warm, optimistic, kindly and alternately exciting and down to earth. Famously, it has time for you. It’s the pseudomedical equivalent of “Cheers.” These aesthetics provide a swift, elegant means to assess the personal validity of a thing, and, as with all aesthetic issues, different people take them in different ways.

    If we like something, if we’re attracted to it, then it’s human nature to defend it. How many people feel constrained from making comment on a religion or a therapy because they know and like and respect someone involved in it? To me, that can feel like attacking the man for all that I know I’m only going for the ball.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74myyFgfHes&rel=1]

    Unless, of course, one wants to go for the “man”. Aesthetics can help you out when logic and grammar do not. There are, out there, somewhere, substantial criticisms of Richard Dawkins, but they are hard to find in among the swarm of aesthetic ones, the “shrill”, “dogmatic,”, “fundamentalist,” “arrogant” (that last is especially British, don’t you think?) “neo-Atheist” (gosh! Does that mean they’re something like those…. neo-cons you told me about?) and so wearily forth. Martin Amis has been getting much the same lately. In relation to homeopathy, so has Ben Goldacre, and in that case, something that is ordinarily done unconsciously and as a matter of course was done rather more deliberately; he took it with enormous humour and patience.

    I have wanted things to be true, and so behaved as though they were true, and in much of my life that’s served as a convenient compression codec: I live my life as though Yellowstone won’t erupt during it or the comet strike Earth. But there’s a difference between wanting, or being inclined towards, and what can turn out to be the case. I thought I was stubborn, a sticker, one who persevered against the odds, when all I was was a fool with money.

    I won’t miss it – not the clinical side. But I have something related coming up that I will enjoy and which I think other people will enjoy too. And this site will go on, but more as a hobby than any expression of my erstwhile job. Of course it will; as he who used to be Damian Counsell showed, what will remain of us are blogs.

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