Saturday, 30 May 2009

Favourite Places

The finest restaurant venue in London - Gaucho Riverside, Richmond

The Scientist and the Universe III

Here in a dry California valley, outside a small town, a cathedral of light is to be dedicated on Friday. Like the cathedrals of antiquity, it is built on an unrivaled scale with unmatched technology, and it embodies a scientific doctrine that, if confirmed, might lift civilization to new heights.

“Bringing Star Power to Earth” reads a giant banner that was recently unfurled across a building the size of a football stadium.

The $3.5 billion site is known as the National Ignition Facility, or NIF. For more than half a century, physicists have dreamed of creating tiny stars that would inaugurate an era of bold science and cheap energy, and NIF is meant to kindle that blaze.

In theory, the facility’s 192 lasers — made of nearly 60 miles of mirrors and fiber optics, crystals and light amplifiers — will fire as one to pulverize a fleck of hydrogen fuel smaller than a match head. Compressed and heated to temperatures hotter than those of the core of a star, the hydrogen atoms will fuse into helium, releasing bursts of thermonuclear energy.

In February, NIF fired its 192 beams into its target chamber for the first time, and it now has the world’s most powerful laser, as well as the largest optical instrument ever built. But raising its energies still further to the point of ignition could take a year or more of experimentation and might, officials concede, prove daunting and perhaps impossible.

NIF is to fire its lasers for 30 years.

A mock capsule of hydrogen fuel is all of two millimeters wide, or less than a tenth of an inch.

'When it heats up, it blows in at a million miles an hour, moving that way for about five-billionths of a second. It gets to about the diameter of your hair. When it gets that small, that fast, you hit temperatures where it can start fusing — around 100 million degrees centigrade, or 180 million degrees Fahrenheit.'

The individual beams, he said, have to hit “within a few trillionths of a second” of one another if the fuel is to burn, and be pointed at the target with a precision “within half the diameter of your hair.”

The holy of holies is the room surrounding the target chamber. It looked like an engine room out of a science-fiction starship. The beam lines — now welters of silvery metal filled with giant crystals that shifted the concentrated light to higher frequencies — converged on the chamber’s blue wall. Its surface was dotted with silvery portholes where complex sensors could be placed to evaluate the tiny blasts.

“Of course it is,” he said. Taking on big projects that challenge the imagination “is who we are as a species.”

Extract from the IHT

Friday, 29 May 2009

The Scientist and the Universe II

Extracts from a speech made by the then President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the official inauguration of the Southern Africa Large Telescope (SALT) November 2005

Even those of us who know nothing about astronomy have awaited this day with great anticipation, feeling, perhaps instinctively, that this giant eye in the Karoo would tell us as yet unknown and exciting things about ourselves.

We have felt our heartbeats quicken as we were told that SALT would have the power to tackle fundamental questions about the Universe, such as:
* what was the universe like when the first stars and galaxies were forming?
* what kind of worlds orbits other suns?
* how are the stars in nearby galaxies different from those in the solar neighbourhood?
* what can these stars tells us about the scale and age of the universe?
* how do quasars and gamma rays outshine trillions of stars like the sun?

This observatory is a place dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. Its sole purpose is the discovery of the unknown, and therefore the further liberation of humanity from blind action informed by superstition that derives from failure to fathom the regularities and imperatives of the infinite natural world.

Hopefully, the daily voyages of discovery into outer space that will be undertaken from this place of scientific inquiry will help millions in our country, our continent and the world to repudiate the fear of knowledge that the Englishman, Thomas Gray, an Old Etonian, sought to celebrate when he said, in his “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”,

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan,
The tender for another's pain;
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.

Out of this place, enveloped by the quiet peace of the Karoo and its starlit skies, must and will come the message that thought is humanity’s stepladder out of Hades - that ignorance is nothing but condemnation to live for eternity in the world inhabited by the souls of the dead.

By communicating to all humanity the evolving and ever-changing truths about the universe, this observatory, empowered by cutting edge science, engineering and technology, and staffed by the most excellent and daring inquiring minds, must help to free us from the seductive grip of the astrologers and the false consciousness that wears the fine apparel of pernicious common sense.

Thus would we gain further mastery over our actions as human beings, as did Edmund, son of the Duke of Gloucester born out of wedlock, when, in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, repudiating the falsification of the influence of the universe of the stars on his fate, he said:

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune - often the surfeit of our own behaviour - we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whore master man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail; and my nativity was under Ursa major; so that it follows, I am rough and lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardising.”

The great minds gathered here today to inaugurate the Southern Africa Large Telescope have the possibility to peer into ordinarily unimaginable vistas of time and space, to discover what the universe was like, when the first stars and galaxies were forming.

You will therefore not find it difficult to understand our excitement that even as we probe outer space from here, elsewhere in our country, the host of SALT, we also have the possibility to continue investigating what happened on the tiny planet we call the earth, relevant to the formation and evolution of plant, animal and human life as we have come to know them.

Let me illustrate what I am talking about. Fossils of some of the oldest organisms on earth have been found in the Barberton sequence, towards our North East, dated at approximately 3 billion years. In the period before some of the world’s first dinosaurs walked the earth, there was already abundant plant and animal life in the same Karoo basin where SALT stands, leaving behind an unsurpassed record of the ancestry of mammals.

The largest collection of synapsids (mammal-like reptiles) are to be found in the Karoo succession, documenting step by step, over a period of 50 million years, the origin of mammals from primitive reptilian stock.

250 million years ago during the late Permian age, this area consisted of an inland sea surrounded by a vast alluvial plain. At the time, several Mississippi-sized rivers flowed northwards out of a mountain range some 1 000 km to the South. The most common animals living on the flood plains during this period were therapid reptiles, more commonly known as mammal-like reptiles.

Fossils found here and South America has provided evidence to substantiate the hypothesis of continental drift, and therefore the existence in the distant past of the so-called super-continent of Gondwanaland.

Three million years ago, South Africa was also home to a vulnerable new line of primates, the Australopithecines, which eventually gave rise to humans. Adding to the long list of South African hominids, which include fossils of Australopithecus africanus, Paranthropus robustus, Homo habilis and Homo sapiens, the oldest identifiable Homo sapiens fossils in the world (dated at approximately 110 000 years) have been found here.

It is on the basis of this vast paleontogical storehouse, supported by additional evidence from elsewhere on our continent, that scientists have come to the firm conclusion that our country is the Cradle of Humanity.

It therefore seemed right, and a perfect expression of the discovered symmetry of the evolution of nature, that this extraordinary construct of the human intellect, the Southern Africa Large Telescope, constructed to probe the formation of our Universe, should be based here, the domicile of so much that represents what constitutes historical and living reality of all life on Planet Earth, itself the product of billions of years of the evolution of the Universe.

To us, as South Africans, it has seemed right that for us as human beings to continue the search for the origins of the infinite beginnings of the universe, we should locate that inquiry, as represented by SALT, in the very geographic space that gave birth to homo sapiens.

We have said this to ourselves knowing that the outward journey of homo sapiens from Africa into the rest of our planet, though resulting in the formation of a diverse human family, has nevertheless never subtracted from the fact that the Cradle of Humanity remains, still, the home of all humanity, as demonstrated by the population inflows since our liberation in 1994.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet was outraged to discover the cold disloyalty of his mother, who would not give even limited time to mourn the death of her husband and Hamlet’s father, the King of Denmark, before entering into an amorous relationship with the King’s brother, Hamlet’s uncle. These goings-on seemed as unnatural as they were unconscionable.

Seeking to escape from this confirmed but painful and unbearable knowledge, Hamlet cried out:

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.

The scientific journey on which we will embark from today onwards at this Large Telescope will take us far beyond a world that presents itself as an unweeded garden that grows to seed, populated by things rank and gross in nature.

It will not give birth to images that suggest that the uses of the universe are but weary, stale, flat and unprofitable.

Surely, this new journey will speak of a world made exciting by the rapid progression away from everything that is weary, stale, flat and unprofitable in human knowledge, the lifting of the dark and menacing shadows of ignorance and prejudice about the origin of the universe, that circumscribe our very ability to eat, live and think.

With thanks to Philip Wetton (who has endowed the Chair of Astrophysics at Oxford) for pointing me to this speech - as well as describing his visit to CERN

For a view with which Mbeki might disagree, see The Scientist and the Universe

Monday, 25 May 2009

Favourite Places

An organ recital in Westminster Abbey by Alistair Reid, the assistant organist at Coventry Cathedral. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to video it.

Coventry Cathedral - the Sutherland Tapestry

The Sutherland Tapestry and the pipes of the huge Harrison organ. Click the heading for some more photos.

Another visit to Coventry Cathedral, following the induction of Sir Alfred Herbert into Coventry's Walk of Fame. The cathedral yields more with each visit; this time close-ups of the Sutherland tapestry 'Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph' as well as the Beardsley Cross. Sutherland’s work took ten years to design, contains over 900 colours and weighs over one tonne. It was woven by the Frères Pinton at Felletin in France, and at 74 ft high, it was the greatest tapestry in the world when it was first installed.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Coventry's Walk of Fame

Coventry has created a 'Walk of Fame' in Priory Place near the Cathedral where the most famous of those with links to the city (as chosen by the public) are commemorated by plaques set into the pavement.

On Saturday 26th May, Sir Alfred Herbert's plaque was unveiled at a ceremony at which my brother Piers and I represented the family. Click here for Herry's speech.

Sir Alfred's gifts to the city were many, and some are enumerated in the brochure accompanying the first opening of The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

Rudyard Kipling's 'If'

Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son.

Rudyard Kipling

How similar this is to these sayings attributed to Mother Teresa

And related to Henry Newbolt's famous poem Vitaï Lampada

Henry James said of him: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known." In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize, and to date he remains its youngest recipient. Among other honours, he was sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, all of which he declined.

Kipling was born in India. I have always found these lines most moving, knowing the scene well myself. 

Friday, 15 May 2009

Fine Cell Work at the Leathersellers' Hall

Fine Cell Work, the charity that teaches fine needlework to prison inmates and sells their work on their behalf, is holding a Christmas selling exhibition and fund-raising reception at Leathersellers Hall on the 19th of November 2009. After benefiting greatly from the support of the Clothworkers and Drapers Companies at similar occasions in 2007 and 2008, an annual “Livery Company” event is becoming a fixture in the charity’s calendar.

The reception is intended not only to raise revenue for the charity’s expansion of its work to more inmates but also to raise awareness about the current plight of our overcrowded prisons.

Fine Cell Work is a uniquely creative charity established twelve years ago to train prison inmates to do professional embroidery and quilting in the long hours when they are locked in their cells. The charity now employs 340 inmates (eighty percent of them men), many of whom stitch for as long as 40 hours a week. Many send the money they earn back to families or save it for their release.

It is well known that ex-offenders who have some financial resources and have been able to maintain their links with families are less likely to re-offend. One said, “You feel you’re supporting yourself. It’s a comfort to know that. I feel proud I’ve been given something to achieve to get pride and self-respect.”

The inmates’ beautiful cushions, rugs and quilts have sold on three continents and received coverage in more than sixty publications. In 2008 Fine Cell Work sold £177,425 of soft furnishings hand-made in prison, proving that offenders are capable of producing the highest quality work. The inmates received a third of sales and numerous thank-you letters from customers. This is immensely good for their self-esteem and their employability after release.

Designers with and for whom Fine Cell has worked include Nina Campbell, Chester Jones, Allegra Hicks, Nicholas Haslam, John Stefanidis, Melissa Wyndham and many others. Prisoners are currently also working on commissions for quilts for the V & A and a wall hanging for the Jerwood Foundation, not to mention commissions for several livery companies and for English Heritage itself.

Monday, 11 May 2009


A photo of my PC running Hello in January 2005. Don't you love the pre-iPhone technology and my old Revo - which actually handled my address book better than any stuff today...

I have come late to the realisation that Hello, a free Picasa add-on from Google, is no more. It was for a few short years undoubtedly the best photo and chat-sharing program available, and even now, despite the creation of great programs such as Flickr, it has not been approached - let alone bettered - in power, ease of use or life-enhancing facility.

With Hello one could select any photo (or many) on one's hard disc and with a click, could send it (or many) practically instantaneously to any friend who had downloaded the software, while at the same time carrying on the easiest of chats in a large and secure space alongside. The photos appeared hi-res, and would be automatically downloaded to 'My Pictures/Hello' on the recipient's computer (PC only), obviating the need to save anything. Even the chat was permanently and automatically saved. And if one sent a photo by mistake, it could be recalled. How cool is that?

Delightful touches abounded: if one happened to type 'love', a shower of hearts would fall across the friend's screen.

I don't know for sure, but I think Hello used peer-to-peer technology, as there was almost no lag in transmission and it was totally private.

Nothing as simple, moving and effective has yet been created to take its place. Why on earth has Google discontinued it?

Join the 'Bring Back Hello' Group on Facebook!

Favourite Poetry - La Strada

La Strada

A dollar got you a folding chair in the drafty lecture hall
with a handful of other wretched grad students.

Then the big reels and low-tech chatter of a sixteen-millimeter projector.

La Strada. Rashomon. HMS Potemkin. La Belle e le Béte, before Disney got his hands on it.

And The Bicycle Thief, and for God's sake, La Strada.

You can't find them at the video store anymore. Only the latest G-rated animated pixilated computer-generated prequels.

That's just the way it goes.

Even if you could, you'd see them on DVD, restored, colorized, scratch-free,on a plasma-screen TV.

With your wife, your dog, your degree. You'd get up to answer the phone, check on the baby.

You're just not young enough, or poor enough, or miserable enough anymore to see--really see

Les Enfants du Paradis, or Ikiru, or The 400 Blows. Or, for God's sake, La Strada.

George Bilgere

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Games People Play

I read Eric Berne's book 'Games People Play' many years ago, and it continues to illuminate how and why people behave as they do. Sally Bampton, who's wonderful advice articles are the only thing I look at in the Sunday papers, referred to it recently and I went back to read it again.

Games People Play

People often live their lives by consistently and predictably playing out identifiable games in their inner and interpersonal relationships. They play games to avoid reality, conceal ulterior motives, rationalize their reactive behavior or to avoid the responsibility of active participation in life situations. The principal characteristics of these games are that they are played by the child or parent ego and could generally be ended quickly if people remained the 'adult' state (generally known as 'being a grown up')

Most games have some or all of these characteristics:

They are repetitive: people play out their favorite game time and time again
They are played without adult awareness. People start and get drawn into their game without being aware they are doing it — until the game is finished and they then ask themselves: “how did that happen?”
There is always something happening underneath the surface that is very different from what the outside world sees happening. For example, I may tell my wife that everything is fine when, in fact, I am refusing to get into a conversation with her because I am angry.

Some of the more common games are:

Now I've Got You, You Son-of-a Bitch (NIGYSOB)

Used to justify anger that has built up over an extended time period. The aggressor (usually unconscious) identifies their victim, sets up a trap and springs it as a form of getting even or gaining perceived power.

Ain' t It Awful

Person overtly expresses distress, but it is covertly gratified at the prospect of the satisfaction they can wring from their misfortune.


Person seeks to find the blemish or weakness in another or themselves. They exploit others around the discovered blemish from an authoritarian posture. In themselves, it is used for negative reinforcement for inability to perform.

Why Don't you... Yes, But

Played out as a person presents a problem while others present solutions — each beginning with “Why don’t you...?” followed by the objection, “Yes, but...”. The payoff is the silence or masked objection when the solution giver has exhausted their data bank of solutions. This gives the “Yes, but” player evidence that they have won by demonstrating that it is the other person who is inadequate.

If It Weren't For You

Common games played between spouses as a means of avoiding responsibility for individual decisions.

Look What You Made Me Do

Played by someone who is feeling hurt and angry, who becomes engrossed in an activity which tends to isolate them from people. When interrupted, an accident or error occurs. Player then turns on the interrupter. Also used to avoid failure in a task the player is angry about having to do or does not know exactly how to do.

Let's You and Him Fight

Player (often a woman) maneuvers two others into fighting. She aligns herself with the winner. Sometimes, while the two are fighting, she will align herself with a third party who appears to be above fighting or sees honest competition as a fool's game.

Wooden Leg

Used to excuse dysfunctional behavior. “What do you expect of a person with a wooden leg?” Often used in statement form, i.e., “I'm a redhead and have a temper”, or “I drink because I’m Irish”, etc.

Kick Me

Played by people whose social manner invites them to be kicked. If people will not kick them, they will behave more and more provocatively until they have exceeded the limits, thereby forcing them to oblige. The jilted. . .the job losers.., the rejected.

Conditional Love

I will love you if... then comes the checklist. If you don’t accept my checklist in every way, I’ll withdraw attention, acceptance, affection.

Push-Pull ('The Cat')

Played by people who have a fear of closeness/intimacy but are also afraid of being left alone. They will entice or seduce the other person to come close, open up and then when the person has opened up, the push-pull player will retreat, leaving the other person confused.

The Three Roles in Games

All games are played unconsciously when we experience a threat. Game playing serves the purpose of blaming others for our bad feelings/experience. Below are the three role-positions we can play and the characteristics of those roles:

Each one of us employs consistent patterns of defensiveness to protect our self-image from people and situations that we subconsciously sense are a threat or even an outright assault. We created ourselves that way pretty early in life, when we thought that’s what we had to do to survive, to be accepted, to fit in.

These “games” are subtle. The bad feelings involved and the destructive outcomes are readily observable, but generally after they have taken their toll in hurt feelings, fractured relationships, repeated conflict, etc.

Berne believed that if he could help us become more familiar with these unaware game patterns with their typical “play-out” steps and sequencing, we would be able to recognize them more readily. Then we could work on getting better at catching them really early, so we could make either/both of two informed choices:

In games, there are at least two, and sometimes three, possible roles people can choose to play, and the choice is always made from unawareness. These roles are: Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor.

A game can be initiated from any position, and the other player(s) can join in from any other position. In some games, players move from one role to another during the play out of the game. Often, one player is engaged in a game and the other player is working a different game in response.

In every game, the people who are part of the game — persecutors, victims, rescuers — almost always end up with a bad feeling. They know something is going wrong, or has gone wrong, and they do not know how to fix it.

Persecutor Games

A persecutor tends to put people down, belittle them, diminish them. His/her game usually begins from the unaware belief that “the best defense is a good offense”.


Manager Simon feels growing doubts about his own capacity to complete a project. He “delegates” the project to a subordinate, Georgie. Simon picks Georgie because she doesn’t usually question or challenge his motives or responsibility.

Since Simon wants to be seen as a responsible manager, he provides some seemingly appropriate level of resources (monetary, human, technical) to help Georgie in her work. A timeline is set, which usually is unrealistic given Georgie’s competency, resources or other responsibilities. Simon leaves the task completely in Georgie’s hands, or at best, provides occasional and brief “check-ins” to see how the job is going. Georgie can be counted on to tell him the job is going well, to protect her own inadequacy, and because she hopes that she will be able to pull it off by the deadline. Of course, Georgie comes up short, and when Simon finally checks on the job and finds out, he attacks Georgie and blames her for making a mess of the job. Having set her up to fail, he is able to point to her failure as the defense against his own responsibility in the failure: “It just proves if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.”


Naomi, the Audit Manager in the Finance Department, is presented with a first draft audit report by Alissa. Naomi looks it over, and then asks Alissa: “How long did it take you to do this?” “Three weeks” Naomi says. Naomi: “I can’t believe you could spend that much time on this and here are three typos right here on the first page!”

This game is set up by Naomi, who forgets (?) she has not informed Alissa that she expects her to check for misspelled words as a standard procedure before presenting her a draft report for review. Further, Naomi can demonstrate how smart she is to be able to notice spelling errors, and how dumb Alissa is to have made them. Naomi gets to feel angry (disappointed) in Alissa. Alissa gets to feel stupid and maybe even hurt, since Naomi did not recognize the hard work that she put into doing and reporting what she saw as the major task: correctly accounting for the audit.


Charlie is skeptical about Frances’s capability to lead the marketing campaign to win back market share from their competitor. It shows up in a meeting in front of her boss:

Charlie: “Would you say that we are positioning ourselves to fend off the threat from Wackie Co?”

Frances: “Of course. This marketing strategy is targeted directly at their weakness”

Charlie: “How much of a market share do they have with their product?”

Frances: “I’m not really sure. Probably less than 10%”

Tim: (GOTCHA!) “You don’t know what you’re talking about! The Financial Times article yesterday quotes Deloittes saying that Wackie has 60% market share in Manchester, London and York. Your strategy may help us stay on top, but it sure isn’t aggressive enough to win back market share in those areas!”

Similar to NIGYSOB, this game has more of an ambush flavor.

Top Dog

A person plays this game to stay on top, to not lose, and to make the other person lose. So any number of rationalizations get made by the bully to justify their position. They find this most useful when they can get someone to argue with them, but they will usually target someone whom they can count on to (eventually) buckle under and let them win.

Victim Games

For inveterate players of victim games, the best winning strategy is to take it on the chin and either come back for more or run from the threat. That’s because the victim believes: “I’m not capable of solving my own problems — you must do it for me.”

Kick Me/Underdog

Herry agrees to work on a project for his superior, Ayako. Ayako seems thrilled to have him. It’s widely known that she has pretty high standards, but neither Herry nor Ayako initiate any discussion of expectations for the project. But when Herry delivers the work product to Ayako, she immediately butchers it! Herry has set himself up for Ayako to persecute him, but he blames her for his anger and hurt, rather than acknowledging his role in the drama: not getting specific enough up front to be able to do a good job.

Poor Me, Pity Me: Ain't It Awful?

Kate always has an excuse. Like the schoolgirl who can never turn in her homework “because the dog ate it,” Kate similarly finds reasons beyond her control that things don’t work for her (Ain’t it Awful?) Her car is in the garage, so she can’t make the meeting; her neighbour has to go to the hospital and she spent time watching her children so she was late with her mortgage payment; she didn’t get paper for the printer because she only buys 50% recycled content and the store only had 25%; etc. She will engage others to try to help her overcome her difficulties (rescue her), but she really doesn’t want their help. . . she just wants to go on being a victim (Poor Me, Pity Me)


Nick gets upset whenever Julian comes to class. Julian always speaks with the other classmates in their team projects, and has a charisma about him to which the other classmates gravitate. Although Nick has been named team coordinator, it is clear that Julian has the real personal power. So Nick just clams up, doesn’t engage Julian in conversation, will not confront Julian with his feelings. He would rather experience the smoldering hurt of the victim role and blame Julian’s persecution.

Wooden Leg/Threadbare

These games are similar, but with different rationales.

In Wooden Leg, Joanna blames her lack of promotion for having been stuck with Roger, not known to be a strong leader (her Wooden Leg that keeps her from advancing more quickly). Although Joanna has done nothing to distinguish herself while working for Roger, she blames him for her lack of advancement, and looks for someone to come rescue her.

In Threadbare, Richard blames his poor performance on the outdated computer system that is provided for him. He reasons that it is the computer, rather than his own lack of competence or initiative, that keeps him from better performance, despite the fact that the others in his department produce better results with the same kind of resources. At any rate, he can blame his hurt on the mangers who won’t buy him a new computer (the imaginary persecutors), while beseeching them to rescue him by getting him a better system


Belinda can’t ever seem to get her life under control. She always seems to have more on her plate than she can take care of, and she is frenetically flying from one project and meeting to another. Whether it’s servicing her accounts, serving as Amnesty International coordinator or preparing birthday surprises for her fellow employees, neighbours and family, she is always busy. Although she may have good intentions, she fails to do anything really well, and she blames her failures on all her responsibilities, or even her boss or staff, who “expect” her to fulfill all these responsibilities. She chooses not to see that she is the one who piled on each of her responsibilities. It’s easier and more comfortable to blame her harried/hassled feelings on the “expectations of others.”

Look How Hard I Tried

Edward worked hard at finishing the audit, spending many late nights at the office. Unfortunately, he did not use standard auditing procedures, nor did he ask for assistance in framing how he would do the audit. When his superior sees his report, she can’t believe he could work that hard for something that doesn’t present what she know their clients need to guide their decisions. She questions his competence, to which he can defend his actions stating “Look How Hard I Tried.’ He clings to the belief that effort should be the measuring stick instead of results, and so remains trapped in a victim role.

Sunnyside Up/Pollyanna

Richard calls himself an optimist. Whenever something goes wrong, he always “looks on the bright side of things.” When Gazette Ltd canceled their account with him, he just smiled and said it must have been for the best, and “we’ll keep ‘em next time”. He skirts the negatives in his world, rationalizing that it doesn’t do him any good anyway. Through his Pollyanna outlook, he is seeking to rescue himself from fear and hurt that things don’t always go well in the world.

While optimism can engender high spirits and a can-do environment, Richard’s unconsciously extreme attitude shuts him off from learning that comes from experiencing failing. This game can be played very subtly, with many rationalizations, thus it is very hard for the Self-rescuer to root out and identify.

Why Don't You...Yes, But...

This game usually demonstrates the role-shift possibilities very dramatically. The victim subtly seeking to be rescued finds him/herself sliding into the role of persecuting his/her rescuer and turning him or her into the victim.

Louise tells Tom about the difficulties in her office. No one will follow the scheduling procedure that she set up, even though th.ey swore to her that they would. She comes to Tom dripping frustration and hurt.

Louise: “What am I going to do? I’ve tried everything! This whole thing is coming apart. And, I’m going to look really bad before this is over.”

Tom: “Why don’t you talk to them about it?”

Louise: “Well, I tried, but they still keep on avoiding following through.”

Tom: “Well, why don’t you reward those that do keep up with their schedule?”

Louise: “That won’t work because there’s only one out of nine that do it!”

Tom: “Why don’t you publish their names and follow-through reports?”

Louise: “Why don’t you just listen to me and let me figure it out on my own! I was just trying to tell you how I feel for crying out loud!”

Whether the victim turns persecutor and the rescuer turns victim can occur relatively quickly as in this scenario. It can also occur over a longer duration. Either way, the Why Don ‘t You... Yes, But...garnes is a defensive strategy for the rescuer who may be feeling afraid that he won’t be able to solve the problem and rescue the victim, and therefore risk being seen as incompetent, not pleasing, irresponsible, not a very effective problem-solver. When he can’t solve the problem, he shifts himself (frequently with help) into the victim role, or rationalizes it as the other person’s fault, reinforcing his own rescuer-role and script.

I Was Only Trying to Help!

This is the painful, angry end-game of the failed rescuer. Once Louise turns on Tom, he replies that he was only trying to help. This justification is really more of a victim game than a rescuer game in its initial response. However, as the discussion continues, the premise becomes that the rescuer sees himself as justified in his role, returning the victim to theirs. Continuing from the dialogue above:

Tom: “Louise, you know I was only trying to help. If you don’t want my help, then why did you ask for it?”

Louise: “I didn’t ask for it. I was just telling you about what’s going on at work, and you just started telling me what to do.”

Tom: “No, I was making suggestions about what you could do.”

Louise: “Well, it sounded like you were telling me what to do.”

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Favourite Songs

I believe that first heard Leonard Cohen on the beach at Cap d'Ail when I was about 17. A dark curly-haired chap was singing to a guitar and trying to impress Lena, a Swedish girl who I was interested in as well.... I asked him if he had written them himself and he said he had. I distinctly remember him singing 'Marianne'. We were on the beach together for a few days but I never got to know him well.

I have always loved his songs, though more for the poetry than his voice, and was happy that he had started touring again - though I seem to have missed him in all the venues he's been to so far!

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen - The Future