Category Archives: THEORY

Unknown Knowns


“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.” -Donald Rumsfeld, 2002.


I believe Rummy missed one: The unknown knowns.
In fact, I believe most popular movies/ books/ anything else misses this too. It is a highly underrated knowledge.
The unknown knowns are those things you know, but aren’t aware you know. They could be things you take for granted or something right under your nose that you never knew you knew about -for example you might “know” something to be true, but never actually think about it (and so not know you know) until perhaps someone else mentions it.

“She’s pregnant!” …only after you hear it do you realise that you somehow “knew” all along.

Similarly, the best comedy is often to be had from these unknown knowns -everyday life events we already know about, but weren’t aware we knew or did. When they are held up in front of our eyes, perhaps through a skewed lens, we have to laugh because we recognise what we already knew, but somehow didn’t know we knew.


Why do I say this is missed by most books and movies nowadays?


Well, in my opinion the best “works of art” are almost indescribable, yet speak sometimes in a personal nature directly to the reader/ viewer. It’s not something that can be described in the blurb in the back of the book, so it’s not easily marketable, so it’s unappreciated.
Or under-appreciated at least.


Maybe the book/ movie hasn’t even broached a topic, but yet puts a certain thought in your head or leaves you with a mood that is familiar and yet new. These are the greatest.


I’ve often turned the last page of a book I really enjoyed and half an hour later could barely remember any of it. To me, that makes the book almost a complete waste of time.


On the other hand, the best books can often be harder to get into -they need some work by us readers, to place ourselves in the right frame of mind to appreciate “the full show”. But as the last page is turned, we are left floating for a long time afterward. Maybe with much to think about or just to appreciate the mood.

The unknown knowns can also lead one to that “ah yes of course!” moment, as when you suddenly realise “AAHHH So *THIS* is where it’s all going! -I didn’t know that, but now that I know I know it, I knew it all along!”


The unknown knowns are the best of all knowns and unknowns because they take the least effort with the greatest reward (or at least the groundwork has already been done, maybe subconsciously).

NOW… The next time you find a forgotten tenner in your back-pocket you will hold it aloft and declare with joy: “The unknown known!”  🙂



Jim Emerson has a good discussion on Rumsfeld’s points here.


Why Beauty Matters

Roger Scruton had a documentary/ report/ essay on BBC a couple of months ago called Why Beauty Matters. It’s about how the idea of beauty in art is/has been lost/ abandoned.

I agree pretty much with the views expressed in that. People on the whole have become too cynical for beauty in Art. As with in all other artistic areas these days, I would suggest the portrayal of negative attributes is what is often most highly praised.

Most “modern art” (at least the most popular kind) is a jaded death spasm of an urge to rebel, which itself is now nothing more than conformity because few people have the courage to portray Beauty or Happiness or pleasant scenes or thoughts or actions when the Art world is expecting -and only allows- “mind-pricks” with a particular message or non-message or a cynical “dare to nay-say this!”

Beauty in modern art is often used only as a counterpoint to the pain and suffering of others or to come or that has been. It is rarely the focus, the raison d’etre. Beauty is too subjective, and so, too many people might not “get it”.

Death and Fear and disdain and cynicism are more universally shared commodities.

It’s hard to dismiss a portrayal of Death or a work of art that justifies itself simply as “a bit of a mess”. To criticise -or even discuss- this last one is lending it credence and adds to the mockery and disdain of my personal view and ‘wants’ from Art.

That’s not to say “it’s not Art” -but just that it’s nothing I care to talk about or debate.
Feel free to enjoy it yourself. Sleep in it for all I care.

A work that is made to “uplift” is nowadays dismissed precisely because of the bland, homogenised, compartmentalised, formulaic, “digital” view of the world. Everything is labelled and put in its box for easy consumption. Want “uplifting”? Go to Disney or see a Ron Howard movie.

But those places we are “supposed to” go to for that uplifting experience are themselves the greatest distributors of Cynicism and Formula and disdain. They languish in Politically Corrective strategy groups, paring edges off anything that might offend, almost always leaving nothing but the bare bones of a thread that will “appeal to” (which now means little more than ‘not offend’) as wide an audience as possible (which translates as ‘doesn’t have any nipples in it because granny might have a heart attack if she knows the 3-year-old suspects women have breasts!’)

Here’s the programme I mentioned above

Artgenda Movies

I don’t like films with “agendas” -even if it’s in support of a viewpoint I might otherwise agree with. At least not an agenda that must be conformed to in order to appreciate the tale at hand. If I want to be preached at I’ll go to church. I don’t think any “art” (and by that I do include “entertainment”) should have any leaning bias.

Viewers should be free to form their own conclusions and opinions -not have it forced upon them.

Pleasantville is an example off the top of my head.
It’s black & white and slowly goes into colour as characters develop less “50s strict” lifestyles and learn to live in increasingly more liberal ways.

Continue reading Artgenda Movies

Tellytubbies -what’s that all about then?

Dipsy, Tinky Winky, La La and Po.

There is something of value in The Tellytubbies. Besides the fun for a child in seeing a group of fat furry friendly alien looking characters with big eyes and backsides run around and fall down, there is an educational element of sorts: The whole programme is teaching all the basic vowel-sounds. La La– “Ah Ah”. Po– “Oh”. Both Tinky Winky and Dipsy have the same “ih” and “ee” sounds. The “ih” sound is a tough one for young vocal chords. They need to commit to it as though they’re about to burble something profound and yet to then cut themselves short abruptly. “Ih”. The trailing “ee” is a reward for getting it right. “Ih ee”.

The same Effort & Reward system is used in the programme-title: Tellytubbies – “eh ee uh ee”. Though neither the eh nor the uh sound are quite as complicated as ih, the title itself still ends both sections with a celebratory pat-on-the-back. Whoopee.

What thought must have been put into The Tellytubbies! The much maligned, poor old Tellytubbies. How many people buy the dolls thinking of their kids’ vowels? What a shame we don’t think of the vowels more often. The much forgotten, poor old vowels.

Ih ee, Ih ee Ih ee, Ah ah and Oh. Yesterday.

Just about the only thing the Tellytubbies say is “uh-oh”. Note the uh and oh sounds herein. We’ve met the uh previously in the “tub” above, but the oh is brand new. We get the baby with the bath water here. They also say eh-oh (for “hello”) which teaches children subtle vowelish variations and how the proper use thereof can alter its whole meaning, describing circumstances so far removed from each other that they are in effect opposites. Thus we have the smiley, happy eh-oh and the dangerous, run-and-hide uh-oh.

Between the programme title and each character’s names we have the vowel sounds “ah”, “eh”, “ih”, “uh”, “oh” all right there screaming out at us. I know what some people are thinking around now… So where’s the main ‘U’ sound? Where’s the “oooh”?

Well, that’s what those who are not in the know might ask, for indeed there is a fifth member to the Tellytubby-team.

The fifth Tellytubby is their little pet vacuum cleaner – “Noo Noo” (Note the repeated ooo for emphasis). If you have seen it you must surely have wondered why? Why do they have a pet vacuum cleaner? Well now you know. The word “vacuum” itself is comprised mainly of this very same “ooo”. Indeed, it goes deeper than this. Just think of the other little word by which most of us refer to a vacuum cleaner. The creators of the Tellytubbies are most certainly geniuses. They covered all the bases. They place the children in a magic box from which it is impossible for them to escape without being forced to learn something. These people know that the adult audience won’t all say “oh look: a vacuum cleaner!” whereby the children would be further fortified with knowledge. They know that half the population would call this pet a hoover, but of course they had that covered too! Ooooooh!

The last remaining vowel sound. Yesterday.
The last remaining vowel sound. Yesterday.

The Tellytubbies is near abstract art for tots. It paints a picture of the almost-invisible building blocks to learning. It encourages toddlers to form ideas. It doesn’t lecture or explain. It doesn’t tell and it doesn’t preach. Unlike a certain purple dinosaur I despise. bleurgh


This is why I believe The Tellytubbies should never be allowed fade out of popularity. It speaks to children in their own tongue whilst simultaneously teaching them the basics of most Western languages.


Extract from the excellent The High Kicking Kung Fu Soccer Playing Bunny Rabbit Tree. Available here. And on, etc.

A Sitty Choice

This is the seating layout for the NCT (National Car Test) Centre I previously mentioned. Fellow attendees marked by letters. Females in pink. Males red.


The TV is blaring, showing Sky News broadcasting live from the UK house of commons where half a dozen half asleep politicians are trying hard not to be disturbed by the animated speaker.

I enter and stand in the place marked ‘IN’ and find myself at a loss… Where do I sit?

Continue reading A Sitty Choice

Something more to say on Happiness

Happiness is a hard-sell because Happiness is a self-generated emotion.
It can’t be forced onto another person the way more negative traits like Fear, Sadness, Greed, Regret, Inadequacy, etc. can.
Everybody has their own ideas of Happiness -a roomful of books, lots of money, a large family, quiet time with nobody around, God, oblivion, job security, Summer holidays, etc.

But you only have to mention DEATH and your entire audience is united in Fear. Stick a few murders on the pot and you have a guaranteed audience of headlighted-rabbits.

Death, like Sex, is an easy sell. Too easy in my view.

Continue reading Something more to say on Happiness

[Theory] To Ply or Not To Ply

…That is the question!

Have you noticed how 2-ply toilet paper these days seems to be pretending it is 3-ply?

I’ve tried a few (but not a lot), and each brand seems to do the same. It is virtually impossible to begin unravelling just two plies (is that the correct plural?).
Instead, one ply is slightly longer and stuck to the end of the double-ply at the ‘beginning point’.

Therefore, one always begins by unravelling three plies instead of two.


Continue reading [Theory] To Ply or Not To Ply