Civilised disagreement works better face-to-face (therefore cities have a future)

The present dose of Plague History we’re having has caused much pessimism concerning the future of big, densely packed cities. Being an enthusiast for big city architecture, especially the seriously big and eye-catching sort, I am now more than ever on the lookout for people saying things about why cities confer, and will continue to confer, an advantage upon all those who live and work in them.

So, I particularly noticed this Bo Winegard tweet, when I encountered just now:

It depresses me how quickly a person on twitter can go from disagreeing with you to cursing and insulting you. Strikes me that there’s probably an evolutionary mismatch because almost all of our interactions were face-to-face. People are much nicer when they have to look at you.

I think that captures a key advantage of face-to-face communication, which is that it makes it more likely that those face-to-face communicating are that bit more likely to do it like ladies and gentlemen rather that like loutesses and louts.

I think people on twitter shout, so to speak, partly because they can. But also, maybe, because they feel they have to, to get their point across. If you do one of those oh-so-gently meaningful and very politely phrased criticisms, on Twitter, or for that matter during a conference-at-a-distance, you are liable to fear that your point will get lost. Your iron fist will be completely smothered by the velvet gloves you chose to wear. Face-to-face, you can literally see and hear and feel your point getting across. Or not, in which case you can politely rephrase it.

Being able to disagree in a civilised manner, in a way that doesn’t leave lasting scars or permanent feuds, is fundamental to the successful functioning of any organisation.

My dad was a barrister, in American: a trial lawyer. British barristers are always careful to call each other “my learned friend”, and the more fiercely they are quarrelling, the more they are careful to scatter these words upon all the insults they trade. That always used to amuse me, when my dad talked about it. But an important point was embodied in such drollery, not least because dad often spelled it out explicitly. When arguing, be polite. The more fiercely you argue, the more important politeness becomes. Twitter seems to make that harder. Face-to-face communication makes it easier.

So, cities will survive. Face-to-face communication is now one of their core purposes.

Roz Watkins “in the front rank of British crime writers”

About three weeks ago, I mentioned the latest DI Meg Dalton book, and its author (also my niece) Roz Watkins.

The Daily Mail just gave Cut To The Bone, which comes out this month, this glowing review:

TWO years ago, I warmly welcomed DI Meg Dalton in Watkins’ debut. Now in her third outing, she has developed into a memorable detective with attitude, pounding Derbyshire’s Peak District with commendable fortitude.

A young social media star — famous for cooking sausages on a barbecue wearing only a bikini — goes missing from her job at an abattoir on a summer’s night.

Traces of blood and hair are found in one of the pig troughs, but there is no sign of the victim. Has she been killed?

Even more importantly, what on earth was she doing working in an abattoir in the first place?

Have animal rights protesters harmed her, or is there something more sinister at work? Has she fallen prey to the ghost of the Pale Child who, legend has it, announces death if once seen?

Subtly plotted, and with a delicate sense of place, it confirms Watkins in the front rank of British crime writers.

Strong stuff, especially that last bit.

Roz Watkins talks about her latest book – and about animals

Crime writer Tony Kent does a fifteen minute video-at-a-distance interview with fellow crime writer Roz Watkins. Roz is my niece, which is partly why I keep mentioning her here. But the bigger reason I keep on about her is that she is very good at what she does, which is not just writing the books she writes but also selling them. She’s an excellent public speaker, and a very personable interviewee. So, if you want to know more about what sort of person Roz is, and also about the idyllic yet sometimes spooky place she lives in (the Peak District), as well as about her books, tune in here.

Animals figure prominently in this interview. Starsky the dog makes an appearance near the beginning. They talk about killing animals in crime thrillers and about how that upsets people far more than killing mere people seems to. Also, animals are a big part of the background of Roz’s latest book, Cut To The Bone, number three in her DI Meg Dalton series. A missing girl has got on the wrong side of animal rights activists, and traces of her blood and hair are found in an abattoir. That kind of grizzly thing. It’s due out in hardback in a month’s time, and, unless I have misunderstood things badly, is already readable as a computer file.

My favourite quote from the interview is when, 4 minutes 20 seconds in, Roz says: “Everyone wants to kill all the lawyers.” Very dramatic.

BMNBQotD

Emily Yoffe:

After 25 years of marriage, my husband and I are getting to know each other with a depth that is best avoided.

The comments vary, from the laughter of recognition to the usual Twitter denunciation of strangers on the basis of wildly insufficient evidence. Was she just joking? Very possibly. Lots of fine marriages seem to work all the better for them not spending all day together.

I’m okay. My new tabletop freezer just arrived this morning. Soon, I will start getting to know it in depth.

Happy birthday

Happy birthday to me, that is, because today has been my 72nd birthday. Several emails have arrived noting that various Facebook friends have been wishing me a Happy Birthday. I find Facebook baffling and useless as a means of personal communication, so am unable to access any of these messages on my Facebook feed, where I can detect no sign of them. So let me say here, to Robert L, Bjorn, Tim, Rob F, among others: thanks for all the good wishes.

In this computerised era, everyone is prompted by their various machines to do this, but it still means something that they actually do it.

Also appreciated were various phone calls. It tells you something about the experience of Getting Old (see the category list below) that all of these conversations included, in among the birthday greetings, medical discussions of various bodily malfunctions and of the efforts of the NHS, such as they have been, to correct these. My various friends and family are also Getting Old, you see. Older, anyway.

The general lesson from these medical conversations seems to be: if you want the NHS to start being properly on your side, get yourself classified as an emergency. Let me clarify this. You need to be threatening to die. Then, the NHS seems to stir itself into action. But if you are merely rather damaged and you are able to get worse before death looms at all threateningly, the NHS can’t seem to persuade itself to be that interested. It focusses its attention instead on manipulating the various queues it puts you in, in order to made its statistics look better than they actually are. Basically, it tries to keep you in a queue before it allows you to join the actual Official Queue, the one it wants to keep short, and thereby make itself look good. One of the friends I spoke with today said he had recently photoed a bench in a hospital corridor with the words “SUB QUEUE” attached to it.

Birthdays, when you are rather old, remind you that you are Getting Old. Which might explain why, to celebrate my own birthday, I have, by way of giving myself a present, chosen to have a good old grumble.

Three more DI Meg Dalton books to come (following on from the first three)

Until around yesterday, fans of Roz Watkins’s DI Meg Dalton (who include me (Roz being my niece)) had to be content with knowing that there were, or would be, for sure, in all, just three Meg Daltons to be read. There was the first, The Devil’s Dice. There is Dead Man’s Daughter. And in 2020 there will be Cut To The Bone. So, if you liked the first Meg Dalton, you could only be sure of two more books spent in her grumpy but appealing company.

But yesterday, with the announcement of a further three-book deal between Roz and her publisher, that three has now turned into six.

What this means is that if, before yesterday, you were wondering whether to make a start with this series, your best case would be that you liked your first Meg Dalton and would have two more to enjoy, one straight away, and another one quite soon. But now, if you like the first Meg Dalton you read, there will be five more.

Accordingly, the economics, if that’s the word, of reading about DI Meg Dalton’s adventures and ordeals have radically altered. Worst case, you won’t like the first Meg Dalton you read, and that will be that. That hasn’t changed. But if you like that first one, then the eventual reward that will follow just got massively bigger.

All of which means that there will now be an increased demand for the two early Meg Daltons, the two that have actually already been published.

Now is also a good time to be buying the very first one, The Devil’s Dice, for another reason, which is that Amazon is now selling the paperback of this for just £2. And actually you now can get it for under a quid from other sellers. Well worth that sort of money, I’d say.

All of which I learned from following Roz on Twitter.

Here is something of what I thought, of the second Meg Dalton, Dead Man’s Daughter.

Just kidding

Niece Roz tweets:

Had enough of your relatives already? Don’t just think about murdering them – come along to @scarthinbooks tomorrow afternoon and talk about how you could actually– (Just kidding, Twitter. Just kidding)

Scarthin Books is, alas, in the Peak District, where Roz lives. This is impossibly far away from London, where I live. If she ever holds an event like this in London, I will definitely attend. I will make sure that all present know that she and I are related. Otherwise I will say little. I will concentrate on looking quietly attentive and quietly thoughtful.

Photo of Roz’s second Meg Dalton book here.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog