As someone has cleverly pointed out, apart from perhaps a trivial error in orthography, even an obscure prophet like Joachim of Floris can nearly get it right. While his predicted Age of the Father has given way to the Age of the Son, and the Age of the Son has given up the ghost to the ‘wholly gauche’, that creepy sound you hear all around you at the moment isn’t just that Crazy Frog ring tone. No, where once a few spoke a language that nearly everyone could understand, whole multitudes now recite, and download, an increasingly lower-case lingo that no one can understand – or, worse, even notice that they don’t. In this slice of multiverse, the irrationally authoritarian rules of political correctness and expediency now make the rules of quantum physics appear transparently simple by comparison.

Although humorously accurate, perhaps ‘wholly gauche’ is putting too mild a gloss on it. The fact that a ring tone can make it into the music charts is bad. The fact that the Government wants to introduce a road charge on cars – which will eventually contain satellite-linked black boxes to monitor their every move – and that most people are only concerned about the level of the charge rather than the level of personal scrutiny and loss of freedom of movement is worse. But the fact that a 21-year-old was arrested, handcuffed by no less than six policemen, held in a cell overnight, and given an
£80 fixed-penalty fine for calling a police horse ‘gay’, is just a bit further down the wrong twisted rabbit hole then I’d planned to go.

Considering the state of the music industry in general and the charts in particular, the whole issue of the crazy
frog ring tone probably isn’t even worth examining. However, the Government’s proposed tagging of cars is definitely a more sinister spectre. But considering the general lack of interest in individual freedoms and an overwhelming deification of the bland, the shallow and the superficial, six out of ten people would already accept these charges. The only minor bone of contention seems to be how much they’d be willing to pay.

As for calling a police horse gay, perhaps the inebriated youth was simply using the older Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word, meaning “full of or disposed to or indicating mirth, light-hearted, sportive, cheeky” or perhaps “showy, brilliant, bright-coloured”. In other words, a flamboyant happy horse. As fixed-penalty fines are illegal under a real written law and contravene the 1689 Bill of Rights and, as far as anyone I’ve spoken to in the legal profession is aware, there are no known laws that stipulate what you can or cannot call a horse, this one could net someone a lot of money in the European Court of Human Rights. But then again, as I said earlier, where once a few spoke a language that everyone could understand, multitudes now recite, and often wrongly reinterpret, an increasingly lower-case lingo that no one can understand – at least not fully.

Speaking of ‘wholly gauche’, while Microsoft has recently been forced to acknowledge that hackers booby-trapped its MSN Web site in South Korea to try to steal passwords from visitors, we’re now faced with the even more bizarre news that Apple plans to deliver models of its Macintosh computers using Intel microprocessors by June next year. Worse, it plans to transition all of its Macs to using Intel microprocessors by the end of 2007. What’s that all about? After years of extolling the virtues of the streamlined RISC-based PowerPC chip with impressive demos showing Macs speeding past their slow, Pentium-based counterparts, why has Apple now decided to embrace the Intel hegemony? At the recent Worldwide Developer Conference, Steve Jobs confirmed Apple’s aim to provide its customers with the best personal computers in the world. Fine. But what exactly has Intel come up with recently to convince him that they have “the strongest processor road map by far”?

Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel, has promised to provide advanced chip technologies and to collaborate on new initiatives to help Apple “continue to deliver innovative products for years to come”. OK, but what are they? Are we talking about a ‘Big Mac’ version of the fat Pentium, or something newer and sleeker? Is this a move to make the Mac OS available to standard Intel PCs? Is Apple worried about future sourcing problems for the PowerPC chips given recent developments within IBM? Or is it simply a shrewd business ploy to suck up to the world’s largest chip maker and cash in on an already massive marketing campaign – regardless of how much like the aforementioned police horse that whole campaign might be?

Although facts are still thin on the ground, the next question is how will the Intel machines measure up to the PowerPC Macs in performance? Well, at the moment, nobody knows for sure. Fortunately, since Apple is not shipping any Intel-based Macs until 2006, the Intel chips that are available today on PCs won’t necessarily be the models, speeds, or even families that will end up in Apple’s Intel-based systems. But Apple does risk alienating its core base of loyal customers who, as always, expect them to differentiate their products from Windows-Intel machines. And like it or not, once again there will invariably be software compatibility problems.

Unlike the cheap joke at the beginning of this piece, Apple’s announcement is not just a trivial error in orthography. If the transition to Intel processors turns out to be ‘wholly gauche’, Apple could become a ‘wholly ghost’. I suppose if the Erisian model of chaos and confusion is applied here, nothing is true and everything is permitted. In which case, everything else – cosmology, technique, philosophy, etc – is negotiable. As John Lilly, renowned scientist and inventor of the isolation tank, once said, “In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true either is true or becomes true”. And, as they observed in The Wizard of Oz, this is definitely a horse of a different colour. Let’s just hope it’s not a police horse with a black box and a crap ring tone. MW