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Canada’s state broadcaster told me recently that the French had to invent the guillotine. Why would they need to that when the Scots already had an almost identical device, known as The Maiden?  What I suspect we have here is an information silo. Feed the information into the search engine and it tells  you what it thinks you want to know. A bit like all these people whose social media feeds deluge them with bizarre conspiracy theories. The Maiden, a frame with a 75 pounds of lead weighted blade, was first used in Scotland in 1565 and remained in service until 1716. Similar devices had been used in Europe since at least 1539. Halifax in Yorkshire claims to have inspired The Maiden, though it is not clear when it when its version was first used. So, if Mr Guillotine did indeed invent the device which carries his name, it was a case of reinventing the wheel.

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Folk live in such silos these days that they assume all their troubles are caused by their skin tone or some other marker. They don’t realise that most of their troubles come from a group of people who have been exploiting nearly everyone for generations and love to play divide and conquer. A classic illustration is the resurgence of the Klu Klux Clan in the American South of the 1920s. Money interests realised that they could smash working class solidarity if they could whip up racial division. Pitting white against black worked wonders when it came to keeping down the wage bill and forcing people to accept lousy working conditions. The great grandchildren of those same bosses still manage to do much the same thing.

* The 2021 Book of the Year has just been announced - Book of the Year 2021

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I always felt the winter solstice festive period was a season of two parts. Christmas was for family. New Year was mates and community. Most folk, at least in theory know how Christmas is supposed to go. But I'm beginning to wonder if the Art of Hogmanay is being lost. It's hard to say from here in Canada. If the Canadians ever got New Year, it was long before my time. I once went to the square outside Edmonton City Hall for Hogmanay. Folk just stood in their own little groups and didn't mingle. I think the square was almost empty by 12:15am. It was a poor imitation of something folk had seen on television beamed from New York. A similar event in Scotland, at least when I was young, would have have involved the whole crowd trying to interact with everyone else in it. Though there was the occasional empty bottle launched into the air. And everyone seemed to throw their home open to everyone else, even if they didn't particularly like them. Everyone was pals for one night, or at least pretended to be. But I gather things are a lot quieter in Scotland these days, and have been since  long before Covid came along. Maybe folk these days have nicer furniture that they don't want damaged or stuff around the house that they don't want people they barely know, if they know them at all, pocketing. Or maybe I'm just getting old. 

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I'm getting fed up translating ignorant into English on a daily basis. And I'm not thinking of slips of the tongue, but scripted material delivered by supposed professionals. "Journalists" who believe that situations are exasperated rather than exacerbated. That preempting is the same as predicting. And the plural of child is childs. And they are all being paid to produce this confounding drivel. I shouldn't have to work out what they are trying to say or mean. It's their job to use the correct words. 

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So, excited about the impending announcement of the SMD 2021 Book of the Year? Probably not. I think the only folk who might care are the ones on the shortlist. That's because I'm not beholden to any publisher and don't have to creep up to any fellow writers.  A lot of those pithy quotes from reviewers  on the back of new books are more about getting the some publicity for the reviewer, often a writer, than guiding potential readers. And I can think of one Canadian best seller praised for its originality by reviewers who did not realise that the central "revelation" had formed the opening chapters of British book two years earlier. So, the choice of SMD Book of the Year is usually less tainted than most such awards. The same goes for all the reviews that appear in Book Briefing. 

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