Friday, 27 November 2015

How thick are celebrities?

Why do so many celebrities feel a need to support dodgy causes?

Björk, David Bowie and a host of musicians, actors, artists, novelists and leading figures in the creative industries have called on negotiators at next week’s climate summit in Paris to reach a deal that staves off dangerous global warming.

The letter to the French foreign minister and the UN climate chief in charge of the talks is signed by a selection of A-listers from the British cultural scene, including actors Steve Coogan and Emma Thompson, musicians Damon Albarn and Guy Garvey, and writers Ian McEwan and Philip Pullman.

Do they not see how diminished they are in the eyes of a significant number of people? All publicity isn’t necessarily good publicity – look at the endless ridicule Bono has attracted over the years.

As professional artists they are just the kind of people who ought to see the human weaknesses, folly and ambiguities behind most promoted causes. Keen human insight ought to come with the artistic territory.  Yet as far as one can see it doesn’t and many professional artists appear to be completely oblivious to these things, often seeing far less than ordinary folk who might otherwise admire their achievements.

The climate game isn’t anywhere near to being a major public concern in spite of the endless hustling and the colossal sums spent pushing the narrative. At a personal level celebrities cannot be genuinely worried because they are cushioned from even the most dire of predicted disasters. Neither are they really concerned about the fate of unknown people in a distant future. Nobody is - such a remote and theoretical altruism isn't an aspect of human nature.

In their position I’d prefer to leave my ignorance in the background and perhaps most celebrities do that. Perhaps it is a statistical effect and all we are seeing are a small percentage - a few dedicated poseurs who close their eyes and stick their fingers in their ears if a chosen cause isn’t quite kosher. Like clockwork toys they strut their stuff because once wound up they cannot do otherwise.

Or maybe the ludicrous plonkers are simply thick.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The poisoned average

When it comes to integrity, many areas of the world are... now how do I put this without offending anyone? How about this? When it comes to integrity, many areas of the world are shit.

Yes that’ll do.

Excellence, by its very nature, isn’t average. Excellence is what we aspire to if average won’t do which it usually won’t. Unfortunately globalisation is bound to promote average over excellent. How could things be otherwise? Global policies where one standard fits all cannot aspire to anything but standardisation around the average, around what is feasible. So excellence doesn’t get a look in.

Globalisation has to promote globally attainable standards acceptable to the average shitty government and reluctantly tolerated by the average punter. We won’t refer to the latter group as voters because from a global perspective the average voter is merely a punter with no political influence. So punter became the global standard and voter was quietly defenestrated. Not that we seem to have missed it yet - democracy that is.

In which case we should expect a trend towards globally averaged political and commercial integrity, globally averaged education, globally averaged credulity, honesty, cultural values and so on. Maybe it’s time to put some folding money into a bribery fund - in case the day comes when we need an official to do their job properly, when those with brown envelopes always seem to be at the front of the queue.

Come to think of it we could prepare kids for an average life by future-proofing their party games. Pass the parcel could be pass the envelope. Monopoly could be updated so that players hide their money in a variety of off-board schemes. Although Monopoly already fits the trend quite well – you either own land or you are stuffed.

Anyone who aspires to be above average, who expects their culture to exhibit above average levels of integrity, humanity, intelligence, artistic achievement and honesty – well dream on as they say.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Winter deaths

The BBC is concerned about the rise in excess winter deaths last year.

There were an estimated 43,900 excess deaths in England and Wales last winter, the highest number since 1999, figures show.

The report suggests most of the deaths involved people over 75.

Many people attribute these deaths to the cold weather but there is a more obvious explanation – television. As nights become longer and days become shorter, elderly people with impaired mobility are likely to watch more and more television and therein lies a serious but unsuspected risk. Imagine the scene - 

Outside it is cold, wet and dark. An elderly person switches on the television expecting to be cheered or entertained but Strictly Come Prancing is on yet again. Or the news is spewing out anxiety, or one of those interminable property shows with dull folk wandering around houses they aren’t going to buy because they can’t really afford them and only wanted to see their silly faces on telly.

Wouldn’t that have a depressing physiological effect on any viewer, let alone a frail and elderly viewer who needs cheering up on a cold winter evening?

So our elderly person goes off to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, trying to spin it out until the next show, hoping for something a little better, a little more cheering or stimulating. Even something with a modicum of intellectual quality...

...It’s bloody Eastenders again.

So our elderly person goes off to the kitchen for a tot of whiskey to perk up that cup of tea, trying to spin it out until the next show, hoping for something a little better, a little more cheering or stimulating. Even something with a modicum of intellectual quality...

...It’s bloody Question Time again.

So we see how the long hours of winter television could easily depress a person’s vital forces, their natural resistance to bodily decline. It’s okay for someone my age. I can demostrate this by switching on the television without undue risk because for my age I’m reasonably fit and heal

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Coming up for air

Sometimes I browse the internet and I’m overwhelmed by the volume of material which is too good to miss but I don’t have the time because there is far too much of it. Yes much of it is dross, but the dross is easily avoided. The good material is radical too and that’s the point. Having it so easily available is like coming up for air after a lifetime spent underwater swimming through the murk and rubbish.

Much of it comes down to language, pointed, witty, accurate, iconoclastic language. Yet the problem with language is that we can’t have our own private version. Wittgenstein pointed this out although it is obvious enough. So we can’t possess language, can’t think in our own personal language, can’t use anything but the tools we have in common, the tools which evolved to channel our thinking to make it easy, automatic and thus efficient.

As we know, this why all totalitarian societies control language. Control language and you control thought. It might be expected that North Korean would be a ferment of covert dissatisfaction but it probably isn’t anywhere near as radical as one would suppose. Control permissible language and to a significant degree you control that covert language we call thought.

Yet things are obviously changing. To my mind, since the arrival of the internet the public domain has become far more varied, interesting, probing and amateur. Not amateur as in inferior to professional, but amateur as in unpaid, unscripted and uncontrolled by big business or big government.

Amateurs with relevant experience, abilities, nous and the ability to express themselves as if they too have come up for air and are enjoying every minute of it. Loose cannon in best, most productive, most interesting, most fascinating sense of the term.

We still see lots of professional radicalism, especially on the BBC, but the establishment radical seems to be on the wane. Amateur internet radicals are smarter, wittier and much more in tune with the causes of our many problems. They have stories to tell, know how to tell them and the establishment wilts in the face of their blunt and pithy honesty.

Look at the way Prince Charles flounders around trying to speak his mind on issues he does not understand. Too old, too hidebound, no exposure to the best of the internet – that’s my impression of him. So he sinks and sinks again, becoming a figure of fun, contempt, an icon of the old ways, a lost soul.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Vomit pot for sale

Hemswell Antiques has a nice Victorian pearlware vomit pot for sale just in time for Christmas. A snip at £60. Of course there are no modern features such as an instruction booklet, official containment certification or a long list of safety advice but I'm sure most people can operate it safely enough.

It would make a fine present for the festive season and may even establish your reputation as someone who comes up with something different.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Not enough tedium say campaigners

From Tedium Central

Emergency doctors and safety campaigners are calling for a national home-visiting scheme to help prevent injuries to toddlers.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) say it would make a "huge difference".

Modern life is rather like aimless wandering through a strange mixture of fog and treacle, but wandering safely thanks to people such as the good folk at RoSPA. The obvious question is whether or not human beings are evolving a tedium gene. The extraordinary value of such a gene is obvious enough. 

A bureaucratic world needs people who are genetically adapted to a uniformly tedious life, a dreamlike state where nothing is ever achieved, where all goal-directed activity is frustrated by a plethora of intervening forces, but thanks to the tedium gene it doesn't matter. Fog and treacle are good, even doubleplusgood.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

I have no absolute evidence for anything.

‘One of the problems in this country, and the reason the children’s sector hasn’t really improved since Victorian times, is because those who deliver services don’t challenge the civil servants. The power and the money is in the hands of civil servants. They’re very clever people but they’re not wise, and they’re not life-experienced.’ She pauses. ‘Look, I have no absolute evidence for anything...
Camila Batmanghelidjh

A wildly extravagant claim about Victorian times. Maybe she also thought she could do without evidence such as... oh I don't know... receipts?