Archive for July, 2008

One day, we shall inherit the earth…

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

One day, we shall inherit the earth

There is some debate about what happened to the Neanderthals. One suggestion is that they interbred with Homo Sapiens. Let’s look at the circumstantial evidence.

Apart from Africa, where the large mammals had time to adapt to the ingenuity of modern man, every other place on the planet suffered a loss of their large mammals within centuries of humans appearing on the scene. A Neanderthal could be classed as a large mammal.

Is it too uncomfortable to imagine that our ancestors killed and ate the Neanderthals into extinction?

The only life we know

Monday, July 28th, 2008

As Dave Pollard keeps pointing out, we have now painted ourselves into a corner regarding the way we live. There are simply too many people on the planet to abandon the globalisation model that has allowed this house of cards to come into being for any viable alternative model (whatever that might be). As a result we feel we are trapped in our roles as robot workers for the system.

This life that we do know would be tolerable if it made more sense. But my experience is that most people have a sense of cognitive dissonance about their lives. We intuitively divine that this is not how we were meant to live. So what is missing?

It is a bold person that attempts to live another life. Most of us do not possess the knowledge or the passion to try and live in a commune, or on very little or in a different, simpler, part of the world. So how can we ever experience another life, if only to compare it with the one we have?

Reflecting on this, I realised that we have all, in fact, lived another life and it is from this life that we know we have been short changed by society.

We were once children.

As a child, I grew up on a street that had dozens of other children living on it and we played happily together. We were all poor (I realise now) in comparison with most of the United Kingdom (but rich, I also realise now, as compared with Third world countries). As a child I had no concept of poor. I was a stranger to hunger, I had shelter and education and a community. We lived on the edge of nature; moors, woods, streams, abandoned quarries, which were all explored fully. I didn’t know what prejudice was, I didn’t comprehend status nor privilege but I knew what it meant to belong to a community.

It was only when my knowledge and understanding of the world grew and I became aware of these other concepts that the prescribed poisons were introduced into my education and carefully massaged into my consciousness.

This probably explains the cognitive dissonance; we do remember a happier time, a more rational time. It also explains the appeal of gang culture; at least you belong to something bigger than yourself, somewhere where you are accepted when the rest of society rejects you.

What we need now is a new gang culture – gangs of intellectuals, gangs of artists, gangs of bloggers who roam the landfills of humanity challenging and transforming the bewildered scavengers they find into the noble producers they once were and helping them reclaim the joy they only dimly remember.

Would you have brain surgery performed by this man?

Friday, July 25th, 2008

When we visit a doctor or a lawyer we like to think that this person has been trained, measured and assessed by their peers before they are allowed to sell their skills on the open market. If you needed brain surgery, you would be very unhappy to use someone who had read a few books and who was confident that they could ‘have a go’. After all, your life is at stake.

But when it comes to being leader of the most powerful country in the world, you don’t need any qualifications whatsoever (as far as I can tell) apart from one – wealth. And yet, the entire world is entrusting their lives with this person. What sort of system is that?

Thank you Channel 4

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

What a fabulous public service Channel 4 has provided with its Ofcom result.

We now know how little regulation there is in television regarding the veracity of any programme that is not considered a news item. That means any lobby group, fundamentalist, white supremacist or capitalist can sponsor a programme about any scientific idea, make stuff up about it and get it shown on television with impunity.

In the past, anything that was shown on television was accepted as fact because someone had gone to a lot of time, trouble and expense to make a programme. As a result most people got their view of the world from television and believed it was a true one.

We now know different; it’s all made up half truths, statistical lies, misinformation and misrepresentation. So if Channel 4 are doing it, who else is and why? What are they protecting? Ultimately, this means we can’t believe anything that we see or hear on television. This can only be a good thing because it is true (I once saw something on television about it [Americans beware; irony!]) and we need to know important stuff like this.

So thank you again Channel 4 for alerting us to this truth.

Incidentally, you would be amazed how even the ‘news’, which is supposed to be protected, can be doctored within the parameters of the law to suit a propagandists point of view.

Might is right

Friday, July 18th, 2008

There is a current story about a conflict between a giant aluminium processing company and an ancient tribe in India. The company wants to dig out the mountain that the tribe consider sacred and which they live on.

This epitomises a difficult and fundamental moral issue. Let’s make it personal.

A foreign superpower develops a new process that can create energy for free effectively. However, for the process to work, they need an extremely rare mineral. An orbiting satellite discovers that your house is situated right on top of the only known deposit on earth of this mineral. So what happens?

The people who ‘found’ the deposit are a foreign superpower who will become even more powerful with this new technology. They will weigh up their options and probably figure that asking you nicely to sell your house to them is the best first approach. This option is usually only considered when laws have to be taken into account.

But let’s say, you live in a country that does not have written laws and you have simply lived in that location for several decades. Do you own the rights to the land around you? If you do, what has conferred these rights, if it is length of tenure, how long do you have to have lived there before these rights are conferred to you? Any rights, of course, have to be honoured by anyone else wandering across the land, otherwise they could just take it if they were powerful enough – like our superpower.

Let’s stay with option one and the superpower attempts to negotiate with you; what if you are stupid enough to resist huge amounts of cash because you are perfectly happy living where you are, or what if you are superstitious and believe that the world will end if you allow your house to be demolished? Conventional greed isn’t going to work here.

The superpower wants this substance and so they will quickly move onto the other options if the first one does not bring immediate results. The other options are; political lobbying, bribery and corruption (of the law makers if you won’t budge) and finally naked aggression. This has been the history of the human race since the dawn of agriculture (except without the foreplay before naked aggression). Laws are simply window dressing to appease the mob (who, in reality have the greatest might if they could organise themselves). There is clearly only a law for the masses. Anyone who is rich and powerful enough can evade this law (unless they have even more powerful enemies who enforce it for their own purposes).

It is only the philosophers who attempt to raise the consciousness bar above this simple rule and when they do, it is with limited success.

Take slavery. In the past slaves were simply taken because there was no-one to stop the slave traders. Today, we wouldn’t buy a chained up African from a dodgy looking bloke who was selling them on the street corner. But we would buy a counterfeit dvd from the same dodgy looking bloke because we can’t see the human trafficking process that undoubtedly had a hand in the manufacture of that dvd. The window dressing has improved somewhat.

I don’t see how this ancient tribe in India has a chance (although they have got some media power behind them now which might help).

A glimpse of eternity

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

A glimpse of eternity

Oil on canvas.

The road less travelled

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

The road less travelled

Oil on canvas. 71 cm x 71 cm.

Theme parks – “Won’t someone please think of the children!”

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

The idea that theme parks are designed for children is a myth. They are like pet foods; pets don’t read labels, the owners do. Pet food is aimed at humans.

It’s the same with theme parks. Children have a limited capacity for enjoyment, it’s called; Full On. A bucket of water and a pile of dirt is every child’s idea of fantasy come true. A ride or large empty building or funny costumes holds equal enjoyment to a child or possibly, slightly less because theme parks tend to ’suck’ overall. They take energy, instead of giving energy. They are like huge, life size television sets with surround-qualia. People have the experience foist upon them.

A mud world is diametrically opposed to a theme park. The child’s imagination is king. The child creates the experience and gives energy to the activity, the child learns from the experience, even if it’s only how mud behaves in a solution.

However, adults have a conditioned imagination, fire-hosed with advertising and for them enjoyment has to be represented by MASSIVE capitals, otherwise they just ignore it. So adults think that children will enjoy what adults think children will enjoy. The adult believes that a child will think a monstrous ride that has had millions of euros spent on it MUST be better than the experience of being dandled in the loving arms of its parent. The park builders know this and play on the fallacy.

That is why parents are prepared to spend so much time and money standing in line, with their children, almost comatose with boredom (they take pictures of each other standing in line to break the boredom and to provide cherished memories of their visit) because that little squeal of delight from their child when they finally experience the ride, justifies it all.

At least the children are happy (and the park owners).

Another post on theme parks

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

After visiting two theme parks now, I simply don’t understand how these parks can get away with the product that they offer. Let’s look at the balance sheet for our ROI.

The debit side,

  • you have to queue to get into the park.
  • you have to pay an entrance fee, typically anything up to £70 each.
  • the bigger the park, the further you have to walk from one attraction to another and so the less time you have to queue for the rides you want to go on.
  • you have to queue for a ride, typically forty minutes for a two minute ride This means in an eight hour day you might realistically get twenty minutes of ride time for seven and a half hours of queuing.
  • you have to queue to get out of the park. If you came by car, getting out could take hours.

The credit side,

  • you er., see stuff that is ‘themed’ to whichever park you are visiting.
  • you might get twenty minutes of fun, if you are lucky (I say lucky because some rides are a huge disappointment when you eventually get to go on them).

That’s it basically. So for twenty minutes of fun people pay up to £70 each. Does that sound like a convincing return on investment to you?

The cinema could provide hours of entertainment for a fraction of that cost – an imax cinema can even give the sensation of movement if you want the ride experience. A walk in the countryside can provide hours of fun for free and no queuing (just think of it as a huge park with a countryside theme). A large Natural History museum can also provide hours of absorbing entertainment, sometimes for free.

Equally, finding a dipping road and driving over the bumps can provide as much fun as some of the rides on offer at these parks.

The public is being had. In years to come we look fondly back at theme parks and comment how stupid people must have been to pay good money for standing in line. They might as well create the theme park that is themed on theme parks. You queue for forty minutes only to be told some mildly disappointing news at the end. That sort of thing.