Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Each to their own?

While driving I was listening to a review on R4 of a newly published book, Moral Relativism, and a discussion on that topic. Perhaps you won't be surprised to read that I sometimes find it difficult not to explode at the mere mention of "each to their own". I'm afraid that in my opinion (and it's certainly not mine alone), keeping to an "each to their own" philosophy, if it can be called such, means a person is unlikely to be an active nuisance, which might be good, BUT, of course, if you stick to that "philosophy", you are unlikely ever to be instrumental in improving any of the bad behaviour of people on this planet.

"Each to their own" is what some folks say, but I can think of a huge number of situations in which yer average each-to-their-own adherent would definitely take action to prevent something bad from happening, or from continuing. If you're one of those people and yet you'd agree with such a list, then your "philosophy" is shown to be what it really is..., Useless, of no help, invalid and really not even applicable to you. It isn't really your philosophy, so stop applying it, and stop hiding behind it.

I very strongly believe that there are very many situations where what some might refer to as tolerance is wrong. Wrong. And wrong.

This is just to remind you how very good 10,000 Things were and that you can download a lot of their music through the link to the right, or even find their album and some of the singles on iTunes.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

None Better? Humble Pie on the OGWT.

I'm a little concerned in case I never find any music which I might enjoy more than this..... It's not an enormous worry, but it's more than a passing thought.

And then I found The Small Faces doing Tin Soldier on 02 March 1968 in a rare TV performance with the wonderful, wonderful P.P. Arnold originally broadcast on the Belgian programme, Boutton Rouge....

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Time and Beliefs.

In the museum at Alta, Norway, a shaman's "magic" drum as used by (some of) the Sami people.
After leaving school (an almost unbelievable 35 years ago), we fell out of contact, but this evening I've been talking again to my friend, Charlie and not unusually our (80 minute!), natter caused time and other priorities to align themselves a little differently.
Charlie told me that Albert Einstein believed there is no true division between past and future, rather there is a single existence. That left me wondering about the now-ness of now and whether or not my understanding of the importance of the extreme brevity of now might possibly amount to an agreement with Mr Einstein's perspicacity. Charlie explained it as humans having made a concept of time because we found, and continue to find it so very difficult to cope without measuring time. But it isn't in existence, and it doesn't matter, and we don't need it.
Soon we were heading towards religions and beliefs and I was put in mind of Robert M. Pirsig's,
"You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow..... When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths, or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt".
Me, I suffer a little from a human condition which makes me want to agree with lots of people, so let me see..., Amongst what lots of people say about their values and beliefs, what might I find which seems not to be non-sense?
Well, we do desperately (as in lacking in hope), desperately need to be in tune with (what's left of) our beautiful planet, but a "spiritual self"? No, that's just me, some lucky bloke who enjoys and appreciates very much of what he sees, and hears, and learns, and who makes judgements based on quality and caring, but does those things without religious faith, organised or otherwise, and without any spirit other than what is straightforwardly me-ness. I'm a bloke who's alive and when I'm dead I'll be dead. In terms of my spirituality there is no evidence of anything else, there never has been and I can safely say that there never will be. There never will be.
Some of us succumb to a truly ancient need to plug the evidence gap with what we call faith, aka wishful thinking. Sometimes such faith-thinking is little more than mildly delusory, almost harmless, and sometimes it is bloody awfully dangerous. (All but the very stoopidest) folks have both time and mental capacity to spare and we are prone to wonder, and prone to imagine. Some folks quite often give way to a very strong sociable urge to tell other folks that there is a Green Man and that there are spirits in rivers and on the tops of mountains, or that there is (a) god (for whose existence there is no evidence) which made the world in a certain number of days and was in some non-specifiable way responsible for lots and lots of other events which
  • Really did not happen, or
  • Really did not happen as described, or which
  • Really happened for clearly understandable reasons not related to a non-existent god.

Some of these folks get in such a mess over this non-sense that they are prone to (start dreadful wars and to), pray to so-called spirits and gods in the hope that their praying will make a difference to anything that's bugging them. It never has and it never really will. Certainly some of those praying folks would be upset or even very angry, if told the truth.

As a result of a range of mind-messing traditions many of us who think straight have, even so, been conditioned into behaving as if those who rely on illogical beliefs are entitled to be protected from sound reasoning. I've no wish to cause offence, but I have no respect for beliefs which make non-sense, and I don't think it is disrespectful of me to say so.

The options we have, there are no more, are:
  • To be deluded or
  • To delude ourselves or
  • To rely on rational reasoning.
Anyway, it's clearly good to talk, because Charlie added,
"......I have difficulties with the rational bit. We often think we're being rational when in fact we're simply covering up our own incapability to understand what may be rational in an amazingly complicated world - religion itself was once an attempt to be rational - Iron Age people came to their own conclusions based on the knowledge they had. I think the main difference between us and them is that we now know that there is a lot more to be ignorant about".

Here's the British Humanist Association: http://www.humanism.org.uk/

I joined, couldn't see any sense in not joining.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Eating Not Deadly Oop North, UK

In West Yorkshire I've noticed, but not yet made time to visit, what looks to be a good new place to eat:Green & Bousfield, aka The Veggie, an Organic Vegetarian Cafe in Ilkley.

So while we're on the subject of really trying to avoid harm to animals and to the environment........, Here are some similar places in the north of England all of which I recommend [and none of them are that often quite horrid so-called veggie-friendly (but-still-sell-stinky-meat-and-fish-to-the-other-customers) type of place)]:

In Ambleside, Cumbria is
Zeffirellis restaurant (plus jazz and two cinemas!).
In Grasmere, Cumbria the not inexpensive
Lancrigg Vegetarian Country House Hotel:
In Kendal, Cumbria is the
Waterside Wholefood cafe and shop and
Quaker Tapestry Exhibition Centre & Tearooms;
In Keswick, Cumbria is The
Lakeland Pedlar cafe-restaurant (with bicycle shop!)
In Lancaster the wonderful
Whale Tail and below it
The long established and special
Single Step;
In Manchester find the very good
Eighth Day Cafe (and healthfood shop)

At Silverdale, Lancashire is
Kayes Nursery Gardens and Tea Rooms (unfortunately it's closed through much of the winter).
In Ulverston, Cumbria is Gillam's Tea Room (web site?) at 64 Market Street, LA12 7LT. 01229 587564 and
The relaxing
World Peace cafe (with meditation centre above).

Friday, 19 December 2008

Kicks all the Boxes

A Huf Haus prefabricated in Germany.

The archbishop of Canterbury and our prime minister disagree over the morality of the government's plans for Britain to spend its way out of recession. The archbish has suggested that the high-spending "solution" to the economic crisis is like 'an addict returning to the drug' and has encouraged us to ignore the Government's encouragement to go shopping to save the economy saying,
'It is about what is sustainable in the long term and if this is going to drive us back into the same spin, I do not think that is going to help us. I hope people will understand that spending itself is about need before it is about serving the economy in the abstract.'
I don't, nor do I want to, disagree.
My old dad finds some humour in the fact that he was born during a recession, in 1926, the year of the General Strike in the UK, but his parents were able to send all three sons (at the age of seven) to a public boarding school, so I doubt dad was at all familiar with the full implications of living through hard times.
In 1931 in Swansea 10,000 people were out of work and 2,000 families were on the means test. Dylan Thomas wrote:

Remember the procession of the old-young men
From dole queue to corner and back again,
From the pinched, packed streets to the peak of slag
In the bite of the winters with shovel and bag,
With a drooping fag and a turned up collar,
Stamping for the cold at the ill lit corner,
Dragging through the squalor with their hearts like lead,
Staring at the hunger and the shut pit-head,
Nothing in their pockets, nothing home to eat,
Lagging from the slag heap to the pinched, packed street.
Remember the procession of the old-young men.
It shall never happen again.
But it has, hasn't it. And to put things back where they were (before this recent recession) our British government advocates that we buy lots of things. How extraordinarily(?) short-sighted to think that where we need to be is where we were! How extraordinarily(?) lacking in hindsight!
And why that Huf Haus? Well, it's handsome, but its purpose here is by its very non-essentiality to provide a contrast to the redundancies taking place today in Britain even though those redundancies are occurring in places where there was very evidently a high degree of needlessness. Unless there were nowhere else to go, what might one need from MFI, or from Woolworths?
Few, if any, of us have avoided it, but how very much we have been deluded into thinking that anything more than safe food, safe water, some clothing and a dry shelter are what we, most of us, need. That is unlikely to be a starting point which any of us Westerners might choose, but it is a baseline above which one always finds (blindingly?), obvious evidence of, at best, unfairly distributed good fortune.
The poem is read during the film Wales - Green Mountain, Black Mountain part of A War Films Anthology from the Imperial War Museum.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Knights of the Round Chair.

The Sonic Chair, a modern take on 1962's Eero Arnio Ball Chair, but with added sound. Keeping that space age ball shape, aluminium pedestal, (smelly dead cow) leather exterior and orange interior (other colours are available), the newest Sonic Chair comes with a touch screen iMac so you can sit back with your favourite websites and enjoy your favourite tunes. The impressive sound system is comprised of satellite speakers and a body-focused sound membrane for beats you can feel as well as hear. Sadly, the price is utterly ridiculous - the best part of £10,000. Clearly we aren't that stupid, but even so......


Friday, 12 December 2008

Cleaning the Screen

On a cool evening after driving from Ilkley along the salted A65 this was taken on the back road from Clapham to High Bentham, North Yorkshire, UK. The trouble is the dirty windscreen. Who publishes a shot like that? But what if before taking the shot, the photographer had cleaned the windscreen? You know what I'm getting at, don't you? For how long does a windscreen stay clean? In this salted situation a clean windscreen indicates an untruth. So, is photography verité what we normally get? And, frighteningly perhaps, is the truth what we want?

Me, I can't understand why some people seem to prefer altered images. Given the option of viewing an unaltered photograph taken by a competent photographer, how can it be that a person might prefer to see that same image after it's been put through such a large number of processes, or a few big processes, that it bears really very little resemblance to the original?

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Bastards & Burberry's Extreme Cruelty

When is sexual attraction not sexist? Would this advert be so effective if Natalie had been replaced by some ordinary looking bloke? Anyway, more to the point, Tell Burberry to Stop Selling Fur (the bastards, is what I want to say, but that's more than a bit unfair on bastards, isn't it).

Bastard. It's a great word for spitting at the world when you're really angry, but near enough meaningless, wouldn't you say. Surely no-one (in the UK) is silly enough to think that parents need to be married, are they. Well, probably, yes, but it's a very nasty attitude, isn't it. Nasty, nasty, nasty, uncaring and nasty.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Passing Pendle and Superstition

In 1612 in my adoptive city of Lancaster with almost no
evidence at all 10 people from Pendle were hanged as witches.

Pendle Hill, Lancashire, UK.

Not long after midday yesterday we were in the van travelling to Leeds at a speed of 41mpg * on the A59 between Preston, Lancashire and Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK. I was enjoying seeing the new importances which arrive with a coating of sunlit snow. Click the snowy image. I assumed each new trackway (left of centre, below the ridge) had been made so as to avoid the muddiness of the old one, and I stared for long enough to realise that, if nothing else, I should really have been watching the road.

Arriving at my son's family's home in Leeds I was shown the small snow white cat which had recently been trying to infiltrate the household. I don't like cats, never have done. They make me feel unappreciated, but as the late author, Derek Tangye (whom I once met), pointed out, the fault is entirely mine for thinking I need to feel appreciated.

What did they ever do for us? For 1700 years, ever since the Romans introduced them, cats have been killing birds and other small creatures in Britain and they do it when they have no need. Much as many people before me had stared at a cat, I stared at that snow white one and saw the companion of a witch. It mattered not that no witch is real, nor that there will always be insufficient evidence of a real witch, or witchcraft. Try as I might, I could not lift my dislike of cats above a very reluctant tolerance.

At a party that evening I was handed a shepherd's crook (well, a stage prop closely resembling one), and immediately it put me in mind of this one:

Seen just a few days before Halloween this year in the church of Saint Sauveur in Le Castellet (near Marseille). I'm sure you've noticed how very much the bishop's crook resembles a question mark.

"No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt", wrote Robert M. Pirsig and, "The truth knocks on the door and you say, Go away, I'm looking for the truth,; and so it goes away. Puzzling".

I'm not puzzled about witches or religious "beliefs". Both come about as the result of even the stoopidest people having mental capacity to spare and trying to fill it. What does puzzle me is that around the world a lot of people of widely varying intellectual levels are consciously preventing themselves from reaching the glaringly, and for some perhaps devastatingly, obvious conclusion. Having insufficient evidence to support the less than even half-baked conclusions into which they rushed, they use faith as a substitute for evidence which they will not find anywhere.

* A speed at which one can attain that mpg without hindering other road users.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Beasts of no Nation & Loft Insulation

From our local library I've borrowed The Best of Fela Kuti - Music is the Weapon. It's two CDs and a DVD and I very much recommend it all. Perhaps you'll look up Fela Kuti on the www? He was a marvellous man. You'll notice that the cover of his 1989 album, Beasts of no Nation shows Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and PW Botha with fangs dripping blood. And yet it seems to me that there are still many people in the West who are surprised and indignant that there are many people of other nations who do very, very much dislike us and what we represent. Hey-ho, you say?

In the meantime, you might want to go to i-Tunes, search on "Fela" and listen to a few 30 second samples, or try YouTube and, if you like what you hear, go straight to your local library and borrow a (double) CD. It cost me 50p to borrow this double album & DVD. At iTunes it will cost you 79p to download each track.

Fela Kuti is correctly pronounced Fella Kootee, near enough.

Today I've been preparing and spreading Warmcel natural insulation in the roof space in our small house. After four hours I'd covered less that half of the area, but the depth is enormous. I chose insulation made from paper because I didn't want to "help UK sheep farmers" by buying wool-based insulation. Well, what have sheep farmers ever done for our environments? Apart from increasing the methane and grazing away seedling trees and other plants?

I'm impressed with the product though. Compared with mineral fibre, natural insulations:

  • Are more thermally efficient,
  • Use less energy and emit less CO2 in manufacture and
  • Are safer to handle.

And they

  • Have the ability to absorb and desorb moisture without losing their efficiency
  • Can store CO2 during growth (hemp)
  • Can be composted, or incinerated for energy use, at the end of their (long) life.

(If I had any religious belief), may your gods preserve us all from the consequences of our unconscionable behaviour against the planet and against anything on or within that shared environment, and from the consequences of our unethical behaviour, and the consequences of all our unprincipled, unscrupulous, dishonest, obscene, unreasonable and unfair behaviour. Have I missed anything?

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Gateway to the Lake District (Cumbria, UK).

Sunday afternoon and I was heading for a village north of Lancaster (UK), and quietly smirking as I passed almost a mile of standing traffic when I had to stop at the ex-Regal ex-cinema to record the recent "unveiling" of this Mk III Ford Cortina. Dates of manufacture dictate that the advertisement can be no less than 32 years old.

In his garden my friend showed me 7 goldfinches on his feeders. And added that I'd missed the waxwings by half an hour! They visit us from Scandinavia - take a look at waxwings at the RSPB's website.

It seemed it might be dark before I got home and I'd no front lamp, but between Nether Kellet and Lancaster despite the failing daylight I felt I had to run across a roadside field and grab a few views like this one:

Notice the Langdale Pikes (about 25 degrees up from the white house)?

And then I turned around..........

Those square blocks to the right of the sun are Heysham's nuclear power stations. You know, the sort of nuclear power stations about which no-one has any properly useful ideas to make them properly safe especially after their "use by" date. Oh, that sort! Like all of them then? Yeah, they're the ones, all of them. Those at Heysham are due for decommissioning in 2014.

Two fingers from the Millennium (cyclists' and pedestrians'), Bridge at Lancaster.

And the castle's a prison, by the way.

Click the title of this article for a link to additional images from this 20 mile bicycle ride.

Around Grasmere, Cumbria

I'd parked between Ambleside and Rydal (Cumbria, UK), then ridden my skinny bike halfway up Dunmail Raise before becoming so hot (and worn out), that I stopped and removed my sweatening waterproofs and helmet. Predictably the rain became much heavier. The descent back the way I'd come was fun, of course, but even so 2/3 of the way down I turned off into the valley bottom and away by muddy lanes to the centre of Grasmere.

I bimbled along the west side of the lake, ground a short way up Red Bank and walked the rest. (When had I finally realised that it really is not disgraceful to walk with a bicycle?). At the top I turned onto the smooth enough bridleway and rolled downhill much of the way back to the van. Preferring the lightness and easy portability of road bikes, I've never owned a mountain bike.

In Zeffirelli's in Ambleside I ate much less than usual, but what I really need is to eat nothing until such time as I lose the 35lb which wrapped itself around me after I'd stopped smoking (on 10 Feb 2007). Once "enlightened" I suppose I'd be able to ride so far and so fast that my cycling travels would probably feature in national newspapers.

Click the title of this article for a link to additional images from this bicycle ride.