Royal Academy of Arts – Summer Exhibition

A Modern Olympia III - Anthony Green
A Modern Olympia III – Anthony Green

Was up The Scurrying recently. Piccadilly. The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. The web site says: “Discover exciting new talent alongside established stars of the art world”. As with most art web sites it’s almost impossible to figure out what the fuck is going on but it seems to me that this is an exhibition of the art produced by the last batch of graduates. I may be wrong. The “hanging committee” had planned the layout very well. As I walked in I was surrounded by some very mediocre attempts at modern art. This set my expectations. However, the clever thing about the layout is that as I persevered, as I wandered around I stumble across some absolute gems.

One work seemed to be writing painted on a backdrop of beautiful tiny coloured tiles but close inspection revealed this to be merely a lot of dots of paint. An elongated bust of a man’s head was extremely interesting. The appearance was that of an image with its aspect ratio stretched in Photoshop but this was a real 3D object and as I moved around it my mind grasped for the correct viewpoint which would normalise the image…..but of course this did not exist. Some nice plates which, at a casual glance, appeared to be nothing more than some old crockery in fact depicted surrealist images of weird Toby Jug men and naked ladies. But my favourite work was a simple painting covered with numerous flowers engendering the feel of old 1950s wallpaper. As I paid closer attention I could see a woman lying naked on a bed, a window, a 1950s style bedroom, a wardrobe, but wait; what’s that on top of the wardrobe? Is that an old man in a suit and is he conducting or is he sprinkling the flowers? A strange and surreal image. Many other works were well worth a look but hurry. The exhibition closes on 21st August.

At The Sign of the White Horse - Tom Barker
At The Sign of the White Horse – Tom Barker
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition

 

The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition

 

David Noble Tractus - John Humphrys
David Noble Tractus – John Humphrys
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art - Summer Exhibition
The Royal Academy of Art – Summer Exhibition

 

Driving in France

 

Biking in France
Biking in France
Prior to motorcycling around France I had not appreciaited just how hot it gets in summer and how France lacks the usual supply of bars and cold drink stores.

After a hot day’s traveling I drove around the roads near my hostelry on the outskirts of Marseille in search of a bar or a 7-11 selling cold drinks. I found only an endless series of pharamacies and patiseries.

However, where your Frenchy sees cultural imperialism your Yank sees a chance to make a fast buck. The only place capable of asauging the heat exhaustion of your traveller is an American chain restauarnt. If it were not for McDonalds or KFC providing the occasional air conditioned refuge and cold drinks the cities of France would be litterred with dead foreigners.

Speaking of dead foreigners, I was not surprised to be told that France has a worrying number of road deaths. After about a week on French roads I can report that there are two main reasons for this. First there is the fact that the road system has been designed by idiots and second is the fact that all the French drivers are wankers.

First take the road layouts. It’s a cliche that your German likes his rules, your Brit is a bodger and your Frenchy likes his elegant theories. For the French road system this means a mind boggling and complicated set of rules, signs, roundabouts, crossings, lights etc. But this is not enough. Eash one of these parts has been broken down into a pleathora of sub parts. A set of traffic lights might be one of many types. Zebra crossings might occur imediatly before roundabouts, imediately after or in an undiscoverred wilderness where no human has stepped foot since the dawn of creation. The traffic lights are distributed freely everywhere. One tends to spend aproximately half ones driving time in French towns waiting at red lights, alone, without another car for a hundred kilometres.

I suspect that your Frenchman has determined: “But Monsieur, zere must be a roundabout here”, and his collague will say “yes, yes, but zere must also be a roundabout”, and an assitant will say: “But ze theory dictates zere must be a crossing. We must impliment zem all Monsieur”. So you end up with a roundabout, a set of lights, a crossing and an archipelego of traffic islands where one false move means instant death.

Your German, would have redesigned the whole thing, your Brit would have thought “Bugger it, the Roundabout is good enough”. But the Frenchman. No, he must impliment them all in the same place.

Perhaps I generalise too much. An alternative theory is that the work party sent out to build various traffic controls over a 100 kilometre stretch of road got so fed up standing under the intense French sun that they thought “Bugger it! Let’s just install it all right here and go and get a croisant”.

Then there is your French driver. The cardinal attribute of your French driver is indecisiveness. Indicators mean nothing as the driver has probably changed his intentions since flicking it on. Most of the French roads are either single lane or two lane roads. The result is that your French driver is in a constant frenzy of trying to overtake the guy in front or trying to get back into the inside lane to allow the bully behind him past. Driving behind a carravan or truck one constantly is cut up by someone who then breaks hard and tries to pull out.

“Yes meseur. I shall overtake your silly slow moving vehicle with my powerful fast French car. There! It is done. I shall cut in front of you to illustrate how slow you are travelling but no!! What is this? Another car in front of you!? Who could have forseen such a thing? I must now pull out again, but there is an idiot tailgating me and so I shall pull out half way and we shall all weave around at breakneck speed like imbeciles. Then there are the toll roads! Take one wrong turn and you’ll find yourself paying for the privilege of driving half an hour in the wrong direction.

So, why do it? Why come to France in the first place? Because it is fantastic! Because in the north east the roads are long and straight and lightly populated. Because they pass through some little villages that apear not to have changed in centuries. Because of the breathtaking Millau Viaduct. Because of the mountain roads and the magical valleys between mountain peaks. And, most of all, because much of France seems undiscoverred by the global tourist industry.

Biking in France – Liberté, égalité, bureaucratié

bureaucratie
bureaucratie

While preparing for a biking trip to France I came across a lot of bumph specifying equipment I must carry. Two breathalysers, a high visibility jacket, spare light bulbs, reflective stickers on my crash helmet and 6 sides of A4 with detailed instructions entitled “STOP – READ THIS FIRST” for the headlight modification! It all seems very excessive and bureaucratic.

Perhaps this indicates a lack of trust between the French state and the people. In the UK the law states that you can’t drive with too much alcohol in your blood. How you achieve this is your problem. You may abstain completely from drink, you might engage in moderation or you might practice “24 hours between bottle and throttle”. The British government doesn’t care; it only cares that you don’t drink and drive.

The French though! In France you can’t drive with too much alcohol in your blood but the French government don’t trust you to figure out how to achieve this. So they have tried to plan out what you will do in relation to drink driving and decided that you need, not one, but two breathalysers! Maybe they think that if you test yourself and fail then you’ll sit there by your bike for an hour or two and need to test yourself again. Or maybe they think that if you are under the limit then you’ll carry on drinking and need to retest later on. Or maybe they are so ludicrously bureaucratic that they think that, were you to only carry one breathalyser, then you would test yourself, find that you are under the limit and drive away but then be breaking the law as you would no longer be carrying a breathalyser!

It all seems very draconian, pointless and a bit of a make work scheme. I’ve probably spent around £50 on clutter and £4 of that just for a set of helmet stickers which, by rights, are so rubbish that they should be given away with a box of cornflakes.

It’s a bit of cliché that the difference between Common Law which predominates in the British Commonwealth and Civil Law which predominates in Europe is that Common Law allows an individual the freedom to do anything unless it is specifically proscribed whereas Civil Law codifies specific freedoms and so an individual’s actions are limited to what the state allows. I don’t know how true this is but I have experience of business in the UK and France and it does seem true that the British focus on ensuring that the rules are abided by whereas the French insist on a detailed process.

I am reminded of a quotation by Sir William Harcourt which has confirms me as a liberal and informed my attitude to Europe. It is this: “Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world”.

Bring back Victorian urinals the size of coffins

Derek Guyler
Derek Guyler

Rang the local bobbies yesterday. Had ideas of mature, constable at front desk in the manner of Derek Guyler. Thought I’d ask his opinion on keeping a bike on the street. After pressing 1 for this and 2 for that I reached a humanoid. Asked her my question and she told me to ring my local council parking department. She wasn’t even in Brighton. I said I was interested in the likelihood of theft and she directed me to the statistics for my area on the web.

I am starting to understand why any reasonable person is bound to eventually become a Victor Meldrew. The disparity between what we’ve got used to and what the world has become leaves us constantly dissatisfied. The only alternative is to become one of those cheerful but mad old grandpas who pick up random modern fashions like hoodies and are good with kids but wear luminous trainers. Neither result is attractive.

Later I was up The Smoke again. All this “progress” is pissing me off! Massive queue for the human ticket operatives at Brighton station. This is due to automation. Make the public sort out their own bloody tickets. Bollocks to them. So I tried to use a machine. These are positioned perfectly to catch the morning sun and at waist level to ensure wheel chair access. So I’m stooped over this damn machine as it asks me a lot of impertinent questions. I try to use my discount rail card and the price shoots up from £16 to £42. Eventually I get on the bloody train and the toilet is one of these Tardis affairs. Two button: D and L. D for door I assume and the button glows red when the door shuts behind me but the L for Lock doesn’t glow at all. Is that normal? Bollocks to them. Just write D & L on the buttons, who cares. Then the challenge of washing my hands. Should I press the soap button in hope that the water is actually working today? I never know how to get the water working so I just stamp my feet and wave my hands around and something I do makes water flow. Then at Clapham junction there are about 20 platforms and I’m not going to a terminus so I don’t know which train to catch. Is there an efficient station manager in a smart uniform waiting to answer my enquiry? There is not.

All this efficiency and process re-engineering generates more profit and makes things cheaper so that more people can travel and more people can have fancy holidays and cars etc. This was true of the agricultural revolution too. In a book entitled “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” Professor Yuval Noah Harari argues that the agricultural revolution allowed production of greater  quantities of food which allowed greater numbers of people to survive but they survived in worse circumstances as the surplus was creamed off by the elite. This is happening again with the current technological/globalisation revolution. Efficiency now dictates that humans are deliberately eliminated to cut cost.

In the 80s there used to be a law, derived from the European Union I believe, which insisted that wholesalers could not also sell retail. For beer, this meant that the breweries should not own the pubs. To protect the vested interest (the breweries) a fudge was agreed in the UK where tied pubs were obliged to sell “guest” ales from other breweries. All this seems to have been swept away as independent companies now seem to own the pubs.

It’s becoming accepted wisdom that the current wave of technology is not creating jobs as the industrial revolution did. Instead even jobs like doctors and lawyers are succumbing to automation. Perhaps it would be good to have another EU directive that all this efficiency, automation and process re-engineering can be used in production & wholesale but not in retail. Use technology to make the factories and bank clearing systems and air traffic control systems work better but the (non-Internet) retail experience should be left to people?  Bring back police front desks staffed by aged constables. Bring back ticket counters staffed by people and bring back Victorian urinals the size of coffins.

Redstone
Redstone

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Barack Obama, anti-intellectualism and Tea Cozies

Anti-intelectualism?
Anti-intellectualism British style?

Barack Obama recently asked “where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from?”. Since one definition of an intellectual is “someone capable of entering a room containing a tea cozy without putting it on their head”, the answer might be the Tea Party movement. A more serious answer might be that we are not so much seeing anti-intellectualism but an antipathy to the “clever-clever” bastards who got us into our current mess.

As a Brit, I can mainly suggest issues from the UK. Firstly the obvious failure of the British intellectual leadership. Corruption and incompetence found in all areas of the British elite. Bankers, MPs, police and journalists; all have been caught out over the past decade.

Then consider that the intellectuals of the 1940s and 50s brought us the NHS, state pensions and union representation. Perhaps unions became too powerful but the intellectuals of the 1990s and 2000s set about eroding the gains of the working people while centralising power in large corporations. Alternative, and often collective organisation such as building societies and even football teams were privatised. Great wealth was created for a minority while the rest of us have the illusion of wealth generated by excessive debt, a succession of consumer gadgets and faster fashion cycles. Meanwhile factors which really affect our lives are not figured into analysis of wealth at all. Average house sizes are shrinking and commute times getting longer. Even The Economist has been running articles claiming that “Gross domestic product (GDP) is increasingly a poor measure of prosperity” yet our intelectual leadership continues to promote unfettered capitalism as the New World Order.

The new global elite want the role of the last democratic institution (the state) reduced to nothing more than ensuring laws are lax and citizens desperate in order to lure global corporations to base their activity (though not their tax payment) in the UK. The offer is sweetened with the promise of cheap labour imported from abroad, educated at the expense of somebody else and dressed up as “diversity” to keep the Left on side. In reality, the individual now stands almost alone before the power of global corporations and dare not demonstrate any more diversity than their coffee preferences.

That the elite are oblivious to the lives of ordinary people was made obvious recently when British chancelor George Osbourne warned that leaving the EU would precipitate an 18% drop in house prices. This might have appalled the global rich who have stashed there ill gotten money in London property but must apear sound economic policy to those desperate to get a foot on the housing ladder.

Meanwhile, at every turn, we are told that we need to work harder, to become even more efficient to “compete”. The UK does not have enough educated people so they must be imported from countries which have even fewer educated people. Mr. Obama speech on anti-intellectualism stressed that kindness, compassion, honesty and hard work often matter more than technical skills but this message seems lost on everyone.

losersIf we question or complain about globalisation, about immigration or about capitalism we are deemed stupid or xenophobic. A recent Facebook post chimed in with this. It read: “Totally failed at life? Then why not blame a foreigner, it’s so much easier than taking responsibility for your own choices“. The implication being that if you are poor or homeless or unemployed or suffering some physical or emotional trauma then it’s your own fault and the society in which you live does not give a shit. A similar series of comments on a newspaper site stated that if your couldn’t compete against non-English speaking, uneducated immigrants then your were  a “loser”.

White Van Man

Of course the clever and well educated can never admit their contempt for the poor and uneducated and so politician of all stripes pay lip service to defending the rights of the poor……. but only in a theoretical sense. Politicians argue that their policies will benefit the underclass in the long run ….. but in the long run we’re all dead.

It is true that education increases life chances but we can’t all be doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.  This is the myth of American style meritocracy. A massive marketing machine indoctrinates us with the fallacy that we can all attain great wealth. We are encouraged to accept our current state of inequality or poverty believing that if we try just a bit harder then we too can be part of the top 1%. This is bollocks!

Contempt for the poor and uneducated permeates UK politics. If one of the underclass dare to stammer out their poorly articulated objections about the reality in the here and now then they are intimidated with pompous overblown rhetoric and dubious facts and figures. In 2014 I had a twitter exchange with David Aranonovich the journalist and son of communist intellectual Sam Aaronovitch. He had appeared on BBC political debate program Question Time discussing EU membership with a homeless and jobless man who had protested that the person who had interviewed him for state housing had been an immigrant.  Aranonovich insinuated that the guy was a racist and, in a later twitter exchange, said “We all face competition here & abroad. Nothing is guaranteed….” – While we might expect such a callous opinion from a Tory it is staggering that this is the opinion of a leading member of the British Left. Of course, the Tories are worse. In their pursuit of austerity they ignore the criminality of the (intellectual) bankers and target the (uneducated) poor. It has taken the threat of BREXIT for the British leadership to begrudgingly admit that, while England morphs from post war land of warm beer and Ford Cortinas to a multicultural New York style super-city, mass immigration is detrimental to the working poor.

Currently the EU and USA are negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It’s probably true that unfettered free markets in goods, services, and yes, in people (in the case of the EU) can create greater efficiency which leads to greater GDP but this no guarantee of benefits to all members of society. The recipients of efficiency gains are never the workers but the elite who own and run the corporations. The Economist has postulated the current wave of advanced technology will mean that, in the future, it will be easier to earn a living by owning capital (being rich) than by finding work.

Merely insulting and sidelining the “losers” of this questionable “progress” is bound to create an alienated underclass who look elsewhere for their leadership. In a TV program last year the Tory MP, Matthew Parris, was discussing the people of Thanet who have elected a UKIP MP. He argued in favour or EU membership and declared that the people of Thanet were “Just wrong”.

Let me explain something to Matthew Parris: Electing a government is not just about choosing clever people to grow global GDP. The key aspect of democracy, the attribute which makes it more desirable than any other system is not just the wisdom of crowds. The absolutely key aspect of democracy, the thing that makes it superior to all other systems both practically and morally is that EVERYONE gets to vote according to their own perspective. If the daily lives of a section of the electorate are in sharp contrast to the shining vision presented by eloquent politicians then it is legitimate for them to seek different leadership. UKIP may or may not deliver for the people of Thanet but they are right to vote any damn way they please.

So, to return to Obama’s question. I suspect that asking about the root of anti-intellectualism is the wrong question. Since the  affluent and well educated members of society have conspicuously betrayed the poorer, less well educated and less articulate members of society the real question is why the hell should anybody trust intellectuals ever again?

London Olympics
London Olympics

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British Life (Xbox 360)

DSCF8639Up The Smoke on Saturday. Lunch and a few beers. The area around Victoria Station is a building site and they had closed the area where the buses pull up. Tape across each entrance. To alleviate the massive disruption that this would normally cause London Transport had provided information in the form of a somnambulist attendant lying horizontal on a garden chair in a little shed. If you could be arsed you could queue up to chat with this Guru through a little hole in a window and he would tell you that all the buses were cancelled. If you persisted he would say: “oh well you could get the 24 from around the corner to the left by the glass building” and you would spend the next half hour wandering around trapped in a maze of 7 foot high metal fences looking at scores of spanking new glass buildings going up around Victoria.

After my eventual escape I made my way to Leicester Square to carry out a ritual which has emerged only after centuries of scientific innovation. My friend and I both phoned each other and when one of us finally got through we only then bothered to look around to experience the real world. Then one of us said “I can see you” and we hung up.

Ate generic burger in Byrons and wandered down to the Mall Gallery to see the British Life Photography exhibition. A few good images ( some of Brighton ) but mostly a bit dull. Is this really British life?

The Harp provided a good pint of Guinness but on entering the Coal Hole, a wall of contorted faces staring over our heads meant just one thing: a TV set positioned over the door. And the din of over excited shouting meant Rugby.  And so it was with pub after pub; individual conversation crushed under the jackboot of collective sport until we entered the Punch and Judy with the words of Hilaire Belloc ringing in my ears “When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England”.

It was like Butlins! Stuffed with holiday makers from Hull or Harrogate or Hamburg or Hawaii or Hue or Huizhou all queuing, queuing, queuing for the dishwater which the Serbian serving operative assured us was traditional English Bitter. ‘twas ever thus in The Punch and Judy. Thence to somewhere named Henry’s which resembled the below-stairs of a cross channel ferry. The same people from the last place had got in ahead of us and taken most of the seats. A rabble of Hen Night women spilled into the gap before the bar and shouted their coctails orders over the deafening ambiance. Serves us right for choosing Covent Garden on a Saturday but I guess this too was British life.

Crocus
Crocus

This morning I see that the Crocuses are out and Brighton and Hove council have published portrayals of how the new King Alfred development will look. No surprises; it will look like everywhere else. Like Harlow only shinier. Like Gatwick Airport. Like a scene from Grand Theft Auto. I wonder if they use the same images for all developments? Probably they use the same scene rendering software for mock ups of apartment blocks as they use for Grand Theft Auto. In this instance the developers have clicked Young People=Yes,  Old People=No,  Congestion=None,  Litter =None, Weather=Fabulous. In short, they’d changed all the defaults for Hove. Hopefully the council included a general cleanup and euthanizing half of Hove’s population in the budget.

Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto

One can imagine that in 10 years time some teenager will wake from their drunken stupor and not know whether they’re in Hove or Houston, Brighton or Boston. Indeed they may wonder whether they just fell asleep with their VR goggles on. The video mock up of the King Alfred looks like an early version of Second Life and the gym resembles a scene from Black Mirror; row upon row of human/machine interfaces modules (HMIMs) allowing “customers” to have excess physical energy siphoned off while they are programmed with the current priorities of the corporations.

King Alfred Centre
King Alfred Centre

“We are all individuals” they repeat like the beach huts on Hove Prom, “we all think differently”, “we can all choose for ourselves” and then they head next door to the café for a Mocha or Latte or Americano. “I like mine with chocolate sprinkles”, “I like mine with vanilla”, “I like mine regular” while Madonna sings Express Yourself!

Hove Prom
Hove Prom

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Throwing back the pebbles

Hove Prom
Hove Prom

In 1637 René Descartes trotted out his, now famous, axiom: “Cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am). What he was on about was the fact that our perception of reality is based on interpretations of our senses and our senses can be fooled. So what can we know? What is it possible to know for certain? At the age of forty-one Mr. Descartes determined that the only thing he could know for sure was that he existed. Well done, great start even if his deliberations went down hill after that.

Still, given Mr. Descartes’ promising foundation, it is surprising that in general people now believe all sorts of bollocks.

Recently I was meandering along Hove Prom when I saw a lorry tipping its load onto the beach and I took some photos. It occurred to me that, if I were maliciously inclined, I could publish these pictures on The Internet and claim the driver was an immigrant. I could plaster a bloody great message across the top in red proclaiming that immigrant workers were dumping sewage on Brighton beach. I could attempt to deceive my audience and the idiotic thing is that some people would believe me!

It is said that in the early days of the printed book, as the idea of the novel was forming, people were taken aback that the content of the book was not true. I guess, since all previous books had claimed to be true the idea of fiction seemed deceitful. By the time I was growing up in the 70s the phrase “It must be true, I saw it on television” was something to be sneered at. Television had lost its authority.

Great
Great
White
White

The Internet has never had any claim on authority yet it encourages us to believe the most crass and groundless nonsense. Recently some “right wing” trouble maker created a video purporting to show Muslim immigrants refusing aid parcels because they were delivered by the Red Cross. Of course all the video really showed was one bunch of people and another bunch of people and some shouting and gesticulating. The “Left” are just as bad. Somone recently photoshopped a image of five women in white T-Shirts spelling out “Make America Great Again” and made it read “Make America White Again“. And don’t get me started on the the drivel I have seen posted as evidence for “Chemtrails” or that the Americans didn’t land on the moon.

Some people get it. They take Descartes’ point to some extent. They realise that much of the Internet is lying to them. They realise that our established has its own agenda and presents only a certain version of the truth and sometimes outright lies. They like to think differently. They challenge accepted explanations and the establishment line. We need these people and I am proud to consider myself one. But, sadly, the rebel, like the artist, is an attractive paradigm. It attracts imitators who reject the establishment line but then embrace the most obvious bollocks merely because it is contrary to the establishment line. I recall commenting on The Guardian web site that an article was biased and unbalanced and received a response that this was OK because the right wing press print articles biased toward the right. This is an absurd argument. Truth does not lie in a gap between opposing lies.

I had a conversation recently where a guy said that he didn’t listen to or watch established media like the BBC and preferred to find things out himself. When I mentioned Wikipedia this was treated with equal disdain. When I asked for his sources the only one mentioned was RT (formerly Russian Television).

It is good to treat all media with scepticism but to reject media based in an established liberal democracy in favour of the media from a nation ranking seventh (after Syria and Iraq etc) in a list of murdered journalists is perverse. It does not take René bloody Descartes to look over the RT web site and realise this is a blatant anti-American/anti-British propaganda tool. Look at the tabs along the top for God’s sake!. News, Business, Sport all very usual…and then USA and UK…….and no other countries! Why are UK and USA so special to RT that they need special categories? Even Russia is not listed on Russian Television only Russian Politics. I’ve sat in scores of European hotel rooms watching this guff and RT has an obvious shit stirring agenda. One moment it’s telling us that ordinary decent British citizens are now overrun by trouble making immigrants and the next it is claiming that ordinary decent immigrants are oppressed by trouble making racist British people.

The danger is that, as we come to mistrust our establishment, we are more ready to listen to the enemies of our establishment. But, in the search for truth, the enemy of our enemy is not out friend. With all their failings and their bias much of the established Western media have higher standards than most of the media based in countries where the rule of law and democracy are weak. Reading RT is OK, but valuing their reporting over the BBC is the sign of a conspiracy theorist.

One impediment to truth is the instant nature of 21st century media. The professional media “publish and be damned” and we now do the same. When we see something which fits our prejudice on Facebook we repost immediately. I remember when Facebook was full of personal posts. These days it’s full of bollocks deliberately designed by campaigning groups or attention seekers. In 2016 we don’t need The Sun or The Mirror to feed us bullshit; we feed it to each other on Facebook. Another cliché from publishing is simplify and exaggerate and we do this too. Messages become mere expressions of tribal identify. I believe in the NHS therefore I must hate the Health Secretary. I believe in an independent UK therefore I must hate Jacque Chirac. The two sides of the artificial left/ right debate pour their vitriol all over The Internet and we repost.

One tip I picked up from working for a Japanese company is Genchi Genbutsu (from the Toyota Way meaning “go and see” or “got to the source”). I try to find the original story and then check the ownership of the publication/web site. I try to discern the agenda. I see a lot of drivel posted from a professional looking web site known as Veterans Today but have been unable to trace the ownership; some say that it is linked to RT.  I treat it with a high level of scepticism.

Putting the pebbles back
Putting the pebbles back

This is not to say that alternative media is not worthwhile or truthful. Given the slavish adherence of the mainstream British media to an almost identical front page it’s great to see something different. Disinfo, Mother Jones and The Verge are a few I’ve stumbled upon.

An antidote to knee jerk comentary is to read weekly publications as the journalists have had time to calm down and consider what the fuck they’re talking about. The New Statesman, The Spectator and The Economist may be partisan but they are up front about their beliefs. The foreign press too are worth a look even if you can’t speak the language as we can at least understand the headlines. Some of the bigger names such as Der Spiegel and Le Monde Diplomatique now do English langauge editions.

Various web sites exist to check facts and debunk urban myths such as snopes.com, factcheck.org and fullfact.org but careful! While these sites claim to be non-partisan, everyone has an agenda. Who owns these sites? What is their agenda?

In the 20th century things were fairly simple. The news came from a handful of sourses. In the 21st century the sources have proliferated but their reliability, sincerity and authority are unclear and it’s worth recalling Sturgeon’s Law which states “ninety percent of everything is crap“.

On The Beach
On The Beach

And this brings us back to Mr. Descartes’ oft ignored first principle: “I think”. Everything he could know was a result of thought not of sense. Reading opinions from a multitude of sources is great but you have to think and reject 90%. With so many sources relying on obvious propaganda machines like RT isn’t the sign of a rebel. It is the sign of a sheep following a different shepherd.

And the lorry on Hove Promenade? During storms, pebbles from the beach up washed up onto the promenade and this lorry is employed by the council to collect pebbles and throw them back where they belong. The ethnicity and the residential status of the driver are unknown.

st malo beach
St Malo Beach

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