Friday, May 31, 2013

Gardenskill fruit cage erection and Big idea 134 is Secularism versus Theocracy

My fruit cage in situ'
Some time ago it struck me that my soft fruit would get eaten by birds before I got a chance to enjoy it, so in the depths of winter I ordered a fruit cage from Gardenskill Ltd (via Amazon), today I found it really was easy to put up and immediately ordered a second one as I've got more soft fruit than I realised. it might be more difficult to pack it away but there is a youtube which might just help.

Crofton's big Idea 134 is Secularism versus Theocracy

This could be portrayed as all religions treated equally versus on religion being given supremacy by the sate and the state following the 'Rule of God' with the clergy being in government (the sort of thing that Iran is accused of).
It was traditional for rulers typically Kings and Queens to claim a lineage to God (or a god) and their claims to ruling and leading the nation were thus divine, during the reformation this was disputed and with the break between the English Royalty (the multiple marrying King Henry VIII) and the Catholic church of Rome this became more difficult to justify.
The English Church or the Church of England still holds a privileged position and holds seats in the House of Lords as well as having schools affiliated to it, this is not the position in other Western democracies like France and US where there is a clearer division and a secular state.
Here's an explanation of the break.

Some modern Philosophers (I'm not sure if Alain de Botton should be described as this) wish to see non religious 'churches' and other items associated with religion become secularised.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Don't sniff stinging nettles and idea #133 is Multiculturalism

Don't sniff
I've got quite a number of seedlings started, I don't always label them and somehow I seem to be stinging nettle
growing a lone
So it seems common  sense to say don't sniff stinging nettles, I did they don't really smell but they'll sting your nose!

Big Idea #133 is Multiculturalism

It's a term that is often used in a derisory manner but perhaps it's more about diversity?
Multiculturalism is the idea around celebrating diversity, in the UK it was seen as a good way of working allowing people to keep there cultures when they arrive from other countries.
In France the state has taken a different view expecting people to bury some of their baggage- laws have been created around restrictions on wearing the hijab in public, in the USA the expectation is that citizens subsume partially their cultural identity to become part of the US 'melting pot'.
The acts of terrorists who were born and raised in the UK  has put further doubt in some politicians minds on the Multicultural approach.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Art part 2 (Tate Modern) and big idea #132 is Feminism

Tate Modern

Following the OPEN Ealing Modern art session on Monday I went to look at works by George Braque and his cubist twin Pablo Picasso the pictures I saw were  Church of Carrieres St Denis (1909) by Braque  and Picasso's "Seated Nude" and Bowl of Fruit Violin and Bottle (1914)
I also saw another example of cubism by the artist  Natalia Goncharova the Russian Cubist who was married to Alexander Pushkin the work by her was Linen (1913).

I also saw a work by Kandinsky called  Swinging (1925)

Other retrospectives showing there are by 2 women artists:

1) Saloua Raouda Choucair - (there's a good background on this artist from The Independent newspaper here)  loking at her work which was varied including 3 dimensional stuff as well as paintings I had to ask what Gouache is (it's a type of paint).

2) Ellen Gallagher- (nice Guardian newspaper interview here).

Not by Ellen

Some of her works used plasticine  the ones  around Ebony and other magazine sampling  reminded me of the  album cover art for The Rolling Stones' Some Girls which was designed by Peter Corriston (this in turn reminded me that Album covers were often great vehicles for art).

I also noted a dramatic work by Alfredo Jaar  take a look here at a video of the kinetic work  Lament of the images and then see an explanation here

Big Idea 132 Feminism

Apparently Feminism is a belief  around Women having the same rights as men and the idea was put around as early as 1792 by  Mary Wollstonecraft in a vindication on the rights of woman.
The suffragette movement of the early 20th century secured women's voting rights. In the 1960s women such as Simone de Beauvoir were influential in further progress, but many would argue that the rights are still unequal.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Art at OPEN Ealing and Idea # 131 is Green Politics

Last night part 3 of the Modern Art course moved on covering more 'isms' and various groups...

Although Expressionism is associated with Germany it is perhaps more accurately European and indicates a move away from a mainly Parisian based centre for the art world.
The subject matter remained engaging and questions continue to pop into my head, why did Edvard Munch (Norwegian) paint the Scream so often? (four  times and it is recognised by the influential Art Museum director  Martha Tedeschi as one of the four iconic 'figurative' images best able to communicate an emotion).

Fauvism (Fauves is the French for wild beasts) followed on from impressionism and is characterised as using  wild brush work and strident colours, the big names in the movement were Henri Matisse
Inspired by El Greco?
and André Derain.

Fauvism is closely linked/ is a branch of Expressionism, important Expressionists included Egon Schiele an Austrian protégé of Klimt, Franz Marc who had a group (of artists), whose name was perhaps inspired by one of his works-The Blue Riders (The painting being the blue horses)
Early Picasso Cubism
The thing that blew apart the world of Expressionism was the work of then experimental Pablo Picasso and his painting rather delicately known as 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' which fired the starting shots of the Cubist movement.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is a much studied work and some of its roots can be traced to
Matisse's  Bonheur de vivre (joy of life) and  El Greco's - opening of the fifth Seal but there are other influences too like the tribal masks of Africa.
An artist who also took part  in  the development of Cubism was George Braque who is often overlooked.


Idea 131 is Green Politics

Following the growth in Environmentalism (Idea 130) there has been the formation of political parties espousing policies that champion renewable energy, cuts in pollution and preservation of the planet, in some countries they have even become part of government.
Brighton's Green MP
In the UK the Green party got its first elected  MP in Brighton in 2010.
On many issues the Green party is considered leftist but the Conservatives (and others on the right)have also expressed interest in the 'Green' agenda.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The invisible man and Big Idea 130 Environmentalism

The invisible man -

saw him just the other day by the famous St Paul's Cathedral

I'm looking through you



130 Environmentalism

Rachel Carson
From Crofton I learn that this is somewhat strangely a relatively new idea arising partly from the romantic movement of the late 18th/early 19th Centuries.
Poets such as Wordsworth  re-evaluated the countryside and nature looking at it against the industrial cities and pollution that manufacturing was producing.
John Muir was a Scottish born American  whose  early pioneering of rural preservation culminated in the US forest conservation policy.
In the UK bodies like the National Trust worked to preserve large areas of natural land.
Modern Environmentalism was given a shot in the arm in 1962 by Rachel Carson and her book Silent Spring which described how DDT entered the food chain and accumulated in the fatty tissues of animals, including human beings, and caused cancer and genetic damage, sadly Carson died at the age of 56 of breast cancer.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reddish? Big Idea 129 is the little mentioned Communitarianism


It's great to be able to capture things on camera and this just tickled me, seems that vegetable stalls are a good source of these.


Idea 129 Communitarianism

Some say that Communitarianism is that 3rd way somewhere between (in the U.K.) the Tory left and the Labour  right
the website provides 4 central values for democratic  communitarianism, they are:
1. It is based on the value of the sacredness of the individual, which is common to most of the great religions and philosophies of the world. (It is expressed in biblical religion through the idea that we are created in the image and likeness of God.) Anything that would oppress individuals or operate to stunt individual development would be contrary to the principles of democratic communitarianism. However, unlike its ideological rivals, democratic communitarianism does not think of individuals as existing in a vacuum or as existing in a world composed only of markets and states. Rather it believes that individuals are realised only in and through communities, and that strong, healthy, morally vigorous communities are the prerequisite for strong, healthy, morally vigorous individuals.
2. Democratic communitarianism, affirms the central value of solidarity. Solidarity points to the fact that we become who we are through our relationships; that reciprocity, loyalty, and shared commitment to the good are defining features of a fully human life.
3. Democratic communitarianism believes in what Boswell has called "complementary association." By this he means a commitment to "varied social groupings: the family, the local community, the cultural or religious group, the economic enterprise, the trade union or profession, the nation-state." Through this principle it is clear that community does not mean small-scale, all-inclusive, total groups. In our kind of society an individual will belong to many communities and ultimately the world itself can be seen as a community. Democratic communitarianism views such a multiplicity of belonging as a positive good, as potentially and in principle complementary.

4. Finally, democratic communitarianism is committed to the idea of participation as both a right and a duty. Communities become positive goods only when they provide the opportunity and support to participate in them. A corollary of this principle is the principle of subsidiarity, derived from Catholic social teaching. This idea asserts that the groups closest to a problem should attend to it, receiving support from higher level groups only if necessary. To be clear, democratic communitarianism does not adhere to Patrick Buchanan’s interpretation of subsidiarity, which projects a society virtually without a state. A more legitimate understanding of subsidiarity realizes the inevitability and necessity of the state. It has the responsibility of nurturing lower-level associations wherever they are weak, as they normally are among the poor and the marginalized. Applying this perspective to current events, at a moment when powerful political forces in the United States are attempting to dismantle a weak welfare state, democratic communitarians will defend vigorous and responsible state action.
Sounds pretty good doesn't it?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Art (part 2) and Idea number 128 is Anarchism

Hacking a young man to death  - surely this is the sort of action that by interpretation makes no sense, when people attribute acts without humanity to god  it surely mean that there is no (sane) way to justify it..

The terrible incident in Woolwich is difficult to comprehend, how can one reconcile the behaviour displayed with any religious faith?
What is the logic or emotion that would cause people to act in this way?
As I heard the point of Terrorism is of course to cause terror, will it be effective? Well strangely there was some amazing behaviour by people there especially the three women mentioned here.
In fact David Cameron could be right in claiming that this sort of action does not create the effect that the terrorists desire.
More details are beginning to emerge of the guy who was seen in most News bulletins but the triggers that made him act as he did are going to be more difficult to come to understand and even harder to come to terms with.

OPEN Ealing Art course

Hokusai's Great Wave
Monday was session 2 of the OPEN Ealing Art course and very illuminating too including the idea of the appropriation of elements from  an outward looking Japan of  the 19th Century along with the emergence of reliable photography as a means of pictorial record.
The fact that Vincent Van Gogh was a collector of Japanese prints adds powerfully to this narrative.
If you're interested in the course (11 more sessions to go) it runs on Monday evenings (7:00 to 9;00 PM) at Open Ealing's Pop up shop here and costs only £10 per session.

Big Idea number 128 is Anarchism

Great catchphrase
Anarchism should not be confused with Nihilism, it is about small groups (and individuals) taking responsibility for the common good (rather than large statist bodies running people's lives).

The French Socialist Philosopher Proudhon once a friend of Karl Marx was an influential figure in the formation of anarchist thinking.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This weeks Art (part 1) and idea #127 is Syndicalism

The Courtauld Institute
On Monday I visited (for the first time) the Courtauld Institute, it's part of Somerset House (where if what I overheard is true the British Empire was run by 4,000 people).
On Monday the deal is that you get entrance for just £3.00 so it was busy but a definite bargain.
Great Painting by Reynolds
Some great paintings on show and there's a Picasso exhibition showcasing work (a lot of it) that he was showing in 1901 at the age of around twenty! He really was a precocious and gifted artist regardless of what you think of  the work showing his dalliance with Cubism. Paintings that grabbed my eye by Pablo included At the Moulin Rouge (1901) which clearly shows the influence of
Toulouse Lautrec.
Other great works to see included the famous Nude reclining that is  Nevermore by Gaugin, (with it's Edgar Alan Poe influence) Van Gogh with his bandaged ear and Edouard Manet's The Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil (1874).
not really a natural pose.
Also paintings that were mini- revelations included Renoir's Woman tying her shoe (1918) Pissarro's painting of Lordship Lane and Paul Cézanne "Man with Pipe"

Older work that I liked was by Reynolds Cupid and Psyche (1789) and Reuben's Moses and the Brazen Serpents (1610) - perhaps rather strangely a popular theme.
Also liked The Betrothal of the Matador  (1933) by Wyndham Lewis (bit odd though ) and Woman in an interior by Bonnard (1906)  which reminded me of Hopper's paintings.
Having said that the highlight for me was the small pointillist images done by George Seurat who died at only 31 these must have  (or perhaps not) been an influence on Lichtenstein.

The big idea - Syndicalism

Something I'd not known/understood is Syndicalism (thanks Mr Crofton), in fact is seems a good idea if a little retro.
Syndicalists who are anti- capitalist reckon that power should be wielded by Trade unionists rather
than a centralised sate as the state will always be the centre of privilege and power and not democratic the way Trade Unions are/could be.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Squash and # 126 Marxism

Bought a few seed packets at the weekend and have sown them, they're:

Sage -seems to have a few beneficial side affects as well as being a nice addition to Chicken based dishes.

Pak Choi - seems to have a few good things going for it too.

Have also planted Squash (F1) which is good because it is a late 'cropper' and also seems to have some useful attributes.

Idea number 126 is Marxism

Marxism is considered to be modern communism and was set out in works by influential texts like the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels in the  middle of 19th Century
The theory is characterised as Dialectical Materialism  and has a somewhat scientific and deterministic  approach to history and development.
Although the societal development path has been somewhat disproved by the revolutions instigate d by Mao (China) and Lenin USSR) the  ideas remain key.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Diabetes testing and Big Idea #125 Communism

Medical Trials

Diabetes is a really big worldwide medical problem, to a certain extent a condition of the sedentary lifestyle and over indulgent eating historically it has been prevalent in the west but is now increasingly seen in the developing world.
I was invited for screening for medical trials to find out if Propionate (details here) might be beneficial in the reduction of diabetes ,
The screening involved checking:

ECG for which I had to have part of my chest hair shaved (for the first time) and which still itches a bit.

BMI which is the relationship between height and weight.
Body Fat which is measured by electrical conductivity.

I also had a  blood sample taken to check cholesterol and blood glucose, ultimately I was not of the right characteristics for the trial but the screening was an  interesting experience, results generated if they had been of concern would have been forwarded to my GP if you get the chance to do such properly conducted trials (this was under the auspices Imperial College London)  of  I would suggest you consider it.


Big Idea  number 125 is Communism

Communism is all about property being held in common.

Although I did not register it myself  ahead of reading Crofton it seems that Communism pre-dates the Marxist view of history and does in fact go back a few centuries (some commentators cite 17th Century experiments around the time of the English Civil War). And even earlier than this  Communism is linked to Utopia by Thomas More.
Socialism is meant to be the state of society ahead of the purer communism which historical Marxists believe will evolve from socialist states, this has not yet occurred and we do not have experience of large scale communist societies.

I still love the 'joke' about the definition of a communist...

Someone who has nothing and wants to share it with you.

More on Marxism soon...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mustard and Cress now ready - idea #124 is Socialism

Planting and eating

Planting out Courgettes

First of 2013
Well I've experienced Courgette overload and learnt that 2 plants should be enough for most families - nevertheless I'm probably going to have about 4 plants on the go - here are the first two (right).

Mustard and Cress ready for eating so home made egg mayo sandwich was lunch today (it was okay too).

Big Idea 124 is Socialism

Socialism is about the fight for Social Justice (and perhaps a better fairer world?).
Socialism covers a broad spectrum of political thought from Democratic social democracy to the far left, it was created as a result of the changes to industry (mechanisation etc.) and the  movement of agricultural peasants to the cities who became subject to the exploitation of Capitalists.
Socialists ultimately believe in equality throughout the world and see benefits to collective action.
Some in the Socialist movement believe that a Socialist state is a step towards the goal of  reaching a communist state and are inspired by people like Karl Marx.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

View of The Shard and idea #123 is Libertarianism

Yesterday had a jolly time in town meeting a couple of friends and also made a quick visit to the National Gallery and Tate Modern - here's a view of the Shard from the Tate Modern bar/café - am advised that the views are good and might be worth taking the trip to the viewing gallery.

(See more pictures of The Shard taken by me here  and If you like my photo's do follow me on twitter #tjbourne there's generally one or two each day).

Idea number 123  is Libertarianism

What is libertarianism?

Well a definition of a Libertarian is   "One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state."

So actually the clue is in the world it is actually about Liberty (and freedom perhaps).

The explanation here is worth looking at too.
The first known libertarian (some say) was the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who lived around the sixth century B.C. as he said “Without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony.”

If you're interested in the topic of Libertarianism take a look here

I suppose my initial feeling was that libertarians are perhaps dangerous but in fact if we look into it to a reasonable  extent it is about taking responsibility for their own actions, it could be that a libertarian society is a utopian one.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tories and Europe along with Idea # 122 Liberalism

Like many UK inhabitants my feelings about Europe and more specifically the EU are mixed. I like the idea of Europe (I actually lived in mainland Europe for a bit over 2 years) I enjoy visiting Europe, the food the culture and its values but I suppose in my heart of hearts I feel that Britain (and Northern Ireland) is pulled towards the hegemony of the USA.
Having said that there is a realism that recognises that we (UK and NI) need to be part of a trading block and the logical one is the EU.
So what is the current political storm over the membership of the EU and why does it threaten the Tories so much?

Let's consider some of the specific issues that are being raised in the debate (particularly by UKIP)

EU immigrants taking our jobs -

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research found however that the correlation between migrants inflow and native employments in the UK was very small, around 0.02 percentage points. It also found that Polish migrants had contributed to 1% of UK GDP, a significant boost to the economy. (from

Net contributor
The UK is the current 3rd biggest contributor to the EU budget - have a look at The Daily  Telegraph's detail.

We're run By Brussels
In  fact this is more complex (wouldn't you know it) than some commentators might lead you to believe the WSJ gives some depth to what many intuitively feel.

Britain can go it alone
The strongly Eurosceptic Daily Express reports that it is agreed that we could go it alone, what could be a danger though is if Scotland (and perhaps further down the road other parts of the UK and NI) decide to go for further autonomy but wish to be part of the EU, this would be an issue practically.

The USA wants us in Europe
The message from Washington is clear and unambiguous -they want UK in  Europe as this BBC report explains.

Loads more..

There's quite a nice summary of other points here too.

Now why is tearing the Tories apart (there are Labour anti-EU MPs but the debates is not so fierce there)? Have a look at what the Independent says.
(It's probably more relevant what the Government does than what the opposition says too.)

For my part I think when you join something it's better to take part than whinge from the side-lines which could be viewed as the UK's current position.

Big Idea Liberalism number 122

Liberal comes from Latin for freedom, it has good associations with Liberty, Liberation and conversely illiberal.
Liberals believe in freedom of the individual where it does not adversely affect others, economic liberals favour small government social liberals are often proponents of 'rights' e.g. Gay rights.

definition of Liberalism is..

"A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favouring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority."
In the UK political parties the Liberal Party (now part of the Lib Dems) are associated with centre of political practice between Labour on the Left and the Conservatives on the right, in the USA where there is not a Liberal party as such the liberal thinkers are generally associated with the Democrats.
It is worth mentioning that in USA Liberal is often used as a term of abuse by Republicans.

The name associated with liberalism is John, John Locke and his Social Contract, (influenced Thomas Jefferson)  John Stuart Mill and his On Liberty (1859) was influential on the limits of non intervention and a more contemporary liberal was John Rawls (American 1971) who wrote Theory of Justice (1971).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Modern Art Course at OPEN Ealing and Idea #121 - Fascism

Last night I went along to the first part of  OPEN Ealing course 'History of Modern Art' and very good I thought it was too.
Although I spend a reasonable amount of time visiting exhibitions and viewing major works what I feel I lack is the understanding and contextualisation that such a course can offer and this is virtually on my doorstep in West Ealing.
Arts Course Venue
The lecturer/leader is a really knowledgeable practitioner in Art who is approachable and  enthusiastic.

First session included:
various works were introduced including some by Eugene Delacroix,  The Gleaners(1857) by Jean-François Millet and the stunning
John Everett Millais -Ophelia (1852).
We had a look to at Impressionists including the work of Pierre-Auguste Renoir ( "A Dance At The Moulin de la Galette" was a fantastic example of the impressionist us of  light).
To be able to understand some of the history as well as the cultural and technological change of the times helps one appreciate and understand the developments - looking forward to the next revelations to come.
If you're interested in joining the course or want to know more about OPEN Ealing take a look here.

Crofton Big Idea number 121 is Fascism

The term Fascism is derived from the term for a bundle of sticks fashioned into an axe handle that was carried around by magistrates in ancient Rome. 
Fascism typically includes:
  • Powerful and Continuing Expressions of Nationalism
  • Disdain for the Importance of Human Rights
  • Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
  • The Supremacy of the Military/Avid Militarism
  • Rampant Sexism
  • A Controlled Mass Media
  • Obsession with National Security
  • Religion and Ruling Elite Tied Together
  • Power of Corporations Protected
  • Power of Labour Suppressed or Eliminated
  • Disdain and Suppression of Intellectuals and the Arts
  • Obsession with Crime and Punishment
  • Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
  • Fraudulent Elections

(Not good is it?)

Fascism can be seen as a reaction to the rise of communism in the early part of the 20th century and the mass deaths of the Great War (1914-18).
Fascism is linked with extreme Nationalism, dislike of foreigners/immigrants and a cult of leadership, European examples of the  1920s ad 1930s  include Spain and Franco, Italy and Il Duce (Mussolini)  and of course Germany and Adolf Hitler.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Make it Ealing, Co-Op Bank troubles and Idea #120 is Racism


There's been much talk of the death of the local High Street as we all either make the big ticket purchases online or head out for the destination shopping venues (like Bluewater and Westfield for example). In Ealing as in many other shopping centres a fight back is being attempted seeking to
differentiate what is on offer using non-chain retailers and making a virtue of the independents. A loyalty card has been created that (of course) awards points as you spend money, time will tell on the results- if you're interested take a look at the site here.

CO-OP Bank in trouble

A few Posts back I was in mixed minds about the future of the CoOp bank and the news out now is showing things are not too good (but seem to be okay for the departing boss).
 I'm not alone on worrying about the prospects of the high street institution and perhaps even more significant than my worries are the worries of the Co-Op itself. The  Britannia deal made a few years back brought them a rather unhealthy mix of mortgage debt
and there are now questions about how ethical it can afford to be- as the ethical tinge is what differentiates  the Co-Op bank from others it would perhaps be a mistake to ditch this element.

Idea number 120 is Racism

We're into a series of  'isms' from Crofton's Big Ideas and this one is in our liberal times is a pretty  contentious idea..
Racism follows on (somewhat) from Social Darwinism and the belief would be that Races are not only different but some are superior to others.
The Eugenics which had an almost respectable following in the first part of the 20th Century was stripped of all credibility by the Nazi regime  that held power in Germany in the 30s and 40s and sought a final solution to the existence of Jewish and Slavonic peoples (as well as many other disparate groups)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Tate Modern's Lichtenstein retrospective and idea # 119 is Colonialism and Imperialism

Radio (1962)
I got an email advising that time was running out on the Lichtenstein show at the Tate's Bankside gallery so decided that I should make at least one visit to the exhibition and attended on Friday.

Nudes with beach ball (1995)

 It's a great ticket and at times I felt that I was actually inside a comic (the published type rather than the human performing version). It was of course illuminating to observe the 'journey' that Roy made from his early work (like little big painting) to his almost self parodying later canvases.

View to St Pauls
One of the attractions of the Pop genre generally is the humour and Roy was a master at this and it was to the forefront in room 7 of the exhibition ( not only did Roy use Comic books but also other artists who he admired  clearly shown in the Art about Art section ) where reference (and reverence) was paid to other names- including Mondrian and Picasso. A great work for me in this room was 'Reflections on  Interior with girl drawing' which as well as referencing the Picasso work used an element that Roy was much exercised by that is reflections and mirrors (Room 9 had more on this).

Lichtenstein appears  in some ways undeveloped but the work he undertook although limited was expertly crafted and multi-layered, as could be seen in his late period nudes and his deconstruction of Chinese Landscapes.

Another benefit of  visiting Tate Modern is the members' Bar/Café  has great views over the millennium footbridge to St Pauls.

By the way for those in the UK interested in the art of the 20th Century I would recommend a BBC 4 TV show called Great Artists in Their Own Words you can see it on the BBC Iplayer

Colonialist Rhodes across the Land

Another Big Idea- Colonialism and Imperialism

From the 16th Century Industrialised European nations sought to control the sources of raw materials used in the manufacture of products, this they did by invasion and subjugation of the non industrialised world or Colonialism/Imperialism.

The colonies they created then became markets for the controlling 'home' country. As well as exploiting the colonised peoples they influenced and subverted the cultures leading to their ultimate
removal as the controlling powers.  Some commentators now consider that there is hegemony in place even now, that  being an economic one..

Friday, May 10, 2013

Free Sports at the same time as YouTube decides to charge for viewing and Idea #118 is Nationalism

The world of TV subscription does not stand still as BT announces free sport  YouTube is set to start charging a monthly subscription  for some 'channels'.

And in a battle where it looks like BT might be trying to steal its competitors lunch..  

There's a fairly well known maxim in business that if you give something away it devalues it (not to forget also that there's no such thing as a free lunch), if you're thinking that BT's gone mad in paying over the odds for Sports rights and almost immediately providing it to their subscribers for exactly  nothing you might like to stop and have a bit of a think.

Sky have been capturing BTs' broadband customers of late with deals that almost throw in the telephony and broadband so it seems almost logical that BT have taken a similar view and in order to retain the Telephony customers they've decided to throw in a load of TV sports content for 'free'.

Strangely at almost exactly the same time a well known provider of videos of amusing cats has decided to start extracting a charge for what they distribute- let's look in a couple of months to see how this pans out.

Idea 118 is Nationalism

Crofton notes that Nationalism might be characterised as a more emotional than rational reflex in that it calls for the peoples of the nation state to stand together against the 'other' in a 'romantic' allegiance to what is many examples a  somewhat fictional creation of  a  historic 'quasi-sacred' entity like England for example.
A number of nation states in Europe have been created from what were semi autonomous states ( Italy and Germany being prime examples).
Nationalism is often associated with racism and the reactionary right.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Tate Britain Schwitters curation and Idea #117 Social Darwinism

Early 'Pop Art' by Kurt Schwitters
The Schwitters retrospective at Tate Britain  only has a few more days to run and with this in mind I made the journey yesterday to Pimlico.

Kurt Schwitters (1887- 1948) was a German  artist who on being classified by the Nazi regime as 'degenerate'  escaped first to Norway and then England, sadly he died at the relatively young age of 60 one day  after being notified of being granted English Citizenship.
Kurt's work was varied (in the terms of the areas he covered), he was a poet, a sculptor and created a movement with Merz, he might now be remembered chiefly for his collages but he was also a very talented portrait and landscape painter. Merz was described by Schwitters as a way of using found objects he said - “new art forms out of the remains of a former culture.”
For me the exhibition showed how influential Schwitters was in what became known as 'Pop Art' this was clear in works in Untitled (the Ox) and Mz x 22 wantee (1947) and Mz x20 big Fight.
To find out more about the man take a look here.
The picture shown here (to me) looks as a clear influence on Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake.

Also I had another look at Atkinson Grimshaw's Liverpool Quay by Moonlight - wow.

(Note to self -find out more about Keith Arnatt)

Idea number 117 is Social Darwinism

Forgive the spelling!
Social Darwinism is the perhaps somewhat distasteful idea that led top Eugenics. It is a theory credited to Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who labelled Darwin's findings from On the Origin of the Species as 'Survival of the fittest'.
Spencer believed that some traits should be 'bred out' of the 'inferior stock' this theory has been seized upon by some who believe in the inherent superiority of some  racial groups.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Finding the US artist Ed Ruscha and Idea #116 is Conservatism

Standard Station by Ed Ruscha
Ed Ruscha
I was browsing a magazine yesterday and noted a work by Ed Ruscha, I wrote his name down and lost the bit of paper. The exercise in finding it again was instructive, I tried to recall what I remembered of the work:

I got in my mind that the name wasn't Rothko but was like Rothko
I recall that he was Californian (he was in fact born in Oklahoma but moved to California)
I remember that the picture was of a gas station.
I thought that the sign said Shell (it was Standard).
I looked in Google images and found it.
The work that had intrigued me was Standard Station (painted in 1966) it is also worthy of note that President Obama presented a signed Ruscha print  (Column With Speed Lines) to UK Prime minster Cameron in 2010.
You can read the fascinating chronology of Ed a pop art pioneer who continues to produce work at the age of 75 here.
(I was pleased to see that a link to Hopper's works is acknowledged by critics)

Idea 116 is Conservatism

As we saw politics is described often as a line from left to right, somewhere on the right the parties labelled as Conservative live.
The Conservative parties include many of the European Christian Democrat parties, the US Republicans and (of course) the UK Conservatives.
Conservative parties are considered to be the parties that embody beliefs in traditional authority but it was worth noting that there are (at least) 2 brands of conservatism manifested in mainstream politics which can but don't have to co-exist:
1) Social Conservatism - this tends to favour family values and may reject alternative lifestyles (like same sex marriages).
2) Economic Conservatism - this is where Conservatism rejects overt state encroachment into industry and the market (although it is worth noting that Conservatism often favours a large military and is comfortable the spend of public finance this requires).

Monday, May 06, 2013

Idea 115 is Left, Right and Centre

The idea of left wing politicians is so much part of the furniture that I'd not thought about how the term is derived, seems that it dates back to the French Revolution where in National Assembly  the aristocracy supporters were on the right and the commoners on the left.

Historically the left is considered progressive and the right somewhat reactionary but there have been many 'radical' conservatives of late trying to roll back the areas of influence of the state.

In fact some contemporary commentators consider that the extremes on both the left and right can share more in the beliefs than those in the centre.

The media often finds it easy to position individuals and parties in the spectrum from Left to Right but increasingly new trends and affinities are confusing the picture where many modern conservatives are considered 'liberal' on personal issues but 'conservative' financially.

The diagram shows a more nuanced interpretation of the parties active in the UK.

The green movement is generally considered to find a place somewhere on the left.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Idea 114 is Utopianism

Mustard and Cress

I suppose this is probably the first horticultural experience many of us have - not too sure why the ideal medium is considered to be a flannel, would think that compost has always been cheaper and more suitable.
Hopefully Mustard and Cress has some health benefits too, this site gives some indications of some foods that are said to provide extra nutrients.

Dead Man Down

Yesterday we went to see the new film Dead Man Down, that is the first Hollywood blockbuster from Danish writer/director Niels Arden Oplev, for me an  enjoyable film and although very much in the action genre it has a certain European sensibility which provides more depth then many films that are produced by the big studios.
I reckon that both Colin Farrell (an Irish Man playing a Hungarian) and Noomi Rapace (a Swedish woman playing a French character)  put in pretty good performances. Plenty of action and I only closed my eyes very briefly.


Utopianism is a belief in an ideal society which follows on from Thomas More's use of the term 'Utopia' which  he gave to an ideal and imaginary island nation.

This idea of a Utopian state or society has been used in many fictional works both in a positive portrayal  like that of William Morris's News from Nowhere  and darker works like that of  Aldous
Huxley's Brave New World .

Although actual large scale realisations like the  Communist states in the USSR and China have not ended well smaller versions of Ideal communities have been more successful these include  the Scottish New Lanark experiment and the Kibbutzs of Israel.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Non Magic Mushrooms and Idea #113 is Collectivism versus Individualism


in the dark and fed with s*** etc
As I continue to be seduced by nearly every seed packet I come into contract with it seems almost inevitable that I'll try my hand at mushroom growing (Wilko White Button).
Having looked at the instructions on the packet I have ended up going somewhat my own way - we'll see in 20 or so days if there's anything to show for the effort.
Mushrooms it seems provide loads of health benefits.

#113 Collectivism versus Individualism

Idea 113 looks at the tension between Collectivism and Individualism, those favouring the group, state or society at large would fall under the umbrella of Collectivism, this though I feel is not the flavour of the day and we live in a time of not just i-phones and i-Pads but are also all about the i-ndividual. Collectivism is not solely a position of the left but in Hitler's Germany the society was a collective one.
The European state (particularly the social democratic versions) emphasise rights and responsibilities allowing personal freedoms but privileging too  the state's role in protecting the less fortunate with adequate social provisions.   In the USA there is a deeply held belief in individual freedoms and a 'smaller' state.
Ludwig von Mises (1881- 1973) was an Austrian philosopher who was  critical of Collectivism, here's a commentary on his position.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

UK entertainers found guilty of child abuse and Idea 112 is Federalism versus Centralism

The last few months have seen a number of aging celebrities being arrested for child abuse committed during the 60s, 70s and 80s, it is difficult not to have feelings of sympathy for those people in the public eye  who are now suffering the vilification as their past crimes are exposed.

Who's the joker?

Stuart Hall it was today revealed was a serial abuser, there are others who are under investigation (I will not add to the rumour mill here) and there is little doubt that many on the periphery do  now regret the blind eye they turned to what they knew to be wrong at the time.

Some of the abusers (like Hall) will no doubt express regret at past actions (on being caught they will express this regret), in truth it is important to reflect on the many figures who did not commit these crimes and recognise that although the past was a different land morality is still a measure of the behaviour of individuals and many in similar positions did not exploit the opportunities for abuse presented to them .

Many young people have had their lives blighted by the misdemeanours of 'adults' it was not the  fault of these minors, the deal is that adults are responsible for their actions and the way the law must operate is that crimes do not disappear merely with the passage of time.

While having sympathy with those in advancing years who  now have to justify their terrible actions it is important to reflect on who are the victims and the message we are sending to them.

Okay back to the big Ideas- 112 is Federalism versus Centralism.

The governments of modern states battle between devolving power and centralising control, I recall on a visit to China many years ago seeing a banner proclaiming 'Think Globally Act Locally' and so it is that a tension acts between the centralised control that is meant to exist in countries such as France (known as a unitary state)  and the Federal system of countries that operate like the USA.

Their are arguments that favour localism in terms of reflecting the desires of the populace and in truth it is unlikely that the tensions between a centre (like London) and the regions will ever be fully resolved.

In  reality it is not a straight choice and many countries are still battling to find a comfortable equilibrium,  in recent years the UK has moved to devolving away from the centre giving some authority to the Governments and assemblies of Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.

The tensions within other countries, like for example the former Yugoslavia have led to fracture, war and the formation of independent nations but strangely these new nations are able to work together in such federal alliance as the EU.