Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Highview Road cat amongst the pigeon(s) and Idea #178 Behaviourism

Today the cat was amongst the pigeons as they say..

We feed the birds in our garden  a variety of ways and with a mixture of foodstuffs .
What a cat does..
Now I like cats, and frequently stop and make a fuss of them - some are friendly some less so.

We don't have too many feline visitors to our garden and try and limit them as they have in the past used the borders as makeshift toilets.
There is one cat who does spend some time sitting behind bushes but makes a quick exit when it sees that there are humans around.

Today it had a dramatic encounter with a pigeon here's a little of the aftermath - the pigeon survived in a traumatised state and seems to have,  after taking stock of its situation  made a belated escape (minus quite a few feathers).

Strangely I'm not a big fan of pigeons - although the ones we see are not the stroppy ones you get in Trafalgar Square and other central London locations they are still greedy, taking the majority of food put out  and they're not 'cute' but in the battle with a cat I favour letting the pigeon escape - I suppose we're all a little wary of blood and guts and nature in the raw and the cat does not live by a 'moral code' -hope that the pigeon recovers and enjoys  life in the best way a pigeon can..

Which leads on nicely to Big Idea 178 which is Behaviourism

Those who  shun pontificating on the inner workings but look in a scientific manner and measure the effects of various stimuli are known as behaviourists.
BF's Box
Behaviourism' is aid to cover a multitude of positions. There is though a common underlying theory. The behaviourist takes the mind not to be an inner 'psychic' mechanism and believes it to be to a significant extent constituted and driven  by the larger world.

 John  Broadus Watson 1878- 1958 was the guy who pretty much wrote the book on Behaviourism firstly as an academic but then (after an affair) finding a use for it in the advertising industry

Another influential figure in Behaviourism was the man who gave his name to the Skinner Box - B F Skinner was an academic who seems to have excited both positive and negative reactions to his work.
Behaviourism can be seen as reductionist and the wisdom of the present day favours  a more cognitive approach to human actions.
Here though is a bit about Behaviourism..

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

ITV performance encouraging & Big Idea #177 is Conditioning and conditioned reflexes

ITV Boss Crozier
Great news for ITV boss Adam Crozier that the profits are up 11% and what is particularly good news is  that non-advertising revenue is doing so well. ITV has for a long time despite some valiant efforts been a single revenue business which has been  beholden to the overall performance of the
advertising market, any move away from reliance on issues outside it's control will be welcomed by investors.

Big Idea number 177 is Conditioning and Conditioned Reflexes

The human being is an animal and subject to the rules that govern animals one of these is that of  Conditioning and Conditioned Reflexes - Ivan  Pavlov, what a great Russian name   (lived 1849 -1936) made an experiment, famous to many that showed how conditioning could cause a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell (the dog had been taught to expect food when the bell rang).
Reinforcement is also a noted method of changing behaviour by conditioning.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wallace collection and Idea 176 is Psychoanalysis and Freudianism

Home of the Wallace Collection
Today I visited the Wallace Collection at Hertford House in London's Manchester Square - it's famous for its works of art and period furniture.
It is quite a change from the sort of place I've been visiting of late (mainly modern-ish art galleries) with many formal pictures from Europe in a fantastic museum.

 Couple of pictures that really caught  my attention
1) The listening Housewife by Nicolas Maes.
this is a really fascinating work which actually takes quite a bit of reading the clever layout showing the activates below stairs  is (as far as I know) an intelligent innovation for a painting completed in 1656.
The other picture that I fell in love with was
2) An allegory of true love by Pieter Pourbus, this is an even earlier work from the 16th Century (1547) that uses humour to make it's point - the use of written terms on the protagonists is original for the time (I reckon).
There are some other great paintings there  including many by Canaletto and Guardia it was a treat to see the Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hall and two paintings by Pieter de Hooch caught my eye with their refreshing representation of internal light (A boy bringing bread felt almost contemporary).

WW1 Lord commemorated

I was interested to see a blue plaque to  Alfred (Lord) Milner in Manchester square, a politician from the early 20th century I'd not heard about.

 Big Idea Number 176 is Psychoanalysis and Freudianism

In today's pantheon of  enormous ideas there are few greater than this one..
it remains controversial  but relevant and it is  Psychoanalysis and Freudianism that I consider today.

 Although quite a bit of Sigmund Freud's theoretical work has been discredited he remains a giant of the 20th century firmament and his idea of 'talking cures' remains.

Conceptually sound (perhaps) but practically unproven the unconscious remains something of a mystery the ego, superego and id are used as shorthand by many of us in seeking to explain behaviour and the practice of psychoanalysis has brought benefits to many.
Here's Alain De Botton's 6 top keywords on the topic and a clip too (below)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

UK's Sky TV lowers cost of entry with NOW TV box and Big Idea #175 is Emotion

Now TV Box And £10 includes post and packing
Following (but I think not intimately connected) Google's Chromecast product release comes news that Sky are releasing a low cost entry to their UK pay TV offerings in the form of a Now TV receiver.
Rather than a satellite decoder (and associated dish) this is a streaming solution at an amazing  £10 giving the chance to access premium Sports and Movie content (you can buy a 'day pass' for the premium content) that also provides catch up services for the UK Free to air channels.
It's being promoted as making your TV  a smart TV and it'll be interesting to see if it can help expand the audience as the UK's paid Satellite TV growth comes to a halt.

Fruit Time
Great to be picking fruit - Blackcurrants and Gooseberries ('Hinnonmaki Red I think)





Big Idea 175 is Emotion

Emotions (in humans) cover a wide range from fear to joy (and there are plenty of others too) - Charles Darwin pointed out the importance in being able to judge the emotions of others.

Some emotions are linked to hormonal changes and the release of adrenaline that occurs in dangerous situations is thought to provide a boost that assists flight.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Welby's Wonga, economic growth and Big Idea #174 is Intelligence

Wonga investor Welby
Poor old Archbishop Welby there he was making a moral(ish) point about excessive interest rates by the payday loan companies saying he wanted to put Wonga out of business only to find the Church of England (via a fund) is an investor with - you guessed it you're ahead of me Wonga...You couldn't make it up etc.
Although it's only around £75,000 from an investment pot of several billions it is a PR disaster-  you see the point of course it could be labelled as hypocrisy by someone being un-Christian  - or do I mean Christian - talk about the moneychangers in the temple - oh dear me.
Let's see if the initiative has any effect.

Which brings me onto a bigger but related subject

Economic Growth

So George (the Chancellor formally known as Gideon) Osborne has been looking slightly pleased with himself as the news on the economy is that growth is appearing to be, once again embedded - in the last quarter to the tune of 0.6% not quite BRICS territory but positive.
So what does Economic Growth mean, well it means that we're spending and consuming more - so we're getting our haircut more buying more mobile phones building more houses etcetera  etcetera.
And what does that mean, well for much economic growth it'll mean burning more oil, chopping more trees, mining more copper and so on.
Now with growth there comes a cost as resources are not infinite (I don't think much is) - we can in reality only read a certain number of books or listen to a certain amount of music, have a certain number of haircuts  etc.
I'm fairly sure I'm not alone in having thrown out clothes that I've never worn and the amount of food that goes wasted is enormous so the idea of growth that goes on forever means that (in excess) lots of things are produced to go directly to landfill - this (I reckon) does not make sense.

1) It is wasteful
2) It does not make people happy/fulfilled

One of the ways that economic growth is continued is by commoditising - more on that later.

Big Idea number 174 is all about the Intelligence

Crofton has got another good one here as the previous entry (memory) could be considered  analogous to storage in a PC this can be thought of as being about the work the processor can do.

Alfred Binet a French Psychologist who thought up the IQ ratio  and Jean Piaget a Swiss Psychologist specialising in Child development were both influential figures in the concept of IQ models and testing. The early work these pioneers has to an extent been superseded as scholars have come to believe that culture has an influence on how intelligence can be appreciated. Emotional Intelligence is now also something that is considered it looks at controlling emotions and understanding others.
The questions which occur to me are
1) Is there actually any credit to being intelligent if it is merely an accident of genes and ones heritage?
2) Does the measured IQ give any indication of success and happiness, many very intelligent people find life to be a struggle and the converse apples too!
Here's some things to think about with respect to the testing of IQ.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Googles TV Dongle and Big Idea #173 is Perception and Sensation

Chromecast is the latest TV gizmo for your living room telly to take stuff from the internet.
I said Clone not Clown
So after many attempts Google have not given up but produced another entry into the Internet TV application niche - and it might just have got a winner.
Price point is always key and the UK price when it becomes available here  would look to hit the sub £30 slot which is low enough to be an impulse buy for most families - the other thing it needs to be is simple and universal with its direct connection to an available HDMI slot on the family telly and being compatible with all sorts of operating systems it seems to score there too.
The content looks to be  okay mainly youtube and Netflix (there was briefly a free promotion with Chromecast  in the USA) which is probably acceptable - it'll be interesting to see what the completion does and how far away the clones are - it is only able to take content from the 'cloud' so stuff on your PC won't be available for playback.

Perception and Sensation - the latest big idea -number 173

Sounding like an art exhibition today's topic is all about Perception and Sensation  - the sensation part is about how our senses bring the outside world to us and the perception is about the interpretation we make of these sensory inputs.
Crofton notes the effect of Optical illusions which exploit  how the mind can work on filling in gaps using previous experiences.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"And in the end" along with idea #172 which I recall is Memory

This wouldn't make an album cover
I discovered a really interesting 'deconstruction of the Beatle's Sgt Pepper opening track - not exactly sure how it was located but it is quite fascinating- check it out

So are the Beatles the best group ever?
And what is/was their best Album?

For me the answers are 'Yes' and 'Abbey Road', so am quite looking forward to the CityLit course on 7th August which is called  "And in the end: The Beatles' Abbey Road" described as a close study of the Beatles’ final studio album Abbey Road. it seeks to explore what it says musically, culturally and spiritually about the end of the 1960s.
Would recommend CityLit for both it's courses and the overall ethos which is very welcoming.

Big Idea 172 is Memory

Under the umbrella of Psychology Crofton chooses Memory as a big Idea - what is memory is it the functional aspect of our cognitive being which allows us to function?
We may have forgotten where we put the keys (or have we?) we may suffer from degenerative disease which see us lose our memories as we get older but is the memory something more than a somewhat high calibre biological memory stick stuck in our heads.
Marcel Proust wrote of the evocation a cake could bring (a Madeleine)  and the triggers that can take us back are manifold.
The function of memory can be described as follows
registration - where the event is logged to the mind
retention - the storage of the event
recall - the accessing of the event from the memory.

An idea is that all is remembered but not necessarily recalled and the idea of a photographic memory is well documented.
Here are some facts you might like to memorise..

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Plantings and new topic in the big ideas is #171 Psychology

Last Plantings?

It's a bit hot and dry for me!
So the weather remains exceptional and I've been grateful for the moisture that the recent thunderstorms have imparted.
When I can I've been taking out some weeds and yesterday I picked a fair sized cucumber and brought home more Courgettes and Onions (to dry out) - sad to report that Pak Choi does not like this very hot weather and has 'bolted' advice from the web is that it doesn't really appreciate very hot weather - so have decided to try and sow a further crop, also planted some more carrots.
Artichokes are also suffering and looking sorry for themselves many dead leaves already.

Early Potatoes are now looking like they'll soon be ready to be pulled up and main crop not too far behind.

New Topic -Big Idea Number 171 is Psychology

Crofton has a new topic on page 350 of his book and it's (of course) an interesting one.
In 1879 Wilhelm Wundt founded a research laboratory at the University of Leipzig to study what is now know as Psychology.
Wundt was able to teach a number of students in a scientific  way about the behaviour of the mind, these students became a critical mass in the new discipline which continued to develop after his death.
Like so many of the sciences the fields has widened and deepened and specialisms include Clinical Psychology and Occupational Psychology which is the application of psychology within work and business.
Have a look at this as an intro..

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tate Modern goes Africa and Idea 170 is Punishment

Part of the Gaba show.
Yesterday despite the sweltering London heat I ventured into the heart of the beating metropolis to get a culture fix.
Main things I noted at the Tate Modern yesterday were the African Shows, the Meschac Gaba and  Ibrahim El-Salahi  exhibitions that were most stimulating, there’s a programme on BBC2 about them on Wednesday 10:00 pm  - I particularly liked the Gaba for me it was an evocation of another place that had a deep resonance for places visited.
The stand out works from what was an eclectic mix by  Ibrahim El-Salahi  were The Tree (2008) a subject that Ibrahim visited many times and The last Sound when in front of this the picture is able to follow you almost like the Mona Lisa!
I also took the opportunity of looking at the infamous Mark Rothko Seagram Mural display and Jackson Pollock's Yellow Island.


Big Idea (of Ian Crofton) number 170 is Punishment

The last of the Society entries is to an extent  the Corollary or at least flip side of yesterday's Crime (As Dostoevsky famously put them together why shouldn't Crofton?)
Punishment by the state for a serious crime often results in a denial of freedom for a period of time and in extreme cases some countries still exercise the death penalty. This list makes interesting reading)

Crofton describes Punishment as having two elements, one Utilitarian in that the incarcerated is not at liberty to continue committing crime  and the deterrent effect of punishment making crime less attractive.
The other angle is the retribution (as often described in the Old Testament) where the Punishment is 'just'/'justice'.
Does Punishment work ?- this lady thinks not

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Count Arthur, Cherries and Cucumbers along with idea #169 which is Crime

On the radio (BBC Radio 4 and then 4 Extra)  I greatly enjoyed listening to the comedy programme Count Arthur Strong and we even went as far as seeing Count Arthur on Stage (not actually that far) in Richmond on Thames.
The Count
My Cherry
Having seen the TV programme which started the other week I am (so far) a little disappointed - the comedy has been broadened and the son of a previously unmentioned double act partner has been added as a device into The Count's history.
Somewhat surprisingly (to me) the addition of Graham Linehan (IT crowd and Father Ted) has so far not paid dividends in the Chuckle department.

Cornucopia of vegetables and Fruit

My Cucumber
Some time nearly every day this week I've spent an hour ore so watering, Tomatoes, Peppers and brassicas seem to just drink up the litres - and of course the Gourd families' fruit is pretty much constituted by H2O.
As you can see the attention is creating some effect and that is not the only Cucumber or Cherry I've got to show for my efforts.

Apples too are looking promising and I can even see a couple of pears but these are at present rather slight.

Big Idea 169 is Crime

I looked up Crime and found it defined as
An action or omission that constitutes an offense that may be prosecuted by the state and is punishable by law.
Some crimes are pretty much accepted as being without merit and are defined similarly throughout the world's societies - Murder and theft are examples, others are more a construct of modern times and behaviour - here the example given is the relatively new 'insider trading'.
There are said to be victimless crimes, and arguments can be made that if you are the only person suffering (yourself) then it is not necessarily the states job to punish you.
Suicide was a crime in England until 1961 - perhaps seems bizarre now?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New Coffee Shop in Ealing and Idea #168 is Deviance

Anyone for Coffee?
On Friday I was in Ealing and half tempted to try the latest coffee shop which has arrived where Jessops used to be it's  working under the name ‘Harris and Hoole’ which is a new one on me (it’s near WH Smiths), I was surprised and disappointed to find that it's actually 49% owned by  Tesco's  I'm not sure how many cafés Ealing  can sustain and if one doesn't last perhaps it'll be this one? I ended up having a regular cappuccino at Nero's - definitely my favourites coffee chain at present.

 Nice video for the day here

Big Idea Number 168 is Deviance..

Deviance is the term used by Sociologists to describe behaviour that  strays from the 'Norm', that is normative  behaviour Crofton uses the example of the changes in attitude towards homosexuality as n example of how norms can change.
Here's a video about deviance..

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ealing Comedy and Idea 167 is Alienation

Last night we went to Walpole Park in Ealing to see what the Comedy Festival was offering (actually partly knew as we'd bought tickets on the strength of the headliner).
Piff with dog
First thing to note is how the dry and hot weather has bleached the grass and made the ground as hard as concrete.
Lee Mack is my favourite comedian, to me he's intrinsically amusing combining structure and warmth with a genuinely amusing nature, on the bill with him where a couple of other acts
as well as an MC who was at times amusing - look out for
the Piff The Magic Dragon the 33 year old former IT guy who was one of the support acts, his act included some half baked magic, audience participation and a small dog - at least he was different.

Big Idea number 167 from Ian Crofton is the somewhat scary  'Alienation'

Crofton cites Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times as a representation of how the industrial process depersonalises and alienates modern man (and woman) - Karl Marx (him again) was interested in how commodification and process caused the disconnect.
Anomie is a condition that Sociologists have identified as being a result of the alienation the purposelessness that sufferers  experience is a result of a lack of standards, values, or ideals and can some believe even be a contributory cause of suicide -  Anomic suicide it is said occurs in response to an individual no longer being subject to regulatory forces that integrate them into society.
The video below is quite impressive - not perfect but powerfully presented reminds me of  an article I read about a T Shirt - here's a linked item

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jools Kews the music and Idea 166 is Class

Kew That Music Jools
On Friday Evening we attended what is pretty much (For Jools Holland) becoming an annual event, his performance at the Kew (Gardens) Music festival - now some people like to spend whole weekends in fields in the British countryside for Debbie and me an evening is fine.
There are some pretty big names who play in the lovely gardens and I was a little ambivalent about an evening of Jools and I was pleasantly surprised by both him and his orchestra  - Jools had a number of soloists band vocalists that made for a varied 'fayre' these included Ruby Turner and my favourite for the evening the  former fine young cannibal Roland Gift - not so young but still noticeably fine in the vocal delivery department.
It really was a balmy evening on what's shaping up to be a scorcher of a summer.

Big Idea 166 is Class (as in upper class etc.)

It is often somewhat mistakenly thought that only the British are concerned with class, the breakdown in Britain is pretty rudimentary compared to the subtleties of the Indian Caste system or the unspoken of elitism of the French upper classes.
For a detailed analysis of Class Max Weber the German Philosopher is the go to guy (in line with thoughts of one Karl Marx). Alternatively you can take the message from the sketch below.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Modern Employers - and Idea #165 is Myth

Drinks Giant
Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to visit the HQ of one of the FTSE top companies, the top world drinks company that was only named and formed in 1997 (from other existing hospitality giants).
The hospitality was great and although the company being in Park Royal is somewhat away from the town centre it has great views particularly of Wembley Football ground and on a hot summers evening it was nice to see a large corporate office again.
As well as seeing rooms themed on global drinks (anyone for a meeting in the Bailey's?) I was reminded of the challenge that all successful global companies and their staff face - how can costs be cut? (relocate to an out-of -town industrial estate that will add hours to most employees  weekly commute), how can we maximise our global presence ?(JVs and takeovers).
How can we prepare for new markets? (constant reorganisation).
The sad thing is that to ensure that challenges are met people are increasingly stressed and carry with them personal offices and baggage (of both kinds).

Big Idea number 165 is Myths

Leading on from the  branding (and the 'rituals' of the last entry) is an idea that is central to the creation of such names as Moet and Chandon, Guinness and |Captain Morgan it is the distillation  of a 'myth' the idea for Captain Morgan for example of a romantic pirate and drinker who bequeathed a great rum.
In fact myths are used not just by those selling us drinks but also by politicians and tribal leaders, events in history become a narrative for a nation be it Dunkirk or Hiroshima- Making Myths even has a term mythopoeia and myths around the creation of the universe are known as cosmogonies.
And then of course there are the urban myths..

Monday, July 15, 2013

Printmaking, Kinetic Sculpture and Big Idea #164 is Ritual

My print (from Lino) with second colour
So the Printmaking Workshop at OPEN Ealing  finished last week and it really was enjoyable and I hope to carry on with what I learnt and perhaps take it further - the thing is that there's a need to have a good working area with things set up in a tidy layout.

Kinetic Tennis
At the weekend I attended a Kinetic Sculpture course at Citylit now the course was largely practical but with some key figures mentioned and explanations. It was great to be in a practical environment with pillar drill and an opportunity to try spot welding.
The bat from Maplins
My initial  project idea was initially to animate some 'Op' art but in fact I decided to try something with tennis balls and a bat- didn't manage to finish it - again I need some working space to really get into this.
If you're interested the big names to keep in mind on the subject of Kinetic art which is a fairly new field are (following on from Duchamp) :

Alexander Calder
Jean Tinguely

Big Idea Number 164 is Ritual

Ritual behaviour is established or fixed by traditional rules that have been observed the world over through history. In the study of this behaviour, the terms sacred (the transcendent realm) and profane (the realm of time, space, and cause and effect) have remained useful in distinguishing ritual behaviour from other types of action.
Ritual is often associated with religion but is actually about traditions which can be typically symbolic. Rituals such as Funerals and coming of age are held within families and communities.
Rituals are often held in significant buildings such as churches an temples.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

BBC's Patten and payoffs along with Idea #163 which is Relativism

The last week or so has seen the UK Parliament asking legitimate questions about oversight of the BBC as demonstrated (or not) by the BBC Trust.
The Trust has to a degree held up its hands but the question of payments made by the BBC

Let me give you a cheque old boy
Management  (and the BBC Trust in the case of George Entwistle) is inevitably flawed - why would the BBC be mean with money that is not its own and where they hope to be beneficiaries of similar largesse? How can Chris Patten expect those beneath him to practice frugality when he is so generous with the licence payers money when he pays off his own disastrous appointee? It is interesting to see the former DG Mark Thompson battling to clear his name as he is used by others as cover and  a scapegoat.
The BBC is a great organisation but the so called 'great and good' continue to excel in cronyism.

Big Idea Number 163 is Relativism

Born of the age of enlightenment Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute thus seeking to rebalance the view of colonialists who had imposed  western values on the countries now often known as 'developing'.

Relativism has enjoyed some success and following of late but is disputed by the traditional political 'right' who consider that there are many things where clear moral judgements can be made e.g. Theft is wrong.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Rothko and the colour fields with Idea #162 Anthropology

This weeks journey through Modern Art at OPEN Ealing  continued the analysis of American Abstraction this time looking at Mark Rothko along with Barnett Newman and Philip Guston.

Rothko is famous for the works he created initially for the New York  Seagram that he then decided would be better suited for the Tate in London which arrived just as the discovery was made of his suicide (February 25th  1970).
Rothko is associated with 'Colour Field', by the winter of 1949-50 he'd  arrived at his own mature style, in which two or three luminous colour rectangles arranged one above another appeared to float within a radiant 'colour field'. By 1950, this format of rectangles of colour within a larger 'colour field' had become one of the most important features of Rothko's work.

The painting on the right is "Untitled," by Mark Rothko, it is oil on canvas and measures 69 by 64 inches it was painted in 1963 and 40 years later sold for  $7,175,500, like many of his works it demonstrates the use of  colours with  luminescent qualities, here rich swaths of pigment appear to lift off the plain  2 dimensional surface of the canvas.

Big Idea Number 162 is Anthropology

Originally Anthropology was a single subject that was the study of humans- past and present.
The idea was to understand the full sweep and complexity of cultures across all of human history. Anthropology draws and builds upon knowledge from the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences. A large part of  anthropology is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems. Anthropology now can be split into at least four areas: sociocultural anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, archaeology, and the fascinating anthropological linguistics.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Saatchi Paper revisited (and Richard Wilson), Idea #161 is Sociology

Charles Saatchi
As Kevin G was staying with us for a couple of days it was an ideal opportunity to (again) visit the Saatchi Gallery - say what you like about Charles he has created something which is interesting and stimulating.

Paper is the big theme at the Gallery at the moment but I had to spend (more) time looking at the constantly fascinating Richard Wilson Sump Oil I suppose part of this is as a result of my first encounter being one where I totally missed it - this is a bit more about it

Big Idea  Number 161 is Sociology (Topic Society)

Ok so we've moved from Economics and are looking at stuff under the 'Society' umbrella.
Now regarded as a Social Science (neither Social nor science??) it's a great discipline and I got a book on it just the other day (What is Sociology? by Alex Inkeles).
It is the science or study of the origin, development, organisation, and functioning of human society; the science of the fundamental laws of social relations, institutions, and so on.
Auguste Comte coined the term and the subject was further honed and developed by Weber and Durkheim - here's a nice straightforward explanation.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

LS Lowry and Idea #160 is Game Theory

Come and see this
On Sunday I went along to Tate Britain with an old School friend to see the LS (Lawrence Stephen - not sure why some people get known by their initials) Exhibition -I enjoyed it despite the fact that  I'm not his(LS's)  number one fan and I'd also read the Brian Sewell review which was less than positive.
So what did the exhibition tell me?

Spot the Lowry Clichés
I suppose one of the things to note is that he was not some backward self taught naïve artist - one of his teachers was the French artist  Adolphe Valette - and he was quite an (impressionist)  talent (I reckon).
Another point is that he was interested in looking at how perspective could be subverted (it's important to remember that he was painting at the time of Cubism), he has an irritating (for me)
 attachment to some devices (people with walking sticks bent  into the wind) and subjects (coming/returning to the works/football game) but he did experiment and push himself (bigger canvases different locations). For me he's not necessarily an artist to enjoy but having been fortunate enough to learn a little about how to enjoy art (Thanks Nick Pearson) I'm able to see value in work that is not my personal taste.
Lowry works too as a commentator and witness to a now forgotten industrial history of Northern England.

Big  Idea Number 160  is Game Theory

Game theory is not only relevant in economics but its application there is often telling.
The definition is
"A model of optimality taking into consideration not only benefits less costs, but also the interaction between participants."
Game theory attempts to look at the relationships between participants in a particular model and predict their optimal decisions.
Eight people have been  awarded the Nobel prize (Economics)  for their work on the subject and John Maynard Smith was awarded the Crafoord Prize for his application of game theory in biology.
The classic example cited by Crofton is that of two criminal suspects being separately interviewed and choosing to inform on one another (The Prisoners Dilemma).

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Thirsty plants and Idea #159 is Globalisation (or should that be Globalization?)

This hot weather has meant that I'm spending a fair bit of time watering..
Give me water.
On Friday I planted some lettuces, not really sure how much I'm getting out of lettuce growing - they're all ready at the same time and not incredibly exciting -The Kohlrabi and turnips are battling to survive and Courgettes and their associates drink water like  fish.

Big Idea Number 159 is Globalisation

We have seen Globalisation  rapidly change the world in recent years with the freeing of markets and removal of barriers to trade between different parts of the world.  The trading and empire building of past centuries means that nations have traded with one another allowing 'developed' countries to pursue new markets for their industrialised goods while importing from some areas raw materials (and in the case of slavery labour).

Globalisation is like so many other paradigms a two edged sword we enjoy some aspects of the changes the increase in Globalisation has brought but regret others - for me for example
I enjoy the diversity of eateries from around the world that can be experienced in London.
I am impressed by  the wide range of music that can be experienced from other cultures
I regret the cultural homogeneity that means so many towns and cities have KFC and McDonalds.
I worry that many low 'value' (economically) jobs are being carried out by immigrants in the UK.

Here's a video that covers some of the topic.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Breaking Bounds show and big idea #158 is Development

At the Crypt
One of the works
Last night I visited the CityLit Sculpture exhibition Breaking Bounds at The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church Euston Road.
The exhibition showcased the work of 16 artists from the 2nd year of their   sculpture course.
The atmosphere was friendly with drinks and nibbles and many proud friends and family guests enjoying the occasion.
 You can see the works and artists here - what was interesting for me was the imagination  shown and in some cases the hard work and practiced technique - the space was also intriguing.
I am taking part in a short practical course in just over a week where I'll need to create a work  and I need to start thinking of ideas that are original and that it is possible to produce.

Today's big idea is Number 158 -  Development

When a country moves to industrialised status it is in the development phase- while one fifth of the nations are termed developed there are a further three fifths that are in the process of developing, the remainder are still in poverty. Part of the problem for the poorer nations is debt which makes it difficult for them to progress.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Egypt, Breaking Bounds sculpture exhibition and Idea 157 is Monetarism

The turmoil in Egypt is fascinating both as an example of a nascent democracy's growing pains and as an example of the West's mixed feelings on self determination by the Arab states.
Egypt in turmoil?

Although President Morsi  (which appears to have a variety of spellings) was elected democratically there have been worrying signs that he is not a democrat as many of us would understand the term - preferring to consider that he has been elected to be an autocrat.

We can see in Egypt a battle which is to some extent characterised by the metropolitan areas (such as Cairo) and the countryside the proxy struggle  between progressives and the Muslim Brotherhood continues and the military have stepped in to ensure (as they see it) that Egypt continues to function  putting a temporary president in place (the top judge  Adly Mansour).

So how is the west reacting to what looks very much like a military coup overthrowing a democratically elected leader? - As we might expect with some ambivalence, Egypt has been a western ally  and this is the real goal of the US and its coterie.

As a result of enrolling in CityLit course I've got an invite to Breaking Bounds Exhibition this evening.

Big Idea 157 is Monetarism (Economics)

The US economist Milton Friedman is associated with Monetarism, he believed that one of the key factors in the economic system which led to inflation was an increase in the Money Supply (basically printing more money and thus devaluing the currency).

Monetarism was a fashionable creed (and a  bulwark to the Keynesian school) to follow in the 1980's and the analysis was used as part of the UJK treasury's armoury in fighting the rampant inflation experienced at this time. It is interesting to see that many economies have chosen 'fiscal easing' in their struggle with the current economic challenges.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Art at OPEN Ealing and Big Idea #156 is Growth

New home for OPEN Ealing
It'll be a hotel
So Monday and Tuesday I am able to enjoy learning about Art both theoretical and Practical at OPEN Ealing, the venue for OPEN Ealing is due to change soon and the potential new home is the former
West Ealing Blockbuster (strange I always think of it as Blockbusters).
The West Ealing postcode is undergoing something of a transformation with new housing  behind the  Uxbridge Road and a small hotel to appear soon (just by Sainsbury's) this might be connected with Crossrail or just part of a general improvement in the area.
It's good to see an increase in modern affordable hotels in London, historically there was an enormous gulf between really crappy Bayswater Road hotels and the expensive West End.
Anyway back to OPEN Ealing, the Modern Art (theory course) was this week about American Abstract Expressionism including Jack the Dripper (Jackson Pollock) famous for his drinking and Action Art.
A work in progress
He was not the only one working in the oeuvre  (another was Cy Twombly) but he's undoubtedly the foremost name - I reckon it'd be good fun to let go and try and create a work in this style but it's worth noting that he did have some talent and even to get close to his creativity would not be easy.
So to highlight the fact that as well as an idea artists generally need some proficiency I'm learning that effort (and talent) are needed for successful  printmaking, we're work with Lino and it's fun if I get the hang of it friends and family need to worry as they could get hand-made Christmas Cards this year.

Meanwhile at the Ian Crofton home of Big Ideas we're on 156 Growth (economic style)

Modern economies rely on growth to keep living standards rising, this requires increase in productivity and generally is linked to increasing consumption of goods and services. The engine of world economic growth is currently the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) where
annual increase in economic activity is regularly of the double digit variety.
The downside of all this growth is the increasing pollution and exploitation of planet earth - eventually the limit will be reached where we are unable to consume more or the planet will not allow further use of resources without some cataclysmic reaction

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The planting continues and Big Idea #155 is Keynsianism

Parsnips anyone?
It's great when you can start  enjoying home produced vegetables and this weekend as well as fresh peas and courgettes we were able to harvest our garlic - it'll dry out for a couple of weeks or so and then be ready to eat. I have about 8 bulbs which should last for getting on a year. Here's some tips on drying it out etc.
At the weekend we also sprayed the aphids (black fly) on the Broad beans and Artichokes the spray was just detergent so nothing to worry about - it seems to have already improved the situation.
Have now also planted out some Parsnips (started in old toilet rolls) and Kohlrabi (started in egg boxes) - they should just degrade into the soil.

Big Idea - Keynesianism

JM Keynes was an English  economist whose name has become synonymous with the idea of  Public investment during economic downturns. During the 1930s Keynes believed that putting money into workers pockets and purses could help to rebuild the economy ravaged by the great depression this policy was followed by politicians such as  President FD Roosevelt who created large infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam.
The large scale rail investment HS2 (in the UK) could be considered another example of Keynesian economics.