Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kew the Gardens - snaps a plenty

Kew Gardens yesterday, as well as being a world class  centre  of excellence in Horticultural matters it's a great day out, so many  routes and the attractions are changing through the seasons from the stirrings of spring to the rich autumnal golds

A Crow lands amongst the colour

It was slightly unusual for us to may a weekday visit, there's still plenty of people enjoying the early spring(??) sunshine and many different languages overheard so many people have this on their tourist maps.

Crocuses and such like provide a magical sprinkling to the gardens and you can almost forget that you're on the Heathrow flight path (the West london resident  can become almost oblivious to this anyway!)
Kew gave us a lovely taste of spring

And some carbon offsetting

There were quite a  number of sophisticated looking cameras and the  snapping of them reminds me of  how Kodak gave up their poll position in photography (that's a business lesson from the real world) -there are so many opportunities to capture great images at Kew.

Seems that campaign to limit the damage done by budget cuts from the  Tory led coalition did have some effect but crazy that we should consider this a suitable target for money saving as our tax dodging Multi-millionaires continue to accrue ever more riches.

There's usually rebuilding work of one or more of the enormous Glasshouses at a given time and this perspective from the suspended tree walk gives an idea of the scale of the current project due to finish in 2018 .
I'm not sure our window cleaner could manage this one.

Kew is great at integrating large scale sculpture into the landscape and vey nice to see Henry Moore figure of reclining Mother and Child  on display again there.
Not your usual recliner - This one's from Henry Moore and not DFS and is on show until Sept 25th 

We took the Treetop walk  it was really delightful with minimal disturbance from others  who enjoyed the views, it's nice to get the geography sorted, you can see Wembley Stadium from uo there while trees are mainly bare.
The experience was not spoilt by  the presence anyone  whining  about other similar tree walks (yes I'm talking about the Duchess of Northumberland)  who think they can all but copyright such experiences!

Why is the Duchess upset by this visitor attraction at Kew?

As we exited the Gardens took in an inspirational selection of Photographs from the winners of the 'International Garden Photographer of the Year' it (of course made me to take more pictures and I wanted an even  better camera).
IGPOTY -Makes you want to be a better Photographer

The visit was a good chance to take photo's but the bright sun did mean I struggles with seeing the display - very happy though with this picture (now showing on my Flickr photostream).

Raking in front of the Fountain at Kew lake 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sleeplessness and Philosophy class reconvenes

On Wednesday night I was involved in voluntary duties, I'm not great at overnighters but having done a 'shift' I'm reminded of how many people are required to work night shifts to ensure modern society functions as well as it does - to me after a night I'm more short tempered and prone to make mistakes, I feel liker I'm having a bad does of jet-lag.
Cue (Kew) spring, earlier today 

Disruptive night work has been shown to shorten the lives of those required to do it and I'm not sure they all get the recompense for this they deserve.

Which brings me back to the political classes who deem making their choice of career (generally day work) which involves privilege more than denial and then choose to label it as dedicating their lives to public service, compare this with hard working public servants or volunteers who do make sacrifices - come on please.

 Philosophy class reconvenes  (Hume under the spotlight)

After half term it was back to the coal face of Philosophy for everyone as Ealing's Philosophy class reconvened last night.
I was reminded of several things, first what an engaging subject Philosophy can be second how many ways there are into it, the class kicked off with a couple of film excerpts-
The first from Hitchcock's Vertigo - an extremely hight rated film (by cinema aficionados) - is now serving philosophy, it seems there's a connection between director Hitchcock's Vertigo  (believed to be a strongly Christian Catholic) and Hume's (considered by many as an atheist enlightenment thinker) philosophy.

The link is around the ideas of sense perception- Vertigo is all about the sight of James Stewart's character in pursuit of the Kim Novak character, Stewart gains knowledge from his following of her.

The link might be tenuous (take a look if you need to )  but that did not inhibit discussion.

The second film clip was from Chaplin's City Lights, strong on sentimentality - the clip showed Chaplin's 'little Tramp'  meeting a blind flower seller again a link with sense perceptions  is shown

Next week we'll be venturing to the East to have a taste of Buddhism and other alternatives to the Western tradition.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Post Office Red and Politics 2015

some little time back I had a bit of a brain wave that I'd make a book/project along the lines of the Noah Scalin '365 A Daily Creativity Journal'  for me I'd have  a different red object every day - I haven't managed to impose the necessary self discipline on myself to get beyond about 20 random shots so far.
On taking a walk today I was reminded of the idea and why I chose 'red' - it can be a joyous colour  - and a freshly painted post box has something more than the sum of a tin of paint and a tired looking piece of street furniture.

Post office Red
Hey don't forget about me

Pre permanent employment I used to work in my school and university holidays at TPI (Technical Panel Industries) in Braintee Essex, Technical Panels was the term used to describe seamless GRP coated plywood panels used for the side panels, tops and doors for various lorries and vans.

It was a good experience for me and I remember well the importance for TPI  of winning the contract for the Post office fleet and how the colour was 'Post Office' red -strangely looking on the internet (as with so much) there seems to be many different versions of what I thought a standard.

I also recall that the red of Coca- Cola can not be satisfactorily reproduced on television displays (as yet).

Politics 2015 

Well done to Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett for not being overly precious and apologising for her recent poor media performance it is worth crediting her for this, I find it hard to imagine David Cameron doing a similar thing- it reflects well on her.

Interesting to see that Sir Malcolm Rifkind has decided his position as M.P.  and Chair of an important Westminster Security committee  is untenable and he has  decided to leave his safe Tory seat at the next election - I have some sympathy for him but he behaved foolishly and compounded the errors he made by acting with what looked like a superior attitude and no contrition.

Caught a very short glimpse of BBC 2 Commons programme, this reflected well on Zac Goldsmith who gives the impression of being that rare creature a Tory politician   who is an independent thinker unfettered by overwhelming ambition - his instinct to pursue his desire to see MPs subject to recall by their constituents is a good one and the MP supporters who got behind it in the Commons are to be applauded .

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

London Housing (an issue for 2015)

I suppose that as with our taste in food there's a built in desire for the past when it comes to housing.
At the last London Mayoral elections (2012) the formidable independent candidate Siobhan Benita made big efforts to get the issue the prominence that it warrants.

Subsequently, probably more as a result of  where we are in the economic cycle more housing has been built in London- much of this though is expensive, family un-friendly and small.

I was interested to learn that the stock of public housing is now so low (in many boroughs the proportion of public housing has dropped by around 50% in 20 years)  and that for many people rent is taking over half of their income - it's an issue that created a big demonstration against Mayor Boris Johnson's lack-lustre performance .

Looking around me in Ealing the new homes being provided are a mixture of small private apartments with no outside space and expensive retro homes that look like existing stock but are feature laden with minimal outside space.

Councils of all political persuasions appear to delight in the policy of demolishing and replaced with more smaller accommodation, sadly in Ealing it has been revealed that the Labour council leader has both a private house and public housing which can not be right. 

Hopefully housing will not be overlooked in the Election 2015 and we'll see better and more affordable homes for all who need them - let's face it a decent place to live is a key issue for us all.
New (expensive) homes made to look like old ones in Ealing
Another example in the borough

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Lomo effect and Politics (including Rifkind gone)

There's been quite a bit of interest in a return to a more unplanned and spontaneous type of photography perhaps a less of the high-tech and more of a low-fi  sensibility.

One such example of this interest is mentioned in Pring's book and it centres on the Lomo cameras and the process one individual, Richard Cynan Jones took in rediscovering something of the joy of early photography - Richard now even teaches early photography techniques

Lomography is the term used to describe the photography performed using the LCA cameras that has now got quite a following, it was reborn as an active branch of Analogue photography  in Vienna by a group of Viennese students in the early 1990s.

The cameras a re now available and the iconic Lomo LC-A which some might describe as a rather limited 35 mm compact camera   can be purchased on Ebay for around £50.

You can transform (degrade some might say) to a quasi- Lomo effect using modern computer software like Picasa, here's my 'Lomo-ed' picture of an office block

How a modern London office block might look when photographed with analogue Russian camera

Political price paid (in full) but Greens looking shaky

Well as we head towards the UK General election, any sentimentality from the Political parties is in short supply - Rifkind has realised this and announced he will not be Conservative candidate for election, Jack Straw had previously announced his retirement but now looks unlikely to make it (in the short term anyway) to the House of Lords . 

Away from the big beasts things are not looking good for the Green  party whose leader Sydney born Natalie Bennett has been making Nigel Farage look competent.
Bennett has performed poorly recently on TV (Andrew Neil at BBC) and Radio (Nick Ferrari at LBC)  
 Unlike her predecessor the measured and popular  Caroline Lucas Bennett seems ill at ease when interviewed on specifics - not sure how the full campaign will find her. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The values of Politicians as well as German Photo Montage pioneer John Heartfield

Well I wonder what the late  Barbara Castle would have said about Jack Straw's greed and arrogance, or even Mrs T on Malcolm Rifkind's ethics?
St James Church, Bermondsey

Why is that on reaching high office politicians not only have that part of their brain removed which relates to 'ordinary people' but also stop being able to understand the difference between right and wrong?

How can it be correct for someone who is employed as an M.P. to spend their time applying for a job  helping an (albeit) imaginary Chinese business rather than working for their own constituents?

The Telegraph have undoubtedly  done something to rescue their damaged reputation in the sting (which can be seen on UK TV's C4 Dispatches tonight that has revealed the latent  hypocrisy at senior levels in both of the UK's major political parties.

Have seen the Straw interview from BBC's Today (Radio 4) programme reminds me of Elton John song Sorry seems to be the hardest word - Good to see he's withdrawn himself from Labour party Whip but he's not helping his party any.

There's a BBC radio  interview too  with  from the cash strapped 68 year old Patrician sounding Tory MP Malcolm Rifkind who Prime-minister Cameron confirmed has had the Conservative party whip suspended.

More from Pring's

I see in my Pring's book that there's a mention of John Heartfield a man who pretty much invented Photo-Montage (along with others).

The name John Heartfield rang a bell with me and after a quick search I see that I admired his work at Tate Modern a couple of years back, well it's not just his work that admirable - he  was a blatant anti-Nazi who displayed great integrity (I wonder if anyone can take a lesson from this?)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Crimp on Ruscha and Down at Shad (Near Tower Bridge)

Well the bite sized facts in the Pring's Miscellany book are already taking me in other directions.

I was very interested to learn about both Ed Ruscha's book of Photographs of Gas Stations (ahead of the iconic painting) and American Professor of Art, Douglas Crimp's knowing perspective on the classification of Ruscha's book in a library.

[I saw a Ruscha original up close and personal a couple of years back and it was strangely exciting.]

There's been to my mind a schism over Photography's purpose pretty much since the first photo's were exhibited, is it  'Record or Art'? -Crimp gets to the point (see more here).

Down at Shad Thames 

Yesterday while around Design Museum inevitably took a few snaps - including a reverse towards Tower Bridge along what I guess is Shad, Thames (definitely not The Shard) - here it and others are:
Shad Thames - getting the  'perpendiculars 'right here's a challenge here
Anchors not away - that's engineering 
Don't forget another great Paolozzi public sculpture or the threat to his Tottenham Court Road Station mosaic

And I couldn't resist messing with this one:

My Camera (Never Lies) -This could be my new hobby

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Design Museum Tour Review and Photographer's Miscellany

Well the Volunteer led Design Museum tours of the Collection Lab have been going a little over 2 months and the time (it seems) had come for a review of how it was going and to be updated on matters around the initiative .

Having run half a dozen of the tours I've been pleased with feedback form those I've shown around, seems that they  have got something from it - some Museums (and Galleries) can be a bit forbidding and I think an enthusiastic commentator can bring some extra dimension to some visitors.

For the Design Museum it's giving a real 'value add' for the visitors (no extra charge to the visitors)- making customers  feel special and cared for, I wonder if the other people visiting  'the Lab' get half as much enjoyment going around by themselves?

Discussions on the Good and Bad (but not the Ugly) was useful and certain topics such as the challenge in presenting for those with native tongues other than English and identifying what objects can be handled were given particular attention.

It was good to find out that the tours might be expanding to look at possibly focusing on groups of more mature visitors and also families.

Less good was to learn that the the planned move  of the Museum to a bigger and more accessible location in Kensington is now likely to be late in 2016.

Convening for a review of the Collection Lab tours

Pring's Photographer's Miscellany 

Reminds you of?

As well as meeting some nice people and getting comfortable with tour presentation another by-product of involvement with volunteering at the Design Museum is a 20% discount in their shop - I've been looking at Pring's Photographer's Miscellany when I've visited on the last couple of occasions and at £6.39 today  I could no longer resist its' lure and thought it was worth indulging myself.

The book's a bit reminiscent of the books around the  Schott's Miscellany phenomena from a few years back  but (of course) focusing (pun unintended) on photography, the volume felt good from when I read the first quote from the influential photographer Philippe Halsman:

I drifted into photography like one drifts into prostitution. First I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends, and eventually I did it for money.

More to come from this book later I'm sure.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Another Picture of The week (number 12 perhaps) along with Water and Fuel

Great to see another 'Picture of The week' of mine  in the Ealing Gazette today- sometimes feels like I'm their local correspondent as head office is now in Guildford (not very local to Ealing).

You can see the piece in the paper and the original below:
Blimey- it's a long way down.

As seen in the paper


Odd that what are natural monopolies still flummox our current economy and interesting that having just mentioned Energy Best Deal I am now advised by our present supplier OVO that it's time to look at my options, well seems for me best option is to change again this time Scottish Power and switching is now under way, am not sure if I'll see or be aware of the saving to be made (estimated over £200) but feel it best to make the effort and help the switch web sites make their bounty..

On similar note on another natural monopoly  Thames Water statement re'c'd today implies that  I'm approaching a return to credit on our account with them despite their suggestions of making even higher monthly payments (above a doubling of the charge), hopefully if the charge doesn't rise too much this year we'll be in balance next year (but this could be proven to be wrong in time?)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Energy challenges and University of Shed

Yesterday evening I was due to present on behalf of the Hammersmith and Fulham CAB on Energy Best Deal.
Well if it's too cold burn the leaflets 

The effects of dropping energy prices (albeit in nature far slower and less dramatic than their recent rises), increased employment and a slight decrease in overall indebtedness means that there is less of an imperative in addressing the burden of fuel costs, this in turn has meant there's less interest amongst customers to seek out the better deals and reduce energy consumption (but it's still worth researching and perhaps changing supplier).

Today Centrica (the company behind British Gas) announced falling profits and the rest of the big six are probably in a similar positions

But in all likelihood long term energy prices will continue to rise and  sadly those in fuel poverty (often the old and the vulnerable) will suffer increasingly from escalating costs of supply along with likely 'green taxes' - these are the people least well equipped to make a switch and to exploit the best deals .

Labour's leader Ed Miliband has rightly put the energy giants on notice that should he become the UK's Prime-minister he'll be expecting a fairer deal for customers and a greater degree of transparency - The Conservatives would presumably rely on the idea of switching (which tends to create an unnecessary industry of  so-called comparison sites who charge around £64 per transfer of supplier) -Goodness knows what  angle  the wired and wonderful Nigel  Farage's UKIP would take.
The advice from the  CAB/OFGEM  Energy Best Deal is to generally reduce (if you can) energy consumption, get help where it's available (in paying bills and in insulation grants for example) and get the best deal you can.

University of Shed

Talking (or writing anyway) of imperatives, when looking for some information around Immanuel Kant's Categorical imperative I came across a rather good video from University of Shed - great name for an institution but one I've not found much out about as yet.
Here's their logo anyway: 
University of shed &  The shed

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hume and Kant: a contrast of styles and 'as we were/are'

Well as I've a week break (half term)  from the Philosophy class, this gives me an opportunity to look at our subjects for next week and even consider issues around what we've looked at so far and will look at in the future .

Jamie's Missing Colour?
Well the next week we've been asked top look at two giants the Scott Hume and the German Kant, the two  philosophers share a common focus on Morality.

David Hume (1711- 76) 
Hume came to be famous at the time of the Scottish Enlightenment when Science seemed to be revealing much of our world and  his writing skills are much celebrated
The work which Hume a noted Sceptic is best remembered for is 
'A Treatise of Human Nature' - in hindsight he's viewed as an Atheist. 
Hume concerned himself with sensory data - there's a short video that details some of his ideas here.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
To me it seems that Kant shared something of the perspective of Hume around Ethics and Morality, famed for his 'Critique of Pure Reason' book and The Categorical Imperative (as opposed to Utilitarianism).

Kant's work is considered challenging and somewhat inaccessible as a result partly of his dense writing style.

The equivalent 3 minute video for Kant (of the Hume one) is here.

Reflecting so far

Well what this class has brought to my attention (so far) is the Psychoanalytic perspective and also an appreciation of the historic environment which too influences thought at a given time.

What shapes us?

I've been in an e-mail conversation with a slightly older cousin Andrew, (my Father's elder brother's son) which has given me cause for reflection (it doesn't take much to do this for me these days).
Harry Bourne remembered. 

it's useful, interesting and illuminating to look at insights from people one shares a past with, I'm pleased to know that like me Andrew has an allotment where he grow veg and fights pests

My Grandfather, Henry Bourne was editor of the Leicester Mercury at the time of his retirement in 1948 and was (it seems) a man with Victorian values, his eldest son (Andrew's father) followed him into Newspapers, initially in 1932  and returning after World War 2 until his own retirement.

Such was behaviour at this time that it was not 'really done' for his second son to the same and so it happened that my Father went into the then fledgling technology of Radar.

From What Andrew says these generation were vastly different from our own and those who succeed us - whether they were happier or more content is of course a moot point but it does seem they were more stoic in their outlook.

I don't know how much we can delegate our own actions, feelings and responsibilities  to external factors it may well also be rather egocentric to say that we have learned to avoid some regrettable modes of behaviour  that we might consider to have been at large in our families.

My Cousin despairs somewhat of the Mercury newspaper as it is now and goodness knows what My Grandfather and my Uncle would say about the Telegraph selling its editorial principles to HSBC if the respected Journalist Peter Oborne is to be believed.

I suppose many of us see more clearly the arc of our lives post fifty but may still wonder why we have become what we have.
It shaped my life

Certainly for me it's curious what we recall and what becomes buried for some reason or other.

Odd perhaps that any memory I have of receiving my 'O' levels is more distant than many childhood memories but material  evidence indicates that it did happen and certainly it feels in hindsight that it is one of the things that very much shaped my career .

Another reflection I have is that for others we can say things like

'don't beat yourself up - it's not your fault' 

or perhaps

'Well I know you had too much to drink so didn't take it seriously'

but to ourselves we cannot always offer these dispensations although conversely our expectations of the fallibilities of others  can be unrealistically high  too (for example all too human politicians).

Monday, February 16, 2015

it's a 'Doddle' and some more Philosophy

Only just become of Doddle - seems a really good idea as a stopping off point for web ordered products, we've now got one in Ealing (where the not overly missed Tie-Rack was) and gather from the other half that Woking's got one too - expect if the logistics system and business medal are good enough that it'll really take off.

Sadly the other retailer (Snog) spotted today at West London's Westfield is not a business inspired by Valentine's day but a yoghurt based foodstuff.
Ealing's Doddle near the toilets
Don't go expecting a cuddle or anything.

More Aristotle along with  Hobbes and Rousseau (and Rawls)

Well this week's session looking at Philosophy was a good one, we had a quick excursion into Aristotle's analysis of Tragedy - my view was that Aristotle was somewhat over prescriptive of what makes a tragedy but apparently Shakespeare used the formula and some might say he knows a thing or two about the art of the playwright.

After this we moved on to Rousseau and Hobbes and their concerns over The Social Contract, what I found (perhaps) surprising was how the thoughts might be considered to be a result of the background and times of the protagonists.
Rousseau having being effectively orphaned at a young age ditched several children of his own children and (some might say) favoured the uneducated over the bourgeoisie. Rousseau was born at the time of unrest in France ahead of the revolution there and considered that much of the malaise of 'modern' life was as a result of property ownership.

 Hobbes's family was also a troubled one and the ferment around him was that of the English civil war and the defeat of the Royalists along with the removal of Charles I, it is hard to believe that the events and family strife did not inform his fear of disorder and the ideas showcased in The Leviathan.

All this tied in with the perspective offered by Melanie Klein  that the course leader (Dan Williams) had brought to our attention a few weeks back - so perhaps Psychoanalysis should be more closely studied.

After a half term break we'll be looking at Hume and Kant.  

What is Ealing's Treasures going to turn into?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

At Tate Britain (between shows)

It's a bit of a null period at Tate Britain between exhibitions, this gave me a chance to take a look at some areas that don't always get the attention from me that they warrant.

The period of time that took my fancy was later Victoriana/turn of the century (typically described as Pre Raphaelites)and the artists that were influenced by a resurgence in the Romantic and the way Tate Britain displays works makes clear what an amazing period there was around 1890  .

I was particularly inclined towards Edward Coley Burne-Jones, The Golden Stairs standing out  also with its lovely fine detail was William Logsdail's St Martin in the Fields(1888) and Frederic Leighton's luscious The Bath of Psyche (1890) -what was it that made this flowering of narrative works at this time?

Stand-out pieces though were the genuinely fantastic The Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse (again 1888) and the somewhat earlier Ophelia by John Everett  Millais (1851)
The Splendid Tate Britain Millbank London

Saturday, February 14, 2015

UIQ - (The unmaking of ) and bye to Steve Strange

Well having looked at what was on in an around my 'hood came to the conclusion having read the below blurb that I couldn't miss it:

Working with the paradoxical conditions of the unmade as something both already and not yet present, the artists seek to' produce' Guattari's film through a collective experience of envisioning without filming a single scene.
The exhibition centres on A Love of UIQ: the unmaking-of, a spatialised, polyphonic soundwork containing edited fragments from a number of 'seeances' that took place in different cities in which the participants become receivers and transmitters of UIQ (the Infra-Quark Universe), contaminating each other in turn with their own visions and ideas of Guattari’s film and of UIQ’s possible manifestations, both within and beyond its limits.
A Love of UIQ: the unmaking-of will be accompanied by a quantum archive of documents, photos and videos – spanning themes of Autonomia, free radio, the schizo-analytical and sci-fi – as well as other works that Thomson and Maglioni have produced around the unmade film.

The exhibition did bring to mind both the imagined film of Ilona Gaynor (A 2014 Designer in Residence at the Design Mueum)  and the audio work seen recently in Turner Prize submissions for 2014.

Rather oddly on the day I heard of  55 year old Welsh born Steve Strange's death, he was part of  Visage and their  big hit single (Fade to Grey)  was part of the accompanying ephemera of UIQ. 
Bye Steve, he literally has started a fade to nothing  

[I did read today that one dies twice, first at the time of one ceasing to live and the second time when your name is spoken for the last time.] 

I can't help but feel that something of a trick was missed, as with other 'Video installations the media seemed to be running free without a particular schedule and explanations were limited.

The venue was The Show Room just near Edgware Road station  and the experience for me was slightly bizarre, sitting in a darkened area on a cushion watching intermittent images and trying to decide where I'd come in.

Certainly there's a good idea there but the narrative is not strong and we're very tuned to an arc we can follow.

A venue one can only be surprised at.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Philosophy - Hobbes and Rousseau and Photographer Alex Arnaoudov

Nice Photo's
Tonight's a further Philosophy session and we'll be taking a look at Hobbes and Rousseau:

Thomas Hobbes (1588- 1679) 

... was the second son of an illiterate, alcoholic priest and is probably most famous for his book Leviathan.

Hobbes who on finishing his studies at Oxford  university became a tutor to the Cavendish family.
Hobbes is forever associated (along with Darwin) for using the phrase

that  human nature is red in tooth and claw 

as his belief was that an overarching state  was required to provide a haven from fear for its citizens and that such citizens had a responsibility to such a state.

Hobbes was initially a royalist under Charles I  but after Cromwell came to power he lived in exile in Paris writing Leviathan Hobbes can be considered a  materialist philosopher, his views were  based upon a mechanistic view of the universe,and he reckoned that all phenomena were explainable purely in terms of matter and motion,Hobbes rejected concepts such as incorporeal spirits or disembodied souls. 
This excerpt (below) from Sparknotes covers his views well:

Consequently Hobbes was thought an atheist although he was not.. Associated with both atheism and the many deliberately terrifying images of Leviathan, Hobbes became known as the "Monster of Malmsbury" and the "Bug-bear of the Nation." In 1666, Hobbes's books were burned at Oxford (where Hobbes had graduated from Magdalen College in 1608), and the resulting conflagration was even blamed in Parliament for having started the Great Fire of London. The chaotic atmosphere of England in the aftermath of the Civil Wars ensured that Hobbes's daring propositions met with a lively reaction.
Hobbes knew that Leviathan would be controversial, for not only did the text advocate restoration of monarchy when the English republic was at its strongest (Oliver Cromwell was not instituted as Lord High Protector until 1653, and the Restoration of Charles II did not occur until 1660), but Hobbes's book also challenged the very basis of philosophical and political knowledge. Hobbes claimed that traditional philosophy had never arrived at irrefutable conclusions, that it had instead offered only useless sophistries and insubstantial rhetoric; he thus called for a reform of philosophy that would enable secure truth--claims with which everyone could agree. Consequently, 'Hobbesian' philosophy would prevent disagreements about the fundamental aspects of human nature, society, and proper government. Furthermore, because Hobbes believed that civil war resulted from disagreements in the philosophical foundations of political knowledge, his plan for a reformed philosophy to end divisiveness would also end the conditions of war. For Hobbes, civil war was the ultimate terror, the definition of fear itself. He thus wanted to reform philosophy in order to reform the nation and thereby vanquish fear.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-88)

Coming quite some time after Hobbes Jean-Jacques Rousseau a Swiss born philosopher took a very different view of society to that held by Hobbes believing (against what is now generally thought to be the case) -that there was a strong case  against ruling elites, Rousseau is known for his work The Social Contract - his catchphrase being:

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.

Rousseau was a man who wrote that mankind would be  improved by returning to nature and living a natural life at peace with his neighbours and himself. He claims to be in favour of democracy, but  some say that what he favours is egalitarianism. Rousseau's influence both in art and politics was huge in his own day and continues to be strong today.

 Photographer Alex Arnaoudov

Some nice work by Alex

For Arts Sake in Ealing  unusually have held an exhibition of Photographs ( they usual show only paintings and drawings but I was told that Alex works there)  - some nice prints and subjects many local and recognisable - check them out here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bermondsey visit and Consolidation a result of the appetite inherent in Capitalism

On Tuesday I was down in the vicinity of London's Tower Bridge (I occasionally do a spot of  volunteer tour guiding at the Design Museum nearby and yesterday was such a day) and I came across this statue and was surprised to see a ‘Bourne’ commemorated .
The statue to Samuel Bourne Bevington

 Although the middle name only  is Bourne I see when I research the statue's provenance that there is a  (recent and perhaps tenuous) Leicester connection (where my family comes from)  - I don’t suppose there’s much significance but  thought it  slightly interesting(is Bourne a common middle name?).

Doing tours of the Design Museum Collection Lab is enjoyable, the visitors are varied and I feel it works well with small groups - yesterday the groups were very small).
The Design Museum's current location

The people who I introduced to my items of interest were (as I suppose all of us are) were atypical, one was in the business of Museums and the other had studied in a related fields.

Hopefully what we spoke about gave some idea of how I see a narrative around design evolution within a broader history.

Consolidation & Business

One of the big stories in the news ahead of UK's May general election is the perspective on business taken by the two major parties.
The idea that government is not significant and should step back  is a long way short of reality - the argument now is around the destabilisation that possible exit from the EU (Tories) might be worse than Labour 'interfering' with business.

Well how on earth could a Conservative leadership appoint to Government a former HSBC 'bigwig' (Stephen Green) who either condoned tax evasion when he was at the bank or who was not across such practices?
Is BT becoming too big again?
How would the media cover a 'benefit cheat' in an analogous storm?

Another aspect of business is the increase is  the influence of BT whose activity is set to include the largest mobile operator (EE) - is this healthy, commercial companies naturally  look for monopoly and control of a market, BT is again becoming dominant in the telecommunications (and TV business too).

The Poundland, Poundstores and sub pound shops  are also consolidating and competition looks likely to be diminished - should we have a government in the future that takes these issues seriously?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Reflecting on Plato and his Cave

On Thursday evening last week we in the Ealing Philosophy class had a slightly sparse Philosophy session (The London bus strike having put off some of our number).

The session did remind me of how important the discussion and interchange of ideas is, the downside being the opportunities of straying from the issue - I did get some other perspectives on Plato's Cave one being the scale that applies to the enlightenment   of the escapee, a view that paralleled the Polish Ghetto  of WW II was worthy of consideration too.

I had a feeling that Plato's view on the masses and the role of the Philosopher makes him appear a little arrogant but as Alfred North Whitehead said Western Philosophy is best summarised as follows:

The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a 

 series of footnotes to Plato" (Process and Reality,)

then it is perhaps better to reflect on my own shortcomings!

Plato's ideas of Forms where a sort of ideal exists beyond the physical (limited) version we encounter 
has been useful in coming to terms with ideas of objects and abstractions too.

I had a feeling that Plato may have influenced the Marxist perspective of false consciousness, I was 

also intrigued to hear that writer Iris Mrurdoch is considered something of a Platonist.

Having a brief look at Plato is was good to see how Aristotle took a contrary view on much of what his teacher (Plato) had put forward, this is a theme in Philosophy (and other disciplines)  where the student distances themselves from what has come before, often because of their temporal adjacency the differences may be exaggerated but it still remains significant.

An Exhibition with  something; perhaps of a Philosophical perspective at London's  Tate Modern

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Bankside Engraving & Tate Modern

There's generally something new  for London Tate Members to enjoy each month either at Tate Modern or Britain - after a quick stop-off at Bankside Gallery to enjoy seeing the finesse  of various engravers with the Society of Wood Engravers exhibition I moved on to Tate Modern.
Bankside Gallery on Southbank 

It really is amazing the character that wood engraving offers some of the architectural renditions capture something that paintings and photos don't quite get.

The exhibition I'd not seen before was 'The Image as Burden' works from a long career  by the South African born artist Marlene Dumas.

Dumas who mediates her work via photography has confronted various issues through her work including those of race and eroticism.

I enjoyed Room 4 most of this extensive show mainly I think because of the use of colour, I found her work Martha (Sigmund's Wife) 1984 reminiscent of some of the Chapman brother's work, it was shown next to a picture of Marlene's grandmother (also called Martha).

As I've taken an interest in Phil Spector I was intrigued by the two images of him in room 13 - almost heartbreaking in the story they tell (('To Know him is to love him' shows him avec wig).

Another picture that resonated with me for the rather banal reason that it reminded me of the Laughing Cavalier was Dead Girl (2002) in room 11.

Having enjoyed finding out about Marlene's work I would not say that I'd fallen in love with her imagery  and perspective- but do go and see it.

All who enter here will see a lot of Dumas' work 

Other stuff there

As well as the Dumas I noted a film project of some crumbling sugar - Oil and Sugar #2 by Kader Attia.

Having said that  the thing I liked even more (which connects with the Black and White work of David Batchelor  I'd seen at the Whitechapel Gallery) was Urban Alphabet (1955-61) by  the master Italian photographer Alfredo Camisa.

This week's favourite - Urban Alphabet (1955-61) by  Alfredo Camisa
[Macca Footnote

Seems sad that so many people are upset by Paul McCartney's recent collaborations - don't really understand why people should get worked up by the idea it's not new for him to work with others - it's getting almost like Bob D plugging in.]

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Debbie and Chris - A golden couple in photo' and spotting Paul Morley

yesterday I was delighted to learn that the Chris Stein exhibition of photographs taken by him was actually still on (extended until tomorrow) - wow what a great show it was lots of glorious pictures accompanied by text that retold the stories.
Now on until Sunday 8th
The show at Somerset House is curated handsomely and as Debbie notes Chris does have a great eye behind the camera - many of the punctures have more than a tinge of sadness as there are quite a few characters who have not survived but there is also a careless innocence and creative excitement.

As well as giving the pictures room to breathe the show has some great music and I did feel like bopping about as I went from picture to picture.

My personal favourite?   Well it's got to be the Debbie cooking in the burnt out flat - I suppose the image and words brought the epoch to life and the photo' looked like an edit floor  cutting dodgy film Noir.

Historic Somerset House - Where Britain once administered its Empire  from.

Paul Morley

While I was in town, just by the Aldwych I spotted Paul Morley- Paul was an influential figure within the music business in the 1980's a sort of semi- cerebral version of Pete Waterman, arch publicist and PR man for record label (those were the days)  ZTT - I'm not sure what drives him but hew does give a slightly  intimidating aura (not noticeably here though).

Blimey! it's Paul Morley