Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Welcome to Hell. Please Wipe Your Feet

The art of war: the artist who sketches under cover at arms fairs

In this article, the artist has sketched what appears to be a woman next to two missiles in a pose more suited to that of women draped across the bonnets in 1970s car shows. I suppose that this is just a side-show to the general perversity of commerce in this line of business. The fact that these events  try to keep out anyone not directly involved in the buying and selling of weapons and all their terrible peripherals, perhaps indicates some measure of shame at what goes on at these places. I'd like to think that this shame might be the wedge for their downfall but I am probably wrong. I am not sure how the marketing department for the missiles in question thought of using glamour to sell their deadly products; it strikes me as spectacularly inappropriate but maybe it just distracts from what the abominable end purpose of the product actually is.

I've always had a problem with arms fairs. They seem to attract the representatives of some of the worst regimes in the world, dazzling them with crowd-control devices which are illegal to use in this country. Many of these things look like something that would be carried by various special types of Star Wars Stormtrooper. Let's suggest that this country cannot produce or sell on anything which is illegal to use domestically. The trouble then is of course how do we know how much actually is illegal here. This is where my lunch hour fails me because I can't really do the research from my desk. Let's say what would be immoral to use in this country regardless of it's legality. And now a level up I begin to worry about the many people hiding behind keyboards who state they would happily do horrible things to anyone daring to express an opinion a fraction of a degree to the left or right of their own beliefs. Morality is a flexible thing. This is of course ethics and therefore introduces a whole new level of complexity. I have to tell myself that spinny-chair generals would never act on these threats and that their feeling of safety and immobility while using social media, like excess alcohol, accounts for the lack of filters.

We are delicately balanced between anarchy and civilisation and I have to believe that in the long term, as it has been with my little country for my lifetime, it will stay as it is, hopefully at some point without arms fairs.

Monday, April 09, 2018

On the Loss of Cousins

Charles Evans, Charles Geraint Payne, Henry Marten


I grew up without any first cousins, my aunts and uncles did not have children though later on I had step-cousins. Recently I have fallen headlong into researching my ancestry which has revealed many relatives, some of them quite famous, some from long ago being actual kings and queens within what must be an enormous margin of error. It is obvious that everybody is related to everybody else; the thing is to prove that link with double and triple checks on sources.

All of this is not the point of this post. The most sobering thing about the recent past is how many of my various nth cousins n-times removed were killed in the First World War. The tree stops short so many times with various reports of death or missing in action. The most poignant of these is that of Charles Geraint Christopher Payne who was killed in action at Neuve-Chapelle, France on the 12th March 1915.

This is not the end of his story though. Geraint (as he was known) was engaged to Kitty Clausen, the daughter of the painter, Sir George Clausen who was inspired by Kitty's grief at his death, to paint Youth Mourning. The details of this are in The National Archives.

Youth Mourning by Sir George Clausen RA © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4655)

 This especially but also the great many other premature ends to branches of my family tree have made me wonder how different the world would be without just one of them. Just a single person taken out of history removes a massive potential from the universe. Add in all their sisters and brothers in arms on top of the inestimable political differences that would be in force should the war and its continuation also be taken out, and it becomes certain that we are living in an alternative reality. Somewhere in that role call of victims is perhaps the inventor of Warp Drive or an unimaginable medical advance. All this is lost to us. History is fluid and humans are stupid enough to let this week's nationalistic target to get in the way of just living. We must look on the bright side and hope that all these lost ideas have been tossed forwards to a later more peaceful generation. But think of where we could be now. Just one Tommy who survived rather than was killed and the Starships of a United Earth are just now coming out of Hyperspace near the closest star. We have to keep hoping.

This is my father's father, John Joseph Brown, just young enough to join the war only as it closed. He had a long, happy and productive life. 


Sunday, April 08, 2018

On Why We Don't Blog Anymore

Respect What You Have Lost
Literally because there is too much else which can fulfill a need for a second or two of complex interest before passing. I have to leave all devices in another room simply to be able to read a book these days. My fortnightly reading of Private Eye (Other satirical magazines are NOT available) is punctuated by quick dives into the Internet to check a name or fact. On top of this I think that my mind has become rewired (like a Taxi Driver doing The Knowledge) to work better with short, complex images and phrases to the extent that longer prose does not quite sink in as it used to to. 

This is of course a bad thing and we have to do something about it. My first action should be to delete my Facebook account. I have been considering this for sometime now and the recent revelations regarding the obviously immoral harvesting of data have just made this more likely. Facebook is just too darn distracting. The design of its pages is flaky, and pretty much set up to drag the eye over whatever bit of information is to be promoted. It is micro-propaganda, the insipid feed of nudges in what is considered the right direction. We need to return to long reads which is why (after prompting by some in the family) I am hoping to return to proper blogging. 

Yesterday a friend of mine mentioned the fact that Molly Ringwald has invoked #MeToo in reference to John Hughes and The Breakfast Club, However, my friend had not read the New Yorker article which Molly Ringwald had written. The article is here. It was not a spittle-flecked denouncement of John Hughes, but rather a nuanced and well-structured analysis of the whole issue. It refers to the three films that MR and JH did together and examined the areas which would be a problem today. The article was not designed to express outrage but rather to point to complexities. Drama and literature are more often designed to be entertainment rather than moral lessons. These complexities can not be expressed in a Tweet, a platitudinous, moralising or motivational statement in Facebook or a single image in Pinterest. All you can do in this new media is express outrage, your disagreement, how upset you are with a point of view. 

There are things in the world which deserve simple, black and white outrage and it is sad that these things don't make the cut for Twitter/Facebook etc. Think what they might be as they are far more important for the future of the world that most commentary we see these days.

See you soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Musings on All This Being a Simulation



It seems that whether we are living in a simulation is a common topic of discussion at the moment. This has been an idea for many years but only recently has broken out into mainstream thought where non-scientists/philosophers/mathematicians can start musing on it.

All below assumes we ARE inside a simulation.

To divert from the main discussion immediately I wonder what the entity in control of the simulation thinks of his little world creating objects which are able to imagine that they are just routines inside whatever passes for a computer. Is the entity able to tap into what we think? I occasionally start thinking idly about this and wonder if any such thoughts are flagged up as self-reference. Does a little light start flashing on a dashboard causing the monitors to start displaying my thoughts as an interesting exercise?

All this is dangerously like the discussion of the existence of God/Assorted Other Deities/The Flying Spaghetti Monster* with the immediate response from me being what created the entity which created me? Is there a long line of simulators extending into the distance, each one created by some sort of intelligence which we cannot ever have a hope of understanding? Anything able to create such a complex simulation with macro structures extending for Quadrillions of Light Years in space and Billions of years in time and micro structures down to quantum sizes and beyond, will certainly have computing power many orders of magnitude beyond ours. It will also exist in a universe (if universe has any meaning beyond the one we live in) that differs completely from ours. Is our mathematics completely different? Are Prime Numbers just a tease to keep us interested? Maybe the entity is amused that we have used Prime Numbers to secure our online shopping. All these ideas are just like Sagan's sand on the beach, enough to keep people philosophizing for eternity.

Talking of eternity that brings us to temporal aspects. Has our simulation existed for the full 14 billion years since The Big Bang (or longer if the simulation encompasses any possible physics beyond The Big Bang) or was it started fully formed with all the memory of the history of physics built into it ready to be discovered by us? If humans have not physically evolved at what point were we created? There are so many interactions between people that to create 7 Billion people all with the complex memories of other people already formed seems a task so exponentially difficult that it seems to rule out anything but the full 14 Billion years history allowing the Universe to mature to a state where it can evolve conscious and intelligent entities. But as I say we have no idea what sort of "computing power" our masters have. Of course our existence could be made more likely by little tweaks here and there. Or are we just one of many simulations, most of which were boring or fizzled out or were accidentally halted by an accident in the laboratory with a really hot cup of tea?

Of course a simpler solution is that just one person is the simulation and all other people are merely dumb interfacing sensory inputs to that one person. If this is the case and using Descartes' "I think therefore I am", the fact that at the moment I am a complex mind which believes it exists behind these eyes suggests to me at least that I am the one. The routines are reading this thought - perhaps before I write it and are making sure that all the possible contexts and robotic interactions which I might have are aware of the content in order to allow it to seem logical when referred to. This seems less taxing on any system on which it runs, requiring only the programming of the immediately interacting parts of the program. I am thinking of some illogic which I could state here which would show up when referred to in later "conversation", something to trip up the processing, possibly something I reveal here but which has a corresponding thought which I do not voice. But in all cases I cannot think of anything which would "break" the processing. The entity knows everything both outside and inside my head but, unlike the creator of the Origami Unicorn in Blade Runner, never makes a mistake or reveals that it knows what I think.

It all just seems too consistent for me. But what if inconsistencies happen all the time and simply roll back the simulation to before they occur, where they are then fixed? Time runs smoothly. Nobody other than a few UFO abductees, say time stops or goes backwards; even with the very real feeling that time seems to go faster as you get older, it still ticks along behaving correctly in both classical and Einsteinian physics. Perhaps our memories are continually creating restore points and should something not right happen, it is flagged up and whatever is needed to restart before the inconsistency is done and we simply don't experience it.

So hello to the great entity. If you read this then say hello to your creator adding this rider so that they can pass on the greetings, God Over Djinn for ever up to whatever is the last great circle of existence, which should all this be true must be something so different from our own experience as to be incomprehensible. Oh - and Vote Remain.

* For comic purposes only

Monday, October 26, 2015

Trinity

I've had with all those freakin' cats,
All those women fixing what she'd eat,
Or what they think she'd eat,
She'd race down Lexington,
Rather than touch more crab and avocado;
You and it make her (and me) more sick,
Than peanuts, cola and cold baths,
In the wind off The Cam,
After rations and week-old biscuits,
These whole girls, asserting some frail illness,
Are like cheap, 10 cent firecrackers,
With the fuses blown out by the Trinity Test,
Vaporized into next door and next week,
Still just waiting for the missing hero,
Which she (so manifestly) left out,
Not even parenthetical in her worlds,
(A clue you Harpies – it's all about her in there,
No sympathy or dread for you inside her head),
And wait! I have breaking news for all of you,
In your catalogue kitchens,
Preparing her “Happy Death-Day” cakes,
You think she'll RSVP?
I know she won't;
She's dead and won't enjoy it,
Standing there with all your friends,
All of you bated,
Waiting for her to say something,
You'll not quite understand,
You think you're sick and I suppose you are,
Not being so and yet longing,
For the solitude of a quiet ward,
With not-too-many crazies,
News again girls!
The others will all be well-and-truly mad,
Really off-the-scale,
All the meters over in the red,
Chasing you down the corridors,
Or flashing you when the nurses
(big, old bouncers By the way),
Aren't looking,
Or listening to the football,
Or trying it on with your only friend in the day room, “Place of safety” they call it,
And you seem to think you want to wake up there,
With the Valium seeping in,
And the world all soft,
While the wind lifts the detergent-white curtains,
And the crisp sheets clasp you in,
Like your mother on a rainy, summer morning,
Truth is you might be tied in,
Strapped and wrapped,
Like a maddened tom cat,
While they pump you full of Lithium,
And other chemical night-sticks,
Struggling after a while to find any veins left,
Perhaps you even think the ECT is cool,
Another badge of belonging or of not belonging,
Which is it today?
Membership of the club or the outsiders crew?
We want to know, if only for the paperwork,
But I can't warn you what this will be really like,
Maybe you could think of Trinity again,
That weird black sphere of lightning and hell,
Balled up in a split second,
Before all those demons leave the box,
With hope in the lead,
Racing for space and oblivion,
And you alone on that bed,
A crushed nutshell in a pile of them,
Just one of the mad and bad,
This is The Atomic Age,
And we are all just atoms,
Decaying from the radioactive elements of youth,
All the way to lead and lesser things,
Beaten down to inert metals,
Each of us a simple particle in the matter,
Which makes us all and everything,
And in Trinity we trust,
Betterment and godless bombs for you and me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Complex Arguments

We are children of The State,
Fit for only nursery rhymes,
The metre of the nationalist,
Igniting the blood with anger,
Fuelled with artless argument,
That when observed will fail,
Like logic, spin and anti-spin,
To make annihilation,

A pilot only needs coordinates;
And querying his target,
Is simply insurrection?
But shaky politics is passed,
In empty houses, pressed to vote,
On nothing with a shrug,
A bell tolls in the members’ bar,
To lift cold gimlet eyes,

This is the stare of arms,
The dealer made of metal,
Gun metal if you want to know,
Funded through from prep,
To boardroom with a sneer,
This is the invention of
Inertial Dismay, Secured,
With mother’s money,

But now, the viscid senses,
Stirred by the scent of blood,
Are brushed away with mirth,
And rushed due diligence,
This is our worked solution,
Dismissed or left unmarked,
We are children of The State,
Ignored and forever ignorant,



Monday, October 19, 2015

The Last Dog Rose


Time is cruel, its measure forms,
Such barriers against our progress,
Stripping the world of syllables,
And rhythm until its simple blanks,
Are all that’s left to break a line,
Flowers wedded to design not space,

And if plants can muster thought,
And memory they must feel pain,
At loss, a grief for the ripped up,
Hedgerow, Autumn’s burning,
The unplanned fields of generations,
Turned to smoke and ash and lime,

Here’s our last pathetic Dog Rose,
Clinging to dead wood as if in flood,
It fears the current to the sea,
And salt which scours dry earth,
When artificial tides have turned,
And left the land for structure,

It drops its pastels to the stream,
That takes them greedily,
To drown or burn, no matter which,
(The project has no preference),
And we’re clear of them for ever,
Except for the wretched dealers,

Offering a precious stem for love,
A flower for your feelings and your bed,
It will sink beside you overnight,
Until disposed of in distractions,
Wrought from the pretend world,

And all are gone,

And all is gone.