Saturday, 25 January 2020

The High Street

Belper has been named as having the best high street in England at a glitzy award ceremony in Edinburgh.

Great British High Street judges celebrated the town and it's Love Belper group, even awarding "hero" status to its leader, Laura Armstrong.

The ceremony brochure stated: “Using the #lovebelper hashtag, visitors can enjoy virtual showcases of this UNESCO World Heritage status town, including The Pumpkin Trail, Bunny Hop and Fiver Fest.

“Many businesses have undertaken Belper ambassador training and all have signed up to being breastfeeding-friendly.

“Shops have also been audited for accessibility too. Declaring a climate emergency, the town has introduced initiatives like a Sharing Not Wasting project and the new Repair CafĂ©.

Belper is within easy reach for us and the High Street is okay as high streets go, but we hardly ever visit. Why? Shops are shops and for us a nearby shopping mall has more attractions.

Soulless it may be, but the mall has a huge free car park and a regular bus service, is clean and there is absolutely no litter. Go there early enough and you see staff wiping down the litter bins after making sure they have a fresh bag inside. There are no derelicts, no drunks, no drug addicts, nobody sleeping in doorways, no charity shops and no Big Issue sellers.

Not that Belper has these issues to any significant degree as far as I know, but the mall doesn't have them at all. That soulless atmosphere tells you that it doesn't intend to have such problems - ever.

Of course it is merely a shopping mall and shops are shops, but the whole place is managed very professionally. High streets have no chance.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The obvious question... long before it smells of urine?

Cruise said it was designed for shared ownership: "It's not a product you buy, it's an experience you share."

Chief executive Dan Ammann wants drivers to move away from individual ownership to a sharing model, to help reduce emissions, accidents and congestion.

Speaking at the launch in San Francisco, he said the Cruise Origin was not a concept vehicle: "It is self-driven. It is all electric. It is shared."

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Make it go away

Why do the establishment plus certain segments of the middle classes hate Donald Trump with such venom? Is it his policies, his actions, his manner or something else?

Presumably it is all of these things but in particular is seems to be his language. Trump knows how to speak the apolitical language of ordinary working people. The language of employment, living standards, traditional values and the adverse trends which are likely to impact those pragmatic concerns. That is to say he speaks the language of those who voted for him where the establishment speaks a purely political language. Trump is leading the long delayed battle between the apolitical and the political.

If we don’t speak or think of something does it go away? Of course it does. If we don’t talk about something within the public domain, where does it go? Where could it go but the sidelines? It fades away like the Cheshire Cat, sometimes disappearing altogether. This is the rationale behind political censorship, political correctness and political language generally – to make apolitical ideas go away.

Not thinking about witchcraft, not taking about it, not invoking it as the cause of natural disasters – these slow but inexorable changes made witchcraft go away. A desirable change we may say.

Honesty is much the same. Not thinking about honesty and what it is, not talking about it, not invoking it as a desirable ideal – these slow but inexorable changes are making honesty go away in the sense that it migrates to the boundaries of public discourse. As an ideal for public discourse it is being supplanted by other criteria. Clearly an undesirable change.

The key arena is the public domain where ideas circulate, grow, shrink, morph into other ideas, become fashionable, unfashionable in the endless evolutionary dance that is human discourse. As propagandists well know; if ideas are squeezed out of the public domain then in a crucially important sense they disappear.

The effect is similar to the decline of languages such as Cornish. As the number of people who speak Cornish declines, the language fades out of the public domain even within Cornwall. It doesn’t disappear completely but becomes increasingly sidelined. Similarly, as the number of people who speak apolitically declines, the language of apolitical discourse could fade from the public domain. It will not disappear but could become increasingly irrelevant.

What we may call the language of apolitical analysis has been going the same way in recent decades. As the number of people who analyse social and economic issues apolitically declines, apolitical analysis fades out of the public domain. It doesn’t disappear but becomes increasingly irrelevant.

Apolitical analysis is the big one. Political classes including political dilettantes such as major celebrities almost always prefer the ease and security of fashionable political mantras over the difficulties and pitfalls of apolitical analysis. They always have. There is little point in addressing such people in apolitical language as they do not understand it, do not approve of it and refuse to answer apolitical speakers in their own language.

If the number of apolitical speakers declines, apolitical analysis will decline in importance but possibly not everywhere. In the developed world there are few major apolitical speakers in the public domain, but Donald Trump suggests there is an untapped demand for plain apolitical speaking. Maybe it will survive him, but an enormous effort will be made to ensure that it doesn’t. Orange man bad – make him go away. It seems to be that primitive.

Andy Pandy – a quantum view

Here is an interesting question. In the early days of children's TV, did any child ever enjoy watching Andy Pandy? My guess is no – however there is a deeper question. How do we explain the Andy Pandy phenomenon?

Allow me to suggest an analogy with quantum mechanics. As we know a subatomic particle such as an electron can behave as a wave or as a particle depending on the nature of the observing experiment. In an analogous way, Andy Pandy can be viewed as creepy or daft depending on the nature of the observing child. We may call this the creepy/daft duality by analogy with wave/particle duality in quantum mechanics.

Andy Pandy duality may even be observed by a two children in a manner analogous to the two slit experiment. Seen through one child's eyes Andy Pandy is daft, seen through the other child's eyes he is creepy but try to see him through both children at once and he is inexplicable.

The only other Andy Pandy question we must resolve is an analogy with Schrödinger's cat. Is Andy Pandy in the basket with Looby Loo?

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

24 hours of snow

Time lapse, 24 hrs, Snow. Blizzard St. John’s, Nest Camera, Newfoundland. January 18, 2020

Monday, 20 January 2020

No other option

Says the chap who once had more options in his life than most of us see in a lifetime. Mrs H, who is perceptive about such matters thinks Harry's main underlying problem is that he is dim and I agree. Harry's position was no gilded cage - he could have devoted his life to any number of causes and activities.

The cage he seems to have entered quite willingly is that woke and whiny culture where rational discourse is forbidden on pain of excommunication. Harry gives the impression that he could have risen above such absurdities. It's a pity he never did, but as things stand we'll forget him and move on until the divorce.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

The dustbin muse

An enduring childhood memory of mine is a warm dustbin. In the fifties we had one of those galvanised metal dustbins and because of where it was situated at the rear of the house, it could become quite warm on a sunny day. I distinctly remember sitting on it one day, enjoying its warmth and wondering what the future might hold. I was too young to be wondering about the future in any profound sense, but in those days there was a good deal of optimism about in spite of the austerity and colossal damage caused by WWII.

Flying cars, unlimited atomic power and a dazzling array of domestic electrical gadgets from refrigerators to telephones, from televisions to vacuum cleaners all seemed to promise a future far removed from the grey fifties.

Yet although some of that post war promise has been fulfilled in a material sense, the optimism has not been sustained. The establishment, major bureaucracies, the media, the political classes and major charities all seem to prefer an aura of pessimism underpinned by a deep sense that it is fashionable and even desirable to be emotionally needy. It is equally fashionable to be emotionally needy on behalf of other people. Or even the environment. Or fish. Or anything really.

We see this in major projects such as climate change where demented pessimism is the approved response. We also saw demented pessimism by the bucketful when the UK electorate dared to be optimistic about a future outside the EU. We saw it and still see it in hysterical reactions to the election of Donald Trump. In a different sense we saw it in Jeremy Corbyn, a politician who personifies the endemic pessimism of modern political doom-mongers.  

Of course there is nothing remotely new about doom-mongers, but our modern versions seem intent on creating an emotionally needy population, one which thinks it needs more bureaucracy, more laws, more interference in daily life. The optimism I glimpsed on that far off dustbin finds no favour with the establishment. It had to go and to a large degree it has.

Yet ironically we should perhaps be pessimistic about the intense and unrelenting promotion of political pessimism.