Sunday, April 30, 2006

Reality Rocks

Millions of trees are accidently planted each year because squirrels misplace their nuts.

Squirrels have kittens and four fingers and five toes.

As John Lennon said “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination”.

This week I heard the following in real live situations, not on TV, the radio or at the movies, but from living, breathing ordinary people in ordinary situations:

1. “Excuse me I have to get an alien off the roof.”

2. “I’m going to give up nursery nursing and become a spy.”

3. “Conquering Greece is going to have to wait.”

(See context below)

Salvador Dali: “I believe that the moment is near when by a procedure of active paranoiac thought, it will be possible to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality.’’

Tom Clancy: “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”

Context 1: A toy alien had been thrown up on the youth centre roof.
Context 2: A volunteer discovers her abilities to solve cryptograms in our code themed week.
Context 3: A game has to be abandoned to make dinner

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Smiley Faces

Went to Trafalgar Square with a few friends and 45, 000 others to listen to music and promote peace and love armed with a lei, a rainbow peace flag and a few sheets of smiley face stickers.

People sang, danced in and on the fountains, pickniced on the steps, signed petitions, checked out the stalls with T-Shirt logos like 'Unf**k the World' and banners such as 'Killer Cola' and flipped 'racism' the bird.
We did all this and to the surprise and delight of others asked if they wanted 'smiley faces'...they did and they went in no time. Not only did they bring smiles to people faces but they may have even prevented a 'beef' in a group, thoughts of which dissapeared with the appearance of smiley faces!

Friday, April 28, 2006


In our youth centre we play various 'computer' games - on consoles or PCs, controllers or using a keyboard or mouse or even bongo drums or microphones or a camera or even dance mats. They are single player or pairs or team games and more often than not they have others around watching, perhaps waiting their turn, encouraging or just enjoying a performance, game or race. And there is such a wide variety of games that we have plenty of choice without resorting to the more violent genre of games.

However, the media still gives us, as the reason for much 'antisocial behaviour', the picture of the socially inept young person on their own in their bedrooms playing violent games for hours on end.

In parliament, Labour former minister Keith Vaz continues with his "campaign for a crackdown on the sale of such software after the killing of Stefan Pakeerah in the city in 2004." (Guardian Mach 2nd)

"The debate about children playing violent computer games is as old as the hills" (March 17, The Guardian) Or as old as the Bulger case.

Sheila Brown (1998:50) quotes the judge in the Bulger case citeing "violent video films" as a cause "in part" of their behaviour and, as Smith (1994:227) puts it "no mention of any other issues that might be a factor in young people commiting serious crime" despite there being "no mention in evidence of any videos"! The Sun though was convinced, Brown (1998:51) tells us, on 26 November they printed "the image of Chucky consumed in flames, declaring: 'For the sake of all our kids...BURN YOUR VIDEO NASTY." This sort of media surrounding the case, is what caused "periodic 'moral panics" about youth crime (Muncie et al, 2002:19). That coupled with publications such as the Newson report increases the publics perception of, what Brown calls 'the child villian' and what she says the Times calls, "innocence polluted by video nasties" . Brown, S. (1998) Understanding Youth and Crime, Open University Press

Whatever you believe, Seed looks like a game where such worries are not an issue. It looks like the kind of game that does not reflect the violence and war of real life but the life we might live if were were better people.

"In Seed, players find themselves on an alien world in the far future as desperate human settlers who must work together to ensure the survival of their colony and the whole human race. By using their intellect rather than their brawn, players alone will decide the fate of the entire colony, set within a highly mutable and interactive world."

Sunday, April 23, 2006


London Marathon shows the generosity and madness of people.

One couple married on it today...what a memorable day.

People ran, walked, cheered, applauded, raised money for charity, achieved goals, volunteered to marshall or give out water, encouraged, smiled - all good reasons for such an event - but is it right that it takes physically abusing the body to get these responses? Humans are strange creatures, look what it takes to make a the world a better place... maybe we should make it easier and try to respond some times to people as if they have run a marathon.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

No Michelangelo for the Masses

Reading Liz Hoggard’s (Observer, 26/03/06) glowing report on Neil MacGregor, the ‘dynamic director of the British Museum’, I learn how he considers that a 'collection that embraces the whole world allows you to consider the whole world'. The Michelangelo’s Drawings as with any collection which you are charged to see, cannot embrace the whole world only those who can afford the embrace. Perhaps I am misreading the quote but it has brought to mind my disquiet regarding paying to see such collections.

Living in Tower Hamlets, the most deprived borough in London I know that there are many people who cannot afford to go to exhibitions like this. As well as charging to attend such exhibitions the museum also charges for an audio guide. I wonder if the visually impaired are charged or those who have learning difficulties or are illiterate ie. people who cannot access the written explanations/descriptions. I would have thought that, as large print exhibition guides were provided for those who they would benefit, the same would apply to the audio guides. Charging for this facility, as much as for the exhibition itself is discriminatory against the already deprived. So the deprived become more so.

Hoggard tells us that for Neil MacGregor a museum is a 'machine that generates tolerance and dissent’. I would rather it more organically produced these fruits. Tolerance and dissent are wonderful produce but we don’t want them to end up as the waste product of the capitalist machine which keeps the rich rich and the poor poor.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Michelangelo’s Drawings

The British Museum’s Exhibition of Michelangelo’s Drawings was disappointing. I felt like the child in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. It was an exhibition of Michelangelo’s art stripped bare. There were photos of the end products, even work, not by but ‘after’ the artist, like Leda and the Swan, and then what there was of Michelangelo's work at the exhibiton, though lovely was an initial sketch which was never meant to be seen by us. It was like seeing the amazingly intricate movement of a puppeteer without the puppet, the emperor naked.

There was an attempt to make up for this lack of context by providing alongside the drawings photographs of finished work and centrally parts of the Sistine Chapel projected on the ceiling. However there were very few images to enjoy and the best part of the exhibition for me turned out to be the computer screens where you could choose a drawing and watch it fit and find its place in the finished painting in the Sistine Chapel. This, though, I could have done from home on my PC.

I have seen the Sistine Chapel, La Pieta and David. The British Museum exhibition did the artist who produced these masterpieces no justice. Perhaps it was impossible. Perhaps it would only be possible in Rome or Florence or wherever the finished products reside. Or perhaps with more money or a larger, higher ceiling with a little more technology the computer screens and ceiling projections could have been married and expanded to create a Sistine Chapel to approximate the sheer scale of the artist’s accomplishments.

Perhaps it was thought that as they were Michelangelo’s drawings that that’s all that was needed to draw a crowd. Looking at the numbers attending, including myself, it’s true. And most people will probably be delighted with the exhibition, or at least think they should be so may not voice opinions to the contrary.

I tried so hard not to be disappointed. I am a creative person and wanted my imagination to be captured. I knew something was wrong when I began writing this poem:

Michelangelo’s Drawings

Black Chalk
Red Chalk
Red and Black Chalk
Pen and Brown Ink
Contour in Stylus
Heightened with Lead White
Square Scale Grid
Full Size Drawings Cartoons
Outlines on Wet Plaster
Water Based Pigments
The Sistine Chapel

And I was sure that there was something wrong on the way out, when I saw more imagination, than was in the exhibition, evident in the shop. I could see that effort had been put into merchandising. I was even more disappointed. It could have been a Disney Store, except even Disney would have presented their drawings better.

Take the British Museum online-tour of Michelangelo's Drawings for free: Online-Tour

Leda and the Swan which you can see for free when it returns to the National Gallery

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Writing on the Wall

Saw the Rosetta Stone at The British Museum, with which decipherment of hieroglyphs was made possible. It had a decree written 3 ways.

The decree was written on a wall. I wonder what encoded decrees are written on our walls. Banksy does some pretty good code. I got his book for a friend this week. I felt like I should have got a set of stencils and can of spray paint instead.

Why don't people write on pavements or roads? There's more of them than walls, more horizontal space than vertical...and easier to write on too.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Running Away

"Dragon boat paddling?" Magnolia asks me, "Why?"
"For fitness, exercise, enjoyment..." I reply.
She isn't convinced. I suppose I could do anything but why a dragon boat? Its good for the upper body and coupled with swimming it makes me less miserable that my injured ankle won't let me run for exercise and it makes me less guilty that I haven't climbed in over a year. Its out in sunshine, wind and rain, battling with up to 20 other people, friends and strangers, working together as a team in time to glide across the water. What's not to like?

Today a friend said she thought her husband ran to avoid the children.

They say exercise helps you cut down on stress, its reccommended for good physical and mental health. Is this also because we are avoiding the stressor while we are exercising. Is it geography as much as everything else?

We get the whole endorphin thing, as well as the physiological plusses and on top of that we are physically away from our stressors (and on top of that if out doors get the benefit of vitamin D from sunshine).

Is it like a micro-sleep, those 'power naps' you hear of which can recharge your batteries during the day? Like a mini-break, not a full blown holiday that can stress as much as it's enjoyable, but just a little piece of time to yourself to get away from it all.

Like most exercise I like, I find it is this ability to 'switch off' by focussing my physical and mental concentration fully on something else which attracts me.

So exercise is good...why don't I do it more?
I don't have time.
I'm too tired.
I can't be bothered.
I don't have the right gear.
It's raining.
It costs too much.
It's too much effort.
Theres a good programme on TV.

But its good. And it will make my world a better place...figuratively & geographically.

BBC Article: Little & Often
UK NHS Direct Online Health Encyclopaedia - Exercise

Now Free Health Care...there's a thing that makes the world a better place...and we're lucky to have it here in the UK...why don't people appreciate it?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Is This Really London?

This week...

"You can be my witness", says the man with the black and white dog, pointing upward toward a maisonette balcony with another man who has a toy black and white dog hanging on a rope from his hand.

A woman asks for help housing a desperate refugee family.

Police & sniffer dogs greet me at Farringdon underground station.

An heavily overweight man begins doing pressups in the sauna. He stops at two.

A man is verbally aggressive to some people ahead of me, I steel myself for the onslaught. He says, "You're lookin' good, so I'll leave you alone." and passes by.

Why don't we look after our mentally ill or desperate?
Why are we obese or agressive?
What are the police doing about these people? Maybe the sniffer dogs can help.

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