I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
I’m reading Jaron Lanier’s You are not a gadget, at the moment.
Lanier is one of the original geeky gurus of the net. He’s taking stock and having a think about where we are going in this book, which he calls a manifesto. I haven’t got to the manifesto part yet, but his musings are most thought provoking.
I got in on the net quite early, building my first website in early 1997. Most people thought I was silly, self-indulgent or plain wasting my time. everybody told mw I was crazy when I told them they would all be emailing and video conferencing, shopping and banking online. “You won’t catch me doing that!” they all told me.
They were exciting times. If you weren’t there, you’ll never understand. The net was growing in dog years, the speed of change was incredible, keeping up with it was like being on drugs. Every day was a bright, new dawn as new possibilities opened up. I think my family worried about me for a while! I never did make a million – not many did – but the intellectual pursuit was worth it in itself.
But now it’s been corporatised. Just like the record companies collared the music industry, Facebook, Google et al have collared the net for their own ends. Does it matter? Maybe not now. These are pretty good guys – at the moment. But for how long?
Everyday Google and Facebook colonise our lives, not just affecting our society, they are becoming our society. We think we are the customers of these giant corporations, but we are not. We are the product. The advertisers are the customers! It takes a moment to get your head around that one. We do a deal with Facebook and Google – Give us these amazing tools and we will give you gigabits of high-level information about us and our lives, so that you can sell to us stuff we never knew we needed.
Lanier argues that we are becoming conditioned by the providers. We are being turned into homogenised purchasing units – infinitely targetable by the advertisers. A good number of people now think Facebook is email – that is how they communicate.
Facebook is a boring, corporate, homogenised environment. It always looks the same and you are not in control. Remember last week how your front page changed? Did you have any say in that? Slowly, in tiny baby steps, they are grinding down their users so that they don’t notice innovations anymore and accept things into their lives that, if introduced in on fell swoop, would get them out on the streets protesting.
Facebook is there to make money for itself and for advertisers and for no other reason. The same with Google. They call themselves the good guys, but so did the Nazis. Google, in the hands of a dictator, could be the end of civilisation.
Lanier wants to celebrate humanity, and that is what we do not do in this brave new Web2.0. We homogenise and we anonymise. Yes, you can be who you like on the net, but what does that do to the real you? What does that do to real interaction between human beings. When you make a comment on the net and sign yourself, anonymous12547, what does that say about you? You are worthless and your comment is worthless, it may as well have been posted by a robot making up a stream of words that seem to make sense if read in the right order.
What happened to all those whacky personal websites? They all became corporatised. We are told what a website should look like and so they now all look the same.
I’m with Lanier, let’s bring a bit of humanity back to the web. It is a tool, not our god.
We had a day out shopping in Cardiff today. I saw the pair of shoes in John Lewis and thought they were a pefect example of form over function. They are not exactly perfect for playing basketball in!
The Daffodil hat was in the window of a shop selling everything Welsh. I imagine there must be rows of human daffodils that turn up to rugby games at the Millenium Stadium.
I took a short cut through a little garden park in the centre and was almost bowled over by the scent from a tree that I think might be a witch hazel.
On the way home, we were preceded by a fabulous rainbow that danced across the road in front of us. I can’t remember when I last saw such a bright one.
In case you missed it, you can still see Around the World by Zeppelin a fabulous film about a 21 day round the world voyage by the Graf Zeppelin in 1929.
The story is told from the viewpoint of the young journalist Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, reporting for the Hearst media empire. The film is based upon her letters and diaries and told exclusively through archival and newsreel film from the time, this film relives the incredible voyage.
It is told in a wonderfully slow and graceful way and has some astonishingly ephemeral moments that must have seemed trivial at the time, but are now a fascinating insight into the times. You can see it on BBC iplayer here
The trouble with going downhill is that you have to go all the way back up again. I was determined to find where two paths meet, so I carried on downhill until I got to the bottom of the valley. The circular route back up was very steep, but at least it opened out into this view across the forest.
I think my favourite tree is the Beech. I love their root systems, they way they twist and turn, making little caves and hollows. The bark has a metal quality, it looks as strong as iron. When I was a boy we woulld make little villages in the caves and garages for dinky cars at the bottom of a huge beech tree.
The edge of the forest is often used as a garden rubbish dump by locals. I came across this cyclamen, which must have been dumped there at some point. It’s not a wild variety.
Walking down the hill, I came across the barred up mine entrance in the picture. The Forest is riddled with mineshafts and quarries. This quarry will eventually break through to another, massive quarry behind it. A lot of the landscape is made from quarry and. Watch where you are going!
British Gas are advertising price cuts at the moment. A concerned voice says, “We understand how difficult things have been, so we are making things easier for you by cutting our prices.”
This is not quite true. What they mean is that the price of Gas has come dow to the point where they ca’t justify passing on the savings anymore. Do I want to change to British Gas – I don’t think so.
We had a leaflet through the door for Harry Tuffins, who are taking over the local Somerfield Store. The first hundred shoppers will receive a tin of Cadbury’s Roses for only £1.
Huh!? What they mean is the first hundred shoppers will have the opportunity of purchasing a tin of Roses for only £1 – that is quite different to what is suggested and actually shows a very mean spirit. Many of that 100 may well decide not to take up the offer and so less than 100 tins will be sold for £1.
It doesn’t make me want to pop in and see what they are like. I know already – tricky deals.
There was an interesting article on the today programme this morning about the National Curriculum, which you can listen to by clicking here.
Master of Wellington College, Anthony Seldon is proposing the idea that the National Curriculum needs rethinking at a debate on education at the British Library tonight. Peter Hyman, a former strategist for Tony Blair, and now deputy head at comprehensive in London, agrees and interestingly points out that the real problem is conservatism that require testable knowledge to be passed down so that it can be tested and graded.
He points out that the designer Alexander McQueen, who died this week, left school with one “o” level. In terms of education, he was a failure – in real life a a massive talent that shone despite his education. How can we let this state of affairs carry on?
In the same programme was a report that poor children come to school a year behind middle-income children, mainly because the better off children are read to every day. Here is the perfect evidence for telling stories, yet, the National Curriculum has no time for stories, their usefulness cannot be quantified so why waste time on them. The fact that politics, religion, TV and Advertising survive on the power of story is quite forgotten in the debate, but then education is not interested in those fields of endeavour, never mind that they are the life-blood of society and human interest.
I think we are grown up enough now to put away all the political correctness that got us here. Everyone complains about it, everyone is against it, so who is responsible for it? Surely we can now admit that we are not all the same. Can’t we celebrate our differences rather than legislate for homogeneity? Cant the clever kids be allowed to expand their brains beyond the easily testable? Can’t the thick and troublesome kids be allowed to find their talents and work on them?
The future is too complicated for one person. It requires teamwork. We should teach children to work together using their own talents to the best and learning to recognise and utilise the talents of others. That’s never going to get done while they are all competing to pass exams in subjects that mean nothing to them.
At last a new debate seems to be starting. Let’s hope it leads somewhere more interesting than the factory system we’ve had imposed for the last twenty years.
My computer got snarled up backing up stuff to DVD disc this afternoon, so I thought I’d do a quick lesson in how to draw a Hamster.
As ever, if you like it, please rate it with the stars in the top left hand corner. If these videos are blocked at school, you can always download the video and put it on a disk to view later.
Just in time for St. David’s Day on March 1st, here is a lesson in how to draw a daffodil. St David is the Patron Saint of Wales. For my international readers, England is not the whole Island of Britain. Wales is on the west and Scotland is on the north side of England. Ireland is an island on its own to the west of Britain.
Wales is a country with its own language and culture. The Daffodil is the national flower of Wales.
I am English. I live about six miles from the Welsh border. My children went to school in Wales where they learned a bit of Welsh, my Grandmother was a Welsh speaker and I lived in Welsh-speaking, wild, West Wales for a while, when I was starting out as an illustrator. I learned a tiny little bit of Welsh in all that time. I was sat on my own for most of the time – you need to hear a language all day long to really pick it up.
You can always draw daffodils to celebrate spring or for a Mother’s Day card – which isn’t too far off either.
I’ve just worked out what all this cash for gold business is all about. In case you don’t watch the telly or are reading this in fifty years time, the price of gold is apparently at an all time high. This is because of the world-wide recession and there being nothing else to put your money into.
If you only watch wildlife programmes you may have missed this phenomenon, but if you watch trash and daytime TV, which I do occasionally, you will have noticed relentless advertising to turn your old gold into cash squashed in between the online bingo ads that urge you to spend all the cash you’ve just made selling your gold.
A few years ago gold was cheaper and a big fashion statement. Rappers could be seen weighed down in “Bling”. Ah, how things move on. Bling was the thing – an ostentatious show of apparent wealth – all bought on credit cards or from the dodgy bloke down the pub.
Now all that bling is being turned back into cash. I’m sure most punters only see the cash and happily take the money, unaware of the real value in their gold, either that or they are disappointed when they find that the solid gold chains they bought in the pub aren’t quite what the dodgy guy said they were.
The people buying the gold obviously have cash to spare and could make a tidy sum. trash gold is a quick cash-crop harvest – get in quick and sell before the price of gold drops again – and it will. Assets need to be worked or churned to make a profit. Hoarding can only lead to a loss in the end. The price may shoot up through scarcity value, but then it becomes a game of chicken. First one to sell makes all the profit and then the price drops. Everyone else will pile in and sell for whatever they can, forcing the price down again. The same old story.
Still, I’m glad the whole Bling Thing is over. It did make gold look so cheap.
I’ve just had the most brilliant idea. Adrian Chiles used a “Love Mike” on the One Show tonight, to make his voice sound deep and sexy like Barry White. It didn’t sound very good, but the punters sent in romantic messages for him to read out.
Well, I thought, I can do Barry White impersonations and Darth Vader too! So, I’ve just registered www.deepvoice.co.uk on which I’m going to offer myself as a deep voice artist!
I think I should have an alter ego, The name Brute Torstein comes to mind! £6 for two years – surely I can turn a profit on that. This could be fun. I feel more butch and manly already!