2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

War Games in Meeting House Lane

While meandering around Brighton this afternoon I came across Games Workshop in Meeting House Lane. There was a bit of a stur inside so I went in to take a look. It seems that they have been running a war games campaign for the last month or so and one of the final games was taking place. A large table stood in the center of the shop laden with various science fiction themed war game paraphernalia. It seemed to me that there were around three people on each side. They discussed tactics, referred to thick manuals and measured blast radii. I hadn’t realised there was so much to it.

Games Workshop

Games Workshop

Buy Art Photography by Nigel Chaloner

Buy Art Photography by Nigel Chaloner

Black Mirror

Black Mirror

Black Mirror

Last Sunday (11th December 2011) I watched the second program in the series Black Mirror on Channel 4. I’d seen a bit of a buzz about Black Mirror on Twitter but refused to get lured in. Partly this may have been because it was created by Charlie Brooker and I have ambivalent opinions of Mr. Brooker. Yes, he is funny and can be quite sharp but I’ve sometimes thought his antics a bit contrived.

Sunday’s episode was entitled 15 Million Merits and portrayed a society where people are doomed to spend their lives either sitting in cubicles playing dumb video games, watching dumb TV and cycling on treadmills to produce electricity to run the videos and TV.

In this world, nothing is physical. The screens cover entire walls, floors and ceilings. People who are overweight occupy a lower class and wander around cleaning up after the game players. Each player gains credits and may use these to dismiss advertisements or collect their credits for a chance to audition for a X-factor style show and potentiality become famous and escape the treadmill. One guy decides to try and make a difference and, by threatening suicide at an audition, is allowed to rage against the machine on prime time TV. The inevitable result is that he impresses the panel with his passion and is employed to rage away twice a week on a video channel.

A pretty obvious reflection of western society as it is today. Overdone for effect but nonetheless fairly literal. Even the rebel who is absorbed into the system is a well understood phenomena and we’ve seen this again and again from Mick Jagger’s knighthood to Bryan Ferry’s adverts for Marks and Spencer.

However, I was impressed with Black Mirror, not so much for it’s originality, but because it restated the ideas in stark and contemporary terms. It’s storyline was tight and without needless decoration. It is all too easy in consumerist society to be drawn in by the hype. We consider we are being ironic but slowly slowly we start to believe the hype. Slowly we think we really NEED a 4 by 4. Slowly we start to doubt our ideals. Perhaps we’re just out of touch. Perhaps the winners of X-Factor are real artists? Perhaps Deal or No Deal is an engaging game show.

The prediction of Science Fiction are never true but what good Science Fiction does is to hold up a mirror to our civilisation and show us the absurdity of our lives. The world of Black Mirror is not in our immediate future yet it is close enough in many respects to remind us that we are all being duped. Mr. Brooker has produced a fantastic piece of television, in this episode at least, and I look froward to next Sunday’s program.

Star House

Star House

EU Veto, No triumph, no tragedy

Club Euro

Club Euro

It’s amazing the way the narrative of the European Union has changed over the last few days. For months economists have correctly predicted each successive domino which will fall if the leaders do not take decisive action and each time European leaders have failed. Greece, then Italy an now catastrophe is knocking at the door of France.

Yet, since the EU meeting where David Cameron vetoed changes to the EU treaty, the media is reporting that Britain is now locked out of EU decisions making as if the leaders of the EU have shown themselves capable of making decisions. As if the Euro area problems had been solved and the Euro become a beacon of stability.

The agreement by the leaders of the Euro areas last week intends to limit budget deficits by imposing penalties on governments which break the rules. Yet, to quote the Financial Times on the 6th December 2011:

..which two countries first broke the rule that deficits should not go above 3 per cent of GDP? It was France and Germany, back in 2003. What’s more, the two then united to make sure that they wouldn’t face sanctions for doing so – effectively destroying the rules (known as the “growth and stability pact”) altogether.”

It is not surprising that sanctions were not imposed and will not be imposed in future when you consider the circumstances in which a country runs an excessive deficit. When a country is short of money they are unlikely to cough up more money in fines to the EU.

Last week the Euro area stood on a precipice waiting to drag the world into oblivion. This week the UK has supposedly been snubbed by the best club in the world and the Euro crisis has evaporated into thin air.

The reality is that the press love hyperbole. It is unlikely that the Euro crisis will be the end of civilisation. Probably the saga will just drag on and on for a few years until something else becomes more important. Equally it is unlikely that Europe will power ahead leaving the British behind.

It may not make such great headlines but gloomy mundanity is a more likely prediction for the immediate future.

Artwork of Nigel Chaloner at Fine Art America

Artwork of Nigel Chaloner at Fine Art America

Practice?

Looks like the RNLI were practising off of Hove this morning. A rib stood by while a helicopter dangled a bloke on a rope and tried to fish another out of the water. A bit chilly for such activities if you ask me.

Helicopter

Helicopter

In, Out, In, Out, Oy!, Oy!, Oy!

The Hokey Cokey

The Hokey Cokey

The headlines are screaming that Britain is isolated and the Labour opposition are blaming the Prime Minister David Cameron. The leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband has tweeted that Cameron vetoing the EU treaty change was a sign of “weakness” – Yawn.

This whole furore is ridiculous. Like all EU countries Britain will act in it’s own interests. Britain is not in the Euro area and so her interests are dissimilar from Euro-zone countries. The root of this is that Britain is not a member of the Euro zone and that was a decision taken under Labour so blaming Cameron is absurd.

Does Mr. Miliband really believe that he would have handled the situation any better? If Britain had a Labour government Mr. Miliband would have found that it was he who had to walk the line between the rival mobs of pro and anti European Brits. He would have had to make the best judgement call he could.

Britain has always been half hearted about Europe. We don’t want a two speed Europe because we don’t want a diminution of Britain’s power in Europe but, at the same time, we are not in favour of the greater integration which is the goal of many other countries.

Britain is a problem for Europe but now that push, has come to shove, Britain has been forced to decide: in or out of the central core. Cameron has chosen out and, given the current state of the Euro, I doubt that Mr. Milliband would have decided differently.

The hysteria of Mr. Milliband’s comments are indicative of Labour’s continuing media focused leadership. Just last week he was pontificating on the comments of Jeremy Clarkson on a TV chat show. We should get this in perspective. Mr. Clarkson is the presenter of a car program. Like him or loath him CLARKSON DOES NOT MATTER. I do not elect and pay politicians to commentate on popular TV shows.

New Labour’s current performance are evidence that they still have not understood that 13 years of spin was a failure. They need to get serious and start identifying solid policy differences between themselves and the Conservatives. And a dose of sincerity would not go amiss.

Star House

Star House

Real Time World War 2

Soviet T-28 tank captured by Finnish forces, Varkaus, Finland, 1940

Soviet T-28 tank captured by Finnish forces, Varkaus, Finland, 1940

An Oxford University graduate named Alwyn Collinson has started tweeting the second world war. What!? Yes that’s right. He has started in 1939 and intends to continue for six years. The guy tweets a little snippet of information every few hours. As I write I can see that “Major Pajari is Finnish, speaking to troops under his command. They’ve rallied at the village of Kokkari, 6km behind front line”

This is fascinating as we get to understand events in some kind of context. I am not reading all the tweets but recently I have been following the soviet invasion of Finland. I had no idea that the soviets attacked Finland so early.

Obviously there is a question here about the authenticity of the items which the guy is tweeting and I’m not sure of his sources. Possibly he just has a big bumper book of the second world war.

The twitter tag is @RealTimeWWII.

What an excellent idea! In fact, this could be done with all sorts of stuff. In fact, it would be interesting for any historical event and it’s possible that the bloke has bitten off too big a chunk of history. Something that occurred over a few weeks or months might be better. How about the 1969 moon landing, the Apollo 13 near disaster or the Cuban missile crisis?

This guy may have started a trend. Future versions might be backed up by web sites including video. In fact, here is an even odder idea. Since kids now record their entire lives on Facespace perhaps, by the time they enter their forties, Facebook might have created an option to retweet all the Facebook messages from their youth? – Spooky!

Trees In Silhouette

Trees In Silhouette