The U.S. tax payer is coughing up for 32 new whiz bang short take off and vertical landing supersonic F35 fighter planes at $207.6 million each. As if the cost were not stupid enough the pilot has to dress like a pillock. The argument for all this stuff is that the Chinese are arming and it’s true, they are.
So soon after The Cold War another one is starting. I love all this technology but honestly, what a waste! The poor pay taxes so morons can dress like spacemen to protect the rich.
Travel broadens the mind. Travel is good. I love travel. There is nothing like that feeling you get when you arrive in a new city on the other side of the world. Everyone should travel.
But…….is it too easy these days?
I saw this travel shop in North Street, Brighton. The picture is of Ko Phi Phi, an island off the coast of Thailand. Ko Phi Phi has to be very close to paradise yet now we can gawp at it as we trudge through the sludge of an English winter. We can enter the shop, buy a ticket and queue up along with thousands of others to sit alone on the top of the hill and gaze out at this natural wonder.
I visited Ko Phi Phi in 1991 when I arrived as part of the Europa 92 round the world yacht rally. I was asleep in my bunk when we arrived and was awoken by what I assumed was a tractor engine. I imagined we’d arrived in some horrendous industrial port but when I popped up my head I saw this fantastic tropical island. The noise was from the enormous engines that the locals attached to their canoes. Later, I was chatting to an English sales rep from a marine engine company. He told me that they sold the engines with silencers but that the Thai’s removed them as they loved the noise.
Does anyone remember the The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers?
There was a story where, I think it was Phineas, liked to go hiking on his own and commune with nature. He discovered a wonderful patch of Marijuana and he would sit there crossed legged, smoking a joint and watching the sun set.
Then, one day as he arrived he saw 3 other lone hikers all approaching from different directions. Each had thought that he alone knew of the secret marijuana patch. They all ran for the marijuana and grabbed a much of it as they could and ran off. And the last line of the story is “…and that was the end of the secret marijuana patch”.
One of the Fat Freddy Cat stories is also apposite. As Fat Freddy says: ‘Tis but an infinite stroke of eternity’s brush this stretch of beach, this stick of Thai and they, m’dear!
I wrote a review of Avatar recently deriding the Wikipedia claim that its context is “imperialism and deep ecology”. In Avatar a bunch of humans attempt to exploit the natural resources of an alien planet while disregarding the indigenous inhabitants. The obvious analogy is the gradual destruction of the rain forests in the Amazon basin and elsewhere in the developing world.
This afternoon I am watching Africa on BBC One. David Attenborough presents some astounding nature cinema photography. Elephant tramp through a wilderness of dried grass and we are reminded that the habitation of animals all over the world is gradually being eroded by mankind.
A natural reaction is to campagne to save the great wildernesses of the developing world. Stop damns. Stop the hunting of elephant. Save the rain forests. Generally take up the cause of nature against the evil corporations who are hell bent on destroying the wildernesses of the developing world.
In short, we swallow the simplistic Avatar mythology hook, line and sinker. We consider that the world is divided into innocent nature loving people and the amoral workers of evil corporations. But we rarely consider our own role in the gradual erosion of natural habitats.
I sit in a modern office with a patch of grass and trees outside my window. At various times of the year I see squirrels, foxes, woodpeckers, crows, magpies and pigeons. Last year I even saw two men with hard hats and tripods. When asked what they were doing they said that they were surveying with a view to building a car park.
In the third world the case for conservation is dramatic. Vast areas of wilderness full of weird and wonderful wildlife. It’s also easy because it has no direct effect upon ourselves and we can apply the simplistic logic that treats local inhabitants like children while damning the corporate workers as foreign devils. But while we ignore the continued destruction of the few remaining patches of nature in our countries do we have the right to lecture the leaders of countries far poorer than ourselves?
Yes. Yes we should but at the same time we should get our own house in order. The real issue here is not conservation it is a combination of population and consumption. If the human population were a tenth of what it is today and stable we could have nuclear power plants, oil refineries and open cast mines because these things could be located in remote areas and limited to an acceptably finite area of the planet. I don’t argue that we should have these things, just that they would not be nearly so problematic.
As it is we continue to build. We continue to think that our countries can support more people. That our transport systems can be expanded and made more efficient. That our industry can’t function without the skills of imported labour. That our GDP must continue to increase. That our “consumption” of goods must continually “improve”. That if we meddle with the genetic makeup of crops we can squeeze yet more nutrition from the already overstretched land. Our leaders constantly strive for greater efficiency but the cost of efficiency is lack of resilience.
Many consider that the dominant philosophy in the Western world is that of Utilitarianism which holds that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong“. But we seem to have interpreted this as a need to increase population whereas the emphasis should be on increasing happiness.
7 Billion last year. How many in 2020? In 2050? If you have a child aged 13 today he might live until around 2075. The U.N. have various predictions for global population and the top one predicts a global population of over 12 Billion though lower predictions are for stagnation, or even overall decline in the global population by 2150. One wonder what factors will contribute to the “overall fall”.
We are told by conservationists to think global and act local. I must ask the powers that be what plans have been made to ensure the survival of the plants and animals which will be displaced by the new car park.
Last night I watched Cemetery Junction, a film by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Based in the 1970s the film tells the story of three friends who handle their lives in three different ways. One has his head down at a manual job and just wants to live his life. One is trying to get on but, while he has a “white collar” job, he is disillusioned by the mundanity and inhumanity of the work. The third is a rebel who usually resorts to punching someone. Gervais plays a father and Merchant has a cameo. The bosses daughter becomes romantically involved with one of the friends and her dream of becoming a photographer and traveling the world sparks his decision to make a break. Though the plot is fairly pedestrian Gervais and Merchant adorn it with some great dialogue, vivid humour and a passable rendition of Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noise.
The backdrop is the world of my youth. Housing estates, ghastly wall paper, old Ford Escorts and overgrown foliage. This got me reminiscing. 35mm cameras, slam door trains where did it all go? Why do we now disdain that wall paper? Why are we suckers for the “new shape” BMW? Why is it that there are no patches of wild amidst our housing estates? Nostalgia no doubt but come on! In 40 years time nobody will give a stuff for iPads or Onesies either.
Browsing around this morning I came across the work of Australian photographer Dean Bradshaw. Some very impressive work. Some of it akin to realist paintings. Mr. Bradshaw is a comercial photographer who creates images for advertising and his Startrac work is amazing. These images are perfect. The lighting fantastic and the people frozen in time like manikins. The images could easily be mistaken for paintings but the accompanying video shows how Mr. Bradshaw created them. Photographing the actors in studio conditions with as much care as any Vogue shoot he deposits them onto a background with software tools. While Mr. Bradshaw’s skill with a camera is key the makeup, scene preparation, lighting and software are also critical to the final image.
The Internet is littered with references to Soviet era censorship decrying the doctoring of photographs as a sinister indication of a totalitarian regime. Here Nikolai Yezhov has been removed from a photograph of Stalin.
Yet it’s common knowledge that all magazines now doctor pictures of models to remove blemishes, enhance features and usually make models skinnier. Others have blogged about these excesses where models have lost or gained limbs through the ineptness of the photoshop operative.
There are now online tutorials available to assist the amateur and last September the Daily Mail ran an article showing how artists are modifying photos to create hybrid images; half doctored photograph and half digital fantasy.
The images created by Mr. Bradshaw show how artists and technician can control the whole environment and, even though they use real people and cameras the result is pure fantasy. In a world where these images are ubiquitous and backed up by messages exhorting us to buy associated products it’s no wonder we end up prizing stuff over the environment, people and time. I think it was Norman Mailer who observed that the Soviet propaganda machine was nothing compared to the Western marketing industry.
Wandering around downtown this afternoon found myself at the bottom of Trafalgar Street. A new art gallery named ONCA has sprung up. ONCA stands for One Network for Conservations and the Arts and they work with artists and communities, running themed exhibitions at their gallery at St George’s Place. Proceeds from sales go to support conservation projects. At the moment they have some excellent work in an exhibition named Ghosts of Gone Birds also some good paintings. They have a new project due to run from February to May named ‘Our Time In Ice’ and are inviting submissions from artists.
They have a new project due to run from February to May named ‘Our Time In Ice’ and are inviting submissions from artists.
The ONCA Gallery
14 St George’s Place
Wikipedia states “Avatar is primarily an action-adventure journey of self-discovery, in the context of imperialism and deep ecology.”
Bollocks! This is yet another production line Hollywood amalgam of previous Hollywood action films. A stereotyped military/industrial complex plays token imperialism while over-romaticised Native American guff is trotted out to portray tribes of “spiritual” indigenous aliens. The real themes, as usual, are idiot American maverick belatedly turns on idiot American establishment with a backdrop of dieing foreigners.
CGI, imperialism and ecology are merely the vehicles which Mr. Cameron uses as a skeleton to support this staggering Cadaver of cliched, uninspired tripe. The helicopter attack on the Home Tree could have been taken straight out of Apocalypse Now. The alliance with Tsu’tey is too reminiscent of Top Gun. The “switch to manual” for the last battle must have been inherited from Star Wars and the pause in midst of battle for slow motion observation of the horrors of war accompanied by ethnic style vocals has been done too, too many times. One can almost hear the minutes of the production committees micro managing every bloody aspect: “Make her reach up and flick switches like in Black Hawk Down“, “Make the birds fly close and low like in Top Gun”, “Make the alien dog trip over like in Jurassic Park“. Even the inclusion of Signorie Weaver cannot save this dogs breakfast.
History will judge Avatar, not for it’s paper thin anti-imperialism or ecological credentials, but for it’s GCI and that is as it should be because the alien world created by the technicians is tremendous. However, this films narrative and scripts digs Hollywood deeper into it’s navel gazing rut and the true theme remains: Dull people shout at each other in desperate attempts to assert individuality as instructed by the media/industrial complex.
There is also a very silly song at the end.