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Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

There was some debate over whether or not the Baby Trump blimp (AKA Hairpiece One) would be allowed to fly over London in response to the visit of POTUS  this week. But permission has now been granted and I’m pleased as it shows that, in spite of the world being in free-fall these days, we British have still not lost our sense of humour. It’s an unflattering likeness for sure, but one done in that age old satirical tradition, a visual raspberry to deflate an arch display of pomposity and bombast.

The thing with laughter is it can defuse anger, and thereby restore a sense of reason that might otherwise be swept away by stronger, darker emotions. Laughter is important . We laugh, then pause to wonder more soberly and deeply where the world has gone wrong in recent years, and why of a sudden there’s so much hate and spittle flying about.

The above Youtube clip is of an interview given by Owen Jones, on the BBC’s Newsnight program. Owen is a regular political commentator, a respected journalist, and columnist for the Guardian Newspaper. Very much to the left of the political centre Owen is here voicing his support for the flight of “Hairpiece One”, against an opposing view from a POTUS supporter.

But what struck me most of all were the comments that followed this clip. I use Youtube a lot, and in return it mines my deepest Freudian cavities for personalised marketing opportunities. Its largely unmoderated and immoderate commentary is also notoriously sickening, therefore daunting for polite company to wade through, and actually quite useless in rational debate,  so I rarely bother with it. Except this time I found it upsetting. The fact of its anonymity of course invites all manner of cowardly and ill judged sniping. But there we are.

In the case of the “Hairpiece One” piece, the comments section predictably acted as a lightning rod for the loud energy of the intolerant, the misogynistic, the racist and the merely ignorant tendencies. In short, there was such a lot of hate – ill informed, indeed juvenile and no one of any intelligence would enter into debate with it, but it’s still worth taking note of because I see dangers in it.

The piece was discussing the rights and wrongs of flying a satirical balloon over London as a means of peaceful protest against a world leader whose policies are controversial to say the least, a leader buoyed along upon comments that seem to come exclusively from the mouths of angry white men, utterly entrenched in their unswerving hatred of almost everything that they are not: towards Gay people, people of colour, people of intelligence, people of left leaning liberal values, people of the Muslim faith – hatred towards British people too, of how our capital is a war-zone, the streets running with blood, of how badly our National Health system “sucks”, and it’s all our fault for being “soft ” on immigration and not taking up the same draconian policies of POTUS, which would make us great again! And more, I read of the visceral hate of “communism”, and it’s usual tiresomely inaccurate conflation with “socialism”, all of these being echoes from recent conservative news-media tropes, and all of them expressed in the most vile, inebriate public-house language. It’s if one had slipped the catch on a huge, overstuffed Bluebeard’s cupboard and been buried in an avalanche of nefarious material that would be better unseen by polite company.

All this the result of a visit to the UK by POTUS.

So is it better in the open, then we know what the incoming tide is bringing with it? Of course, a hundred vile comments do not represent the views of the silent majority of American citizens, some of whom I’ve had the great pleasure of speaking to and meeting virtually via this media. But what shocks me is the subliminal energy behind those comments, and the risk those nominated to lead, or guard our flanks – the policemen, the border patrols, the military, become infiltrated by that same shallow, hateful mindset. In short we should be careful to whom we grant the keys of the nation, lest they go berserk in the lockings up. Some might say it’s too late, that the Genie is out of the bottle now and he’s not for going back in. Naturally I hope that’s not the case, nor that it presages the loss of yet another generation and much bloodletting to flay the demons of hate out of existence for yet another century.

Love and compassion won’t always trump evil. But it’s better than joining in with the hate. I wish Hairpiece One well, and all who sail in her.

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moonThere’s a wealth of lore regarding the moon. It features in our ritual and our calendars, and there’s always been a belief in its ability to affect our mood. Until recently however respectable scientists have poured scorn on the idea, pointing out there is no known mechanism by which the moon can affect the mind. The only known force the moon exerts upon the earth, they say, is gravity, but while the moon’s gravity can indeed raise ocean tides, a scientist will assure you the gravitational effect it has on my brain is no more than the gravitational pull exerted by the computer I’m typing this into. It’s true – gravity is not the answer, but then respectable mystics no longer maintain that it is.

Personally, I’ve always held that the moon does have an effect on the psyche – perhaps not everyone’s, but certain sensitive individuals – and that it’s quite common, and natural, and I don’t mind that we don’t yet know, conclusively, what the mechanism is. My evidence is subjective and entirely experiential. I’ve simply noticed that the time coming up to full moon is when I’m at my most creatively and emotionally outgoing. It’s when things get done, and the energy needed for them just flows. Conversely, following the full moon I become gradually more contemplative, more inward looking, and less creatively active, with a definite hiatus around the time of the new moon when my brain floats aimlessly about like a boat that’s lost its anchor. Of course I still have to do what needs to be done, but it can be a real struggle to get my brain in gear and, regarding, the energy, it feels like I’m running on empty.

It’s interesting that my personal diary backs this up. Searches for things like: “disconnection”, “airiness” and “spaced out” all closely correlate with the period around new moons. This is a time for leasure-reading, for meditating, for dreaming, and for inviting syncronicities – not for actively seeking to influence outcomes in the real world.

Of course, it could be that I’m simply looking at the moon, seeing what phase it is, and adjusting my mood to suit, rather than actually responding to subtle earth-energies, and all that other new-age guff. That’s fair enough, in which case you might say I  I simply favour maintaining an awareness of the moon, and other aspects of the natural world, and aligning myself to its rhythms, like my ancestors once did. I am, in short, not looking to prove anything, either to myself or to others. It is what it is, and it seems to work for me.

But if it’s true, my suspicion has always been that the mechanism is tied up with the earth’s magnetic field and its perturbations resulting from the constant buffeting it gets from the solar wind. And, since the moon moves around inside this system of magnetic flux, it’s feasible it has a regulating effect, and that a lunar signature should be detectable in the geomagnetic data.

If you study the figures for daily geomagnetic flux levels, as published by NOAA*, put it all in a giant spreadsheet and apply some filtering, you can indeed pick out an effect, a rising and falling in intensity of the geomagnetic index with a period that correlates with the lunar phase. Other’s have looked at this too, including NASA analysts in the past (Stolov et al 1965), and come up with the same thing. There may be other space weather experts who can elaborate on it now, but, while fascinating, my understanding is this research has always been considered inconclusive, controversial, and somehow not a respectable field for any career conscious scientist to be associated with at all – dare I say because it sounds like lunacy?

But non-scientists, like me, have no difficulty with it, nor in suggesting we might be picking up on the earth’s lunar modulated geomagnetic “vibrations” through the pineal gland, a  pine-cone shaped organ located deep in the brain. It’s sensitive to magnetic fields, and regulates the body’s circadian rhythms – things like sleep patterns – through the secretion of melatonin. Again, scientists have long blown raspberries at this idea, but a recently published study has indeed shown changes in blood chemistry and sleep patterns correlated with the phases of the moon. It’s summarised as a news item on the BBC here. This is the first time I’ve ever read of any respectable research in this area that was not wholly sceptical. So maybe science is beginning to catch up with myth, with sober research data now pointing in the direction mystics have been indicating all along; that it really does make a difference what moon it is.

*NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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woman reading letterNothing happened today. There was no news, no carnage, no politicians to be called to account, no food scares, no financial ruin. There was no one to hate, no one to pity.  The nation breathed a great sigh of relief and we all drove to work in soft sunshine, with lighter hearts, skipping along like children let out of school early. A gentle hush settled over hill and vale, I saw my first Snowdrop,… and the world felt like a much better place.

The opening of an impossibly optimistic fantasy novel? No,… our regular news and current affairs programming was off the air because of a strike by journalists, and oh,… what a relief!

I’m sorry. I know it’s important to keep up with current events, to be able to understand and talk knowledgeably about the world. But there’s also a terrible downside, being inundated daily with crap that you can’t do a damned thing about. You begin to form a picture of a world in which nothing good happens, and it doesn’t matter that it bears not even a passing resemblance to the world you personally experience, you feel cowed by it, intimidated, depressed, goaded into cynicism, even afraid to venture abroad for fear of having your head cut off by blood crazed trolls.

So I don’t buy newspapers. I don’t watch the TV news, preferring nowadays to get my snippets in controlled bursts, through my iPad. I read the news briefly, with a cold, objective eye, digest the main points, then turn to the blogs I’m following because they’re so much more interesting.

For example, yesterday evening, I learned about a play in which Freud’s fictional final consultation was with the writer CS Lewis. It sounded like a fascinating idea, but the writer who saw it had felt let down by it. I also read about Innis Oirr, one of the remote Aran isles, off the west coast of Ireland and how the way of life there has changed over the centuries. Then I read about the pope and his reportedly unsympathetic views regarding people who might be labelled gay, bisexual or transsexual.

I realised I knew very little about CS Lewis and have now chased down some more very interesting information about his life that syncronistically informs something else I’ve been thinking about. I also mused that although my grandfather is from the west of Ireland I’ve still not visited his birthplace, and I really must do something about that.  I also pondered on the fact that religious teachings are too often defined so narrowly they cannot hope to encompass the rather more eclectic nature of the human condition. And is that right or wrong?

This is so much better than being blathered at by assertive media types, evasive politicians and pontificating pundits. Through blogging you realise there’s a whole ecosystem of ideas out there, and you can get involved in shaping it simply by writing your own material. But like anywhere else there are abusers in the blogsphere. They contribute nothing, yet expect the globe to laud them in return, catapult them to the dizzy heights of celebrity. A bit like the conventional media then.

Case in point: something odd happened last night. I put my piece up on “Photographing Ghosts”, but in the process managed to lose all the text, so what I actually posted was just the title. I was wondering how on earth that had happened, and whether it was worth sorting out, or if I should just delete the lot and go to bed,  when my iPad started pinging like it had gone mad. Before I knew it I had 3 likes for that piece – which was very gratifying but of course I could claim no credit for my literary prowess because all I’d posted was a blank page.

What was that all about then?

Among the rules of successful blogging the most important is that, apart from posting our own sincerely intended content, we should also take the trouble to read the work of other bloggers who catch our eye, and comment on their blogs as we might in making polite conversation with strangers. If you really like the work, then “like” it. If you consistently enjoy the musings of a particular blogger, and you want a regular dose of them, then you “follow”. What could be simpler?

But it seems some of us are sitting at the gates of WordPress’s “what’s new!” list and “liking” anything that wanders through, even “following” with no more motivation than the hope or expectation we’ll get liked or followed in return. This indiscriminate technique is the same as jumping up and down like a petulant wannabe, shouting “Look at me! Look at me!”. Are  we trying to get ourselves into WordPress’s currently hot list perhaps? Maybe from there we believe it’s only a short step to a slot on whatever passes for our nations top celebrity chat show?

Hmmm.

You cannot be serious. Real blogging is for those with something to say, and who are perhaps denied any other voice. If you’ve nothing to say, if you’ve only web farmed stuff for content , or “products”, or yourself to “sell”, then shut up and go away.

Blog because you like to write, because you like to present ideas, and see what ideas ping back at you. I blog about writing fiction, about the creative processes, the psychology and even the underlying spirituality of it, and if some of my readers are tempted to have at look at my stories while they’re at it, then all the better for my ideas, but I’m not selling anything, not courting my own celebrity here. I’ve been writing for thirty five years now  – I can walk into a bar anywhere in the world and no one will know who I am. And that’s the way I like it. I don’t know how to transform a blog into a WordPress hottie, and to be honest I don’t care. I’d rather remain obscure than lose my virtue vainly trying to escape it. I blog because I enjoy the debate and because that debate informs my own ideas, and because also, crucially, it paints a very different picture of the world out there than the one I get from the TV news.

I’m currently following around 12 blogs. This doesn’t sound like many, but I do read the postings from these authors, and I allow their musings to tickle my own thoughts and if you follow too many, you’re not going to find the time to do any of them justice. And it’s in doing justice to the blogs of others, even in a small way, that enables the blogsphere to collectively reflect, and more importantly to inform the global zeitgeist. Thus begins the slow fight back from a position where our views of the greater world are dominated by an entirely negative and sensationalist press.

I’m glad nothing happened today.

It’s was nice hearing myself think for a change.

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