Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Houghton Legacy

I think it was Peter Houghton who introduced me to Emerson, Lake and Palmer: ELP.

I am certain it was his fault I started to listen to Yes.

Genesis, I think, came a different route.

With 50-up tomorrow, I have started to 'find' some of my old music. Pictures at an Exhibition, the ELP version, more than anything else I can conciously think of, sent me off on the road to 'serious (classical to all you heathens) music.

Yesterday I popped a cd of Brain Salad Surgery inot my new home cinema system (whatever hapened to record players?). Strange, I picked up that cd only a week ago in Timisoara, Romania.

It was 'interesting'. When I listened to it all those years ago I hadn't realised I was listening to so much classical inspired music: Or such fuzzy sound.

Mind you, then I had a small turntable with a single, limited power speaker and all the sound qualities of a dead cat. I would stretch out on the floor in front of the machine with my head as close as possible, turn up the volume and imagine I had stereo speakers.

Lady Ryeburn wasn't around - gone walkabout to Australia I think. But that is a lot of extra material to write about.

No, I owe Peter a lot. I am sure my love of music was filtered through the ELP experience.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Eyewitness Again

A series of programmes on BBC World, on 'Medicine San Frontier' (forgive the dodgy French Accent) set me off again on this perenial.

I realised by the end of the programme on Sudan, I had a stronger grasp of the situation in country after this brief programme than after years of news reports.

What was it that did this? I think it was because the programme was focused not on giving an artificial 'balance' to the political situation, or a reporter's interpretation of the events, but on the actions of people who were working for MSF.

We saw them working - not telling us. There was a militia leader who had brought in a relation to the hospital. They had to get him to sign it was OK to give the anesthetic - if he died it could set up a revenge killing against the hospital. The doctor talked to him - he said he had to go back to the fighting.

Instantly the whole 'reality' hits you - not some overblown documentary, some sensationalisation of the moment, just a statement of fact, a bemused looking Doctor who is concerned about preparing for more casualties.

There isn't the fancy camera work (only one camera?) or slick editing - the shot has to be wide to capture both Doctor and Militia man.

I have become the eye witness.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Is it Age or Insanity?

Busy watching the news and all the reports of the Hamas victory in the elections in Palastine.

I keep hearing people (dressing in the little brief authority of political power) saying they won't speak to Hamas unless they renounce violence.

Am I going crazy or isn't every one of the people insisting on peace using massive armed force? (Is Afganistan a little picnic party? Are there no troops in Iraq? Doesn't Israel regularly kill Palistinian civilians?)

Didn't the modern state of Israel rise from terrorist activity (Could have sworn that some of my relatives were out there under the British Mandate)? Didn't the USA arise from the same terrorist activity? And France have a revolution (or two)? Russia is not exactly and demi-Eden.

I think there is a major problem of understanding here: People take words said to them and use their knowledge, insight, intelligence to interpret them. No matter what is said to me, it is what I already know that I will use to understand what you have said.

As I get older, my "database" of knowledge and strategies is widening. The more I hear on Hamas, who have won a massive victory being supported by a far higher percentage of the population than any of the Western leaders complaining about them, the more worried I am about the sanity of the world I am living in.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Half Century Up

Fast approaching 50 and getting sentimental. I have been thinking over the first half century and it is strange to think I was once one of the group you see next door.

One or two of the people I have some contact with; most have left my sphere.


All three of the schools I have close connections with in the UK have been destroyed: Yewtree, Mansfield and now I hear Habergham is going too (after goodness knows how many centuries - refounded in 1553).

Strange indeed.

The music of my youth is also starting to feature. ELP, Yes, Rick Wakeman: Started to buy the cds which are a feature of the shelves here in Timisoara. What a very strange world indeed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sex or Gender?

The coming to power of the first elected African presedent, the first woman president in Chile and a debate going on over on a Shakespeare Message Board about men playing women's roles, has reactivated one of the bees in my bonnet.

A great deal of confused debate of the role of women comes, I believe (quite perversly some will say) from the misuse of the word sex.

Sex is a physical act, procreation/recreation.

To refer to a human being's sex, is going to reduce that being to a physical action: And define them by a very limited part of their activities (or their dangly bits).

Gender is the correct word for refering to a person's masculine or feminine identity. This is much more inclusive and incorperates aspects of personality which extend far beyond the physical.

More to be said on this I am sure.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Life, not livelihood

On the outbreak of Birdflu
in Turkey

One of the presenters on CNN dropped the comment that you could understand people hiding their poultry from slaughter during the epidemic as it was their livelihood.
Nice sentiment but I think he hadn't quite grasped the situation.

In rural communities all over the world, a similar fight is going on: Western Media reporting from an essentially urban point of view and failing to understand we are not talking about poultry as a way of earning a living, we are talking about the only source of meat and animal protein available to vast numbers of people.

If the birds are killed, people will not be able to buy meat. Most live in isolated communities where there are no shops selling meat even if the people were given money to buy meat with.
The birds are self replicating - you replace your stock using the eggs they lay. Where will the replacement stock come from if you slaughter the villages whole stock?

The chickens do a number of other jobs too: By rooting around food crops they drastically reduce the insect pest population so increase crop production; their dung fertilises the soil; their feathers are an essential tool in keeping warm in the bitter winters of turkey (forget the Med Coast holidays and try travelling up into the Highlands).

I noticed the same attitude when the bird-flu outbreak occured in the Danube: Our media's understanding goes so far only. I do not blame them, they are after all only the product of the society that employs them.

But surely it is time someone out there really went and researched the consequences of the slaughter?

What has happened in those Danube communities where the birds were slaughtered?

Friday, January 06, 2006

On Time

I woke from a bit of a odd dream this morning - to do with working in schools.
Strange, I thought, whenever I dream of a school, the physical setting is nearly always my old secondary school. Even though I have worked in schools all of my adult life (well over 20 years), in various places around the world, for various amounts of time, the pattern of school set in my head is Yew Tree.
Not only that, nine times out of ten (impression not statistics) it is the library I am in.
Next comes my junior school, but far less often.

It is as if one part of the mind is frozen in time.

We think of time as being liniar most of the time (Times Arrow). With the advent of Railways, time required hours and minutes. More modern technology has upped the anti (or downed the length) to the seeming impossibility of living without seconds and smaller units. And in the very short term it does seem as if we move forward.
But there is also the idea that time repeats itself (Times Cycle) in the dayly and seasonal and maybe longer repetions - what with Haley's comet popping up every seventy odd years, (or even the expansion and possible contractin of the whole universe).

We measure normal time it seems to me by the sun. So down on the farm I have calibrated the clock to that - but not precisely. (What have I to do with accursed minutes?)
I wake with the sun usually and, not having electricity, go to sleep with the sun too.

But the dream gives another perspective. Time is a Unity: Time as oneness. It might sound a bit mystical but what do you expect coming from a dream?

Everything I do in connection to education is reprocessed in my brain and associated into one time frame - my brain time. It is a little like mind maps (not the modern way of putting things down graphically, but the conceptual maps you really use to make decisions about where places are) - they have a connection to reality but it is certainly relative and personnal.

When I go forward, I am in fact not moving very far, and my subconcious is bouncing around all over the place (time /space) not going any time and every time.

So time is in fact a whole, not an arrow, not a cycle.

Time for a cup of tea: As every English man knows, it is always time for a cup of tea.

Monday, January 02, 2006

More Music

An uncomfortable set of ideas has been floating around in my head over the Christmas/New Year.

I happened to catch a Richard Attenborough (Blessed be his Blue Shirts) show soon after my last post - all about music and animals.

Certain very disturbing facts seemed to pop out:
  • Music could be much older biologically in us than language.
  • It developed as a way of marking and fighting for territory.
  • It became more complex as a sex/fitness link became attached.
  • Music is a Male domain.
  • In certain monkey species the male and females have different 'music'.
  • Chimps use it to form male hunting groups.

Could it be that the male of the species is biologically fitter to create music? Whether it be the very basic urges of the Great Tit, or the much more sophisticated singing Whales, it is the male at the forefront: Has this been translated into our own genetic make-up?

The territoriality, gender, fitness - we make a noise as a basic sign of who we are: I am moved by certain Christmas songs because they touch on the collective in me, they hint at belonging and place? But I have to sing - I am compelled to express my position too.

And what am I now to make of Black Eyed Peas? I watched, fascinated, their video, 'Humps'.

The absolute Maleness of the Music but the sexual allure of the Female - not passive, not delicate - very, very strong, but receptive. Not inferior, but different.

Could it be that there never will be a female Beethoven?

And are there so many males in the world of music precisely because of the music being a fundamental (genetic) sign of strength and sexually prowess? Does music make a man sexy?

Certainly the ultimate mate must be a conductor - they live for ever, don't they? And what about the sex drive of Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven?

I know from personal experience, there is a tremendous power in delivering a song to an audience: Even in Kareoke.

Oh, I think I better go and lie down . . .