Monday, November 16, 2020

Covid is over, if you want it..

I spent yesterday evening sat on Photoshop. It occurred to me that both Christmas and the anniversary of John Lennon's death are on the horizon. So that got me thinking of the famous "WAR IS OVER! IF YOU WANT IT" slogan.

I made a slight tweak to it (whilst endlessly listening to John Lennon and Beatles songs on autoplay).


Perhaps I should put it on a t-shirt. Maybe it's ambiguous enough that people on all sides of the argument can take some solace from it.

There was this one too.

(..see what I did there
hahahahhahah...I'm so clever and funny 😜😑)

Thursday, November 12, 2020

years of liberty

I knocked up this little graphic this morning. Mainly to remind myself to get back to the fresh air and liberty ideas I was playing around with earlier in the year.

I can't type too much, as I have to scooch out soon. However, I was thinking that I need to start looking further into the future. Making longer term plans, and being more patient. Liberty is always on the back foot at the moment it seems. So a more far-seeing narrative would be useful. A sense of going somewhere.

Patience should not be an excuse for laziness though :)


Boris, Biden, Trump and Tories

I saw a brief little TV appearance earlier where Boris Johnson discussed his phone call with Joe Biden. In it Boris looked pretty pleased and upbeat. He gave the general impression of someone who was happy that Biden had won. Like he was looking forward to this new apparent relationship, almost with a sense of relief.

(Boris and Trump)

Obviously it's difficult to make judgements based solely on body language, and Britain is in a bit of a precarious position between the EU and the US. So a bit of Edmund Blackadder type diplomacy is probably wise - if Biden does end up in the White House we don't want to shoot ourselves in the foot from the get-go. However, I can't help but get the sense that it's genuine glee. Which, though disappointing, isn't particularly surprising, given the signals I've been picking up from the UK Tory media over the last few months.

A few days back I tweeted about how I was puzzled at first by this Conservative appraisal of Biden. On initial viewing it just seemed bizarre. Why are people on the right - who are supposedly anti-woke and worried about statues being pulled down and so forth - pleased to see the purveyors of this destruction rise to power? Trump surely should be their natural ally.

On witnessing the obvious glee for Biden it even made me question their sincerity at times.

"So Boris & Co were just pretending to be true Brexiteers all along! ..really they're just more of the same..

Watching Boris and Biden (and countless other politicians) using the exact same tagline, Build Back Better, only adding to this sense that we've been led down the garden path.

However, when you dig a little deeper you realise it may just be another indication that politics is much more messy in reality than it is in theory, and that people often choose their political bedfellows for a multitude of different reasons. It isn't simply left vs right.

A similar example that springs to mind is how working class people in the UK will often vote for people that are seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Corbyn and Farage

For instance, you often find people who like both Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn, even though the two are polar opposites. One being far left the other being far to the right.

The reasons for this seeming contradiction are as follows though;

Firstly, both politicians have some policies that are attractive to these voters. With Corbyn the appeal is predominantly the socialism. With Farage it's more issues like immigration and patriotism. So each ticks some political boxes.

Then secondly there's a cultural dynamic. Both men are relatable. In fact, both could be seen as being 'men of the people' to some extent. Albeit it quite different ways. So there's a familiarity. A feeling that this person is "just like me". That their party is "on my side".

Tories and Biden

I would guess it's similar with some of the more affluent Conservative supporters in the country and Joe Biden.

Firstly there are some political overlaps. A dislike of protectionism being the most obvious one. Then on top of that, and I think this is the most overriding thing, there's the cultural dynamic. These people simply dislike Trump as a person, and view him as rude and uncouth. They just don't feel comfortable with the man. So on a personal level they much prefer Biden. He's more like them. It's not as disconcerting having Biden in the White House.

When I originally tweeted I described this attitude or preference as snobbery. I guess I instinctively see it as valuing style over substance. However, I think this is perhaps revealing my own bias too. Maybe I only see this as snobbery because I myself am working class, and I naturally view this desire for manners as some kind of wet nimbyism. When perhaps Trump's detractors may have a very good point. Maybe decorum is more important than I'm accounting for.

Plus there are no doubt myriad other things I'm simply unaware of. So I probably shouldn't be so judgemental either way. I do think there's a huge cultural dimension to these feelings for Trump though.

It's just hair..

Returning to Boris and Trump I think it's also possible that Boris may be feeling happy mainly due to the endless comparisons he's had to put up with. It must be pretty annoying being referred to as 'Britain's Trump' continually.

I actually don't think the two men are the slightest bit alike when it comes to their styles and personalities. People pick up on the floppy mops of blond hair, but it really is nothing more than that. It's literally just a coincidence. This visual caricature created by the hair must make it feel like they've both turned up in the same costume when they meet in person though. So it no doubt adds a layer of awkwardness that wouldn't otherwise be there.

It really can be quite annoying when you get mischaracterised by people. It may seem minor, but I'm sure it's irksome for Boris. Especially if in reality there's no chemistry between him and Trump. So he might be relieved to be out from under that shadow.

Finally..

Before I go I should probably note my thoughts on the actual Biden/Trump situation.

I have no clear idea what's going on, however my instinct is that Trump will remain president. I can't really flesh out the path that keeps him there, but I just think that the court room is his perfect battleground. He's spent his life dealing with legal cases. It's meat and drink for him. So I think he'll edge it.

This may be my bias of course, being such a huge Trump fan. Whatever happens though I don't think it's anywhere near as settled as many currently believe it is.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Lockdown 2 - All Hallows' Eve and Visions of Atlantis

As we're going into second lockdown I thought I better record my thoughts. I feel much less foreboding than I did when we entered the first one. There was a slight quiver earlier, but I'm largely stoic. My main worry is for America. This year I've almost felt American. It's odd that you can feel so attached to a place you've never been to. That's far off across a wide ocean. However, these things in many ways are bigger than just geography..

Obviously we have the US election on Tuesday. Is it a coincidence that Europe is locking down on the eve of this incredibly important event? Probably not, but I'm sick of getting into politics and conspiracy, so I'll pretend I haven't noticed that. I just pray that it's peaceful whatever happens. I'll no doubt be watching it all unfold with eagle eyes over the coming week. Heart in mouth and helpless to intervene. Who knows what will happen.

Also, on a lighter note, I should mention my last post. A bit of an odd one that. It's kind of a well meant parody of those future predictions we often see about how we'll all be living our lives in ten or twenty years time. A Tomorrow's World type glimpse. When I was writing some of the orange economy posts I was thinking that it would probably be helpful to offer some kind of illustration for the future I was trying to put forward. Cringey though that is. So hopefully it'll at least be useful in that regard.

I couldn't help but think of Francis Bacon when I was finishing it up though. Penning his New Atlantis 400 odd years ago. Sadly I'm not quite in his league, but it's a recurring human endeavour. Trying to offer up some utopian vision of the future. A better world.

Of course, that work in many ways ties in with America. The supposed setting. The new world across the water. The Rosicrucian and Masonic visions and dreams.

I've discussed the name Atlantis elsewhere. Suggesting that it simply means the known world. Or the mapped world. In times gone by works of cartography would be titled names such as Atlantis Majoris - simply meaning the major atlas i.e. the great map collection. We also have Atlas holding up the known world, and likewise the Atlantic Ocean. Which to European explorers, heading out into the unknown seas for the first time, will have originally just been the world ocean.

So viewed through this lens New Atlantis would literally translate as New World. Perhaps a literal new world, or perhaps a revisioning of the old.

If we take Plato's Atlantis, another powerful visionary tale, to also mean "known world" then the flooding of Atlantis would be another variant of the world flood myth. Though Plato's version doesn't portray it as such. His Atlantis being just one separate kingdom, at war with another, the Athenians. Plunged beneath the waves for their sins. Still though, we have a similar theme. The destruction of a world. A Great Reset.

As we await on the precipice of this election I can't help but see things clouded by these spectres and visions.

I believe in America.

With Europe locked down it looks like freedom across the waves more than ever.

A Day in the Life of Jack

It's the year 2033. Jack has just moved into his nice new home. Like most other people Jack doesn't pay rent or mortgage, and owns his new home outright. He had considered staying at home with his parents for perhaps another year or two, but as he was now making enough money to comfortably support himself he had decided to take up his allocation of Universal Basic Space. Selecting a nice little apartment near the centre of town.

Jack earned his money in several different ways. One day a week he would work as a carer, helping to care for elderly people at a local care home. On Mondays he rented out shop space in town, where he displayed and sold his artwork. Some of which he also sold online. Jack also occasionally rented shop space to sell some of the food produce that he and his friend grew on their vertical allotment.

Just five years earlier it had been announced that all citizens would be entitled to a basic amount of allotment space. To accompany the basic living space they were entitled to. Some plots being in tall vertical farms, others simply on the ground, out in nature. However, as Jack and his friend were so enthusiastic about growing food they also rented out extra space on top of this to expand their endeavours.

The centre of the town Jack lived in was like a beautiful sky-rising village green. The old architecture and buildings seamlessly intertwined with trees and flowers. The glass towers, once unused office space, now over-spilling with green green-housery, bee-keeping and hanging gardens. As he walked through the public orchards to catch the public transport he could hear the birds singing in the trees, along with the tweeps and bleeps of other people's mobile phones and devices.

Jack was heading to his brother's house on the outskirts of town. His brother lived with his wife and two children. He was ten years older than Jack and like his younger brother worked doing several different things and projects. His favourite being his current research into organic self-repairing housing and pluming systems. Work that had already borne fruit in several ways.

The home he lived in was bigger than Jack's, with a large circular garden surrounding it. The tall trees blending harmoniously into the distant, crisply-coloured countryside. Like Jack he had originally been given a basic apartment too. However, having saved up for several years he and his partner could now afford this more homely place, and had sold their basic apartments back to the public purse to help fund their dream. Their old apartments now being the new nests and first steps on the ladder for other younger people.

Jack was always impressed by his brother's place, but for now he was more than happy with his own little bit of private space. Like his brother he too had been saving up. However, his main concern was simply making sure he had enough money in the bank for a rainy day, just in case his sources of income started taking a downturn. Fortunately though, as he had no rent or mortgage to pay, and just had his basic bills, it was quite easy to do this, and he took great joy in being self-sufficient. Both currently and going forward into the future. Squirrelling away money, along with some of the food he grew, like acorns. In preparation for times of less abundance. Or for far-off old age and infirmity.

As he waited briefly for his transport a light rain began to fall upon his face. Though the weather remained calm and summery. As he gazed round at his surroundings he noticed a red fox skip through a far off hedgerow. His phone rang warmly just as his transport arrived. He checked the screen then stepped on board. White clouds rolling past the sky-scraping gardens as he looked back towards the town centre he was leaving..

[...]

Friday, October 30, 2020

micro-capitalism and organic market places

I'm going into business. Well, not really, but sort of, in an imaginary sort of way. I've been thinking about the future - both my own, and the world's. At least in a very vague, general sense. So the two are entwined in my mind at the moment. For a start I need to get my arse in gear and get a job of some description, so that's one thing pushing me. At the same time though it is looking a bit grim out there, so the options for me and most other people that are lost in this wider economic landscape aren't especially appetising. So some fresh thinking is definitely needed.

Anyway, I'm always eager to set the world to rights on here and elsewhere, but I'm clearly not so quick off the mark in my own personal life (it's much easier to be a backseat driver). So I'm now wondering if perhaps I need to stop chirping and start doing something productive. (My annoying chirps got me blocked by Piers Morgan on Twitter last night lmao ..I shared the picture of him in St. Tropez again. The one with Raheem Sterling. Y'know ..this one..


The mid-corona pandemic one. That one. That one where he has no mask on.)

My amusement aside though I think I'm probably spending far too much time on Twitter and other platforms niggling people like this. Perhaps it might help get us all out of lock down a teeny bit quicker, but it's hardly a plan for the future. So I'm trying to think a bit more long term.

I was pondering my living space / creative space ideas again. Which I've mentioned many times on here before. It struck me that instead of just writing about them perhaps I should try to somehow put them into practice. Difficult though that would be. Can they be actualised in a business sense? And by someone like me?

The obvious and simple answer to that is no. lol. I'm very comfortable making myself busy typing up blogs and making music and such like, but proper business. Meeting people, wearing a suit, actually doing stuff out in the real world, that type of business. That's not something I could ever really be good at. Not by a long way. I just don't have it in me.

Perhaps it's because I'm too shy and awkward. Maybe I'm just too much of a layabout. Either way it's highly unlikely I'll ever actually step forward and do anything truly entrepreneurial. Plus I'm far too poor. If I had a £1million war chest that would be one thing, but with barely £100 in my current account I think I'm going to struggle becoming the UK's next business mogul.

Still, it is something to think about though. Even if it only ever remains an exercise in thought.

It also reminded me of another idea I was thinking about which in some ways relates to this creative space notion.

The Hat Shop Lady.

I was thinking about shops. Particularly with regard to our empty highstreets. Just as an observer you see so many little shops and businesses open up, only to drop out of business six months later (and that's before the whole corona-postponer). It always occurs to me that many of these businesses simply aren't profitable enough to justify an entire shop to themselves.

I remember seeing a hat store opening up and thinking; "Yeah, there's no way they're selling enough hats in a small town like this to make a profit". It was a beautiful little store, and the lady running it had obviously put a huge amount of effort in, no doubt with the help of loans and grants. But it was doomed to fail. How many hats are you going to sell in such a small catchment area? Especially when you're competing with major retailers.

Witnessing many of these stores pop up and then disappear made me wonder if there was perhaps a more flexible way of doing things. The lady had some nice hats, but she didn't need an entire store.

So the idea hit upon me. We need a place where people can hire shop space, but for much shorter and neater periods. Literally just hours at a time. Much like hiring a rehearsal room at a music studio for a morning or a few hours.

So our lady selling hats could perhaps hire a stall or section of space for brief periods of time. Say a Monday morning. Or a Thursday afternoon. She could book this for a one off time, or perhaps for an extended period. Every Monday morning for three months let's say.

Of course, what I'm describing here is essentially a market stall. Though in this case one that would be indoors, in a nice modern space. With all the benefits of current digital technology.

We tend to look down our noses at market places, but in times gone by they would've been incredibly organic things. Flexibly moving (and expanding and contracting) to meet the demands of the local economy. This flexibility is all but gone in our modern over-regulated world though ..at least offline anyway. In fact, this lack of flexibility is in part why highstreets and city centres can't compete with online retailers.

If you want to sell something on the high street your only option is to open an entire store. How many new businesses or fledgling entrepreneurs need an entire shop 24/7? Surely it's much more natural to start selling a few things at first, then to build up over time.

So, if we return to the hat lady...

If she had the option of simply booking some space she wouldn't have had to go the whole hog and set up an entire doomed-to-fail shop. She could have simply booked a Monday morning and tried selling her hats. If that went well and her business started growing she could perhaps then book a Tuesday too in the weeks following. Or maybe book double the space she booked last time to stock and showcase more of her hats.

And of course, the flexibility doesn't end there. If similar places were available in other towns and cities she could even expand. Booking a Monday morning in one town, then a Tuesday morning in the next. Reaching a wider customer base than she could in just the one location.

Again, this is little different to market stall holders, who move to different towns and areas each day. It just takes it into the modern era somewhat. The real problem market places have these days is that they're rickety, outside in the cold, and take a lot of trouble to set up.

I would provide a nice indoor place for them :)

They could simply turn up with their car or van (or even bag) full of stock and get going. (You could even potentially provide storage places on site for regular users at a fee).

Another benefit is that it would also allow small traders to deal with both the online and offline world.

The hat lady could sell in Middlesbrough on a Monday morning. In Newcastle on a Tuesday. Then spend all Wednesday dealing with her online Amazon orders. And so on and so forth.

Unlike when she had the entire store in one place, and she couldn't even take a day off because she couldn't afford to hire another staff member.

To sum up..

Obviously it's unlikely I could ever set something like this up, but nevertheless the organic and flexible nature of the idea seems very attractive to me. Certainly in comparison to our dead, cumbersome and abandoned highstreets.

It would also no doubt be nigh on impossible due to all the various regulations and business hoops. So there's that too. Along with the problem of communicating such an idea to the people you'd need to get it all past.

In theory though we should be trying to make it as easy to sell something on the high street as it is to sell something on Amazon. That's if we want to get things blossoming again. (That reminds me, I must remember to start including some smiley flowers in these annoying little doodles).


(There's no real purpose for these things, and they're getting a little creepy and bizarre lol, but I do like having a bit of colour on the page to break things up. It's also handy to have a little thumbnail to display. So I'll keep 'em coming. Mildly disturbing though they look.)

Also, before I finish I should note that there are many further strands to this idea. I'll no doubt do further posts in the future. For example, you could charge different fees for different times. Slots on a busy Saturday would be more expensive than a dead Tuesday morning say. Likewise for different times of the year. The run up to Christmas being extra busy and so forth.

This flexibility would be great for the sellers. Someone selling school uniforms may want more time and space before the start of the school year to meet the high demand; time and space they wouldn't necessarily require at other periods. Likewise at really dead times of the year, when demand is really, really low, the extra space could be hired out super cheap to entice new people. Or for local or student projects to use, and other such things.

Again, super-flexible.

Why are we trying to fill all these empty high street premises with a single business, in the unlikely hope that they'll be there 24/7 for the next 20 years?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Updates, updates, updates..

I haven't posted on here in a while, so I may as well do a little bridging post.

Firstly, I'll belatedly comment on the New Zealand election. Jacinda Ardern pretty much dominated it. Storming to victory with unbridled ease.

My personal view was that Judith Collins looked more impressive. Having watched the few debates I found myself really liking her. To be fair I also found Jacinda Ardern much more likeable than I'd originally anticipated, but still I felt what she offered was mainly soundbites and platitudes. With little core substance.

So it went contrary to how I would've preferred. However, I'm sure the New Zealand people know their country much better than I do, so no doubt they know what they're doing. Also, the New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had a bad election. That was the guy who was being helped out by the Arron Banks team. So in a way it goes against the grain of what's been happening over the last few years. Perhaps 2020 is the year the establishment pushes back. The big one is November though, so we'll see what happens there.

..lockdowns?

Now a little update about where we are with the lockdowns.

I think we've reached a point where the narrative has completely broken down. The public are largely fed up, and an increasing number are now outright questioning the whole thing. Governments the world over seem to be pushing ahead with the second wave of lockdowns regardless though. So it'll be interesting to see what happens.

Obviously I've been against the lockdowns since day one. However, back in March I understood only too well that over ninety percent of the public were onboard. So unlawful though I thought the rules were the reality was that they had public support. So I accepted the defeat and went along with things.

If you live in a fundamentally religious country it doesn't matter how barmy you think the religion is, you're gonna have to outwardly conform. Otherwise you face the wrath of the mob.

So it was no point pleading technicalities.

Now though we're in quite a different situation. When a significant proportion of the population don't agree with a law then it becomes difficult to enforce. So authorities risk surrendering legitimacy, and things begin to break down.

Personally, in my private life I've returned to normal. When I interact with other people in a personal capacity I do it by mutual consent. As would normally be the case. If someone wants to meet up, or wants me to visit their home I do so. If they don't I respect that. I have no idea what the actual rules are on visiting other people at the moment where I live (they change so often), but either way I doubt they're enforceable in any realistic sense. So in that regard normality is returning, and it's returning with or without government sanction.

In more formal settings, such as supermarkets and whatnot, I'm still outwardly respecting the faith. As are most others, but I wonder how sustainable this is too. Although in business settings it is much easier for governments and local authorities to enforce the rules, so any restrictions in these places may be hard to shake off. I wonder if we'll see some odd dichotomy where this all continues in business settings, but in residential areas, outside of the glare, things just return to normal.

There's also the prospect that we might begin to see the black market grow as legitimate businesses are impinged upon. After all, jail isn't much of a threat when you're essentially under house arrest anyway.

So I fear we're getting to a point where things could get ugly as public opinion and government intention desynchronise. I guess it's a question of how far governments are prepared to go to enforce these things.

Cheap, cheap housing.

Finally, and this returns us a little to the first section, I have a few little notes to make about housing. When I was watching the New Zealand election debates I noticed that both leaders were incredibly reluctant to admit that house prices would fall if more houses were built.

Apparently New Zealand has similar problems to those we have here and elsewhere. With people unable to afford their first home, or stuck on waiting lists for government housing. The obvious solution, which all the leaders seemed to agree upon, was to build more houses. However, when asked if the consequence of this would be falling house prices, the politicians hesitated and squirmed to openly admit it.

Politically it's understandable. Voters that own property will obviously be reluctant to vote for a candidate that will reduce the value of their assets. So it probably doesn't poll great. It's a huge problem for politics though, as we need politicians arguing for lower house prices. If this isn't openly on the table we'll get nowhere.

I've argued on here before that we should be aiming as a society to make basic housing as affordable as someone's first car (i.e. so cheap that someone can save for a single year and buy one outright). This may sound incredibly unrealistic when viewed from inside our current paradigm. However, it only seems radical because it's so unfamiliar. We think it's normal (one normal I don't want to get back to 😎) to spend your entire life paying rent or mortgage ..but tell that to the birds. Or tell that to people living nomadic or tribal lifestyles outside of our civilisation.

The whole economy seems geared towards paying money so that people can have some space to sleep at night. Even though space is the one resource that we always have and that isn't going anywhere. We're housing 99.9% of the population right now, so it's not like we can't house people - we just do it in an incredibly whacky way that impoverishes people and bankrupts the nation. Even home owners are largely losing out (in spite of their rising asset prices) as it's their taxes that are funding the vast sums of money governments pay in housing benefit and such like.

Rent/mortgage is pretty much the biggest bill people have. So big it makes it impossible for much of the population to live without state aid. Often even if they're in steady work. Imagine how much more balanced our economy would be if we could radically slash this bill down.

I've even argued that in a more utopian society people would essentially be given a basic amount of space to live in on reaching maturity. Completely gratis. I've been labelling this concept Universal Basic Space, as it's not dissimilar to the Universal Basic Income idea. (See the orange economy articles on this site for more information).

I think I'll probably struggle to sell the idea of Universal Basic Space just yet, but getting the notion that lower house prices are a good thing onto the political agenda would be a huge step in the right direction.

So I thought that was worth making note of.

I've also knocked up another little graphic for this orange economy blog series.

(I've moved from oranges, to carrots,
and now to apples it seems ..though that apple on
the right looks a bit too yellow perhaps ! 🍎)