Wednesday, November 22, 2023


Woke up today. Saw this tweet on Twitter.

(The text asks "How on earth was this done
with nothing but a hammer and chisel?")

The tweet now has nearly 6 million views at the time of writing. I left a bit of snarky comment, pointing out prosaically that it's done by practice. It really is just practice, it's not magic. I shouldn't be so negative, but this constant online awe for art and architecture from the ancient, medieval and renaissance world is starting to get annoying. I get (and agree with) the underlying sentiment. Yes, modern buildings do look ugly. Buildings from centuries ago (even as recent as the 1800s and early 1900s) put them to shame, quite drastically. So it does give the stark impression that we're living in backwards times.

However, the lament is now just turning into stupidity. Ironically confirming the sense of downfall.

The above sculpture is good. The technique creating the appearance of gauze is impressive. But you shouldn't be looking at it like it's a UFO - something beyond your comprehension or your potential to replicate, by beings on a different cloud.

Again, it's just the product of practice. The gauze depicted on the sculpture isn't actually transparent. It's just the contours of the body and the fabric that give the impression of transparency. It's masterfully done, but it shouldn't leave you dumbfounded. This is the thing though, and what's really kind of backwards. It's that people are viewing these artworks like an impressive magic trick, rather than as something interesting, beautiful or pleasing in some way.

Personally, I don't actually like these sculptures too much. They're not really my cup of tea. Something like Donatello's David would be more beautiful to me. That's just my personal taste of course, and I don't really have a great interest in sculpture either way to be honest, but the point is art should be about what you like.

It's similar to seeing a very photorealistic painting and being like, "Wow, it looks just like a photograph." Like you're impressed by the technique and the wow factor of "How did they do that!". Rather than just liking the art itself, because you like it. As if a painting is better than the Mona Lisa by virtue of the fact that it's more realistic looking.

If you genuinely like the above sculpture then great, but if you're sharing it with the, "..But how did they do this?!" line, then you're just relegating yourself to a lower tier of civilisation by default. We're getting into "How did they build the pyramids?" territory. Where people are impressed by the sheer bigness. If you point out that there are smaller pyramids dotted about Egypt, and that the culture that built them obviously just scaled things up, you get, "..But look how big the pyramid of Giza is!". Like once you get to a certain bigness you need aliens or some lost technology.

I don't want to diss the pyramids - like the transparent sculpture, they're impressive - but if you need aliens, or some other higher civilisation narrative, to spice up the awe and interest factor then the artistry alone obviously isn't impressing you as much as you think or say it is.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Back to the Jungle

We have the Covid inquiry going on in the UK at the moment. I've paid zero attention to it. It was always obvious that it was going to be fudge and smudge. Absolving blame, but in a way where it looks as though people have had a ticking off. I've just seen a tweet on Twitter with the classic "We should've locked down earlier" refrain. I don't mind admitting that hearing this instantly triggers me. A false choice between instant tyranny and tyranny a few weeks later. A fake argument that presupposes that locking down was not just correct, but the only option.

Generally, I'm always happy to let sleeping dogs lie. I'd have preferred there to have been no inquiry. For us just to move on. Like a bad night out everyone agrees to forget. The problem is law and politics often rests on precedent. At the start of lockdowns you could rightly say, "Look, this is something that has never happened in our history. It's a ridiculous way for a country with the rule of law to behave." In the future it'll be a case of, "The last guys did it, what's the big deal - we always respond to pandemics this way."

So any inquiry that doesn't come to the conclusion that lockdowns were categorically wrong just green lights future abuses. We'll forever be a newspaper headline away from mass curfew.

And this brings me to another tie in.

I've noticed that over the last year or so things have really regressed on our streets. Earlier today a friend sent me a story about a local stabbing. When I walk the streets these days I constantly see young lads in balaclavas flying around on motorbikes. I remember what things were like in the 80s and 90s when the streets were wild and feral in the UK. I feel like we're heading back there.

It might be biased to blame all this on the pandemic, but it's hard not to see a clear link. The inflation, the social dislocation, the infantilization of adults, the disregard for the development of children, the disruption of teenage life. The sheer focus on Covid to the detriment of everything else. Of course, you can draw a line from the masking to the balaclavas too. A society where the covering of the face is normalised. Where basic human empathy is restricted, and every passer-by is an unaccountable stranger. Just a pair of eyes behind a shroud.

Personally, I still prefer this feral-ness to the lockdown years though. I'd rather live in the wild west than the Soviet Union if I'm forced to make a choice. In fact, I can't help but feel that there's some kind of weird re-wilding happening after the suppression of the lockdowns. Like nature is reasserting itself. Back to the jungle. It's not what I would ideally want, but I do get some joy from the fact that official inquiries can't entirely paste their worldview over reality.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Books and Strings

Probably a good point for a little update. I'm back at work after a few weeks of holiday, so that's why the post frequency has dried up. I'm also really busy in general. I'm going through a little period where I have a lot of things that interest me. The main one at the moment being my investigations into tunings - that's musical tunings. Mainly the differences between Just Intonation and Equal Temperament tuning, especially in regard the now lost 'harmonic seventh' interval. So lots of maths and twiddling with music software. I've even bought a, as yet unboxed, lyre harp, so I can tune some strings organically (you can't just tone tune a standard guitar because of the equal tempered fret spacing).

I'll post the fruits of my researches with all that over on this blog, as it's a little too esoteric for here:

You'll see there isn't too much content on that blog currently. However, that should change over time. I set it up to follow on from this blog:, which I've now archived and drawn a line under. The themes of that one were essentially history, art and conspiracy theory. I want to keep doing the esoteric art/history/science stuff, but leave the conspiracies behind, so a fresh home felt timely.

I kind of feel like I've reached a point where I'm post-conspiracy. Yes, we live in a world of lies, but for all the arguments about how this world works and what goes on in it, I think essentially the question of why it's here and why we're here are for you and God (or however you want to frame it). I don't think any man, organisation, religion or culture has the true answers, no matter how many layers of emperor's clothes you strip off the people involved. There's more truth in the length of a string.


Getting back into the world of the living I've also just bought the Nadine Dorries book The Plot, about the downfall of Boris. It's a great read so far. Funnily enough given recent posts, it actually reads like The Da Vinci Code. Were it not for work and getting side-tracked into musical ratios I'd have polished it off by now.

I'm also still reading the book about the Kennedy family on my bus rides to work (The Kennedy Curse -- James Patterson and Cynthia Fagan). I'm up to Teddy Kennedy and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. I always find this the most tragic of the Kennedy misfortunes. With the deaths of JFK and RFK there's a heroic narrative that acts as a silver lining for the tragedies, but with this one it's just very human and unheroic. Back to reality with a sad, depressing bump.

Getting back to music I've also just bought the book How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony - (and Why You Should Care), for obvious reason - which I've yet to start. So plenty to entertain me.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Beatles Be Back

The new Beatles song, Now And Then, has just been released. I'm listening to it now as I type. I love the Beatles, and it's a great track. However, at the same time I feel a slight discomfort with the idea that this is a Beatles song.

(Now And Then - The Beatles)

On Monday I said to my friend when we were discussing it, half-joking, that with two of them being dead they could release a completely new AI track and we'd be none the wiser. Of course, that isn't the case here. This is a John Lennon track from the 70s. A demo, essentially brought to life with the help of the remaining Beatles. (The original attempt to resurrect it was back in the 90s, when George was still alive - when Free as a Bird and Real Love were recorded.) Even here though, AI was enlisted. With Lennon's voice apparently being extracted from the demo by "AI-backed audio restoration technology commissioned by Peter Jackson," for his The Beatles: Get Back documentary.

I don't want to be a Debbie Downer. Again, it's a great song, and it's bringing people a lot of joy and magic at a time when the world is looking quite the opposite. I do hope this is the end rather than the beginning though. The Beatles was something that happened in 1960s. This song was written in the 1970s after they'd split. John Lennon died in 1980. It's been recorded decades after his death. So it isn't really the Beatles.

This may be nit-picking, but we should be under no illusion these days about how easy it is for history to become confused and rewritten. It wasn't too long ago we had the Roald Dahl issue, where books had been changed (long after the man's death), yet presented without clear labelling that that had been the case. Today we have news that birds in the Americas will no longer be named after people, because some of the historic figures were controversial. It's hard not to laugh at this one, it's so ridiculous, yet here we are.

It was only last week we had the story about Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, where copies of that had been pulped by an artist and turned into copies of 1984. That felt very careless and disrespectful to me. Yes, sure, unsold books are often pulped, but this was a bestseller. Would people have destroyed 6,000 copies of Michael Jackson's Thriller like this, or Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell?

Of course, it's always much easier to repackage the work of a dead man than it is to write something new. So the temptation is always there to take the work or reputation of long gone people and set yourself up as curator or custodian. Just look at the endless movie remakes we see. Once again, I'm being a little unfair to the Beatles track release here. Paul and Ringo were half of the actual Beatles, so it's quite different. It's just with AI on the horizon the fear that the Beatles brand will be milked beyond truth and reality looms heavy.

The story about Paul's cigarette being airbrushed out of the Abbey Road picture springs to mind. With politics, money, and "I know better," there's always a steady fountain of people ready to obscure the true source of genius and innovation.

(I'm so tempted to end this post by saying we should just Let It Be - I really cannot resist it. If I finished by just saying we should leave things alone someone else would only make the pun anyway though. So it's going in there.)

Wednesday, November 1, 2023


Clocks went back to normal at the weekend. I remember as a child I used to always get a depressing sense of ennui around this time of year. The sudden jolt into darkness after school. Knightmare would be on CITV, and it'd be dark and doomy outside. It was only when I got older that I realised it was a consequence of the clock-shift.

I really don't like the messing-around of the clocks. I feel it uproots people from nature. Midday is when the Sun is at its height in the sky - it's a real-world, physical fact - so deciding we're going to start calling actual midday 1 o'clock every summer just seems wilfully dishonest. Of course, actual midday is always going to be relative to where you are on the Earth, so no clock is going to be a truly accurate representation of your daily experience. However, at least keep it in the ballpark. Why purposely shift the whole thing an hour out of whack?

People will make practical arguments for it. I never find them especially convincing, but even so, it's more the principle. Misrepresenting the real world with faulty language because it offers an uptick in GDP, or some other political dividend. It's like saying you'd be happy to call the Sun the Moon and the Moon the Sun if it reduced crime by 5%.

There's also the arrogance. People or governments thinking they somehow have the authority to just decide midday is now 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock, or whatever the case may be. And that we all must then live by it, and use those wrong labels. Labels that contradict basic observed reality.

People talk about how dystopic it is being forced to refer to men as women, and to use the right pronouns and so forth. This isn't a million miles away from that really, but people are used to it, so if you complain it's "What's the big deal?". They're happy to spend two days every year fiddling around with every clock in the house because some bureaucrats in their wisdom want to play God.


Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Halloween Head

It's Halloween, so I feel I should write something, but I don't really have much to write. I have this sense that it would be cathartic to do so though.

I like Halloween and Guy Fawkes. I like the fact that there's a depth of feeling to them, but that you don't have to do anything. There are no days off work, or major interruptions into regular daily life - they just kind of happen. I love Christmas, but it comes with a lot a jazz. There's all the planning, the Christmas shopping. In fact, I'm already slightly stressed about Christmas shopping, and it's still two months away. Whereas here we are on the very day of Halloween and it's no worries at all. Maybe there'll be a few knocks on the door tonight, but even then there's no obligation to open it.

I tend to enjoy Guy Fawkes slightly more, but even with that it's just as a passing spectator. Walking home in the dark, from work or a friends, and seeing the skies filled with fireworks. The vague awareness that it dates back 400 years; that it's uniquely tied to British history, in a way that other holidays aren't. All that coupled with the knowledge that the bonfires simultaneously lit date back thousands of years. Deep into some ancient past.

I remember the first time I ever heard the Stone Roses first album was on Bonfire Night. I had about an hour to listen to it, before heading out to wander the streets with my friends - checking out the local bonfires. One of the good things about living on a council estate back then was that it was still wild enough to have a sense of danger. Bonfires on every local field, higher than houses. The danger that someone would throw a firework at ya. There was always a weird night-at-the-fair type atmosphere. Everything seemed more gypsy and feral. Anyway, hearing that album for the first time, in my darkened bedroom, with fireworks filling the skylight of the window was quite a 'wow' moment. The only track I was familiar with was She Bangs The Drums, so it was almost entirely new to me. I wanted to listen to it again, but I also felt the pull of the bonfires outside.

That seems a long time ago now..

Now it feels like Halloween England is a refuge from the rest of the world, not an autumn fairground. Dwarfed by international politics. The instinctive feeling is to retreat into Britishness. In many ways things like Guy Fawkes feel like a celebration of being left alone. Lighting fireworks to celebrate that we've secured a few more centuries of not being bothered by the rest of the world. Like English archers flipping the V to the French.

In my head I feel (or rather think) that I really need to shake off this Britishness, and have a more worldly attitude. It feels a little selfish and narrow-minded to be so parochial. However, whenever I turn on the media to see what's happening in the rest of the world it just turns me off. The feeling that all these people are just beyond help and reason. Even London feels foreign through the phone lens. If it's not protestors protesting for or against Israel/Palestine, it's wacky people with English flags, dressed up like St. George, calling for mass deportations.

Up here, in the north, where I live, I don't see any of this stuff. In fact, the other day I was on the bus and I sat watching an African immigrant guy helping an old white guy with a walker off the bus. He watched the old guy step off the bus like a parent watching a toddler on the stairs. The difference from what I was seeing on my phone that day couldn't have been starker.

Anyone that's read this blog over the last few years will know that I'm not saying everything is therefore rosy. The immigration levels are ridiculous. In the long run we will end up like Lebanon if it continues like this. In the short term we will have massive homelessness and overcrowding. However, it's not the end of the world, and the solution is pretty obvious: reduce the inward immigration. We don't need anything wacky, like deportations of people born here, or political parties just for Muslim people.

I really feel that if we just get a handle on immigration we'll integrate everyone here (tricky though that might be) and Britain will just be fine. When I look at the rest of the world though, I really don't know what the answer is, and saying we just want to be left alone to enjoy the fireworks won't cut the mustard with them.

(That went from whimsy to seriousness pretty quickly, I'll bring it back with some happy pumpkins..


Monday, October 30, 2023

New Addition to the Library


I had to rely on eBay in the end. My visit to the charity shop was unsuccessful. (Also, I've somehow managed to take a picture that creates the optical illusion that the picture frame itself is wonky.)