Friday, July 21, 2017

FRIDAY MUSIC: Screamin' The Blues, by JD

In a previous music post featuring some of the original Blues artists I had included Screamin' Jay Hawkins but then changed my mind because he was more than a Blues singer.

He was hoping to be an opera singer but instead turned to popular music, presumably to follow his idol Paul Robeson.

It is also possible that Opera was too 'serious' for him. Starting out as a straightforward blues singer and piano player he soon developed his own style which was less than serious: very theatrical shows with great humour and, above all, a wonderful sensational voice. His most famous song is the first one here "I Put A Spell On You" which has been covered by everyone from Nina Simone to Bryan Ferry. But he could be serious when he wanted to as the final video here proves.

So fasten your seat belts and pin back your ears to be 'assaulted' by the most electrifying and outrageous performer I have ever seen. I saw him in the sixties in one of those dingy, sweaty beat/jazz clubs and these videos do not do him justice!

Friday, July 14, 2017

FRIDAY MUSIC: Let's Go To Le Hop, by JD

Ce soir, c'est musique 'jazz' des grenouilles:

We hope you enjoyed these cloves of Gallic.

Pour le dessert - these are not French, they are Italian but alors... que faire?

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Car manufacturers force everyone to switch to electric vehicles after June, Part 2 - by Wiggia

The forerunner to this piece was posted on June 24th. (*) The speed with which manufacturers  are heading towards the land of silent cars and emission-free cities grows apace.

Nothing of course is really that easy, but the story that Volvo will not make any more diesel or petrol vehicles after 2019 is the first sign it is going to happen, come what may. 

However the headlines - as in this from the Telegraph: “'End of the road for fuel as Volvo goes all-electric” - are being slightly disingenuous, because the hybrid cars they will produce will not only make up the bulk of production for some time but of course employ petrol engines alongside the batteries. Nonetheless despite the protestations from the motoring press the end is nigh, just not as soon as the headlines make out.

The Volvo statement that they sell 40,000 plus vehicles a year in the UK however does point out one glaring problem for this country, something I have indicated along with others many times,.Volvo state that they do not consider the UK to be a prime market for electric cars as it has the worst infrastructure to accommodate them in the European marketplace: basically no charging points and no signs that they are about to magically spring up even in the no-go zone for gasoline-powered vehicles many of our major cities are soon to become.

Infrastructure has been a subject for ridicule in this country on a general level for decades and is not getting any better, so installing charging points (unless the motor industry itself is going to intervene) will be a long and slow process and you would have to ask, if the government of the day decided to make it a priority, why? when so much else is falling apart or is in short supply or no supply at all.

We can all form our own opinion of the merits of electric vehicles, in a perfect world we would be hastening the coming of such, but we aren’t. As I pointed out before, the governments of the Western world are already back-pedalling on the "electric is cheap and clean" push. As regards the cheap part, they have already drawn up plans to claw back the impending loss in fuel revenue, the incentive schemes are dwindling fast and in the long run there will be no difference in costs to running an electric vehicle as against one powered by oil, however that clawback is managed.

The cost factor is being diminished as manufacturers give sight of plans to make “affordable” electric vehicles. Logically pure electric vehicles should be cheap: after all, they are only the descendants of milk floats, relatively simple mechanics and a simple motor as against ever more expensive oil-driven engines with their cumbersome emission controls. We are assured in the future they will fall in line price wise; we shall see.

As regards hybrids they can never be as cheap as a single-engined vehicle, two propulsion units and expensive batteries make that impossible, and the advantages of hybrids are slight: emissions may be better but consumption figures are not that much better, weight being a factor here, for a lot more layout,  one you are unlikely to recoup.

So in the long game it is electric only that will prevail, all of course if the basic handicaps of today's electric vehicles are overcome, the infrastructure is provided and there is sufficient energy supply to charge them all. So we are nowhere near that point at the moment, in fact a surge in all-electric vehicle sales could end up with the buyers being very frustrated and feeling short changed as they queue for hours at the only available plug in, something I saw the beginning of recently at a motorway services, with only five vehicles involved all requiring thirty minutes for a “quick” charge.

And don’t forget in the event of a major energy failure the motorways could look like the set of a disaster movie with electric vehicles out of juice like the opponents of the Duracell bunny and the RAC unable to help with a can of petrol to get you home Over the top? Maybe.

In reality the range for electric vehicles will improve but at the moment only the likes of Tesla have a range that is approaching the range of a tank of fuel in an orthodox oil powered car, the smaller models are nowhere near that and unless you are a second car owner using one for town use where they make sense, you have problem if you actually cover a higher mileage.

All the manufacturers are going electric, even petrol stalwarts such as Ford and VW now have hybrid models in their popular ranges and will expand the options, but again at this moment in time it is going to take a leap of faith for the man in the street with one car to go this route and not be constrained and disillusioned with the reality over the spin in that which he has parted a lot of money for. As with all things revolutionary the first to buy are the guinea pigs, the ones who will get their fingers burnt; it was ever thus.

* Sackerson says: the "forerunner" was intended as a spoof, aimed at Microsoft for forcing us to buy new computers because of their refusal to continue supporting Windows Vista. It hadn't occurred to me that the powers that be would be sufficiently crazy to try to force such a rapid, radical switch in the car industry!

Friday, July 07, 2017

FRIDAY MUSIC (and not for the shockable!): Singin' Slutty, by JD

You think the modern female pop singers are vulgar and 'slutty'? Well it is a long tradition in popular and folk music but these vintage performers show how to do it with great panache!








Sunday, July 02, 2017

"What is the purpose of work?" by JD

Today's essay follows on from JD's earlier post:

- and the two together are a response to Sackerson's piece on capitalism vs socialism:


Apart from the production of necessary goods, what does the worker get by working? What does 'useless toil' do to the psyche of the worker?

Brian Keeble's book (cited in part one of this discussion) has the title "God and Work" That title was a deliberate choice and is explained in the introduction and in the preface:

"The words God and Work are seldom closely associated in the modern mind. The former denotes something remote from daily affairs, even unlikely and outmoded for a significant number of people. Work, on the other hand, concerns only what comes to hand in the expenditure of time and effort required to secure a livelihood. Is this division healthy? Is this division inevitable? We spend the best part of our lives at work. Are we to conclude that during all those hours of using our mental and physical faculties there is no reason to connect our effort with possible answers to those persistent questions we have concerning our identity, place and purpose in the world?"

We must go back again to the beginning of the machine age after which the 'division of labour' became part of the process of speeding up production. The idea of 'division of labour' is a traditional one with its origins in the Perennial Philosophy. It is the root of the caste system in which some are born to rule, some are born to serve, others are born to the priestly class or the warrior class or the mercantile class etc.

And whatever you may think of a caste system, the idea of a division of labour has a valid natural justification. We are all inclined to follow a career path which matches our inner sensibilities. In the past people would follow their vocation and work as 'artisans' in a trade or profession according to their ability and temperament. That was the traditional way of life up to and even into the industrial/machine age.  Work, in the traditional sense, is about husbandry and caretaking. Work  involves the co-ordinated use of the hand, the eye, the mind and the heart in following the chosen trade or profession. To work in this way is to concentrate on the task at hand with the care and discipline necessary to do it well. And such concentration causes the 'monkey mind' to fall silent, to cease the endless chatter that goes on in our heads. As the mind focuses on and becomes absorbed in the task then work is transformed; laborare est orare, to work is to pray.

"The tradition of the handicrafts as instruments of livelihood, conceived and elevated to the level of a spiritual discipline, allowed man to live for millenia in harmony with himself, in harmony with his fellow men and in harmony with nature."

That may sound strange, alien even, to the modern secular mind but it is nevertheless true and the idea of division of labour following a natural order is expressed in the Bhagavad Gita -

 All mankind
Is born for perfection;
And each shall attain it
Will he but follow
His nature's duty.

The ignorant work
For the fruit of their action:
The wise must work also
Without desire
Pointing man's feet
To the path of his duty.

That division of labour was steadily further sub divided with the introduction of the 'production line' as a means of producing more goods in less time. Work was divided into tasks and the tasks were sub-divided and with each division the worker was further distanced from his or her own particular skills. Eventually the worker's skilled input was reduced to merely carrying out a task designed by others. At this point the worker has become part of the machine and because time was now the governing factor of production the worker had become little more than a galley slave; don't think, don't stop, time is money!

Where work had once been vocational it had now become repetitive and boring and tedious. The worker thus has no outlet for creative energy but that energy does not disappear, it will be transformed and manifest itself as dis-ease as outlined in this video by Terence Mc Kenna (apologies for the unnecessarily overloud music in parts of it)

McKenna mentioned how we now have shoddy products in the shops and that is partly a consequence of divorcing the worker from the craftsmanship that was needed for work in days of old. As stated above, the worker now carries out a task designed by others. That applies equally in the office environment as it does in the production line. Those previous skills, being no longer required, become atrophied and eventually disappear. The result is that, as time passes, the average worker loses the ability to discriminate and can no longer tell the difference between a well-made product and a badly made product. Hence the shoddy goods in our shops.

This inability to discriminate has been encouraged by an educational system which has itself become a sort of production line, the end product being the piece of paper or certificate of competence in whatever discipline. Such certificate does not guarantee the recipient is competent, it merely tells that the recipient has been 'approved' by the
"pharisees of verbal orthodoxy" as Aldous Huxley called them in his many essays on the educational process.

We now call it 'dumbing down' but it has been predicted for many years; Huxley saw it coming and so did T.S.Eliot -

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

 -from "The Rock."

Were Eliot alive today he would have added another line thus "...and where is the information that has disappeared into the black hole of data processing?"

The politicians and business 'leaders' continually speak of the 'skills shortage' without ever specifying what these missing skills are. They are blind to the atrophying of the skills we used to have, stolen by a mindless production process and an equally mindless education system.

And the future of work? Do we continue on this path or do we go back to 'the old ways'?
I don't know the answer to that question. The politicians do not even ask that question so the long predicted financial crash is inevitable. When it happens our western 'civilisation' will collapse. But vast areas of Asia, Africa and other parts of the 'primitive' world will not collapse. They will continue with their lives, living as they have always done. They might even improve after a, no doubt temporary, absence of interference from the West. And there are large parts of our western world where people will very quickly pick up the pieces and continue. The older generation, those of us with practical knowledge, those who were of the 'make do and mend' generation, the rural and farming areas etc will survive; the smartphone generation in the big cities will be well and truly

In the old traditions it is said that the end times are the most enjoyable of all so, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!

That is the fatalist view, that nothing can be done. Politicians are famous for doing the same thing again and again expecting a different result; a well known definition of insanity.

The alternative is to go back, to stop worshiping the false god of progress. It is not as if we came blindly to this impasse. "Coming events cast their shadows before" (cf Thomas Campbell's poem Lochiel's Warning)

Those shadows are first 'seen' by artists, particularly poets and the more percipient of scribes. Think of Huxley's "Brave New World" or Kafka's "The Trial" or perhaps Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn" adapted from Ecclesiastes. Think of McKenna's optimistic outlook in the above video and think of Hamilton Camp's song - Pride of Man:

Turn around go back down back the way you came.
Shout a warning to the nations that the sword of God is raised.
On Babylon that mighty city rich in treasures wide in fame.
And it shall cause the towers to fall and make of thee a pyre of flame.
Oh thou that dwell on many waters rich in treasure wide in fame.
That bow unto a god of gold thy pride of might shall be thy shame.
Oh God the pride of man broken in the dust again.
And only God can lead the people back into the earth again.

It is not too late to pay attention to Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote:

“Just to fill the hour – that is happiness. Fill my hour, ye gods, so that I shall not say whilst I have done this ‘behold an hour of my life is gone,’ but rather ‘I have lived one hour.’”

That is the way it used to be, that is the way it ought to be and that is the way it can be if so desire.

Reading list:

The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times
-René Guénon

Revolt Against The Modern World
-Julius Evola

Art: For Whom and for What?
-Brian Keeble

Bhagavad Gita
-Sir Edwin Arnold (tr)

A Guide for the Perplexed
-Ernst F Schumacher

La rebelión de las masas
-José Ortega y Gasset

The Perennial Philosophy
-Aldous Huxley

The Perennial Philosophy; a critique
-Jules Evans

The Holy Science
- Sri Yukteswar Giri

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
- Robert M Pirsig

- Walter Scott (tr)

Friday, June 30, 2017

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Kronos Quartet, by JD

Music this week comes from the Kronos Quartet

I saw them in concert many years ago and they were excellent. Some of their choices of music are unwise in my view, trying to play the music of Bill Evans for example doesn't really work in the context of a string quartet. (A piano is not a 'string' instrument, it belongs in the percussion section of an orchestra.) And playing 'Purple Haze' is ill-advised, however much they may like the original version. But overall they do produce wonderful music.

It was interesting to hear them in a Q&A session after the concert, to hear their 'philosophy' of their open approach to all types of musical genres. It was also interesting to hear them say that they would never change to using electrically amplified versions of their instruments. Some things are quite rightly sacrosanct!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where there's a will... by Wiggia

Two little gems emerged this week midst all the political shenanigans. 

The first was inevitable in one form or another. Anyone who believed purchasing an electric car was saving the planet and would be rewarded for it by not paying fuel duty and getting 100+ mpg to boot for threepence was being naive, to put it mildly.

In fact, it could end up costing you a whole lot more than the equivalent petrol-engined car at current prices. A study sponsored by government has emerged, suggesting ways to claw back the lost fuel duty when these cars finally sell in numbers. Anyone who thought the zero road tax and all the other goodies would go on into the sunset of motoring is now having their eyes peeled as suggestions emerge of toll roads in place of tax, or probably alongside ? Or mileage charges depending on when and where you drive, allied to city restrictions and zone charging. Running a car is going to be a lot more expensive than now. Add in the current disparity in prices for electric vehicles and many will not bother and maybe that is what they want regards cities.

There is no silver lining with this as you can’t strangle car use without having to make up the shortfall in revenue in another way. Going green has always been a con and whilst the spaghetti knitters will be cheering from the sidelines the man on the Clapham Omnibus, if he can get on one, will suffer the costs and inconvenience. Why do the hordes of gold plated civil servants that are put onto these schemes always come up with something that pleases a few and costs everyone else?

On a similar track is the announcement the supermarkets are starting to roll out “surge pricing.” This little wheeze involves electronic labelling that can  change the indicated price in twenty seconds. Ostensibly this is to reduce waste, yesss, and in their words……

“This would let them react to events and remove or introduce offers increasing the ice cream price during a heat wave for example.”

Needless to say “concerns” have been voiced from consumer groups that ultimately most shoppers will pay more. A 3% increase in profit margins is possible with this system, so once again those that work and have limited time to shop and have to do so in lunch hours and similar times will not only have to put up with the crush at those times but pay more for the privilege.

And just to round off the lightening of wallets by stealth - or diktat, in the government's case - the same supermarkets that now control the bulk of petrol retailing want to use the same surge pricing for their petrol forecourts. So the commuter who has to use his car will pay more for the privilege of using roads that as a taxpayer he has already paid for; will, if he uses a petrol station during the same commute periods, pay more for his petrol; and his wife, shopping during the lunch hour at work or on the way home, will pay more for their food.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said, “We always look at ways that technology can help us improve the shopping experience for our customers.”

And just to make you shuffle nearer to the cliff edge, the energy companies would also like to charge you according to demand with cheaper prices when nobody uses energy and the reverse when we do. Looking at all that, the only small chink of light is your very expensive electric car can be charged at night at a cheaper rate, though I am sure the government or energy company can fix that in no time at all.

Oh, and I just noticed the BMA want GPs to shut doors amid safety fears. Another spokesman said, “There has to be a limit on what you can do in a day, it is not about money it is about patient safety,” so shutting the doors when someone needs to see a doctor is a safety measure. That’s one way of looking at it, and of course there is only so much anyone can do in a day, but that day in the case of my surgery and most others is in effect a half day: the majority of GPs working there are only working part-time.

They want to able to declare a black alert as hospitals do when not capable of providing a safe and sustainable service and in order to protect patients (they are thinking of us, really) practices are enabled to self-declare a safety alert and direct patients to alternative service providers such as a "local hub", a walk-in centre or A&E. I have no idea what a local hub is but our one and only walk-in centre is overwhelmed, their doctors are working full-time and overtime; and the A&E department will be overjoyed that GPs  are wanting to direct even more patients their way than they do now.

This particular problem in the NHS is not about money. It is about someone somewhere insisting that the contracts that enable most GPs to go part time not work evenings and week ends are changed. The Blair government cock up , if that’s what it was, is costing us dearly - regardless of their independent business status GPs are paid by the taxpayer but you wouldn’t think so sometimes.

On my last visit to my surgery's web site they made great play of the fact ”they are a self care surgery.” Intrigued, I clicked the link and found they are advising everyone to help themselves in all ways possible: “Seek advice from your pharmacist, phone the NHS helpline, query whether your doctor's appointment is really necessary and try to treat yourself if you believe you only have a common ailment.”Do you get from that they perhaps are not wanting to have to deal with patients at all? Along with the fact that getting an appointment has reached the stage you have either cured yourself, self cared (!)or died waiting. 

Perhaps shutting the doors is the sensible thing to do. Not a lot of people would notice.