Happy New Year

As my next ramble through my head will be in 2011, I thought I would say goodbye to 2010.

Not being a businessman to start a new venture is more a creative shot in the dark and FootSteps Press is very much a ‘creative collective’ taking advantage of the digital publishing revolution which has brought two books to the public and will more than double that number in the year ahead.

My mother’s illness did not lesson through the year but with grit and determination we have in this past year read through two chapters at the end of her new book and have only one more chapter to edit before the story she started over ten years and one she promised her father she would write, will be concluded. She tells me I should write the next bit and I have promised her I will. I bought her four roses which are now planted in a new bed in the garden.

The dogs have thrived, my friend has had a baby daughter and his little son spat all over me and also kissed and hugged me. I bought a new car which has been a delight to drive and I hope to have for several years. I am planning a trip to Lille in France this spring.

I have worked, had my share of sorrow and always found hope in my my mind for the certainty that whilst humanity is all shot to bits, I am wiser than no one, prouder than no one and not as interested in counting years as others. I have been writing this weblog for just over a year. I hope some of you have enjoyed the ramble.

Language Is Not Always Meaning

Of course the creation of languages by animals is one of the immense evolutionary steps in the development of the earth-bound brain. I recall reading a bit about what it is for a sentence to be ‘true’ (correct) and how truth and meaning go hand-in-hand and have noted where people think we limit our understanding by using words – that somehow words get fixed and connotation hinders a wider appreciation of meaning. To this extent language actually stops us thinking because we can never exactly convey exactly what we mean to another person by using it. The more we learn maybe we can get close approximations but there is a translation process going on in the other brain(s) that we have no control over.

But we also tend to think that ‘language’ is, so to speak, the only language. But not only is it not the only language animals use, it is most certainly not the language of the Cosmos. The language we have used to open up the Cosmos to our brains is mathematics, but the language it uses itself is almost unknown to us. It might be one of energy, or even of chromatography, or an amalgam of several different forms of communication or it might be that the Cosmos as such cannot communicate with living creatures directly.

Or it may be that one of those other languages, the language of feelings perhaps, would be a better gauge of communication with the creative energy around us than any other.

Science Affliction

I have to admit I love the ideas in science, even though the mathematics leaves me failing badly, the whole idea that things are related at the particle level, that there are laws and rules to chemical actions and physical objects no matter how large, is fascinating. Like many people I do not think it takes away from the beauty of the world  and I am sorry only that I will  not live long enough to know everything we find out or all the machines we will make to take us out into the solar system and beyond.

I cannot point to any particular idea that got me started but I think it fair to say scientific ideas have always attracted me more than religious ones. I find the incremental way science has tried to build up pictures of how things work t be very compelling, and even more so the advance of knowledge of living things into medicine and veterinary science. if i had my life over again I would study science more deeply.

There is something wonderful  about how much a part of everything we actually are which makes it all the more depressing to see how people try vainly to think themselves apart from everything.

Snow And Life

Well the week of icy weather has abated for a while at last, and the hill on which I live is now passable again. Not that during the snowy weather people didn’t try to drive along it including me. I found a week ago I couldn’t reverse into my parking bay so I parked outside a neighbour’s house.The delivery man who brought my dog’s food found himself slipping right into the hedge and it took two of us to scrape off the ice to help his van out of the mess. That an ambulance got stuck was a little absurd but then apparently the NHS doesn’t give their staff four wheel drives for emergencies in bad weather. It is good to know you have to be ill in dry, sunny or rainy weather of you need to go to hospital.

It has been quite interesting to see the hardier folk walking their dogs in this, though I had to stay out of the fields with Queenie-Colleen as the snow collects on her fur and forms balls until she cannot walk – a common problem with long haired dogs. She however absolutely loved the snow, she was like a puppy dashing all over the place and eating all the snowballs I could make before my fingers froze.

The children also had a lot of fun tobogganing down the hill though I see modern toboggans are made of plastic.  I suppose one day so will the snow.

Myth-Making

I write for children and like most of the world love the ancient myths of people from different countries but I think we often forget how much we live in a mythical creation of our own even as adults. Perhaps this is what gets us by in life, I am not sure but I am sure, yet there are myths we could actually do without.

The Romans had a myth about how there were founded, and had myths for the founding of many of the most significant cities in the Mediterranean. There are several historical figures who are not treated as real at all: look at how the Chinese will not criticize Chin or the Turkish laws against criticizing Atatürk. Then we have myths about how great our countries are and how we will not have our flags burned in protests, how a country can be betrayed to another country when what we mean is that we are in a constant state of possible war and our greatness relies upon our military prowess and the betrayal is to other human beings who are, we are taught, really enemies.

But our greatest myths are thinking their is a god, and thinking there is more to money that our foolishness. The first is an expression of our egos because god is always more fond of us than of the animals of earth, and the second is a description of our inability to be sophisticated enough to build civilizations without buying and selling each other.

Myths are truly what makes the world go round.

The Dated Game

Spent a while listening to Dean Martin today and realised how music has a definite sound in every generation. This is something I should have found obvious because of my classical music appreciation studies that went through the development of classical motifs and styles. This is very pronounced in the electronic age with different equipment and sound studio techniques, but if you think about it is just as obvious in past centuries as musical instruments were created and refined at different times.

And just because it is new it becomes a generations ‘thing’  and lights up their dancing, adding to the milieu so that every generation gets its characteristic music. Even within the traditionally differing music of countries. Layers and layers if generational nuances.

Listening now to the music that is my mother’s generation I hear the distinct melody, the resonance of the voice given prominence over the music. And this is before one listens to the words. And so one can see how generations define themselves as different from each other and yet after those generational differences fade, you can look back over a hundred years and find styles you love that were your grandparents or great grandparents. Because there is no competition, after a while there is just the music, the times, the places, the living.

And of course the dancing.

Personality Alchemy

The alchemy of choice is fascinating; what makes one person become a career criminal and another fear to even steal a penny? Yes it has a lot to do with influences of other minds as one grows up but it is also about strength and weakness of character and that comes from many places; including genetics, life experiences and drugs. Society itself has a myriad of pathways to weave through but all seem geared to one aim; to create capital for ourselves and that limits certain creative avenues immediately. So streamlined are the ways of thinking these days I have great empathy for people who get to stage where they think we are set up from birth.

Yet there is always a part of us that stretches the boundaries. It is that part that wants a career change when we hit forty; that part of us that gets bored; that part of us that sees prison bars in the streets of a city or in the density of the trees in a forest. It is the side of us that is unhappy but doesn’t know why, that wants to achieve something different, that imagines things are not as they are.

Its the part of us that makes for revolutions and its resonance is felt everywhere all the time because the inner human being is always in a state of rebellion.

Investigative Journalism

There have been many notable, and even more simply  recorded, moments when politicians and businessmen have been caught out by speaking candidly to journalists working under-cover. There are those who say the resulting exposure is in the public interest and those who say these are sting operations inveigling people into ruining their careers. Even more so we suspect that when it is to do with sex it is really the private life of the people that is being exposed and that has little to do with their professional life.

I am sure each and every occasion this happens should be viewed in its own right, but in the main I am on the side of the journalists. Not because I think inveigling is a good thing to do, but because the only reason journalists do this is because they know, better than many of us, that politicians lie to us about what they really think, really plan and really do. Activity like this has grown out of the fact that the relationship between journalism and politicians has been close and now has broken down.

Equally I am sure in the break down there are journalists just itching to make a name for themselves at the expense of others. But at the moment journalists don’t make laws that rule our lives, and they are the lesser problem.

Growing Up

It is a strange business to become aware as we grow up, for our minds to be developing all the while and for us mostly to be unaware of it. I am not the first to wonder how learning a language, and following examples of those closest to us in order to survive lays down patterns of thinking that control us for the rest of our lives. Nor am I the first the wonder at the whole idea that we are ‘formed’ at a time in our lives when we have no choices and in a milieu in which there is little training of any kind – every parent has the human race in their hands and none of them have a single formal class on how to develop a fair minded human being.

I do wonder though how it is that the imagination seems to get lost in growing up. That concepts and thoughts we have as children become blurred and vanish. This is less to do with how we are trained as we develop into adults, but the whole concept of child and adult itself. There is no division, the only difference is sexual maturity – and there’s an oxymoron if there ever was one.

But why we lose sight of taking joy in joy itself and being pleased with the simple is because as adults we learn to look down upon childhood. Childhood is how we got here and we should treasure the child in us always.

Magical Science

I am sure we can all point to thing in our thinking that at first glance appear to be opposites, but none-the-less we have an affection if not a high regard for both. For me these two things are an deep love of the magical from the childhood spells to the adult awe in the magnificence of things I see  hear or find out ( I still look at a rainbow as something magnificent and the eyes of animals as something wonderful) and a respect for and abiding fascination with science. The whole conceptual intelligence behind creating experiments that prove something about the way life works is not at all magical, and yet is.

And that’s the point because magic is supposed to be about an underlying arcane energy you can filter into your being if you have the knowledge and then affect the world around you, whilst science is the world around you.  They are not different as much as the first is a wish fulfillment and the second is reality.

But the reason I love them both is because in many ways the wishes of those who described magic across the world have been fulfilled by science: we fly, we create elements from raw materials, we can swim under the water, we can travel to other planets.  It is as if the imagination of those who wrote about magic in a million different stories were actually trying to presage scientific achievement.

In their own way.

To Past Laughter

I see so much of human activity as an attempt to fill up the hours, days and weeks with anything that stops us thinking about how short life is,  that sometimes I forget the simple joy of shared being. I heard a story on BBC Radio 4 which made me smile and I thought I would share it with you.

The London Palladium is an international known and respected variety theatre in the heart of London to which, from the fifties, many major American stars were invited, sometimes with surprising results as Mickey Rooney left early he was so badly received and Danny Kaye stopped the traffic. To this stage in front of some two thousands or more people and the royal family Bob Hope was invited, already a great star he had taken to using cue cards which were written in large type and placed along the entire front row.

British comedy stars have never had much respect if it is the difference between getting a laugh at someone’s expense or not and Tommy Trinder, a well known British star had to introduce the acts. He came on in rehearsal and announced Bob Hope saying, “A great star who does things like this’.  He then read the entire set of cue cards.

Those backstage well remember Bob Hope begging Tommy Trinder not to do that as, ‘that is all I’ve got’.  I find Bob Hope far more funny than the mean minded Tommy Trinder but this once,I thought that a brilliant piece of comedy

Winter Wonderland

The snow which now has the village pretty well cut off continued yesterday and though the days temperatures are warmer it looks like it is here for Christmas. Which of course would normally be wonderful except for the fact that I have a cold – or at least I am fighting off some bug that wants to make me feel awful. Why can’t bugs make people feel wonderful? It would certainly be better for their existence as we would all want to be infected.

But then how we approach what is wonderful or not depends on where we are in our thinking and how our attitudes are affected by our living conditions. With my mother due home tomorrow and food to buy I have to admit to a slight worry, but for the fact that there are plenty of four wheel drive vehicles around and people to help. This is when community really kicks in with the elderly being visited to find out if they are ok, it is also the time when suddenly you realise that a full half of the local population by dint of marriages over the past three hundred years, are related to each other.

At least my dogs are happy enough and sometime today I will be driving along the main roads which are passable with care. But they were on Saturday and I still saw two accidents within eight miles.

Off to make my honey drink!

Filing

I know there are things which define character very accurately, from those who are tidy in the home to those who are fusty; those who look after their appearance and those who don’t really care. There are many observations on the character traits in the human race and what types we all are. But having scanned in a good deal of my mother’s correspondence there is one aspect of our minds that defines differences very well for me and that is filing; those that do and those that’s don’t.

My mother is a don’t. I put things into folders but they are stacked on top of each other in no a particular order so I am probably a half way to don’t. My friend whom I am visiting this week is a Classics scholar and teacher and she not only is a do, she even has a filing cabinet in her office. You may think of course with computers filing is now easy and everything is alphabetical but I can assure you there are many don’ts who just stick everything on the desktop. As long as they can see it, it is filed enough.

Filing is wonderful for researchers and libraries, but for artists there is a cut off point between having everything at their finger-tips and having everything in their mind. My mother’s letters are all piled up in bags but their content, her life, is all in her mind safely stored for her to retrieve when she wants it.

She doesn’t work with categories.

Lions And Lambs

I am surprised that people universally seem to think animals are stupid. I am sure this is to do with the fact that we have an immeasurable sense of our importance – we have created religions in which we are just off centre of most important beings in the Universe (we have to put god there first, sadly) and we seem think the world has been put here for our pleasure.

Then we go about overlying a synthetic value system (economics) upon a valued system (nature) and proceed to destroy so much that now we argue about what can be saved. We talk endlessly about the possibility we may destroy ourselves before we find out all there is to know about the universe, we are so mindless we have to have leaders because we could never govern ourselves and all the time we denigrate animals.

I am not sure of course but I think the Earth would continue to thrive without human beings, and all the animals would continue on their merry way and prosper without human beings too. The only benefit to nature in having an animal that can build vessels that will leave the planet is to save the nature that has evolved on this planet once it falls into the sun. What a shame to have made that animal so ignorant all it will take with it is what it can eat.

And what it needs to seed new worlds but if we ever find a planet like Earth we won’t bother to take anything. Now that’s thick.

Farmer Fisher

In 1976 a wonderfully amusing and amazingly musical book was voted Children’s Book of the Year. The book is Farmer Fisher, a 48 page romp through the mind of Jonathon Coudrille who re-designed the famous Old MacDonald had a farm favourite, upgraded it to the modern era and delighted a generation of children.

The book and music are now available again. The book can be bought from the web site for FootSteps Press ( www.footstepspress.com) and the music is available free from the same site, though you can buy the CD is you want to along with a signed copy of the book.

There isn’t a six year old in the world who won’t love this book.  And you can listen to the music here from your own computer. This is only side one, some people think side two is even funnier –

http://footsteps.co/pages/music/SIDE ONE.mp3

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