I See A Sign

Those two brothers, Semiotics and Hermeneutics, were our topic of discussion yesterday with one of the contributors the New Art Examiner. How art was no longer about anything else but what is derived from these two because it is the ‘concept’ that has become the subject of art.

The subject of art used to be the human experience. Narrowly defined in the beginning as the religious experience it branched out to encompass all human thought and experience and each new experience treated – a Dutch interior, a battle, naked lovers – produced its own master and school.

Today we are producing lots of thinking about art that is no more than navel gazing and not trying to make objects that will last forever as they did in the past, but just things that can make a show and sell. A while ago I told someone everything will vanish one day and all art will be reduced to the hologram of its existence probably, by then, on a space ship. But we appear not to want to wait. The adherence to the ‘new’ has given us transience. That, truly, is something that was never in the art-object before.

Which Planet to Vacation Upon?

I hear India is going to the Moon this coming year and Japan and China are both sending probes to various regions of the Moon. I also see japan is sending a probe to an unvisited asteroid and China is sending a probe to Mercury. Now I understand why the USA is reopening the Moon landing projects, it is being left behind.

Or is it? These technologies have all fed off each other and for the most part scientists, unlike politicians, are really good at sharing information (ok Newton is an exception) and learning how to do things. They are also hungry to get their pet projects funded and if they don’t get funding from their own countries they will go to where they can. In this regard they are a little like the artists who travelled to city-states in Italy and Greece to find patrons.

So go world, get those probes out there, get those landings penciled in the calendar. We need the knowledge. and try, my scientific friends, to keep the politicians out of it otherwise they will ensure you take war with you.

How Communities Bond

Humanity isn’t always interesting but sometimes it is fascinating. Sociologist and anthropologists find new things about the dynamics of society and how people relate to each all the time, and these facts make a huge difference to how we act. Or should, if we knew about them.

Take the example of two people in the UK living next door to each other. One is British by birth the other obviously not. Every Sunday they wash their cars and they chat as they do so. Friends? Neighbours? Liberal society working well? Not really, for the British man, born and bred, turns out to be a neo nazi member of the British National Party.

These kinds of casual interactions do not cement society, but the ones they have found out that do, are amazing. People who dance together and sing together and, yes, eat together, bond better. In fact singing together is the number one most importance thing  we can do to end racism.

People who bay with the wolves know more than we ever thought.

Jane Fonda

It was interesting listening to Jane Fonda on the BBC World Service. She spends some time knocking on doors canvassing  for the Democrats – or at least against the Republican Party. And she has discovered there are many people whom the Democrats under Clinton and Obama, left behind. She partly blames those administrations for the present Trump debacle.

But I wonder if this popular representation of the narrative is actually right. For whatever reasons, many sociological tell us, in every modern western country has 3% of people who are members of right wing parties on a permanent basis. These people never change their minds. Racism itself is prevalent in every class and there exists today a laissez-faire antisemitism  across the board.

Add this natural antipathy for foreigners with economic downturns in a world in love with money, and you have people who think they have been forgotten. Systems are not interested in anyone, not kings nor street sweepers. What has happened is that poor people have been told what to believe and they believe it. No political party is at fault – the system itself is broken. What have the been told? They have been told that someone is in charge.

That is why voting for any party is a wasted vote as they both serve the system and so nothing changes.

If Shakespeare Lived Today

All the world’s a Gallery,
And all the men and women merely artists;
They have their exhibitions and their installations;
And one artist in their time plays many parts,
Their acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Scribbling and doodling on their nurse’s arms;
And then the water colour school-boy, with his sketchbook
And shining morning face, scrawling with pastels
Unwillingly to art school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his nude model’s vulva. Then a pacifist,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded in  a month,
Jealous in his studio, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Tweeting the Saatchi reputation
Even in Facebook’s  mouth. And then the Turner Prize winner,
In fair round belly with TV reputation lin’d,
With eyes severe and bald headed,
Full of wise saws written by Serota and modern insistences;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and wealthy success,
With plastic surgery noses and contact lenses;
His youthful legs, well sav’d, a world too thin
For his o’erblown ego; and his big Duchampian voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his conceptualism. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and artistic oblivion;
Sans skill, sans name, sans taste, sans everything.

Proving Existence

It isn’t as easy as it sounds. Philosophers have thought over the problem for generations and the problem isn’t that we exist – the problem is the ways in which the mind can exercise itself into dispelling the idea as a fact and turning it into a possibility.

The most potent exercise is the one that suggests this is all a dream. We have all had dreams, some more real that others, we have all been affected one way or another by the dream but – we wake up. How is everyday life different? More ‘real’, more intense, more going on…but always the nagging possibility we will wake up.

And then how do we define the reality of existence anyway? The here and now, the availability of pain and happiness, the chaos of chances, the emergence of new ideas? The fact is, in all probability, we do actually experience what we experience and we can function on that assumption.

But as assumptions go, it is flimsy.

Salt Marshes

There is an estuary and tidal river that leads into Loswithiel, in Cornwall, that bends into a marsh-like area over which one can walk. the dogs tend to enjoy the freedom to wander and get muddy and the few people who walk there like the woods that sweep away from the river uphill and the water fowl that wing their way down or bob about on the incoming tides.

Today it was windy and drizzly but still mild for December, although should stop saying that given snow rarely falls in large amount anymore and winter tends to be a ‘cold-snap’ sometime in January and occasionally in February; otherwise it is rain. In my garden right now snowdrops are flowering.

You have to go to all kinds of lengths to find anywhere in Cornwall today that is free of the signs of tourism. And when you live in a tourist trap finding peace and quiet, and just getting around the county, is difficult and often stressful.

So it’s good there is still some colder weather to keep people away and allow the dogs to play.

Too Much Chocolate

In the 1950s my mother started to travel the world and she noticed that there were foods on sale on ships and in shops abroad that were made in the UK and not available in the UK. They were often marked ‘export only’.

The time of rationing is long gone and today we sell wherever we can … but that means there are many foods not sold to many people for the simple reason that they are too expensive for poor people to buy. You won’t find them in Tesco or Sainsbury supermarkets, you won’t even find some of them in Waitrose the more expensive of the nationwide supermarkets. These foods only appear in select shops and then, another rarefied move, not in shops at all but made by hand on farms and sold directly to those who know about them.

It’s not everyone who buys a single piece of chocolate for £10 (about $14). Many years ago I heard someone say we had different foods for the poor, different clothes, different housing … which we do. The equality of opportunity to make the money to buy the best foods does not exist as the system could never allow us all to be millionaires, it would collapse. So there must always be the second rate.

Think about that next time someone mentions equality in any context. Equality is not even an aspiration.

Too Christian

They spoke today on Radio 4 about C S Lewis and the Narnia stories, in particular The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, and its heavily christian narrative.

I always loved these books, my favourite was the Horse and His Boy, and did not know about the Christian references until I was older. The worst one for the Christian end-of days was the last book The Last Battle – with the dwarfs inside the tent and only seeing the tent when actually it was a doorway to Heaven.

But this rather misleads the thinker because the books are only imagination as is Christianity. In a famous book called Mythologies of the World from the 1960s the authors said they only left out Christianity because they didn’t want to upset people. We are all ruled by what we imagine the universe to be and all story-tellers use other stories to wrap their own tale inside or use as source material or guidance.

All religions are children’s stories.

The Unseen

The Unseen

Here, unseen
My words fade into air,
Falling with autumn leaves –
Birds peck at their edges –
People walk over my words
Careless of what could be
Under their feet –

Nobody, not even I,
Speak the fallen words
Aloud, strangely the woods
Echo their meaning
Almost by love –

My words fall into rivers,
Where water-spirits sleep
Upon them, where small fish
Try to eat them –

My words swim with the ripple
Of cool streams –
Yellow irises protect them,
Unseen, here
My words mark their destiny –


From Night Song a selection of poems by Shänne Sands published by FootSteps Press. Find it here

Strange Turnabout

A man is under investigation in the Houses of Parliament here in the UK for asking a researcher if she wanted to go for coffee with a friend of his. This made me think.

Traditionally women have chosen strong men with heart’s for gold because strength could build a life in a rugged natural environment, and later they chose warriors because warriors could fight other men. Choosing these men had other consequences – they took on the role of approaching women. To protect the women many societies engaged in arranged marriages which later itself became part of the chauvinism women had chosen to inspire in men by breeding with chauvinist men. The oppression of women became acceptable to many women.

Now feminism has taken us to the point of a cultural change. Women want to do all the approaching and choosing.

It’s about time. Maybe they could be wise and start choosing only intelligent atheists.

Free Lunches

I return to a point that always saddens and annoys me. People so indebted to the economic system that they say there is ‘No such thing as a free lunch.’

They are not entitled to say this unless  they are scientists. we are all aware that energy has to be expended to get energy. But in economics all one is ever entitled to say is there ‘ is no such ting as a free lunch within the system.’ And there is a reason this is never said. because the system is so encompassing those who benefit most from it want to make us all think it is a way of life, unalterable and by some design, ‘the way things are.’

There is no invoice for the planet earth, the entirety of everything here is a free gist to us. The economic system itself feeds off a free lunch. Economics is a description of our poor thinking, our lack of altruism and our greed in our dealings with each other. Nothing else.

Coming Soon

Blueskin the Cat and its sequel Little Wolf will soon be triplets with the publication next year of Blueskin Saves America. A title chosen three years ago but suddenly resonating with modern implications.

Blueskin himself was  a highwayman who was hanged in around 1747, whose name came from his wearing a blue waistcoat. My Blueskin is a highwayman who is hanged and immediately reincarnated as a cat. His adventures lead home to America and wisdom, and in Little Wolf to fighting off thieves trying to steal from the fables City of the Cats.

In Blueskin Saves America he finds himself in the American War of Independence. In part 4 he is in China and in honour of Gabriela Sepulveda, who does such lovely artwork to these books, part 5 is set on her home island of Puerto Rica.

The books are all available online and from bookstores.

Fearing Banality

I think the universe is far more interesting than we are. It is also true to say that, as far as we are aware, the Earth has the only self-aware animals that exist. If the Universe is self aware in some form we have yet to discover how or in what manner. Though in all honesty, we don’t have  a very clear description of self-awareness anyway.

That said we have tried with religion, nationhood, philosophy and time keeping to gain a foothold on who we are and as far as I can tell, we have utterly failed. The foundation stones are all set incorrectly. Just as we can understand more of the universe by investigating ourselves and restricting all theories to those that result in life, so, too, by only looking at ourselves we will never get the better picture.

Religious people suppose that a universe without a god is impersonal and indifferent. Their gods are banal and impossible but they blind themselves to this fact. However, we don’t know for sure what the universe is, so why assume?

The variety of possibilities is exhilarating.

Possession as Character

So now we know human beings empathise with their possessions we can understand why people have pets. I have always loved my dogs but also grown up believing they stay with me because they have little choice. Except the ones we have rescued who always seem to know they have been helped in ways dogs kept from puppies never do.

The giving of a name though, is the ritual that confirms the relationship. We give names to cars, we love gifts from people and heirlooms and we always associates those with the person. And those people are always referred to by a name – even a generic one will suffice such as ‘dad’ but there is always a name.

Names are a way of confirming our place in the world by referencing people and things that ‘know’ us. Names are mystical nouns giving and receiving life from our minds.

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