Gary Whitehead, a mouse and Covid19

Glendalough

Carpark in Glendalough during Lockdown

Monday morning Week 2 of Coronavirus lockdown.

Spring is upon us and the weekend discarded its shroud of rain and wind and blessed us with some sun for a change.  Here in rural Tipperary we were released to walk the quiet country roads.  Dublin was somewhat different.  Given a sniff of good weather Dubliners all collectively head for the same spots:  Glendalough, the Sally Gap, Howth Head, Dollymount Strand, Bettystown, the Phoenix Park etc.  As a result you get crowding, traffic jams, queues for the coffee truck or the chip van.  The opposite of social distancing.

As a result the council steps in and shuts down car parks, exacerbating the problem in the ones that remain open.

Huge cities are not human places.  Now that many of us can work remotely what is the point of crowding millions of people into boxes of glass and steel? So much valuable time is lost commuting too and from the workplace.  Today that time is being used for exercise.  A fit workforce is a productive workforce.

If Covid-19 teaches us one thing it is that we can reverse the flow of people from country to city.  In the modern world it is not necessary to cram your employees into a factory where you can supervise them.  Technology can do that for you.  I predict that many of those working from home today will continue to work from home long after the crisis is past.

 

Mouse In The House; by Gary Whitehead

For two nights now it’s wakened me from dreams
with a sound like paper being torn, reams

of it, a scratching that’s gone on for hours.
Blind in the dark, I think of my father’s

letters, the ones composed but never sent.
They were addressed to his sister, my aunt,

a woman I never met but whose voice,
slurry and calling from some noisy place,

introduced itself one New Year’s eve, late,
before my mother came and silenced it

with a click. She was one of many things
we never spoke of. But when the phone rang

at odd hours, I’d wonder if it was her.
That voice had resurrected the picture

in the silver frame, my parents’ wedding
day: on the church steps the woman throwing

rice, blond and beautiful, showing no trace
at all of malice in her youthful face.

Now the awful sound, waking me again
like a secret, calls to mind the poison

I left out, and my mother on their bed
tearing a box of letters into shreds.

The wretched way.

bowery-new-york-city

Below is the poem of the week courtesy of the Guardian from Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay.  Ireland settles into a second week of political campaigning for the 2020 General Election on February 8th.

In the USA Andrew Yang continues to push his model for Universal Basic Income.  For me this has to be the model for the future.  As robots relieve us of the requirement to carry out boring, disgusting or dangerous work how will we fund the lives of those who lose their jobs?  Without low level workers paying their taxes how will we fund public works?  I believe society is on the cusp of a new economic model.  Tax robots perhaps, and deliver a universal basic income to every citizen.

The old constant growth model of economics is dead.  Climate change and resource depletion are seeing to that.  But also we are seeing a plateauing of population growth.  China is concerned that their one child policy has been too effective and they need to raise their birth rate.  The Chinese are not having it.

We need a move to economic planning on the donut.  Kate Raworth’s economic model has us living in a planned band that lies between delivering on the basics for life without consuming beyond a sustainable rate.  That is a good template on which to plan the global economy.

Most of all we need to move society away from the current capitalist dystopia where the majority are exploited to serve the unfettered desires of the few.  Which reminds me that this week the World Economic Forum gets underway in Davos.

 

Harlem Shadows; by Claude McKay

I hear the halting footsteps of a lass
in Negro Harlem when the night lets fall
its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass
to bend and barter at desire’s call.
Ah, little dark girls who in slippered feet
go prowling through the night from street to street!

Through the long night until the silver break
of day the little gray feet know no rest;
through the lone night until the last snow-flake
has dropped from heaven upon the earth’s white breast,
the dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet
are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street.

Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way
of poverty, dishonor and disgrace,
has pushed the timid little feet of clay,
the sacred brown feet of my fallen race!
Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet
in Harlem wandering from street to street.

Modern Slavery

Prison Labour

The news broke about Florence Widdicombe, the 6 year old from Tooting, south London, who opened a box of Tesco charity Christmas cards to find a note inside:

We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison (China) 

Forced to work against our will.

Please help us and notify human rights organization.

Contact Peter Humphrey (former prisoner and journalist)

The details of the story are all over the news.  Tesco has suspended its supply contract.  But this is the third time in so many years that Tesco has been suspected of engaging in supply contracts where forced labour forms a part of the supply chain.

Tesco will tell us that they, like all other multi-national and global supply companies, regularly inspect the factories that supply their goods in China.  But anyone who knows China and the business world there can tell you that the facilities the foreigners are permitted to inspect are the model factories.  Even there the staff who work 14 hour days are warned to tell the foreign auditors that they work 8 hour days if they are asked.

We, as consumers, are trusting the global corporations to carry out these audits properly.  We do not want to confront the ugly reality that our goods are manufactured by slaves, forced prison labour, child labour and highly exploited workers.

The global corporations are breaching their contract with the consumer, because they are under pressure to deliver shareholder value.  If the “markets” take a dim view of the company they will downgrade the investment rating and the corporation will lose money.

The billionaires who own the shares in the corporations will shift their shareholdings to less scrupulous companies, who will turn a blind eye to slavery, and will win consumers with low prices.

I can boycott Tesco this Christmas, but what do I achieve?  If I take my money to another supermarket, or even to a local store, how do I know that I am not funding slavery somewhere in the supply chain?  I might even be penalising a company that does its very best to clean up the supply chain in favour of a company that does not even attempt to identify the links in their chain.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries boycotts of slave produced sugar succeeded in ending slavery on sugar plantations.  The campaigns were driven not by governments, not by the billionaires, but by ordinary people, small people who fought to make a difference.  We need to recapture that personal focus on consumption.  Our daily consumption decisions can make the world a better place for millions of people, or they can make the lives of those people a misery.

How are you spending your money this Christmas?  In your wallet, measured in dollars and cents, you hold the power to change the world for the better.  Spend wisely.

 

 

 

 

Dude, where’s our car?

Apollo 17 LRV

Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle abandoned on the Moon

On December 19th, 1972 the dream of exploring the solar system came to a crash landing when the Apollo 17 Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and the Astronauts were recovered to the USS Ticonderoga.

Since December 14th, 1972, no human has set foot on any body other than the Earth.  For 47 years we have been busily engaged in making our planet uninhabitable to humans.  On that front we have done an excellent job.

Anybody who tells you this is a normal climate cycle needs their head examined.  This planet is dying and we need to act now.  Make 1 Change in your life today.  Make another tomorrow.  Put the squeeze on your politicians.  Make corporations responsible.  Invest your pension in ethical funds.

Here is Lake Chad in 1973 and the same lake today:

Lake Chad Might Be Shrinking, But It Has Nothing To Do ...

And here is the Aral Sea over a similar period:

Aral sea – This, Not That

And in Palestine here is the Dead Sea:

What are some strange facts about dead sea? - Quora

And how about the Arctic Ice Sheet – Summertime cover – shorter timeframe:

Natural Cycles – Water | What's New in Eco-Materials

Depression art.

ethel-hays-jay-walkers

Art-Deco cartoon of Ethel Hays

Born this day in 1869 Ellis Parker Butler was a full time banker and a part time author.  Between 1931 and 1936 Ethel Hays illustrated his short stories.  She was a well known cartoonist of the 20’s and 30’s and later became a childrens book illustrator.

I pose a question here, and feel free to comment if you have an insight.  If we look at art in the great depression 1930 – 1936 and compare it with art in the recent depression 2008 – 2014 ; can we draw any commonalities?  What are the major themes that emerge?

A Minute; by Ellis Parker Butler

She plucked a blossom fair to see;
upon my coat I let her pin it;
and thus we stood beneath the tree
a minute.

She turned her smiling face to me;
I saw a roguish sweetness in it;
I kissed her once;—it took, maybe,
a minute.

The time was paltry, you’ll agree;
it took but little to begin it;
but since my heart has not been free
a minute.

Cyber Monday Pawns

Howeswho: Doctor Who - The Rise of the Cybermen

Happy Cyber Monday.  There, if ever there was one, is an oxymoron.  Happy nothing!  Cyber Monday is an out and out marketing scam designed to wrest any remaining contents from the wallets of Black Friday shoppers.

Marketing people fight for what they call “Share of Wallet”.  Not their wallet of course, they are dipping into yours.  They know that because of the twinkly lights and the happy songs that you are feeling all warm and fuzzy and Christmassy right now.  You are full of the joys of the consumerist season, ready to enrich the lives of all about you with the wonderful presents you will give.

Come January all that warm fuzzyness will have descended into a cold, hard, grey reality when you see what you have done to your wallet.  January is a long month, and because the December paycheque usually arrives early the gap between the December and January paycheques is a chasm.

Blue Monday, the saddest day of the year, is the Monday of the final week in January before that new year paycheque arrives in your torn and battered bank account.

The Cybermen were a race of cybernetically augmented humanoids from the Dr. Who series.  They are the equivalent of the Borg Collective from the Star Trek series.  They want everyone to become like them.  They are devoid of emotion, like the Borg they are a collective and see themselves as an upgrade to normal humanity.

The Marketing Industry want to to become an upgraded human.  Enhanced by your PC, Laptop, Tablet or Smartphone and granted instant access to the Global Marketplace you are their pawn.  They lure you into making poor decisions with incomplete information in the very opposite of what the Internet was supposed to provide.

They harvest your search information and use that knowledge to gouge you on the prices for the items of most interest to you.

Instead of becoming a Cyber Monday Pawn today why not defy marketing manipulation.  Be Human, be a Mensch.  Save the planet from consumerism.  Refuse to purchase.  If you need to give gifts why not give gifts that save the planet?  Plant a tree!  Plant a dozen.  One dollar plants one tree.

Spending your money well now will make you feel so much better come the January Blues.

Gives me the Shivers!

Image result for new york spandex cool sunglasses

The man who invented superheroes was born on this day, November 29th, 1920.

And no – it wasn’t Stan Lee.  It was Joe Shivers.

Joseph Shivers was working for DuPont in the 1950’s when he and his team perfected the design of Fibre K.  The fabric was trademarked as Lycra in Britain, Ireland and many former English colonies.  The elastic nature of the product is reflected in the variants of the name Elastane used in many non-English speaking countries.

In the USA they stressed the expandable nature of the fabric with an anagram of Expands:  Spandex.

Without Lycra/ Spandex would we have Superheroes today?

Another outcome of Shivers invention is the modern middle aged male Cyclist:

Image result for lycra clad cyclists

And don’t get me started on shapewear:

Image result for shapewear fail