Birthday Blast 2015

May 17th, 2015

What’s a day? Read the rest of this entry »

Austerity Temerity Asperity

May 10th, 2015

I need to write a song, and as soon as I can get my midi keyboard working I will. Currently it’s having a Midi-Life crisis – old and slow and so latent it’s still having its winter of content and it’s May. And that was too clever by arf, arf. Something I wouldn’t say about Russel Brand. More about him later. This is supposed to be a response to the post-election Westminster Edition of Dateline London. it featured Marc Roche from the French newspaper Le Soir, Stryker McGuire from Bloomberg Markets, Owen Jones from The Guardian and Janet Daley from the Sunday Telegraph. By its very nature the panel could only live up to around half of the program’s moniker:

Foreign correspondents currently posted to London look at events in the UK through outsiders’ eyes, and at how the issues of the week are being tackled around the world.

In reality it was a punch-up, sorry, blatantly civilised discourse between the two British columnists, with the two others chipping away at the edges. And I’ll chip in a bit more tomorrow, but for now it’s Mother’s Day. Read the rest of this entry »

Bombs Away!

May 5th, 2015

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the last successful bombing of the United States by Japan. Well successful if that’s how you consider consider the murder of a pregnant woman and five children. They were looking for a picnic spot. They encountered a Japanese balloon bomb. These were basically bombs attached to hydrogen balloons launched from Japan and carried to the United States by the winter winds of the jet stream. The FBI were charged with investigating the bombs and early theories maintained they were the work of submarine landings, German prisoners of war and even Japanese Americans in interment camps. Geologists examining sandbags dropped with the bombs eventually concluded that the origin had to be Japan. But by the time they did so the spring weather and changing wind patterns meant the offensive was all but over.

Militarily the campaign was a failure but possibly less so than US efforts to create bat bombs. Read the rest of this entry »

Ignoring The Obvious

May 4th, 2015

Wilful BlindnessWilful Blindess

Margaret Heffernan

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978-1-84739-905-2

Year: 2012

Pages: 391

Don’t get me wonky – this is an important book and a need-to-read. As the back-cover states:

From phone hacking to Deep Water Horizon, from private denial to public healthcare, wilful blindness is all around us.

In this book, distinguished business woman and writer Margaret Heffernan examines what makes us blind and what it is in human nature, in the structure of our brains and of our institutions that makes us prone to this weakness. She looks at the comforts and costs of our refusal to see and at the inspiring individuals who prove that we could see better.

In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, this thought provoking book forces us to open our eyes to the dangers of wilful blindness.

The problem I have with this book is that it woefully blind when it comes to the inequities and dangers of capitalism itself. Heffernan clearly points out the problems with demoralising work, overwork and how money warps both individuals and society. But she has little to no analysis of the role of capital. The closest she comes is when she points out that organisational complexity is a liability (p327):

Aren’t we in danger of building monstrosities we can’t run? Never mind too big to fail – haven’t we built corporations that, in their size, complexity and impact, are simply too dangerous?

Heffernan points to the idea of capping the size of business units to 100 people as done by W. L Gore. She calls this intriguing (p328). She mentions Wikileaks and ProPublica as crucially important new ventures (p324). That’s about as far as she goes. It’s a bit like the mainstream media’s role as analysed by Media Lens. Sure mistakes are made but we remain the good guys. The notion that the whole system is rotten is outside consideration. Wilful blindness is a way of life.

Hell On Earth

April 29th, 2015

The Shanghai Auto Show finishes today one week after Earth Day. Here are a couple of posters I made 15 years ago back at the turn of the century when there were around 450 million cars. Now there are over 1 billion.



Twin Emergencies

April 27th, 2015

School reform is not enough. The notion of schooling itself must be challenged.

If you have read even some of the articles on this site then you will have heard me mention John Taylor Gatto. Two years ago John suffered a paralysing stroke. Now his wife and main care-giver has also suffered a stroke and is in hospital. Lately John has been able to start writing again but still needs 24 hour care. Please consider a donation. Please visit The John Taylor Gatto Medical Fund

By now the devastating earthquake in Nepal is all over the news. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Orphanage was hit hard. No-one was hurt but many of the buildings were badly damaged or destroyed outright. The Alternative Education Resource Organisation has set up a donation page for the orphanage. More news as I get it.

Flat Earth

April 25th, 2015

earthdayflagWell, Earth Day has been and gone. According to the Global Footprint network we have already used up half the yearly supply of renewable natural resources, or as The Guardian put it we need one and a half Earths to sustain our present rate of consumption. That rises to two and a half for the average British citizen and four Earths for the average American, oops, US citizen.

That is, of course the problem with averages, they don’t reveal who is using what. As American labour organizer,Utah Philips commented:

The Eaarth is not dying, it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Titanic week

April 17th, 2015

Titanic Items“Titanic, see you again.” was the ironic comment from one first year Junior High school student. I’m sure the irony was intended, though I think my student would have been hard pressed to remember the word ironic from the week before. Ironic being one of the words I introduced when doing the song Fine Fine Fine. I’d been meaning to do the song for over five years but somehow every year the anniversary of the sinking slipped by, possibly because it is so close to the start of the new school year here in Japan. Incidentally, I highly recommend starting every first class of the school year with the salutation, “Happy New Year!”. Well, every school-goers class. It was a great way to lead into quick discussions about new grades, new classes and changes of teachers. Fine Fine Fine indeed. Read the rest of this entry »

Blast Off?

April 11th, 2015

It’s 45 years to the day since Apollo 13 was launched so here’s a video:

First appearing on WHE DVD Volume 3 this went with our “Blast Off” activity for young children. Stand with your hands over your head to make a rocket. Count down slowly from 10 all the while coiling down by bending at the knees. “Blast Off” is the signal for everyone to uncoil, jump up and then run round the room making rocket noises. A variation of this had me holding children by the waist, picking them up and rocketing them around the room. Oh to be young and fit! The question is, how ethical is it to make space travel attractive like this? The answer, not very.

I’ll explain why tomorrow, but right now it’s dinner time!

Back again but it’s almost time for beddy-byes, so here’s a video mentioning some of the problems with current attitudes towards space exploration. More another day!

Charlie No More

April 8th, 2015

The academic Conference International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism has been cancelled. Due to take place at the University of Southampton from April 15th to 17th it was cancelled close to April 1st. This act of censorship is no joke. The University caved to the Israel Lobby’s predictable screams of anti-semitism. The conference organisers, who include Israeli-born law professor Oren Ben-Dor, are ‘shocked and dismayed’. They have lodged an injunction at the High Court in London. Good luck with that. Meanwhile the British media have been eerily silent. A silence that could itself be described as racist or not so far from it. Media Lens counted just three articles in the British press and notes that the Nakba (catastrophe) is largely a taboo subject. Don’t mention that Israel was founded through ethnic cleansing. You can read more here. Please consider signing the petition to protest the University’s decision.