“I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” Kurt Cobain
I have not idolised this man for my whole life, but after listening to Nevermind and In Utero as a kid without really listening to either albums, I decided to give In Utero another spin. Like I do with all film and music these days (almost obsessively, admittedly), I read the review of the 20th anniversary reissue of In Utero by Louis Pattison before listening.
Cobain’s difficulties with dealing with his status as a ‘rock star’ seemingly angered him – In Utero was an attempt to counter the misinterpretation of Nirvana’s previous, and hallmark album, Nevermind.
It is a great album, but whether his suicide was due to drugs, depression or just a pure rejection of society is the question that burns me.
After commuting to work and getting from A to B on a pushbike in London for the best part of six years (apart from the 10 mile post-pub missions braving sub-zero temperatures coupled with sleet), I have come to the unexpectedly sudden realisation that it could help to mitigate a number of London’s social and economic problems. With enough support from our government and employers to ensure certain initiatives are implemented, cycling to work could become a viable option for many current slaves of Transport For London, and be a force for positive change on several different levels. I’ve listed them below:
- Get into work smiling! It’s a well known fact that the UK economy is heavily reliant on the service sector, and nowhere is this more evident than in London. This means a lot of people sit in front of computers all day for five days a week. Obvious point: exercise is good for you. We weren’t built to sit in front of screens for nine hours a day. Some people valiantly go to the gym on their lunch breaks. But why pay for a gym membership when you can cycle to work? A) it’s free, b) you burn a load of calories, c) you don’t have to pay for an overpriced ticket for a tube full of hot, irritable people, and you get into work having released a load of endorphins that improve your mood and cognitive performance. Win win scenario? … Yes.
- Help your National Health Service! A lot of people are overweight in this country. Diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer are all either triggered or exacerbated by a poor diet. While a healthy diet is a good start, to stay healthy in the long term people need regular exercise. Humans were built to hunt Mammoths and build huts, not design magazines, answer phones and write press releases all day. We could relieve the burden on the NHS significantly if enough people could be convinced to adopt cycling to work as a central pillar of their effort to get healthy, but more importantly remain healthy!
- Reduce traffic and congestion on London’s creaking transport infrastructure! London is one of the most important cities in the world, as well as the oldest subway system in the world. Londoners are all too aware of this. Often the tube network seems to resemble a leaking boat – as soon as one line upgrade has finished, another one starts. Not to mention the mad crush to get on tubes and buses in the mornings. Wouldn’t you trade that in for a breezy, relatively flat commute on a pushbike? Oh, AND if you really want to get a workout / not have to wake up earlier in the morning to allow for a longer cycle ride, put that little bit extra ooompf in and you might find your cycle commute is shorter than your tube journey. I live in Brixton, and I get to Soho around 15 minutes quicker on my bicycle than if I take the tube. WIN WIN SCENARIO!
So, some pretty perspicacious points for you there! ;-)
Of course, helping people to feel comfortable cycling to work on what are some pretty mean streets would require a completely new, and most likely expensive approach to how the capital’s roads work. The widening of existing cycle lanes on busy routes and the creation of new ones will only have an impact if people are told how to use them.
People who haven’t passed their driving test are allowed to ride a bicycle on London’s roads – this doesn’t seem right. Cycling proficiency in year seven at primary school was a joke. People who aren’t familiar with riding on busy city roads need to be shown how, for free. This will ensure people know what they are doing – increasing confidence but most importantly it will reduce fatalities. Boris, that one’s for you!
Employers also need to be cycling-friendly and ensure that people have a secure place to put their bikes, and provide showers or some sort of storage for ironed shirts.
Did anyone else ever play the strategy game Civilisation? I became obsessed with the second version as a kid, but every time I played it my ‘strategy’ was to build as many military units and cities and pursue technologies that allowed for ever more advanced weaponry. That was what won me the game, after a while – world domination.
I had a little go at the fourth version, and instantly found myself doing exactly the same thing. I Googled strategy guides for the game and discovered that you need to pay close attention to a huge variety of various factors to succeed. Territory and big cities were crucial.
Anyway – to the point.
This weekend there was a long article in the Guardian by the paper’s science correspondent Ian Sample all about a “new space race” that many fear could result in the militarisation of an area that no state has or is able to lay claim to.
Then I remember my brief game of Civilisation – what happens when human life is no longer sustainable on this planet and we are forced to hop planets? Or even Solar Systems?
While Mr Sample writes about the implications of competition and tension between countries such as China and India, looking further into the future space is a whole new and vast territory to be explored. And, I must add, not only explored but colonised in a characteristically human way.
International collaboration and smooth diplomacy will be critical, but as everyone knows money is power. If China forges ahead with its space programme, the likelihood is that it will be on the same level, if not ahead of the United States and Europe in terms of technology and capacity for space exploration.
Who do you think will rule the unknown, and what do you think the ramifications will be?
So everyone is going bananas about the intelligence Big Boys in the US and UK basically having the access to everything we ever thought was private and off limits to the state. Call me passive (I am, a bit), but I’m not that fussed.
Hands up who’s got a Facebook account? Yeah, thought so. The most popular social network has 1.19 billion monthly active users as of September 30, 2013. This is one reason why I’m not that bothered that the NSA has access to all the conversations I have and have had. There’s so many people to spy on! Why would they bother looking at me? Go ahead, look through my texts, phone calls and whatever else you have. Do me!
But then I think about what the future may hold, and I start to really think. Where are we headed as a human race? 20 years ago mobile phones didn’t exist. Now the Google Geeks over in Silicon Valley are preparing to sell a pair of glasses that can take videos and pictures at the tap of a finger, a voice command – and thanks to some unknown digital fanatic – the blink of the wearer’s eyes.
The Economist hit the nail on the head in an article a few weeks back and discussed the ramifications of a device that over time could become unobtrusive and the norm, just as glasses, watches and even clothes became the norm over the history of humans. In the Briefing section, the article documented the life project of an Irish computer scientist who, for the past seven years, has been taking a photograph of his immediate surroundings with a wide angle lens hung around his neck every minute. Yes – EVERY MINUTE. Check out the video:
A search engine for the self
So, in light of this, I started to think about some really scary things:
- What if, in the future, in the same way as everyone is required to own some sort of ID or proof of who they are, everyone was forced to wear one of these in the interests of say, preventing crime?
- What if cameras with face recognition could cross reference with a future social network similar to Facebook, leading to a complete stranger knowing exactly who you are, where you work and the full name and address of your partner?
- What if someone was able to hack into your (compulsory) wide angle camera and watch you having sex with your partner?
The number 1984 springs to mind, or rather explodes in my mind, showering my frontal lobe with metaphorical glass in the process.
The thing is, I really do believe that this is the future. In the UK, we are already the nation with the most CCTV camera’s per person. That’s all well and good – but do I want people taking pictures of me while I’m buying a tuna crunch baguette from Greggs? Do YOU? F***, I hope you don’t, because I certainly don’t.
Fireworks night! I sat down with my girlfriend this evening and listened to the fireworks pop and crackle over in Brockwell Park. While I knew that the reason everyone sets fire to big piles of wood and fire rockets into the air is because of a guy called Guy Fawkes and his decision to blow up Parliament in… ages ago, I didn’t know why he’d tried to do it or why we celebrate it.
Seen in the context of the quest for universal freedom of speech and human rights that we chase today, I naively assumed that we celebrate this man for his bravery against oppression of some sort. This assumption turned out to be true – he was a Roman Catholic in a newly turned Protestant England – a minority. Now, I don’t know if anyone else saw V for Vendetta, but that certainly portrayed the supposed villain as the ‘good guy’ battling against an entrenched and wholly evil state, bent on oppressing citizens of London with endless propaganda and a variety of state owned television channels.
Intrigued, I looked it up on the internet, and quickly found out that rather than celebrating the man who stood up for his rights as a minority Catholic man, we celebrate the fifth of November because King James 1st and his Royal leaders were saved, even after they continued to deny Roman Catholics the same rights as Protestants and enforced persecution and injustice.
Now, I don’t condone terrorism, but it was intensely interesting that so many people celebrate the survival of someone who oppressed people because of their religious beliefs. In today’s society, I assume that most people (including myself) don’t know the reason we celebrate the 5th of November either, and just set off a few rockets to keep the kids happy.
Or, perhaps, I just missed out on that one history lesson at school or was looking out the window.
But, then, you look at it the other way – who is oppressed in our society today? Some people would say that in certain areas of the country poor people are oppressed and unfairly affected by meagre wages and often awful living conditions. If someone professing their commitment to the cause of the poor by attempting to assassinate the Prime Minister, of course it would be a crime and I would want that person taken off the streets. But, would we as a society celebrate Mr Cameron’s survival 400 years later? I think not. Just an interesting thought – maybe just from my point of view. I believe that every point of view is worth sharing.
Who coined the phrase ‘Content is King’? Ah, yes. Bill Gates all the way back in 1996, when I was eight years old. 17 years on and this still seems to be true – but this ‘King’ shows no sign of changing his ways or handing over the pen to someone else, entirely at least.
Like a lot of people, I consume content on the internet like a madman. Twitter is almost an impulse for me – if I can’t get to sleep I whip out the iPhone and systematically go through the latest 50 posts in my Home Feed on Hootsuite. Tweetdeck is constantly open while I’m at work and at home, just in case something pops up that I haven’t seen before.
Herein lies my problem, and the problem of other people who spend a lot of time reading free stuff on the internet about social media and tech.
People are writing about the same subject: cool. But they are churning out the same stuff as well!
There are some people who really, really know their stuff out there. They have gone to a huge amount of time and effort to nail down what type of approach to marketing really works on Google+, or the 5 things that you NEVER DO on LinkedIn when you’re looking for a job. Jeff Bullas is one guy (worth a follow, people!)
But they repost these blogs, over and over again throughout the day and night. I literally had to follow Jeff for a week and (I assume) he’d systematically shared his whole blog library with me! I stay tuned because when he has the time to squeeze another one out, it’ll no doubt be worth reading.
This is turning into a moan, so I’ll bring it to an end. This is a shout out to people who really know what they are talking about – I know you’re busy and writing original content is extraordinarily hard work, but you risk alienating the people like me who see you in their feeds every 30 minutes with a post they saw yesterday!