Who’s William the Conquerer? Wait, let me Google it

There is now something called ‘the Google Effect’. Doesn’t ring a bell? Well, there is. Someone may have mentioned it before but you’ve forgotten.

It’s a relatively new phenomenon studied at Columbia and Harvard from a paper published in 2011.  It appears people don’t remember important information they just remember where it is stored.

So, you may not remember that the Battle Of Hastings took place in 1066 but you will remember that it is stored in your ‘Important English History’ file.

It’ s interesting in the fact that we now use computers as an extension of our own brains. While our memory can’t remember individual facts, it knows where to find them. Which is great, but if you’re in a Pub Quiz, you’re scuppered.

This isn’t really all that new, P-Technology has been doing this for years (Paper Technology). You may not remember your PIN number so you write it down.

Your password for your computer may prove elusive so some people write it down on a Post-It and put it in their wallet. All you have to do is remember where you put it.

You may not remember that Adenosine Tri-Phosphate is broken down in the muscles to produce Adenosine Di-Phosphate plus a phosphate molecule releasing energy, lactic acid and carbon dioxide – but you know that fact is in your O’level biology file.

What we are forgetting doing all this, is that the brain has an amazing storage capacity for information. It just needs to be exercised properly.

If you need to remember something you repeat it to yourself. Memory experts say you can create a memory palace where you associate places you know well with a piece of information. I’ve tried it, it works.

I have also read books on my Kindle and completely forgotten I have read them. Why? Because of my reliance on an electronic device to store accessible information for me.

Holding a new book stimulates more of your senses. Looking at the cover picture. Feeling the pages as they turn. The smell of the new paper. These all help build up strong memories. Reading a Kindle doesn’t. (I’m not giving up my Kindle by the way. To remember stuff I’ll re-read it a few times.)

Our memories and our brains are changing with new technology. There may come a time when we plug our brains straight into our laptops.

Scientists at Berkeley are developing a program that recognises the pattern of brain activity while you are asleep so it can re-create dreams.

We’re using the structure of DNA to help store massive amounts of data.

It’s all scary and fascinating at the same time. Who knows, one day they may be able to store a person’s brain patterns on a positronic brain, so they in effect become immortal.

But then, what happens to our humanity?

What do you call a Rastafarian? Sir, of course

Rastafari is an Abrahamic belief which developed in Jamaica, when Haile Selassie became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930.  It was his title, ‘Ras’ means head and ‘Tafari’ means revered.

The way of life is sometimes referred to as “Rastafarianism”, but it’s considered offensive by most Rastafari, who don’t believe in labels.

When you look at it, all labels are used to either belittle or pigeon hole people. (It’s back to that old tribe mentality, if you’re an enemy we will kill you.)

We call each other black, white, yellow, red, as if it’s something we should be ashamed of.

Back in America in the 1800s they called their slaves ‘boy’ as a term to show that their slaves were subservient to them. So the slaves started calling each other ‘man’ to show respect – now everyone calls one another ‘man’.

Some people from the upper classes look down on the working man calling them ‘plebs’. People from the working classes call the upper classes ‘chinless wonders’.

I have a Yorkshire accent so people treat me as mentally inferior because that is how the stereotype defines me. It happened last week. But I behaved like a gentlemen and the offenders appeared like thugs despite their perfect English accents.

You would have thought that in this day and age people were more enlightened. But no, there are still pockets of people who will try to make you feel inferior with their descriptions.

Which is why I like the Rastafari way (if I can say that). No labels. No stereotypes. No preconceptions of intelligence or religious persuasion.

I always like a joke that destroys the old way of thinking.

“What do you call a black airline pilot? Captain, you racist bastard”.

 

 

Yesterday, bread and circuses. Today, panini and internet

In the First Century AD,  Juvenal, the Roman Poet coined the phrase ‘bread and circuses’. What he meant was the Emperor only had to keep the people fed and entertained and they would be distracted from his dirty dealings.

So it has been over the centuries. Keep the masses distracted and they won’t go looking for skeletons in the leader’s closet.

As information in the form of newspapers and television news was introduced the people of the world were informed of more of these dealings.

But they were well-fed from the start of the agricultural revolution, then television turned the docile masses into comatose armchair dwellers.

There was football and beer for the men, TV soaps and wine for the women. Today, we are so well-fed that we are about to pop with obesity and we are so entertained by the internet that we have become addicted. We can’t go a day without our fix.

We are completely distracted. We are better informed than any of our ancestors. We know every shady deal because it is plastered over the internet.

But now we are completely docile. Raging impotently at pieces of bite sized information that leaves us angry but ineffectual.

The only power we have is to vote out of Government every 4 years, sign online petitions or, organise a march from the comfort of our armchairs.

Our anger is compartmentalised. We sit individually getting angry. There is no coalescence.

We have been divided, distracted, fed and conquered. They came, they saw and let us vent our anger on a shoot ’em up game on Playstation.

 

Insomniacs; only 3 sleeps until Christmas

I really believe my brain is trying to kill me. Either that or just torture me for a laugh.

I suffer from depression. No, I’m not a bit down. Or just feeling a bit miserable because it’s raining, I’m normally depressed. That’s my factory setting.

My brain is constantly whirring and thinking, exploring possibilities, dwelling on insecurities and generally thinking bad things.

It’s fine when I have something to do – like write a blog about some facet of modern life that really yanks my chain, but bedtime is different.

Clearing my mind doesn’t work. There’s always something ricocheting around and around shouting ‘look at me’.

My body may be on the verge of collapse from an evening in the gym but ‘the little grey cells’ are firing liking nobody’s business.

Alcohol used to be my drug of choice to silence my nagging doubts, thoughts, worries. But alcohol depresses you even further.

I tried valerian – a homeopathic remedy – and lavender oil lightly, then liberally, sprinkled over my pillow. No.

A friend recommended light exercise where you lay in bed and tense then relax your wrists and ankles by rotating them. No.

Finally, my psychiatrist came to the rescue. A double whammy of drugs. I would take my anti-depressants in the morning, then half a tablet of another mild anti-depressant at night.

The result; sleep, sleep beautiful sleep. The first time I took this concoction, I couldn’t believe the difference. And ever since, I may have the odd hiccup, but on the whole I feel so much better.

I used to say as a joke that I slept like a baby; wailing and screaming all night. Now I do sleep like a log. And all those strange remedies are consigned to the rubbish bin. Where they belong.

What do political followers and fundamentalists have in common? No sense of humour

Never discuss religion or politics. Never joke about them either because you get the same amount of stick.

I made a joke yesterday on Facebook: ‘The Royal Family want us out of the EU. The Tories want us out of the EU. 250 leading businesses want us out of the EU. For me, that’s three good reasons to stay in’.

Light blue touch paper and stand well back. Two of my friends, who have never met, went at it hammer and tongs about Europe.

Another friend objected to my last article. Admittedly, I should have said “I have never seen a Tory Government so afraid of big business.” He thought I was bashing Tories in favour of Labour. Nay, nay thrice nay.

When Labour get in, I will be bashing them. Because no matter how you look at it, the Government, whoever it may be, will f*ck us in the ass.

Lewis Black, one of my favourite American comedians put it quite beautifully. ‘Our two party system is a bucket of shit looking at itself in the mirror’.

No one can defend either party at the moment. They’re both culpable for the state of our country. I want another party to come along and throw them both on the scrapheap where they belong. But where do you get honest politicians?

 

Buy an Apple today and the doctor will go away

Decades ago we were told to ‘Buy British’ to boost our economy. Trouble was, ‘British’ was just a bit ‘shit’, so we didn’t.

Instead we bought everywhere else and now we suffer a different problem.

We all like our Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon and there’s free Wi-Fi in Starbucks to use them – not me, I’m using the Alhambra Centre’s wi-fi in Barnsley.

These big corporations however aren’t paying for the privilege of selling their wares to the Great British public.

Apple paid £12m in tax on £2bn worth of profit. £200m short of what it should have paid.

Amazon paid £11.9m tax while earning £5.3bn profit from British internet shoppers routed through Luxembourg.

Google paid £6 in tax on UK revenues of £395m. And over 14 years Starbucks has only paid £8.6m in tax – although they say they have only been in profit in 2015.

While we enjoy their products they hang onto their huge profits.

The money the tax man ‘should’ be picking up from these corporate giants could go back into a severely depleted health service, education, infrastructure. (If we can avoid paying for politicians’ wage increases, exorbitant expenses and second homes – but that’s a story for another day.)

The Government should be taking these corporations to task, but they approach them cap-in-hand, grateful that we are fed the measly crumbs from their extravagent banquets.

I have never seen a Conservative Government so afraid of big business that they would sacrifice the welfare of the British people so readily. Maggie Thatcher wouldn’t, so why is David wimping out?

There should be questions in the house, because the way things are going, most people won’t even have one.

 

 

FFS! Be careful with your abbreviations

I was sitting in a briefing meeting one day and the person who had written the brief was explaining it to me. The brief was peppered with abbreviations and the young lady was tossing them around like confetti.

Not being completely clued-up on the jargon of the client and the telecoms industry I asked “What does ASDH mean?”

“It’s the type of system they use.” She replied

“I know, but what does it mean?” I asked again.

“Oh, I don’t know! I’ll find out for you.” And off she went throwing more abbreviations around.

Turns out it meant Autonomous Synchronous Digital Hierarchy. And of course I was none the wiser, but I was troubled by the fact that she had just regurgitated information without knowing what it meant.

It’s like the definition of a lecture: where the ‘notes of the lecturer are passed to the notes of the student without passing through the minds of either’.

We use abbreviations and acronyms without care these days. We say a DVD disc – what we are really saying is Digital Versatile Disc disc.

Or scuba gear. Which means we are saying Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus gear – the gear is redundant, we’ve already said apparatus.

We say LOL when it can mean laugh out loud or loads of love – don’t use the former in a deepest sympathy card.

We say ROM memory when the acronym already says Read Only Memory.

I could say I follow the WWF. Now that could mean I am interested in the World Wildlife Fund or the World Wrestling Federation – one’s about dumb animals the other is about endangered species in nature.

I’m not saying I’m against abbreviations, I just want people to find out what they mean before they drop them willy-nilly into any and every conversation. Ok?

More people are being born every day than are dying. When do we tie a knot in it?

In my travels around the internet I have found many intriguing and fascinating sites. I won’t mention them but search for ‘world population growth’.

At the time of going to press, there are 19,250,000 extra people on this planet in 2016 alone. That’s taking into account births and deaths at the same time.

The fact is that this is a reduction on previous years. Which is good, but we are still multiplying at a phenomenal rate.

There are now over 7 billion and 400 million people on this planet. At some point we are going to have to look up from our rutting and say ‘hold on’.

It can’t go on forever. Agent Smith in the Matrix (played by the magnificent Hugo Weaving) called us a ‘Virus with shoes’ because of our reproductive behaviour.

The distribution of resources to sustain this life is uneven. For every starving person there is an obese one. For every billionaire there are hundreds of thousand living in poverty.

Capitalism isn’t the answer. Communism doesn’t seem to be the answer either. Wherever there is power, it is abused. Give a human being what they need and they will always want more.

And when there are millions of new souls being born every day, all wanting more, there has got to be a time when our world’s limited resources will not support them anymore. So, what then?

 

 

Shut up ‘n’ play yer guitar. Or just shut up.

For me, Frank Zappa got it spot on with his shut up n play yer guitar trilogy. No songs, just him and the band noodling through some pretty hefty and complicated tunes – not for the feint-hearted, I assure you.

Wall-to-wall music and not a peep from him. Over the years I have bought many-an album – do they still call them albums? – and I have bought my fair share of live albums too. The most of them give a brief introduction then ‘pow’ straight into the music.

There are others, however where the lead singer ponces about explaining how his or her muse struck him or her and off they wander into some soliloquy about first love or some abandoned car they found in an old garage.

Peter Gabriel’s Live Blood is a masterpiece of musicianship but inbetween the genius he mumbles into his beard about life, the universe and everything.

Sorry Peter, we know. We’ve heard all about the reasoning of your songs some of us have been listening to them for over 30 years.

Similarly, Pat Benatar’s and Neil Giraldo 35th Anniversary tour is another album littered with hits and air guitar moments. But once again, in between songs they won’t shut up. They regale is with meaningless anecdotes that slowly peter out and forget that there should be a point to them.

I fell for it again with Marillion’s Recital of The Script. A Script for a Jester’s Tear is a fantastic album but all I hear when I play the ‘Recital’ is ‘Fish’ slowly vanishing up his own arse. Then the rest of the band have to drag him out by his ankles before the opening chords of a song.

I don’t want to vet all the albums I buy by first hearing them on Spotify, I like to trust that the artist knows what the audience wants.

If they wanted humourous anecdotes and witty repartee they would go to a dinner party. They want music, so they went to a concert. Don’t confuse the two.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me that suffers these moments of wrath. If you disagree please put me in my place. But do it quickly and don’t warble on.

 

 

 

Want to find your voice? Talk. There it is.

I know that’s a bit of a facetious comment but I couldn’t resist. There are reams of articles telling you how to find your voice when you’re writing. But ‘your voice’ isn’t just about writing.

Miles Davis had to find his voice when he played music. Picasso had to find his voice when he was painting. Voice is your character, the way you express yourself. The way Eddie Van Halen plays his guitar. Unique.

How do you find it? If you’re a writer, write. Don’t worry about punctuation at first, get your thoughts down in a simple way. You can go back and drop in the spots and flicks later. Best of all, write simply. You don’t use big words when you speak, so don’t use them when you’re writing.

There’s nothing more annoying than someone showing off their command of big words – even if they are fulgently logodaedological – see, fucking annoying.

When you relax and write/paint/play music you can find you’re voice naturally. Learn the basics, and then build your way of doing things on top of that.

Picasso was amazing at accurate drawings from life. So realistic they almost looked alive, but he progressed to ‘cubism’

They say it takes 30,000 hours of practice to master something – even if you have ability. I write every day. And I still don’t believe I’ve mastered it. But I have got a voice. And I’m very proud of it. Even if the fucker swears, sometimes.