Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century setting in motion the process of releasing the typewritten word to the general population that eventually developed into webpages such as the one on which you are probably reading this.
Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 setting in motion the process of recording sound that eventually developed into the podcast.
The internet grew from the written word on bulletin boards and in an echo of technological development through the centuries gradually incorporated pictures, sound and video. The podcast was named for the ipod and was one of the best reasons to have an ipod. Podcasts took off. As is so often the way on the internet everyone was talking about podcasts and everywhere you looked there were companies setting up podcasts. The podcast was the future; a way of delivering content to a different audience, the people who listened rather than reading or viewing.
The problem was that everyone read on the internet, especially once the internet became filled with the communications of their friends on social networks. Those who didn’t read wanted something like the television that they were accustomed to watching through the evenings in the pre-internet world. The people who liked to listen to podcasts wasn’t such an attractive audience for whom to produce content, the profit wasn’t there. Gradually the podcasts have begun to disappear. A lot of people who spend time on the web are fans of technology; for these people the disappearance of Stuff magazine’s podcast, followed by Cnet’s main podcast, and most recently by T3 magazine’s podcast has been notable.
These 3 big companies of technology have decided that podcasting is not worth the effort involved. In times of austerity the natural way to save money is to cut back on those expenses that are not profitable enough. Is this the best plan.
Companies are ruled by their shareholders and at regular points they must release details of their profits. The problem with this is that if they do not continually try to save money and build up good dividends then they will lose value in the shareholder’s eyes with the result that funding will become harder, expansion will become harder, even staying afloat will be harder. Lose too much value and you risk being bought out and liquidated.
However the internet has been with us for a while and there are many people who are beginning to feel swamped by the intensity of information that is delivered. A short while ago Facebook was developing into something massive. It was so massive that when it made its initial public offering on the stock market its value ballooned to ridiculous levels that were totally disproportionate to its ability to earn money. Even though this has now died back Facebook is still left with having to sell a lot of advertising to create the necessary profit to maintain its value. The result for Facebook users is that newsfeeds are filled with sponsored posts. Chosen pages are having their posts suppressed if they don’t pay to promote them. Facebook has become chaotic and time consuming to read. Those who love facebook are finding that it is eating up too much time to justify its place in their life.
Facebook is only one example but in general the web demands too much of those who live there. 200 years ago the average reader would own a few books in their lifetime which they would read and reread, eventually memorising them. There is now more information uploaded to the internet everyday than any one individual could hope to read in a lifetime. A lot of it is tripe but a lot of it is stuff that we want to read, in fact most of it is designed specifically to pull all the strings that make us want to read it.
A lot of us spend our working lives sitting at desks interacting with computers; we carry phones which have the same functions; it is possible to spend hours conducting a social life under exactly the same conditions. For the first few years of the internet it was an intriguing mystery. When the world wide web was created it started to become something that ordinary people would use. As more people have begun to use it the web has become a potential target for corporate profit. The result has been the explosion of exciting and enticing content crying out to be seen. If television was ever the drug of the nation then the web is the crack cocaine that was even more addictive.
I am not saying we should all become Amish and reject modern technology but when we find it stealing our lives we have to take something back for the sake of our health. However we can learn from the internet and besides, we enjoy the information. The beauty of a podcast is that we can run in the woods while we listen to them; we can go shopping; we can travel to work or to visit friends; we can sew and paint. All those things that we have lost to the internet can be given back to us by the podcast. As people start to become disillusioned with the theft of their time they can take it back but still enjoy the benefits of news, reviews and opinion.
It seems to me that we are just reaching the point at which the podcast is going to be the solution many of us are looking for. The demand for profit of corporations is going to drive us away from the internet that we have been enjoying for the last few years, but ironically the demand for profit is what is taking away the refuge that the podcast offers. There is a future for the podcast but the companies are throwing it away ahead of time. Like so many things that have come before it, the podcast was invented a little bit ahead of time. With the right approach the podcast could make a comeback with a vengeance.
Having lost three of my favourite podcasts, Stuff, Cnet and T3, I am glad to say that when the Times newspaper decided to shut down its hilarious Bugle podcast the presenters thankfully took matters into their own hands to seek sponsorship and create merchandise to keep it running. The people who will profit when podcasting again attains a height of popularity will be those people like this who do it because they enjoy it and because it is who they are. The companies that were only doing it because they smelled a profit may all have ducked out by that point. There is still a future of great content to be developed and it will be developed by the real enthusiasts, and perhaps that is the best way it should be.
I have recently been placed in the line up for becoming the UK gadget guru for PriceSpy. It is currently being put to the vote on Facebook. As far as voting stakes are going I am currently not in the top running but then neither am I at the bottom. It is unfortunate that friends and connections can be a bit slow at clicking through to things and on Facebook there is always the problem that nobody wants to give any permissions to a site they’ve never previously heard of.
There are eight of us in the running and we have been told to be ready for interviews up in London next week. They have also asked to see a piece of our writing, naturally focussed on gadgets/technology. I am planning to write about the Neo900, which I think is a particularly interesting phone soon to be released that has received hardly any publicity due to its opensource origins. I am being limited to 500 words so I will not be able to say everything I wish to say; I will therefore be likely to publish the full length impression I have been given of the Neo on here for you to read. In future of course, if I get the job, I will be writing anything technology based on the pricespy blog primarily.
Pricespy themselves are a Swedish outfit I believe, Prisjakt Svaerige. Their umbrella company is one of the leading Norwegian media companies so they are not a small outfit. They have successfully entered a number of European markets but this is apparently the first foray into the British technology world. It is fairly well known that Norway and Sweden are amongst the most advanced nations on the planet. The economist has named them as some of the best governed countries in the world. Things are done differently up there in Scandinavia and even with the distrust of big business I usually have, I must say I would feel far happier working for a Norse/Swedish company than I would for most.
Ultimately I am here blogging to blag for your vote. I don’t know how many people are likely to read this piece of text but if you do then please go to the UK PriceSpy Gadget Guru voting page on Facebook and put in your vote for Ro Atkinson.
The image and idea of Guy Fawkes has become a romantic concept. The Alan Moore book and subsequent film, V for Vendetta brought the idea of Guy Fawkes as a folk hero into the popular consciousness of the late 20th century. Guido Fawkes, the politics commentator may have had something to do with the character entering our contemporary field of vision. After years of burning Guys in effigy he has suddenly become a hero of those disgruntled with a hypocritical and uncaring government.
It is an image that has been adopted by the group, anonymous. A group whose main feature is given away by their title, anonymous. We don’t know who they are. They could be your next door neighbour; they could be your children; they could be your parents or even your teachers. They could be anyone. They could be the police and they could be government operatives. Just about the only thing that they couldn’t be is an acceptable figure to stand alongside if you are an average person working in an office who dislikes the government’s harsh plans of austerity. In essence, anonymous is the perfect activist group as far as the government is concerned because anyone remotely respectable does not want to be associated with them.
David Cameron has described legitimate protestors against austerity with terms such as ‘feral’. That is certainly how they looked on television to the rest of the country. The reason for this is that the ones in masks are so much more dramatic than the rest of the protestors. Why film those who look like normal everyday people when you can film those who look like characters from the film, V for Vendetta. It makes much better television to film the ones in masks. Not to mention that if anyone is going to be doing anything newsworthy for which imprisonment might be appropriate they will prefer to be in a mask. To the rest of the country observing through their television screens it appears that the only people present are wearing Guy Fawkes masks and smashing windows. It certainly never looks as though the protests are being attended by Bob from the pub, although he might be just out of shot in his tweed jacket, he is simply not newsworthy enough to make it onto television.
What is even better than the fact that normal people are alienated by anonymous is that if nobody turns up and starts vandalising the seat of power it is easy enough to send in anyone in a mask to do the job. If Boris Johnson was in the midst of a protest throwing bricks through the windows of the Supreme court nobody would ever know so long as he had a mask of Guy Fawkes on his face. We would laugh at the fact that someone had turned up in a suit with hair just like Boris’ hair but we would never imagine it was him. Of course I very much doubt that Boris would do such things. Mainly because we know that undercover police have been doing similar things for years. We have seen their confessions of working with activist groups in the newspapers. Why do it yourself when you have plenty of people who will do it for you.
Almost everyone dislikes the austerity measures dreamt up by Mr Osborne with the help of his limited experience and inadequate education. Almost everyone is being impacted negatively by them. Almost everyone would like to protest against them. A lot of people have been protesting against them, not that you would know that with the minimal coverage the television news has given such protests. According to the television news there have been a small group of masked ‘anonymous’ youths causing trouble in the capital. The average man is supposedly far more concerned with the mass influx of that nice couple down the road that own the corner shop taking all our jobs. Or the huge number of terrorists not blowing anything up with anything like the regularity that the IRA did. If only the IRA had been mostly Muslim instead of Catholic; the streets of London would have been far safer in the 70s.
As far as the average person is concerned the only people protesting against the fact that they are being overworked in a horrible job for so little money they can’t afford to pay for taxes and hideously overpriced power bills are ‘feral’ youths in Guy Fawkes masks. Therefore poverty, misery and hunger are obviously not the sort of thing that average people are complaining about. We will just put up with them because it is obviously natural justice that slogging our guts out all week should only just allow us to stay alive while inflicting all this misery on us while sitting in a gold throne is obviously far more worthy of an obscene income.
The government knows full well that we are not going to like what they are doing at the moment. They know better than we ourselves know. They are privy to the kind of information that they are trying to keep hidden from us. As far as we are concerned perhaps there is only a small group of people who are really bothered by this austerity. We are divided sufficiently to stop us putting the pieces together too easily. With the knowledge that there is a disgruntled population, the most pressing need the government has is to keep us all quiet. Anyone who remembers the miners’ strikes knows how uncomfortable things can get when the people are unhappy. The friend of the government throughout all of this is ironically Guy Fawkes. As long as people are wearing the visage of this valorous visitation of bygone vexation they may indeed be the vestige of the vox populi but they may also be the very venal and virulent vermin they vow to vanquish. What we need is not the veneer of vanity of a vaudevillian veteran. What we need now is for ordinary, average people with ordinary average faces to say ‘it is US that dislikes these cuts’.
I would imagine that a lot of people blogging on wordpress or blogger or wherever probably harbour hopes of becoming a journalist. This is a fine and noble profession. At least it is if it is done correctly. The protector of free speech and the exposer of corruption is one of the most important people in a functioning liberal democracy. Why else would dictators and other trouble makers around the world imprison them and punish them for letting the world know what is going on? When journalists put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, camera to eye then the dictators know that they are soon going to have to start giving some thought to human rights and justice because the people are going to start hearing about them and they will eventually take action if they are being wronged. Naturally the journalist does not have a great time throughout a lot of this mistreatment.
In everyday life away from battle zones and horror the journalist’s life is not a great deal easier. Naturally there are some journalists who will spend their time simply sitting in an office interpreting the latest feeds from Reuters; they are just another bunch of office workers, like the rest of the slaves of the personal computer. Those who need to go out and source the news though do not have a good time. If you want to become a journalist, as many of you will then you really need to consider if it is the right move for you.
I decided to move in that direction many years ago and applied to study journalism at degree level because the normal thing to do when you wish to enter a field is to get a degree. Of course if you then decide the field is not for you then you have wasted three years of your life getting a useless degree. I escaped in the first year and transfered to law because I realised that the kind of journalist the degree course was for was the kind of journalist who would be working at the bottom level on the local newspapers around the country. It is probable that journalism is indeed a highly competitive area to enter. However everyone needs a milkman or supermarket checkout operator now and then but most people get by without journalists to a great extent even though society itself depends upon them. Despite the limited number of places available it is unlikely that there will be a great number of people to fill the places because a lot of people will point blank not wish to do it. Of those who do it there will be a lot who do not do it very well and of those who might wish to do it and might even be skilled at it they may not have the stomach for it.
My degree course had a number of modules in the obvious practical skills of copy writing, shorthand, page layout, etc; but the thing where it is easy to fall down on is actually getting the stories. If you can’t do that then you are little more than a secretary. Parts of the degree required finding random people in the street for voxpops, i.e. hearing the voice of the people, the vox populi. This is tricky if you are shy but not as bad as death knocks. Thankfully there was little opportunity for tutors to send the students out to do this but they made it clear that in a lot of instances the place to get a story was at the front door of grieving families who had just suffered a horrific loss.
Despite having left the degree to move onto another course it is plainly obvious from the fact that I am writing here that I have not abandoned the idea of publishing the written word for the public to read. I did learn a lot on my degree, although I believe in ignoring most of it, and I do always carry a camera for potential journalistic use. This evening I encountered a situation that a journalist on a local newspaper will at some point be forced to face that would make them wish they were on a battlefield bringing out the truth about the psychotic dictator who would probably be locking them in a dungeon next week. It was a situation that my wife had had to face a few times in her own time working on the local newspaper as a photojournalist. A serious traffic accident.
My training told me that this was a situation that needed to be reported. The bystanders who were watching attested to the interest that the public had. An entire section of the road around Cirencester was shut off this Sunday evening with the attendance of more police cars than I have ever seen in one place in Cirencester. The air ambulance appeared to have been called as there was a helicopter hovering above. There were also a number of ordinary ambulances parked alongside. It was difficult to see how much damage had been done because the area was so busy. There were far too many blue flashing lights to be able to see clearly from a distance. Certainly too many lights to allow a camera to take a photo from a distance.
Part of the training on a journalism degree is about the importance that the news should be reported. Just as there is importance in reporting a battlezone or a court case there is importance in reporting a road accident, especially one that looked as major as this evening’s. If road accidents were not reported then people wouldn’t realise the importance of road safety and the result would be more road accidents. Driving into Cheltenham this morning my wife mentioned the danger on the particular stretch of road we were using. I had never had any idea of the danger there before and had always travelled down there as fast as I liked. According to my wife there had been about eight fatalities on that stretch of road in the last four years. If people read about this then they would not travel fast; they would take care; there would be fewer fatalities. I never travelled down there thinking it could be the last thing I ever did. I went down there like a bat out of hell without a care in the world. My wife said the tendency was to report the story in a tiny little paragraph that barely anyone ever saw or remembered.
If people read these stories and remembered them then people would make sure to be more careful on that stretch of road and they would not get killed. The journalist could save those lives. Why was it that the story took such a small space? Largely because there were never enough photos to make it an important front page piece.
I found myself this evening in Cirencester with a camera in my hand and a major road accident. I don’t think there were any fatalities but the accident was definitely of the kind of magnitude to make for the kind of spectacular pictures that would get a story put around them that people would read and remember; the kind of story that would make people take care on that stretch of road.
I couldn’t do it. If I had been a jobbing journalist I would not have been able to do my job. My wife told me that she had only had to do it three times; it was the kind of job that no one wanted to do. It made me feel sick to even think about taking photos of what was a horrific and extremely personal moment for the people in that crash. The police were there keeping the situation under control and the paramedics were there making sure the victims survived. I have just explained that the journalist would be saving lives too, but that is not how it looks, nor is it how it feels. The journalist just looks as though he has taken rubbernecking to a professional level, a vulture making a living off the misfortune of the wounded. In that moment I would far rather have been under fire taking photos of scenes of carnage in Afghanistan, at least there would be some heroism in that. My wife had been here before, she suggested a better spot from which photos could be taken. I told her ‘no. Let’s go. This makes me feel ill.’
If you want to become a journalist then be aware that a journalism degree is not going to make you into a journalist. The degree will teach you the side of the job that you don’t want to know. If you write, then the way to do it is to just focus on the thing that drives you and get into that. Some people will be driven by the desire to report the news but those people are few and far between. Most publications are magazines and most writers are interested in writing for those magazines. Just be aware that a journalism degree is not going to focus on that kind of journalism. It is for the all rounders and it will teach you the murkiest harshest side of the career. Make sure that is what you want if you are going to apply. And remember, if you do get the degree it still won’t guarantee you the job.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. I have stolen the beginning of a tale of two cities from Dickens because it is more appropriate now than ever. I shall also be stealing the concern that Dickens had for social reform. We often look back on the Victorian era as being a dark and oppressive time. This is partly due to looking at it through the work of writers like Dickens. Ironically it is also partially due to the spotlight on the failings of society provided by his work that led to this era being massively progressive. There was a massive amount of change during the 19th century as prisons were reformed, working conditions were reformed and the law in general began to recognise a respect for human life.
It is a constant theme throughout history that change will always upset the people it affects. The 20th and 21st centuries have seen even more change than the 19th due to the explosion of modern manufacturing techniques. In many ways now is indeed the best of times, but as my opening line suggests it is also the worst of times in many ways. We are technologically more advanced than at any other time in history but this has been at a cost.
The business techniques that have allowed us to have such massive growth are focussed on growth. The corporations grew up as a solution to how such large scale projects as national railways could be completed when they were so far beyond the financial strength of the average business person. Within the legislation that supports the setting up of corporations is a statutory mandate to seek profit and the benefit of the shareholders. Despite recent attempts to mitigate this primary directive through concern for broader societal impacts, the dependence that corporations have had on legislative backing to aid their main aim has led to anything other than legal rules being ignored where this aim is not supported. As a result it has been recognised for some time that humanity is beginning to learn the Gordon Gekko mantra, “Greed is good.”
Although there is much to be said on the failing of ethics in modern business, this is not my intention with this post. I think that by now the vast majority of intelligent people are well aware of the ethical tightrope walking that is practised by company boards. Even those who are not intelligent or are not regular readers of the daily news must recognise the precarious positions they are being placed in by the way in which these large companies are affecting their lives. Jobs are disappearing, wages are dropping, land is being eaten up, towns are dying. Even those who might be lucky enough to live in wild countryside paradises may have been able to see that there are fewer insects than there once were, and fewer birds. Even stranded in the middle of the Pacific ocean it is hard to miss the effects of a failing business model when you are surrounded by a floating pack of discarded rubbish the size of a country.
My intention is to talk about a solution to all these problems. One thing is certain, our politicians have failed us. With each successive government we see them ever more bowing to the wishes of the corporations. Every government is so afraid that trade will leave their shores and instead give their wealth to international neighbours that they will allow the companies to get away with almost anything. In addition to this a disaffected and disillusioned public is given little choice in the politicians who may next be given control. Largely homogenous groups of MPs parade through parliament trying to make things better rapidly enough to prove they are the ones for the job before the next election date. Unfortunately they have little power over companies big enough to buy their own countries so the focus of the legislative posturing is the behaviour of the people. Even more unfortunately the behaviour of the people is a result of the interaction the people have with the companies. In essence, the companies are creating changes that are producing negative effects amongst the populace. The governments are treating the symptoms, not the causes, and the result is the deterioration of life for individuals.
We may be gaining massive benefits from the progress of technological development but at the same time we are losing freedoms that have been enshrined in British law since the Magna Carta; that go back almost as far as time immemorial. Politicians even wish to knock back positive gains in human rights that have only been gained in the last 50 years. If changes are holding back the agenda of profit then they are changes that are slated for reversal.
The majority of people feel helpless against the behemoth that is politics, law and business. This is with good reason; the last millennium has been a lesson in the futility of standing up against them. There have been gains in the past. The revolutions of England, France and America wrought massive change. There are even some who speak of revolution now. Such a course of action is unlikely in the conventional sense. Despite the hardships we have to face we are supplied with the things we need to keep us docile. Television, the drug of the nation keeps many people far too busy to protest. Where this is not effective we are beginning to see growing legalisation of marijuana across the United States. I wonder if it can be just coincidence that this sedating substance, so very much favoured by many protestors I have met, is being made available to them at just such a time as it seems vigilance and energy are more important than ever. Social engineering is often looked upon as a technique of conmen and hackers but it is also the tool of governments and corporations to keep populations on side and to make their own brands appear to be of value.
Despite the failing of democracy and the futility of revolt there is a way that is open to us to effect change. The arrival of computers and the internet mean that direct action of the sort advocated by green peace or more darkly, anonymous, are not necessary. All the actions that are carried out by the companies are in a manner of speaking truly democratic. The big corporations are only there because we, the people, have allowed them to be. It is us who have provided them with their wealth. It is us who have observed their business models and decided that purchasing their products is something that we wish to do. It is us who have said that the way in which they conduct business is acceptable. It is us who can stop paying them if we decide that the way in which they conduct business is not acceptable.
In our traditional conception of democracy we might have made our vote for a better world by voting for certain politicians but the politicians themselves feel powerless to change the world when they have to bow to corporate demands. That traditional conception was developed in a world before the internet and before instant communications. We could not have known the details about what we were voting for. We simply voted for someone we trusted to get the job done and then hoped that they had the inside knowledge to get the job done. The internet now allows us to uncover the information for ourselves. The only way that we can really change things for the better with greatest rapidity is to start doing this and to start voting with our money.
There was recently a worldwide protest against capitalism that swept across the globe through many capital cities. The most that a lot of people heard about this was a paragraph on the BBC news website. When it comes to the drama of public protest there is a tendency by the media to ignore it these days. There is so much protest that there is lower news value in publicising anything that isn’t truly spectacular. There may also be other reasons behind the scenes why it might suit news corporations to keep the protests quiet. Protestors are portrayed as trouble makers, hippies, punks, anarchists, anonymous. All the negative buzzwords are used to show protestors up as being something other than normal people. Normal people therefore wish to distance themselves from these groups. This does not mean that normal people do not share the same concerns. The way in which the normal people can make their wishes known is to reward the companies when they get it right. Shop politically.
I do not like the idea of boycotts. They are a lot of effort for a start and can endanger the welfare of all those who rely on that particular company’s trade. I do think that it is possible to make a change for the better in the world just by making slightly different choices when in the supermarket. This is largely achieved already as people avoid the GM crops and buy more of the organic or whatever their concern is at the time. The problem is the lack of transparency around the activities of the companies. It is a shame that the newspapers are so wrapped up with other important issues like Chantelle’s latest diet because it is here where reportage is of greatest importance. Companies would soon change their behaviour if they found that it was ceasing to be profitable. They are like the genie in the bottle; they will give us what we wish but we must be careful what we wish for.
With that said, I am now going to go and find out whose products I should be buying and whose I shouldn’t if I am to bring my kids up in a world where they have a chance of a healthy and happy life.
I wrote this in response to the recent article that has been hopping from publication to publication about the state of the pacific. I would like to thank Samuel Taylor Coleridge for his help in writing the piece.
An unemployed old fisherman
Shouted at my friends, and he
Demanded that I listen
I said, “I’ve no time for thee.”
“The party in here’s started now
And I’m the planner’s boyfriend
I cannot stop to talk to you
I have no time to lend.”
He grabbed me as I tried to pass
and began to tell a tale of woe
I shouted “Let me go you ass”
But he said that I must know.
So it was he began to speak,
And I listened to his words.
He told me of the dying seas
And of the missing birds
I took a seat upon a bench
And he made me hear
I forgot about my waiting wench,
As he passed to me his fear.
His ship had sailed into the sea
to bring home food and money.
They didn’t know what they would see,
that would be so unfunny.
The Sun soared over every day
And went down every night,
As the fishermen went on their way
Towards their awful fright.
The fisherman continued on
With telling me this detail
But then I heard my favourite song
I wondered if I could bail.
My girlfriend was inside the club
I shouldn’t be sat out here
She’d think I was sat in a pub
And drinking too much beer.
I told him that I had to go
he said I had to hear
I tried to tell him, “come on. No”
But he gave me a sneer.
“Your type are all the same” he said.
“You just don’t ever care.
What will you do when you are dead?
when the world turns to nightmare.
We headed out into the ocean
But our prey remained unfound.
We heard the sounds of our boats motion
But otherwise, no sound.
We waited and we searched the sky,
there was no single bird
There was no sight of things that fly
Of this I give my word.
The cause for the birds going away
Was not below the waves
The fish weren’t there, we’d lost our prey
The fish, we had not saved.
It was only tuna that we sought
When we had fished these seas.
That was the fish our client bought
It was them we tried to please.
The other fish we’d thrown back
It fetched a lower price
If we didn’t we’d all get the sack
I wish that we’d thought twice
The birds would eat those rotting fish
So we didn’t feel so bad
But now there were no fish to eat
As so few became dads.
The good old days, they couldn’t last
I wish we’d thought ahead
They were firmly in the past
Now all the fish were dead.
We sailed on in search of fish,
or anything to eat.
We had to eat as well you see,
but we’d brought little meat.
The ocean seemed more silent
The further we progressed
This is the fault of human kind
Our captain soon confessed.
A few days out we came across
A sight that was much worse.
If the ocean was a person
It would have been inside a hearse.
We thought at first we had found land
But that just shouldn’t be
Such a thing we had not planned
For at least two weeks, or three
Ahead of us was an awful sight
Compounding all I’d seen.
It gave to me a greater fright
Than anywhere I’d been.
In the ocean, all around us
Miles and miles of junk.
Rubbish of the world had found us
My heart inside me sunk.
I stood and looked for open sea
that must beyond this lay
I told the crew “this cannot be”
My heart filled with dismay.
It felt as though we were on land
As through the junk we sailed.
A nation totally unmanned
A mark mankind had failed.
Old drinks cans and plastic boxes
Were all the vermin near.
The usual landbased rats and foxes
couldn’t survive here.
At last we could all hear some sounds
We wished that we could not
It was our ship’s bow hitting mounds
Of rubbish in the flot.
Day after day, day after day,
We carried on seeking our quarry.
To the captain I did say,
I think mankind should worry.
Rubbish, rubbish, everywhere,
This was where it came.
Rubbish, rubbish, every where,
Such an awful shame.
The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Not even slimy things would crawl
Nothing alive to see.
Was this a sign there was no God
He’d never stand for this.
What had he against plaice and cod
This really took the piss.
For days our journey carried on
At night sleep had no mirth.
We had nightmares of a dying sun
Above this dying earth.
The barren sea gave up no fish.
Soon nothing filled our plate.
We didn’t try for food to wish,
Rather mankind we did hate.
Depression started to take hold
The crew knew we had caused this;
The ocean’s life was what we sold
Now life, the ocean missed.
There passed for us a weary time.
We quickly gave up hoping,
From such hideous depths could the world’s health climb?
It certainly wasn’t coping.
It was not long before the stress
Affected all the crew.
All we could see was this godless mess
We all wished wasn’t true.
Our ship’s cook was the first to go
Without food he had less to do
He must have stepped into the flow
It was some time before we knew
The worst thing was, he was not gone.
He came to us at night
Upon the deck his spectre shone
A gruesome bloated sight
Floating in this lifeless waste
This awful sight did tell
The crewmen how their chosen life
Would lead them all to hell.
The next day we lost another;
His poor mind could not take it.
He had felt for years much like a brother,
I hoped the rest of us would make it.
One by one the crew gave in
Now they knew the ocean’s state.
Earning their living, their only sin,
But they’d seen for themselves the world’s fate.
Eventually I was alone;
Our ship seemed now forlorn.
I knew I must try and get home;
The public I should warn.
The ship was hard to sail alone,
And lonesome was my trip.
From gathered rubbish I built a throne
And became King of the ship.
At nights the dead crew and I danced
It took my mind from my hunger.
As days passed by I felt in a trance
I couldn’t last much longer.
I soon came up with a decent plan
I could get home quicker, I just had to fly!
It’s true I was only a hungry man
But if nothing else, I had to try.
Given my weight and lack of wings
I climbed the mast to begin my flight
I thought that’ll lend balance against these things
From the top I saw a wondrous sight.
Off in the distance there was a sail
I needn’t fly, there was a ship
In getting home I wouldn’t fail
There was help ahead to finish my trip.”
“You’ve gone nuts”, I told the bloke.
“I have to go inside,
You as a flying king’s a joke”
I stopped his tale mid stride.
“I haven’t time to talk to freaks
With theories of doom”;-
“I’ll admit my mind grew weak
But now I am no loon.”
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
My saviours in my rescue ship
Brought me back to sanity.
My crew were dead
That is no lie
But somewhere ocean life survives;
Lives on and so do I.
I looked upon the floating junk
And drew my eyes away;
I had to come back to the world
And tell you what I say.
I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But God won’t come to save us
Nature happens as it may
If God won’t save us mankind must.
That ship, it brought me back to land
Since then I’ve tried to speak.
But all that people listen to
Is what’s on ‘Mock the Week’.
Like you! You’re thinking of that club,
And your girl you haven’t seen
Since last night down the local pub,
But what does such life mean?
One day the two of you might bring
A child onto this planet
I’m sure you’d want the best for him,
I know that’s how I’d plan it.
Mark my words this won’t all last
With mankind’s help the world won’t die;
But at this time it’s failing fast;
It’s not too late; we have to try.
The problem is our ignorance
We’re blind to half the problem.
You go out to drink and dance
And that’s why you don’t stop them.
There is no need for all this harm;
There are solutions we can find.
The problem is that money’s charm,
Is overwhelming for weak minds.
The greed of those who take our cash
Is their only motivation.
Where there’s no profit they make ash
of the world, by automation.
I beg of you to change their ways.
You only have one voice,
But together we’re the ones who pay
them. Leave them with no choice!
He payeth best, who knows the worth
All things both great and small;
For the things we do not value
Soon won’t be there at all.
The Fisherman, who’d kept me here
Walked off now, just like that.
Deciding that I needed beer
I crossed the clubs door mat.
I went like one that had been stunned,
I was of sense forlorn;
A sadder and a wiser man,
I rose the next day’s morn.
Frank Wilson was a self-made man. Some people might have said nouveau riche; Frank Wilson would not have been one of them. Frank’s language was down to earth. He had grown up like the other kids in his neighbourhood, climbing trees and getting dirty; riding his bike through muddy fields and searching under rocks for lizards and slow worms. He had come a long way since then. Frank enjoyed the outdoor life and had the energy and constitution to make a decent living out of working outside, doing the kind of manly tasks that nature had intended men should do since time immemorial. Hundreds of years ago he would have been condemned to a life of serfdom toiling in the fields of the local lord; today he had become the closest thing to a local lord that his country village now had. His success had led to him taking on workers and supplying the local economy with opportunities. Ultimately he had stopped the manual labour and allowed it to be taken over by his workers. His work nowadays consisted more of making strategic decisions about the direction in which to push his business. Luckily he had found himself to be as adept at this new occupation as he had originally been at the physical work that had got him here.
Frank’s home was far larger and more luxurious than any of his ancestors could ever have imagined. Plush carpets covered the floors and where his parents had been forced to make do with having just enough space to bring up the family, Frank found that he had more bathrooms than he actually needed, let alone more bedrooms. Chandeliers hung in almost every room. Frank’s curtains were a rich dark velvet with golden trimming. Large fire places were the focal point in his living room, dining room, study, library and billiards room, not because he needed to burn wood to keep warm the way his parents had, but because a country seat somehow needed a fireplace over which to place the oil painting showing the master of the house at a pheasant shoot. Around which to place the marble surround and mantel piece that was home to a Meissen clock, several figurines of Royal Doulton, Crown Derby and Sitzendorfer.
Franklin Voight had joined the Wilson household soon after Frank Wilson had begun to achieve his success. Aside from the similarity in their first names Franklin could not be more different. He knew that he was anything other than a self-made man. Franklin knew that he owed everything he was to the woman who had brought him into the world. Where Frank was rough around the edges, Franklin was every inch, from his head down to his toes, the very model of a gentleman. The paleness and smoothness of his skin contrasted with the ruddiness and colour the years of outdoor work had lent to Frank’s. Where the gentry in the neighbourhood saw vulgarity in the way that Frank had plonked himself right in the middle of their society, there were none who could fail to see the obvious refinement in Franklin.
Franklin himself was of far greater age than Frank, and in his time had been fortunate to serve in many wealthy households throughout Europe. In this modern era Franklin was something of an anachronism but wherever there was conspicuous consumption there was a place for Franklin and those like him. Once upon a time his type would only be found in old households where the money had been handed down through generations. Nowadays there was no telling where one could end up. Prior to joining the Wilson household Franklin had provided his services to an old widow. Just like here he had been only one of many creating the impression of wealth and success around the widow. It was very rarely that Franklin would find himself serving a household by himself. He had been with the widow for many years and had watched her age until she gradually passed on. When that happened he had found himself taken on by the Wilson household.
Before the widow Franklin had moved through several households on the continent. That is where she had found him in a rare moment of redundancy; but then could it not be said that He had always been redundant to a degree. That was an impression that had been growing for some time now. When Franklin had first entered the households of the wealthy it was as though his presence had greater value. It was as though he was a status symbol even without providing any tangible benefits. Gradually over the years as more and more devices of entertainment had been invented, and more and more labour saving devices had been invented it had begun to seem as though there was little point in his presence in even the largest of homes. When even the poorest homes owned so many amazing machines and devices of convenience the impression that he was unnecessary grew ever stronger; it was probable that he and his kind had always been surplus to any real requirement but it took the modern world to starkly contrast against Franklin’s traditional demeanour and bearing for one to see that he was little more than another status symbol no matter what utility he may have had in a bygone age.
Franklin had always worn boots with buckles, a frock coat and all the other trappings of the past that made him seem ever more anachronistic. His appearance had always been anachronistic and dated throughout his existence but in an era of hoodies and jeans it seemed all the stranger. The world changed around Franklin while he stayed the same year in, year out. Sometimes it seemed as though he would still be there in the distant future, wearing his dated clothing, like a gentleman of a bygone era while people commuted to Mars and every house was powered by a cold fusion reactor. Hundreds of years in the future Franklin would still find himself occupying the same position in wealthy households, standing and observing the actions of the members of the household from his vantage point with the other ornaments on the mantel piece.
Giles Morgan was riding on a high. Today was one of the most successful days of his career. He had just made a deal that would allow him to live in comfort for a very long time. Of course he had no intention of stopping work; he loved his job too much. The trick was to see money as points in a massive game. When he was a kid he used to love playing monopoly. He hated the game now. It seemed so futile to play on a board in a room with only a handful of people when he could treat the whole world as the board and everyone as players. The worst thing about playing monopoly was that it did not involve any real money.
Actual money was the thing that tripped up a lot of his colleagues. Viewing the medium in which they worked as the same thing in which they were paid and with which they bought their homes and possessions was a massive stumbling block. They would lose objectivity. Giles had always thought of money as a point system because it made the whole affair into a game. He had never really cared about what money could buy; that was merely a bonus. What mattered to Giles was accumulation. He was playing monopoly on a massive scale and that was why he wouldn’t be trading it in for a life of leisure in the Seychelles. Leisure was for fools; to him it was his work that provided all the joy he needed.
Having said that, he would certainly be going out to celebrate tonight; today’s success meant total massed points accumulation for this year now topped out at 3.2 Billion pounds. Giles was a financial god and as such intended to go out and get the reverence he deserved from the little people who aspired to be like him.
When he arrived at the bar his colleagues raised their glasses at the same time as they raised a cheer of welcome to him. As he approached the bar he shouted out conspicuously, “Bring out the Armand de Brignac Dynastie for my companions.” Those within earshot raised another toast to him. Giles knew of the existence of the collection as he had ordered it to the club himself. The bar staff began the lengthy process of bringing out the champagne. The bar had been prepped for his arrival and the music changed as the first opaque gold bottle was brought out. It began to mount as the following bottles of increasing size were carried out and eventually reached a climax with the wheeling out in a gold plated chariot of the final 40 litre Melchizedek. The cost of the round of drinks was well over a quarter of a million pounds. This was conspicuous consumption at its most conspicuous.
The party grew even more raucous as the entire bar drank their way through the most extravagant round of drinks ever bought on British soil. Giles was not concerned with the champagne himself. He valued his wits and drank lightly as he got no kick from champagne. For him the joy of the evening was in the knowledge that tomorrow morning the purchase of this one round of drinks would be the talk of the city, along with the talk of his success on the markets today.
It was not long before Giles felt his presence had had the desired effect and that it was time for him to leave. He far preferred his solitude to spending time in a crowded bar with his inferiors. He made his way back to the penthouse that he called home during the week. As he stepped out of the lift into his front room he was surprised to see someone sitting back on his sofa staring right at him. The stranger did not look as though he was a threat. He looked fairly well educated and well-dressed but the very fact that he had obtained entrance to the penthouse without anyone’s knowledge was an indication that he was someone to be reckoned with. Giles reached for the alarm switch beside the elevator to call security. The stranger didn’t lift a finger to stop him doing so.
“No-one is coming.” Said the stranger, “it is just you and me.”
“Who are you?” demanded Giles.
“Come now Giles, you know me. Look deep inside yourself; you will remember.”
Giles began to feel giddy. The face did seem familiar. It swam in and out of focus in his mind but nothing would solidify. Maybe he had drunk more of the champagne than he had realised.
“Just relax Giles. Don’t fight it. You are going to sleep for a short while and then it will all be over.”
Giles fought the giddiness. “You don’t know how powerful I am!” He blurted at the intruder. “I own this city. If any harm comes to me I will destroy you.”
The man on the sofa chuckled in a good natured way. “No Giles. Your days of hurting people are long over now. You have destroyed too many people. Those days are at an end.”
Giles felt his legs give way underneath him. He felt as though he was falling into soft clouds of billowing velvet ink, closing in around to envelope him.
When Giles came to he was lying in his bedroom. He tried to move and found he was constrained on the bed; tied down with leather straps. He wanted to cry out but there was something in his mouth gagging him and depressing his tongue. He struggled but didn’t have the strength to fight against the straps; he doubted he even had the strength to fight against gravity. Even his eyelids had little strength to fight against gravity. He could feel something stuck to his head but he had no idea what, some kind of crown.
The stranger walked up beside him and smiled down. “Ah, you are awake. Just relax Giles. The less you struggle the less it will hurt.”
Suddenly Giles felt an agonising pain running through him. For a fraction of a second he felt as though his muscles were fighting to prevent his skeleton from leaving his body before his mind went blank. Gradually his awareness returned before the pain returned until his mind blanked out again. The torture seemed to continue for an interminable time. He did not know how long it was. Time seemed to lose all meaning. There was no existence beyond the pain and the darkness.
Giles eventually found himself wakening to a world that was not filled with pain. He felt groggy and had difficulty thinking. He was no longer strapped down and was free to move. He looked around and discovered himself to be in a small brightly lit sterile room. There was no friendliness to his environment, only pure functionality. He struggled to get into a sitting position and slide his feet off the bed on which he lay. He was no longer in his clothes. His feet were bare and he was wearing a gown. As he sat on the edge of the bed trying to stretch his muscles into wakefulness the door opened and the intruder from his flat entered.
“Why have you brought me here” Giles demanded.
“I didn’t bring you here,” replied Giles’ assailant. “You have been with us for a long time now. You only seem to be aware of us after treatment.”
“Treatment?” Giles was confused. What was this place? Again the memories came back to him of the intruder’s face. Dr Samuels. Giles remembered meeting him now. Other memories came back as well. The stock market crash; The protests; The riots; The government legislation. Everything had been taken from him. The operation of the stock market had been unsustainable. Too much greed; money for money’s sake; starvation; environmental disaster; millions of exploited poor. Giles had lost his home, his career, he had lost everything; he could not continue after the bottom had dropped out of his world. His memory had started to go first of all and he had found gaps appearing in his days. It was not long before he had found himself admitted to the hospital for treatment of his psychosis. As the memories came back he began to feel nauseous. He leaned forward and felt his stomach preparing to vomit as the clouds once again began to fold in on his mind.
Giles felt terrible. He had to get to the bathroom or he would be sick all over his silk bedspread. He stumbled out of bed and knocked his alarm clock off his bedside table in passing. He quickly found his way to the bathroom and vomited into the toilet. What was wrong with him? He had only had a couple of glasses of the champagne, he shouldn’t be hungover. What an awful night’s sleep he’d had. Nightmares. Giles stretched his mind to remember them but it was no good, he was far too hungover to recollect the awful dreams he’d had during the night. Thank god he did not need to work today. Yesterday had been such a success that if he didn’t wish to then he would never need to work again.
I was asked yesterday for advice on investment in bitcoin. After a little discussion I suggested that I would be more inclined to invest my money in a more transparent medium, namely minerals. Libertarians speak very fondly of gold as a safe investment in uncertain times. Gold has always been a traditional favourite and indeed it has uses in modern technology that lend merit to such thinking. There are other minerals that are equally and more valuable though. Whilst the stockpiling of gold has been a principal means of gathering wealth for as long as memory goes back it has been known since the days of Adam Smith that the economy is tied to the means of production. In those days this was agriculture as it was the food that grew on the land that powered the workers who produced the tradable commodities. In the modern era it is well known that oil is the substance craved by all governments.
The problem with these forms of power is that they have been monopolised to such a degree that the average person can not invest in them with any hope of making substantial profit. Minerals are a useful investment because we know they are limited and they are difficult to extract. In the modern era there are minerals that cross this bridge that are currently at affordable prices to warrant investment. My initial idea, by which I still stand is that dysprosium is probably going to be worth investing in. It is used in electric motors, obviously something that is going to be used more with the growth of the electric and hybrid car industry. In addition to this it is tied to the creation of power itself as electric generators are very similar to an electic motor in reverse. Add to this the knowledge that we are most likely going to be suffering shortages of dysprosium in the next five years and it seems likt it will be a mineral in which it is worth investing.
My friend asked about Potash. This is a compound containing potassium. It is tied to the old agricultural means of producing power in that it helps the growth of plants. In recent years we have been seeing a growth in world population that necessitates greater production of food. Potash is therefore something which may well see far greater demand. My friend asked specifically about Sirius mining and its plans to put a mine into a national park in Yorkshire. The analysis of this proposal is interesting and led me to the conclusion that it was probably a good investment.
About half a year ago potash deposits were discovered beneath the park that Sirius considered to be of such high quality that they have pulled out of mining other regions in the world and invested 50 million in putting together the possibility of digging up the potash that exists in Yorkshire. February saw massive investment by locals in shares and the future of Yorkshire mining. What is currently holding back the mining is that as it is a national park permission must be obtained from the parks authority in order to actually begin mining. It can be tricky to see inside the minds of such a committee so naturally a lot of people are very jittery about the chances of success.
Estimates place the cost of mining a ton of potash at just under $40 if I recall correctly. They also estimate the selling price to be about 5 or 6 times this amount. Since these estimates were made the collapse of a Russian mining cartel that was setting prices artificially high has led to a drop in the price of potash. This was only around 20% last time I checked so does not impact too severely on the possible profits to be made from Sirius. AMEC have investigated the value of the mining in the Yorkshire area and concluded that there is enough competition worldwide to suggest that there is not a particularly good argument for mining in Yorkshire as well. Both these negative influences hit last month and the result was that Sirius’ share price dropped substantially over the last couple of weeks.
The owners of Sirius do not hold with the conclusion for good reason. They already have enough commitments worldwide to ensure that they will have a massive market for potash, nearly 2 million tons. There is certainly demand. This does not even take into account the fact that Monsanto has fallen severely out of favour in Europe which may well lead to a high demand within the same customs union as the mine. Aside from Sirius’ conclusion that there is adequate demand and opportunity they also point out that AMEC have not taken into account broader considerations regarding employment and benefit for the local economy. There will be about a thousand new employees who will benefit from the mine. There will also be knock on effects and there will ultimately be a lot of money coming into the British economy. You can bet that the government will be very pleased if it gets the go ahead and there have already been a couple of million in grants to ensure it does.
The problem is the Nimbyism that will wish to keep mines out of the national park. This is probably a smaller problem that one would imagine. People in the grim north are less likely to kick up a fuss about a potential new source of massive employment than people in the already crowded and far better off south. The mine is also likely to not make that much of a negative impact on the park and will probably do a lot to counterbalance the negative view in which such operations are held. I am certain they will bend over backwards to try and please the parks committee.
Either way, mine or no mine, the recent drop in the value of Sirius shares has led to them being at almost as low a level as they were before the original announcement. This means that even without considering the possibility of the Yorkshire mine their value must be fair. The last time they made such a drop a couple of months ago they were right back up again within weeks. The current low value is undoubtedly the result of the fickle nature of the stock market. When all things are considered it is unlikely that the parks authority will not eventually be persuaded and if they ultimately are then it will be certain that it will be because Sirius have options for mining outside the boundaries of the park.
Mark Bennett has done remarkable things with Sirius in the last couple of years and I have faith that this particular investment is one of the safer ones around. There is still an element of a gamble but that is the nature of investment. There are certainly many worse places in which money is invested everyday. I think that Sirius is a good punt for the long term future given current knowledge.