Baker’s Dozen

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© BBC                                                           Richard Baker in news reading days

The solemnly urbane Richard Baker died on Saturday. I heard this sad news first at Eleven o’clock and every subsequent bulletin caught throughout the day.

For a woman of my generation he was indeed a News Reader and a Proms man. More piquantly though, he – and this wasn’t mentioned at all – was the idiosyncratic choice for his steadiness to tell the thirteen stories of Mary, Mungo & Midge.

© Estate of John Ryan                                     Mungo and Midge returning

Children’s telly in the early Seventies mebbie lacked the in-ya-faceness which obtains today yet seemed to me to require viewer participation in the action, agreeing somehow to allow the spell to be cast.

Richard Baker’s delivery was essential in the conveyance to his wide-eyed audience of the weird reality of high-rise living. In virtue of his baritones, we sat clamped in wonder at the mysteries of the wider world.

The series was conjured up by Captain Pugwash creator, John Ryan and was oft repeated, thus having a life long after its natural end … and still able to surprise. I got real shock seeking out an illustration: the series was in colour. It was a different world.

A news reader to the last, it appears he informed, educated and entertained his fellow care-home residents with headline cuttings once the sun hove past the yard-arm each evening. This strikes one as joyous, benign and mirthful; a glorious rounding of a well-lived life.

God speed, Richard Baker.

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If in doubt, do

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© Peace Pledge Union

A maxim that guides my hand – always to good effect – is If in doubt, do. In other words, when no harm can result from doing a thing one might otherwise put off, it can’t hurt to try. Puzzling, then, that I’ve been squinting somewhat in perplexity.

The only political statement I make is to wear a white poppy at this somber time of year. It is in empathy with the brave souls who defend our freedoms and expression of dismay at the failure in dialogue that leads to war.

I’m hoping to attend the Cenotaph this Sunday. It seems meaningful and important to share this anniversary.

But, how will my white poppy be met? Recording vox pops for Abacus, my attempt to make things add up, broadcast on Resonance 104.4fm, I want to capture some off-the-cuff thoughts; reflections on the dreadful business it all was; musings on the intuitive connection one feels to the totality of suffering.

A rabbi on the radio the other day said what matters is how one’s words are understood, rather than their intended meaning. This brought me up short: how can any of us possibly determine how others think?

Perhaps by listening to what they say?

The signing of the Armistice – an agreement to halt physical conflict – did not bring an end to all war. And this Centenary since those guns fell silently away won’t deter further deafness to dialogue. In the pause for thought those Two Minutes offer, mebbie we can listen and learn to the weight of sorrow wrought by such frantic loss of humanity?

#YouFirst

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© National Maritime Museum                 Conspicuous Gallantry Medal 1848

There was an interesting confluence of news stories this morning. On one hand, the Health & Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock suggested promoting health and preventing illness was a better use of resource than treating the symptoms* while on the other, Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime suggested that drug-driven knife crime has achieved epidemic scale and a different strategy is needed.

Evolving how we view traditions and embrace fresh customs takes less time than one might think.

Take recycling or smoking or plastic bag use. Each could be shown as exemplum of a strategy with unexpectedly stellar success. There’s hope, therefore, that if an issue is presented simply to lay bare the thinking behind it, it stands a chance of being embraced as common sense.

Let’s give it a try.

Somewhere between then and now, self-discipline, courtesy and kindness fell out of fashion. As a result, a MeFirst approach took hold. Gone are good manners, vanished is the knowledge of how to behave in any setting, evaporated is the sense that self-control is more powerful a weapon than weaponizing professionalism.

The children who kill one another through knife crime have not been taught that self-confidence comes from strength of character. Their parents were not taught that hitting out is a weak retaliation. In short, we have two generations who really don’t understand the principles of right and wrong.

To address this, it needs to be emphatically declared that lack of self-discipline and poor manners are not acceptable. Poor behaviour in the grocery shop\bus\post office queue is to be calmly denounced as unacceptable behaviour. Babies left crying by exhausted young mums are to be comforted by more experienced women able to soothe rather than tutt. … You get the idea.

It’s never too late to act and benevolence is not weak.

Compassion means shared suffering. Taking back control means taking responsibility for our actions.

#YouFirst could be a start. If we remove this cultural and social malignancy asphyxiating the generosity of spirit that ventilates life, the sooner we might re-form accepted norms of behaviour. Equally, the sooner we might transform our own confidence to flourish our surroundings.

* scroll through this Blogos for posts on just this subject

Cutting off our face to spite our nose

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© BBC                                                                              Cassandra O’Brien Δ.17 whose life was extended through a series of 708 plastic surgery operations, until she was nothing but a piece of skin stretched onto a frame with eyes and a mouth, connected to a brain in a jar.

This tragic figure from Dr Who: an exemplar of the aphorism I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

Twenty sixth October 2018. It’s the last summer-timed Friday of the United (sic) Kingdom’s place in the European project.

The manner of our departure isn’t helping: absence by a thousand cuts. We are living through history: and we shall be judged harshly for the transformation from nobly profiled figurehead to featureless irrelevance.

Rather than carp, how can we help? Concentrate on flourishing the country which appears in the grip of a lack of good manners.

Sound … irrelevant? Well, the better one behaves, the stronger one grows. Mebbie this is just the moment to add to campaigns of strengthening our behaviour with courtesy, kindness and consideration?

The deepening of humanity in each of us is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of life by virtue of the virtues it develops. If you want to be Great, be kind. If it wants to be Great Britain once more, it has to be kind to itself.

Granted, an empathic stretch of the imagination will be needed to grasp just how crucial a role temperate rationalism will play in long-term success. Yet if we are inert in commitment to flourish these isles, forget Britain after the Romans’ departure. It’ll be as though we’re erased from the future.

Cassandra O’Brien Δ.17 is an identification tag. A tag removes the humanity from the … object. What remains after removing humanity from humanity? Prisoners. Evolving prisons to focus on education may assist restoring self esteem. Moral decay is preceeded by emotional decay. We can, at least, prevent that.

Wondering the Yonder

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NASA’s cheerful, to-infinity-and-beyond-type marque

When it comes to bumping into lamp-posts, tumbling into potholes and tripping over the voles, I never seem to learn that gazing into the wide, indigo universe when the International Space Station (ISS) whooshes overhead should be done when … stationary. Clue’s in the title. [That link connects to signing up for the alerts: NASA merely needs your post/zip code.*]

If familiar with past programmes or content of this Blogos you’ll know how irresistable is the pull of the Yonder of creation, space and space scientists.

In the same month as NASA sends an ISS alert renewal query (absobloomin’lutely) the first film to feature 1969 moon landing of Apollo 11 opens across the UK tonight.

©  Landov                                   The gentle man

Neil Armstrong: whose modesty of nature shines as a balm. Did the majesty awe him into a life muted to our deafening curiosity? First Man is his only biopic.

When its youth-ful director, Damien Chazelle glided onto the stage wing of Curzon Mayfair just before screening of his first major film, La La Land, he responded genially to a few questions and seemed entirely unaware of the stratospheric success that would follow. He seems still grounded to reality.

Mebbie this is something we should all try: leaping beyond known limits on behalf of our fellow creatures and simply letting our lives speak?

* gazing up gives almost as much pleasure as sharing a bath-time Prestat truffle

© NASA

Tipping the scales

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© WingNut Films                               Smeagol, unable to relinquish his Precious

Here at the Materials, we’ve been trying to think of a comparable situation to the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process ~ you know, the chap nominated by the #Resident to sit in judgement at the highest court in the land.

Consider for a moment: notwithstanding the flawed nature of every person on the planet – part of being human, after all – generally speaking the integrity of such committees should be above reproach. How else can we have confidence in the truth & justice of its judgement?

Peter Carrington springs to mind, somehow. He was Foreign Secretary when the Falklands fiasco blew up. He resigned in virtue he had not foreseen the consequences of Argentinian mutterings.

To finish the first sentence above, therefore: we can’t. We can’t think of another instance of such shameless gall.

It’s hard to hap on a more unedifying tableau of a man whose integrity and honour have been questioned gripping to the tantalizing prize of immutable power. The Eight other members of the Supreme Court are cast in puzzling light if they consider such questions to hang over the prospective Ninth as recommendation.

The irony is that by undermining confidence in the judicial process, the occupant of the White House reinforces his values, his priorities and his humanity. That US Senators, who do the confirming bit, are either complicit or oblivious seems unimaginable.

Speaking of irony, do you also wonder if the #Resident who recommended himself so highly in advance is glad for the actual Nobel Peace Prize Laureates whose work to comfort and support victims of sexual outrage has been recognized in this most globally visible manner?

Pawing over the evidence

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Oh dear: this looks bad. No posts in over a month then another animal story follows the last. Mebbie it’s that the world is so mad currently, soothing sanctuary is delivered through pondering and wonder-ing?

We came across a peer-review journal: this is how it describes itself. Learning & Behavior  publishes experimental and theoretical contributions and critical reviews concerning fundamental processes of learning and behavior in nonhuman and human animals. Topics covered include sensation, perception, conditioning, learning, attention, memory, motivation, emotion, development, social behavior, and comparative investigations.

In yesterday’s Telegraph, Henry Bodkin opened his piece on research published in said journal by telling us that dogs were no smarter than goats. Well, look no further than the last post, below, to finish that sentence.

And yet in fairness, the character of a dog is wildly different: maybe intelligence is a flawed method of assessing animals’ merits?

Afterall, walk into a room to find a dog. It will greet you with over-eager enthusiasm and say ‘Halllooooooooo. Where’s the ball; throw the ball; throw the ball; where’s the ball?

Enter a room to find a cat (doubtless in slumber). If the energy can be mustered, it might creak open an eyelid and if it deems you sufficiently worthy of addressing, might say “I trust you realize that I am the Platonic Form Cat. My self-evident perfection is the mold for all who crave such feline iridescence yet a glimpse of me must lay waste to their puny ambition.”

This marked difference between two domesticated species tells all one need know that character traits of living creatures is a more complex matter. How the brain works can be replicated by artificial intelligence. But the mind – or consciousness, or the faculty by which we know we’re alive – is life: on which rests the mysterious wonder-ings immutably resistant to capture.

Would that the consequence of all the research – this latest from University of Exeter – sought to flourish human imagination and capacity to understand animals’ inalienable right to live to the fullest degree.

Women know what it means to be diminished through others’ ignorance and – by implication of which – fear.

Shouldn’t walls that imprison possibility be torn down?