Wondering the Yonder


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



Tipping the scales


© 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


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?

Reading the signs: Goats’ emotional literacy


An Indian billy, having a think. Nothing gruff here.

If summer’s book end on Monday closed what is known in England as the silly season, then a report published this morning must be deemed serious research and gives something of a fillip to those who have never seen animals as anything but sentient beings.

A study conducted by Dr Alan McElligott of Queen Mary, University of London and Natalia Alburquerque of University of Sao Paulo opens ‘new paths to understanding the emotional lives of all domestic animals’. It found that at the country’s only caprine refuge – Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats, in Kent – the ruminants responded to pictures of smilingly cheerful faces over those with a grumpy demeanour.

Why does this matter? All pet owners would gamble their souls to assert their pets not only understand but love them, so this really ain’t news. Well, seemingly it is.

In order to take seriously what we all know intuitively to be true, scientific research must be undertaken. And naturally, single data-point extrapolation would render its conclusion void. So we shalln’t do that.

Rather, let us consider how rational is it in the absence of corroborating data [by which we mean that which maps onto the metaphysic of reality] baldly to deny any possibility all living creatures enjoy access to processes necessary to leading the fullest lives? If we term animals as dim because they don’t understand humans – which gives permission to odd people to brutalize their beasts somehow – then the logic demands accepting the counter-factual that we are dim in virtue of not understanding them.

Animals are sensitive to things where our senses are blunt. Was it not the case birds silenced themselves and animals galloped inland in advance of 2004 Tsunami? Have animals managed their affairs such that each community lives in peace alongside one another? Do whales need telephones to speak to others thousands of miles away? Seemingly, an Elephants’ Graveyard is a mythical notion but animals have a sense of their own mortality, taking themselves off for a dignified death. 

What humans lack is abundant in animals and vice versa. The logic of judging one group superior as a result seems flawed. All of us have gifts and abilities, undiminished by lack of others.

Reading signs and acting on that information is available in every living creature, enlarging the modality of emotional literacy. Nanny knows best when the kids are united. [Do stop. Ed]  

Lean on me


© Scott Merrylees                                                                     Gauthier Ganaye

Emotional resilience has a brand new Poster Pin-Up. Gauthier Ganaye is Barnsley Football Club’s chief exec.

He learnt of a supporter’s depression and wrote him an empathic, supportive letter encouraging his efforts to overcome the black dog of his spirits.

Splen-bloomin’-dacious. Or, Spectemur Agendo should we say? He has taken the club’s motto to heart for we judge him by his acts.

This recently-Thirty year old Frenchman has risen fast in a sector which, hitherto, has seldom been able to yodel its credentials in acknowledging validation of human-ness.

Perhaps his success is bound to the kind of man he is? How we  do something is how we do everything, after all. C’est tellement beau que nous trouvions l’humanité dans le football.

It’s far too early to quip the lean times of the sport are over but with the Southgates and, now, Ganayes of the world featuring high in the football firmament, mebbie there is reason to hope imaginative compassion comes to inform how we lean on each other and the high-scoring sense of so-doing?

Green papers, White flags


© Richard Hanson                                              Park Hill Estate, Sheffield

Social housing could be such a beacon. The green paper published today aims among other things “to rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords …” This seems important. Yet, there is something missing from the five core themes, alas: to build structures that make maximal use of renewable technologies.

If we can power homes through clean energy – solar panels, wind turbines, geo-thermal rods, Archimedes screws – then what’s stopping us? [Don’t say Cash: cost-benefit analysis is clear] Building new, wherever it’s done, still doesn’t have sustainable technologies sunk into the foundations of planning. This seems odder than a former foreign secretary behaving as a toddler and still being taken seriously.

The default position for design and construction has to evolve, doesn’t it? New Towns are planned: never once is mentioned how they might harmonize with the ecology by drawing directly from it. The nay-sayers flip-up like jack-in-the-boxes to denounce the ability of renewables to meet demand yet concede something must be done. It’s astounding how vested interests trickle out truth amid streams of bilge.

In the next Blogos, we shall post a graph of data which shows just how straightforward focussing utilities’ supply from renewable sources could be. And remember, intention matters. If kindness informs rational action, it generates its own energy such that housing estates would begin with and evolve an underlying positiveness.

Why is this uppermost in the mind? How many times in the past two months have people just sitting in their cars responded to requests to cut their engines with ‘what I do doesn’t matter’? The majority are happy to, saying they hadn’t noticed or yes, they really should. Slivers of resistance come mostly from 30-somethings who justify it running with dismal thin arguments: the one which has me hooting is “I need it for the air-con”.

They seem suffocatingly unaware of the irony.

New form of a dress?


Image Hermaphroditus – you’ll never guess whose child*

We live in a Post-Gender Age.

Mebbie it is an opportunity to refresh or swell the language? Or, see it as an imperceptible turn of the wheel that rotates in light of there being no new ideas, no original thought? … Nothing new under the sun.

For aeons, Western culture has looked to ancient Greece for intellectually civilizing forms and to the Levant for spiritual leadership. Since 4th century BC, therefore, cultural mores have accommodated notions of there being a balance within every individual of he-ness and she-ness to wit it follows the existential neutrality of It-ness.

Image           a Rick Owens dress

Consulting Monsieur Roget (without a Thesaurus, where would we be?), of the many sections on Relations one is Abstract with sub-sections Identity, Contrariety, Non-&-Uniformity, Difference: but still, unavailable was a word for It-ness.

When two things stand in contrast to one another, there exists in the space between … a something. In terms of humanity and its sense of self, this may be where It-ness is manifest?

For all those who have lived in the shadow of historic binary, the shattering relief their Being is at last acknowledged must echo through them. This is an opportunity for the rest of us to expand the perimeter of thought and consideration: I’m not sure whether LGBTQ communities are peaceful with having a letter for an identifier but at least it starts to recognize the rich spectrum of life. As I’m a newcomer to all this, I intend to listen to know better, ultimately, how to say Hallo.

* Hermes and Aphrodite