Sunday, October 4, 2015

arctic Crow

Last week while Crow was visiting an old friend in the far north he was witness to an unexpected, albeit happy, event when the Shell Oil deep sea drilling rig was towed away from the Alaska coast. After more than eight years of planning and drilling, costing more than $8 billion, Royal Dutch Shell announced that it is shutting down its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. The bombshell announcement dooms any chance of offshore oil development in the U.S. Arctic for years. :)

Of course, if we want to continue having nice things like polar bears, healthy forests and decent air to breathe what really needs to happen is that most of the fossil fuels that remain in the ground need to be left right where they are. You can read more about that here. As you can well imagine, the big oil companies don't think this is a good idea at all.

Maybe the day will come when a spare $7 billion here and there will be used to develop useful strategies for alternative energy and public work projects. Such things have been known to happen.

Crow was glad of his snifter of Remy Martin when he returned from this journey.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

now it's late September

This is a noria, one of the great water wheels of Syria. The origins of them are obscure but it is thought that they were invented in India or the Hellenistic Near East in the centuries preceding the birth of Christ.  It is also believed that they were pivotal in the Muslim Agricultural Revolution which started in the eighth century and lasted several hundred years. Islamic Spain also used the noria and there are still a number there too.

The noria of Hama were almost industrial in their capacity. The largest has 120 water collectors and was capable of delivering almost one hundred liters of water each minute to the aqueduct.  Although none of the larger noria are now in use they are being maintained by the Syrian government so that future generations can witness the ingenuity of centuries gone by for themselves.

We have the money, the power, the medical understanding, the scientific know-how, the love and the community to produce a kind of human paradise. But we are led by the least among us – the least intelligent, the least noble, the least visionary. We are led by the least among us and we do not fight back against the dehumanizing values that are handed down as control icons.

~ Terence McKenna

Having spent September telling myself tomorrow is the day I'll get around to drawing a picture and writing a blog post that particular tomorrow remained elusive. Do you ever have times like that?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Crow shares

This afternoon while Crow and I were chatting about this and that the subject of the sharing economy popped up as it often will. It does, doesn't it? Don't we tell our children to share their toys; don't we share a plate of cookies with a friend; don't we share space when we chat with an old friend? Sharing happens all the time  as a natural part of life. You can imagine my surprise when Crow informed me that all the above is not what is meant by the words 'the sharing economy'.

Crow: The problem with these 'sharing economy' companies is that although they hold themselves up to be champions of the people they are actually exploiters. Renting isn’t the same as sharing. When someone pays someone else to sit on the back seat of their car they've rented it out. They've rented the person who drives the car. They rent a couch for the night or a spare bedroom or an apartment when the owner or official renter is away. There is no sharing in the 'sharing economy'. In actuality, what they've undertaken is to participate in a black market economy.

me: Aren't these companies better, cheaper, more convenient?

Crow: Why are they cheaper and more convenient? It's because they bypass normal regulatory frameworks. The laws of a country. Where do laws come from and why do they arise? Well, the law follows and reacts to circumstance. The laws on installation of heated water systems for example arose after several disasters with boilers during the Victorian era. The laws on regular maintainence of fire safety equipment have arisen similarly. Hotels and other public places comply with those laws in order to protect people. Air BnB is cheaper because those who host on it do not have to comply as they are private residences, therefore they avoid legitimate overhead costs. 

me: But people who provide these services need the extra money.

Crow: These businesses can only succeed if the people undertaking the work break the law and/or have no employment rights or protection. For example - Uber only works because the company doesn't care about disability legislation or taxi licensing laws. Air BnB only works because people renting their houses out ignore the raft of legislation that hotels and B&Bs have to comply with.

If the regulators get involved because these microbusinesses are breaking the law, the sharing economy company either stands back and says 'we are only an internet platform' or campaigns that the 'old economy' is trying to stifle personal freedom while conveniently forgetting the fact that much of the legislation is in place to protect the customer.

While putting across the view that they are small, hip, entrepreneurial companies, they are in fact bankrolled by companies like Google and Goldman Sachs and are simply a computer platform with a very good legal department and extremely well-funded Government lobbyists. Posing as martyrs of progress and bastions of the free world, all they are is a company trying to create a global monopoly with little regard to any of the social effects their technology entails. The Ubers of this world are just strip-miners. Posing as some kind of 'champion of the people' they use the fruits of the public realm, ie. the internet,  public education, roads, etc, to diminish the wealth of that same public realm by killing jobs and thus eroding the tax-base.

me: I guess I won't be putting that 'Couch to Share - One Night Only' sign in the window. Goodness knows what laws I'd be breaking with that one.

With thanks to Olivier Blanchard.

note: Hope you won't mind seeing a reprise of Crow's Sanctum picture from a few years ago. It's still one of our favorites.

Monday, August 24, 2015

dragon days of summer

As you can see, I did come up with one picture in recent days but the heat and humidity of August has made it uncomfortable enough that I can't stay at my table very long. So - a simple picture of two friends meeting after a little absence is something of a character study rather than an illustration for anything in particular. One of these days I'll get that story done..

Now that I've mentioned a story but don't have one of my own, here's an old favorite you might like:

When Grandma Goes To Court

Lawyers should never ask a Mississippi grandma a question if they aren't prepared for the answer.

In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked "Mrs. Jones, do you know me?" She responded, "Why yes I do know you since you were a little boy, and frankly you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes I know you.

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?

She replied, "Why yes I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him."

The defense attorney nearly died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice said:

"If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair."

Meanwhile, I hope you've been enjoying the great outdoors as much as we have. Til next time.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

on the wagon with Crow

Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Most jobs in today's world depend on not understanding nature.

The lack of discussion of how to adapt to climate change is the great blank spot in current debate because most of the people having the discussions are still trying to use the threat of an ugly future to bully people into joining a movement. You have to love the simplicity of climate change movement when the rhetoric revolves around the measurement of the amount of CO2 ppm like a speed cop on the side of the road believing that all the ills/accidents are the result of 'speeding'. Just because it can be given a number of measure does not make it more important. Our destruction of the environment is far more critical to our long-term survival as we wipe out forests, over-fish, pollute drinking water, turn soil into a lifeless conglomeration, etc. The earth will go through ups and downs in term of temperature with or without us. She is not the one at risk, we are.

If there is one thing I've come to see, it's that environmentalism was a failed movement, and precisely because a truly serious environmentalism asks too much of a rethink of industrial civilization. I can only hope that natural systems are more resilient than we realize. Of course, in enough time it will all wash out anyway, as life adapts... but I hate to admit that everything will only get worse for a long time.

There is a trajectory to every type of technology and it will find its mark with certainty. We and future generations might as well blame that first human ancestor who left the trees. Or maybe it's these damned opposable thumbs that Crow talks about.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

my own social media

Sir: I haven't got a computer, but I was told about Facebook and Twitter and am trying to make friends outside Facebook and Twitter while applying the same principles.

Every day, I walk down the street and tell passers-by what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before and what I will do for the rest of the day. I give them pictures of my wife, my daughter, my dog and me gardening and on holiday, spending time by the pool. I also listen to their conversations, tell them I 'like' them and give them my opinion on every subject that interests me.. whether it interests them or not.

And it works. I already have four people following me: two police officers, a social worker and a psychiatrist.

~ Peter White, Holbrook, Derbyshire


Friday, July 31, 2015

serpent of summer

A couple of days ago when walking along one of the more hidden paths in Point Pleasant Park we found a little guy who looked something like this. Actually, he looked a lot like this. Isn't he beautiful? Definitely a garter snake, but a smallish one, probably only very recently born, he was in a wooded area where  moss, granite outcrops, surface roots and pine needles were lit by dappled sunlight. As I walked between two closely spaced trees I could easily have stepped on him if it weren't that his surprised stare stopped me in my tracks. Yes, he was looking at me with what appeared to be a shocked expression but it may be they always look shocked - at least until they react. Neither of us had seen a snake in the park before so we knelt down and all three of us looked each other over. After a few minutes he gave a snakely shrug and slithered sedately over a root and into a hollow at the base of the tree. We watched him curl into the space and then continued our walk. Next up was the frog chorus among the lily pads of the old quarry pond. You'd never guess a simple walk could be so entertaining, would you?

While I hate snagging internet pictures the problem now is I seem to be in the midst of an unexpected, and entirely unplanned, drawing and painting hiatus this summer. Okay, I could have drawn a snake - it's not like that would be very complicated, is it? Anyhow, I felt like telling the story without going to my drawing table first. I hope you don't mind and I hope the anonymous snake photographer won't mind either. I'm sure the snake won't care.

Meanwhile, I did find a wonderful article called 'Web Design: The First 100 Years'. If you take a peek the mid-90s layout style is a design statement. This is a great talk, well worth reading, especially if you're curious about why the gazillionaires who run Silicon Valley are bonkers.

Quote of the week:
 “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”
~ E.O. Wilson