Monday, 5 June 2017

Distortional Representation - The New Politics

Distortional Representation: When a statement is made by a person with one intention, but is twisted around by a receiving person, or people, and repeated in a provocative way to mean something different. As a result, no amount of come-back explanation will then be accepted in support of the originally intended meaning.

Distortional Representation can be accidental or deliberate. An accidental example might be a text message or an email, sent with one intention, but interpreted by the recipient in a completely different way. This is quite common and is a result of not being able to interpret other simultaneous signals, such as, facial expressions or voice intonation. Another reason for misinterpretation, could be the mood of the recipient at the time of reading the message. If the person is already feeling annoyed, this angst could be conveyed to what is being read. This is why it is important, when you send a written message, to re-read it in different ways, to see if it could be misunderstood. One way to help reduce misunderstanding, is to use emojis :-) or abbreviations (lol). Accidental examples:

'If you'd done what I told you, we wouldn't be in this mess!'
'If you'd done what I told you, we wouldn't be in this mess!' (lol)

'Will you tell Steve...'
'Could you ask Steve...'

Deliberate examples of the type we typically see in media reporting, are like these. Notice too, the use of upward intonation, at the end of the replies, to convey indignation in the form of a question:

Person A: "I believe we should always try to resolve conflict through discussion."
Person B: "So you're saying, you wouldn't hit anyone?"

Person A: "It would be more cost effective to use some of the left-over paint for this job."
Person B: "So you're suggesting we should make do with out-of-date and inferior materials?"

Person A: "We need a time for reflection before acting inappropriately."
Person B: "So you're just going to do nothing?"

To accomplish Distortional Representation effectively, the transmitting party must illicit a particular response in the witnessing receivers. Being forceful and charismatic, repeating any emotive words, in a provocative manner, is used to create an emotional trigger response in receivers. Those receivers will often feel a resonant connection, in their own life experience, whether actual or believed, and if a further link can be connected to, or associated with, for example, past historical atrocities, in ways that the receiving audience feels should be off-limit, taboo subjects, then outrage is complete and the deflection through Distortional Representation, is complete.

Politics is possibly much more about marketing than it is about policies. Several approaches have been tried over the years, from the rule of threes - 'no, no, no.' and 'a better this, a better that, and a better the other.' All the way through to patronising platitudes - 'hard working families' and the 'great British public.'

It often feels as if a team of people have put together special political training resources... oh, hang on a minute... they have:
  • The 'Plausible Deniability Pack'.
  • The 'Unthreatening Hand Gesture Training DVD' (with free mirror).
  • The 'Paul Daniels Misdirection Manual'.
  • The Groucho Marx, 'Ask and Answer All Your Own Questions' (worksheets).
The always now used personal favourite, has to be answering one's own questions - stopping the interviewer from changing your subject, whilst giving the listeners what they really need to hear: 'Do I want a fairer Britain? Yes I do. Has our party got the right policies in place? Yes it has.' 

Then we went through a period, when politicians started to carefully hide small untruths and, when found out, used various techniques of misdirection to smooth over the cracks. There then followed a policy of declaring outrageous changes, letting the public express their upset and anger, and once that had died down, bringing in the changes, largely unannounced, a few months or a year later, to little, if any, protest - often at a time when something else was stealing the headlines, such as a major death in the story plot of a TV Soap, or better still, a terrorist event.

Anything that frightens and causes panic in people, provides an opportunity to bring in sweeping changes, that under other circumstances, would never be permitted by a society.

Over the past few years of governance, politicians have stopped worrying about covering their tracks. Blatant dishonesty and lying has become the norm. Outrageous true stories have beggared belief. It is no wonder that similarly generated stories, linked together with the popularity of social media and 'click bait' monetised articles, have resulted in a lot of 'Fake News'.

But what about the 'facts'? Why are we not listening to, and taking notice of, all the rational and educated 'experts' when it comes to making informed choices about our personal and our country's future? Well, there could be a number of reasons:
  1. Losing faith in experts, when we were convincingly told something that later turned out to be incorrect.
  2. Feeling that our opinions will be overruled - 'they' will do it anyway.
  3. Feeling innately uncomfortable with something we are told is for our own good.
  4. Not being able to relate our own experience, to the information being promulgated.
  1. Going back a few years, the first time we began to openly lose trust in our 'experts', was around the BSA cattle crisis. Other instances followed, such as insistence on an MMR vaccine, rather than separate vaccines, where expertise started to sound more arrogant than informed. 

  2. We have also now reached a point where politicians have stopped caring whether or not they will be 'found out' when telling us porkies and despite their lies being quite transparent, we have got used to this being 'the way it is'.

  3. Imposing restrictions on a populace, because of the generated perception of personal threat, enables a government to quickly pass into law, measures that could be far-reaching in detrimental ways to, for example, freedom of speech and information, or human rights.

  4. When a politician talks about 'hard working families', it comes across as their patronising way of trying to placate an underclass of people who's lives they know little about - the well-to-do, standing shoulder to shoulder with the proletariat and often, financially dispossessed.

But now, there is a new tool in the political armoury - what I am calling, Distortional Representation. We have already seen it occur in the recent past, with Ken Livingstone's comments, misreported in a way to suggest strong anti-Semitism - effectively ending Livingstone's credibility and political career. I am not saying I am a fan of Livingstone, but I did observe the distorted reporting at the time, offered up with loud, provocative, and often charismatic anger, lodging in the minds of people ready to be outraged by well chosen sound-bite extractions for media dispersal. 

We now witness the same approach, applied to the leaders of the two main political parties - Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. However, given that the Conservatives currently hold the power, it's easy to see why the mainstream media sways towards May and away from Corbyn. Political commentators can have a lot of influence in the way a public audience receives information, through audio-visual broadcasts and other media, and if they repeat a distortion of what is said with particular intonation or emphasis, it's quite easy to influence opinion in many of the listening, reading, or viewing public. This technique is made easier by the fact that few people really listen, and fewer still, bother to think about anything in any depth. Dramatisation, outrage, and shock, are the things we naturally react to.

It's very challenging to write an article on this subject, because I know that everyone has a personal opinion, based on their own understanding of the reality they experience. We always gravitate towards those who agree with our own opinions. You might call it a tribal approach to living. Personally, I can see, and to varying degrees understand, merits in most opposing opinions on a variety of subjects. No one has the perfect answer and no one really holds the truth. In fact, truth only becomes accepted as truth, when enough people agree on something - regardless of whether that truth stands up over time. Unfortunately, we have developed a world where 'fighting' for one's truth then takes over. Instead of the truth unveiling itself, it comes down to a battle of the physically superior. The people who can bomb the shit out of any opposition hold the rightful truth.

Quantum Mass Structure of different beliefs

In 2011, I gave a talk to a small group of scientific researchers, in Barcelona, called 'Quantum Mass Superstructures'. A year later, this became a book by the same name, with the additional strap line of: 'creating the world you experience'. Within this book, I talked about how the world was now full of different creative thoughts and opinions and how the advent of the world wide web (Internet) had enabled all these views to be expressed and easily accessed. However, build-ups of strong views would ultimately meet in varying degrees of collaboration or opposition, often creating equal divisions of beliefs about reality. At such times, you either get great positive, and creative changes, or horrifying and upsetting, negative disturbances.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Manifestos To Go

Searches online for the main two Manifestos arrive at Labour's slightly quicker than the Conservatives - and you can then download pdf copies.

The Conservative Manifesto (pdf file) totals 88 pages, and appears to be written (as a friend said) 'like a report of accounts, rather than information for normal people.'

The Labour Manifesto (pdf file) totals 128 pages, and appears to have content that is easier to digest.

One of the big issues I have had with some of the rhetoric, particularly from the Conservatives, is their American approach to selling their ideas. You speak for several minutes on the benefits of what you are offering, but refuse to let on what, exactly, you are offering that will produce those benefits. You get this a lot with American selling of personal development programmes. Half an hour of how great the programme is and what wonderful benefits you will receive, and how you will be much richer, in every way, by the end of the course. At the very end, it offers a single payment option of $500 or 4 payments of only $125 each. But of course, there are no guarantees that the programme will live up to its hype, or enable you to earn back your money in the first year of putting the training into practice.

You speak for several minutes on the benefits of what you are offering, but refuse to let on what, exactly, you are offering that will produce those benefits. 

If nothing else, one thing we have all learnt about Politics and Politicians, of any side, is that you cannot believe promises made to get into power and you cannot believe monetary figures  relating to how things will be paid for. The truth is, that no politicians can know for certain, exact figures. Everything is based on positive projections of best possible outcomes - not on what is in the vaults. Having worked in a number of organisations over the years, I have lost count of the times that bids were won on low outlay promises, but once won, suddenly required additional support to continue. Those that put in more realistic [higher] bids, often lost out. As another friend once said: 'Better to ask for forgiveness, than beg for permission.'

The remit laid out in the Conservative Manifesto is impressive in its scope and breadth and if I were to accept it at face value, I'd certainly be tempted to vote for them. However, it is promising much more than can reasonably be achieved or delivered - given that the past few years of essentially Conservative led governance has failed to come close to achieving most of the promises now being re-presented in new wrapping. Having been trained in secondary teaching, at the time of the introduction of the then new 'National Curriculum', the aims and objectives were both noble and encouraging. However, the reality, once at the cutting edge of the classroom, left much to be desired.

In trying to decide on who you should vote for in this coming UK Election, ignore the focus on glamorous spin; forget talk of where money is going to come from; and do not get groomed into thinking that the slickest presentation is going to give you the best desired outcomes. In addition to taking the time to consider, first hand, the Manifesto pledges, go with your gut instinct and your heart. If something sounds too good to be true, on either side, then it most likely is. The time for easily conjured statistics and manufactured 'rational' argument, has passed in this country. There are too many disconnected public opinions to wade through and both camps will argue for their own truths with immovable conviction.

Read through the Manifestos carefully and make sure you understand fully, what is being said and offered. If necessary, shut yourself in a silent room without distractions of people, newspapers, mobile smart devices, and television, and see which Manifesto produces the clarity you are really looking for and consider the implications of your choice, both for yourself and for society as a whole. Ask more questions, do some further research on and off line, if you need greater clarity. Ask yourself this question: What do I believe and why?

Now might also be the time to recall the expression, 'a Leopard cannot change its spots', when you read through these Manifestos. You may justifiably reflect on some of the woes of the previous Labour Government, but also bear in mind, that the Conservatives have now had a considerable amount of time to improve many of the things they are now talking about improving. Why have we not already seen some indication of these 'improvements', at street level? Despite their protestations, our society is showing a lot of cracks at present. A lot of those infamous 'hard working families' have not seen measurable improvements in their circumstances for several years and many young people are struggling to start out on their own. If you really feel you can say, 'sure there have been improvements', then how long has it taken thus far, and by a process of considered extrapolation, how long do you realistically expect it to take, to reach the final promised outcomes?

The current Government talks about delivering its promises, and perhaps at a country level of 'holding our heads above water', this has some truth. However, where it needs to be felt, at domestic street and home level, it is evidently not being felt.

Click on the images below, to read the Manifestos.



One of the complaints we hear a lot, is that the different political parties cannot produce accurate clarity on their funding.

Presumably, after the pro-Brexit campaigning, some lessons have been learnt about bandying about monetary figures - better not to mention too many specific costs that could come back and bite you later!

Apart from this, we surely have to accept that leaders on all sides are bound to make a few gaffs along the way, when doing the endless and tiring rounds of media promotion for their respective causes. Furthermore, the snap [U-turn] election, took everyone by surprise, and to be able to put together detailed Manifestos in such a short space of time, is quite an achievement.

A big bone of contention, between the parties, is the situation surrounding Britain's National Health Service. The Conservatives haven't endeared themselves to supporters of the NHS and May has said very publicly, that she is a supporter of the Naylor Report, which essentially puts the current NHS Trusts in a difficult position.

In a somewhat surprising turnaround of recent events, the concern that George Osborne's running of the London Evening Standard, might lead to biased reporting in favour of the Conservatives, now labels Theresa May's manifesto as the 'most disastrous in history'.


One of the issues facing the Labour Party, is their traditional approach to solving problems. Whilst the Conservatives make promises of growing a meritocracy, Labour could, if it's not careful, foster a mediocracy of dependency.

The issue with meritocracy, is that some people will never be able to compete in the assumed intellectual fashion - slipping through the net into a dark, underclass void. Conservatism is still very much about competition and 'survival of the fittest', but forgets that those of a less competitive nature and perhaps therefore, deemed to be lower down the pecking order, have an important role in maintaining the underlying structure and quality of life and value fulfilment in a society - supporting those 'higher up', with service industries and the creative arts. We have an odd, even somewhat perverse, practice in Britain, of rewarding those who bring in money and punishing those who struggle to generate even moderate levels of their own income.

The issue with mediocracy, is that some people will simply become dependent on others and not take responsibility for their own lives and the lifestyles they end up experiencing. There has to be a balance of both accepting personal responsibility and knowing that practical support for personal advancement is available to anyone who seeks it.

When it comes to Brexit, Labour is openly criticised for not being strong enough to negotiate for Britain's best interests, despite actually offering more detail than the Conservatives, in respect of how it intends to manage the process. The argument that Corbyn thinks 'money grows on trees' does not stand up to scrutiny, when you see that the Conservatives appear to have even less idea of where their money for reform is going to come from. There's a lot of bluster and hyperbole, but exactly, what is being helpfully presented?


On another note...

Aside from the whole Brexit thing, one of the areas making the headlines is the potential raising of corporation taxes. Perhaps we shouldn't take higher taxes from corporations, as money that goes back into the Government's pockets. Perhaps we should instead, make it a law, that the amount of that proposed increase in corporation tax should instead be given directly to community and social causes within Britain - decided on by the companies affected, and enabling everyone to see the contribution being made. It could also be a way to dispel a lot of the resentment poorer people have for richer people doing so well.

Corporation tax should instead be given directly to community and social causes within Britain

I liken this idea to that of paying everyone in the country, a minimum cost of living income - particularly as we move towards more roles being taken over by automation. Great idea in some ways but totally inappropriate in others - namely, that many people would not use that income in the way intended. Better to give a percentage of free gas and electricity or similar help that then releases any additional income or conventional earnings, for having a better lifestyle.

Putting up a basic minimum wage, at the same time as increasing cost of living, is the same as leaving everything as it is. It does not work to give more money and then immediately put in systems and policies that allow it to be taken away again, or in the case of many situations, leave people actually worse off after an increase.

We must also accept, that not every member of our society has the same capabilities. You cannot say to an Elephant, that all animals should be able to climb trees, to prove their worth to the rest of the animal kingdom.

Anyway... good luck, and may you get the Government you truly deserve!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Thoughts of Adventure

Many of us have thoughts and ideas about how we might escape into an adventure somewhere, but like many, the conjured reality in the mind often prevents us from taking steps outside our comfort zones. For a while, it's easy to find excuses but as, one by one, these start to disappear, you are suddenly faced with the real possibility of having to follow through. Such was the case recently.

I knew I wanted to travel around a bit more, but with my love of vehicular transport, it had to be more adventure vehicle than public transport. Furthermore, 14 years of self-imposed social exile wasn't easy to brush off. The sort of thing I imagined, was this:

But then, I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in a group. I thought about going it alone in something ex-military. Four-wheel drive and good ground clearance with large enough accommodation to live in. Something a bit more robust and secure than a tent. The first vehicle that I discovered back in 2002 that met the criteria, was a Russian Gaz-66 from a site called 'Tanks For Sale'.

I also thought about adding a workshop in the form of a 4-wheel steer trailer:

There were a few drawbacks to these vehicles. Although they had that purposeful, rugged look I liked, they barely managed 15 mpg and a top speed of about 60 mph if you were lucky... and driving them was probably an experience in itself, since they only had the most basic of interior comforts. In fact, to even use the term 'comfort' in any description of these dinosaurs is potentially oxymoronic. In the past, a couple of my cars parked in a shared yard with my neighbours had just about scuffed acceptability, but at something in the order of 18 feet in length and around 8 feet in height, it wasn't going to be easy to hide the Gaz in a corner. I also considered 4x4 regular trucks and self-building my own back end accommodation... or failing that, getting a Jeep or Land Rover conversion - something smaller that would be easier to live with on a day to day basis and usable in Britain's, often cramped, villages and towns.

Through Pinterest and also learning that these vehicles actually had the name 'expedition vehicles', I discovered more of them. By now, I reckoned that a Unimog conversion (bottom right) would probably serve me best. It was big enough to carry accommodation but small enough to be driven unobtrusively anywhere on a daily basis.

However, reality struck again when I realised how expensive these vehicles were and also how sought after. I kept searching the Internet and in particular, eBay. I came up with a few possibilities, but they were either too expensive or didn't have the right back boxes for accommodation conversion. Since I had decided that four-wheel drive was my essential baseline, I decided to run new searches using that criteria. This narrowed things down a lot and certainly made searching faster. What started to show up were various variants of Volkswagen campers, Mazda Bongo's, Toyota's and Nissan's. It gradually dawned on me that I already knew a couple of people who owned Mazda Bongo's and I recalled how much they said they liked them. One suddenly appeared locally, so to cut the story short, I arranged a visit to view... and bought it.

In addition to some suggestions from the seller about fitting a water level alarm on the expansion tank, I did a bit of further research. The water level alarm turned out to be a popular addition, along with immobilizers and trackers. I also had the driver's side sill renewed, and although not essential for its remaining 11 months of MOT, I nevertheless decided it would be one less thing to bother with the following year. I also had the van looked over by my mechanics on a ramp and everything, apart from a slight weep on a front off-side shock absorber, was deemed fine. I had the flat, spare wheel tyre refitted by my tyre people for a tenner and did one or two other small jobs. However, for the first 3 weeks of ownership, other things took up my time and I wasn't actually able to go anywhere in the van. (I call it a van, since it is actually classed as an 8-seater multi-purpose vehicle or MPV. Apart from the raising roof tent, there is no camper conversion - see more on this below).

Another thing I discovered, was that Mazda Bongo's have quite a developing following and a growing network of advice, clubs, and spares. Originally privately imported from Japan, by individual's and not by commercial dealers, these vehicles have started to get the sort of status normally associated with VW Campers of the 60s and 70s. For a vehicle now 20 years old, mine seems in pretty good condition... and I have to add here, that the James Bond style (see 'The Spy Who Loved Me', Karl Stromberg's sea palace, 'Atlantis') electric window blinds are pretty neat too.

As someone who has camped under canvas and also had a few different caravan types in the past, I realised quite early on, you don't need much to survive quite comfortably. Seasoned caravaners would probably disagree with me, but I really can't see why a fitted kitchen with sink, a big cooker and big fridge, is really so necessary. All I need is a plastic washing-up bowl, a small suitcase gas cooker, and a 240VAC/12VDC portable cooler. Anything more, in a relatively small space, simply takes up room and adds weight. This is one reason why I like my Mazda being devoid of a full conversion. It preserves its utilitarian practicality whilst offering comfortable accommodation when required. So far, the only additions that I may invest in are a removable table and a side awning tent.

An inaugural visit to Filey, North Yorkshire (as it was forecast to have two hot, sunny days, together) went seamlessly, with the van performing well.

Experiments with interior layout and roof up or down suggested that for one person, you couldn't get much better. As someone with an interest in survival skills and associated equipment, I often find that I tend to take more than I actually need, let alone use. Sometimes, covering every eventuality isn't really necessary - particularly if one is within a short distance of modern-day population. With this in mind, I decided to make some notes of what I actually used and found useful, and what I could have done with, if I'd thought to bring it, or them, with me.

The first surprise, was how pleased I was that I had taken my computer laptop as well as a smart phone. This gave me access to all my usual activity, helped pass the later part of the evenings, and enabled me to email a few photos, in addition to anything uploaded by mobile. Since I was on a regular camp site (for this first test trip) I also had access to WiFi, albeit unsecured. Although I didn't manage to connect on the first evening, by the second day I'd sorted it. If I needed to log in to anything more important, I switched to my own secure data via a tether hot-spot to my phone.

The second surprise was how quick I could make toast - or at least I'd forgotten this from past usage. I have a little wire trapezoid toasting frame that lies across the gas burner. After slightly burning the first toast, in the time it took to reach into the van for my cup of tea, I realised it only took 12 seconds per side. Of all the gas appliances I have used, I have to say that these cheap little single burner stoves are excellent. You can get them from supermarkets for £10 and the gas cylinders last longer than you might expect.

Other things that I was grateful for included the cooler box, my shorts and sandals, some spring clips for gripping shut the van's end curtains, extra guy ropes to secure my windbreak, and my proper camera to capture anything of interest throughout the days.

What I missed most, was not having a female companion, or for that matter, anyone to talk to or share things with. Perhaps next time, I will try a wild camping trip - simply parking up somewhere remote. Eventually, I might even try venturing abroad... but ideally, not on my own.

Monday, 19 October 2015

National Arts Education Archive - the new Fahrenheit 451

Few of you may have heard of the NAEA - let alone have visited it! 

Based in the grounds of the YSP (Yorkshire Sculpture Park) and an easy 2-minute walk from the lower car park towards the old Bretton Hall, the National Arts Education Archive '...was established in 1985 to provide a documentary trace of the development of arts education in the UK and worldwide, by collecting children’s and students' work and the papers, letters and work of key educators and artists in the visual arts, music and language. This material, comprising more than 100 catalogued collections, is based in the purpose-built Lawrence Batley Centre at YSP and is available to researchers, lecturers and the general public by appointment.'

I was working at Bretton Hall College as an audio-visual technician when Lawrence Batley visited to view the new archive in 1985. I was asked to take a photograph of the occasion and recall quite vividly that Lawrence had forgotten to bring a red rose for his buttonhole - and steadfastly refused to have his photo taken without one! Bizarrely, that very same morning, someone had left a bunch of red roses in the Media Centre sink, which I had earlier come across by accident, since that was my base at the time. As a result, I was permitted to take the required press photo (which still appeared in the 89 edition of the college prospectus).

At the time of writing, there is an exhibition running in the NAEA put together by Eileen Adams, (educator and writer, member of the Expert Group for Art and Design Education) and the archive team, led by Anna Bowman and Leonard Bartle.

On Saturday 17 October 2015, I attended '(R)EVOLUTION: NAEA 30th Anniversary Celebration' where talks were given by Eileen Adams, together with some of the founders of the NAEA initiative: Dr John Steers and Professor Ron George. Artist, Bob and Roberta Smith (one person), also gave a talk in support of his exhibition running in the YSP Bothy Garden Gallery spaces and around the parkland: 'Art For All'.

For me, the event brought up feelings of both nostalgia and coming full-circle. My father, Keith Gentle, played an intrinsic and pivotal role in the Arts Education covered by this period of reflection, both through his work with the Schools Council [when living in Leicestershire] and from 1972 in his role as an Art Adviser for the West Riding, Yorkshire. It was during his time [as an Art Adviser], that he was instrumental in producing the 1978-79 exhibition and book, 'Learning Through Drawing'. Over the years, he had also worked alongside some of those both on the podium in front of me and in the audience with me. Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I recognised the ethos of the period now being discussed, having lived it first-hand. I too played my part in its evolution, both as a child who, with his two siblings, unwittingly contributed to the inspiration of his father's work and who later received a Fine Arts Degree in Sculpture from Sheffield City Polytechnic, before its satellite centre at Psalter lane (Sheffield College of Art) was closed down in August 2008 and, a couple of years later, demolished.

Between 1968 and 1975, we [the children] produced a variety of drawings and constructions, many of which were used as source material for my father's courses (many held at Woolley Hall when it was a centre for in-service training) - supporting school art teachers in their professional development. With emphasis on the creative process of child development, he [among other things] demonstrated the value of the direct experience of learning in a contextual environment. (Also see Land of Gobeyond and slide show here).


Since the beginning of the 1980s, successive political parties (though mostly the more right-wing ones) have denigrated the value of the arts in our British culture - first art & design and more latterly, music - and through adverse media reporting and political criticism, have produced a 'hit-list' of things to remove from the mainstream school curriculum by diminishing their importance to that of hobbies or extracurricular activities that must be paid for outside of the normal school day.

As I watched and listened to these [now elderly] presenters, I felt both the sorrow for something lost and the sense of urgency for something that must be preserved. These were people who had not only lived the experience of a free arts education, and met or worked alongside some of the most influential arts figures of our time, but who had also been instrumental in promoting the values of art and art teaching, perhaps not witnessed since the German Bauhaus movement of the early 1900s.

As I continued to listen, I was reminded of the book, Fahrenheit 451 - a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury published in 1953. It really started to feel as if the current attitude of political policy makers towards the arts in education, was like a living version of the outlaw of books in the story; where exiled drifters each memorised books for a future time when society would once again be ready to rediscover them. Likewise, there are fewer of us now left who remember the quale experience and value of true education with thoughtful pedagogy, alongside academic rigour, and independent of any future commercial relevance. The NAEA is the modern-day exiled drifter, preserving our educational arts heritage.


The steering group includes YSP Executive Director Peter Murray CBE; YSP staff; former NAEA trustees Prof. Ron George and Dr. John Steers General Secretary NSEAD; Emma Hunt Dean of Arts, Huddersfield University; Emeritus Prof. Patsy Cullen York St. John University; and in the chair Dr. Helen Rees YSP trustee and Head of Museology, Manchester University.

NAEA Contact
Leonard Bartle/Anna Bowman
Tel: +44 (0)1924 830690


Monday, 18 May 2015

Zen and the Art of Motor Vehicle Maintenance

I'd passed my driving test at age 17 and at age 18 I took possession of my first car - an old Mini Clubman (not the one shown here) with hydrolastic suspension - a mixture of 49% alcohol, 49% distilled water, and 1% each of two other additives to put people off drinking it! It was admittedly a comfortable but [on an old car] useless system - always letting the ride down on one side. There were a number of quirks to get used to and on one occasion the oil pressure dropped and I was informed of a trick to prevent it happening again by a former rally mechanic. In the 70s rust was still a major issue for most cars in the UK and a South Yorkshire farmer and neighbour suggested I "coat the underside with old Indian oil". On further questioning, I realised he was actually saying, "old engine oil".

Fortunately, I had considerable mechanical aptitude as a child, so approaching automotive problems as a young man didn't faze me. I have always been happy to launch myself into disassembly, with little fear or doubt in my ability to reassemble. Having said this, when it came to cars, it was almost mandatory to acquire a Haynes Manual - just in case... but more on that later.

I could probably describe myself as a "creative improviser" - being able to see solutions beyond what seems apparent. When it comes to vehicles, part one is understanding what needs to happen for something to function. Part two is being able to see the potential in any available objects and resources that might be to hand - no matter what their originally intended use or how they appear. Part three is focus and experimentation to arrive at a viable solution. Most of the time, this is all that is required. However, there are times when solutions seem to be illusive. So part four is "asking the universe for help". Part five is surrendering control and opening up to inspired thought that may offer new ideas. I could probably go on with various "parts" to round things up to some magical number of implied significance, but really its a constant flowing interaction between rational thought and inspired action. Here's one example...

My second car was a black Morris Minor with red interior, a spoked steering wheel, pull start, and a cranking handle! Changing gear was getting progressively more difficult and the clutch pedal was almost to the floor. I jacked up the car and looked underneath. The linkage was visible and I could see that the side connected to the chassis runner had split through the side of its rusty metal location bush.

As I pressed the pedal with my foot, the linkage rod pivoted away instead of moving in a rotary motion. Rationally, I couldn't see how I could easily repair the problem. I didn't know if a new bush could be purchased, or even if I could
remove the old one and refit a replacement. I relaxed my mind and surrendered to the futility that faced me. At that moment, it occurred to me that all I really needed to do, was keep the pivot rod in what remained of the existing bush. Suddenly, a solution presented itself. Get a piece of 2" x 1" wood and wedge it from the bush's broken side to the next available cross member of the chassis. Held in place with coat hanger wire, this improvised solution enabled me to once again change gear and was still working perfectly the day I sold the car.

It was around this time that I started to discover that Haynes Manual's rarely, if ever, had any instructions on how to repair most of the things that went wrong on my cars! It seemed that they were predominantly concerned with major engine and gearbox components - usually only accessed by qualified mechanics - or rarely going wrong in the first place. Instructions on removing the steering wheel horn switch on a Morris Minor, or locating any number of smaller electrical or mechanical components on a range of other cars, seemed to be omitted from Haynes' expertise. In fact, I can state quite categorically, that in my experience I have never found Haynes' Manuals to have the answers to the majority of my vehicle problems. Furthermore, the manuals do not discuss the difficulties likely to be encountered in relation to the removal of components that are covered in dirt or have nuts and screws welded into the body with rust. It appears that all Haynes' work has been done on new vehicles as they came out of the factory - nice and clean with no mileage. It's a shame really, that someone like Donald Shimoda (from Richard Bach's 'Illusions') couldn't have been on their team!

As cars have become ever more complex in their
reliance on gadgets and sensors, the new Haynes Manual is the Internet or more precisely, discussion forums and YouTube video clips. I have to say, most of my vehicular issues have been solved through this rich resource. Of course, the Internet is not infallible and there have been several occasions when no one has provided the solution to my enquiry. I suppose I should admit here, that I rarely, if ever, drive cars of the masses - preferring instead what I consider to be either more exciting, interesting, or versatile, purposeful vehicles. These have included four Alfa Romeo sports cars, a Range Rover, and four Jeeps.

In addition to the cars mentioned here, I've probably owned about 30 others over the years - some of them more 'normal'. Cars have always been an interest - perhaps even a hobby. They have also created as much stress in my life as they have enjoyment!

So here I was with Jeep number 4, trying to get the rear wiper's wash jet to work again. Without an assistant to work the controls, it wasn't easy to see or hear if the small pump motor in the engine bay was working properly above the noise from passing traffic on the nearby road. There was plenty of water in the bottle and I had already tried poking a pin into the water jet without any result. I decided I would have to remove the water bottle and also the rear jet assembly, in order to blow down the linking pipe.  I used a little syphon pump I'd previously bought and emptied the screen wash into a bucket to return later. Initially it seemed that I also needed to remove the back door trim panel, but having done this, I quickly realised the water jet wasn't accessible from there! I then did an Internet and YouTube search to see if anyone knew how to get the jet out of the door frame. I guessed that it was probably prized out, but if possible I wanted to check before accidentally breaking something. With so many different model variants of the same vehicles these days, finding a matching example is often a further challenge. Someone mentioned prizing the jet out of another model, but all other posts focused on issues with general blockages or failed pump motors. Anyway, I decided carefully prizing was probably right and soon I had the part removed.

I tried to blow down the pipe from both ends - first from the front of the car and then from the back. The pipe seemed well and truly blocked. I had a garden hose so instead, used gaffer tape to secure the adjustable hose jet attachment in line with the tube now sticking out of the top of the tailgate. Pressured water sprayed everywhere but nothing arrived at the front. It then occurred to me that there might be a one-way valve somewhere, to stop water travelling back down to the water bottle after the jet had been used. This might explain why water pressure sent from the back did nothing. I didn't bother trying it from the front as I didn't want to soak the engine compartment. I decided there was nothing else left that I could try. Perhaps I'd have to put up with no rear washer. If I was a garage, I'd blast it with an air hose.

Suddenly, I remembered one of the accessories that had come with the syphon kit. It was a little tyre valve clip - the sort you have on tyre foot pumps to fix the hose on the valve. It had a small pipe coming off it, but I couldn't see anything else in the kit that could be attached. Still in a semi-surrender mode, I suddenly received an inspired thought. I had the components to make my own air compressor! Perhaps I could get a spare wheel and rest it on the roof and take a short line from the wheel to the washer tube. Then I remembered that a few years previously, I had bought a length of fine tube from a garden centre's aquarium shop, thinking that I would use this on my last Jeep to add some extra winter-proof water jets. In the end I didn't bother, but I'd been looking for something else a few days previously and had come across the tubing in a drawer - so I knew where it was. I also remembered buying some tube-linking connectors and realised that it might be possible to use one of these at the other end to link the thin tubing to the car's screen wash tubing. I didn't need another wheel - the tube I had was long enough to go from any wheel on the car.

With everything set up to blow air from the front to the back, I clipped the pipe to the car's rear tyre valve and sent a strong jet of air through the pipe. The rear end of the tube spluttered and air was definitely getting through. After switching the tube from front to back a few times, I was getting a consistent splutter of air and water exiting the pipe. However, it still seemed that the pipe was blocked and I doubted that the washer jet would work properly again.

I decided to reassemble everything and call it a day. I refilled the water bottle and tried the rear washer from its switch. To my amazement, a good spray of water covered the rear window. Somehow, everything had worked out okay after all.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Last Adventure of Humanity

I spend a lot of time alone - you should try it sometime. Whilst most of us chase around to meet the stressful targets of our 'spreadsheet living' (a term I coined in 2004), some of us reside in stillness and contemplation - questioning those things that others accept as fact. Not joining in with the frenetic and oft enforced frivolity of a cultural media, keen to exploit our inadequacies for not attending the party, some of us now reside on the side lines, living a vicarious lifestyle, watching the passenger express passing us at speed en route to oblivion. People are now so busy 'doing' that they are no longer 'being'.

Like the screaming kid who shouts, "It's not fair!", at the parent doing his or her own 'best' to cope with a situation of no definition in a new shared experience, it seems we set ourselves up for failure because of a need to get everything right first time. Children are permitted to make mistakes - adults are not. And yet, while we continue to deal with the issues of our shared physical reality, few of us question the absurdity of the situations we become involved with, or notice how they multiply like a swarm of wasps whose nest is stirred by a well-placed stick!

The computer revolution that was intended to make our lives easier and more efficient, has gone the same way as nuclear power to make our energy cheaper. Someone always sees the potential to profiteer from any situation, whether it be to sell more or to produce more. With an increasing population comes increasing accountability, together with additional controls to prevent radical thought and action, not in keeping with society's contrived and often distorted values. More of us are now involved in tracking and documenting other people's lives than we are in living our own! Bureaucracy has to now come before any decision to engage with anything. A mental risk assessment is mandatory before leaving the house, and taking on just that bit more gives us kudos among our peers but more stress on our health.

So I decided something had to change. Not necessarily that my experienced version of the world had to change, but that I had to change. The choice was stark: Join in with the rest, or step out of the field.

Having decided I couldn't join in whole-heartedly, I then had to decide how I was going to live my own truth. It's one thing to say you've had enough of what everyone else is doing, but quite another to buck against the trend with inner conviction. For over 30 years, I had explored what might be termed, the more spiritual and metaphysical side of life. This exploration began with a feeling of disquiet around conventional viewpoints, progressed through reading the works of eastern Gurus, and ended up following the advice of channelled off-world 'entities'.

The basic assertion goes something like this:
  • The world as you perceive it is not real; it is illusory
  • Linear time does not exist - there is only one spacious present
  • The individual creates his or her own reality - in every moment of 'now'
  • Physical experience is feedback to your own inner output
  • Your beliefs about reality are only beliefs - not facts

So that's clear then! The funny thing is, that intellectually, it is very clear to many. The difficulty is knowing it and living it, rather than believing it might be a vague possibility. The problem at a personal level is that if I slap the top of the table with my hand, it slaps me back with equal force... and yet science can view my table through a powerful electron microscope and inform me that nothing is solid and everything is in constant motion. So if nothing is solid, why can't I push my hand through the table? I have answers to this but, not wishing to take up more space here, I will move on.

In 2011, I gave a talk to a select group of scientists and researchers in Barcelona entitled, 'Quantum Mass Superstructures' and the following year I published a book on the subject with the added strap line: creating the world you experience. In it I present a case for conscious action on the quantum field, resulting in that well-used cliché, 'thoughts become things'.

"We all create our physical world from our inner projections"

Perhaps by now, you are wondering, "what is this 'last adventure of humanity' all about?" Simply put, it is the realisation that we all create our physical world from our inner projections and our last stage of evolution is to develop a working understanding of co-creating our physical experience. This means that more of us have to fully understand that if we focus on our fears and multiply them through sharing with others, we continue to create a physical environment that becomes less and less, the world we wish to experience. The last adventure is an integral one to our progression; for individuals, and cultures. It is about taking more control over our thoughts and full responsibility over our actions and experiences. Almost exclusively, putting into our imagination the world we wish to experience - not dwelling on the world we do not want or have. Contrast undoubtedly helps focus our attention between what is happening and whether or not we want to perpetuate or change it.

You might think that this is easy, but I assure you, it takes practice. Most of us are caught in habitual behaviour - rarely taking the time out to consider our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Those of us who think we are 'mindful' will quickly slip into conversation that shows we are not. We might decide not to involve ourselves in the judgement of others and in the next breath agree with our friend that all Politicians are tyrants; that big multinational businesses are reaping the world of its resources; that divisions between rich and poor are becoming wider, and so on. None of this is necessarily true. If you perceive this as such, then you have created it to experience it in your version of physical reality. You have even created those who will agree or disagree with your viewpoint.

So you agree with my comments and you start your personal adventure into inner focus. At least you start. However, it's not long before you give up. It's too hard. You aren't seeing quick results. Be honest... the physical world is definitely here and solid. Let's just go back to our work routine, pay the mortgage and plan our retirement. Opting out of what we know and are comfortable with - because we are used to its familiarity - is too much of a risk outside of our comfort zone. We all know that a worthwhile and fulfilling life is about having enough to pay our bills, meet our needs, and go on holiday... or have a few jars down the pub with our mates - putting the world to right - watching a bit of sport or the soaps on TV... It's just luck and favourable circumstances that the wealthy in the world enjoy a charmed existence... something we are told we can aspire to if we follow some rules, but few believe they can reach.

The real adventure to change our circumstances begins within ourselves. It takes courage and, to begin with, perhaps it's easier to 'play at it' like a child in a make-believe world without limitations - something we adults are encouraged to turn our backs on. We must all raise our personal vibratory output and we can start this by feeling good about something - anything! If you really want to join this adventure and change your life's experience, you can find out more here:


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Beyond the Spiritual Fringe

When one used to mention “spirituality” to most people, the usual things that came to mind were beardy old gurus from the East or “flower-power Hippies” from the West. Of course, it’s not really as clear-cut as that and there are now many things that define spiritual proclivities. Often separated from the conventions of spirituality, as it relates to formalised religion, we have a plethora of subjects from Astrology and Numerology to Dowsing and Angel Cards and techniques from Meditation to Energy Healing – not to mention zillions of books, multimedia offerings, courses, workshops – and everything imaginable in between! What began as an honest search for meaning and truth has, over recent years, become a somewhat confused message of commercial marketing for abundance acquisition, led by a handful of now famous and often unreachable pundits – mostly American, who have been bestowed with the honour of ‘expert in the field’ and examples of rags-to-riches through Law of Attraction practices. These individuals now hide behind marketing and publicity teams who manage social media profiles on their behalf and charge enormous amounts of [usually] Dollars to make stage appearances or share their wisdom with select paying audiences. We are told that we too can be like these people – if we pay out first and learn second.

What began as an honest search for meaning and truth has, over recent years, become a somewhat confused message of commercial marketing for abundance acquisition...

Despite what we may be led to believe, there are no assurances and no ‘quick-fixes’. In fact, some of these new ‘masters’ have had quite a tough ride to their life of apparent ease, or they have developed a particular set of personality skills that most people do not naturally have at their immediate disposal. Indeed, Reid Tracey (Hay House Publishing) has a favourite saying: “It takes ten years to become an overnight success.” This helps us to understand that when a new celebrity seems to appear from nowhere, it has probably taken quite a lot of background experience and preparation to reach the point of recognition.

Unfortunately, many of these ‘new gurus’, who undoubtedly set out with good intention to share their wonderful discoveries with other, ‘less fortunate’ souls, have become so popular among a sycophantic, celebrity obsessed public, that they have had to employ others to lighten their workloads. Perhaps they are unaware of the pernicious marketing and avaricious marketeers who now profess to act on their behalf, but instead open their masters and mistresses to pillory. Success for a majority in our western society seems to equate to monetary wealth and stability. The opening gambit of many spiritual teachers seems to be along the lines of: “I spent two years sleeping on park benches and last year turned over $6,000,000!”

“I spent two years sleeping on park benches and last year turned over $6,000,000!”

Personally, I cannot recall someone ever saying: “I was leading a fairly routine and ordinary life, just getting by, but now I am filled with joy every day and easily attract all that I want in life.” Furthermore, the marketing videos, with their hidden controls so you cannot advance or see how much time is left, will go on and on for thirty minutes or so, about how wonderful something is, without actually telling you what “it” is! And right at the end, you too can have this marvellous opportunity for only four monthly payments of 295 Dollars… and if you give us your name and email [so we can bombard you with other products every week for eternity] you can download instantly, a free ‘get-it-now-for-nothing’ workbook!

It’s not that anything is particularly new, but more that it is being shared in a way that westerners, particularly, can engage with it.

Of course, it’s not all as negative as portrayed above and one thing that these people and their exploits offer is a gateway to spirituality for those who wish to dip their toe in something deeper than the tepid waters of intellectual understanding. With the added assistance of a number of “channelled entities” (‘beings of non-physical form’) contemporary understanding of the nature of our universe, and the reality of people within it, has taken a refreshing and exciting direction. It’s not that anything is particularly new, but more that it is being shared in a way that westerners, particularly, can engage with it. We have moved from East-West cultural disparity and cryptic parables to multicultural awareness and a plainer, more relevant contemporary language for our 21st Century mysticism. Perhaps we can finally reach the promised land of new conscious understanding, abundance, and the joyfulness we have always yearned for… Well, not quite. We now have to become expert sifters – deciding which information is right for us as individuals. We have to actively choose what we wish to focus our attention on; to stop acting by default in a world of ‘the way it is’ and change to a world of ‘the way we want it’.

We have to actively choose what we wish to focus our attention on; to stop acting by default in a world of ‘the way it is’ and change to a world of ‘the way we want it’

And now you begin to see our dilemma. We live in a world we have become used to and we reinforce what we experience from what we have already produced. We surround ourselves with negative news and expectations – constantly looking out for the things we fear most. Whether it is illness, violence, or poverty, we cannot turn away. Like the proverbial rabbits caught in headlights, we freeze to the spot as our destiny hurtles towards us – not realising that we can make a new decision to move at any moment of our choosing. Our society battles, fights, and wages war over everything. We turn the most mundane into magnificent drama. The person who was not run over was “very nearly killed!” – Only no one died. No one was even touched. A tragedy of apocalyptic consequences was fortunately averted. And so we search out the next potential disaster for our salivating audience to boost our ratings.

Mother Teresa said she would “…not attend an anti-war rally.” Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see.” They both knew that holding the vibration of war or retribution was only going to perpetuate, or further attract, the very conditions that were not wanted. They knew that it was far more powerful to focus on a new desired outcome, than it was to push against an already established opposite.

Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi

And yet, even in reading that last paragraph, the majority of you, whilst nodding in agreement, will pass it by and never consider the implications of truly living in that way; taking personal and full responsibility for everything that you experience or that happens in your life. Can you imagine for instance, not making a judgement against something or someone you disagree with? Could you be at the receiving end of a difficult situation and say “I love you” – no matter what the next minutes, hours, days, or weeks may continue to bring? The default position for most is to rail against injustice and to promise vengeance against the perpetrators of negative expression – spurred on by those around us who look towards our democratic fair play as the best solution. Rather than trying to constantly control people in our society, by adding rules, regulations and accountability assessments, perhaps we would be better promoting the natural universal laws of attraction and trusting individuals to find their own paths – whether through sexuality, drugs, rock & roll, or something completely different. Right and wrong are human constructs of control to help some people feel better about things they find difficult to accept in their own make-up. Right and wrong are not a true feature of the universe, any more than linear time is. It is more about contrast and having a sense of time to decide and experience our choices.

So by all means, stay on the fringe of spirituality, playing with the illusion of understanding through buying into all sorts of diversionary tactics available through ‘mainstream’ offerings, but be aware that to experience real changes in your life, you must work on how you think and react to the emotions that arise within you, when faced with the feedback from the world you have created up to this point. You do not need money for this. You do not need to buy anything; just practice being mindful of your thoughts, feelings and reactions. Practice moving your focus more towards the things you would like and halt the spiral of anxiety that delivers the things you cannot control. For some of you, this will be the hardest work you have ever been asked to undertake. For others, it will be a joyful release and expansion into new possibilities. For all of you, this practice will show positive results – and often much faster than you might imagine.