You Say You Want a Revolution

On Friday 10th February, Tamara and I went to see the ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970’ exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Tamara thought it would be good to see something from ‘our’ period – although I am five years older than Tamara and so ‘our’ periods overlap but don’t match.

And of course, I grew up in the UK and she in the USA.

The V&A advertises the exhibition thus:

This major exhibition will explore the era-defining significance and impact of the late 1960s, expressed through some of the greatest music and performances of the 20th century alongside fashion, film, design and political activism. The exhibition considers how the finished and unfinished revolutions of the time changed the way we live today and think about the future.

The very word ‘revolution’ sends shock waves and tremors through me and I guess through most people. A revolution in thinking is a different beast than a violent political revolution, but where one exists it tends to rub against the other. And that’s the rub.

I’m not here to get into a big discussion of how violence or the threat of violence underpins all authority in society.

We know it is true and we understand that when the society is just and fair both socially and economically, that the threat of violence is a communal censure and not the censure of a self-serving elite.

So, to the exhibition.

Everyone was given a pair of headphones that played different music depending on which room you were in.

The exhibition affected me. It was not something I viewed with passing interest. It was the same with Tamara. We spent about five hours there. When we came out it was 8:30pm and we both thought for a moment that that must be wrong. It didn’t seem like five hours.

What follows is what I thought. It won’t be the same for other people. I know that. This is just what it triggered in me.

In the first room there were posters and statements from people – mostly in the USA – talking about their vision of what things should be like and how they were working towards that.

There was a short quote from Marcuse about how our decisions are directed and controlled, but hidden under the illusion of choice. But the overall tone of the room was positive.

At the entrance to the second room there was a short film made in Britain in the ’60s. It was a caustic film about the delights of a video camera that could capture your whole life.

The voiceover was soothing and led you want to appreciate this wonderful technological thing – except we saw the camera capturing all the vacuous, angry, painful moments as well.

The intent of the film was to show how wrong things were. But in the manner of the production it hit me how even in critiquing the malaise of modern life the English approach was to spend all its time irritating the wound with finesse rather than turn its back on it and look for something better.

It came to me that the English never wanted to turn their backs on the horror – they revel in it too much. Passed off as a greater insight into the true nature of man, it is really just sadism and self loathing cloaked as critique.

You Say You Want a Revolution

And then on with the exhibition and the flowering of ideas. Until we get to the room with films of police baton charges and riots. And I read a quote from Abbie Hoffman’s ‘Steal This Book’ which says that all the nice flower power things mean nothing, and nothing will get done until the power structure is changed.

But then I read that the Diggers felt Hoffman had betrayed his promise not to publish details of the scams that could get people free things.

Suddenly, they said, all the deals that kept poor people in the Lower East Side alive outside of the system were exposed and sucked dry by disaffected kids from better-off backgrounds.

That’s important isn’t it – someone who promotes changing the system rather than living outside of it but who broke his promise to those who took him in?

Is it true? Are they more shades of grey to what happened? Perhaps they were precious and exclusive and he was right to spread the word to as many people as he could. Shades of grey.

Understanding what things are and how they work is important because when we decide we want to follow a certain direction, we better be sure we have good foundations.

And that’s the other famous problem: Thinking people worry about what is right while others just march in and take it.

And I got thinking of Kent State and dead students and comments about how young the National Guard soldiers looked scared and innocent.

Except they opened fire. And I am thinking that the real elephant in the room is the question of when it really comes down to it – how many people will stand on the other side of the line and open fire on the people who want a fairer and more inclusive society?


Originally posted on NoMorePencils

your-life

Photo On Google Maps

An email arrived from Google to tell me I had burst through the 5,000 views barrier on Google maps. So in the spirit of crowing and making myself obnoxious, here is the graphic from the email.

Why am I pleased? Recognition of value is one of the most precious things in human existence. And that feeling is still there even when the value is transitory and trivial in the scheme of things.

google-maps

By the way, the place on the map is Cafe Milk on Morrison Street in Edinburgh.

If you are a friend and you have a blog, I am asking for help.

flying-twigs-mannequins

It came about this way: I got an email from Twitter that had a tweet from JenT of WPMaven. It was about a video from Marie Haynes of Google on the subject of what links can you get that comply with Google’s guidelines.

Number #1 on the list was ‘Ask’, and this is what Marie had to say:

Number one is to ask people. Now some people might say, “Wait, that’s not a natural link because I actually had to ask somebody to get it.” But if somebody is willing to vouch for your website, to link to your website, and you’re not giving them anything as an incentive in return, then that actually is a good link. So you can ask family members and friends and even better is employees. You can say, “Hey, if you have a blog, could you mention that you work for us and link to us?” Now, if they have to hide the link somewhere to make it actually happen, then that may not be the best link. But if they legitimately are happy to mention you and link to your company, then that’s a good natural link that Google will appreciate.

Well, that was unexpected.

Now you may be thinking – so what is so great about links? And the answer is as simple as it gets. Google sees links as a testimony to the value of a web site. The more links the better.

And the more links Google sees, the more it promotes that web site earlier in the pages of search results when someone searches for ‘greeting cards’ or whatever.

Marie didn’t talk about it but it is generally accepted that a good link is a link from a site that has some relevance to the site it is linking to.

So for example, a site about crafts or stationery or relationships (to name a few) that linked to a greeting card site would make more sense than a link ‘out of the blue’ as it were from a site about motorcycles.

So with that message taken to heart, I am using this blog to ask my friends with blogs to take a look at my and my partner’s greeting card site at Flying Twigs and if you like it – link to it.

Only do it if you genuinely think it’s OK.

I made the web site at Flying Twigs myself rather than using a developer. It’s a self-hosted WordPress site and because it is an e-commerce site I used WooCommerce for the shop part of it.

That decision turned out to be a good one when Automattic, the company that owns WordPress, bought WooCommerce last year and brought in most of the developers.

Of course the heart of a site is the content and the content of Flying Twigs is the greeting cards. It really depends on whether you like them as well as the layout and the design, I guess.

The greeting cards and a lot about the layout of the site is the joint effort of me and my wife and partner, Tamara. She is very interested in colour and colour combinations and that shows in the designs.

By the way, our approach is to gently emphasise the positive, whatever the occasion. So, we don’t make cards that ridicule people or are crass or would embarrass someone if the card were put on a mantelpiece.

We only sell to businesses (card shops, museums, etc.) so it really would be a case of you liking the site for its own sake because we don’t sell to individuals. The reason we don’t do that is purely because of the time it takes to fulfil small orders. It’s just not economical in terms of time.

That said, we have thought of selling a small, limited range of cards through a third-party site like Etsy to handle individual sales. We just haven’t ‘opened’ such a shop yet and my partner and I are not sure when or whether we will do so. For the moment, therefore, that idea is on the back burner while we concentrate our efforts on the business-to-business (B2B) business of Flying Twigs.

So the bottom line is, I guess ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’

And if you are a friend and you want to link to the site then here is the link to Flying Twigs. But only if you are willing and happy to do so.

In any event, even if you don’t fit into that description – go take a look at the site because it might encourage you to try your hand at building a self-hosted e-commerce site yourself if you’ve the yen to do so.

One thing I should explain is that the site is not straight ‘out-of-the-box’ because of some of the special features we need – such as that cards have to be ordered in sixes and we have a minimum order value.

So I had to add some code into the site. Of course, I am not a developer – so I had to Google for information to get a general feel for what was needed and then I asked people, for example, people in the WooCommerce Help And Share group in FaceBook. That is really what made it possible because I would have been lost otherwise.

One of the lessons I learned building the site is that problems crop up and people deal with them. Nothing stays the same. WordPress gets updated. WooCommerce gets updated. The Web moves on. And then something doesn’t work the same way. It’s like sitting on a quaking volcano – but you have to get used to it because that is how it is.

Another thing I learned is how very, very important it is to use a good web-hosting company. I spent ages researching that because I knew that I wanted the site to load fast and work reliably. That’s another ‘thank you’ I should give to the groups on FaceBook because with a bit of digging, I found people who could be trusted to recommend good web hosts for the purpose I needed.

For anyone out there who wants some pointers to start them off, I am more than willing to help. I know that there’s a big community of people that are searching for answers.

P.S. The Photo At The Top

The photo at the top of this post is one I took with my phone pressed against the window of a local bridal-wear shop. There were still a lot of reflections from the shops opposite, so I ran the photo through Enlight app on my phone to make a painterly version.

Then I pulled the image into my computer and used Photoshop to repeat the mannequin several times and then paint in the background to remove the reflections in the original.

How Sanguine We Can Be From A Distance

building-on-the-links-in-edinburgh

Photography is creative. During the past couple of days I have had a small uptick in my desire to photograph. I think I am reacting to the impotence I feel over what seems to sweeping across the world.

This is a panoramic shot of a building that fronts onto the Links, a grassy area in Edinburgh near where we live. I like the way that sweeping panoramic shots bulge out the flat fronts of buildings and create an image that is not like the scene looks in reality.

It reminds me of perspective techniques in painting where the painter will alter reality to more closely accord with the psychological vision.


In the USA, protesters are out on the streets saying that Trump is not their President. They oppose his racism, his misogyny, his isolationism.

I think Trump may be racist, maybe not. It is hard to tell what he is. He has a general disdain for everyone.

But the racism in the country exists and at this time in history in this election it is in part a simple reaction to the difficulty that some people had in accepting that there was an intelligent and caring black man in the White House.

They just had to vote for someone who would extinguish that truth and the President’s legacy.

On NewsNight last night, the historian Simon Schama said the result was a calamity for democracy and would increase racism and anti-semitism.

He was agitated in a way I have never seen before and rarely see in any public figure.

I couldn’t help but think of people smuggling information out of Germany to tell the world about the holocaust, and shouting into the wind.

And I am thinking that there are checks and balances to prevent a slide to a nastier USA. But with the Republicans controlling all three branches of power, how strong are those checks?

Economy First

Trump says he wants to lower taxes and invest in infrastructure to increase wealth across the nation.

Those proposals are not that radical. Lowering taxes and spending on infrastructure can increase the flow of money and stimulate an economy.

And although people might disagree over how to achieve it, there is consensus in that almost everybody wants increased wealth.

So on the economy, you’ve got a united country.

The challenges are over things he has said where the country is not united, and particularly on abortion and Roe v Wade. And the test of that will be decided on the composition of the Supreme Court.

So my guess is that Trump will be slow to appoint a new judge.

He will push to get some consensus about his presidency by increasing or giving the prospect of increasing wealth across the board. Then he can turn to the thornier questions.

Really though, no one believes his position on very much at all except to look after America and let the rest of the world go hang. So I wouldn’t be surprised if his choice of judge is more liberal than people expect.

Sanguine From A Distance

See how sanguine I am from a distance?

See by contrast how opposed I am to Brexit and how much I want the decision to leave Europe overturned?

Or maybe it is that I just don’t see a way back from four years of a Trump presidency, whereas there are routes back to the EU?

Lessons From History

I have always said that when people look back and say of the dark times in Europe that it could never happen again, they are blind.

It was ‘now’ when those things were happening, and people rarely see the speed with which the wildfire of racism can spread.

I have believed for years that the USA is a beacon to the world. Oh sure, it’s an imperfect beacon. But it has saved Europe from itself more than once.

What now? We’ve known for years that there are two Americas that eye each other warily. Whither now, America?


I published this article earlier today on NoMorePencils