Category Archives: Culture

Boris The Clown video German

I found this mock video made by a German TV show. It’s a collection of Boris Johnson’s most clownish moments (e.g. Rugby tackling someone, smashing through a Brexit wall on TV, on a zip wire across the Thames).

The German description is:

Noch epischer, noch teurer und noch dramatischer als “The Crown”: Die Story des Brexits. In der Hauptrolle: Boris Johnson, der virtuos sein Land in den Abgrund reißt.”

This translates to:

More epic, more expensive and more dramatic than ‘The Crown’: The Brexit Story. Starring: Boris Johnson, who’s virtuously tearing his country into the abyss

I thought it was funny! Not just the fact that it was made by the Germans but also how accurately it represents the external global view! The problem with the Tories is they don’t realise that they come across as incompetent and untrustworthy to the rest of the world.

I’m all strapped in now and I think this is a good end to this Brexit diary, which actually I started almost exactly two years ago!

With a video of the foolish PM, fuer den man sich fremdschaemen muss.

I used to think I was Polish

red nail polish blood
… or rather, that I had Polish Ancestry. You see, my grandfather was from East Prussia, and as a child I got that confused with Poland.

I thought having ‘Polish blood’ in my veins would somehow make me exotic / fiery.

But I didn’t / I wasn’t. Much later, I understood Poland’s contribution to the European project. I connected with Poland through its (sub) culture, and much enjoyed punk bands like Post Regiment (from Warsaw).

Below is from a review of their 1996 album Czarzly:

“Incredible Album by Obscure Polish Punk Band

…The primary vocalist is female and sharply enunciates her yelled vocals in Polish, occasionally peppering the songs with a little melody. There is a gruff male vocalist that does backups and generally takes a similar approach. The interplay between the two vocalists is really well done and makes this such an enjoyable record to listen to. Despite the speed and the fact that I don’t understand a word of Polish, the songs are quite catchy. …”

I loved it although I discovered Post Regiment quite late. It turns out their female vocalist Dominika Domczyk (AKA Nika) appeared on Polish (?) TV in 2015 (watch how the kids get more and more fired up as the song goes on).

Post Regiment’s Nika on TV (2015)

I much prefer your earlier work.

Post Regiment – Czarzly (1996)

Here are the lyrics to a song on Czarzly, Znów:

Przechodzisz obok kogoś
Przelicza to co ma
Ktoś wyrzyguje myśli
Zbyt bliskie ścieku dna
W powolnych tonąc kroplach
Dostrzegasz swoją twarz
Nie pragniesz czynić dobra
I nie chcesz czynić zła
A ból rozpiera cię wyrywa się
Chcesz wyć
Znów zniekształcony obraz
Znów pijesz żeby żyć
Dziś wlewasz w siebie wszystko
Za drzwiami został cel
Nie słyszysz nie rozumiesz
Co wokół dzieje się
Na wprost droga bez znaku
W zmierzch co unika dnia
Powoli się zanurzasz
Przeklinasz czas bez dna

Google translate to English – it sounds like it’s about drinking / alcohol / desperation / fun / being young!

 You are passing by someone
Converts what it has
Someone is rid of thoughts
Too close to the bottom drain
In slow sinking drops
You can see your face
You do not want to do good
And you do not want to do evil
And the pain bursts you out
You want to howl
A distorted picture again
You drink again to live
Today, you pour everything into yourself
Behind the door was the goal
You do not hear, you do not understand
What’s going on around
Straight ahead without a sign
At dusk, who avoids the day
You are slowly submerging
You curse bottomless time

My European tour as we approach Brexit has now visited Scandinavia, Norway, Lithuania and now Poland. The amusing thing of course is that Brexit hasn’t even happened yet (and some say, never will!). At least it means I can keep writing the occasional blog post and share what I remember of the countries that make up my nation.

Where is Lithuania near?

I googled ‘Where is Lithuania?’, as I couldn’t remember if it was ‘North enough’ to qualify for my next story and memory of a country in Europe (after Scandinavia and Norway, we’re still in the North, and I don’t have a story about Denmark other than visiting Freetown Christiania and buying drugs there on Pusher Street in 1993. Christiania seems to since have turned into a tourist destination – Capitalism Eats Everything).

christiania denmark
Christiania in Denmark. CC image courtesy of franganillo on Flickr

But I digress. This is about Lithuania – the next stop on our journey.

Where is Lithuania?

Lithuania is North of Poland, to the right. Roughly on the same latitude as Denmark. I know a couple of Lithuanians but (shame on me) didn’t really know much about it, other than it used to be part of the then USSR (and gained its freedom from the Soviet Union when that went down in 1989/90. A lot of shit went down in the late 80s, early 90s come to think of it: the break-up of the USSR, the fall of Yugoslavia!)

Where is Yugoslavia located?

Yugoslavia was located in Southern Europe.

This is what Yugoslavia used to look like. The country ceased to exist in 1991/1992.

Yugoslavia map year 1981
A map of Yugoslavia (1981)

I remember the horrible Balkans war which I studied ‘as-it-happened’ live during my Politics lessons in High School in the early 90s, and later (2000/01)  the humanitarian crisis and people fleeing from war, being covered on TV news.

A map of Lithuania

Lithuania map

Lithuania (in the North of Europe) is one of the countries whose people should seek friendships with Germans (and vice versa). They share a common, dark past – Lithuania was one of the few countries where mass extermination of Jews started as soon as the Nazis (Wehrmacht) invaded the country.

The killings were carried out both by Germans and Lithuanian partisans (in the first two days, 1,500 Jews were murdered by the latter). In total, the genocide rate of Jews in Lithuania – around 95% of 250,000 were murdered – was one of the highest in Europe, thanks to cooperation of Lithuanians with the Nazis (who were very good indeed at propaganda and whose campaigns built on existing anti-Semitist sentiment).

The Lithuanians I know today are friendly and hard-working, mindful of their past and positive about their future. They no longer live in their home country and have little care for what happened over two generations ago. They’ve become, like many of us traveling Europeans, anchor-less, with an identity rooted in neither country nor nation.

Trakai island castle lithuania
Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania

 

Jawbreaker – Fireman

When people talk of alternative 90s music (the time of Brit Pop in the UK and Grunge in the US), I think of the punk bands  that I listened to at the time.

One of them – in the early 90s – was Jawbreaker – an emo punk band, who signed to a major label and released their album Dear You in 1995. This was considered a bad move, as they were supposed to be anti-establishment. The band never broke through (although they’ve just announced their first UK show in 25 years – April 2019 in London).

I rediscovered Dear You the other day and noticed how it moved me. I think that YouTube / Instagram influencers are the Jawbreakers of today – they arouse the same emotion and passion in the young generation that I felt in my twenties (now gone obvs).

‘Fireman’ is the best track on Dear You (and the only one with an official video!).

Jawbreaker – Fireman Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Dreamed I was a fireman
I just smoked and watched you burn
Dreamed I was an astronaut
I shot you down like a juggernaut
Dreamed we were still going out
Had that one a few times now
Woke up to find we were not
It’s good to be awake

[Verse 2]
Dreamed I was a tidal wave
I ravaged your coast, there were no survivors
Dreamed I was your landlord
I showed your place when you had lovers
If I was a vampire
I wouldn’t suck your blood
Then I dreamed I was you
The sweetest dream I have had

[Chorus]
If you could hear
The dreams I’ve had, my dear
They would give you nightmares for a week
But you’re not here
And I can never sleep
Come home so I can be a creep

[Verse 3]
Dreamed I was a dream
Stole you away, away in your sleep
Saved you from a fire
Gun for hire
Introduced you to a vampire
Wave crashed on the beach
We rolled around in its foamy grasp
Kissing in the chaos of a kelpy sea
Seems I couldn’t save you from me

[Chorus]
If you could hear
The dreams I’ve had, my dear
They would give you nightmares for a week
But you’re not here
And I can never sleep
Come home so I can be a creep

[Bridge]
Maybe I’m obsessive to think like this
Probably not impressing you
With my cheap tricks
Honey, it’s depressing what
Depression does to some
I’ll play the part for hours but
I know you’ll never come

[Chorus]
If you could hear
The dreams I’ve had, my dear
They would give you nightmares for a week
But you’re not here
And I can never sleep
Come home so I can be a creep

The Machines are here already

I came across a critical analysis of the modern internet recently, specifically how its algorithms today already shape and influence human behaviour, society, and the way the world is going.

It confirms my suspicion that we already are in the matrix in some way. It’s not that computers / robots / AI have ‘taken over’ as a discrete, external entity from us (as e.g. in Terminator) but instead the influence is much more subtle and insidious.

terminator
This is NOT the enemy – if only it were this easy.

Three ways in which the machines are in control

1. The smartphone reduces your Real Life (RL) experience

A smartphone just sucks someone into a small screen, where all their attention is focused. Have you seen people at a bus stop or on public transport recently? They just look into the palm of their hand.

If all that time is now spent on screens, it is not spent in the real (3-dimensional) world involving all of your senses.

I don’t know if the increase in mental health issues amongst young people is correlated with that, but arguably if you spend less time practising ‘being yourself’ in the real world you may find it more difficult. For that reason alone you should reduce your screen time and

drastically

so.

Don’t let the machines reduce your RL experience. The real (3D) world is messy but it involves ALL your senses!

2. The algorithms reduce your understanding that other views exist

One of the beauties of the algorithms running the internet is that they’re so subtle. While most people are aware of some degree of personalisation (e.g. you see content similar to what you’ve previously liked / bought), on a meta-level they still think everyone roughly shares the same reality (e.g. 62% of people in the UK don’t realise their social networks can affect the news they see – more on that later). This is the so-called filter bubble, according to Wikipedia

a state of intellectual isolation that can result from personalized searches when a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user, such as location, past click-behavior and search history.

In addition, confirmation bias means we favour information which confirms previously existing beliefs or biases, and filter out the rest. Our existing beliefs also affect how we process and interpret new information (i.e. we slant it towards what we already believe).

This and other psychological research explains why Trump got elected.

The algorithms (especially on social media) fuel our (very human) confirmation biases, so we think everyone thinks like us / agrees with us. All we see every day is confirmation of our own views. We do NOT really understand any more in a deep way that other views and realities exist.

This absence of a shared reality, some argue, is a threat to democracy.

3. The algorithms harm your child’s development by feeding it bad content

‘Suggested videos’ / ‘watch next’ is NOT a good thing, if the algorithm is optimising for horrific Peppa the Pig parody videos. Your baby could see the following:

 A dentist with a huge syringe appears. Peppa’s teeth get pulled out. Distressed crying can be heard on the soundtrack.

(From: The disturbing YouTube videos that are tricking children).

And that apparently is only a harmless example. This kind of stuff imprints on your baby’s memory. Thanks to algorithms and machine learning,  baby will get served up more of the same stuff. You, on the other hand, don’t even know it’s going on in the first place.

The article on Medium that inspired this blog post – Something is wrong on the internet – explains quite well how it all works.

Peppa the Pig goes wild and scary

Do you control your machines?

I believe we can and should live with our machines, peacefully, but that it is us who calls the shots. I’d like to see some kind of digital enlightenment where we’re much more aware (enlightened) about some of the stuff that really goes on underneath!

It is shocking to think that, in 2018 in the UK, according to new research:

  • 62% don’t realise their social networks can affect the news they see
  • 45% of people are unaware that information they enter on
    websites and social media can help target ads
  • 83% are unaware information can be collected about them that other people have shared

The full research, the aptly subtitled ‘2018 Digital Understanding Report’, was commissioned by Martha Lane Fox’ doteveryone think tank.

If it is true that the machines are here already, then digital education – and I don’t mean programming –  is the only way to ensure we learn to keep them in their places.