“By their fruits; so shall ye know them”: OR: Our Designs are Whom we Are

I wrote recently a few verses on automobiles and their shapes and about how these shapes reflect an outlook assumed to be conducive to selling cars by their manufacturers; and which shapes do seem to have become successful economically for these makers.

The shape in particular which so many manufacturers have gone for is a general one which tends to their portray cars as being as if ‘predatory animals’ engaged in hunt and so brightly alert and ready to pounce. This of course is a figure of speech of mine, and it describes a general impression taken from the tendency of the latest cars to be in profile sloping downwards towards the front and their window lines and their other lines also sloping to meet this dipping profile; as if it were that extrapolated these lines would meet about 20 or 30 foot in front of the car.

Such a design, I tried to say, I believe tells us about whom we might be, and how we see ourselves; and in this case concerning car design, it tells us that as drivers we want to be seen at least to be assertive, thrusting, fast, and ‘a cool player’ on the road. And this is an important factor in what sells cars, because it is what appeals to many drivers at the present time.

I now want to extend these theses about cars to our use of design on consumables, products and services, in general; and to show, I hope, how design (and other conventions, dresses, packaging) in its details reflects our presuppositions and our prepossessions as consumers, and so is affecting our day to day interplay with others in society.

I have come to believe that almost all of the design and ‘get-up’ we make and meet with in daily life is indicative; indicative of our mental states and so more broadly, I see design as showing us whom we think we are; individually, as societies and as sentient human populations.

The best approach to explaining myself to you and at the same time beginning to argue my case is I believe to offer you one by one a number of specific and telling examples; ones which would be hard for you to disagree with concerning what I suggest are their subliminal statements, and maybe also their attractions to us.

First up: Superhero Movies.

 

Superhero movies clearly are highly stylised and so have been intensely subjected to ‘angled presentation’ from a deign perspective. Their technical elements include:

  • Much use if CGI
  • Much use of fast action
  • Short shot scenes
  • Close ups
  • Mock-ups of apocalyptic destruction
  • Busy ‘dynamic’ mood music background
  • A super-suit and other ‘hero’ paraphernalia
  • A dominant public role/presence in society
  • Much mayhem and continuous action

 

Superhero movies have only surfaced as a trend in the past 20 or 30 years. What is now achievable technically in visual and other effects has been one leading driver of their emergence. But why not the ballet, the opera, etc; which has almost equal potential to benefit likewise from use of technical movie effects?

The answer is obvious; ballet and opera are very much so minority delights and the numbers of their followers are insufficient to fund a use of expensive state of the art equipment skills and personnel to put them onscreen as fully fledged fantasies.

From this observation we can infer that Superhero movies are and have to be popular entertainments; in order for them to be profitable investments for their backers.

Thus these types of movie, them having to be popular, to some extent then they are required to appeal to popular tastes and also at the same time in some degree they also are helping set popular trends. They thus are feeding trends into society as well as subsisting for their enjoyment upon trends already prevalent there. No-one would disagree with this I think.

It is of note that Superhero movies are almost all based on comic book stories and ideas; comic books which once were, in the UK at least, 50 years ago when I was young, almost an exclusive preserve of child or maybe teenaged readers. The important thing is that once these ideas and superheroes appealed almost only to minors who of a course possessed only immature outlooks and behaviours.

A question then arises: why has their audience moved over the years and so broadly into a population which is adult and by the law is considered mature responsible and fully-developed?

Now some great works of art have in the past been buried in the mists of their times;  the works of Vivaldi for instance were ‘rediscovered’ in the 20th century more or less solely at first by Ezra Pound, poet and companion in versifying to the great T S Eliot.

So is this late entry into the popular lists for Superhero movies a belated general public recognition of the quality of those once kid’s-only comic stories?  And this question carries in along with it another related question: Can stuff which was extremely widely read by millions of juniors, and at first intended more or less as only ‘junk’ consumption; rise to a level in a space of 50 years so as to be on a par in artistic value to say The Four Seasons or The Gloria?  Is public perception of their enjoyment and value sufficient for them to be set beside Vivaldi’s works; or is there something missing from this suppositional situation?

You might be beginning to see how this question of design, as it is presently done and enjoyed by us today, bears upon and opens up like a can of worms a host of knotty conundrums to be considered upon?

Had we to say that yes, there remains something yet lacking to fill up the space between the eminence of the works of Vivaldi and the meteoric rise to broad enjoyment of Superhero movies; then we should be in danger, given the former status of these heroes as being as children’s literature, of heading in a direction which suggests a possibility that our peoples in society, and so society itself, has moved towards a rather more callow and immature state of being over the years?

That package of bulleted technical characteristics I marshalled into a list above here is a package which is likely to appeal very much to children; lots of spills and melodrama, action, push-and-shove, colour, lights, busyness and noise; not far off a straight out cartoon show such as the old Hanna Barbra stuff used to be.

(Since the 1970s in UK – and elsewhere, for they come from elsewhere also – cartoons have been considered to be for adult consumption also. Family Guy, The Simpsons, Max Headroom, Spitting Image are just a few.  These too seem to have ‘grown up’ or else their audiences have ‘rejuvenated’?)

This acceptance into the adult fold of Superhero movies and of cartoons has been accompanied by an addition of ‘adult content’ to them. These additions in the main have been of a cynical and amoral kind, brusque and strongly-assured in opposition to and in criticism of what might be termed (a little on the soft side) as being traditional Christian values. These are values which once had been widespread, and paid lip service to out of fears of ostracism, even by that minority who would have had them abolished.  Although today’s world in UK sees these values daily being openly disregarded, rubbished, attempted quashed, and labelled dead, and redundant.

This is happening in– as they would have it – the highbrow press and media, as much as it is in the popular news and views, Christian values are non gratia passé items.

So, nowadays we watch movies and cartoons which once were considered children’s viewing; only with an element added of somewhat tainted and cynical content, specially for we adults to consume.

These cartoons and movies remain very much ‘dressed-up’ in the same manner as they had been ‘dressed up’ formerly for kids – see my list of bullets above.

What then might the adoption by adults of this set of design features mean culturally and socially for us as a people?

Does it mean for instance that we have seen clearly that there is no high or low in art or in behaviour, or in the presentation of elements and so of their design; that all art and all behaviour is AOK unless the law intervenes, or has potential to intervene? As said John Lennon, are we then to say: ‘Whatever gets you through the night”?  Are we now thus liberated from our former restrictions and so have we come to feel and to see that hectic exuberance and erratic behaviour is cathartic and so is able to ease the tensions of the day for us when we watch them on screen?  With nothing in us having been lost or altered?

And that other stuff, such as Vivaldi, let it be good, our crash bang Superhero movies are just as good. John Lennon again ‘Nothing is real; there’s nothing to get up about’?

These examples of Superhero movies and of adult cartoons are just two in common circulation amongst those tens of thousands of patterns for design which are popular, and made popular by us, in the present day. Some more areas are:

 

  • PC games
  • Fantasy Warrior fiction books
  • Car design
  • Architectural design
  • Advertising of products/services
  • Exotic Holidays/Cruises
  • Technologic Equipment
  • Clothing
  • Partying Peripherals
  • Gambling/Casinos
  • Medicines/Salves etc
  • Treatments
  • Tanning
  • Tattooing
  • Massage
  • Exercise Gyms
  • Sports Equipment
  • Sport in General
  • News and views
  • Paper Magazines
  • TV Shows

 

All of these things, which together comprise, for most of us, most of our lives, are similarly ‘levelled’ so as to have acquired an acceptance which say 50 years beforehand they did not generally possess in people’s minds.  This acceptance is not a gain of ‘respectability’ nor of a ‘rise in aesthetic or moral value’ of any kind; and indeed all such values as respectability and ethos etc have become very much so no-go areas for us, and are gone.

Instead have come into favour such things as ‘renowned notoriety’ and ‘assured pushy aggressiveness’; and being self-engaged (having “attitude”); and in general being careless of incident (stuff happens), all things now being ‘par for the course’  so that ‘anything goes’, and so on etc. This all together might umbrella-ed under one word: ‘cool’.

I think maybe our prosperity and our relative political freedoms have possibly made us revert so as to have become once again infantile somewhat, and so we have become retrograde in our development as a people.  So much so that once carefully cautious radio stations which would have been prudent about the limits of what might be used in public (swearing, obscenities, grossness, and so on) now let pass some of the most distasteful remarks and options as  being in accord with their standard practices. And allowed in any part of the broadcasting day also

And are we not hypocrites when we stop the ears of our children and scold them for their language and words and behaviours, yet we glibly feel no compunction about ourselves allowing into our consciousness thoughts expressed publicly by others which are appalling and make one feel besmirched even from just having heard them said?

Our design criteria manifestly demonstrate our parlous state. There are the ‘pagan’ architectural lusts for display of personal or else corporate or civic power and for stamping that power into a landscape – the shard, the gherkin and other blemishes.

There is a trend for wearing clothes which are ripped and shabby as being the height of fashion; a trend which shows to me that we have become a people who has forgotten how it was to have to dress in such a fashion because the wealth was not there to back-up one’s folly.  Likewise casinos and gambling are a glitzy and enticingly advertised confidence trick; supported avidly by government for the tax return income it provides the government. These things are simply a tax on the poor; the very persons most adversely influenced by all this ‘return to immaturity’ we have embraced.

The national hysteria, one which has been created by and since orchestrated by commerce and government so as to become for us an adoration of all things sport and sportspersons; this is likewise a wheeze by which vast sums of ordinary people’s money is siphoned off into pockets with too much money in them already.  It is nothing more than a vast diversion from what is far more real urgent and rewarding – which is called life.

Clubs, merchandise, regalia, outfits, followings, collections, publications, clothing, everything sports-centred in garish and scattergun offers and marketing; and all done with a huge ungenerous tongue in cheek by The Big Players in commerce who are using us, abusing us, and laughing up their sleeves at us; thus they rub salt into the wounds.

I sometimes think we ordinary people are merely used as fodder, for our purchasing power and our productivity at work; marshalled by Boards and Chairpersons so as to be mis-educated into being their bankrollers as consumers; and that we are given by them no more or better thought. I feel that they are an insult to us and that we just do not, will not, see that this is so.

Our so-called prosperity – we have lost by it so much by it; so much.

News as Spoon-fed Scrapings

By their fruits; so shall ye know them

You reap what you sow

Your sins will find you out

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh

  1. Class-based News  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-42924351

A Tale of Two Stories

There are two threads to this story. The first thread was the ‘news story’ I heard broadcast on BBC Radio 4 News at 13.00hrs today 3rd February 2018; the second thread is this story as it is written here in BBBC News website (URL above) accessed at 19.00hrs on the same day.

The two threads refer to the same item of news but differ markedly in their details. This second thread of 1900hrs has been toned-down; maybe sanitised a little? after protest perhaps? as there rightly ought to have been given the slant and contents of the initial thread of the story, as this was broadcast to a nation on the one o’clock news on BBC Radio 4 today.

The initial thread claimed only a single break-in and a single theft and haul of items occurred.  The second thread amplifies this single break-in to a ‘series of break-ins’, and this series occurring over the period between 22 and 24 January; that is, over a course of several days.

Note that on neither the initial nor on the second thread was there any content explaining the delay of up to 12 days before knowledge of these break-ins reached BBC News.  Nothing has been said in either version concerning when the thefts were first discovered; nor about why the delay in reporting the loss to the BBC News; nor was there any statement concerning what security measures were in place so as to deter or to prevent thefts of this kind.

To my mind it is likely, since, as we shall show, the first thread differs so widely from the second thread, that the revision has to have come from someone at the Canterbury Trust storerooms who is senior and who was not happy with the one o’clock bulletin – the initial thread. And if this is so I can see why the person was unhappy.

However whether this second thread represents a more accurate description than the first of this affair of the theft, I believe remains an open question.

Along with a single break-in as stated in the original thread, the thieves were described as being seeking ‘old metal’ like ‘pipes and scrap’; i.e. plain commonplace metal thieves. The first thread went on saying: the thieves came ‘by chance’ upon the stores of ancient artefacts, and were not actually seeking them out. The thieves were then ‘likely not to know the true value of their haul of artefacts, and so were likely to ‘offload them for pennies. Listeners were asked to ‘beware’ and to ‘look out for the loot being put on sale at boot sales, etc’ and ‘for a few pennies’,‘ a fraction of their true money worth’.

The words I have put in speech marks in the sentences above represent the gist of what was reported on BBC News at 1 o’clock on Radio 4, and may be not the actual words; although certainly their exact tenor.

A spokesman also is said to have said at 1 o’clock that the theft was a ‘national disaster’.

All of the above reportage has been retracted in the description of the theft given in the second thread, which is to be found on BBC News website (URL given above) and in its stead a story quiet unlike it has been posted there.

Not just several break-ins, but the value of the goods stolen, the archaeological artefacts, are now stated to be negligible in money worth; but yet inestimable in worth to the nation and its heritage.

The thieves are now breaking-in especially to steal the artefacts; not for lead piping etc etc.  The theft of artefacts appears to have been far more expansive and widely pillaged than the initial thread would have had the theft. Many more boxes and stores were ransacked than in the initial version.

The ‘national disaster’ citation has been erased. No mention of boot sales nor of requests that the public look out for the artefacts at such places. The money value the thieves might get for their loot is retained as being ‘a few pennies’ but this ‘few pennies’ seems now to be said to be the general and true estimate of their commercial worth, as the second thread has it.

The initial thread seemed to be saying that the artefacts stolen were very valuable commercially but that they would ‘lay heavily on the hands ‘of the thieves who might find difficulty offloading them and so might sell them for a mite of what they are actually worth.

Two very different accounts then: having in common their offering of absolutely no criticism of the Canterbury archive managers and their apparent lack of security; nor any explanation of the near two-week delay in the BBC reporting the theft(s). These remain mysteries tackled by neither account. A hiatus or two then; what one might call selective reporting or else selective information released by the Canterbury trust – or both.

It’s worth analysing a little these two threads and their differences and their similarities.

As I have suggested – the second version attempts it seems to ‘cover-over’ the first version’ and if so the first version I presume was disagreeable to the furnisher of the second version.

Certainly the change in the status of the thieves – from commonplace metal thieves stumbling upon something much classier, into high-level art plunderers aiming at high-end plunder; this change represents a noticeable feature of social class bias.

The blundering metal thieves who have, it seems, so little education and so few appropriate connections that they were likely to dispose of their high-end loot at car boot sales and so on; ignorami striking lucky as it were – this is all clearly a set of assumptions driven by social class differences, coming in all probability from a person of prejudice at a higher social class than the supposed dumb metal thieves.

The dumb common metal thieves would not know the inestimable true money value of the loot; and so would offload it cheaply, goes the initial narrative.

Likewise the initial narrative saying that the theft was a ‘national disaster’ is clearly a consideration made by a person whose perspectives on life are rather askew; maybe from a person rather obsessed by petite bourgeois values and so being what common people call a little ‘hoity-toity’.

The second version avoids mentioning the ‘national disaster’ angle and contextualises the theft to it being a severe blow to the national heritage, which is somewhat more measured and accurate.

The thieves have been absolved of their ignorance in the second version, and no social class assumptions on the thieves are made in it. In the second version the intention of the thieves to steal heritage artefacts, the thieves’ prolonged access to the finds store and their freedom to rummage massively throughout large areas of storage of artefacts, all this is discovered to us.

In the second narrative the monetary value of the artefacts stolen is low and so as a motive they become unable to have incentivised the thieves to steal them.  Unless of course the second statement like much else in this second version, seems to have been issued as a corrective to the first version; and I fear, in the case of the money value of the artefacts being very low according to this second version, this claim in fact represents a falsehood. A falsehood probably told so as to encourage the thieves to dump their loot as it being not worth the hassle. Or else, or maybe also, told so as to tone down the great magnitude of the robbery in terms of hard money lost.

For think; the thieves intended to steal this artefact loot; they were present three days doing so; the second version states this as fact. And so why should such care be taken and time spent at risk of being spotted, deliberately to steal artefacts whose money value is pennies?  No, I believe the artefacts are extremely valuable in money terms; possibly, even probably, stolen to order – stolen with a buyer or buyers, or at least a specialised marketplace, in the thieves’ minds beforehand.

So from version 1 to version 2 we have gone from stupid blundering working class chancers taking this heritage loot on the off chance it might fetch something; and into a prolonged deliberate robbery of masses of specialised artefact loot by thieves possibly having a marketplace in mind beforehand in which to realise the high monetary value of the goods.

Whichever way one looks at this affair; and whichever version a reader prefers, it remains that a great dereliction of care and stewardship has been allowed to go unnoted in the media. The Canterbury trust has not stored its finds sufficiently safely and securely. It has been slow to report the theft.  It has allowed thieves on its premises for three days running undiscovered.

All the talk and accusations have been upon the thieves; none has been on the dereliction of the Trust at Canterbury. If it has not been dereliction; then the Trust should explain how it has not been a dereliction to the public, of whom ultimately these finds and artefacts are the property.  No-one else pays for the digs that found them and the care, work on, and custody of the finds – part of the National Heritage.

But honestly, thinking on things, it is not a loss but only a change of ownership.  Just as when I myself die my lovely library will be broken up and dispersed into others hands, just in the same way as many items in it have been in other hands before they were in mine; so too our National Heritage inevitably, given that human life prevails, will end up in other hands. Either in the form of generations of British yet unborn or else like the Elgin Marbles and the Sutton Hoo treasure, our heritage eventually will be passed on to another custodian, maybe, probably, broken up and dispersed.

What goes around comes around.  Perhaps these same stolen artefacts might surface into other public custody in other nations or in ours at some time in the future; and when the thieves have died and the guys they sell them to also have died, maybe there will be some auctions at which later generations at the Canterbury Trust are present and who buy some back, not noticing nor even aware of the fact that once long ago they were in the collections of their forebears at Canterbury?  Who really owns what? As Shakespeare tells us:

“He who dies pays all debts”