Archive | July 2012

Pure Dead Brilliant?

Naturally enough, the landscape between here and Glasgow changes gradually, well signposted by the mountains of the Lake District and the changing shapes of the hills. Still, even through a train window, it always seems to become unmistakably and “all-of-a-sudden” Scottish. The air, the water, the atmosphere. Even blindfolded, you’d somehow know you were back home. Nevermind the majestic scenery or the mists drifting over the Campsies; the proof of a Scottish banknote will really raise a smile on the face of an ex-pat. Well, everyone has a bit of Romanticism for their homeland, right? 😉 For me, living somewhere that’s really only subtly different as opposed to entirely “alien” is an illuminating process. Being Scottish in England right now also means being asked about my views on Independence. Again, it’s hard to resist the lure of Patriotism in favour of a more nuanced perspective; but certainly nobody is claiming that “breaking away from the Union” would be easy. Undoubtedly it would take a few years for the dust to settle and for new laws, new rules, new modes of interaction, to be properly defined and managed. The question is: is it worth it?

Ready for a departure. Just like Scotland?

Well, it really all depends on your definition of worth, doesn’t it? Despite a well-argued case from the profit-driven and big business-seeking sectors on the perils of “divorce”, I do think it would be worthwhile seeing how Scotland would redefine, reposition and strengthen itself as a Sovereign State. That would never mean abandoning ties with the rest of the UK, or turning away from Internationalism and Globalisation. Quite the contrary. What Independence would do would be provide the Scottish electorate with a chance to more strongly assert and enact their core and long-held principles of social justice, equality, and public service, over and above those currently emanating from Westminster – not just “at home” but also abroad; not least when it comes to matters of War, Defense, and “deterrants“. Well, maybe. Independent or not, it all still very much depends – on the EU, on our electoral system, and on how much trust we put in the political class in general – whether that of Scotland, England, or any other country with which we do “business”. And let’s not even get started on the difference between DevoPlus and DevoMax! But as it stands, I’m not going to get a say in it anyway. 😦

It was nice to get back and find the sun shining brightly on Manchester. Worth remembering that many people down here would envy us (sorry – “the Scottish voters”) our chance to break away from the coalition…

Ethical Confections

I’ve been a vegetarian for around 14 years now and was even briefly a vegan – but I have to admit that I’m not the most “ethical” shopper; I don’t avoid absolutely every product that an animal was involved in the creation of, and for me the thought of no cheese ever was too much to handle. Chocolate wise, at least you can still have the dark stuff! So despite a certain repulsion about the meat and animal industries, I’m not rushing out to buy vegan shoes or a hemp wallet; and having fallen off the wagon while on holiday in Norway a few years ago, I do treat myself to a bag of fish and chips every now and then. For some people, this means I am not a true vegetarian. But hey, even PETA let things slide once in a while to make life easier. Seriously.

Only plants were harmed in the making…

All of those disclaimers out of the way, I really need to enthuse now about the most amazing vegan marshmallows that I found in local vegetarian shop/café The Eighth Day this afternoon. Light, fluffy, made with Madagascan vanilla and almost indistinguishable from the ones containing gelatine, they’re even exactly the right shades of delicate pink and white! For most veggies, sizzling bacon is a kind of lamented lost treasure. For me, it’s definitely marshmallows. I almost wish it was cold enough for a big mug of hot chocolate…

Coloured Judgement

Some beautiful colours were on display at Blank Space on Thursday, where Glasgow School of Art trained Liz West’s Chroma explored how objects are collected, grouped, and (always artificially) brought together under particular classificatory systems. For me these themes are naturally fascinating – not just for reasons of Information Science, but as Liz’s exhibition showed, because of the psychological and aesthetic decisions that feed into our perceptions of particular items or item types. Colour is just one way to group things – but if everything is uniformly yellow, or green, does that mean we fail to perceive (or ignore?) just how different those items actually are? Do they become somehow more deeply alike?

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The use of distinct coloured lighting in site-specific installations, spread across multiple rooms, created a mood that was somewhere between children’s play area and nightclub; quite an accomplishment. “Orange Chamber” was a particularly memorable piece; viewers had to crouch down on the carpet and peer through a long narrow slit at a sea of objects (litter? toys? factory products?) brightly lit and then intensified/multiplied by the use of mirrors. Seeing your own partial reflection at the back of the enclosure naturally implicates you and your own collecting/colouring habits! Tucked away at the very end of Hulme Street near the motorway, Blank Space (which, run by Blank Media Collective, opened just last year) “champions emerging artists, writers, musicians and performers by giving them a unique platform to showcase their work”. The slightly scruffy location only makes the friendly chilled-out space inside feel like even more of a gem.