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Crocodile in Denial

Crocodile

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Invasive Species

Knotweed

Distraction: Out of the Silent Suburb

Blurb for new novel.

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Notes on how unexceptional we are becoming

There is a calculation that determines how large and how ancient the universe has to be before there has to be an identical you and me, and many variations of, in a Doppelganger galaxy. This is not a hypothesis, but a mathematical certainty if the numbers are large enough or infinite.

Driven to think of ourselves as special or to become special, in an age that celebrates super individualism, the larger the sample group (Currently heading for 7.5 billion worldwide if everyone eventually makes it to cyberspace) the less ‘special’ we become. (The anthropologists’ proposed optimum number (Dunbar’s number) for a successful, functioning, social group, less than two hundred, is laughable in this information age.)

I type my ‘unique’ password and it takes more and more variations as the online traffic increases. There is many out there thinking the same as me. Sitting writing notes like these, writing music like my music, author of a novel like mine, master of a cottage pie like mine, with a similar wife and cat… same makes of guitar, same influences, same books on the shelf.

There may be a billion ‘twins’ or even an infinite number. What then for our quest for super individualism? Where is our sense of self when we see everything we think and feel reflected repeatedly as the community increases?

Is the connection to the expanding cyber population devaluing our sense of purpose, damaging our egos? What is the point of competing in a world where you are hopelessly out numbered and anything you might have to say has been said, or is being said.

Whatever your skill or talent, there is always many more efficient, more accomplished. In a thousand, you may be in the top ten, in one million, however good you may feel you are, however good your reference group say you are, you are unlikely to feature in the first few hundred.

2002, pre the social media saturation, the girl in the car rental at Atlanta airport, hearing that we were from England, proudly announced that she is ‘The Queen’ of something; (we did not hear what she was queen of.) We smiled politely, a little perplexed. She looked to her colleagues for confirmation, ‘You go girl’ one of them said and they all signalled the affirmative amid whoops. We congratulated her.

But, as we walked away unenlightened, we wondered whether this personable character had actually ever been far beyond the airport perimeter, and would she still consider herself special if she was exposed to all the other millions of self-appointed kings and queens of something or other.

Was she the unwitting victim of the Denning-Kruger effect? (A key aspect of this psychological phenomenon is a dramatic overestimation of your ability/status when measured against a tiny sample group.) Perhaps when she decides to take her seat on her throne, exposing her standing to a much wider world, she may find herself confronted by a large cyber hall jammed with thousands of other pretenders.

Hunky Dory – David Bowie

David Bowie

Hunky Dory

1971

Bowie exercised his creative muscle in 71 with an album of songs that showed off his range and disparate influences. The sleeve notes and titles declare some of these – Velvet underground on Queen Bitch (a masterful pastiche of Sweet Jane) and Sinatra on the pop classic Life on Mars in which a My Way type progression has the top line on a trampoline – climbing ever higher till the seemingly impossible denouement, is there life on Mars? Neatly preceded by the eloquent Eight-line Poem – a sort of slow tempo suburban blues – Life on Mars was to be a big hit in 73 during the Ziggy period and the uninitiated suddenly realised the kid could sing, and the style of voice (as writer and vocalist)  transcended all influences. No doubt Bowie’s voice was at its peak on Hunky Dory – not yet having travelled too far down the accented road, and not having slipped into the mannerisms that marked his eighties work.

From the impressive mock Dylan on Song for Bob Dylan to the riff-driven Andy Warhol – penned around the time Bowie met the artist in New York – the self assured voice changes persona like pairs of pants.

The most outstanding song is the downbeat and Lennoesque The Bewlay Brothers, with rich twelve string open chords. The references it contains reveal a kind of childhood exposure to adult ideas and themes:

…Like the grim face on the cathedral floor

More Ginsberg than Dylan, this haunting piece, after which Bowie eventually named his publishing company, is seemingly connected with his half brother Terry whose disturbed life was perhaps reflected in Bowie’s alter egos.

Changes has shades of Lady Madonna and My Generation. This should have been a hit single, but no one was ready for Bowie, even at his most commercial and, despite some mainstream radio 1 airplay, Changes failed to have an impact. However the album itself scored rave reviews and Peter Noon’s MOR interpretation of Oh You Pretty Things was top ten in the UK.

Regular and significant collaborator Mick Ronson, session wonder kid Rick Wakeman, along with Woody Woodmansey, Trevor Bolder, co-producer Ken Scott and team make for a classy sound. And sporting a fine cover put together by Brian Ward and George Underwood, this is the essential Bowie album (but then again they are nearly all essential!).

Reports from a Congested Planet

Florence. September 2017. Pushing through the crowds, I felt a little uneasy by the mass of humanity, including me, swarming over an old city like ants over the carcass of a dead giant – reminding me of the crowd scene in Nathanael West’s Hollywood novel, Day of the Locust.

 

Human Evolution

It’s as if someone has taken this super organic computer, with seemingly limitless potential, and attached it to a crocodile