I can't summon any enthusiasm for 'City Region Mayors.' I read on today's Labour List website that Dan Jarvis MP is throwing his hat into the ring to be Sheffield City Region Mayor - a position which apparently will come with very few powers but which will give the government's 'Northern Powerhouse' schtick a little more credibility (which it doesn't deserve). Having said which, when John Prescott offered regional devolution, it hardly turned the electorate on to learn that they may have had a tenuous say in, e.g. Regional Spatial Planning Strategy (whatever that is). If we are to have devolution in Yorkshire, can we not go the whole hog - which means for starters that Yorkshire - as a whole - (on its historic boundaries, including Middlesborough) gets some real power. 'Real power' in this case means devolving Whitehall money decisions and pretty much everything that Holyrood has. The Tories in East and North Yorkshire won't like it, but here in North Yorkshire we have a surfeit of councillors and a surfeit of councils that is almost on a par in today's context with what existed pre-1974 local government re-organisation, unfit for purpose.
Not a brilliant picture I know - my old mobile is very picky about taking photos, generally not wanting to - but here is a recognisable murmuration of starlings that has been performing over my house these last few weeks. Not as big a murmuration as those seen elsewhere but a delight all the same, although the car needs washing more often. A small price to pay!
I was reminded of the above 'Chanogram' (a Charlie Chan aphorism) when out on a walk yesterday (between North Grimston and Settrington). The 1920s to 1940s film detective had many such sayings, illuminating (or not) his wise, 'oriental' insights. The Charlie Chan films merit a whole chapter in my book of the moment, Buddha in the Machine: Art, Technology and the meeting of East and West. So spotting this hole in a mirror smooth pond seemed like a remarkable, if meaningless coincidence. But in a curious, Zen-like way, it was a thing of beauty, based on the simplest of technologies: a drain pipe.
I receive a daily list of climate change news items from the world's media using a service called 'climate list' (worth joining if you're interested). Today I was struck by two headlines:
Effective response to climate change depends on hope, not fear
Are There Zombie Viruses In The Thawing Permafrost?
The moral in very British terms is hope for sunny weather but always carry a brolly.
At the ever excellent Scarborough Jazz Club (more on which in a moment) last night I decided in the full flush of inspiration to resurrect an idea I floated unsuccessfully two or three years ago. Namely, to unilaterally declare that Scarborough will be the European Town of Culture 2019. Yes, I've checked on Google and nobody else seems to have taken up the title. There was a village in Holland a few years ago that declared itself to be the European Village of Culture and by all accounts they did quite well. When I first suggested this idea, I think people asked themselves 'what's the point?' Here's some reasons why. 2019 is the year of Brexit (allegedly) but we're not leaving Europe are we? It may well be that the EU has declared that the UK cannot host the European Capital of Culture 2023, but at least at the start of next year we'll still be in the EU so there's no impediment there. Why Scarborough? Apart from thinking of it first, Scarborough has a wonderful cultural 'capital' which is too often neglected. We should celebrate it and make its presence felt. Then there was the fact that for many years Scarborough hosted a Benelux Festival, celebrating an outward facing embrace of our European ties, no doubt partly based on the arrival of the great Dutch herring fleet when there were still fish to catch in the North Sea.
I will think of more reasons as time goes by, but for now it is official: Scarborough is the European Town of Culture 2019. Drop me a line if you like the idea. By the way, there's no money, no committees, no bureaucracy.
Last night's jazz was clearly inspirational - a world class performance by the Ricardo Alvarez Quartet. Alvarez, a Chilean said he came from a city of five million, yet it only had one jazz club. Here we are in Scarborough, population c.70,000 and we have a jazz club which is at the top of its game. Last night was exceptional, it was astonishing to find such top class entertainment for a meagre £6 on the door (plus raffle). The players Alec Robinson on piano and Emlyn Vaughn (bass) performed with the intense rigour their instruments demand, Alvarez on tenor sax seemed to be in some sublime state of transcendence and the drummer, Casper Haslam gave a crashingly outstanding performance, not only with his kit but his endless range of facial expressions - the latter aspect being, I think an essential component of a jazz drummer's oeuvre. Bloody marvellous!
Preview invitation - exclusive to readers of this website! 6.30pm Friday 2nd February
Exhibition artwork: Simon Thackray
I was rather hoping the Guardian would have published the following letter today, in response to an article yesterday detailing a spat between Amnesty International and the Jewish Leadership Council. I wrote "The Jewish Leadership Council says it has no position on Israel's illegal settlements. So that's what's meant by leadership."
Is neutrality ever OK in the face of injustice? To lead is to take a position, and injustice demands a position. In this case fence sitting is equivalent to assent, which is a bit odd when the subject is one of the most contentious issues preventing a solution. Is that the idea?
Last October I wrote to Julia Mulligan, the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner regarding a potential conflict of interest between North Yorkshire Police (NYP) and the developers of a fracking site near the village of Kirby Misperton. This followed Ms Mulligan's website claim that she was intent on ensuring that no finance for the policing operation ("Operation Kingfisher") should come from the developers lest it was perceived as partisan. Fair enough, so far so good. But suspicions were aroused when a friend of mine stopped to take a look at a newly erected CCTV camera, with an Operation Kingfisher notice stuck on it (it's for 'public safety,' that kind of stuff). Within minutes he was approached by blokes in 'security' wear asking him what he was doing, and asking if he was a 'protester.' Clearly information from a police camera had been passed on to private 'security,' presumably in the employ of the developers. Eventually (late December) I got a reply from Ms Mulligan's office, which quoted the Kingfisher commander saying "You can be assured that any information (including images) gathered by North Yorkshire Police for policing purposes can and only would ever be shared if there was a lawful basis and for a policing purpose." Sharing info for a 'policing purpose?' With third party 'security' outfits? Whom the evidence suggests operate off-site to boot? Questions need to be raised about the partnership between the fracking developer's private security force and the police. Public funds are being used to assist them in areas which do not concern them. Private security outfits receiving information from the police - even when no crime is being committed (even if that were a justification) - must give them the false impression that they are in effect co-opted law enforcement agents. It's a legitimacy 'security' types crave. Pointless asking any North Yorkshire MP to take up the issue of course.
The decision by the POTUS to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem demonstrates conclusively how deep runs the chap's sense of historical mission - somewhere on a par with Moses I would say. He wasn't joking when he said his physog should join those already carved in the face of Mt. Rushmore. Moving the embassy, judging by the comments of one of Trump's minions visiting Israel yesterday is to be a priority, to be done by next year. I don't know how many embassies POTUS can keep in the air at any one time, but hopefully he will maintain his disdain for his new London outpost and at least stay away from here. At least just about everybody, and incredibly our own normally craven government are not joining the American exodus from Tel Aviv. What motivates the POTUS? He clearly feels the weight of some imagined historical mission on his shoulders. His unenquiring mind thus fixes itself on symbolic gestures.
I've no idea whether he is aware of the Nobel Peace Prize and his predecessor's receipt of it even before Obama had done anything to deserve it apart from winning an election on the promise of (as it turned out) fruitless hope. That's the sort of thing which funnily enough might fit a broader category of 'fake.' But Trump is clearly locked in an honour battle with his predecessor, even though Obama has left the stage. One wonders who Trump thinks he will be fighting in the next presidential race . .
So Trump will fulfill his mission in Jerusalem and give the finger to those soft Scandinavian liberals. Meanwhile in the words of Nehemiah, Ch.2 v.13 "I went out by night by the dragon's well , and to the dung gate . . ."
It's all about rebuilding walls.
I read in today's Guardian that social media seems to be losing its appeal, at least as a source of 'news.' Perhaps the entry of my website onto the scene has already made its mark. Actually, that was a fake thought, the kind of thought the POTUS would entertain. But a more critical use of social media is long overdue. I wonder how long the fad will survive in its present form, not least if the overpriced companies behind social media take a big hit in the next crash, just around the corner. Another piece of good news recently was the resurgence of physical book sales and the concomitant decline in e-book sales. Does this mean the much trumpeted domination of the 'e-world' is faltering? I suspect not, more a case of two steps forward and one step back. And this is nothing new. I am currently reading The Buddha In The Machine: Art, Technology and the Meeting of East and West by R. John Williams (purchased in the ever excellent Ken Spelman's bookshop in York) which amongst many other things reveals a deep anxiety about the machine age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Now, with new forms of technology about to be unleashed in the home (the Amazon Alexa, for example) a far greater tech intrusion into our lives is promised. For now these robots will be our servants, but it won't be long before they become vehicles of subtle control. As regards the 'Buddha' in the machine, I will return to this subject when I've finished the book, which I recommend.