Tuesday, 16 December 2014

"Light Lag" - Seasonal Jet Lag From Flying North/South

I am a medical science pioneer, because I think I've found a black hole in medical knowledge: jet lag from flying north or south.

This week I flew my 10th mega-haul flight, i.e. 24+hrs and 2+ plane trips.

This one was 25hrs from Melbourne to London. 25hrs is about the shortest flight you can do between the UK and Aus/NZ, and this felt like one of the easiest.

So why do I still feel terrible 5 whole days later?

Because I've gone directly from warm long bright days to freezing short dark days.


Everyone says "West is best" for jet lag. This is science, because the body (apparently) adjusts to longer days more easily than shorter ones.

I've always been confused by this, because I've found it easier flying East to New Zealand than flying West to UK.

Sure, NZ is not technically "East" - it's on the opposite side of the world, +12hrs from UK.*

But if it's the same time change going each way, why have I always felt great getting in to New Zealand, but awful adjusting back in the UK?

6 of these mega-haul flights were in UK autumn and NZ spring - between September and November.

  • Each time flying NZ to the UK, the daylight and temperatures were about the same. Cue standard jet lag for 3-4 days, including tight muscles, feeling generally rubbish and low energy.
  • Each time flying UK to NZ, the daylight was much increased - leaving darker, colder days for longer, warmer days. And I felt great - slightly upset sleep patterns for 2-3 days, but energised and upbeat during the daytime.

The other 2 flights were in July/August, which is NZ winter and UK summer. I definitely felt the effects going both ways, but I don't remember much difference between them.

Are there any studies? Does anyone care?

Okay, this is all anecdotal, and as a rationalist I often remind people that anecdotal evidence is not evidence.

But a quick look around the internet suggests no-one seems to be taking this idea seriously - that seasons affect jet lag.

Wikipedia hilariously says...
"North–south flights that do not cross time zones do not cause jet lag"
...while also saying...
"Light is the strongest stimulus for re-aligning a person's sleep-wake schedule"
Which is funny, right? Because when it says...
"A ten-hour flight from Europe to southern Africa does not cause jet lag, as travel is primarily north–south"
...you'd think light could be a major factor if you're flying in June, from the longest days of the year in Europe, to the darkest days of the year in southern Africa.

The same goes for Sydney and Tokyo, Santiago and New York, and so on.

Do we need another name like "Light Lag"?

If you're in the same time zone, midnight is still midnight and noon is still noon.

And if you're flying 2 hours north/south, near the equator, even at midsummer or midwinter the difference won't be very strong. You might not even notice it.

But if your departure and destination are both quite far north and south on the planet, the time that the sun rises is going to be pretty different, especially in June or December. And your body will notice it.

  • If you fly Cape Town to Helsinki in December, your time zone is the same, but the sun rises 4 whole hours later.
  • So in terms of light, how is this different from flying 4 time zones West?
  • Added to that, the day isn't just shifted forward a few hours - it ends 5 hours earlier too. So your body has 2 different things to work out (as well dealing with a massive drop in temperature!).

With jet lag, your body only has to move its cycle by a few hours. If you're staying on the same longitude, the day pattern is the same, and your body can adjust easily.

In contrast, rapid seasonal change means your body has to change its entire response cycle, because times between light-dark and dark-light are both completely different.

To me, it seems clear that "jet lag" should either include this seasonal effect of north/south flying - which current discussion clearly ignores - or we need another term like "light lag" to account for it.

So if there isn't already a term, I'm claiming one. I officially declare I have coined a new phrase "light lag". Consider this as me sticking a little linguistic flag in it. (Or RSC "Rapid Seasonal Change". That sounds a bit more legit.)

Boom, I just medical-scienced all over this blog.

Emotions and warmth

In fairness, your emotional state can also affect your body's health and performance.

So, flying to New Zealand always gives me feelings of a) excitement, from the idea of starting a new adventure, and now also b) happiness, from the sense of "coming home" to a country I have very happy memories of.

Then again, I always feel happy coming back "home" to England too, to see my UK family and friends.

More definite is that landing in a warm climate or season (e.g. Thailand or NZ spring/summer) helps your body get around and do things. Right now, my body is tight and tense, and I think that's directly related to going from warm Australian spring to the 0-5 degrees of UK December.

This is my first UK December since 2007 and I am cold!

No-one cares about the Southern Hemisphere...

Just finally, one of my personal bugbears from living 6yrs down under is how northern-hemisphere-oriented the world is.

I think Kiwis and Aussies are used to it. They grow up with a British colonial cultural heritage, they get up in the night to watch sports matches. They're perfectly used to the news talking about things happening in a different hemisphere.

Me on the other hand, I'm a demanding European. Everything usually happens in my hemisphere!

So when it's solstice in June, the whole internet is talking about "summer solstice" - completely forgetting it's winter for literally half of the planet.

And there's the mental block Americans and Europeans have about millions of people celebrating Christmas in summer. Everyone in Europe and the USA knows this, but they find it very hard to focus on, like something that's always in the corner of your eye.

  • Unless the novelty of beaches and barbecues is specifically the topic of conversation, Christmas is always in winter - that's just how it is.
  • Likewise, unless the southern hemisphere is specifically the topic, the default hemisphere is the northern hemisphere.

To be fair, the southern hemisphere only has 12% of the world's population. That's Australasia, Oceania, South America and southern Africa. The northern hemisphere has most of the land and most of the human race: northern Africa, Europe, almost all of Asia, and North and Central America.

So maybe it's no wonder that there's very little attention to north-south flights across significant changes of latitude.

But hey, don't forget us down past the equator.

* It's usually +11hrs (UK summer) or +13hrs (NZ summer) because of daylight savings in both countries.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

I Lied To My Friends And Family All Year (And It Was Totally Worth It)

Greetings from warm tropical Thailand ENGLAND.

London Liverpool Street after my MEL-LHR flight.
25hrs = easy peasy
I'm a bad liar, which made this entire operation all the more impressive.

After 6 years living in NZ and Australia, I thought it was time for a surprise visit back to the UK for Christmas.

This was my last chance too. And it went perfectly.

My mum's reaction - expecting someone else at the door - was just to stare for about 3 seconds while her brain worked out what was going on. My brother managed it in about 1 second, before blurting out "Holy FUCK".

It wasn't quite like you see in the movies, but it was pretty bloody good.

All year I told absolutely everyone I was going to Thailand to travel over Christmas and new year, except for 5 people. 5! There were:
  • 2 workmates when I booked my flights, who I'd probably never see after finishing the contract that week,
  • my 2 friends in Thailand who would actually be bummed out by me not turning up in Thailand (sorry guys!), and
  • a close UK friend who could buy me a ticket - MUCH SECRET VERY CONSPIRACY - to the Manic Street Preachers "Holy Bible" gig on the same day as my friends.
Telling the colleagues was careless. Telling my Thai friends was difficult but necessary. Telling my good friend was a unexpected necessity - but I really really didn't want to!

I lied to everyone. My family. Close friends in the UK. Close friends in Australia and New Zealand. My housemates. Colleagues. People I barely knew.

The lie became so deep I started believing it myself - that I had actually bought a ticket to Thailand, and just secretly changed it or something. I never bought a ticket to Thailand.

Things started getting fairly weird last week:
  • I had a 30 minute conversation with a colleague about where I should go in Cambodia. She later sent me a whole email with helpful links she'd found. (I'm so sorry.)
  • I had to invent an itinerary for my mum about roughly where I'd be over the 6 weeks, looking up different flight codes and bus routes. (She sent my Christmas present to Thailand about 3 hours before I knocked on the door.)
Why such massive secrecy? Couldn't I have told anyone?

Firstly, I'm a bad liar. My face gives everything away. To convince people about this weird idea - that I was leaving Australia to spend Christmas and new year in Thailand without any friends or family - I knew had to believe it myself. (I passed it off as "well, it's a weird plan, but I'm weird, so it kinda makes sense!" - and people believed this, because it did kind of make sense. And actually, I stand by the idea that travelling over Christmas is totally okay.)

Secondly, the world is a small place, and social media makes it smaller. You don't know if telling a stranger at a party in May means your secret gets to your Facebook friends in October. Absolute lockdown required.

And finally, it's about basic psychology. Telling 1 person a big secret doesn't just mean 1 extra person knows. It means you're both thinking about it. If you see them again, you're going to talk about it again, and the risk multiplies. And if you're thinking about it, it makes it 1000% more likely you'll tell someone else. This is why I even lied day after day to my housemate and good friend @desdrata. Sorry T!

Of course, looking back, maybe my intentions look "obvious". And I've already had 3 predictable people claiming they knew all along I was coming back for Christmas, despite not saying anything all year ;)

I didn't lie about anything else. I'm still headed back to Melbourne for the summer (January-March), and I'm still off to Chiang Mai for a couple of months before finally moving back to the UK.

You can totally trust me on these things. No really. Really!

So here I am, back for my first UK Christmas since 2007. It's pretty bloody chilly and I'm not quite sure my Aus winter clothes are up to the challenge.

I've already been to London and felt the mad, crowded busyness which simply doesn't exist in Melbourne.

I've had British ale pumped by hand, and been out with my mates.

It's good to be back.

And you know what? I'm not that sorry. I still have a big grin that I pulled it all off.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Melbourne As A Woman Was Everything I Expected

A year ago I wrote about all the cities and countries I'd seen in 2013 as if they were lovers. All but London were women - I'm straight, but like I described, London for me is definitely a guy.

And at the end of such a weird but perfectly-executed year, waiting patiently for me with her hair done and a bright smile, was Melbourne.

She is sunny, warm and delightful; maybe 32, looking 28.

She is tall, slim, and always impeccably dressed - often in that black wide-brimmed hat popularised several years ago.

She is cultured and intellectual, with an extensive knowledge of all kinds of music, from classical composers you never heard of to underground Situationist dance troupes you also have never heard of.

She loves Europe - maybe a little too much.

She is witty and well-spoken and every so often sarcastic with a smile.

She loves cocktails and gin and craft beer, although being honest, her taste in craft beer has some way to go yet.

And for historical reasons, she has a lot more money than Wellington.

I fly off to Thailand next week, and while it's not the end of our fling yet, I felt like marking a whole year in Melbourne - and another whole year in the Southern Hemisphere (it's a real place, summer starts in December, Christmas is in summer, that's totally okay, etc. etc.).

There'll be more of some kind of wanky retrospective in late March - autumn - when I really am leaving Melbourne, and finally heading back to the UK.

But for now, I say thank you kind lady, and I'm looking forward to another summer together.x

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

"Cunt", Australia's favourite word

As your correspondent in Australia, I want to explain its culture and language, and both of these include the word "cunt".

I should warn you - you've read the word "cunt" three times now, and if you're feeling upset or offended you shouldn't carry on reading. Because I'm going to write the word "cunt" a lot of times, and I'm not going to censor any of them. Let's begin!

New Zealand has good cunts...

At a house party in Wellington, 2 months after moving to NZ, a huge guy slapped me on the shoulder and drunkenly called me a "good cunt".

I immediately thought I was in a fight.

Thankfully it turns out "good cunt" in New Zealand is a compliment. A brash, crude, bogan compliment, but still a compliment. Most Kiwis wouldn't use the phrase at all, but everyone's heard it and everyone knows it.

To clarify, calling a stranger "cunt" in New Zealand is still massively offensive - and like in the UK, it's often used between young friends as a jokey insult.

But "good cunt" (or "GC") loosely means a person is reliable, dependable, has a good character, a nice guy, or just simply someone worth knowing.

...Australia just has cunts. Lots of them

Now let's look at Australia, where there's plenty of "cunt"s to go round.

Here's 2 amusing videos, made by Australians about Australia:

Australia in 2 minutes by Neel Kolhatkar


  • This video manages to offend just about everyone, and Kolhatkar deliberately crosses the line to make racist generalisations
  • However, the video crams in a lot of crude stereotypes in a short time, and they all tell a lot about Australian culture, humour and society
  • The magical line "Give us ya fucking money, cunt" is sometimes used with props (a banana for tropical Queensland, digging up money for mine-riddled Western Australia) - but more effectively, the video just repeats the exact same clip with a different place name each time.
Kolhatkar is not just jokily suggesting most of Australia is thuggish, trashy and wants your money - he's showing how often you might hear the word "cunt" here in the Lucky Cuuuuuuuunt-ry. Which brings us to:

Australia Day - with Ken Oathcarn [RAP NEWS 11] by Juice Media


  • Juice Media's 11th episode of the wonderful "Rap News" very articulately covers the unethical history of Australia's national holiday: Australia Day AKA Invasion Day, which I wrote about here
  • By using stereotypical bogan character Ken Oathcarn, the video enthusiastically throws around "cunt" to ridicule the crude, racist and bigoted parts of Australian society
  • It even opens with a banner saying "Warning - contains Australian language"
  • The video re-works the Team America song "America, Fuck Yeah" as the even more crass "Australia Day, Yeah Cunt!" (full version here) for hilarious and cynical effect:
Australia Day, yeah cunt!
Coming again to celebrate invasion
Australia Day, yeah cunt!
Denial is the only way, cunt
Refugees, you're fucking screwed, if you try to come into
Australia! Yeah cunt! Cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt "Australia Day, Yeah Cunt" by Juice Media/Ken Oathcarn

The word "cunt" is not news in Australia

But how about a third example: Eddie McGuire, owner of Collingwood AFL team and sports/comedy TV presenter.


In April this year, McGuire called AFL player Kane Cornes "cunt" live on TV at 7:30pm. It was a slip, an accident - not that he didn't mean to say it, because it was clearly an affectionate joke - but just that he didn't mean to say it at 7:30pm on national TV.
"Good on you mate, congratulations, go and have a rub, sing your song, enjoy yourself, all those things mate, you might have to have two rubs being an old cunt" Eddie McGuire

You can say it's remarkable that dropping a C-bomb in friendly conversation felt so natural to McGuire, a veteran broadcaster, that he did it on live TV. (And hell, I'm definitely a fan of the unscripted, relaxed nature of Aus/NZ TV interviews and news coverage, which make their UK equivalents seem sanitised, reptilian and pathetic.)

But what's truly telling about Australian society is that it was news for about half a day, then it stopped being news, because the word "cunt" is simply not news in Australia.

I'm trying and failing to imagine a British equivalent - Alex Ferguson maybe, as one of Britain's best-known football managers, or Chris Tarrant, host of UK's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (McGuire hosts the Aus version) - jokingly calling someone a cunt at 7:30pm on live TV without it being a national outrage.

And as you can see, Cornes clearly didn't take offence:

(Kane plays for Port Adelaide, in case you wondered)

Everyone's working class here in Straya

The fact is for young Australians, and male Australians of all ages, "cunt" is simply not the shockingly unsayable swearword that it is in other countries: prudish US, uptight Britain, even hardy New Zealand.

People of all these countries will use it as a genuine trashy insult - the kind of thing you'll hear from angry young men on a Saturday night, where a drunken fight might break out.

But for young Australians, this is a word casually used among friends on a regular basis. And it's used a lot.

It's very much connected with the working class outlook that soaks all Australia's social levels: to call an enemy a cunt is still an insult, but to jokily call your friends this horrible word shows how comfortable you are with each other.

It's also generally a masculine trait - showing how tough you are by using the worst possible word in the English language. But young female Australians use it too, and certainly more than British or Kiwi girls and women, which again reveals something about Australia's culture and (white, colonial) history: brash, tough, no-nonsense.

Some people might doubt "cunt" really is said more in Australia than in the UK or NZ. To be fair, young Brits do love the C word, and say it in a particularly British way. And it's probably hard for some prudish outsiders to tell the difference between NZ (frequent) and Aus (constant) on the cunt scale.

But just hear the regular stories of Aussies landing in London, having a great time with their new friends and workmates at the pub, and then casually calling someone "cunt" - to horrified reactions.

Even in Britain, a C-bomb dropped at the wrong time creates an explosion of silence.

Want more proof? Here's the search results in Youtube for "Australia" and "cunt". Go for gold mate, there's plenty to watch.

Swearwords: Treasure them

I'm a fan of swearing. It's often healthy to swear, and it's unhealthy to deny it happens.

But even I've been surprised by the amount I've heard the C word this year in Australia.

"Cunt" is a beautiful word.

I don't necessarily mean in the noble way feminists are trying to reclaim it - although after all, like many swearwords, its origins are fascinating and hardly dirty or taboo. And I've deliberately avoided discussing the meanings, origins and potential sexism of the word "cunt", because that is a whoooole other massive topic.

I think it's beautiful in its simplicity.

It is small but devastatingly effective. It is crude and yet perfectly formed.

But we are all in danger of overusing it. Aussies are just ahead of the English-speaking world in this cultural trend. The more you hear "cunt", the more ordinary it becomes. And I think both the prudish and the crudish would agree we don't want that to happen. Not too rapidly anyway.

The value of swearwords is in using them rarely, with respect.

And on that note, thanks for reading cunts.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

All 13 Beautiful Artworks For New Album SCANDALOUS HEART

My new album "Scandalous Heart" not only has big big tunes and catchy riffs, it's got fabulous artwork for all 12 individual tracks.

The free album download includes beautiful high quality images:

Each design has a symbol based around the song or the album, with some amazing photos of space and from my 4 years in New Zealand.

I'll write another blog post explaining them all in detail, but for now, enjoy!

Monday, 17 November 2014

New album SCANDALOUS HEART out now

I'm very pleased to say my new album SCANDALOUS HEART is out now, free or pay what you like from Bandcamp or the player on the right:

It's a colourful and worthy follow up to 2012's AIRFIX DEMOCRACIES, with riffs, hooks and catchy tunes about equality, space, science, and FUN. In fact while there are several themes running through the album, including stars, science and self-determination, FUN is the biggest theme of all.

I'll be blogging about the album, including the revised tracklisting, awesome artwork, and the themes of each song, and how this is the 3rd out of 4 albums that I have to make.

But for now, share and download and play it loud! Hope you enjoy! :)

J-dog x


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Julien Blanc is just a businessman in the profitable world of rape culture.

This isn't just your daughter, your sister, your mother.
This is a human being assaulted. It could be you.
Photo: Twitter via SBS
I'm going to try and say what no-one else is saying, since the media is already turning Julien Blanc into the world's most hated misogynist - until the next one turns up!

My points:

  • Julien Blanc is a businessman making money from young male insecurity
  • There is an army of young, clueless, potentially-misogynist men out there - just waiting for toxic parasites like Julian Blanc to provide them with an "answer"
  • It is uproars like this and the conversations we have which change the culture and reduce the violence and harm caused by men towards women.

Misogyny is a business

Julien Blanc is a businessman and we shouldn't forget that. He found a popular vein and turned it into a profitable business "Real Social Dynamics".

He didn't invent misogyny - he found an existing market to exploit for cash.

Yes, he is a misogynist and it's right that everyone is destroying him in the media right now.

But if it wasn't him, someone else would be hosting those seminars, because our world provides all the ingredients for it.

Youth matters

When I first read about Julien Blanc and saw one of his disgusting video presentations, it reminded me of Tom Cruise in Magnolia - a "narcissistic misogynist who is peddling a pick-up artist self-help course to men". Wikipedia describes, with disturbing accuracy, exactly what I wanted to say.

The difference is Tom Cruise's character was in his 30s. Julien Blanc is apparently just 25.

Age is relevant. Anyone my age (31) or over can see straight through his fast-talking misogynistic bullshit to what he is: an insecure fuckup who has clearly never had a healthy relationship with, or attitude towards, women.

So who are his audience? Who are these misogynists-in-waiting, paying good money to get tricks and tips on how how to treat women like sub-human pieces of shit?

They're male, and they're lonely, and/or lacking social skills, and/or already douchebags.

But they're clearly under 25, because no-one over that age would take him or his attitude seriously as a "guru".

The majority of misogynists aren't misogynists every day

I think it's pretty straightforward. Most people (most) who do bad things aren't bad people, deep down - they do it because they are in a culture of, and surrounded by, people who make bad things seem 1) not wrong and 2) normal.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't hold them responsible, or punish people for doing bad things.

But if you only punish individuals for crimes, you fail to see factors that cause them in the first place.

As a young man I learnt more about periods in Biology class than I did from anyone or anywhere else. We - the boys - were told nothing about them in Personal/Sex Education.

This made it easier as ignorant young males to rip into all women for anything that could be blamed on "moody bitch is having her period LOLZ".

The same goes for the female experience overall. Young men generally know nothing about what it's like to be a woman. And it's always been like this, because the system that makes it that way finds it very suitable to keep it that way.

It's not a conscious system - but it's still a system. It's not a conspiracy, but there's plenty of dickheads oiling the wheels.

So that's why a large chunk of young men find it easy, or favourable, or even beneficial to treat women like trash - because they have no idea what it's like to be afraid of rape, of physical violence, of misogyny and catcalls and discrimination, on a regular basis.
"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." Margaret Atwood 
At any one time there is a large mass of young males out in the population doing whatever they think will get them laid.

They are isolated by the same misogynist culture that causes violence to women. It is part of the same system.

It's easy to dismiss mass murdering fuckhead Elliot Rodgers as a "lone weirdo" - but the fact is his lunatic fuckery and sense of entitlement are on exactly the same spectrum as that homophobic prick Dapper Laughs, who has his own show on UK TV about - yes you guessed it! - how to fuck women.

Are you seeing it yet?

In any population of young men, there are some who are good people, and some who are definitely dickheads, and there is a broad mass in the middle who are awkward, frustrated, ashamed of failure, emotionally isolated, and fundamentally uninformed about what it's like being a woman.

They are not automatically misogynists but they are frequently reaching out for anything to escape the horror of failure that society dumps in their face.

And the whole time, people like Julien Blanc and Dapper Laughs define "failure" with one hand while offering misogyny with the other.

Because they are businessmen.
"We’re the number one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. You know what our number one threat is? Heart disease.” Louis CK

Actually lots of people like being choked WITH CONSENT

There's a thing called "kink" where people do unconventional sexual things WITH CONSENT.

Human beings enjoy a whole variety of sexual activities which can include bondage, domination, submission, choking, and other kinds of humiliation WITH CONSENT.

Some people love having bad things done to them WITH RESPECT AND CONSENT.

What unites "kinky" and "vanilla" sex is that it should all be done WITH CONSENT.

I read a woman's post on the kink website Fetlife which described how she identifies as a slave, both sexually and as a non-sexual lifestyle choice. She gets sexual fulfilment out of being a slave to someone she respects, and a happy sense of belonging being treated like shit by someone she respects.

She then pointed out how the thousands of misogynists sending her disturbing alpha-male bullshit messages will never get to experience that, because they don't understand RESPECT or CONSENT.

Julien Blanc thinks women should be treated like pieces of shit. He doesn't even - even - say something like, "Deep down all women like it! It's in their nature!" He fails to clear the very first rape-culture hurdle because he doesn't even care what women think at all.

That makes him a rapist waiting to happen.

Once you, or I, or any of these lost young potential-misogynists understand respect and consent, we all get a million miles closer to not only achieving the productive and fulfilling sex that most people seek - but actually reducing harm as well.

The uproars merely show the mainstream what has been unsaid the whole time

Men are often blind to the shit women have to deal with, the same way white people get to walk around never knowing what it's like to have your race pointed out to you on a regular basis.

This lets a lot of men think 1) the world is equal, therefore 2) feminism is a scary movement about hating men and restricting men's rights.

The sad truth is, misogyny and violence against women have been around forever - it's just we've started to listen now, to people who are angry it's still going on.

That's why there's an extreme backlash against Anita Sarkeesian for pointing out the culture of misogyny and violence against women in video games. She's not making this shit up. It's always been there.

Part of me would love to see people like Julien Blanc arrested and convicted for inciting violence against women.

Think about it.

We have laws against inciting violence against people on religious grounds, on racial grounds, on grounds of sexuality.

Julien Blanc is telling paying customers it is A-okay to choke women and shove their head at your cock.

So yeah, have a think about that in terms of criminality and what businesses are legally allowed to promote.

But really, punishing dickheads and criminals does not solve the problem - even after a crime has been committed and punishment + rehabilitation are necessary.

The problem is solved by messaging. By communications.

These uproars often bounce around in the echo chamber of liberal/left social media - people shouting "AGH MISOGYNY AGAIN" at all their friends who already think the same thing.

The culture changes when the anger and the uproar become big enough to escape the echo chamber - when they spill over into the mainstream. When the media cover it - not just liberal media, but conservative media too, without trying to twist it into some victim-blaming bullshit.

When it's too big and too loud for potential misogynists not to hear it - people who normally get their information from shitty conservative newspapers and TV shows and internet personalities who sell misogyny.

When it gets to young men who are let down by institutions and social groups who fail to educate them about the realities women face around the world.

The uproars are part of the solution. Because exposing this bullshit is the first step towards destroying it.

Friday, 7 November 2014

New song EQUALITY & LASERS. Pew pew!

Fresh off the new album "Scandalous Heart", here's the brand new pop song EQUALITY AND LASERS. Play now and give some love on Soundcloud!


Do you want Equality? Do you want Lasers?
This catchy song is for you!

The new album is out next Sunday 16th for free download - keep checking back for more songs, artwork and info :) Jx

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

New Album: Name change + Video news + Artwork

Ahoj! Kia ora! Sa bai dee! and Hello!

Another album announcement and I'm pretty excited. Yes I'm always excited, but now I have reasons.

Video news! Artwork news! Name news!


The album will now be called SCANDALOUS HEART, taken from the song "Sagittarius A*" about the supermassive black hole at the (scandalous) heart of our galaxy.

Changing it felt strange at first - I grew to like the working title "Cultuur Sugoi" - but I realised that it wouldn't even mean anything to my closest friends and fans, never mind new people I want to hear it.

SCANDALOUS HEART connects the space theme with my heart/flames artwork as a core part of the album. And like "Without Fear" and "Airfix Democracies", it's a line from a song without an obvious meaning, but an important connecting thread.

Let's continue the space theme!


Last week I had a great time filming with Melbourne's Obsessive Music in an awesome abandoned factory betwixt inner Melbourne and spider-addled rural Victoria.

The video is for "Big Black Hole In The Sky", as one of the lead songs for the album, and I had a great time glamming up and drawing planets and moons on my face in eyeliner.

Here is a pic showing me in my skirt - the 2nd shoot I wore my dress - editing has begun already - it's going to be great!


Finally you'll be as stoked as I am to see the final album artwork, which will be very close to the design below - again sticking with the space/stars theme.

It's not what I first imagined but I love it. There'll be lots more art pieces to come, using my own photography from my time in New Zealand and Australia, including individual artwork for each song (just like Airfix Democracies).


Still lots of work to do but I'm having a great time recording bass & singing my heart out.

There'll be 1 more announcement before it goes live, then maybe another one when the album and video are both live. Like I say I hope that's not too intrusive.

This mailing list is the first place for news so keep watching your inbox around early November for the next exclusive update!

Catch you soon and keep in touch :)

Jezo Kempo x
Twitter @jezkemp
Facebook facebook.com/jezkemp
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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?" is the same bullshit as "Look Up" all over again

Maybe Prince Ea has a point when he incorrectly claims that "People's attention span is 1 second shorter than a goldfish" (citation needed thanks!).

Because this video "Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?" is the same anti-technology bullshit as "Look Up" which we only just went through 5 months ago.

Everyone's apparently forgotten how fucking "life-changing" that video was.

The only difference between them is that Prince Ea is American, black, and talks pretty street ("Am I buggin'?" I dunno mate, I really don't know) compared to Gary Turk's so-very-white, English, cardigan-wearing Christianity.

Prince Ea is very upset about
this swarm of Letter Is
But "Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?" is actually a straight-up copy of "Look Up":
  • The same stupid, clearly false claims - "Technology has made us more selfish and separate than ever", no, technology is a neutral piece of machinery
  • The same bell-end hypocrisy - make a video complaining about social media and technology and share it using social media and technology, so that cretins can screech "I HATE SOCIAL MEDIA" on social media
  • The same oh-so-witty word tricks to distract you from the brain-hurting idiocy of what is being said - "ironic how these touch screens can make us lose touch", WTF really, were you more "in touch" back with the Nokia keypad?
  • The same made-up stories - "I spoke to my friend" no you didn't, you made it up for this video
  • The same bullshit posed scenes telling a bullshit story - male checking his phone, sexy girl not interested! Male missing out on hetero life chances!
  • The same bone-headed, backwards messages: Technology is not "real life", technology is evil, technology is to blame
No straight white dude! Don't look at your phone!
White sexy lady won't fuck you if you use technology!
And sheep, posing as humans, are already lapping it up with the same comments "Look Up" received - comments like "Sooo true!!!" "I'm so GUILTY!!!" "Thumbs up if you're leaving this video right now to go back to real life!!!"

Fuck off. Fuck the fuck off.

I assume this video will go super viral (currently 1.4m views in 10 days - it was at almost this exact point "Look Up" went super viral) by preying on the same dumb insecurities, illogical fears and the Nostalgia For A Better Simpler Time that "Look Up" did.

So since Prince Ea's video is a carbon copy of "Look Up", I am literally copying and pasting my blog post for "Look Up" because that's what this superficial, kneejerk, anti-technology bullshit deserves.

0/5, my cynical heart has been blackened further by your idiocy. No love.

Related reading: "Fears and feelings: Why are people so anxious about technology? 9 possible reasons"

Posted here on my blog 4th May 2014

"Look Up" is the worst form of rose-tinted, anti-phone bullshit I've seen yet

It's very fashionable to hate technology and social media these days. You can see this in funny and/or Very Meaningful pictures and videos shared around on the very social networks they criticise.

The latest and most nauseating is a video called "Look Up" by Gary Turk.

Just watch it. The meaning is very clear and simple:
  • We spend too much time on our phones - in fact that's the only thing we do
  • We are lonely, not just with our technology, but because of it
  • Mobile technology makes us soulless robots, destroys creativity and stifles interaction
  • We are slaves to technology, replacing "real life" with time on social networks

Simple messages and the power of cheap music

Of course it's easy for Turk to have a simple message: Phones are bad, Facebook is bad, "the outside" is good. Simple messages travel fast on the internet, especially when you give them nice music.

It's harder to have a realistic message: that social technology has good and bad aspects, it's part of our changing society, it's not evil but does require discussion.

"Look Up" also plugs directly into feelings, bypassing any logical thoughts. For example, the end of the video describes falling in love and leading a long happy life with someone you happen to ask for directions - but how "none of these things ever happened ... when you're too busy looking down, you don't see the chances you miss".

"Look Up" on Youtube.
Maybe he's just texting someone he's meeting?
This sickly sweet verse, its old-fashioned example (asking directions) and its old-fashioned values (lifelong monogamy = the most precious kind of relationship) all deliberately ignore troublesome details of the real world, like, you know, INTERNET DATING and the countless ways people are using technology to meet and interact with new people, including romantic partners, with more shared interests than just bumping into them on the street.

Seriously Gary, start with OKCupid and we'll build up to Fetlife social events from there.

I Forgot My Phone - oh, and all my friends are dicks

I was originally going to write this blog post about "I Forgot My Phone", a video showing a young woman without a phone, surrounded by other people with phones, in various situations: in bed with her partner, out running on a hill with a beautiful view, having coffee with friends.

The predictable message is that people on their phones are not really living life, because they're always occupied by their phone, instead of interacting with people around them, which is what they should be doing.

Flaws with "I Forgot My Phone" are easy to list: Do friends who go bowling all sit there on their phone? Is it always wrong to look at your phone when hanging out with friends? Should you never check your phone when in bed with a loved one, or out running, like, ever, in your entire life?

No, no, and no. The video is an exaggeration, and doesn't stand up when you get specific. (Heavens, don't take it so seriously! Just seriously enough to click "share". On your mobile device. Which is bad.)

But listing particular flaws is a distraction, because these videos are part of a wider trend - the same as image memes which say "When I was a child we played in the street and made treehouses!! Share if you agree!!!!"

The connecting theme is that everything was simply better in the past, before the technology of today.

Sandi Thom, misguided nostalgia, and telling people what's right and wrong

Sandi Thom used this vague, idiotic nostalgia in the song "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" (click at own risk) back in 2005 when Myspace ruled the social internet. Thom says she was "born too late", yet mixes up punks and hippies and 1977 and 1969, showing a clear misunderstanding of the time(s?) she wishes she lived in.

Ironically, Sandi Thom clearly wasn't born too late to find success by webcasting her acoustic performances from her basement, which were announced and publicised over Myspace.

This is acceptable because it is simple...
Today, anti-phone preachers like Gary Turk are very zealous about today's technology being soulless and "wrong" - yet fail to be specific or knowledgeable about what the "right" amount technology is.

When exactly did phones cross the line? Flip phones? The classic Nokia brick? Presumably rotary phones aren't soulless, because we only see them in films about the past, and the past was a better place.

...but this woman is clearly a soulless robot.
Who will save her from her phone?
Who will save any of us??!
If there was one good and useful thing about Woody Allen's awful nostalgia-fest "Midnight In Paris", it's the final realisation of Owen Wilson's character: that every generation will have people who paint a romantic version of the past, because they're unable to connect their limited and fixed ideas about what humanity should be, with the technology of their time.

(Seriously Woody, you did not need an entire film to give us that one punchline.)

I emphasise "should be", because these videos are not just middle-class hand-wringing: "OMG all this technology, what about our souls??" They are actively telling you what you should and shouldn't be doing.

Don't take it literally! Except the literal instructions

Already a lot of the comments appearing on "Look Up" (currently 2.5 million views, 7 days after upload Edit: I originally wrote 1.8million when I started writing this post, then thought I'd got it wrong - actually just 2hrs after posting it's up to 3million - clearly it's being shared pretty fast) say "don't take it literally". Apparently it's not a literal message, it's just a guide! To encourage us to spend less time messing up our eyes staring at screens, and waste less time on Facebook and Whatsapp.

But the truth is these videos and images really are instructional - particularly "Look Up", which actually, literally, does give people specific instructions. Who knows, maybe it's like the #CancelColbert Twitter campaign, where internet activist Suey Park didn't actually want to cancel the Colbert Report. Maybe you can't actually believe what people say. It is the internet, after all.

Still though, it's hard to see ambiguity in the lines "So look up from your phone, shut down those displays, we have a finite existence, a set number of days". The meaning is clear: that life is too short to "waste" on your phone. Too short!!

Again Turk is clearly ignoring the problematic facts of the real world, like the way technology and social networking save time by performing tasks that used to take us much longer - including communicating with friends and organising social events. Even ones in that magical "outside" place!

Who decides what's "real", or what's important? Oprah? The UN?

Videos like "Look Up" and "I Forgot My Phone" claim that there is some kind of problem, yet they fail to provide any meaningful advice on how we might solve this problem. They just moo, like cattle, that phones are somehow "bad" in a vague, undefined way, and that using phones puts you in some kind of soulless black hole, separate from "real life".

Well, I have 2 very unsurprising discoveries:
  • People are just as creative and social, if not more, thanks to today's technology and social media
  • Phones and social networks are also part of "real life"
"What's this guy looking at? The world?"
Tweet by @cap0w Funny as a joke -
not a serious comment on society's decline
Just take Cameron Power's photo tweet showing a man on a train station platform not looking at his phone, surrounded by people who are looking at their phones.
  • Firstly, 1) looking at your phone while waiting for a train is not a crime, and 2) there was no magic time before mobile phones where people would all talk cheerfully with strangers on trains, on platforms, everywhere, all the time.
  • Secondly, while it's clearly meant as a joke - an amusing comment on today's human behaviour - it hits the same nerve as "Look Up" and "I Forgot My Phone": that doing anything on your phone is inferior to talking with whatever strangers you happen to standing next to.
Well you know what, it's not anyone's business what I do on my phone, or what you do on yours, and it's no-one's place to decide how important it is or isn't.

Maybe I'm on Whatsapp with a friend in another country.
Maybe I'm sending dirty messages to a girl from last night.
Maybe I'm writing lyrics, or reading a socio-political article on the BBC.
Or maybe I'm just looking at funny photos of cats.

Is any of that less "real" than talking about the fucking weather with a random stranger? Who decides?

Please tell me, anyone, I'd love to know.

The world is a better and more interesting place now that we are connected with others who aren't immediately in talking distance. I think that's obvious, and it's dumb that I even have to say that to any of you.

Misty Watercoloured Laziness

What saddens me about "Look Up" is that Gary Turk is clearly a talented poet/wordsmith who has chosen an important topic to express a passionate opinion on. I should be applauding his passion and skill and the production of this video.

But I can't do that, because "Look Up" is a massively misguided example of the rose-tinted anti-phone bandwagon: that there's a problem, and it's Facebook's fault, it's your phone's fault, it's technology's fault, it's anyone's fault but not your fault. This thinking isn't just ignorant. It's lazy.

The worst part of "Look Up" though is without doubt the final line: "Live life the real way". Bullshit. Pure and simple.

Don't tell people their life isn't "real" just because they use a phone more than some random arbitrary amount you decided (yet conveniently didn't mention in your cutesy video).

So dear reader, try these "instructions" on living life the "real" way instead:
  • Take responsibility of your own actions and your own possessions. You choose, every day, how much time you spend on your phone and how you use it.
  • Find the right balance and purpose for technology in your life. Spending too much time on your phone or computer isn't healthy, but they are useful machines that can help your life, and you define how much is "too much". (And eye doctors. Maybe those guys too.)
  • Choose the right devices and apps that you feel comfortable with, which provide the right functions that you need.
  • Get regular and frequent exercise if you're not doing it already, although you probably hear this from lots of other places anyway.
  • Interact with whoever you like, whichever way you like. Whether it's messaging a relative overseas or chatting with a friend over coffee, or - shock horror - both at the same time (because you don't always talk to someone all the time that you are with them), it's your choice and they are just as "real" as each other.
Because the only kind of instruction you can give people when it comes to social media and technology is to take responsibility and choose how to live their own life.

There's a lot more I want to cover on this topic, around society/technology and our current place in humanity's development as a species, from apes to spacepeople.

But this post has been long enough, and I've spent long enough on the computer writing this. And I decide how long is too long for me - not Gary Turk, and certainly not some video I saw shared on the internet.

--> Additional

I should reference Andy Boxall's Digital Trends article on "I Forgot My Phone" from August 2013, which covers many issues in a more concise, articulate way than this blog post.

In particular, the use of "creepy, frightening images of people staring, dead-eyed, at nothing at all" is applicable to "Look Up", in the way it's a clever tool to emotionally manipulate the viewer - while bearing no resemblance to way real people actually act with their phones.
In the same way TV hasn’t stopped us from seeing the world, chatting with friends, or going bowling, smartphones won’t either. They’re still a relatively new invention, and our obsession will inevitably fade. Humans have been around for a lot longer than phones and TVs, but our need to communicate with each other has only grown. Yes, we probably all need to moderate our use when we’re with friends or in places like the cinema. But please, let’s not demonize this amazing tool and the new world it opens up, just because some people would rather the attention it receives was lavished on them.
--> Additional 2

I'm just going to quote my friend on Facebook directly, since they summed up points (like Andy Boxall above) which I kind of hinted at but couldn't articulately describe:
I didn't watch the whole thing, but I've heard the same argument since BBSs and chat rooms came around. Hell you can probably say the same thing about writing letters. I would say that the current technology allows for greater interaction and connection. You are easily able to find subgroups that fit you better and are no longer imprisoned by your geography.
If you feel alone with your group of friends don't blame the technology. It's an enabler and you can have as much connection as you want. You can use it to hide, or to connect, it's up to you.
That line "no longer imprisoned by your geography" resonates with me. I grew up in a large-ish town close to London - hardly some isolated rural village - and yet I remember the first time I went on a chat room on a Suede fan website. I spoke to someone in Lisbon, and someone else in the United Arab Emirates, and other people too. It was amazing.

The fact we can now do this - and a whole lot more - on our phone, and not just a huge boxy desktop computer at home, is a good thing. I don't want to be some blind cheerleader for technology or spending every hour of every day on our phones. But like I said at the start, technology is a complicated and moving part of our society, and it requires discussion instead of equally-blind rejection.

Thanks for reading
Jez x

Monday, 22 September 2014

A few thoughts on the NZ Election

I'm going to try and write this objectively, even though I'm openly leftist and saddened by this weekend's NZ election result. These are just my thoughts and they're not scientific or anything.

For outsiders: National, the right-wing government, has won a 3rd election running and increased its share of votes and MPs. It's not only surprising to increase support after 2 terms, but they now have enough MPs to govern without making a coalition with other parties - rare for NZ's proportional MMP system.

Labour and the Green Party are the main losers, who failed to capitalise on National's failings and actually lost MPs.

Internet-Mana, the socialist-progressive party, lost its only MP the firebrand Hone Harawira, after Labour - its closest ally - defeated him with the support of the right-wing parties. Baffling.

Many of my friends are shocked, depressed, stunned, angry and physically upset. We have seen the destruction of the environment and the brutal victimisation of the poor, and it looks like this will continue.

But the shock is not valid. Myself and my friends - mainly left, green, progressive, and Wellington-centric - have clearly wrapped ourselves in a cocoon, now easier than ever in social media. None of us had any idea what was actually going on across NZ as a whole.

We assumed National's evils and failings were obvious, and assumed that after 2 terms there would be a weakening of the government - at the very least.

The dirty politics scandal and Kim Dotcom's "moment of truth" had the potential to change or even destroy the government. Certainly for us on the left, and those who care about politics in general, they both proved National's corrupt and immoral approach to governing.

But its clear the majority of New Zealanders DID see both of these as a distraction - if not a "circus" and a "hijack" of the election.

While this is ironic to me in some ways - National did not seem to actually campaign on any policies to be distracted from - all these events did was exaggerate the difference between the left and the mainstream.

People are also talking about non-voters, with approx 1 million eligible Kiwis not voting.

Engagement is obviously an issue for the whole country, but it is the left who are complaining the most, because most non-voters are young and young voters mostly vote left.

A government report on non-voters in the 2008 and 2011 elections puts the 18-24yr non-voting rate at 39% and 42% respectively - vastly higher than rates for older people. It is unlikely to be lower for 2014.

It seems clear to me the primary issue - in a complicated and bizarre election - is Labour's inability to convince and invigorate young people.

Labour are the primary opposition party - without them hitting 45 MPs, there simply is no left government.

The Green Party would love to become the primary opposition party but anyone would be deluded for thinking this major change is likely or even possible within the next 15 years.

I have written before about how the Labo(u)r parties are performing abysmally in UK, NZ and Aus all together. The mainstream left in all 3 countries is a shambles and the socialist left is fragmented, ineffectual and tiny.

Something is wrong when young, leftist, cosmopolitan Wellington Central votes for Grant Robertson (Labour) as its MP but votes for National as the governing party.

Again, it is up to the Labour Party to get their shit together and provide a confident, dynamic and convincing option as the next government. Because it is not enough to just wait for the National government to simply fall over, and at times it has felt like Labour's campaign strategy was exactly that.

Anyway I just wanted to write all this down, even just for my benefit.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Scottish Independence, Lord Ashcroft Polls, BBC, and a mockery of numbers and graphs

Edit 21/09: The Guardian is now taking Lord Ashcroft's awful poll seriously with an infographic here. Appalling.

I've seen this graph a couple of times already. It annoyed me, because the age brackets are the same width, when they shouldn't be.
Pictures below innit

Just like when the BBC "Scotland Decides" results page gave constituencies the same widths, even when they had massively different numbers of voters.

Why not show the green and pink as the actual number of votes.
Seeing as it's a referendum and not an election.
They I went to the data source, and I got really annoyed...

The data comes from Lord Ashcroft Polls. Lord Ashcroft is a Conservative Party lord and openly employed by and linked to the Tories, who makes giant profits offshore and has been in trouble with the courts for dodgy financial dealings.

They polled 2047 people via landline phones and the internet - not mobiles.

And here are the numbers they asked in each age range:
16-17: 14
18-24: 84
25-34: 263
35-44: 384
45-54: 415
55-64: 399
65+: 488

Not only are these very different sample sizes. The 16-24 sample sizes aren't even big enough to justify a conclusion.

So there you go. This graph is drawn badly and based on insufficient data collected poorly by a biased source.

What a bunch of bollocks.

Why not show an age bracket of 2 years as 20% of age brackets of 10 years.
Just saying. Just saying.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Scotland Referendum: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Is this really happening?

The political establishment is horrified Scotland might actually say "Yes". I'm not horrified - I'm on the fence, and it's not my vote anyway - but I am baffled and surprised.

There's one reason we're here at this point. It's a bad reason too, whatever the outcome:

Simple majority. 51%.

That's all the Yes vote needs for the UK to start making Scotland an independent country.

Believe me, I'm on the fence - not totally neutral but I definitely see both sides.
  • There's no imminent need for Scotland to become independent. No-one's dying because Scotland's in the UK. Scots are proud of their country and their differences, but the "need" for independence has been driven by a vocal minority.
  • On the other hand, I sympathise with most independence movements across the world. These are regions campaigning and often fighting for recognition of their own identity and control of their own affairs. Why shouldn't Scotland have a vote on independence? And if the Scots want it, why shouldn't they get it?
My only problem is the simple majority: 51%. This isn't very high, and certainly isn't high enough on huge issues like independence.

I try and see all views and I don't want to be called a patronising colonialist, but I will put it out there that my view is this: 51% is not high enough.

Let's talk a realistic scenario:
  • Popular issue = high turnout = maybe 75% turnout
  • Divisive issue, no clear winners = maybe 52% Yes vote
  • YES win - Independent Scotland
  • 75% of 52% = 39% of eligible voters
52% would be considered a decisive victory by the YES campaign, and it certainly shouldn't be underestimated how far they've come in the last 18 months.

But just like all elected UK governments, it would have been voted for by a minority - not a majority.

A standard threshold for important matters around the world is a 2/3 majority. The USA for example requires a 2/3 majority in both houses of Congress (and presidential support) to change the US constitution. This is partly why it's had so few changes in 200+ years.

YES campaigners however would indeed call me a patronising colonialist for saying the bar isn't high enough. They would point back to the 1979 Devolution Referendum, where a requirement for 40% of total eligible voters was added. The "yes" votes won, but only with 32% of all possible voters - therefore Scotland did not get its own parliament.

It had to wait another 20 years - 18yrs of 4 Tory governments, including all 12yrs of Thatcher - before it did.

So you can appreciate Scottish nationalists are glad that this time, there is no stupid requirement. Scotland would never have a chance of independence because it would be so intensely difficult to hit 40% of all voters and/or 67% of the votes cast.

And I do feel I understand it. Take for instance the British monarchy.

I'm no fan of the monarchy, and I think former British colonies like Canada and Australia have even less reason to keep the British monarch as head of state.

But the closest Australia has ever come was the "republic" referendum in 1999, where "yes" lost with 45.13%. To get 67% would have been impossible, and would be impossible today - and would probably stay impossible long after the British monarchy has declined into (further) irrelevance.

Maybe big changes conducted by referendum simply require a lower threshold - if they are ever going to happen - than big changes decided in parliaments, because politicians are employed to vote and normal people aren't.

But there's a huge difference between a big change decided by a 51% majority, and keeping the status quo with 51% majority.

The monarchy are not eating babies (last I heard anyway). Obviously I think Australia should ditch the monarchy and elect an Australian as its own head of state - but it would not be right to make that change on a tiny majority.

Similarly, the English are not eating Scottish babies. It's not the 1700s any more. Even if Scotland becoming independent from the UK was the "right" decision - and that's not clear politically, socially or economically - it's not right for it to happen on a 51% majority.

It's also plain bizarre that the UK government ever allowed it to go ahead like this.

Maybe the Conservatives were arrogant enough to think it would never happen. They've certainly showed themselves arrogant in every other way since 2010.

And to be fair, the Better Together campaign has been the most rubbish political train crash you could imagine. The Better Together campaign has, weirdly enough, probably convinced more Scots to vote yes than the actual YES campaign. While Eddie Izzard calmly made a friendly, human case for the UK staying united, #PatronisingBTLady was telling people "It's too early to be discussing politics, eat your cereal".

ANYWAY. It doesn't matter what I think.

What is likely? What's going to go down?

Here's my loose prediction, for what it's worth...
  • YES campaign gathering momentum, NO campaign flailing without clues or answers
  • YES wins by slim majority, 51-55%
  • Turnout high but not decisive, 75-85%
  • Independence is GO - but negotiations are key and devil is in the detail
  • Slim victory means a partial, weak, and slow independence process
  • Bitter Tory government does everything possible to slow down and corrupt the process (because they know they will get hammered at the general election)
  • Most overarching things will be kept - monarchy 30+ years, British pound 10+ years, military/foreign policy 5+ years, etc.
  • YES vote means Conservatives get pounded in May 2015 general election (all UK, not just Scotland)
  • Incoming Labour government commits to process (maybe LibLab?), but...
  • Always potential for process to be aborted, challenged or dropped. Events, dear boy, events!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I am a series of numbers. I am a free man.

Patrick McGoohan famously said in The Prisoner, "I am not a number! I'm a free man!"

It was the catchphrase and motto of the whole TV series, born in counter-culture 60s: the struggle of the individual against the oppression of government, bureaucracy, and man-made systems which treat humans as units rather than people.

But I've realised, the opposite is true for my life today. Numbers give me freedom. They are a symbol of my freedom and agency.

In the TV show, McGoohan is "Number 6" in the mysterious Village he can never escape from. We never learn his name - an excellent plot device which deepens the mystery - but he is insistent on his humanity, and repeatedly says he is not just a number.

While I would absolutely agree with the defiant statement on civil liberties, this blog post is more literally about numbers, and about travel.

I've been lucky enough to live abroad for nearly 6 years now. There are particular things that helped me do this - things like being British, being a native English-speaker, earning and borrowing money.

But what really shines through are the numbers.

In a modern, technological society where we use systems to pay for things and book things and process the services we need, numbers are essential.

I am my flight number and my departure gate number and my seat number.

I am my passport number and the barcode on my boarding pass.

I am my Australian Tax Office number and my NZ Inland Revenue Department number and my UK Student Loans Company Customer Reference Number.

I am my visa numbers and my visa application numbers.

I am my Facebook URL and my Twitter username.

I am my UK phone number and my NZ phone number and my Australian phone number.

I am currency exchange rates.

I am my bank account numbers and my PayPal passwords and my debit card number.

I am time zones and international phone codes and my Skype username at silly times of the night.

I am measurement conversions between metric and imperial.

I am all of these things.

This isn't a political statement in favour of bureaucracy. The story of the 20th century is one of mechanisation; millions continue to suffer in very real ways through the heartlessness of systems which do not account for the circumstances of individuals, which put barriers between people and other people.

But I am not afraid of numbers, nor the endless bureaucracy that feeds on them.

We all use and need numbers and codes in our daily lives - paying rent, texting friends, setting up accounts. But for me they are a symbol of my transitory life, and they enable it. Numbers are my bat belt.

I am a series of numbers, and luckily, gratefully, I am a free man.