Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Silk Road 1

Well imagine my disappointment when, instead of the Dreamliner of my dreams, or the 747 of my fears (I really don't trust 4 engines after watching the gremlins episode - 50's or 60's version -  of the Twilight Zone) I'm going to be spending ten hours on a 777. A 777?  - are you serious? I'm an international traveller abroad on business, an academic, a Professore Magistere, a bohemian, a vagabond, an international man of mystery, a blogger, an intercultural raconteur....strewth (a rapidly ageing Englishism usually used as a frusrated aspirate which mean 'God's truth' and stands for  'By God's Truth, I won't tolerate this' , but my first thoughts were  "I'm not a fucking tourist on a package holiday"). However, I stand corrected although more accurately I could say that I lay, slept and ate corrected throughout a very comfortable flight.  

Clearly my hosts (for lets not forget I am here, being hosted, on an academic mission)  disagree and on the first day we are treated, successively, and about an hour after a fifteen hour journey,  to my worst nightmares - a trip to a market, a trip to a shopping mall for dinner and then as he pinnacle of the evening, a trip to a pub in a tourist area of ancient streets (which bear all the hallmarks of having been lovingly recreated)  where a pint o'beer  costs an eye watering eight pounds (equivalent).

But lets backtrack and discuss 'why' I am here. I am here, a mere ten years after starting this blog, because having accomplished my goal of being the joint second best academic in England, now I am anxious to exend that achievement globally. My guess is that joint fourteenth best academic in the world is within my grasp, but of course to reach this lofty goal, travel I must. Now,  it is true that my current travels are not organised- unlike my friend Jodie McJodie, the famous Canadian academic - around lofty issues like research. Some, indeed, would say that as a crude marketing exercise (my actual job is to interview international applicants to my University) , this trip is simple hackwork. Others would describe it in terms of 'the oldest profession' only on behalf of a corporate John. I accept these brickbats because without slings we would not have arrows, but reject them because now I am an actual academic I have discovered that its de rigour to have two utterly incompatible views at the same time and pretend that this is ok. So I claim that my work is vital and without it, Western civilisation and the accompanying  inexhorable march to global intellectual dominance of China, India and Korea would not succeed. Who, I ask, am I to stand in the way of this? So here I am, in Shanghai, slightly jetlagged but at least not filling out a billion forms demanded of UK Higher Education,  and ready to spread knowledge (especially knowledge of my opi 'Evolution :When?' 'Civilization: Why? ' and 'Apocalpse: How?) far and slightly further.

What can I say about Shanghai? Well, its big, Really really big. Like very big but only if you take the words 'very' and 'big' seriously. If you do, its that big.

What more can I say. Well not much apart from that in the years since I last blogged a number of new nemesi or nemeses have arisen with the intriguing names of Turnip Face, Shiny, Detail Guy (who's not a guy), Dave. Also new friends have been found including The Brescian, The Intellectual, Vaffanculo and Hot Josef. If, and its a big if, I continue to do this regularly, I'll introduce these rapscallians and heroes, these Aristotles (that's a bad thing by the way) and Plato's , these Cromwells and Cromwells..but for now its photos from Shanghai, a beautiful city in only the way super cities can be...


While I'm here, I may as well update on the last vacation RHB and self have taken...Last week we were in Sicily, challenging Etna to rain her fury on us, in the town of Acireale, just north of Catania. It was an interesting trip. In the previous sentence I am using the word 'interesting' in the way some people describe a friend of a friend who, once met, makes you wonder why said friend is even acquaintances with 'friend of'. It's informative to meet 'friend of' once but with all their quirks (and quirks are not things that make people interesting in my experience) and the suspicion that if you meet them twice they'll be inviting themselves to your house to couch surf for a week "just while they get their shit together" on the second occasion, declaring themselves your friend just because neither of you likes Governments, 'friends of' are usually dickheads I want nothing to do with after one encounter. I cannot say I never want to go to Sicily again, my favourite and only sister in law by direct relationship (as opposed to marriage) lives there. But I'll probably treat Sicily , in the future, as the 'friend of' so that I'll limit the acquaintance (in terms of time spent with) and cannot say I would mourn if we never met again. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Testing the multi regional hypothesis of human evolution

Well if yesterday's train journey-Hull to Sheffield to Manchester Airport- and subsequent experience at Manchester Airport- checking in amid a billion RyanAir hen parties heading East to decorate ancient European Cities with good old British collective binge drinking - is taken as evidence, Blighty's trains, planes and airport hotels are not likely locations for the kind of evolution that leads to 'fitter' species. I'm not criticising my fellow travelers - heaven knows, Blighty is a place which has, and does, drive one to  alcohol. But what is noticeable is how rigidly embedded our modes and manners of transport (at least) have made us and how even small variations in a formalised, written, scheduled and stamped plan appears to be destabilising. The default coping mechansim for some people appears  to be violence and shouting, then more booze, then a bit more shouting.

All that of course assumes that the Uk has'nt opted out of evolution in a similar fashion to its opt out of the very Europe that many of my fellow travellers are departing to revel in. This is of course a possibility and has historical precedent - after  all a group of mammoths on Wrangel Island , just off Siberia, appear  to have taken the this option a couple of thousand years ago. it didn't turn out well.

I'm not on my way to Siberia, but I am off to somewhere equally 'exotic' (in the sense of being new to me) . AN opportunity has arisen , through work, to visit China, specifically Shanghai, Jinyan and Beijing. GIven the current situation in work (and if I return to regular blogging I may talk about this) I jumped at the opportunity to go on a trip that I'm not at all sure I want to go on. But having started my journey with a single step, I'm now committed.. travelling solo as I am, it seemed the perfect opportunity to revive this blog.....if Blogger isn't firewalled I'll be posting from China.....