One of the Reasons I Still Don’t Have A Driving Licence

This song by David Rovics sums it up well. Obviously it is an American context but I am sure you could make something similar for every country in the world.  It is number 107 if you want to go here and listen..

Sixty Thousand More - David Rovics

I was driving down the highway
Where I spend half my life
When I saw another scene
That always cuts me like a knife
Some flowers, wreaths and crosses
Laid out for the deceased
And a note from his pretty girlfriend
Saying, Johnny, rest in peace
He won’t be playing football now
Nobody will keep score
And next year there will be sixty thousand more

He had just looked down for a moment
To find something he had lost
Never guessing that that moment
Would have such a cost
The road ahead was curving
And the sun was on the rise
Right above the tree line
It caught him in the eyes
Right here in America
You want to know what lies in store
Next year there will be sixty thousand more

His dad was washing dishes
In the kitchen all alone
When he heard the ringing
And he picked up the phone
It was a policeman
He said I have some awful news
I’ll see you at the funeral
I’ll be with you in the pews
He hung up the telephone
And crumpled to the floor
And next year there will be sixty thousand more

It’s the world that we live in
All covered up with tar
Spending half our lives
Behind the wheel of a car
So roll your dice, America
And gamble on your fate
You can start the engine
But you can’t pick the date
It’s not a plague, it’s not a famine
And they say it’s not a war
But next year there will be sixty thousand more

Old Scores

Just a short somewhat curt point to make today. In the independence debate, unionists are often heard to talk of the “Braveheart bilge”.

Now, whilst one would not wish to defend the historical accuracy of the film in question, I would just like to point out that William Wallace was quite a popular figure in Scotland before that film.

In fact, we built a f*cking huge monument to him (67-metres – 220 ft). You can go and see it if you like. It is rather nice. Also, inside it you will find information about how a certain class didn’t want it to be built and how it was funded in large part by donations from enthusiastic members of the public.

To Baroness Warsi, From Diderot…

Baroness Warsi recently decided to talk about militant secularisation being a danger…

“For me one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities.”

Therefore I decided to many one of my little pictures  for her. It is worth bearing in mind when looking at the picture that the term philosopher was also in some times and places a synonym for scientist.

P.S. If you like this picture there are lots more of them here (scroll down a bit).

Alfred Wegener

Rita: You think Einstein walked around thinkin’ everyone was a bunch of dumb shits?

Pvt. Joe Bowers: Yeah. Hadn’t thought of that.

Rita: Now you know why he built that bomb.

(From the film Idiocracy)

We have all heard often about how Darwin was right and not many understood what he was saying whilst others wished to attack him for religious or political motives. It must have been truly difficult for him and it is a sad story but at least in his lifetime he managed to see that the majority were beginning to accept his ideas.

One poor soul who never got to have that final pleasure was Alfred Wegener (1880-1930) and his story is in some ways, but not all, similar to that of Darwin. Wegener was the man who proposed the theory of plate tectonics and was ridiculed for it.

One of the similarities with Darwin are that “Wegener was not the first to suggest that the continents had once been connected, but he was the first to present extensive evidence from several fields”. Darwin wasn’t the first to suggest that some from of evolution was taking place but he provided mountains of evidence for it.

Another of the similarities is that although both of them had the right idea, they were missing or wrong about part of the mechanism. In Darwin’s case his method of natural selection is true but missed the role of genes, which he had no way of knowing about. In Wegener’s case he believed the continents “plow through the ocean floor”. He may have believed that  as studies of the earth’s crust under the ocean had not been done at the time.

A third similarity is that while they were being attacked for their theories, they also had some supporters who tried to explain their theories.

The major difference, and why I am writing this, is that  I’ve always found it a sad thought that someone who understood first (though not completely) one of the major things about how the planet works, never lived to see the world catch up with him and Wegener didn’t live to see himself vindicated .

I’ll let him finish…

“Scientists still do not appear to understand sufficiently that all earth sciences must contribute evidence toward unveiling the state of our planet in earlier times, and that the truth of the matter can only be reached by combing all this evidence. . . It is only by combing the information furnished by all the earth sciences that we can hope to determine ‘truth’ here, that is to say, to find the picture that sets out all the known facts in the best arrangement and that therefore has the highest degree of probability. Further, we have to be prepared always for the possibility that each new discovery, no matter what science furnishes it, may modify the conclusions we draw.”

Alfred Wegener. The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th edition)

Film Guide (with free films) – Part 3 – Biographies

A few years ago I used to run a biweekly free film showing in the University for anyone who wanted to come along. The films were a mix of documentaries, fiction and  based on true story stuff. I would try to get a guest along to speak too.

I thought I would make the list of films available here with links to where you can see them free where possible.

I’ve divided them into rough groups and posted links to where you can find them online if you want to. The first week I had some films about the media and the second was more economics.

This time we are on to biographies of some of the great and good or not so good.

The Fog of War – Definitely in the not so good category is Robert MacNamara. This documentary about him is very informative and at the end he almost, and I mean almost, shows some contrition. You can watch it online here.

The Most Dangerous Man In America – This film about Daniel Ellsberg, who you might describe as the Julian Assange of his day, is an excellent look at the courage of the man in question.

Bush’s Brain – A documentary about Karl Rove and also about the role of spin doctors in modern politics. It at least tries to explain how such a duffer could end up as president. The trailer is here but I am sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to find on online version of it.