Today’s Idiocies

There are three articles in today’s Guardian – just in case you missed them here are the headlines and a brief summary. They made me angry.

Page 13: ‘Amazon gets HMRC contract after halving its own tax bill

In 2018 UK central government paid Amazon £45.5M for digital services while Amazon only paid £1.7M corporation tax on a declared UK profit of £72M to HMRC for the relevant tax year.

Why is central government happy with this and content to allow Amazon to tax dodge?

Page 16: ‘Only 13 of 91 Windrush victims given aid despite “apology”’

Despite the piety and hand wringing of government concerning the lives wrecked by that same government only 16 of the 91 Windrush victims who applied for financial help have been ‘given’ ‘aid’.

What’s happened to the remaining 78 victims?

Page 35: ‘Arts under fire Universities rail at “catastrophic” plan to link fees to graduate pay’

The Augar report on student fees implies that there should be less spending on arts & humanities degree courses because the investment in such courses does not represent value for money when measured against early career earnings of arts & humanities graduates.

Why is former equities broker, Augar, allowed to aid and abet the further commodification of education where the only value is monetary?

These may be details of the bigger picture but the devil is in them. Though, I am, of course, powerless to make a difference to any of these outrageous idiocies, I can’t help thinking they are emblematic of this stage of capitalism where people are objects, money is god and cynicism is the life blood of the Tory government.

And all this is happening in the midst of the lunacy of the Tory leadership contest after which we’ll be foisted with a new prime minister of a minority government that has no mandate from the electorate.

I have one last question.

Why is the BBC, morning, noon and night, providing a racetrack, where the going is good, for the threadbare donkeys running in the Tory number 10 stakes?


News from somewhere

Things have changed.

In a conscious attempt to make it more interesting and provide better navigation – aye, aye Captain! said the gnome. The website now:

  • Is up to date
  • Contains many more of my photographs eg. in Gallery 2 there are 100 images made over the last 50 years.
  • Includes a new piece of writing on Cormac McCarthy
  • Includes information about what I’m up to
  • And much more…

Come have a look at what’s available now. You can follow me using the blue “follow Phil Cosker” button on the homepage (on the right, just under the picture).

Yet more discrimination against those with disabilities

Hi everyone

I’ve just been sent this and wanted to share it with you.

Restore the Access to Elected Office Fund

Emily, David and Simeon are from three different parties. They have joined forces with More United to ask the Government to restore the Access to Elected Office Fund which helps deaf and disabled candidates, of all parties, with the additional costs of standing for election.

Petition to Amber Rudd: Restore the Access to Elected Office Fund

We are writing in support of Emily Brothers, David Buxton and Simeon Hart who are calling on you to restore the Access to Elected Office Fund, which helps deaf and disabled candidates, of all parties, with the additional costs of standing for election.

There are only 5 MPs with a disability. There could be so many more if deaf and disabled candidates could compete on a level playing field.

People with disabilities face huge barriers when standing for election. On top of normal election costs, many face additional costs: for example hiring a British Sign Language interpreter or helping with transport costs.

The Fund was frozen and put “under review” in 2015 but we are still waiting to see the results. Now the ‘review’ has taken longer than the time the Fund was open for.

The Fund is effectively closed. For the sake of equality of opportunity, democratic participation and fairness, we implore you to restore it immediately.

Sign here:

Robin Robertson’s ‘The Long Take’

The new book from the distinguished poet Robin Robertson ‘The Long Take’ is superb; its quality and jaw dropping range make it the most fabulous work I’ve read in a very long time – a bit like when I first discovered Charles Bukowski.
Its subtitle, ‘A Way to Lose More Slowly’, suggests that the central character, the ex GI, sometime newspaper man and alcoholic, Walker, is on a journey and we’re going down there with him all the way. It doesn’t easily fit any category; it’s not a novel, it is & isn’t a poem, it is a many layered narrative, and it’s noir as in film noir. No spoilers, but it refers back to lost love in Nova Scotia before the second world war, is set in California between 1946 & 1953, makes continued use of cinema of the period and locates the origins of Walker’s pain within the horrors of WW2 in Europe. The cities of LA & San Francisco along with their down and out skid row inhabitants are also major players – characters. It feels absolutely authentic and is viscerally thrilling confronting expectations of what to expect next. As with all great writing it not only illuminates the past but informs an understanding of the human condition in the present. Robertson’s research, underpinning his extraordinary imagination, is staggering. It’s hard to single out any lines, paragraphs or stanzas, so I won’t try. It’s beautiful and frightening to read. And perhaps most of all it’s a movie.

As a writer I found this inspiring. I shall read it again. A great book! Do take a look.

Art in hotel bedrooms

Once upon a time ‘art’ on hotel bedroom walls was idiosyncratic. Sometimes a valuable heirloom. Sometimes worthless tat. Sometimes: the photograph of a long-dead beloved animal or a faded out of focus landscape; a drawing made by a child, treasured and proudly presented in double matted frame by doting parents (who had sold the hotel when they retired leaving the relic behind); a sampler suggesting wise ways in a bad world; a foxed watercolour by an unknown hand; an antique regional map; even religious iconography to comfort and assuage guilty souls as they fell asleep; and of course – hay wains, gambolling peasants, cattle (bereft of flies and dung) standing in picturesque slow moving rivers, wagons and dray horses trundling endlessly on, autumn leaves and enigmatic Asian ladies dressed in green cheongsams. Every room was unique – not any more.

Now we have corporate hotel chain art and it has as much resemblance to art as bananas do to fork lift trucks. And why is it there? I’d be happier with some aerosols and marker pens so I could do my own thing and the next occupier could do theirs and so on – there is even wallpaper that you’re supposed to colour in! Why not have that? But no, far too anarchic.

There are two types of ‘hotel bedroom chain art’: ‘reproduction’ and ‘original’. Let us leave aside questions such as: what is a reproduction, and what original, or even – what is art? Trotsky wrote, ‘Art is a hammer and not a mirror’ (the original quote is often incorrectly ascribed to Brecht – an example of revolutionary plagiarism perhaps?) but either would have seen hotel bedroom chain art as a mirror of societies fixated on style over substance, appearance over purpose and conventions devoid of conscious thought.

Walter Benjamin, in his seminal essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Introduction’ (1936) says: “In principle a work of art has always been reproducible … artifacts (sic) could always be imitated … by pupils … by masters for diffusing their work … by third parties in the pursuit of gain. Mechanical reproduction of a work of art … represents something new.’

The bedrooms in hotel chains – from the cheap to the expensive – represent an entirely new universe where chain art exists in a state that not even Benjamin could imagine.

How is it possible for an ‘original’ painting of a sunflower in a field of poppies or golden barley against an azure sky be said to be an original when it will be found in exactly the same condition of originality in one hundred and fifty identical bedrooms? Its/they are obviously original because each canvas (yes they are on canvas) has been signed by the artist as the final part of laboriously painting all one hundred and fifty not quite identical, therefore original, canvases manufactured on a Fordian production line. This is at the top end of the market where such original art is commissioned by an interior decorator.

Lower down the market the hotel chain’s accountant has used catalogues to buy print runs of pastel shaded romances where Bavarian castles, lakes, ladies in crinolines and denizens of Barbara Cartland-like imaginations preen and pout in representations of Panglosian worlds where all is well in this best of all possible worlds and we all know our place. A hotel in Heraklion, Crete, boasted such fantasies – I couldn’t understand why. But then again there is Knossos.

I suppose what bothers me is the confusion between original and reproduction; that chain art is decoration just like wallpaper or those hundreds of bloody useless cushions that now cover hotel bedroom beds (where does one put them when you go to bed?); that it suggests that what is on these walls is art.

The meaning of such objects is not inherent in the work; there is no unity of head, heart and hand (no matter how romantic a notion that might now seem). Chain art signifies someone imagining that we need to be elevated to connoisseurs by being in the presence of art on our bedroom wall thus enhancing our visitor experience.

Bring on bare walls!