Corruption in COVID Contracts

When the BBC decides to make the main headline a nothing story about Harry and Meghan, whilst Matt Hancock’s lack of transparency over COVID contracts has been deemed unlawful, we have a problem.

The handling of public money over COVID contracts and test and trace has been appalling. As highlighted by George Monibot, Millions of pounds went to unqualified friends, teenagers were left running distressing calls and lives that could have been saved, ultimately weren’t.

The fact that this has not been properly covered leads to the plain sighted fact that the U.K. has a problem with elite corruption, both within the way news media operates as well as the severe lack of accountability when things have gone devastatingly wrong due to incompetence across central government.

The general public is being done a disservice and we need to create new systems that are more just and have more representative, transparent and active democratic processes.

In the meantime, we are dealing with a dangerous level of corruption, cronyism and inequality.

Things have to change.

Behavioural Economics

When I visit Germany, one of the things I admire about the country is of course, it’s stunning forests and natural beauty, but also the fact it’s left so untarnished by human litter.

The same cannot be said for the U.K. and the act of littering is something I’ve always despised and have vowed never to do myself.

Unfortunately though, the culture appears to be riddled with apathy or even worse, a false sense of pride in leaving crap everywhere and anywhere. Over 2 million pieces of litter are dropped in the U.K. every single day.

I walk up and around the mountainside regularly, and cycle the trail to Cardiff and I find it hard to recall any time I don’t see litter at all in what is otherwise, an ultimately beautiful part of the world.

Nature is suffering and all for the sake of human laziness and stupidity.

Pleas, making a post on social media post, the aggressive posters threatening to fine you, don’t seem to do the trick either.

And part of problem is people don’t like being told what to do.

But there are ways to tackle this.

One thing that Germany has that the U.K. doesn’t is machines in supermarkets which allow to recycle bottles and in return receive a small receipt to spend on groceries.

You even spot a few folk going out of their way with bags of bottles they’ve picked up to cash in!

This is one simple solution that involves behavioural economics. A way to incentivise not littering. Something that can and should be implemented.

The issue is of course massive and challenging and my respect to those working hard to fight against it.

In the meantime, we should all ask ourselves what kind of place we want to live in. South Wales deserves more than us fly tipping and throwing cigarettes out of the car window.

An interesting challenge

What a concept!

Football would be nowhere near as interesting if you’re team was winning all the time.

That’s why the Premier League is considered one of the best in the world because different teams can win it, (compared to the rest of Europe’s top leagues).

One of the crutches of the game however, is this incessant need to create a media storm of rumours when things aren’t going well for a team. The seeking of short term solutions when progress and development takes time.

No true follower of Liverpool would in their right mind want Klopp out of the door. Besides the pandemic, there are an extraordinary set of circumstances that has inhibited my team’s chance of retaining the title. Injuries have run amok, and losing Van Dijk was a game changer as his role in the team is not only key for defence, but our attack as well (as was brilliantly explained in a video by TIFO).

After being bombarded by inane questions at a press conference today, some which were stupid, others to be quite frank outright disrespectful, Klopp described the situation as an ‘interesting challenge’.

That kind of attitude and outlook is to be admired. Things aren’t going well, there have been mistakes mixed with a string of bad luck.

Going forward, there are choices, you can stick to your guns or change tact, you can pivot, you can reflect, evaluate and steer forward.

If you’re in the limelight, undoubtedly you’ll always get the flood of negative nonsense thrown your way to which you can shun it with dignity and focus on the interesting challenge.

Seperation

As many couples celebrate Valentine’s day today, there are many who are separated from each other as a result of the Pandemic. (Myself included).

One of the worst aspects of the pandemic is the amount of uncertainty it has developed and usually in the pre-covid era when you were far away from those you love and care about, you always had the dates in the diary, those moments to look forward to.

For many people, that has no longer been the case and in many cases, couple have been unable to see each other since the beginning of last January.

This has taken a huge toll on people and when I try to think of ways to reassure, it is hard to find any solutions. There is only so much we can control.

Vaccinations are being rolled out, the R rate has finally gone below 1 in the U.K. and we are in the latter stages of the winter. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime, I wish everyone strength, resilience and peace of mind.

Moving Pictures at 40

This is one of my favourite albums of all time.

Rush’s career in the 70s was defined by them finding their sound and establishing themselves as a progressive rock band. The debut album having a clear influence from Led Zeppelin, the introduction of Neil Peart’s lyrics and drumming prowess on their second album ‘Fly by Night’, a flop that was critically panned in their third album ‘Caress of Steel’ and then a ferocious response that could be considered more of a double down than a pivot in their breakthrough album ‘2112’.

The band was relentless in their work ethic. Making records, then touring and they had started to pay their dues towards the latter half of the 70s with the subsequent releases ‘A Farewell to Kings’ and ‘Hemispheres’ which include some of the most fascinating, fantastical concepts and outright crazy musicianship.

Towards the beginning of the 80s, Rush went through a more stylistic transition with the biggest transformation in Neil Peart’s approach to lyric writing with less of a concern on big fantastical concepts and more of the human condition. The 1980 album ‘Permanent Waves’ certainly did this extremely well and then the overall sound aesthetic was taken up a notch with the 1981 album ‘Moving Pictures’ where the band truly captured lightning in a bottle.

Tom Sawyer is an absolutely iconic way to open an album and demonstrates an extraordinary level of focus and artistic execution.

Red Barchetta is a rocking nostalgia trip on the thrills of driving in an old school car.

YYZ is one of the best instrumentals that Rush ever penned down (Along with La Villa Strangiato) , based on the morse code for Toronto airport.

Limelight is one of Rush’s most poignant songs, where Peart explores his notions of fame and the difficulty he had with it interfering with his personal life.

Camera Eye is the epic number and one of the last songs that Rush would use extended form and focuses on city life in both New York and London.

Witch Hunt is a fantastic meditation on the Salem witch trails that covers the theme of discrimination and prejudice in a way that is as relevant as ever.

Finally, Vital Signs is about adaptability and the way in which humans can ‘elevate from the norm’.

Rush elevated from the norm and beyond with Moving Pictures and I keep my description of the record sparse for the experience of listening to it is where the magic is.

Every track is superb and the whole album is a masterpiece.

The age of algorithms

We are living in a world that is increasingly dominated by the influence of algorithms.

Algorithms alone are neither inherently good or bad but it is worthwhile to spend time knowing how they work and that behind them is someone programming them.

They have become increasingly useful in terms of diagnosing cancer patients for instance, or helping prevent crimes. However, the interactions that people have had with algorithms on a day to day basis has not been exactly anything remotely positive.

It was recently flagged on Instagram and Facebook for instance, that algorithms were programmed in a way that was racist and suppressing the voices of black people.

Furthermore, algorithms used in advertising are becoming increasingly invasive and most people do not know how much of their privacy they have given away on social media.

There are many examples where algorithms have gone rogue and have resulted in disastrous results as highlighted in this article.

The way algorithms were used in the distribution of GCSE and A level results was an outright disaster and disgrace.

In terms of consumption of information and media, the situation can easily be regarded as a mess. There has never been more advertising, but equally so much of it has never been ignored as much as it has today. I am constantly recommended things that don’t particularly interest me and YouTube especially pushes the myth of scarcity to the point that YouTubers were burning themselves out to try and get a consistent amount of eyeballs on their content.

Google searches result in different results for different people and therefore providing a catalyst for misinformation and people not being able to agree on the facts.

The fundamental things that algorithms lack is sonder and empathy; an understanding of the emotion and complexity and unpredictability of humans. Nothing will ever replace the power of word of mouth or the felling to tension and eventual willingness for someone to enrol on a journey of learning or a problem being solved.

Algorithms alone cannot tackle complex problems.

Facebook’s motto for a long while has been ‘move fast and break things’. In the instance of algorithms, it is well worth stopping to take a breath, consider the ethics and implications of living in a world increasingly dominated by algorithms and consider the potential of ways in which they actually improve the way we operate instead allowing them to run amok and causing unnecessary damage.

Leave that thing Alone – Rush Cover

We are still in lockdown and unable to get together in a room to play together which really is rubbish!

Nevertheless my band, Kinky Wizzards managed to pull together a performance of ‘Leave that thing Alone’ by Rush. They were recorded using our phones and hobbled together in editing by our very own Jiffy who spent the entire time kicking and screaming with Imovie.

You can hear our own music by visiting our website, https://kinky-wizzards.com/. Our albums are on Bandcamp and streaming services.

Bubble

My friend and fellow composer Charlotte Jenkins presented her film and music live from the Dora Stoutsker in the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

‘Bubble’ explored the trauma of the events of 2020 and experiences during lockdown. It was done in a way that was thoughtful and sensitive and I was pleased to have been asked to be involved with the electronics. It was my first live performance in front of a socially distanced audience since last March.

Dignity

What impact do you want to have on others?

Do you want to lift people up, make them feel good about the work they are doing and who they are?

It is easy for us to fall in the trap of looking down on others and putting ourselves first and it is surprising to see how behaviour and ego can change when a person receives a promotion or when they interact with another person in an occupation they deem below them.

There are little things we can do to ensure we treat everyone around us with dignity, from acknowledging them, sharing gratitude for the work that they do and treating each other with empathy.

These moments can matter, and can be the difference in shifting how the day goes by for another person.

Become an audiophile

Most people listen to music in a way that is average in quality.

It will be most likely that you are listening to music in ear buds from your phone or worse, a laptop.

This undermines the work that producers and artists have done to make their record sound as good as it possibly can, spending hundreds of hours carefully writing, engineering and mixing their music.

Listening to music through well designed speakers or headphones and if you get the chance, atmos can open up an absolute world of sound quality you didn’t realise was there.

Companies are starting to work hard to make break throughs in quality sound systems that are affordable and it is an exciting time for that development taking place. The development of atmos is also a really exciting where you have a fully immersive sound set (2 speakers at the front, 2 at the back a sub and 2 to the side above).

If you get the chance to listen in a system that is high quality, take it, you will not regret it.