As Pink Floyd might have sung: “Careful with that Lamp, Aladdin”

“International discourse!” “Intercultural fluency!” “Better faster cheaper!”:  the creative industrialists were all out and about, alive and kicking and extolling the virtues of all manner of creative technologies at the Beyond 23 conference held in London this week.

XR, VR, AR and of course MR were all out there strutting their collective stuffs in their usual shiny optimistic and slightly crazed ways although I missed the moments when HR and ER made their brief but, so I’m told, stunning appearances. Whilst it wasn’t too long (about 15 seconds) before AI got its first mention; it took a good two days before we were formally invited to settle into discussing the relative merits or otherwise presented by the Metaverse.

Two days is a mighty long time in these better faster cheaper days and you could be forgiven for thinking that what might have been hot off the press on Tuesday morning was just-so-yesterday by the time the conference closed on Wednesday afternoon.  It’s one of the challenges of assessing the Aladdin’s Cave that the creative technologists open up for us; is the person in front of me the answer to our economic prayers? Or a contemporary example of a Swiftian Projector, who, like their historical peers trying to extract sunbeams from cucumbers or turning ice into gunpowder, are destined to cheerfully race around the hamster wheel of non-progress for the rest of their lives?  Or for the next week at least?

This week’s Aladdin’s Cave housed all manner of alluring promise, with many genies being let out of lamps of different shapes and sizes.  There was one which conjured up images of how the creative industries could assist the Gulf’s dependency away from oil; another summoned up the installation of 1000 new arts works in Saudi Arabia over the next year; another promised success at winning The Attention Game.

The Attention Game is very difficult to win these days, whether you’re temporarily a resident of this Aladdin’s Cave, or a bored office worker who’s seduced by the promise of weight loss, improved golf technique or total personality restructuring that TikTok offers you during those long boring meetings when no one has anything better to do than scroll through their mobiles and say things like, ‘what we really need to this problem is a creative solution’.

And the trouble with the Attention Game is that its main players are so good at turning your attention away from what’s just captured it, that it becomes a struggle to really understand what it was that grabbed your attention in the first place and look beyond the surface of what it is actually promising.  

Those 1000 Art works in Saudi for example; just because you can buy and install 1000 pieces in the time it takes to drill a new oil well, does it really mean that you have the interests of those artists at your heart?  And that promise to tell the story of a nation in a glorious new national museum… wait a moment, whose particular story are you telling here? And your promise to replace your child’s ‘crappy drawing’ from school with an image generated by the AI programme Midjourney: is this really how you want to support your child’s development?

Just three examples over the 2 days when I wanted to say Stop!  Please say that again!  Did you really mean that? But unfortunately, the pace of change, the impatience of ambition and the busy-ness of business means that those moments for critical reflection were simply blown away by yet more genies constantly being conjured up out of yet more Aladdins’ lamps. 

Having the ability to summon up a proliferation of alluring, disposable and readily forgettable content may indeed be inevitable, but like the genie being summoned from Aladdin’s lamp, we’ve got to be careful what we wish for.  Not all genies are like Robin Williams.

You can read more about what it’s like to be living the life in the UK’s thriving Creative Technological Industries here.

The Thursday Dialectics: On the one hand this, on the other hand that.

Dialectics thrives on the ability to handle several competing points of view all at the same time. In this ‘Poem on the Hoof’ below, we explore those tensions in a manner which lends itself well to being sung:

On the one hand this,
On the other hand that,
On the one hand chit,
On the other hand chat,
Every move you make
You see your face again,
Every way you sit
You seat yourself in pain;

On the one hand this
On the other hand that,
shadows on the wall
smearing you flat,
Things ain’t straight
things ain’t right,
there ain’t no answers
any time of night;

On the one hand this
On the other hand that,
Sitting on the fence
Is making you fat;
It’s a superhuman effort
to forget your own name,
But every time you stand up
You shift your weight in vain,

On the one hand this
On the other hand that,
Your questions wrong
Your assertions mute,
Answers don’t stick
Opinions dilute,
You agree to agree
again again again

On the one hand this
On the other hand that,
Don’t eat too much
Don’t get fat,
Don’t worry about the kids
Don’t fester away,
At the end of every night
Is another long day

On the one hand this
On the other hand that
You’d bail out your life
At the drop of a hat
It’d be so much simpler
If you stuck to your guns,
Keep your convictions
Blank those shuns,
Ignore the loudest voices
Spurn the angry frown
Insist on your choices
Throw your weight around

On the one hand this
On the other hand that.
On the one hand this
On the other hand that.

‘On the One Hand this’ can be found in our poetry anthology, There’s No Such Thing as an Englishman. It can also be heard on our Salutary Songs of Sobriety and Salvation tours.

The Tuesday Rant: write an Open Letter to a Famous Person!

The Tuesday Rant is an occasional series of irritated and indignant responses to various public figures, some famous, some infamous, others aspiring to be either one of the other.

The Open Letter format allows you for the possibility that your target might even care just a little bit about what you think about them, their practice, their pet dog or bar-room habits. Certainly enough to bother to read beyond the first couple of lines.

If you have any Open Letter you would like to share, then please feel free to add to the comments below. You never know what might happen next. More Open Letters here.

The Thursday Dialectics: convincing the unconvincable.

The Thursday Dialectics are a series of posts which aim to look at both sides of an argument in a frivolous yet serious, meaningful and meaningless, significant but throwaway kind of style.

They’re for the days when you can’t make up your mind, when the act of decision making is a step too far and anything that resembles committing yourself to a position, idea or action fills you with horror.

The Thursday Dialectics are for those of you who doubt, steadily remain unconvinced and enjoy sitting on fences. May you never fall off them!

Recent Thursday Dialectics include:

What’s the Big Deal about Sustainability?

Or, on the other hand:

Reincarnation is the way forward: new approaches to business planning.

A Friday Fanfare: Friday Means the Weekend!

Another ducking and diving week is over!

It’s time to go home and face the furniture!

Friday Means the Weekend is available in our poetry anthology, There’s no such Thing as an Englishman: Poems from an Irritated England.

This anthology of poetry marks the many sources of irritation faced by the average Englishman or woman these days – everything from the railways to referenda via what ever it is the young call music these days.

It was launched on 31 January 2020 – the day when the UK left the European Union and when the phenomenon known as Brexit finally, we like to think, finally evaporates and all those years of frustration, anger, sheer disbelief and irritation all come to rest. But as Chairman Mao once said about what he thought the effects of the French Revolution were, it may be too soon to tell.

But its two authors – Nick Owen and Janice Owen – have become accomplished at becoming irritated at many facets of life in England over the years and hope that you, dear reader, will find some solace in knowing that you are not alone when it comes to feeling frustrated, pissed off, angry or just good old fashioned irritated.

Being English though, means we’ve just reached a level of irritation and aren’t quite ready to riot. Yet.

A Wednesday Wake Up Call: Resistance is Futile

Here’s a jolt to your Wednesday midweek inertia: a ‘Poem-on-the-Hoof; taken from our publication, “There’s No Such Thing as an Englishman: Poems from an Irritated England”

Resistance is Futile is inspired by the Borg of Star Trek infamy.  The Borg would take immense amount of pleasure telling their hapless victims that ‘resistance was futile’ and that they just better buckle down and be happy with their lot. Even if it did mean colonisation, subjugation and eventual death.

It seems we hear a lot in our daily lives why things can’t happen – whether this be in a street, in a business, in a school: in all sorts of places from all sorts of people.  Hearing ‘no’ so often suggests that resistance to any kind of positive social change is pointless: and in some quarters, the Borg are alive and kicking in the most unlikeliest of places.

For me, the poem summarises the aspiration of when faced with so many ‘no-es’, so many reasons not to do things, we need to find the ‘yes’ in a situation.  If we can find the ‘yes’, we can transform ourselves, our families, our communities and the world at large.

You can read ‘Resistance is Futile’ in our poetry anthology, There’s no such Things as an Englishman’

Schadenfreude isn’t Germany’s new Centre Forward: half time report from the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

It might not be quite 73 – nil yet here in the 2014 Brazil World Cup but all the signs are shaping up for a massive upset in the knock out stages of the draw.  

You might remember how our heroic team settled some old scores in Bogota before heading south to join the glitterati, chatterati and flitterati of the world’s footballing elite. They learned early on to become a permanent surprise to their opposition – the guerilla in their midst – whilst experiencing the benefits of living the high footballing life in Rio de Janeiro and Copacabanana Beach.

We’ve seen how they had to reluctantly forego a life of aimless wandering and buckle down to their first big challenge: their first run out onto the hallowed pitch of a World Cup stadium.

But it’s not all cocktails at dawn: we’ve seen the disappointment etched on their faces when their players have not been picked for the national team, and can only admire their stoicism when it comes to carrying that heavy load.

And in true World Cup style, one man’s victorious lap of the stadium is another’s collapse into the depths of despair out in the car park.  Galacticos may be superstars but they can crumble at a moments notice like any two bit player.  Schadenfreude isn’t Germany’s newest centre forward but a freelancing libero who trips up all who underestimate his innate athletic ability and causes fear and shame whenever he may roam.

But in true heroic style, our team has faced down its foes, spoken truth to power and stood up for the rights of the common people, even when it’s involved some ritual humiliation.

And now at the half time break, we’re poised for some more scintillating action from some of the world’s legendary footballers.  They’ll be asked searching questions in the second half such as, just who did poisen the hotel’s axolotls? And do you really have to be fully match fit and physically intact to play at this level? And is there really no ‘me’ in team?

Join us for the second half of the Brazilian  World Cup and follow our heroes every step of the way!  We’ll be back after this break.

Want to catch up with the action as it happened? Check out our NOP-I-Player podcasts here.

Confessions of an Ageing Football Player: Brazil 2,014 – My Team 2,015

73 – nil! Those were the days: moments of glory on the school playing field on a foggy Wednesday afternoon when the final whistle went and your school mates would gather around you, beaming their small faces at you from every conceivable direction as they congratulated you fulsomely on the 23 hat tricks you had  just completed in your team’s undeniable slaughter of the opposition.

The juniors from Mrs. Myrtle’s class were never going to stand up to the superior fire power of Mr. Thompsons 4th years and your part in their downfall was heralded as the natural climax of a long and muddy school football season.

In those days, England had won the World Cup for the first (and only?) time and the nation rejoiced rejoiced rejoiced. We became our football heroes overnight and in the course of that fateful autumn season when I moved primary schools seven times, I was able to become Roger Hunt, Nobby Stiles, Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, George Cohen, George Best and Jimmy Greaves in six short months -playing footie with mates in a school classroom, at the park, in the garage, in a potato field, down an anonymous dirt track, in the kitchen and even once on a proper football field. We all became our own heroes overnight and never looked back, plotting our own way to football fame and fortune ever since.

We have of course all gone our different ways: Roger disappeared into medical supplies, George Best into pub management and Jeff Hurst into the funerals business: but me, I stayed lean and mean, waiting for the next major football opportunity. World Cups have come and go but I feel it in my bones: Brazil 2014 may just be the one where I make my mark and relive the joy of 23 hat tricks against the juniors.

Neymar, Messi, Oxlade Chamberlain: you have all been warned. This year is my year.

Confessions of an Ageing Football Player is out now, just in time for the Qatar 2022 World Cup! You can order your copy here.

You can listen to all the episodes of the Ageing Football Player Podcast here!

BBC Radio Nottingham interview: hear all about us!

The Andy Whittaker Show

A brief introduction to Confessions of an Ageing Football Player, the Confessions series and life’s rich tapestry.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Confessions of an Ageing Football Player in time for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, you can do so here.

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