Monday, September 22, 2008

Homeward Bound.

Tonight I have walked the surface of the world.
A couple , or so, pints after work. A good conversation. Lead to me returning home much later than anticipated or wanted. A swift traverse of the city, subterranean. The familiar rush not experienced as I am travelling much later than usual. Fifteen minutes after the hour and they finally announce the half past train. I am petulant only because they are following the usual pattern (announce the next train I want fifteen minutes before I am due to catch it). Petulant only because I chose to walk the surface for a change. Usually I am whisked at breakneck speeds under the surface of the city by various underground systems. Tonight I chose to leave the underground at Embankment and walk across the bridge to Waterloo.
And what a delight it was. Exiting the station on the north of the river, heading south, the first delicacy I am presented with is a half moon, a pastel peach, resplendent above St Paul's the skyline broken by the virulent blackness of the tower blocks counter pointed by the variegated jewellery of their lighted windows. I join various random people in stopping and just experiencing the beauty of the vista.
I am drawn on by the need to get home, else I could (would) still be standing there now. I promenade onwards exchanging fleeting looks with other passers by. My ear is delighted by a strong blues riff played by a very competent busker. I express my regret to him that I only have ten pence to give him. I wonder if he realises that I have actually donated all of my liquid assets to him, all the currency I will hold in the world, until next pay day.
Onwards still, I am assailed by the delicate scents of the Chinese restaurants south of the river, briefly opposed by the succulent relief of cooking beef from the burger bar underneath the bridge end.
Down the stairs and past the vast overspill of the various restaurant, that I still promise myself I will partake of eventually. The massed revellers spilling onto the pavement, in both their need to smoke and their need to socialise, and getting in my way briefly. The joyously camp exclamation of a restaurant patron as to his choice being this and how it was his particular favourite “how loverly!” The joy of a tiny boy playing “kick about” with a beach ball getting it stuck above the door of one of the little establishments. One final look back across the river, the lights ablaze, and onwards into the station. 
Onwards under the train tracks, avoiding the homeless beggars, no longer holding cash so of no use to them. Assailed by the discordant rhythm of an African musician, never sure if the unfamiliar rhythm is actually music or just discordant random noise.
Across the dual crossing and past the stairs where past weeks ago a seller of the “Big Issue” had attempted to smile me out, chastising me into buying a copy by smiling so much I had no choice. Unfortunately I am emotionally bullet proof to such tactics, I buy where I choose not where I am bullied. On into the station past the, now, disused “Eurostar” terminal. Boarded and disused. Finally to stand, amongst vastly less people than usual on the concourse awaiting the announcement of my train home.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

From my original Disertation some 15 years ago.

This is a piece of writing that was going to be the introduction to my dissertation a while ago (15 years ago). Sorry was digging through some old files and found this.

At first I found this very hard to put ideas down on paper. How can you attempt to even begin to represent an entity, a concept as vast as this in such a limited arena, text? All the time my mind changes direction , becomes distracted by tangents that seem to fit but not in places where they could be useful or not. The problem is the liner form of dissertation that does not directly reflect the subject of the internet the way the internet would reflect itself. Without “hyper-links” and hot buttons to whisk the reader off too ever more divergent sources as the writer wishes this piece of writing must remain clinical and antiseptic in the least. Perhaps at some point I will have the opportunity to translate this document into hypertext as it should be. Babbage, much like Oppenheimer, was only trying to solve a short term problem when he designed the difference engine and his analytical engine in eighteen thirty five. Like most scientist he could not have envisaged the resultant effect on western culture in the late twentieth century.
 “The internet, that great big anorak of world culture!”
Billy Connolly (Billy Connolly’s Tour of Australia BBC1 2-12-96)
Are we become a society of Shelly’s Frankenstein’s? Creating monsters we can no longer control! A culture that has used all means to describe itself, so must turn to the dissection, re-organisation, and re-animation of those icons and ideals that we see best fit ourselves? Some Postmodernists masturbation fantasy. Where Eco reigns as Pope of the new order, in his own terms, where schisms exist on the basis of the near religious level of the catholic Mac user against the Protestant DOS user. Where the Anglo-Saxon bourgeoisie begin to remove the means for production away from the masses again, as the few begin to control the implementation of the new technological age. Gibson becomes god in his own right, iconoclast by ‘netheads’ who only grasp the name but not the content of his work. Where Leary does rely exist on the net long after his physical demise.
We as a generation are lost! Born in the sixties and the seventies we have just missed out. We are unable to recreate the ‘Beat’ generation, the ‘Mersey’ boom, the ‘Swinging’ sixties. As is long discussed with the generation ‘X’, all our possible taboos have been broken, all our frontiers breached. Our music is merely the reiteration of what has gone before, our films merely video remakes of the classics. In a post modernist society creativity is dead and all we have is the text of the past with which to rewrite history and make a pastiche for the future. We have no where to go, nothing to do any more that some other can not say ‘I did that’, ‘I saw that first’.
We are not feasibly able to take to the skies and ‘Go where no person has gone before’. We must create for our selves the place and the direction that we are to be the pioneers of. For us this will be the virtual reality, the internet and all it sporns. The potential that is the internet is the final frontier, the edge that the generation is in search of. If Gibson is to believed! Or is it? Gibson oft quoted as the ‘guru’ of the internet actually writes about a future where everything has become the true development of the commercial, the logical extrapolation of the capitalist ideal.
In a society where interest patterns and concentration spans reduce (the MTV effect), to the point where the adverts are the lasting impression (see Stallone's “Demolition Man”) that we retain as opposed to the film that we view, where Politicians speak in ‘sound bites’ so as not to confuse us with too much information. What else do we crave but a totally disposable environment that is ours to manipulate and create and destroy, just to recreate again at will.
I was surprised to find that, in conversation, a friend of mine did not realise the extensive history that already exists to the internet. She knew nothing of it’s fledgling beginning in the American universities as a military experiment history of the internet in thirty seconds. “The Americans wanted to get their spy info back in tact, the academics saw it as a great opportunity to communicate with each other around the world, then someone realised you could sell stuff on it.”). For me the history of the system that was to become the Internet (and the myth that is the Internet) lie in the end of the sixties as the American government attempted to improve the communications between it’s various out lying information gathering stations and the academic institutes that were dealing with certain government projects at the time. Setting the first four nodes of the fledgling internet system in four hand picked universities. As part of the innate paranoia of the western governments at the time the system was built with certain safe guards in order to stop the intrusion and tampering of the ‘enemy’ with the integrity of the system. To this end the software was developed to re-route the communications if the line became blocked or disconnected. In the early seventies the US government make it's ARPAnet (Advanced Research Project Administration network) public and including England and Norway in the system to make it truly international. The level of electronic ‘traffic’ became too much for the military to handle in the early eighties so the US military set up it’s own net exclusive to the military and the US National Science Foundation take over the administration of ARPAnet, creating it’s own NSFNET in the mid eighties. The ARPAnet is eventually switched off in nineteen ninety. The early nineties saw the introduction of information retrieval software such as Gopher. CERN release code for ‘hypertext’ which leads to the development of the World Wide Web and web browsers such as mosaic and Netscape. The growth of the internet is now becoming immeasurable by nineteen ninety five there were some six million servers and fifty thousand networks connected to the web. The question is now where does it go?

This is where I was hoping to go with it:


The Internet - Hope For The Future ?

The Internet is not the infinite forum, or next step in human evolution that the popular media has built it up to be, but a self perpetuating myth, an intellectual toy for computer professionals and academics alike.

Simon Kennedy

SUPERVISED BY : Sylvie Gambaudo

Re-iteration and expansion of theorem.


What is the "Internet", Cyber Space, Virtual Reality, WWW (World Wide Web), HTML (Hyper Text Mark-up Language), URL (Universal Resource Location), {Gopher, Janet, Telnet, FTP}.


US military. Accademic involvement. Private individuals/business on line. US dominance, development of own country search engine (eg try searching for "football" with american bias search engine).


Video conferencing. Voice control keyboards. Direct mind control keyboards (sun system spinal colummn reciever transmittter [based on amputee reasearch], and minds trained to think in certain patterns to be read by computer [new scientist]). Pc (personal computer) Vs Nc (network computer), economic implecations to Nc of 2nd hand Pc price drops (imminent). Interactive Java Script HTML. Interactive netstites (remote robot control). Inteligent Agents +ve (see also control!)

Media Hype:

Modern pre-conception. Study in america of effect on underprivilaged families given net access. Compare Hackers, The Net, Johnny Mnemonic, Lawnmower Man (I+II) with previous Sci-Fi/techno films. new trend with company URL's (eg Virgin Radio, Kellogs etc why?).

Attempts at Control:

Clipper vs Cypher Punk. Exon bill against indecency. Wirless Telegraphy Act. Saudi- Mullah sysop constantly checking viewing. Net nanny, safe surfer, ID subscription sites. Inteligent Agents -ve (see also development!).

The Net Will eat Itself:

Copy write implecations of public domain materials. Individual material reproduced in a number of sites (eg Star trek pages, x-file pages etc). Quote “Future dream is a shopping scheme” (Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK).
Social actualities:

As the modern city/nation state decays the virtual landscape increases. Further splitting of society into those who have info and those without (control of the means for production [Marks]). social profile of users (how? possible set up net site for people register information voluntary census [see Matts politics voting site]) vs stateless sites. Social effects isolationism of home workers (american paranioa traits).

Extrapolation of datum:

copies of surveys to be requested

Myth, the internet, and man:

Barthes Postmodernism.


Brain Storm:-

History, US military, Media increase, access by individuals, Company interest (Kellogg's internet site), Universities, gopher, janet, telnet, netscape, WWW, HTML, intelligent agents, encryption, network computer vs. personal computer, data base function, library, interactive real-time web sites, copyright implications, publishing on the web, govermentality, exon bill, clipper chip (deceased), cypher punks, virus, hackers, 

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

In Memory Of JK Burningham.

This appears as I read it at John's cremation.

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for joining us today. I am Simon, to quote John “we have all sorts of relationships in this family, steps, halves, allsorts” Myself one of Johns step sons.

I won't go into the complications of my pagan point of view of things here. needless to say I feel this is not, and should not be, about the passing of the vessel that bore John through our lives. It is a celebration of what it was that made John the man he was, and allowed him to touch so many of our lives.

The vehicle that is going to continue to carry John in our hearts and our minds from now on is that of stories. Stories of John that we as friends and family will continue to tell each other, about him, and the things he did.

To this end that is what I propose to do here, tell you some of my favourite stories of John.

You must turn to others to talk about Johns early life, myself having only known him since my late teens. Please be assured these are my collection only, you, I am more than certain, will have your own to share with each other later.

Firstly I remember loosing my grandmother (A difficult enough lady to loose in her red polka dot dress) during Johns inauguration as chairman of Horsham district council. John receiving his badges of office the rest of us running round trying to find Grandma. Only to find later that she'd popped down the pub for a quick Holsten Pils.

Then there was the time, Mum and John at an official function, when he was chairman of the council or some such official role. Leading the procession away at the end, in front of the Mayor of Crawley, he in his chauffer driven black limo, Mum and John in one of the many clapped out old mini's they owned at one period or another. Resplendent with the cake that Mum had won in the raffle that day still on the roof.

My own favourite, from what Lynda calls his “mental” phase, just after his car accident, is the period he spent convinced he was a midget submarine captain who had his legs removed from the knee down to fit in the boat with his crew who where entirely dwarfs.

The Christmas Lynda bought John a Max Bygraves video. I can still picture him sitting in the lounge by himself, the rest of us hiding in the kitchen, as he happily sang along to all his war time favourites.

John always well known for appearing in one of his three piece suites, and not just for gardening in. When John went to sit in on a hearing for some trouble David had at work, suitable attired as usual, David being told he couldn't have a solicitor present.

Or Mark, Paul, and myself, finding election posters for each of the divergent political points of view we held, decorating the windows of the house with them, especially for the visit of the local Conservative MP, whilst John was campaigning for one of his many elections. The amount of leaflet dropping, canvassing and general running around we did for him during those periods. Despite the three of us not ever being, or ever wanting to be, anything to do with the Conservative Party.

Please don’t get me wrong. The humour wasn't only one way. Being use to John buying up every “Pick-Your-Own” produce there was locally, and having every type of bean one could find thrust upon us dependent on season. There was no surprise when he presented us with a Shepard’s pie one evening to warm us up, resplendent with many such styles of bean. Not realising the warming element he'd planned for us was the four whole chilli's he’d placed in it without telling us.

Enough has been said about the drunken nights at the Black Horse in Amberley, cocktails, and driving home, all of us hanging out of windows singing along to the music at the tops of our voices. Whilst driving through the Sussex countryside in the middle of the night.

Picture John at another official function, planting flowers by a roadside. Jonathan, as a toddler had joined him, as fast as John is planting them, Jonathan was gleefully digging them up behind him.

My own personal recollection. Returning to University as a mature student. Needing a grant, they were still giving them back then. Marching into the county council offices with John by my side. Not a quick process for those who know, John being an extremely well know individual in those quarters, so many hands were shaken. On reaching the particular office, having a small bit of trouble with one of the officials, John stepping up and requesting the gentlemen’s superior, who was more than pleased to see John again, and more than pleased to help with my problem. 

That’s perhaps one of the main things about John, which I hope I do alike as much as I can. His ever readiness to apply whatever resources or connections he could to help anyone who asked.

I mentioned Christmas earlier. Another year John and I had risen early Christmas day. Having had breakfast we had settled down to watch the usual repeated rubbish you get on early in the morning. The pair of us sat pretending not to cry as we watched the miracle at Christmas together.

I have used enough of your time and I think you now get the idea.

Finally (at last I hear you say). Whilst myself and a couple of friends were running our theatre company, we had the opportunity of using the old town hall in Horsham (the same location as the lost grandmother I started with). In the main entrance hall, half way up the stairs, on one of the walls, is a large plaque, holding various names of previous chair people of the council. A grid of four by five names apart from one, due to it's length, that has it's own line, as the full title reaches across the entire width.

On remembering this a a couple of weeks ago, just after hearing the news about John, it occurred to me that,

Group Captain J K Burningham MBE (Retired),

Has finally received three more initials to his more than illustrious title,

Group Captain J K Burningham MBE (Retired) R. I. P.