Northern Ireland Earth 2

eating the violin 40per
“Relativity theory in 1905 announced the dissolution of uniform Newtonian space ,as an illusion or fiction, however useful. Einstein pronounced the doom of continuous or rational space and the way was made clear for Picasso, the Marx Brothers and “MAD” magazine”….Marshall McLuthan, Understanding Media
Ian Paisley, then a fundamentalist , fiery Old Testament preacher with a very right wing line in politics and now a “Lord” in the House of Lords (since deceased), at a time long ago in the 1960s and 1970s, used to gig regularly at the Ulster Hall in Belfast.,. He drew large crowds of fans who hung onto every word in loving , rapt attention.ireland71_mm zepp review


Us teenagers weren’t much interested in any of that though.We had other reasons for going to the Ulster Hall. Our “cup of meat”, as Bob Dylan would say on the legendary bootleg “Basement Tapes”, was bands from the 1960s british blues boom as it was called, such as John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers which had spawned Eric Clapton and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac [before they went all girly with “Rumours” in the mid-1970s.] These guys were our heroes. At eighteen, in 1970 , I had already missed the Beatles , Bob Dylan and Cream when they appeared in the city a couple of years earlier in the decade.
For any of us “country boys” living forty miles from Belfast it was a matter of logistics. A train had to be caught on time after the concert and then a willing older brother or parent had to pick us up for the last late night connection towards home. Mr Beeching’s policy on trains had put paid to that last train connection in the 1950s and left us children in my hometown, a disused train station as a childhood playground., No phone in your pocket then. No phone in most homes either. A callbox on a distant corner was about all there was.. My parents had no car, in any case, so I had to be independent and ” row my own boat”…..That was then….
Now , of course ,by 1971, a lot of us were living in Belfast. We’d already accepted the “normality” of working or student- life against the background of an ongoing warzone.We had all segued unwittingly into a process that had begun in 1968 with the Civil Rights marches and was gathering daily, violent momentum around us. The memorable interruptions to the mundanity of violence and violent utterings, included man landing on the moon in 1969 and the great hippy gathering at Woodstock within months of each other. The timing of these events is, in retrospect, quite astonishing. In some respects it really did seem like a brave new world but not in Northern Ireland .Northern Ireland was now in the news virtually every night, just like the Vietnam war and for all the wrong reasons.I think a lot of people actually got addicted to their daily fix of news It made them feel more important on the world stage.It reminded the rest of the world that we actually existed.. We didn’t know , of course that our little “war” like Vietnam, would have a similar longevity and run on for the next thirty odd years…half a lifetime , for some of us, when you think of it.
So initially, before actually finding a secure berth in  some far-flung , eventual Belfast street ,it was  the round of commuting  from home , some forty miles each morning ,to work in the offices of the  Civil Service.The first “proper” job(after years of  short-term ,temporary “improper” jobs) was  the soul-stopping stamping of “approval issued” on a daily plethora of forms ,in the employ of the Ministry Of Agriculture. The norm was : getting up early for the first express bus , or  shortly afterwards , the shared , treasured car,Danny  picking up the late- slumbering, alarm clock dodgers ….there was always someone who had slept-in …and drowsily making our way down the M1 motorway  to Belfast and then back again in the evening to get   home by seven, some twelve hours later. The office I worked in had the glass windows taped with crosses of thick sellotape to prevent them shrapnelling across the room should a bomb explode nearby. I don’t think it would have helped, in retrospect but that was the standard we would become used to . We thought little about the unusual situation we’d found ourselves in.Bombs did explode  and life was ruptured and disrupted regularly but the daily grind  went on ,as I’m sure it did during the world war thirty years before. Lunchtimes were spent eating the businessman’s cheapo menu in a nearby Chinese restaurant; three courses for a pittance; some even managed a crafty pint or two before returning to the office to eke out the  blurry afternoon hours of boredom. Some of my older friends were already students or worked in the city already  and I soon gravitated  away from home too, to share a small, rented , old terraced house in Cussick Street just off  the Lisburn Road. The front door opened onto the street and the stairs to the bedrooms  immediately ran upwards. The place smelled of  dry rot and damp ;old stale cabbage seemed to have seeped into the walls of what we called “the dining room “.The walls crumbled in places , especially  in the corner nearest the front door, where damp spores fought a war of attrition. Those walls  appeared to be held in abeyance by dint of  the ancient , battered wallpaper. There was no bathroom, just a gas-heated water  geyser in the kitchen, fitted above the sink, so we  used a face-cloth and a basin of soapy water for our  shaving and ablutions , showered mid -week  over at Queen’s University and bathed when we were  back at home . The toilet was  a tiny cubicle in the  narrow back yard which was an entirely  new thing for me .We actually had indoor bathrooms/ toilets  back at home, unlike many in the population. I’d always lived in homes with indoor  bathrooms but I knew that not everyone  in Ireland or the UK was as fortunate. Outdoor toilets are very cold in the winter, I was soon to discover! We learned to cook and came close  to the poisoner’s art   with our first, rude culinary attempts. One particular first curry I made  was a memorable  experiment ,having  gained legendary status and may well still have a life of its own in some abandoned corner of Belfast.
There was a little tape recorder in the specific corner that was slowly disintegrating  that pumped out  those new-fangled  C90 cassette tapes  I’d  copied of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”, Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” and music by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, the Incredible String Band, Tom Rush and the Doors. Both Hendrix and Jim Morrison had just died the year before[ Morrison, like Brian Jones, a few years before him, both gone on my birthday in separate July’s]. The Beatles had just announced their demise in that past year. All of this was of, as great , if not greater importance to us all, than anything that was going on in what we loosely called “politics” in Northern Ireland. These musicians were our secret avatars. We treated most of the politics as a dark flippant joke..The local  politicians had made a right haims of things and had exacerbated  an already volatile way of life that had stewed and bubbled ever since the little statelet of Northern Ireland had been abandoned to its own devices, under threat of unionist violence, by both the British Government and the rest of Ireland, some fifty years previously.Now it was a right old  intractable mess, seething with pent-up hatred and violence.
For me,  this was the background, but in any case  I was more interested in art , literature,music and the underground press of ” International Times” and “Oz” magazine and the new  underground comix, than I was about Northern Ireland politics . Terri Hooley, the  future saviour of  young Derry  punks  “the Undertones” was already peddling his elaborate fanzine “Ego” on the Belfast streets.This was the kind of thing that caught my interest.

I was a new kind of beast; a 1960s teenager about to become a twenty -year old in the first  staggering years of the 1970s!



In the autumn of 1971, I trained out to Bangor one Friday afternoon after work, to pick up a friend who was temporaily going insane working in a bank there, before he became a teacher, and we set off on a great adventure to see the Who and the Faces at the Oval cricket ground in London.A great day and night journey in those pre- Easyjet days, entailing getting the overnight ferry to Liverpool, sleeping in our sleeping bags between the seats, disembarking and then hitchhiking in leapfrog fashion from one service- station to another betweenLiverpool and London to catch the tail- end of the Swinging Sixties on the London streets. The weekend was spent mostly on the floor of a friend’s cramped one -room flat for which he paid a whopping £13.00 per week. For most of us , the “sixties” began around 1965 and tailed off about the time of punk rock and the death of Elvis in 1977. London was quite some contrast to life on the streets of Belfast. As the world leaders in fashion then, young  people on the streets were dressing like many-coloured birds. Flocks of these exotic creatures scattered and skittered across the footpaths of the city.  We could have been on another planet and in some respects we really were.belfast71-tkt ZEPPELIN


We were experiencing the first nudges of the counter-culture in those years while already in a war- zone of sorts  at home. We were already dipping into tentative early experiments with the nether- zone of powerful psychedelics . We had by this time already opened  Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception” and were already well -primed for astral flight.The world was being viewed from an entirely novel perspective now. I’d read about it ; I’d seen the results of it  in the outrageous art and heard  the strange ,warped ,timeless sounds of  it in the music of the times but there was no real way of properly describing any of it to anyone outside of that milieu, who hadn’t experienced this indescribable state of being.Anyone who’d been “there” in Dimension X was a “head” and “knew” exactly what you meant.Some fifty years ago, simply put,  the “straights” didn’t know what the “freeks” were talking about at all.We were in  a sort of  secret club like Psychedelic Freemasons.  .By the time Led Zeppelin arrived at the Ulster Hall in Belfast to begin their latest tour and play “Stairway to Heaven” live for the first time on the planet, we were ready. To this day I cannot remember if the bassist / organist John Paul Jones ,actually played that huge Ulster Hall pipe organ or if I imagined it in a fevered psychedelic dream. I believe he did but I’m open to correction. We were watching from above the stage, to one side, and I struggled to keep my mate’s feet on the ground while Jimmy Page did astounding visual “head-pranks” with his strobing violin bow. Aww… we were all damaged in some way by the troubles!
Rory Gallagher was another musician who stole the Ulster Hall from Mr.Paisley and his minions .He supported the hippy tribes throughout the Troubles when other bands feared to tread. I remember taking a young blonde-haired lady with bone-structure like Joni Mitchell to one of his gigs.Unfortunately she had to catch a train back to her home in  Bangor, Newtonabbey or some such before the end of the show. Rory always gave  his all in an uncompromising concert workout of blues rock. That usually meant that his shows ran over the limit and trains and buses still had to be caught. That romance didn’t go far!
Ringo Starr, when asked an inane journalistic question , answered that they were neither mods nor rockers…they were mockers. Loyalists or Nationalists ? We called ourselves headz or freeks. The Doors sang. “They’ve got the guns, but we’ve got the numbers”…….” number” was a slang term , as was “doobie”[ as in The Doobie Brothers] for a marijuana joint. We were going to fight the militaristic establishment, not with violence, but with humour ,satire and argument. David Crosby of the Byrds and then Crosby, Stills and Nash sang…. “I almost cut my hair, but I didn’t…… ’cause I wanted to let my freak flag fly”. The longhairs felt themselves  a whole new universal tribe unfettered by territorial boundaries .As Steve Miller sang ….” I’m a doper, a smoker ,a midnight toker, I don’t want to hurt no-one”.
Unlike Mr President, Bill Clinton, I’ll admit to inhaling with great gusto and alacrity for at least fourteen years, always laughing in the face of the mundane.

The following Spring, still nineteen, I took a flight to Leeds late one evening  after work; it was something of an expensive  novelty back then, and possibly only  my second or third  time on an aeroplane .Late one Tuesday I took a bus from  the station behind the “most -bombed hotel in Europe, “the Europa” and headed for the international airport to catch a plane. In Leeds, I had already arranged  a room in digs for a night .I made my way there by taxi and slept in a small terraced house not dissimilar to the one that I had just left  in Belfast, if in better nick,  where the landlady ran a little Bed & Breakfast operation.The next day , finding that I was located quite close to the art college ,I made my way to the  impressive red building housing the art college  and the semi-detached music college in Vernon street.I climbed those steps to confront the unknown with nothing to cover my blushes but a scrappy collection of doodles , paintings and scribblings  and began  the process of  blagging  a place in the art department there.The college ,in this permutatation ,was named after the Russian born Jewish artist Jacob Kramer who had been raised in Leeds.
“From the 1950s to the 1970s, there was a reappraisal of art education in Britain, largely based on ideas developed at Leeds, where a large team of practising artists set up the Basic Design Course. Students were now encouraged to adopt a scientific approach, enabling them to develop a capacity for constructive criticism and understanding.”

Roy & Mary Campbell (left), Jacob Kramer & Dolores (right). 1920s

“Jacob Kramer was born in the Ukraine in 1892, the first child of Max and Cecilia Kramer. His father was a court painter, his mother was musical; they had a favoured, cultured life. But the violent anti-Jewish pogroms of the 1890s finally forced the family, like many others, to flee. Around 1900, when Jacob was eight, they arrived in Leeds….”


The same  Jacob Kramer College of Art that Damien Hirst,{ the enfant terrible and much -debated conceptual creator of the”The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living ” featuring a tiger shark suspended in a glass case}  was to attend some years later. Damien, obviously had a sense of humour and the absurd but he  didn’t get into the Jacob Kramer College of Art  on his first attempt, but was successful on the second time around and went on to become one of the most celebrated  conceptual artists in the world…..certainly one of the richest. My tenure at JK  pre-dated Damien by some ten or twelve  years. His timing was obviously spot-on!

DAMIEN HIRST AND HIS The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living ”

Henry Moore , the sculptor had also passed through and in fact a future flatmate’s mother  had previously  acted as  a model for the great master.Yan always said that her hands adorned some building that Moore had been commissioned to enhance.


Most of my work for that interview  had been drawn and painted on buff- coloured manilla folders, liberated “freebies”, courtesy of  my office in the Ministry of Agriculture, Belfast ,or drawings on cheap cartridge paper or on the backs of  large manila envelopes. I had no money to afford fancy watercolour  boards , canvasses or photographic equipment to capture images. What there was of the “work” was housed all – a-clutter in a battered  old ,scruffy,  heavy card portfolio, tied on three corners by grubby ribbons, that someone had given me previously, presumably because they had managed to acquire something somewhat fancier for themselves ,or had given up any further artistic ambitions; at this far reach I cannot remember .These tutors asked all the usual expected  questions about my background and  as to why I presumed  I was good enough to enter their esteemed establishment and why I thought I might even  fit in. Peter Smailes and the painter  Patrick Oliver were there and appeared to be in charge of vetting  and it’s possible that the third face  was    probably Glyn Thompson  . There hasn’t been too much  written about Patrick that I know of , except possibly in a passing  way ,as described by the actor  Peter O’Toole in his  two mostly  stream -of -consciousness, hallucinatory and poetic memoirs “Loitering With Intent”.If anyone knew what made Patrick tick  , Peter O’Toole was best placed having known him a lifetime, but he really seemed the perfect wild and romantic notion of what an anarchistic  artist should be.He looked the very part and  ticked all the  creative boxes.He grew up in Leeds with the  aforementioned later to -be – very – famous  actor Peter O’Toole (star of David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” masterpiece and inveterate imbiber) and they  began their younger  creative careers simultaneously while  remaining    great  life-long friends , two peas from the same kind of anarchic pod ,similarly wild  and spirited twins to all intents, until  their parting at Patrick’s death in 2009.Peter O’Toole died about four years later.Peter went on to study his dramatic art at RADA and   Patrick  had been a pupil at Jacob Kramer  and St Ives and then  had tutored at J K since the mid 1960s  . He was well into his stride when I encountered him some five or six years  years later. His thing was  abstraction and expressionism and the depiction  of figurative elements in visceral and sometimes brutal  compositions .He ,later  encouraged us to explore the relationship between  space and weight in artistic representation . I hoped to learn more of  the arcane mysteries of the Golden Section and all that magical stuff of composition. I had no idea  before applying to this college that Patrick was going to be one of my tutors and was  seen as  one of the most accomplished painters of his generation, probably because he  was largely unsung outside of specific art circles. I simply liked the sound of Leeds Art College ,compared to any others I had read about .When I first met him he certainly looked the part of the rakish, bohemian artist with long unruly, tangled,    hair and his  rangy  ,elongated look.He favoured skinny suits and there was a lit, smoking  fag constantly hanging from his lips. I must have made a coherent argument for myself in any case.They seemed to enjoy my craic and they appeared to like the work I’d brought, or at least saw  some kind of promise in it, or in my attitude.  I suppose it was all about how they thought I might fit in and how I might make up the numbers for the coming year’s intake.; a lone  Irishman blowing in from a warzone! With the bolshy self-assurance of youth that I hoped to project,I told the three- man panel that I had to get back on that plane within a few hours and do a similar interview in Belfast’s art college where I didn’t want to go, but it was a necessary requisite in getting a grant from my local authority.There was no way I could have chucked up my job and headed off for art college without that stipend, small and all as it was.I needed an acceptance from them and a refusal from Belfast.  

Oliver and O’Toole
“Patrick Oliver and Irish actor Peter O’Toole, both raised in Leeds, met in their schooldays and formed a friendship that lasted until Oliver’s death in 2009. O’Toole said that with Oliver he was in the company of ‘a delinquent fellow spirit’ and later described him as ‘two yards and more of long bones and wild unweeded hair’. The two young men soon began to attend a local arts centre, flourishing in the bohemian ambience. Oliver joined pottery and painting courses while O’Toole took a role in the 1952 Christmas pantomime, his first steps as an actor.
Patrick Oliver went on to study at Leeds College of Art and in St Ives, where his teachers included Peter Lanyon. He became known as ‘the Teddy Boy of British art.’ Barbara Hepworth described him as one of the finest painters of his generation. In 1964 he began a long and influential teaching career at Leeds College of Art, where he inspired a number of acclaimed artists including Marcus Harvey and Damien Hirst. Hirst recalled how Oliver’s critiques made him laugh and changed the way that he looked at art forever.”

The three of them  put their heads together, conferring, while I waited,hoping to convey a confidence I did not wholly feel and  then  they turned to give me a place there and then…I didn’t have to wait for that “letter” to know my fate. They would send me one ,of course, which duly arrived several days later , but I was already  in .I laughed with relief and thanked them ….. and with one mighty bound, I was free!!![ as they used to say in the cliff-hanger cinema serials.Now all I had to do was stay alive long enough to get that refusal and get to hell out of Belfast.jacob kramer college of art leeds 1


You can only take so much and I was ready for a change from Belfast’s dreary paranoia. I wanted to get to the place where all the popular culture of the 1960s had its origins.
Art College!!! : never mind the ideas of  high and low poetry, literature  and great art spinning through my confused, stuffed  teenaged head , the art colleges in those years were the hot- bed and spawning ground for all the great bands that we grew up listening to , [ virtually every rock group worth a damn had it’s genesis within their walls…. The Beatles, the Who, The Rolling Stones, the Kinks,John Lennon, Keith Richard, Ray Davies, Pete Townsend to name just a few creators in  different bands ,who had revolutionised how we listened to popular music were the fulcrum ],fashion designers like Mary Quant, painters and film-makers who had cut a swathe through the greyness of post-war life in Britain and Ireland with new concepts and visionary thinking. From here new ideas were spinning feverishly into the world and changing the way people thought and looked.Picasso ‘s death intruded into this reverie in that first year’s studies, in April 1973 and Paul McCartney later wrote a song for him. The collossus of twentieth century art was dead but his legacy included the anti- war “Guernica”, as great a footprint as those left by astronauts on that first moon landing.golly 1


There was much to do and learn and much of it was new to me .I had a rudimentary set of oil-painting brushes from my previous art classes at school and after, but art-teaching back then was not extensive in my grammar school. A few evening classes helped.Many of the tools an artist was assumed  to acquire before setting off on this journey were to be found in hardware stores.What  in god’s holy trousers was a surform tool? Apparently this was required to sculpt  and shape wood  or plaster. I’d never seen or used one before this time. Good scissors….check! A Stanley knife was needed for every occasion ,from cutting canvas to sharpening pencils. There were oil paints to buy , goauche,hard and soft   pastels , jet black indian ink…a hammer for making frames…..canvas stretchers for tensioning said material over a frame. There were also  so many styles and ideas to embrace  and the imagination was required to be unfettered by  either stifling mores or common morality. I jumped right in. Much of what was done is lost to the mists of time, long-since mouldered in rathole basement flats or mildewed and  skip-bound on numerous  house-moves. Photographs have long-since been lost or destroyed and all that might remain are a few clouded slides on kodachrome. We learnt the rudiments of photography and dark-room techniques but little remains of that either .This was long before the era of the pixel. This photograph above  is the only existing one I have of this large painting .I later used the photograph  as part of a collage which is why you can see a little piece of Hunt Emerson cartooning intruding…no bad thing at any time ! The painting itself was long -since abandoned to the rats and mice . (To put in context : the “Golly” was a children’s storybook character , seen much as the “TeddyBear” cuddly toy is still seen and not in any way racist. It has to be said it originated  from an earlier time when nothing was thought of calling it a “gollywog” .It had evolved into   the uncomplicated everyday childhood symbol on Robertsons jam- jar labels for much of the 20th century and had appeared  on the breakfast table of generations of ordinary folk ,in advertising in magazine spreads , posters and on the back of children’s Christmas comic  annuals.It had  been made into soft toys , lapel  pin-brooches and even  made into ceramic figurines which were avidly collected. You could send jam- jar labels off in the post as part of payment to buy these as part of  Robertsons ‘  regular promotions right into the 1960s and 1970s. Some might see it as a form of  casual racism now, but that is to read it through 21st century eyes in a very different time -frame. From my point of view , to include the imagery in a painting  was an abstract , absurdly surreal statement of a sort, possibly a reflection of those times and what was happening  back home in Ireland ,Vietnam and across the wider world  , taking an anodyne  and cosy character and arming it for war….the smile juxtaposed with the weapon…but it is probably  now viewed as non -politically correct  or even maybe racist, currently….that was not the real intent  or meaning ,of course!! That is a reflection of a different kind of worldview and timeframe).

The art colleges presented a whole raft of alternative ways of looking at the world. At “Jacob Kramer” as the college was then colloquially  named, the wild-haired Patrick Oliver proved to be a very inspirational presence with his ideas of abstraction.


Oliver, Patrick William; Gaelic Lament; The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds;

O’Toole and O’Liver as he called him……. with a tap on the head……

There were painters, etchers, sculptors and a guy who could carve chess pieces out of bone . One of my fellow students was Ian Rodgers , brother of the Free/ Bad Company rock singer Paul Rodgers.Here was where I discovered hard Jazz,old Bessie Smith piano blues and the broken beauty of Billie Holliday’s cracked jazz.Patrick Oliver would play these discs in the studio to inspire us.Then there were the students themselves whose tastes ranged from  world music(Los Calchakis) , Captain Beefheart’s stellar art-blues and an upcoming art school band by the name of Roxy Music. It all added to the mix.


By this time we’d already been exposed at school  to Shakespeare,Shaw, Milton, Thomas Hardy ,Synge,  O’Casey ,Yeats, Hemingway and the rest of the literary luminaries . I’d  already read through everything I could find of Steinbeck and Orwell and was already dipping into the mould-breaking  Beats.  By then, Timothy Leary’s “Politics of Ecstasy” was already well- cooked, on that mental  back-burner; As was “the Doors of Perception” and “Heaven and Hell” by Aldous Huxley. Now the currency was Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums” and” Desolation Angels” with sideswipes into De Quincey’s “Confessions of an Opium Eater” and the jungles of Carlos Castaneda’s mind of shamanism. His books on Yaqui shamanism , “The Teachings of Don Juan” and the following books in that series were on everyone’s reading list along with Hermann Hesse’s “Steppenwolf” and the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson. I’d long since lapped up Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and assorted  Beats. Films we watched included Tod Browning’s, once- banned, “Freaks”, Buster Keaton’s “the General”, Sternberg’s “the Blue Angel” and “L’Age D’Or” the 1930s film by Luis Bunuel.

My own work at Jacob Kramer  comprised a variety of styles and influences and even short experimental films and  clay and perspex sculptures.There was so much to soak up ,but Patrick Oliver was a great presence and an able communicator of  abstract ideas. Conceptual ideas  and abstraction could be vague and I’d originally entered the doors of this establishment hoping to be handed the very keys of the universe or at least the understanding of some little  sparkling corner of it. There was more to this art lark than simply painting naked ladies, obviously. Some of it was bound to rub off on all of us. ….and some of it did on me …below….

NUDE STUDY #3 1973( I did several of these studies at the time)














“NUDE #4”





There were people like myself into  both fine art painting and also comics,the new underground hippy counter-culture of  underground comix by the like of Robert Crumb, the poster art of Rick Griffin, the Chinese Book of changes, the ” I-Ching”, the Tarot, Zen, but also those in thrall to the geodesic structures of Buckminster Fuller and his new concepts of building.



Amid all of this I became aware of the “Whole Earth Catalog” [SIC] which was really the forerunner to the World Wide Web of the Internet and destined to be a huge influence on the world to come.Stewart Brand published this large , thick, tabloid-sized, floppy paperback and it became the hippy bible of creative , novel lifestyles. It covered everything from tools and machinery to how to go about keeping bees. Even then , over forty years ago ,some of us were becoming aware of the importance of this little insect to the planet’s sustainable future. The catalog[sic] was on the same page as Greenpeace. It listed contacts and suppliers of virtually everything needed for survival outside the establishment culture . In the coming years much of this degenerated into pie-in-the-sky idealism when confronted with the harsh realities of sustaining a back to nature , “the Good Life”, as the decade ran on, but many novel ideas

Steve Jobs of Apple took many of his cues from this approach :
“Steve Jobs compared The Whole Earth Catalog to Internet search engine Google in his June 2005 Stanford University commencement speech. “When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation…. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along. It was idealistic and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.” During the commencement speech, Jobs also quoted the farewell message placed on the back cover of the 1974 edition of the catalog: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
Kevin Kelly made a similar comparison in 2008:
“For this new countercultural movement, information was a precious commodity. In the ’60s, there was no Internet; no 500 cable channels. [… The Whole Earth Catalog[sic] was a great example of user-generated content, without advertising, before the Internet. Basically, Brand invented the blogosphere long before there was any such thing as a blog.  No topic was too esoteric, no degree of enthusiasm too ardent, no amateur expertise too uncertified to be included.  This I am sure about: it is no coincidence that the Whole Earth Catalogs disappeared as soon as the web and blogs arrived. Everything the Whole Earth Catalogs did, the web does better.”
As recently as 2013, I was in Belfast with my wife , daughter and son-in-law and as we went into the Apple shop on a mission  to buy some esoteric piece of Apple hardware it all came full -circle. I was reminded of much of what had evolved socially in the intervening forty -odd years since art college, when I watched youngsters as young as seven embracing, unknowingly, the various Ipads on display , while  connecting unconsciously to the rest of the planet. Things were being bought and information exchanged  via satellite links high in the sky with  no physical coin  exchanging hands. Information had possessed the world at last. My wife nodded humorously as I raised my knowing eyebrows  while these childrens’ nimble fingers traversed the keys  so effortlessly.Within a few scant years the whole concept of world communication had been greedily embraced ,but much of the idealism that spawned it had been long- forgotten.
I also thought how very important music was to the cohesion of those long ago tribal “headz”and how this new world order had mainly trivialised and forgotten it’s  idealism and ultimate relevance. Idealistic hippies…Hah!… It started with the Monterey pop festival and Woodstock and probably reached it’s apogee with Bob Geldof’s” Live Aid” global concert to feed the world.
Meanwhile, as if in contrast….. back to the future….Belfast …..
Not so far away from the Apple shop there was a demonstration going on in the streets. Other less esoterically -educated modern young people of the twenty first century were also  spending their free time and stretching their imaginations in a slightly different way, worrying about how many times they’d be allowed to fly a flag during the coming year and what that might mean to their mental-well-being and “culture”.Something obviously had gone wrong on Earth 2. Many lessons were yet to be  assimilated.
I had to shake my head in wonder ….”Where do we start with their education?” Back to those concerts in the Ulster Hall?

“Doobie…doobie …doo…” ….Frank Sinatra “Strangers in the Night”..


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