December 31, 2013

The artist's journey, Maria Popova Explains Our Remix Culture

The above image is a screen shot from a video on remix culture by Kirby Ferguson here and here
Maria Popova gave a Creative Mornings presentation here and included a video by Kirby Ferguson who said:
"George Lucas collected materials, he combined them, he transformed them. Without the films that preceeded it, there could be no Star Wars. Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives and the lives of others."
Watch the Kirby Ferson video, Everything is a Remix here. See Ferguson's blog here. Read about the remix culture on Wikipedia here. Watch the Maria Popova video in full here. Daniel Hannan on combinatorial creativity here.

My blog post on Aleks Krotoski on combinatorial creativity is here (Krotoski's blogs here, here and here). My previous posts on the artist's journey featuring political cartoonists Morten Morland, Martin Rowson and Steve Bell here, on the standing on the shoulder of giants cartoon by Thompson here and on Terry Bradley here. With a special focus on my work and on how I moved from a wine label illustration to an exhibition series here, on the elements that were combined to create a wall painting for Michael Deane here, the process behind a wall painting here, my move from pen and ink and into a clay model version of the Michael Deane Decano Man here, and my explanation on how the original Decano man was created here. On the Deaneos wine label, click here. For the Deaneos Prosecco label, click here.

My Art is Theft series featuring Ronald Searle, Quentin Blake and Morten Morland here, with Ian Knox and Brook here, with Morten Morland talking about theft here, and a piece on the links between Morten Morland and Michael Ramirez here. On the theft of Peter Brookes' cartoon, read here.

December 30, 2013

Retuning our definition of success, Ctd James Hart

"Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder." 
 - Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
In October 2013 The Irish Times wrote a piece here on the Irish rugby player James Hart by the title, 'James Hart’s work ethic at Grenoble opens alternative route to success.' And that's the key point. The assumption that natural gift is the normal route to success, as opposed to hard work. Matthew Syed spoke about that on Radio 4 which I covered here. James Hart explained his story to Peter O'Reilly in The Sunday Times of December 29 2013 here:
"I was on a bus on the way out to a 20s session in Donnybrook when I got the call. The day I got my Leaving Cert results. All I’d been working for was to make the Leinster 20s. It was a real kick in the balls. I just didn’t give up."
He explained his move to France and the role of being up close and personal with the senior players at Stade Toulousain:
"I was just in awe of [Byron Kelleher and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde]. I used to love watching the two of them pass and kick. Kelleher was so physically impressive. Elissalde was just so smart in the way he read the game and could kick off either foot. That summer I read one of Jonny Wilkinson’s books and it kind of made sense to me. I knew I had a bit of natural talent but I knew that if I was going to make anything of myself, I’d have to work extremely hard. So that’s what I decided... I’d have been bored out of my tree at weekends. I used to just have a bag of balls and kick and pass, I don’t know for how long. It was just what I used to do when I was bored. I suppose all those hours add up. At the start I found it tough. I wasn’t really playing well. I was thinking, ‘Am I really that good?’ And sometimes I wanted to go home. I rang my mam and told her: ‘I can’t do this.’ You’ve got to hold your own, though. I’d be upset for a little bit and I’d tell myself: ‘You’ve got to keep working. Maybe something will happen.’"
Bernard Jackman gave his take on James Hart here:
"Lots of players want to be great but not many are willing to put in the hours and hours of practice that it takes. I’ve never seen anybody train as hard as James Hart. He has made himself an unbelievably good, technical player. He’s picture perfect."
Read my blog post on Christopher Hitchens and his definition and secret to success here, where he said:
"I became a really hard worker. A person of almost iron self discipline. I built my own workspace at home. I never went to an office anymore. I didn't hang out with people at lunch. Got on with it. If I wasn't reading, I was writing."
We can also look to this quote by unknown:
"Successful people aren't born that way. They become successful by establishing the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don't like to do. The successful people don't always like these things themselves; they just get on and do them."
My previous posts on the need to redefine our definition of success with Maria Popova here, with Matthew Syed here, with Matthew Syed again here, with Dan Pink here, with Washington educationalist Michelle Rhee here, and with Sir Ken Robinson here. My posts on creativity with Charlie Rose here, with Aleks Krotowski on combinatorial creativity here, on networked knowledge here, here, with Giles Coren here, with Sinead O'Connor here, with Muriel Rukeyser here and on coffeehouses as crucibles of creativity here.

December 27, 2013

(Guest post) Special Delivery: a Screenplay

The characters:

John McCarthy: Journalist, and former hostage during the Lebanon Hostage Crisis, held captive for five years from 1986 to 1991. Now making a documentary series for the BBC with Sandi Toksvig called Island Race.

 Big Tony: Taxi driver for AA Taxis on the Lower Ormeau Road. Sound big fella.

Act 1. Scene 1: The A2 between Belfast and Bangor, 1995, hedged rural landscape. Dawn is just breaking and the taxi’s headlamps are on. We see the car from behind, rolling calmly along the otherwise deserted road in the half-light. Big Tony is a reliable driver, and has been specifically sought out and tasked with collecting John McCarthy early in the morning. He knows who is in his cab. John is going to Bangor to visit his old cell mate Brian Keenan.

[We can hear the conversation from inside the taxi]:

Big Tony: Do I know you from somewhere?

John McCarthy: I’m John McCarthy.

December 25, 2013

Northern Ireland's social and economic emigrant, Ctd

Susan Hattis Rolef wrote a piece in The Jerusalem Post here by the title, 'Think About It: Why Israelis moved to Europe'. She said of why young Israelis leave Israel:
"The reasons for their decision to leave are varied, and include besides the economic reasons (usually the straw that breaks the camel’s back) loss of hope that peace will ever prevail between Israel and its neighbors, for which they believe Israel is as much to blame as the Arabs; discomfort with the lack of determination of Israel’s leaders to make a serious effort to separate religion and state, and enable seculars to enjoy nonreligious marriages and burial services, public transportation on Saturday etc.; and the feeling that life in Israel frequently feels like life in a pressure cooker, where too many people are nervous, intolerant and violent."
Sound familiar? I touched on the issue of forced emigration from Northern Ireland on here. I also wrote a piece on Slugger O'Toole here in response to a question David McCann wrote here on the same site: 'Are Young People Getting a Fair Go Politically in Northern Ireland?'

Previous post in the series here.

Why "Thinking like a lawyer" is a nonsense

Senior editor and legal correspondent, Dahlia Lithwick said in The New Republic here:
"Being trained to “think like a lawyer” is terrific as far as it goes. But legal education is notoriously abstract, impractical, and obfuscating. I don’t want someone to “think like a doctor” when she’s taking out my gall bladder. I want her to take out my gall bladder."
Jordan Weismann, associate editor of The Atlantic Magazine said the same for the tired platitude, "thinking like a lawyer". He said here:
"And in the end, despite all the homilies about how you can do anything with a law degree, firms big and small are still the major driver of J.D. hiring. Without Big Law's explosive growth, it's impossible to imagine that law schools would have ever expanded or raised tuition the way they did during the good times. With Big Law on the rocks, we can only be thankful that schools themselves are now shrinking."

December 24, 2013

The artist's journey, Ctd Terry Bradley

If we compare the image above and below with the 3 images at the bottom it is remarkable to see the evolution of the artist, Terry Bradley, over the years. From work that is clumpy and crude to delicate and detailed. It really proves what Sir Ken Robinson preaches here, that artistic and skills of creativity can be learnt and developed. It also gives a nod to Maria Popova and Matthew Syed who say here that we need to reevaluate success and how we achieve it.

My previous posts on the artist's journey here and here, and with focus on my work here, here and here.

December 23, 2013

Live Drawing - Christmas Party

I was at a Christmas party and took on the task of entertaining the kids with my grand selection of pens, pencils, crayons, felt-tip pens and paper. Below are some of the cartoons I produced as well as one of baby Henry.

Art is theft, Ctd Ronald Searle and Morten Morland

Ronald Searle above. Morten Morland remixes below:

And below is Quentin Blake:

#WhitePaper - The case for Northern Ireland Ctd Conall McDevitt

The goal of this series is to articulate a positive, considered and optimistic case for maintaining the Union. My first post on the series is here. (An earlier piece again that inspired this project, which includes contributions from Diarmaid Ferriter, Charles Townsend, Alan Hynes, Seán Ó Faoláin and Ernest A. Boyd can be read here.) In the second post I want to look at what Conall McDevitt had to say on the matter of a United Ireland in an interview with Alan in Belfast here.

His first point was the very raison d'etre of this series, that the case for a United Ireland hasn't actually been articulated. He said:
"If we’re honest with ourselves we haven’t done a huge amount of work in trying to work through what that would look like (if you’re thinking about a united Ireland) or to consider the practical issues around it. How would you pay for it? What system of government might be best? Would it be a unitary state? Or would you have a federal Ireland?"
Below are a selection of interesting points made by Conall. The first that there is a need to make Northern Ireland work:
"The trick to a new Ireland is to make Northern Ireland as it is today work. That is the key to building a new Ireland. To make Northern Ireland as it is today a success."
He also said that a United Ireland would likely be federal:
"Éamon de Valera in debates in the Dáil at the time of the Republic of Ireland bill, whenever they were establishing the republic, talked openly and at length about the fact that a united Ireland would nearly certainly be a federal Ireland. O think federalism would be the way of us being able to capture the diversity of who we are. It would be the way we could use to acknowledge regional identities and regional levels of government at the same time as having a national sense of purpose. It would involve sending TDs to the Dáil rather than MPs to Westminster but Stormont would most likely remain. Stormont would most likely continue to run the health service here."
He also said that people would be free to express their British identity. He said:
"There’s no question that in the new Ireland people born and wishing to enjoy a British identity should have the right to that identity. That seems to me to be a fundamental tenet of the new Ireland."
The first post in the series can be seen here and the earlier piece again which inspired this project (and includes contributions from Diarmaid Ferriter, Charles Townsend, Alan Hynes, Seán Ó Faoláin and Ernest A. Boyd) can be read here.

December 22, 2013

The doctrine of 'Civil Intolerance'

The Quilliam Foundation explained the need for the UK to adopt a clear anti-extremism strategy and explained the need for 'civil intolerance' here:
"The UK prides itself on its ability to uphold civil liberties and the values of tolerance, respect and democracy. These should not be compromised, and a doctrine of ‘legal tolerance’ should be adhered to when dealing with extremist views. There is naturally a reluctance to intervene in the rights of others with regards to the associations they make. Despite this hesitation however, the fact that extremism in any form poses a threat to our civil liberties and to the British values we cherish so much cannot be ignored. Ideas and ideologies that sow division, bigotry and hatred such as those that may eventually lead to terrorism should not and cannot be left unchallenged in our society. Here, a doctrine of ‘civil intolerance’ is encouraged."
Quilliam policy document in full here.

The artist's journey, Ctd Model Decano Man

Above and below you will see a sample of images of a clay model I made in the spur of the moment after a flash of inspiration. The model is of Michael Deane's Decano man which was originally produced for my exhibition, Belfast Faces and Famous Places and then used on Michael Deane's Chez Deaneo wine bottle (read about that process here). Click here to see the combinational, remix and networked creative process that helped to create the Decano Man in that started all this. That then lead onto the Horse Meat series of paintings here which placed the Decano figure into a series of culinary, gastronomical and animal settings. This was then followed by a commission to produce an image for Michael Deane's signature Prosecco (read about that process here). 

This also coincided with a commission to produce a 6 foot wall painting which further built on the look, feel and style of the Decano man series (see that process here). This then led onto a 4 foot wall painting which built again on all of the work made up until that point (see that process here). At that stage, the process slowed in terms of output but undoubtedly continued internally. Then came the inspiration to create the clay model. From this point I hope to create a fuller model by colour and detail.

Surveying the whole process it is interesting to see that, from that one drawing of Michael Deane has exploded a fountain of creativity which hasn't stopped flowing. And the clay model Decano man is just the latest in a serial and sequential creative process. Long may it continue.

  • Belfast Faces and Famous Places here.
  • Deaneos wine here.
  • The combinatorial and remix creative process that created the original Decano Man here.
  • Horse Meat exhibition here.
  • Deaneo's Prosecco here.

Overview the whole process from start to finish by viewing herehere, hereherehereherehere and here.

December 21, 2013

Third Way - 21 December 2013

I made a brief address along the following lines.
"Peace has to be fought for in every generation. As Christopher Hitchens said, the enlightenment principles have to be promoted and defended time after time. We are the post-conflict generation. We are the poeple of Northern Ireland who have liberated ourselves from the Cold War mentality of green versus orange. We are like Rosa Luxembourg, internationalists whose loyalties lie beyond the nation state. 
Our leaders are failing. As Trevor Ringland said, we need to become more demanding of our leaders. 
We want to mark the 16th anniversary of the GFA and every year thereafter. Look at Hannah Nelson. She is so representative of the post-conflict generation. She was wheeled out for Obama and then binned, and the extremists were wheeled back in. The United Community document was rushed out for Obama and then shelved. Now we have the Haass failure. 
Tony Novosel said post-conflict societies can slip back into violence. The precedence is there also  that socities can maintain the peace. Just as Americans fought for the removal of the Jim crow laws, so we need to fight for change. The urge to censor and shut out unwelcome or unpleasant opinions will always exist. Freedom of speech has to be refought for in every generation.  
W.B. Yeats wrote: 'The centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/ The worst are full of riotous passions, the best lack all conviction.' We the best need to fight for our peace, stability and prosperity."
More images from the day below:

December 20, 2013

Live Drawing - DUP politicians

I spent the Saturday of November 23 2013 with the Arts Council NI at the DUP Conference drawing politicians and the proceedings. To see a selection of my drawings of the proceedings click here. To see a selection of my drawings of the politicians click and see below.

Also see my blog post on drawing Edwin Poots here.

Guest post - Big Fish

It is a beautiful, sunny Saturday in early June, and I am driving along the Ormeau past the old Post Office. On the other side of the road, outside the Bangla Bazar, are two Romanian men. They are probably in their forties, wearing tatty black trousers and mismatched shiny-elbowed suit jackets. The balding one with the Saddam Hussein moustache is my neighbour; he lives across the street from me, in a household of two families. The two men are passing an oversized bottle of white wine between them. It is nearly empty. My neighbour holds on to his bicycle with his left hand as he takes a good long swig from the bottle. His bike is old, the black paint giving way to patches of rust. There is a wicker basket attached to the front, suspended between the handlebars and the battered mudguard, and sticking out of it is a massive fish. Its dead black eyes glare accusingly at the living world around it. I don’t know what sort of fish it is, or what seas it came from. It is fat, oval shaped; the body must be at least two feet long. It is going to take some cooking.

December 19, 2013

Art is theft, Ctd

The cartoon above my Rick Brookes (who signed 'Brook'), 'For heaven's sake come back in John - it looks like rain!' was done in 1994. The visual idiom was repeated and remixed by Ian Knox in the cartoon below from 2010.

Getting Simpsonised

And click below to see the full "Simpsonisation" process from start to finish.

December 18, 2013

Art is theft, Ctd Morten Morland

Morten Morland wrote here:
"Influence, plagiarism, copying etc, is a difficult subject in any creative profession. It’s been said that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, but I have a feeling it was a plagiarist who first said it. In court. On his knees. It’s bollocks of course. In its purest form it’s the sincerest form of laziness… 
In a profession like cartooning though, it can often be difficult to distinguish between intentional plagiarism and (unfortunate) coincidence, and between influence and identity theft. I reckon most cartoonist at some point must have drawn a cartoon and realised afterwards that the idea was not a result of their own brilliance, but an unintentional ‘rip-off’ of an idea they’d seen in the past. As most cartoonists themselves are eager follower of cartoons, it is not entirely surprising that this can happen.

Martin Amis on the good effect of in-migration

Martin Amis wrote of the good effect of in-migration here:
"As England becomes more like America in the sense of more like an immigrant society people like that are going to have a bit of play for a while. It’s not going to be smooth that switch. It’s much to be desired I think. [It’s] a very complicated issue but in principle it would do England nothing but good to mix it even more."

December 17, 2013

Christopher Hitchens left England in part, because of the Libel Laws

We have a great tradition in this country. It goes back a long way; the classic statements of which are in John  Milton's Areopagitica, and in John Stuart Mill's essay On Liberty where it is said (Christopher Hitchens paraphrases):
"However discredited an opinion may be, to ban it would still be a huge mistake; because otherwise there would be no way of finding out if you yourself had made a correct point. If you had no opponent; if you silenced them there would be no opponent. There would be no measure of your own articulacy or your own willingness to argue."                                             (At 56 minutes 40 seconds of video above)
Hitchens adds his take:
"Thus, it must always be the case that any opinion, no matter how unpopular must be at the front and centre of the argument."
Christopher Hitchens then said that Rosa Luxemburg put it even better:
"Freedom of speech is meaningless unless it's for the person who thinks differently."
Member of the audience then asked: "do you believe in the laws of libel and slander?"

Christopher Hitchens replied:
"No. I left England partly because of the laws of libel. It makes journalism almost impossible. Because again, it's a matter of her feelings (lady beside him). The person bringing a law suit in Britain (many of them tried it on me when I was here) has only to prove that their reputation has been damaged or that their feelings have been hurt. They don't have to prove what I say is not true."
He then added a real shock and awe statement which if you think about it, does kind of ring true. Hitch said:
"There you have it again: it's a secular form of a blasphemy law."                                                 (At 57 minutes 25 seconds of the video above)
Powerful stuff. YouTube video in full here.

My previous posts on Hitchens on Northern Ireland here, on segregated schools here, on Vaclav Havel here, on Northern Ireland's "barbaric, sectarian leaders" here, on the US First Amendment here, on the US as an empire and clas-based society here, and on how to succeed here.

Eventually the relationship between words and money will be reconfigured, Ctd

Libby Purves wrote in The Times here:
"We are living through a technology-driven hiccup in which this obvious truth is blurred, as an online generation grows up with the erroneous belief that music, films, streamed TV and news should be as free as air and sunshine. Ironically, this same generation includes an unprecedentedly large proportion who fancy media careers. What do they plan to live on? 
My theory is that by 2020 robust online paywalls will be the norm (probably with micropayments per view) and people will look back at us wonderingly, as we now look back at slavery or the days before driving tests. 
National papers are commercial enterprises with proprietors and shareholders. They can each work out their own destiny, whether by erecting paywalls or through aggressive advertising and data-mining."
Will Self spoke to the same effect on Radio 4 here when he said that, "eventually the relationship between words and money will be reconfigured."

December 16, 2013

The artist's journey and combinatorial creativity Ctd


Adam Wagner - Human rights law can help settle Niqaab question

Adam Wagner has it here and cites the presiding judge HHJ Murphy who said:
"No tradition or practice, whether religious or otherwise, can claim to occupy such a privileged position that the rule of law, open justice, and the adversarial trial process are sacrificed to accommodate it. That is not a discrimination against religion. It is a matter of upholding the rule of law in a democratic society."
Adams also notes here:
"The real human rights fight over niqaabs is still to come, when the European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber assesses France’s ban on niqaabs in all public places (case details here)."
Adam Wagner's personal take is that we should leave it with the rules of the ECHR. He said:
"Whatever your own gut reaction to the niqaab, I suggest that the human rights approach is the best we have available to resolving this complex issue. It allows for the needs of different individuals and groups to be fed into a balancing framework, evolved not from gut instinct or populism but from past experience of dealing with similar issues. The decisions this generates may end up pleasing nobody, but that can also be seen as a success rather than a failure where interests do not, and cannot, entirely coincide."

Conformity and convention is over-rated

Sarah Green wrote in the HBR here
"Americans love to give lip service to creativity, celebrating imaginative artists and innovators and calling for "out of the box" ideas. Yet when we encounter creativity in real time -- before we know whether an unusual or outlandish idea will pay off -- we’re all too quick to reject it, argues Jessica Olien. She runs through a litany of evidence that becomes more and more depressing, but she comes to a surprisingly optimistic conclusion, thanks to research out of Cornell that shows being rejected leads creative people to conclude that conformity is overrated and thus liberates them from the need to fit in. True, this often doesn't lead to happiness -- but it does lead to more creativity. "To live creatively is a choice," Olien concludes. "You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself." I find those words oddly comforting. But maybe I'm just being creative."
My blog post on the Dilbert creator and my Dilbert moment here. Timothy Ferriss, prolific author, speaks in similar terms. As Tim Ferriss said in the Four Hour Work Week:
"The common sense rules of the real world are a fragile collection of socially reinforced illusions."
As I often say, Silicon Valley is less a place and more a mindset. That's why we need to think like Maria Popova and Matthew Syed here and Sir Ken Robinson here, and totally re-evaluate the educational experience and education's relationship with industry.

In a new world with a new and exciting economy, we need to think and act anew. If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.

December 15, 2013

Agency and activism - Mary Robinson

Change demands action, agency and activism. It requires the young and free minded to challenge every accepted norm. As Fareed Zakaria said here, there is nothing inevitable about the continuance and rise of liberal democracy. I wrote of Mary Robinson's agency and activism on here:
"Northern Ireland needs the modern, functioning, internationalist youth to push back against discriminatory holdouts.
We should look to the foresight of Mary Robinson, who in 1967 at the age of 23, used her inaugural address as auditor of the law society in Dublin to speak on law and morality and take on every sacred cow. She took on the authoritarian and repressive influence of the Catholic Church, fighting for contraception, women’s rights, divorce, abortion and gay rights."
History has show that sacred cows make the juiciest burgers. Mary Robinson's first piece of legislation aimed to overturn the ban on the import, distribution and sale of contraceptives. In response to this action condoms were posted through her letterbox and she was denounced from the pulpit by the bishop of Ballina Cathedral. She also worked as a legal advisor for the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform with future Trinity College senator David Norris (my blog post on David Norris here).

As Christopher Hitchens said: "That's one definition of corruption, is indifference." Judge Alan Mahon said the same in the 2010 Tribunal report when he said: "Ignorance and apathy are both corruption catalysts [because] the pathways of corruption are ever changing." As Tom Hayden said: "A silent majority and government by the people is incompatible."

Mick Fealty said here: "If you don't vote that's as good as an approval, albeit a lukewarm one." The same figures for silence, indifference and neutrality on violence and economic vandalism.

Read my blog on Peter Tatchell and on the need to provoke and even offensive here. My blog post on the Heroine of Hackney who spoke out against the rioters in London in 2011 here.

When it's cool to be dumb, Ctd "Gay panic"

Andtew Sullivan wrote here:
"A 2006 study found that, out of all Americans, white heterosexual men have the fewest friends. Lisa Wade blames the conditioning boys undergo in their teens: 
[M]en are pressed — from the time they’re very young — to disassociate from everything feminine. This imperative is incredibly limiting for them. Paradoxically, it makes men feel good because of a social agreement that masculine things are better than feminine things, but it’s not the same thing as freedom. It’s restrictive and dehumanizing. It’s oppression all dressed up as awesomeness. And it is part of why men have a hard time being friends. 
To be close friends, men need to be willing to confess their insecurities, be kind to others, have empathy and sometimes sacrifice their own self-interest. “Real men,” though, are not supposed to do these things. They are supposed to be self-interested, competitive, non-emotional, strong (with no insecurities at all), and able to deal with their emotional problems without help. Being a good friend, then, as well as needing a good friend, is the equivalent of being girly.
Katy Waldman thinks it’s also about gay panic:
Wade doesn’t mention the rainbow elephant in the room, but I wonder whether men are less afraid of girliness here than homosexuality. In many ways, it’s a distinction without a difference, since homophobes tend to imagine gay men as effete. But if a man ever is allowed to relax his stone face, it’s around his romantic partner. Being open, communicative, vulnerable—all of these behaviors evoke love relationships. It makes a sad kind of sense that boys trying to assert their masculinity would steer clear of playing the “boyfriend” around other guys."
My earlier posts in the 'When it's cool to be dumb' series can be accessed here, here (UDA prisoner), hereherehereherehere, here and hereOn the Huffington Post UK here.

December 14, 2013

Christopher Hitchens - "It's my life, the First Amendment..."

Christopher Hitchens said at 19 minutes here and above that the First Amendment of the US Constitution was his life:
"I don't make my living from the First Amendment, though I do, it's my life the First Amendment. I hope I don't sound exagerated, it's my life the principles of that Amendment. And I have no right to betray it and it's not to be handed off to the first bunch of clerical bullies who come round to the office. And that's what happened without a struggle."

Panel - Social media, politics and protest

I had the great pleasure of featuring on the panel event, Social Media, Politics & Protests at University of Ulster on social media and civic change on December 10 2013, organised by (@ornayoung). Alan in Belfast (@alaninbelfast) covered the event on Slugger here. Alan in Belfast also has audio here and here. Images from the day here.Tweets from the day via Storify here.

The TCD Social Media panel which preceded this event in October 2013 can be seen here. See my discussion with Sharon O'Neill of UTV on social media law here.

Below is a paraphrased account of my presentation from the UU event:

1. Overview of social media and the rule of law:
"In the last decade we've seen a creative technological explosion. Technology is ubiquitous. Technology has penetrated into every corner of life. It's power lies in the freedom it gives people. The freedom to build and maintain new and old relations, create businesses and overthrow tyrannical governments. 
But this is a two-pronged freedom. Social media gives the freedom to do great good. Social gives the freedom to do great bad. By that formula, social media is both a criminal weapon and a weapon of mass reputational destruction.

Ian Knox - Lifelines and Deadlines

Above is Ian Knox at the opening of his exhibition, 'Lifelines and Deadlines'. You can read my preview on Slugger O'Toole here. Also see my blog post with pictures of Ian at work here. Pictures of Ian and I drawing together here. Another blog post on Ian Knox's cartoons on loyalism here. The Irish news reported on the exhibition here and said:
Irish News cartoonist Ian Knox was last night praised for his "gift of finding the perfect illustration" as an exhibition showcasing decades of his life's work was launched in Belfast. His "original way of seeing things" has seen him produce works of art spanning several decades and last night his drawings went on show in a rare solo exhibition. From newspaper cartoons to material featured on TV, as well as book and magazine illustrations, a wide variety of his original work is on display for the first time. 
The 'Lifelines and Deadlines' exhibition opened at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast last night and was attended by a host of artists, journalists and politicians. The month-long exhibition showcases the 70-year-old's award-winning work, spanning several decades.

Guest post - Wifeless

Jason O'Rourke giving a reading in Belfast city centre
I am waiting outside Botanic Station. I had been in Bangor earlier, playing some music for a charity event in a bar near the seafront. It was hosted by a TV sports journalist with a face made for Widescreen; it was, unexpectedly, even flatter and broader in the flesh than it looked on the news. I thought you were supposed to look bigger on the telly, not the other way round. He was very friendly and professional. I did my bit, got paid, and cleared off. Despite the offer of free pints, there would be no drinking for me – my wife and I had made plans for the afternoon, and soon she would be coming to lift me in the car.

It is busy outside the station, with ones going into the hairdressers and cafés, students getting carryouts from the off-licence, and music-lovers going into the second-hand record store over the road. I love that shop; it has a great selection of vinyl LPs and cassettes as well as CDs, and it’s not too pricey. Next door is a brilliant place that has an array of mops, clothes-pegs on cardboard, buckets, rubber washing-up gloves in packets, step ladders, laundry baskets, and all manner of other useful stuff, suspended and stacked around the door. The entrance entices with promises of an Aladdin’s Cave of plastic goods inside. I vow to go in and explore when I have a minute.

Alex Massie - Causing offence has become the greatest sin imaginable

Alex Massie (@alexmassie) featured on Ask Andrew Anything here and above and said of the British and American press and wider culture:
"Causing offence has become the greatest sin imaginable in modern America and to some extent in Britain also as well where we so often follow American cultural leads."
My blog post on self-censorship as the worst form of censorship here. The student culture of censorship here. My blog post on the urge to censor in Northern Ireland here.

December 13, 2013

John Major - Loyalism's "phantom fear"

John Major said of the loyalist flag protesters here.
"I think it's a phantom fear... It's perfectly clear from the Downing Street Declaration and everything that for so long as Northern Ireland wishes to remain British, so long as the people of Northern Ireland wish to remain British, they will remain British. 
No-one is abandoning them, no-one is pushing them to one side. If you look at everyday life in Northern Ireland it is incomparably better than it was 20 to 25 years ago. Incomparably better for the people who are currently dissatisfied and for their children and for the future."
BBC report in full here. Mick Fealty had earlier said:
The flegs crisis is an unnecessary elevation of the trivial to a cause of crisis, which typifies the limited vision of the OFMdFM ‘partnership’.
Peter Robinson said:

"I fear the real danger for Unionism lies not in what our opponents would seek to do to us but in what we do to ourselves."

Art is theft, Ctd

Michael Ramirez in 2006 above and here. Morten Morland repeated and remixed in 2010 and 2012 below: 

The two worlds of Northern Ireland, Ctd Pale orange and green

Pete Shirlow of QUB wrote here:
"With secularisation there is a growing ‘1690 what do you mean’ group that is similar to the ‘1916 what do you mean’ group in the South... There is a growth in people who feel politics is too sectarian or too nationalist. They are operating a civic-shared identity through their lifestyle. They will socialise together, intermarry, go to gigs together. They are in many ways – but not completely – sectarian blind, or tradition blind... It was primarily within the unionist electorate but from my observations it is starting to grow within the nationalist community. It is neither unionist nor Irish, it is identity-less, at most pale Orange or Green."
Read me blog on professor John Brewer who said that the silent majority needs to reclaim the peace process here. My blog on Fionualla Meredith who said people need to speak up and pound the streets here. My blog following Richard Haass comment that a majority want peace is hereMy previous posts in "The Two Worlds of Northern Ireland" series herehereherehereherehere and here.

December 12, 2013

Books should be articles

Newton Emerson on the right to protest

Newton Emerson explains three points of law in the Sunday Times here:
Two weeks ago, the Apartment Bar opposite Belfast City Hall received a letter from Stormont’s Department of the Environment. An advertising banner inside the bar’s front window constituted illegal signage under the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991, the letter warned. Failure to remove it within 14 days would incur a fine of £2,500 (€3,000) plus £250 for each day thereafter. 
Meanwhile on the internet, plans were being laid for a flag protest at the front of City Hall that would involve 1,000 people illegally obstructing the road, before illegally marching into east Belfast, and sparking a riot. None of the organisers, who can be readily identified through their Facebook pages, have so far been threatened with fines for breaching the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 or the Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993, which ironically bans “obstruction” and “unauthorised advertisements” in the same section. 
When flag protesters began blocking Northern Ireland’s roads seven weeks ago many complaints about the policing response focused on the difference between loyalist and republican demonstrations, specifically the contrast with North Belfast last summer when republicans sat down in the road to block an Orange Order parade and the PSNI promptly dragged them off. 
In fact, there is no right to protest in either domestic or European law. The concept is inferred from the rights to free assembly and free expression — which are secondary to public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of the rights and freedoms of others and the preservation of a democratic society. 
Flag protesters have rode roughshod over all these concerns and it is irresponsible to indulge any notion of their “right” to do so. The intimidating daily pickets of Alliance party offices in east Belfast, for example, are breaking the Human Rights Act rather than exercising it. They are also breaking the Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland) Order 1997."
In full here.

Alex Kane - Sinn Fein greatest hits tour

Eamonn Mallie wrote of Sinn Fein here:
"Opinion poll after opinion poll indicates that support for a united Ireland is falling rather than rising among small-n nationalism. There is no appetite south of the border for unity anytime soon. Yes, Sinn Fein may be able to nibble at the heels of unionism/loyalism on some issues, but the Union itself looks stronger than ever. Put bluntly, a united Ireland looks no more likely now than it did in August 1994, or July 1997, or April 1998, or March 2007. 
All of which explains why those dissenting from the Adams analysis are growing in number and now seem determined to make the case for a return to the tactics of the ‘armed struggle.’ And it poses a very real problem for Sinn Fein, who are not capable of pointing to much in the way of progress and so have to revert to a strategy which is best summed up as a ‘greatest hits tour’ in which martyrs, prison escapes, key events and ‘victories’ have to be celebrated on an almost weekly basis. And if it annoys the hell out of the unionists, then so much the better."

December 11, 2013

Why does everyone want to go to law school? Ctd

The Lawyer Magazine wrote here:
"With 14,000 students chasing 5,000 places, recruiters are rethinking the selection routine. Anyone hunting a training contract should note the endless queue. University graduates see law as a relatively safe option in a rocky jobs market, but in 2009/10 there were 11,370 full-time and 3,140 part-time LPC places compared with just 4,874 newly registered training contracts."

Drawing Edwin Poots

Check out my drawings of Edwin Poots above and below. See my Slugger O'Toole cartoons of Edwin Poots here, here and here.

December 10, 2013

Myth, misrepresentation and misinformation in Northern Ireland

The amount of myth, misrepresentation and misinformation, and plain misuse and abuse of language and emotion in the debate in Northern Ireland is shocking. The idea that young Catholics had no option other than to join the IRA is kicked around with absolute abandon - it's reckless, absurd, outrageous and preposterous.

Fintan O'Toole said in 1998 in The New York Review of Books:
"Most of the current leadership of Sinn Fein is made up of men who were, in the 1960s, angry young Catholics."
Angry young catholics are doing the same in 2013. I wrote about this generational cycle of extremism here. Young men with over-sized adrenalin glands. Anyway Here's Tom Kelly setting Gerry Kelly's IRA narrative straight in the August 19 edition of The Irish News:
"Gerry kelly recently said young people like him in the early 1970s had no choice but to join the IRA but that is simply not true. Back then as now they had choices. The Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 was actually stronger in nationalist terms than either the Good Friday or Saint Andrews Agreement. The vast majority of young nationalists did not join the ranks of the IRA. Had they, the Maze would have been five times the size it is."
Newton Emerson said in Slugger:
"I didn’t say the IRA started the Troubles. I said Sinn Fein is advancing an anti-discrimination ‘fight for equality’ narrative as a consistent explanation for why the Troubles began and ended." 
He continued: 
"During the Troubles the vast majority of the nationalist electorate pointedly rejected IRA violence but since the ceasefires a reassessment of that violence was necessary and warranted by ‘unionist misrule’ has crept into the nationalist mainstream.  
By extension, as Mr Kavanagh seemed to imply, a ‘discriminatory’ special advisers bill threatens to take us back to where we started. In fact, there is no risk to peace from this minor inconvenience to Sinn Fein’s party machine. 
A far greater threat is pretending the entire 30-year span of the IRA campaign was justified, its violence was successful and victims like Mary Travers were an accidental aberration. A clumsy law may be a small price to pay to remind ourselves that this was not the case."
On the IRA delivering rights for Catholics, it was said:
"I don’t know what equality measures were achieved as a result of violence. Five of the six demands of the Civil Rights Movement were achieved very early on before violence got going, the Housing Executive was a Hume idea, fair employment legislation was put in place in the teeth of Provo violent opposition and the Provos opposed every aspect of the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement."
"The main reforms took place in 1968, nearly 2 years before the formation of the SDLP, directly as a result of the actions of NICRA. Of course, some members of NICRA went on to prominence in the SDLP.  
Not only did the Provos not achieve reforms, they didn’t actually want reforms – having a single entirely different objective in mind: a united Ireland. Judged against their sole aim, their achievements were nearly 2000 deaths and no actual progress."
Eamon McCann said:

"So for the time being a fractious alliance held together. And it seemed to be getting some results. The civil rights demonstrations which took place throughout Northern Ireland, but most frequently and dramatically in Derry, in the weeks after 5 October forced concessions from the Unionists. On 8 November a specially requisitioned meeting of the Corporation accepted a Nationalist motion setting up a three-man committee to allocate houses. Alderman Hegarty and two Unionists were elected to the committee. Shortly afterwards O’Neill announced a five-point package of reforms. These involved a plan to abolish Derry Corporation, universal franchise, and a promise that sections of the Special Powers Act would be ‘put into cold storage’ (but not so cold as to prevent rapid re-heating when the occasion arose)."

The reality is that the civil rights marches achieved 80% of their aims a full two years before the PIRA started its campaign of violence.

The artist's journey, Ctd Deane's wall painting #2

Check out how I went from brief to final product in the images above and below.

The artist's journey, Ctd From Deaneos Wine to Horse Meat

Maria Popova writes about combinatorial creativity and networked learning in the 'about section' of Brain Pickings here:
"The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: It’s our ability to tap into the mental pool of resources — ideas, insights, knowledge, inspiration — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to culture, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these ideas and build new ideas — like LEGOs. The more of these building blocks we have, and the more diverse their shapes and colors, the more interesting our creations will be."
This is my experience of being an artist.

December 09, 2013

Live Drawing - #DUP13 Conference

The Arts Council Northern Ireland asked me to come an draw DUP politicians and delegates at the DUP Conference 2013. See my drawings at the Arts Council NI workshop day at W5 in the Odyssey Belfast here.

Douglas Murray - Self-censorship is the worst form of censorship

Douglas Murray wrote in The Sepctator Magazine in 2011 here:
"Self-censorship is the most invidious and successful type of censorship – not just because it is self-reinforcing but because once it is people invent reasons to cover for themselves. So the worst thing that any British journal can imagine doing today is to run a cartoon of Muhammad. Not because – as they all say in public – it is insensitive, or provocative or offensive. These are all names and things that journalists rejoice in getting called. It is simply and solely (as they sometimes admit in private) because they know that they will be at some degree of risk if they do."
Nick Cohen wrote that censorship is at its most effective when no one admits it exists here
"Censorship is at its most effective when no one admits it exists."
Dominic Cooke said something similar in 2008 in the same magazine here:
"Many liberals, out of a fear of appearing racist, and with shared sympathy for many of the political causes that also motivate those with a fundamentalist agenda turn a blind eye to such intolerance." 
Wilbur Smith is known for saying: "Quite frankly, I think political correctness is the worst form of censorship." Al WeiWei has said also: "Censorship is saying: 'Im the who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine."

Christopher Hitchens on how to succeed

At 6 minutes 20 seconds, Christopher Hitchens explained his move to Washington here:
"I think my life changed when I moved to Washington because I became a really hard worker. A person of almost iron self discipline. I built my own workspace at home. I never went to an office anymore. I didn't hang out with people at lunch. Got on with it. If I wasn't reading, I was writing. It's 'cause there are no distractions in Washington DC. Washington was like taking my vow. It was like becoming a friar. I can't recommend the vow of monk-hood or friar-hood too highly if you want to get on with doing some real work."
This echoes the quote by V. S. Pritchett who wrote in an essay about the English historian Edward Gibbon:
"Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing." 
There's also this famous quote made by unknown:
"Successful people aren't born that way. They become successful by establishing the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don't like to do. The successful people don't always like these things themselves; they just get on and do them.”
Video interview with Hitchens in full here and further below. He also said in an interview here:
"The main thing I keep saying, never tire of saying is, to keep testing yourself against other writers who are better than you. That's what qualifies one as a writer I think, as permanently running the risk of having to say, 'I don't know why I bother.'"
He also said:
"The essential thing for being a good writer is being a good reader." 
He said in an interview here at 22 minutes that a writer can never really stop.

TCD Social media panel

On Friday 18 October the Political Studies Association of Ireland hosted a conference in Trinity College Dublin which included a panel looking at new media and new politics and their influence on conflict transformation in Northern Ireland. Chaired by Niall Ó Dochartaigh (NUI Galway), I featured alongside Alex Kane (Journalist), Paul Reilly (Uni. of Leicester) and Alan Meban (Political blogger). 

Alan in Belfast covered the event here. See my images of the day and of the event above and below.

#WhitePaper - What's the case for a united Ireland?

In the spirit of Whitepapers (i.e. Scotland's Future: Your guide to an independent Scotland) I'm asking: What's the case for a United Ireland? What would a United Ireland look like? This is a rolling "White Paper" series I'm kicking of right now. Why? Because nobody else is doing it. Because nobody - again I say nobody - is able to actually make a reasoned case, or actually tell me what a United Ireland would actually look like, save that partition is an abomination, the original sin and that unionists are illegitimate colonists. When Salmond et al. came out with his considered and thought out proposal which he has put to the people of Scotland, I muttered, jeez if I were a nationalist/republican I'd be writing a White Paper pronto.

Well I'm pre-empting that. Doing that with my "White Paper" blog series which will make the case for not having a United Ireland. I submit to you that this is timely development and I ask you to join me in this mission.

To get things moving I think it necessary to understand the current state of affairs in the Irish republic. The usual criticism is the €200m public debt. That's a bit cheap. I want to hear more. So, what's the story of the Republic of Ireland right now and in recent history?

Let's begin by looking at The Growing Up in Ireland study which began in 2008, the same year Fianna Fáil implemented their No Bondholders Left Behind policy. The nation-wide study is following a representative sample of 11,000 children as they grow up in the post-Celtic Tiger Ireland.

Ironically since 2008, a great many children in Ireland have been left behind. Fintan O'Toole outlined a few startling facts in The Irish Times here. His headline was that "The gap in health between the best-off and worst-off children has doubled in the three years after the bank guarantee." Here's his main points:

"One child in every four is living in a home where nobody at all has a job (In 2010, 22 per cent of all Irish households were jobless; the next highest proportion in Europe – the UK – was 13 per cent)."
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