Matt Jones

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Notes 13.7.2023

Photo of a white VanMoof bicycle leaning against a blue garage door
Photo of a white VanMoof bicycle leaning against a blue garage door Credit: Kwanz · CC BY 2.0

Today’s notes

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Link Notes 10 March 2023

1840s illustration of Herne the Hunter riding a horse
1840s illustration of Herne the Hunter riding a horse Credit: Wikimedia Commons · Public Domain

What I’m thinking about today. Interested in the power of music and memory, or how the former can trigger the latter. Also, crisis at the BBC.

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A post about Andor, with no spoilers.

I don’t tend to consume a lot of tv or films these days. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s a just a lack-of-time thing really.

I will occassionally seek out new Star Trek series (see what I did there) and watch the various Star Wars series when they come out.

I enjoyed the Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi, but couldn’t stick with The Book of Boba Fett. So when I saw yet another Star Wars series available on Disney Plus I sort of thought ‘not another series shoe-horned into the Star Wars saga’ and wasn’t particularly compelled to check it out.

Then I read up on it and saw that it was produced by the same team as Rogue One, which is widely considered to be the best of the post-prequel Star Wars films, to which I agree. You know when a film sticks in your mind for a bit after you’ve seen it? Well Rogue One is the only Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi that did that to me.

So on that basis, I decided to watch Andor, and having watched it, I’d say it’s up there with the best of the entire Star Wars franchise. It covers completely new ground with plotting and character development, it’s about fundamental themes of oppression and resistance, it’s visually stunning, it’s surprising, it’s tonally perfect with touches of humour in the right places, and it’s obviously written and directed by people with a singular vision who can write a good plot.

I’m just going to leave it there and say watch it.

The Active Travel Realisation Gap

There’s a ‘realisation gap’ between a) the delivery of quality active travel infrastructure and b) the vision of aspirational urban designers and the work of academics working in the field of active travel, as well as that of knowledgeable local activists and campaigners.

In some parts of the country, particularly in London, this gap is being closed thanks to the work of activists and local politicians with the vision and means to make change.

In others, the gap is more like a chasm, where attempts to bridge it are swiftly shut down by well organised campaigns from coalitions of groups who either have vested interest in maintaining the status quo, who are fearful or resistant to change because of perceived impact on their lives, or who want to politicise the issue in bitterly divided local authorities.

It gets worse though, because even now, roads are being built with no provision for active travel, or with substandard provision (usually paint) which will lock in car dependency for years to come. This is because those who have the greatest influence or decision-making power either have little interest in active travel and put the interests of drivers first, or at the very least do have interest but see active travel provision as of secondary importance, or as supporting mainly a leisure activity done by a minority of people.

The IPCC reports spell out how we must make major changes to our lifestyles if we are going to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5C. But these changes need supporting by massive investment backed by vision, education and communication, and not just in active travel, but in public transport too.

So I think we need to better understand this ‘realisation gap’ and examine all the things that are stopping us from closing it, and it’s way more complicated than simply having a lack of money. Because if there’s no vision and political will to make change, the gap will never be closed.

The National Health

In 2010 I was a web developer supporting a research project mapping childrens' health services across the UK. It was funded by the then Department of Health. My academic colleagues were leaders in their field working on a project to help improve children’s health services.

The Conservative / Lib Dem coalition government, formed in May of that year, effectively shut the project down as part of the government’s austerity agenda. Before the team disbanded, my colleagues, with decades of experience working public health between them, expressed concern for the future of the NHS under the new administration. I think it was a concern now validated by the state of the NHS today; underfunded in real terms, understaffed, and with remaining staff stretched and exhausted. This was happening before the pandemic too.

In 2009, the NHS was recorded as achieving very high levels of patient satisfaction (source). So what we’ve seen over the last 11 years is an abrogation by our government to support the NHS, fund it properly and maintain these levels of satisfaction.

If you know someone who works in the NHS, ask them about it and they will likely tell you they and their colleagues are exhausted. We were clapping them every Thursday last year, but what they really need is a change of government.

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