Category Archives: Uncategorized

Review: Toy Story 4 — spoilers

 

 

** Spoilers ahoy for both Toy Story 4 and Remains of the Day — Look away now **

The Toy Story 4 plot is a mixture of Remains of the Day and the Empty Nest Syndrome.

The story begins with a flashback to nine years previously when Woody has to choose between protecting and caring for his child, Andy, and love. At that time, Andy was young and still needed Woody who was the ‘favourite toy’, as the cowboy says in the movie.

However, time has passed and his new owner is more interested in playing with other toys. She prefers a cowgirl to a cowboy and Woody has to examine whether loyalty alone can sustain him as he is rejected and kept in the closet.

Woody used to be the leader of the toy household but now he can no longer claim that accolade.

Bonnie is set to begin kindergarten and on orientation day he sneaks into her bag — even though no toys are allowed — and helps her when she is all alone. He takes trash out of the bin to give her material to fulfil the creative task the tiny people are assigned. Bonnie creates Forkie, a combo spork and accessories who identifies more closely with being trash than being a toy.

We then see Woody in his parenting role as he has to spend sleepless nights babysitting Forkie and keeping him out of the bin. As the family and toys –including Forkie, the new ‘favourite’ toy — go on a roadtrip, Woody finds himself chasing down Forkie on a highways as the new trash/toy has leapt out.

Once he finds him, he helps Forkie see his new role in life as something warm, safe and secure for Bonnie. Woody can’t be that for her so he has to help her find it elsewhere.

In a second-hand store, full of antiques, Woody spots something that reminds him of Bo Peep, his true love; the woman he sacrificed for Andy. In that store he finds a doll who has been pining for the perfect life — the one she would have if only she was perfect and could finally gain the attention and love of the little girl whose grandma runs the store. To capture Harmony’s attention, Gabby needs a voice box since hers is defective. It’s something that Woody has.

More importantly though, the voice box is the link between the toy world and the human world. Gabby thinks if she can just communicate with the humans, they will love her and take her off the shelf. Woody realises by the end that his last connection to linking back to the human world — his voice box — is probably not going to help him.

Ultimately, toys gain their identity from belonging to someone; to children. That is their entire purpose. Or so it seems.

Woody doesn’t need his voice box to communicate with other toys. And the Lost Toys, the ones without children to watch over or care for, are proof that we can survive on our own. We can choose our paths.

Woody’s last decision will mirror his first one: does he choose his own happiness or his loyalty. In the first decision, he doesn’t really have a choice because he is nothing without a child. His identity as a toy (or as a parent) is tied up with his loyalty.

By the time he decides again, the loyalty is no longer beneficial to his identity. He won’t die without it — the Lost Toys have shown him that — and he isn’t of any use to his children anymore (one is at College and the other prefers the cowgirl Jessie).

Remains of the Day is heartbreaking because when the butler has to choose between his service or his personal life, he later realises that he was holding on to the wrong idea of loyalty.

Woody’s empowered choice shows us that there is life after parenthood; which is really the subtext of the book. We raise our children and then when we can do no more, we trust that the community we’ve given them, and the structures we’ve put in place will serve them well.

And then we pick up as individuals and carry on.

 

Knitting Politics: a method — TBC —

The picture of C.D.N.-N.D.G. Mayor Sue Montgomery, the borough mayor of Montreal knitting her way through a council meeting has now gone viral. She knits in red when men speak and in green when women speak. Her knitting is tapered and starts narrow but gets quite wide. I’ve read since her initial tweet that the ratio is around 80:20 men speaking, to women speaking.

As a knitter and a social researcher, this got me thinking. The first thing that occurred to me was that I had to try it myself. I am already a local politics enthusiast and so knitting my way through a Full Council meeting sounded like a brilliant use of my time.

I decided to even cast on by gender colour. Bristol City Council had/has a woman Lord Mayor and the casting on began with pink. I chose stereotypical colours to make the choices immediately visible.

Problems

Within a few rows, I encountered a methodological problem. Switching between colours after knitting for a while, meant that yarn was crossing the material all over the place; also, garter stitch meant that the previous row’s colour [once a change occurred] showed up on the next row.

This impacted the design of the project in three ways:

  1. The colours were not isolated so it was difficult to determine who spoke when, in small clusters of stitches. People would have to speak for a long time for it to be visible.
  2. The material is very ‘messy’ and making it into any kind of blanket or shawl would be almost impossible.
  3. Yarn would constantly have to be cut or moved around, and it was slowing down the knitting and wasting yarn.

I realised that knitting the colours together would not be a useful method. I suspect that the mayor was turning a row every time a new speaker began, or a different gendered/sex speaker began talking. However, this limits the use of using knitting to measure differences.

Method 1: Fail

I had also decided to make the knitting into squares so the narrow and wide parts of the shawl did not give misleading impressions on length of time spoken. This is one of the criticisms of pie charts — because of their narrow points and wide edges, it’s difficult to measure differences between categories. Bar graphs from the same axis are the best way to compare, in some situations.

Squares would also mean I could make a blanket at the end of say, a year’s worth of meetings.

An alternative I would like to also do is use different colours for different political parties, but one weakness to that method would be my lack of knowledge as to who is in which party. I recognise some politicians but not all. Would the Lord Mayor/chair have a different colour? Non-politician / city council people speaking, such as at public forum?

For now, gender [cis/trans] seems the easiest way to practice this.

 Method 2

I decided to try a new method. I would have two sets of needles (same size – 4.5mm) , two balls of yarn, and I would knit two separate squares. I would pick up either the male or female knitting set each time someone spoke.

One limitation to this might be that it could be cumbersome to have both sets at full council, in the chamber; or at home, next to wherever I was watching the council meeting.

One slip knot was tied on each needle to begin.

Each square would be 20 sts long and therefore the number of sts could be counted and measured at the end of the year.

This approach worked much better.

The red yarn was used whenever a woman was speaking; the yellow yarn was used whenever a man was speaking.

The evident, as in ‘visible’ conclusion is that women spoke more than men. Which seems perfectly acceptable.

However, another methodological problem appeared. The two yarns were slightly different in weight and texture. The red yarn has tighter rows with few gaps in between. If these two square-ish materials were to be measured in inches or centimetres, the result could be misleading.

Also, when the speakers finish in the middle of a row, I have so far knit to the end before turning and casting off. This is for practical purposes in order to make sure all the squares/rectangles can be joined at the end. I feel it

Method 2: almost successful

Method 3

Same size needles; same size and weight and type of yarn; CO as the speaker speaks, two separate knitting projects; Bind off; join.

Once all the squares for the year are knit up — and this can be done in retrospect too since the full council webcasts are available — I intend to conduct chi-square tests for how many stitches are expected according to the gender balance in the chamber, and whether reality signficantly differs from expectation.

Will we be able to reject the null hypothesis of: the length of time people speak in the chamber is unrelated to gender?

Method 3 seems to account for most issues with the research method. Note the difference in clarity between knitting both colours at the same time and separately [see image].

Both are approximately the same length of time.

Some further thoughts:

Should every speaker be counted to ascertain the numbers for the chi square test, or is it sufficient to note the ratio of attendees at the meeting? For example, there were a number of councillors at Full Council on 21 May but not all of them spoke.

Full Council: 19 March 2019 [3:54:57]

Full Council: 21 May 2019 [1:48:37 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr18SL88dxI&feature=youtu.be]

List of attendees.

Conclusion from meeting 21/05/19

Of those expected and present, there were 50 men and 45 women, which means there were 52.6% men in the chamber: Of speaking time, men spoke for 40.9% of the time.

Data: 50 men (52.6%); 45 women.

men 18×20 =360 sts (40.9%) ;women= 26×20 =520 sts;

The chi-square statistic is 46.25, which gives a statistically significant result. More women spoke than expected.

— TBC —

Secrecy, the Western Harbour, transport, and billions in development

The Local Plan is currently open to the public for consultation:

At the Central Library the previous week, a young man, looking all suited and polished and very approachable, stood in front of a Local Plan display board. I went over to take a look.

I told him I was interested in seeing the part about the Western Harbour, and he opened the plan up to the relevant section, and showed me the relevant page.

“So where will all the high-rise towers be built,” I asked him.

.

He assured me there would be no high-rise towers at the Western Harbour, just a reclassification from industrial use to high-density urban. No planning applications exist for high-rise towers. The area had been used for warehouses and industrial purposes, and those were no longer needed so it was time change the usage.

When usage changes from say warehouses/industrial to residential, every few years, people who owned land that couldn’t be developed, suddenly get a windfall as their land multiplies in value.

 

75% of the land at the Western Harbour is apparently owned by the council. Who owns the other 25%?

Much of what is happening has been shrouded in secrecy so we don’t know much.

Even the term Western Harbour was announced in secrecy last September when the mayor went on some visits:

The [leaked] brochure the mayor took with him overseas on his tour includes the first mention of the Western Harbour, currently known as Cumberland Basin. Bristol City Council claims [it] “is one of the most desirable development locations in the UK”.

The nice young man at the library told me that it would be too expensive to maintain the road system at the Cumberland Basin so it will be redesigned. He didn’t mention that with it gone, there would be potential for over 1000-3000 homes.

So roads & transport are a priority.

One of the first and perhaps only pieces so far to discuss the future of the Cumberland Basin was the following one on Bristol24/7: The Future of the Cumberland Basin.

“With 75 per cent of the land already owned by the city council, […] The residential elements alone hav[e] a gross development value estimated at more than £1 billion.”

The big issue is roads.

“Unless you solve the traffic issues, you don’t have a project,” said Kevin Slocombe, head of the mayor’s office who has also been working closely on the Western Harbour project. “And you would not develop that site with the existing infrastructure.”

“The transport options have to come first,” Slocombe added. “You cannot even imagine the scale of the development unless you get rid of those roads. That opens up the scale.”

Which may explain why the mayor’s head of office & Colin Molton also sit on the Bristol Transport Board. As covered by Kate Wilson in the Bristol Post:

“The two representatives [the council can nominate] are Colin Molton the interim executive director of growth and regeneration and head of the mayor’s office Kevin Slocombe.

“Mr Slocombe has no transport role as part of his brief but when asked why he was on the board as well as the mayor and what he would bring to the role, he refused to answer saying he didn’t see the “relevance” of the question.”

It seems that billions worth of investment and development rely on how transport and infrastructure is decided in Bristol. Despite the council now establishing its own housing company, the development is possibly geared to being done privately:

But the Western Harbour itself looks likely to be financed privately, with that Argos catalogue of a Bristol Investment Brochure giving investment opportunities that, in Rees’ words, “develop firm and long lasting investment partnerships with you that deliver for the people of Bristol”.

Further information about the progress of work on the Western Harbour has been gathered together at the following website: http://www.bristolnpn.net/current-topics/cumberland-basin-western-harbour/

“The stakeholder group is pressing for early community involvement in this development but so far, only a single meeting with members of the mayor’s office in June 2018 has been held.”

It’s beyond me why there’s so much secrecy. The brochure had to be leaked before the residents of Bristol knew what was for sale, and the councillor of Hotwells & Harbourside has little information.

Mark Wright told the growth and regeneration scrutiny commission:

“Why do we have to keep dragging every bit of information out of the council on this?

“It’s not usually quite so secretive about the reports. People are wondering what was in the brief.

“It wouldn’t normally be the case at the scrutiny committee a year after this started with us asking ‘where’s the brief, why can’t we see the brief?’

“In this case, all we keep hearing is the mayor has an amazing idea and then we have to keep dragging out the information.”

From the minutes:

It was confirmed that there were 10 options being drawn up and all of them would be available for the public to view.

Members asked what types of schemes were being drawn up. They were informed that the company were given a free reign.

A Member commented that they felt it was difficult to access information about this project and that in their opinion officers were being unusually guarded about it. It was agreed that the feasibility project brief would be provided to the Commission Members and would also be up-loaded onto (link: http://Mod.Gov) Mod.Gov for members of the public to see. ACTION: for the Western Harbour project brief to be sent to the Commission Members and uploaded to the meeting webpage.

See the following piece from Local Democracy Reporter Adam Postans about the goings on and complaints at the Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee.

The following document is the project brief to Arup: Project Brief for Cumberland Basin feasibility study.

I have put in a freedom of information request to try to access a copy of the report that has long been promised to scrutiny and councillors but has yet to make an appearance.

The 20 Worst Polluted Places in Bristol

The 20 worst polluted places in Bristol 2017

 

The 20 worst polluted places in Bristol 2017

 

NO2 µg/m3
(2017 annual average)
 
% above legal limit

 

1 Parson St. A38 East 67 67%
2 Ashley Road St. Pauls 65 63%
3 Colston Avenue (The Centre) 63 58%
4 Anchor Road 62 54%
5 Newfoundland Way 61 53%
6 Bedminster Down Rd (Ashton Motors / Plough PH) 58 46%
7 Galleries 57 41%
8 Parson Street Bedminster Down Road 56 40%
9 York Road 56 40%
10 Top of Brislington Hill 54 35%
11 Three Lamps 53 32%
12 Stokes Croft 52 31%
13 Stapleton Road Heath Street (M32) 52 31%
14 Merchants Road Hotwells 52 30%
15 Bath Road (Arnos Vale) 52 29%
16 Parson St (Bristol Scuba) 51 28%
17 Whitehall Rd / Easton Rd 50 26%
18 Victoria Street 50 25%
19 Horsefair 49 23%
20 Gloucester Road (Bishopston Library) 49 23%

[Source: Hotwells and Clifton Wood Clean Air Group]

Bristol City Councillor attendance and absence

On the 24th of October, I queried councillor attendance at meetings they were expected to attend. The data is at the following link and I have queried from the beginning of 2015 until October.
Only currently active councillors have any data attached to them.

New book by Darren Allen, 33 Myths of the System


The cover looks as if the ground and nature have opened up and slowly produced a book out of the leaves and petals and stamen and poetry. If Walt Whitman had drawn Leaves of Grass, I imagine it would look like Darren Allen’s cover to the 33 Myths of the System. Maybe without the pause button.

The content is offered as freely as nature offers her creations; to be delighted in or stomped on, you choose.

 

What Allen says:

A brief guide to the Unworld

As civilisation reaches endgame and begins to disintegrate, as the illusions of left and right coalesce into a single, spectacular omnimyth, as every rootless mind begins to directly experience the stupefying dystopias of Orwell, Huxley, Kafka and Dick, the time has come to understand the whole system, from root to fruit.

Drawing on the entire history of radical thought, while seeking to plumb their common depths, 33 Myths of the System, presents a synthesis of independent criticism, a straightforward exposure of the justifications of the world-system, along with a new way to perceive and understand the unhappy supermind that directs, penetrates and even lives our lives.

33 Myths of the System confronts the fabrications of both capitalism and socialism, both left and right, both theism and atheism. As such it may be, for some, a challenging read. But if you are willing to face not just the world out there, but the anxieties and desires in here which sustain it, 33 Myths of the System — together with its companion 33 Myths of the Ego — will be a liberating read.

33 Myths of the System is now available from the following link: http://expressiveegg.org/portfolio/33-myths-of-the-system/

Let’s have city sanctuaries instead of city farms

City farms were introduced in the 1980s so that children could see where their food came from, a friend was recently telling me as she munched on her bacon sandwich. As an Australian living in the UK, I like this view of the world as ‘other’ as something I can observe and not have it affect me as my direct experience.

“Since the early days in the 1960s and 70s there are now more than 120 city farms and school farms, nearly 1,000 community gardens and a growing number of community-managed allotments. They help to empower people of all ages and backgrounds to build better communities, often in deprived areas.”

And these farms seem to be doing their job quite well. Kids now probably realise to a great extent that to enjoy their tasty sandwiches they have to kill things, or be happy with killing things. Farms tell us that food needs to be killed. These animals are food. Farms make that point very clearly.

What if, instead of ‘animals=food’ we had animal sanctuaries in our cities? What if we protected living beings and taught children and adults that animals are there to be protected and cherished and helped, just like we should be doing with other humans too?

I completely agree with the Animal Welfare Party and their point 2.5, that City farms and sanctuaries, large animal companions, and working animals

Large animals are sometimes kept at city farms, as companion animals or working animals. City farms
should operate as animal sanctuaries, where animals are not sent to slaughterhouses.
• Allowing rescued animals to live out their lives should be the main focus of city farms, together
with education.

There is a lot more to these farms, however, which is why I think the idea of sanctuaries is not so improbable.

[More tomorrow.]

(1 of 1000 posts)

Renewal coming up for litter police that only fine smokers in central ward

90% of all fines issued by Kingdom are issued in Central ward. The private company that is cost neutral to the council was brought in as part of the mayor’s clean streets initiative. Picking up litter costs the city £6 million a year, according to the council.

What Kingdom say:
They were brought in “as part of Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees’ plans to get tough on tackling litter. We will initially focus on the city centre, and if that is successful the service may be expanded to include other areas of Bristol.”

The Bristol Post wrote:
“The measures will cover a number of littering acts including leaving dog poo, leaflets and chewing gum on pavements and public places. Fines will also be issued to those caught leaving graffiti tags.”

In fact, however, they are spending most of their time in Central ward and have made £704k of their £788k ‘camping out in Broadmead’ as Central Ward cllr Paul Smith tweeted.

90% of all fines in Bristol were in the Central ward;

**8313 were in the Central ward.**

Only 225 were in the next most ‘popular’ ward, Clifton.

Some wards had one fine.

Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston ward has 20k people compared to Central ward’s 15k and they have 37 fines compared to 8313 for Central.

If Cats Disappeared From The World, Genki Kawamura

There’s a sparse and young, almost delicate sense to Genki Kawamura’s writing that cheered me up no end even though this was a book about death. The lightness to life and what we hold too close is really what this book is about. Kawamura is 39 and is now the author of three books; If Cats Disappeared from the World is his first one and has sold over a million copies.

This is the second Japanese book I’ve read this year about cats, both translated from Japanese by Eric Selland, and they both touch on social isolation and the love we give.

Our narrator has only days to live and is tempted by the devil in giving up more and more, not only from his life but from everyone’s, for one more day each time. Through his daily sacrifices and before we get to his cat Cabbage, we find out about his relationship with his family and what has led to him being alone.

It’s a special and simple tale, which opens up a path to joy more than anything. Even when the descriptions felt rather young I couldn’t help but read on. The facts seem simple:

by making something disappear from the world, I could live for one more day. Let’s see now, that would be thirty items a month, 365 per year.

But in reality, the things we choose sometimes mean more than we think and the consequences of losing even our most seemingly trivial items (although the devil is specific in what he wants, he doesn’t ask for trinkets) are far-reaching.

This is worth a read.

If Cats Disappeared from the World is available now.

Bristol gin [tonic optional]

On international gin and tonic day, we’ll undoubtedly be drinking some Psychopomp tonight, which is an incredibly good Bristol gin made right in the city centre on St Michael’s Hill. It was at the owner Danny Walker’s gin club that I first heard that each city used to have its own gin-making process.

In 1789, Bristol historian William Barrett wrote of ‘many great works ( distilleries ) being erected at amazing expense in different parts of the city’.

Barrett was convinced that spiritous liquors caused ‘slow but sure death’ and added: The quality of gin and brandy made at home indicates and proves what a great consumption of these liquors there is now.

It may have been cheap but Bristol spirits caused – drying up and hardening of the fine vessels and nerves, rendering them impervious, producing paralytic strokes, hemiplegies and apoplexies Barrett added.

London Dry gin, became known for its own distillation process, which included adding the flavours during the distillation process and not afterwards.

Historically, the term “Dry Gin” came about with the advent of the Coffey still in 1832. Once the Coffey still came into action and a more consistent (and critically, more neutral) spirit was available, unsweetened gin started gaining popularity and became known as “Dry Gin”.

Working off a neutral base spirit of agricultural origin, that has already been distilled to over 96% ABV, London Dry Gin must be (re)distilled to at least 70% ABV. It can only be watered down to a minimum strength of 37.5%, it must contain no artificial ingredients, contain only a minute amount of sweetener and cannot have any flavour or colour added after distillation. Of course, as with all gins, the predominant flavour must be that of juniper berries.

Danny at the gin club was much more fascinating that a list of percentages and he got me to thinking about what Bristol gin might have been like. Currently, there are two or three Bristol gin distilleries producing the juniper-based spirit but they don’t know how it used to be done either [from what I have been able to determine]. I searched for a while and while I found records of where the distilleries used to be, Cheese Lane in St Phillips was one, owned by Thomas Castle — the process was not known for its health-affirming properties. By 1821 there were five Bristol distilleries.

The closest I came to discovering what Bristol gin might have tasted like was the following list of ingredients itemised by a brewer in London and sent to a Bristol distiller in 1870.

By then the process would most probably have been similar to dry gin but perhaps there was some variety in the flavours. The ingredients are: juniper, coriander, calamus and angelica. I don’t know the individual proportions but there was three times as much juniper as there was coriander and 1/8th calamus and angelica relative to the coriander.

 

And that’s Bristol gin done the 1870-way. We may be sipping it the Psychopomp St Michael’s Hill way tonight however.

Chin chin.