Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wealth and Safety

One of my pet gripes is Health and Safety. And I don't mean the serious, life threatening stuff, clearly there are reasons for having fire exits in buildings, escape shoots in planes and the exclusion of firearms from the general public (unless you are reading this in the US, in which case you are probably operating the mouse with the end of a shotgun). No, I mean the inane minutiae that drives Health and Safety ‘officers’ to patrol the offices of a workplace like the proverbial Eastwood stalking his prey in the dusty, midday sun-strewn street. Their prey, in this instance, being the empty cardboard boxes hidden behind a desk, the piles of books not correctly placed vertically on the shelving and, the Hannibal Lector of Health and Safety, unapproved scissors. I shuddered as I wrote that last bit, cowering at the thought of those scything blades, those non-plastic coated handles. Millions could die. Can somebody tell me, why they exist? To me they are the widgets of this world; they apparently do something useful, but is there a need to pay extra money for one when they don’t seem to improve anything?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Can art stop war?

border="0" />Guest blog by 'Markus Mark':

"I left computing research in December and to take part in a project researching art and design. Predictably my computing colleagues showed art the disdain that people not in the field always do. They think art is a waste of money and often quote high profile examples of the more eccentric forms of art such as the student who marries her car and the dead sheep. However, I would like to argue that art has a fundamental role in society and can even stop wars. Art will not bring about the instant ceasefire needed in the current conflict in Lebanon, but it can change attitudes.

Perhaps the two strongest example of this are (i) Nick Ut's iconic photo of children fleeing after US planes accidentally dropped napalm on the South Vietnamese in 1972. In many ways this fully ended the legitimacy of the Vietnam War for the American people. (ii) Veteran broadcaster Walter Cronkite in 1968 statement that the Vietnam War was unwinnable, which led President Lyndon Johnson to declare to his aids that this was the time to change course. So remember when asked by computer scientists what is the point of art say -'IT STOPS WARS'."