oh, well, whatever . . .

esse est percipi and all that palaver

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Kevin Keegan is to take over the management of Blyth Spartans. Britney Spears and David Beckham have been spotted together hand in hand shopping in the Keel Row. The first Disney World in Britain is to be constructed on the site of the old Wellesley School and the land between there and the beach, currently used for caravan storage. It will open in 2011. The Jonas Brothers, Take That, Paris Hilton, Kylie Minogue, P. Diddy, Engelbert Humperdinck, the Krankies, Something Spooked The Horses and Mick Hucknall are all doing shows at the Pheonix Theatre in Beaconsfield Street over the next couple of months. Jonathan Ross has bought a house for himself and his family in the small new development of Sidney Gardens on the site of the old Sidney Arms on Cowpen Road.  Harvey Nichols are opening up a branch on Bowes Street. And a futuristic new bridge for cycles and pedestrians is to be built across the river to North Blyth. It will be made of raw aluminium and bleached timber and in part modelled on the Gimsoystraumen bridge in Norway, we are told. Things are certainly hotting up around here.

But, encouraging as these things might be, I’ve been wondering lately what it would really take to put this place on the map. The prospects, as I see them, are now little short of a nightmare.

Hugo’s hired a camper van and gone off to tour Wales for the week with Mrs Hugo and his daughters. I noticed that an abandoned computer desk has been washed up in his front garden along with some large bundles of what looks like coir or thatch. If it’s the latter then I expect another version of Ye Olde England will soon be added to the unabashed post-modern accident that is his estate. In his back garden I have ascertained that two new plastic otters on a log have joined the menagerie beside the eternally gurgling pond. Another recent arrival is a new brass sundial. It is of a common design with a fixed axial gnomon. The motto is meam vide umbram, tuam videbis vitam. All Hugo needs now is the sun. He also needs to be aware of course that since the construction of the Citadel we’ve lost a couple of hours of sunlight each day and that this may therefore significantly reduce the efficacy of his shiny new chronometrical device.

I was pondering whether the CCTV cameras covering the front of his house will be in operation during his absence. If they are I wonder if he’ll ever replay the tapes. It would be a seriously onerous – not to say boring – task to review a whole week of tape. All those people wandering innocently past his gate, all those cats and post office workers and delivery people . . .  The following thesis occurred to me: things that are taped or monitored on CCTV but are never viewed, never actually happen. This of course is a thesis that owes a great deal to Berkeley’s subjective idealism, in particular the notion that ‘to be is to be perceived’. You will be familiar with the old chestnut (yes, I know – groan!), “if a great tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to hear it, does it make any sound?”  While this may seem a daft question in the common sense world – I mean, when did you last see a great tree fall and make no sound?! – it is one which has exercised philosophers a great deal in recent centuries. It would therefore be foolish to dismiss it as a mere trick of the language, one of those questions that can occur for technical reasons but is in reality utterly absurd.

So here is a new slant on the Bishop’s thesis: if it is true that to be is to be perceived, then those who appear on unwatched monitors do not exist. In a surveillance society such as ours this argument could be open to abuse, of course, and would need to be applied with some vigilance. But it may have some bearing on the virtual world. If, for instance, you run a website or a blog that never gets a hit, does the content of that website (and therefore the website itself) ever really exist? Not to be perceived is not to exist. And if the website doesn’t exist, what of the author? This is a conundrum I’ll need to give some serious thought to, I think. It is worrying to think that an unread blogger may have little more substance than a hypothetical metaphysical entity. I can almost feel myself disappearing. This must be what it’s like to be God in a world of atheists. It’s not like the old days, He must be thinking, when a couple of decent thunderbolts or a good old fashioned drought were enough to get any deity noticed.

And perhaps the idea also has a bearing on how to put Blyth on the map. Is a town that no-one notices a town that doesn’t exist? Which is where I came in and brings me back to the breaking news that Sven Goran Erikson and Alex Ferguson have also both now expressed an interest in managing the Spartans.  There are also rumours emerging tonight of a Super Casino, an art gallery and a Big Wheel.  As I said to De Kooning as we gazed together into Hugo’s world, these are exciting times for ontology as well as for town planning. De Kooning of course seemed to be a lot more interested in the noisy blackbird sitting on the head of Hugo’s moose. I really must talk to De Kooning about Schrodinger some time soon.


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