Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Bank Holiday Turaco

Yesterday was the UK's August bank holiday, so we didn't have to go to work. Andrew was wondering why we have this particular holiday, and as far as I can tell, it's just a sort of "farewell to summer." Unlike its counterpart in the USA, Labor Day, I don't think it has any specific commemorative meaning.

What a weird weekend it's been, too. There was a big demonstration in Trafalgar Square on Saturday by anti-mask, anti-vaccine activists convinced that the coronavirus is a hoax. (Or that it's caused by 5G technology, or that all vaccines are harmful, blah blah blah.) There was also one in Germany. Honestly, of all the things to worry about in the world, wearing a mask seems like a pretty minor imposition. I don't understand why people get so heated up about it.

People who get their news online from dubious sources, and then build on that by searching out more dubious information, eventually start marinating in their own crazy conspiratorial fantasies. I just read a fascinating article in The Atlantic about Q-Anon, and the New York Times recently had an equally interesting piece about the Boogaloo movement. Both build on the idea that mainstream (i.e. responsible) media aren't telling the real story, and people feel empowered to then ignore real news and go search out alternative explanations that reaffirm their skepticism. And even though those explanations are basically made of popsicle sticks and Elmer's glue, they take them on with an almost religious fervor.

I put it all down to a failure of education. People don't understand how to do research, determine cause and effect, and discriminate between reasonable and unreasonable assertions. And they don't value professional journalism, which really does exist for a reason.

I had a pretty busy day -- lots of housework and mowing the lawn, followed by a walk through the cemetery with Olga. I'm often intrigued by the headstones there, some of which give almost dynastic histories of certain families. This one is pretty interesting -- the Neresheimers were German jewelers and silver manufacturers, and Louis apparently helped run the company's New York offices before moving to London. (Note that the headstone doesn't mention he was born in Germany.) His wife Adele was born in New York during the Civil War, and died in Paris in 1924. They sound like an elegant crowd, don't they?

While there, I heard the turaco, and since I hadn't seen it in months and was lugging my heavy camera and zoom lens, I decided to make the effort to track it down. I followed its call to several different trees, but the minute I got there it would swoop away. (Olga trudged along behind me, obviously wondering why I was dragging her hither and yon.) The turaco finally paused in the very top of a tall dead tree, and drew a small crowd of admirers. My pictures wouldn't win any awards -- it was hard to get a good shot against that bright sky, and I had to stand well back to see it from the side rather than directly below -- but I was satisfied.

I also finally finished "The Likeness" by Tana French, which I enjoyed even though I found it wildly ridiculous. The premise is that a detective looks so much like a certain murder victim that she impersonates her and goes undercover among her friends -- who don't know their real compatriot is dead -- to find the killer. Are you kidding me? Even Q-Anon seems more plausible! Still, French is a good storyteller and she somehow made it work.

(Top photo: A wildflower gone to seed at the cemetery.)


Elizabeth said...

Yes to all of this! And I am going to quote you here: "I put it all down to a failure of education. People don't understand how to do research, determine cause and effect, and discriminate between reasonable and unreasonable assertions. And they don't value professional journalism, which really does exist for a reason." In America, at least, intellectualism or being educated or smart is now called "elitism," something to be scorned. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Any public holiday is good even if for reasons unknown.

I struggle to believe so many people are uneducated, stupid or ill informed. I am sure they do seek out like minded souls but there has to be more to this than what seems obvious. We have small numbers here protesting as is happening in England, and they are rounded up and fined. I am at loss. I am a user of Facebook, Youtube and Insta and I just don't see this dubious news.

Pretty cool looking and rather exotic bird.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

These Q-Anon idiots like to believe that they have some sort of superior knowledge - that they are in on some kind of secret that the rest of us simply cannot grasp. It's just a load of tosh. They are the same idiots who believe that the moon landing of 1969 was faked in a Hollywood studio or that aliens built Stonehenge. They even believe that there are turacos in London parks! Honestly, I ask you.

Ursula said...

I am loathe to dismiss any theories - even the most far fetched ones. A year or so ago I was presented the most amazing conspiracy theory. Don't ask what it concerns. A sore point for Americans. Doesn't matter what I think. What matters that the reasoning was frighteningly compelling. And another one, and another one. With tones of factual data to cement those theories.

As the daughter of an investigative journalist I thank you for mentioning their genre benignly. At the time a reporter at the forefront, for one of the most prestigious weekly magazines in the motherland, no stone left unturned, some of what my father uncovered so explosive that the chief editor would NOT allow my father's name be put to the article. To protect him and his family. It was dynamite. On one assignment my father was sent onto a wild goose chase round South America when he, young as he was, had maintained that what he was researching wasn't to be found in the second home of Nazi criminals (South America); it was right at our doorstep. And so it proved.

There is amazing journalism out there. There are journalists/photo journalists covering the shittiest areas of the world, willing to risk their lives and sometimes forced to sacrifice same. In order to keep "us" informed.

Still, Steve, in a time of social media overload and avalanche, how to sort the straw from hay? Never mind the needle.


Red said...

Our news is a jumble of good stuff mixed in with some very terrible twisted stuff. People don't look at a variety of news coverage and then make a decision. We have too many junk sites turning out wild unsupported ideas. They make their trash sound believable.

Moving with Mitchell said...

That wildflower looks like it's come alive with insects. I was going to say maggots but that sounds disgusting and it doesn't LOOK disgusting. It's fascinating how even the writing on a headstone can exude piss-elegance. I'm glad you finally got to SEE the turacao. I saw them once here in town and had no idea what they were. So beautiful.

Sharon said...

I had a discussion with friends (online) over the weekend and we talked about how frustrating it is trying to talk to someone who only gets there news from dubious sources. I think you made a good point about educating people about how to determine what is likely to be true.
You got a good shot of that bird. It is very exotic looking. I wonder if it is lonely or if it's just happy to be free and living on its own.

ellen abbott said...

I love that first picture. education is not valued in this country. not anymore. and republican defunding of education. when the powers that be stopped letting teachers teach and test and pass or fail their students and instituted all those tests that tied funding to test scores then the teachers taught how to take and pass the tests and it all went in the toilet. America is ignorant and proud of it.

Anonymous said...

Love these photos. I'm so glad you got such a good shot of the Turaco. What a beautiful little survivor that bird is.
I'm a little taken aback by the rising mistrust of real journalism and the rise in alternative facts and BS news sources. I'm not sure where all of this headed, but it is a scary by-product of this wonderful 24/7 internet machine.

Edna B said...

That's quite an interesting tombstone. I like how it shows the family history. That's a great shot of the Turaco, considering how difficult it was to get it. I miss getting out to photograph our birds. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

Ms. Moon said...

Quite frankly I find the plot of that book far more believable than the complete and utter horrifying horsecrap that the Qanon people believe.

Catalyst said...

Your summary of the conspiracy groups is spot on: lack of education. I've been saying the same thing over here for so long. I truly don't know where this tired old world is heading.

Love the picture of the turaco. Patience and persistence finally win out. Good work.

Fresca said...

The Likeness sounds akin to Hitchcock's Vertigo---you have to accept the unbelievable to enjoy the story.

Steve Reed said...

Elizabeth: Even when I was in school, in the '70s, being smart was a social curse! And now the situation is worse.

Andrew: Well, the Atlantic article makes the point that it's a bit like religion. When you're a believer you feel chosen, special, and that you have a level of understanding that others lack. That has powerful psychological appeal.

YP: It IS a load of tosh. And if you'd ever told me that turacos were flying around London I wouldn't have believed it either!

Ursula: I was a journalist in a former life, so I have nothing but respect for journalism and the people who practice it. The disturbing thing about social media is that people don't check sources. They repeat the wildest allegations no matter who's making them. They cite "parody" news sources as real.

Red: Yes! I just saw an article saying that the Russian government is once again up to its election shenanigans -- and they've hired Americans to write up their misinformation, to make it sound more plausible!

Mitchell: Interesting that you have them flying around in Spain as well! They're African birds, but the more I read about them, the more widespread they seem to be. They're apparently elsewhere in Europe, and I read that the Swiss national bird is a turaco!

Sharon: I wonder the same thing. It sits in the trees and calls as if it's looking for a friend!

Ellen: Even before standardized testing there was a tendency in America to denigrate education. Smart people get accused of putting on airs or showing off. But you're right, teaching to the test doesn't help!

Robin: It IS scary. It really destabilizes society when so many people can't agree on basic facts.

Edna: Yeah, the turaco is surprisingly shy. It makes a lot of noise but when you get close to it it flies off.

Ms Moon: Q-Anon is mystifying, I agree. I don't see how people believe some of that stuff, except that I think the "facts" of their beliefs almost don't matter. It's just the sense of being "in the know" and part of the "club."

Catalyst: The Internet should be a good thing, but it definitely has its downside, empowering the most ignorant among us!

Fresca: Yeah, basically. I guess a lot of fiction is like that.

Barbee' said...

Headed for another "Dark Ages"?
I don't know what your situation is, but I hope you will be able to vote.