Sunday, May 02, 2021

Mosaic.

The photo above was taken by me on Thursday lunchtime. It shows the redevelopment of the former nightclub NYNE in Bexleyheath Broadway. The NYNE bar and nightclub was unique in the area. There are many nightclubs, but NYNE was unusual in that it held regular events for people with special needs and their carers. The place was even featured on the BBC News website, which you can see by clicking here. Prior to being a bar and nightclub, the now demolished building had been a snooker hall. The nightclub closed prior to the start of the first Covid-19 lock down, and was subsequently demolished. It is now being rebuilt into one and two bedroomed apartments. I for one would not want to live at that location - Bexleyheath Broadway is busy with traffic around the clock, and if that was not bad enough, the site is directly opposite an Esso 24 hour petrol station, with the associated noise and smell; it is also next door to the Meze Turkish restaurant and bar, which - when not under lock down can at times be a somewhat boisterous location, as evidenced when it was the host to a party back on the 10th of October 2018, which was attended by the "celebrity" Katie Price. Upon leaving the party in the early hours of the next morning, her bright pink Range Rover crashed on Shooter's Hill. Price was charged and subsequently convicted at Bexley Magistrates Court with being drunk in charge of a vehicle. Of course, the Meze cannot be held responsible for the actions of its patrons, and it operates a respectable business, but the incident does illustrate that the location of the new apartments next door could potentially  at times be undesirably noisy at night. Would you like a flat at the location? What do you think? Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com

There has been much press coverage over the last couple of weeks; The Who's third album "Sell Out", which was first released in 1967, has just been remastered and re - released. TV Channel Sky Arts featured a brand new "Classic Albums" documentary on the record on Friday the 23rd April. The album was based around the concept of commercialism, and was a satire on the advertising industry and consumerism in general. The album was structured as if it was a show from the offshore radio station Radio London, complete with station ID jingles and spoof advertisements. One advert on the record was completely genuine, though the company that featured in it did not pay a penny for the promotion, due to one member off The Who - bassist John Entwistle being a fan of the company - which at the time, and for many years subsequently was based locally in Bexleyheath. The company was, and is called RotoSound, a company almost unheard of if you are not a musician. RotoSound are the largest manufacturer and distributor of musical instrument strings in the world. The company has been existence since 1952; it was established by an engineer and amateur inventor called James Howe. Howe had seen the spy thriller "The Third Man"and had been impressed by the evocative music in the film, which was played on a Zither by a master musician by the name of Anton Karas. So impressed was James Howe by this that he determined to learn how to play the zither, and ended up studying for two years to perfect his playing technique. Zithers are not exactly common in the UK nowadays, and back in the early 1950's they were almost unheard of. James, over the two years he spent learning the instrument, had amassed a collection of something like three hundred zithers of varying designs. His greatest challenge was getting strings for the instruments, which were totally unavailable in austerity Britain. James tried violin and cut down piano strings on his collection of zithers, but they just did not sound authentic. James Howe at last ran out of Zither strings and using his ingenuity as an engineer and musician quickly designed a winding machine and invaded the South East area of Singer Sewing Machine Shops for vast quantities of nylon yarn, and electrical stores for vast quantities of fuse wires. James Howe developed the technique and took over three years before he completed a 10 foot long machine of extraordinary proportions. This machine was made lovingly from stainless steel, black ebony, with ivory fittings, and would produce any string from violin, viola, cello, double bass, clavichord, harpsichord, piano strings, cymbalum, hurdy-gurdy, zither strings from Prim zithers, concert zithers, Elege zithers, Lyon zithers, Mandolin zithers and the many many ranges of zithers. This machine would make strings quickly and furthering his interest was to become the instrument by which over a period of the next 10 years, the various original and authentic designs was to be formulated based upon James Howe’s knowledge of the workings of a music string which took into consideration the pitch strain, breaking strain, amplitude, nodal sequence, harmonic frequency, and the harmonic sequence. These are some of the features that are included in making good strings. James soon diversified into making strings for pianos and clavichords, and not too long after, they started making electric guitar strings. In 1959 he started up in business employing some six people, including his brother Ronald and sister Joan. Among the first clients were The Shadows, Beatles, Rolling Stones, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, all strings for the famous JMI / Vox Company, and all of the strings for the famous Burns Guitar Company. John Entwistle of The Who (considered by many rock music critics as the greatest bass player of all time) became both a technical consultant and a product promoter for RotoSound in 1966. In an interview some years later, John Entwistle said:-"It was in 1966 and I was looking for that Danelectro sound again. I tried everybody’s strings but the E and the A’s just didn’t work. It was the same with Rotosound but there was something about them that was almost there but not quite. To solve the problem I got in touch with James How and told him his D and G strings were great but the E and A didn’t vibrate properly. He told me to take my bass along to Rotosound and have some strings made until they got it right. After a couple of hours, we realised that the problem wasn’t in the wire winding, but in the core of the string. You could see that the strings vibrated in a big circle and that was wrong; the core needed to be thicker. We also made the overall gauges a bit heavier and they sent me away with 12 sets to use. A couple of days later they called and asked if I objected to them putting my name to the strings and selling them commercially. I told them I didn’t mind as long as they kept me supplied with free strings! But then we had to do the same with medium and short scale strings because I had loads of different basses by then. Those strings, the RS66 sets, were the first that vibrated properly.”As more and more professional people sought the use of these strings the James Howe Company which had then grown to some 40 people with a production area of some 3,000 sq. ft., started to expand the company still further but on more professional lines. They created the brand name of RotoSound, which is still in use today. The company also diversified into the manufacture of sterile, stainless steel wire for use in medical procedures such as certain types of catheterisation. These wires were very similar to the banjo strings, and the samples that James How supplied were to be the first of over 20,000 wires in different types to be produced for this medical operation. These wires were distributed by Portex of Smith Industries. The company was formed and a brand image selected for the new medical company and it was called the Selflex Company Limited. It was to provide guide wires for many famous surgeons and doctors throughout the world for heart surgery, cardiac installation and lung procedures. By the late 1970's RotoSound strings were being used by The Damned, The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, Sham 69, Siouxsie and the the Banshees, The Buzzcocks and The Jam. The American market had by this time opened up, and The UK factory based in Bexleyheath at this time was working night shifts to keep up with demand. Some time later in 1994, James Howe died, and the company was taken over by James’s two sons Martyn and Jason How. In 2010 a connection between Vox and RotoSound that had been dormant since the late 1960's was revived. An email from a gentleman in Arizona, USA sparked off interest in a dormant product that James How had only sold as prototypes back in the late 1960’s. The RotoSound fuzz pedal was originally manufactured to James How’s specifications back in 1967. As James was good friends with Dick Denney (who he was in the RAF with during the war) and Tom Jennings, who was the Managing Director of JMI / Vox at that time. James had Vox build the original prototypes, today only a few still exist, probably no more than a dozen. Some of these early pedals got into some famous hands – Jimmy Page for one was captured on film in France with Led Zeppelin using one in the early 1970’s. This heritage caused quite a stir  within the company, and also amongst musicians. so it was decided that upon close inspection RotoSound would ‘copy’ the original pedal with only a few small mods to bring it up to date along with a more usable specification. The first unit came off the production line in September 2012. The production run was limited to 2000 units which were all sold. RotoSound outgrew their Bexleyheath factory, and have now relocated to a bigger factory in Sevenoaks, and the company is still the premier supplier of musical instrument strings for the world, nearly seven decades after they first set up shop. It would be nearly impossible to name all of the musicians who have used, and continue to use RotoSound strings, but you can see a list by clicking here. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

Some really good news; the community share offer run by local not for profit Community Benefit Society, The Exchange, has hit its upper target of raising £150,000 to complete refurbishment and improvement works to the Old Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, Erith. Whilst the bulk of the funding for major improvement works have come from corporate sponsors, such as the National Lottery Fund, the "nice to have" parts of the refurbishment works will be funded by the money from community share holders. This will include restoration of the amazing ceramic tiled public toilets on the lower ground floor, and the installation of metal railings on the outside walls of the historic building - which have been absent since they were removed "to help the war effort" during World War II. I will have some more exciting news regarding The Exchange next week. Watch this space. 

The anti vaccination conspiracy nut job calling themselves The White Rose has struck yet again. The photo above was taken by me on Thursday morning at the B12 bus stop outside of Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. Most of the illegally placed stickers that I have featured in past updates have now been removed. TfL, which owns and maintains the bus stops in and around London take a very dim view of people who deface their property. In addition to potentially facing charges of criminal damage, the unknown perpetrator of the sticker campaign could possibly also be charged with malicious communication and public nuisance. The anti vaccination movement seems to be filled with people who really should know better - otherwise intelligent individuals who harbour some very strange and completely unverifiable ideas. Contemporary anti-vax culture took root in the late 1990's and early 2000's, when a startling rise in autism was hypothesised to be connected to childhood vaccinations. Robust science has since debunked any relationship between vaccination and autism. But at the time, the spectre of vaccine injury sparked real concern among reasonable people. In 1998, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published an article purporting to link the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine to “developmental regression in a group of previously normal children.” In the U.S. a year later, a federal review of mercury in drugs highlighted that a mercury-based preservative in childhood vaccines could expose infants, over the first six months of life, to a potentially harmful quantity of the neuro-toxic metal. By the turn of the decade, both hypotheses had collapsed under the weight of scientific evidence. In 2009, a paper in Clinical Infectious Diseases cited “20 epidemiologic studies” to conclude that “neither thimerosal nor MMR vaccine causes autism.” The Lancet retracted its MMR paper in 2010, with the journal’s editor saying he felt he had been deceived, while calling the paper “utterly false.” Today’s anti-vax movement has grown increasingly cosy with theories about dark agendas, ruthless profit motives, and powerful enemies, reserving peculiar animosity for billionaire Bill Gates, whose foundation promotes vaccination globally. The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 created a “perfect storm” for new conspiracy theories to take root. The pandemic overwhelmed government institutions, creating enormous fear and economic uncertainty. Lock down life also created super-spreader conditions for paranoia, with people searching for answers in online forums where unreal ideas circulated unchecked. New converts were then able to spread these ideas, in real life, to their pods of close family and friends under lock down. Whilst researching this article, I read an essay by an American academic, which goes some way into explaining why certain people believe conspiracy theories. Eric Oliver is a political-science professor at the University of Chicago who has studied conspiracy theories since the 1990's. He argues that conspiracy belief helps conquer anxiety by giving people a feeling of “I understand what’s happening in the world. I have a narrative that explains things.” They also root free-floating fear in something that feels solid: “ ‘The reason I’m feeling anxious is there’s a secret cabal doing something terrible. And now I’ve identified it.’ ” A reinforcing factor is “a certain narcissism,” he says. “The conspiracy theory gives them a sense of special knowledge: ‘I know something that’s going on that nobody else does.’ It feels empowering to them. A paradox of conspiracy theories is that they’re not full flights of fancy. They involve imagined and invented connections between real people, phenomena, and events. There’s a structure to the irrational belief. “Conspiracy theories are not the product of a disordered mind; they’re the product of an overly ordered mind,” insists Zuckerman. “Conspiracy theories happen when you have an enormous need for order in a disordered universe.” What do you think? Email me in confidence to hugh.neal@gmail.com.

This week marks the 27th anniversary of the first popular web browser, called Mosaic. Mosaic was pretty basic by modern standards, and it was not actually the very first web browser. It was however the first one to get any level of popular use outside of academia. Nowadays, the Firefox web browser can be regarded as the great grandchild of Mosaic, as it shares much of the original DNA, and developers.  Previous web browsers had only been able to display text; any embedded pictures were usually downloaded separately, if at all (which was no bad thing in the days of the 14.4K dial up modem – the web was an almost exclusively text based place in the early 90’s! Mosaic brought together a number of then emerging technologies to make what would be familiar to most people as a web browser. Even back then, Mosaic was regarded as being something ground breaking when it was released for the Unix operating system by its’ authors Marc Andreesson and Eric Bina of the NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) back in May 1993. Technical journalist Gary Wolfe wrote the following piece about Mosaic in the October 1994 edition of Wired magazine:- “When it comes to smashing a paradigm, pleasure is not the most important thing. It is the only thing. If this sounds wrong, consider Mosaic. Mosaic is the celebrated graphical "browser" that allows users to travel through the world of electronic information using a point-and-click interface. Mosaic's charming appearance encourages users to load their own documents onto the Net, including colour photos, sound bites, video clips, and hypertext "links" to other documents. By following the links - click, and the linked document appears - you can travel through the online world along paths of whim and intuition. Mosaic is not the most direct way to find online information. Nor is it the most powerful. It is merely the most pleasurable way, and in the 18 months since it was released, Mosaic has incited a rush of excitement and commercial energy unprecedented in the history of the Net”. Wolfe wrote with rare prescience – he hit the nail squarely on the head, a good couple of years before most people were more than dimly aware of what the web was at all.  Writer Matthew K Gray wrote “Marc Andreessen's realisation of Mosaic, based on the work of Tim Berners – Lee and the hypertext theorists before him, is generally recognised as the beginning of the web as it is now known. Mosaic, the first web browser to win over the Net masses, was released in 1993 and made freely accessible to the public. The adjective phenomenal, so often overused in this industry, is genuinely applicable to the... 'explosion' in the growth of the web after Mosaic appeared on the scene. Starting with next to nothing, the rates of the web growth (quoted in the press) hovering around tens of thousands of percent over ridiculously short periods of time were no real surprise”.  Mosaic later spawned the first massively popular  browser,  – Netscape Navigator, which was sold commercially, making Netscape briefly the most profitable tech company listed on the U.S stock market, and at one time had a market capitalisation worth $2.9 billion. Eventually Microsoft twigged that the web was the way forward, after an astonishingly long period of inactivity; it went on to licence some of the technology used in a particular version of Mosaic in order to create Internet Explorer, which, along with some more than slightly questionable business practices that I will not outline here (but do feel free to carry out your own research on the subject) effectively killed Netscape by forcing them out of the burgeoning browser market. If you look at the credits screen on any version of Internet Explorer up until version 7, you will see a credit “based on NSCA Mosaic”. As you can see, Mosaic changed the face of computing, and whilst it seems like the dim and distant past, it was actually only twenty seven years ago this month. Tellingly a version of Mosaic was developed for the Commodore Amiga almost a year before a Windows PC version was released. How times change. Incidentally, if you hanker after the old Netscape Navigator application suite, which included the Netscape web browser, the mail and newsgroups reader, and the web page creator, all is not lost. As well as developing and maintaining the mainstream Firefox browser, the Mozilla team have a spin - off group that works on SeaMonkey - a direct descendant on the Netscape Suite - which nowadays is both free and open source. You can get the SeaMonkey suite for Windows, Mac OS , and Linux by clicking here.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Following the reporting hiatus over the last month, the reports are now starting to return to normal, although a few ward reports are still either missing, or shorter than before. Firstly a special report regarding an attempted local dognapping incident:- "On Monday 26th April, a dog owner and her father were walking her 5-month-old Pomeranian puppy in Lesness Abbey park. They took him off the lead for 5 minutes to have a run-around.  They noticed that there were a group of teenagers riding their electric scooters.  The puppy decided to chase one of the scooters. One of the teenagers started petting the puppy.  The owner was calling the puppy when suddenly the youth grabbed the puppy by the scruff of the neck and ran away.  He and his friends shouted at the owners that they could keep the electric scooter,  but they were taking the puppy.  The owner immediately called 999 and realising this, the youth released the puppy. The owner and her father picked up the dog and ran towards their car, followed by the youth who had attempted to snatch the puppy.  As you can imagine the owner is very upset by this incident and the police are investigating". Now for the ward reports; firstly Barnehurst ward:- "In the last week, there were no crimes of burglary, theft, theft of motor vehicle or theft from motor vehicle. We carried out a traffic operation with the Bexleyheath and Crayford team and one of the locations was Barnehurst Road. This resulted in two vehicles being seized for no insurance, one traffic ticket for no driving license and 3 tickets for drug possessions". Belvedere ward:- "Working closely with the nearby wards of Thamesmead East and Thamesmead Moorings, we have continued to patrol areas of concern on the north of the Borough. This has resulted in 52 stop/searches being conducted relating to several offices (drug possession, driving and vehicle offences, being in possession of weapons). From this, 12 arrests have been made. The team have continued to patrol Norman Road, in particular the stretch of road that leads from Eastern Way toward the River Thames, due to the return of several motorcyclists and onlookers attending the location regularly. Whilst there, vehicles are being driven inconsiderately and dangerously. We have thus far been able to issue 7 warnings to motorcyclists at the location and having obtained several vehicle registration numbers in the following days, we have also issued a further 20 warnings. We are working closely with CORY recycling staff, based at the far end of Norman Road and also Bexley Council. We will continue our regular patrols of this area. Further to this, the team have also been carrying out weapon sweeps and constant patrols of open spaces across that ward – Lessness Abbey, Franks Park and the Picardy Manorway underpass area. In these areas, we have made arrests for drug possession and have also found discarded knives (which have subsequently been seized by officers and destroyed". Bexleyheath ward:- "Mayplace Road West: Theft From Motor Vehicle between Tuesday 13/4/21 08:30 and Thursday 22/4/21 09: 00. Latham Road: Burglary on Saturday 24/4/21 between 00:01 and 05:00. Pushbike was stolen from a garden shed". Crayford ward:- "Well, it was too good to be true, I’m sorry to say there have been two burglaries. One burglary occurred over the weekend of Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th April in Crayford Road, entry through a rear door. The other burglary occurred on Saturday 24th April in Ridge Way, entry through an unlocked rear door. On a more positive note, there were no vehicle thefts reported. The days are getting longer and hopefully warmer, please remember to close and lock doors and windows on going to bed or going out. Make your home look as though someone is at home when you go out.  Please see www.met.police.uk for further crime prevention measures. We have a new PC on our team, PC Paul Sealy has now joined us from Blendon and Penhill SNT".Erith ward:- "This next Erith Ward Panel meeting is going to be on the 12th May 2021 at 7 pm. This will be via teams and I will send a link to this next week". Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward- no report this week. Thamesmead East ward:- "Haldane Road: A burglary took place between 10 pm Sunday 25th April and 4:15 am Monday 26th April". West Heath ward:-"Just one crime of note this week. Burglary in Bostall Park on Monday 26/04/2021 between 03.30 and 04.00".

The end video this week is a bit of local social history. The creator of the video describes it thus:- "My mother died in February 2015. Whilst clearing out her apartment in Upper Belvedere I found a cassette with this poem being read by its author, Pat Butler. For those of a certain age, I am sure you will agree with the sentiments". The recording of the poem is accompanied by historic images of the local area. Please give it a watch and let me know what you think - Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

No comments:

Post a comment