Saturday, September 19, 2020

Let's move on from 'Unintelligible Intelligences' - IQ, Multiple Intelligences, Emotional Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence

 

Eysenck (1916-1997) - IQ, assessment and personality...

Binet, the man responsible for inventing the IQ (intelligence quotient) test, never saw it as being a ‘fixed’ for individuals. Sadly, his waning was ignored as education, keen as ever on selection, sought out single measure for intelligence. The 20th C was dominate at first by the Intelligence Quotient, forever associated with Eysenck (1916-1997). This widened out towards the end of the century, first with Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, then Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. None have stood the test of scrutiny and time. With a renewed interest in Artificial Intelligence, as we moved into the 21stcentury, here has been renewed interest in the word ‘intelligence’. As the measurement of man has become a growing obsession with ever widening definitions of intelligence, unfortunately, much of it was damaging, badly researched and, at times, used for nefarious purposes. As IQ morphed into MI then EQ and AI the same mistakes were made time after time.

Hans Eysenck was the figure around whom much of the IQ debate figured in the 20th century. What is less well known is his work on personality types and his opposition to psychoanalysis and Freud in particular, explained in The Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire.

A controversial figure, he put forward the proposition that intelligence had a hereditary component and was not wholly, socially determined. Although this area is highly controversial and complex, the fact that genetic heritability has some role has become the scientific orthodoxy. What is still controversial is the definition and variability of ‘intelligence’ and the role that intelligence and other tests have in education and training. The environment has been shown to play an increasing role but the nature/nurture debate is a complex area, now a rather esoteric debate around the relevance of different statistical methods.

IQ theory has come under attack on several fronts. Stephen Jay Gould’s 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man is only one of many that have criticised IQ research as narrow, subject to reification (turns abstract concepts into concrete realities) and linear ranking, when cognition is, in fact, a complex phenomenon. IQ research has also been criticised for repeatedly confusing correlation with cause, not only in heritability, where it is difficult to untangle nature from nurture, but also when comparing scores in tests with future achievement. Class, culture and gender may also play a role and the tests are not adjusted for these variables. Work by Howe and Eriksson and others explains extraordinary achievement as being the result of early specialisation and a focused investment in over 10,000 hours of practice and not measurable IQ.

The focus on IQ, a search for a single unitary measure of the mind, is now seen by many, as narrow and misleading. Most modern theories of mind have moved on to more sophisticated views of the mind as with different but interrelated cognitive abilities. More modular theories and theories of multiple intelligence have come to the fore. Sternberger’s three-part (analytic, creative, practical) was followed by Gardner’s eight intelligences in Frames of Mind.

Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (EQ), reflected in other more academic and well researched work, also challenged the unitary theory of intelligence, with its emphasis on the ability to harness emotion in self-awareness, thinking, decision making and in dealing with others. It is not that IQ is the antithesis of EQ, they are merely different. However, even Gardner and Goleman have come under criticism for lacking rigour. In general, however, educational systems in many countries have been criticised for failing to teach this wider set of skills that many now agree are useful in adult life.

Eysenck worked with Cyril Burt at the University of London, the man responsible for the introduction of the standardised 11+ examination in the UK, enshrined in the 1944 Butler Education Act, an examination that, incredibly, still exists in parts of the UK. Burt was subsequently discredited for publishing largely in a journal that he himself edited, falsifying, not only the data upon which he based his work, but also co-workers on the research.

This is just one of many standardised tests that have become common in education but many believe that tests of this type serve little useful purpose and are unnecessary, even socially divisive. On the other hand supporters of test regimes point towards the meritocratic and objective nature of tests. Some, however, argue that standard tests have led to a culture of constant summative testing, which has become a destructive force in education, demotivating and acting as an end-point and filter, rather than a useful mark of success. Narrow academic assessment has become almost an obsession in some countries, fueled by international pressure from PISA.

Interestingly, when measuring IQ, the Flynn Effect, taken from military records, shows that scores have been increasing at the rate of about 3 points per decade and there is further evidence that the rate is increasing This was used by Stephen Johnson in his book Everything bad is Good for You to hypothesize that exposure to new media is responsible, a position with which Flynn himself agrees. This throws open a whole debate and line of research around the benefits of new media in education and learning. Highly complex and interactive technology may be making us smarter. If true, this has huge implications for the use of technology in education and society in general.

Unfortunately, Eysenck and many other psychologists, throughout the middle of the 20th century may have focused too much on narrow IQ tests. This has led to some dubious approaches to early assessment, such as the 11+, that has, to a degree, socially engineered the future educational opportunities and lives of young people. IQ theorists like Eysenck tended to focus on logical and mathematical skills, to the detriment of other abilities, leading some to conclude that education has been over-academic. This, they argue, has led to a serious skew on curricula, assessment and the funding of education to the detriment of vocational and other skills.

 

Multiple Intelligences… uncanny resemblance to current curriculum subjects…

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences opposes the idea of intelligence being a single measurable attribute. His is a direct attack on the practice of psychometric tests and behaviourism, relying more on genetic, instinctual and evolutionary arguments to build a picture of the mind. He also disputes the Piaget notion of fixed developmental stages, claiming that a child can be at various stages of development across different intelligences.

For Gardner, intelligence is “the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting” (Gardner & Hatch, 1989). To identify he nature of intelligence he sought evidence from repots of brain damage showing isolated abilities, the existence of idiot savants, prodigies and other exceptional individuals, an identifiable core operation or group of operations, specific development histories with definable 'end-state' performances, an evolutionary history (at least plausible), evidence from experimental psychology, psychometric findings and the ability to express such intelligences in a symbolic way. In other words, he took a holistic, not a purely experimental or scientific, approach to evidence.

What popped out of studying these criteria was a list of eight ‘intelligences’. To be fair this original list of eight has developed over time but his thoughts on what constitute intelligence have developed over time, as the theory was scrutinized. It opened up the meaning of intelligence to purely rational and logical abilities, which were long held as the essential measures of intelligence.

Loosely speaking, the first two have been typically valued, some would say over-valued, in education; the next three are often associated, but not exclusively, with the arts; the final three are what Gardner called 'personal intelligences':

1. Linguistic: To learn, use and be sensitive to language(s).

2. Logical-mathematical: Analysis, maths, science and investigative abilities.

3. Musical: Perform, compose and appreciate music, specifically pitch, tone and rhythm.

4. Bodily-kinaesthetic: Co-ordination and use of whole or parts of body.

5. Spatial: Recognise, use and solve spatial problems both large and confined.

6. Interpersonal: Ability to read others’ intentions, motivations, desires and feelings.

7. Intrapersonal: Self-knowledge and ability to understand and use one’s inner knowledge.

8. Naturalist: Ability to draw upon the immediate environment to make judgements.

These intelligences complement each other, work together as blends of intelligences. Individuals bring multiple subsets of these intelligences to solve problems.

Gardner also wrote a full set of recommendations on the use of multiple intelligence theory in schools in The Unschooled MindIntelligence Reframed, and The Disciplined Mind, to look at how the theory can be applied in education. As John White observed, one problem with the theory is that it bears an uncanny resemblance to the current curriculum subjects, opening it up to the charge that it reflects what we want to teach, rather than having cognitive certainty. It can look like a simple defence of the classic curriculum.

This has led to a broader more holistic view of education, being less rigid about abstract and academic learning. It demands knowledge of these intelligences among teachers, an aspirational approach to learning, more collaboration between teachers of different disciplines, better and more meaningful curriculum choices and a wider use of the arts.

Many have also criticized the choices as being based on general observations, subject to personal and cultural bias, rather than universal cognitive abilities based on empirical evidence. There is always the problem with identifies ‘intelligences’ such as these not mapping onto the many different forms of cognitive functions, sensory, memory and others. In many of these supposed intelligences, multiple and complex cognitive operations are at work.

Like many forms of measurement in education, from learning styles, through to MBTI and intelligences, the theory can be criticized as it leads to stereotyping and pigeon-holing learners, pushing them towards narrower roads that they would otherwise have been exposed to. It may be their perceived weaknesses that should be addressed not necessarily the most obvious strengths. Like learning styles, it may do more harm than good.

Gardner himself was shocked and often frustrated by the way multiple intelligences was crudely applied in schools, among “a mish-mash of practices…Left Right brain contrasts….learning styles….NLP, all mixed up with dazzling promiscuity”. Some schools in the US even redesigned the whole curriculum, classrooms and entire schools around the theory. His point was that teachers should be sensitive to these intelligences, not to let them prescribe all practice. In his 2003 paper Multiple Intelligences after Twenty Years, for the American Educational Research Association, you could feel his frustration, when he writes, I have come to realize that once one releases an idea – “meme” – into the world, one cannot completely control its behaviour – any more than one can control those products of our genes we call children.”. Like many of these theories, the problem was its simplification and seductiveness. It gave us permission to say anything goes. Rather than promoting a focus on a wider, but still rigorous and relevant curriculum, it was used to confirm he view that here are almost innate ‘talents’ and that young people simply express those through interest. On the other hand it also provided some defence against those who want to labour away at maths all day at the expense of many other subjects or get overly obsessed with STEM subjects.

Like many theories, they develop over time and many teachers who quote and use the theory are unlikely to have fully understood its status and further development by Gardner himself. Few will have understood that it is not supported in the world of science, despite the perception by educators that it arose from that source. Gardner’s first book, Frames of the Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) laid out the first version of the theory, followed 16 years later by a reformulation in Intelligence Reframed (1999)then again in Multiple Intelligences after Twenty Years (2003). Few have followed its development after 1983 or the critiques and Gardner’s subsequent distancing of the theory from brain science.

Lynn Waterhouse laid out the lack of scientific evidence for the theory in Multiple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review in Educational Psychologist. In many areas of learning, such as reason, emotion, action, music, language and so on, are characterised by their intersecting, distributed and complex patterns of activity in the brain. Islands of functional specificity are extremely rare. In short, Gardner seems to suffer from conceptual invention and simplicity. In short, brain science appears not support the theory. Gardner responded to this absence of neurological evidence for his separate 'intelligence' components, by redefining his intelligences as “composites of fine-grained neurological sub-processes but not those sub-processes themselves”(Gardner and Moran, 2006). Pickering and Howard-Jones found that teachers associate multiple intelligences with neuroscience, but as Howard-Jones states, “In terms of the science, however, it seems an unhelpful simplification as no clearly defined set of capabilities arises from either the biological or psychological research”. However, Project SUMIT (Schools Using Multiple Intelligences Theory) does claims to have identified real progress across the board in schools that have indeed been sensitive to Gardner’s theories. The problem is that Gardener claims that the science has yet to come, but teachers assume it is already there and that the theory arose from the science.

The appeal of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences is obvious. It can take on the mantle of science, even neuroscience, and claim to have reinforced the view, not that specific knowledge and skills mater but that all knowledge and skills matter. It plays to the socially constructivist idea that anything goes, in a sea of constructions. Critics are right in holding his feet to the fire of experimental rigour and science, to show that these are indeed identifiable ‘intelligences’ and not just his, or the current educational system’s curricular preferences. They also seem to support the popular movement towards separate, so-called 21st century skills, as. A generic set of skills that can be taught beyond knowledge. In other words it chimes with other popular, and possibly erroneous myths in learning. On the other hand, while the theory may be rather speculative, his identified intelligences represent real dispositions, abilities, talents and potential, which many schools could be said to downgrade or even ignore. 

So far it has been one step forward, getting away from the idea of a single measure of intelligence, as a core entity in the mind, towards a more general theory of multiple entities and measures of intelligence. The problem is that this step wasn’t really solid enough to remain stable. It failed to be supported by solid evidence.  But we have a glimpse here of the dangers of the word ‘intelligence’, its tendency to invite forms of essentialism. Like the allure of gold it attracts ‘miners of the mind’ looking for this singular intelligence or multiple set of essential intelligences. It turns out that what is mined is Fool’s Gold. It may look like gold but, on examination, it is rigid and non-malleable.

The ‘intelligence’ movement, then took a surprising turn, as it swung into the affective or emotional territory. IQ ignored this, Multiple Intelligences tried to widen out to include interpersonal skills but the emotional side was still outside of their scope. So along came another form of intelligence ‘emotional intelligence’.

 

Emotional Intelligence – is it even a 'thing'?

Michael Beldoch wrote papers and a book around emotional intelligence in the 1960s and is credited with coming up with the term. But it was Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (1995) that launched another education and training tsunami. Suddenly, a newly discovered set of skills, classed as an ‘intelligence’ could be used to deliver yet another batch of courses.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is seen by Goleman as an a set of competences that allow you to identify, assess, and control the emotions which you and others have.

He identified five types of Emotional Intelligence: 

Self-awareness: Know your own emotions and be aware of their impact on others

Self-regulation: Manage your own negative and disruptive emotions

Social skill: Manage emotions of other people

Empathy: Understand and take into account other people’s emotions

Motivation: Motivate yourself

For Goleman, these emotional competencies can be learned. They are not entirely innate, but learned capabilities that must be worked on and can be developed to achieve outstanding performance. 

We now have some good research on the subject which shows that the basic concept is flawed, that having EI is less of an advantage than you think. Joseph et al (2015) published a meta-analysis of 15 carefully selected studies, easily the best summary of the evidence so far. What they found was a weak correlation (0.29) with job performance. Note that 0.4 is often taken as a reasonable benchmark for evidence of a strong correlation. This means that EI has a predictive power on performance of only 8.4%. Put another way, if you are spending a lot of money and raining effort on this, it is largely wasted. The clever thing about the Joseph paper was their careful focus on actual job performance, as opposed to academic tests and assessments.

What became obvious as they looked at the training and tools, was that there was a bait and switch going on. EI was not a thing-in-itself but an amalgam of other things, especially personality measures. Indeed, when they unpacked six of the EI tests, they found that many of the measures were actually personality measures, such as conscientiousness, industriousness and self-control. These had been literally lifted from other personality tests. So, they did a clever thing and ran the analysis again, this time with controls for established personality measures. This is where things got really interesting. The correlation between EI and job performance dropped to a shocking -0.2.

Like many fads in HR, such as learning styles, an intuitive error lies at the heart of the fad. It just seems intuitively true that people with emotional sensibility should be better performers but a moment’s thought will make you realize that many forms of performance may rely on many other cognitive traits and competences. In our therapeutic age, it is all too easy to attribute positive qualities to the word ‘emotional’ without really examining what that means in practice. HR is a people profession, people who genuinely care, but when they bring their biases to bear on performance, as with many other fads, such as learning styles, Maslow, Myers-Briggs, NLP and mindfulness, emotion tends to trump reason. When it is examined in detail, EI like these other fads, falls apart. Eysenck, the doyen of intelligence theorists, dismissed Goleman’s definition of ‘intelligence’ and thought his claims were unsubstantiated.

EI tests

Goleman’s claims, that general EI was twice as useful as either technical knowledge, or general personality traits, has been dismissed as nonsense, as is his claim that it accounts for 67% of superior, leadership performance. This undermines lots of Leadership training, as EI is often used as a major plank in its theoretical framework and courses. Føllesdal looked at test results (MSCEIT) of 111 business leaders and compared these with the views of those same leaders by their employees. Guess what – there was no correlation.

Tests often lie at the heart of these fads, as they can be sold, practitioners trained and the whole thing turned into pyramid selling. Practitioners, in this case are sometimes called ‘emotional experts’, who administer and assess EI tests. However, the main test, the MSCEIT, is problematic. First, the company administering the tests (Multi-Health systems) was found by Føllesdal to be peddling a pig with lipstick. To be precise, 19 of the 141 questions were actually being scored wrongly. They quietly dropped the scoring on these questions, while keeping them in the test. Reputations had to be maintained. More fundamentally, the test is weak, as there are no correct answers, so it is not anchored in any objective standard. As a consensus scored test, it is foggy. 

Way forward?

Emotional Intelligence has all the hallmarks of other HR fads – the inevitable popular book, paucity of research, exaggerated claims, misleading language, the test, ignoring research that shows it is largely a waste of training time. This is not to say that ‘emotion’ has no role in competences or learning. Indeed, from Hume To Haidt, we have seen that reason is often the slave of the passions. Gardner’s mistake was to over-rationalise emotion. In particular, his use of the word ‘intelligence was misleading.

 

Education became fixated with the search and definition of a single measure of intelligence – IQ. The main protagonist being Eysenck and it led to fraudulent policies, such as the 11+ in the UK, which is still used for selection into schools at age 11. It was promoted on the back of fraudulent research by Cyril Burt. Out of this obsession also came the language of the gifted and talented, still popular in education, despite the fact that the measures are flawed.

Many have criticised IQ research as narrow in definition. This is a key point. Cognitive science has succeeded in unpacking many of these complexities without reducing them to singular measures or short lists. The focus on IQ, a search for a single, unitary measure of the mind, even a small set of such measures, is now seen by many as narrow and misleading. Gardener tried to widen its definition into Multiple Intelligences (1983) but this is weak science and lacks any real rigour. 

Goleman wanted to add another, Emotional Intelligence, but this turned out to be little more than a marketing slogan. The search for ‘intelligence’ still suffers from a form of academic essentialism. Most modern theories of mind have moved on to more sophisticated views of the mind as with different but interrelated cognitive abilities. 

Goleman’s confusing ‘intelligence’ or ‘competences’ with personality traits is telling. Eysenck also contributed (with his wife) to the area of personality traits with idea that personality can be defined in terms of psychoticism, extraversion and neuroticism. This provided the basis for the now widely respected OCEAN model proposed by Costa & McCrae:

Openness

Conscientiousness

Extraversion

Agreeableness

Neuroticism

Eysenck rejected the Costa & McCrae model but in the end it has become the more persuasive theory. This well researched area of ‘personality types’ has largely been ignored in learning, in favour of the more faddish ‘learning styles’ theory. However, it has been argued that this type of differentiation is far more useful when dealing with different types of learners than the essentialism of Eysenck, Gardner and Goleman.

Why we need to drop the word ‘intelligence’

More recently, the rise of AI has produced a lot of debate on what constitutes ‘intelligence’. I discuss this in my book ‘AI for Learning’. Turing’s seminal paper Computing Machinery & Intelligence (1950), along with its nine defences, set the standard on whether machines can think and be intelligent. Yet the word ‘intelligence’ is never mentioned in his sense in the actual paper. But it was John McCarthy who invented the term at the famous Dartmouth Conference in 1956, that is seen as the starting point of the modern AI movement.

We would do well to abandon the word ‘intelligence’, as it carries with it so much bad theory and practice. Indeed AI has, in my view, already transcended the term, as it had success across a much wider sets of competences (previously intelligences), such as perception, translation, search, natural language processing, speech, sentiment analysis, memory, retrieval and other many other domains. All of this was achieved without consciousness. It is all competence without comprehension.

Machine learning has led to successes all sorts of domains beyond the traditional field of IQ and human ‘intelligences’. In many ways it is showing us the way, going back to a wider set of competences that includes both ‘knowing that’ (cognitive) and ‘knowing how’ (robotics) to do things. This was seen by Turing as a real possibility and it frees us from the fixed notion of intelligence that got so locked down into human genetics and capabilities. We can therefore avoid the term ‘intelligence(s)’ thereby avoiding the anthropomorphism around transferring human ideas around intelligence on to non-comprehending, but competent, performance. ‘Intelligence’ embodies too many assumptions around conscious comprehension in a field where man is NOT the measure of all things.

Beyond brains

The brain is the organ that named itself and created all that we are discussing but it is a odd thing. It takes over 20 years of education before it is even remotely useful to an employer or society. To attribute ‘intelligence’ to he organ is to forge that, compared to machines, it can’t pay attention for long, forgets most of what you teach it, is sexist, racist, full of cognitive biases, sleeps 8 hours a day, can’t network, can’t upload, can’t download and, here’s the fatal objection -  it dies. This should not be the gold standard for intelligence, as it is an idiosyncratic organ that evolved for circumstances other than those we find ourselves in.

Let’s take this idea further. Koch (2014) claimed that ALL networks are, to some degree ‘intelligent’. As the boundary for consciousness and intelligence changed over time to include animals, indeed anything with a network of neurons, he argues that intelligence is a property that can be applied to any communicating network. As we have evidence that intelligence is related to networked activity, whether these are brains or computers, could intelligence be a function of this networking, so that all networked entities are, to some degree, intelligent? Clark and Chalmers (1998) in The Extended Mind, laid out the philosophical basis for this approach. This opens up the field for definitions of ‘intelligence’ that are not benchmarked against human capabilities or speciesism. If we consider the idea of competences residing in other forms of chemistry and substrates, and see algorithms and their productive capabilities, as being independent of the base materials in which they arise, then we can cut the ties with the word ‘intelligence’ and focus on capabilities or competences. 

Few would argue that AI has progressed faster than expected, with significant advances in machine learning, deep learning and reinforcement learning.  In some cases the practical applications clearly transcend human capabilities and competences in all sorts of fields, calculation, image recognition, object detection and the may fruits of natural language processing, such as translation, text to speech, speech to text. We do not need to see ‘intelligence’ as the sun the centre of this solar system. The Copernican move is to remove this term and replace it with competences and look to problems that can be solved without comprehension. The means to ends are always means, it is the ends that matter. 

What is wonderful here is the opening up of philosophical issues around the idea of ‘intelligence(s)’. We are far from the existential risk to our species that many foresee but there are many more near-term issues to be considered. Ditching old psychological relics is one. Artificial smartness is with us it need not be called 'intelligent'.

Bibliography

Eysenck, H.J. (1967) The Biological Basis of Personality. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Eysenck, H.J. (1971) The IQ Argument: Race, Intelligence, and Education. New York: Library Press.

Eysenck, H.J. (1985) Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire

Eysenck, H.J. & Eysenck, S.B.G. (1969). Personality Structure and Measurement. London: Routledge.

Gould, S. J. (1981).The mismeasure of man. New York: Norton.

Beldoch, M. and Davitz, J.R., 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. McGraw-Hill.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Howe, M. J. A. (1999). Genius explained. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.

Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad is good for you. London: Allen Lane.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (2003). Personality in adulthood: A five-factor theory perspective. New York: Guilford Press.

Bloom (1956). Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain.

Dennett, D. (1995). Consciousness Explained.

Clark and Chalmers (1998) The Extended Mind

Dreyfus, H., & Dreyfus, S. (1997). Why Computers May Never Think Like People. Knowledge Management Tools, 31-50.

Ebbinghaus, H. (1908). Psychology: An elementary textbook. New York: Arno Press.

Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, New York: Basic Books.

Frey B.C. Osborne M.A. (2013). The Future of Employment, Oxford Martin School.

Harari, Y.N. (2016). Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harvill Secker, London.

Haugland, J. (1997). Mind design II: Philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Koch (2014). "Is Consciousness Universal". Scientific American Mind.

Searle, J. (1980). Minds, Brains and Programs. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences.3, pp. 417–424. (1980)

Susskind, R., & Susskind, D. (2015). The Future of the Professions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Turing, A. M. (1950). I.—Computing Machinery And Intelligence. Mind, LIX(236), 433-460.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

10 odd places in Stanmer Park you may not have noticed

Stanmer Park tells the whole of English history. From the Neolithic clearances of the woods around 3500 BC, through Bronze Age burial sites (2500-1500 BC) to a Romano-British settlement, Saxon villages and burials, gifted in 765 AD into monastic ownership, Domesday book mention, Medieval villages, gifted by Henry VIII to the Pelkes in 1545, three houses, current one built in 1722, a well dug in the 16th century, unique water run-off site in 1874 and WW2 aircraft positions.


1. Bronze Age Barrow

Beneath the boughs of a giant Beech tree you can walk or cycle past this huge barrow without noticing a thing. No more than a few yards from the path, if you walk over, you will see a huge donut shaped ring, that would have had a deep ditch and pile of bright, white chalk. Built between 2500 and 1000 BC it is arguably the oldest visible monument in the park. A Bronze Age burial barrow, it would have held a pot, bones and burial objects. Excavated, if that is the right word, in the 19th C, it is now empty. Just behind in the woods to the SE, you will see a ridge and ditch this is a Bronze Age earthwork.

 

2. WW2 aircraft gun site

Down in the valley, there’s a triangular wall, inside this wall in the most easterly angle, there is a pile of 20mm anti-aircraft shell casings. In the middle there a huge barrow of these casings. One weird feature is the concrete plinth just outside the wall on the NE. This has a rectangular concrete cap but on the south side there’s a hole. Drop down a stone and there’s a 20 foot or more drop. I have no idea what this was, possible the shelter for the gunners. Stanmer Park and its buildings were used by a Canadian Tank Regiment during WW2.

 

3. Rocky Clump sacred site

A copse at the top of the hill is fenced with a gate on the N side. Enter the gate and head SW until you come across three large boulders. These are Sarcens, stones from the sandstone that used to cap the chalk beds. Excavations have revealed a buried ox-head on a bed of whelk and mussel shells, also 7 Anglo-Saxons men buried with their heads to the west, a sign that they were outcasts or criminals.

 

4. Romano-British farmstead

To the SE of the copse is an excavated area in which lies a Romano-British farm (150 AD-250 AD). A Roman coin, brooch, ring, Samian ware and other pottery and artefacts have been found here as well as a 2m wide and 2 metre deep ditch. Two baby graves have been found, both facing east, one sitting up facing east.

 

5. Medieval Farmstead

Below Rocky Clump in the field to the south on the other side of the tarmacked road, lies a depression and reed bed. This was the site of a Medieval village, possibly abandoned during the Black Death in 1348, which killed 40-60% of the population. 

 

6. Huge Water Runoff

Walk down the tarmac road until you see a mangled fence on your right, go into the woods and walk East and you’ll come across a football pitch sized area, sloping off to the SE, that was a run-off for drinking water. There is only one of these in the whole of the UK. Chalk is porous, so there is no surface water. The estate manager, in the 1870s build this, with a wood and slate structure, to capture water for Stanmer House. There are three large, underground brick tanks that hold the water.

 

7. Medieval Village 2

Behind the houses on the West side of the current village lies a second Medieval Village. The undulations in the paddock show the ghostly existence of an entire village.

 

8. Donkey Well

The small rectangular building to the north of the church contains a very deep 252 ft, hand-dug well in the 16th century. A large wheel was driven by a donkey, then astoundingly, by a man 1870-1900. Like the run-off, chalk absorbs surface water, so Dew Ponds and hand-dug wells had to be dug. The huge Yew tree behind, in the churchyard, is likely to date back to Saxon times.

 

9. Stanmer House

You will have seen Stanmer House. But did you know that this Palladian house with Greek pediment was a masterpiece of symmetry spoiled in the 19th century by the north wing extension. The porch was also a 19th century addition. There was a Jacobean and Queen Ann house earlier than this on the same site. Behind the house is an Ice House and Horse Gin for raising water from a well.

 

10. Franklin Monument

Did you know that this is not a stone monument? It is made of Coade stone, a form of concrete, that can be moulded and carved to look like stone, invented in the early 1700s by Elanor Coade. It is a classical structure that sits on three turtles to signify long-life and fertility. Built by his son and daughter, for Frederick Franklin , an MP and Governor of the Bank of England.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Greece - Napflion. Actium,Meteora, Thermopolae and Platea

Napflion once more, my favourite Greek town, for a couple of days swimming in the sea, good food and wanders around the old town before heading north for a round trip up the west coast to Nicopolis, across to Meteora and down the east coast via Thermopolae and Platea. Going back to Greece, as I do often, is to rediscover history and enjpy the good life. It really is my Arcadia. If you've never been to Napflion,it's an old town that sits on a peninsula below a huge Venetian fortress looking out across the bay of Argos to this small fort defending the harbour. It's within hitting distance of Athens, Mycenae, Tiryns, Troezen, Olympia and dozens of other famous archaeological sites.
But it's a real Greek town with a lively culture of its own and agreat for a stroll or two in the evening. A shadow puppet show in the main square kept the kids, and me, amused and I think this was an art practiced by the gypsies, before begging became their main occupation. Despite the economic crisis, and in Greece the word 'crisis' is no exaggeration, they still hold regular public events.
The main square here, in the old town, is what every town centre should be, a meeting place ringed with cafes and children playing in the centre. This has become a special place for us, as we’ve come here many times over the years.The crods that used to throng here have gone, as on the whole the Germans don't come and the Athenians have found themselves short of cash. To be honest, I rather like this, as it reminds me of the Greece I knew 35 years ago.
Plenty of good food to be had in Napflion! Traditional taverna fare is as good as you'll get anywhere but there's also more cosmopolitan Italian restaurants and fish restaurants along the seafront. For me it's Greek Salad, Tzesiki, Beans Giagantes and Veal Stefado all the way. A carafe of quaffable red wine is 3-5 euros. It's Speptember, therefore a litle off-season so hotel rooms are cheap - 50-60 euros.


Patras
North then west to Patras, along a road that can only be described as a the wacky races through 100 kilometers of roadworks. I’ve never seen so many EU signs, with sums from 600k to 110m. Everywhere, there’s a new motorway, road, bridge, museum, monastery or building being restored, at great expense.
Astoundingly, we cross the magnificent Patras bridge without spotting a single other car. Why? It’s 13.20 euros one way and there’s competing ferries running below. But that’s nothing compared to the huge motorway going from Igoumenitsa heading east straight through several mountain ranges. It’s a series of tunnels and bridges across valleys and through mountains, with only a trickle of traffic. This cost hundreds and hundreds of millions of euros. Subsequent EU audits have shown that many of these roads are hopelessly over-engineered, motorways where simple expressways would have sufficed. Vastly overestimated traffic numbers.
Then there’s the new roads that just stop, the half-finished restorations – a million monuments to folly. We hear a lot about the Greek crisis but precious little about its causes, even when they are there to be seen. This trip has given me a solid dose of euro-scepticism.
Nafpaktos
Stopped here for a spell on the beach on the west side of te town,then tzsesiki and calamaris lunch overlooking the tiny harbour. This is where Cervantes lost the use of his left arm, in the Battle of Lepanto, famously claiming after the success of Don Quixote, that he "had lost the movement of the left hand for the glory of the right". He also spent five years in slavery after being captured by Algerian Corsairs.
Those were the days when novelists lived a life and didn’t do creative writing courses, Booker Prizes and Book Festivals. Is there anyone in contemporary literature doing anything near the scope of Don Quixote? It’s still a warlike town with a fortress looming over the square and a tight, little, fortified harbour. The Spanish have paid for a statue of Cervantes, looking every bit the faux, gay cavalier and not at all the hero of Lepanto.
Mesologi
On to Mesologi , another literary giant died here – Byron – who has a statue just inside the fortified walls, beneath which lies his heart, the rest having been shipped off, against his wishes, back to Newstead, his family pile in England. Another example of a writer who actually did something heroic, rather than just wield a pen. No poetry readings and Book festivals for this lad. Why are our modern writers such a pasty lot of wasters, paddling about in their own, little, comfortable ponds?
Beside his statue is a mound, where the defenders are buried. It was completely empty when we visited but it was heartening to see that so many people from all over Europe rallied to the cause, which was really French Revolutionary fervour.
Pleuron
A stunning site, high up on the side of the mountains, the Greek city that is mentioned in Homer, as having sent ships to Troy. The walls form almost a complete circuit with 36 towers and 7 gates. There’s a small theatre at the west end with a huge view out to the Ionian Sea. Not a soul here.
Actium
Augustus sends Mark Anthony and Cleopatra packing and starts the age of Emperors. One of the most famous sea battles of all time. We found a room for 35 euros a night, up on the cliffs overlooking the site of the battle and watched the sunset over the spot where Augustus & Agrippa fought Anthony & Cleopatra. The battle was fought in this very month (September) two and a half thousand years ago.
Nicopolis
Augustus was so pleased with himself that he built a city here to celebrate his victory in 31 BC and populated it with locals from miles around. It was a typical Imperial gesture, as the site had no water an aqueduct, which we spotted miles north, had to be constructed to water the city. The guidebook I have suggest that it was a foolish gesture but when you see the site, with its two harbours, one on the Ionian Sea to the west, the other on the Amyenkikos Gulf to the east, you can see that his vision and achievement of uniting the west and eastern Roman Empires makes sense. Many Emperors were to come through this city in the coming centuries, including
Inhabited for 600 years it was repeatedly attached by those northern lads, the Goths, Vandals and Bulgars. You can see hurried fortifications with this pile of column drums. It is a true Roman city in that it lasted through into Byzantine times, still Roman, despite the Gibbon propaganda. Indeed, the Byzantine walls are still huge.
Augustus’s Camp
Difficult place to find as it’s not signposted but as you wind your way up through a small village you come to the enclosed and locked site. You often find this in Greece and I always just jump the fence. Boy, what a site. High above the sea, it affords a perfect vantage point for the battle. You can sit here on the very spot that Augustus sat to see Mark Anthony and Cleopatra’s fleets trapped by the Augustan ships, hen Cleopatra fleeing south, followed by a defeated leaving Anthony. Augustus, at that point was master of the Roman Empire and hounded Anthony and Cleopatra to their eventual suicides and the murder of their children
This inscription has been found or at least many fragments, which are lined up.
IMPERATOR CAESAR, SON OF THE DIVINE JULIUS, FOLLOWING THE VICTORY IN THE WAR WHICH HE WAGED ON BEHALF OF THE REPUBLIC IN THIS REGION, WHEN HE WAS CONSUL FOR THE FIFTH TIME AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF FOR THE SEVENTH TIME, AFTER PEACE HAD BEEN SECURED ON LAND AND SEA (pace parta terra marique), CONSECRATED TO NEPTUNE AND MARS THE CAMP FROM WHICH HE SET FORTH TO ATTACK THE ENEMY NOW ORNAMENTED WITH NAVAL SPOILS
Behind the fragments of this inscription, there is a stone wall with large blocks and slots for ships’ rams. There were 33-35 of these captured rams – spoils of war. Can you get any closer to a 2000 year old sea battle than this?
Kassopi
A walk through the pines takes you to what must be the finest position for a city in the whole of Greece. We had the place to ourselves and what a place. Set on a ledge in an amphitheatre of rock it overlooks the Ionian Sea. But it's a Hippodamian plan, namely a grid system. There'e an ampithatre shaped public meeting place overlooking the agora - how Greek is that, and you can walk through the streets or up to the thetare just as they did in the 4th C BC.
The agora is flaked on the other two sides by stoa  The views are beyond belief. The guidebooks suggest that the main building with its superb masonry, was a hostel for visiting dignitaries. I prefer the other archaeological view that it was a shopping mall, on the ground that it’s right next to the agora, and no building of such size would have had such a limited purpose on such a tight site. The theatre, high on the hill, must have been a wonderful experience, as it looks out to sea.
You have to climb high into the mountains to reach the site but it's one of the most rewarding trips you'll ever make. Set among the pine trees, the smell of resin wafts through the city. Perfect place to stop for some coffee.
Behind the city on a cliff you see a rather odd monument to the women who danced off the cliff with their children when cornered by the Ottomans. This was in the early 19th C. The east-west struggle continues.
Vrachos
Lovely beach, where we stopped for a calamaris and sardine lunch and a swim.
Necromandion
My mate Pete tells me that modern scholarship casts doubt on the ‘underworld’ idea, preferring to see it as a fortified farmhouse.
Meteora
It’s been 35 years since we were here and it’s even more spectacular that either of us remember. This time we weren’t camping but had a room in Kastasis with a view towards the pinnacles. From cave hermits to monasteries in the sky, these retreats chime with the idea of a monastic tradition that values isolation from worldly affairs. Once you’ve climbed and climbed you feel the contemplative effect of being so high and remote from the world below. Unfortunately, the busloads of visitors to the main monasteries spoil the effect somewhat but these are still working monastic communities, that return to worship when the crowds have gone and the doors locked.
Thermopolae
What can I say. Leonidis and the 300, defend the pass to the last man (well the last two) and hold up the Persian army long enough to save Greece at the subsequent Battle of Platea. It’s quite moving, the hill where the defenders are buried is still there and a handsome statue of Leonidis stands, spear in hand. When Xerces asked him to lay down his arms, he replied, ‘come and get them’!
Glas
Having visited the great Mycenaen cities of Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos, this is something completely different, a huge 3Km walled enclosure that once stood on an island. Not mentioned by Homer, it’s a bit of an ancient mystery. Modern theories seem to suggest a defensive enclosure in times of threat.
Thebes
Nothing much of historical interest to be seen in Thebes, as the modern town is built upon the ancient city.
Platea
Gil's done a hell of alot of driving over the last few days and has had enough of city walls. A few kilometres off the main road and just below the modern village lies the ancient Greek Town of Platea and just below that the site of one of the most significant battles in history. The defeat of the Persians in 480 BC. You can look down on the plain where the Persians were camped and stand where the Greeks stood before their victory.
The Plateans (1000) had come to the aid of the Athenians (9000) at another great rout of the Persians (25000)under Xerces, in 490 BC at Marathon, the news delivered by a runner who promptly dropped dead. The Plateans didn’t fare so well in the Peloponnese War, stuck between the nearby Thebans and the never ending enmity between Sparta and Athens.
The walls are still there with a few towers and against one of these towers lay some wreaths, celebrating the victory. It’s a remote place and we were the only one’s there, making it even more evocative.
Eleutherai
The road goes through the pass defended by the Eleutherai Fort, whose walls still stand. The road is rammed with trucks avoiding the expensively built toll roads out of Athens.
Napflion

Last two days in Napflion were spent swimming in the glass clear waters. tinged with some worrying doubts about the future of Greece. The evidence for massive overspending by the EU is everywhere and clearly did not result in a sustainable economy, but something more sinister is happening. Golden Dawn, or at least a member, stabbed to death a left-leaning musician in Athens today, and the public sector is largely on strike. It’s hard to form a clear opinion on the public sector thing, as it was so massively corrupt but fascism is another matter.
Note this graffiti on a building on the main road into Napflion. We shouldn’t imagine that fascism was very far from the surface in Greece – its military juntas, aided by the CIA, 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vilnius (Lithuania)

Lithuania is well known to we Scots as the source of the ill-fated, some would say downright corrupt, Russian-Lithuanian Vladimir Romanov, who used his bank Ukio Bankas (now bust) to fund a takeover then oversee the club’s collapse. He’s what’s commonly known as a ‘chancer’. Interestingly, went to change some money at the bus station and saw that there were two arte, one for UK, the other for Scotland – guess which one was lower (portent of the future?). I also have a slight knowledge of the town through its basketball team, as Brighton played and won away from home but were beaten at home in a fantastically rowdy match, which I attended, in the Brighton Centre.
Arrived by bus, the excellent Ecolines with wifi, electric sockets and coffee, to a rather drab bus station on the outskirts of town but the walk in was down through its medieval centre in the sun. Found the hotel then headed into town for dinner at an Italian called Pomodoro.
KGB Museum

Next day we started with the KGB Museum. Like the superb ‘Terror’ museum in Budapest, it is housed in the building sued by both the German Gestapo and the Russians KGB. In the second world war the Russians invaded but were driven back by the Germans only for the Russians to return at the end of the second World War, and there they remained until 1990, the last troops leaving in 1993. Napoleon also famously stopped here on his march to Moscow. The ‘Museum’ had dozens of cells in the basement. It started with two tiny holding cells, barely big enough to take one step, windowless and terrifying. 
But the padded cell with its straightjacket was the most frightening image of all, as the people placed here were not mad, but driven mad by torture. 
Then an astonishing two cells with small circular plates, about the size of a small tray standing up in the middle of the floor. These cells were flooded and the inmates forced to balance on the metal plate. In the winter the water would freeze. But worse than this was the story of Vilnius’s Jewish population, literally annihilated by being ghettoised, then marched to the outskirts of town and executed by the Germans. The Russians arrive, exhume bodies then start a reign of terror on the Germans and Latvians responsible for such crimes, but also much more. They deportation tens of thousands to Siberia and the continued surveillance and harassment by the KGB. Some managed to return in the 50s but it was a tragic story, the story of a small nation, repeatedly terrorised by large Empires from North (Sweden), South (France), East (Russia) and West (Germany).
Despite all of this, it seems a remarkably self-assured little nation with polite people and Vilnius is a fine European-like town, marked by its Neo-classical and Baroque architecture.
Frank Zappa!
Found a statue of Frank Zappa in a small park, his head upon a tall pole. Local artists decided to test the limits of the authorities censorship and submitted the proposal, and were astonished that it was accepted. So a 70 year old sculptor of Lenin statues was commissioned in 1993 and here it stands.
Baroque churches
If Riga is Art Nouveau, Vilnius is Baroque. These are worth the walk, even the Peter and Paul Church, which is some way out of town, a huge church with white reliefs covering ever surface.
Gothic masterpiece
Despite the dominance of Baroque, the finest church, if not building, in town is a small Gothic masterpiece, supposedly coveted by Napoleon when he passed through here on his ill-fated tour of the Baltics. Unusually, it’s made of brick with sinuous ribbed structures forming a mock face on the façade. Inside the Gothic ribbed roof is just as finely executed.
Cuisine

Note here for the cuisine but the receptionist in the hotel recommended XXXX and it was excellent – chicken stuffed with prunes and a pork stew in a tomato sauce. Bread ice-cream for dessert.

Riga (Latvia)

Art Nouveau
Latvia? Again, I had no preconceptions. Actually, this is not quite true, as I was drawn to Riga by its Art Nouveau architecture. Brussels is full of the stuff, as is Prague, but it’s only in Riga that you can see street after street of the stuff.
Walked from the bus station to our Art Nouveau Hotel, the Clarion Collection Valdemars. The owners had to flee the Germans to Sweden but had their property returned in 1991. It’s not the finest piece of Art Nouveau in Riga but it’s great to be staying here.
An architectural walk is a great way to see a city as it takes you to places you may not have considered. So it was with these walks. Riga is a hugely under-rated city. You soon recognise the asymmetries, huge doorways, odd-shaped towers on roofs, vertical lines and ornamentation. We literally spent two days looking at this stuff and got nowhere near exhausting its riches. Turn any corner and there’s more. Why so much of the stuff? Well, it was decided to relax the laws on building in stone outside of the old city at the same time as trade was booming and the Art Nouveau movement was sweeping Europe, at the turn of the century. It was a movement that allowed artists to draw in local and national cultural motifs, as well as experiment in form, as well as decoration. Apart from Glasgow, we have nothing like this in the UK.
Perpendicular
First thing to spot is the ‘perpendicular’ movement, with strong lines that rise vertically across several floors.
New Romantic
The ‘new romantic’ movement, leans more towards national motifs, steep roofs, rustic stone effects and so on.
Sex scams
There’s a very large Russian population here and one consequence is the Russian mafia activities in its bars and nightspots. The guidebooks and web are full of warnings about predictable scams. Guess what, single man gets approached by two girls, they seem nice but he ends up being vastly overcharged for drinks and then beaten for his pin number. As the free local guide says, If you don’t look like Brad Pitt and girls approach you in the street, assume the worst. As a couple this is hardly a problem and went drinking in the old town, watched Jazz one evening and a great soul singer the next.
Zeppelin market
This is a must as you get a double dividend, great industrial, historic architecture – five huge German Zeppelin hangers from the First World War and a view of what the Latvians eat. One hanger had fish, huge stalls of salmon, eels and every other imaginable cold water species. The next had fruit and veg, much driven here from southern Russia. Another is meat as the local cuisine is well… meat.
Walked back from here along the canal than winds its way through the centre of the city.
Museum of the Occupation

A specially built, and rather brutal block of a building, houses a harrowing account of the liquidation by the Germans of Latvian Jews. It was brutal, marched out of town to the forest and shot at the side of specially dug pits. There is also the pairing of fascism with communism, and an account of the brutal occupation by Soviet Russia until its independence in 1991. I’m not sure about calling these places ‘Museums’, as they’re much more than this. This is the recent past and there are people in this town who witnessed all of this, many lived through the Soviet era. It’s something htat needs to be experienced, not exposition.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Helsinki (Finland)


What do I know about Finland? Lapland, reindeer, Nokia and a world beating education system. I can’t name a single famous Finn (Santa doesn’t count). So off we set across the Baltic to Helsinki, not without trepidation, as the previous day we had come across a monument in Tallinn to the nearly 900 people who died in 1994 in a Tallinn ferry disaster. It was as calm as a monk but Gil still preferred to stay on the top deck. The ferry had a quirky duty free selling Vodka laced with gold leaf, Japanese whisky, Liquorice Pipes, Fisherman’s Friends and a huge range of beer and spirits. Some passengers bought ENORMOUS amounts of alcohol. Some even had a palette when they disembarked.
Art Nouveau
For me, this was a chance to see another fine Art Nouveau city. I have a penchant for Art Nouveau architecture as I like buildings that put on a show, that wear their character like their best clothes. Art Nouveau does this but without the predictability of Neo-classical or pomposity of Baroque. It’s enormous doors, reliefs, balconies and decorations are designed to do nothing but make the structure look interesting. It’s also great fun, as it gave the architects the chance to let their creativity rip. Many more people will see a building from the outside than live in it, so why put all of the expense on the inside? This is especially true in cities, where the buildings are a public spectacle.
Helsinki railway station is a great example, with its huge arched entrance, flanked by huge figures holding lamps. It’s this sense of ‘entrance’ that Art Nouveau embraced. Inside it has a huge entrance hall with fantastic candelabras. If there’s one buildi8ng in a city that needs to be done well it’s the railway station.
On the left, the ticket office must be the nicest of any railway station in the world, with its lamps and wooden desks. It’s like entering a high class hotel. None of the officious glass windows and severity of other ticket offices.
On the right, a café with a central, circular serving bar. It’s big, it’s bold and has these wonderful vertical, orange lights. Every station needs a fine café and this is as fine as it gets.
The Kallia Church, which looks down a long boulevard from a hill some way out of the centre, is worth the walk. It’s the centrepiece of a whole district of Art Nouveau apartment blocks.
Ate some small fried fresh water fish, salmon and potatoes near the docks where we met some Australians, who worked in mining. The whole city is really a set of small peninsulas, so you’re never far from water.
In the centre is the rough hewn P building with its bears, wolves and owls. This rustic look is a feature of a number of the Art Nouveau buildings in Helsinki and harks back to the fortified buildings of rural Finland.
What I really liked was the warrior image on the corner tower. Look closely and you’ll see the helmet and eyes. Macintosh used the same idea in Glasgow.
The door is flanked by pairs of grotesque faces with three toes. A door is rarely a door in Art Nouveau. It’s a statement, often a grand statement, even out of proportion with the rest of the building. Again, it’s this external messaging.
Art gallery
Went to the Gallery of Modern Art where there was an exhibition by the Russian Art Collective AES+F, all about the end of ideology. The images are full of references to old masters, computer gaming, fashion photography. Happy End? was the other show, less impressive but a lively set of manga figures, images of school shooters and brand commentary.
City of the north

This is a city of the north, with lots of light, surrounded by water but it’s not a beautiful place, more functional. The ferry back was more sedate, as there was less mass purchasing of alcohol. Internet access on ferry, as there was on every bus, café, terminal and hotel. No passwords, just lots of open access.