Tag Archives: development

Israeli/Palestinian prisoner swap

13 Oct

Okay soooo….yeah this is a touchy subject. Gotta be careful…

In writing this, I’m not trying to take the perspective of one side or the other; I’m simply trying to highlight something. Make of it what you will. Regardless of your views, I want you to genuinely ask yourself what you think of the question I’m gonna bring up. I don’t want you to immediately fall back on ‘your sides’ arguments or justifications…I just want you to engage with the question and hopefully challenge your view on the situation. Nothing more, nothing less.

I do have an opinion on it all though, don’t get me wrong. Even though this question I’m gonna raise might make it seem like I’m favouring one side, It’s not. It’s just a question. You could change the parametres of the question a million ways to encompass a million different political viewpoints…but it would still end up being the same question.

Besides, when you take a far enough step back away from it all, it’s a bit like watching two drunks fighting over their shared loss of dignity. Both contributed to the circumstances, both agree it’s happened, but neither is willing to be the big man.

So anyway, in the news recently is the story of Gilad Shilat, an Israeli soldier who will be released after years in captivity. In exchange for his release, one thousand and twenty seven Palestinians will be released in your classic prisoner swap.

And there’s the question; hidden among the jubilation on both sides that their respective peoples are being returned home. I’m not gonna write anything about the conflict, the barrier, the two countries tearing each other apart from inside out…there’s no need for all that when a question this simple presents itself.

1 person in exchange for 1,027 people. 1 Israeli for 1,027 Palestinians.

Figured the question out yet? I don’t blame you…it hasn’t cropped up at all in the news coverage and let’s be honest here: it’s not something that would immediately spring to mind but…

When is 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others? And, more importantly, why is that 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others?

Both sides are happy with the agreement, so it seems that the Palestinians are alright with being deemed worthless enough that over one thousand of their people are the equivalent of 1 Israeli, but still…it’s a horrible question.

As I said above,; this question has nothing to do with politics, it’s about humanity. If you comment, please leave all politics at the door. We could change the parametres to “Catholics vs Protestants” in the North of Ireland, “blacks vs Whites” in 1950’s America, or even “Terrorists vs Patriots” somewhere else in the world but it still boils down the same simple question:

When is one life worth a thousand others, and why?

 

Captain America: This is the logic we’re teaching now? really?!

8 Aug

I haven’t seen the film yet, so no spoilers ahead. I know admitting this might render my argument completely invalid, but I highly doubt that seeing as it’s near impossible to hide a shakespearean tragedy underneath a punchy blockbuster. Yes, it happens in the comics, but almost never in films which are hoping to rake it in at the box office by aiming themselves at the widest marketshare possible.

There’s one line in the trailer that caught my attention. It’s an innocent, shy little line that can easily pass unnoticed. But, unfortunately, it’s the basis for pretty much the entire films logic.  I should tell you now that I hesitate to apply the same logic to the comics, because I do love me some Captain A. He’s a legend…I don’t want to think about it too much just yet to be honest, i don’t think I’d like it.

After Steve Rogers asks doctor Abraham Erskine, the doctor who will transform him with the super soldier serum he has created, “Why me?” The good doctor replies:

“Because weak men, know the value of strength…know the value of power”

It’s a tight argument, one I agree with to a point. I don’t agree with the implication of it though, an implication that shines through once you take into account the rest of the setup.

Steve rogers is chosen for the super soldier programme because he has repeatedly applied to join the war effort but been denied because he is physically inadequate. He doesn’t have half the muscle mass the other men have and, in the film, he’s actually ridiculously exaggerated. In the comics he’s just an average guy with a bit of an underdeveloped body but in the film he looks a malnourished child who has to grapple with gravity itself to gather enough air to breathe.

Anyway, you’ve probably seen the scene: Scrawny guy steps into a machine then steps out of the machine a hulk of a man, ready to fight for his country.

Now, my (first) problem is this: All those other guys, the odd million or so who succesfully got into the army, didn’t start off looking like Adonis. (for the sake of argument I’m gonna deny historical accuracy and ignore the fact that most of those who enlisted were nothing more than average joes who played a season or two of highschool football). They all toned themselves up through sweat and hardwork. They put in the hours working on their fitness, and it paid off. They got in by virtue of that work they put in.

But it’s not okay to give them the super soldier serum because they “Won’t know the value of strength”? Oh I’m calling that one. I’m calling that one straight up. They’ve decided to improve themselves, probably gone through a hell of a lot of heartbreak for it, and they won’t know the value of strength just because…well, damn, I dunno: just, because! Because they said so! Because!!!1!

But the kicker, and the thing that has me really worried for the state of the world, is that the implication is this:

You can bestow great power and strength on a weak but intelligent, morally strong, courageous, humble, respectful, honourable and benevolent person, but you can not bestow these virtues on a person who’s already strong and powerful.

This is the lesson we’re teaching people: If you’re strong, muscular, or if you can be described in any way near the label ‘jock’, you’re finished, we can’t teach you anything. You just keep on keeping on. No no, it’s okay, don’t worry about it. You’ve got great power and strength, but don’t you worry your little head about the essential virtues which, throughout history, have been used to keep the powerful in check and the warrior class aligned on the side of justice and righteousness. We threw those out the window with the 80’s, so just chill: you’re all good.

I’ve been scratching myself to think of a tribe of warriors in Western history that could illustrate my point properly, but none quite come up to scratch. The spartans, although they’ve gotten a good reputation in the past few years, were a crazy bunch. Sure, they pushed themselves to the pinnacle of the art of war, but they denied themselves a lot of virtues along the way that makes a good warrior. The greeks, although not in the same class as the spartans, were much the same.

The vikings, although they had a great reputation for courage and bravery, were a little bit too keen on rape and pillage to be held up as perfect examples of the warrior pinnacle. Native americans were pretty close I think, but I don’t know enough to say definitively.

No, for a good example of what a warrior should be we have to look East. The samurai in japan and the warrior class (shaolin monks, if you must…but there was a lot more to chinese warfar than the monks) in China lived by a strictly defined set of virtues and principles that kept them in check throughout their life.

Granted that didn’t stop them from getting into fights and wars the same as anyone else, but my point is that when being trained in martial arts and warfare, they weren’t simply taught how to fight, maim and kill. They were taught how to live humbly, with honour, courage, benevolence and a host of other virtues drilled into them. No matter who you were or what size you were, you were taught the same as everyone else. If you were  a weak little shrimp you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. If you were a seven foot powerhouse, you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. There was no distinction, or rather -ignorant presumption, made on someone. If they wanted to learn, they would learn both sides of the coin, not just the one which they already knew.

Sure, weak men know the value of strength and power, but who’s to say we can’t teach strong men the same?! Why can a weak man be given incredible power and strength, but a strong man not be given incredible humility and perspective?…it saddens me to know that this corrosive mentality running through society is, and will be, met with a simple “hey, that’s just the way it is” mentality.

Anyway; if your interest has been sparked by the idea of a complete person then I suggest you read ‘hagakure’ or the ‘Tao te ching’. Both were read furiously by ancient warriors in the East to help them gain a complete understanding of themselves, the world and how best to live in it.

(oh, and I’d turn this one up…those first few bars are just beautiful;)

The friday balance

1 Jul

I’m too hard on myself, and others. A balance must be struck, but I’ve a horrible tendency to veer too far away from being a ‘nicey-nicey’ type because I believe that it leads to complacency all too easily. BUT, a balance must be struck. Miss by an inch, in either direction, miss by a mile.

I haven’t begun spitting venom, but still there’ve been times when I’ve become a little bit too dismissive or contrary when thinking things through for this page. Luckily enough it hasn’t slipped past me yet (I hope- you guys could think otherwise haha), but still, there’s always a chance.


So i’ve decided; in an effort to keep the balance, and my sanity, to try and do something every friday that could be loosely termed as ‘inspirational’…as much as I don’t like the image that the word brings to mind.

It’s Friday; have a good one. Depending on your circumstances, you could be looking forward to a quiet night in, out, alone or with company or, heaven forbid, not looking forward to any of these possibilities-in which case, read the last line carefully. Very carefully.

Anyway, Click here if you are

A: going out later and want to get pumped with some spiritually influenced stompin’, or

B: nicely chilling for the evening, and want a sweet horn section to back up the feeling

Whatever you’re doing, just remember: Happiness is a matter of perspective, not circumstance.

Freaks and Geeks, part one: Freaks

29 Jun

In honour of a weekend spent watching one of the greatest shows ever created, and cancelled, Im gonna link a few things I’ve been wondering about together under it’s heading.

I had the misfortune to catch a bit of the monster’s ball concert recorded by lady gaga for HBO (Oh HBO…how did you fall so far from the wire) recently, and her wince-inducing monologues caught my attention. I’ll get to the content of it later, but the first thing that got me was the delivery which was, to put it mildly, cringeworthy. Sorry Gaganauts, but this won’t be kind.

Obviously she was partly sticking to her image; that of a stone cold goddess who doesn’t really care what people think, because she’s doing her own thing and loving it. Fair enough, that could account for some of the woodenness. Unfortunately, after the third or fourth badly executed dramatic pause in her soliloquoy, I started feeling awkward. You know when someone is really putting their heart into something, you just do. The content of her carefully crafted speeches were worthy of some heart being put in- well, the content stood up to a few minutes of basic logic anyway- but to me it just fell flat.

Take this one. Even though it’s a video ( you can’t get that personal-contact level of understanding with videos), you still just know he believes what he’s saying. It shines through, relentlessly.

Now compare that to this one:

(Quick edit: WOW, watching the two vids again, it strikes me how divisive lady gaga’s speech is compared to Henry’s)

Again, she’s got that whole cold as ice/madonna-like/fashion icon/strong person thing going on, which I’m sure must account for some of the lack of any discernible emotion in the speech, but to be honest if I hear someone in person making an inspirational speech I don’t equate being loud or shouting with rousing inspiration. (you could say that she doesn’t want to be seen as one of those weeping, feel-good, people gushing over how we can all get along, something I’m down with, but the Henry Rollins clip above shows that you can walk the line between cold hearted honesty and uplifting emotion damn well)

As a side note, I find it a little funny that she tells the crowd to forget all the people who told them they couldn’t be something in their life. It’s a useful tool,  for a quick fix I suppose, but you can get a lot farther by acknowledging those things and either working on them or using them as a spur. Then again, emphasising a groups persecuted nature is a classic strategy for collecting them together under a single banner- something I thought about touching on, but figure I don’t want that can of worms opened just yet: It’d distract from my main point below…although I’d love to tear lagy gaga’s logic apart)

(Sorry; I should say now for those of you not in the know, that in another speech on the tour she speaks about how they’ve locked the doors and left all the ‘Freaks’ outside, presumably the people who don’t understand or agree with her fans and their lifestyles, which is why I’ve titled this post Freaks)

Which brings me to the reveal. “Born this way”. That was gnawing at my mind for a good while before I realised what annoyed me so much about it. I’m not going anywhere near the debate of whether someone is born of certain sexual preferences, personality traits, prejudices, needs, wants, desires etc… or anything else like that. NO sir-ree. I’m nowhere near knowledgable enough on the subjects of genetics to go wading into that one.

Simply saying “I was born this way” is a complete cop out. As if you never did anything other than ‘be’. I’m not gonna dance round the subject (although I did do that a little up above, apologies), but she’s obviously talking to her gay fanbase. You were just born this way? Really?!

No, you weren’t. You went through countless hours, days, weeks and months of wrestling with yourself before admitting the truth and embracing it. You completed a mental marathon the likes of which many people in the world would never experience.

You spent even more time worrying about the effect that revelation would have on your family and friends. Before tackling the issue you worried constantly about their reactions and the honest light it would shine on your relationships.

You might even have spent gallons of tears, both happy and sad, when the subject was broached and discussed with those people. You became grateful for the people who supported you, appreciated their presence in your life and maybe recognised a layer of them you never knew they had. For the ones who reacted negatively, well…you dealt with it, somehow.

You weren’t just ‘born this way’. You worked hard, went through countless times both good and bad, and came out a better person for it. You were forced to question yourself, the world around you and your relation to it before finally deciding whether to open yourself up and embrace it, or close yourself off and forget it. For me, that’s a much better rallying call than simply saying “I was born this way”.

You went through a lot to become that person, and it’s made you all the better for it. Please don’t cop out by just saying “I was born this way”…it sets a terrible example for everyone else.

Progress is a stealthy beast

27 Jun

I’ve had cause to mark a bit of progress over the past few days. I didn’t notice it at first, but that’s always the way isn’t it? Things change for the good so slowly that you don’t remember the full frame of reference you have, preferring to compare yourself on how you were recently rather than long ago.

A while ago I was chilling outside a bar having a smoke when a Brazilian guy rambles out the door and stands in my general vicinity.  I strike a bit of a conversation and we shoot the breeze for a few minutes before two girls stumble, and I mean stumble, out the door in front of us.They were obviously with the guy, although I don’t know how well they all knew each other seeing as there was still that ‘first meeting’ sense lingering in the air, but they were cosy enough.

The girls start drunkenly jostling for attention from all angles straight away and I decide I’m having none of it. That’s a pretty decent step for me in the first place, but not the point proper ( I have a habit of calling people out when they’re acting like idiots anyway).

One of them starts hassling people for a smoke while obviously  rolling one up anyway. Bad mistake purty; if you’re gonna prey, do it right…and not in front of someone who can innocently-but at the same time damn blatantly- steer a situation in other directions (i don’t know how I get away with verbally assaulting someone for something like this and still have it seem like it’s all good, I really don’t).

But anyway, the two girls start really screaming for attention, which leads them to start making out – while looking around at the audience- and coming on to the brazilian lad. Long story short: they dragged him away* to what I can only presume would be the best night of his life, and I was pretty happy for him. I was, honestly!

*(While getting dragged away I wished him a good night and he stretched his arm out to shake my hand; he looked like someone getting eaten alive in a zombie film!)

The progress in all this? Well a few years ago I would have either

A) read the situation early and done my best to wedge myself in between the girls and the brazilian. Would I have succeeded? who knows, the point is I would have tried, making myself feel (and look) like an idiot either way.

or B) used this instance as an excuse to barrel off into a drunken wallow spiral…

“It should have been ME, JIMMY! jimmy it should have been me…”

about how things never work out for me and how life is terrible and how I could have had them and all that pointless babble, then gone on the dreaded hunt for the ‘last chopper from Saigon’.

I was pretty happy with that for one, but even happier when I saw the same two girls over the weekend at another bar and thought to myself “Huh…would ya look at that.” without batting an eyelid or, worse, letting that little devil on the shoulder start whispering “Huh would you look at that is right…dirty bitches. You know what to do…”.

In the past I would have genuinely, and drunkenly, tried to swing my way into that little sandwich regardless of the circumstances. And then there’s the fact that, more and more recently, I’ve taken stock of myself during nights out and figured that my time would be better spent enjoying the company of my friends than keeping watch/hunting for a nice piece of ass.*

*(hey it’s a hard thing to do when you’ve got the horn of a raging bull, but; I’d much rather take part in memories I’d like to remember rather than ones I’d like to forget)

Fuck me, I really did waste a lot of time back in the day. I was never hugely successful on the occasions I let myself ease out of my principles (which could even make it worse haha), but still I allowed myself to be taken over by the mindset, and the mindset is key.

Progress is indeed a stealthy beast. I never thought I’d be sitting here writing this sort of stuff and, even better, I never thought I’d be happy with myself about it. It takes a long time to change, and it’s very easy to forget where you started. Carrying on without knowing, or acknowledging, where you started can lead you to not see much improvement and maybe even influence you into thinking there’s not much point. Look far back enough though, or hard enough, and you’ll see a point you’ve been moving away from. From there, keep an eye on it.

I’m not gonna let all this allow me to become complacent though, hell no. Keep one eye on where you’ve been, and the other on where you want to be…Besides: The Last chopper from Saigon has more of my soul than I care to think about.

(and of course, the obligatory music. I’m curious; is this appreciated? or am I just getting peoples nerves by putting music at the end of the posts? Is it a page-loading hassle worthy of unsubscribing from the page? If you’d care to comment your view, it’d be much appreciated!…although I do love me some music, so I can’t promise your view- if negative- will be heeded;)

All the best

Choose your moment to speak, and choose it wisely

13 Jun

Learning a martial art has taught me a lot about picking your moment. Too fast or rash, and you leave yourself open. Too slow or deliberate and you do the same. You have to pick just the right moment to act, otherwise you’re left behind with a new set of circumstances to assess and deal with.

In conversation and debate, whether it’s between friends, family or complete strangers, it’s not unusual to notice people who slip into one of the two problems above.

There’s the brash one; slamming their opinion down your throat without regard for your side while managing to remain completely oblivious to the fact that it’s a discussion in the first place. To them a conversation isn’t an open, reasoned and friendly discussion but a chance to assault you with their own particular brand of special. Sure; they might seem intelligent about it, and they might even manage to stay calm while pasive-aggressively ‘informing’ you that you’re wrong and going to hell for it, but their demeanor can’t be completely hidden, and you know it. You know that feeling; that feeling of “Hold on now, just hang on a second…is this really happening?”

Then there’s the others; the ones who listen to all without agreeing to any. They can be swayed by one side or the other and still manage to seemingly stay neutral in the end, because they’re too slow and deliberate to confidently explain their perspective on the discussion. In an attempt to be reasonable, they end up being too reasonable and get left behind in the conversational flurry. While this may seem an enlightened way to do things, the truth is it usually ends up leaving the debate horribly one sided.

Best thing to do? Pick your moment, and pick it well.

I don’t know if I can explain it properly, but have you ever heard someone speak who just has that perfect balance? What they’re saying is rousing, yet clinical. Passionate without being aggressive. motivational, but in both senses of the word; inspirational and confrontational at the same time, never giving too much leverage to one or the other.

Pick your moment, and pick it well. I’m not saying you should be a superman about it straight away though; we only learn how to do it properly by jumping from both perspectives I’ve listed above. Practice practice practice.

This is an incredible example. He didn’t speak for years, yet had a nation and the world enthralled by his talent. Then, when he saw his moment, he picked it incisevely and executed it masterfully.

(I love the look on his face at the very end, just love it. It looks like he’s thinking, after actually hearing those words and sentiments out loud, “My god…it’s possible, it actually is possible“)

For fear of both denying myself the opportunity of making the ‘freshly pressed’ list by virtue of a well judged swear word, and exposing my soft side by a not so well judged gushing, I have to say:

Don’t worry if tear up a little with that one. The inclusion of Hans Zimmers’ music (from inception) is a masterstroke, and…well fuck me; he knew what to say and when to say it, didn’t he?

hang in there kitty, I’m mad as hell…

4 Jun

“See the good”, or something to that effect, is a classic of sit-on-yer-arse inspirational motivation…

It’s needed, don’t get me wrong about that at all. Without seeing the good in things you can easily get disillusioned with yourself and the world and end up packing it all in for the sake of knocking back a few beers under your local bridge with your new ‘best mate 4eva’ bridgey Joe, who just so happens to be a concrete support column.

Without seeing the good you can mess things up proper. Seeing the good in even the smallest thing can give you the hope, respect, inspiration and courage to continue fighting whatever demons are waiting in the wings and slowly sculpt yourself into the person you want to be. This is an essential part of improving yourself and gathering the strength to continue on a long, hard road. Unfortunately, there’s a trend going around that reasons you must only see the good if you want to live a happy, fulfilling and prosperous life. Not so, true believers. Not so at all. If anything, this is a dangerous thing to believe.

This way of thinking is productive but let it run loose too wild for too long and, slowly but surely, it’ll warp itself into the attitude that you should always see the good and only the good, regardless of what’s happening, resulting in you ignoring the bad sides to events and eventually shutting yourself off from bad situations altogether.

Now there are times when I’m a complete legend (…humble of me, I know); where I’m more than happy to reassure someone that they should just “hang in there kitty”, stay calm, assess the situation and deal with it carefully. Once in a while though, just once in a while, I’ll decide to prop up a giant banner screaming “Drop kitty…DROP!!” while shouting profanities at the subject.

Not because I’m an insensitive idiot, of course (although I have been known to drunkenly shout at people for displaying despicable personality traits), but because I really think you should look both ways, not just at the good parts of things.

By looking at the bad parts of the world and, more importantly, ourselves, we can keep from getting complacent. I love noticing someone behaving ridiculously because it gives me a marker: “Don’t end up like that“.

Everything has a balance, good and bad are no different. To only focus on the good in life is to foolishly confuse yourself into thinking “well damn, everything is alright”. It’s not. You’re not. As much as there is plenty of good in the world, you can’t argue that it’s not also full of hate, indifference, discrimination, apathy, greed and idiots. You could very well be one of them (but if you’re reading this you’re probably not…everyone I’ve met on here seems to be pretty damn worthy so far;)

If you want to get through life posting as many inspirational quotes as possible while looking at pictures of sunsets, blissfully ignorant of the vicious contrast within our society and culture, you go right ahead. I’m not mad at ya, don’t worry (nor am I against sunsets, for the record). If you want to do something about yourself though, you’ve got to get mad every once in a while.

There’s a scene in the classic film “The Warriors” where, after completing a dangerous journey home and getting off the L train at the last stop overlooking a sunrise on a dilapidated, depressing Coney Island, the main characer queitly asks “This is it? this is what we’ve been fighting all night to get back to?”. Taking the time to look long and hard at the state of things can be a very good spur for improvement. If the character in the above scene had been inclined to see the good, he might well have just remarked “Aw geez super! the junkies left some clean needles on the ground over there!”…

Everytime I hold the door open for someone who doesn’t acknowledge it, everytime  I watch someone take their shopping or coffee or purchases without wishing the clerk a nice day, everytime I see a politician (or anybody else for that matter) scream dishonesty with their body language, everytime I see someone shirk a moral responsibility or the possibility of a virtuous life and everytime I notice a person hide from themselves….I love it.

I love it because it gets me mad. When I’m mad, I learn about the world and the people within it. See the good and learn what you want to be, see the bad and,even though it might be hard or depressing, learn what you don’t.

On a related, and hopefully brief, sidenote, I find it very interesting that in this day and age of respect, equality and “everyone is entitled to their say and their right to say it” mentality, we still find make time and effort to quietly/subtly judge or discriminate against everything…except ourselves and the most basic elements.

Comment on someone’s clothes, their views, their racial backround and the stereotypes hidden within, their music choice or even their personality and you’ll always find people who’ll line up on either side of the divide (whether they’ll admit it openly or not). But, comment on someone’s actions or behaviour, for example: “you were too selfish there, calm down a little”, and suddenly everyone comes to the same defence- “hey man, don’t be so, like, judgemental!”. The reason? we’re all afraid the spotlight will shine on us next.

I’m not afraid of the spotlight, in fact I welcome it. There might be times when it highlights some things I don’t want to acknowledge, but that’s all part of the process. Helps me learn and improve.