Tag Archives: miscellaneous

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?

 

Something you didn’t know about the moon landing…

17 Sep

The moon landing was an iconic moment for the whole world. The first time man dared to touch the realm of the gods, and everyone; each man, woman and child sitting goggle eyed at the television set holding their breath, took part.

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it still make a sound? well, yes…but it doesn’t have as much significance. The moon landing would have still been significant if nobody had known of it by sheer virtue of being an incredible event, but it’s major significance came from the perfect-timing collision of the mass media becoming available to all with the rise of television, the heightened tension of the East/West divide creating an terrifyingle uneasy “deep breath before the plunge” (as Gandalf would say) and the leftover spirit from the summer of love, desperately hanging on the the idea that we might be alright after all*.

*The summer of love, although well documented and celebrated, was depressingly short. 4 months in 1967, to be exact. After that, things went back to business as usual and any large/widespread notion of humanity getting along together and pushing for the betterment of mankind gently receded. One of the major achievements of the moon landing was that it gave one last shot across the bow for peace and cooperation: one mighty reminder that we can actually achieve something remarkably inspirational, rather than something destructive

These things conspired to inspire anyone and everyone who saw the landing at the time and anyone who learns of it anew to this day. Point to the moon and tell a young child that we sent a tin bucket with less processing power than their calculator up there on a whim and a prayer, and watch the sense of wonder spread across their face. We have a tendency to get a bit blass√© about these things being godly adults who have been there and done that, but don’t forget the first time you looked at the moon and though “wow…someone went up THERE?!”.

But anyway, here’s something you (probably) didn’t know about the moon landing:

When the BBC (British broadcasting company, the united kingdom’s state television company) broadcast the moon landing live, they got a relatively little known (well, not as well known as they would become..even though they were only a few years going they had a good start) band called ‘Pink Floyd’ to arrange and perform backing music to the footage.

And they did. They performed a rambling instrumental to the footage, adding an extra layer of gravitas to the proceedings with their blend of space rock and far out experimenting.

The amazing thing, to me, is that back in the day the powers that be didn’t feel the need to seperate the sciences and arts from each other. They didn’t think that people with those interests were to be kept away from each other at all costs (as is the case all too often nowadays) and they didn’t automatically assume that something as momentous as the landing had to be given an air of stuffy scientific dullness*, they just thought it would be pretty damn cool to have pink floyd do backing for the moon landing…

well now, that’s just incredible.

*I do appreciate the quiet tension of the original, non musical, coverage though, don’t get me wrong.

Here’s some of the footage anyway, enjoy

(there was a pink floyd night on BBC4 last night, it was great.)

I’ve let things slip

16 Sep

I’ve let thing slip, in too many ways…

In anything, you always need to keep an eye on context and circumstance. Seeing something without keeping these things in mind can easily lead you to over or underreact. My problem is that I usually keep these things too close, so I usually end up underreacting horribly. Something bad happens to someone? well; that’s horrible, I sympathise and understand what you’re going through, respect your position in the grand scheme of things and want to help you get through it… but at the same time there’s probably 3 billion people in the world worse off than you at any given moment. Deal with it, and move on. You’re still alive after all…

This attitude causes me a fair bit of self-aggro because I know I’m leaning too far to one side of the balance. I know this all too well, but often fail to set it right.

keeping all this in mind, it’s safe to say my mother’s had a difficult one. Details aren’t needed, but let’s just say I’m incredibly grateful to have been raised by such a strong woman.

Being an only child of a single parent, and a protective male, I worry about her. I know she’s alright on her own, but still I worry. It’s only natural. Which is why she didn’t tell me anything about her taking a detour home from work, until I got home after a late nights training.

I came in the door to find a football matchday programme sitting on the kitchen table. In my tired state I was confused enough but this was something else entirely. I wondered to myself ‘did ma get me a footy programme on her way past the stadium?” because it simply didn’t occur to me that she would go to a match.

She bounced happily into the room and, with a mischievous grin, told me how she was on her way home from work feeling tired,unappreciated, lonely and just a little bit depressed when she saw the local team was playing a group game for the European league. On the spur of the moment, she decided to see if there were any tickets left, seeing as it was the team she supported with her father as a child and she had nothing to rush home for.

Quite a few things flew through my mind at this point, most of them worries. She went on her own?, what about the crowds? what about her going home at a late hour? what about her health? and, in my flurried state, what about the small but noticeable element of hooliganism?

“I say, you there: come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough, old boy!”

I voiced none of these concerns as she sat bubbling away at the kitchen table. She described how, after asking if there were any tickets left at the ticketdesk, the nice young man gave her a free one that someone had left because they couldn’t make it. Importantly, the person who left the ticket told the attendant to give it away for free and, surprisingly in a world that can grind you down all too easily, the attendant didn’t think to make himself some money and just gave it to my mother; happy days all round.

She then went on to describe, between fits of laughter, how she approached the stewards carrying the few bags of shopping from Tesco’s she had bought just before, and another nice young man jokingly ‘confiscated’ a bag of grapes because “he hadn’t had his dinner yet”, after which she gave him a few oranges to tide him over.

After that, she found a seat in the unreserved area alongside another few people who had obviously gone along on their own. There was, yet another, nice young man who spent the whole match with his head in his hands while biting his nails, who kindly offered to grab her a cup of tea at half time, and an older man just behind her who compared any slick pass by a player to someone of his own generation: “great pass…just like georgie best that was…lovely tap there; reminds me of a young Liam Brady…”

It was great to see her genuinely happy, and even greater to have found out that the fates conspired to make her detour as enjoyable as possible.

I’ve let things slip, in too many ways.

Trying too hard to keep things in context, I’ve forgotten just how bloody hard she’s fought all her life, and what an incredible person she is. This story reminded me of many she had told me during my life but which I’d shamefully forgotten. The time she went with women’s rights activists on the train to Belfast so taht they could buy condoms (which, in Catholic Ireland during the 80’s, were strictly illega, immoral and forbidden)…

…or the time her and a similar group of forward thinking women entered a bar and ordered a round of pints (large glasses of beer; don’t know what the American equivalent-if there is one-¬† is, sorry) to which the barman replied “women don’t drink Pints, they drink lady drinks”…

well, the gathered outside and settled on a plan.

They returned to the barman and ordered a round of whiskeys (expensive stuff in Ireland during the 80’s recession- and yes, this is not the first recession nor will it be the last). The barman obliged, after making sure they wanted them, and then when the large round of whiskeys were laid out on the bar they informed him that they would only pay for the whiskeys when he served them the pints they had asked for…

and many many other stories she’d told me. Some to inform, some to warn (a sombre confession of my late fathers drug habits when she found out I was going the same way springs to mind) and some just to entertain. I had forgotten most of them, until I was reminded just how exemplary she can be.

But the most inspirational, and unfortunately the easiest forgotten, is the things she did without mention. The things she did, and still does, every day to keep things ticking over. The things that you don’t notice when it’s there, but are painfully absent when they’re gone.

I’ve let things slip, in too many ways
Never again shall I waste the days

I wanted to finish this with John Lennon’s ‘mother’ when I started, but it’s a little bit too sad. I don’t know what I’ll do when she’s gone, and it’s only rarely that I listen to that song because it gives me quite a realistic idea of how I’ll feel. No; instead I’ll post something she’d enjoy (and which reminds me of her bouncing into the house after seeing it live, raving about the lightshow, the wall, the music and the nostalgia).

If this post has gotten you thinking about your own mother and you’d rather contemplate mellow, then look up the Lennon song, if not then put this on full screen and sound…and enjoy. That chorus is just heavenly;)

Words to live by: IF.

13 Aug

I hope noone in the authors estate is gonna get antsy with me for putting this up here. All due respect to them and the man himself.

If you’re not into reading it, jump to the bottom.

IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling.

(he forgets an important -to me- line in the first stanza; “If you can wait and not be tired by waiting”, but still it’s a pretty good performance. Seems it’s an important piece to him aswell, seeing as he’s been reciting it off by heart since the seventies)

 

London Riots: Big society gives itself a big pat on the back…

10 Aug

(*for the benefit of those across the seas, the ‘Big society’ initiative was announced a good while ago by David Cameron and the conservative party as a remedy to all of Britain’s woes. It was designed to create a more harmonious society by encouraging people to take an active part in their community…

…It was quickly laughed out of the country when it became depressingly clear that it was nothing more than a nice sounding metaphor for drastic budget cuts and general political fuckery…George Orwell working in conjunction with Douglas Adams and a crate or two of Jameson couldn’t have thought of something more ludicrously twisted.)

Don’t panic…that’s just a ‘community participation liaison’ coming round to check you’ve done your share of the nations’ tax returns…

Some of the more heartwarming reports to come out of the london riots are those of people gathering together to protect and serve their own community. Yesterday, large groups of people organised themselves on twitter and facebook to clean up the scenes of the riots, showing that even though people were angry enough to destroy, people were also angry enough to rebuild. Heartwarming stuff.

“Gentlemen: TO BROOMS!”

It has only been mentioned in passing, but there have been rumours of people arming themselves and standing guard by their local businesses, ready to chase away anyone that might have an eye for trouble. This is particularly motivating because along with the large chain shops that have been looted, rioters have also targeted small family run cornershops and businesses in what is nothing more than senseless destruction. Tesco? yeah fair enough I can maybe understand that; they’ve got a nationwide organisation to back them up…Mr Singh the friendly man who runs the local chipshop? He’s got nothing more than yesterdays earnings to see him through.

I read a clip in the paper this morning about looters being confronted by a teary eyed woman when they emerged from a local fashion boutique, because the boutique was built and run by one woman who hand made all of the clothes herself. When confronted with this, a lady-looter stood there with a freshly stolen wedding dress draped across her arm looking very sheepish (but, importantly, she didn’t do anything about putting the dress back as far as I know). Heartbreaking stuff.

But wait! People gathered themselves of their own free will with those good old english brooms to clean up the mess! jolly good show, as Boris johnson would say.

Ah…Boris Johnson. Again, for the benefit of those across the seas: The hithchiker’s guide to the galaxy defines Boris Johnson as ‘ a floppy haired being, known to appreciate a glass or two of cucumber sandwiches soaked in Gin, who is so out of touch with his constituency, and the Earth as a whole, that he has been regularly sighted talking to a tree along the A127 dual carriageway, having stopped there for a rest on his way to pick up a mess of cricket bats from Basildon for use in his regular bi-weekly tap-dancing class. It is not known how the cricket bats felt about this, although the tree is said to be surprisingly despondent.

So he turns up to shouts of “Where’s your broom!” from the crowd being carefully kept far enough away from him that they won’t actually notice he’s probably goggle-eyed, and yknow what? he actually gets one and marches down to the crowd. Fair play to him I must say. He gives a speech about how he appreciates their work and effort and how they won’t let these hooligans represent London proper, and that they will all persevere in their efforts to show the world that London can not and should not be defined by that awfully obvious/lazy headline: ‘London’s burning‘.

But, unfortunately, this is where I have to put a dampener on it. I don’t want to, not really, especially with the solid example the people of London are showing in the face of mindless violence and destruction, but I have to say it.

The groups of people who protected local businesses could be described as taking part in the big society….but then again that’s what the police are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of london pay taxes so that the police can be trained, insured and paid to do that sort of work.

The groups of people who cleaned up the mess could very well be held up as a prime example of the big society, as I have a feeling they might when the smoke clears…but then again, things like cleaning up the streets are what streetcleaners are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of London pay taxes so that they can be trained, insured and paid to do that work.

…like in…some sort of…-oh gosh I’ve forgotten the word-…so..soci…God I’ve completely forgotten it. You know what I’m talking about: Where a nation, through thousands of years of hard work and perseverance, gathers itself together enough to say “Hey! why don’t we all pool our money, so that we can create neat things like a police force, who we can train for that job alone, then we can pay people to clean the streets, cos we don’t want our Janet from number 12 doing it anymore- she’s got a very bad back nowadays especially since the operation and she can’t miss anymore work- and then we can maintain it properly and find a place for everyone and look out for each other so that when people need protecting the police will be there in full force; well trained, insured and paid, and the cleaners too! when there’s a right big mess to clean up they’ll be there: well trained, insured and paid…

A SOCIETY! I knew it…it was there right at the tip of my tongue.

To drastically cut funding to schools, services and society as a whole is taking political fuckery to a completely new level. To then gather round for a press opportunity with the very people you’re fucking over and telling them they’re contribution is valued, is bullshit you could smell from the far end of Baltimore. They make a contribution. Every fucking week. It’s called ‘Taxes’, and you are crippling them with it. Don’t repay them by cutting essential services. Don’t repay them with a jolly good show. Repay them with the services they pay for: Well and fully trained, insured and paid.

(I am not in any way trying to imply that the people who did the good things that they did shouldn’t have. I am inspired by the things they are doing for their city.I am trying to imply- no sorry; I’m saying– that if the governments had actually focused on actively making society better, rather than just throwing everything in the air and hoping for the best, maybe they would have been in a better position to deal with the reasons and ramifications of the riots)

London Riots: don’t be misled by the debate

9 Aug

With the london riots, there has come the inevitable debate between sides as to the cause of the situation. Both sides have already begun wading into the argument with their own particular brand of special.

(Credit for the pic goes to whatever photographer who took it. I got it from breakingnews.ie, but it’s probably an agency copy. Apologies to the owner if you take offence at me using it, do let me know)

I heard a conversation last night on the BBC news channel between ( I think, not sure if I remember correctly) Ken livingstone the ex-mayor of London and the newsanchor. Livingstone, was quick to highlight the massive unemployment, bleak education prospects and huge cuts to youth services that had a hand in laying the foundations for such violence and destruction, and then the cuts to the police force and emergency services that had a big hand in denying them their ability to tackle the situation and do their job right. The newsanchor was quick to condemn this point of view, saying that we could not dismiss simple hooliganism because the people commiting it had no jobs: to do that would be giving them a free ride, which is true…to a point.

While I agree with both sides of the debate, I do lean towards the sociological explanation a little bit more, for this very simple reason:

To persistently say the London riots have been caused by simple hooliganism and thuggery -and nothing else-, is like saying the East African famine has been caused because the people there don’t have enough tomatoes. Sure it’s a part of the problem, but to hold it up as the absolute only reason the situation is as it is? well…that’s just ridiculous. There are a lot of other parts of the jigsaw that need to fit correctly before that particular piece fits*.

*Whether a person should learn morals, ethics and principles as soon as possible or only when they are financially and socially stable enough to tackle those big subjects is an interesting question, one that I don’t know the answer to.

The opportunism many people have displayed in looting businesses during the riots is most definitely a point of self control and personal responsibility, but quite a lot of the people involved need basic foundations before they can start worrying about the ethical remifications of their actions. When a kid of fifteen sees a louis vuitton shop bared open for anyone to waltz away with an armful of goodies, they’re not gonna think “Well shucks, I better wonder a minute about what my actions will do to my community and society”, they’re gonna think “Well fuck this innit, I’m stuck on the dole and want something nice to give my ma…louis vittin never done nothing for me, why should I care bout him”.

But, to only focus on these two points of view is a mistake (and to only agree with one side an even bigger one). A lot of the destruction can probably be put down to simple mob mentality and the fact that when you’re wandering round the empty streets looking at it with fresh young eyes- eyes that scream “Hang on a sec…the world isn’t as efficiently well ordered as we’ve been led to believe…I can do anything I want!”- you’ve got a tendency to go crazy and follow the crowd.

The crowd, which is made up of mainly your friends and peers. Single yourself out by not taking part, and there could be a lot more serious repurcussions than a few weeks in a juvenile detention centre. You could be cast out from your group for not manning up.

I should stress that I am not in any way condoning or agreeing with this mentality. There’s a huge difference between agreeing with something, and understanding it.

I read a pretty interesting quote this morning in the paper. I can’t remember it properly, but it was something to the effect of “It’s not about what you do anymore, it’s about what you buy…We’ve got a generation of kids raised on consumerism going wild out there…”

Yes, the riots are based on an excess of aggression, destruction, a wildly skewed sense of entitlement on the rioters part and an an unhealthy disregard for people’s safety. It’s stupid to leave it at that though and forget about investigating the underlying causes. Economic depression, unemployment, lack of services, discrimination, lack of opportunities, apathy. (And of course, there’s the underlying causes for the length of time it has taken the emergency services to react properly to the disorder: massive budget cuts made to the public services). These are all parts of the jigsaw: each one needed to make sense of the next. To hold one single piece up and blame the whole ugly picture on it and it alone is a horrifically small minded mistake.

Doc of the day: Assault in the ring

6 Aug

I saw this a while ago, and must say it’s really something. The basic story covered is one of a fixed fight between two relatively unknown boxers way back in the day, but the bigger picture is an incredible insight into the people involved’s lives, motivations, regrets and -unbelievably in one case- lack of them, and a host of other nuances that probably won’t be seen on first look.

The documentary follows Luis Resto and his journey to understand, deal with and ultimately accept his past and the effect it’s had on his own life and everyone else involved. Even if you know or care nothing about boxing, it’s worth the viewing just to observe the people involved. Personally I love people watching; trying to understand people’s reactions, their behaviour and reasons behind, and this film is complete with a host of interesting characters.

Be warned though; there are some graphic images of violence and unsavoury characters, who may or may not have your blood boiling.

Have a look of you get a chance, it’s an incredible story. First part below. Can’t link the playlist for full viewing in youtube, but search for ‘assault luis resto 1/2/3/etc…’ and you should find it easily enough.