Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dogs, Purple Elephants and Bad Light

Meeting up with a few friends with the intention of walking around, taking a few pictures and maybe getting some lunch in the process didn't seem like a bad way of spending a Saturday. Though, as always, the company was good; the light was not (too much cloud) and neither was the inspiration. It speaks volumes when all the three of us could do was take clich├ęd photos of red phone boxes and the like.

With the threat of rain constantly hovering over us, we walked over to St. Paul's Cathedral where we ran into a bunch of students who, for some inexplicable reason were dressed up as animals (notice the waving dog), the weirdest of which was a big purple elephant. No, I got no reasonable breakdown as to why someone would want to do this, let alone parade around London's biggest tourist attraction like this.

This was a far cry from a few weeks ago when we did pretty much the same thing but in glorious sunshine, it lead to a great day with some pretty good pictures (it was the day I saw the 'Ghost Bridge'). Near the end of that day, we ended up opposite the Palace of Westminster where I snapped this picture. It inspired me to go through the trouble of getting it printed.

The walls in my flat are quite bare and it's been to my list of 'things to do' to get some pictures printed, framed and hung up. Unfortunately, being almost completely lazy, I've managed to do nothing about it. I contacted the nice people at bigfoot imaging who basically took the picture, retouched it and made it look absolutely amazing on paper! Granted I'm still pretty lazy so I've yet to get a frame for it but I've taken the first step, I've got something printed....

Friday, 24 October 2008

You've Got me on my Knees

I don't listen to much radio (I don't own one) but when I'm in someone's car something is usually on. More often than not (in my brother-in-law's car) it's Virgin radio, usually an odd mix of classic rock and modern crap. A few weeks ago the radio station reinvented itself as 'Absolute', it's essentially the same thing but with subtle differences.

They say that one of their revolutionary changes is that they play all songs in full! Amazing, I thought, there are so many songs out there that are too long for radio, they take a 10 minute song and reduce it to 3 for the sake of their schedule. I say if you can't find time to play it in full then why on earth play it?

Driving along and through the crackle, I hear Laya by Derek and the Dominos, it's one of my all time favorite songs. It has an instantly recognisable introduction and some great guitaring (shockingly it was not Eric Clapton playing the opening section but Duane Allman) throughout. This made me go into my usual rant that most people wont ever get to hear the excellent piano in the second half as pretty much every station will cut it before it comes on. The point where the song is usually cut came and went and the piano came on, I couldn't believe it, they were going to devote prime broadcasting time to the entire song, how refreshing.

The lyrics of the song are amazing, the title was based on the Persian poem 'Layla and Majnun'. The poem is about a guy who falls madly in love with a triable princess named Layla, he can do nothing but think of her all day and writes a number of poems about her. I can't remember much of the story but I do remember he asks for her hand in marriage and is refused by her father, Layla eventually marries another man (of her father's choosing) , on this, our hero wonders off into the desert; he slowly goes insane with the thought of never being able to be with the woman he loves.

All this isn't completely irrelevant in terms of the song, as the story goes, Clapton fell in love with George Harrison's (yes the Beatles guy) wife, naturally he can't be with her and (I guess) this is where the song comes from. A guy (a poet if you will) falls for a girl, it's forbidden love just like the poem. He longs for her and rather than writing poems for her, he writes one of the greatest rock songs ever!

Clapton's story and the poem diverge at this point as I believe George Harrison's wife left him and married Clapton in the end (though I think that ended in divorce, such it life); that and I don't think Clapton ever went insane, but don't quote me on that.

I digress, what made me think about this was a tiny little gem Clapton put at the very end of the song. I don't know how he does it but he stretches the guitar string in such a way as to make a bird 'chirping' sound. This was supposedly a nod to the great jazz legend Charlie 'The Bird' Parker; believe me (or not, listen for your self), after it's all died down and the song is over, you'll hear the bird, almost as an afterthought.

Absolute radio, playing the song in 'full', they manage an impressive seven or eight minutes, they get both parts in but the very last note, the 'bird'; it was nowhere to be heard, shocking, after all that air-play, they cut the last half second.....

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Momentum of a Runaway Bus

Monday night I mentioned how Ariane Sherine launched the Atheist Campaign, in an attempt to reassure Londoners that they need not worry about not believing in God as He probably doesn't exist and they won't go to hell.

By the time I got into work the next morning, she had published an article on the Guardian's comment is free site. This got the ball rolling and people stated to donate, these people emailed their friends, they emailed their friends and before you know it, a viral campaign was born. The story was picked up by The Telegraph, BBC News, The Times, The Washington Post and a whole heap of other publications (across the globe!).

Interviews were given, commentaries were made and with each iteration, people went to the donate site and gave a few pounds. Ten hours after the campaign launched, their goal of £5,500 was reached, fourteen hours, it was doubled! By lunchtime today, they have over ten times their goal!

A lot of hard work went into this and the success they have had so far is well deserved. This is an idea that people can get behind, it's not threatening, not 'in your face', very approachable and (I'd argue most importantly) it brings a smile to most that see it.

What started out as a few adverts to run for a few weeks has turned into something much bigger, why stop at London? Why just buses? It's getting to a point now that reason can be promoted wherever the threat of eternal damnation is.

A lot of people have donated but the momentum is still strong, so head on down, check out the website, leave a comment and put a few pounds down! Fundamentalists have had a free ride for a long time, I'm glad reasonable people are doing something about it but more importantly, I'm glad the public have spoken and are backing the campaign in huge numbers, almost makes you have faith...

Monday, 20 October 2008

All Aboard!

It all started with an article on the Guardian's Comment is Free site, a friend noticed an advert on the side of a bus which essentially said “accept Jesus as your saviour or go to hell!”, a disturbing message if you ask me. Rather than doing what I did, which was acknowledge it as a part of a plethora of religious adverts out there and do nothing about it, she suggested running a more comforting advert telling people that, if they did just get on with their lives, they won't go to hell.

The idea picked up momentum with people pledging £5 towards what became known as “the atheist bus”. Although, not enough people pledged to make the advert runnable, enough people did pledge to make the idea feasible. So after a lot more planning, writing and organizing, Ariane Sherine proudly launches “the atheist campaign” tonight!

The message is a simple one “There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” People need to know that if they don't devote their entire life to god and Jesus, they won't suffer eternal damnation! With everything else that's wrong with the world today, why should people bow to a doctrine that was essentially constructed to ease the worries of people in the dark ages?

For this reason, I'm planning to donate and I ask you to head on over to http://www.atheistcampaign.org/, have a read and join me in supporting this campaign, we can get a positive message out to people, not to change their minds or 'convert' them but to reassure them and, maybe, put a smile on their faces....

Saturday, 18 October 2008

A Touch of Frost

Pretty much everyone knows about or has seen the famous 1977 Richard Nixon interviews, for those that haven't I've found 10 minutes of 'highlights' on YouTube. It was headline news back then as David Frost, who was not known that well in America but still a well accomplished journalist, some how got a full confession and an apology out of Nixon for the Watergate scandal. It's been deemed as one of the great interviews of the 20th century!

What I didn't know was the story behind the interviews was made into a west-end play which in itself was surprising. Today I learned a movie has been made based on the play, apparently it premiered this week at the BFI film festival (alas no invite) so I looked up a trailer for it. It looks great, unfortunately it's not out until January next year so I'm just going to have to wait.

Nixon resigned in 1974 after 'Watergate', when I first read about this, trying to figure out what was bad that the president of the United States would have to give us his post! Nixon was the only US president to have done this to date, Bill Clinton didn't do this after it was found that he outright lied to the American people.

After a bit of light reading, I picked up a copy of 'all the president's men' (I'd recommend it if you like thrillers) by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward who were the two journalists who bought the scandal to the public eye. Admittedly the story wasn't that easy to follow and I was just waiting for the big revelation that would tell me why the president stepped down. The revelation never came and it took me a while to realise why, I think as members of the public, we've been desensitised to scandal over the years.

What Nixon and his men did, wasn't that bad considering what we read about about today but I guess people had more faith in their public officials in the 70s. It's unfortunate that a scandal that would only just raise an eyebrow today was big enough to overshadow all of Nixon's great (yes there was quite a few) achievements back then.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Ghost Bridge

Walking along the shores of the river Thames (it was low tide and not a torso in sight), we walked up to Blackfriars railway bridge. What a lot of people don't always notice is that just west of the railway are the remains of the old Blackfriars railway bridge. It was removed in 1985 as it wasn't strong enough to take the weight of modern trains.

What was left was the pillars that held up the original bridge. They look quite eerie standing alone with no bridge to support while just next door, it's bigger brother has trains going in and out all day long.

I'm obviously not alone in seeing this slightly chilling sight as they (the powers that be) have set up an art installation called 'The Ghost Bridge' where they have used green lasers that hover just above the pillars to make a bridge out of light. It was simply done and, once the sun went down, it looked pretty surreal, I quite liked it.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Ten Years in the Making

Today has had the endorphins racing through my system, nothing major has happened, this is usually an experience most people have at the age of 17 but not me. Today, at the ripe old age of 27, I finally passed my driving test!

I'm not usually one to get nervous or stressed but this morning I was shaking, stuttering and generally crapping myself. I've (over the years) managed to fail, I think, five times for various reasons, including one disastrous test where the examiner fell asleep during the test!

Today was a slightly different matter, the nerves melted away and I think the drive went quite smoothly, I took my foot of the clutch for a moment so could place it in my mouth by asking the examiner: “where abouts in Italy are you from?” only to get the reply: “I'm polish”, oh dear.

We got to the end of the test and I was relived that he didn't ask me to do a 'bay park', he places a few marks on the sheet and tells me that I've passed with only three minors; that's fewer minors than Gary Glitter had!

He takes my license to get my details down and raises a well justified eyebrow at the 10 points I've acquired on a motor bike but doesn't bring it up (thankfully). Next thing to do (so people tell me) is to get a car but at the moment I don't really feel the need for one. Granted I live fairish distance from the city but I've not felt hindered by not having a mode of transportation, I mostly rely on the underground and frankly, most of the time, it's quicker.

Now with a nice clean line drawn under this I'm thinking maybe now is a good time to go back and finish my masters..... maybe not.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A Disturbed Mind

I was working late in the office with a lukewarm coffee beside me and the jukebox playing whatever it felt like throwing at me. Usually this isn't too much of a problem as the songs in the collection are relatively tame and - baring some occasional cheese - not cringe worthy.

Every now and then, the unthinkable happens, I hear a song that leaves with unable to phantom the artist's intention or the song's meaning. Today it was 'Dead Puppies (aren't much fun)' by Ogden Edsel. What the hell was this guy smoking when he wrote this song?

They don't chase squirrels, they don't come when you call and that's just the start! I'm sure at one point, the deceased dog (who, by now, you've figured isn't very entertaining) is put in a stew. I don't think I can justly describe the song so I'll just link to it and call it a night, enjoy (and I'm sorry).

Dead Puppies (Aren't Much Fun)

Sunday, 5 October 2008

A Forgotten Story?

Sometimes you read a book or watch a movie that's quite good, that can stand up as a piece of fiction but, for some reason, people will want to dress it up as a true story. I was watching Sleepers the other night, a film I've not seen since I watched it in the cinema over 10 years ago.

Despite having some big names in it, it's been all but forgotten over the years. I don't know why as it's a film I'd recommend. It's a touching story set in Hell's Kitchen, New York in the 60s and is about four young boys who are sent to a correctional facility where they are tortured and raped by the guards. After release and into adulthood, two of the boys see one of the guards in a bar and shoots him.

The crux of the film is about the following court case in which the district attorney (another one of the original four) attempts to try the case in such a way as to get the murderers let off while bringing to light the horrors that went on at the facility.

The weird thing is the fact that no one seems to remember this, including the people I know I went to see this with! Granted, I've given little thought to this film over the years but as soon as I saw the name, I was able to recall the story, maybe not all the details but enough to know that it didn't completely slip out of my mind.

This time round, I learn that the author of the book claims it to be a true story, even though no evidence has been found to corroborate it, I find this adds nothing to the story but the thought's there non-the-less. It's crazy but people have actually looked into the details of this, I have no idea who but probably people with to much time on their hands (that is to say people with a smidgen more time on their hand than I have on mine).

All the controversy, I found this to be an unforgettable story....

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Did I Ever Smell Like That?

It's weird the way my opinions change at the drop of a hat or when a tiny bit of evidence comes to light. For years, I've been a smoker, from before I was legally allowed to buy cigarettes (the age was 16 back in them days, not 18 as it is now), I was puffing away without a care in the world.

People would often ask “did you go out for a smoke?” or tell me that they could smell the smoke. I could never tell, for one thing, I was too accustomed to the smell to know; I couldn't even smell it on others! I few months ago I decided to stop smoking and although I've lapsed a few times, I'm now a non-smoker and feel better for it.

A few nights ago, I was having dinner with a few friends and in between the starter and the main course, some of them popped out of a quick mid-meal cigarette. On there return, my entire world view was bought into question, I could smell the smoke and it was horrid. How on earth could I not have smelt that?

I've tried quitting a number of times with varying degrees of success but I've never experienced anything like this before, it was a full on assault on my nose! So I now realise that I've been incredibly antisocial but inflicting this smell on the people around me and what's worse is that I never once listened to anyone who would try to tell me this.

People who have quit tell me that food tastes better or that they can run faster, longer, jump higher and such but to be perfectly frank, I've not noticed any of that, I don't feel the least bit healthier but it's been worth it to get my sense of smell back; even if I didn't know I had lost it.