Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sophie Scholl - "I Choose My Own Way To Burn" ...

Sophie Scholl
Sophie Scholl was one of the 20th Century's unsung heroines. As part of the White Rose Group, she opposed the Nazi ideals during WWII - at a time when most if not all of her friends and peers had been taken in by propaganda and rhetoric.

The White Rose's legacy has significance for many, both as a demonstration of exemplary spiritual courage, and as a well-documented case of social dissent in a time of violent repression, censorship, and conformist pressure.

She was captured and executed by guillotine for treason, along with her brother Hans.

She was just 21 years old.

Some of her quotations are beautiful, but none more so than this, her most famous epitaph.
The real damage is done by those millions who want to 'survive.' 
The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves - or enemies. 
Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. 
Those who live small, mate small, die small. 
It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. 
But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. 
From what? 
Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. 
I choose my own way to burn.
This has been wonderfully translated here to modern times and events by Gavin Aung Than, the artist known as Zen Pencils, who creates graphic artworks from inspirational quotations.

And finally, Sophie's last words before her execution:

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? 
Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go. 
But what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bill Hicks - It's just A Ride ...

Bill Hicks died in 1994. He was vastly under appreciated in his lifetime. He was less a comedian and more a philosopher with added 'dick' jokes. I've never forgotten this quotation. As an epitaph for the man it's unsurpassed.
The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it’s real - because that’s how powerful our minds are. 
The ride goes up and down, round and round, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun - for a while. 
Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” 
And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” 
And we … kill those people. 
It’s only a choice. 
No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. 
The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. 
The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. 
Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride; Take all that money we spend on weapons and defence each year and instead, spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world - which it would pay for many times over - not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer. 
Forever, in peace.
And an amazing graphic art version of this piece was done by the brilliant @zenpencils here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mind-Blowing Fact Of The Day - Why Tomatoes Were Thought To Be Poisonous ...

Discovered this fact on a random site now lost to the ether.

It's well known that tomatoes are from the Nightshade family, and thus needed to be viewed with suspicion when they first came to Europe from the Americas about 1500.

Many people became ill eating them - despite the fact that native Americans had been eating loads of them for centuries. It's only recently that scientists and historians have realised the reasons behind these illnesses - and it's not the tomatoes.

The reason is this: American natives ate tomatoes with their hands. In Europe, tomatoes were a luxury, afforded by the very few, who tended - and this is important - to use plates. Pewter plates. Actually, pewter plates with a quite high lead content.

Add a foodstuff with a relatively high acid content - like a tomato - and some of that lead leeched into the food, causing illness, and sometimes death. Hence, poor, innocent tomatoes were viewed with suspicion for 400 years until they were actually proven safe.

Actually, red tomatoes were initially a rarity in Europe, they wouldn't ripen properly as the varieties brought over from South American were always yellow in color, hence the italian name pomodoro - from 'pomi d’oro' - 'golden apple'.

And yes, of course, tomatoes are botanically, a fruit, as are green beans, aubergines, cucumbers, courgettes and all squashes such as pumpkins. Except not. Legally, they are all actually a vegetable under US and EU law, for food distribution and storage legislation purposes. So there.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Separated At Birth? How Did I Miss This ... ?

Two of my favourite things - Epic TV and cycling - have thrown up a puzzle over the last few months for me.

Everytime I see Tom Wlaschiha, (right) alias Jaqen H'ghar in Game Of Thrones. he reminds me of someone.

And I just today worked it out - step forward, Cannondale sprinter Peter Sagan (left, winner of 2 Tour De France Green Jerseys, no less).

To me the resemblance is uncanny.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now' - 30 Years Apart ...

Joni Mitchell, 1970
Sometimes a song matures, sometimes it's the artist.

On occasion, it's both.

Joni Mitchell wrote and released the wonderful 'Both Sides Now' in 1969 on the 'Clouds' album. It's a simple but haunting song about learning the lessons of life.

Her original, uptempo version has always been a classic, and has been covered by 100s of artists. It's come perhaps to more attention since the release of 'Love, Actually', from the scene with Emma Thompson.

But the version used in the film was very different from the acoustic guitar pop hit of 1969 - it was re-recorded, transformed into a soft and mellow jazz ballad. Joni's voice has changed a lot, the arrangement is unique, and it ends up a whole different experience.

1969 Version 2000 Version

Testament to the beauty of the song is that - uniquely - both versions won Grammy Awards. 31 years apart.

Joni Mitchell, 2000

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Retweeting Compliments, And Other Ways You're Doing Twitter Wrong ...

Oh. This. Is. Good.

And yeah, I do some of this. (My bad. So, I'll learn) But this set-piece by Tripp And Tyler, between two friends (IRL) is funny, but makes a good point about Twitter etiquette, which is constantly changing. So keep up, eh?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sissel Duets with Espen Lind - Where The Lost Ones Go ...

I've always loved this song, and only just now found a video for it !! Can't think why I've never seen this. Just luuuverly...

Thursday, May 01, 2014

What, Me? Behave? No Chance ... !

The original.
Found this on Facebook, had to repost, in text form.

Me, behave? Seriously?
As a child I saw Tarzan almost naked.
Cinderella arrived home after midnight.
Pinocchio told lies.
Aladdin was a thief.
Batman drove over 200mph.
Snow White lived in a house with seven men.
Popeye smoked a pipe and had tattoos.
Pac Man ran around listening to digital music while eating pills that enhanced his performance.
Shaggy and Scooby were mystery solving hippies that always had the munchies.
The fault is not mine.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Man Of No Party ...

I'm often asked what Political Party I represent, or at least what Party I vote for or are a member of.

The answer is, I'm not.

And I'm asked this a lot, on Social Media, particularly when, as I'm very active on Twitter, I take potshots at politicians from all sides.

I'm neither Lib / Lab / Con, nor Socialist Workers Party (a common suggestion) or a Communist (a common insult) or an Unwashed Pinko Lefty (even more common!). I can't ever imagine being a member of a Political Party, subject to sudden expulsion whenever I might disagree with a policy. That's the problem - Parties are a collection of policies, ever changing, and unless you agree wholeheartedly with all of them, you're considered 'Not One Of Us'.

Who, in all honesty, can support 100% of policies from any party? Today? Next week? Next year? Nobody.

Broadly speaking, I'd consider myself a Left Wing Liberal Socialist Democrat. But I'll happily point out failures of the Labour Party and enjoy it just as much as when ridiculing the Tories and UKIP. So I remain happily outside the Party System.

I don't support Parties - but I do support values.
  • Protecting and caring for our sick, our elderly, our disabled;
  • Ensuring an end to discrimination of all forms;
  • Allowing those who can work to find work that pays a living wage;
  • Paying reasonable Benefits to those who cannot work, or who are on low wages;
  • Allowing a certain amount of Immigration to fill gaps in our work skills;
  • Allowing those even with extremist views to air those views, but to ensure they stay within the laws;
  • Ensuring that those in power and authority are held to account at all times;
  • Ensuring that the highest earners in our nation pay their full tax bills.
Find me a Party that espouses these values in whole, in full, and I'd join. But there are none. So I will never be a party person. And I will continue to defend these values.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Coffee - Know Your Long Blacks From Your Flat Whites ...

I rarely drink alcohol, certainly not when I'm out and about - my motorcycle license is just too precious to me.

But I am a caffeinista - a lover of good coffee. Real coffee. Which is why I frequent local, independant coffee shops instead of the local branch of a national chain with a dubious tax record.

But there are still some people who get a little shy and confused over what coffee to order. What's in an American? What the hell is a Ristretto.

Can't I just have, you know, a coffee ?

Here's a really good guide from this week's Independent Newspaper as a cheat sheet, so next time you waltz in the door, you can order with confidence. :-)
"What beans are you using? Which brew methods? If I go in a shop, I'm asking: what have you got on filter? Who's it roasted by? Where are the beans from?" says Dan Hobson of Flat White, in London's Soho. "Then I'll get a bit nerdier and ask for tasting notes. I'm a real geek."
And my two favourite hang-outs?

In my local area, Surbiton, in Surrey, it's The Pressroom Cafe. When in London, it's Look Mum No Hands! - I'd go to both places even if it was just for the brews, but they're also very chilled environments for contemplating life.

If that's what you fancy. :-)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Evolution Of The Bicycle From Visual Artwork ...

Oh, this is rather charming. A short video on the design stages that our two-wheels have gone through to get to where it is today.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Things To Remember When Going Through The Tough Times in Life ...

You're down. Here's how to get up...

1. Even Bad Times End
2. You’ve Overcome Challenges Before
3. You Have Lots of Strengths as a Person
4. It Happens to Everybody
5. It’s a Learning Experience
6. You Can Always Ask For Help
7. There Are a Lot of Things to Be Grateful For

[Original, full article on the brilliant Lifehack site, here]

Monday, March 03, 2014

An Average Size Woman ...

An average size woman - holding an average size mannequin ...

I - and surely most men - would take the real thing - the sexy, full size woman - behind that skinny bit of plastic.

Every time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Strength Stack 52 Workout...

I posted a status on Facebook a while ago stating that my favourite leather belt (about 8 or 10 years old now) was still serving me well, but in recent months I was gravitating towards the last belt hole as I was steadily losing those pounds which creep up on you in early middle-age...

Latest: I had to cut a new hole today, having lost about 2.5 stone (what's that, 35lbs? ish?) even though I've gained a lot of muscle mass. Constant cycling has helped a lot, but a better diet has been a struggle, as I'm a chef by trade so I have to sample everything.

The main driver though, has been the Strength Stack 52 card system, a great idea funded entirely by public donation via Kickstarter. Glad to see the system is finally getting the credit where it deserves, as seen by an article on Lifehacker today.

I know this sounds like a big plug for the cards, but jeez, they work for me. Here's a video of the creator, Mike Volkin, talking about how he came up with the idea.

Here's the 'Periodic Table' which gives you an idea of the different classes and routes of exercises. Click for bigger image.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Last Decent Man In Westminster, Tony Benn, Still Very Ill...

[Please see the update at the foot of the post]

I've always been a fan of Tony Benn. Not perhaps all his views, but he speaks his mind in a way that current politicians wouldn't ever dare dream of.

He's pretty ill right now, and my tweet of his 5 Questions has been the most-retweeted on my account ever. Time, then, to post it here, too.


14th March 2014 - Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn passed away peacefully, at his home, aged 88.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Top 30 Not-So-Serious Unanswered Points From #Sherlock Series III ...

After watching Series III of Sherlock about 5 times (ok, it was more like 8...) there's a few questions I have. Not serious ones, not much about plot points (I'll leave that to Tumblr) - more about some random thoughts that crossed my mind ...

So here we go ...

What was the bungee cable connected to, his coat? Major fail. That Belstaff coat is damn good for £1350 but I doubt it's tensile strength would withstand Benedicts weight. Still, maybe Sherlock could tell me, he did after all, write a piece on fibre tensile strengths.

Seriously, I'm a biker (a bigger bike than this little Yamaha, though) and no-one stops me in the road and demands my ride. No-one alive, anyway. No biker gives away his ride and certainly not his helmet - it's like lending your girlfriend out for the evening. Ain't gonna happen.

I'm also a keen cyclist. I know this guy was part of the big 'Lazarus' plot, but honestly, no helmet and riding on the pavement? Tsk, tsk.

There's always a 'Off' switch, eh? Oh, good. Bomb Disposal Squads all over the world, you can breathe a sigh of relief. All those years of training were never required.

This kid. Borderline social skills ('No', 'No', 'Why?', 'What for?') - interested in murder ('Cool!') *and* provides Sherlock with the critical clue at the wedding ('Mr Holmes, it was the invisible man with the invisible knife!') - he's basically Sherlock Mk2, in training, isn't he? Step aside, Billy Wiggins. Sherlock has a new protege.

So Sherlock really did bring handcuffs to the wedding? Without knowing there'd be a crime to solve, or anyone to arrest? Two possibilities. Either he felt John and Mary might need, er inspiration, or he had plans with Janine. (Okay, in the end, we know he did) But seriously, handcuffs on a first date?

I'm a chef. Rule 1 - You don't let a unsupervised waiter anywhere near a meat thermometer. Waiters are simple souls and meat thermometers are sharp. And expensive.

Come on, has *no* London Tea Shop put 'Earl Grey with Eyeball' on the menu yet? I'd pay for that. Although my tea-drinking expert friends say that it'd be better with Darjeeling.

These two better get together in Series IV or there'll be trouble. Just saying.

Just *what* was in the one, single matchbox among 1000's surrounding a dead man that wasn't empty? We need to know. It's not ACD canon, so I can't find it. I hate that.

So after the 'Earl Grey with Eyeball' not appearing in Tea Shops all over England, now I find that if I ask for precisely 442.7ml of beer in my local, I just get a funny look. Sherlock gets served. Life is really not fair.

I know there's an app for everything, but seriously, is there really an app that tells you how drunk you are depending on your intake and length of visit to the bathroom? Some programmers have way too much time on their hands.

Sherlock simultaneously uses 7 laptops. Has he never heard of multiple tabs?

Am I the only one who needed to know what her '10 things about a perfect man' were? Bearing in mind her perfect evening out was a 'In a dungeon' this is a character we like.

Sherlock, one word, okay? eCigarette. It's easier on the lips than 13 fags in the mouth at once, even unlit.

Award for briefest but most unexpected and very welcome guest appearance. Is their even a Bafta for that? There should be.

Talking of Baftas, can they be split three ways? These three, equally deserving.

How many practice attempts, Benedict, for this leap? How many broken glasses?

For Molly, slapping Sherlock is getting to be a full-time job. She gets away with it because she's a BAMF. But it is starting to verge on physical abuse now, okay?

Was I the only one who gave a cheer when Sherlock said "White Supremacist, ignore him" ? See, Far-Right Extremists, those racist beliefs will kill you in time.

Best line of the spisode - "That wife !! Pfttt !" Again, award for best guest appearance to Andrew Scott, to be shared with Lara Pulver.

We can't see behind the mask, but I assume this doctor has no facial hair. Remember, Sherlock prefers his Doctors to be clean-shaven. He'd be really disappointed to find out he was cut up by a Doc with a Goatee.

Am I the only one to think, when seeing the Appledore mansion, "Jeez, what are his heating bills like?"

I hope we see - and hear - more of Janine, played by Yasmine Akram. That voice, that accent. Gorgeous.

I believe it's highly illegal to damage or deface the Coin of the Realm. Still, that's the last of Mary's worries. Mostly, am I the only one thinking "Did Mary ever get her 50p back?"

Sherlock, detective and dragon slayer. Mycroft, effectively runs the British Intelligence Service. Yet both are smoking in secret because they're both a bit scared of Mummy. I find that hilarious.

The moment, I think, when Sherlock realised that his plan had gone awry and his only hope now was to shoot Magnussen, saving Mary (and thus John) but which would mean jail or exile, or either way separation from his friend. He takes one last look. That's how I read it.

"You know what happened to the other one" - WHAT OTHER ONE?

At this point even most male viewers understood the pain. I can't recall this scene from the first viewing, my vision was a big blurred. I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

And finally, the myth debunked. Moriarty appears on screen as Mrs Hudson vacuums Sherlocks flat. That's Mrs Hudson, who always claimed "I'm your landlady, dear, not your housekeeper". Also Exotic Dancer and Drug Cartel Administration.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Complaints Against The Press - Why The #PCC Is Failing ...

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is described as "a voluntary regulatory body for British printed newspapers and magazines, consisting of representatives of the major publishers."

Two key words there.

'Voluntary' is the worst of them. While censorship has been - and still is a - dirty word, the mainstream Press has successfully fought off third-party decision making in media complaints for years. And the publications don't even have to subscribe to the code - don't bother complaining if you have a beef against the Express or Star titles, they take no part in the process and are immune from the PCC. 

The second is 'Representatives' - yes, the papers bosses all rule on each other, with a wink and a nudge and an unspoken 'quid pro quo'.

Of course, I have no proof of this. At all. But the secrecy, lack of transparency and failure to act in the Phone-Hacking Scandal leads media-watchers to wonder what they're hiding. 

But I found a recent article in the Huffington Post by Professor Brian Cathcart, Director of Hacked Off, very interesting indeed. The Daily Mail - among *all* publications - accounts for over 36%, over 1/3 of complaints - way ahead of the next challenger, The Sun, at a mere 19%.

Here's the table ...

The man responsible for this is the Editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre. Do the PCC castigate him? Berate him? No, of course not.

They let him run the Editors' Code Of Practice Committee instead.
"It is obvious that the PCC's mission is to do the opposite of the naming and shaming that many national newspapers insist is so important in other walks of life. Instead the PCC covers up."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Parasite Street: see how subsidies to the rich cost us 54x as...

Parasite Street: see how subsidies to the rich cost us 54x as much as benefit fraud #benefitsstreet http://thndr.it/1eNm48H

Parasite Street: see how subsidies to the rich cost us 54x as...

Via Tumbler.