A few questions about 2010

20 December 2010

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Bought a flat, got engaged, appeared in court in Brooklyn, New York…

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I try my best not to make them. It’s always a disappointment when I don’t keep them. But I remember last year’s:
· Love a little more;
· Worry a little less;
· Be more honest;
· Be a little smarter;
· Pause a little more;
· Keep up the exercise;
· Say what’s on my mind, but not so much that it’s destructive;
· Work a little harder, but not drive myself into the ground;
· Be a little more me.
And I believe I have kept every one.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my sister. And I am now a very very proud Uncle for the first time.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I don’t think anybody who was very close to me died this year.

5. What countries/cities did you visit?
Oh my! USA (New York) Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Scotland, Italy (Venice, Naples and Sorrento). That can’t be it surely?

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

More luck, more money, more job security.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
8th March, a special birthday, and a special proposal. And the party a few days later.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting a new job just weeks before people from my old one were made redundant.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I tend to block failure from my mind.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes, norovirus, and numerous colds and strange muscle/stomach things. No broken bones this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My new Digital SLR. My flat.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Anyone who’s coped with me.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
I tend not to be appalled and depressed, just disappointed.

14. Where did most of your money go?
On the new flat probably! Rent, mortgage, fees and furniture. And travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving flat, getting engaged, and going on holiday!

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
I’m not sure there’s a particular song, but an album: The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae. There’s also Empire State of Mind.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you…
i. happier or sadder?
Happier, my happiness increases annually.

ii. thinner or fatter?
About the same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d had the time and willpower to do more exercise. And reading, I certainly wish I had read more.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
More of nothing – literally. You know those days. They’re rare, but they happen.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
In Canada with my partner and family I hope. If my rescheduled flight leaves, after I was thrown off one on 18th December after 5 hours on the tarmac.

21. How will you be spending New Years?
In the midlands with my own family for “second Christmas”

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Yes. All over again.

23. How many one night stands?
None.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Hmmm. This year has been coloured by Family Guy, the Winter Olympics, Ugly Betty and Glee.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don’t think I hate anyone.

26. What was the best book you read?
Peter Mandelson’s autobiography.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Janelle Monae!

28. What did you want and get?
I want for very little.

29. What did you want and not get?
Probably job security.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
The Ghost – about a ghost writer. Incredible movie.

31. What did you do on your birthday?
Went for dinner, got engaged, and had a special birthday party a few days later.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More holiday in the sun.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Very “me”.

34. What kept you sane?
Friends.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Hmmm. Good question, and one I am not sure I can answer.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I’m not going to answer this but people who know me know what my general political views are. There have been many many issues that have stirred me this year.

37. Who did you miss?
My Gran.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Hmmm. They’re not new people – I have known them since before this year. But only met them properly this year: David E and Chris M. But they’re both out-shone by the best new person I have ever met: my baby Niece, Imogen.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
Life is what you make it.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Our love will sail in this ark
The world could end outside our window
Let’s find forever
And write our name in fire on each other’s hearts

41. Was 2010 a good year for you?
It was, yes.

42. What were your favourite moments of the year?
I’m having three: my birthday, lying on the Barcelonetta, getting the keys to my flat

43. What was your least favourite moment of the year?
Being sat on a plane for five hours in a snowstorm, going nowhere – and the subsequent cancellation and inability to get through to Air France. Oh and getting a summons in New York together with the subsequent court appearance.

44. What was your favourite month of 2010?
Can I have three? February, March and July

45. What was your favourite song from 2010?
I’m sticking to Janelle Monae’s whole album here…

46. What was your favourite record from 2010?
See above

47. How many concerts did you see in 2010?
Three?

48. Did you have a favourite concert in 2010?
Scissor Sisters. And Goldfrapp.

49. Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?
I tend not to get ashamed of things I do.

50. What was the worst lie someone told you in 2010?
I can’t think of a lie I told.

51. Did you treat somebody badly in 2010?
I don’t think I did.

52. Did somebody treat you badly in 2010?
I don’t believe so.

53. How much money did you spend in 2010?
Too much!

54. What was your proudest moment of 2010?
Becoming an uncle.

55. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2010 and change something, what would it be?
There’s nothing I’d ever change.

56. What are your plans for 2011?
Keeping a job, and getting married.


Climate Change Conservatives

23 September 2010

I read with interest yesterday about Chris Huhne’s fight to save his Government Department that deals with Climate Change.

Climate change secretary Chris Huhne is fighting to defend his department’s funding and independence, fending off a suggestion that his civil servants should be moved to the Treasury to cut costs.

Huhne is having to resist the Treasury on numerous policy fronts. He has rejected the relocation idea, fearing his department’s civil servants would “go native” if they moved into offices in the Treasury.

Critics assert that this is the Tories true position on Climate Change – the ‘greenest Government ever’ that never ever was… consumptionist, trampling over the environment, uncaring.

It reminded me of something I recently heard about one of the earliest pioneers in the field. A scientist and politician who fought to get Climate Change issues recognised on the world stage who said:

  • But the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.
  • We have become more and more aware of the growing imbalance between our species and other species, between population and resources, between humankind and the natural order of which we are part.
  • it’s sensible to improve energy efficiency and to develop alternative and sustainable sources of supply; it’s sensible to replant the forests which we consume; it’s sensible to re-examine industrial processes; it’s sensible to tackle the problem of waste

That politician? Margaret Thatcher.


Earthquakes in London, you should be shaking in your seats

23 August 2010

Last week I went to see Earthquakes in London at the National. A play about the legacy of the babyboomer generation on the planet it’s certainly food for thought about climate change.

How many people can this planet sustain? What kind of world are we leaving future generations? They’re questions that have been posed before: “When environmentalists say that the world is overpopulated, they mean that the environmental consequences of the excessively high human population are destroying the biosphere–the Earth’s life-support system”. What are the environmental consequences? How many people can the Earth really support? What kind of world do you want?

If you have children, or – as in my case – a new niece, you surely must wonder what kind of future you’re leaving your child. A world where populations displaced by climate change – climate refugees. If you think that immigration and refugees in your country now are a problem, what about a future where whole populations are displaced?

Mike Bartlett hit the nail on the head with his play. It can’t be an easy topic to encapsulate in a script, but he does incredibly well. And it’s a topic that perhaps drama needs to address. It’s a medium that can bring a subject to peoples minds and make them think.

Jason Hall has a much better review of the play than I ever could. Read the review. See the play. Then contemplate what kind of future you’re leaving.


Ever looked at a politician and thought…

18 August 2010

…he really reminds me of someone?

A TV character perhaps?

A Children’s TV character?

Thomas the Tank Engine Character?

Well maybe after you look at nothingbutawordbag’s brilliant blog post you’ll see similarities, not just in words, but in the explanations too!

http://nothingbutawordbag.wordpress.com


European Unions

9 November 2009

9th November 1989 is a day which will be engraved on the minds of all those alive to see it. As a young child even I can remember walking down to the living room to get ready for school and my mum making me watch what had happened on BBC Breakfast News. I had no idea what was happening. But I knew I should remember it.

The German Democratic Republic was a state that found existence difficult. Whatever I may think of communism as a theory, in reality it wasn’t a pretty existence. And the East Germans knew it. Living adjacent to the West, where life was sweeter. Today’s Telegraph article gives a good idea of what life was like and why the wall fell (I am quoting from it below).

The GDR’s existence depended on barriers. Ultimately, the walls of the republic were vulnerable. Control of the frontiers required a commitment from neighbouring Hungary and Czechoslovakia to prevent East Germans from transiting to the Western lands they bordered. By the summer of 1989, socialist fraternity was fraying badly, and Hungary was no longer willing to act as a gatekeeper. Once Budapest party leaders allowed East Germans to exit to Austria in September 1989, the final act of the GDR began. Most East Germans, of course, did not want to leave, even if many longed to travel unhindered. Repeated Monday-night demonstrations in Leipzig swelled to 70,000 by mid-October, a week after the GDR celebrated its 40th anniversary. The regime could no longer control its frontiers, and chose not to contest the streets. A divided politburo ousted its old-guard members, including party chief Erich Honecker, and after massive demonstrations in Berlin, it decided to relax travel restrictions, leading to the joyous confusion of November 9.

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9 November has been a recurring date in German history. “On that day in 1938, synagogues and Jewish property were destroyed by Nazi forces in what became known as Kristallnacht. It is also the day, in 1925, when the SS was founded, when the Munich beer hall putsch took place in 1923, the day the German monarchy ended in 1918, and the day the German revolution failed in 1848.”

And this history provides an important reminder of why european ‘togetherness’ – working together, learning from each other – is important, because if we can’t work with our geographical neighbours, how will we ever learn to coexist globally in an ever shrinking world? The day the wall fell marked a real watershed in European history. Over 40% of NATO members now are ex Soviet countries, a unified Germany has emerged as a strong player in Europe – after unifying and West Germany taking the crumbling former East an draging it to western standards, and even now has a leader from the East. European countries have become democratic, albeit not an easy ride, and needs to continue working together to talk, teach and learn. The European Union and institutions have a clear and important role to play in getting people working together, continuing progression to democracy, and promoting fundamental rights, equality, and consideration of environmental concerns as well as clearly transnational issues. What about homophobia in Eastern Europe, for example, or the need to work together to tackle Climate Change? I always remember my former boss, a German, who quoted his father saying “well, if we’re talking, then we’re not fighting”. Perhaps tackling the emergence of fascism is one of the most important reasons for working together.

Of course some [west] Germans I know stiff refer to it as the East, some see it as a weight around their necks. I took one of them to the East for the first time in their life a few years ago. I fell in love with East Berlin – it has a faded charm that’s been scrubbed up and buffed up, but with the history clear and obvious. The BMW showroom adjacent to the Russian Embassy on Unter den Linden is a provides a brilliant juxtaposition of Westernised modernity, pre-division urbanism and Eastern history. It’s an incredible City, with a fantastic cultural and diverse nightlife. Watching Goodbye Lenin brings back the emotions that the city itself raises in me. The sadness of demise of the old regime and comfort of familiarity against the excitement of freshness, newness has been a recurring theme through my life.

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Vilification? Vindication?

27 October 2009

A couple of things have been causing a fuss this last week, there’s been a lot of fuss about the BNP’s appearance on Question Time and ongoing debate about Jan Moir’s article in particular.

Earlier this week I was convinced that Question Time was the wrong format if you thought it was going to show the BNP up. Well, was I wrong? I think it’s fair to say that the normal Question Time format was abandoned. People agreed it was a five against one kicking of Nick Griffin with Dimbleby and the four panelists directing their views very clearly. Even Griffin agrees. The questions chosen were challenging Griffin – there was nothing on the Postal Strike, for example, which would have clearly appeared at any normal Question Time. I’d agree that a low key grilling on Newsnight would have been better and less sensational. People, though, seemed to agree he performed badly, even his adjacent pannelist said he was creepy.

Which, incidentally, is what Griffin called gay people. Or at least, he said most people (particularly christians) find the sight of two grown men kissing “…really creepy”. Now this was in response to a question about whether the Daily Mail should have printed Jan Moir’s article (which I have posted about here and here). Moir, of course, ‘clarified’ her story on Friday. Apparently. Not only did she only actually apologise to Gately’s family for the timing of what she wrote, not the content, there are many people who think she’s trying to rewrite history, not clarify what she meant.

And when she says her “observation that there was a ‘happy ever after myth’ surrounding such unions was that they can be just as problematic as heterosexual marriages” I’d have to question who actually promulgated this myth about civil partnerships all ending happily ever after? As a Twitter follower of mine said “No-one. The myth itself is a myth”.

So what of these two stories? There’s something as worrying about the acceptance of public pronouncement of such views – whether they’re racist or homophobic – as there would be if they were silenced. The debate about whether the BBC or Daily Mail should have allowed publicising of such views is as worrying as the fact that they did. Because there’s freedom of the press, but there’s also a need to think about the way you say things. Whether it’s the way you question a BNP member on TV, or the way you express uncertainties about a death, there’s a responsibility. I’ve already posted on the implications of publicising ‘hate’ – the increase in homophobic attacks and hate crimes and implication of acceptibility by what people write, or the BNP appearance on Question time being “the trigger that turns into an attack”. And sometimes maybe you have to question whether it’s actually the right thing to do, to use the right you have. Or whether, for the benefit of your business, your medium, the public at large (people have been vocal in saying the BBC should take it’s share of blame for any increase in racist attacks, and there’s been concern that BNP membership will increase), you should think twice about whether you use the right you have to say what you want. Or whether you should think twice before you make a decision – whether you think about the implications before you say it. Because the responsibility is in your hands. Will your actions be vilification or vindication for people’s actions? And, frankly, is it really worth it?


If you want to BNP to be ‘shown up’, Question Time isn’t the right format to get the results you want to see

22 October 2009

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the appearance tonight of the British National Party on BBC Question Time. When it was announced that the BBC intended to invite Nick Griffin, BNP leader and recently elected (by the British public) Member of the European Parliament, on to Question Time there were mixed responses. Some political parties thought it was the wrong thing to do because it would give them legitimacy as a political party. Other parties were refusing to put up pannelists – refused to appear on the same stage – but as some parties agreed to participate so they all did.

Now, Im not going to express a view on the legitimacy or not of the BNP, but I do have a concern about their appearance tonight. And that’s about the format of the programme on which they’re to appear.

Let’s just think about Question Time for a minute. Five pannelists, usually three politicians, one academic or similarly opinionated person, and one more populist person (a columnist perhaps), chaired by David Dimbleby. Members of the audience ask questions and the pannelists opine and respond one by one. Perhaps there’s some more pointed questioning from the chair trying to get a response to the question.

And this is the point i’m making. It’s not the kind of format where a party like the BNP will really get probed on their policies. There’s no Paxman (not that he succeeded in the past) or Frost really making them uncomfortable, getting to the bottom of what they really mean, and what they imply. It’s a question, an answer, some political responses and questioning from other pannelists (they have their own point to make, and Question Time is about the audience questions, not politicians asking each others views), and moving on to the next point.

On Twitter this morning there’s been some debate about the show tonight. I don’t disagree that primetime TV is the place to point out to the UK what the party actually thinks – but I do think that this format is not the best one, particularly not for those people who really think the party will be shown up on tgeir views. I’m also not a person that thinks gagging works. I’m not apathetic to watching or disengaged from democracy, whether I’ve made up my own mind about them or not. Surely it’s better to let people hear what they think – some may argue to give them enough rope to hang themselves with.

Taken an example about road congestion in our cities. The BNP answers – “road congestion in our cities is a terrible problem, something must be done about it”. What do the other party members do? Disagree vocally with the BNP point of view, or sit there and nod along, agreeing with Nick Griffin? What will this type of questioning and response do for those people who are already of a mindset that could be persuaded by the other arguments they make? A similar appearance by France’s far right political party in the 1980s saw their membership soar and could so well do, or already has, for the BNP.

Question Time is a format that is about swift answers, soundbites, not detailed probing and questioning on what the politicans really mean, what the real implications of their policies are. After my recent posts on undercurrents of hate and what these legitimise, is this really the platform people really think it is to try and show the politics of this party in a truer light? I don’t think it is. Now I may be wrong, and I hope that there is real opportunity for their policies and views to be probed in depth, but I’d just like to end with a thought from Ken Livingstone on Nick Griffin: :”He comes on, says his bit, but for the angry racist, it’s the trigger that turns into an attack.”


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