Saturday, 20 October 2012

Long Shot

Interested to discover that NASA's Curiosity Rover has touched down, on Mars, at a site known as Glenelg. Having visited similarly named locations in Australia (where the intriguing creation below can be found) and in western Scotland, am I faced with the most challenging hat-trick ever?

Friday, 28 September 2012

Samaritans - a dead end call?

Not the most cheerful of subjects, I’ll grant you, but here’s a thought concerning the long established Samaritans charity, with its policy of withholding advice when dealing with those at their wits end. After much consideration, I would have grave concerns about conveying, to the suicidal, the impression that there is no practical solution (after all, if the perceived expert they are speaking with cannot advise then perhaps there really is no hope!) and might this absence of information appear as a final insurmountable wall? Samaritans surely act with the best of intentions, but is it not possible that a more pragmatic, advice giving, approach would offer the sense of hope that their callers so desperately require? There are, of course, those who believe they have benefitted from the service, but, were they able to, others might tell a different story.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Ten ways of saying it

 On the off chance that readers, of these sometimes visited pages, should wish to express their opinions more widely, I’m pleased to share a few tips; for gaining column inches, within the national press. Before I do, though, I’d like to explode the myth, that getting a short letter published is particularly difficult; by relating my own experience. I began submitting, to the UK’s Metro newspaper, nigh on four years ago and in the space of three years, my words appeared within its pages, on more than forty occasions. It could, then, reasonably be assumed that I’d bombarded the editor with emails, at an alarming rate; but this was not so. My rate of submission had, actually, been in the region of two or three per week, combined with long periods of inactivity, and the average would probably be one letter every two weeks. It is, perhaps, not a bad strike rate, but this may have a great deal to do with my having cottoned on to a formula. Learn how to submit, I suggest, and you’re more than half way there.

 Anyway, at risk of being seen to 'blow my own trumpet' (which is, of course, the case, but, I hope that this article helps others to get ‘heard’), here’s some advice and a few examples:


1) Be outspoken….Twelve months on, I’m less certain, but, this was my view at the time; so I felt compelled to make the point explicitly and challenge a long held convention. I may have been right, or quite possibly wrong, but, either way, I questioned established thinking and that, I imagine, was the editor’s reason for publication.


2) Use wordplay…I was keen to have a dig at Top Gear, largely because of my unswerving belief that the programme trivialises the issue of road safety. Merely stating this, however, would, I suspect, not have been enough; so humour and wordplay are well deployed in such situations. It may also be beneficial when we call to account public figures who are, themselves, notoriously outspoken!


3) Sarcasm....Everyone loves a bit of it, don’t they, as long as it’s well directed?.. and of course, America’s least admired president has long been a sitting duck! Go for it, I say, when it’s deserved, because there are few better ways to deride an unworthy leader. Clearly, the editor agreed, judging by the accompanying photograph!



4) Innuendo and double entendre...There’s a reason the Carry On films remain popular and that’s presumably because most people like something a bit saucy. If you can extend it, to make an additional assertion (in this case, the suggestion that such scenarios are frankly ludicrous), then the chance of publication may be further increased.


5) Expose a contradiction….When the words of government ministers are contrary to their activities, it needs, in the public interest, to be highlighted. Be vigilant and you may even glean an opportunity to support one of the world’s great campaigners.



6) Dreadful jokes….Real groan-along humour is clearly a precious commodity, at least, to the folk at Metro and if you can come up with something not fit even for a Christmas cracker, then all the better!



7) Have a go at the Pope....You know you want to!...and with apologies to any Catholic readers, it's all fair comment


8) Don’t be afraid of the dark….There are, of course, issues that no one could enjoy thinking about; yet, addressing them is vital, if we are to live in a better world. Spare a moment to think about matters, literally, of life and death and send in your thoughts. To quote Kitchener “your country needs you”, as, I suggest, does the world!



9) Challenge the overly faithful

Opinions based on anything other than reason are easily challenged. Use your rationality to get into print. It’s one of the easiest ways.



10) Be downright infantile!

Need I say more?

....although, of course, I will! Further to this, keep it succinct and write much as it would trip from the tongue. That way, you, too, can make your, perhaps unexceptional, yet valuable thoughts known, to millions!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Do the honourable members wish to comment?


Disappointed to hear Owen Paterson, on last night’s Question Time, adopt the usual stance, of MPs, when Iraq is mentioned. How often we hear it said that time will tell; the proof of the pudding argument that seeks to brush a concern, in the minds of many, under the carpet, faster than one can say carnage. It is, of course, a well devised response, designed to divert our imaginations from the true horror of war, by proffering only two avenues of thought; that if Iraq ultimately thrives, it should be considered an admirable intervention and if it doesn’t, a foolish one; well devised, I suggest, because it precludes unwelcome concern, for the unwarring victim.
Estimates of civilian casualties in the Iraq conflict vary, but most suggest a figure of between 100,000 and 600,000; yet, to some, at their Westminster desks (who, interestingly, rarely contest such estimates) this may be a mere technicality. Time is, of course, the politician’s friend and amid subsequent years of electioneering, the images always fade; newspapers are recycled, to save the world, and economic concerns pushed to the fore; then, hey presto!...with a little luck and a following wind, there you have it!…a shiny new democracy, where once was repression; delivered as if from a magician’s wand.
Yet, let the question be addressed: what is the fair price of democracy? Where should we draw the line? 100,000 lives? 200,000? any advance on 200,000 and if not, why not? After all, if 200,000 is acceptable, why not 300,000, because who’s to say where the line should be drawn and if anyone does, how will they qualify their decision?
So why not 500,000 civilian casualties?...or a million?.. any advance on that?... but bear in mind you may be asked how you acquired the authority to decide?
There is, of course, no correct answer, if it’s accepted that civilians must die; only a terrible end, for those who sought no part in the tiresome quarrels of men. Perhaps, though, even unanswerable questions merit more than a mere shrug of the shoulders.
So let the story of collateral families be told and their demise supercede, in our minds, the politician’s desire, for the crown of success.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Pop goes the poetic!

During a trip down music’s memory lane; calling at all stations, including Billy Joel; Elton John and Blondie (well, mixed metaphors are in keeping with this, so please stick with it!), the following lyrical incongruities emerged…

Billy Joel (Just the Way You Are)..... ‘I don’t want clever conversation, I never want to work that hard, I just want someone that I can talk to, I want you just the way you are’….surely, this fairly translates as ‘I’ll stick with you because you’re too thick to answer back’ (great tune though Billy!)

Blondie (Picture This)...... ‘I will give  you my finest hour, the one I spent watching you shower’...…..flaming peroxide!...their water bill must be astronomical and then there's the electricity to consider!

The Real Thing (You to me are Everything)  ‘So now you’ve got the best of me, come on and take the rest of me'...  clearly a thrilling voyage of discovery ahead, for the object of someone's affection

Further to this, Elton may guess that’s why they call it the blues, but I wish he’d let us in on the secret, ’cause  I must have heard it a hundred times and I’m none the wiser. 

As for 'More than Words' by Extreme... ‘Saying I love you is not the words I want to hear from you’… and further on….'More than words is all you have to do…’...well, I don't mean to be pedantic, but that’s just bad grammar, isn’t it?

Anyway, for lyrics that actually mean something, I refer readers to John Lennon's Imagine and Spandau Ballet's Through the Barricades.

Ten years on

Unsurprising that there should be so much media focus upon 9/11, although, somehow, the images still seem unreal, to me; but was that the day when we finally woke up? Certainly, startled eyes gave rise to questioning minds; at least, on this side of the pond; and that trend has continued, buoyed by the unremitting reason of scientists.
I recall, shortly after the second plane struck, a young woman, on London's busiest trading floor, turn to me; her eyes lacking their usual softness; “It’s all about religion”, she exclaimed. “It’s all about Islam” I swiftly replied.
Ten years on, I sense that she was the wiser. The problem, to my mind, is certainty; they all deal in it; stories and images of heaven; each of them proffering a single way to get there; a way that declares opposing ‘truths’ to be born of fools and liars. So, perhaps, it was the logical outcome, that malleable young men would fly planes into buildings, in their attempt to reach a purpose fabricated ‘paradise’, at the tragic cost of so many.
Yet, resistance endures. “There’s nothing in the Koran that permits this”, we hear and “it’s not what Islam’s supposed to be about!”
The precise content of the Koran I can’t comment on. Like most people, I’ve read only snippets, but what’s surely beyond reasonable doubt is that suicide killers are empowered by contrived visions, which purport to call them home.
It is, then, a conclusion born of evidence, that this world would be nigh on three thousand lives richer, if only the deliverers of 9/11 had been left with a healthy sense of the unknown; and acknowledging an inconvenient truth may, fittingly, ensure that the victims in the towers did not, after all, die in vain.

Friday, 2 September 2011

A much needed dressing down at the airport

Despite the mildly disparaging title of this blog, it was never intended to contain a series of rants. Even so, I'll make no apology this one.

That a substantial number of Sikhs gathered outside Parliament, today, to protest about being asked to remove their turbans at airports, is lamentable. Peaceful and pleasant people they generally are, but for anyone’s sake, have those who took part in the demonstration learned nothing from 9/11?!.. and am I alone in being staggered that the most graphic example of faith overriding reason in history has left minds unchanged? How many towers, I ask you, will it take?!
The turban is, of course, to Sikhs, much more than a mere piece of cloth; yet, it can, undeniably, be used to conceal explosives (something which, in fact, happened just a few days ago, unsurprisingly with tragic consequences) so, clearly, those concerned (or should that be unconcerned?) place their assumed right not to remove it above the safety of fellow travellers.
How many innocent lives have been sacrificed already, to theistic faith? Perhaps someone can tell me, because I couldn’t begin to work it out ! Yet, they would, it seems, let the horror of that September day happen all over again, in order to keep themselves ‘noble’!
We should then, I suggest, make special allowance for one thing only and that is reason; while those who seek special privilege should keep their feet firmly on the ground.
Noble Sikhs, please make my day and leave a comment. Remind me that there are those of you who refuse to run with the pack!

p.s  The Mail on Sunday readers may be interested to know that this blog post was written in the modern era, despite the sensibilities of their paper's editor.....