The Most Dangerous Man in America

I just watched the most amazing and eye opening documentary I have seen for a long time. The excellent Storyville has done it again by producing a film that everyone must see. If you put blind faith in anything from governments to priests, parents, teachers or any form of authority this is a must watch.
Balanced, smart, well made and insightful. It is the Storyville documentary: “The Most Dangerous Man in America” (see link below). It tells the story of how in 1971, leading Vietnam War strategist Daniel Ellsberg leaked “The Pentagon Papers”, having concluded that the war was based on decades of lies. The story of how a pro Vietnam War hawk, who was a former US marine and RAND analyst, who had access to the most Top Secret information anyone could see about the war was converted into a dove, an anti-war campaigner who took great personal risks by leaking the secret papers to show the world the lies that the US government had been spreading to justify their actions in the Vietnam war. It also made me realise the Richard Nixon was even worse than I already thought he was! It also features Howard Zinn, who sadly passed away recently.
A great personal tale of putting principles before ones career and success, this is a must watch for everyone.
Link to the BBC 4 Storyville page for the film: http://bit.ly/bKUCoy
This is a link to the homepage for the actual film: http://www.mostdangerousman.org/
And finally a link to Daniel Ellsberg’s website: http://www.ellsberg.net/
Advertisements

Book Review – American Psycho

American Psycho American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Interesting read and journey into the mind of a ruthless, troubled soul. Not for the faint hearted though. Far more graphic than the film.

View all my reviews >>

Children’s Book Review 2 – The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a children’s classic and we have been reading this to our daughter since she was around 10 months old. She loved the beautiful illustrations by the talented Axel Scheffler, that are so vidid and lifelike yet still imbued with a child’s view of the world. The story of a little vulnerable mouse outwitting various hungry predators in the woods and nearly coming undone by his own tall tales is very simple to read to children and for them to learn language with but it is also extremely smart and sharp from an adult’s perspective.Many children’s books rely on the surreal or stretching what adults consider logical into completely fantastical tales that make little sense in any world and serve no purpose other than to try too hard to impress. The Gruffalo does not do this. It uses myth to make it’s point but it is grounded in very down to earth ideas and narrative.The deliciously worded descriptions of The Gruffalo were fun for our daughter to read yet simple enough for her to remember and aid the development of her language skills. the illustrations play a big part in this as ideas such as knobbly Knees mean nothing to a toddler unless they can see them!When meal times became an endless chore of trying to convince our little one to eat her dinner we always had this book as a back up to distract her. It always worked and she always jumped straight into the wonderful world of the woods with the Mouse strolling through to meet the “imaginary” Gruffalo!A must for all parents.

View all my reviews >>

Google Buzz Day 3

I was already an avid Gmail fan and Gmail user so I didn’t have to do anything to join Google Buzz except click a large blue button when I logged into my email account after a very long day updating Apple iPod Touch devices.
The ease with which one can join Google Buzz has meant that in just 3 days lots of the people I follow on Twitter are already on Buzz, which if it were a human baby would still be struggling to breastfeed and may not have even had it’s first ever bath. Instead Buzz has grown up very quickly and become more like a grumpy teenager who looks to be developing into a far more promising adult than anyone would think on first appearances.
What am I talking about? Well I have to be honest. When I first saw Buzz and tried to interact with it I wasn’t exactly blown off my feet. It was great that Buzz is just one link below the inbox in my Gmail account but in aesthetic term sit looked more like an early 2000’s internet chat client full of text and blue underlined links than something new and fancy. Yes I could share links, photos and comments, but I can do that with all the other social networking sites I already use and they all look much prettier.
However, and this is the big but, I have grown quite fond of little Buzz in just a few days. It still needs more people to join the network for it to rival twitter as the first place I post a link or comment, but I am starting to see things about it that make me think I may have to reconsider my lack of enthusiasm on day 1.
For starters you can type more than 140 words. That may lead to long, meaningless diatribes plastered all over my Gmail page but I can always “Mute this post” if something looks unappealing. It is important to be concise, especially in these time poor times (excuse the lack of skilled prose on my part), but sometimes I have something to say or post that is just a tiny bit longer than 140 words. This is often the case when one tweet turns into a conversation and that is where Buzz gets interesting.
Twitter lets you reply to tweets and displays them on the Twitterstream but trawling through all the tweets clogging up my Twitstream looking to see if anyone did reply to a comment I made is not the most user friendly or instant experience. With Buzz the comments are posted below each Buzz post so you can get a conversation going about a link, comment, photo or whatever you buzz about, and it is easy to follow and join in. This functionality of Buzz is what I think will promote more involved social networking, where little posts can spark a long and enriching debate. I have always wanted the web to be about sharing useful knowledge and debating ideas and thoughts, and I still think it is one of the best ways to share ideas and develop one’s opinions on many subjects. A conversation full of links to articles, pictures, blogs or sites that reference the topics being discussed is a godsend for the less intellectually enlightened members of society, such as myself, who need to be directed to some evidence or references to know what we are talking about.
I also like the ability to post a picture directly onto a Buzz post, and not into another photo sharing site like Tweetpic or somewhere else on the web that distracts me from the post I was originally looking at.
Google was also quick to sort out the supposed privacy issues about other people seeing who you follow and chat to on your profile, which was a good sign from them.
Anyway If anyone else is starting to warm to Google Buzz and has any more hints about how to get more from it then please leave a comment! The more ideas we share the better.

I was already an avid Gmail fan and Gmail user so I didn’t have to do anything to join Google Buzz except click a large blue button when I logged into my email account after a very long day updating Apple iPod Touch devices.
The ease with which one can join Google Buzz has meant that in just 3 days lots of the people I follow on Twitter are already on Buzz, which if it were a human baby would still be struggling to breastfeed and may not have even had it’s first ever bath. Instead Buzz has grown up very quickly and become more like a grumpy teenager who looks to be developing into a far more promising adult than anyone would think on first appearances.

What am I talking about? Well I have to be honest. When I first saw Buzz and tried to interact with it I wasn’t exactly blown off my feet. It was great that Buzz is just one link below the inbox in my Gmail account but in aesthetic term sit looked more like an early 2000’s internet chat client full of text and blue underlined links than something new and fancy. Yes I could share links, photos and comments, but I can do that with all the other social networking sites I already use and they all look much prettier.

However, and this is the big but, I have grown quite fond of little Buzz in just a few days. It still needs more people to join the network for it to rival twitter as the first place I post a link or comment, but I am starting to see things about it that make me think I may have to reconsider my lack of enthusiasm on day 1.

For starters you can type more than 140 words. That may lead to long, meaningless diatribes plastered all over my Gmail page but I can always “Mute this post” if something looks unappealing. It is important to be concise, especially in these time poor times (excuse the lack of skilled prose on my part), but sometimes I have something to say or post that is just a tiny bit longer than 140 words. This is often the case when one tweet turns into a conversation and that is where Buzz gets interesting.

Twitter lets you reply to tweets and displays them on the Twitterstream but trawling through all the tweets clogging up my Twitstream looking to see if anyone did reply to a comment I made is not the most user friendly or instant experience. With Buzz the comments are posted below each Buzz post so you can get a conversation going about a link, comment, photo or whatever you buzz about, and it is easy to follow and join in. This functionality of Buzz is what I think will promote more involved social networking, where little posts can spark a long and enriching debate.

I have always wanted the web to be about sharing useful knowledge and debating ideas and thoughts, and I still think it is one of the best ways to share ideas and develop one’s opinions on many subjects. A conversation full of links to articles, pictures, blogs or sites that reference the topics being discussed is a godsend for the less intellectually enlightened members of society, such as myself, who need to be directed to some evidence or references to know what we are talking about.

I also like the ability to post a picture directly onto a Buzz post, and not into another photo sharing site like Tweetpic or somewhere else on the web that distracts me from the post I was originally looking at.

Google was also quick to sort out the supposed privacy issues about other people seeing who you follow and chat to on your profile, which was a good sign from them.

And finally, Buzz doesn’t seem to have any of those pointless and irritating time wasting games that clog up Facebook and make me want to get up and slap my friends who are grazing virtual sheep on pixelated binary grass. The less irrelevant apps on Buzz the better.

Anyway If anyone else is starting to warm to Google Buzz and has any more hints about how to get more from it then please leave a comment! The more ideas we share the better.

Children’s Book Review 1

Otto's Trip to the Moon: Seriously Cute - a Pull-tab Book Otto’s Trip to the Moon: Seriously Cute – a Pull-tab Book by Katherine Lodge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
My 2 year old daughter picked this book out of many choices in a local children’s bookshop. Since then she has become obsessed with it, even though there is not much in terms of story and her enthusiasm has more to do with her love of the moon and rockets. It is well presented and very cute though! She loves it so who am I to argue?

View all my reviews >>

Book Review – Brilliant HTML & CSS

Brilliant HTML & CSS Brilliant HTML & CSS by James A. Brannan

So far this has been the best book on Web Design/ programming languages I have come across. It is very well designed, arranged and simple to use. You can dip in and out of any relevant section and it does not confuse you with unnecessary jargon or too much irrelevant information. Great for anyone new to CSS.
View all my reviews >>

Google Buzz

Having just spent the whole day syncing various corporate PR videos and apps onto lots of Apple iTouch devices (not for fun, but for a large multinational company’s annual conference in case you were wondering), I came back home to a googlemail account that was covered with this “supposedly exciting” message and uninspiring logo:
Google Buzz Logo
I had just read about Google deciding to “invade” (or should that be join) the over-burgeoning world of social networking gone mad. I actually read about it on Twitter and even though it did excite me for about 10 nanoseconds I did start to wonder how I could fit yet another social networking site into my already social network crammed life. And I don’t even have a job (yet).
I do love the internet, the web and all things tech, but even I have my limits (which will surprise many). That said I obviously joined, as I already have a Gmail account so I was already Buzzed up anyway. I am intriugued to see who will come out on top in the Social networking wars (here’s me hyping the mundane up again). I personally like Twitter the most as it basically gives me access to lots of links on articles about Technology, Culture, Politics and the news from a wide variety of sources. It would take me ages to trawl through all these various news and story providers but Twitter makes the job easier. I can also access it via my iPhone, and, not to put too crude a point to all this, since I spend a lot fo my time on the loo (I couldn’t think of a more sophisticated way to mention this) Twitter on my iPhone means I have access to the world and all its different events from different angles in the one place I need it the most. What else would I do on the toilet? I am always loathe to take a good book in there as books are sort fo sacred to me, and it would be like defiling literature. Anyway, my Irritable Bowel Syndrome problems aside, social networking does serve a useful purpose in my life, given my specific lifestyle. Yet even I don’t spend that much time locked away from civilisation to be able to go through every Plurk, Tweet, Facebook status update, Flickr update or Buzz that comes my way. I wish I did. I really love the way that social networking on the web connects like minded people who would otherwise never meet as they are separated by geography and other traditional barriers.
I was planning to write a blog post about social networking anyway, before all this Buzz commentary. The angle I planned to take was to discuss why I have more than one Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail account and how that connects with the myriad of different aspects of my personality. Social networking and the web in general allows me to share different parts of my life and personality with a diverse range of very different people. This gives me and my thoughts a great deal of freedom to express themselves. If I did not have this option all my thoughts would fester deep within me, like a swirling vortex of pent up frustrations, boiling and bubbling with rage until they erupted and offended all around me.
So maybe buzzing in addition to tweeting may help keep me a sane, normal, and probably more dull person in real life?
Who knows, I probably won’t have the time to even update my Facebook status with the fact that I am buzzing about twitter.
A lot of people have commented on how social networking has become overbearing and gone into overkill. To an extent I agree about the overbearing comment.  With all the social networking sites around one could spend all day every day just reading status updates (half of which are exaggerated half truths or designed to project a specific self image people want to create). I am already singed up for Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, Moolto, MSN Live, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, WordPress, Blogger, Library thing and Goodreads! They need one service that combines all of these!
I feel that it is up to the individual to act in a balanced and sensible manner (some might say I am expecting too much, given how humans often abuse advances in technology), when picking which services they use to communicate different types of messages and ideas. Of Course there are some geeks out there locked away in a room with wires attached to their internal organs from their computers who live for the next status update and electronic hit, but most people just use it to share their thoughts and ideas with like minded people.
It is hard to find like minded people who you click with in the real world. It always had been. Most of the people we are surrounded by are with us out of pure chance. They happen to be our neighbours, school friends and family. We have geography and maybe blood or language in common but often we don’t have much else.
Personally I have found sites like TED and Mashable to provide me with a very rewarding experience. I would never have discovered them were it not for Twitter. I have also got back into listenign to more music, and the joys of discovering new bands through sites like Spotify and last FM. I haven’t even joined MySpace but I know it has helped a lot of good bands break through. Twitter has also been a great place for aspiring and struggling writers to network with other writers and get useful tips and make valuable contacts. Like many things social networking can be a positive as well as negative force, and both those forces are at work in our lives.
I hope that I can find the right balance in terms of sensible social networking use, which I think I can, and use it to enrich my life instead of distracting me from facing life.
With all this in mind I will now post this blog onto WordPress, link it to blogger, post a link on Twitter, Buzz, Facebook and Plurk and check any comments on my iPhone, when I should really be finishing “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”