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/
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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

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.”

Newman

I love Seinfeld and I thought that Newman was one of the best characters. He enhanced every episode he was in and made a great double act with Kramer.

In tribute to Newman here is my attempt to post a YouTube video onto my blog.

The Golden Treasury

The Golden Treasury Bookshop After just 5 hours sleep it was always going to be a struggle to get up and drag myself to visit London’s largest Independent Children’s bookshop, The Golden Treasury, on a cold, grey Saturday Morning. It helped that, being the father of a walking, talking near 2 year old toddler, I have a very effective and persuasive natural alarm clock to force me out of the comfort zone of my warm, cosy bed. I don’t get out of bed for just anybody, and my daughter know’s what strings to pull.

After witnessing her demolish the carefully constructed Mega Bloks plane I had so lovingly made for her, after she “requested” (more like demanded) that I play with her and the myriad of large, multi coloured blocks she had thrown all over our lounge floor, I thought very seriously about going back to bed. However my wife had somehow transferred herself to said daughter’s bed in her nursery and this allowed my energetic young child to jump all over our bed pointing furiously at the bookshelf asking me to read her “Toad Makes  a Road“. I gave in and as I lay down next to my now calm and non jumping daughter reading about the Toad who lacked the foresight to build his house on a sensible, easily accessable place, I saw the look of enchantment, focus and joy on her cute, little chubby face and I was overcome with a sense of extreme fulfilment and satisfaction (a rare feeling for me).

Sharing my love of reading with my daughter, and being able to combine 2 loves of my life (reading and my daughter) are powerfully positive experiences that I must nurture and encourage as much as I can.

With that in mind I managed to drink my regular dosage of double coffee, add a can of Diet Pepsi, take 10ml of Metatone, 1 multivitamin with multi minerals and my Hydrocortisone and Thyroxine tablets and forced myself to wake up enough to join my wife and daughter in their first trip to London’s largest Independent bookshop.

The Golden Treasury is a great find. My wife’s colleague at work actually told her about it and although I had fantastical dreams of a wondrous, magical kingdom with cute, furry talking animals and fake snow amongst the hundreds of cherished children’s books, I was not actually disappointed when I stepped into the shop and discovered it was far more attractive on the inside than out. It was also larger than it looked, not Narnia sized larger, but large enough to be able to split the books by age group and then by topics such as Animals, Geography, Science, Baby Books etc. They also had specific sections for various popular children’s characters like Peppa Pig, The Cat in The Hat and Thomas the Tank Engine. There were sections dedicated to signed copies of Children’s classics such as The Gruffalo. Even Axel Scheffler himself (the illustrator of The Gruffalo) has visited the shop, as this link shows: http://twitpic.com/t99cb

So there may not have been snow , large bewitching Christmas tress, Elves or Fauns but I was transported back in time to a more innocent and joyous part of my life and a world full of stimulating characters and ideas. There is something special about a small independent shop where the loving care for the subject being sold oozes out from every corner, not in a crude, manipulative way but in a subtle, sublime manner. I hope that this store never gets taken over by a large chain or is forced to sell up and go online. I may virtual worlds and the places that cyber space can take your imagination but sometimes there is nothing like the real thing.

Thankfully my daughter was as enchanted by The Golden Treasury as I was and we ended up buying 2 books, one with rockets going to the moon (she loves the moon more than anythign else at the moment with exception of homous) and another about a girl who misses her mummy when the mummy goes to work but gets over it, as one needs to in these economically challenging times. The best part of it for here was being able to spin the Dr. Seuss rotating bookshelf and pick up as many books on tractors as she could. They also had a bean bag with one of her new favourite characters, Maisy, plastered all over it.

When it came time to leave (she was havign her haircut with Mama and the stimulating effects of my caffeine and pill popping were fading fast) she refused to stop chanting “Bookshop, bookshop” for the entire jounery back home.

I was glad that I found the energy to visit The Golden Treasury and go there with my little one as it brought back a piece of my childhood that I rarely get in touch with, which is something I must do more often, especially If I am to stay positive in these increasingly bleak times.

Why the sudden feelings of satisfaction you ask? I love reading and even though I struggle to find the time and energy to read as much as I would like to I still think that reading, both fiction dn non fiction, has a very important place in human society. Stimulating the imagination and chasms deep within our minds like no other form of media, reading books, with their magical descriptions of characters, places, events and emotions, and their imaginative illustrations, is a part of life that I really want my daughter to cherish. the pervasive intrusion of modern forms of edutainment, such as TV, Video Games and the Internet, may have made absorbing creative entertainment and culture easier, but it has also made it too passive, and these forms of education/ entertainment are not a substitute for reading a good book.

I love TV, Gadgets, modern technology, the internet, my iPhone and any advances in media distribution but there is nothign that quite replaces the feelings of suspense and excitement I get from reading a good book. This maybe why I love bookshops so much. Like the beautifully illustrated, carefully bound hardback classics, a bookshop owned and run by book loving enthusiasts is a place like no other. It is like entering through a portal into another world. A world with much more colour, magic and excitement than the Traffic ridden Southfields High Street outside The Golden Treasury.

Quote on Religion

Just heard a great quote about religion in an interview with Theatre Director Peter Brook on BBC2’s The Culture Show.

“All the world’s great Religions start with a prophet and end with a policeman.”

Peter Brook is directing a play called 11 and 12 about the violence between 2 groups of people who share the same religion but differ on one doctrinal point, should a prayer be said 11 time or 12. From this little insignificant point they split into different sects, with the ensuing violence tearing communities and families apart. Sounds fascinating.

As soon as our diverse ideas and thoughts on the unknown and our random irrational faith is turned into strict rules of dogma and doctrine Religion becomes what it really is, Institutionalised Faith and as Peter Brook notes it becomes a very dangerous thing.

Here is a link to The Culture Show website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cultureshow/