Thursday, December 20, 2007

Note to self: Never say never

Hi all! First things first, my unexpected hiatus was simply that: unexpected. I didn't expect to be so overwhelmed by fatigue after my now-regularized work schedule during the working week and something or another has constantly managed to steal away my time over the weekends. I'm not complaining or anything because God knows I need the money, I just thought I'd give a reason albeit a lame one, once again for my absence. Looking back at my last entry I am left somewhat humbled as I attempted to compare the service (and I'd like to think it is a service) of my little blog to the mammoth task of running the London public transport system.

A big Thank You to anyone who still comes back to 'my place' as I've nicknamed this blog in the hope that it is still Live and Running!

So once again I find myself in the redundant position of trying to pick up where I left off but then again my life so far has been quite uneventful so I'll do what I do best, give a running commentary on what's happening in the world around me and maybe get around to doing those film and book reviews I sort of promised I'd do a few months ago.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Humans weren't meant to travel like this

Economy-class-syndrome isn't the preserve of airline passengers, anytime you're in a cramped space with little movement for long stretches of time I'll bet your risking a mild form of DVT. Why do I bring this up? Because I'm one of millions of everyday London Underground Tube users who during rush hour have to witness scenes like this:

If you see practically nothing but a bunch of bags or clothes, your guess is as good as mine because that's what my camera phone picked up when trying to take a photo of my feet on the tube amongst other passengers. I live on one of the busiest lines on the tube: The Piccadilly line. It's the only one that services Heathrow Airport to the rest of London, so here we have the world's busiest airport being served by just one line on the London Underground system.

There are alternative public transport systems such as buses and taxis. But unless you have a lot of time on your hands - let's just say an ETERNITY - to get to anywhere into town or you've got the national GDP of a small African country in your wallet to pay for the ubiquitous London Black cab and the patience to listen to the yammering cabbie, I suggest your best and most convenient option is still the Tube.

Suffice to say many a traveller take the cheaper option of lugging their over sized luggage onto the Tube train to and from the airport. Add to the mix those of us who live in the nearby suburbs also travelling into and out of town for work and you've got one long all-standing travelling sauna! Not a great way to start or even end the working day by any one's standards.

And to think there are endless posters plastered around the entire London Tube network publicizing how Transport For London (TFL) are investing heavily on public transport and more importantly on adding extra capacity to Tube trains. If that's the case how come I never get a proper place to stand let alone a friggin seat?! I hope someone from TFL picks this up through some random Googling on their lunch break and at least gives me a decent answer as to why people like me who live four stations from the end of the line can't seem to find ample space after the so-called 'investments'.

Unlike the unreliable service of London transport, service at this blog shall be much more regular, my absence this week is purely due to my being extremely tired or ('knackered' as we say around here) every time I come home from work, and I've been fasting for the whole day, that means no food or water from before dawn to sunset!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's that time of year again

Yep it's here and I'm late as usual to acknowledge it, no it's not my Birthday or that my bank wants my student overdraft back...NOW. Nope it's none of that, it is of course the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and like fellow blogger Mybrid has pointed out it has coincided with Rosh Hashanah - The Jewish New year - for the third and final year in a row at least for another 30 years. Here's a quick rundown of what Ramadan is.

Another thing that coincided with the beginning of Ramadan is that I got my final year results and I finally passed my friggin degree in Software engineering and due to the sheer frustration and personal angst it has caused me, I've been telling myself I never want to see another computer for as long as I live. And yes the irony of what I just said is not lost on me! So I'm more relieved than particularly elated because it's been one unnecessarily long hard slog for me! I feel I can actually get on with my life and slowly pick up the pace and join the others in this rat race we like to call 'life'.

Anyways, this is going to be a short entry because I've got to go down to Ikea to replace some faulty bits of my bed on my way to my aunt's place to break fast with the rest of the family.

I'm sure I'll find something inspirational to think about whilst trudging through the giant hamster cage that is Ikea. I might just get around to reviewing the books and films I never got a chance to do.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

An interesting discussion on the virtues of blogging

We're running a little dry on blogworthy inspiration today so I thought I'd post this little interesting video from my favourite press club - The Frontline Club - for anyone who might be interested in the power of the humble online diary.

Monday, September 03, 2007

48-hour portrait of Kent

Well here are the photos of Kent from the weekend, enjoy. As mentioned previously, I was like a Japanese tourist snapping away at anything and everything as soon as I got off the coach at Canterbury bus station, so the following shots are pretty much like my eyes blinking at everything I see in chronological order too...well almost!

Canterbury town highstreet, I don't know what the sand on the left is all about

Face sculpture in front of the Marlowe theater just off the highstreet

A friendly warning to outsiders on campus. Somehow it sounds better than 'Trespassers will be shot on site'.

University students from London can only dream of such luxuries as having an entire old town house to themselves! Of course my friend lives in one of the 9 double bedrooms so its not all his but the location like everything else in Kent is beautiful and well manicured.

I took this photo of the famous Canterbury cathedral from the campus bus stop As we waited for the University bus to take us into town. Maybe I should've Photoshoped the lamp posts and road for a postcard-perfect view

Westgate over the Stour river that delineates the old walled border of Canterbury town. You can see cars going through that very narrow entrance but even our double-decker bus managed to scrape through it with literally a few inches to spare on either side!

Here's a view of the same entrance but from the opposite direction, you can clearly see its very narrow

Westgate from the Stour river (more like a stream if you ask me) with gondolas and their punters on the left

View of the Stour river from the bridge in leading into Westgate

The Old Kings School shop, I'm not sure if it was part of the school but its unusual leaning and bent structure seems to attract visitors

The next day we went down to Herne bay and I did more of the same on our way there.

Some of the international students playing American football with the local ones on campus in the middle of the Kent countryside. Now there's a surreal image!

The beach at Herne Bay, it's no Seychelles or Hawaii but its a beach nevertheless although it doesn't count as a beach in my book. I hate pebbles!

At least the sun was out and it wasn't completely overcast

In case the South-Westerly wind blowing in from the sea wasn't cold enough we came across this reminder of our proximity to the North Pole at one of seaside pubs

A random street leading onto the seafront

A clock tower/monument on the seafront promenade, I don't know what its about but it looked regal enough to shoot

A hint as to what we had for lunch on the beach, suffice to say it didn't feel as healthy to eat as my mussels adventure a few weeks ago and my stomach thought so too.

Well there you have it, that's my weekend getaway to the Kent countryside, and these pics took a looong time to upload so I hope whoever enjoyed reading this savoured all of them!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A weekend break from the city

I'm in Kent - also known as 'The Garden of England' - this weekend. More specifically I'm visiting an old friend at the University of Kent in the city of Canterbury. I needed to just chill out and forget about the daily grind of London life at least for a couple of days. The air's a little fresher over here and the University campus is beautiful, green and leafy and the great British summer that's been late in coming finally got its timing right!

Kent, a county in the South East coast of England is just outside London but feels a lot further away due to its small town quaintness. Its a lazy Sunday morning and we just got up and are in the middle of deciding which beach to go to to spend the rest of the day before I head back to London in the evening. Will it be Herne bay, Ramsgate or Margate (they're all beaches by the way)? OK Herne Bay it is as it's probably the nearest and we don't have all day.

Right, we better get ready to go so I'll post an update with photos from my visit when I get home tomorrow and it looks like its going to be the last time I do a bit of travelling to anywhere nice for a while so I'll make the most of it by taking photos of absolutely everything like a Japanese tourist.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Words! Uhh! What are they good for?

The gift of literacy along with conscience is probably what sets us humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom (more for some than others!). Our ability to play around with words be it in speech or prose can trigger an entire host of emotive reactions whether deeply or superficially. And sometimes what we say and write can be compelling enough to give our audience more than just 'food for thought', it can have the power to mobilize the masses.

Case in point: Bush's ever-escalating and desperate rhetoric about Iran's nuclear ambitions and Amhmedinajad's almost instant rebuttals are equally evocative for their respective followers to the extent that you have what we currently have in the shape of Iraq and its possible far-reaching consequences for the entire region.

But I digress, this post is suppose to be about something on a much smaller yet equally evocative scale. Something that starts from the gritty grassroots of your average community- be it divided by race, religion and now increasingly money - but has the artistic flare and delivery to bring even a small amount of people together for the greater good. That something is Spoken-Word Poetry. I know I know, you're probably thinking 'Is that all?' and you wouldn't be alone in thinking so as I was debating this same idea with a friend of mine recently and he refused to think that poetry has a place in making a positive change in anything and to an extent I'd agree because it all depends on the content.

Granted its all subjective and you either agree with what one Spoken-Word artist has to say or you don't and even though the history of this form of poetry is relatively new, poetry and prose in general has been around a lot longer and has definitely made its mark in human civilization. Perhaps a good example of this is the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius and how his works still have a tangible affect on the everyday running of the huge and growing Chinese economy, an impressive feat not doubt!

Spoken-Word poetry and its public exhibition in the form of Poetry Slams began in America in the 1980's and was a popular way of expressing oneself on pressing issues such as crime and gang violence and it has since spread much further afield to places like here in the UK to Bosnia to New Zealand. Granted too that its sheer international appeal doesn't necessarily make Spoken-Word poetry (and those who perform it) as effective as brute force for the greater good but I really don't think we should all lose faith in the natural goodness of the human spirit. And while it is true that most Spoken-Word poets are activists FIRST and artists second they still have the ability to move their audience in making a positive change no matter how small that change may be. Collectively this can be the kryptonite needed to put an end to the unjust powers that be in the world.

And to all the cynics who still refuse to see this and think I speak of a Utopian dream or sound like a Disney commercial, I don't blame you but at the same time if we don't have dreams or aspirations in life, then what's the point of living? In fact human civilization wouldn't get as far as it has if it weren't for the pioneering few who lead the uninspired and quiet masses to share their aspirations.

People like Martin Luther King, Shakespeare and Gandhi are simply the latest in a long line of influential individuals who just happened to have dreams and aspirations. People of different faiths, cultures and principles follow those because a pioneering person set an example in their life.

As lengthy as this entry is I feel it sheds light on a hugely overlooked and underestimated power of human-beings: The spoken or written word.

Here are a few of my favourite Spoken-Word artists whom I hope will inspire you to do something positive in your life and the lives of others.

Taylor Mali - "What Do Teachers Really Make?"

Brian Dykstra - "Pushing Bush"

Suheir Hammad - "First Writings Since" (revised)

This last but one brings back childhood memories of me and my sister and it's up here for no other reason but to share the innocence of just being a kid.

Rives - "Op-talk"