Saturday, June 30, 2007

Is telling the truth a new way of lying?

"When I was growing up, my parents always taught me never to lie"

That's something you might hear from a person defending him or herself from a verbal challenge to their integrity and I'm sure it rings true in all families. But can this method be used at government level as well? The recent declassifying of secret records of assassination plots; national espionage etc. by the CIA can be thought of in one of two ways. Firstly and probably the most obviously it can be seen by the world as a sort of gesture of goodwill and transparency OR equally, a blinding smokescreen of said gesture. Given the US government's past and current track record in cooperation with the rest of the world I'm deeply inclined to agree with the latter.

Why would a Government so embroiled in numerous geo-political conflicts - mostly as a result of 9/11 - wish to shoot itself in the foot by releasing decades old yet quite relevant intelligence material. Is this a new trend in the politics of powerful world governments where information that's a little too close for comfort gets released into the public domain? Spilling the beans as it were is not a new phenomenon however, everyone from ex-politicians to C-list celebrities - in need of a quick buck and a career jump start - are practically falling over themselves to publish their memoirs, autobiographies or some other kind of exposé. However what these and many similar entities have in common is that they are no longer in a position of power or much influence at least not where it matters most.

This brings me back to my original question of just why a government that mirrors a lot of the darker methods of intelligence-gathering of its preceding incarnations, chose to release such sensitive information. A possible conclusion this blogger has reached is that this public revealing of potential litigious information can be seen as a political blood-letting exercise in order for the current US administration to dictate to the rest of world - with a seemingly clean slate - about the wonders of Democracy with much more believable enthusiasm.

A little light entertainment that'll bring the message home.

What We Call the News
Funny Jokes at JibJab

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blogworthy or cyber-trash? You decide!

I've been doing a lot of random surfing lately, partly for research, general knowledge and partly because - dare I say - I need a bit of literary inspiration as pretentious as that sounds. As usual the rather unusual news stories I've come across lately never fail to give food for thought. This post has a distinct Middle Eastern flavour to it for no particular reason other than pure intrigue.

Shadow Company is a film I've been aching to watch ever since I came across it's preview on globetrotting reporter Kevin Sites' website Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. It's a clear no-BS account of the private military industry operating mainly in Iraq but also around other global hotspots. Among the most striking subjects it covers is the whole idea behind what a Mercenary is and how a ‘Private Military Contractor’ is simply a modern incarnation of this - the highly controversial idea of a paid soldier-without-a-Conscience. If you thought US military presence in Iraq let alone other places it has no business being was bad enough this film will surely throw a spanner in the works!


Dubai, UAE, Apparently according to some research eggheads camel milk is a very versatile source of milky nutrition compared to regular cow’s milk because those with lactose intolerance can drink it and lower in fat too. So thanks to the age-old Bedouin tradition of using it for everything from a nutritional drink to a natural sunscreen, camel milk is going through a sort of commercial renaissance in this part of the world. And why stop at plain old camel milk when you can have camel milk ice cream or even chocolate!

Crazy Freight-dogs

Staying in Dubai, the up and coming transfer hub of millions of tonnes of air freight that is Dubai International Airport, is getting so busy that funny accidents like this are bound to happen sooner or later:

The accident was caused by ground crew loading freight at the tail end of the aircraft first when standard procedure is to always load from the front (where the cargo bay door is open) so the freight acts as ballast.

Who knew an aircraft like an MD-11 were this light!

And spare a thought for these frightened (or should that be ‘freightened’?) poor underpaid South-Asian ground workers.

Of course this pales in comparison to the ridiculous crazy driving style of anyone who lives in Dubai.

The world’s biggest chandelier

10 x 15 meters of stainless steel-covered gold aerial exquisiteness

Yep, you guessed it, just like the world’s tallest building; the only 7-star hotel and the biggest indoor ski resort, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates has decided to commission and install the world’s largest and undoubtedly most expensive chandelier in its main mosque. Not to be outdone by its neighbouring city of Dubai, the authorities in Abu Dhabi have shelled out nearly $8.5 million for the piece which is part of a set of 6 chandeliers. Clearly the meaning of the word ‘extravagance’ is totally lost on these oil-rich Arabs.

Was this worth the read? Do you want to see more of it? Let me know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

At the crossroads (and on briefly bumping into a literary celebrity)

Not much has happened over the last week apart from the entrance exam I took last Thursday for the 6-month NCTJ course in newspaper journalism. I found out on Monday I passed (which is great!) the entrance exam but it all depends on me passing my degree first so I’ve got that to worry about now. I’m still job hunting – those student debts aren’t going to pay for themselves! I am, in effect left in academic and financial limbo even though I know I’ve invested a good deal of time in my degree and not as much to become a ‘journo’, but I live in hope.

On a lighter note, I arrived an hour early for the entrance exam in a depressing corner of South London and I was still a little bleary-eyed so I went looking for a caffeine hit in a quiet little café where I could do some last-minute revision. I stopped into a cornershop and asked for directions to the nearest café and there stood beside me was the tall figure of literary genius, satirist and general ‘Grumpy Old Man’ Will Self, he was just picking up his morning paper and I was…well asking the shopkeeper for directions to a café.

Will Self: Grumpy old man

Will turned to me and said “There’re so many café’s around here, take your pick mate” (or something along those lines, I was too awestricken to remember what he said) and then he proceeded point me in the direction of a small Portuguese cafe. So that was probably the highlight of the week for me.

I am falling way behind in practicing my shorthand in preparation for the journalism course and haven’t got anything near the required £800 I need for it. Well that’s all for now, back to job-hunting for me. I’ll probably post something tasty and less mundane later on today.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Final year exams: Over (now let the ritual deep inner-reflection commence)

At times I felt my life has been dragging on for an unnecessarily long time and this past year it seemed like it was more of the same. After just having completed my finals this week I’m left both relieved and oh too familiarly sceptical about my performance. Now I wouldn’t say I’m reverting to the bad old days of summer ’05 because I think I’ve pretty much figured out the beginning pattern of my downward spiral enough to nip it at the bud.

If I allow myself to give a blunt assessment of my performance I’d say these past two years have been both painful and essential to my overall development as a human being as trivial an idea as that may seem.

But I still have doubts (as I’ve always had) on how well I’ve done in my exams and from that stems a lot of the personal problems I know I’ll have to overcome as of now. I know all this talk is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted – story of my life really – but I felt I needed to put my thoughts somewhere, even if it is in the public domain.

Maybe all this means I’m displaying my weaknesses with unwarranted abandon to an unknown audience including possible future employers! But then I’m the kind of person who’s always been brutally honest about not only myself but of others too. I say poorly-thought-out things that may hurt others and bounce right back at me and I’m trying to at least put a lid on it! I talk more and act less and I’m working on that too and I’m seriously thinking of my future existence on this planet and on things like hope and direction, probably more so than ever before.

The dark side of my conscience tells me: ‘Thws you’re such a slow developer and there’s no way you can cope with the pressures of this world’. And then there’s the positive side telling my I’m a slow developer but its part of my overall learning curve and sure, I might not reach that elusive sense of nirvana but I’ll sure as hell be a better and more resilient person at the other end.