Year: 2016

Kate Tempest

Head slightly bowed, Kate Tempest casts a slightly shy, almost apologetic figure as she walks on stage to a huge roar. After thanking us for being there, and some heartfelt indications of how much she likes the ‘people and soul’ of Glasgow, she pauses and says she has something to ask us.

She’s there to play through her latest album (Let Them Eat Chaos) from start to finish. The tracks will take us through the lives and stories of random strangers living on the same street. She talks of connection, of pushing aside prejudice and hate, and how we need to learn to love more. She asks if we are up for the journey this evening, and if so, ‘let’s leave those phones in pockets, be connected with the people in this space, right here and now’.

And so we did. Phones remained in pockets as she launched into the opening lines of the album and the journey began.

“Picture a vacuum,
an endless and unmoving blackness.
or the absence at least,
of terror.”

Backed by stripped down, bass heavy electronica, at times she whispers, at times she howls and rants against the injustices of the world. Her lyrics are clever when they need to be, quiet and simple when they should be, and bombastically rhythmic when she hits her stride to deliver her strongest words. She is much more powerful on stage than via recording, her passions laid bare, honest and open, inviting you to join her in the revelations.

I was transfixed, veering from admiration of her wordplay, the dexterity of her delivery, and lost in the throbbing pulse of the music. It was only at the end of the hour long set that I realised I had half-full pint of beer still warming in my hand.

Sure, at times her lyrics were a little lost in the larger sound, and sometimes I found myself more lost in the music than the words, but it’s been a long time since I was at a gig and didn’t even realise an hour had passed.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t distracted by anaemic flashes from mobile phones, maybe it’s because everyone around me was similarly taken with what was happening, a collective slow build of joy in a shared experience.

Maybe it’s the sensibility she lays bare that tells us love will see us through, that shared experiences can bring mankind together, that at some point humanity will find a way to rise above the current mood, that we will fight to recover our sanity, and must fight to rid ourselves of fear and self-loathing.

Or maybe it was all of that and more, a perfect overlap of audience desire and artist delivery. Regardless of the why, if you have tickets for her tour I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Why I love films

I recently saw the movie Arrival at the cinema. I was sitting about four rows from the front, dead centre, and was soon immersed in the story that was playing out.

From the opening scene, that long fade from dark to light, the framing of the shot out across the lake, to the first hint at the doorways the main character will need to navigate (figuratively and literally) I was hooked. I’ve always been drawn to beautiful cinematography, to the point where movies like Road to Perdition stick in my mind more for that long shot of the car driving through the rain with the fields beyond disappearing over a low clouded horizon, than it does for the story itself.

It probably started with 2001: A Space Odyssey. I loved the books as a child, and can remember the first time I saw it on TV (advert breaks and all). There is no doubt it is a slow movie, those now famous scenes of spacecrafts gently waltzing in space, all a prelude to the long build towards the climatic scenes with HAL (and that’s before you get to the wonderful weirdness of latter part of the movie). I watch it every few years, and recently saw it in a cinema for the first time. I was sat in the front row and realised I had completely zoned out at times, just letting myself be taken away by the imagery on screen. Immersed. It was wonderful.

The same day I saw Arrival I also saw Fantastic Beasts (the latest from the Harry Potter world) and whilst it was fun it didn’t grab me and hold my attention. As it veered off into CGI land (which was all very impressive) I did leave knowing it was a nice bit of fun but it didn’t sit with me long. I was aware of being in a cinema, with other people laughing and gasping (or exclaiming ‘Ohhh that’s Colin Farrell’), but I can barely remember anyone who was sitting near me when I watched Arrival.

Perhaps this comparison isn’t all that fair. Arrival is not only beautifully shot, the story is smart, well handled by the director and the performance by the lead actor, Amy Adams, was nuanced and controlled and utterly entrancing. Meanwhile the Fantastic Beasts storyline is pretty standard fare (which isn’t a bad thing) and the pacing is good, but for me Eddie Redmayne wasn’t particularly noteworthy. Perhaps because I only recently watched him play Stephen Hawking with a similar awkardness (which worked well for that character), or perhaps because I was able to focus more on the acting and direction because I wasn’t pulled into the world of the movie.

I’ve always been able to suspend my disbelief when watching movies. I am the guy who doesn’t see plot twists coming (think Usual Suspects, Sixth Sense, Primal Fear) but I need to be enticed into the world of a movie, so whilst I enjoy all the big silly blockbusters, and I’ve already booked my tickets for Rogue One, they are simply a distracting entertainment.

But it’s movies like Arrival that help me step into their world are the ones that ‘stick’ in my brain; The Lobster, Slow West, Shawshank Redemption, and Rear Window are all movies the pull me gently, that let my brain do the work and don’t force their worlds on me. I will happily step into them because of that, and more and more I am drawn to intelligent and beautiful movies. Think Cohen Brothers and Wes Anderson. Think Christopher Nolan. Think Kubrick. Think Hitchcock.

All of their movies involve imagery as a means of communicating. They don’t rely on dialogue, or voiceovers, to explain what’s happening. They trust that the viewer can fill (enough of) the blanks to enjoy the story that is being shown to them, and because they trust us, they know they can show us things without having them explained. They let us interpret the worlds they have created and allow us to layer our own experience and knowledge and filters atop them.

Those are the movies that I return to, each viewing revealing more and more nuances as I discover more about the world in which the movie is set, just as I learn more about mine. And more and more I find myself looking for movies that will deliver that kind of viewing experience, rather than a couple of hours of mindless entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the distraction a well executed blockbuster can bring, but more and more I find myself seeking out movies that are a little smarter and that focus a lot more on beauty in all it’s weird and wonderful forms.

Bonus link – a big part of creating a movie like Arrival is in the sound, check out this podcast on Song Exploder
“In the film Arrival, Amy Adams plays a linguist trying to decode an alien language. The score was composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, his third film collaborating with director Denis Villeneuve. In this episode, Johann breaks down a piece from the score called “Heptapod B,” and how, like the film, it revolves around the concept of language.”

Weekend Reading

  • Noisli – Improve Focus and Boost Productivity with Background Noise
    Now, put your headphones on and start boosting your productivity.
    I’m a bit of a sucker for these things but this one is a good one, calming too if you get the right combo.

  • Productivity Is Really About What You Don’t Do
    The best productivity tip I ever got was the idea of a “stop-doing list” from Jim Collins. In this Age of Distraction, we’re all dodging and weaving between so much incoming information that what you don’t do on a daily basis has become as important—if not more—as what you do execute on.
    Can you tell I’m on a bit of a ‘get stuff done’ kick at the moment? No? Damn…

  • British Man Bungee Jumps With A Biscuit In Hand And Dunks It In A Cup Of Tea Below
    Nothing stands between a Brit and their cuppa tea… unless they need to queue up in order to get one. Then they shall wait patiently.
    I’m not a tea fan, nor much of a dunker but this is EPIC.

  • The Man Who Fell To Earth
    I kept waking up at night, thinking about it. How could you do it? Can you do it? I fully admit it’s a totally risky and partially crazy thing to do. But I thought you could mitigate the risk. That’s when I had the idea for the net.
    Parachutes? When I grew up all we had was… etc etc. More proof that mankind is still wonderfully, scarily, bonkers.

  • Watch This Futuristic Vat Of Water Paint A Cat
    Dunking a statue into a bucket of paint usually won’t give you anything other than a monochromatic result. But dunk a statue into this vat of water coated with a layer of painted film, and the results are pretty incredible.
    GEEK ALERT: This is CAF!

  • Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.
    I’m a millennial computer scientist who also writes books and runs a blog. Demographically speaking I should be a heavy social media user, but that is not the case. I’ve never had a social media account.
    Couldn’t agree with this more. And by agree, I do mean agree (and then wilfully ignore because life is too damn short).

  • The Speculative Dread of “Black Mirror”
    In 1999, at the age of twenty-eight, Charlie Brooker, the British satirist who is now a television auteur, was at a low ebb. He’d spent most of his twenties freelancing for PC Zone, a little-read gaming magazine, where he was able to indulge his obscene and misanthropic sense of humor.
    Love him or hate him, Brooker has a voice that we NEED right now.

  • The Last Unknown Man
    Early one summer morning, Son Yo Auer, a Burger King employee in Richmond Hill, Georgia, found a naked man lying unconscious in front of the restaurant’s dumpsters. It was before dawn, but the man was sweating and sunburned. Fire ants crawled across his body, and a hot red rash flecked his skin.
    We know so little about the human mind that, especially things like this, are scary to comprehend.

  • Our brains want us to keep calm. But to make a change, we need to keep angry
    These days, a lot of people are thinking about how best to make a change in the world. Some might imagine that it’s best to try to rise above emotions like anger and fear and focus on taking action. But science suggests that embracing feelings of frustration can actually help you make an impact.
    FUCK YEAH! REVOLUTION!! (does being in a constant state of ‘grump’ count?)

  • It’s official: NASA’s peer-reviewed EM Drive paper has finally been published
    After months of speculation and leaked documents, NASA’s long-awaited EM Drive paper has finally been peer-reviewed and published. And it shows that the ‘impossible’ propulsion system really does appear to work.
    Still more evidence needed but if this is true, this is a fundamental change to… almost everything.

  • Use the “SBNRR” Technique to Handle Stressful Moments Mindfully
    When your stress is building into an exasperating moment, emotions can easily get the best of you. And that can be detrimental if you’re in a professional environment. The next time you’re about to explode with stress, try this instead.
    Just throwing this one out there as I believe some recent world events may have gotten some people stressed? Maybe? Lil bit?

  • How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts
    Regardless of the machine—slots, video poker—casinos’ ultimate goal is to maximize players’ “time on device.” This is crucial for casinos, because given enough time, the house always wins.
    Fascinating. Horrible. Compelling.

  • ‘None of the old rules apply’: Dave Eggers travels through post-election America
    The word surreal is overused and often wrongly used, but in the case of the Washington Post Election Night Live party, the word was apt. First of all, it was a disco.
    One US Election article, that’s it for this week (and NO MORE after this, probably)

  • David Chang’s secret code to unleashing the most amazing flavors on Earth
    A few years ago I got really into experimenting with fermentation. Miso is made by fermenting soybeans, but I wanted to see what happens when you ferment nuts, seeds, and other legumes. It turns out you can get some really delicious flavors.
    What makes a great dish, great? What do we really experience when we taste food? Intriguing article about a chef challenging the way we experience taste.

  • The latest earthquake in Japan was an aftershock of the one five years ago
    Early on Nov. 22, the residents of Fukushima, Japan were woken by loud sirens. At 6am local time, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake had struck off the coast.
    To be honest, you don’t need to click through, the headline says it all. WTAF?!

  • Researchers have figured out how to spot a self-loathing person by how they speak
    We communicate in many ways, not just with our words. But nonverbal signals are often missed in conversation. Now, social scientists have found a way to train machines to spot the linguistic tics that show psychological distress.
    I (hate) don’t know how they figure this stuff (myself) out… clever.

  • The 100 most influential images of all time
    Time Magazine has selected the 100 most influential photos of all time, from the first permanent photograph taken (in 1826) to the heartbreaking photo of the body of a 3-year-old refugee washed up on a beach from last year.
    CN: These photos are at times graphic, and will bring many feels. But you SHOULD look at them.

  • Don’t Give Up on the Guitar. Fender Is Begging You
    Each holiday season, thousands of teenagers tear gift wrap off shiny, new guitars. They giddily pluck at the detuned strings, thinking how cool they’ll be once they’re rock stars—even if almost all will give up before they ever get to jam out to “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
    Part of me just thinks this means fewer crap guitar players to listen to?

  • Watch the Evolution of Ringo Starr, Dave Grohl, Tré Cool & 19 Other Drummers in Short 5-Minute Videos Open Culture
    I’ve always been more than happy to admit that I think Ringo Starr is a fantastic drummer and don’t find it much worth arguing over. Then again, more and more people seem to have come around to that point of view. Or at least that’s been my experience.
    Don’t let the focus on drumming put you off, these 5 minute videos are fascinating. Apparently drummers have skill!

  • Five ways to damage autistic children without even knowing
    Yep, uncomfortable title. But sadly, these are subjects that I feel we have a responsibility to talk about.
    Share, repeat, share. You never know when this will come in handy (and to be honest, a lot of it applies to EVERY child).

  • How the 24-hour society is stealing time from the night
    Burmese monks know that it is time to get up when it is light enough to see the veins in their hands. Muslims base their getting up on the passage in the Quran that defines daybreak as the time when it is possible to distinguish between a dark and a light thread.
    I’ve been focussing more and more on my sleep patterns, making sure I get ‘enough’. I’m not much more aware of when I need to have an early night (which isn’t easy for a night owl like me).

  • Made-up man comes second in list of best-known MEPs in Wales
    He also came ahead of his real-life elected colleagues Jill Evans, Derek Vaughan and Kay Swinburne. They were given only 30 seconds to answer and were given the choices of four entirely made-up names and real MEPs.
    A slightly skewed survey I’d say, but still, a telling indictment of how disengaged we are from the people who serve us.

  • The Running Conversation in Your Head
    Beck: People are not very good generally at reporting the specifics of what’s going on in their minds, right?
    Fascinating look at something we all do, even if we don’t always realise we are doing it.

Weekend Reading

  • “It’s an exercise in seeing”: An artist’s mind-opening ritual of doodling on Sundays
    Sundays used to be sacred, reserved for prayer, family or sightseeing. Today, a third of busy Americans let work seep into their weekends, according to a 2014 National Bureau of Economic Research study.
    There is a lot to be said for switching off. That reminds me, must buy more Lego..

  • The average Netflix subscriber watches almost twice as much Netflix as they did 5 years ago
    Netflix says it will produce a whopping 1,000 hours of original TV shows and movies in 2017, and that’s a good thing since people keep watching more and more Netflix. The number of hours of Netflix the average subscriber watches has gone up steadily since 2011, at an average of 16.4% per year.
    No surprise, streaming services let me watch quality content, not the crap pushed out during most primetime (I’m a Celebrity, X-Factor etc…)

  • How Two Trailblazing Psychologists Turned the World of Decision Science Upside Down
    Back in 2003, I published a book called Moneyball, about the Oakland Athletics’ quest to find new and better ways to value baseball players and evaluate baseball strategies.
    If you’ve seen the movie, this is a must read. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s still an interesting read on the REAL history of ‘decision science’.

  • Strobe-light training: From Michael Jordan to Kawhi Leonard
    With 20 seconds left in the third quarter of the young season’s biggest game, Gregg Popovich screams. He wants everyone out of the way so that Kawhi Leonard can go to work against Andre Iguodala. Leonard waits near half court as his teammates shuffle to the corners.
    I was tempted to offer a ‘strobe-light’ version of this post…

  • Who Can Be A Dancer?
    How do I responsibly raise a young white boy in today’s world of dangerously heightened white supremacy? How do I teach him to be self-confident and empowered by his choices, but still show him he isn’t the center of the universe, without creating a core of self-doubt?
    This. All day this.

  • The most relaxing song in the world
    According to a marketing study conducted by Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, the most relaxing song in the world is Weightless, by ambient band Marconi Union. The song was produced by the band in collaboration with the British Academy of Sound Therapy.
    They aren’t wrong, it’s very relaxing. I’m listening to it now, it’s soo relaaazzzzzzzz

  • Reframe “Negative” Emotions as “Difficult” Emotions
    Nobody likes being sad, angry, or heartbroken. If you want to give yourself a leg up on getting through troubling times, a simple mental reframe can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    I am emotion driven, I react and don’t always like the negative reactions I leap to. Definitely trying this the next time a random person doesn’t even bother to look back before breezing through the door and letting it swing IN MY GODDAMN FACE!!! Ahem…

  • Maths zeroes in on perfect cup of coffee
    Mathematicians are a step closer to understanding what makes a perfect cup of coffee. Through some complex calculations, they have shone a light on the processes governing how coffee is extracted from grains in a filter machine.
    Maths? Come to my kitchen, my coffee is always perfect! (for me)

  • The Big Thing About Little Things
    Back in 2013, George Saunders gave a speech to the graduating class at Syracuse. I’ve been thinking about that speech a lot over the past week. I’ll skip the platitudes about why it’s important, and I’ll leave the matter of politics entirely out of it.
    I’m going to write more about this elsewhere but it’s an interesting speech.

  • Can we just f***ing stop asking couples when they’re going to have a baby?
    Society dictates that our adult lives follow a specific formula. Move out, get a job, settle down with a partner, get married, have a baby, retire then die.
    I’d go further and stop after ‘get a job’, life is too short for all these damn rules and expectations!

  • The Difference Between “Being” and “Doing”
    The activities of the mind are related to patterns of brain activity. Different mental activities, such as reading a book, painting a picture, or talking to a loved one, each involve different patterns of interaction between networks of nerve cells in the brain.
    As per the Sunday doodling article, there is a lot more to the impact of the activities you partake in than just the activity themselves.

  • This Is How Facebook Is Radicalizing You
    On December 17, 2013, Facebook announced that videos on your News Feed would start autoplaying. They would mute on default and, at the end of the video, it’d have a carousel featuring related videos you might want to watch.
    Headline news stuff, I swither on Facebook on a weekly basis. It has a LOT of good points, but the bad ones are starting to appear to be a lot worse than we realised.

  • If You Want to Be Happy, Quit Facebook?
    What makes this study so interesting is that it was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and so was able, at least in theory, to determine whether quitting Facebook actually causes changes in well-being.
    The articles I link to are usually posted here in the order I ‘find/read’ them. But sometimes it’s worth shuffling them around…

  • Bad sex award 2016: the contenders in quotes
    Games of tennis, muddy fields, knocking knees – it’s time to get intimate with the challengers for the Literary Review’s 2016 Bad sex in fiction prize A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin The act itself was fervent.
    Some lighter news, I challenge you not to giggle reading some of these. P.S. if any of these make you horny, get some help!

  • This 22-Year-Old Draws The Most Brutally Honest Cartoons About Mental Health
    Ruby Elliot, aka rubyetc, is a London-based illustrator who began sharing cartoons and illustrations about mental health and everyday life four years ago. Trapeze When Elliot was 17 she dropped out of school but managed to find solace in her love of drawing.
    Been following her on Twitter for a while, funny, self-effacing, honest and never shies away from mental health issues (and why should she). I’m ordering my copy today!

  • This temporary tattoo-like device doubles up as 24/7 stethoscope for your heart
    Researchers have developed an electronic sensor that can stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo and give you round-the-clock feedback on your heart health.
    Dear scientists, you are bloody amazing, please don’t ever stop.

Weekend Reading

Trump warning: Skip the first two links if you want to avoid Trump related links (I know, I’m feeling very fatigued by the whole thing too).

  • President Trump’s First Term
    On the morning of January 20, 2017, the President-elect is to visit Barack Obama at the White House for coffee, before they share a limousine—Obama seated on the right, his successor on the left—for the ride to the Capitol, where the Inauguration will take place, on the west front terrace…
    Between now and then we will have a much better understanding of what President Trump will do. I have the fear.
  • Motherhood: A letter to my girl
    The man we were talking about in the bath on Monday night won the competition to be the Big Boss. The man whose name we laughed at. He got fewer votes than the lady, but we don’t make the rules, darling, they do. ‘They’ will become so significant to you as you grow up.
    How do you explain what Trump embodies to an innocent mind?
  • Google’s former happiness guru developed a three-second brain exercise for finding joy
    Chade-Meng Tan, a former engineer, joined Google in 2000 as employee number 107. Though he played an instrumental role in building Google’s mobile search function, among other technological feats, he’s better known for the mindfulness classes he later led for employees.
    Mindfulness? Finding joy? Yeah, easy to scoff at but right now, I’ll grasp these straws!
  • Nick Denton, Peter Thiel, and the Plot to Murder Gawker
    One day in September 2014 the publisher of Gawker Media, Nick Denton, sent an e-mail to Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and billionaire.
    In depth article on this story which I’ve been aware of but not massively bothered by (I don’t read Gawker, and this felt all ‘boys with toys’ nonsense to me…
  • A 20-Year-Old Dutch Man Just Set The New World Rubik’s Cube Record
    Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the entire 4.74 seconds it takes Mats Valk of the Netherlands to completely destroy both this Rubik’s cube and the world speed record.
    Since this was posted, a robot did it in 0.637 seconds. The rise of the machines continues…
  • The End of Relaxation
    We live in the golden age of wellness vacations, where taking time off is all about becoming a better person. When I was 22, I used to have a fantasy about going away to a sanitarium.
    When I was 22 I used to worry about being taken away to a sanitarium, my my, times change!
  • You Can Have Emotions You Don’t Feel
    What does it mean to have an emotion? It seems obvious that having one means feeling it. If you’re happy but don’t know it, in what sense could you actually be happy? Such reasoning seemed sound to William James.
    Reason #349 in the series: Humans are complicated and also awesome.
  • Carl Sagan on Moving Beyond Us vs. Them, Bridging Conviction with Compassion, and Meeting Ignorance with Kindness
    “Unless we are very, very careful,” wrote psychologist-turned-artist Anne Truitt in contemplating compassion and the cure for our chronic self-righteousness, “we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference…”
    Deep thought article that seems timely. Abridged version: Be nice to everyone.
  • The Art of the Blurb
    Few Canadian writers have been more deliriously blurbed than Anne Carson. “[T]he most exciting poet writing in English today,” declared Michael Ondaatje. “ . . . I would read anything she wrote,” proclaimed Susan Sontag.
    All writing takes skill (as you’ll have seen from my examples here, it also can be performed by idiots)
  • Be Unfailingly Kind
    DJ and I play Destiny. I’ve never met DJ, but each week he and I and a dozen or so other regulars are sitting on our respective couches, chairs, and bean bags tackling the various parts of this gorgeous first person shooter. You can play much of Destiny by yourself.
    How to be a good leader = how to be a good person. Abridged version: Be nice (kind) to everyone.
  • Eavesdrop on Ultrasonic Rat Giggles
    A tickle can send a rat into a fit of ultrasonic giggles. New research reveals what goes on in a rat’s brain during a tickle attack. Scientists knew rats loved to be tickled, especially on their backs and bellies. A tickled rat lets out tiny giggles, too high for us to hear.
    Cute little ratsies!

Dark is the light

This post is an attempt to process my own thoughts about recent news and my reaction which has been to shy away from any mention of ‘Trump’. Perhaps it’s just fatigue, but perhaps that fatigue is partly my own doing?

Read the news, pick your flavour.

Trouble is what news? And are you getting the differing flavours and view points you need?

Social media pulls us towards people who share our viewpoints, sure we all have a few dissenting voices here and there but those are largely filtered by our choices at the outset. Because of that the opposing views that seep into my social media bubble are far removed from what I believe and all the more shocking for it, yet to others the very views that shock me are the norm, and my liberal leanings are as shocking, bemusing, and downright offensive to them.

Today, with the spectre of Brexit waiting in the wings, America has a man viewed by many (and myself) as wholly unfit to hold the position of President Elect of the United States of America. Was Hillary a better option? Perhaps not, but democracy always comes down to a choice; Trump or Clinton, Europe or not. To the Democrats who didn’t vote because Hillary wasn’t ‘popular’, shame on you (notable stats from those who did vote, Trump won because of white, middle-class votes).

Social media also makes things like the US election much more vivid for those of us not involved. Step back in time and ask was Reagan a good president? When Bill Clinton was elected, did he say things that were questionable? You’d only find answers to those questions if the facts were filtered to you through your news outlet of choice; pick your broadcaster or foldable media (newspaper), either way there was a professional journalist acting as a filter somewhere in that stream of information.

Such filters have always existed but as we now control our own we are free to seek out the truth, however we want to perceive it, regardless of how it is framed we can extract what we choose. That’s all well and good but what seems to be missing, the obvious next step, is any accountability (hell, even a realisation) that we, as global citizens*, have to take some responsibility for how we react to the news we choose to receive.

Outrage can be a powerful force if it is considered and qualified.

For example, I don’t react well when I read about shootings in America. We don’t have a gun culture here in the UK, and I just don’t understand how you can defend gun ownership at all. It would be easy to wade in, spouting hatred at all gun owners, and ridiculing all of the USA for their perceived stupidity for not having dealt with this issue. I could start tweeting the victims saying that they must’ve deserved it, and perhaps they are lucky that they got a quick death. I could fall into the mob led chants and actions that seem to make so much noise, regardless of how many are involved. The hate filled bile that bubbles up in some newspapers.

But I’m aware that my culture and social history isn’t that of an American, so whilst I have an opinion, I’m not going to wade in and add another angry voice (and one that is white and male) to the cacophony. I’m also aware that I am well educated and have enough life experience to have calmed my teenage anger and angst. So I avoid adding to the hate and turn to understanding and, if I can, I look for a compassionate view or a way to find a balance between the opposing views, no matter how far apart they are.

Unfortunately before a balance can be found there needs to be a common ground, a platform within which it is safe to have heated discussions on opposing viewpoints, to share opinions without fear, and from which everyone can leave with a greater understanding and, hopefully, a better solution.

This is all sounding very utopian because right now that platform feels very far away. But if we don’t fight for it idea of it, we will never take one step towards it. We need to be active, we need to be vocal and oppose and act on our beliefs accordingly, with respect, and with an open mind.

And it’s here that I falter. How? How do I make a difference?

Well a few things spring to mind. Attend protest rallies/walks, peacefully. Amplify the voices who SHOULD be speaking on topics, get out of their way and support them. My demographic gives me power in todays society, and I am starting to see the ways I can let others use that. My voice is not important (he says, spouting forth in a blog post), and I should not be speaking to matters of race, gender classification, disability, misogyny, and all other prejudiced minorities.

The past year has made me realise I’m much more politicly minded that I previously thought. Although perhaps it isn’t so much politics that has me pondering my place in the world but the way so many people have been reacting to political events.

From the Scottish Referendum to Brexit to the US Election, there is an undercurrent of hate. It manifests itself in different ways but the effect is the same.

Of course, as you’ll rightly note, my perception of these events might be colouring my view. Things might not be as bad as they seem, or they might be worse. My social media bubble is pointing towards the latter but who knows what future lies ahead of us? A decade from now, will we look back with disbelief at the volume of ire and hatred that was generated, given the impact Trump had as a President, or will we be looking back from a world we don’t recognise, a dark and scared place.

Regardless of the views I absorb, the facts around Trump speak for themselves. How a man who has committed the crimes he has, and holds the views he does, is now the ‘most powerful man in the world’ is beyond my ken. But the fact remains, he is President Elect.

The world feels very dark, but that’s all the more reason to fight, to not stand idly by, and to hold up a light for others.

* Not a great term but my premise is, if you are on social media you are a global citizen, even if your own bubble doesn’t extend that far.

Weekend Reading

  • Why we need loneliness
    Loneliness is epidemic, and in the coming years it could explode. Forty percent of people age 65 and older report being lonely at times. And the percentage of people living alone has been rising steadily since the 1960s.
    Lots of negative connotations around loneliness but we all need a little space. So, if you could budge over a bit, that’d be grand!
  • Stick to a Weekly Routine to Add Flexibility to Your Schedule
    Having a daily routine helps you develop good habits and stick to your goals. If you have a hectic schedule, though, forcing certain types of work into every day can be counterproductive. Instead, build a weekly schedule.
    Counter-intuitive advice? Wonderful life hack? Yet another self-important blog post that is mostly common sense? You decide!
  • The Iconoclast
    In May 2001 a middle-aged woman named Sharon visited her oncologist for what she thought could be her final appointment. Two months earlier, Sharon had been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, and her condition was already well beyond dire.
    Kick ass awesomeness in full flow!
  • DeafBlind Americans developed a language that doesn’t involve sight or sound
    A video showing a new language. Amaze.
  • Africa unplugged
    A few miles down a rutted dirt road, and many more from the nearest town, a small farmhouse stands surrounded by dense green bush. On the inside of one wall gangly wires reach down to a switch and light that are connected to a solar panel.
    How Africans are devising their own ways to get connected to the world. Both inspiring and humbling.
  • Millennials Are Drinking the World’s Coffee Supply Dry
    You never used to drink so much. You used to be good at going without the strong stuff for a few days. But now, an innocent mid-morning macchiato preludes your 3 PM soy latte and a quickie espresso is just the hit you need to pep you up for after-work drinks. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
    Damn Millennials! Some of us have been drinking coffee way long than these whippersnappers! Back in my day, this was all fields…
  • Half of Heathrow’s 25,000 noise complaints made by the same 10 people
    Heathrow received more than 25,000 noise complaints in just three months over the summer – but around half were made by the same 10 people.
    Could this be any more British??
  • The new IFTTT is here
    We launched IFTTT in 2010 with a simple mission: to bring the control we take for granted in the physical world to our digital services, and help them work together. The world’s changed rapidly over the last six years, but every twist leads us back to that promise.
    I am quitely excited by this. I use IFTTT to help generate these posts and a few other tasks, the more I can automate the better! (until someone hacks in and my lights starting flashing on and off randomly).
  • To be happier, pray at the altar of progress and put your faith in technology
    Faith in progress has overtaken religiosity as the answer to the question of how to be happier in secular societies. It used to be traditional religious belief best bolstered well being, providing the faithful a sense of control in a wild world.
    I’d agree that perhaps it’s just that education is better so people are more willing to question religion and find it’s many foibles??
    During the summer of 2016, We created and directed a video about unsatisfying situations: the frustrating, annoying, disappointing little things of everyday life, that are so painful to live or even to watch.
    You’ve probably seen this little video (I’ve been sharing it on Twitter and Facebook) but SO worth a watch. That soup spoon! GAH!!
  • How to Cut Cake Fairly and Finally Eat It Too
    Two young computer scientists have figured out how to fairly divide cake among any number of people, setting to rest a problem mathematicians have struggled with for decades. Their work has startled many researchers who believed that such a fair-division protocol was probably impossible.
    This still doesn’t answer my question! Why do I need to cut MY CAKE! (Gordon doesn’t share food).
  • Typology: Pub
    English literature starts with a night down the pub, when the pilgrims assemble in the Tabard Inn at the beginning of The Canterbury Tales. It is a little Britain, in a microcosmic rather than a xenophobic sense: a boozy heterotopia where knight and clerk can mingle.
    Quiet background music, good choice of drinks, and never too busy that you have a long queue at the bar. Cosy interior, dimmed lights. Yes, I’ll take one old man pub to go please!

Weekend Reading

  • Inside the Lively World of Competitive Stone Skimming
    Fog shrouds Easdale Island, a windswept 62-acre chunk of slate, grass, and shrubs just off Scotland’s west coast, as rain intensifies on the roof of the Puffer Bar and Restaurant.
    I thought I was doing well with 5 or 6 ‘bounces’. Amateur!
  • The origins of the high five, and its inventor – an unsung gay pioneer
    In 1977, Glenn Burke, a rookie outfielder in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Los Angeles Dodgers, lifted his arm high above his head and slapped palms with his teammate Dusty Baker to celebrate a milestone home run, marking what is widely regarded as the first documented instance of a high five.
    I was gonna write a witty comment but thought I’d just leave you all hanging…
  • Why Gary Lineker, Lily Allen and you shouldn’t comment
    Don’t comment. Don’t comment if you’re poor or disadvantaged, because you’re a scrubber and a scrounger and basically a waste of space.
    Old news already but still worth reading. What the frick is this world we live in these days?
  • Who to Blame for the Attack on the Internet
    Our worst hacking fears came true on Friday as criminals deployed millions of everyday objects—internet-connected cameras, printers, and so on—to launch an attack on a critical part of the Internet.
    It wasn’t me! (except it might have been a little bit me, and you). Count how many devices you have that access the internet, 3? 4? 10?
  • Don’t Dress Your Age
    Ouch. I was 36. And apparently not even a lamb dressed as mutton, but fast approaching mutton dressing as jerky — if we accept that the way women dress can be likened to the life stages of a sheep.
    Ohh I’ve to wait before not dressing my age? Oops.
  • Internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter, thinner fonts
    The internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly, a web expert has found.
    Hang on, does this mean NO-ONE is reading this? (it’s ok, I know no-one reads it… and that I’m currently talking to myself…)
  • Quiz: Science finds most men misread whether a woman is sexually interested. Do you?
    Scientists show men misread women’s interest. Do you? Michael Tabb Share this video Is she interested? That’s the question scientists just asked a bunch of men.
    Science? Not just ‘cos men are idiots’ then? This is a troubling thing indeed.
  • Don’t floss, peel veg or wash your jeans: 40 things you can stop doing right now
    A group of senior doctors has released a list of 40 procedures it considers to have little or no benefit. Could we apply similar thinking to everyday life? If you’ve ever washed out a wound with saline instead of tap water or requested an x-ray for lower-back pain, you’re a fool.
    Yay!! (except, obviously, DO floss, no-one needs to see week old Spinach everytime you talk)
  • An epic battle between feminism and deep-seated misogyny is under way in South Korea
    Last September, the Korean edition of Maxim, a men’s magazine, ran a cover showing Kim Byeong-ok, an actor who starred in cult favorite film “Oldboy,” posing with a cigarette in his hand next to a car. A pair of woman’s legs, bound at the ankles, was sticking out of the trunk.
    A different culture but familiar traits. Dear misogyny, your time is up, kindly leave the stage!
  • World’s Most Expensive Potato Chips Cost $11 a Piece, Come in Boxes of Five
    In an attempt to create a special snack to go with their high quality beer, Sweetish brewery St. Erik’s has created the world’s most expensive potato chips.
    Get. In. The. SEA!!!
  • Words and Phrases Coined by Shakespeare
    Exactly what it says on the tin (link, whatever). Didn’t realise some of these were by dear old Will!
  • Watch Uber’s robot truck deliver 45,000 cans of Budweiser
    As part of a small partnership with Anheuser-Busch, Otto, the self-driving trucking startup acquired by Uber, delivered 45,000 beers from a weigh station in Fort Collins, Colo. to Colorado Springs.
    The future is almost here. Once it can deliver beer AND pizza… welcome to the end of civilisation.
  • It’s so dangerous being a bridesmaid in China that some brides are hiring professionals instead
    Concern over traditional wedding practices in China being pushed too far has reached new heights following the death of a bridesmaid in Wenchang, Hainan province in September. It was reported that the 28-year-old was pressured into drinking an excessive amount of alcohol on behalf of the bride.
    A different culture. Alarming traits!
  • An Ivy League professor says there are only three types of friendships we make
    Friendship isn’t always as serendipitous as it might feel; according to new research, there are just three ways people typically structure their social lives.
    I might just buy this. Presuming I can buy some friends to go along with it, like a buy one get one kinda thing?
  • NaNoWriMo Triage Center: Helping You Get To 50K
    There you are, happily pounding out words, the click and rattle of the keyboard creating a musical symphony in your writing space. Maybe you’re humming along, caught up in the frenzy of creation that oozes out every pore.
    Just in case anyone else is mad enough to be doing NaNoWriMo this year (roll on Tuesday!)
  • Iceland’s Pirate Party looks likely to take the country’s election next weekend
    If you’re worn out and depressed with the US election campaign, ponder what’s going on in Iceland for a moment. The country’s Pirate Party, founded less than four years ago by a group of activists, anarchists, and hackers, is poised to upend Icelandic politics with an Oct.
    Not happy about this. Was dead set on moving to Canada but… avast this be interesting developments!
  • An amateur fossil hunter stumbled upon a pickled 133 million year-old dinosaur brain in England
    Jamie Hiscock of East Sussex, England has a knack for spotting incredibly preserved remnants of life. Five years ago, he and his brother, both fossil enthusiasts, were walking along the beach when they noticed a remarkable piece of amber.
    This is from when God was ‘at rest’ or something, yeah?
  • Meet The Smartest Dog In Hollywood
    The most talented movie star in America is two and a half feet tall, 7 years old, and 39 pounds. He has brown eyes, a natural black vest and tail, and his pale chest, arms, and legs are dotted with tan freckles. His name is Jumpy. And he’s a dog.
    Jumpy! I have a new favourite dog name! (I don’t have a dog, but if I did…)
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Kids (1962)
    “Now of course, the best way to listen to ghost stories is with the lights out,” says the inimitable Alfred Hitchcock, as he introduces his 1962 vinyl release Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Ghost Stories for Young People.
    Available on Spotify and Youtube. For the Halloween weir… lovers out there.
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Rules for Watching Psycho (1960)
    Psycho, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic films, didn’t come together very easily. Hitchcock’s studio, Paramount Pictures, didn’t like anything about the film and denied him a proper budget. So the director went solo and funded the film through his television company Shamley Productions.
    I’m starting a new tradition this Halloween. Psycho and The Shining.

The old room

His chair sits to one side of the bay window. The unloved leather is cracked, shiny dark patches worn smooth, seams barely holding on, tired with all the life it’s seen. Cold air creeps through the rotting window frame, tickling the rising pale curls of smoke as they fade into nothing.

Beside the chair a small table, the walnut ringed with decades of cold drinks. On it a small wooden pipe stand, a heavy oversized cut glass ashtray, and a leather pouch spilling pungent dried entrails.

Another puff; a draw and dull pop from his lips as the last embers glow and die. Fragrant fumes drift on the gentle draught as he watches nothing beyond the glass outside.

The mantelpiece on the far wall watches over the room. Standing firm and heavy with memories and dust. Ornate gold frames the mirror above it, reflecting the spirals of smoke as they rise from his pipe. A few memories dot litter the surface, photos of old friends, mementoes of his past.

The charcoal in the grating below is long cold, winter has passed. An ancient iron poker is propped to one side, the diminished stack of wood at the other holds those lucky enough to have avoid sacrifice.

Across the bay window from his chair stands the bookcase, the inherited wood dulled and scarred by the centuries. Books of varying ages, style and condition line the shelves, each space filled, this way and that, wherever it fits, however it fits. One shelf displays a card for a birthday long since passed, the last writings from the dead scribbled inside.

Beneath all this floorboards peek through carpet, curtains hang striped by the sun.

Across from the fireplace stands the sideboard. A behemoth of carved wood and ornate brass handles, it fills the entire wall. The men from the antique store brought it in through the window.

On its there are two carved doors to either side, while the centre is devoted to three large drawers. It stands tall on feet that curve and twist from floor to base. It has been well polished in the past, but now it shows only tarnish and neglect. An unloved and forgotten relic, dust hugs every crevice chiselled by skilled hands.

Atop the sideboard, slap bang in the middle, is a white vase. Simple and modern, clean lines. It holds fresh flowers, shimmering reds, splashes of sunlight, sparkling jewels of colour.

Strange bright lights in this tired old room.

Weekend Reading

  • Yelling at Amazon’s Alexa
    The first time I met Alexa, the A.I. robot voice inside the wine-bottle-size speaker known as the Amazon Echo, I was at my friends’ house, in rural New England. “Currently, it is seventy-five degrees,” she told us, and assured us that it would not rain.
    The future is coming. I admit I’m tempted even though I know the technology isn’t quite there. yet.
  • Brain Implant Restores Sense Of Touch To Paralyzed Man
    Twelve years ago, a car wreck took away Nathan Copeland’s ability to control his hands or sense what his fingers were touching.
    Science and technology can be marvellous. In every sense of the word.
  • Nations, Fighting Powerful Refrigerant That Warms Planet, Reach Landmark Deal
    KIGALI, Rwanda — Negotiators from more than 170 countries on Saturday reached a legally binding accord to counter climate change by cutting the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators.
    Not headline news, but maybe should be? Here’s to treating our planet better.
  • Letting Go
    At a young age, I put on a mask. A mask to try and hide all my foibles, to hide my anxiety so I could be somebody else and so that nobody would know the real me.  I thought I would never be able to take that mask off, maybe swap it for another but never to remove it completely.
    Worth reading, not easy to read. Such is the things that shape us.
  • Every baby born in Scotland will get a free box of useful things from 2017
    Babies born in Scotland will be gifted “baby boxes” from New Year’s Day 2017, the country’s First Minister has said. Nicola Sturgeon said Nordic-style policy, which was first announced in April, would be a “symbol of a belief in a level playing field” for all children.
    Continually proud of being Scottish. Regardless of the ‘politics’, stuff like this makes a real difference.
  • In Scotland, gusts of wind usher in a quiet energy revolution
    EDINBURGH, Scotland — Even by the blustery standards of this notoriously squall-swept land, Aug. 7 was a particularly gusty day.
    I didn’t see this get much coverage but it’s BIG news for the environment.
  • Do You Really Need to Worry About Your Electrolytes?
    Also: what the hell are electrolytes?
    Finally, some answers!!
  • David Letterman (and His Beard) Shop at Target These Days
    Why does David Letterman have a beard?
    Letterman is an American institution, but over here not so much. Basically. A guy retired and grew a beard… but ohhh then he did so much more.
  • Meet the Perennials
    This content is appropriate for people of all ages. And that’s the point. The days of targeting media and products at people based on their age is over. The Perennials.
    My name is Gordon. I am a Perennial.
  • Dear Men: We Need to Talk About How Y’all Talk About Women
    Yesterday, had a brother come up to me, *furious* that people were saying that Trump was just doing normal guy talk.
    Guilty as charged. Must try harder.
  • Can I Train My Cat to Be Less Annoying?
    Of all the misbehaving house cats in the world, my cat, Zadie, isn’t the worst. She’s sweet when she wants to be, she pees where she’s supposed to, and she only occasionally pounces on my forehead in the middle of the night.
    In short, all cats are dicks, can they be less ‘dick’? (answer, kinda maybe yes, but mostly no, because CATS!)
  • The scientists who make apps addictive
    In 1930, a psychologist at Harvard University called B.F. Skinner made a box and placed a hungry rat inside it. The box had a lever on one side. As the rat moved about it would accidentally knock the lever and, when it did so, a food pellet would drop into the box.
    Disturbing read but weirdly spooky because it’s all so true.
  • World wine output expected to hit four-year low
    World wine output is expected to hit a four-year low in 2016 after bad weather hit production in France and South America, industry forecasts say.
    It’s ok. Don’t panic!