The travel-pain of the ecomonkey

So, as y’all know, I avoided a short-haul flight by taking the train/boat/train route to Belfast. Train, fine. Boat, hideous – the roughest crossing I’ve ever had, bar none. A veritable storm which had me retching into a sickbag, and falling asleep on the floor, unable to crawl back up onto my chair. The food was also appalling.

Still, I’m here now, with the lovely and wonderful Gareth, looking forward to a great New Year. Just don’t ask me to go on any boat-rides over the weekend…

On the bits of the journey where I wasn’t asleep or puking, I watched ‘I Know I’m Not Alone‘ again – the Michael Franti film, and read a big chunk of ‘As Used On The Famous Nelson Mandela‘ by Mark Thomas – an INCREDIBLE book. Vital viewing, vital reading. Just don’t try it on an Irish ferry in a storm.

Call off the new year's honour…

OK, the Bus thing on Jez’ blog was a hoax. The evil Jez was clearly just bored and felt like winding people up. It was beautifully written, and given Jez’ very bizarre life thus far, easily believable – if you get the chance, ask him about his part in Mandela’s release… that one isn’t a hoax!

Heroes in unlikely places

Was watching a great programme on tele this evening – Dickens In America, presented by Miriam Margolyes. It was a fascinating premise anyway, following Charles Dickens’ journey into the heartland of America in the mid 19th century.

But the best thing about it was the presenter – I was reminded again why Miriam Margolyes is one of my heroes, and in my ‘most like to meet’ list along side David Attenborough, Billy Bragg and, um some other people (Peter Ustinov was on the list before he died… if the list were just a fantasy one, he’d still be on it…)

There’s just something about Miriam that I warm to, that I admire greatly, and that makes her seem like one of the most marvellous people on the planet. Every time I hear her interviewed she makes me laugh uproariously, she’s got a fantastic grasp of the english language and revels in the art of speaking (her recording of ‘the queen and I’, in which she plays every member of the British Royal Family is the biggest-selling audio book in the world).

It’s all a bit random really – most of my big heroes are political and spiritual figures – MLK, Mandela, Gandhi – same ones as everyone, really. But there are a handful of people who make me feel like Britain isn’t such a dreadful place after all, that there’s something uniquely wonderful in our heritage here, and Miriam is one of those people.

So raise a toast to La Margolyes!

Soundtrack – Abraham Laboriel, ‘Guidum’.

…and the tosser of the week award goes to…

Sean O’Kane, a ‘race relations worker’ who lives in Liverpool, who has been in California for the MJ trial, to lend his support to Michael

A couple of choice quotes –

“I came here because I couldn’t believe the injustice of it all.”

er, right… I wonder if he also went to Iraq to be part of the human shield, or has his flight to darfur booked…

“People have been talking about the similarities between Michael Jackson and Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

I think that’s fair.

Martin Luther King got his message across through his speeches. Michael gets his message across through his music.”

Do I need to comment on that one?

“He’s a martyr – but the thing to remember is he’s still alive.”

So he died for his cause, but is still alive – nice logic there, loser-boy.

I’m still not convinced that all the muppets hanging around outside the courthouse weren’t paid (though it’s not like MJ has got any money left…!) – after seeing the way the Labour Party used fake crowds during the campaign in the run-up to the last election (more complete losers!), I’m willing to believe that anyone could hire themselves some flunkies to hang around and make it look like they have public support.

Is anyone so daft as to turn out to show their support for a singer they don’t know who may well be guilty? That’s really odd behaviour.

And to fly across the world, and then compare MJ to Mandela and MLK? Me thinks Mr O’Kane needs help. Fast.

Soundtrack – Egberto Gismonti, ‘Magico’.

It's World Book Day

Today is . So in honour of that, let’s do top three book recommendations – head over to The Forum and post your own.

Here’s mine, in no particular order;

Long Walk To Freedom – Nelson Mandela
Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky
Life After God – Douglas Coupland.

what’s yours?

Soundtrack – John Coltrane, ‘Coltrane’.

Before I post tour diary vol. II…

OK, I’m home, the trip was great, and I’ll post more about that tomorrow when my brain isn’t fried on jetlag. For now, though, here’s a quote from Nelson Mandela’s speech at the rally for the Make Poverty History campaign today in Trafalgar Square,

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right; the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

that first sentence again, in case you missed it –

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice.”

that’s one that needs to go on t-shirts, posters – anywhere until it’s tatoo’d on the hearts and minds of everyone.

The Times They Are A-Changing…

So last night we watched Bowling For Columbine. Tonight we watched the 46664 concert. Steadily the voice of those not happy with the top-heavy way the world is being steered, in favour of big business becoming bigger business and away from protecting the rights and lives of ordinary people is getting louder. There are now millions of ordinary people around the world who recognise that AIDS is a problem that won’t go away, that the invasion of Iraq was a criminal act of inconceivable proportions, that access to semi-automatic weapons is not an inalienable right, but rather a time-bomb in a country where hundreds of thousands of people are feeling increasingly disempowered and disenfranchised by the decisions of its government.

It’s not that these issues haven’t been there before – there have been people protesting against wars and injustice for millenia – but the numbers are growing, their voice is getting louder, and the look of your average protestor is no longer a crusty student with green dreads and a dog on a string. It’s doctors, teachers, musicians, actors, unemployed people, shop workers, police men and women, homemakers, students; people from all walks of life who aren’t believing the BS anymore…

just a cursory search of the net throws up the following sites for further info on what’s happening to make a difference –

www.46664.com – Mandela’s AIDS awareness initiative.
www.controlarms.org – campaign to regulate the arms trade.
www.amnesty.org/ – please tell me you know who amnesty are and what they do…
www.maketradefair.org – Oxfam-led initiative to push for trade laws that are fairer to farmers and producers in the developing world.
www.americanapparel.net – sweat-shop free sensibly priced clothing, made in the heart of LA. Go on, wear something that makes you proud.

So, instead of spending more time surfing round the same old bulletin boards, doing another google search on your own name or whatever other dodginess you usually waste your time with on the net, why not check out the sites that are seeking to make the world a better place for all of us. Work your way through that lot, and I’ll be back with another list of links next week…

Soundtrack – nuttin’

Fresh Look At An Old Book

Like many people – believers or not – who grew up with Bible reading in school or church, I suffer from over-familiarity with The Bible. Lots of the really radical stuff in there gets a bit lost when you’ve read it a thousand times and heard innumerable sermons on it of varying degrees of imcomprehensibility.

So recently, I started reading through The Message, a contemporary translation/paraphrase by a Eugene Peterson – written cos as a Greek Scholar, he saw that the students in his seminary class weren’t getting the same vibe from the text in english that he was in Greek!

Anyway, I’ve just got up to The Sermon On The Mount – one of the most oft-quoted bits of moral teaching in the history of humanity, and part of the direct inspiration behind the life and work of Ghandi, MLK, Mandela and numerous other great people.

I must’ve read it hundreds of times, and always dug it as some great advice, but the way that Peterson renders Jesus’ words in The Message version brings it totally to life, makes it easily applicable, and certainly gets rid of this crass image of Jesus that pervades so much of church culture as some kind of austere, pontificating bore. This is vibrant lively stuff, well worth checking out, regardless of your religious persuasion.

Soundtrack – still listening to Denison Witmer