Category Archives: life

YOUR new year’s resolutions (‘cos I’m sick of setting them for myself)

From the excellent Hark! A vagrant.

From the excellent Hark! A vagrant.

In the biblical book of Matthew, we’re asked: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust/mote/speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log/beam/plank in your own eye?”

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? It’s easier. It’s always easier to give expert advice on other people’s problems than to sort out one’s own life.

Does that make me a hypocrite?

Well, according to the bible – yes. But let’s quickly skip over that and on to the part where what you’re about to read is actually gentle benevolence from which you all will benefit. So buckle up. Here is YOUR list of new year’s resolutions…

1. Feed your brain  – Subscribing to Brain Pickings – A library of cross-disciplinary interestingness and combinatorial creativity – where else will you learn about what is love or the sleep habits of great writers?

2. No limits just epiphanies – That’s a lyric from this song Best Day of My Life by American Authors.

3. Expand your musical tastes – Subscribe to the World Music blog.

4. Get more kooky clever funniness in your life from Hark! A Vagrant.

5. Or just a quick smile from I Know I Made You Smile. (And he’s got a book out too!)

Happy New Year

6. Trying looking at things differently – with the help of Variations on Normal  http://variationsonnormal.com/

7. Ask for me help – If you’re lucky you’ll get it from guys like these guys. I’ve been helping a small boy do something amazing and these guys helped a lot with the campaign…

Ramana in India

Grannymar and Fionn from Autistic and Proud and Emma and her adventures of an unfit mother and Polo in Ireland

Maxie and Laurie and Barbara by the sea in the USA

Icewolves of Europa and Life in the Slow Lane and Swazi at Chocolate is not the Only Fruit in Great Britain.

8. Make more effort to appreciate those other people who help you, who you might have temporarily forgotten. (OK, that’s aimed mainly at myself. No list is ever complete without it’s omissions. Or in other ways, no list is ever complete. Hmm… that’s sounds resonantly philosophical.)

9. Never be daunted. Something good might happen. Especially if you wait till the end.

10. Try to avoid the mother of all hangovers descending upon you – starting with tomorrow. Or more properly, tonight.

What’s that you say? Still not satisfied? Oh, you want to know what I’ll be doing Continue reading

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It was Christmas eve, babe…

Sons of the Desert - they look Christmassy, don't they?

Sons of the Desert – they look Christmassy, don’t they?

You may recognise those lyrics – they belong to what used to be one of my two favourite Christmas songs (along with the Sons of the Desert cover of Lonely This Christmas – they’re not the US country band – I saw them in a pub at the Elephant and Castle years ago).

But this past year – my new favourite Christmas song has been The Spirit of Christmas by Fynnjan – see past posts.

Well, the Christmas charts have come and gone. It’s too soon the assess Fynnjan’s impact. But I’ll tell you, oooh… next year.

In the meantime, thanks very much for your support with the Fynnjan campaign and for dropping by this blog. Best wishes to you all. Happy Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. Good times to everyone.

And here’s a lyric from Fynnjan that seems appropriate…

“…seeing the people that I love, is why Christmas is the best.”

(And a good reason to behave like it’s Christmas every day.)

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You South African beauty

Nelson MandelaWho could resist that winning smile? Well… 28+ years in prison proves there’s no accounting for taste.

What a beautiful man.

He may have been a bit of a rubbish MK leader of the armed struggle, but Rolihlahla the troublemaker went on to be the world’s most effective ambassador for peace and reconciliation in prison and afterwards. (Though here’s a less rosy view of Mandela’s legacy.) He changed tack on HIV/Aids too. If only more of us were able accept enlightenment.

I was fascinated with South Africa when I was young – one of the causes. So in 1984, when “Mary Manning of Kilmainham, a 21-year-old cashier” (as the song goes) and IDATU member was suspended for refusing to sell South African (apartheid) produce in Dunnes Stores on Henry Street in Dublin, Irish Anti Apartheid Movement members like myself got up to mischief at other Dunnes branches in support.

The strike never really grabbed the popular imagination in Ireland, but it also led to a law change on the import of apartheid produce to the country, and the strikers eventually had a street named after them in post-apartheid Johannesburg. Back then the strike made me proud to be Irish. (Here’s the song – I can’t find the Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger version.)

Nelson Mandela mural, Falls Road, Belfast 1988

Nelson Mandela mural, Falls Road, Belfast 1988

Nelson Mandela has long been (appropriated as) an icon in some parts of Belfast. However, to be fair to the appropriators, the same man seemed pleased and sympathetic.

I guess it was at least partly because of Madiba that I travelled to work and wander in South Africa. Lots of good times.

Among the highlights – taking a street paper seller to Cape Point (he was the only black visitor), operating an informal taxi service for the day round Khayelitsha Continue reading

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Islam and Freedom of Belief

Let there be no compulsion in religion

Let there be no compulsion in religion

We hear a lot of intolerance and Islam. When there’s a complaint in Europe or north America about Islamaphobia or suggested restrictions on the wearing of the full-face veil, you can be guaranteed that someone will remind us that when it comes to intolerance, Islamic states can be hard to beat. “Try walking through Mecca in a mini-skirt,” they’ll say. “Or proselytizing for Christianity. You’ll soon know what real intolerance is like.

But that’s not the full picture – as you’ll know if you follow the Unity blog of Usama Hasan. (A good guy you may remember from a previous bust-up.)

He’s written an interesting paper called No Compulsion in Religion: Islam and the Freedom of Belief. I reproduce some of it here. I’ve cut a lot for brevity and scrapped the footnotes. So I recommend you read the original. But in the meantime, please read this. It enlightened me.

Following the international furore in 2012 over the amateurish, inflammatory and offensive film, Innocence of Muslims, there were calls around the world to introduce or strengthen rules that would become akin to global blasphemy laws.  Dozens of people were killed during violent protests in Muslim-majority countries, including US Ambassador Stevens in Libya by a terrorist attack under cover of anti-film protests, and a Pakistani minister placed a $100,000 bounty on the head of the film-director.

For many of us, this felt like a case of “Here we go again.”  From books and films to cartoons, teddy bears and desecration of copies of the Qur’an by a handful of American fundamentalists and soldiers, the story is the same: instead of ignoring material insulting and offensive to Islam, or forgiving their authors as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would have done, some immature Muslims resort to violence that ends up killing people who had done more than most to actually help Muslims or Muslim-majority countries.  Furthermore, the poor-quality “offending” material receives far more publicity than it deserved, and the image of Islam is dragged through the mud yet again, to the exasperation of the vast majority of ordinary, decent Muslims.

In the 1980’s, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, an expletive-laden, largely-unreadable book was catapulted, along with its author, into international fame by an Islamist campaign of “raising awareness” by publicising its satirical insults towards holy figures of Islam, culminating in Ayatollah Khomeini’s notorious fatwa ordering Rushdie’s murder.  The same story was repeated, two decades later, with the Danish cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): these were largely unknown when first published, until a Denmark-based Egyptian cleric began a campaign publicising them.  Surely, to love the Prophet and his disciples means not to publicise gross insults directed at him.  If people insult our loved ones, such as parents, children or siblings, would we broadcast those offensive comments or depictions to the whole world?

In all these cases, dozens of ordinary people died in riots and protests around the world: this is extremely ironic, when the Prophet himself is said to have taught that the destruction of the Ka’bah, the holiest site of Islam, is lighter in the sight of God than the taking of a single life Continue reading

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Should children be allowed to drive?

Who would you rather have driving? Little Maggie - or Homer?

Who would you rather have driving? Little Maggie – or Homer?

Why are children not allowed to drive cars?

“It’s very frustrating,” said Top Boy, age 13, “to be sitting in a moving car, but not driving it.”

Soon, I soothed him, soon…

But he was not deterred. And in fact went further. Says he: “Assuming they can pass the driving test, it’s actually more sensible for children to drive than adults.”

Because…

  1. Children are used to learning and learn more quickly and effectively than adults.
  2. Children are used to following the rules.
  3. Children would not have such bad driving habits.
  4. Children would not be in such a hurry.
  5. Children would be getting such a kick out of driving they would not be letting their minds wander.
  6. Children have better eyesight.
  7. Children have quicker reactions.
  8. Children would be less likely to be distracted by disruptive passengers. (As Top Boy pointed out, he can do 200 miles per hour on computer driving games and stay on the track even with his mates pestering him. And that’s far faster. Continue reading

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The universal rules for guaranteed good cooking

guaranteed_stampBreath in, breathe out and relax. It’s all going to be fine. You’ve found the Universal Rules for Guaranteed Good Cooking.

Your culinary troubles are over. All you need for gustatory nirvana is to follow these few simple steps exactly.

No need to sweat through Jamie, cower before Delia or moan over Nigella. Cookbooks begone! All you need is here.

Padmini this is for you. Men wave goodbye to kitchen anxiety. Women flex your spatulas. And let’s go…

The 20 Universal Rules for Guaranteed Good Cooking

1. Choose a bottle of red wine.. Not a carton. Not a box. Not a plastic bottle from a plane. A proper long-necked bottle.

2. Open it. Sniff it. Pause in anticipation.

3. Slowly pour it – savouring that obble-gobble obble-gobble sound. That sound is the spiritual fanfare of the kitchen.

jaqee4. Choose your music and press play. [Inappropriate music: The Pogues*, anything about prisons*, anything rubbish.] [Appropriate music: When the night feels my song – Bedouin Soundclash, Moonshine – Jaqee (looking cool and sultry on the left there), Desaparacido – Manu Chao, upbeat reggae or ska.]

5. Adjust the setting on your music player to a higher temperature. That’s better. By now you should have tasted your wine. (NB: Be sure to pour the wine before turning on the music, otherwise you may miss the soul-lifting obble-gobble obble-gobble.)

6. Stir yourself and dance (or at least sashay) round the kitchen. This is to be repeated frequently during the cooking process.

7. Take your measuring jug, scales and specially designed half teaspoon/teaspoon/half table spoon/table spoon device. Carefully hide these and any other oppressively exact tools in a cupboard out of sight. (NB: A glass doored cupboard will NOT do – unless the glass is opaque.)

8. Prepare your mushrooms. Rinse them. Peel them if it makes you feel good. Peel them slowly. Drink some wine. Then chop them and gently fry in three sauces – dark soy, teryaki and mirin. And the greatest of these is mirin Continue reading

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Cheer up

It’s cold. It’s damp. But cheer up. Watch this. (It’s quick.)

It’s actually not bad. It came from here.

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