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Audiobooks!

Category: Blog
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Written by Zoë Porter Hits: 7305

This is so exciting. I am currently on vacatrion in the Lake District, away from all the internet, so I nearly missed a surprise!

My friend Alex has read one of my stories as an audiobook, and published it on soundcloud. This is so cool! I never really thought of doing that.

He sent me the original fle to publish here too, and I already put the download link online.

Again, this is so exciting!

A tribute to Carl Sagan

Category: Blog
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Written by Afanen Hits: 8658

I confess I haven't been listening to Nightwish since Tarja left the band. I always thought that her vocals were vital to the sound. I'm not a metal-head, but I always liked Nightwish, because I like the combination of oprea loke vocals and guitar riffs.

The latest single caught my attention though. The B-Side of their current single "Élan" is called Sagan, and it is a tribute to the great Carl Sagan, and his contribution in popularising cosmology to a wide public.

I think it's wonderful, that Sagan has made such an impact to our society. that a heavy-metal band makes a song about him. Sagan's speeches still move and inspire generations, although his groundbreaking series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was fimed 35 years ago.

Swedish artist Erik Wernquist just recently published a stunningly beautiful short film called Wanderes, based on one of Sagan's texts.

Nightwish didn't stop there however. Their new album is a conceptual album, dedicated to Charles Darwin, and the theory of evolution. They have Prof. Richard Dawkins as a guest on this album (probably not singing though), The album, which will be available in the UK on March 30th, 2015, is called Endless Forms Most Beautiful, which is a direct quote from the finishing paragraph in Charles Darwin's On The Origins Of Species

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Charles Darwin, On the Origin Of Species by Means of Natrural Selection

I think it's great, that a rock band tries to tackle a scientific topic, and I'm really looking forward to listening to the album.

Is Clarkson the new Savile?

Category: Blog
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Written by Afanen Hits: 7708

The Mail on Sunday has never been known for their subtlety. So today, they report, that a BBC official has compared the current affair around Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson punching a member of the production team to the scandal surrounding long time Top of the Pops  presenter Jimmy Savile.

Even though it is clear, even from the scandalising Mail report, that these statements do not imply, that Clarkson might be a child molester, but that he has the same friendly relations to important people in society than Savile had, backing his misdemanour, this statement, if it is true, does a disservice to the BBC in this case.

Clarkson has been suspended, and Top Gear is off the air, because Clarkson allegedly has punched a member of the production team on some disagreement over the catering during filming. His co-host James May described the scene as "a bit of a dust-up".

For the BBC this is a tricky situation: On one hand, Clarkson had a fair share of last warnings, after several racist, misogynist and other remarks on and off screen. In 2011, he stated, that striking public sector worker should be "shot dead in front of their families".

This of course is something, that the BBC can hardly tolerate without beign torn apart by the public. On the other hand: Top Gear is the most successful factual program the BBC has. It reaches a world wide audience of a staggering 350 million people. Take DVD sales and merchendising into account, and it's a money making machine. And the BBC executives now, that the success is closely linked to Clarkson. It's -despite the popularity of his co-hosts- Clarkson's show.

Clarkson of course, knows that all to well. So think he's been so smug about the whole affair, because he knows that the BBC doesn't want to lose it's flagship show. And it is hardly the first time that Clarkson got physical. In 2004, he punched writer and journalist Piers Morgan in the face. Although the incident sparked a lot of media response, it didn't lead to a public outcry, personally, I believe, mostly because Morgan  is not the most popular figure himself, so many people thought Morgan somehow deserved it.

When I was visiting the BBC Broadcasting house for a guided tour a few years ago, I asked a BBC employee, what the BBC intended to do with the, then newly abandoned, Television Centre, other than allowing Top Gear to use it as their private indoor race track. The reaction I got wasn't quite what I expected. The answer I got had nothing to do with the plans for the Television Centre, but included the words Clarkson, arrogant and bastard in one sentence. Obviously, this person had had the pleasure of meeting Mr, Clarkson on set. I thought it was best to drop the topic.

So, Jeremy Clarkson is, at least at times, an unpleasant person on air as well as off air. And yet a petition on change.org has nearly hit it's goal of 1 million supporters. Why is that?

Speaking from my own experience, I always enjoyed watching Top Gear, although I don't have the slightest interst in cars, especially not super cars. I think the car, as a status symbol is a 20th century thing, and no one needs a car with a thousand break horse power. But there is hardly anything on British television, that is so beautifully filmed and composed as the racing shots in Top Gear. Except for the nature documentaries filmed by David Attenborough and Alastair Fothergill maybe.

The film crew from Top Gear makes something as boring as the presentation of the newest hatchback car actually look stunning!

More important though, is that Top Gear isn't even about the cars. It's about three men, who simply refuse to grow up. And by acting like nine year olds, they throw all the conventions of our society about what's approprieate or not, overboard.

They play a role, they are the ancient petrol heads, living fossils left over from the 20th century, including their macho-attitude and their buddy-charme. And this is why they are so popular: In this role, they get to say all the things, we consider ourselves to civilised to say.

We live in a society in which social control is the norm. Maybe even more than in, say, even in Victorian times, because every careless choice of words can be amplified through the internet, even for people who aren't in the limelight.

There also is a bigger sensitivity in most people for the feelings and sensitivities of others. When it comes to race, gender or sexual orientation for example, that is a positive development. But it also asks us, to restrain ourselves. But even if we are modern and enlightend people, who truly believe in equality and the "green way", we sometimes have these moments, where we want to say something rude. Like when you stand on the platform, half an hour late, and waiting for the tube, which wouldn't come, because of the train drivers stike. Who never thought: "God, can somebody please shoot them?" Of cause, we don't want them shot in reality, and I think most of us sympathise with their strike. But when all your plans blow up, because of a traiin not arriving, you'd want to let of a little steam.

Jeremy Clarkson says all these things out loud. He says them, so we don't have to. In this way, he is like the jester in a medival court. He says the things, we don't want to say, giving us the guilty pleasure of breaking the rules. Not because we agree with the racist or misogynist things he said, but because of the thrill it brings, if someone dared to say it. And, of course, then takes the public beating for it.

And all this, so we can feel better about ourselves. In that sense figures like Jeremy Clarkson play a vital role in our society. And, knowing this, I cannot feel offended by anything Clarkson says, even though, given his history of misogynist and homophobic remarks, I'd have good reason to be.

Hammond used to call Clarkson the "Orang-Utan" on the show. And would you be offended, if an Orang-Utan gave you the finger? Exactly.

So the whole Clarkson affair is nothing like the Jimmy Savile affair. Savile was the exact opposite of Jeremy Clarkson. As a public figure, he always tried to please everyone, and not to spark controversy. He was the nice, funny guy, you'd like to have a pint with. The public outrage was as big as it was, because people were disillusioned, when allegations surfaced, that in truth he wasn't the nice man, but had a vey dark side and he used the admiration that young people had for him to exploit them.

Not only is Clarksons rudeness incomparable to sexually abusing minors, it is also as calculated as the outcry that follows. The scandal is part of the show, and we all know that. And if Clarkson leaves, society will find another whipping boy, who gets paid to take the beating.

Soiling the ministerial nappies

Category: Blog
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Written by Afanen Hits: 6881

It is a long known fact, that we are a nation of wussies, when it comes to our own children. On one hand, we pamper them so much, that they are hardly ever allowed to play outside, on the other hand, where infamous for being terribly afraid of them.

Our home secretary Theresa May has just added one to the latter. In a a consultation document for the current Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently before parliament, the Home Office proposes nurseries and childcarers have a duty “to prevent people being drawn into terrorism”.

Yes, you read right. The document proposes to make it a legal requirement for childcare providers and nurseries to file reports on the toddlers in their care, on wether or not they might become a terrorist threat in their future life.

How the government will predict the grownup life of a three year old, is beyond me. Conservative MP David Davis called the idea havy-handed. I think outragous and ridiculous are better terms.

The government now, after everyone else is already under constant surveillance, spy on toddlers. Well, I did hear the German term Windelbomber, which litterally means nappy bomber, once. But it was explaind to me that this term does not refer to a toddler with a nappy full of C4, but it's an ironic term for an estate car, that families prefer to drive their children around in. Maybe someone should clarify this with Theresa May,

But I don't believe that the Home Office is actually looking for 3 year old terrorists. They know that children aren't radicals. Children at a young age have no view of the world, they only see the here and now. They decide wether they like you or not, on what you do, not based on the colour of your skin, or the deities you're worshipping. As Richard Dawkins famously said:

There are no religious children. Just children of religous parents.

And here's the point: The home office is not interested in the children, they want to use the children to get to their parents. This way, they can use the trust that childcarers build to their charge, to spy on the parents. This is, in my opinon, abuse, because it betrays the natural trust of a child to turn their own words against their mum and dad. That is something I would expect from a totalitarian regime, not from a civilised democracy.

As a matter of fact, at the height of the cold war, which brings me back to the homeland of the Windelbomber, in Eastern Germany children in primary school were asked, to draw a clock. A simple one, like the one on TV. The children, who drew a simple clock with dots for the 3, 6, 9 and 12 were awarded points, while those who drew lines, got their parents a free visit from the Staatssicherheit, because that meant they had been watching Western German TV, which was prohibited.

I know, I know. Be careful with any comparisons to Nazis or communisim, but hey, it's hard not to see the pattern here.

Not a real adult

Category: Blog
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Written by Zoë Porter Hits: 5468

Spoiler Warning: This text is about the new Hunger Games movie Mockingjay. It contains spoilers on the story. If you haven't seen it yet, and plan on doing so, your probably shouldn't read on!

 

Aparently, I'm not a real adult. Because I recently went to the movies to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. According to BBC's film critic Owen Gleiberman, I am somehow stuck in my teen, and lack a real perspective on the world. Mostly because I liked the film.

Well, in my view, Gliesman didn't understand the film, or maybe it's because I'm biased, because I read the books first. His major complaint is right at the beginning of his text:

 

Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), the high-handed leader of the rebellion, and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the movement's jaunty minister of propaganda, explain that the proletarian revolt that Katniss ignited now has the chance to take wing. If she can find it within herself to become the icon of revolution known as ‘The Mockingjay’, then the oppressed districts of the dystopian nation Panem will rise up, join forces, and break the fascist grip of the Capitol. Faced with this offer, Katniss seems neither pleased nor particularly incendiary. Instead, with a look of glazed yearning, she wants to know just one thing: "What about Peeta? Is he alive?"

 

If you have seen the first two movies, you know that Katniss' relationship to Peeta is not so much defined by yearning, but by mutual dependence. In the second part, Katniss vows that she would keep Peeta alive, no matter the cost. And she doesn't take that vow so much because her romantic feelings towards him, but because it's the only thing that keeps her going.

Katniss is a broken character. She suffers from severe post traumatic stress disorder, and is a mental wreck. One of the defining moments in the films, is when she beds the dead little girl, Rue, onto flowers, to grant her a final moment of dignity. In the films this is depicted as the moment that sparks the revolution. But Katniss is completely unaware of this. She only learns later, that her act has lead to an uprising in Rue's district. In Catching Fire she takes a vow to protect Peeta, for the same reasons: Clining on to her humanity.

The whole twist of the story is that Katniss is not, unlilke Gleiberman suggests, the leader of the revolution. That is what Coin and Plutarch would like her to be. Her concern about Peeta is mainly fueled by her wish not to topple over the edge of sanity.

Yes, The Hunger Games is a young adult novel. And it is for sure not the deepest philosophical work. But to say, as Gleiberman does, it is all about the puppy-love, and put it in the same category as the TwilightTwilight novels, doesn't do it justice either.

 

So, if you haven't seen it, you should. But make sure you have seen parts one and two first, otherwise the story would not make much sense to you. Or, even better, read the books.

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