Happy Solstice!

Earth - the pale blue dot.

Earth – the pale blue dot.

I get depressed on the summer solstice as the days begin to get shorter and the year winds down. Daft really, considering the summer solstice is in June, but I can’t help it. Conversely, on the winter solstice I’m a grinning lune! Yep, daylight is in short supply, but ever so slowly they’ll be more of it as the days begin to get longer. Peachy.

I could have put up a pretty picture of the sun over Stonehenge, but I thought the pale blue dot was apt. Taken by Voyager in 1990 as it left the solar system traveling at 40,000 miles an hour, the pale blue dot is where we live. All of us. All seven billion of us. There’s nowhere else to go, so let’s make sure our planet survives. Hmm?

Apt too is the following message from Carl Sagan.

Happy winter solstice! 🙂

God’s marine captures Vatican.

After the recent trials and – it’s fair to say – tribulations of the Catholic church with its various scandals (cough – gay sex and blackmail), it’s not a big surprise that we have a new Pope. After all the church is a large multinational, and it’s generally accepted that in any corporation the CEO exits stage left to take the incoming flack of any foul misdeeds.

Admittedly, Popes generally don’t resign. Normally, they shuffle off their mortal coil before there’s a new incumbent, but hey! Let’s be Christian about it. Pope Benedict XVI was looking a tad ragged around the edges, and who can blame him. If I’d been in his shoes I’d have retired before I took the job.

If it’s not obvious I should say I’m not a Catholic or a big church goer. In fact I’m an agnostic leaning toward atheist: you can’t help but give up on a god that lets such misery rain daily on his people. And, I didn’t like Benedict XVI, whose motto ‘Cooperators of the truth’ sounds a bit too much like something a member of the Spanish inquisition might have said. Neither did Benedict strike me as being kind, and kindness is, in my view, a prerequisite for being Pope. Benedict also didn’t advocate the use of condoms – in a world that is overpopulated and suffers the horrors of Aids. And Benedict didn’t, even vaguely, think it reasonable that it is a human right to fall in love with whoever you choose. No, he wasn’t the right man for the job, and I’m glad he retired.

So then conclave! All I really know of conclave is from Ron Howard’s ‘Angels & Demons.‘ All those Cardinals locked into the Sistine chapel until a new Pope is elected. Exciting stuff. The world waits until white smoke is seen from the chapel chimney….

Thusly:

Pope smoke.

Pope smoke.

The excitement – it happened, fortuitously, during the early evening news – was palpable. Immediately, we switched to a BBC2 special. The commentators told us it was only a short wait until we knew the identity of the new Pope. So, along with the vast crowd in St. Peter’s Square we waited… and waited.

When finally the cameras zoomed into the balcony I was sitting on the edge of my chair bellowing at the cats who’d decided it was a good time for a spat. Luckily, it was a false alarm, and the camera zoomed out again to the restless and excited crowd below.

Then the camera zoomed in again, the white curtains parted, and the Cardinal Protodeacon came out and told us who the new Pope was and the papal name he’d decided to take.

The commentators were floored. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, and a Jesuit to boot! This was not who they were expecting at all! They were bemused, and you could hear it in their voices, though as all good commentators do, they soon recovered.

The Cardinal Protodeacon went back inside and the curtains closed… and opened again to reveal:

Pope Francis.

Pope Francis.

I don’t know a lot about Jesuits except Jesuits are known colloquially as ‘God’s Marines.’ I immediately liked the look and demeanour of Pope Francis. Yes, at 76 he’s quite old. But he doesn’t look or act old, and above all he looks like a kind man. I hope I’m right.

Maybe there is a god, and maybe he’s (or she’s) managed to pay enough attention to this small blue planet to realise we’re in big trouble and badly need some help. Maybe he thought “Yep, it’s time to send in the Marines!”

The stress of an Olympic poster boy

I’m writing this in the early morning of Saturday 11th August: after Tom Daley got through the preliminary round of the 10m mens diving, and before the semi finals which are at 10am.

Tom Daley was one of the poster stars of the 2012 Olympics. He was a child prodigy who had to suffer growing up in the full glare of the media with ever an hungry audience to sate. He suffered his father’s death through cancer without any real remit and still he was, and is, expected to perform.

Because of media hype I, like everone else in the country, thought Tom Daley was a shoe in for the gold. That’s before I actually watched any diving. Holy shit! 10 metres is high! It’s like diving off the top of a three story house. Rather them than me (I kid. Actually, next Olympics, I rather fancy myself winning gold on a BMX).

Tom Daley is 18. He’s a brilliant athlete, as are all those taking part in the Olympics, but he’s also having to perform with the immense weight of public expectation on his shoulders. If anyone else is off form it’s a shame. If Tom Daley is off form he’s getting too involved with his media obligations; he should be resting rather than taking part in the opening ceremony; he’s … and the list of complaints and whinging goes on.

He’s 18! Give the guy a break. What he’s doing is phenomenal. So what if he and Peter Waterfield came 4th in the syncronised 10m? And so what if he doesn’t get a medal later on today? The syncro was a shame, but that’s life.

I’ll be rooting for him all the way later on today. If he doesn’t get a medal I’ll be sad for him, but I’ll bear in mind he’s only 18. He’ll be back if only people give him a chance … and especially the media.

Headlines like the BBC’s

Tom Daley scrapes into Olympics diving semis

are mean-spirited, rotten, and frankly stink. The rest of the short piece isn’t any better:

British diving star Tom Daley endured a torrid preliminary round in the 10m platform as he edged through to Saturday’s semi-finals.

A poor start was compounded by a sloppy fifth dive to leave him in 16th place with a round to go.

The 18-year-old did just enough with his final dive to move up to 15th, with the top 18 in the 32-man field progressing.

But team-mate Peter Waterfield could only finish 23rd and is now out.

Facts are facts. It’s the tone I find objectionable.

ain’t so fruity now

Another one bites the dust...

I blogged recently about supermarkets coming in, taking over, and forcing local shops out of business (crushing them financially). This ‘phenomenon’ is happening in every town—large and small—all over the country. Beware! If the supermarkets’ grand plan for world domination hasn’t affected you yet it soon will.

Above is yet another shop from the King’s Road (not the King’s Road in London) biting the dust. Not an orange, apple, potato, kiwi, or bunch of roses in sight: just bags of rubble. This shop has been like this for months. So sad, yet seemingly inevitable.

There has to be something we can do to fight the slow creep of this particular change. But what, I have no idea.

Rehearsal

Drums awaiting the drummer

We’re now a five piece: rhythm guitar/keys and vocals, keyboards and vocals, lead guitar, bass guitar and drums. Playing live is very different to playing with backing tracks. More fluid and less tight (maybe), but infinitely variable. It’s liberating; fun, and I wouldn’t miss our Tuesday rehearsals if you offered me the world … okay, so I might. But if I had the world I’d be able to rehearse anyway, so ya boo sucks to you! 😉

United Nations Busted!

United Nations - New York

Cocaine seized at UN headquarters in New York

A bag containing 16kg (35.5lb) of cocaine was found at the United Nations headquarters in New York last week, police have said.

The drugs were in a bag printed with a version of the UN symbol which arrived at the organisation’s mailroom, setting off a security alert.

Spokesman Paul Browne said they seemed to have been delivered by accident.

There was no name or address on the shipment sent from Mexico City through Cincinnati, he added.

The white bag raised suspicions when it was being scanned because a poor imitation of a UN logo had been stamped on it, apparently in an attempt to pass it off as official baggage.

Inside the bag, the drug was hidden in hollowed-out notebooks, UN undersecretary-general for safety and security, Gregory Starr, told reporters.

“In my humble opinion this was the work of narcotics traffickers that were trying to ship something into the United States and their plan must have gone wrong,” Mr Starr was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told AP news agency that neither the UN nor anyone located at its headquarters was the intended recipient of the shipment.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16753497

Yeah, right … snort!  😉