"On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points." --Virginia Woolf
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
A VACATION NOT TO BE SAVORED
Yesterday I decided to take a day trip down to Brighton with the flatmates to finally visit the ocean and all its ameneties after one whole year of separation.
I needed a break from the city, the news, and most importantly productivity in general. So onward to Brighton, which was very bright and right on, hence the name. To be honest I don't know much about the town's history, but I do now know a great deal about Prince Regent's Royal Pavilion, an Indian/Mosque-style palace that seems ill-suited for its prime spot in the city center--a more appropriate place would be next door to Vegas' Venetian Hotel.
Gout is what brought the young 20-something to Brighton in the late 18th c; he came for the therapeutic properties of the fresh sea water. The guy actually had his plumming fixed so that he could have his choice--sea water, freshwater, or normal water (whatever that meant back then) pumped into his bathtub. Since this dude didn't become King George IV until he was 58, he had a lot of time on his hands, as the Pavilion's poker-faced, uber-gaudy oriental motif can attest.
Where the royal perv checked out ladies' hair and contemplated his next move.
What my Queen's English-speaking audio guide narrator failed to mention was that Georgie had another hobby other than Liberace-inspired interior design. He liked women, and he liked to cut off locks of their hair to be put in envelopes with their names on them after "intimate relations". Supposedly there were over 7,000 of these envelopes found in the palace.
The tour on the whole was uninspiring, but amusing nonetheless. We digressed, took a visit to the seaside.
The beach was rocky. And when I say rocky I mean, like, the sadistic younger cousin of sand--stones and such. We threw our towels on the rocks and layed out. At first I thought maybe it wouldn't be so bad, at least I wouldn't find unwanted beach stones in my bikini later. I couldn't get stones in my eyes or in my hair.
So I embraced the rocky beach, my friend Bobby even gave me a hot stone massage, which I'm sure I read was real big with the celebrities these days. It was almost relaxing, but the stones were pretty hot. And Brighton was in Palm Springs death mode when it came to heat, so the stones didn't help matters. So we swam, and it was glorious.
We then went to the Brighton Pier, a Victorian-era stretch of carnival games and rides, touristy pubs and fish and chips booths. After the two ice creams, "American-style" doughnut, and half bottle of Pimms, I really wasn't in the mood for fish and chips, like everyone else. I was determined to find some fresh oysters and/or mussels instead. Big mistake.
As everyone waited for me nearly a mile away, I found a shellfish stall and grabbed myself a 5 pound (as in currency, not weight) seafood platter with all sorts of unidentifiable crustaceans. I cannot explain my actions at this point, I don't know what it was that made me do it, but--I shoved a slimy, slug-looking creature into my mouth like it was a potato chip. After that, I ate tons of cockels, which nobody outside of a pikey East London pub (so says a British friend) should do. Cockels are the poor man's clams--they're scrawny pickled clams with bits of undigested sand still in their system. Also on board the ship of seafood hell were a few imitation crabs legs the size of infant's arms, and some chalky, cooked mussels. There were also a few miniscule shrimp thrown into the mix which only tasted of salt.
I don't know what brought this on, other than a bizarre psychological complex which compels me to crave seafood whenever I am surrounded by aquariums or the ocean.
Later we tried to jump aboard some rollercoasters but, go figure, in the dead of summer they were all under construction. I settled for the haunted house ride, which didn't upset my stomach as much as it should have, but was still good fun. All in all a good day, as my lobster-red skin won't let me forget the ocean and its ameneties.
My trip to Spain, and the review it provided among other great things...
I vaguely recall how it happened, but a few weeks ago I found a program that gave me a free trip to Spain for six days. The only hitch was that I had (btw sincere sarcasm in the word 'had') to spend five days in a four-star hotel and converse with some of the most charming people on the planet who simply needed practice speaking English. What I got was a concentrated dose of Spanish culture as told by Spaniards (btw and an awesome tan). Although there was not a lot of sight-seeing, I was able to check out the walls of Avilla and the capital city of Madrid for a few days. Little did I know, when I booked accomodations for my last night in Spain, that my hotel would be right next door to the art museum holding the Guernica. The following review, to be published on my future political arts website, ensued...
Picasso’s Guernica: Tradition and Avant-garde 7.9.06
When Picasso’s now-iconic mural of the bombing of Guernica was unveiled at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937, it was met with coldness and discontent.
It was the middle of the Spanish Civil War, and the Spanish Left were wondering how this monochromatic, cubist monstrosity — at more than 11 feet high and 26 feet wide — of screaming women, children and animals, was going to advance the Spanish Republican cause. Where were the heroes in this painting, the vanguard that would bring the nationalists and the fascists down and proclaim victory?
To some, Picasso was short-sighted and indulgent in his depiction of suffering and destruction. He had missed the point of the exhibition. Alongside Guernica, a series of Spanish artists’ works were displayed proudly showing the glory of the resistance. One such piece was Alexander Calder’s Almadén, a fountain of water mixed with mercury to symbolize the prosperity of the town after a failed attack by General Franco. For it was Almadén’s mercury mines that made it a prime target for the nationalists, and the mercury-enriched water cheerily flowed like the waving of a victory flag.
Even at the height of Picasso’s career, the Guernica was not well-received. What those who initially dismissed his work did not realize was that Picasso would soon strike a chord in the hearts of millions the world over. With Guernica, Picasso portrayed one of the most endearing depictions of human suffering in war times. It is perhaps for this reason that Nelson Rockefeller donated a large reproduction of the work to hang in the Security Council Room of the United Nations. And perhaps it is for this reason that Colin Powell had a large blue curtain installed to shield the mural in 2003 for a televised press conference.
Beyond the Spanish Civil War, the Guernica was a telltale sign of things to come for Europe during WWII. Before that fateful bombing on April 26, 1937, the world had not seen such blatant use of civilians as military targets. In a town of seven thousand, 1,654 people were killed and 71 percent of the buildings were destroyed; all by German forces under Franco’s command. The ancient Basque city became a cause celebre around the world; and Picasso’s latest work was one with the zeitgeist.
Prior to Guernica, Picasso was a man with very little to zero interest in creating political art. In September of 1936, he had been commissioned by the Spanish government to contribute to the Paris exhibition. He sat on the assignment for eight months, and in that time had only come up with comic strips mocking General Franco entitled, Dream and Lie of Franco.
But on April 26, 1937, inspiration hit like a bolt of lightening; it struck via a Paris newspaper, as Picasso had been living there for the last few years. Five days later, the first sketchings of Guernica began, and would not end, even after the mural was complete. In total, there are more than sixty drawings pre and post-Guernica, all of which were not discovered until 1984.
Upon viewing the Guernica-related sketches, it is almost possible to see the line of thought behind the master; for what began as a very basic set of drawings (the scribblings of a child come to mind) slowly transforms into a very lucid vision of terror. The sketchings become a true meditation of fury, pain and heartache as seen through the eyes of women, children and animals.
In a close-up of a woman holding a child, for example, Picasso has pointedly given the character bulging, almost fish-like eyes searching the heavens, and a cavernous mouth with a piercing tongue lashing out. It is basic characteristics such as these that communicate so effectively with the viewer to reveal deep, horrific emotions. The humanity felt through Picasso’s sketches is ever-present; and its impact magnified to larger-than-life proportions through Guernica.
The great mural and its related drawings have held a home in Madrid since their relocation from the New York MOMA in 1981. Until the 3rd of September 2006, the museum will be celebrating this 25th anniversary with an exhibit called “Picasso: Tradition and the Avant-garde”. Among a treasure trove of Picasso works lye two very noteworthy pieces in the long history of visionary Spanish political art. Édouard Manet’s 1869 oil painting of the execution of the Emperor Maximilien and Goya’s The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid (1814) are portrayed as precursors to the political work of Picasso, especially when viewed alongside his 1951 piece, Massacre in Korea.
But as the Guernica firmly rests in Madrid, its spirit and message continue to float around the globe and through the ages assuring that the human cost of war will not be forgotten.
So a few months back I wrote a post about being real fashionable in my bizarre little houndstooth scarf. All I knew was, all the funky London kids who frantically plunder the Portobello market stalls every weekend had em. I saw a lady who worked for the Guardian wearing one at one point. I had to have one.
And then a friend pointed it out--I was wearing a keffiyeh, a tradtional head scarf worn by Palestinians. Trendy westerners started wearing them five years ago in the Bay Area, according to her, but out here in London they're just a quirky, table cloth-lookin houndstooth scarf and super-trendy. Palestine smalistine. I mean, I don't mind people thinking that I support Palestine, I'd just rather not wear my politics and religion on my sleeve, especially without knowing it.
A few weeks back I even noticed a cute little keffiyeh-style sun dress in a trashy fashion magazine. They called it the "Arabic print Religion dress", and claim 'it's such a cool holiday buy..wear it over your bikini!'
This isn't the first time I've noticed mideast-infulenced fashion. This past spring, I wrote this article for an online magazine project for the theme of "political prisoners":
Political Prisoner Chic
This season’s Paris Fashion Week commenced in what seemed like standard catwalk fare: John Paul Gaultier’s gaunt beauties dressed in frayed, gothic messes to match the live dogs they walked in with, Comme Des Garcons paired gender-bending dress and suit combos with Venice carnival masks, and some designers even presented models with complete head masks. Yes, complete head masks. If political prisoner chic were ever in fashion, this is what it would look like.
Top designers such as Viktor & Rolf, Undercover, and British fashion legend Vivienne Westwood saw models donning head masks — some of which eerily resembled those worn by torture victims in Abu Ghraib Prison.
At Viktor and Rolf, 50s-era secretary styles teamed with fencing face masks to compliment fishnet stockings, creating a sinister take on the classic feminine suit dress. The suitably named Undercover presented models that had apparently lost an epic battle of fabric vs. man. Not one inch of flesh was shown, as tall boots, gloves, and of course head masks all meshed together in one monotonous blend of neutral tones. The head coverings were especially troubling, however, as they appeared as nothing more than thin sacks tied up to created a point at the top. Models were reportedly stumbling and bumping into each other throughout the show, as they were blinded considerably.
At Vivienne Westwood, a few of the ensembles included knitted head wear which could only be described as a tilted sack stitched together by a colorblind African tribeswoman. While the shape of the head gear was straight out of Abu Ghraib, the colors and patterns made the whole concept of a head mask seem almost cheery.
And while these ostensibly innocuous accessories were not directly linked to torture victims in Abu Ghraib, Westwood’s collection was dedicated to high profile American prisoner Leonard Peltier. Native American Leonard Peltier was given two consecutive life sentences after being charged with the killings of two FBI agents in a standoff at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975.
Peltier’s guilty status is highly contested throughout the world. Now approaching his 30th year of imprisonment, Peltier is considered a political prisoner by Amnesty International, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, and the European Parliament.
Just last month, a District Judge in New York overturned an appeal to release FBI documents regarding the incident at Pine Ridge as it was in the interest of “national security” to keep the records private.
Westwood, who has campaigned adamantly for Peltier’s release over the years, told Reuters, “Leonard Peltier is innocent,” while pointing to an illustration of a blue, winged penis with the words “Innocent” on it. The penis, according to Westwood, is a Greek symbol of good luck.
In the gumtree classifieds (a Craigslist for Brits), I found it, my dream job: A writer and editor and receptionist to tourists at the Sherlock Holmes Museum. I would write articles for the cleverly titled, "Baker Street Times" (where the museum is located, as well as Holmes' supposed home). My name is all over this job. It must be mine.
This would involve, according to the ad, some creative writing skills, effective communication skills to greet international visitors, and an enthusiasm for the Victorian era.
Before I could email the museum, I did some research and thoroughly read up on Victorian slang, popular art such as fairy paintings done by absinthe and opium-heads, Victorians and the paranormal, Victorians and the fear of science and technology (i.e. Frankenstein),Dickens, etc. etc. I am now the Victorian expert.
The Fairy's Funeral, John Anster Fitzgerald
They asked for example articles and I provided ample--one about a prostitute (they called them "dollywops")washed ashore the River Thames, one about a skeptical doctor who died during a seance, and one about a theif known for targeting art dealers' carriages.
Still waiting to hear back from them...
Oh yeah, and Kenneth Lay is still dead. Surprisingly not roaming the mean streets of Aspen trolling for young maidens whose blood he can suck with the assistance of enormous canine teeth.
The Millennium Dome in London. Future site of Elvis impersonators and all-you-can-eat lobster feasts?
The other morning, as I lay in bed with Radio4 in the background, my conscious had a massive civil war with my subconscious.
This is how I "wake up" in the morning, getting my daily dose of the best news radio program in the world. Problem is, sometimes I can't differentiate between my dreams and the top British stories. This morning I could have sworn I heard something about Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, the Millennium Dome, and casinos--super casions, to be exact.
Later in the day I found out, fully conscious, about the whole sordid Prescott story. It wasn't a dream after all.
Just some background: this is the third Prescott scandal in the last two months, and these Limeys just can't get enough! First, there was the affair with the secretary (pretty big fuss)then, about a month later, he was caught PLAYING CROQUET on his country estate when he was supposed to be in the office (massive fuss), and now this--the man was found to be "in bed" so to speak with the billionaire owner of the Millenium Dome who wants to turn it into London's first super-casino.
Prescott was found to have visited the Texas ranch of billionaire Dome owner Philip Anschutz a total of SEVEN times, on the British taxpayers' dime. I mean, to the British, this is a huge deal, it's like, as crazy as paying billions per year to keep an old lady prancing around in a royal palace with outrageous million-dollar tiaras! Outrageous!
The interview this morning between Radio4's John Humphreys and Prescott showed the ever-intrepid John Humphreys in top form. Excerpt from interview:
Humphreys: Why should the British taxpayer pick up the bill for you and indeed your officials going to stay with a very rich man to indulge your interest in cattle and cowboys?
Deputy PM Prescott: Well, I would say it's a...as to whether the charity money should be used, that's a legitimate point made and I would, I never got into the details of it, I just assumed all those matters of payment for accommodation wherever you were [unintelligible] was cleared and arranged by the Department and that's what happened, and you're quite right to raise that question but in fact it wasn't one that was put to me.
Last christmas' Tussauds version of the manger scene featuring Samuel L Jackson, Blair, Bush, Kylie Minogue and the of course the Beckhams.
NO CAUSE TO WAX LYRICAL Just the other week, my travel writing instructor decided to surprise everyone by taking us to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. It was an early Saturday morning, and I had not prepared myself for the journey that lay ahead.
First of all, I never made an attempt to go the "museum" on my own, on the grounds that I had visited the Hollywood Wax Museum as a small child and was genuinely freaked out by the experience. Second, that fateful Saturday morning I was in a surreal, barely-functional state known as the hangover. And my assumptions that these otherworldy wax monsters would be quaintly tucked away behind a glass partition was blown as I suddenly found myself surrounded by these things. My gut instinct was to equate them with human taxodermy.
Let me just say that Tussauds is an amazing institution in many respects. Madame Tussaud began making her statues in the late 18th c. A housekeeper of a physician who used wax statues for medical studies, Tussaud took waxworking to a whole new level by re-creating scenes from the French Revolution by using actual decaptitated hands and heads as her models. Today, you can see these same figures restored in all their morbid glory.
The first room you enter gives a clear indication as to just what the frequenters of the museum want: they want to pose with "celebrities", and they want to capture it on film. Basically, you enter a room designed to look like a Hollywood gala. You've got Madonna sitting on a bench with "VIP" written in the background, you've got Travolta, Cruise, Pitt and Angelina, you've got your Lopez prominently displaying her backside, and you've got all the mundane British celebrities your bubblegum-chewing brain can take before going into d-list celebrity overload, like Graham Norton or some cheesy celebrity chef.
The room with prominent historical figures is eerily quizzical, to say the least. Hitler is beside Churchill, Bush and Blair stand side by side, with Sadam to Bush's right and Jamie Oliver to Blair's left. Sadam was barely recognizable. I thought he could pass for Fidel Castro's brother. He was clad in a plain khaki jumpsuit with a very large semi-automatic weapon strapped to his leg.
I highly encourage anyone in or visiting the London metropolitan area to pay your respects to Tussaud. These statues are so bizarre; so creepily similar to their real-life counterparts. And you are allowed to touch them. When I stroked the balding head of London mayor Ken Livingstone, I swear it was real human hair.
The Las Vegas Tussauds just this week unveiled its Tupac Shakur statue, fittingly, in an odd, somewhat "ironic" (to use the term in its improper form, here I am referring to the term as defined by Alanis Morrisette), kind of way as Shakur was in fact gunned down in sin city.
"Museums" like this, as kitschy and pointless as they may appear, reflect so much about a society and culture if heroes and icons are anything to go by.
A view of London from the top of Parliament Hill in the Hampstead Heath.
A lot of people find jogging--and joggers--boring, but I've always been fortunate enough to jog in some of the most amazing places in the world and, in a sense, have felt more connected to them by doing so.
As Guy Browning, one of my favorite Guardian columnists wrote: "Jogging, like heavy metal, becomes interesting only when done at an intensity that threatens to burst something vital to the body."
I was reflecting on that just this morning, as I nearly choked on the crisp, chilly air like an emphysema patient with a clogged voice box. Now I have suffered a lack of cardiovascualr activities in recent times, but in this case I was making a fighting effort to tackle a very steep hill. Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath to be exact, where you can view all of London--including the Gherkin and the London Eye.
I haven't properly jogged since I lived in Santa Cruz, where, in just under five minutes, I could reach a beach with a Coney Island-style boardwalk to the right of me, and a yacht harbor complete with light house to the left. Just before that, I was living near Capitol Hill; in 10 minutes of jogging I could reach the Washington Monument, running along the Reflecting Pool and culminating in a visit to ole Honest Abe.
But I reckon that most people, even those living in the most gentrified mess of tract-home hell that is suburbia, can find a sense of pride and connectedness with their surroundings by simply putting their feet to the pavement and roaming free. The mundane can become active and alive; the foreign and unfamiliar becomes your playground.
Last night I dreamt that Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder were battling it out in a scat singing contest. Jackson just blew Stevie out of the water, it was crazy. Crazy amazing! Stevie's major setback was that he did not seem to understand that scat involves using your voice like a jazz instrument and that whole words just do not count. (For instance, "be be du bop do be!" would work, but "my cherie amour" would not). Jackson really impressed the judges with his variations of the term "shamone". He was turning shamone inside out, upside down and sideways, singing stuff like "sha mo mo mony sha me sha mu mone". Just brilliant.
When I awoke I was left wondering just what happened to Michael these days, besides the obvious new-found talent for scat. I found out that he is in Bahrain, dressing like a Muslim woman. I just picture him hangin out on the beach in his burka, scatting to Louis Armstrong...
Last night I was accosted by a white-haired, rambunctious bloke who'd been laughing wildly at the end of the bar all night. I'd just gotten off my waitressing shift at the gastropub I work at in Chelsea, and was minding my own with a Sunday Times and a glass of white wine. He invited me to sit with the "chaps" and have a drink. I said if the chaps were well-behaved I just might.
He introduced me to them--turns out I was sitting with a Chelsea football star and his entourage. It didn't mean anything to me because I don't follow football (it's just soccer with more hype), but I guess the football dude was a big deal. He was good looking enough, kind of quiet and had a really firm handshake that seemed to last for days. (OMG I'm suddenly in pulp fiction/noir style mode, I apologize).
Anyways, the white-haired man was so-and-so's personal masseur and he wanted to know my life story. So I told him I was out here to study journalism. He said "don't do it!" He went on to tell me I was too good for that. When I tried to explain to him that journalism was an honorable profession, and that there were so many different types of writers out there that he couldn't simply tell me that I was too good for it all, because it wasn't all bad, he just said, "Aw, but if you want to make money, you're going to write something that won't be so honorable." Touche.
I'm finding it more and more difficult, as the industry morphs into something more elusive everyday with the help of new technology (i.e. blogs), to believe that I will one day earn my bread and butter through writing things that I feel are, indeed, honorable and of the public interest. Then again, being a young woman, he probably made some immediate gender-based presumptions as to what "journalism" meant to me. He probably thought I daydreamed about becoming an editor for Hello! or OK! or Grazia or one of those other bullshit chick-trash weeklies. I'm sure that he'd never stretch his imagination to think for one second that I may just be a lone Woodward looking for my female Bernstein...
He also told me a joke...here's the short version which probably isn't funny since it's lacking context, but...a woman turns to her husband in bed one night for a romantic interlude and says, "Honey, tonight, I want you to kiss me where it stinks." So he tells her to hop in the car right away. The hours go by and the wife is growing uneasy so she asks, "Honey, where are we going?" He says, "Darling, I'm driving you to Birmingham!"
Wine almost shot out of my nose at that one--Frank Lampard's masseur is one funny guy. This is what Frank Lampard looks like, he looks a lot dreamier when he's playing soccer:
Just the other day I emerged from a darkened movie theater with my best friend Bobby, merrily walking along with that fresh, reality-distorted euphoria only a truly inpsiring film can induce. I breezily turned to Bobby to scan his face. "That was the one of the dullest movies I've ever seen. I've been wanting to walk out for over an hour," he said.
Coogan wonders if he is leading man material with a giant fake nose, Brydon fancies his yellow British teeth.
I had been looking forward to "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story" for nearly a month, but in that moment I felt like a complete jackass. I look to Bobby for the gospel truth, and if he is telling me a film is dull, well maybe that makes me dull too?
Upon further reflection, I think I've been able to conclude that a) I am not a jackass for liking this movie, and b)Bobby did have a point.
The film is an adaptation of a novel in the same vein as, well, "Adaptation" (the cerebral Kaufman masterpiece starring Nicolas Cage). It takes the 18th c novel by Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, and successfully translates it into a film manifestation with the same self-indulgent, incomprehensible narrative that made the book so uniquely timeless. In the same way that the narrator of the "biographic" novel, Tristram, leads his readers away from his own life story with arbitrary revelations and digressions, the filmmakers of said adaptation have cleverly mimicked this idiosyncratic tendency. The result is a film within a film not dissimilar to Sterne's novel within a novel: with me so far?
In the words of Steve Coogan, the actor who stars as Tristram Shandy and as a satirical exaggeration of himself--the actor Steve Coogan: "Tristram Shandy was postmodern before there was any modern to be post about."
It was hard for me to critically analyze this film based on its own merits, due to my own infatuation with Steve Coogan, the actor best known for his role as Alan Partidge in "I Am Alan Partridge" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You". He is master of that trendy new form of humor I like to think of as anti-humor. Anti-humor pioneers include Ricky Gervais and Larry David, as well as the US TV show, "Arrested Development". Anti-humorists are not the typical comedians, no, their mission is to make the audience feel awkward as they recklessly put themselves in awkward situations that mirror real life.
But it seems I was not the only one infatuated with Coogan, as director Michael Winterbottom took what could have been a brilliant Kaufman-esque piece and turned it into a bona fide loveletter to the actor. Anyone who has seen "24 Hour Party People" can attest. In "24 Hour", Winterbottom took a pitifully bland script and solely relied on Coogan's supreme wit to dig it out of the muck. That time it failed. This time, with the help of the endearing egomaniac of a co-star Rob Brydon, the film was nearly carried, but not quite. "A Cock and Bull Story" is quite like the unfortunate progression of a carnival ride after too much funnel cake: fast-paced and exciting at first, then dizzying, then nauseating.
Today I got an email from a former instructor regarding tomorrow's events:
This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fall on the same day. As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition: One involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication... and the other involves a groundhog."
Side note: I much preferred this version of the State of the Union--this guy does the best impression of Bush EVER.
Favorite quote: "If you have an enemy that's killin themselves, they're already gettin half the job done. Part of what we have to do is sit by and let 'er rip!"
If you asked me last month, I would say that George Galloway is the most awesome MP ever. I have no idea what his role, if any, was in the UN's oil-for-food scandal. All I know is that I was abso-freaking-lutely blown away by his tough talk to the US Senate subcommittee last year during the investigative hearings regarding his involvement. Galloway went berserk before the almighty US Senate, and that's a fact. I don't care if he was involved in a sordid love affair with Sadam and Osama. For one fleeting moment I was able to see, right there live on C-Span, what it might be like if politicians in America actually held robust, open debate similar to that in the House of Commons. I hold no illusions that Galloway opened up some kind of new standard for public discourse on Capitol Hill, but anyone who's ever endured even two minutes of congressional hearings via C-Span knows that the banality is enough to literally spur droves of viewers into dying of boredom. Literally. And there is something deeply disconcerting and almost sinister about that. Lord knows if Bush was held under as much public scrutiny as Blair is by his own colleagues in Parliament he wouldn't last one day as President. The public humiliaton alone would send him stuttering and inventing words which would no doubt lead to the APA diagnosing our little Dubya as showing signs of mental retardation.
But I digress...
Back to Galloway. The MP is ALL over the news out here in Old Blimey. He's been quite the busy bee--not only has he just successfully won a libel case against the Daily Telegraph, but he's also found a home on Celebrity Big Brother alongside the likes of a transvestite who wears gorilla coats, a Paris Hilton look-alike who dubbed Hilton Travelodge, and Dennis Rodman. For the last three weeks the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow has been serving his consituency by dancing the robot in a spandex leotard and lapping milk from a saucer like a kitty.
Unfortunately, such admirable endeavors have taken their toll on his Parliamentary activities. According to theyworkforyou.com, since 2005, Galloway has only voted in 15% of Parliament's elections, ranking him at 634 out of 645 MPs. Among those who ranked below him were five members of Sinn Fein who were practicing abstention, three speakers who were in eligible to vote, and two members who have recently become deceased.
I suppose, if you asked me now, I would not rank George Galloway as the most awesome MP ever, even though his robotic prowess has proven impressive. I will, however, dub him "Multitasker of the Year".
MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY: The Rev would not be proud
Today, as I scanned some of the top stories from my native soil, I kept seeing the face of Rev Martin Luther King pop up along with various stories. 'What's goin on here?' I thought. Then it dawned on me--yesterday was MLK Day, and I was just sittin out here in limey land sipping tea, watching celebrity Big Brother.
The 20th anniversary of its official national observance, this holiday commands attention on so many levels, and must be recognized now more than ever. With Rosa Parks' recent death, King's widow in the hospital from a stroke, another Vietnam on our hands and the mounting fear of nuclear devastation, the cause of the great Reverend needs a little revisit. And by "little revisit" I mean a major acknowledgement. Monumental I'd say.
This is the only major U.S. holiday which has yet to be diluted and degraded by the shameful, culture-eradicating machine that is commercialization. No "Martin Luther King White Sale Now On at Macy's!" or "MLK Low Low Prices at Circuit City!" to be had.
It was in 1994 that President Clinton signed, with the collaborative efforts of Coretta Scott King, the King Holiday and Service Act, which sought to promote the day as one of "community service, interracial cooperation, and youth anti-violence efforts." ...sorry President Bush, but I guess (from that last line) you won't be celebrating this year, or for the rest of your horrific tenure.
It's the nonviolence tenets of King's teachings which really strike a prescient chord. King historian Taylor Branch wrote an amazing Op-Ed piece in the NYT yesterday which really eloquated (I realize that eloquate is not a word, but if I were eloquent enough, I could think of a bettter one) this well:
"Above all, no one speaks for nonviolence. Indeed, the most powerful discipline from the freedom movement was the first to be ridiculed across the political spectrum. 'A hundred political commentators have interred nonviolence into a premature grave,' Dr. King complained after Selma. The concept seemed alien and unmanly. It came to embarrass many civil rights veterans themselves, even though nonviolence lies at the heart of democracy."
Repeat after me: Nonviolence lies at the heart of democracy. Nonviolence lies at the heart of democracy. Nonviolence...
King is the ultimate patriot, one of the only true martyrs in my book, and proof that the message of America's founding fathers will not be lost in contemporary American history books.
Quoting Branch further, "His oratory fused the political promise of equal votes with the spiritual doctrine of equal souls. He planted one foot in American heritage, the other in scripture, and both in nonviolence."
And finally, Branch concludes:
"We must recognize that the accepted tradeoff between freedom and security is misguided, because our values are the essence of our strength. If dungeons, brute force and arbitrary rule were the keys to real power, Saudi Arabia would be a model for the future instead of the past...Gunfire took Dr. King's life, but we determine his legacy. This holiday, let that inspiration remain our patriotic challenge."
This holiday, I went to Topshop and ate at Starbucks. The Rev would not be proud.
I am uncommonly mobile; I have circumnavigated the globe eight times, walking amazing distances. Through the South Island of New Zealand to the Southern Alps. From Chile to the Andes in Argentina. Across the Serengeti in Africa. I made 300 ascents of mountains 10,000 ft. tall or more, including the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and Kilimanjaro. I traveled alone, aided only by my porters, sketching volcanos and collecting wildflowers along the way.