Tag Archives: culture

Michael Jackson: the best performer in the world! RIP.

This whole post could be summed up in one expression: “Doh.” However I just would like to take a moment to remember pop’s greatest performer.

Today I watched the This Is It DVD, lent to me by a friendly colleague. I can’t help feeling, why do you have to go? It would have been so wonderful if he’d been able to play even one night. Then we would have seen the splendour of his show in full.

Performance is his soul. He is truly unsurpassed, in fame, star power and talent and very very rare if not one of a kind. It’s very rare to see a performer that good yet so kind and humble. I don’t know, I think of other big artists, like Madonna, Bono, those kind of people, and while of course they are no doubt charismatic and entertaining, there’s something quite ‘egoistic’ about them. You can see this in 99% of performers, even the so called ‘shy’ ones. It’s probably called being human.

But with Michael Jackson, you are just entranced. It’s just art embodied, channeled through his being. He manages to exude sexiness without actually being sexy, despite having a strange plastic face, unnatural complexion and lately, an extremely skinny body.  His passion just comes through his voice, his music and every jerk and jolt of his body. Just like an all singing, all dancing robot. Watch this!

And every live show of his you see on Youtube, there will be tons of girls and boys screaming. I won’t be and have never been one of them, but I cannot deny he is one incredible, selfless performer that lives purely for his music, and all that he loves. Talent, genius, hard work, selflessness and genuine concern for the world  all rolled into one. What a life. How inspirational!

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Happy new year!

Hello! I got The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Bottton for Xmas, and it was such an absorbing read that I finished it in 2  days. It is quite a slim book. I learnt more about Epicurus – he says that the most important thing in life is to indulge, to indulge in friendships/relationships and food. That’s why I’ve been very happy the past eight days. I have spent it with great company and eating lots of nice food!

Jamie's Italian restaurant

Jamie's Italian restaurant

I would also add ‘spectacle’ – nice spectacle that is, not horrid or macabre ones. For NYE 2008 I saw on a big screen at an East End pub how wonderful the London fireworks were. Since then I harboured a wish to be close to the action, in relative comfort. I’d have to be on a boat. So I got entry tickets to a boat/floating pub on the Thames right in front of the London Eye. Wow! The fireworks were so amazing, it was the best! It felt like heaven! Like I could walk amongst the sparkling stars! 10 whole minutes of fantastic pyrotechnic action! Then we danced to some great music. Although the journey home was quite apocalyptic, I will treasure my NYE experience forever!

Fireworks on the Thames

Fireworks on the Thames

Epicurus got a house and filled it with his friends, dining together most of the time. I think he also said never to eat alone; you should always enjoy food with company. He and his mates also tried to be as self sufficient as they can – growing veg and rearing farm animals. That would be fantastic I think, to be able to buy a great big house with enough privacy and space for everyone and share one big kitchen and hire a part-time maid to keep communal areas tidy (rota system is a bit… student-like). Even if we are not in the same house, living close by to friends/family is so helpful. I recall being able to cross the road and visit my collegemates when I fancied a chat.  That alleviated many a lonely time!

So anyway, happy new year… I am starting to read Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis – another Xmas gift and recommended by Tim Ferriss,  The 4-Hour Workweek guy, I think!

World’s Strictest Parents

I’ve been an avid follower of this show, World’s Strictest Parents (UK version) – it’s very interesting to see how other cultures bring up children and also to learn more about their way of life. I came across this interesting blog post about how there is a lack of adult solidarity in the UK and how it is affecting UK’s children. Also it’s not just about the individual family – it’s the whole society that shape the children. One only has to watch how the naughty teens’ bravado gradually crumble in the face of local kids shaking their heads and saying how uncool they are, and how the vision of the parent and the school authorities tend to be along the same lines.

Blog post: What we can learn from the World’s Strictest Parents

Books books books

I’ve been reading a lot more lately. I’ve been trying to stick to one book at a time but it’s hard! Esp since I have a great library at my workplace. I just come downstairs and choose some swell books.

Like Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. I think it’s a copy from the 40s or smth. I’m not sure I’m going to finish this one. I’ve learnt a lot just from the intro! Maybe it’s just my modern brain but some paragraphs could be much shorter really. I’m up to the chapter about Wages for Labour, smth like that.

Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy – I’ve just finished Socrates, a bit of Plato and delving more into Aristotle. The cover of the book I got is a painting by James Barry that can be found on across all four walls of the great hall where I work. It truly impressed me first time I saw it.

I also finished How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson and How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis.

How to be Idle is arranged by chapters demarcated by time and the significance of it in an idlers’ day. Like for example 3am is a perfect witching hour as it’s long enough to forget the happenings of the day before and before the new day is born. The first half of the book seems much more informative than the second half. I’m guessing that his little children must be distracting him.

How to be rich is a great read. According to Felix Dennis, it is an ‘anti self-help book’, in that it lays bare what is truly involved in getting rich and does not indulge in ‘anyone can do it’ type BS. It is written purely from his perspective, and my what an insight. I suspect that this book has put some people off from pursuing their dream of ‘being rich’, judging from a couple of Amazon reviews. Some passages which warn the reader about the dangers (and perks of course) of being rich are really insightful, and he encourages the reader to learn from his mistakes and successes. I think it is rare to find a book on this subject by a bestselling poet.This is one of the books I will keep and re-read.

I just borrowed some Germaine Greer from the library; wanna know what all the fuss was about… and also a children’s French book as that is my French reading level – I gotta start somewhere!

Baby boomers vs bloomers

An acquaintance of mine appeared on TV the other day to debate the fate of ‘our generation’. I think the programme was trying to set up a slagging match between kids young people  and people who are as old as their parents. Did it work? I don’t know. It’s like trying to ask someone who’s  been happily blindfolded what he saw. The blindfold’s off, it ain’t pretty, but how did we get here?

Every cloud has a silver lining. Cliche. In the so-called age of austerity (hmm, austerity with laptops and iPods) , we have to learn to live with less, learn to cope. This is what the world needs; it cannot support unlimited, unbridled consumption. The older generation will eventually die out and we’ll inherit a surplus of stuff (houses, clothes, bad ideas) as there’s more of them –  at least where the population is declining. We cannot expect our generation to enjoy exactly the same privileges  – as it is, we probably have the best childhoods, historically, and the best prospects. People can get the sort of job that are a better match to their individual abilities, rather than being forced to work in t’pit, just ‘cos that’s what people do’. Technology has destroyed jobs and created exciting ones in its place.

It is a fair point though that some have been excessively greedy. I’m not talking about bankers – they get enough flak – I’m talking about university vice-chancellors. How is it justifiable that a student struggles through uni and leaves with thousands of debt, while a vice-chancellor gets paid over £250,000 a year, and urging for tuition-fee rises? I believe more of tuition fee costs must be shouldered by corporate firms, who ultimately benefit by employing such well-educated people. Also, there are plenty of positions it seems, that pay much more than what the prime minister gets paid – is their job much harder? They should be running the country then.

Logic of Life

Just read Tim Harford’s Logic of Life book. It’s interesting and enlightening just like his previous book, Undercover Economist. It would make much much more sense to me if I can read it all in one or two sittings than snatching a bit here and there on tube journeys, because by the time he’s on Chapter 9 and he’s going ‘like we found out in Chapter 3’, and I’m like ‘what happened in Chapter 3?’ – and even if I remembered…

Hmm, my song Whizz Around the Sun  just came on on my Last.fm library radio. My songs are very distracting to me!

… by the time I read the next line I’d forget what the argument was. Haha.

Harford wrote about whether divorce is underrated, why bosses are overpaid, how politics gets skewed to supporting the few, and many more. As for how politics supports the few, it’s not repeating the same old ‘overpaid politicians’ rant, it’s throwing light on on how trade sanctions (e.g local only sugar) and geographical sanctions (e.g green-belt) are a bad idea. These groups have more to lose, so can throw more money at it and try their damnednest to vote for the party that does them the most favours and supports their cause, while the cost to the rest of the population is only 10p or smth; basically an amount not worth squabbling over, or worth getting out of the house to vote. Harford equates this to splitting the bill at the end of a dinner party at a restaurant; everybody tries to order smth more expensive because the cost is going to be absorbed by someone else. That someone else might not bother fighting over the extra £1 to their share. Add it all up… the cost to taxpayers to appease everyone is a hefty bill.

Harford also mentions that more money is going to rural societies just to prop them up, compared to more economically-viable cities. Another point is also that it makes more sense to make cities bigger because city dwellers use less space, have less stuff, use almost exclusively public transport (me, me, me!), therefore being more environmentally friendly than those out in the country. I would definitely drive if I move out of London; I remember lots of lost time, overpriced bus tickets and rude bus drivers, and couldn’t wait for the day I got my driving licence. If London had more space to develop,  it would also probably help London look less like a sh*thole as it would have more space for trees and greenery, with the right planning policies in place. I see more trees in Singapore than London, and it’s a third the size and is the 2nd most densely populated country in the world. It would also bring more homes into the market making property more affordable. (there are loads of empty properties lying around; that’s another story!) Of course, over-extending London/cities could be a bad or a good thing!

Why is the top honcho in a company paid really highly? To make the people below him/her work harder in the hope they’ll get the prize one day, and to reward high stock market returns. Online contact is not a substitute for in-person contact – in fact it only makes them meet up more.

All in all it’s an enlightening read, with some controversial ideas to make you think.

World is ‘getting smaller’ – ditto timelines

It’s super easy to find and enjoy stuff from 100 years ago now. Try saying that in 1980! Of course artifacts, books and photos have been around for much longer, but now we can simply type in whatever takes our fancy and if they’re any good, you can find a film clip or some music, in the comfort of your own home/bed.  Such a broad and rich source of culture. I remember having to physically go to the National Library to ‘research’ anything to put together some primary school scrapbook.

Now you can find 3 centuries’ (hmm, yes “19th, 20th and 21st”) worth of footage from ITN Source, for instance. On youtube/vimeo/etc anything and everything gets airtime – one doesn’t have to be famous. In 60 years’ time you can watch a video of your late grandfather’s teen angst-y video response  on youtube. If youtube still exists then.

World’s oldest film, according to youtube – filmed in Leeds in 1888. Of all places!

People won’t be too happy if youtube or facebook or any major personal repositories dissolve along with years of collective personal history. We now have a situation where most of our info resides not (just) with us but on outside ‘resources’. Like, say your hard drive gets wiped out. But your video is still on Youtube. Your pictures and friends are still on Facebook. And hooray for Google Docs! Oh yes, your mobile contacts are on Mobyko. Phew. You don’t even pay any of them!

But we must be paying somehow. Data – obviously. Advertising revenue – targeted -> privacy issues.  Add carelessness to the mix (yes that includes weak passwords) and it goes one step further, to fraud.

About privacy though, what really do we care about it? That’s a strangely worded question – I mean, maybe people don’t mind others knowing what songs they like, that they went out last night, and have brown hair. Maybe it’ll pave the way for a more honest and open-minded world – or dual identities.

Anyway. We should not take the pervasive force of the internet for granted. I am grateful that I got to experience a pre-internet, pre-mobile life as a pre-adolescent – as there is no going back, and no way of future generations to know what it was like. And I am so glad to also be living in today’s convenient world!