Pink Moon…

I saw it written and I saw it say.
Pink moon is on its way.
And none of you stand so tall.
Pink moon gonna get ye all.
It’s a pink moon.
Yea, it’s a pink moon…

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A New Hope…

The fact that Jeremy Corbyn has already been part of the “rebel alliance” (albeit within the Labour Party) for the last 40 years means that his transition to Obi Wan Kenobi status tomorrow as “Leader of the Opposition” should on paper be pretty seamless. He really is to coin Star Wars phrase, “A New Hope”, his deep routed socialist views in tune with the greater good and fairer distribution of health and wealth in today’s most complex society.

He will have his work cut out from the beginning should be be successful though, as many New Labour / ex Tony Blair sympathisers will no doubt convene secret meetings on the “dark side” of Westminster to oust him from the very off.

Many people are saying that Corbyn is simply not electable but I do not believe that this is the case. For decades now, there has been very little difference between the Labour and Conservative manifestos and as a result whether the Blues or the Reds win means very little when it comes to governmental policy in the end. I guess the rise of the Greens at the last election was an indication that people are beginning to change their views and vote for change. Real change.

Real change. Real change is what we could have under Jeremy. Given the fact that we will not be able to live out pre-Neolithic Revolution / Nomadic existences or move to Venus Project communes any time soon, we should turn to progressive politicians who see the bigger picture, who see the global picture, rather than focusing in on the self like all Conservatives and Republicans seem to do these days.

For those who seek out a change to Western politics and ideals, Corbyn could be the answer and if enough of us see that (here in the UK at least), then on that basis he is electable as Prime Minister of these green and pleasant lands. This could in turn lead to a political paradigm shift and steer us away from the zombie apocalypse.

Only 66% of the population voted at the last general election and I’m of the belief that the disenfranchised 34% could well be persuaded to vote, and that vote would be a vote for socialism. 34% in itself would almost be enough to get in out right, nevermind the safe Labour seats of Wallasey and other red flag bearing wards and boroughs. If Corbyn can bring that belief back, then he does stand a real chance of getting the keys to 10 Downing Street. 

For those who still do not see him as “A New Hope”, let’s compare our rebel alliance leader with one in a galaxy far, far away (coincidence or an odd case of synchronicty)?

Obi Wan Kenobi:


jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-election

Jeremy Corbyn:

Let’s take a look at Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto in brief:

Economy

  • An end to austerity, higher taxes for the rich and more protection for people on welfare.
  • A crackdown on tax avoidance and tax evasion, tax breaks for companies, and a Corporation Tax increase to reduce the deficit.
  • Introduce a “maximum wage” to cap the pay of top executives.
  • Quantitative easing for new large scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects, creating skilled jobs and genuine apprenticeships, knock-on effects for the supply chain.

Education & Health

  • Introduce a National Education Service, following the NHS model, with state-funded academies and free returning to to local authority control.
  • Tuition fees scrapped and replaced with grants.
  • Introduce universal childcare.
  • Eradicate PFI deals from the NHS by using government money to buy them out.

Foreign Policy & Defence

  • An International policy based on political negotiations not military solutions to secure peace.
  • Withdraw from NATO and opposition to air strikes against so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
  • The UK would not spend 2% of GDP on defence, as pledged by the current government.
  • The Trident nuclear missile system would be scrapped.

Housing

  • Introduce rent controls to help families on benefits to pay their rent.
  • Improved right-to-buy scheme, allowing tenants in council and social housing to purchase their homes at a discount.

Transport & Energy

  • Renationalise Britain’s railway network and opposition to the High Speed Rail Network.
  • Renationalise energy companies, regulating publicly run services which deliver energy supplies.
  • Introduce a moratorium on fracking which is dangerous to the environment.

European Union

  • UK to remain in the EU, but with a vision for a better Europe through a change programme.
  • Opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

I am hoping that by midday tomorrow that Jeremy Corbyn is the new leader of the Labour Party and if he is, I will sign up immediately and become an active member, only under the leadership and direction of a true socialist would I ever even consider doing that.

#JezWeCan

2014: A Year In Music

1. Linkin Park (Download Festival, Derbyshire, UK)

The first 45 minutes of the Linkin Park set at Download 2015 was superb. Hybrid Theory played in it’s entirety with such energy it was pretty much flawless. That added with the fact my boys were in absolute awe of what they were seeing put this at #1…

2. Lionel Richie (Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, US)

You’d never guess this Walkers Crisps advertiser has been a bus pass owner for over 5 years. So much energy on stage for someone getting on, but some of the banter had me and the wife in stitches. As this was a special occasion to mark our second wedding in Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay), this one came very close to top spot. Lionel, you are forgiven for those extra-crunchy adverts with Gary Lineker (the smarmy silver velvet owl)…

3. Lenny Kravitz (Wembley Arena, London, UK)

3. Lenny Kravitz

He may well have swapped his microphone recently for clapperboards (Hunger Games) and high spec CAD programs (interior design business), but once he is back on the stage, our Lenny sure does know how to rock. Banging out some of the old classics as well as fresher tunes from his new album, me and the significant other bopped the night away in that there London…

4. Gun N Roses (Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, US)

4. Guns N Roses

So I finally got to see GnR and where better than the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. All the songs I wanted them to knock out they did, and most surprisingly them came out on time! I guess the retainers in Las Vegas for residency artists make sure that happen. This also marked a special occasion, my boy’s first gig ever, kind of cool to say that your first gig was GnR in Las Vegas, mine was a sweaty Lisa Dominique in a sweatier Milo’s Bar in Liverpool…

5. Nick Harper (Leaf, Liverpool, UK)

5. Nick Harper

Like a good whiskey, every time I see Nick Harper he improves with age. Even though this time he was well under the weather, his Leaf gig in Liverpool once again did not disappoint. Becoming more and more familiar with his works makes each gig a little more personal, a little more pleasurable. I bought his cd which he dutifully signed at the end of the night – even though he did manage scrawl a reference to his bowels on the cover…

6. John Legend (Apollo Theatre, Manchester, UK)

"YouTube OnStage Live from the Kennedy Center" Concert Event Celebrating YouTube's 9th Birthday

An evening with John Legend. When the tickets for the Manchester gig came up we were in Las Vegas. We were in fact getting married (again) in Las Vegas to one of his songs (although it probably wasn’t the exact same time as the text message we received). Our friend duly bought the wife and I two tickets, and when the time came around the boy didn’t disappoint. Touching story telling mixed with beautiful piano playing, plus he had everyone up out of their seats at the end. The man, the Legend…

7. Ozric Tentacles (Live Rooms, Chester, UK)

7. Ozric Tentacles

I have always been an admirer of the Ozrics earlier albums and was quite shocked to find out recently that they had 24 albums out to date. How do you listen to all of them before a gig? Answer you don’t. The Live Rooms at Chester was very personal indeed, a tiny venue meant it was as close as you were gonna get to the Ozrics without getting your eyes wet. Cosmic soundscapes were blasted through various instruments, Erpland the best on the night (and probably the only one I recognised). Far out maaaaan…

8. Lawnmower Death (Download Festival, Derbyshire, UK)

8. Lawnmower Deth

What visit to the Download 2015 Pepsi Max Tent would be complete without a set from Nottingham’s finest Lawnmover Deth. Banging out classics like “Thermo Nuclear War is Good for Your Complexion”, “Watch Out Grandma Here Comes A Lawnmower” and the seminal classic “Cobwoman of Death Meets Mr Smelly Mop”, all to the back drop of a game human Pinball Fantasies, using massive gym balls. One word to describe it all – CARNAGE!

9. Anathema (Download Festival, Derbyshire, UK)

9. Anathema

My sons have long admired the outputs of Scouse progsters Anathema, so when I told them that the were playing an acoustic set at Download 2015 as a side order to the Linkin Park main course, they were overjoyed to say the least. Due to some technical issues, they only managed to knock out 4 songs, but all of that was enough to whet their appetites all the more for their upcoming performance at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool next year.

10. Richard Townend (Cafe de Bieb, Den Haag, Netherlands)

IMG_6932

I’ve worked with Richard this year (we are both Business Analysts when dressed in our corporate cloaks), and it was only through chance that I came to understand that he was into music. Not only into music, but by jingo a very talented artist! I listened to some of his songs on Spotify and acquired a few CD’s of his which I liked too. A complete juxtaposition to the likes of Lawnmower Deth, the blues/jazz open mic night he played at the uber-cool Cafe de Bieb in Den Haag was top drawer. I wish him all the best for his new album and hope to see him live again in 2015.

British Biased Corporation ?

There has of late (and in my opinion), been a great deal of biased reporting in support (almost on behalf) of the establishment that rules over our green and pleasant land. I’ve never been under any illusion that the British Broadcasting Corporation was impartial, but as a news, sports and entertainment source it was always my de facto medium choice. That was until recently, when I decided to divorce myself from “her” completely (being “Auntie” the BBC must be female).

I have since uninstalled the various BBC apps on my mobile devices in my personal quest for impartiality. My switch coincided with an article I had read in The Independent around two months back regarding the situation in Gaza, as down the line one could get in the local newspaper shop on a Saturday morning I thought. And it was at this point I switched my online feeds to The Independent, Reuters, Huffington Post and Al Jazeera, as well as subscribing to Russell Brand’s “The Trews” which is both entertaining and entertaining.

More recently I have gone on to uninstall Reuters and Huffington Post as there appeared to be a growing sense of sensationalism, the reporting of un-newsworthy articles and a general feeling of bias which wasn’t what I thought the raison d’etre of such organisations to be. So that left me with just The Independent and Al Jazeera.

In a recent episode of The Trews, Russell was shocked to discover that both The Independent and Huffington Post launched a polemic, a diatribe against him and his views regarding issue in Iraq, wrongly accusing him of blaming “everyone” in the West for causing the current predicament in the Middle East which he clearly didn’t if you follow him. So the uninstalling of The Independent app followed, leaving me with little old Al Jazeera and the post-modern bearded bard himself.

russell-brand

Weeks passed and the debate and focus duly changed to Scottish Independence. I was made aware that the BBC was televising a live debate between the Yes and No campaigns, the entire audience being made up of sixteen and seventeen year olds. Keen on seeing the response of the young voters I tuned in to watch, and very interesting it was too, and I was great to see tuned-in kids very keen on the outcome (on the face of it) of the vote later this week.

And it was on that day that several feeds started to appear on Facebook. My wife has friends who live in Scotland whose children attended the debate in Glasgow, and to my utter disgust I learned from them that the majority of the kids who attended were in the Yes camp, and the BBC subsequently took it upon themselves to try and even up the score by trying to coerce children to jeer the Yes campaigners, and act out pro-No noises when appropriate. Allegedly even members of the production team were in on it too, raising the pro-No sound levels unfairly.

Then there was the huge NHS demonstration in London. A complete and utter media black-out on the BBC by all accounts, no indication that anything significant had taken place, again fed through my Facebook feed.

Over the last few days I have been flicking between Al Jazeera and the BBC just to see the difference and the difference is massive. A special report yesterday on Al Jazeera took us to a roving reporter who gave an excellent snapshot of the true situation as it stands in Scotland, the history behind its inclusion in the union, what may or may not happen if the vote goes one way or the other, interviews with both Yes and No voters and no leaning to any one side. Impartiality if ever there was.

I then turned over to the BBC to see the complete opposite. The opening graphic on their special report said it all for me. A group of people were all holding flags, a room full of No flags surrounding one person with a Yes flag. Bullying if ever there was.

Then there was the reporting the concessions Westminster had agreed to give Scotland should there be a successful No vote, concessions which would never have come if the percentile differences still showed 15% in favour of the No’s. Bribery if ever there was.

Then there was the travelling roadshow, all three main party leaders doing their upmost to put pressure on the people of Scotland not to leave the UK and to stay with Westminster as their HQ, none of them could be bothered getting involved before the polls indicated otherwise, and that they would have to get their comfortable asses out of seat 300 miles nearer to the equator. Desperation if ever there was.

And finally, then there was the corporation’s response. The BBC report stated that the banks would migrate south of the border (leaving out that all operations would remain in Scotland thus not affecting jobs) and from the food corporations who stated that prices would go up in most of the major supermarket chains (leaving out the response from Morrison’s which was words to the effect of “don’t be ridiculous”). Bias if ever there was.

I’d had enough at that point and went to take the dog for a walk and claim the first conkers of the autumn from the local Horse Chestnut trees with my son, but what was clear to me was that the BBC was biased and will likely remain biased (and Sky for that matter), aligned far too closely with Westminster and I still have to pay for the privilege of paying a licence fee to them even though I don’t intend using their services in the future.

Although it’s plainly obvious to me, I just hope that the Scottish people who watch and use the BCC realise and underhand the tactics that are going on at present, and don’t  believe everything that the BBC are peddling just now.

I remembered a line from The Young Ones back in the 80’s that came out of an old transistor radio on the table of the four would be students, which went something along the lines of “This independent and impartial programme was brought to you by the BBC on behalf of The Conservative Party”. So here we are thirty years later and nothing has changed…

ADDENDUM:
You only need a UK TV licence if you stream live schedule content (via any device). If you only use Netflix and On Demand apps (like I do) then you don’t need one. So disconnect your Freeview/Sky box, fire your content through your SMART TV via the apps and save yourself £149.50 per year.

Imagine, just imagine…

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one…

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one…

Gig for Gaza

Submit a Google search of “Gig for Gaza” and it will return a great many hits, which is nice to see. There is a wave of awareness and support out there for the situation in the Middle East, and being a part of it is a good thing. Not that you will hear about it loudly, the establishment it seems are keen not to let things like protests and benefit gigs to acquire much noise and attention.

Recently, I’ve made a few small donations and contributions (where finances have dictated) to Gaza and sent out positive reiki vibes to those (on both sides) trapped within what seems to be an eternal conflict, but last night I felt closer to the situation in Gaza, a lot closer.

I took it upon myself to install myself as the unofficial Sports and Social Coordinator at work, doing it for many reasons. Primarily it’s to stop myself (whilst away from the family) from becoming too bored, or too drunk or too overweight. Upon searching Time Out London, I came across an event at London Bridge titled “Gig for Gaza”, the artistes on show ranging from folk singers through poets and on to human beat-box, quite an eclectic mix. Sending out the call, I managed to get two takers so off we popped for a bite to eat before eventually finding the way to our subterranean basement home for the evening.

Katey Brooks (a relatively new artist from what I could make out) both arranged and compared the evening, struggling on through a quite unremarkable and erratic PA system, triumphing through adversity (potentially symbolic reflection of what could occur in the Middle East). Many of the folks on stage during the course of the evening had recently visited Palestine and off the back of that decided to schedule a benefit gig in the capital, with all proceeds go to Oxfam (from a relief perspective) and the Gaza Smile Project (which is a small charity working on a ‘Back to School’ project whose aim is to provide displaced children of Gaza with the means to get them back learning, the most basic of human rights a lot of us take for granted).

The emphasis of the night was not on taking sides, it was not anti-Semitic, it was not against Israel and for Palestine. The primary aim was to raise awareness and funds for the most just of causes. Of course it wasn’t just a collection of like-minded musicians there for a gig, it was an opportunity for the artists and speakers to share their collective opinion, in that they support the end of occupation, the end of oppression and the end of the escalating violence on all sides, without the persecution of any one on any side. This was a Pro-Peace event.

The artists on the night were all very good. Dennis Just Dennis a northern poet who relayed an amazing alphabet alliteration, appreciated by all (he’s got me doing it now). Tom Moriarty, an adept acoustic guitar with an amazing resemblance to Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam (albeit at a distance and under very poor disco lighting). Suzy Conrad who was arguably the best on the night with her own breed of “Loop Pop” (which involved her creating sound loops of her own voice on the fly via a pedal board and playing them all back once recorded as she sang over the top of them). Dizreali, whose Bristolian acoustic guitar poetry and energy was welcomed by all (The Streets meets Nick Harper meets Stephen Merchant). Our host Katey Brooks played through the worst PA set-up I’ve ever heard, earning some serious kudos for her perseverance and talents. Hobbit finished off the evening, a human beat-box champion, was pretty ace too, something I’ve never heard live, he had everyone up off their zabutons.

The highlight of the night for me however was when a Palestinian man took to the stage, having recently arrived from Gaza. It was an opportunity to hear what was really going on from a real person with real experience, not something which had been bastardised, sanitised, demonised and serialised by biased media outlets with ulterior motives.

He said unsurprisingly that Gaza was a truly awful place to be right now. Over 2200 people have been killed over the last 5 weeks, well over 10,000 have been seriously injured, over ¼ of the population of Gaza have left their homes (100,000 houses being completely destroyed) and are displaced all over the region with nowhere safe to go. He stated that the wall that surrounded Gaza was twice the height of the Berlin wall, and on the Palestinian side, graffiti messages were not of blame and abuse, but of a request for peace. What should be safe zones (UN hospital and schools) are continuously being bombed further adding to the misery.

What was quite remarkable was his attitude, his level of calmness. He was quite clear in his request. All the Palestinian people want is peace. All the Palestinian people want is an end to the oppression. All the Palestinian people want is an end to the occupation of Gaza. All the Palestinian people want is access to resources (basic resources like water and more than three hours of electricity per day as the main power plant has been destroyed would do for a start) so that they can get on with life. There was no propaganda, no “we need to get them folks wot did this to us” mentality, no malice, no need for revenge or retribution, no diatribe against his oppressors. This was a Muslim man, with Muslim values, a sincere guy sharing his story and inner feelings with a collection people of really do give a shit about what goes on in this world, and in their own small way are trying to help.

I read an article a few weeks back in The Independent about the conflict, and about how the US and UK profits from the situation in the Middle East and it’s all rather sickening. From a Geo-Political perspective, all I can do is vote for the good guys next May, even if they have no chance of getting in, at least then I can truly say I tried to make a difference

So to everyone everywhere involved in conflict, I hope you find both outer and inner peace.

In time…

ALS(o) have this on my M(i)ND…

And so it came to be that I was eventually nominated to do the ALS / MND Ice Bucket Challenge by a good friend of mine. Without a doubt the cause is just, those folks out there that suffer from this affliction must go through a living hell. Just knowing that once diagnosed, one is subjected not only to a reduced lifespan the average life expectancy following positive diagnosis of a mere 36 months until death, but a daily degradation of physical service whilst the brain and consciousness remains untouched. A prison without walls.

Stephen Hawking is living proof of what MND does to the body and not the brain. He has defied the odds in terms of MND life expectancy and lived to a ripe old age thus far all things considered, and the scientific world is surely glad for that.

Facebook is often pilloried, but I think in this case it has been used globally as a positive tool to raise both awareness and funds for ALS and MND. Every second news feed at the moment is a video of someone taking part in their own “challenge”. It is a bit of fun for those that wish to participate, and also a vehicle for those who do not wish to participate in person, but either chose to donate to ALS / MND or to donate to other charities (for example a friend of mine’s view point was that all the wasted water concerned him, so instead he chose to donate some funds towards Water Aid), which is great too.

Personally, I chose to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge, albeit with my own slant on it, and I had fun doing it and followed it through with a donation to MND:

http://youtu.be/kU8MIrAg8WI

However (there always seems to be an however with me), there is a part of me which remains sceptical about donations towards research, not just for ALS / MND, but for any body looking at providing cures for world ills. That part of me is concerned that the funds raised are either misappropriated or not channelled into the right places.

Taking ALS / MND as an example, £50m has been raised in one month, fantastic, but where is it going and what is it going to be used for? Will it be handed to Big – Pharma for them to use it as a way to produce a new synthetic chemical to treat the symptoms and not challenge the root cause and make a tidy profit from it all? Will it look deep into the genetics of the disease and look to eradicate it from happening in the future via a post-modern eugenics movement of sorts? Will it look into complementary therapies like yoga, meditation and reiki to see if these alternative self-healing techniques can aid or assist recovery or combat it’s onset?

All of these questions remain unanswered to me at present, but it’s something I’ll look into, but I do hope that the funds do end up in the right place and used in the right way.

This whole issue really got me thinking, and I think that it is no coincidence (I don’t see coincidences anymore – just breadcrumbs) that I started to watch the Channel 4 series Utopia (available in the UK and on Netflix) at exactly the same time as the Ice Bucket Challenge kick off.

In short, the story follows a small group of people who find themselves in possession of the manuscript sequel of a cult graphic novel called “The Utopia Experiments” which is rumoured to have predicted the worst disasters of the last century. This leads them to be targeted by an organisation known as “The Network”, which they must avoid to survive. Using the manuscript, they must uncover the meaning hidden in its pages before the disasters depicted become reality.

Without spoiling it too much for anyone that hasn’t seen it, the fundamental theme relates to the ever increasing world population, how the future demand for planetary resources will exponentially increase and whether via a ‘humane eugenics movement” is something that we could or should put in place to control the population explosion as a way to extend our existience on our little blue dot.

So this is where I get controversial and perhaps hypocritical to my original gambit about ALS and MND. As a human race, we need death. We need death by any means. Should we just treat the symptoms and keep these things around, but make sure that those who have them do not suffer? No matter how you slice it, global population growth at the rate we have seen it over the last 200 years is completely and utterly unsustainable when mapped against projected resource decline. I was frankly amazed by the following statistics relating to world population studies:

  • 35k BC = 3 million
  • 10k BC = 15 million
  • 1400 = 375 million
  • 1804 = 1 billion
  • 1927 = 2 billion  
  • 1959 = 3 billion  
  • 1974 = 4 billion  
  • 1987 = 5 billion  
  • 1999 = 6 billion  
  • 2012 = 7 billion  
  • 2026 = 8 billion  
  • 2042 = 9 billion
  • 2060 = 10 billion

A little over two hundred years ago, there were only one billion homo sapiens on Planet Earth. We have added six billion people to that amount over the last two centuries.

By the year 2060, there will be an estimated ten billion of us on a planet that is very quickly running out of natural resources. So what are we doing about it?. Rather than looking into the mid-term future and concentrating our research efforts into safe, renewable and sustainable energy sources, instead we invent new ways of raping the geological stratas underneath the Earth’s surface as a way to satisfy our immediate need for energy, much to the detriment of the climate and our precious water table.

All this is to satisfy future demand they say as renewable energies cannot satisfy the supply versus demand curve. Those who will be able to afford energy in the future will be able to pay for it, but with advances in automation and an ever increasing demand for energy (from the needs of a ballooning population), those that cannot will be pushed even further away from the “haves” causing an inevitable future class war of epidemic proportions. It seems that our train is heading towards George Orwell’s vision as laid out in 1984, or Kurt Wimmer’s dystopian world as seen in the film Equilibrium, and the brake cables have been severed.

Of my home town during the Toxteth Riots of 1980, Margaret Thatcher (the then Prime Minister in the UK) said that Liverpool as a city was expendable, and that it should be placed under managed decline until (I guess) it either ceased to exist or it became manageable (a truly awful statement said about one of the most historic cities the world has ever known (not always for the right reasons)).

So for me, the Utopia series really does address and ask us a key question of the future, albeit through shocking graphics and a very disturbing storyline. Should we be managing our own decline globally? Should we put in place a humane eugenics movement for the greater good of our offspring to try and kerb global population booms in an effort to avoid wars and the continuing fight for natural resources (in the likes of Iraq) and inevitable plunge into dystopia?

Would it be our place to put in place such a drastic action (taking over the role of the Creator if such a thing exists), and has evolution turned such amazing potential into nothing more than a collective marauding beast which will stop at nothing including it’s own inevitable destruction?

Or do we say fuck it, let’s live the dream whilst we can, because tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999?

My belief is that the inevitable catastrophic decline will happen (via a global war), and that at some point, mankind (if indeed it still exists post-apocalypse, albeit in significantly smaller numbers) will rightfully have no alternative but to turn our future way of life into resource based economies as detailed by The Venus Project, as the value of currency will quite literally not be worth the paper it is printed on.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could change the paradigm into The Venus Project today. I’d move there tomorrow (I mean today)…

Marked for life

I have been planning to, meaning to, get a back tattoo for many, many years. Back in the day when I was into darker arts and influenced by the artwork of H.R Geiger, I was going to get a flying ‘Genestealer’ alien which covered the whole of my back. I did come across the perfect image once, but as it was a photo of someone’s back, it wasn’t clear enough to print, so I never did get it done, and I guess I’m kind of glad of that now.

My experiences over the last 18 months have completely changed my priorities, outlook and well being, and in the main it’s been down to my uptake of yoga, meditation, reiki and soon to be Tai Chi which I begin this Monday. I have also come to recognise that the number seven comes up an awful lot in my life, and I am of the opinion that for some reason something significant will happen to me on or around my imminent forty-second birthday.

In Hinduism and other belief systems, chakras are energy points in the subtle body. They are located at the physical counterparts of the major plexuses of arteries, veins and nerves. Chakras are part of the subtle body, not the physical body, and as such are the meeting points of the subtle (non-physical) energy channels, called nadiis. Nadiis are channels in the subtle body through which the life force (prana), or vital energy moves. Reiki…

There are seven chakras that are considered to be the most important ones. The word chakra derives from the Sanskrit word for “wheel” or “turning”, but in the yogic context a better translation of the word is ‘vortex or whirlpool’. Each of the seven chakras represents a seven year cycle, and at age forty-two, I will reach the sixth cycle of my physical existence.

The Ajna chakra (which is the sixth chakra) is symbolised by a lotus with two petals. It is at this point that the two side nadis Ida (yoga) and Pingala are said to terminate and merge with the central channel Shashuma, signifying the end of duality. The seed syllable for this chakra is the syllable OM.

The Anya chakra is known as the third eye chakra and is linked to the pineal gland which may inform a model of its envisioning. The pineal gland is a light sensitive gland that produces the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep and waking up, and is also postulated to be the production site of the psychedelic dimethyltryptamine, the only known hallucinogen endogenous to the human body.

Ajna’s key issues involve balancing the higher and lower selves and trusting inner guidance. Ajna’s inner aspect relates to the access of intuition. Mentally, Ajna deals with visual consciousness. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level.

In Tibetan Buddhism, this point is actually the end of the central channel, since the central channel rises up from the sexual organ to the crown of the head, and then curves over the head and down to the third eye. While the central channel finishes here, the two side channels continue down to the two nostrils.

I have done a lot of research this year into consciousness studies and more specifically the pineal gland. If this chakra does represent the pineal gland (and associated connections to the super-conscious higher self and subconscious) then maybe it’s no surprise that I am drawing my own esoteric conclusions as to why forty-two is significant for me.

So to mark this event, I have finally landed on the design for my back tattoo (I must get the “down” removed from my lower back):

I have placed a deposit down already and I’m booked in for the 28 June (due to the high demand for the quality services of our local inker) though I will go into the store today to share my design and ask to be put on any cancellation list he has to get it done sooner.

Being inked with each chakra will help my meditation and help my reiki, as each time I cycle through each Solfeggio Frequency, I cycle through each chakra point, I cycle through each tattoo…

Albums of the Year 2013

My albums of the year, countdown style. Was lucky to see Olafur Arnalds, Anoushka Shankar and Nick Harper, and had near misses with Steven Wilson and Arctic Monkeys. The list (which does contain albums penned outside of 2013) has been inspired in the main by my journey into the realms of yoga, meditation and reiki. Namaste:

10 – Clint Mansell (Moon Soundtrack). Former PWEI frontman turned composer, this soundtrack is sadly the best part of the film (which was good until half way through when the plot was revealed 40 mins early). Atmospheric, unlike the moon (or the film)…

09 – Hans Zimmer (Inception Soundtrack). Hans has produced numerous soundtracks for blockbuster films over the last decade, this being the one on the top of the pile for me. Mix that with one of the best films to come out of the last 10 years and you’d be a fool not to have this. Great for triathlon / Spartan training too…

08 – Agnes Obel (Aventine). My second intrusion into the realms of the neo-classicals, this quiet album is easy listening and relaxing and coupled with a soft lyric, is the ideal way to chill out after a day at a cut-throat corporation…

07 – Russill Paul (Shabda Yoga). Highly recommended by my 73 year old yoga master Pam, this one hits the chakras all right. Every time I listen to “Lokah Samastha” I float off to the moon like Neil the Hippy after being handed a particularly ‘heavy’ cigarette by Warlock…

06 – Nick Harper (Harperspace). An old one, but a classic. Went to see Nick again with Ruddock at Telfords in Chester. The album and the man himself live (and his snapping guitar strings) is something that I’ll never tire of…

05 – Arctic Monkeys (Humbug). This album came out when I was in Malaysia and only now have I given it air time. I recall it got a slating at the time it was released, but on my album counter, it is the one that has been played the most this year (behind Anathema’s Weather Systems of course)…

04 – Anoushka Shankar (Traces Of You). Heavy on the yoga, I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see her (and Olafur Arnalds) for ten English pounds in London, and she played 6 tracks from this. The album includes songs with Sting and Nora Jones. Great album for those practicing the Dhalsim yoga flame kick…

03 – Nine Inch Nails (Hesitation Marks). I’d have to say that most NIN albums contain some tracks which are album fodder, but in my opinion this album doesn’t and is the best work since “The Fragile”…

02 – Olafur Arnalds (For Now I Am Winter). Incredible compositions from a rising star on the neo-classical scene. I froze in time when I watched/heard him play at Fabric in London and “Only The Winds” came on. Sublime…

01 – Steven Wilson (The Raven That Refused To Sing). For lovers of Prog Rock this album is a must and my album of the year. If it doesn’t win the award for Progressive Rock Album of the Year 2014, I’ll eat my Slipperman costume…

It’s a long way to be a Spartan, it’s a long way to go…

Somewhat inspired by the blog site of The Urban Spartan (check it out), I have decided to keep a diary of my training in the lead up to my first  (of many hopefully) Spartan Race.

In terms of shape and physical fitness I feel good. I did the 3 Peaks Challenge 2 weekends ago (ascent and descent of The highest mountain in Wales, England and Scotland) in an adjusted time of 24 hours and 2 minutes. I did a fair bit of training on Mofo as we now call it (Moel Famau in North Wales) but they key thing was knocking the ale on the head.

With the exception of my birthday and weekend in Leeds with the missus, I haven’t had more than 3 beers in a single night for over 6 months, with 80% of days being alcohol free. Not that I ever had a drink problem (well as much as the next bloke) but my body feels a lot cleaner for it and I feel more focussed in work. All round, as long as you have the personality and don’t need to get a bit potted to bring out the real you, then best to leave it well alone.

So yesterday, 2 bowls of bran, chicken pasta for dinner. That was it, besides 2 packets of salt n vinegar Discos watching Alien with the eldest. Woke up this morning with a hangover feeling, in my mind down to the salt intake before bed. Mouth feels like crap as well, to quote Withnail ‘my tongue looks like it’s wearing a yellow sock’…

So then, today I’m off to watch my eldest take part in his second MMA tournament in front of the former world champion; and later will start my Spartan training program as it is 3 months to the day before the race. I am also restarting the Bronson Challenge (adding 10 press up each day to the previous days total).

Today:

5km run
50 back extensions
50 sit ups
100 press ups

Thats then plan anyway, just have to sate the nagging wife in the middle…