The Future without a License.

It has been a long journey from the Stone Age till now;  through the  Iron age to Bronze and Steel and Steam and Electricity and we have most certainly arrived at the Information Age.

It’s who we are now.  It’s what we do.  Everywhere people carry their news, information and musical entertainment in pocket devices through which we also make telephone calls.  Electronics has made Gods of us all!   We are nowhere in time and everywhere in space.  One can be talking with someone and their phone will ring (static or mobile) and suddenly physical presence is demoted in favour a of spiritual presence.  We accept it without complaint.   It’s how things are now.

Before these devices that can carry a thousand music albums in a match box, and which we now  take completely for granted, we had tape recorders.  Anyone remember those?

The first recorder was a wire recorder, which first saw the light of day in 1898.  A reel of steel wire was run past an electro-magnetic head and the variances in the magnetised wire could be re-run past the same head to retrieve the information (sounds) stored on a reel of what looked like fishing wire. Telegraphone_wire_recorder_1922 After 40 years the wire recorder was replaced by the far more efficient Tape recorder.  These machines enabled the music industry to flourish and revolutionised broadcasting.    Like all these inventions, they found their way into the domestic market.  But they were cumbersome and large and didn’t really revolutionise people’s lives.   Then in the `1960s, with the recent birth of the transistor  – small and portability was what the population wanted.  Transistor radios were everywhere.  From the bathroom to the beach, people took their music stations with them.  Tape recorders soon followed.

The idea was to bring the big reels of recording tape into a small plastic box.   For about 5 years there was a kind of “Tape War”   After many designs it came down to the 8 track indextape1cartridge verses the Compact Cassette or Cassette Tape.  There were some other designs but they did not progress beyond proto-types.    Various large corporations wanted to get a standard box tape agreed on,  so that manufacture of the tape recorders/ players could begin, whilst at the same time wanting to be the company that gets to license their generic design, 8 track or Compact Cassette.  The original designer of the Compact Cassette was Dutch Company Phillips.  One day they made an astonishing decision – they gave to the world freedom to use their design, without paying any fees or royalties.  Suddenly, the log-jam cleared and within what seemed months; cassette

beach

When the transistor was sexy.

recorders were everywhere.   For the first time people could make their own record compilations, and take it with them.

Then Sony introduced the “Walkman” and the rest is History.

The same thing happened with the video recorder.  People wanted to record TV.  They wanted to film their own lives and watch it all again later.  Another system war was raging, with it all coming down to a choice between Betamax and the slightly inferior VHS.    It wasn’t until JVC (Japanese Victor Company) gave free license to manufacturers that VHS became, overnight, the established system of domestic video recording.

Had both Philips and JVC doggedly clung to their ownership of a technological advance, then who knows where we’d be now.

In 1991 another technological advance happened that has transformed how information is accessed.

Twenty-five years ago today, Tim Berners-Lee posted the first web page on line.  Rudimentary and uninteresting, insignificant to the untrained eye, this web page has changed human history.

 

tim

Tim Berners-Lee before he knew he needed Google.Maps.

An early version of the internet was already established.  I remember sitting at a computer terminal and dialing up and connecting to a University in the USA and was able to access some of their research documents.   I can’t remember why I did this, but I do recall it being a slow painful experience.  I would get lost in all the lists of directories and sub directories, looking for a document I wanted.

Tim Berners-Lee devised a software architecture that took all these directories and internet addresses and absorbed them into what became known as a Web Page.  The web page did all that work for you and presented the destinations on the internet in a completely transparent and standard way.  Every document had an electronic address.   It involved a very sophisticated protocol called “Hypertext” which I can’t possibly go into at this time of night.  Enough to say, it was very clever and in techincal terms put the horse and the cart together.

Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN at the time as he was struggling to establish a usable front end environment  to interrogate the growing number of documents available on line.    He was allowed to develop his project by CERN bosses when others he had approached were not interested.      (Always remember Decca Records turned down the Beatles)

CERN (Centre Européan de Recherche Nucléaire) the Swiss-based European research organization, which today is home to the Large Hadron Collider, recognized the potential

www

The first Web Page – realy boring but held the key to the future.

 

of Berners-Lee’s ideas and released the entire package free to anyone who wanted to develop it further.  The CERN organization was a not for profit body charged with the task of promoting scientific research and development.  Had he worked for IBM or British Aerospace, his ideas would have been proprietorial and therefore the property of his employer and subject to potential monetisation.

But Tim Berners-Lee worked for CERN and without charge to the users –  for ever, the World Wide Web was born.

Thank you Tim.  Thank you CERN.

 

 

 

 

Posted in engineering, Entertainment, History, techology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Black life that Mattered

ali

I don’t care for boxing, never have.  But like most of the world, I do have a high regard for probably the greatest fighter of them all, the late Mohammad Ali.  He won 52 of 64 fights in his career.  He won The World Heavy Weight Champion title 3 times.  He once said of boxing that it was a sport where “a lot of White men watching two black men beat each other up”

Many mourn him today as great fighter, but most will do so because of his stand on Human Rights and Racial Equality.  When he won his first Championship title in 1964 racial segregation in the south was still at full tilt.  He could walk the world’s stage but not into a bar in the south.

Outside the ring his greatest fight was his refusal to be drafted into the US army that wanted to send him to Vietnam to fight what he called a “white man’s War”

He answered his call-up and attended the induction Centre, and when his name was arrestcalled he stood still and refused to step up to the table.   He was warned that he would be arrested if he continued to stand there.  His name was called again, he stood stock still.  Ali didn’t run to Canada, he just stood his ground. He was warned that he was committing a felony.  For a third time they called him to the table and he didn’t move.

He was arrested, charged and convicted.   He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of five years in jail and $10,000.00 fine.  He was stripped of his world champion title and banned for 3 years by the American Boxing board from fighting.

Muhammad-Ali-Newspaper

 

Ali appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won, unanimously, and was released from prison.

This what he had to say about that decision that set the tone for the rest of his life’s work.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.

But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…

If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Best Oscar Picture ever Taken

Social media, the press and the whole damn internet is awash with pictures on the subject of the Oscars.  They are mostly, always the same picture, only reinhabited by different players from last year, and the years before that.  There are the official ones: Recipients holding the Oscar statues like golf trophies, then there are the candid chating amongst themselves images that are like shooting fish in a barrel type photography.  Point a camera at a Hollywood party, you can’t miss.  But  every now and then there is a considered, imaginative, intimate portrait of an Oscar Winner.  There are not many taken like this in the few days of the Oscars,  probably it’s a matter of access.  Security is so tight that almost no one can speak to anyone without a special pass.

When I think about the Oscars, my mind oftens turns to a picture taken in 1971 of Faye Dunaway taking breakfast at the Bevelly Hills Hotel in the early the morning after she received the Oscar for her role in Network.  Her co-star Peter Finch was awarded a pothumous Oscar for the same film.

London Photographer Terry O’niell asked Faye if he could do her picture; he wanted to capture that one moment, never to come again, when someone has suddenly been elevated to the heights of her proffession.    He shot many frames, but he couldn’t quite find it through the lens, but then he suddenly  got it.   That look of exhausted happiness, the smell of the early dawn, the dizzy head, oh – what a night it must have been!   This is something so personal that we rarely get to see.

faye

About five years after this picture was taken O’Niell and Dunnaway married, but it only lasted three years and with one child, they divorced.  In recent interview with the Guardian Terry said this about the picture.  “She isn’t sure quite who she is any more. I waited for her to look away from the camera, and I got the shot. I look at this picture often, and I’m still so proud of it. It’s still the best Oscar picture ever taken. And modern photographers should take that as a challenge.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

In other’s foot steps.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lou Tsu.

One hundred years after Imperial Edwardian Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s fatal expedition to walk across Antarctica, coast to coast, Henry Worsley – an ex- British Army officer died in his solo attempt to replicate and complete Shackleton’s adventure.

explorer_2641456b

Ernest Shackleton and his doomed ship the Endurance.

At the turn of the last century the British Empire had touched every corner of the world but Shackleton, Captain Scott and many other Edwardian explorers wanted to expand that reach across Antarctica. In 1911 Royal Navy Captain Robert Falcon Scott failed in his attempt to be the first man to reach the South Pole, beaten to the goal by Norwegian Roald Amundsen. It was a devastating blow for Scott,  seeing the Norwegian Flag standing proud and flapping at the Southern axis of the planet.

In disastrous weather conditions Scott and his team began the return journey only to

Scottgroup

Scott and his team stand proudly but disappointed beside the Norwegian Flag at the South Pole.

perish on the icey wastes of the uncharted continent. One of the team, Lawrence Oats, suffering from gangrene, left their tent, without his boots, and in just his socks walked to certain death in a blizzard of minus 40 degrees.

This he did not to be a burden on the rest of the team. Stepping through the tent flap he famously remarked “…..I am going out now, I may be some time” and was never seen again.

In British mythology, Shackleton was always outshone by “Scott of the Antarctic” and by Oats’s act of self-sacrifice, but he was an heroic man, who through sheer determination and bravery, managed to save many of his men trapped on the ice when they all became Job-Description-Ernest-Shackletonstranded with little food by pack ice just short of their attempt to traverse the continent from coast to coast.  Their ship had been crushed by floating pack ice, and they huddled in their poorly supplied tents hoping the weather would improve.     Shackleton took two men and rowed across the perilous South Atlantic in an open-top boat to the settlement of South Georgia on the Falklands Islands and brought help back to his team. He died shortly afterwards of a heart attack and was buried on South Georgia.

Henry Worsley wanted to complete the unfinished expedition of his Hero Ernest Shackleton by walking across the entire continent, via the South Pole. Like Scott and Shackleton, Henry was a military man; serving as Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets. He became the “first man into Helmand” when in

worsley

Lieutenant Colonel Alastair Edward Worsley

2006 he went without body armour to meet Imams and Elders before the arrival of the UK task force in Afghanistan. He had covered 913 miles over 71 days on his own, when just 30 miles short of his goal, he had to call for help after succumbing to exhaustion and severe dehydration. His secondary goal was to raise £100,000 for a charity caring for Army veterans. He is continuing to surparse that target.

Worsley enjoyed all the modern aides of navigation and communication, the latest in protective clothing.   Reaching out to his supporters through Facebook, Twitter and live streaming to the internet. He uploaded a daily audio diary of his extraordinary solo journey. In his last broadcast, sent from Antarctica, he told supporters: “When my hero, Ernest Shackleton, was 97 miles from the South Pole on the morning of January the 9th 1909, he said he’d shot his bolt.

Well, today I have to inform you with some sadness that I too have shot my bolt.” He described how he could no longer push one ski in front of the other. “My summit is just out of reach.”

11-henry-worsley

A Worsley selfie alone on the Ice

He radioed for help and was airlifted to a hospital in Chile where he died. Run down and exhausted he had contracted internal infections that overwhelmed his immune system.

A sad end to a remarkable life.

Whilst Shackleton was attempting his trans-continental trek, WW1 was in full swing. Likewise, during Worsley’s seventy-one days on the tundra another war was, and is, raging in Syria and as a consequence there were so many others who walked nearly a thousand miles.

Syrian and Iraqi refugees, have in their thousands, made that great walk, not out of choice

syria-refugees-journey-through-europe

Syrian Refugees walking a thousand miles.

or of adventure, but to escape the ravages of war, persecution, terrorism and barbarism.

True – the environment along the way was kinder to them, but still there were huge and challenging hazards on the journey. Handing their meagre savings over to people traffickers pimping over-filled and unsound boats then razor wire, transit camps, political tensions rapidly alternating between welcome and hostility; when all they wanted to do was to find refuge from the violent storm rampaging their beloved homelands.  Like so many berfore them, they have become part of that ebb and flow of displaced people walking in the foot steps of others before them.

refugees-623651One thousand miles they have travelled, enough to cross the Antarctic continent. But they have not reached their summit.   Stuck in a kind of limbo, their futures are at the mercy of the political environment they find themselves in. The milk of human kindness pouring out of Europe is now drying up.  Who together with the Near and Middle East is no stranger to mass displacement of people, but the European Union has, it seems, “shot it’s bolt” and is in danger of coming apart at the seams as many member states retreat from the problem behind their borders edged by razor wire.

These reluctant refugee explorers of the unknown may not know the outcome of their expeditions for a long, long time to come. Perhaps it will be the children who will eventually finish their family’s journey.

Will they ever be able to go home?      Who knows?     But in the meanwhile; we in Europe  must give them shelter from the storm.

It may be some time.

BYLINE ADDITION-TURKEY-GREECE-EUROPE-MIGRANTS

GRAPHIC CONTENT A Turkish police officer stands next to a migrant child’s dead body off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015 after a boat carrying refugees sank while reaching the Greek island of Kos. Thousands of refugees and migrants arrived in Athens on September 2, as Greek ministers held talks on the crisis, with Europe struggling to cope with the huge influx fleeing war and repression in the Middle East and Africa. AFP PHOTO / Nilufer Demir / DOGAN NEWS AGENCY = TURKEY OUT =

 

Posted in antarctic, Greece, History, Politics, Scott, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

We’ll always have Paris

paris1

It was just over a week ago, just about this time of the evening that I got a call from my daughter. I didn’t answer it – being in a cinema at the time. Back in the car, the lights, the engine, the fan and the radio all burst into life. What dominated was the radio conveying live coverage from Paris under siege. My daughter was in Paris on a university trip.
I picked up the phone and immediately I did what to the people of the last 4000 years would barely comprehend, I pushed a button, redial, to speak with her almost instantly.
Only I couldn’t. It went straight to voicemail.
Well now, the imagination was racing. I pictured a petrified daughter laying on the floor of a café or hiding in a music venue trying to ring home and getting no answer.

I tried again, and again – just voicemail. All the phone stories of 9/11 made from offices above and below the impact points in the Towers came gushing up. Those treasured voicemails. The calls that got through – pledging eternal devotions to one another. Heart breaking moments that will never fade for those involved. The engine of the imagination will go where it will.

Then another push of the button on the phone, and suddenly there she was. Everything was fine, she and her friends, although near the action, knew little of what was going on even though they were a mere few streets away. They were at their hotel. Their lecturer had insisted that no one go out – even for a smoke at the hotel entrance. Throughout the conversation, there were sirens in the background. Having no internet they knew little of what was really happening.

Over the next couple of hours, I kept her up to date with what we knew from TV, Radio and the Internet. I even told her to make sure they all knew where their passports were, their money and please make yourselves aware of the Hotel fire exits. This thing wasn’t over.

Next morning, the University had decided to cut short their visit, and bring them home immediately. The students had a mixture of relief and disappointment. There was nothing open. The city had become a ghost town on the Saturday anyway. Better to withdraw. Time to go.

The next call I got from daughter was that she was on the ferry in high seas off the coast of England and they couldn’t dock. I was tempted to say “make sure you know where the lifejackets are and the location of the lifeboats”. But I didn’t. Even though I knew she was on a car ferry with bow doors that can open out onto the wide sea. Two inches of water on the car deck, slopping from one side to the other can capsize a ship with the sheer weight of water. And they are in a huge swell that they cannot make harbour.

Is there no end to the worry for a parent?

On the Saturday the world’s media reported the mechanics of the siege and the shoot-outs and endless speculation about who, what, where and why. Knowing that my daughter and her friends were fine, and being a news junkie I lapped it all up with the usual detachment. Yet feeling the chill of the awful events that had unfolded.

Then Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the news and speculation, exhausted with its own over saturation was replaced by the human stories. The private grief made public. These names and faces and stories emerged and broke our hearts. The husband who wrote a letter to the killers of his wife, denying them the satisfaction of hating them. The father on camera assuring his little son that the white flowers and candles would protect them from danger. There were countless reports of those who escaped or foiled the gunmen. So many stories.

But suppose I had continually hit that redial button on my phone and it was never, ever answered again? I can’t even to begin to imagine that pain.

In the way that all politics is local; all history is personal.

oooOOOooo

 Here is a video of Journalist Andrew Neil opening his weekly light hearted BBC magazine programme looking at the past week’s politics. I think he nailed it!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

It’s immortality Jim, but not as we know it!

He will probably go down in history as the first Alien Being to die on Earth. History will forget that he was just a fictional character masquerading as an actor.

When Star Trek hit the world’s TV screens it did so at just the right moment. The Western World was enthralled with the burgeoning exploration of space and the Starship Enterprise with Captain Kirk at the helm speeded up the experience as it took us on a short cut from Low Earth Orbit to Galaxy-wide Peace Keeping. We were hungry and couldn’t wait for NASA.

As Kirk forever starred past the viewer’s eye-line at another crisis unfolding on the big screen on the bridge of theSpock_(prime_reality)

Enterprise, his right hand man, (or Vulcan) would be there with logical advice that always confounded the Captain’s emotional reasoning. Despite Kirk’s lofty speeches embracing all races of the Galaxy, we all knew that the Enterprise patrolled an American Galaxy. This was the world that America found itself in – writ large. Spock was always there, a gentle hand on the tiller staying the illogical excesses of Kirk as he carries out his awesome task of bringing stability to the federation.

Spock once remarked “Interesting. You Earth people glorify organized violence for 40 centuries, but you imprison those who employ it privately.

Spock was cool. Like so many, we all drank the Kool-Aid.

But of course, it was just a television show, a make believe with characters played by actors. (“just a television show? What do you mean, just a television show…” shrieks a trekkie off camera)    By the time William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy finished shooting the Star Trek TV Shows in 1971 they had become trapped forever inside the skins of their characters. Be honest – whenever you see Shatner acting in a movie or on TV it’s impossible to not see James T Kirk.

In 1975 Nimoy wrote an autobiography called “I am not Spock” This was his bid to distance himself from his avatar. It didn’t matter how many times he said it, no one believed him. But Nimoy had a special place in the hearts of Fans. Over the years that appreciation became almost cult like in character. It is said that Star Trek is responsible to for prolonging virginity for many thousands of people.

1199513-kirkOver the next 20 years Nimoy concentrated on his poetry and photography and he trod the boards in the theatres of Boston and New York. But there was no escape and over the years he began to embrace Spock as his alter ego.

In 1995 he wrote a second edition of his autobiography “I am Spock” in which he celebrated the character and his values. Nimoy, like Spock was deeply philosophical and yearned for a more logical and reasoned approach to the world’s problems. Therein lies Leonard Nimoy’s reluctant stab at immortality, even if he is just a slim pencil mark on the chart of human development. In it he wrote: “I am not Spock. But given the choice, if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock

William Shatner on the other hand, has a slightly different view of his legacy. “I am not a Starfleet commander, or T.J. Hooker. I don’t live on Starship NCC-1701, or own a phaser. And I don`t know anybody named Bones, Sulu, or Spock. And no, I’ve never had green alien sex, though I’m sure it would be quite an evening. I speak English and French, not Klingon! I drink Labatt’s, not Romulan ale! And when someone says to me ‘Live long and prosper’, I seriously mean it when I say, ‘Get a life’. My doctor’s name is not McCoy, it’s Ginsberg. And when I speak, I never, ever talk like every. Word. Is. Its. Own. Sentence. I live in California, but I was raised in Montreal. And yes, I’ve gone where no man has gone before, but I was in Mexico and her father gave me permission!

Posted in Entertainment, scifi, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“SO ENDS THE BLOODY BUSINESS OF THE DAY” – Homer

jesuisecharlie

“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but,

most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.” Albert Camus

B6xBxMlCYAATFkF

The staff of AFP News agency, Paris

B6xJ-JcCMAEt7BD

These cartoons should be on the front page of every newspaper and magazine in the world tomorrow morning

charlie

The barbarians could never garner such a crowd in support of what they have done today

proxy

Warning: Dangerous weapon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Complications

The world’s most expensive pocket watch recently went on sale at auction in Genève. The 80 year old time piece commissioned by New York Financier Henry Graves, one of the greatest watch collectors of the 20th century. Graves Pocket Watch was listed at a starting price of $15.6m. At the time it was made in 1930 this watch cost its maker today’s equivalent of a quarter of million dollars.

The 18 karat Gold time piece was Swiss watch makers Patek Philippe’s Mona Lisa of Horology; not only did it convey the time, it did so in two different time zones; it could measure Sunrise and Sunset throughout the year, alongside a perpetual calendar, displaying the phases of the Moon it would chime out the hours, the quarter and half hours in the The-Henry-Graves-Supercomplicationsame melody as London’s Big Ben. Its crowning glory however, is the celestial chart that accurately plotted the night’s sky above Henry Graves’s apartment on 5th Avenue NYC.

It was described by the auctioneers Sotherbys as the “Holy Grail” of watches. But why? Although it fetched far more than the asking price, it was still just a watch. Well, for the first 50 years of its life it was the most complicated watch in the world, later surpassed by technicians aided by computers and modern technology. In fact, it is still the most complicated handmade watch ever. Tin Bourne, Sotherby’s head of watches said after the auction that fetched up $24m “This evenings’ Stella results confirms the “Rock Star” status of the Henry Graves Supercomplication, a masterpiece which transcends the boundaries of horology and has earned its place among the world’s greatest works of art”

It told the time.

Any watch maker will tell you that a time piece should just keep time and all these deviations of functions are a “complication”. The Henry Graves watch had 24 of them – a huge distraction for an Horologist. The more complications in watch2a watch, the more difficult it is to design, machine, assemble, and repair. A typical date-display chronograph may have up to 250 parts, while the Graves Watch has 920 components. Which explains why it took three years to design and assemble.

The Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 is actually the world’s most complicated time piece, although not a pocket but a wristwatch. It has 36 complications, 25 of them visible, 1483 components and 1000-year calendar, but its design and manufacture was computer aided and relied on laser technology. When this watch is allowed to stop, the owner is unqualified to accurately to get it reset and started again with all the complications in concert.

In these days of Android and Apple watches that have instant and direct access to a huge amount of human knowledge, sidereal or otherwise, and that can inform us of our bodily conditions of heart rate, body mass, oxygen level, exercise spent or required the one function of the watch can be forgotten. Time passing.

It reminds me of us. People.

We too have complications. Our complications, just as with the time piece, detract from the main purpose. What that purpose is, I wouldn’t presume to say. But life is made much harder by the bothersome bits of baggage we carry round; be it jealousy or anger, racism or distrust of those who are different, a bloated sense of self-importance or a debilitating lack of esteem. There is an inexhaustible list of impediments that can complicate our passage through time. Those passing seconds, denoted by the soft click of the second hand as it glides round the face on the watch soon add up to a lifetime.
Here’s a poem by Edwin Brock

A Moment of Respect.

Two things I remember about my grandfather:
his threadbare trousers, and the way he adjusted
his half-hunter watch two minutes every day.

When I asked him why he needed to know the time so
exactly, he said a business man could lose a fortune
by being two minutes late for an appointment.

When he died he left two meerschaum pipes
and a golden sovereign on a chain. Somebody
threw the meerschaum pipes away, and
there was an argument about the sovereign.

On the day of his burial the church clock chimed
as he was lowered down into the clay, and all
the family advanced their watches by two minutes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Stepping Forward From Jaipur

I have taken a step sideways from usual (long winded) story telling and bring to my reader’s attention a project that is in urgent need of some support.

Ask any Hollywood Producer and he will confirm the age old dictum of “never put your own money into a film”  well, a film maker friend of mine, Christine Booth has done just that.  For the past five years she has been traveling from the UK to India at her own expense to film the work of a very special clinic in Jaipur.  She began a “kick starter” campaign to secure the final funds needed to do all the post production on her remarkable documentary, adding the music, recording a voice over, colour adjustments and grading etc.

The Story:

Forty five years ago in Rajasthan, a young Indian Government officer, Devendra Raj Mehta, suffered a near-fatal car crash. Among other injuries, his left leg had been broken in 43 places – and it was only the skill of his surgeons that saved it from boothbeing amputated. As he recovered, his gratitude made him think about the many people who aren’t as fortunate – and he vowed to someday help them. Just five years later, he founded the BMVSS, to give artificial limbs free of charge to anyone who needs one,  and to help restore dignity and self-esteem to people who would otherwise be forgotten by society. So far, it’s helped to transform the lives of over a million amputees all over the world.

Please visit her Kick starter page to see the full story.  If you can contribute or at least redistribute the page that would be a great help.

http://tinyurl.com/me4dhd7

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Unfinished Business

.
It may be me. Perhaps I am getting older and the policemen younger, but wars seem to be lasting a lot longer these days.
A century ago this month, the armies of many nations across Europe marched off to war all expecting to be home by Christmas. Four years later, what was left of them, crawled, limped and stumbled back home.

Of course, it had been the war “to end all wars” but unbeknown to most people the treaties and settlements made at the end battle-of-the-sommeof that conflict laid the seeds for the next World War and most of the ailments of the Middle East that we see today.

So now the jets are in the air again over Iraq, this time to hold back the advance of a bunch of maroarding savages that are rampaging across a country, itself an invention of the First World War; rushing into a political vacuum created by one of the longest and most idiotic conflicts this century. A conflict started by buffoonery and arrogance, based on lies, misinformation and vested interests much like the first Great War.

When George W Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on a war ship in the Persian gulf, he was merely announcing ag-cvr-080501-mission-10a.grid-6x2 tea-break, because the Iraq war will be rumbling on for some years yet.

There have been about 48 significant wars fought in the last century that have dragged on too long; there was the Vietnam war at 9 years, the Israeli – Palestinian conflict 63 years, the Afghan Civil war at 13 years and lest not forget the Cold War that lasted 45 long desolate years. We won’t even mention the war on drugs or Terrorism.

If you have to have wars, and many people believe that you do, then can’t we make them quick ones? It is possible. It’s been done before. I don’t mean the Six Day war between Israel and Egypt, Syria & Jordan.

No!    It was the Anglo- Zanzibar War, a fight between the British and the Sultanate of Zanzibar that broke out on the morning of the 27th August 1896. Zanzibar is a small island nation off the East coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean and strategically of importance to the British Empire..

The immediate cause of the war was the death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896 and the subsequent succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash. The British authorities preferred Hamud bin Muhammed, who was

Sultan Hamud bin Muhammed

Sultan Hamud bin Muhammed

more favorable to British interests, as sultan. In accordance with a treaty singed 10 years earlier, (I hope you are keeping up with this) a condition for accession to the sultanate was that the contender obtain the permission of the British consul, something that Khalid had failed to do.

The British delivered an ultimatum to the Sultan’s Palace – stand aside in favour of Hamud bin Muhammed or face the consequences. The ultimatum expired at 09.00 that morning, and it was clear that a state of war existed; Khalid bin Barghash had hunkered down in his Palace with his Palace Guard and several hundred servants and slaves armed with a couple of machine guns and a canon, two Dow boats and a Royal Yacht.

The Sultan's Palace after 40 minutes of war

The Sultan’s Palace after 40 minutes of war

At 09.04 the British began their assault on the Palace, they fired from two navy vessels in the harbour and immediately disabled the Sultan’s guns, and sunk the Royal Yacht, then the British land forces did the rest. At 09.40 the shortest war in history was over, the Sultan Barghash was granted safe passage to German East Africa, and by lunchtime the Sultan Hamud bin Muhammed was installed in the ruins of the Palace.

As far as I can research, our two countries have been friends ever since. That is my preferred kind of war. There was no “unfinished business” afterwards, no historical fault lines left in the sand that would, in the late 20th century, come back to haunt us.    Goodness knows, we are dealing with enough of those fault lines recently and probably will be for years to come. So it is comforting that know that one bit of that unfinished business was finally taken care of this week.

There’s nothing more British than the sound of “Leather on Willow” as cricket is being played in the month of August on the village green.

It is Sunday August 3rd 1914. The Lee Cricket Club are playing the local Manor House Team from nearby Missendon. But just as it looked like the game was to reach it’s conclusion, typically for an English summers’ day, the clouds appeared from nowhere and rain stopped play. Manor House Captain Ivor Stewart-Liberty, son of Sir Arthur Liberty, founder of Liberty’s of London and opposing Captain, fast bowler Albert Phillips, swore that they would finish the match at the next opportunity.

The following day Britain declared war on Germany and all concerns about unfinished cricket matches were quickly extinguished.Cricket_Ground,_Harborne
Neither man returned from the war. Along with 30 other people from that small English village they perished in the trenches..

Then as now, cricket had its superstars and the David Beckham of the early 20th century was W.C.Grace, considered the greatest cricketer of all time. He availed himself to the War Office to help in the urgent recruitment drive for volunteers to replace the fallen in the trenches.

He appealed to the cricketers of the nation and they joined up in droves, many never to return. He wrote in the Sportsman newspaper “The time has arrived when the county cricket season should be closed,” he wrote. “It is not fitting at a time like this that able-bodied men should be playing day after day, and pleasure seekers look on.    There are so many who are young and able, and still hanging back.

G W Grace

G W Grace

I should like to see all first-class cricketers of suitable age set a good example, and come to the aid of their country without delay in its hour of need.”

The unfinished business was concluded last week when the two crickets teams, Manor House and Lee Cricket Club played out the unfinished game from 100 years ago. I wont bother you with the score, as it is completely unfathomable to me what the numbers mean.

Again under the threat of rain stopping play in the impending wake of the remnants of Hurricane Bertha that hit our shores, a truncated game was played. Liz Stewart-Liberty, who married Ivor’s son Arthur and is the Club’s life president, read a couple of poems at lunch. Teenage club members read out the names of those lost to the village and a one minute’s silence was held followed by the last post.

If only all the unfinished business from a century ago could be so easily dispatched what a better world this would be.

Posted in History, Politics, Uncategorized, War & Peace | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments