Writings and works of James Woods...
Last night was Ignite Liverpool at Liverpool Guild of Students. It was a brilliant and fun night consisting of moon walking, serious cubers and a homeopathy overdose. I’m sure the videos of each talk will be online soon.
Thanks to Ignite Liverpool for having me to speak. For more information on ignite visit the website by clicking here. Consider supporting, giving a talk and attending a future event!
Everyone is skeptical of magical mind controlling wizards like Darren Brown, me included. I don’t normally watch his shows, but I got caught up watching part one of his latest experiment ‘Apocalypse’ which was aired on Channel 4 last week.
Ahead of part 2 this evening an article on The Daily Mash appeared reporting that there are claims that the audience Brown used for his latest trick was fake and consisted of actors. Right or wrong, is that really the point?
I watched the repeat of part one on Sunday night, It was amazing. I really enjoyed it, It freaked me out slightly but it was great artwork. While it’s understandable that people would look to find conspiracies and irregularities in something they believe is trickery, people claiming it’s all ‘fake’ are just ruining it for everyone else. So what if it is fake? It’s art… If I draw a mystical creature from my mind and it’s no a real living thing does that discount my drawing as artwork in anyway? No.
It’s very interesting in psychological and sociological ways and that’s something I can endorse and enjoy. But please, if you are a critic and fancy painting over the Picasso wait until part 2 is done with! While I am open to theories of hoax and conspiracy, this is a genuine form of art that will be enjoyed by many regardless of how it is created and conveyed.
Brown recently took to twitter to debunk his critics claiming, “I NEVER EVER use a fake audience. That’s why my houses are so enormous.” (Fair play Derren) he also released this video to offer out some proof against any falsities within the show.
So whatever the show achieves or proves or otherwise, I’m sure will come to light this evening when part 2 plays out – which I am very excited about and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
Economic pressures have been heavy on the majority of the population since 2008. As the uncertainty of the countries finances unfolds, austerity measure are taking hold, effecting vital public services and charities implemented by the current Tory led coalition government. Once again the farming community have fallen into the newspapers. The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution is raising serious concerns about the welfare of farming families in Britain this year, comparing the level of the current crisis to the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001.
A recent report published by the charity Oxfam revealed that hill farmers work on average 80 hours a week, over double that of the average full time worker. The report also revealed that many farming families find themselves living below the poverty line here in the UK. The report claims that upland farmers earn between £12,600 and £8,000 a year, while the official income figure for a single working adult is £19,820 per year, this is to cover their needs living in a village. Both Oxfam and the RABI have also reported that farmers are turning to feeding their livestock before feeding themselves and heating their homes. It’s a striking but at the same time unsurprising factor however the welfare levels of farmers in a ‘wealthy’ country such as the UK are shocking and unnecessary.
The farming community also find themselves in an ongoing battle with the supermarkets and dairy owners over the price of milk as the farmers report that they are forced to produce milk at a loss. Just at the weekend we witnessed a 300 strong blockade of farmers standing against the multinational dairy product company Muller in regards to this very problem. This year has also brought adverse and unpredictable weather conditions with a particularly wet summer causing a poor harvest for many crops including pumpkins, causing additional stress. The RABI has reported a 50% increase in calls to its helpline this year and it is now dealing with 2 emergency calls a day. I feel it’s a very concerning pattern that is emerging amongst people seeking help for a number of reasons in recent times.
The agricultural industry that shaped and fed the British Isle for centuries is in continued decline due to a whole host of reasons including economic and climate related struggles as well as the rise of factory farms, nationally and globally. Little help and support from the government leaves hardworking farmers struggling to support themselves and their families sinking below the poverty line. In 2010 1 in 4 farmers found themselves stranded in this position. The issues around farming in the 21st century appear to be escalating and debates on the matter and potential solutions and support are clearly well overdue.
Contrary to popular belief the farming lifestyle isn’t all range rovers and stately homes. It’s long hard days work, balancing bills and tending to livestock and crops against the odds of climate and disease. Howard Scorer a retired farm trader told the BBC It’s so embarrassing looking for help.’ explaining that ‘because you’ve never looked for help, you don’t know where to look’. So how do we support farmers is Britain? It’s a very tough question and while many of the population face economic hardship and the supermarkets can get away with paying farmers less than, often the bare minimum I don’t see what direct action we can take to help. The ball is in the governments court and I believe it’s their duty to ensure this pandemic of problems is cured and quickly.
I would urge you to comment with your views and how you think this problem should be tackled.
Last minute preparations and practice for tomorrows talk at Ignite Liverpool. All the details are available here. You can also check out who else is talking and what about here. Finally you can grab a ticket for either the event or the live stream online for free here.
Hope to see you there. Follow me on twitter for updates tomorrow night!
So the super storm that is named Hurricane Sandy is reeking havoc on the East Coast of the America as we speak. I woke up to find The Huffington Post website down and out due to Sandy’s shenanigans… so following the lead of Tech Editor @michaelrundle… I decided, to brighten everyone’s day I’d put the home page in print.
You can my amazing rendition in full by clicking here.
A book called ‘Real England: The Battle Against the Bland’ by Paul Kingsnorth was my main read over summer. It’s a look at how ‘globalisation’ affects England specifically. He travels around the nation looking at pubs, canals, shops, farms and much more. It was published in 2009 and reading it three years later when the issues highlighted just seem to have escalated was very interesting. The book made quite the impact, even David Cameron has quoted it during a speech or two!
Today a rarity has occurred. The large coffee chain Costa has pulled out of opening up a joint in the small town of Totnes in Devon. Even though planning was approved, Costa Coffee has given its full attention to the 5,000 signatures on the petition that opposes then opening. Totnes prides itself upon its independent retailers and services and its citizens are standing their ground on the matter.
While it’s important to note Costa is one of the more reasonable and responsible big businesses out there, it’s also vital to highlight that in Devon alone Costa already boasts 19 stores. On the brighter side it employs 200 people and sources local produce. Regardless, any large chain is a substantial threat to the local and independent retailer.
While Totnes is lucky to have fended off Costa so easily it should hope that Tesco doesn’t decide to feast upon it because I don’t think they’ll have as much luck fending off that juggernaut. The independent businesses, whilst becoming more and more rare in our high streets, are the glue that drives communities all over England and beyond.
I think if we can continue to fight and support out smaller independent traders we will have a brighter future ahead of us in regards to food production, the local economy and a renewed sense of community.
I will be speaking about Nuclear Weapons at Ignite Liverpool which is taking place at Liverpool Guild of Students on Mount Pleasant in the center of town. There is a whole host of speakers lined up for the evening of Thursday 1st November, I am particularly looking forward to hearing about ‘Moonwalkers are old or dead, what happened to human space exploration’ and ‘The importance of student media’ the full line up is online now.
It’s happening this coming Thursday at LGoS in Liverpool, it’s free, doors will open at 6pm followed by the talks from 6.45pm and things will finish up at 11pm. If you are local, come along… if you can’t make tune in to the live stream - free tickets and information for both are available here. I finished my presentation today, just got to practice and perfect it now…
Hope to see you there!
After a suspiciously quiet summer from Nick Griffin MEP it seems his controversial and in my opinion ridiculous musings on Twitter last week has landed him firmly back in the headlines, as he vented his animosity toward the gay couple who won a court battle against a Christian bed & breakfast owner who denied them a stay in a room with a double bed due to her beliefs. Shortly after Nick Griffin caused outrage on the social network he found his account to be suspended although he claimed to be a massive technophobe and had no idea what was going on, but I’m sure he got the message loud and clear. Then came his statement.
Griffin, a member of the European Parliament, now subject to a police investigation into his twitter games - where he published the address of the gay couple and called for protest - has expressed his view that everyone has the “right to discriminate” and that the couple had “abused the system to persecute” he insisted in the statement that followed. While in the UK we are lucky enough to have the right to free speech, there is not such right to “discriminate” and Nick Griffins party, the British National Party, have come under fire from all directions over the years for doing just that, discriminating.
While the line between free speech and free discrimination and hatred can be a very fine line and since the rise of social media that line has become blurred for many resulting in arrests and sentences for status updates targeting celebrities or sensitive issues. But I think with common sense, while the context online can be hard to distinguish you can identify free speech from discrimination and hatred and they certainly are not free. While the couple at the end of Griffin’s outburst bravely push the MEPs comments and call for action aside it still constitutes to a worrying trend of ‘free speech’ that is packed with discrimination.
While arguably parts of Nick Griffin’s tweets echoed the sound of lines from newspapers such as The Daily Mail and The Express he still passed out the address of the targeted couple and encouraged action which could of resulted in anything happening. For a person is position of power, representing the UK in Europe his actions on twitter were fundamentally inappropriate and is a further cause for concern when it comes to his place in power, his party the BNP and his ease on the topic of discrimination.
Overall, while I support the right to free speech and feel that should be protected from the street to the World Wide Web, I believe we have no right to discriminate against anyone for any matter, especially when it can effect the discriminated and inflame stereotypes further, which only holds back the positive progression of society and humanity. It remains to seen if Nick Griffin will be allowed to return to Twitter or face action from the police but I’m sure it won’t be the last time he feels the need to freely express his discriminatory views.
This weekend, 8 million people reportedly watched the live stream of Felix Baumgartner free falling for 128,100 feet. During this incredible feat, he hurdled from the edge of space back down to desert land in New Mexico in less than 10 minutes.
Google have confirmed that Felix broke several online records, including the highest number of viewers simultaneously watching the event as it was streamed on YouTube. Leading the train of celebratory congratulations to Felix and the team across the social networks was NASA via Twitter.
But for me, a tweet that truly summed up the scale of achievement was: “A truly amazing testament to the power of science, imagination, and human bravery”, which came from a TV columnist called Jace Lacob based in LA.
There was some cynicism surrounding the event, with some critics implying that the mission held no real relevance to the human species. What we did discover was that in 10 minutes, a human can fall freely and reach the speed of sound and then stroll right back onto the planet as if it’s nothing special.
It also inspired, shocked and amazed millions of people globally and united them for a common big idea. I certainly felt it was a bigger and better spectacle than this summer’s Olympics in London – whether anyone would feel the same on that I’m not sure.
The weekend’s events was a boost of inspiration and a sense of global achievement providing huge and deserved attention to the world of Science. We even saw the first five pages of some newspapers covered in science related news, paired with the homecoming of the now retired US space shuttle Endeavour to LA where it will be parked up at a museum in the state.
The Edge of Space was simply amazing to view and it’s an incredible achievement for humanity.
The Asylum Process in the UK, which is run by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), says that Britain holds a “proud tradition of providing a place of safety for genuine refugees” but is this really the case? While the subject of Asylum Seekers and Refugees is a very complex one, there is compelling evidence to show the way that those who come to Britain to seek safety, whether they are ‘genuine’ or not, are not necessarily always treated with the care, sensitivity and attention that they deserve as human beings.
Glorified rags such as The Daily Mail make it their business to enforce stereotypes and ‘scare’ the British public into believing that Asylum seekers get presidential treatment when they arrive in the UK. They use bold and outrageous headlines; ‘Britain Swamped by Asylum-Seekers’ and ‘Asylum: You’re Right To Worry’, to strike fear in to the working man and his family as the Daily Express tells them ‘Migrants Make Mugs of Us All’.
My blood was set to boil this morning as I stumbled across some information… It had come to light that in Westminster in the City of London, a child had starved to death after the child and his family had been forced to become homeless after successfully being granted refugee status in the UK. The family of three were made homeless due to significant problems in transferring the information from the Home Office to welfare support services, despite this no efforts or care plans were put into place to support these people who were clearly in need, due to guidelines and red tape. It is a devastating injustice that a child who has come to the UK in fear and to seek safety has starved to death in the center of London.
There have been many scandals, abuses and injustices regarding the Asylum System in the UK from the death of Jimmy Mubenga to hundreds of assault and racial abuse complaints and cases over the last couple of years. If The Daily Mail and its congregation of stereotyping, fear mongering ‘newspapers’ were to stop publishing such flawed articles with diabolical supporting evidence, it would be a start to restoring the public kindness and support towards those seeking safety. There also needs to be some serious reformation of the system with strong guidelines on how to support the very vulnerable people who we, as fellow humans, need to help. Private security should also be removed from the process.
The majority of asylum seekers are far from criminals.
This summer, Greenpeace stepped up its long standing crusade against Oil and in particular, oil giant Shell, who have been plotting and preparing to invade the Arctic to tap reserves of Oil laying deep under the pristine ocean and ice coated landscapes. On July 19th, I wrote an article regarding a major action by Greenpeace against Shell across the UK where activists shut down around 50 petrol stations from London to Glasgow. This morning, an unexpected voice raised concerns about drilling in the Arctic to gain access to its oil supply.
Speaking in The Financial Times today, CEO Christophe de Margerie of fellow oil giant Total stated that: “Energy companies should not drill for crude oil in Arctic waters”, before proceeding to shock us and probably the rest of the world by saying “…the risk of an oil spill in such an environmentally sensitive area is simply too high.” I didn’t think we would see the say where a CEO of a multinational oil giant would defend the environment, but it appears that day has in fact arrived.
While this is a massive news story and quite the revelation, the question is does Mr. de Margerie actually hold concerns for the Arctic environment? Maybe he is just slightly irritated that Shell managed to jump into the Arctic before Total did? Who knows, regardless of his motivation to slam the plans of drilling in the Arctic, this is a huge moment and I’m sure that Greenpeace, its supporters and anyone else that is angered about such a beautiful part of our world being threatened simply for profit and greed, will welcome these comments with open arms.
Over 2 million people have signed the Greenpeace petition to save the Arctic and their massive campaign has been supported by the likes of Sir Paul McCartney. Today sees the first time that a major oil company has echoed a message that Greenpeace has been promoting for years. Phenomenal.
A large scale protest at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in South India is being threatened, while mainstream media coverage on events over in the country has been close to non-existent. The Power Plant, which carries Uranium, is yet to comply with safety regulations and is thought to be risking the health of locals.
Weather conditions in the place of the protest are described as extreme and Dr Kate Hudson of a UK based anti-nuclear organisation describes the actions that the vast amount of people are protesting against are ‘draconian and undemocratic’ procedures of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited.
Latest developments indicate that a large number of police and paramilitary have now surrounded the protesting citizens, threatening violence and arrest. The Indo-Russian power plant is fueled with uranium from the USA and France, yet hasn’t released one safety analysis report, is accused of oppressing the lives of one and a half million people living within 20km reach of the plant. The nuclear plant is also responsible for a range of serious environmental problems that have been ignored and left unaddressed.
Images from the protest paint the picture of a peaceful and passionate demonstration about a large nuclear power plant that has serious safety and environmental concerns, located in a densely populated area of both humans and wildlife. Not only is it criminal that 20,000 people are being simply ignored and threatened with violence for standing up for themselves and their community, but it is also criminal that the Indian authorities think it’s appropriate to go in all guns blazing.
It’s not just India who are ‘cracking down’ on protests, it’s a global trend; Egypt, USA, Syria, the UK and many more have all taken harsh measures in recent times. Some of the most extreme crack downs of late have been on South African miners who have been on strike, with a number shot dead by Police.
There has been nuclear disasters in the past and there will be more as long as such plants are in operation. Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 are just two horrific examples. It looks like we may have to begin to protest more to protect our freedom to protest sooner or later.
In the mean time you can support the protest at the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant by getting your signature on this petition and spreading the word about the cause of the protest itself. If you don’t know much about nuclear power, weapons and the threats that we face, please take some time to conduct your own research.
Déjà vu. We are back to file sharing once again. This time it’s been suggested that every single person who has used a Bit Torrent client to download just one movie or music file has had their details logged.
The three year study by a research team at the University of Birmingham, led by Dr Tom Chothia, were surprised by the scale of the monitoring. I discovered this story earlier on the BBC news website where I came across one commenter, who claimed: “I pay for all content and those who do not need a swift hefty penalty”. Fair enough, file sharing has been compared to shop lifting on many occasions and in a sense it is.
There are some relentless file sharers out there that manage to squeeze gigabytes and gigabytes of content in the forms of music, film and games. Surprisingly, they may have a healthy salary but it’s just too easy to not pay for it and I guess they don’t recognise the damage it could be doing under the surface. On the other hand, such file sharing enables access to an almost infinite collection of materials that could very well be utilised for a student surviving off a maintenance loan who can’t afford expensive DVDs and Books. It’s a really tough argument and while I could never go as far as to say that file sharing is morally correct, there’s no doubt that you all have your own judgement.
The earlier discussed commenter from the BBC news article goes on to say more: “The government could use this as a means to pay down the national debt, given it’s extent.” I don’t want to go into it too much but this individual can’t spend much time researching and thinking for himself if he thinks that the answer to the ‘national debt’ is fining and punishing people who may just be a penny short of a book or two.
I’m going to finish off by putting forward a few points to discount the above comment from that chap who commented on the article. First of all, Bit Torrent can be used to download LEGAL files such as Zeitguest films, which allow and encourage you to do that. Secondly, the comparison to shop lifting is weak because if you steal, for example a CD, that is one unit that is physical – an MP3 on the other hand is a direct clone and therefore the only loss is to the artist or record label on a hunch that it may have meant another sale, but after the downloader listens, it could result in a future sale for that artist.
It’s a very complex subject but I do believe that this ‘monitoring’ is a slight infringement on our privacy and I’m not sure if it is legal, and it is certainty unethical, if you only downloaded a copyright-free Zeitguest movie with permission.