High, low, yo: 25.07.15

I’m trying something out here, so bear with me. In my effort to be a better blogger and to concentrate on writing, which has been wandering of late, I want to start a more regular feature. High, low, yo will comprise of three small parts: a high point in the news (a genuinely good news story or schadenfreude), a low point (self-explanatory) and yo – something that happened to me in the day. Let’s begin.

Low

Sadly, another day begins with another shooting in America. It’s a tragedy with heroes, an obvious villain and a clear cut solution. Well, to everyone on the outside, it appears obvious but progress is non-existent. 

For this latest awful shooting, it appears that the immediate cause is a deep-seated misogyny, yet that doesn’t explain the ease with which John Houser was able to buy a gun. The underlying cause helps to explain the anger motivating the murderers, however we cannot keep palming off these tragedies into the outskirts of excuses: ‘he was racist’ – yes but there are many racists who do commit murder; ‘he was anti-feminist’ – ditto; ‘he was religiously confused’ – ditto ditto. All of these have a common theme running through them which is the ready access to guns. Remove the guns to save the lives. Which is easier said than done when the monolithic second amendment stands in the way. Confounded by an 18th Century piece of paper.

High

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has spent £31,400 on travel expenses between 2010-2013. It should also not be forgotten that Speaker Bercow was meant to be a disinfectant, cleaning Westminster up from the stench of the expenses scandal. Whilst he may not be fiddling his expenses in the same way as he predecessor, it does make me question the prices that the chauffeur cars are charging and how I can become involved in that racket.

Yo

I met Lola and Sophia, my twin ‘first cousins once removed’ (an ugly turn of phrase, if e’er there was one) for the first time. Both had almond eyes that were intently gazing on their surroundings, taking it all in, studying every face, toy and movement as if it’s a work of art. Yet to a couple of 8 month olds, it is art. There is nothing more important and interesting than their own wiggling fingers. Plus, it appears that fart noises are universally funny.

Netanyahu: The Man with the Frozen Hand.

Naughty Netanyahu and Dissenting Democrats

Congress is ramping up for the arrival of the Israeli Prime Minister leader Benjamin Netanyahu to its hallowed dome on Tuesday. He is the five time winner of the ‘We Wish You Were A Republican’ award and yet, for the first time in living memory, some senior Democrats are thinking of finding themselves busy when he is due at the lectern.

The speech is likely to contain the Greatest Hits of ‘Iran away because you want to hurt me’ and ‘Existential Threat’ (a 1980s New Romantics number with a killer keyboard solo) but with a hidden track of ‘Being Here: My Election Boost’. The reason for anger stems from Netanyahu’s combination of performing the Tel Aviv sidestep by snubbing Obama and using Israel’s most powerful ally as a pawn in his election campaign.

Netanyahu: The Man with the Frozen Hand.

Netanyahu: The Man with the Frozen Hand.

With the pro-Israeli lobby financially supporting so many members of Congress (see here), those that are dissenting are trying to find cleave a difference where previously there was a solid stone wall and doing so by relying on a nuanced logic that does not typically operate in media. Instead they need to find new excuses for not being at the speech, such as:

  • rumours that Netanyahu is going to read spoilers from House of Cards Season 3. Those busy Congresspeople who haven’t caught up with the travails of Frank Underwood feel it is safer to stay away rather than have the highlight of their televisual year spoiled
  • they were busy trying to finish crocheting an ‘I Love Israeli’ cushion
  • putting an Ikea flatpack desk together
  • inadvertently spending hours trying to craft the perfect off the cuff, snarky tweet
  • got locked in a birdcage
  • became a kitchen porter and spent 8 hours peeling potatoes

We will have to see what the reaction and repercussions to avoiding the speech will be – but with political engagement trending downwardly, can you really blame them?

Cruz Control

Ever ready to provide grist to the satirical mill, the Republican leadership has selected Ted Cruz to chair the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, which as the name indicates happens to be NASA’s governmental overlord. In case you thought that another Ted Cruz had been voted into Congress in the last election, you are sadly mistaken. Ted Cruz is still the same Ted Cruz that denies climate change, telling CNN that the “data are not supporting what the [climate change] advocates are arguing”. Oh Ted Cruz. And NASA is still the same NASA that has a climate change section on its website and states: “Most scientists say it’s very likely that most of the warming since the mid-1900s is due to the burning of coal, oil and gas.”. Needless to say, there are many light years between those two opinions.

If Cruz can readily deny what is now considered mainstream science, I wonder what his opinions of other well-trodden scientific truths are:

  • Did we go to the Moon, or was it a conspiracy by television manufacturers to boost sales?
  • Is the Mars Inc publicity team behind the recent explorations of our second nearest planet?
  • Was the Apollo 13 mission just a long viral campaign for the Ron Howard film?
  • Was Ted Cruz given this assignment with the hope that he would be taken on a field trip on a big rocket?
  • Or was it to bring him closer to science and discredit him to his Republican base?*

*I do realise that this assumes a type of logical coherence missing from so many of the Party’s decisions.

Visual memory

The husband opened his eyes wider

He needed to comprehend his wife’s beauty

His mind’s eye needs to see her as clearly as he can now

Every fleck of her eye

The line of her nose

The contours of her lips

All needed to be etched into permanence.

He was scared that someday it would be forgotten

He was scared as to how it would be forgotten

He imagined chiseling each feature into sculptor’s stone

This will take time, but masterpieces so often do.

“Why are you staring at me?” she asked, before walking off.

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Ten Lessons and Carols about New York

I write this in a new continent. In November, V and I moved across to New York, where we will call the city our base for a few years. Since we moved, I have been meaning to keep a journal of our adventures but things (living, working, eating, walking) got in the way.

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As we are coming up to our two month marker for living in New York and as 2014 exits stage left, it is time to take stock and look at what we’ve learnt:

  1. Shopping requires spreadsheets and the patience of 12 saints to try and get the best deal possible. Either that or the contentment to throw money up the wazoolah.
  2. Waffles are good at any time of the year, any time of the day.
  3. New York apartment designers forgot about kitchens and added them as an afterthought. Ditto with laundry.
  4. Realtors here are as useless as anywhere else in the world
  5. The subway may never arrive; it may be just around the corner. Who knows? There is no information at all.
  6. Being able to see a traffic jam does not preclude the honking of one’s horn
  7. If there is a person that can be inserted into a transaction, there will be. Of course, all taking their share.
  8. Small popcorn is a UK large; US large is a UK swimming pool
  9. Everyone in the city dresses effortlessly and yet looks impeccable. Everyone, that is but you.
  10. At all costs, always avoid the empty subway carriage…

Q: What to do with leftover egg yolks? A: Lemon curd. Recipe

Eggs. Sometimes they can be the irritating couple of the food world. Most of the time you want them in your life; they make wonderful company, playing off each other as if they have known one another for an eternity.

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But now and then you want them alone: to enjoy the rich personality of Mr Yolk or the frothy giddiness of Ms White. They come as a pair and separation is a complete pain. Not only does one have to endure the nail biting extraction procedure (one drop of yolk and it is game over) but unless you are a wasteful cook, wantonly throwing perfectly good ingredients away, you have to find another recipe for the leftovers.10435926_10154187977625417_3550820318683390540_n

I was left with this Herculean task the other week after V made macarons. Finding different treats to use four yolks was no easy task. With this in mind, here is my (….the BBC’s) recipe for lemon curd:

  • 4 unwaxed lemons zest and juice

  • 200g unrefined caster sugar

  • 100g unsalted cubed butter

  • 3 free-range eggs, plus 1 free-range egg-yolk

Method

  1. Introduce the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter to a heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Watch the mixture and stir occasionally. Wait until all the butter has melted and not a moment sooner.
  2. Tenderly and lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolk and stir them into the lemony mixture. Mix the ingredients using the whisk and then leave to cook for 10-13 minutes, stirring every now and again until the mixture is creamy and thick enough to coat the back of a fork.
  3. Take the lemon curd off the heat and let it stand, stirring occasionally as it cools. Once rested, spoon the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. Then use judiciously.
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The Media Podcast – launching 6th June

Andrew Jones:

Subscribe, donate, do it all.

Originally posted on Matt Hill:

Ok, former Media Talk listeners… here’s the plan. We’re doing a new podcast and it’s called, imaginatively, The Media Podcast.

I say new, but you’ll barely notice the difference: John is presenting, all the usual suspects will offer their analysis… so aside from the name, it’s business as usual.

THE PLAN

I have a new podcast feed for you to subscribe to: http://feeds.feedburner.com/themediapodcast

Open it in your podcast app or subscribe through iTunes or Stitcher. Or Soundcloud. We’re catering for them all. On Friday, you’ll have a new episode delivered automatically. Simple.

However…

THERE IS A SLIGHT PROBLEM

To make this a sustainable venture, we need to cover our overheads. And that means we need to find some money.

THE 6-WEEK TRIAL

We’re going to do this for six weeks, and during that time we’re going to run a crowdfunding campaign where listeners and businesses can donate. If you’re…

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European Parliament Elections: You don’t have to scream into a pillowcase…yet.

In the wake of the European Parliament election results, the UKIP MEPs will be smugly dancing (the middle-aged, middle class, awkward white type of dancing) all the way to their well remunerated jobs. Of which, they are disgusted about; but will take them on with a sullen grimace.

With a portion of the electorate wondering what in holy hell went on in 27.5% of the voting booths, we are now left with a confused and fragmented citizenry.

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A true man of the people….

In response to this uptick in support for UKIP, more air time, column inches, and blog….space (?) has been devoted to mocking them, calling them racist, bigoted and homophobic. Whilst portions of the party may possess some, few, many or all of these traits, we should not ignore what millions of people are saying. It doesn’t need to be agreed with, but acknowledged. We can’t just ‘listen to the feedback’, the erstwhile response of a disappointed politician, we have to take action.

Mocking UKIP is not a viable strategy any more, we can’t wholly laugh away their policies. Candidates, yes, positions, no. During the run-up to the election, one of the refrains was ‘I don’t care who you vote for, just not for UKIP'; can a democracy really be founded on such apathy? Political parties, commentators and those who like living in a positive society need to start offering a real alternative to the yellow-toothed attraction of UKIP.

Parties should also steer away from pandering to the perceived wants of those that voted UKIP and actually try and steer public opinion. Yes, have more conversations about immigration, but be brave and defend those that come over and show up British natives. Yes, agree that the EU is flawed, but the UK will be floored without it. Yes, agree that politicians are usually quite a grey group of people but learn how to juggle or tell a decent joke. Be human.

In essence, don’t belittle, be big.

 

Grandpa and Watches

I remember my Grandpa once telling me that he only used watches where the seconds hand traces a smooth path around the face; he believed that time does not stop and so the watch should reflect that simple fact.

Today, family and friends gathered together to say our goodbyes to Grandpa, who peacefully passed away last Tuesday at the age of 96. His intellect, aptitude and force of personality were an inspiration to me, the family and the wider community. Even with 70 years between us, I have already realised that I will not be anywhere near as complete a person as Bernard was, but when I am in my latter days, I can see that I was a fraction of him, I will consider that an accomplishment.

Even in his later years, he made tables (including the one I am sat at now), tinkered with cars, was perennially out with the perennials in the garden (or ‘enthusiastic pruning’ as my Grandma called it), reading and walked a couple of miles a day. Essentially, he put us all to shame.

To make a rather tortured analogy, we should all treat our lives like Grandpa’s watch; life does not stand still, it flows through us, past us every single second of the day. If we stop, life continues continuing because time is perpetual. Instead we have to lean into the steady motion of the clockwork and always let movement be the constant.

SHOCK: Not everyone cares about the New York Times

Apparently Ira Glass isn’t aware of who Jill Abramson is, in addition to the fact that she has recently been given the opportunity to spend more time with her boxing gloves away from the New York Times. Apparently people who know about Abramson’s ousting are fuuurious that he missed this nugget of information. This serves to illuminate two points:

1. People like discretely crowing about the knowledge caught in their heads, however insignificant it may be to the outside world. They forget that the reason they know about it is because the topic interests them and may be sandpaper-lickingly dull to another.

2. As people are intrinsically self-centred and precious about knowledge that they have worked so hard to obtain, they seem to think that it is crucial to the functioning of the social-juridical-political order that everyone knows about it (the raison d’etre behind blogs and twitter). In this instance, a large news organisation firing an executive editor is big media news, but inspecting the gamut of injustice, disasters and political dicksmanship in the world, it is quite irrelevant.

So, do not worry Ira Glass, feel free to continue in your ignorance, you are definitely not alone and are most probably are worrying about bigger things.