Sunday, 16 October 2011

Occupy London

It all started in Spain, on the 15 May (15M) Movement that went to the streets in  the mayor Spaniard cities to demonstrate against the austerity measures and the banking system that provoked the financial crisis.  Marching as a form of protests is not new, but this time it didn't end in just a march, Los Indignados (The Outraged) stayed on La Puerta del Sol, one of the main squares of Madrid, and the occupy movement started. Now on the 15 October (15 O) The movement went global.

The 15M movement transformed itself to the Democracia Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now) movement, and a peaceful ocupy of Madrid and other cities begun.  They created groups of discussion to try to find a Manifesto that could represent the views of all who were protesting, which were from all ages and social classes. This discussion groups are trying to not only complain but start producing proposals for a change.

It was not many day after 15 May that the movement started to spread, the first ones to adopt it were the Greeks, another country who has been severely affected by the economic crisis, or perhaps just because they remembered that that form of direct democracy and discussion groups in public spaces were how they used to run things in the Socrates' Athens.  So even when not returning to the Agora, they went to Syntagma Square.  I was lucky to be on Athens during the summer protests and talk to some of the people who are occupying the square, and I notice that their ideas and worries were the same as in everywhere else.

More protests around the world started to happen, march, strikes, all asking that the world of inequality, greed, and rampant capitalism that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, and decimates the middle class; to finish.

Finally the movement surprisingly moved to the country where that gap between the richer and the poorer is worst than anywhere else in the world, the USA.  And people went out to occupy the financial centre of the country, Wall Street.   And so the Ocuppy Wall Street movement started.

It was unavoidable that in the era of communications, internet and the social networks for this not to become a global phenomena, specially because the flawed economic system exists globally, as it's the inequality and social problems associated with it.

I participated of the 15O Occupy London protests, and I was very happy to see people coming out to the streets to say that enough is enough.  As with the aforementioned protests around the world, discussion groups were created to decide the next steps of the movement and to start to find solution, that could work locally in the UK and also could make a global change.  As to yesterday there were no major violence problems with the police, who surrounded the area of the protest around Saint Paul's Cathedral, since the protesters were not allowed to occupy the London Exchange Market.  A few moments were it seemed that confrontation was going to start ended being controlled, with the speakers asking the rest to sit and stay peaceful.

Personally, I found the experience very powerful, not only for it's significance on the UK, but to know that the same was happening in all the major cities of the planet. From Sydney, Tokyo following the earth spinning all the way to Vancouver the world said with one voice, we are tired, this has to change.

A fried of mine asked me some interesting questions, which I'm sure are on the mind of many people right now.  What does this vague 'anti-capitalism' mean? What is the movement pro? How can anything be achieved by this when nothing is being asked for? How can a whole economic system be opposed without proposing an alternative (what?) and what is wrong with social democracy within an overarching Capitalist economy?

It's difficult to give a single answer. The movement even when global it has different priorities locally, In Australia they included the rights of the Aboriginals, in Tokyo they speak against the nuclear energy plants, in Mexico they talked about ending the corruption and the drug traffic violence.  In London there were talks about the NHS and the University fees. So, there was punctual objectives and things people were asking for.

The movement is not anti-capitalism per se, is anti the current form of capitalism, against a system that makes the gap between rich and poor bigger each passing day, which has not help the poorer countries of the world to get out of their situation.  Is not against corporations and banks in general, is against those corporations and banks who put profit before anything else, before social responsibility, before safety, before environmental responsibility, etc.

Now, the work and discussion groups are going to try to answer what is the alternative and propose actions, everyone is invited to go and join, everyone can think on alternatives and put them on the table for discussion and agreement, so let's be pro-positive, and let's make the change by ourselves, not waiting that things are changed by others or by a government that is not working for the interests of the majority.

This is just the beginning and is for the population of this planet to decide where to go.

Check more pictures of the 15O in London on my picassa album HERE

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A guide to myself

This post is about social skills.  We live in a society where “People persons” are put as the successful and lead examples, however people like me who are introvert just don’t have a place in society,  I found this article about The 10 myths of introvert people resonating so much with me that It was scary, kind of, so I’m not the only one with this problem? Or is it really a problem? I’m not shy, I don’t fear people, I’m even comfortable talking, singing or acting infront of a big crowd, I’m just different in my social interactions.

A few days ago I read that we should all have a “guide to themselves” which would be really, really nice and avoid lots of problems should everyone read it.  So I thought, ok I should write the 10 point of interacting with me that everyone should know.

1) On the internet nobody knows I’m an introvert.  – I tend to write long and articulated post on social media, and frequently doing blog entries, etc.  so people would assume that I like to talk a lot. And I do love to talk, but I just unable to keep small talk, it’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, is just that I don’t know how to keep small talk chat by myself, but if it’s a topic that interest me I can stay talking, literally, hours about it.

2) I’m not very used to physical contact, and usually have a clumsy reaction when people approach physically to me, even if it’s just on a friendly non-romantic way.   Having say that, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like physical contact, or that I don’t enjoy it, I do, an very much, just that I wouldn’t do it unless I know you very well.

3) I would probably stay quiet on a group talking, I tend to think faster than my language skills, so find the dynamics of group chat exhausting, so I prefer to listen.  However I do enjoy very much small groups or one-to-one chats. I enjoy talking to people, but I enjoy it more when it’s just One person at a time.

4) I love to listen,  I really enjoy listening to other people’s thoughts, experiences, etc.  so even if at first glance it seems that I’m not interested in you, I probably am.

5) Don’t expect me to understand subtle messages.  It’s very hard for me to guess other people’s needs if they don’t speak them (or write them) aloud, most of the times the subtle messages will just fly over my head.  I can read your body language, your voice tone, even the written tone and know that you may be upset with me, but most of the time I will have no idea why and people would just assume that I should know why, well, no,  speak and be direct, I prefer people to be direct to the risk of being rude, than assume I can read minds. In the same way, I'm direct and I just mean what I say, nothing more, nothing less.
6) I’m not selfish, not on purpose, I do care about people, but sometimes I’m so immerse in my thoughts that I could loose from my sight your own needs, talk about them, see point above.

7) I can find social gatherings, like parties with lots of people exhausting, even if I’m having fun.  So, if I take some minutes to retreat and just being by myself, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to interact anymore with you, I’m just charging batteries.

8) I’m passionate and hold strong opinions about things, and probably will debate them strongly (never being rude or calling people names, or anything like that), but I don’t mean to offend you personally, for me debates are intellectual exercises, as fun as you probably would find playing a soccer match or other competition sport (I say probably because I don’t find them fun, but that’s another topic). But after the debate is over, it’s over, I don’t take it personally and usually move on.

9) I’m very bad at being polite and never fully understood that kind of social rules, so, often you could find that under your point of view I’m rude.  And probably I am, but not on purpose, if something I say offends you or you find it rude, tell me, I will take note and try not to make the same mistake again.

10) I’m not difficult, scary, or arrogant, even when most of the time that’s the impression I give to people, I do enjoy making new friends, I do enjoy and need sharing my thoughts and joys, and even my sad moments with people, I guess I just need patience, I have try, for 31 years to change and fix myself on this, unfortunately this just doesn’t seem to go away. So, perhaps people after reading this will avoid me like the plague, I just hope that it has the contrary effect in at least some of you.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Do we need to analyse art?

Is it art something to be analysed and teach?

Some time ago,  I saw this video:

It has being a long time since I saw something on the internet that moved me to the point that I share a couple of tears.  And it’s not only that this young man speaks with passion, it’s that what he said resonates with me deep inside.

I love art in all its forms, my favourite being of course music, but poetry is a close second. Both get a special shining brilliance when they become performing arts. Surely, you can enjoy a recording of a song/melody and enjoy deeply the reading of a poetry book, but the strength and power that some people have when performing makes them go to a level that can move you inside as no other.

But performing or not, art needs to be about feelings, about searching beauty and pleasure, for beauty and pleasure sake.   We live in world when everything is analyzed, we read reviews and critics talk about the technicalities of the piece of art itself, we ask our students to give objective and academic reviews of works.  How good is the musician technique, how perfect are the lights and perspective in photography, how well written is a poem; but I find that people forget to mention what is really important, what does that piece of art made you feel?

Is it art something that really belongs to the academia? Professional artists, who spend years learning their skills on the academia have the advantage of a better knowledge of their tools, they even get clues on how to enhance their creative part.  A composer who understands the technicalities of orchestration have the tools to make great compositions. So I’m not talking about the people who go to colleges and universities to be professionals, they deserve all my respect, and I fully understand why that’s needed. Although I would add that for there are people whose talent is so great that even if they are self taught, they can produce monumental master pieces.

And furthermore, academic art, is becoming and intellectual exercise, it's losing it's most important basis, to be the conveyor of your feelings.  You go out to a concert, listen to the piece, and it doesn't move you inside, you will probably understand the author on an intellectual level, see the good practices and techniques, see why he mixed or used certain motives, and even enjoy it very much with the rational part of your brain. But In my humble opinion, that's not what art is about.

But when art becomes something of the elites, something that needs to be analyzed, or needs to be understood under certain parameters, it loose its soul.  There’s something deeply wrong with the educational system that force students to submit essays about a poem or a symphony, there’s something broken when the critics focus solely on the production, techniques and make their reviews an academic exercise.

Are there really good and bad works of art, or just art that moves you and the one who doesn’t.  Is the commercial popular art fulfilling its role as a medium of feeling-share or just a commercial goal? Is the academic and historic art too elitists?  Do we need a change on our perception of it from schools to day-to-day life?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Bisexual Revolution: Documentary Review

Co-directed and written by Laure Michel and Eric Wastiaux, La bisexualité : tout un art?  (titled Bisexual Revolution for the english-speaking market) is a 2010 documentary about bisexuality, its culture, its cultural manifestations, taboos, myths, realities, and perceptions.  It goes through a series of interviews in Paris, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Montreal artists, writers and psychologists, about the subject in point.

Although it all goes in an intellectual and artistic discussion format, it's not the kind of documentary that goes down to really interact with "normal" people in their lives, apart from a few street-interviews.  That of course doesn't make it less valuable or boring, but a very traditional documentary approach in that way.
It covers a lot of topics and issues about bisexuality and its different cultural, artistic and social manifestations. As well as its perception from the three points of view, the heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual communities.

Bisexuality has existed in all cultures and times, and the most well known examples for us westerns, are ancient Greece and Rome.  But after 2000 years of christian ban on sexualities that don't follow the hetero-normative and patriarchal hierarchy that the abrahamic monotheisms imposed as a norm in the world, sexual diversity has re-emerge in the 20th century, and it's winning its rightful place in society by the 21st century.   The documentary acknoledge that fact and give us  a quick overview of the history of bisexuality, and how for the very nature of it, it has being able to be "hidden" when the time of repression was on, just living underground.

We can hide if we want to, says Regina Reinhart, from the American Institute of Bisexuality,  but the fact is that we are developing a pride in our sexual orientation, we are making films, we are writting books, giving interviews, we are out and proud.

But be out and proud for a bisexual is, at least today, harder than to a homosexual person, since discrimination from both, the hetero and gay communities come into place.  Bisexuals are just confused, are just gays who can't accept themselves, are just going through a phase.  Many of the prejudices that 20 or 30 years ago were applied to the gay and lesbian community, are now applied to the bisexual one.

And how bisexuals see themselves?  Sexuality goes well beyond the sexual act, it goes into the affection, feelings and social culture associated with romantic love.  That leads many people to not really know or accept they are bisexual.  what if I'm totally homo or if I'm kidding myself.  What if I like the active/controller role with girls and the passive submissive role with boys? is that possible?  ask Titof a porn film star and director from Paris.   And how about bi-affective people, those who can develop a big emotional and even romantic bond with the two genres but mainly just a sexual bond with one of them, or at least in a higher percentage, since, like another broken myth says, bisexuals are not 50/50 in their preferences.  With women is more a fusion of body and soul, but with men is a sexual intensity that I can't find with women, says Narcys, a pop/indie singer from Paris.

Michel Dorais from Université Laval in Montreal, Quebec,  explains how in a world based on binary trends, ie. good/bad, day/night, male/female, heterosexual/homosexual;  bisexuality brakes the establishment and confuses society. Bisexuality is perceived as dangerous, as unstable, unreliable.   And perhaps this perceptions more than the idea of love without a specific genre is what has boost bi-phobia on society.
But is it there a bisexual culture? as the gay and lesbian cultures?  or being so in the middle has made bisexuality a grey area where there's no a definite cultural manifestation?

 The documentary focus on two ways of this cultural/social manifestations.  First it's the artistic and activist point of view. Singers as Narcys, have made explicit songs about bisexuality and gender identification, as You dream about it (Toi t'en rêves)

or Alex Beaupain, composer of the songs for Les Chansons d'Amour (Love Songs) a bisexual film/musical. 

Books, paintings, poetry.  A lot of cultural manifestations have being based on bisexual themes.  But despite all this it's difficult to find a defined tribal element, as with the gay and lesbian culture.   Which is sometimes a problem for some bisexual people themselves, since they grow this feeling of not belonging anywhere.

The second social and cultural manifestation is one that has being associated with bisexuality, and that to some extent is true for a sector of the bisexual community.  The sexual freedom of the 21st century, bisexuals are perceived as open minded, as someone who's open to everything. Therefore promiscuity and sexual activities as sex-parties and poly amorous relationships are linked to bisexuality, and the documentary ask a valid question.  Would this sexual freedom and openness, where everything is valid with anyone, as long as it's between consenting adults,  will make that the society of the future will embrace bisexuality as the norm?

There's a sense of freedom in bisexuality. A freedom of not requiring to comply with any norms or stereotypes.  Men and women have grow up with an educational baggage, a role in society, an idea of their meaning of existence socially culturally and sexually.  Bisexuality brakes all of this into pieces, men can enjoy the freedom of not having the responsibility of being the ones to provide the orgasm to their women, but being able to experience that passive role themselves, women are free to be strong and leading the way with other women in a relationship, and this freedom stays with them should they decide to go back to a heterosexual relationship, they discover that all those roles created by society are not fixed on stone.   They also have freedom from the gay culture that has its own prejudices, roles and stereotypes.  But at the same time they can be sympathetic to both men and women needs, both heterosexual and homosexual communities, it's cultural manifestations, it's worries and joys, the fight for their rights and freedoms.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there's some self identified heterosexuals and homosexuals who would like to experience that freedom. Some could, some will not,  but at least the awareness that the world is not just black and white would help bisexual people to live without prejudices and rejection.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Lists, lists, and more lists

I was reading a post from Carlos López (in Spanish) about how futile “favourite” lists can be on literature, even if it comes from a well known author or intellectual; arguing that literature taste is like football taste, totally subjective, and that each book touches each person in a different way.  I totally agree with that idea.  However it seems that more and more lists, not only on literature, but any other field you can imagine have been released over the internet or even books have been written about them.

Sergei Rachmaninov said that one life is not enough for all the music, but music is enough for one life. On the age of internet, there’s so much information floating around that it’s so difficult to keep track of the relevant stream, indeed one life is not enough, not just for music, but for the books, and all the knowledge we would like to have, so there’s a necessity of focusing our time on the information that is relevant to us.  Hence these lists are helpers on the “things to do” or “things to look at” for people.

There has being several on-going discussions on G+ about the list of recommended users to follow, sites like have tried to make unofficial lists, after the first google attempt of an “official recommendation” wasn’t that welcome.  I have been participating in several of these discussions, but one that made me think the most was one about Carter Gibson's post discussing the lack of sexuality on your about information, after this Ryan Crow expanded the debate, on a post of his own, to also political views and religion fields on G+ profiles. Do we really need them?  I argued in favour of those fields to be included, since there’s a real need of community build around sexuality, political views and even religion (or lack of it).  For mainstream people (ie. heterosexual, christian, capitalists) there’s no real problem, but to minorities this becomes more of an issue, you can see my comments on the thread for more about that, but a lot of comments of people who were against made me think.

Even in a small and emerging social network as Google Plus, with “only” 25 million users, there’s so many people there that it’s hard to find who to follow on it.  Ideally, we would go around and start following people based on their comments, and the things they share, people who we really find interesting.  Reality is that if we don’t narrow down the numbers, based on our interests, we would not have the time to do it, or just drift away in the flow of information without a set course.  So yes, we need those lists, and people like Alireza Yavari are doing a great job in putting them all together.

However, how healthy is this?.  A comment from a friend of mine on FB saying that she should know better than reading certain papers, is symptomatic of our days.  We only want to read and see things that we agree with, in a way reaffirming our thoughts and avoid confronting our point of view.  We seek for like-minded people and content only, that could lead us to just to alienate ourselves. 

This interesting video talks precisely about that:

It’s not just ourselves consciously putting filters on which type of content we want to see, or what kind of people we want to hear or read. Now even the search websites and social networks are putting in place algorithms to filter for us the information stream, leaving us, for all practical purposes, living in a bubble of information that, yes is the one we like, but making all the rest of it a black box to us.  Learning and growing as a person is not all about things you like or things you agree with, or things that went well in your life, it’s actually mainly about mistakes, confrontation of ideas, things that went wrong, that is what make us grow, that is what makes us learn.

There’s no use in just having information flowing in front of us that just make us shake our heads in agreement

It is in a way like the parents of these days who don’t want their children to be exposed to any bacteria at all, and keep everything crystal clean, living in almost an sterilized environment; and therefore those kids never develop the necessary antibodies.

We need exposure to all kind of ideas, not just the ones we like, but mainly the ones that are relevant, not only to us, but to the world we live.

So yes, it’s great to have a list of books you should read, a list of like-minded people you can follow, a list of your favourite papers and columnists.  But don’t limit yourself to only that, explore new avenues, read things that make you think, even that make you angry.  I will probably will keep using those kind of lists, since yes, we all need to narrow down what it seems to endless sources of information; but I would suggest, try now and again to just find things the old fashion way, without anyone telling you which way is the right one, just exploring.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Does Sexuality needs scientific validation?

Science as any other tool can be used for political purposes.

In that sense several studies about gender, gender identification and diversity in sexuality have been circulating in scientific papers from researches and Universities.  Even when the scientific method is per se, objective, the way results or studies are presented can have a strong political agenda.

So we have lots of studies about gender differences, that to some extend have validated the idea that women and men are different in the way the think, feel and behave.  This has been reflected in popular culture, to give the masses the "scientific truth" that, to put it on the words of a popular book, women are from venus and men are from mars.   Problem is that the studies tend to confuse nature and nurture.  Is the way men and women react to stimuli different because the way they have being educated, or is it something that they are born with?   At least one study seems to think we are actually not that different, and I definitely recomend the reading of  Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society and Neurosexism Create Difference.

Then it came to validate the notion that homosexuality is something people are born with, and not acquired. There was a very powerful reason behind these studies, and it is that the christian right wing insisted (and still does) that homosexuality was a deviation, a perversion that men and women choose to live against their god's teachings.  So various studies were made on the subject, and also in other species, to show that homosexuality was something natural.   How ever the inability of shown that there's a "gay gene" or something specific that triggers homosexuality when people are born, has being used as a weapon to say that as with gender, they studies can't give a conclusive truth about the nature vs nurture debate.

Finally just a few weeks ago, a new study was published, this time was about bisexual men, that branch of sexuality that is famous for it's partial invisibility and attacks from both heterosexual and homosexual communities that "doubt" that it really exists. So  this new study tend to conclude that yes, bisexuals are real.  But not much time passed for the study to start being attacked under the same premises.

Studies and counter studies can be made about gender and sexuality, all along, and change with the political tide that they surf with.  But the question will be:  Do we really need to validate our sexuality or our gender with scientific studies? or is it not a better long term solution to educate people on accepting that even in our differences we are all human and deserve respect, and that stereotypes are just product of ignorance?

I have no doubt that all this scientists have good intentions when they try to prove that men and women are equal, that gay, lesbians and bisexuals are not perverts, etc.  And yes, their work can be used to some extent. But science is useless against prejudice, ignorance and hard religious indoctrination. And some times even counter-productive.  The only thing that can really make a difference is education, in both our homes and schools.

- This post was originally written for Queer UK and appears here.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Soundtrack music

This post is in response to NextManStanding post about soundtracks.

I will classify soundtrack music in three categories.

The First Category will be Soundtracks which aim to transmit a specific feeling or mood in general terms. Music born out of a theme or idea.  This music has its origins in academic music.

From Vivaldi's four seasons:

to Holst's Planets:

or the famous Musorgski/Ravel "pictures at an exhibition":

they are compositions that try to express a visual idea, in form of music.  If successful the composer would be able to transmit the basic emotions associated with the visual (or multi sensory input) theme they chose as inspiration.

This is one of my favourite genres of music, since I think it was the first multimedia works, and they obviously work as it even now a days.   A lot of my own music falls into this category, specially when inspired on the places I have visited. Here an example.

Obviously with the advent of films, this was the chosen style that film soundtrack composer have chosen to follow, and there are great composers indeed.  Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Michael Nyman, to name a few. We all have our favourites, and we all know film themes that are easy to distinguish and associate with the film itself, specially if it's a famous one.  TV series and Video Games, now a days, tend to fall also on this categories, with really interesting music made for those two.

I can think of two of my favourites:

Bear McCreary's Battlestar Gallactica music:

Final Fantasy Advent Children:

The second category will be the "jingle"  "intro" themes for commercials, telly series, video games, and to some extend some films.  They tend to be easy listening, rapid-catch themes, case in point this two:

Or "epic and very identifiable themes" like, arguably the most famous music intro to a film,  which most people would recognize.

Even when they have to be in-line with the general feeling of the visual media they are associated, they not necessarily try to express a specific image on the listener (a priori that is).

The third category, the songs that have become famous for a film, tv series, video game or even commercial.  They may or may not have being composed specifically for the visual media they are associated to, they usually aren't, but after the media exposition they have come to be one and the same with the show.  Eg.

My obvious favourite is category one, but there are some interesting things that I have come to love from category 3, and not that many but some specific examples in category 2

So, do you like more a category from another, why and which song/theme is your favourite?


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Integration or non-desired assimilation?

Last week we saw the series finale of Sirens, a channel 4 drama about the life of three paramedics.  It was an interesting and funny series, but not the main reason of this article though.

There's a gay character on the series: Ashley Greenwick, played by Richard Madden, who is what some will define as "straight acting", he is out, but not making a fuss out of it  Madden defines his character as a "gay man who isn't defined by his sexuality", adding that he was excited about that  "because I don't remember the last time we saw that on British TV. We don't really get to see gay characters who are completely open with their sexuality, but it doesn't define who they are."  Certainly he has a point in saying that we don't see much of those type of gay men on the media, nor here, nor in the US or other english speaking television or films, and I'm not only thinking on the over the top camp characters, but also the ones that even when not camp, their lives orbit around the scene and their sexuality (eg. Queer as Folk)

But is this a reflection of what is happening inside the gay culture as a whole?  I think it is.

In this country almost all the legal battles are won for gay people, granted, there's still a lot of homophobia in the society, and much work to be done in terms of sexual diversity acceptance, but now the work is down to communities, schools, educate people, since we have laws now that grant protection and rights for people who are not heterosexual.  Perhaps the only battle left is marriage equality, and the campaign Equal Love is fighting this on the European Court of Human Rights.

That has allowed many people, specially the young generation, to be open on their sexuality, yet living their lives without their sexuality being a central part of it or define who they are. There's no more need of being inside the ghetto and being overly flamboyant and camp to diferentiate yourself from the heterosexual men.

However, not everyone seems to be happy with this.  There has being lots of critics on the marriage equality campaign, surprisingly, coming from the gay community itself. The argument: it's a way to force assimilation into the hetero-normative society, and endangers the exciting, visionary, alternative culture that the gay culture represents, being marriage and monogamy a thing for "straight" people. This same criticism is targeted to the "straight acting" gay and bisexual men and women, who are accused of act as a heterosexual, for not conforming with the stereotypes (for some) or gay alternative cultural behaviour (for others)

For some, integration to the society and making sexuality just one of many things in your life is the goal, and an alternative culture is synonym of segregation; for others it's ok being immerse on the gay culture, where everything has to be gay (a gay house, a gay garden, gay music, etc.) and integration is saw as negative assimilation.

I wonder if we are going to be seeing these divisions grow, and these two types of LGBT people in divergent roads?

I think there's still the need of diversity friendly safe havens, as forums, as some gay bars and clubs and activities, but is the majority of people inside the LGBT community wanting to move forward to integration or want to retain their status as alternative and differentiated culture?

Friday, 12 August 2011

England in chaos

The riots that happened across England in the past days have dominated the media, news, blogs, forums, and people all over are taking about it, and first I thought it would be a little redundant to write a blog entry about it, but I decided to do it since I see that there's no much talking about the root causes of them, seems that both the people and the government have decided to go for simplistic explanations.

I'm not expert, nor a sociologist, but I do understand that a social unrest of this magnitude is much more complex than just "pure criminality due to bad parenting" as Mr. Cameron seems to have concluded.  The right wing position seems to be very simple, it has nothing to do with poverty, it has nothing to do with social inequality, it's all just to blame to parents who didn't teach their children what's good and what's wrong and reduce them to a state of wild beasts, they are less than humans, they are just greedy animals and criminals.

We have seen thousands of people, most of them youngsters (but not all), who have lost respect, not for the government and police, which are there not to cause respect, but to serve people; they have lost respect for their communities, they don't care to loot a small shop, if they can get alcohol and fags, they don't care to set buildings in fire, they are totally alienated from the rest of the British society, but why?

The most alarming thing is not just that, since it's not unexpected to have that reaction from the right wing, the alarming thing is that a wider part of society, even if they are not firmly right wing supporters, is agreeing with that, going for the simplistic answer.  It is much more easy to just blame the parents and forget about that, arrest the looters, send them to jail, charge the parents when the looter is too young for a sentence, and that's it, problem solved.

Which are the reasons then?

Well, I'm sure there are even more, but I can identify some:

1) Social inequality. The UK is the country with the worst social mobility in the developed world, and the second (after the US) of socio-economic disparity (difference between the richer and poorer)

2) Social expending and lack of opportunities. Beginning with Tattcher’s destruction of the UK Industry, and her social cuts, passing from Labour inefficiency to solve things for the bottom part of society and ending with more cuts of the current government. It's no surprise that if you take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the possibility of higher education, the support structures, you are hitting both psychologically and economically to the marginalized part of the society, sending a message that they have no future, nor hope of getting out of their circumstances, they are worthless and nobody cares about them, so they have nothing more to lose.
3) The consumerism culture. You are the goods you have in this society, people are no longer aspiring to have a good education, but just the more money and goods they can, and now, quickly, and don’t forget to renew them ASAP. That affects all levels of society, difference is that in people who can’t really access those goods, only causes frustration.  The looters are not starving, let's face it there's not that level of poverty in the first world like in the third world, but they are conditioned to the social "truth" that if you don't have the latest clothes gadgets and technology you're worthless.

4) Parenting and school system lack of discipline. It is also true, that first teachers and now even parents are afraid to control and teach discipline, and this is happening in all levels of society, is not only absent parents, is also parents dropping all the responsibility of education to schools and schools not having the means to enforce discipline. It's broken families on which their children see as the only exit the gang culture, and the only respect and sense of community found inside their gangs. 

5)Racial and Police violence. In the marginalized places of society there has being constant and systematic violence, even racist institutionalized policies. This point is one of the more complex and also more sensitive.

Also, how much does it contribute that we all have seeing MPs making fraud on their expenses and not being punished, corruption on the police on the phone hacking scandal, bankers getting big bonuses even when they basically caused the global crisis.  How all this people are expected to be "responsible for their acts" when we don't see any of that responsibility on the top part of our leaders and representatives?

How can they feel comfortable when they smash in their faces the wedding of two millionaires, one of them born with privileges not only of money, but socially being above the law,  and say that that's the thing that should make them be proud of being British.  Or saying that there's social cuts necessity and at the same time spending millions in foreign wars?

Now that the riots seem to be calmed down it's time for the aftermath. 

What is next?

The government and the society in general have two options, as far as I can see.

1) Ignore the root causes and impose draconian measures, enforcing a police state, limiting privacy and comunication on social media; giving more power to the police, and not caring about "phoney human rights concerns". Taking out all benefits from the rioters, evicting rioters from their houses and jail them, and then turn the page. Sadly for what Cameron has speak in the Commons, this seems to be his course of action.

2) Understand why this hapenned, understanding is NOT justifying, let´s be clear, what this people did was wrong, it was a criminal activity and it affected inocent people on their businesses and houses.  But if we fail to understand why this happened then we will see happening again in the future.  If we as a society and the government as the executive power identify the causes, then we can work in trying to fix them and make something like this less unlikely to happen in the future.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Prime Suspect goes Opera

When talking about opera, most people have in their minds old themed scripts or old themed music. That is, either it's an opera written hundreds of years ago, or new music put into a script that comes also from the past. And let's face it, most of the times it's like that.  And even when it's always nice to revive the old classics or see a new music arrangement to some classic text, it's very refreshing to watch a performance of a new script with original music.

And what can be more contemporary than a script that goes around the classic drama of loneliness, love and lies that have surrounded opera for hundreds of years, embedded inside the on-line world that surround us today.

That is what Two Boys aimed to achieve, with a nice success, in my opinion.  Nico Muhly, and librettist, Craig Lucas delivered yesterday the world premier of Muhly's first opera, at the London Coliseum, home of the British National Opera.

In what can also be described as an episode of Prime Suspect in an opera format the script goes around through the eyes and ears of Anne Strawson (Susan Bickley), the middle age woman detective investigating the case of Brian (Nicky Spence), aged 16, accused of stabbing Jake (Joseph Beesley), aged 13.

 The central theme is the mind games that our digital era has made so easy to fall into.  Something that even when could be thought to be exaggerated, it has a very real background, and happens everywhere in the world, through chat services, social networks, dating sites or even by SMS over the phone.  I myself have witnessed this kind of mind games and know how devastating can they be, and as always reality can be harder and stronger than fiction.  So the theme is real, the theme is vivid and surround us every day. 

Speaking of Lucas' script, it was well managed, trying to give the feeling of the new on-line way of communicating a very informal speech that gives a sense of more realism, with even some funny moments, although a deeper exploration of the characters could have being done, it covers enough to get us immerse in the story.

Rumon Gamba conducted Muhly’s score that goes along giving a nice film-like background to the stage singers. Sometimes it overcomes the soloist singers a little bit, though.

Personally I thought that the music didn't develop as much as I had expected, although one of the great achievements of Muhly's music is when we have the the multi-layered choir in scene, with a very beautiful staging of faces illuminated by open laptops and a multimedia effect with videos projected on the background with a 3D effect of the animations made by projecting different layers; the music goes into an "electronic" feeling, without the use of a single synthesizer, mix or other electronic music device.  The effect is achieved by beautiful polyphonies with aleatory and over lapping sounds and words and flashing images giving the real sense of a very modern and "electronic" multimedia staging.

The internet is the framework over which the opera is played, how ever, the emotions are the common suspects of any good drama.  A dramatic contemporary staging of the alienated world we live, and the ever lasting human desire of not leaving this world without love, without people remembering our qualities, a desire not to go "unsung", as the script puts it, when we leave for good. 

Overall is a good work, perhaps not remarcable as a very trascendent one, but certainly a very refreshing and innovative way of doing opera, to get it close to our reality and keep it interesting. It's worth an evening out.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Thousands march in Spain against cuts.... just one big english-speaking media reports.

Just about two months after Britain went to the streets on the March for the alternative, against the coalition cuts, gathering in London around 500,000 people on the 26th of March, and the 10,000 march of disable people for the same reason who took place in May, it was the turn of Spain.

Around 20,000 Spaniards went to the streets of Madrid, plus another 50 cities around the Spanish Kingdom, including around 10,000 in Barcelona, under the initiative"Democracia real, ya!" (Real Democracy, now!) a rally against the government cuts, the bankers and politicians, asking for a "solution of the economic crisis thinking in the people, not in the banks".  A movement that comes now that Spain has the highest unemployment rate of the European Union, 21.3 % of the population.

In an open letter from José Luis Sampedro Sáez, a Spanish writer, humanist, economist and member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, who has being advocated for an economy that is "more human, in solidarity, and capable of develop and dignify the people", he says that:

You have understood that is not enough to be upset, it is necessary to transform that upsetting feeling into resistance and give a step forward. A Historical movement needs action, movement, protest and pacific rebellion, The call for outrage shall not be stop in being a best-seller easily digested by the system and you are showing that with this initiative. [...] The official media is not going to support you and you will find many obstacles in your way, but what is at risk is your future.  The 15th of may shall be something more than an oasis in the desert, shall be the beginning of a strong fight until we achieve that, effectively, we are not "merchandise in hands of politicians and bankers any more". Let's say NO to the financial tyranny and its devastating consequences.

 And people listened to the call and went to the streets, a rally that was gather basically via social media over the internet, since it was little coverage in the Spanish media about the organizing of the event.

But was really outrageous was precisely the lack of covering of the event itself.  The Spanish media mentioned just little about it on the news, like if it was just a small march, and focusing on the arrests that the police performed and the number of policeman hurt during the rally. "24 arrested and 5 policeman injured in march against the system" it's the title on El Mundo. A few mentions in the international spanish-speaking media also were made.

Oddly enough, there was no mention at all in the British media about the event. We can argue that the British public has little interest in what is happening in Spain beyond the soccer matches, and it could be understandable, even when not desirable, that it didn't make to the front pages, but so far (16 of may, 8 pm) none of the mayor British media has mentioned the news at all!!  It just didn't happen for the english-speaking world. The only exception was the Washington Post article about it, so far the only mass media to report the event for the international public who doesn't speak Spanish.

And that is basically the reason of my post. In a world were the English language has become the lingua franca of the world, is really sad that the protests against the neo-liberal system around the world are silent.

But the march did happened, and #spanishrevolution became a world wide trending topic on twitter, even when the media is not covering.  But twitter gives just a glipse of what is happening, and we need to rely on the blogs of some Spanish participants to understand even a little of what was all about.

The march had lots of people, lots of messages, a big diversity of social profiles, groups and ideas. A big number of people outrage of a "democracy" that has become a parody of itself, a political party rule that doesn't represent the people and acts against them.

"They call it Democracy and it is not", says Juan Luis Sánchez.  In a small account of the march in Madrid, were it gives account that the march was a rally without the intervention of the political parties or even the unions, it was a march of the people, specially the young ones, like "Juventud sin miedo" (Youth without fear) an organization of youngsters that went to the march armed with books like The Quixote and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Similar accounts from Seville, Barcelona, Malaga, Oviedo, etc. are found, were people talk about the success of the marches, were complete families went out to the streets to protest. Shouting themes like "people, united, will never be defetead" and "we are not merchandise of politicians and bankers" people gathered in Plaza Cataluña in Barcelona, says Samuel Rodríguez. We are being robbed by the banks, not by the immigrants is the title of the Ovideo account by Javier Bauluz.




There has being an occupation at the Puerta del Sol (spanish for "Gate of the Sun", which oddly enough is not a gate, nor has any sun monument, but one of the main squares of Madrid, probably the equivalent of Trafalgar Square in London) and people are planning to stay indefinitely there to show that the movement was more than just one day.

People around Europe are showing that they are not happy, not happy at all by the government measures that only benefit the banks and the "macro-economy" leaving the social structure of the countries vulnerable and sometimes destroyed.  And more importantly, that there is an alternative, a solution that benefits the people and not the economic interests.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Royal Propaganda, Goebbels would be proud of Elizabeth Windsor

Last weekend was mental, really mental. It was the ultimately Medieval bank holiday, and I really begin to doubt if humanity has really evolved in the core since the dark ages. One week after, I want to reflect upon some things on the events.

First, we had a Royal Wedding, to celebrate an archaic institution that on its structural values goes against democracy, accountability, freedom of religion, state-church separation, woman rights and gay rights. Buckingham Palace PR machine went out with all, and held one of the biggest media hypes in recent times.  Then another institution that shares all those “qualities” with the monarchy, the Catholic Church, after having a very bad year on popularity, decided to held the beatification of Karol Wojtyla, aka John Paul II, without a doubt his most charismatic leader ever, but we have to question, how is getting this former Pope close to be a Saint helps with the abuse scandals, when he was not only protector, but friend of paedophiles like Marcial Maciel. And then to finish it all, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the crusaders kill the big heretic boss, making him a martyr and the Empire celebrates on the streets.

The events themselves will require a long post analysing them and all the things around.  But I want to centre in one specific theme, The propaganda machine that surrounded them, and in specific the Royal Wedding, and I’m doing it not because I think it’s the most important or with bigger repercussions, certainly on that category the Oscar goes to the Killing of Osama by Obama, but because is one I lived directly. 

Joseph Goebbels said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it

Well, the old Joe will be certainly proud of Elizabeth Windsor and her government.

Buckingham Palace started a massive media campaign to which, almost all media networks surrender and keep the editorial line dictated from the Royal Throne.  It was simple, ALL Britain was celebrating the wedding of Mrs. Windsor's grandson, and the event was the core of what means to be British, and everyone would have their “Proud to be British” moment watching, people would through into the streets in a massive number of “traditional street parties” and the monarchy would stronger than ever. Right?, well..Wrong!

For that we were told a series of lies, big ones and that were repeated by the media over and over. 

1)    The support of the monarchy is overwhelm outnumbering the very few republicans by much.  Reality show that 1 in 5 Britons want to have an elected head of state.
2)    Everybody in Britain is looking forward with great excitement the wedding, when a poll, previous to the wedding suggested that around 80% of the population was not interested at all.
3)    People would be celebrating all along in Britain.  Truth, the street parties application were lower than anyone expected, the majority of councils have none, even in big cities like Glasgow.
4)    All the world loves the Windors and the British monarchy and 2 billions persons would be watching the event. That was the one that won the prize really, the big big lie that Goebbels was talking about, and that was repeated all over. Media, even left wing one, like the Guardian and even media networks overseas repeated the mantra, “2 billions expected to watch the royal wedding” over and over, and as the genius of propaganda said, people eventually start to believe it.

But... Let’s analyze the numbers, shall we?

There are 1.5 billion TVs on this planet, from which

China:     400,000,000     
United States:     219,000,000     
Japan:     86,500,000     
India:     63,000,000     
Russia: 60,500,000
Brazil: 36,500,000

That is roughly 60% of the televisions on this planet

2 billion is 29% of the world’s population. Now, the country where presumably it would be the bigger audience is the UK, being the country with the biggest percentage of support for the monarchy.  And even here 60% of the population didn’t watch the event. If you can’t get even half of the population watching in the UK, can you seriously expect 28.9% across the world?

I think is safe to assume that in China, Japan, Russia and Brazil the event was not a major issue, so we would not expect a big audience there. Actually excluding the Commonwealth countries and the USA I would say it was a non relevant issue at all.  And a recent poll  showed that the USA was not really that interested, only less than 40% was interested, and not to a big degree, so other major population viewer dropped to get the big number. Now India, most-watched TV event in India was the 2011 India vs Sri Lanka cricket world cup final, with 135 million viewers. That’s only 11.7% of the Indian population, do you expect to have a bigger number for the wedding of a person who is viewed by many Indians as the continuation of the Empire that conquer them?

Let’s just examine other figures. The 2008 Olympic games opening ceremony got One billion viewers, the Soccer World Cup 2010 got 715 million. Do you seriously expect me to believe that the wedding of William Windsor captives the double of audience worldwide than what are presumably the two events of bigger international interests in the last 5 years?

Come on!!, even if you love the Windsors, you have to accept that the number is just a big propaganda statement.  But people repeated the mantra without even question it.

Now, we have the first part of Goebbels recommendation done, keep the lies big, and repeat them over and over and over.  It’s time to pass to phase two:

Use the power of the State to repress dissent.

The first attempt to repress dissent was with the group Republic, a non-party political pressure group that wants to have an elected head of state. They planned to organize a Non-Royal wedding street party, to celebrate republicanism and democracy, and show you can be a patriot without having to bow before the Windsors.  Well, the attempt was blocked, Camden council didn’t granted the permission over some claims of that this group had not submitted a “management plan” - which turned out to be thoroughly untrue, they demonstrate that with some emails and to the embarrassment of the council publish them and circulate them over the internet and some news sites (never in the front page of major ones of course).   Fortunately they manage to keep the party going, in a different place. So, until then, freedom of speech one, fascist tactics zero.

But things get worst, a couple of days before the wedding police start “pre-emptively” arresting people that they believe could cause disruption on the day of the wedding. were the “pre-emptive arrests” of 70 people under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1996, which grants the police ‘emergency’ stop and search powers. 99 people were “excluded” or “barred” from the City of Westminster on April 29. A small area was declared a “sterile” zone by the police, using the powers of the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

Buckingham palace also decree that no humour or mockery of the Royal couple was going to be made on public broadcast media.  So, not even protesting with a joke was allowed.

On the day of the wedding itself, a group of gay people organized a “zombie flash mob” in Soho square, a few km away from Westminster Abbey, but still in central London, and they were told to leave or would be arrested because they may “offend royalists”.

Additionally, the police arrested others, when they entered a branch of Starbucks on Oxford Street - arresting them “on suspicion of planning a breach of the peace”, surely buying a coffee is a very dangerous terrorist act.

So basically, having a republican sentiment equals to try to persecute the innocent royal couple and unpatriotically disrupt the nation’s rejoicing?

It was a very sad display of the most radical tactics of a fascist state, in a country that is supposed to be opposed to that and be a champion of democracy and freedom.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Patrick Wolf

Does anyone else loves Patrick Wolf?

I discover him actually by chance on youtube a few weeks ago, and the more I listen to his music the more fascinated I am, he mixes lots of sounds and genres I love, and the style varies a lot even in a single album, which is wicked, since usually the singers-composers tend to find their style and not move much from there, unlike the singers that sing songs from others that have like more chance to “choose” different styles.   It’s like listening to Bjork mixed with Kate Bush, Mika and Depeche Mode, but with a fabulous and fresh style.

As a musician, he tries to find new sounds, and to experiment, he plays the piano, harp, accordion, harpsichord, organ, theremin, ukulele, viola and violin, which is very impressive in itself, but beyond being multi-instrument player, I think he’s not afraid of trying new things, from commercial pop to dark melancholic folk and electronic sounds, also and a thing that I always celebrate in real artists, is that he really gives part of himself to his music, for that I mean that he manage to puts his own feelings and state of mind (and soul) in the tracks and transmit it in a brilliant way to the audience.  One may like or dislike some artists, but true art is about transmit feelings, if you manage to do that, then yes, you are entitled the name artists.

I have not listen to all his albums, I first followed what the internet give us about him, which it was a very nice surprise. Then, I decided to buy one of his albums, The Bachelor, which is surprisingly only £2.50 on amazon,
 then I learned that this album was founded by his fans, after leaving universal music and not wanting to deal with any major record label, he went out to his fans to ask for help, and give them the chance to buy stocks of the album, managing to collect £100,000 to record the 14 track album (explaining why is so cheap, since there’s no middle man and big company asking money for it).  This album, as he has described, is very dark due to him being in a very dark place, giving up on the idea of love and long term relationships.

There’s anger, but also a sense of hope, the revolution that leads to resolution, and great rock style sounds over the song “Hard Times”

The folk orientated and melancholic sounds of Damaris

The folk blues with a great stamp of despair in the Bachelor

Or the electronic sounds of Vulture

I have also listen to some tracks from the previous album, The magical position, which is a more commercial pop one, from a time when love was in the life of Wolf.

The baroque pop of the magical position, with a very nice video full of bright and happy colours, in a song that is also full of happy feelings, was the first to capture me.

And finally on a totally 80s style pop the new single of his upcoming album Lupercalia, The city.

I’m also fascinated with Patrick Wolf the character, first his extravagant androgynous looks, and his open sexuality that doesn’t constrict himself to a label. He said in an interview  "In the same way I don’t know if my sixth album is going to be a death-metal record or children's pop, I don’t know whether I’m destined to live my life with a horse, a woman or a man. It makes life easier." Which is a brilliant form to put it. And in other said that "My sexuality is kind of liberal. I fall in love with men and women. I guess you would call me bisexual. I like to have sex and fall in love—I don't like giving terminology for my sexuality.” 
It was, without a doubt one of the better discoveries I have made in lately, and I’m totally fascinated by this young artist.

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