Caroline Lucas: the media’s our problem

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The Green MP discusses her party – its policies, popularity and how to be heard above UKIP

Reasons to believe

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Photo: flickr.com courtesy Creative Commons

There’s a reason I still have faith in humanity.

I left the house to get groceries on Sunday in a foul mood. Passing an empty beer bottle slung by some slob into the planter outside my building only confirmed a belief the world was going to hell in a hay-cart. All day I’d felt disappointed and let down due to a good friend’s behaviour the previous evening while at my place for dinner.

I enjoy cooking for others and always make an effort. Taking advantage of the fact I live within walking distance of the culinary mecca that is Borough Market, I’d spent more than I should and most of the morning fighting crowds to get the necessary ingredients.

Most of the afternoon was spent slaving over a hot stove while preparing my culinary output for the evening. Then, before my guests arrived, the flat was cleaned and the music chosen, all with the intention of being the best host possible. My anticipation quickly became bemusement when the first of these friends turned up drunk.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m certainly not anti-alcohol and, indeed, enjoy a bottle of red myself most weekends. In fact I’d purchased a couple of excellent bottles for both my guests and I to share that evening. What I found so annoying was this person – someone who frankly, should know better, couldn’t be bothered to wait for the rest of us.

Many readers simply won’t understand why this upset me. The closest comparison I can draw for their benefit is, if having prepared dinner early, I proceeded to sit down and started eating the dessert before my guests even walked through the door.

Sadly I think my friend’s behaviour is indicative of a much wider, far more serious problem affecting society. Something that, despite its seriousness can be summed up in three short words: lack of courtesy.

Unfortunately said friend’s social misdemeanours did not end there. Throughout the evening they spent most of their time, including while seated at the table eating dinner with the rest of us, texting someone due to the possibility of getting lucky later. Again, call me old-fashioned, but I was raised to believe if someone invites you to their home and takes the time to cook a meal for you, the very least you can do is pay attention to what they and everyone else present are saying. More lack of courtesy.

I was walking back from the supermarket bemoaning this person’s behaviour during a call to another friend, someone who shares my mostly jaundiced view of the way people treat each other these days. He was appalled, as I knew he would be. He knows the person in question and, like me, usually has a high opinion of him.

As we spoke, I realized I’d forgotten to buy something so needed to pop into the little supermarket beneath my building. After explaining this, I promised to call again when I was back in my flat. Unlike some people I don’t think it’s civilised or necessary to walk around a store talking on my mobile. I also feel even though you’re not friends and they’re only doing their job, the very least you can give anyone serving you is your attention and a smile.

It amazes me how many people I see in shops completely ignoring the person serving them. Any acknowledgement they manage is little more than a nod while they conduct an entirely different conversation on their mobile phone about football, EastEnders or what Becky in accounting did at the pub Friday. Again: lack of courtesy.

After buying what I needed, while walking back to my building’s entrance I noticed a guy cutting branches away from a tree on the kerb that had become especially overgrown around the base. Only the other day I’d been thinking how untidy this was and how much it spoiled the surrounding area.

Believing he was a council worker, I stopped to thank him for a job well done and coming out on a Sunday but recognized him as someone who lived in my building. Appreciation quickly became admiration. I congratulated him for taking time out of his Sunday to do a job the hundreds of other occupants in my building and those surrounding it, including myself, simply couldn’t be bothered to do.

Retracing my steps, I picked up the empty bottle from the planter on the way in, stopping in my building’s bin area to put it in with the recycling. Phoning my friend to continue our conversation, I told him what happened and he agreed: despite the rudeness epidemic sweeping the modern world there are still many good, considerate people out there.

It’s funny how the universe works.

Facebook’s not all bad…

(Image: Creative Commons)

Image: Creative Commons

Not a big fan of Facebook, if I’m honest, I avoid it when possible. I’ve never collected friends the way kids collect trading cards nor have any inclination while I’m enjoying myself somewhere to stop and share this electronically.

Those few times I do log on I tend to find the stream of updates banal and unimaginative, and people’s repetitive rambling irritating. The surest way to spoil a nice Friday evening in alone is to read endless postings of everyone else apparently celebrating without you. It does however, have uses.

However, it is a good way to maintain contact with friends many miles away, and an excellent method of tracking down people you’ve lost touch with completely. I was contacted last week by someone I hadn’t heard from in 28 years who I went to high school with. Having lived in London since I was 19, I go home only to see family every five years or so. The flight’s too long, expensive and tiring at 44.

Struggling with my sexuality in macho Australia at high school was a difficult bittersweet time for me. Like most people I had some of the worst and best experiences of my life there during the five years it covered.

A group of us were extremely close but when it was over for me, it ended abruptly. My Mum died after a short bout of cancer just after I received my final exam grades and, after coming out, I dropped out of university to move in with my first partner and severed nearly all former social ties.

In the past few days I’ve chatted with people I haven’t spoken to in years, picking up the phone without hesitation and little embarrassment. Old memories came flooding back.

Sometimes you can go home again.

The Mindfulness Revolution

(Photo: flickr.com courtesy Creative Commons)

(Photo: flickr.com courtesy Creative Commons)

The Wall Street Journal recently claimed mindfulness-based meditation’s health benefits were limited. However with mindfulness recently on Time’s front-cover, and Mindfulness Apps available for mobiles, this apparently contradicts other publications and many people’s experience.

Adrian Rides, mindfulness practitioner and teacher for over 10 years based at The Now Project, describes mindfulness as a meditative way of observing your own thoughts while still fully engaged in daily activities: “It’s about waking up – being as alert, alive as possible to this moment so your attention is 100% in the present. When you do that, something happens: your thinking quietens – it creates a quiet space called thoughtless awareness…,

“Accessing thoughtless awareness allows you to engage fully – free of the dialogue in your head. For many people that dialogue’s not altogether comfortable and it could be downright destructive and painful. So to be able to consciously choose to step out of the dialogue in your head’s quite a nice ability to have.”

Doing this without judging or trying to change your thoughts you discover nearly all your emotional discomfort – guilt, fear, anger etc., proponents claim. This isn’t caused because of what’s really happening but by our own thoughts. Once you see this you can decide to just withdraw your attention from the discomfort. Because you wouldn’t choose to be in discomfort, things change and you begin to feel better.

Medical News Today criticised limited research supporting The Wall Street Journal’s and similar articles, downplaying mindfulness’ benefits. That doctor believes the medical profession must update its awareness of the benefits mindfulness based therapy offers.

Paul Vallins, a client of Mr Rides agrees. A cocaine addict for ten years, he’s been clean for seven – something he attributes to mindfulness.

“It’s a completely different reality I’m living in,” he says.

“It takes practice. It’s difficult. Your mind doesn’t want to give up. There’s the ego in the pain body you must deal with. The ego’s your false sense of self… who you think you are.

“I was in a lot of pain then so at first practising was easy for me because there was no way out and that happens to lots of people I find. You take mindfulness on, it comes from a place of: they need to surrender.”

Mr Vallins now has a roofing business and teaches mindfulness himself. Mindfulness continues growing in popularity – even MPs take mindfulness classes in Westminster. It seems anyone really can benefit.

Gay man announced as Batwoman’s new writer

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(Photo: flickr.com courtesy of Creative Commons)

(Photo: flickr.com courtesy of Creative Commons)

In an effort to stop accusations of homophobia, the global comic book company has hired an openly gay writer

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Batfleck

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A movie buff and lifelong DC Comics and Batman fan, I want to offer my opinion concerning the brouhaha about Ben Affleck’s casting as the Dark Knight’s latest on-screen incarnation.

Though an avid DC reader who never misses an issue, I do not consider myself a “fanboy”. I don’t attend conventions; decorate my flat with related artwork or models; dress up like favourite characters; role-play them in video games or keep my comics in plastic-slip covers. I consider the term itself somewhat derogatory, something borne out by most fanboy behaviour following Warner’s announcement last Friday.

Nor is it a dirty secret however. I still smile remembering the horrified looks on some close friends’ faces at dinner when, during my father’s visit several years back, he innocently inquired whether I still read superhero comics. Once the sniggering ceased they asked why and I explained I simply enjoyed the stories. I love the idea of people with “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men” using these to help the world.

Batman’s different in that respect. An ordinary man, his only powers are his intellect, physical prowess, gadgets and obsession to prevent anyone suffering his own overwhelming loss after witnessing his parents’ murder as a child. With the drive, commitment and financial resources, in theory anyone could be Batman.

Perhaps this explains the character’s almost universal appeal. Despite an inability to fly, move at super-speed, fire lasers from his eyes or move mountains, he is consistently ranked the world’s most popular superhero. It doesn’t explain the monumental idiocy a large percentage of Batfans now display.

There’s a petition circulating with over 80,000 signatures in opposition to Affleck’s casting. Fans threaten to boycott Warner’s films, picket studios, destroy merchandise and numerous other forms of stupidity to show their displeasure until Affleck’s replacement.

Affleck wouldn’t be my first choice to play Batman/Bruce Wayne either. However, I’m old enough to remember, as too are most people involved in this nonsense, similar pre-release opposition occurred following Michael Keaton’s casting in the first Batman movie. No doubt many of these very same people were those who petitioned for him to stay when he decided to hang up his cape and cowl after the second film.

More recently in 2006, the web erupted with anger when Heath Ledger landed the part of Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker, a role he won an Oscar for in Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

The lessons to fanboys are simple.

Firstly, no matter how much noise this vocal minority makes you will not pressure a studio into changing their mind on casting. It can see the script and the big picture. To second-guess this so early in a film’s production process demonstrates both a complete lack of faith in the creative team and childlike naivete about how these decisions are taken.

Secondly, suck it and see. You don’t have any other choice and who knows – you may be pleasantly surprised!

Mobile technology in advertising: the best is yet to come

Photo: pixabay.com courtesy Creative Commons)

Photo: pixabay.com courtesy Creative Commons

Jon Mew interview for C21 Media

Jon Mew, the Internet Advertising Bureau’s director of mobile says mobile technology, already used in revolutionary new ways to increase sales, continues to be developed, its real marketing capabilities not yet realized. He also feels lifting limitations caused by present trading barriers like tax and charges would further increase the potential opportunities created by Tech City.