CEREBYTES

THINKERS PARADISE, FOOLS OASIS.

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Sunday, September 10

Wtah teh fcuk?

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I wasrdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, itdseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrodare, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit apboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raedervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Thursday, August 31

What's new in The World?

It seems like such a long time since I last blogged. Sure I take a look around the blogosphere every once in a while to see what fellow bloggers have been up to but just haven't felt the urge to purge. If you know what I mean.

There are some really great blogs out there and some really crap ones too and all the rest in the middle. But is anyone listening? Does it matter? If I blog for Me then my blog is no more than a personal diary of my thoughts. But then if it's purely for me why launch it into cyberspace for others to see. I mean, you wouldn't publish copies of your most innermost thoughts and reflections from your personal diary and hand them out to friends and foe alike, would you?

So I think maybe it's more than just for Me. I blog for Me and for others and that's fine, so long as I'm not in denial.

Friday, July 21

Is this attitude progressive?

Carl Von Clausewitz

War is the contiunation of politics, by other means.

Tuesday, July 11

Word War III

So M*!!!***^%&*i called Zidane the son of a terrorist whore, allegedly! That's what triggered the "Magician" to use his head in the war of words. Perhaps, he showed the world a different side to football, fame and glory: there are more important things to life than winning a trophy, even if it is the World Cup. Things like self-respect and integrity.

Monday, July 10

Momentary Madness?

What a tragic way for Zidane to end his legendary career. I really wanted to see him score the winning goal and raise the World Cup once more, for the Grande Finale of his illustrious career as one of the greatest midfielders of my generation. But fate had another score for him to settle. It was very upsetting to see him using his head instead of his magical feet. What I can't figure out is what was said to bring out the demon in him? Perhaps the spirit of Hitler spoke from the infamous Olympic Stadium once more - bringing out the worst from the best of people. Spooky.

Friday, July 7

Zero

Saturday, July 1

Answers

The desperate search for answers and solutions in the gutter and in the stars but the gutter's foul-mouthed and the stars remain silent.

Tuesday, June 27

Question

Are we human beings the only Life that is conscious? Are the birds and the trees, the oceans and the skies, the stars and the planets all dead? Are we really the living foetus within the womb of a dead universe? If the mother is dead how can the foetus be alive?

Tuesday, June 6

Pearls

Great pearls of wisdom are often mistaken for common grains of sand.

Monday, May 22

Home Loan

If you are a homeowner in need of a home equity loan but you have not yet built up any equity in your home, don't despair. A 125 percent equity home loan may be the answer.A 125 percent equity home loan is a second mortgage loan that allows you to borrow up to 25% more than the value of your home. For example, if your home is worth $100,000 and you owe $100,000 on the mortgage, this loan program would allow you to still borrow up to $25,000.The 125 percent equity home loan is offered by various online lenders. Each lender has their own qualification and loan term guidelines but generally this is a credit score driven loan program. Credit score driven means that you have to have a certain credit score to qualify for the loan.In addition, your credit score usually determines the maximum loan amount you may qualify for and the maximum cash in hand you may receive. Also, some 125 percent equity home loan lenders may require seasoning on the length of time you have lived in your home. Three months is normally the minimum.When it comes to a property appraisal, most 125 percent home equity loan lenders do not require you to obtain one. They generally will use the purchase price of your home as the value if you have lived in your residence for 12 months or less. If you have lived in your home over 12 months, a recent tax assessment, simple drive-by appraisal, or automated value model (avm) can be used. An avm is a computer generated assessment of your home's value which is based on recent home sales of comparable houses in your neighborhood.For more information on 125% home equity loans, or to compare rates and programs of 125% home equity loan lenders visit www.equityloansource.com

Friday, May 19

House Market Data

The outlook for the housing market has brightened and steady house price inflation should support spending as consumers borrow against the value of their homes, according to a Reuters poll of 21 housing experts.
Median forecasts in this week's survey showed house prices -- based on the main house price indices -- would be six percent higher in the fourth quarter this year from the same period a year ago, up from 3.5 percent forecast in February's poll.

Housing market activity has picked up since the start of the year as confidence has grown that last year's downturn, when house price inflation fall to low single digits from a peak of more than 25 percent growth in 2003, is over.
The Halifax, Britain's largest mortgage lender, said its 3-month annual rate of house price inflation picked up to 8.0 percent in April, its highest in 13 months, while Bank of England data showed mortgage approvals jumped by the biggest amount since November 2003 in March.

"There is plenty more upside given the latest mortgage approvals figures but it may not necessarily get to 20 percent year-on-year," said Alan Clarke at BNP Paribas in London. The rebound in house prices also bodes well for consumer spending in Britain where two thirds of households own their homes. Retail sales, hit by a decline in consumers' appetite for debt in the last year as house price inflation eased, rose by more than expected in April.

Mortgage equity withdrawal -- where homeowners refinance home loans to extract cash -- also rose to the highest level in more than a year in the last three months of 2005 and many economists -- 10 of 18 -- expect to see further rises."It will help consumer spending as people have this resource they can tap into to augment their take-home pay," said Clarke, adding that this was one factor which may prompt the Bank of England to eventually raise interest rates from 4.5 percent.

House prices are set to rise by 3% during the year, barely enough to keep pace with inflation, the Halifax said.
A crash would be avoided due to high levels of employment, wages rises and interest rate cuts, the group added.
But at the same time,- well known market sceptics - Capital Economics warned that house prices could fall 5% in 2006. House prices rose by 2.0% in April and by 4.4% in the first four months of 2006, the bank has said. April's price rise was considerably up on March's figure of 0.9%. Halifax expects prices to rise further over the summer but then level off later in the year due to a "softening" of the labour market.

The Bank of England revealed that mortgage lending jumped by the biggest amount in two and a half years during March. Mortgage lending rose by £9.3bn compared with a forecast of £8.6bn. Loans agreed for house purchase rose to 116,000 in March from 114,000 in February. The strong showing by the UK housing market took many economists by surprise, particularly as the most recent data from the Nationwide had indicated that house price inflation was slowing.

Saturday, May 13

Congratulations Tricia!

Congrats to my very old friend Tricia for graduating! All the best success and fulfillment! And to all those who will be celebrating with her-- have a night that puts bacchanal to shame!!!!!

Thursday, May 11

Bob Marley

Until the philosophy
Which holds one race superior
And another
Inferior
Is finally
And permanently
Discredited
And abandoned -
Everywhere is war -
Me say war.
That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance
than the colour of his eyes-
Me say war.
That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race-
Dis a war.
That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained-
Now everywhere is war -
war.


Today marks the 25th anniversay of the death of the greatest black musician since Orpheus- Robert Nesta Marley. The man, the myth, the legend and his music transcended all boundaries, making him an Icon and giving reggae universal and long-lasting appeal.

Bob Marley was a hero figure, in the classic mythological sense. His departure from this planet came at a point when his vision of One World, One Love - inspired by his belief in Rastafari - was beginning to be heard and felt. The last Bob Marley and the Wailers tour in 1980 attracted the largest audiences at that time for any musical act in Europe.

Bob's story is that of an archetype, which is why it continues to have such a powerful and ever-growing resonance: it embodies political repression, metaphysical and artistic insights, gangland warfare and various periods of mystical wilderness. And his audience continues to widen: to westerners Bob's apocalyptic truths prove inspirational and life-changing; in the developing world his impact goes much further. Not just among Jamaicans, but also the Hopi Indians of New Mexico and the Maoris of New Zealand, in Indonesia and India, and especially in those parts of West Africa from wihch slaves were plucked and taken to the New World, Bob is seen as a redeemer figure returning to lead this planet out of confusion.

In the clear Jamaican sunlight you can pick out the component parts of which the myth of Bob Marley is comprised: the sadness, the love, the understanding, the Godgiven talent. Those are facts. And although it is sometimes said that there are no facts in Jamaica, there is one more thing of which we can be certain: Bob Marley never wrote a bad song. He left behind the most remarkable body of recorded work. "The reservoir of music he has left behind is like an encyclopedia," says Judy Mowatt of the I-Threes. "When you need to refer to a certain situation or crisis, there will always be a Bob Marley song that will relate to it. Bob was a musical prophet."

The country of Jamaica has produced an artist who has transcended all categories, classes, and creeds through a combination of innate modesty and profound wisdom. Bob Marley, the Natural Mystic, may yet prove to be the most significant musical artist of the twentieth century.

Today I dusted off my CD's and chilled to the mellifluous sounds of my hero; HERE'S TO YOU BOB!


We’re jammin’:
I wanna jam it wid you.
We’re jammin’, jammin’,
And I hope you like jammin’, too.
Ain’t no rules, ain’t no vow,
we can do it anyhow:
I’n’i will see you through,
’cos everyday we pay the price with a little sacrifice,
Jammin’ till the jam is through.
We’re jammin’ -
To think that jammin’ was a thing of the past;
We’re jammin’,
And I hope this jam is gonna last.
No bullet can stop us now, we neither beg nor we won’t bow;
Neither can be bought nor sold.
We all defend the right;
jah - jah children must unite:
Your life is worth much more than gold.
We’re jammin’ (jammin’, jammin’, jammin’)

Monday, May 8

Stop Making Sense

Sometimes I feel like a Nomad. There is no place I can truly call home. I did have a home once, in Leeds where I was born and grew up with my mother and father. Those were happy times. I was an only child but I played with neighbourhood friends and i-friends, just like mathematicians play with imaginary numbers. I felt secure, my house belonged to me, there was a balance between the authoritarianism of my father and the severity of my mother. I remember one Sunday morning playing with a ball-point pen while lying in bed just curiously trying to figure out how it worked. I was about 5 years old at the time. Suddenly, something went radically wrong and I accidently made a long mark in ink along my mother's prized faux-sheepskin sheets. So, never one to panic, I calmly licked my fingers and tried to rub the mark out. Ha! That's when I discovered the Eighth-Wonder of the world: the permanence of ink! This ink mark just wouldn't budge, infact it smudged until it turned into a blue-hazy smear. The more I rubbed it with wet finger tips, the more it spread out with different densities of blue creating an atmospheric "sky" effect. I didnt know it then but ten years later I would find out that what I was doing at 5 was known as the sfumato technique, the one Leonardo Da Vinci perfected on the Mona Lisa. lol. That's not what my irascible mother thought. Never mind sfumato, she went fuming mad! I had been playing with an INK PEN in bed on HER SHEEPSKIN SHEETS????!!!! She beat me with a slipper, a shoe and worst of all- a hard rock-like mineral that felt like murder (It's made of calcium and comes covered in a thin layer of elastic so it hurts and stings at the same time) - yes, a HAND. At the time I was so sorry I had ever been born with the curse of curiosity. If only I had never woke up that morning I thought, I wouldn't have had to be murdered with a star-fish shaped rock. But then my father came running up the stairs to see why his son was screaming like he was being stoned to death and why my mother was shouting like she'd just found out her son had died in a car accident: NOOOOOOOOOO! When he found out that it was over a little bit of ink on a meaningless bedsheet, he just calmly said: "It's alright, we'll buy another one." And that was the end of it, my life was spared. Not that we ever did buy another one, there was no need, afterall the ink mark came out with a few washes and my previously unknown talent at sfumato was never used again. For fear of my own safety. lol.

Wednesday, May 3

A Life of Crime

Two police officers were attempting to apprehend a suspect wanted for questioning in connection to a burglary when one of them stopped, out of breath. After a few more minutes of chasing the burglar, the other officer too ran out of gas and stopped running. The burglar, relieved to see them gasping and panting in the distance now, kept running knowing he was practically home and dry. Hoping no more cops would pick up where the others left off, the career criminal swore to himself that, if he made it this time he would leave burglary for good and get an easier "job". As the second officer staggered back to where his partner was, both of them still huffing and puffing, he said between gulping lung-fulls of air: "Aw man......that creepy crawly......was fast......! What happened to you?...You gave up running...before you've even chased the guy! You ill or something?" To which the first officer, having just come off the radio to report the suspect's failure to be apprehended, said: "I caan't do this anymore Joe, I mean, what's the point huh? We chase 'em, they escape, we chase 'em another day, they go down and before you know it, they're back out here again and we gotta chase 'em all over again! Nah man, I had it up to here! I want out Joe, I wanna do something better than this!" Joe had caught his breath back now and was shaking his head and said: " Al, make your mind up for Christ's sake! 5 years ago when WE were being chased by the cops YOU were the one who said you wanted to get outta crime! Well hey: WE HAVE...sorta. So stop busting my balls will ya!

Tuesday, May 2

What's in a Word?

The latest proclamation to come out Iran is that it will target Israel first if the United States does anything "evil", a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards said on today.
"We have announced that wherever America does something evil, the first place that we target will be Israel," Revolutionary Guards Rear Admiral Mohammad-Ebrahim Dehqani was quoted as saying by Iran's student news agency ISNA.
Experts said recent wargames, in which Iran said it had tested new missiles and torpedoes, were a thinly veiled threat that it could disrupt vital Gulf oil shipping lanes if it was attacked.
This word "evil" seems to be causing a lot of problems in the world, so much so, that perhaps we should blast the word itself from all languages. The first time I came across this evil word was at church as a child. Everything that was not of God was evil I quickly realised. Then, for the first time I heard a teacher call a mischievous individual the "E-word." The whole class was shocked. This was unprecedented. Now this boy would forever bear the mark of E. We even wondered amongst ourselves if his being the "E-word" meant he was a child of the devil. Afterall, people could be "naughty", "bad", a "nuisance", "insolent", "terrible" but never would they be called e-v-i-l unless they really deserved the scar of the most awful of words. Fastforward twenty years to the present and it seems every nation calls a friend it just fell-out with - evil. Up to twenty-seven years ago, Iran and the US were best friends; Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi being returned to power in Iran with US help after he had fled the country in 1953.This was achieved by overthrowing the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, done through the aid of a joint CIA and MI6 covert operation, Operation Ajax.
Now Iran calls the US the E-word, the US calls any of its friends who've developed a mind of their own - the E-word or worse: being on the axis of the E-word! How do you get to be on the "axis" of a word? It's not geometry! Funnily enough, not too long ago the E-word was known by another word, the C-word. No, not that one, the other one. But I feel sympathy for this poor little word that has been used and abused so unceremoniously to mean v-i-l-e. Evil is so much more than that, on a good day when you see him from behind he can mean l-i-v-e! At night sometimes he can be enignmatic wearing a v-e-i-l of mysteriousness. But most of all, just like Communism which in its heyday was equally infamous causing much anxiety and fear, evil will always be just a word; words don't destroy - people do.

Friday, April 28

Law Lords

Three Law Lords were heard having an interlocution in Chambers. The first, Lord Swift, remarked to his two noble and learned friends: "Change is good", his eyebrows raised. Lord Stay, however, with a look of consternation retorted: "No-change is better!" The third, Lord Sharp, sighed deeply and after carefully and deliberately adjusting his impossibly thin spectacles on the tip of his nose, turned to Lord Swift and responded: "I take it then you will not be too displeased to hear me confess that I have slept with your most fragrant wife on many an occasion and most enjoyable she has proved to be too." Lord Sharp then turned to Lord Stay and with grave face intimated: "In light of what you have just said I shall be forced to refuse your request hitherto for the blue torpedo as I think it best that I did not deal to you a cut from my supply of Viagra afterall; for I fear that you will pose an even greater threat to soceity than you evidently already do, as a bombastic prig and a pompous prick. To provide you with the means to pain us further as a perambulating priapism would indeed be a great miscarriage of justice! If you are in such comfort with the order of things, you should accept your dysfunction satisfactorily, not attempt to remedy it. " The Court Usher, who unintentionally overheard the Lordships' conversation added, with a knowing smile on her face, that: "When you've seen your Lordship crawling on all fours, wearing nappies with a dummy in his mouth moaning to be spanked for being a naughty baby - you come to realise that anybody who chooses to work at a bar which makes you dress in fancy costume - wearing curly, horsehair wigs, skirts and ribbons and flowing, red and black dresses....has to be secretly o-u-t-r-a-g-e-o-u-s! But for the record, let's just say they have to be a little peculiar, to say the least." Oh well, at least it's reassuring to know they're human after all, or is it...?

Sunday, April 23

Gautam Malkani

I read an interesting article in the Financial Times entitled: What’s right with Asian boys. Gautam Malkani is an FT journalist and by the sounds of it is content to let Malibu the sweet, coconut flavored caribbean white rum, with a taste reminiscent of coconut, almonds and mocha - take its natural course on those seriously easy going desi Bombay Bronx nights and why not? A blend of cultural influences is just like Malibu: distilled in Barbados, bottled in Scotland, exported throughout the world and appreciated by many, not for its origins but purely for its taste.

He writes:

"Not too long ago, British Asians used to joke that any graduates among us who weren’t working in law, finance or medicine must have bad parents. These days - every third Tuesday of the month to be precise - members of a more creative Asian scene descend on a basement bar in London called the Notting Hill Arts Club. In among the throng of stylish, spiky-haired students you can find bhangra and hip-hop artists, disc jockeys, MCs and even a former Tory parliamentary candidate. I have bumped into brown-skinned broadcasters, publishers, playwrights, actors, stand-up comics, photographers, fellow journalists, PR people, internet entrepreneurs and, of course, people who “work in fashion”.

But the monthly club night, called Bombay Bronx, is not a networking event for arty Asians in Britain’s creative industries. The music is too loud, you see. And it is the music that everyone has come for. The records are spun by BBC Radio One disc jockey Nihal Arthanyake and the fusion of bhangra, RnB, Bollywood, UK garage and US hip-hop is a genre of its own, widely known as “desi beats”.

As well as Bombay Bronx, there are dozens of regular desi events held at nightclubs across the country. The desi beats scene has all the characteristics of other youth subcultures, but one feature is particularly important: for many young British Asians, it offers us something to wear on top of our ethnicity - giving us an alternative collective identity.

The word “desi” literally means countrymen and refers specifically to the diaspora. It is broader than terms such as Indian, Pakistani, Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, and yet narrower than the term Asian or even South Asian. It acts as a self-determined alternative to the word “paki” and the enthusiasm with which it has been embraced suggests a conscious decision against appropriating the offensive word paki and trying to turn it into a positive the way black kids have done with the word “nigger”.

Last year, “desi” appeared as a noun in the Oxford Dictionary of English, having been first introduced as an adjective in 2003. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have employed it for programming - such as the BBC’s Desi DNA show - and even an entire channel in the case of MTV Desi.
All this semantics is important because, as a result of the word’s development, desi is now closer to the term “latino” than “Hispanic”. And because it has come to refer to a loose subculture rather than a rigid ethnicity, desi beats is not exclusively Asian. Tune in to any of the above broadcasts or walk into Bombay Bronx and you will not be greeted by a sea of brown faces. When people talk about the failure of the cultural melting pot, it might be because they cannot appreciate the popular culture melting pot.

Traditional cultural forms usually associated with multiculturalism (such as folk dancing or religious headgear, for example) are by nature not particularly pliable. If you focus on them as characteristics of a multicultural society then, yes, Britain all too often seems segregated according to whether people are wearing turbans, headscarves, skullcaps, dreadlocks or adopting the shaven-headed look of a Millwall football fan. But unlike these more rigid cultural forms, the more demotic desi subculture gives kids a more porous identity. It is derivative in a positive sense that fosters social cohesion and inclusiveness - everything and everyone seems to blend together like the records being mixed up at Bombay Bronx.

This view of Britain might require some oversimplification, but it is surely a view worth entertaining given that it is conducive to both multiculturalism and social cohesion - instead of setting up a trade-off between the two. And while popular culture may not seem particularly politically empowering, it gives me and other British Asians a sense of real, constructive participation in whatever it is that constitutes Britishness.
It all looked so different nearly a decade ago, when I undertook a study of Asian youth as part of my university degree. Back then, my research had a much more pessimistic premise and conclusion. What I did not appreciate at the time, however, was that the seemingly bleak state of affairs was arguably a necessary stage in the evolution of the subculture I am championing today.

At university, I had wanted to know why brown-skinned kids back home in the west London borough of Hounslow were suddenly choosing not to integrate with white-skinned kids. Why they were discarding the British Asian youth stereotype of disciplined, academically and grammatically conscientious citizens and instead asserting their ethnicity with an aggression usually associated with black-skinned kids. This was ironic given the prejudices Asian families have typically had against black communities and so, finally, I wanted to know why Asian kids were becoming alien to their own parents and adopting cultural identities that had as much to do with US hip-hop as they
did with Bollywood.

When I asked Cambridge University’s social and political sciences faculty if they’d let me hang out with my mates back in Hounslow and then submit the results as my undergraduate dissertation, I didn’t think they’d say yes. After all, I was clearly more at ease in Hounslow than I was at Cambridge and so my proposed dissertation may merely have looked like an academic solution to homesickness. Fortunately Dr Susan Benson, an anthropologist and social scientist who sadly passed away last summer, agreed to supervise my research.
Not only that, but she did so with a suggestion that developed into a core theme of the study and its evolution into my novel, Londonstani: that I submit the dissertation under the faculty’s gender relations paper rather than the race relations paper. And, as a result, my work became an exploration of how the assertion of ethnic identities is sometimes better viewed as a proxy for the reassertion of masculinity.
Of course, this standpoint was not about downplaying the relevance of what many of my friends saw as a perennial fight against racism and discrimination - it was simply about deciding that those things should not be the focus of my work.

When I approached Dr Benson, I told her I wanted to study the beef between this relatively new breed of hardcore Asian “rudeboys” and “coconuts” - a term of abuse for Asians who, despite their brown skin, are deemed to be “white” on the inside because of their assimilation into mainstream British society.
Dr Benson refined my proposal to make it more academically acceptable, replacing “my mates” with “ethnographic informants” and the word “beef” with “boundary” - in the vein of those sociologists who argued that ethnicity is best understood as the boundaries between people rather than the “cultural stuff” within them. She also saved me from myself by adding the subtitle “Assertive ethnicity, masculinity and identity” to the title I had given the dissertation (which was “Chocolate flavoured coconut milk”).
At first I was apprehensive about Dr Benson’s emphasis on gender identities, but the wisdom behind it became gradually clear when I was back in Hounslow over Christmas for the first stage of fieldwork - a combination of loosely structured, taped interviews and participant observation. For example, it was uncanny how for many Asian kids, the term “coconut” was synonymous with a stockpile of slang for effeminate or homosexual - such as sap, ponce or batty.

Nevertheless, it seemed premature to conclude that “whiteness” was being simply dismissed as effeminate because, at that time, mainstream British youth culture centred on Britpop, personified by the likes of Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Suede’s Brett Anderson. Surely the androgynous look of these skinny swaggerers was just a passing phase, convenient at the time for some Asian kids to mock but not fundamental to what was going on in the playgrounds and on the high streets?

I remember starting to be swayed one Friday night when, after spending the evening with a group of kids in a local snooker club, we all drove down to a plane-spotting site near Terminal 4 so that some of the boys could sober up before going home. No sooner had they started up with their routine homophobic and misogynist banter than one of the boys pulled me aside and became watery-eyed as he talked about the way a girl he claimed not to fancy probably didn’t think he was manly enough because he wasn’t Indian enough. The boy in question was drunk, but what he was saying was pretty sobering.

Dr Benson had told me people might confide in me this way precisely because I was a stranger - that was why it was better to cultivate “ethnographic informants” instead of hanging around with my mates. Sure, it might make me feel like an idiot when I approached potential informants, but in the long term it would be a more efficient way of gathering insights into a community I’d presumed I already knew so well. Dr Benson was vindicated again.
The conflation of questions of masculinity and race had been well documented in studies of Afro-Caribbean communities, and each time I went back to Hounslow to conduct another stage of fieldwork yet more anecdotal evidence would convince me how useful it could be to look at ethnic identities as tools or props for the bolstering of boys’ gender identities. Sometimes those were religious, such as Sikh boys’ tendency to display holy symbols on their BMW windscreens. Sometimes, the props had racial undertones, such as the loud bhangra music being blasted from those cars. And then, of course, there were those props that illustrated how ethnicity can often refer to national identities as well as religious or racial ones - such as wearing Indian cricket shirts.

All this cultural stuff was being used by brown-skinned boys as a way of helping them stand taller, speak up louder and strut their stuff with greater gusto. Add a bit of the hip-hop paraphernalia that had for long fulfilled similar functions for black kids, and you had a new model of British Asianness that was much less vulnerable to emasculation by any racism in the dominant culture.

Back then, there was only a handful of texts about the crisis of masculinity, compared with the bookcases-worth we have today. But one theory that repeatedly jumped off the pages to become central to my thinking was the idea that if a boy’s maternal role model is stronger than his paternal one, he is likely to overshoot with his own definition of what it is to be a man and develop a form of “hypermasculinity”. It sounds complicated, but basically it means that if boys don’t have adequate emotional ties with their fathers, then they will have to develop their definitions of masculinity in opposition to their mothers rather than in relation to their dads. Thus they strive to be more manly than their mothers rather than simply being as manly as their fathers. If their mothers also happen to be domineering, more demanding of respect and generally more macho, then the resulting machismo of their sons might be all the more so.

The model could easily apply to people of all races and ethnicities - from tough guys in London’s East End to disaffected youth in New York’s Bronx. But clearly I could not ignore how neatly this theory fitted the lives of the people I was studying in Hounslow. Of course, applying it involved a degree of generalisation, but sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason. Indian boys are renowned for being mummy’s boys; Indian dads are renowned for being emotionally detached patriarchal figures; while Indian mums are renowned for being domineering, emotionally involved patriarchal figures. Although prescriptive hypotheses like this have a tendency to prove self-fulfilling, the usefulness of this theory seemed to be confirmed during interview after interview.
If Asian “rudeboys” were thereby overshooting their masculinity and looking for cultural props with which to do so, no wonder they’d also reached out to gangsta rap music, successfully blending the elements of machismo, misogyny and homophobia in their parent’s culture with that inherent in hip-hop.
This was also apparent in their language. As well as absorbing the steady supply of new hip-hop slang for effeminacy and creating a sorry situation where you simply couldn’t swear enough, our mother tongues became a source of strength. Not only could rude boys utter abuse at other kids, they could do so in a way that only they understood. This was particularly the case with Panjabi - spelt the local way rather than the British “Punjabi”. Indeed, while they were busy pulping the English language, their Panjabi generally adhered to strict grammatical rules and respect for the nuances created by silent letters.

Of course, language is also important in its own right, with rhythmic verbal abuse often acting as surrogate fists. Indeed, it is often as if boys’ tongues take on some kind of phallic symbolism - except of course there is no magic Viagra for those who cannot cuss properly.
Another such symbol is the mobile phone. Asians have typically been early adopters of new technology but even 10 years ago top-of-the-range Nokia handsets were being brandished by schoolboys in ways that they couldn’t always do with the latest sports car, widescreen television or video game console. But the study highlighted how mobile phones represent more than just fashion accessories doubling up as high-tech penis extensions. They are also weapons that enable a new kind of technological truce between domineering Indian mothers and sons, one that somehow gives both parties more potency. Boys are able to conduct their affairs in greater privacy while mothers can exert their overbearing presence even when their sons aren’t at home.

If another expression of virility is the ability to dictate a female’s sexual relations (as illustrated by hip-hop’s abhorrent glamorisation of the professional pimp), then it was little surprise to see aggressive ethnic identities employed by both Sikh and Muslim boys in order to punish those who had relations with girls across that traditional ethnic divide. Indeed, after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, when my reporting on the recruitment of Islamic fundamentalists took me back to Hounslow, a colleague seemed bemused when some informants divulged information not about potential terrorists, but how local Muslim boys were converting or “sisterising” Sikh girls through the age-old technique of pretending to be in love with them.

However, if my dissertation offered any additional insight for that reporting assignment, viewing ethnicity as a proxy for masculinity made for gloomy conclusions - especially in the context of today’s political debates about how best to engineer a deeper allegiance to Britishness without threatening our country’s rich multiculturalism. After all, while you might be able to devise citizenship tests and oaths to create more cohesive national identities, how on earth can anyone engineer against something as innate as a boy’s desire to be manly and virile? By promoting the androgyny of Jarvis Cocker? I don’t think so.

My dissertation did, however, highlight one optimistic interpretation of what might be going on among Asian kids. Sociologist Tariq Modood had written about how voluntary segregation along ethnic lines might give minority communities the strength and self-esteem to assimilate with mainstream society later on, but on their own terms.
The actions of some Asian kids might have looked unnecessarily aggressive and sometimes even ugly, but racism and discrimination were once very real threats.

Indeed, some of the infamous west London Asian gangs that predated my dissertation and filled the local press with stories of rampages on the local high street may have originally been responses to racist attacks on Asians. But by the time I started my fieldwork those gangs were more legends than reality and the threat of racism appeared more imaginary than real. Similarly, the tendency of kids to ghettoise Hounslow to make it sound like a Bronx-style hood implied another kind of imagined threat in a local economy that remains relatively healthy thanks to having Heathrow Airport on its doorstep.

As the threat of racism receded, surely these kids’ aggressive, anti-assimilation ethic would follow? Perhaps that dynamic that Modood called “assertive ethnicity” and the evolution of Asian boys from victims to predators was a necessary step in the creation of a truly British Asian subculture - allowing kids to integrate on their own terms, bringing their own brand of Britishness to the table.
And so the Asian boy as victim (represented by the word “paki”) may have given way to the aggressor (represented by the names of some gangs such as Shere Panjab, where the word “Sher” translates as lions or tigers). And, in turn, that may have led to a social equilibrium between victim and aggressor implied by “desi”.
However, at that time I saw no evidence of British Asian kids using their newly-asserted ethnicity to assimilate on their own terms. They wanted to live in a separate society and, accordingly, there was little by way of a sustainable cultural scene that was as British as it was Asian. Some form of this holy grail may have enjoyed a heyday in the late 1990s thanks to the musical genius of artists such as Nitin Sawhney and Talvin Singh, but the reality is they were embraced more by mainstream society than British Asian kids on the streets.

By contrast, today’s desi beats artists such as Jay Sean may sound more like black US urban acts than anything remotely Indian. But Hounslow-born Jay Sean is British, not American. And if his success here and in India means kids look up to him as a British Asian role model, then so what? The fact that today’s desi scene borrows so much from popular black culture hardly makes it less worthy or authentic. After all, Elvis did the same thing - that’s what popular culture is about.

The success of contemporary desi artists and events such as Notting Hill’s Bombay Bronx - which celebrates its second birthday next month - suggests my earlier pessimism was misplaced. Indeed, at a time when many observers have grown gloomy about the state of Britain’s multicultural project and when posses of Asian youth are often viewed as potential fanatics ripe for new race riots, I have revisited my dissertation with more optimism than when I did it in the 1990s.

If it is arguable that what is being asserted today is no longer simply an ethnic identity but a new, sustainable subculture, it is important to stress its Britishness. Not only was it born in the UK, it has been exported around the world - including back to India. Just as hip-hop culture is neither West Indian nor African, but American, so too desi beats is as quintessentially British as punk rock was in the 1970s, acid house was in the 1980s and Britpop was in the 1990s.

This view was for me crystalised not during the course of a university social sciences dissertation or my reporting on Islamic fundamentalism for the FT, but the slightly more frivolous setting of the Po Na Na nightclub in Hammersmith. It was a Thursday night in October 2003 and the club had been hosting the British Asian Music Awards ceremony, a celebration of all aspects of the then-fledgling desi subculture. I remember it well because I was late and just caught the presentation of the final award and was amazed to see it go to someone with white skin - the opposite of a coconut, if you like. Hounslow-born Markie Mark, a DJ with the Panjabi Hit Squad who earlier this year was named head of music at the BBC’s Asian Network digital radio station, had been voted for his “Commitment to the Brit-Asian scene”.

By allowing our ethnicity to give birth to a British subculture, the Asian scene that a few years earlier had seemed so insular was much less so. There are sweet ironies in the way nightclubs all over London and the Midlands regularly hold what have been described as “brown pound nights”. This is because the collectives of Asian DJs that first emerged in places such as Hounslow during the 1980s and sowed the seeds of what became the desi beats music genre, did so largely to provide local venues for Asian boys who back then simply couldn’t get past the bouncers of central London’s nightclubs.

It is worth highlighting here the unique role of the BBC as a kind of cultural glue - helping to take the subculture from the underground and making space for it within the British mainstream (but without infecting it with naffness). Nihal Arthanyake, for example, presents a Radio One show with Hounslow-born Bobby Friction. He is also a presenter on BBC2’s Desi DNA programme. BBC 1xtra, meanwhile, broadcasts a weekly Desi Beats show hosted by the Panjabi Hit Squad. And where the BBC went, so commercial radio groups such as Emap have followed with their own desi beats show on Kiss FM fronted by the Rishi Rich Project.

So while the bhangra and Bollywood remixes that Asian kids blasted out of their Beemers in the 1990s may have been intentionally inaccessible to others, Asian kids now cannot take exclusive ownership of the desi beats genre even if they want to. But the optimistic thing here is that they don’t want to.
The compatibility of the desi identity with Britishness is also evident in the realm of sports - perhaps best symbolised by the sight of Pakistani kids from the Midlands dancing around in the Union Jack to cheer on British boxing hero Amir Khan. The contrast with the infamous Tebbit cricket test (where the former government minister questioned the allegiance of British Asians who failed to support the English cricket team) could not be starker. Even when England’s cricketers have had brown skin - such as former team captain Nasser Hussain or Mark Ramprakash - British Asians have still tended to cheer for the opposing side (be it India or Pakistan).
I would argue this contrast would still exist if Khan were to take on a boxing champ developed in the Indian subcontinent. And the reason he makes for a more effective British Asian role model than the likes of Hussain or Talvin Singh lies in the fact that Khan simply oozes desi subculture. He has the right hair, the right swagger, the right speech patterns, the right clothes - and, being characteristics of “desiness” rather than “Pakistaniness”, all of these things are no less British than Hussain’s cucumber sandwiches. It will be interesting to see whether Monty Panesar, the Sikh spin bowler who recently buoyed England’s performance, can bridge the gap. In the meantime, Khan’s street credentials have been cemented by his appearance in the latest Reebok “I am what I am” advertising campaign, following in the footsteps of other urban youth culture icons such as rappers 50 Cent and Jay-Z.
But this rosy new perspective is not without qualification. The Amir Khan billboards underline the extent to which the desi beats subculture is part of the broader urban youth scene, which encompasses other music styles such as hip-hop, garage and RnB. Borrowing from these other subcultures may not matter per se, but there are real problems insofar as the urban scene does not just bolster masculinity, it frequently does so through misogyny and homophobia. Also, it is the first subculture to celebrate rather than counter conspicuous consumerism. Its golden dictum is neatly summed up by 50 Cent’s album and film title Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

While there is a genuine debate to be had about the social and economic implications of this attitude crowding out the traditional material restraint of British mainstream society, there are also repercussions for the debate about multiculturalism. Just as British Asian boys have fused the misogyny of their parents’ culture with that of hip-hop culture and thereby reinforced both, so too there is a fusion of the materialism inherent in Indian culture and urban youth culture. At best, this just accentuates the worship of flash mobile phones, bling bling jewellery and luxury cars. But at worst, it means any social cohesion achieved by the desi subculture might be undermined by the individualism unleashed by this materialism - illustrated, for example, by the rampant tax avoidance in the Indian subcontinent and the dog-eat-dog principles of hip-hop culture. Tax evasion and grey economies could evolve into symbols for another kind of anti-assimilation ethic.

However, the crowd that gathers for Notting Hill’s Bombay Bronx might argue this pessimism is misplaced too. After all, those in the creative professions generally earn a lot less money than those working in law, finance and medicine."

Monday, March 27

Potential


When I was seven years old my mother told me that humans only used 2% of their brains. I found it hard to grasp that we barely used our brains at all yet managed to do so much like split the atom and put astronauts on the moon and.....think. 2%! Is that all? I pondered. Well, now I question whether that percentage is accurate but it is widely accepted that we don't utilise all or even half of our cerebral powers and I can't help but wonder what could we achieve if we did. Arguably, the greatest minds have had what we have - a brain, the difference being, theirs were "wired" a little differently or they used theirs to a greater degree than we do. Either way, the potential is there. If one brain can envisage helicopters 500 years before their "invention" then somewhere out there is another mind being used to envisage say, faster-than-light-travel. The point is even if every person is not a polymath genius, every person has the potential to use their mind to accomplish something extraordinary. The question is how do you tap that potential? Historically, bright sparks have been spotted, nurtured and challenged to push beyond the boundaries of what was considered achievable in order to accomplish great things; sometimes it just "happened", but what if we as a soceity specifically held every person to be a genius of sorts? What if we taught in schools that all children are gifted, just in different areas and that identifying, refining and polishing that gift is the goal to strive for, instead of passing a spectrum of brain-dulling exams? If we only use say 50% of our brains and we've come this far, then using the other 50% would literally mean we would be "Gods" - we would have invented the technology to re-create our physiological selves, jeez, we're already half way there with genetic manipulation! We would have eridacted death as it is merely a cellular error not a necessity. We'd be travelling intergalactically, hell, between universes - as we would have thought beyond the speed of light being the universal speed limit. In fact, with enough mental effort we could create reality, any reality with just a thought. If that sounds preposterous, consider that every invention from the wheel to the space shuttle, from the printing press to the internet and from herbal cures to gene therapy - all began as a concatenation of thoughts - it became thought-materialised. If you think you can fly, you're already airbourne.

Thursday, March 23

TGV


How fast are you travelling when you're standing at the bus stop? It's a no-brainer, right? Think again if you thought "how can I be travelling when I'm standing still?". Even when you're asleep you're still travelling without moving and at high velocity too. We're all aboard this vast lump of rock which is hurtling around the Sun at phenomenal speed: roughly 67,000 miles per hour; yet we don't perceive a thing. Instead it appears the Sun is moving throught the sky around us. Add that to the fact that we're also rotating at about 1000 miles per hour and moving with the sun around the centre of our galaxy, which itself is moving with about another 20 galaxies called the Local Group, which themselves are moving in an even bigger cluster known as the Local Supercluster - means at no point whatsoever are we stationary, static, still. Metrically speaking we're talking about 30 km/s +0.5 km/s +230 km/s + 40 km/s which = 900 km/s! Doesn't feel like it does it? Just reflect on that the next time you wake up after a peaceful night's rest, that in effect - you've been zooming about at almost 1000 km per second all night. It adds new meaning to the word sleepwalking. It does of course also raise the question yet again: how much can we really rely on our senses when trying to determine reality?

Sunday, March 19

Alchemy?

A puzzle book containing clues leading to jewels worth £1m is set to spark a treasure-hunt craze unseen since the publication of Masquerade in 1979 caused a frenzy of nationwide digging in search of a golden hare.

Secrets of the Alchemist Dar, by millionaire author Michael Stadther, will incorporate riddles leading to 100 gems hidden around the world. A single jewel described as 'one of the most precious stones on earth' is worth £530,000.

Claiming that someone in this country has the same chance of finding them as someone in Afghanistan, Stadther is secretive about what form the hunt will take. 'It might be physical; it might not. People might have to get in cars or on planes; they might not,' he said. But he did give one hint: 'I have found the power of the internet - it's vast.'

In 2004, Stadther published A Treasure's Trove in America, sending thousands of 'trovers' looking for 18-carat gold coins that he and his wife had scattered around state parks across the country. The coins, hidden in the bark of trees or under debris, were redeemable for jewellery encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, all based on the story's animal characters.

Jason Davis, a student in cognitive neuroscience, borrowed money for a two-day bus journey from California to Foss State Park in Oklahoma to retrieve a coin that he later redeemed for jewels worth £150,000.
Inspiration for the book came from the artist Kit Williams's Masquerade, which sold more than a million copies. The jewel-laden hare was uncovered beneath a stone cross in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, after two years of people arbitrarily digging up the countryside - something Stadther is keen to discourage: his coins were stowed without disturbing nature.

Secrets of the Alchemist Dar is due for international release in September but of course there'll be much more hype about the book before then to get everyone clammering up the preverbial beanstalk.

Call me cynical but I smell the blood of a publicity stunt-man. Why not just cut to the chase and pay people out right to buy your book?!

Monday, March 13

FourFishFingers

Idiocy and lunacy are not to be confused. Idiots may be charming and erudite but lunatics are always clever.

The contours of a persons character are better shaped by a long shore drift of knowledge and refined by the coarse hand of experience than by the contorted machinery of convention.

Divorce: is it a human invention? Can an electron divorce itself from its atom? Can an atom of hydrogen divorce itself from a molecule of water? Can a molecule of water divorce itself from the cytoplasm of a living cell?

Sometimes all you have to do is close your eyes to see the same situation from a new perspective.

Tuesday, March 7

One

When I walk along the sandy shore on a beautifully miserable day and beneath my feet I sense the coarse, crunch of an infinite number of dense, soaked fragments of silica and I gaze toward the horizon where Sky and Earth are integrated, continuous, as one - I am transfixed by the unique freedom of nature, the earth, the universe and as the moment becomes the moment that was, my divided self enters a phase of undulated eloquence. It is between these moments that I belong.

As the continuum of that of the above and that below glides toward my beckoning pupils there is no glamour simply composure. The unforgiving urge to roll with the tide to see as the sky to disintegrate as the rain and to pervade as the wind, at this moment is stunning in its authenticity, only a matter of contaminated thoughts separate the willing unconscious from the discontinuation of the conscious. A glimpse now, will be a panorama soon.

When I walk along the sandy shore on a miserably beautiful day and my presence is approached by the torrent of the air, the rain, the tide - I am stirred by the sudden realisation of how fragile this precious moment will be after the passing of the storm. Though the event will unfold before my eyes for a lifetime its completion occurs in the moment gyrus and sulcus become the horizon. In this instant, the moment and my thought are one.

Tuesday, February 21

Which do you like?

As everyone knows I write aphorisms. That's probably because I'm a conversationalist and as such I try to say as much I can in the least amount of words, so that I can say even more.This is your opportunity to drop me a little hint of the aphorisms you like the most, the ones you don't "get" and the ones you dislike.
The most popular aphorism will be submitted to the THE PENGUIN BOOK OF QUOTATIONS and auctioned on ebay; the proceeds of which will go to Save The Children charity, if there are any!

1

"An aphorism can be to an essay what a short-story is to the novel: a seedling to be nurtured in the mind and fleshed out by the imagination."

2

"To be or not to be? That is the question. To be AND not to be. That is Life's answer."

3

"The more you know, the more you know you know no more."

4

"Yesterday is tomorrow's today, but tomorrow is yesterday's today and yet today is yesterday's tomorrow. Time appears to be illusive, as real as you want it to be."

5

"Working in a job you loathe but which remunerates well is as irksome as buttering fresh, soft bread with cold, hard butter."

6

"Madness is a stranger with whom we are all acquainted."

7

"Sometimes you find that it is not until you tear up the past that you can begin to piece together the future."

8

"Those who spend their lives fighting every battle realise eventually that there never was a war. Life isn't about winning or losing; it's about living."

9

"If Gain and Risk were so harmoniously inseparable, then how come Loss is the latter's bastard child?"

10

"Behind all clear blue skies lie black windows."

11

"The only thing that's worse than not being talked about is being talked about in your presence in the third person."

12

"Jealousy is hungry and voracious. Feed her trust and she dies quickly of starvation!"

13

"Man is perfect for 40 weeks in his whole life. Then he is born."

14

"I have little doubt that woman is smarter than man. She has to be; the fate of the species lies in the palm of her womb."

15

"In keeping with Newton's third law of motion, a force of marriage and its accompanying ceremony will elicit one which is by nature, equal and opposite, that is: divorce and its associated acrimony.Vast amounts of energy are therefore required if a body of marriage is to succeed in circumventing the natural laws of physics."

16

"If you want to teach a child the beauty of arithmetic, take her to the art gallery for a day; for it is here that she will discern the inner nature and significance of numerical operations by gazing upon canvasses displaying in glorious colour and rich texture the precise antithesis of such operations."

17

A penis gains much publicity, yet is merely a genetic periscope. Breasts gain even more publicity and are ultimately...biological vending machines. The Brain is a universe between the ears and yet it is hardly noticed at all.

18

"To live, die and be remembered is as good as not dying at all."

19

"Coincidence is a whisper by Circumstance to pay close attention."

Monday, February 20

"Eve Thinking": thinking through life

One of my friends is looking in to the abyss, it's a long story which she has bravely and boldy described on her blog. Somehow, her plight is all too familiar; something each person faces in his or her own life at some stage or another because it's the existential dilemma of: "what am I doing here when I should be here, doing exactly what I'm doing?"

You get to where you want to get to, only to discover that you're no longer sure this is where you belong. In the absence of alternatives, it would be simpler. But that would necessarily mean a restricted existence.

When you begin to doubt the course of your life, perhaps it's the coarseness rather than the course that's the problem; the road may be long, long enough to make you wonder whether you're headed in the right direction but if the road is filled with pot-holes you'll be even more unsettled and disrupted. The only solution for that is to drive around them, as many as you can, if you can. The smoother the ride the more resolute you become to finish it.

Thursday, February 16

Paradox

"If you want to teach a child the beauty of arithmetic, take her to the art gallery for a day; for it is here that she will discern the inner nature and significance of numerical operations by gazing upon canvasses displaying in glorious colour and rich texture the precise antithesis of such operations."

Friday, February 10

Mortgage 2

According to the latest figures from trade association the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), mortgage repossessions rose by seven-tenths (70%) last year.

At first glance, this appears to be shocking news, but the reality is far less worrying. That's because repossessions hit a 23-year low in 2004, and so the increase, although large in percentage terms, is still low in absolute terms.

For the record, mortgage lenders seized 5,630 properties in the second half of 2005, up two-ninths (22%) on the 4,620 repossessions recorded in the first half of the year. Hence, the total number of repossessions in 2005 was 10,250, up a whopping 70% on the 6,030 repossessions recorded in 2004. However, 2005's figure was the third-lowest annual total since 1983.

To put these figures into context, repossessions peaked at 75,540 in 1991, when 1 in 130 properties (0.77%) was seized by mortgage lenders. The figure for 2005 was 1 in 1,131 (0.09%), a mere fraction of 1991's result.

What's more, home-ownership has risen dramatically over the last thirty-five years, and rising house prices mean that British homeowners now have around £3,300 billion of housing wealth.

The amazing increase recorded in the Eighties was thanks to Mrs Thatcher's policy of encouraging people to buy their homes. Mrs T's policy certainly worked, as the number of mortgaged properties rose by 3.2 million, an increase of more than half (52%).

Growth in the Nineties was much more subdued, up by less than a fifth (19%), or 1.8 million mortgages. Over the last five years, it's slowed to a crawl -- up less than 4% from 2000 to 2005.

Nevertheless, over ten thousand homes were seized in 2005, which means that around 25,000 people either handed back their keys to their mortgage lenders, or lost their homes through the courts. Furthermore, things are set to get worse, with the CML predicting annual repossessions will rise to 12,000 for both this year and next.

As well as mortgage repossessions, the CML released data on mortgage arrears. At the end of 2005, 59,700 mortgage borrowers were between three and six months in arrears, up 11% on 2004's total.

A further 32,470 were between six and twelve months in arrears (up 21% on 2004), and 13,820 were more than a year in arrears, up 23% year-on-year. The total of these three figures comes to just short of 106,000, and the CML expects arrears cases to rise to 120,000 in 2006 and 2007.

The CML's advice to homeowners worried about keeping up their mortgage repayments is to review their financial commitments, cut back on unnecessary spending, and shop around for a better mortgage deal. Writes Cliff D'Arcy of the The Motley Fool.

Tuesday, February 7

Charlie



Charles John Huffam Dickens was born today a 194 years ago.

Charles Dickens, novelist and humorist, was born at Landport in Hampshire, in February 1812. His father, John Dickens, was employed for some years in the Navy Pay Department, but at the conclusion of the war with France was pensioned, and became a parliamentary reporter. In this pursuit his son was soon distinguished for uncommon ability; and after a literary engagement -- at a very early age -- upon The True Sun, he attached himself to the staff of the Morning Chronicle. In this newspaper he gave the first evidence of his talents in the lively essays, entitled Sketches by Boz, published in 1836.

Encouraged by their success, he undertook to write the letterpress of Adventures of Mr. Pickwick, the illustrations of which were to be executed by the then more famous Mr. Seymour, a comic artist. The Pickwick Papers became an enormous commercial success, commencing an era in English literature. It was the first of a series of fictitious works exhibiting the life and manners of the middle and lower classes, which up to that time had had scarcely any exponent. In one respect, however, this book had neither predecessor nor progeny. Neither before nor since has there ever been such a literary embodiment of healthy animal spirits. There is none like it for unflagging but never unwise entertainment -- for humor that is very much the reverse of dry.

Since Pickwick, Dickens has given us many works more admirable in other respects. Nicholas Nickleby, his next effort, was, as a story, greatly in advance of it. It was also the first of those social novels which form so marked a feature in the literature of the next hundred years. It was aimed at the wrongs and cruelties inflicted upon their wretched pupils by the cheap schoolmasters of Yorkshire -- and it hit its mark. Since then Dickens has set lance against many a social monster.

He may be sometimes wrong, but he can scarcely be accused of want of honesty of purpose; while quite as little can partisanship (except that he is always for the poor) be laid to his charge, since at the very time that the country gentlemen were shaking their heads at him for his lack of reverence for "land", he incensed the manufacturing interest by the publication of Hard Times. His sarcasm is of a rather peculiar character; too good-natured to sneer, and with eyes, notwithstanding their indignant fire, that never lose sight of the ludicrous side of things, his style is mocking argument.

After Nicholas Nickeby came Master Humphrey's Clock, containing the Old Curiousity Shop and Barnaby Rudge. In the former of these, and in the character of Little Nelly, he first exhibited that power of setting forth child-life and child-thought which may have been said perhaps, before the publication of George Eliot's works, to be peculiarly his own. Barnaby Rudge was his first, and, with the exception of his subsequent Tale of Two Cities, his only attempt to describe the past; and it was a successful one. It is probably, with reference to plot and circumstance, his best novel, barring David Copperfield. The Old Curiosity Shop began in a curious dreamy manner, which, although obviously a favorite one with Dickens, he soon perceived was unappreciated, and had the prudence to discontinue. This disposition of his mind towards the weird and grotesque he subsequently developed with greater success in his Christmas Stories.

After a voyage across the Atlantic, Dickens published in 1842 his American Notes for General Circulation; but a much more admirable result of that expedition appeared in his Martin Chuzzlewit. This was certainly the greatest of his humorous works since the Pickwick Papers, and it may almost be said to have been his last. From this period, his animal spirits -- a rare gift among even comic authors, and rarely lasting so long as in his own case -- appear to have deserted him. His humor, except in some rich creations, such as Mr. Micawber, is no longer so apparent, while, on the other hand, his with and pathos have increased. Dombey and Son was considered a falling off in one who stood so high; but his death of little Dombey brought tears to the eyes of lawyers.

When men were expecting that he should wane and weaken like other prolific writers before him, he produced a novel as fresh as the dawn. In this, for the first time he adopted the autobiographical form, and that perhaps offered him some advantages; but at all events, the result was admirable. David Copperfield is perhaps by far his greatest work, and will endure -- though for very different reasons -- as long as the Pickwick Papers. Its Agnes is one of the most charming female characters in the whole range of fiction. Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorritt, the Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, have since succeeded one another with almost periodic punctuality, and an audience larger than any English author ever had has awaited each. No prose writer was ever more quotable or quoted than Dickens, and his works hold a unique place in the canon of English literature.

The good characters of his novels do not exert a wholesome moral tendency, as many of them act from impulse, and not from the influence of moral or religious motives. In 1845, the Daily News was started under Dickens' auspices, but he soon withdrew from it. In 1850 he commenced Household Words, which has since been merged into All the Year Round. In 1867 he again visted the United States, and was cordially received. He died 1870 at Gad's Hill Place in Kent.

Here's to you Charlie, cheers!

Sunday, February 5

Silent Screams

I read a post from a blogger who said that his friend stopped blogging because he realised he had "nothing more to say to the world."

I thought about this statement, this declaration of independence. Bloggers blog because they have something to say and a need to be heard. When a blogger declares he has nothing else to say or is no longer dependent on being heard, what happens then?

Photo bloggers post photos for others to see when they could just stick them in a photo album or save them to their hard drive. Daily bloggers use the internet as a "weblog" - a diarised account of either what's happening in their lives or the lives of significant others. Commentators blog the news and other ramblings about the world through their own unique perspective. There are blogging bloggers for just about everything and anything, but perhaps with censorship this will soon change.

Perhaps the future of blogging will be shrouded in political correctness gone mad. Hopefully NOT for that's not a bright future.

But for the mean time, blogging seems to provide a voice for people who want to SCREEEEEEAM but who find that when they turn to the significant others in their lives, they are met with the stark silence of misunderstanding or disinterest. In this way, blogging is a microphone; someone, somewhere will care to hear what you have to say and moreover will tune in to your frequency and be on your wavelength.

This is our show, google, msnspaces, et al are the DJ's, WE are the MC's, Master of Ceremonies, thank you very much.

Wax lyrical, logical, spiritual, nonsensical, visual or whatever takes your fancy!

It's YOUR blog.

Well, this one's mine...but you get my point!

Thursday, February 2

Googleyed

A penis gains much publicity, yet is merely a genetic periscope.

Breasts gain even more publicity and are ultimately...biological vending machines.

The Brain is a universe between the ears and yet it is hardly noticed at all.

Persicope. Vending machine. Universe.

Madness, isn't it?

Sunday, January 29

Global Warning

A friend of mine posted a very thought provoking piece and I thought I'd share my thoughts on the subject of global warming.

See the original post at:

beth shalom-quantum musings of a student of kabbalah: The Anger of Righteous Indignation

...As for Global Warming, it is tragic, but, Nature dictates to us, to animals, to all manner of flora and fauna- what "will be." Scientists are quick to apportion blame to us messy humans leaving our "carbon-footprints" all over the world, but I seriously doubt that we are "destroying" the planet.

Earth gave birth to us, not the other way around. We are the "stuff of stars" made from cosmic stardust, how then can we destroy what is insuperably infinite? 165-200 million years ago Nature, The Universe, call her what you will, decided it was time for a change and the dinosaurs "were no more". How tragic was that? How impossibly incongruous?

To allow such a marvellous species to evolve from single-celled organisms over hundreds of millions of years, and then in one fell-swoop - wipe them all of the face of the Earth/Gaia with a cold lump of rock? How meaningless? But Ayin sees the big picture, n'est pas?

Without seeming to indulge in schadenfreude, I would suggest that, had not for that apparenty senseless act of violent vandalism which eradictaed the Goliaths of Earth, we wouldn't even be here to contemplate the incomprehensible, would we? Their evolution and dissolution lead to the way for mammals such as ourselves to take pride and place in the world. If they were still here, we wouldn't, couldn't be.

Our temporary dominion, regardless of "our carbon graffiti" or "other-species-insensitivity" is only that - temporary; empires rise, and empires fall. Nature, Earth, The Universe is unfathomably profound and interminably inexhaustible; if species become extinct becasuse of our doing, it is ultimately the doing of Earth itself, just like the dinosaurs. It will all work out in the end because it already has, just we can't see it.

In 200 millions years time, they'll probably not be a humanbeing in sight because someone else would have taken our place, and as for all the damage we've wrought? It will have long since been repaired and refurbished, after all, we're only tenants, and students at that!

Friday, January 27

Online Banking

When I learned the alphabet at school I had chickenpox on the day they taught us the letter "Q" and ever since I've found it intolerable and unbearable, insufferable even, to stand in line and wait in one. Online banking has since taken up residence between "P" and "R" and so it should. The average person living in a metropolis spends over 26,280 hours in one, over the course of a lifetime which equates to some 3 years. 3 years! All because of one little letter. There's no "Q" in ONLINE BANKING is there?

Wednesday, January 25

Insurance, continued

It's funny how one of the most provocative subjects I've touched on appears to be insurance. So many are for it and so many are apathetic and some accept it as unwelcome necessity.
A friend of mine who works in the "insurance business", if you want to call it that (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) berated me for my previous posts on insurance.
She espoused the huge benefits of paying meagre sums to protect against very likely risks, her words, not mine. She siad that without it, where would we all be?
Well, that's not an entirely cogent argument to me, but i did find her advice on how to reduce premiums useful - such as installing deadbolt locks on exterior doors and burglar alarms and fire alarms and smoke-detectors and not living in a groundfloor apartment etc - to reduce the cost of homeowners insurance premiums, that sort of thing, that I'm sure we've all heard many times, but forget.
But then I pointed out to her that by the time I relocate to a neighbourhood which has a lower incidence of burglary and by the time I implement all of the above measures, it would have been cheaper to pay the standard insurance policy in the first place.
Any savings made on discounted premiums would be doubly lost on buying expensive locks, state-of-the-art alarms, fire-extinguishers and the like.
She retorted that insurance has been around for thousands of years and that it must be purposeful or else it wouldn't still be used; so she's comparing insurance to a species of life that would have been eradicated by a process of natural selection if it were not suitable- interesting, but I don't think so.
Still, it is interesting to see how it all began:
Early methods of transferring or distributing risk were practiced by Babylonian traders as long ago as the 2nd millennium BCE. The Babylonians developed a system which was recorded in the famous Code of Hammurabi, c. 1750 BC, and practiced by early Mediterranean sailing merchants. If a merchant received a loan to fund his shipment, he would pay the lender an additional sum in exchange for the lender's guarantee to cancel the loan should the shipment be stolen.
A thousand years later, the inhabitants of Rhodes invented the concept of the 'general average'. Merchants whose goods were being shipped together would pay a proportionally divided premium which would be used to reimburse any merchant whose goods were jettisoned during storm or sinkage.
The Greeks and Romans introduced the origins of health and life insurance c. 600 AD when they organized guilds called "benevolent societies" which acted to care for the families and funeral expenses of members upon death. Guilds in the Middle Ages served a similar purpose.
The Talmud deals with several aspects of insuring goods. Insurance became far more sophisticated in post-Renaissance Europe, and specialized varieties developed.
Toward the end of the seventeenth century, the growing importance of London as a center for trade led to rising demand for marine insurance. In the late 1680s, Mr. Edward Lloyd opened a coffee house which became a popular haunt of ship owners, merchants, and ships’ captains, and thereby a reliable source of the latest shipping news. It became the meeting place for parties wishing to insure cargoes and ships, and those willing to underwrite such ventures. Today, Lloyd's of London remains the leading market for marine and other specialist types of insurance, but it works rather differently than the more familiar kinds of insurance.
Insurance as we know it today can be traced to the Great Fire of London, which in 1666 devoured 13,200 houses. In the aftermath of this disaster Nicholas Barbon opened an office to insure buildings. In 1680 he established England's first fire insurance company, "The Fire Office," to insure brick and frame homes.
The first insurance company in the United States provided fire insurance and was formed in Charles Town (modern-day Charleston), South Carolina, in 1732.
Benjamin Franklin helped to popularize and make standard the practice of insurance, particularly against fire in the form of perpetual insurance. In 1752, he founded the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. Franklin's company was the first to make contributions toward fire prevention. Not only did his company warn against certain fire hazards, it refused to insure certain buildings where the risk of fire was too great, such as all wooden houses.
History's all well and good, if you're a historian that is, but for you and I, insurance is simply a form of risk management used to protect us in the event of financial loss. At the end of the day, it's an uncertain world and insurance provides us with a safety-net in case we happen to fall. However, we as consumers need to be pro-active in seeking out the best and most competitive insurance coverage so that we don't end up paying an arm and a leg -- for that safety-net.

Sunday, January 22

World-Tracker

The year is 2099. Every single person on the planet has internet access, at home, at work, in Starbucks and on their mobile cellular phones. The Earth is surrounded by a concatenation of satellites, thousands of them. Forget sophisticated intelligence tracking devices that were once the preserve of James Bond types, technology's moved on, it is 2099 after all!
All you have to do to find anyone's location is simply log on to a website, enter their mobile cellular number and voila! You'll see a map on your screen pin-pointing their exact location instantly and you'll be able to zoom in on the device's location, with accuracy somewhere between 50 and 500 meters. Think about it. Website, phone number, exact location. How simple.
Well, the future's upon us. This service is available now in the UK! It's only 2006! The service provided by World Tracker uses cell tower data and GPS to track the location of just about any GSM mobile cellphone. The first time you try to track a phone, a text message is sent to the owner, who must reply in order to enable tracking, after that it's simply a matter of 11 cents/20 pence per "trace." No set-up or monthly costs means it's accessible to anyone.The divorce rate will sky-rocket of course, when for instance a partner finds that their lover's in the red-light district of Soho when they should be at the Rotary Club meeting in Kensington, but at least employers will know where their employees are, at all times. Oh no!
So far the service is currently compatible with Orange, O2, Vodafone, and T-Mobile in the UK. But there are plans to expand to Germany, Spain, Norway and the US. So next time you're somewhere you shouldn't be, just remember to leave home WITHOUT your phone!

Wednesday, January 18

www.com or www.con

For those Tech-stock cognoscenti, a bit of serotonin-depleting news, which you'll probably already know!

U.S. stocks fell, eating away at this year's gains, after Intel Corp. and Yahoo! Inc. reported results that trailed analysts' expectations.

Twenty of the about 70 S&P 500 companies scheduled to release earnings this week report today.

Shares of Apple Computer Inc., the maker of the iPod digital music player, fell before its results after the close of trading.

The announcements from Intel and Yahoo followed a start-of- year rally in technology stocks. A gauge of computer-related companies was the second-best performer among 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 this year, adding 5.2 percent, on optimism about increasing demand for products such as laptops and MP3 players.


Intel dumps

Shares down $2.76, or 11 percent, to $22.76 for the worst performance in the Dow average. The world's biggest computer- chip maker said yesterday that fourth-quarter profit was 40 cents a share on sales of $10.2 billion.

Sales in the first quarter may also fall short of estimates, as Intel forecast revenue of $9.1 billion to $9.7 billion, compared with an average analyst projection of $10 billion in a Thomson survey.
UBS says "neutral", Citigroup says "hold" on Intel, not very encouraging news to those of us with a few shares in our back-pocket. JPMorgan has reduced its estimate for Intel's per- share earnings this year to $1.13 from $1.39. Oh dear.


Yahoo drops

The world's most-visited Internet site, dropped $4.92, or 12 percent, to $35.19 for the steepest loss in the S&P 500.


Google droops

Shares of Google Inc. also declined. The world's most-used Internet search engine dropped $14.84 to $451.27.


Dell dips

The world's largest maker of personal computers, lost 99 cents to $29.39.


Microsoft does a dip too

The biggest software maker, slid 23 cents to $26.76.


The good news is IBM is up 80 cents or so, but how long for?

Tuesday, January 17

Spoken, not said.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:



"Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

MLK JR


Yesterday, Monday 16th was a public holiday in the US - the King holiday. Each year on the third Monday of January schools, federal offices, post office and banks across America close to celebrate the newest American national holiday.

15 years after Dr. King's death President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law making the third Monday of January a national holiday celebrating the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but it was a tough time getting the bill passed.

First a bill had to be introduced by a member of the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House assigned the bill to a committee where the bill was discussed in detail. Meetings were held where supporters and opposers could discuss their positions. The committee then agreed that bill should be sent to a vote. The Rules Committee scheduled a debate on the issue. The House of Representatives then voted on the bill. It passed the House with a vote of 338 to 90. Then it was sent to the Senate.

Again the issue of the King holiday had to pass through committees and public hearings before a final vote was taken.
There were many who opposed the idea of a holiday for Dr. King. America had only honored two individuals with national holidays - George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Many felt that there were other Americans that deserved a national holiday, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

One barrier to the confirmation was the Senator from Georgia who had denounced Dr. King as a communist. Others feared the King holiday was meant as a way to make up to African-Americans for slavery. Other feared the cost of the holiday, with the extra overtime paid to federal workers who had to work on the holiday as well as millions to those federal employees who were paid for the day.

Senator Bob Dole pointed out to those critics '"I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination."

It took many years for Congress to decide to celebrate the holiday. In the years leading up to the official decree many African-Americans celebrated the birthday themselves with a few states declaring King's birthday a state holiday.

The bill was finally passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and was signed into law on November 2, 1983.The first national celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday took place January 20, 1986.

Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family's long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor.

Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had been graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951.

With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955 In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.In 1954, Martin Luther King accepted the pastorale of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation.

He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement.

The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles.

In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "l Have a Dream", he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.

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