Sunday, 31 May 2009

Bye-Bye Class of '09!

The Coat of Arms of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Classes ended, this week. Really, they ended last week, but this week was the official last week of the year for classes. Nothing but two essay hand-ins and an exam between now and Spanish Summer...

News Brief: 25/05/09 - 31/05/09

Click on the images to be redirected

Obama Chooses Supreme Court Judge
"US President Barack Obama has nominated has nominated Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the country's Supreme Court. Ms Sotomayor, 54, who has now to be approved by a Senate vote, would be the first Hispanic to take the position..." - I'm pleased President Obama is making such descisions in favour of the minorities, but it seems the gays are being put on the backburner...?

Nigeria United Fan Kills Rivals
"A Manchester United football fan in south-eastern Nigeria drove a minibus into a crowd of Barcelona supporters, killing four people, police say..." - Talk about bad publicity. Neither of the teams are even Nigerian!

Pakistan "nearing Swat victory"
"Pakistan's operation against Taliban rebels in the Swat valley region should be over in the next few days, the country's defence secretary has said..." - I very much doubt it. These people have been hanging around for twenty-odd years. They won't give up that easily.

I Am Sick of my Country and this Hysteria Over MPs
"People have been led to believe that we are governed by a corrupt political class. This is sanctimonious nonsense..." - God save The Guardian for speaking sense!

Obama: halt to New Israeli Settlements is in America's Security Interests
"Increasingly fractious relations between the US and Israel hit a low unseen in nearly two decades yesterday after the Jewish state rejected President Obama's demand for an end to settlement construction in the West Bank, and the president responded by suggesting that Israeli intransigence endangers America's security..." - Maybe so, but what about Palestine's security? Incidentally, it is very unlike Israel to not do as its told by its Sugar Daddy...

800 Britons on Waiting List for Swiss Suicide Clinic
"Record numbers of Britons who are suffering from terminal illnesses are queueing up for assisted suicide at the controversial Swiss clinic Dignitas, the Observer can reveal..." - It's bad enough these poor people are denied the chance to die with dignity in their own country, but the article goes on to mention that this might provoke debate over the law in the UK's House of Lords. Progress is a very slow process.

"In this Obama era, Cinderella stories no longer have smitten princes, balls, or crystal slipper, rather Cambridge degrees, masters in Peruggia [no, I don't know what that is, either] or the dream-come-true of honouring one's slave ancestors through the use of her governmental position. The protagonist of this story es Paula Marcela Moreno Zapata, Colombia's 30-year-old culture minister. The trailer for the film of her life will read: the first afro-colombian woman to reach the peak of a country in which members of her community count for 20% of the population..." - Black, female, young, and Hispanic? The colombians are way ahead of the USA!

Neither Spain nor Morrocco Informed Me of My Mother's Death
"In the neighbourhood of La Condesa, a suburb of Castillejos [in the south of Spain], the the morroccan district is in mourning. 27-year-old Mohamed Aouzlat, dressed in a white jellabah, pained, serves tea to dozens of neighbours, family and friends who have attended his house to pay their respects. His mmother, 53-year-old Zohra Boudaghya, died on Monday [25/05/09] morning, along with her friend, 33-year-old Bossra El Meriouti, crushed in a human avalanche in the comercial district of El Tarajal, a large base of provisions for the black-market trafficking between Spain and Portugal..." - A tragic story.

Paula Marcela Moreno Zapata - Colombia's first black minister

On This Day...

Still Bing-Bong-ing: Today marks 150 years of Big Ben


1859 - London's most famous bell, Big Ben, rang for the first time.

1879 - New York's Madison Square Garden opened.

1884 - Dr. John Harvey Kellogg patented "flaked cereal".

1902 - The Boer War ended between the Boers of South Africa and Great Britain with the Treaty of Vereeniging.

1907 - The first taxis arrived in New York City. They were the first in the United States.

1909 - The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held its first conference.

1910 - The Union of South Africa was founded.

1927 - Ford Motor Company produced the last "Tin Lizzie" in order to begin production of the Model A.

1955 - The US Supreme Court ordered that all states must end racial segregation "with all deliberate speed."

1961 - South Africa became an independent republic.

1962 - Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel. Eichmann was a Gestapo official and was executed for his actions in the Nazi Holocaust.

1979 - Zimbabwe proclaimed its independence.

1988 - US President Ronald Reagan arrived in Moscow in an effort to relieve Cold War tensions. He was the first president to do so in 14 years.

1994 - The US announced it was no longer aiming long-range nuclear missiles at targets in the former Soviet Union.

1995 - Bob Dole singled out Time Warner for "the marketing of evil" in movies and music. Dole later admitted that he had not seen or heard much of what he had been criticising.

Happy Birthday

Walt Whitman, American poet, essayinst, journalist and humanist: 1819 - 1892

Don Ameche, American actor: 1908 - 1993

Denholm Elliott, British actor: 1922 - 1992

Prince Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, husband of American actress Grace Kelly: 1923 - 2005

Clint Eastwood, American actor and director: b.1930

Terry Waite, British humanitarian and author, former hostage: b.1939

Sharon Gless, American actress: b.1943

Colm Meaney, Irish actor: b.1953

D.M.C, American rapper, founding member of Run-D.M.C: 1964

Happy Birthday Walt Whitman

Sunday, 24 May 2009

On This Day...

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan: Obviously he isn't this hot, now, but still as clever...


1543 - Nicolaus Copernicus published proof of a sun-centered solar system.

1689 - The English Parliament passed Act of Toleration, protecting Protestants. Roman Catholics were specifically excluded from exemption.

1798 - Believing that a French invasion of Ireland was imminent, Irish nationalists rose up against the British occupation.

1822 - At the Battle of Pichincha, Simón Bolivar secured independence of the Quito.

1830 - The first passenger railroad service in the US began service.

1844 - Samuel F.B. Morse formally opened America's first telegraph line. The first message was sent from Washington, DC, to Baltimore, MD. The message was "What hath God wrought?"

1883 - After 14 years of construction the Brooklyn Bridge was opened to traffic.

1930 - Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly from England to Australia.

1967 - California Governor Ronald Reagan greeted Charles M. Schulz at the state capitol in observance of the legislature-proclaimed "Charles Schulz Day."

1976 - Britain and France opened trans-Atlantic Concorde service to Washington.

1980 - The International Court of Justice issued a final decision calling for the release of the hostages taken at the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979.

1983 - The US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had the right to deny tax breaks to schools that racially discriminate.

1993 - The Ethiopian province of Eritrea declared itself an independent nation.

2001 - Temba Tsheri, 15, became the youngest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Happy Birthday

Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom: 1819 - 1901

Bob Dylan, American musician: b.1941

Patti LaBelle, American singer: b.1944

Priscilla Presley, American actress, wife of Elvis 1945

Alfred Molina, British actor: b.1953

Kristin Scott Thomas, British actress: b.1960

News Brief: 18/05/09 - 24/05/09

Click on the images to be redirected

Sri Lanka's Rebel Leader "Killed"
"Sri Lanka's military has announced the death of feared Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran..." - Oh, well, then that solves everything. No more terrorism in Sri Lanka ever!

World Bank Resumes Zimbabwe Aid
"The World Bank has agreed to give $22m (£14.4m), its first assisstance to the heavily-indebted african country since 2000..." - Good! Revolutions happen when things are getting better, not worse. Either that, or America can storm in and change the régime. No? Ah, well, aid it is, then.

Spain's Franco "had one testicle"
"A new book claims the spanish dictator, General Francisco Franco, may have had more in common with Adolf Hitler than previously known - having one testicle..." - I don't even know where to begin with this one...

Obama Presses Netanyahu Over Two-State Plan
"US President Barack Obama has urged visiting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a Palestinian state..." - Well, good.

Speaker Quits "for sake of unity"
"Michael Martin has told MPs he intends to stand down, so becoming the first Commons Speaker to be effectively forced out of office for 300 years..." - This is what happens when the media whips up a silly furore over something endemic in the political machine of the UK. A figure of respect has become a sacrificial lamb. It makes me sick.

China and US Held Secret Talks On Climate Change Deal
"A high-powered group of senior Republicans and Democrats led two missions to China in the final months of the Bush administration for secret backchannel negotiations aimed at securing a deal on joint US-Chinese action on climate change, the Guardian has learned..." - Well goodness me, Bush admitted in secret that there was a problem, after all!

David Cameron Has Dealt Well With Expenses Crisis, voters tell Guardian/ICM Poll
"A sizeable majority of voters say Gordon Brown has handled the crisis over MPs' expenses badly and most believe David Cameron has dealt with it well, a Guardian/ICM poll reveals today..." - When they chart the demise of New Labour, will this so-called "crisis" be referred to as the final nail in the coffin...? More on the whole debácle here.

The BNP Represents British Workers? They Don't Even Represent Basic British Craftsmanship
"I was born in the 70s and grew up in a tiny rural village. There was, I think, only one black kid in my primary school. One day, someone pushed him over and called him "blackjack". The headmaster called an impromptu assembly. It involved the entire school, and took place outdoors. No doubt: this was unusual..." - You tell 'em Charlie! Read this article, if you care about what's happening to the UK.

The Ley de Extranjería (Foreign Policy Law) Will Allow for Work Permits to be Given Out to Women who Have Suffered Domestic Abuse
"The Government has substantially modified the project of reforming the Ley de Extranjería. The definitive version which, as announced by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the State of the Nation debate, has been has been postponed for review by the State Counsel, recognises several suggestions made [including] the treatment of victims of domestic violence..." - Nice to see the Spanish Governement proving they care.

Image of the Week: "Franco has only got one ball; the other is in the Albert Hall..." Just not as catchy, for some reason...

Slipping Through My Fingers

Catching up with me...

My regular readers may remember an earlier post, in which I ummed and ahed about what to do over summer. Well, it's update time!

"Should I stay in Madrid, or go back to the UK?" I deliberated: the answer is I'm staying in Spain until the end of August. "What about living arrangements?" I wondered to myself: not too much of a problem, considering I'll have half a month to look for a new place, once my exams are over on the 18th. "How am I going to support myself without help from the Student Loans Company?" I fretted: I've bagged myself a teaching job, allowing me to work when and for as long as I want, which will also give me the freedom to read for pleasure and for my final year at university, as well as embark on a couple of creative writing projects I have had floating around in my head. "What about my eventual return to the UK? Won't I have so much to deal with in little time?" I worried: not if I've already found a house to move into, the deposit for which I will have paid by the end of this week; and being prepared for university shouldn't be a problem, since I'll have started the reading long ago.

So, there we are. That's my Summer sorted. All I have to do is make sure I avoid a nervous breakdown during the last week of classes...

I knew It...

Say what you like about the existence of God and the birth of the universe. The theory of evolution is gaining ground with every passing year. Apparently, Darwinius masillae was discovered back in the eighties. It would have saved us ordinary folk a lot of trouble if they'd released this information earlier!

Read all about the story here.


Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith in Psychoville

I can't tell you how excited I am by the prospect of watching this programme. From the people who disturbed us with The League of Gentlemen comes this new creation of sick individuals.

I won't say any more, just click here to watch a clip and read more about it...

Oh, Sweet Poetic Justice...

Miss California: Carrie Precum; I mean, Prejudice; sorry, Prejean

I'm not one to pay attention to beauty contests. What with them being shamelessly superficial displays of vapid wannabes parading about before pathetic panels and audiences living vicariously through the dumb preened bimbos flashing as much as is decent to show pre-watershed, it just doesn't appeal to me.

Having said this, the world was "rocked" by one of these idiots' statements, a while back, when she effectively voiced her support for excluding homosexuals in the USA from being wed.

HA! Well, it may be that in your family, marriage is between a man and a woman; but in my family, marrige between stupid bigots is frowned upon, too.

I'm not even that offended, to be honest. As I said in one of my earlier posts, who really cares what some blonde hetero wet dream "thinks" about an issue she clearly knows nothing about?

Except, perhaps she is not all that distant from the issue. According to a report, Ms Prejean's own mother has been engaged in a lesbian relationship for a while, including as recently as the day of the beauty pageant during which Carrie voiced her opinion!

The cynic in me can't help but laugh and reiterate the old motto: "if you're in the public eye, watch what you say. I't will inevitably come back to bite you in the ass..."

In your family, marriage is between a man and a woman; what about a bit of fanny fun without any commitment, eh...?

"Yes, but is it Art?"

James Bulger: Tortured and Murdered at the age of two by two ten-year-old boys

I'm going to get straight to the point with this one. I read a few days back that a play had been written about the murder of James Bulger, back in the early 90s, and was to open in one of the theatres in my home town of Hackney, London. According to the BBC article, Monsters, originally written in Swedish by the playwright Niklas Radstrom and translated for the UK, is an attempt to study "the profound moral and social impact of the murder". The article also asks the question "is the case a suitable subject for theatre?"

Well, the answer is yes. As far as any piece of art is honest and well-thought out, it is valid. It may not suit the sensibilities of an individual viewer, reader, audience-member or whatever form the recipient of the artwork takes, but that is irrelevant: sensibilities and reactions are matters of taste and not indicators of validity. The question of what constitutes art, and in turn, how to classify the good and the bad art, has had everyone from academics to street cleaners debating for as long as the concept of art became etched in our collective idea of societal contructs. The fact that this particular story is real and memorable makes it no less worth examining through the theatre. Some might even argue that these factors are precisely why they ought to be examined.

What happened to James Bulger was shocking and made even more disturbing by the discovery of his murderers, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both aged ten at the time. However, just because of these details, should we prohibit any representation of this type of crime? The holocaust is OK, but not child murder?

The article goes into some detail about the staging and adaptation of the story. After reading it, it seems pretty difficult to see why the play is not valid. Firstly, all the characters are played by four adult actors: adults, fully capable of understanding the severity of the case being reproduced, and each of whom - it is hoped - have worked on their performances enough to ensure they avoid anything too extreme or gratuitous. Plays aren't just written and then performed without any thought - even though ome are so bad they may seem so. Rehearsal is a process which not only irons out anything the performers feel is unnecessary, but also allows for an exploration of the ways the play can be performed in front of paying customers.

Secondly, and this I discovered by doing further research, the play is written using transcripts of police interviews with the two boys and members of their families, as well as those of the victim and other individuals relating to the case. This style of play is called "verbatim", for obvious reasons, being that it takes the actual words documented by the people involved, and is presented in a script, giving the director and cast the freedom to interpret the words as they please, but not to change any. If someone who watches the play is offended by anything said by a character, they cannot blame anyone but the real person who said it.

Thirdly, to those who may claim the writer, director, actors, or whoever else involved in the production are merely doing this for selfish reasons ("to make money" and "a name for themselves," as one critic of the project puts it), one should ask oneself why and how would this advance any of their careers. Other than by showing that they are capable of sensitively treating a subject most of us would prefer never to even think about, I don't see any benefits of doing this. It is highly unlikey a film or television series will come of it. When people cry "exploitation" and "cynicism", note that they are often the ones to run to the nearest public opinion-controlling media ready to make their own voices heard: how much more exploitative and cynical can you be than that? Indeed, the play touches on "the sensationalism that pervades some media coverage of the story," according to the director Chris Haydon.

Art forms can be and often are entertaining; but there is no rule dictating that every audience member should leave satisfied and happy. Life is not always fun, so why should art and entertainment be?

Screenshot from Spielberg's Schindler's List - I don't hear people saying the Holocaust is an unsuitable subject for exploration through art forms...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Voyeur Alert!

Today seems to be a James Stewart day...

This week, Madrid is hot; and I mean hot. Yesterday (tuesday 19th of May), we hit 30ºC for the first time this year, and today we went way over that record. I live on the fifth floor of my six-storey building, so you can understand why I have recently taken to engaging in nightly walks around the block, and spots of air-taking through the kitchen window.

I'm a people-watcher: I always have been. I can remember sitting in the religious meetings with my grandmother, watching the congregation, and paying more attention to what everyone else was up to rather than listening to the pearls of wisdom dropping from the "brothers'" lips. When I started secondary school (like high school, but you finish at 16), I used to scrutinise the behaviour between the teachers, and I quickly worked out the factions, deciphering the staff room politics long before any of my friends. Part of why I love being in a foreign country is the opportunity for quiet observation. I've learnt more about Spain and spanish culture from merely keeping my mouth shut and watching the specimens in their natural habitat than any reading I've (extensively) done over the past year.

So, I take frequent spots of air throughout the day; often looking out of my kitchen window, which is on the rear face of the building, facing those of the parallel road up. After about three months of this regular activity, I realised I had become James Stewart's character in Hitchcock's classic Rear Window! It happened, tonight, when I looked out, and found myself staring at one flat, down on the ground floor, opposite:

"Oh, he has a lady friend over," I told myself. "I wonder what they'll talk about before getting on with it..." After a while, I moved my eyes upward and to the right. "Why's he got his shirt off? Must be the heat. Is he working, or chatting online? Or maybe that's just me..." Then, to the left: "She's finally gotten than frame mended! About time, too; it's been cracked for ages. Must have cost a bit..."

I then returned my gaze to Ground Floor. "Oh, there are two friends? Are they in a study group? Must be, it's exam-time..."; "He looks tired, he should stop working; or chatting online, whichever it is..."; "She ought to bring in her washing..."; "They look bored, already, they've only been at it for a few minutes..."; "He can work out as much as he likes, he still has an ugly face..."; "She's mixed her fast colours with her whites..."

...And so on, and so forth...

What the hell has happened to me?!

Wasting My Time

In between, university classes, teaching classes, reading, writing, enjoying life and being brilliant, I can also be found relaxing by watching rubbish online and taking pathetic quizzes (not to mention making stupid videos). I stole this from Dusty Boot's blog, who in turn is also a quiz-thief. So, without further ado...

1) Favorite object in your room?
My beautiful wardrobe; and the computer, which is portable!

2) Have you ever smoked heroin?
Err... Have you ever sucked off a ferret?

3) Do you own guns?
No. I never will.

4) If you could have lunch with someone dead or alive who would it be?
She knows who she is. I'll probably never have lunch with her again, now, though.

5) What is your favorite food?
All of it. Except coconuts, tartar sauce and mayonnaise.

6) Last person you kissed?
The last woman or gay I encountered. In Spain, everyone kisses everyone else. Twice.

7) Favorite song?
Right now, anything funk-related.

8) What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Fruit juice, water or coffee.

9) Can you do push-ups?

10) Can you do a chin up?
I don't even know what that is.

11) What's your favorite piece of jewelry?
I'm not actually a big fan of bling. Probably some modest earrings.

12) Do you like blue cheese?
Depends on my mood and what the bread's like.

13) What is your bagel of choice?
The really doughy one.

14) What is one thing you like about yourself?
I don't have the mispleasure of getting to know me.

15) What's one trait that you hate about yourself?
I couldn't begin to tell you how many neuroses I'm going to be working on in therapy.

16) What's your middle name?
You'll never know, but I do have one.

17) Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment?
a) I've stayed up all night AGAIN.
b) I'm really pleased George is playing - I feel calm.
c) I need to cheer up.

18) Name 3 things you bought today?
a) Nothing.

19) Name 3 -5 drinks you drink regularly?
Water, coffee, fruit juice, wine, clara (spanish mix of beer and Fanta lemon: don't knock it 'til you've tried it).

20) Current worry?
My weight.

21) Current hate right now?
My tedious teacher and his crappy class.

22) Current wish?
To end it all now. The classes, that is.

23) How did you bring in the New Year?
Surrounded by Spaniards swallowing grapes. Nay, nearly choking on grapes.

24) Where would you like to be right now if you could choose?
exactly where I am, but in a more upmarket apartment.

25) Name three people who will complete this?
I don't care.

26) What CD is in your player or car right now?
I have recently "legally purchased" a whole load of funk. The last CD I actually bought was The Scissor Sisters' second album.

27) What shirt are you wearing right now?
Pink t-shirt saying "How much there is in the world I do not want."

28) Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
If I'm on satin sheets, I'm not sleeping.

29) Can you whistle?
You just put your lips together, and...blow...

30) Favorite color?
Blues, Blacks and Reds.

31) Would you be a pirate?
Aye aye, Cap'n!

32) Where is your cell phone?
On the bedside drawer.

33) Do you like the cold or the hot weather?

34) Do you sleep on the right or left side of the bed?

35) What's in your pocket?
Nothing, I'm in my pyjamas.

36) Last thing that made you laugh?
Lauren, my housemate and Year Abroad confidante.

37) Best bed sheets growing up?
I have never had themed bed sheets, so I'll have to go with the deep red ones I had when I was sleeping on a cabin bed in the living room. Ah, childhood...

38) What is your favorite candle scent?

39) Do you love where you live?
Madrid: YES; Brighton: I've grown to love it; London: yeas, but I'd like to actually live there properly, again.

40) How many TVs do you have in your house?
1, which is never on.

41) Who is your loudest friend?
I'm everyone's loudest friend.

42) How many dogs do you have?

44) What is to your left?
The wall.

45) What is your favorite movie?
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I am, of course, referring to the 1971 classic with Gene Wilder, not the soulless remake.

46) What is your favorite TV show?
Well, if I had to choose, I'd have to say Doctor Who.

47) What sport do you prefer to watch on TV?
Prime Minister's Question Time. Cockfighting has nothing to do with birds.

48) Where is the next place you want to travel to?
The US and South America. All in one go.

49) What were you doing at midnight?
Stuffing my face with cake.

50) First thought after you woke up this morning?
"Oh shit, I have to watch that stupid film".

"I don't need to take drugs to have a good time, I only need sniff the air to feel high..."

What on earth is going on, here...?

Last week, I read a funny news story online. I told myself "I ought to put it in the blog". Then my good friend ka-os|theory went and did that for me. He then had the shameless cheek (he has two, actually) to pass it on to me. I'm not one to pick up sloppy seconds, but on this occasion I'll make an exception.

According to some government institute, here in Madrid, the slighty onimously-named Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (in spanish it sounds a lot less threatening, I assure you), Madrid's air is laced with cocaine! It explains a lot.

The Spanish are, to put it politely, an exciteable lot. It's why I like them. You can stay up until 4am, go to bed, then get up in a couple of hours, bright and early for work beginning at 8.30. For all self-destructive hedonists, Madrid is something of a Mecca. If I were to tell you some of my post-midnight stories...

Anyway, have a look at the article for yourself. Of course, it's a load of old guff; but fun guff, nonetheless. And, for the sheer nonsensical fun of it, here's Whigfield with her opening lyrics "Saturday night, I feel the air is getting hot." Say it all, really...

On This Day...

James Stewart in Harvey, playing Elwood P Dowd, one of his most famous roles


1506 - Christopher Columbus dies in Valladolid, Spain.

1520 - Herán Cortés defeats Spanish troops that had been sent to punish him in Mexico.

1690 - England passes the Act of Grace, forgiving followers of James II.

1774 - Britain's Parliament passes the Coercive Acts to punish the American colonists for their increasingly anti-British behaviour.

1775 - North Carolina becomes the first colony to declare its independence. 86 years later, in 1861 it is the eleventh state to secede from the Union.

1830 - The fountain pen is patented by H.D. Hyde.

1874 - Levi Strauss begins marketing blue jeans with copper rivets.

1902 - The US military occupation of Cuba ends.

1927 - Charles Lindbergh takes off from New York to cross the Atlantic for Paris aboard his aeroplane the Spirit of St. Louis. The trip took 33 1/2 hours.

1932 - Amelia Earhart takes off to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She became the first woman to achieve the feat.

1939 - The first telecast over telephone wires is sent from Madison Square Garden to the NBC-TV studios at 30 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. The event was a bicycle race.

1939 - The first regular air-passenger service across the Atlantic Ocean begins with the take-off of the Yankee Clipper from Port Washington, New York.

1978 - Mavis Hutchinson, at age 53, becomes the first woman to run across America. It took Hutchinson 69 days to run the 3,000 miles.

1990 - The Hubble Space Telescope sends back its first photographs.

1993 - The final episode of Cheers is aired on NBC-TV.

1996 - The US Supreme Court struck down a Colorado measure banning laws that would protect homosexuals from discrimination.

Happy Birthday
William Thornton, American inventor and painter; designed the United States Capitol: 1759 - 1828

Honoré de Balzac, French novelist: 1799 - 1850

John Stuart Mill, British philosopher: 1806 - 1873

William George Fargo, American expressman, organizer of Wells, Fargo & Company, currently known as American Express: 1818 - 1881

Henri Julien Félix Rousseau, French painter: 1844 - 1910

Jimmy Stewart, American actor (Philadelphia Story, The Glenn Miller Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Harvey): 1908 - 1997

William R. Hewlett, Co-founder of Hewlett-Packard Company (HP): 1913 - 2001

Joe Cocker, British singer and songwriter: b.1944

Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPierre), American "singer" and "actress" (Moonstruck, The Witches of Eastwick, Silkwood, Mask): b.1946

Busta Rhymes, American rapper: b.1972

Sunday, 17 May 2009

News Brief: 11/05/09 - 17/05/09

Click on the images to be redirected

Obama "to revive military trials"
"US Preseident Barack Obama is expected to announce on Friday [15th May] that he is reviving military trials for some of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay..." - Hmm...

German Motorway Strewn With Notes
"A man in Germany discovered the dangers of driving an open-top car when an envelope containing 23 000 euros (£20 600) blew off the back seat..." - Serves him right for being careless! What's a glove compartment for, apart from gloves?

Eurozone Economies Contract 2.5%
"The economies of the 16 countries that make up the eurozone declined by 2.5% in the first three months of 2009, the EU's statistics agency Eurostat said..." - In the words of John Wayne "aw, shit!"

Miss California Keeps Her Title
"Carrie Prejean is to be allowed to keep her Miss California title, in spite of allegations she broke her contract by posing for semi-nude photographs..." - Are we really surprised? The same state voted against same-sex marriage. Who really gives a shit what some preened idiot thinks of us, anyway?

Big Ambitions For Small Loans
"A teacher by training, Lynne Randolph Patterson never expected to find herself at the helm of a multi-national financial services company..." - Consdering the current financial climate, I can't figure out whether this is altruism or a new method of exploitation. I really want to believe in the former...

Secret Tianenmen Memoirs Revealed
"The memoirs of China's former communist leader who was sacked after the Tianenmen protests have been published..." - This should provide an interesting read.

Straw Drops Secret Inquest Plans
"The government is dropping plans to hold secret inquests without juries, Justice Secretary Jack Straw has said..." - Good! The less the UK turns into a Kafaesque/Orwellian mixture the better.

UK Workers becoming "overskilled"
"There are now too few jobs for UK graduates, and the gap between the supply of high-level workers and jobs for them is growing, a report suggests..." - In the words of John Wayne (again) "aw, shit!"

German and French Exams Show Drop
"One in five secondary schools is not presenting candidates for Higher German and one in 10 do not offer Higher French, BBC Scotland has learned..." - Urgh! The British arrogance regarding foreign languages disgusts and embarrasses me. Spanish, at least, is beneffitting from this deficit.

Ice Sheet Melt Threat Reassessed
"The collapse of a major polar ice sheet will not raise global sea levels as much as previous projections suggest, a team of scientists has calculated..." - Well, that's good. Doesn't mean we should all stop bothering about carbon emissions and recycling, though.

The Plant That Can Water Itself
"In the deserts of Israel, there is a plant that can water itself..." - No problems for this little fella, then, in times of environmental crisis.

Caught in the Crossfire: The Swat Valley's Fleeing Families
"Declan Walsh seeks out the refugees trapped in a brutal war between Pakistan's army and the Taliban after an uneasy and short-lived truce..." - why the army thought they could ever make a truce with the Taliban is beyond me, and now these poor civilians are paying for it.

Repossessions Rise by 50%
"A total of 12,800 homes were repossessed by lenders in the first three months of the year, 50% more than in the first quarter of last year, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said today...." - With most people renting privately, and the lists for council housing becoming ever longer, no-one is safe. Thanks very much Baroness Thatcher: I hope they come for your house, one day.

Sex and God Do Mix: According to "Catholic Karma Sutra"
"The correct Roman Catholic sexual position is not, as many might imagine, missionary, infrequent and with the lights out, but 'saucy, surprising and fantasy packed'..." - and then you tell your pervy preist all about it, afterwards, in the confession box.

Forget the Concertos or Whatever, Was Mozart Hot?
"Looks trump talent these days – and nowhere more so than in the US. Now even historical figures get the 'hottie' treatment..." - Goodness me, won't someone save us from ourselves!

Zapatero beats Rajoy in a National Debate for the Fourth Consecutive Time
"The Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has won the State of the Nation Debate for the fourth consecutive time against leader of the opposition Partido Popular [Popular Party: Conservatives], Mariano Rajoy, according to the opinion of the Spanish public released this Friday [15th May] by Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS; Sociological Research Centre). For 37% of the poll, the Prime Minister affirmed his authority in the debate this week in the Congress, against 14.4% who think Rajoy came out stronger..." - Not only are the PP a frightfully unpopular party, at the moment, but Rajoy is neither outspoken nor charismatic enough to even be thought of as a possible leader of the country. Having said that, we should always stay on guard.

US Jail Workers Fired for Stun Gun Stunt
"Three US prison employees have been sacked for demonstrating their stun guns by zapping children..." - Ha! The little b@stards probably deserved it.

Comments welcome!

Image of the Week: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), my favourite classical composer; he's not too bad looking, either...

On This Day...

Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist, women's suffragist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer; 1818-1895

1630 - Italian Jesuit Niccolo Zucchi saw the belts on Jupiter's surface.

1792 - The New York Stock Exchange was founded at 70 Wall Street by 24 brokers.

1814 - Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden. Norway's constitution, which provided a limited monarchy, was signed.

1877 - The first telephone switchboard burglar alarm was installed by Edwin T. Holmes.

1881 - Frederick Douglass was appointed recorder of deeds for Washington, DC.

1932 - The US Congress changed the name "Porto Rico" to "Puerto Rico."

1940 - Germany occupied Brussels, Belgium and began the invasion of France.

1954 - The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled for school integration in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. The ruling declared that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal.

1973 - The US Senate Watergate Committee began its hearings.

1980 - Rioting erupted in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood after an all-white jury in Tampa acquitted four former Miami police officers of fatally beating black insurance executive Arthur McDuffie. Eight people were killed in the rioting.

1985 - Bobby Ewing "died" on the season finale of Dallas on CBS-TV. He returned the following season, with the revalation of an entire year's worth of storylines being nothing but a lengthy and elaborate dream.

1996 - US President Clinton signed a measure requiring neighborhood notification when sex offenders move in. Megan's Law was named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed in 1994.

1997 - Rebel leader Kabila declared himself president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire.

2000 - Thomas E. Blanton Jr. and David Luker surrendered to police in Birmingham, Alabama. The two former Ku Klux Klan members were arrested on charges from the bombing of a church in 1963 that killed four young black girls.

2000 - Austria, the US and six other countries agreed on the broad outline of a plan that would compensate Nazi-Era forced labor.

2001 - The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp based on Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts comic strip.

Happy Birthday
Sandro Botticelli, Italian Rennaissance painter, most famous for his impression of The Birth of Venus (c.1482-86): 1444 - 1510

Edward Jenner, English scientist, pioneer of smallpox vaccine: 1749 - 1823

Joseph Norman Lockyer, English scientist and astronomer, discovered helium: 1836 - 1920

Maureen O'Sullivan, Irish actress: 1911 - 1998

Birgit Nilsson, Swedish opera singer: 1918 - 2005

Dennis Hopper, American actor: b.1936

Taj Mahal, blues musician (NOT the building): b.1942

Enya, Irish singer and composer, best known for her song Orinoco Flow: b.1961

The Birth of Venus (c.1482-86), Sandro Boticelli

Another Weekend, Another Ridiculous Video (or three)

You'd think, after last week, I'd have learnt my lesson, and decided to leave the world of video blogging well alone. Not me. After another night of crushing boredom, and as a means of avoiding doing any work, I've made not one but THREE new videos. Actually, I've only made one, but there are two "versions" of it up, and the other is a highly unfunny joke. See for yourselves.

Now, back to that essay...

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Welcome, Europe! (but not everyone...)

This year in Homophobic Russia: Nul Points...

Some people can't tell I'm gay, when they meet me. That suits me fine - I'm not an ambassador, and as a character from a television programme once said, "unless I'm f*cking you, it's none of your business." However, I am in no way ashamed of who I am, nor do I attempt to hide it. I'm just not an "obviously gay" man (what the hell is "obviously gay", anyway...?)

Nevertheless, there are five ways one can spot my sexuality. First is my obssession with my own image, teetering somwhere between vanity and self-loathing, I can't tell whether "I'd do me", or if I should see someone about those unsightly flaps. Second, I'm British, love the theatre and adore pretty much every member of the British acting establishment, about 80% of which is homosexual - only 40% of them are open about it, but trust me, I've been to industry functions and dinners, the British theatre is full of gays. Third, my Windows Media Player playlist is dominated by fat - and some thin - black women with loud voices, camp white women with little talent but plenty of dresses, The Pet Shop Boys and George Michael. Fourth, I sleep with men.

I also love - and I mean LOVE - the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Everything about it makes me tingle all over: the dreadful acts, the dodgy accents, the poor-quality and often nonsensical songs, and the Scandinavian countries. Oh, those poor Norwegians. Say what you like about Eurovision - and I often do after a couple of glasses of Dyonisian fruit juice - the experience is fun, frivolous and flappity-flap-flap frippery.

But something terribly bad has happened to Eurovision. It all started when it began to take itself too seriously. Around about the mid-nineties, the contest became less of a naff-fest and more a kind of pseudo propagandist attraction. As if winning the contest meant you could show the rest of the continent how great your country is. Then, the voting pattern changed. Admittedly, the voting system was always a little suspect, with the usual political and historical blocs fulfilling everyone's expectations (France and Belgium, Greece and Cyprus, Spain and Italy, Germany and Austria, etc), but they rarely ever got in the way of suspensfully wondering which god-awful song would come out on top. Recently, the scandal of '68 was revealed, proving that even military dictators were willing to muscle in on the proceedings: of course, the Spanish flatly refuse any wrongdoing, and La la la is probably the only instance of the modern generation's defence in favour of General Franco; but we all know Cliff was robbed... Nowadays, though, Western Europe might as well give up all hope of winning, since the vast bloc of Eastern Europe has hijacked the entire thing, to the point no-one believes anywhere betwen Iceland and Hungary stands a chance of coming in the top 25. Since 2001, five of the eight winners have been Eastern European countries. I've nothing against their winning, but it takes a little away from the suspense. The Cold War had nothing on this. It was enough to drive veteran commentator, Sir Terry Wogan to quit, last year!

Finally, the last insult to suck the fun out of Eurovision is the controversial action of this year's host, Russia. Gay activists have used the contest, notably popular with gays all over Europe and on one occasion won by an Israeli transsexual, as a stage for protest against Russia's disreputable human rights record. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has even called homosexuality "satanic"! As I write this, the news of the peaceful protest being broken up by armed riot police had hit the headlines, and plenty of anger has been stirred by the international gay community. Eurovision was always a little political, but this is ridiculous.

Furthermore, when one considers that the contest is an unofficial gay icon (what is an "official" gay icon? Something for another article, perhaps?), the thought of anti-gay support and oppression against LGBT fans of the contest is almost ludicrous. Almost.

As I pointed out earlier, the contest has been used over the past few years as a platform for countries willing to present themselves in a positive light. What kind of image does all of this furore create for Russia, an extremely important country, politically and historically? Will LGBT tourists consider Moscow as a destination, when gay marches are recieved like this? Russia may have a lot to think about, on this issue.

Nevertheless, I will be watching, and will probably engage in the typically British pastime of laughing at foreigners, before realising just how crappy my own nation's attempts at winning will be. This year, as with previous years, I will be supporting both the UK's and Spain's entries. Neither will win, though...

Further Reading: "'You're not safe in Moscow', gay Eurovision fans told ahead of march", The Guardian Online

Perhaps this should have been this year's logo...?

Post-Show Update!
Well, well, well: this year WAS a bag of surprises! The UK came in a respectable fifth place, the gala was fun and full of spectacle, Spain bummed out completely (coming in penultimate position) and traditional losers Norway won with a record number of votes! I'm sure their win had nothing to do with them having the cutest boy sing it. He actually composed and wrote the lyrics for the song, so talented and pretty. Enjoy...

Film Review: Star Trek

Eric Bana, Zoe Saldaña, Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine in JJ Abram's Star Trek (2009)

Let me begin by saying I am not a Star Trek fan. That doesn't mean I don't love it, but only for the reasons any true trekkie would regard as haughty sneering. I don't sneer, I snort. Say what you like about the preachy dialogue, the hammy acting, the made-up science and the unfathomable technobabble - not to mention the pervading sixties' retro-futuristic feel of the entire production - the entertainment factor, sometimes precisely because of the aforementioned, is so strong it is hard not to like the show.

I also love the films, which take the basic premise of the original series and sustain a story arc over the course of five individual instalments. I am, of course, referring to The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, and The Undiscovered Country. I have even recently begun to re-watch the whole saga, which, if you agree to look at from a critical viewpoint, provides some very interesting exploration of such universal themes as friendship, courage, selflessness, revenge, the human relationship with God, aging, and facing our own mortality. It was because of this, and the sheer prospect of watching Chris "you could lick him all over" Pine and Zachary "Sylar, the hottest villain of them all, from Heroes" Quinto camp it up in tight-fitting brightly coloured shirts while still trying to maintain their macho dignity. Also, Leonard Nimoy had agreed to return.

Despite what the hardcore fans are saying, which I will return to, this film is great! What it does is offer the viewers much more than a speculation of the early years of the crew of the Enterprise and its "five-year mission to boldly go where no man has gone before". It effectively retcons the entire history of the prgramme, creating an alternative history, and allowing the franchise to be reactivated for a modern audience. Of course, the basic elements are there: Starfleet in the 23rd century; gut-feeling, "I don't believe in no-win situations", Kobayashi Maru-cheating Captain Kirk; quiet, pensive, half-Human half-Vulcan conflicted Spock; gruff, grumpy, "I'm a doctor, not a [insert other profession here]" Doctor McCoy; various races and species all working together acting as an intergalactic United Nations; and a truly ludicrous plot. There are also some interesting changes. Most scandalous (in the trekkie community) is the destruction of the planet Vulcan, and the heavy reduction of the Vulcan population. Spock and Uhura's romance is also briefly touched on, which undoubtedly must have had hardcore Trek fans squirming in their seats.

However, the explanation for such sacrilege is there and openly offered by the characters: this is an alternate history! No Star Trek fan has a leg to stand on, considering that any perceived perversion of history is explained by the plot. There are no contradictions with "established" Star Trek history, since this is another history. Also, it's not real!

On to the film, proper. The effects are first rate. Watching in an obscure cinema in the centre of Madrid, I genuinely forgot about my surroundings and was immediately pulled into the world of the film. Only one moment led me to cross my brow and whisper to my friend: at one point, three characters jump down from space, enter the planet's atmosphere, pull their parachutes and land on a drilling device several thousand feet above the surface. I can only assume that a society with the technology enabling man to travel faster than the speed of light is also capable of creating spacesuits able to withstand such a freefall - and why did they fall from space, anyway? There is no air, surely? Apart from that - and the fact that Kirk was a little more ruthless with the villain's fate than Shatner's character would have been - I didn't question the spectacle.

Acting-wise, each member of the cast found a good balance between the recogniseable mannerisms and speech-patterns of the original cast, with the ability to add their own touches to their portrayals. I felt Zoe Saldaña, John Cho and Anton Yelchin, as Uhura, Sulu and Chekhov respectively, were the most (ahem) liberal interpretations, but their roles in the main story were so marginalised, they should be excused for their desire to define themselves within the film. Chris Pine was dashingly attractive - and surprisingly accurate - capturing Kirk's swashbuckling, hands-on, arrogant approach to comand, while Zachary Quinto was undoubtedly the star of the piece. Arguably the biggest name actor after Leonard Nimoy - playing "Spock Prime" - and Eric Bana, Quinto effortlessly created a multi-layered, at times tortured, Spock with whom I'm sure every memeber of the audience could either identify or feel sympathy for. Words cannot describe the glow I felt watching Quinto and Nimoy chinwag in that oh-so-Spock-like way in a short scene towards the end of the film. The supporting cast was also equally impressive: Bruce Greenwood made a commanding (obviusly) Captain Pike, acting as Kirk's mentor and fleshing out a rarely explored tidbit of Star Trek mythology; Ben Cross authoritatively transmitted the patient thoughtful Sarek, Spock's Vulcan father; while everybody's favourite shoplifter Winona Ryder gave an interestly - and sadly brief - turn as Amanda Grayson, Spock's mother. Even Simon Pegg - playing a practical homage to James Doohan's Scotty - and Eric Bana were good, the latter almost unrecogniseable playing vengeful Romulan miner Captain Nero.

The problem - and yet often highly-amusing element - with the original run of Star Trek, and especially with the remaining spin-off series, is that it took itself far too seriously, attempting to transmit a highly American image of universal harmony through a mixture of hippie-ideology and Western political-structure and foreign policy. The films focused much more on the relationship between the characters, using all of the "message" as a backdrop to the story, which ironically served to underline the importance of all of the intentions of franchise creator Gene Roddenberry. What JJ Abrams has managed to do with this year's instalment is redefine all of this, with an updated version which - despite the protestations of the hardcore fans - reaffirms the original remit of the programme.

Four Stars.

PS: Did I mention most of the male cast is hot...?


Daryl Hannah in the classic man-mermaid love story Splash. What do you mean you don't remember it...?

According to fellow blogger, thegayte-keeper, this very blog gives you something "that cannot be matched." Apparently, I am also "a leader and one that isn't afraid to challenge the majority..."

Thank you, TG-K, for the illustrious Splash Award, and in keeping with the tradition, I shall present a few of my own. The rules are as follows, so if you find yourself on this list, then do as you're told, you bunch of reprobates: -

1) Put the logo on your blog post. I haven't done this, since I can't find it. Someone help with this!

2) Nominate up to 9 other blogs which "allure, bewitch, impress or inspire you".

3) Link your nominees.

4) Let them know by linking your award as a comment on their blog.

5) Link the person who awarded you.

So, without much further ado, here goes: -

the ka-os blog
So good, he's been splashed twice! TG-K describes him as "a soldier" for butting heads with him "on more than one occasion". I knew the author long before I began to read his blog, and he is a part inspiration for my own recordings. Agree or disagree with his views, he certainly promotes debate. This award is twofold: thanking him for being a good friend throughout the last few years, and helping me on more occasions than he knows - nor would I care to admit. He also loves Doctor Who...

Therapy Writing 101
Actually a sister blog to Dusty Boot's The Other Side Of..., this blog has to be read to be believed. Actually, I still don't believe some of the things written here. An amazing and extremely personal exploration into the author's past, Dusty opens up to his therapist, and now the vast internet public, and charts his history of abuse and victimisation. It's a wonder the man's still here. Dusty: I barely know you, but I'm very proud of you (not that you need my pride, of course).

Don Diego
I only began reading this blog a few weeks ago, when I found a well-written article written as a reaction to Eve Sedgewick's death. Since then, I've been following his updates, and I'm certain every reader wil quickly realise that this man is highly intelligent, extremely capable of intellectual analysis. He's the kind of person I'd instantly latch on to and call a friend if we were to meet at university; and I'm a little in awe of his astute awareness. Go read!

SGL Café
Like Don Diego, I have only recently begun to read this blog, but every time I check his posts, I smile. Funny and intelligent, I'd definitely recommend to anyone looking for commentary on contemporary gay lifestyle in the Western world. He is also a writer, and, judging by ka-os's review, a pretty good one, too.

Limited Means
Boy, does this man ramble! It's all measured, salient stuff, though. His self-observations are most enlightening, too...

Tim in Nanyuki

Effectively, an open copycat exercise, my friend Tim went away to Kenya for three months. Back home, now, but his experiences as a young British white middle-class student living it up in the ex-colony is very interesting. No photos, unfortunately, but there is plenty of detailed description...

There you have it. My recommended reading. Speaking of which, I really should get on with studying for exams and essays, soon... Enough of this wanky self-appreciation, now!

I had hoped this would never happen again...

Not unlike the scene in one of my classes

Let's play a game.

Imagine it is Sunday (if it is Sunday for you, then you're off to a good start). Now imagine yourself picking a DVD off the shelf. You pop it into the player, and up comes the full season of last year's Springwatch: yes, that's right, you've just set yourself up for hours of fun BBC nature webcam action, and I'm not talking about the kind of tits you see on the internet. Now imagine, for added viewing pleasure, sticking on the commentary, and whaddayaknow! It's being done by your Uncle Henry, who always tells the same "amusing" stories at every family function.

You've just had a fraction of the experience I have suffered in the last few weeks of my Spanish Literature and Cinema class.

I thought I'd learnt my lesson (no pun intended). Last semester, I had one teacher who bored me to tears, putting me off going to her classes. Not only were the texts she chose shit, but her manner was totally indifferent to us students, and I doubt she would have noticed if no-one were sitting in the classrom. I became so disilusioned with her, I ended up writing a note telling the teacher she was dull and uninspiring, and giving it as the reason for my failing the very exam I was supposed to be taking. I swore I'd never take another class like that ever again.

But there's always one, isn't there?

So this semester I'm doing this course, in which we study five adaptations of Spanish novels. Sounds promising - I'd avoided reading Spanish novels, after being put off last semester, but I told myself I would give it a go this time round. In any case, we'd be watching the films, which might make the experience a little easier; and there would be plenty of scope for dicussing adaptation and the theoretical differences between the two media as story-telling techniques.

We're now on the final novel and its film adaptation, and I can honestly say I couldn't give a rat's fart about the subject anymore. Not because the novels are bad: I've finished reading two of the five, and I really enjoyed one. Not because the films are particularly bad, either: though none are they of Almodóvar's thought-provoking standard (see below). Not even because the workload dumped on us is particulary heavy. It is because of the teacher. He's a total bore. He's also a dick.

I'm not fond of slandering unsuspecting Spanish academics through the medium of internet logs, but Juan Ignacio Diez Fernández (try saying that with your mouth full) is a dull, arrogant, inconsiderate bastard of a teacher. Why do I say this? Well, primarily because he appears to have made life unneccesarily difficult for his students for no apparent reason other than to increase our stress levels and blood pressure.

He calmly explained to us in the first class that there would be no exam for the course, but we would all have to hand in a piece of written coursework. Score, we all thought. He then proceeded to continue with the classes, waiting until about a month before hand-in day to decide on and tell us what the coursework would have to be about. Not only did he choose an irritatingly vague topic - "identity" - but has also asked us to include a "specific and relevant" bibliography: sorry, Juan, what? A specific and relevant bibliography: is there any other kind? What did he think we were going to include? The Merits of Salt in Modern Cooking, by Jerry Arsewipe? To make this worse, the class is particularly popoular, and there are around fifty students taking it. This means that there will be fifty-odd students scrambling about in the library for books - of which there are usually only one or two copies - and the DVD prints of the films. Oh, did I forget to mention there is only one copy of each of the films in any of the several libraries on campus?

For all the guff about there being no exam, we still had to take a "basic questionnaire" covering what we had done in class up until that point, on Thursday. Hmm - answering a set of questions individually in complete silence and under strict conditions for an hour? Sounds like an exam to me! The difference, according to Sr Diez, is that there is no "pass point" for this questionnaire: meaning that you either pass it or you fail it, you can't get 50% right and still pass, for instance. Added to this, in order to pass the entire course, you have to pass the questionnaire and get a good mark for the coursework. If you fail the questionnaire, you fail the course, since they go together. The final insult is that he has deemed it "impossible" to reveal whether we have passed the questionnaire or not, before handing in the coursework, meaning that I could have already failed, but I will still have to work my arse off to hand in what may be an excellent essay but is ultimately worth nothing, and a waste of my resources.

Back to my original point. He's a terribly dull teacher. He repeats himself constantly, takes fifteen minutes to respond to a point made by a student - leading me to conclude he loves the sound of his own voice; and he is so quietly arrongant, I sometimes want to get up and bludgeon him to death with the hot water piping. Last week, my patience was lost, when he invited a guest speaker to the class. Considering the last time I had a guest speaker lead a class of mine I left inspired, I was somewhat hopeful. All hope was squashed within two minues of hearing him speak. It was like listening to a younger clone of Juan Ignacio. Apparently, this man has written six books - boy, was I keen to read those...

You might think I'm having one of my typical moans about something which was ultimately my decision - I even had the chance to drop it. You're right. I'm angry with myself for making the same mistake yet again, albeit to a lesser extent, and nowhere near as depressing, as last semester. The only upside to all of this is that I have one-and-a-half-weeks of classes left, and all I have to do is get on with the bloody coursework, and attend these brain-drainingly inane classes twice more before having no more to do with Juan Ignacio Diez Fernández or his stupid assignments.

God, could you imagine how much worse I'd be if I were living in a truly depressing situation...?