Wednesday, 9 April 2014

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, BABY


There are preposterous stories and then there are stories that are so absurd you truly fear for the future of our human race and question our so-called intelligence. [Without even telling you the story, isn’t it amazing how many situations could fit this bill?]One day ago in Lahore, Pakistan, a nine-month-old baby (Above. The photo literally makes me want to hurt the man in the suit) was fingerprinted and booked on an attempted murder charge. Yes, YOU HEARD ME. I know you’re trying to figure this one out, but trust me, the circumstances are damn near impossible to comprehend. No, this baby did not try to kill someone by crying incessantly or accidentally choke someone with its dummy (i.e. pacifier). In the infinite wisdom of the police force of Lahore, they decide to book this child purely due to its genetic make-up.

As the story goes, several police and a bailiff officer went to a family's home over an unpaid Gas bill – they clearly have a lot of time on their hands over in Lahore if they’re going to people’s houses for an unpaid bill. When the police arrived, an altercation broke out between the authorities and the family, and the father (of the infant) and his teenage son threw bricks at the police. I’m gathering that at the time of the incident in question, the nine-month-old was sleeping or drooling or sucking on its foot, and was NOT sitting at the window firing pellets at the officers with its baby boomerang.

After this altercation, the police of course, being diligent officers of the law, arrested everyone in the house including the baby. Because babies are so darn threatening. [I can’t tell you how many times the King scared me into submission at that age]. The baby was then brought into the police station and fingerprinted, crying throughout the entire process (I’m thinking because it knew how much that fingerprint ink was going to stain its onesie]. Understandably the family was irate and hired themselves a lawyer, not only to fight the charge but to state how wrong and unjust it is to files charges against an innocent baby (if the baby was guilty then by all means, throw the book at it; and I assure you, if it has the strength the King had at that age, it will throw the book right back).

Following the media coverage of the situation and the police's grand move of stupidity, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the police to immediately suspend a Pakistani official for registering the case against the baby boy. Ah, okay, I get it, order the police to suspend someone else for doing what they carried out. They were just following orders after all, and clearly do not have the ability to do anything but.

I warned you that this story was as absurd as it gets, and I suppose I haven’t done much today to put your faith in the authorities (my bad). My best advice, if you find yourself in Lahore any time soon, keep those bricks away from your babies. You could find your sweet little bundle of joy sharing a cell with an infamous Pakistani bank robber and swapping tales about their criminal pasts.  Stranger things could happen.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL


There is a moment in your life where you can stand firmly and confidently on the mound of where you are and look back from where you’ve come; more specifically, where it began and how you have made your way down the long and winding path. It’s a sobering, amazing, complicated and often epiphanal moment on more levels than I can go into in a single blog. But it’s worth at least scratching the surface. Of late, I’ve done just that; then again, my brain does not have an off switch (if someone's does, please let me know where to locate it) so I've always been one to ruminate, reflect and marvel at the long journey we undertake as human beings. 

When I do look back, it’s hard to be overcome with a mixture of amusement and pride for the person I’ve become. Partly as the former me, shall we say, was a ball of erratic energy that went through life at 80 miles per hour (most of the time with a smile that encapsulated oh so many different meanings) and often failed to understand the consequence of things. There was a fearlessness there that I always prided myself on (and now utterly marvel at) that often meant I truly let life take me without often thinking about where exactly I was going. The present me finds this hysterical as now I’m a planner on a grand scale and fear is something I know all too well. Hence why it’s always amusing to look back and muse over all that reckless abandon one possessed, as you try eagerly to recapture a fraction of that liberation (then again, some do it the opposite and don't throw caution to the wind until they're older). This is the part of life I find the most fascinating, the part where you truly try to form a bridge between the former and latter, the old and the new, and connect these two parts with the glue of wisdom and life experience. In short, “Best of old me…meet best of new me…now discuss and figure out how to co-exist.”

Saying all this, for some this moment, or series of moments never occurs, and hence why mistakes are repeated or gratitude and reflection is never reached. I implore those that can handle it to not let this happen, as reflection, as sobering as it is, is mighty useful not to mention highly amusing at times. Who doesn't like a good trip down memory lane where one can laugh at mistakes and cringe at all those unbelievable missteps. Or conversely celebrate those moments where you truly grabbed life by the throat and lived it to its utmost. Furthermore, I truly believe it’s impossible to understand the totality of who you are without fully understanding the past. I’m not talking about dwelling or stagnating in what you can’t change, but to fully appreciate who you are, I think it’s utterly vital to understand who you were. To look at your past mistakes and regrets (like the song says, I’ve had a few) and truly ask yourself if you have indeed learned from them. To examine friendships lost and relationships ended and how that has shaped you. And on an even bigger level, who is still around in your life and is more than willing and able to accept that you have evolved and changed and what that means (not everyone is comfortable with change, hence why we as humans don’t hold onto every solitary relationship we’ve established in life).

I also firmly believe that it’s important to say thank you and give yourself a little needed praise (if you don’t, don’t depend on others to do this) for making it through the vicissitudes of life without ripping your hair out. This lovely planet of ours – by our own doing – can be a tricky place, so to navigate it and come out fairly unscathed deserves a flipping ribbon. So from where I stand now, on my little 40 plus mountain I’d say this, I’m not who I used to be, not in totality, not by a long shot, but I’d like to think I possess her best possible assets: her warmth, her smile, her flashes of strength and courage, her ability to sit back and see the humour in life. Have I become more fearful? Of course, I have a kid, fear is an occupational hazard of parenting. Have I learned from her total screw-ups? For certain, but I’m sure I still make many. Have I regretted the pedal to the metal attitude I used to have? In some ways yes, but in some ways, a little bit of that freewheeling youthful person I was, I’d like to think still lives inside of me (hell, I wore shorts the other day when it was only forecasted to be 16 degrees (C not F), I'm a rebel damn it!).

So for no reason other than I goaded you into it, give yourself a little praise today for making it to where you are. After all, it’s a long journey, not a single sprint, and we all deserve a pat on the back. 


Friday, 21 March 2014

DANIEL OMAR


With the plane still not found (if you said ‘what plane?’ I truly envy your ability to block out the world) and some people round the world celebrating the passing of Fred Phelps (I’m sorry for his family as he was someone’s son and I’m trying to be kind, but good riddance to all that hate), I thought there was no better way to ring in a Friday than with an inspirational story. 

Today’s comes from Los Angeles, by way of the Sudan. Mick Ebeling, the founder of a company called Not Impossible Labs helps build devices to assist people facing insurmountable physical challenges. After reading about a Sudanese boy in Time magazine named Daniel Omar, who lost both arms in a bomb blast (being a father himself to three boys) he found it hard to sit there and do nothing. Ebeling also understood the cruel reality that despite the fact that thousands are losing limbs in the Sudan from bomb blasts, fitting them with prosthetics is not a priority for humanitarian organizations as it can be a very costly venture.

But not one to give up, Ebeling traveled to the Sudan in November of 2013 to find Daniel and build him an arm in a more economical and technologically advanced way. The amazing part, it would be a prosthetic arm built from a 3D printer that he was taking with him. Apparently (as this is not my area of expertise!) the 3D printers that create the prosthetic's plastic parts is really just a simple, mechanical device (simple to Ebeling; Me, not so much). “The arm works by using movement to trigger cables, threaded throughout the plastic structure like ligaments. When the user flexes and bends the remaining portion of their arm, this motion tenses the cables, which in turn curl and uncurl the fingers at the tip.”
Ebeling and his company deemed the undertaking "Project Daniel," but the hard part would be locating him as Daniel lived in a remote and war torn part of South Sudan. There were also concerns that when they did locate him he would not be keen on the idea of receiving a prosthetic arm from some “tall, bald white dude,” as Ebeling described himself.
At first a bit hermitic and shell shocked to say the least, Daniel warmed to the idea and soon enough was wearing this new fitted arm, and coming back into himself and the world. Ebeling describes Daniel’s transformation by this £60 device that takes several days to build as life changing. "Getting Daniel to feed himself was a highlight that was right up there with watching my kids being born."
Ebeling’s other goal whilst in the Sudan was to share the 3D prosthetic building techniques with Dr. Tom Catena, who works as the only qualified amputator in the area. Soon enough, the idea caught fire and the community rallied around the hope that this new technique could bring. Before Ebeling even touched down back in Los Angeles, two new prosthetic arms had been built. In fact, since Ebeling has returned home to the States, one prosthetic a week has been printed, thanks to two 3D printers he left behind and the training of the locals who are customising them for those in need.
It’s stories like these that inspire us on many levels. Firstly, that there are people out the world like Ebeling who are not willing to just sit there and do nothing when they have the ability to change the lives of so many, and more importantly, that we realize that sometimes it does not take millions to change a life, but £60 and a few individuals eager to help those in need.
Happy Friday All.



Thursday, 20 March 2014

THE MIGHTY C


[One from the archives today. New blog tomorrow!]

I’ll be honest. One of my favourite things about Britain may surprise you (it's not the free medical, but that's definitely high on the list). No, it’s not the scathing wit or cutting edge music, or even the quaint old buildings (some of them are just old, and could use with a little upkeep). To be perfectly frank, as I know you can handle it, it’s the widespread use, and general acceptance of the C word. Yes THAT C word. Fine, the Queen doesn’t say it, but you know Charlie boy lets it roll off the old tongue once in awhile.

It took me about a month to really register that was indeed the word I was hearing. But alas! Do my subversive little Yankee ears deceive me? You people are saying the forbidden word of all words. Where I come from, this little nasty gem is up there with the nastiest of words. In the mighty land of free speech, [stop laughing], this word could actually get you incarcerated. It must be said that I grew up with a Father whose profound embrace of the F word meant that I learned to use it as a noun, adjective and verb by the age of seven, so you can understand my excitement. [My mother, thank god, was the picture of refinement and elegance so I turned out fairly balanced].

So there I was, virtually skipping through the streets of London shouting it from the rooftops like Dick Van Dyke’s alternate gendered evil twin: “C----!” I’d combine it, “F----- C----!” Use it in a sentence, “Could you believe that f------ c---!” [My English granny was definitely rolling over in her grave]. Just feeling it roll off my tongue would send me into liberated hysterics. I started hearing it films, not Merchant Ivory of course, but you’ve seen one you’ve seen em all, on talk shows, at dinner parties ‘Hey, c---, could you pass the Camembert’. (Fine, I may be exaggerating now). In fact, recently, four different forms of the word c*nt have just been added to the English dictionary (c*nty, c*ntish, c*nted, and c*nting). That is how revered this mighty word now is (revered and yet still very much feared in some parts).

It’s hard to forget the time I returned to the States and used it in front of my mother, my English mother, for that matter. (Yes she’s been Americanized, but the woman still drinks tea like it’s water). She about barred me from returning to London, ‘that was not how we spoke when I lived there!’. I of course, bathed in my new uber cool anglophilia, told her to chill out, assuring her that everyone says it now. “I promise Mom, It’s like her majesty’s version of ‘have a nice day”.  My English friends finally had to burst my euphoric bubble and tell me that not everyone said it, and yes, it was still deemed offensive...I suppose some of the reactions I received started to make a bit more sense.

Fine. I’ll save it like a precious piece of Parisian chocolate only to make an appearance for the very deserving. You’re out there, and know who you are!

C u next Tuesday.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?


Here’s another unbelievable story for your Wednesday. Unbelievable in a ‘dear god are people that utterly stupid’ kind of way (wish I could’ve found a more inspirational story for the day, but apparently the universe was in short supply this week).

Recently in Abu Dhabi, an area rife with money beyond one’s comprehension, a mobile phone number sold at auction for £2.1 million pounds. I’ll let you sit with that one for a moment. Yes, a phone number, not a house, or a boat, or a priceless work of art, but a simple set of digits. The number 777-7777 (okay fine, it’s easy to remember, but honestly? Get a notepad if you can’t remember numbers) sold at auction to an anonymous (moron) individual, but as with anything in life, there is a catch. This proud new owner of said number doesn’t even own it; essentially, they are just renting it from the government (who is clearly very very wise). But on the flip side they are lucky recipient of a two-year contract, which includes 22,500 phone minutes, 22,500 text messages, and 100GB of data every month. Gosh darn did they hit the jackpot.

I don’t know about you, but I locked myself into a two-year phone contract almost 2 years ago and I have been counting down every single day until my liberation. I think if I had paid 2 million for it, I’d be a lot more depressed. The other catch, because this story just keeps on giving, before the bids were placed, the bidders were warned from the phone regulators that they had the right to change or withdraw the special numbers at any time. And yet, the auction went ahead and one minted individual with clearly too much cash to burn bought himself (I'm assuming it's a man because no woman would be egomaniacal enough to make this move) a two-year contract. I may be frugal, but even if I had a billion dollars, I would not be shelling out that kind of money for a number. Then again, I don’t have a billion dollars.

I suppose for some (obviously), there is real power in a number. I’ve had the same mobile number for over 10 years, it’s nothing special, but I figured it’s helped keep my brain from turning to mush as it’s not all 7’s. Where’s the challenge in that? Funny enough, certain numbers no matter what you do stick with you over time. To this day I still remember my best friend’s number from childhood (don’t worry MF I will not repeat it) as well as a delivery place on my college campus (which speaks volumes about what I did my freshman year) over…well, many years ago.

The most surreal part of this story is not that people have this much money (although the disparity of this world is depressing at best), but that they spend it on this sh*t as opposed to putting it to good use. My advice to the upper money set of Abu Dhabi, challenge your brain and get a more complicated phone number and give your money to charity. You’ll feel a whole lot better I promise you and you may even stave off dementia for a few more years.

Happy Hump day, all.