Smooth and Dreamy — I’m finally Scarlet O’Hara in the greatest movie ever

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The joy of re-reading…with Charlie Brooker

The joy of re-reading – now I really hate re-living moments, whether it be books or films (except for music, I can play a song for hours on end til I break the record).

I had to re-think my stance though, after reading Charlie Brooker’s insightful piece

Apparently 65% of us have lied about reading the great works of literature. We needn’t have bothered

Haha, I love Charlie Brooker.

Well, I’ve got to say – no I haven’t read 1984, I’m trying to gather the courage to pick up Ulysses, i read the entire Bible when I was 12 and I feel embarrassed admitting Tolstoy’s War and Peace is my favourite book of all time.

The first three don’t bother me so much but War and Peace, well there is a conundrum, I think of it fondly and I might cite is my favourite 1000 pages but I can barely remember a word. So,

why is it my favourite? Maybe because I read it in Italy while I was backpacking and it reminds me of the carefree, orange-blossom smell in the air. But it’s more than that, as a book the language is beautiful and precise, and helped me evolve as a fictional writer – I just wish I could remember.

I have read nearly all the greats, or what I consider the worthy (minus the post-1940s disappointments) – but can’t remember.

Nevertheless, I should re-read all these novels that gave me so much joy, taught me about love (every single Victorian novel, my favourite of course being, the oh so unsatisfying, Jane Eyre), it taught me about life and every other thing that anyone needs to know under the sun. (Oh except for animals, don’t understand them, don’t read about them, so can barely tell them apart – never ask me about badgers/porcupines/beavers/otters/moles…)

Because although the fictional world had a heavy hand in moulding me into who I am today, I still bloody well don’t remember.

Soooo, next I want to read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

And I want to read the last Anna Politkovskaya book sitting on my buckling shelf, and the end of the Amber Spyglass so I can return it to my friend, and finish Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and read whoever won the Man Booker this year, and last year and maybe 2007.

And I want to read what I have already read: my falling to pieces War and Peace, my annoying Anna Karenina (so when I say she annoys me I can back up the why), and finish Dante, and re-read (in English) Madam Bovary, and Tess of d’urbervillles, and The Master and Margarita, and The Satanic Verses, and Crime and Punishment and Villette (consequently the only I really remember vividly).

But I can’t, or won’t, because I still sit at home…watching TV.

But, I most definitely do not say I have read a book just so that I can seem more attractive, a) because it’s pointless; knowing me, my date would quiz me, and b) I’ve usually read anything they have anyway. Plus like Charlie says, who really thinks “man, s/he is totally hot, now that I know s/he’s read Lord of the Rings”.

So here’s what I should do: make a list of everything I want to read, ask everyone else what they think I should read, include Richard and Judy ‘s book recommendations, and ….

… only read War and Peace and Agatha Christie for the rest of my life.

P.S. There’s a grossly blatant repetition here, can anyone spot it?

P.P.S. I miss Jon Ronson and his crazy ways.

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BN Magic money from the Bank of England

My hands are clammy, my heart is racing…yep, I’ve just read the Bank of England is cutting interest rates to 0.5 %.

Does anyone else feel the room closing around you when you read any news on the melting economy…we’re all doomed!

So what’s happened exactly?

First of all, the Bank of England cut interest rates by half a percentage point to a new historic low of 0.5% today.

Then…they decided to pump £75bn cash into the economy by buying up assets

So, tommorrow….the idea is that all this cash will be pumped into our pockets through lending and hand-outs.

The nuts and bolts of it is that the Bank of England is buying assets without issuing gilts thus increasing the quantity of hard cash in the economy

So what does this mean for the average jo and joe? Well, not much to be honest.

By flooding the banks with hard cash it should stimulate lending, however, considering their constant tightfistedness this is unlikely, but all that cash combined with historical low interest rates (since 1664) means that if the banks do decide to continue stashing all that money in their coffers there will be no benefits for them.

In so stimulating lending to me and you, and all those in between.

Funny thing though, with my basic understanding of economics I had always thought of the flooding of the economy with freshly printed bills was a very bad idea, I mean this is how inflation gets out of hand and economies are ruined as they are led down the road of hyperinflation eg Weimar, Argentina.

This quantitative easing that the Bank of England is doing is interesting but by no means is it a sure thing.

So, we know the how and the why, the when is a few months, immediate returns are unlikely.

Savers out there my advice is sit on your money for now, don’t hawk-eye your savings but  rather spend wisely to help unclog the economy, although interest rates are so low as to give you negligible returns on your savings, say this: whoever got anything for free? It’s not like the initial amount you put in is devaluing so stop worrying.

Rates on credit cards/loans will continue to rise, although they are not based on the central bank’s interest rate but rather the borrower’s risk which is emphatically increasing.

Mortgage rates have also been cut.

A good crystal ball is the US and their economy, they went into recession six months ahead of us and have already cut the central bank’s interest rate to 0.25 % as well as started quantitative easing.

What do the experts think? The Guardian (interest rate cut: blahhh, quantitative easing: positive outlook), Financial Times (all about gilts and bonds), Simon Ward (blog for the high brow), and from my favourite money person Martin Lewis (interest rate cuts for dummies).

Oh yeah and for the love of god do not support English jobs for English workers aka protectionism aka very, very bad for the economy, at least I know that much.

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Eternal sunshine of the fearless mind – memory drug

A drug has been been developed to erase painful memories – remind you of anything?

The Dutch study released today says the power of such memories could be dampened when a person thinks about the traumatic events after taking the drugs.

The theory goes: the drug, beta-adrenergic receptor blockers, work by changing the way the frightening memories are stored. Each time a memory is recalled it changes a little, and the new version is recorded in the long-term memory stash via brain chemical fluctuations in a process called reconsolidation. The beta-blockers could interfere with the brain chemicals, blocking reconsolidation of the emotional component of the memory, but leaving the rest of the memory intact.

Although scientists have welcomed the new drug and the healing qualities it brings, it does make you think about the downside of zapping bits of memory away.

True, for people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder this is the miracle medicine, the condition is frightening and takes years of immensely expensive psycho therapy to begin to let go of those horrid images.

But like the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, how far away is Lacuna Inc from becoming a reality.

It is no coincidence the news of this new scientific breakthrough was revealed today, the day after Valentines.
The leap from frizzling fearful memories to emotional ones is not too far away now.

Our link between memory and behaviour is too important, our character is formed by what we live and what we remember. It is not for nothing the saying goes: “For what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” In the film memories are erased, but we only see the painful memories built on love being wiped out, there is no mention about the memory of fear. We can live with the fear of spiders, heights and other phobias but the impulsive reaction to get rid of the memory of a broken heart  will always be stronger.

I wonder how many more people are going to start buying the widely available blood pressure pills in the hopes that it might cure them of their painful memory, administrating their own medicine recreating the Dutch study in the hope that all those bad days would go away.

The dangers of erasing memories are beautiful portrayed in this film, one of my favourite films of all time.

Scientific breakthroughs will always be welcome but even for the best medical intentions it doesn’t stop a new crop of quacks from arising and taking advantage of the highly-marketable research and of susceptible people.

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Bloody good eggs

I am so happy,  apparently eggs have been declared healthy or if not the posterchild for healthy at least good enough to be ate more than three times a week.

I love eggs – boiled, broiled, poached, fried, on little sticks, on my chips, on my rice, looooove it. (Although not as much as I love yoghurt).

People have been limiting themselves to three eggs a week, I say people and not we simply because I eat triple that in half a month, (the other half is spent eating yoghurt).

Now new research from the university of Surrey has come to light discrediting the earlier research that chained people to only three eegs a week because of their apparent high content of saturated fats.

So, I’m prclaiming today Egg Day – go home and eat an egg, lick it, chomp in to it, slurp it, anyway you want.

Here’s a suggestion:

Huevos rancheros You could get purist about this and do it with chorizo and panache, or do it like scrambled eggs – only add thyme and adobo paste, scramble them and serve with salsa over the top

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Ray of light with

As a newspaper journalist my heart races in dread every time I read a piece on newspaper decline and another round of job cuts (and these alerts come at me every day from all the range of sources I read).

So it was refreshingly heartening to read about the start-up of a new website that tries to dispel concerns about the crisis of newspapers that it’s dying., of course another US -run site, has been developed by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.’s publisher Donna Barrett, Brian Tierney, publisher and CEO of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News; Randy Siegel, president and publisher of Parade Publications, and Jay Smith, former president of Cox Newspapers.

The website, which discusses the future of newspapers, will probably be used in the end as a form of research marketing tool, but I say bring it  on as long as it saves my preferred media medium.

The latest piece from the New York Times Executive Editor looks at the demise of quality journalism, and the growing demand for it, which in turn could explain the  dwindling popularity and respect for journalists. By quality journalism he means the kind that involves experienced reporters going places, bearing witness, digging into records, developing sources, checking and double-checking, backed by editors who try to enforce high standards.

The supply of this kind of journalism is declining because it is hard, expensive, sometimes dangerous work. The traditional practitioners of this craft — mainly newspapers — have been downsizing or declaring bankruptcy. The wonderful florescence of communication ignited by the Internet contains countless voices riffing on the journalism of others but not so many that do serious reporting of their own. Hence the dwindling supply.

I have previously lamented the little support journalists had from editors, publishers, owners and in a way  from the public itself in giving us the tools to be exemplary investigative reporters digging away to uncover the truth.

Look at the uproar The Times caused in the House of Lords by uncovering that Lords could be bought! This was a beautiful piece of journalism – the digging, following through in a project that took a year to materialise, debate within the House of Commons.

Barrett says that the group’s message is simple; that newspaper readership is in fact growing when you take into account combined print and online audience, that newspapers have the public trust in terms of truth and accuracy, that advertisers still invest in newspapers because of their guaranteed results and that as watchdogs against crime and corruption newspapers form an essential part of the democratic system.

However, there are some fatal flaws in this argument.  Combining print and on-line readership undoubtedly shows an increase, but this does nothing to counter the most common argument that it is print which is suffering at the expense of its online rival.  Moreover, whilst advertisers are still continuing to invest there is no denying the fact that there has been a steep drop in advertising revenue this year, as Reuters’ Robert Macmillan points out.

The bottom line is: we need a bit of good news in these hardening times when the number of journalism jobs are steadily decreasing never mind talking about the quality of the paper. We must not forget, or ignore the declining downward trend of the newspaper but it is heartening to hear the executives with some clout in the field are looking at smallest ray of sunshine and trying to bring back those sunny days.

P.S. Hope they are having the same conversation in Britain, otherwise I predict a typical US-bound brain drain.





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La Saraghina – life in 2009

Yep, this is a little weird but is only on here because I love the Saraghina scene from Fellini’s 8 1/2 and want to share it with the world.

And just to keep the topic current this is also  one of my New Year resolutions – to bring more of Fellini’s beautiful film into my life (maybe not this exact sequence) there’s no reason why day to day life can’t be more cinematic.

Hehe, French and Saunders also do a fantastic skit of this.

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