Because Every Country Is A Winner – At Something!

 

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And The Winner Is…

The Olympics is a time when individuals who are at the very peak of their performances, get to compete against each other for more than a medal and a trophy. There is the glory and the prestige, the honour of performing on behalf of their nation. We stand in awe at the skeleton bob crew that hurtles at speeds up to 78mph! Skiers who leap 800ft. And gymnasts who twist themselves through contortions a cat would envy.

Takes all sorts doesn’t it? Some of us may be able to recall names who have surpassed others in their field…but what about countries successes? Who – or rather, where – is best at what?

Time to make a list!

 

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Finnish -ing School 

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Handsome Wodaabe Male

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Colombian Falls
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Lego Liebe

 

 

N.B: All details correct at time of posting, pole positions may change. No details to be taken seriously. Strongest/Best/Kindest are all relative and may have taken little effort on the part of the ‘winning’ nation. The author takes no responsibility for the amount of Lego consumed or lists topped.

Information is Beautiful – International Number Ones

 

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Book Review: The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory

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The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman. Robin Gregory

Genre: Fiction. YA. Historical.
Pub Date: 1 November 2015
Publisher: Price World Publishing
Length: 294 pages
Paperback : £11.00

Synopsis

Early 1900s, Western America. A lonely, disabled boy with a nasty temper and uncontrolled mystical powers, Moojie is taken by his father to his grandfather’s wilderness farm. There, Moojie meets an otherworldly clan of outcasts that he wants to join. Following a series of misadventures–magical and mystical–he is summoned by the call to a great destiny … if only he can survive one last terrifying trial.

https://www.amazon.com/Improbable-Wonders-Moojie-Littleman/dp/1942545002

 

I was surprised to learn that this book was published over 2 years ago; it seems to be suddenly everywhere I look online.

Although touted as Y.A, I found it to be an engaging and beautiful story – Set in late 19th early 20th century. Moojie Littleman is a foundling who is adopted by childless couple; Henry and Kate Littleman. Moojie is written across the babes forehead, and so the name sticks.

The name is an interesting choice, it is no accident that the name Moojie (and its variant spellings) can mean – an ethnic slur in India, particularly about a Muslim. For Kabbalists it is about optimism, being friendly and likeable, other sources say it means ‘gift from God’. Knowing just this gives a foothold into this world created by Robin Gregory. A world of hard men; of Scottish, Irish and European origins, who live hard lives in the dust-blown, western edge of the earthquake riddled coastal town of San Miguel de las Gaviotas.

As Moojie grows to an age when certain stages in development should be met, it becomes clear that he is not like other children. For starters he is disabled. This physical disability is not named, but reads like cerebral palsy. Moojie does not, or cannot, speak; until much later. He has tantrums that create havoc and can be said to be spoilt by his doting mother; Kate. An interesting character herself, his mother introduces Moojie to the magical world of books – science, history, Odysseus. She sees in Moojie something no-one else can, a special quality that she attempts to nurture.

Then tragedy strikes. Moojie’s world falls apart after his beloved mother’s death and he is packed off to live with a cranky grandfather. He has to toughen up, the threat of being sent away to a boys home hangs over him for years. He is alone, feels unloved and without a sense of belonging.

Enter the Light-Eaters. A strange ‘tribe’ or ‘clan’ of people who live in the hills beyond grandfather’s goat farm. They are not like the locals, they are dark-skinned, dark-haired and viewed with suspicion by the townsfolk, who call them ‘Hostiles’. We are not told if they are Native American, they can speak any language they want, and there is a heavy emphasis on Eastern philosophy and spirituality. A curious group who each have lessons for Moojie; even painful ones, who reveal a little about themselves drop by drop; where are they from exactly? How old, actually, is Babylonia, the ‘girl’ whom Moojie falls for?

Moojie’s desperate desire to belong; to find a family, leads him on a journey of self-development. It is, in essence, a story of self-discovery and spirituality. Moojie’s disability is no excuse or reason for self-limitation, Moojie must learn how to give, how to forgive and how to accept.

This is a curious story, I was quite entranced from the start with the magical elements entwined in amongst the mundane – and isn’t that the point? Gregory has a light touch, poetic adjectives fill the spaces between the daily activities, is an easy read and has a positive message without being cloying. It can be read by the young as a tale of wonder and magic, and by adults as a tale of the human condition, for after all, aren’t we all Moojie Littleman?

 

I am giving The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman

5 Stars

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You’re Never Too Old For Premiere Pro

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Premier Pro Screen

I think I may have mentioned before I am not a young person. I have a grown up daughter, I have some grey hairs coming through, middle-aged spread, oh, and arthritis down the right hand side of my body.

But…

I will not slow down and I will not stop learning.

You think because you’re a ‘grown-up’ you don’t need to learn anything else? Think again. Life is a series of lessons and the best bit about being aforesaid grown-up, is, you can choose what you learn – I am talking here about the none esoteric, none spiritual learning here –

Currently I am learning how to use a digital camera (Nikon D3400 digital SLR) to film; yes, I know that doesn’t sound like much, but to someone who grew up taking a roll of film to Boots in order to get poorly framed photos from ‘my summer holidays’, it’s a big deal! Plus, I am compiling said shots into one whole piece! Yay, go me!

I am attempting to learn how to use Adobe Premiere Pro; video editing software. If you have ever read the About page on this blog, you will realise what a leap I have made. I am sure Premiere Pro is pretty standard stuff for the young ‘uns, but for me editing is a complicated, brain battering,multi-layered, sneaky (the frame is open but you can’t see me!), eye aching, time-consuming process.

frustrated woman.

However! It is a new skill I am acquiring, and if there is one thing guaranteed to help you feel younger than your years, it’s being able to use new technology.

I have all my shots in the timeline. I have inserted frames made in After Effects. I have added music, titles, credits. I am never going to be employed in the movie industry, I’ll never get a job as an editor – BUT – I can now make a short film should I want to. I think!

To mis-quote Irvine Welsh: ‘Do it for a job. Do it for a career. Do it for your health, Do it instead of sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth.’ Do it for the enjoyment of learning something new. Do it for fun. Do it to show you can. Do it to keep your mind active. Whatever you choose to learn…just do it!

To paraphrase Kafka – It’s better to know something and not need it, than to need something and not know it.

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Ruth Flowers became a DJ at 68

 

 

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Freelance Blogging, Is It Really Your Bag?

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I have been running this blog for, hmm let’s see, just under 2 ½ years.

What has changed?

Well, my writing has improved, that’s for sure. I know what SEO is – I may not fully understand it, or use it properly, but at least I’ve heard of it! Have become acquainted with technology that did not exist when I was young (I got my first computer when I was 30 and my first mobile phone aged 33) And I have had total freedom on what I write about.

So, What has changed?

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I want money. That’s the short answer. More precisely, I want paying for writing. Sure, I have stories published (N.B: You do not get rich – or even comfortable – as a fiction writer), but I have decided it is time I got paid for blogging. Enter: Sophie Lizard ‘beafreelanceblogger.com’.

I discovered this site via Twitter, decided to mosey on down there to take a look, and quickly started to follow every link connected to the business of freelance blogging offered up by Sophie.

Sophie works alongside Lauren Tharp; another experienced blogger, and between them have created a series of easy to follow and understand posts on what you need to do to be a successful freelance blogger.

I obtained a copy of ‘How to Pitch a Blog Post‘ via e-mail. Read it. Wagged my finger at my reflection a few times; “See, this is what you could have been doing 10 years ago!” and recognised the mistakes I have made so far.

I got over-excited when I first started to follow beafreelanceblogger, I sent a query to a posting on ProBlogger, then read the ‘How to Pitch‘ PDF and rolled my eyes – what had I done?!

Not applied in the correct/suggested manner. I probably won’t hear from that person, though I will send a follow up e-mail to make sure. But, it is no biggy – it is a learning experience.

If there is one thing that Sophie Lizard and Lauren Tharp are great at, it is being encouraging. They have a conversational tone that makes one feel as thought they are in the room with you. They don’t use unnecessary technical jargon, acronyms, trendy lingo or the like.

Sometimes there is short, sharp advice, stop thinking and start writing – what are you waiting for? – you got a refusal, so what? Keep going, is the general overall tone; which I like. You see, I need a kick up the backside every so often. I do well when someone shouts at me like a Sergeant Major. If you give me the verbal equivalent of comfy slippers, I’ll sit down with a cuppa and watch TV.

So, What will change?

Well, as far as my personal blog, Flailing Through Life, goes, it will remain the same haphazard, eclectic, sometimes spur-of-the-moment, multi-themed jumble it always has been. I like it like that, and no-one can make me change it *grips stabby implement*

But I am going to spread my blogging wings. Apply for paid work. Why?

Because I’m worth it.

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Film Review: The Foreigner

The Foreigner coverGenre: Action Thriller 

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Based on: The Chinaman, 1992 novel by Stephen Leather 

Release Date: 30 Sept. 2017

Director: Martin CampbellProduction Company: Huayi Brothers

Synopsis

A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1615160/

I watched this on Netflix UK.

Jackie Chan, star of Martial Arts movies such as Project A (1983), Police Story (1985) and Armour of God I and II, stars as Quan Ngoc Minh; a Chinese single parent, living in England with his only daughter.  Pierce Brosnan, former James Bond, is Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy, a former IRA member who is publicly open about his past but now in his later years, is keen to keep the peace accord in place. In the opening, Quan’s young teenage daughter is killed in a terrorist bomb attack – the quiet man sets out on a vendetta to find his daughter’s killers.


I have been watching Jackie Chan movies since the early 80s, and am very familiar with his fast-paced action style, his well-publicised injuries during filming, his comedic roles and Buster Keatonesque scenarios. So this was a bit of a mental adjustment. Chan is now 63 years old and although he cannot do the ridiculous acrobatics he performed in his earlier films, he can still move with astonishing speed – when he needs to. I was totally impressed with his physical stamina; and this film does have some pretty harsh fight scenes. He is mostly pitted against men who are twenty to thirty years his junior and is tripped, thrown and felled to a degree you wonder how his ageing body can take it.

However, what affected me most was his very moving performance as a deeply distraught father who simply wants the names of his child’s murderers. He drifts like a ghost, stands in his daughters bedroom and stares, he shuffles like an old man. When his offer to pay the police for the names of the bombers is refused, he decides to take matters into his own hands. And here; along with the First Minister, we discover Quan’s history. It is both tragic and fearsome – the Minister and his men are tested repeatedly by this quiet foreigner who wants, not only justice, but revenge.

The film is interesting for its pitting two older men against one another; neither are completely innocent; both have violent pasts. There is a resilience one could call stubbornness in both men. Both have their own moral codes that one could say have become rigid. There are thrilling fight scenes, but not so many – this is mature martial arts – when Chan is knocked flat on his back on a rooftop my ageing bones empathised. This is also the first time I have ever seen Chan cry.

It’s an oddity too. The bad guys are Irish, or more precisely, the IRA. The IRA ceasefire was called about 20 years ago, so to someone who grew up in England during The Troubles, with Irish parents, it seems dated. Plus, there are moments in the film in which some characters refer to Chan’s character as ‘the Chinaman’ – I couldn’t decide if it was racist, a hint that Brits and Irish are racist, a nod to the original novel title, or lazy updating of terms. Some of Hennessy’s henchmen can come across as a little too predictable, too generic and the theme could said to be dated – but – I did enjoy it; if enjoy is the right word to use for such a dark, troubled and sad film.

I give The Foreigner – 

4 stars

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So, You’re Making A Documentary?

Some basic advice for students…

As a Media Student, you will be asked to complete a number of videos. Music videos, Presentation Techniques and Documentaries (more than one; yes)

Having watched the process, what have I discovered is the hardest thing for young film/documentary makers to do? Use a camera? Film in inclement conditions? Edit? No. what I have discovered is – students find it incredibly hard to ASK strangers to be in their productions. It’s all fine and dandy in the comfort of your own classroom or college studio, filming your friends and fellow students – but it isn’t going to cut the mustard when you get to Level 3!

You have to get out there and SPEAK TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW!

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Students, when interviewing, don’t scratch you feet!

Making a Documentary may require you to get out of the classroom and into the street – especially if you’re doing a Vox Pop. Here’s a little advice for the shy or reluctant.

Apart from the expected equipment – camera(s), spare batteries, Rode mic, camera operative etc, you might also consider:

  • Carry I.D with you – your college I.D/Student Union card.
  • Consent/Release Forms – and a pen or two!
  • Mobile Phone with college number – someone might ask for further proof.
  • Umbrella if it is raining – people do not want to stand still for any length of time in the rain.

 

  • Practise what you’re going to say – don’t get caught blathering!
  • Take a friend for moral support.
  • You know what you want, you know your questions; and the kinds of answers you’re after. Pick your target; but do not harass. Many people feel on their guard when approached by a stranger.
  • Take a deep breath – you aren’t the first person who has had to do this, and it won’t be the last time you do.
  • Be friendly and polite.
  • Introduce yourself, explain where you are from and, briefly, what you are doing – they don’t need your educational life story.
  • Now ask if you can film them.
  • Explain how long it will take and how much footage you will use. And who will be viewing the final piece, e.g; classmates, tutor.
  • Get them to sign Consent Form.
  • Film what you need as quickly as possible – remember, they are doing you a favour!
  • Thank them.
  • Move on and do it again.

It’s okay if you’re shy, people are generally fine when they discover you’re a student. It will not be easy, but nothing worth having is easy. If you’re going into the Media Industry, whether Film, Television, Radio or Journals, you will need to work on communication skills – primarily verbal.

Just do it.

Oh, and good luck!

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Media Students interview for Vox Pop. Have fun!

Let’s Hear It For The Boys

or – In Praise Of Good Men.

There has been a LOT of negativity in the news and social media recently about men and the awful things some of them have done. It is quite right; I believe, that injustices should be highlighted, wrongs righted and awful people who do not know how to treat others with decency get their comeuppance. 

But there are LOTS of men out there who are wonderful, delightful, loving and thoughtful human beings. Most of my friends are male, and I have noticed some of them curling in on themselves, like shy flowers or wilting petals, as a daily barrage of negativity streams from the radio, TV and so forth. They feel they cannot say anything for fear it will be misconstrued, twisted or misunderstood, so they remain quiet as though waiting for a tsunami to pass.

In typical fashion (in line with my perverse nature), going against the zeitgeist, I decided to write in praise of men. Some you might have heard of; others not so much. They have done, or continue to do things for other people, and those other people include women. Some are Random Acts of Kindness that display a thoughtfulness and caring side we do not normally report about men. 

Arunachalam MurugananthamCoimbatore, India. He is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and is credited for innovating grass-roots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India. “It all started with my wife,” he says. In 1998 he was newly married and his world revolved around his wife, Shanthi, and his widowed mother. Muruganantham discovered that his wife could not afford sanitary products; as it was with 1 out of 10 women in his and surrounding villages. He even made himself a false ‘uterus’ so he could test the absorbency of his new pads! He suffered terrible shame, ridicule and was even feared by some, his wife, unable to stand the ignominy any longer, left him. He spent five years perfecting his affordable sanitary towel. BBC Radio 4 even aired a drama about him in April 2017 – ‘The Man Who Wore Sanitary Pads’.

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Muruganantham with sanitary pad machine

Julian Rios Cantu – Mexico. Is the inventor of a bra that can help in the early detection of breast cancer. Cantu said he was inspired inspired by his mother’s battle with the disease which eventually lead to both her breasts being removed. The bra; named EVA, was developed with three friends; and have since gone on to form their own company Higia Technologies and was created primarily for women with genetic predisposition to cancer. Breast cancer, if caught early, has a survival rate of nearly 100-percent. The bra is in its early development stages and as yet, is not on the market, but, this is a man, making something for women – and he is only 18 years old.

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Cantu with the sensing device from bra

David Schwimmer – USA. (Previously from TV sitcom ‘Friends’). Is a member of The Rape Foundation Board – along with, Thomas Pfister, James T. McCracken, M.D, Stephen Davis and more. The Rape Foundation is dedicated to providing expert, comprehensive care and treatment for sexual assault victims – children and adults; prevention education programs to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence; training for police, prosecutors, school personnel and other service providers to enhance the treatment victims receive wherever they turn for help; and policy reforms and other initiatives that increase public understanding about rape, encourage victims to report these crimes, and foster justice and healing.

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Schwimmer and Sarah Paulson at Rape Foundation event

Cesar Larios – Florida, USA. Offered himself as a human chair to an elderly lady when the elevator they were in got stuck. He remained on his hands and knees for 30 minutes until the elevator was repaired.

Liam Roberts – Liverpool, UK. This 15 year old saves up his pocket money, to buy ingredients to cook food for the homeless. Once a month, Liam heads out with hot food for the homeless he has prepared himself.

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Roberts handing out hot food

Tamas Nadas- Albuquerque, New Mexico. Officer Nadas bought food and drink for 20 needy people when he saw their day shelter had no power one day. He said it felt like the ‘natural’ thing to do, to help out, regardless of whether in uniform or not.

Johnny Bobbitt Jr- Philadelphia, USA. A homeless man, he helped out a woman whose car ran out of petrol on an interstate. He made her stay in the car with her doors locked and walked a few blocks and bought her some with his last 20 dollars (£15).                                                          

Martin Gallagher- Liverpool, UK. Helped a student with train fare. After Grace Georgina was stranded in London; because she lost part of her ticket, Gallagher paid £159 so she could get home.

Thanks for reading, if you have a good man in your life, give him a hug from me!