Category Archives: Humour

If we stand by Charlie, we must end the Global War on Terror

The Worlds Reaction

The response to the recent attacks in France has been a mixed one. World leaders and media pundits have flocked to condemn the killings. Vigils have been held across France and the world, defying this apparent assault on our freedom of expression. While many Muslims have been forced to distance themselves from the attacks, due to a fear of reprisals from a growing far right.

However, my intention today is not to vindicate Muslims for the crimes of these men. Nor is to condemn the attackers, who are just one facet of a political struggle for power in the Middle East. My contention is with the conflicting values we seem to place on a human life.

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On Wednesday last week, 10 civilians and two police officers were killed by French gunmen of Algerian descent. These two men had been trained in Yemen, a country that has been targeted with US drone strikes since 2009. Within days they were made to pay for these crimes with their lives, in a dramatic hostage situation broadcast across the globe (in full HD of course).

In comparison, back in Yemen two years earlier, 12 innocent people were killed when a US airstrike hit a wedding convoy. But the US government refuses to acknowledge its role in their murder. Two years have passed and there is still no justice for these nameless people. Still no justice for the thousands of innocent Iraqis, Afghans, Yemeni’s and Pakistani’s killed during our supposed war on terror.

My question is simply, why?

Why is it that the loss of an innocent life thousands of miles away does not move us in the same way as those in Paris? Why does the death of journalists in Palestine not cause us to cry out in defence of Freedom of Speech? If every life holds the same objective value, then by standing by those killed in Paris, we must also stand by all those innocent lives lost, irrespective of who pulls the trigger.

The value of a human life

Even when confronted by truths such as these, many of us react with indifference at the loss of innocent lives in such countries. “We are good, and they are evil”, is the kind of one-dimensional thinking used to justify such murders. When Islamist militants are thwarted in distant lands, many of us commend the actions of our armed forces, rather than question the collateral damage incurred. But when a domestic attack takes place, we are moved to tears, anger and retribution. These are, ironically, the very same feelings that compel those in such war torn countries to seek out a similar kind of vengeance.

To some extent, this reaction can be explained as a biological mechanism. While philosophers are free to explore moral questions about the value of a human life, we must also look at how in practice people make this judgement. This is known as Descriptive Ethics. By doing so, we gain an insight into why foreign deaths of non-combatants, such as those killed in drone strikes, is often met with indifference in the West, whereas domestic attacks, such as those is Paris, stir up defiance and sorrow.

By combining the study of Morality with Evolutionary Biology, we start to see the emotional adaptations that influence our moral judgments and behavior. Peter Singer, a prominent ethicist, argues that “evolutionary theory can make a contribution to this debate” by offering us “reasons for believing that some of our emotional attachments are deeply rooted in our nature as intelligent, long lived primates, or even in our nature as social mammals.”

He argues that we as human beings find it easier to empathise with those who fall within certain proximity of our daily lives. As a result, we tend to place a greater value on the lives of our own kin in comparison to our neighbours. In a purely practical sense, this instinctive desire to protect our loved ones ensures the survival of our own genetic lineage. Yet despite this, our neighbours life still holds more importance than a strangers, perhaps because we consider them a friend. So here we can see a clear dichotomy begin to arise – a hierarchical manner in which we value the lives of others, based on moral intuitions acquired through evolution.

Put very simply, we tend to place a greater value on the lives of those who we see ourselves in. Yet with the Enlightenment and universalism – the idea that all sentient life has universality in experience – followed natural rights, then human rights, which bound together notions such as freedom, equality and justice, declaring them inalienable rights of all human beings. To reach such enlightenment ideals however, we had to first break ourselves from this innate way of thinking. So when we use our rational minds, we conclude that any loss of innocent life, irrespective of the context, ought to be met with the same kind of defiance that was shown in response to the Paris attacks.

Collateral Damage

When innocent people are killed in war, it is not considered murder, but callously labelled “collateral damage”.

Since 2004, an estimated 3212 people have killed by drone strikes in Pakistan. Only 2% of them killed intended targets. The rest are civilians such as women and children. What differentiates this kind of collateral damage from the 17 murders that took place in France?

Some make the distinction that a terrorist attack is a deliberate act of violence on innocent people, while collateral damage is an unintended consequence of warfare. But they are similar in that both cause needless deaths for the political interests of a minority.

War is waged knowing that there will be noncombatants killed, and in that sense, there can be no accidental killing on the battlefield, but only an expectation that some innocent people will die. When noncombatants are killed in drone strikes then, it is no more an accident than an inevitable consequence of war, and therefore no less intentional than the murders committed in France earlier this week.

By allowing such military operations to continue in countries like Yemen and Pakistan, we facilitate extremism by providing a moral justification for groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIL. There is no doubt that the rise of jihadism is in part due to western influence. US backed coups and foreign control of natural resources has led to an anti-western sentiment in these countries. We can extend this thread of causality back to the conquest of Mesopotamia during the Great War, and the subsequent partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The events that followed, rightly or wrongly, have to led to the volatile situation we see in the region today. Decades of extreme poverty, political repression, and poor education have created a fertile breeding ground for violence. To some extent therefore, we are culpable in the proliferation of extremism at home and abroad.

The verdict?

Thus the lessons we ought to take from this tragic event is that when we escape the constructs of our own subconscious mind, and the biological mechanisms that underpin our thinking, the deaths in Paris only highlight the hypocrisy of our actions, given the thousands killed and injured over the past decade. Similarly, by allowing our governments to continue hostilities in these distant lands, we are partly culpable for the inception and proliferation of these extremist movements. I want to stress that this is not a justification of Islamist aggression, but a call to all who stand by Charlie and by human rights, to use this incident as a catalyst to end all the human suffering caused by our war on terror. So while arguably justice has been restored in France as of yesterday, and calmness will quickly follow, for many millions elsewhere, the nightmare still continues…

 

What not to do if you want to be a Journalist

Note: This post was or originally written for the Journalism Diversity Fund (JDF), a charity which aims to increase social mobility in news rooms. 

So let me tell you folks, this past year has been quite a journey. From the frequent bouts of despair, to those rare moments of unbridled elation – the life of a wannabe is at best, unpredictable, and at worst, pretty shitty (to put it bluntly).

But all jokes aside, with this post my intention is not to tell you about all the cool stuff I’ve done, or how much I’ve enjoyed the course. Instead, I hope to teach you my most important lessons learnt to date, from all from the mistakes I’ve made on this journey so far (of which there have been many, I can assure you).

So here’s my Buzzfeed-esque list of things I definitely recommend you don’t do, because I’ve been foolish enough to do them all.

Lesson 1 – Don’t doubt yourself

One of the main problems I’ve faced is something that plagues us all – that ever looming voice of self-doubt. And research has shown that of the biggest challenges working class children face is a lack of self-confidence.

So my first lesson to you is believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to approach that stranger in the street for a vox pop. Don’t worry about putting yourself out there, such as asking for placements, or pitching a story.

Whatever it is that you’re feeling worried or anxious about, just remember that there’s no room for second guessing or hesitation in this business. So just go for it – what’s the worst that can happen?

Lesson 2 – Don’t be lazy

The famous philosopher Bertrand Russell once proclaimed, “I think that there is far too much work done in this world.” This was, until last year, a statement I stood by wholeheartedly.

My aptitude at ineptitude had stuck to me like a bogey on a wall, and it’s been a struggle breaking many years of bad habit. And while I’ve always been good at thinking about doing things, making those dreams a reality required me to be proactive.

So please, take it from me, do not hesitate to instigate, because you have to work to make your ambitions a reality. And there are no two ways around it – you have to work hard. Pull up them socks and get to typing friends.

Lesson 3 – Never be afraid to admit you are wrong

I remember reading a NYT article a while back, claiming that a big reason why people argue is to simply win the argument, and not find any objective truth.

Similarly, when we receive criticism, it’s easy to get defensive and blame someone else. It’s even easier to berate yourself over failure. But when we fail or come short, it’s a chance to look at ourselves critically. If you can’t be self-critical, you’re never going to achieve any real lasting success in life.

Whenever I should make a mistake, “I do not fail”, but “I succeed in finding out what does not work.” So while it may be difficult not to feel despair or even resentment whenever you do bollocks something up, try to be cheerful instead, because at least now you know not what to do.

So those are my top tips folks. I hope I haven’t patronised you too much with another questionably “useful” list that seem to be so prevalent on the internet. And while this blog post was mainly written in jest, I sincerely hope that you take some value from it (all three of you who’ve made it this far that is). But I’d also like to add that there is no set way to how things are done. Like many of you, I am also feeling my way through, tentatively creeping along this seemingly perilous path ahead. What I’m getting at is – I think you will also learn your own lessons in your own way, as I have learnt mine so far. And if I can do it, so can you.

Lastly, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the JDF for giving me this opportunity. Despite not having a phone or a computer, I was still able to make it through the course with the lifeline this charity has so graciously given me. If you’re thinking about becoming a journalist, then I wholeheartedly recommend you give them a shot, you won’t be disappointed. And a big thanks you to Lambeth College for offering me a place after I was turned down by News Associates. I am happy to report their risk has paid off.

Good luck to you all, and thanks for reading.

Losing my Burlesque Virginity

Note: This article was originally written for and published on www.planetivy.com

This last week has been quite a journey, friends. After twenty-four years of existence on this pale blue dot, I’ve finally lost my burlesque virginity. A seedy, hilarious and captivating concoction like no other, I dived headfirst into the Burlesque Games which took place in London last week.

Natsumi Scarlette performing at Twisted Burlesque night, Madam Jojo’s, Soho.

Natsumi Scarlette performing at Twisted Burlesque night, Madam Jojo’s, Soho.

“Stripping for posh people” is what it is often labelled by critics. Being a broke-ass pleb, I was going into the show a little sceptical. And the results? Tassels, glitter and giant rubber dildos – let me tell you, folks, Burlesque ain’t for the faint of heart.

It all kicked off with the press meet and greet last Tuesday, where I was hoping to get pissed off free booze and chat up scantily-clad ladies. I met Chaz Royal, one of the event organisers, by the door of Gore Hotel in West London. He’s a down to earth guy who doesn’t seem like he’d be the architect of one of the biggest Burlesque festivals in the world.

Event organisers Chaz Royal and Betty Q

Event organisers Chaz Royal and Betty De’Light

He told me there are 65 performers at the Games this year, with 6 shows and up to 2,000 viewers. The games started as a spin-off from the World Burlesque Festival, inspired by the 2012 games last year. Not exactly the Olympic legacy Cameron had in mind, I suspect. Chaz lives in Edinburgh after migrating from Canada, and has been around the world working with bands and burlesque groups. “London is the place to be,” he says, “people can be hostile…but not as much in London.”

I headed through the entrance and straight to the bar, but I quickly found I’d need a small fortune to get drunk here. I stuck with water and ice for the rest of the week. After realising I was actually going to have to do some work, I started talking to the folks loitering around the small room, which had a distinct 1920s feel to it. There was a grand fireplace, retro décor and fine oil paintings scattered along the walls. No wonder the drinks were so expensive.

The Emcee Reuben Kaye preparing to go on stage

The Emcee Reuben Kaye preparing to go on stage

The show was hosted by the flamboyantly gay Reuben R Kaye, who describes himself as a “rampant dipsomaniac”. When I first met him he was wearing a long, feathered hat and had a face caked in makeup. His eccentric look had a personality to match. Wonderfully enthusiastic and exceedingly intelligent, the man had a presence that was hard to ignore. The jokes came thick and fast throughout the show. He had a dark, self-deprecating sense of humour that was so typically British (even though he’s Australian). My favourite joke from the show: “I’m like a Sainsbury’s self-checkout: approval needed, approval needed – please put your items in the bagging area.”

Performing couple Collette  and Willy at the Press Party

Performing couple Collette and Willy at the Press Party

The first performing pair I met was Willy and Collette, a couple who’d travelled from Brussels for the games. They tell me they’re here to “meet international people and other performers”. The two are dressed in matching tuxedos, keeping in line with the early 20th century throwback. Collette has a dream-like glaze in her eyes and sports a gleaming top hat, while Willy has a suave pencil moustache and bowtie. I jokingly ask him if he’s fundraising for Movember, and he looks back at me with bewilderment. I guess it must not be a thing in Brussels.

Collette and Willy performing at Twisted Burlesque

Collette and Willy performing at Twisted Burlesque

I later saw the pair perform at the Variety act, which took place at the intimate Madame JoJo’s in a nefarious corner of Soho. The lights dim, and then turn a sombre blue as Willy’s booming voice begins the tale. His playing of the accordion was masterful, and together they crafted a captivating few minutes of song and dance. I was surprised by the performance, not by how professional it was, but by the fact that that there was no stripping. The pair went on to win the variety act and perform at the finals in Bush Hall on Saturday.

Another interesting character at the games was Equador the Wizard, a charismatic Londoner. At the press party he was sporting a long tail and a handlebar moustache with a pointed chin puff. He wowed me with some close-up magic and told me about his training as a ‘bubbleologist’ with bubble legend “Sam Sam Bubble Man.” This wizard is a rare breed, kinda like Gandalf the Grey, but instead of one ring to the rule them all, he’s got one tassel to bind them.

Equador the Wizard at the Press Party

Equador the Wizard at the Press Party

“Boylesque”, as he calls it, was a pretty big hit with the crowd, who roared in applause when he flung off his overalls and gyrated his hips to heavy metal. As the audience for Burlesque is mainly female, it’s not really a surprise that a half-naked man would draw such an eager ovation. Equador tells me he used to be a ballet dancer, like a lot of performers in the show.  But he was hit by a train in Bournemouth a few years back which left him with a broken pelvis. The accident turned the zany wizard into a bit of a philosopher. He told me to “always do what you find exciting. That’s why I do so many things.”

Equador the Wizard at Madam JoJo's

Equador the Wizard at Madam JoJo’s

By far the highlight of the week, though, was the weirdest of the five days: the wonderfully strange world of twisted burlesque. This shit was fucking weird, guys, I kid you not. At one point performer Lottie Kixx from Edinburgh walked off the stage sporting a strap on dildo which she rode like a horse. She grabbed Dennis the photographer and rammed the rubber phallus into his face, leaving a glittery jizz stain on his cheeks. It was actually quite a beautiful sight to behold, despite Dennis being none too pleased by the ordeal.

Lottie Kixx with The Phallus of Doom

Lottie Kixx with The Phallus of Doom

In another performance, Alan Debevoise, from Lake Como, Italy, stripped to the theme tune from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. He walked into the crowd and proceeded to display his waxed butt cheeks in front of my young innocent eyes. Some things cannot be unseen.

 Alan Debevoise performing at Twisted Burlesque night


Alan Debevoise performing at Twisted Burlesque night

What I found most enticing about Burlesque however, was the sheer inventiveness of it, the unbridled creativity that goes into some of the acts. Performers like Natsumi Scarlett from Amsterdam, and Bruised Violet, from Sheffield, impressed me with their dedication and hard work. They designed their own costumes and props, along with orchestrating the choreography and music. There were some bad bitches in this show, with the talent to back it up.

Natsumi Scarlett getting ready to perform

Natsumi Scarlett getting ready to perform

So my final thoughts on Burlesque as a newcomer to the scene – it’s definitely entertaining, a good night out and a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, burlesque is stripping, heck, it inspired modern stripping, but it’s a form of entertainment that goes so much further. It’s about working with characters and creating an engaging variety act. The best shows for me were the strange ones, I just couldn’t turn away. The more bog standard routines I found a little boring and repetitive. While there’s nakedness involved, from my week long crash course it’s more like a naked-themed pantomime than your run of the mill strip show, with whooping, hollering, cheering, singing, and plenty of laughs to go round.

 

Winners of the World Burlesque Games 2013

Winners of the World Burlesque Games 2013

*Pictures courtesy of Chaz Royal

I’m going back to college…

So today I got some great news

Journalism Diversity Fund training bursaries awarded
Posted on 

Nine aspiring journalists have been awarded bursaries by the Journalism Diversity Fund to complete NCTJ-accredited training courses.

Colin Cowan; Samson Dada; Ese Erheriene; Christopher Gage; Joshua Hammond; Ana Hine; Neil Kingston; Rebecca Koncienzcy and Suhail Patel were successful in securing bursaries to help them complete their journalism training.

5uza4dd

Trials, tribulations, and a shitload of cake

So yup. if you hadn’t guessed it already, I’ve been trying to become a journalist for quite some time now, and let me tell ya’, it ain’t been easy friends. You can read about my life as a wannabe in a previous blog post. But if you can’t be bothered looking up the specifics, just know this – there have been plenty of obstacles on the journey so far, and needless to say, I’m sure there are many more to come.

But despite all the cockups, regardless of all the times I fucked up, to put it bluntly, today I have taken a monumental step in the right direction. Today I found out that I’ve been given the funding I need to pursue my dream.

Time to do my victory dance!

The lovely guys n’ gals down at the Journalism Diversity Fund (JDF) have been kind enough (and crazy enough) to give me the money I need to finance a trip back to college. There I plan to get my NCTJ accredited qualification in Multimedia Journalism. To get into journalism these days you tend to need this kind of qualification, or similarly a masters in Journalism. I’ll now be able enroll at Lambeth College, and intend to start in the coming days. I will be embarking on a year long journey into the wonders of writing, shorthand and media law. How very exciting…

About the Diversity Fund

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The JDF are a charity that aims to bring diversity to the news. Established in 2005, so far they’ve helped a huge number of people like myself realise their ambitions. The fund is financed predominantly by working journalists and various news outlets  – professionals who want to create a more representative news room.

While there are some conditions you must meet before you can apply, the fund is open to anyone like me, who would otherwise be unable to finance the cost of attaining the qualification.

If you’d be interested in donating, take a look at their current sponsors and supporters, and if you’re already a professional journalist, you can even help by volunteering for the charity.

My sincerest thanks

Thanks all, much love.

Yes YOU! Much love guys

So a big thank you is in order, to all those persons who have assisted in one way or another so far. From the wonderful Deborah Hall, who so kindly gave me advice when I first started this journey, and her friend Jan Jacqueline, who also helped me when I needed it most. The people at Just Change UK and Giving What We Can, who let me volunteer for them, and the awesome bunch in Hackney running WorldBytes – Ceri and Andi, I thank you.

Amanda Nunn, Lizzie Dearden, Zjan Shirinian, along the rest of the team at the Ilford Recorder, I couldn’t have got here without your patience and guidance. To the wonderful digital team at Medicins Sans Frontieres – Ben Holt, Clare Storry, Nick Owen and Lee Butler – you guys are awesome, and I hope I haven’t let you down by having to leave so soon (well, partially at least). And of course my friends, family, and all those who have supported me so far, especially those of you who wrote for MyOpenLetter.info, I am indebted to you all. I shall never forget your kindness, patience and generosity during this very difficult year. (so basically, sorry for being so broke all the time).

So I guess, what I’m getting at is…

You’ve dun’ me proud son

Last but not least, I want to thank the team at the JDF who gave me this chance – Dave, Shevon, Alice and Lisa; I am truly grateful for this opportunity and I feel sincerely privileged to be representing the charity. I one day hope to continue the good work you guys have done to date.

So thanks for reading all, and stay tuned for my next big story…onwards and upwards!

“Move it turtle! I’m gonna be late for my first day of school, innit” – Me riding my mighty steed to Lambeth College.

The end of the 6 week summer holiday…

 

sad-kid

 ‘Tis a sad day my friends, a sad day indeed. For that wonderful joyous time we have all come to know as the hallowed 6 week summer holiday, will be coming to a rather unfortunate end for children across the country. Well, perhaps not entirely, but a new piece of legislation passed last week by Michael Gove, Education Secretary, gives schools the precedent to set their own length of holidays over the summer months. He has also allowed schools to increase mandatory time spent at school to up to 4.30pm.

So what does this mean for future students? Well at first, what really caught my attention was the abolishing of summer holidays as we have come to know and love them. I suppose a strong sense of nostalgia instinctively made me despise the notion. “How dare they take these poor children’s unalienable right to do shit all for 6 weeks?” I vexed. “How could they take that precious jewel of childhood from their unsuspecting, probably sticky, little hands?” I cried in a burst of unbridled rage, and proceeded to throw my half eaten jam donut at the television screen.

Alas, perhaps I may have over reacted in hindsight.

Looking back objectively of course, was it really necessary for me to have a 6 week break? Is it necessary to have this privilege enshrined in yet another menial law? Perhaps not, but I cannot help but feel future children up and down this country are being robbed of something as sacred as their long and lustrous summer holiday. I’m sure many teachers are just as annoyed by the passing legislation. I would suspect that for quite a few of these educators, the promise of long holidays and short working hours may have enticed them into a career in education in the first place.

But all these reasons are beside’s the point, for they all pertain to some nostalgic ideal. That is, because something has been this way for all this time, it cannot possibly be wrong. Many people argued against the abolishment of the slave trade out of a similar feeling. But I concede this may be an unwarranted comparison. The moral implications of slavery I would argue far outweigh that of the case at hand. What are the more reasonable reasons to reinstate the sacred 6 week summer holiday? Or likewise, what are the reasons we ought to allow schools to set their own timetables?

Firstly we must contend this notion that teachers and students alike are lazy and inept. Darren Preece, deputy head at Swindon Village Primary School,  said that the idea that teachers spend six weeks sunning themselves was ludicrous. But he concedes, that:

With such a crammed curriculum, I can understand why the working day may need to be longer.

Yet Mr Preece argues this new legislation could cause more harm than good, suggesting that shorter holidays will lead to greater absences during normal term time. He also argues that teachers spend a great deal of time preparing during these summer weeks for the new academic year.(1)

If there was less time in the summer to prepare, that won’t go down well with teachers.

Gemma Bowes reports for The Guardian, that travel industry experts have been dismayed by the Gove’s announcement.

Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, said: “If the government wants to hurt hard-working, striving families, this is the best way, as holidays in the UK and overseas would become far more expensive in peak periods.”

However, does it not make sense that every school ought to be able to teach their students how they see fit? I think stifling a school’s ability to cater to the needs of students, parents and teachers alike is a very bad thing for everyone. Yes, while I feel the holidays are important to a child’s development, it is not for me to forcibly impose my beliefs of child rearing, education nor how to run a school upon anyone else.

“It is heads and teachers who know their parents and pupils best, not local authorities. So it is right that all schools are free to set their own term dates in the interests of parents and pupils,” a spokesman for the Department for Education said. (2)

Hence, I can only argue the merit for my case, and hope others adopt this manner of thinking. I am a firm believer in deregulation in such cases, for we cannot impose such a strict set of binding rules when it comes to raising and educating children, who come in such marvellous variety. I think what is good about this legislation, is that it provides schools with greater power to tailor their education to their students and teachers needs. But I sincerely hope that they use these new powers within reason, for all work and no play, makes Jack a very dull boy indeed.

all_work

The change is due to take place from September 2015, affecting the 70% of state primary schools and 30% of state secondaries still under local authority control. To find out if you or your children will be affected, contact your school or the Department for Education for more information.

 

references:

(1) http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Teachers-unhappy-Michael-Gove-s-plans-shrink/story-18754750-detail/story.html#ixzz2YBAJ1h7A

(2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jul/01/michael-gove-school-summer-holiday

 

 

Life as a wannabe – shit happens…

images

I had a really bad day yesterday. The kind of day where you find yourself looking thoughtfully out the window, trapped in self-inflicted prison of crippling apathy. I wanted to write about it, but I couldn’t fathom the enthusiasm to do so. So I stared. I stared out the window and I stared at the ceiling. I looked seemingly vacantly at the bare walls, whilst worryingly incessantly about what had transpired earlier that day.

So I suppose you’re wondering right about now, what on earth happened to cause me so much despair? Well, to put it simply, I fucked up. And of course, I’m not so conceited as to not be able to admit that this happens often. It doesn’t help that I’m slightly neurotic, but I suppose that all writers tend to be, well, just a tad bit strange. You have to be to want to break into an industry as fickle as journalism.

So the rather cliche story is, I’m trying to become a professional writer, and unsurprisingly, it’s not particularly easy. At least not with a bad degree from a midrange university. Nobody ever said it wouldn’t be tough considering circumstances, and I never thought otherwise. But still, the occasional unforeseen hiccup on the bumpy road ahead can set you back a bit more than you’d hoped.

I was reading Siraj Dat9o’s post on WannabeHacks the other day , and it got me thinking about all the collective mistakes I’ve made on my journey so far. None yet as grandiose as a fake bomb prank gone horribly wrong, but one time I did tell an interviewer that anxiety was one of my key skills. You can’t help but wonder about such past misjudgements.

This is all opportunity to learn of course. So what have I learned so far? Well to be quite frank, I don’t really want to patronise you my dear reader, with the whole list of useless hints and tips that are so prevalent on the internet. What I’m saying is, this isn’t wiki how – there is no set way to how things are done when it comes to writing. Also as an amatuer myself, I must confess I really don’t have a bloody clue yet. I suppose like many of you, I’m feeling my way along, tentatively creeping along this seemingly perilous path ahead. What I’m getting at is, I think you will learn your lessons in your own way, as I have learned mine so far.

Saying this however, one subject that I am an unquestionable expert at, is being a bit shit. Contrary to regular posters on Wannabe Hacks, my list of of success to date is rather lacking. While admittedly I’m still at the beginning of this journey, I’ve already made quite a few mistakes in launching my career in Journalism so far. I guess what you could say is, I’ve learned a lot about what not to do, and I feel rather compelled to share these lessons with you, irrespective of if you should wish to follow them. So without any further introduction, here is my not-so-list like list of things NOT to do. I know this because, I was stupid enough to do them all.

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THINGS NOT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO BE A JOURNALIST

Lesson number one – don’t be lazy. The famous Mathematician and Philosopher Bertrand Russell once proclaimed, “I think that there is far too much work done in this world.” This was, until earlier this year, a statement I stood by wholeheartedly. Which is unsurprising, considering my aptitude at ineptitude. 23 years of combined idleness and laziness has stuck to me like a bogey on a wall.  It’s been a struggle breaking many years of bad habit. But If I could give you one tip, from personal experience, it is this – do stuff. Be proactive. If you’re an artist, you must paint. If you are a dancer, you must dance. And if you’re a writer, you MUST write. Russell argued for the “organised diminution of work”, because he thought this would allow “every person possessed of scientific curiosity” to “be able to indulge it, and every painter…able to paint without starving.” The unfortunate reality is, you have to work to survive. And there are no two ways around it – you have to work hard. Pull up them socks and get to typing friends.

Lesson number two –  don’t be (too) reckless. Everybody loves a risk taker  There’s something enchanting about someone going up against the odds. And I myself have frequently thrown caution to the wind, and sadly also, my future prospects. It’s not surprising I got a 2:2 on my dissertation, considering I was drunk whilst writing half of it. In hindsight, perhaps a foolish thing to do. Maybe I should of also revised for longer than a fortnight for my finals. Most certainly I think, this would’ve been wise. I guess as writers we value creativity, but it’s nothing without conscientiousness. While it might sound foolish, now I know it’s a lot easier to write when sober. I now know that it’s lot easier to do things when you plan ahead. Whilst I concede that these seem like rather common sense things to say, I cannot stress enough the importance of balance. It is a lesson hard learnt for me, but worth it in the end. I still think you should be willing to take risks and enjoy yourself, but be warned, all play and no work means you will suffer in the long run. What I’m getting at is simply plan, prepare and most importantly, study. You won’t regret it.

Lesson number three – By far my most important lesson, never be afraid to admit that you’re wrong. I remember reading a NYT article a while back, claiming that a big reason why people argue, is to simply win the argument, and not find any objective truth. I think I see this a lot in others as well as myself. When we receive criticism, it’s easy to blame someone else. It’s even easier to berate yourself over failure. But when we fail or come short, it’s a chance to look at ourselves critically. I argued in a blog post last week, that writers need self delusion to succeed. And while I still stand by this claim in part, I can admit I was partly wrong also. Because sometimes its useful to be knocked down a peg or two. It’s always good to be humbled. If you can’t be self critical, you’re never going to achieve any real lasting success in life. That’s what I think anyway’s.

The way I look at it is like this – whenever I should get something wrong, whenever I should make a mistake, “I do not fail”, but “I succeed in finding out what does not work.” So while it may be difficult not to feel despair or even resentment whenever you do bollocks something up – try be cheerful instead. Because at least now you know not what to do.

It’s a long journey, and I suspect there will be many more obstacles to face ahead. So good luck to you my friend, and always remember to stay humble, thoughtful and most importantly, optimistic.

Never underestimate the power of a good nap

A day in the life of an unemployed graduate…

I had one of those really bad sleeps yesterday night. The kind when you’re woken up abruptly to a cat meowing, or a roaring fart from the other room. You then toss and turn trying to fall asleep again, but to no avail. My only consolation now is knowing an afternoon nap awaits me. A brief trip to the land of nod will be just the respite I need from the pervading tiredness, creeping through every facet of my being, dulling my wit and diluting my thought. Even as I write this I can’t help but let our a deep yawn, stretching that gullet open, sucking in the warm moist air and sighing with exhaustion.

And its no wonder then, that the infamous siesta is making a comeback in Spain as of late. But for me, it’s always been a staple routine of everyday life.

The humble cat nap, peaceful snooze, a light doze, catching forty winks before you get cracking again with your day – I couldn’t recommend it enough. But that’s just because I’ve always been a bit of a snoozer. Some have even gone so far as to compare to the legendary Snorlax (a sleepy pokemon, for the uninitiated). Eating and sleeping are two of my favourite pastimes. Nothing beats a big lunch followed by half an hour of dream time to wash it all down.

Nap time at the petting zoo
But also we find that in some cultures, particularly in warmer climates, an afternoon snooze is common place. So here’s four reasons why people might choose to nap, and why you ought to join them…
1. It’s bloody hot outside

 

So this doesn’t really happen as much as we’d like in rainy ol’ England, but it is no coincidence that the birth place of the siesta is a very warm place indeed.

The average temperature in Spain often soars above 30 degrees Celsius throughout the nations summer months. In fact, most countries that do have a designated time for napping during the afternoon do so because of excessive heat. This generally tends to be between 2-4pm in topical or subtropical regions, including Greece and Egypt

There’s no point in risking serious harm to yourself working away in the hot afternoon sun – heat stroke ain’t no joke. Better have a nap instead.

2. Maybe I shouldn’t of eaten all those taco’s for lunch…

Ever eaten to much? Then you know that sleepy “maybe I shouldn’t of eaten all that cheese at 1 pm” feeling. Congratulation friend, welcome to the club.

While copious amounts of cheese is never a bad thing in my opinion, the consequences can be drowsiness and a strong desire to not move as the food curdles and digests away.

When you eat, blood is diverted away from other organs to your stomach to aid digestion. Your red blood cells are needed to digest the food and circulate nutrients throughout your body. Hence, less oxygen reaches your brain, and you start to feel tired.

For most, lunch tends to be the biggest meal of the day. Why not enjoy a large meal inside with family and friends, then have a light snooze to let that shit settle? It makes sense people, don’t question me on this.

3. Need to recharge

Research shows that a short nap can be effective at boosting productivity. In countries like Japan, workers are encouraged to sleep after lunch in order to reinvigorate, and thereby increase productivity.

Don’t just take my word for it – the National Sleep Foundation states that: “Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.”  

Substitute your afternoon coffee or caffeinated drink for a light nap, no longer than 40 minutes, and you’ll feel  increased alertness for several hours afterwards, without the aid of chemical performance boosters.

4, It’s a wonderful tradition

History is littered with the legacies of great thinkers, and great snoozers alike.

Nappers are in good company: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush are known to have valued an afternoon nap.

So basically, if you nap, you are great.

Whilst I’m not particularly a fan of Bush nor Reagan, the point stands – it is a tradition that many before us have followed, and we ought to maintain. The humble afternoon nap has truly done wonders for mankind, and what better way to show your appreciation, than turn off the computer, and have a good ol’ snooze.

 Happy napping friends!! = )
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Me peacefully napping on a warm June afternoon, whilst clutching a teddy bear.
Damn it I’m so cool
For more information about napping, follow the link below: