Friday, February 24, 2006

Freedom of speech? Not really in the UK...

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the waters of free speech, the Jaws of Ken Livingstone wobble and its left some people seeing red.

This time round, its the Jewish community who have quite rightly complained about unguarded comments made (and then reiterated for good measure) by Londons 'Red Ken'. He made comments about Nazi concentration camp guard similarities to a Jewish journo from Londons Evening Standard newspaper who asked for an apology but got more of the same instead.

Today he has been found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute and will be suspended for four weeks although he is likely to appeal.

I do feel sorry for both poor Ken and the Journo too. Everyone is allowed an off day and this includes London's Mayor. It could have been worse, after all he could have punched the guy. Following the Labour Parties track record, this would have resulted in no punishment whatsoever! Maybe old Prescott didn't bring the office of Deputy Prime-minister into disrepute after taking the 'hands-on' approach with a protester.

I obviously feel sorry for the journo too. Ken shouldn't have called the journalist, who is Jewish, a Nazi concentration camp guard but maybe the journalist should have respected Kens right to freedom of speech?

It seems somehow ironic that we can all see why Kens comments can't really be protected under freedom of speech yet then we seem tempted to toy with the freedom of speech idea with the 'equally as insulting' cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed?

My thoughts? Don't ban Ken, just get him to say sorry and why not get some of the media to say sorry to the Muslims while were at it.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Am I the only person who is driven up the wall by these 'puzzles'? I have wasted a good 45 minutes today trying to fill in the boxes before I came to my senses, jacked it in and decided to vent my spleen on this blog.

The worse thing about these 'grids from hell' is that I can't honestly see a purpose for them whatsoever. They only tentatively seem to cling to existence for one reason, namely frustration! After a good forty-five minutes, I began to not only lose my temper but also the will to live.

In the end I simply had to concede defeat and cut my losses. As my copy of the Guardian was jettisoned across the room (followed shortly by the desk itself) I tried to compose myself to think about something much more wholesome, namely public flogging for Sudoku's inventors and a double helping for those smug people who rattle them off at a near alarming rate on the morning train from Wigan to Salford Crescent.

I hastily made my escape into the bathroom and rinsed my face with water before taking a long hard look at my disheveled face in the mirror. Through my panicy, blood shot eyes I studied my soul carefully and wondered why should ANYONE waste their time trying to do these infernal puzzles?

Our world today faces so many problems. Issues which demand the highest level of brain power from the elite of society. Yet things seem to be getting worse, not better. Then the penny dropped.

Rather than working on global economics or clean cell energy development, all the people who consider themselves to be clever are too busy doing these puzzles! No wonder we are in such a mess!

Deep down, as I felt my frustration simmer beyond the healthy limit and as my fingers clenched through a few pages of the lifestyle section, I knew that Sudoku just had to be evil. I realised as as someone who is, essentially good, I would never be able to decipher this code. My mind is just physically unable to complete even the simplest Sudoku and as those numbers loomed larger and larger, I wondered if Bletchley Park's Enigma code breakers would have fared much better than I?

Sudoku, as far as I am concerned, your numbers up!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Zenit E, Classics to use

Today I have become the proud owner of one of the Soviet made Zenit E cameras. Mine was made back in 1971 and ended up in a charity shop where most (sensible) people wouldn't give it a second glance.

Always up for a challenge, I popped a film in it today and went out to see if it still works mechanically and also to see if the lightmeter would still be sensitive to light after all these years.

Readers of my not-too-distant rangefinder post will know that I'm a great believer in using film based camera's and not so that I as a recent convert to photography, could claim to be a purist! No its for quite a different reason.

Today's cameras are quite sophisticated and the built in lightmeter will happily take care of all the settings leaving you free to just press the button. Sometimes you will be happy with the results but sometimes you may not.

With a really old film camera, the art is quite different. Not only must you focus the image, but somehow you've got to decide how long the shutter needs to be open so that enough light hits the film to expose your picture correctly. Its these elements of photography that are lost all too easily in today's digital age and as I got to grips with this distinctively 'old' technology, I found it interesting to experience some more camera hardware from an age gone by.

Once you have focused your image and decided on a shutter speed, its nearly time to press the button, but not before fiddling with one more blast from the past. This time, its not the camera that looks old fashioned but the lens. On modern camera's the lenses iris will stay fully open until you take the picture. This makes the image in the viewfinder nice and bright. Only when you press the shutter release button does the iris move in to the setting you (or your camera) has chosen, but theres nothing like this here.

No the last job is to manually move the iris to the correct setting that you choose and then give the button a good ol press and... pray!

Anyone who's interested in photography and anyone who fancies getting back to doing it all the old way (using your brain instead of the camera's) will be interested to hear that you can pick up a well kept Zenit E from ebay for £20+, at that price, why not give it a go. There's definitely something satisfying about getting a successful print back.

Ps. Bravo! to Billy Barlow from Biddulph for Bringing me the camera :-) Brilliant!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cartoon crisis: my view

What is freedom of speech? What should it allow? What things should be protected as sacred? Is Blasphemy outdated? These are just some of the issues that have been dominating headlines around the world and after a few weeks of contemplation, I think I am ready to post my comments as a person who believes in the same God as those from Islam.

It's freedom of speech that allows me to keep a blog. Its also freedom of speech that allows others to read it and think about what I have written. Its also freedom of speech that allows me to post pictures at the top of articles like this.

It is out of respect that I choose to blur out the actual image of the Prophet so as not to offend people. Its also respect (and common sense) that means I don't label all Muslims as terrorists. Its respect which means I choose to accept everyones right to an opinion, even if they don't reach the same conclusions as me.

The press argue...
Most of the press who have become part of this story itself, seem to be trying to flex some kind of 'free speech muscle'. They are calling to the faithful to jump into the new pool of personal opinion, where absolute truth doesn't exist and the water is warm for everyone. This is a problem to all three of the monotheistic faiths which claim that God has defined absolute truth in the law, and in the case of Christianity, even in the person of Christ Jesus. So postmodernism says that the new rule is that there are no rules, if it feels right, it probably is and unless you hurt others, anything goes.

What these 'champions of the modern faithlessnes' seem to misunderstand is that for someone of faith, these key laws could never become outdated or dusty. No matter what technology allows, the immutible words of God have been passed from generation to generation, they don't change with government or fashion, they are not dictated by Hollywood or lifestlye magazines. They have always been the same and the Koran expressively forbids the creation of graven images. Let alone ones of their key prophet.

Its into this way of thinking that the press have decided to ply their trade. Arguing that the right to free-speech is almost 'God given' and that the days of sacred obeyance really went out with the ark. They have been set free from folklore and fairy tale and have been reborn into a world of self awareness. They have seen the light from their own appearances and have become like gods, for seventy years at least.

I'm a Christian and when I see things like 'Jerry Springer - the opera' I sense a little bit of the same dismay and hurt. Jesus however warned that this would happen, he said "The world hated me, it will hate you too..." This means that I personally don't feel that God commands me in any way to stand up against such things, rather I should be ready with my opinion and then leave it at that.