It's been a while...

Having fallen woefully short of a target I set myself in a previous post, it's been another year since my last appearance. Yes, I have considered closing this blog, but decided against it for one reason: I want to write a blog. I do find it difficult to keep a blog going but I'm feeling a new determination or this now. I could give you the standard excuse. "I HAVE NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT, AND WHEN SOMETHING DOES HAPPEN I DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO WRITE A BLOG"

 

Time waits for no blog

But I won't, and here's why. While the second part of that "reason" could be, to an extent, viewed as somewhat valid, the first part, the part about having nothing to write about, simply isn't true. Let me break it down, dealing with the second part first. Ready? And we're off!

"...I DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO WRITE A BLOG"

We all have time constraints. Jobs, deadlines, families, pets. A lot of people have kids (I don't but a lot of people do) and all of these things and many many others pull us in one direction or another. Everything we do costs us time and there's only so many hours in the day. So to find the time to sit down, think about, and write a blog can be difficult. Here's the counter argument. Other people manage it. People who have far busier lives than me. People with far more demands on their time manage to sit down and write stunning blogs on any topic you can think of. Some people even manage to do it on a daily basis!

So not having time to write is no excuse. I have the time. If I didn't, considering I've already stated that I want to write a blog, it would be up to me to find the time to do it. So, now I've deconstructed that part of the excuse, let's see if I can dismantle the first part. Here we go.

"I HAVE NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT AND WHEN SOMETHING INTERESTING DOES HAPPEN..."

This is the part of the excuse that would crumble like a dried out meringue. Once I'd finally decided that yes, I do want to write a blog, the next logical question to ask myself would be well, why haven't I been writing? This took a little thought.

Initially, I'd considered citing a lack of things to write about as my reason for not writing. But this simply isn't the case. During the last 12 months I've had no shortage of experiences, problems and life developments, both good and bad, to write about. The heartbreaking loss of a beloved pet. An epic battle with depression that I almost didn't win (I'm not arrogant enough to believe that war is over yet either). A brand new relationship. Discovering a brand new passion and rekindling an old one (photography and writing respectively). So I can't truthfully say that I've had no material to write about.

Then I tried to excuse my lack of enthusiasm by convincing myself that nobody would be interested in anything I had to say. That I would be writing all this and no one would ever see it. The more I thought about that though, the more I thought so what? It's my blog. If nobody reads it is that going to negatively impact on my life? Will I lie awake at night worrying about it? The answer was really quite simple: Nope.

When you start a blog you 'pays your money and takes your chances'. Nobody giving a fig about what you write, or how you write is a risk you run. I could pander to the masses and write about what everyone's talking about or reading or watching on television. Or I could write for me. If people take an interest, great! If they don't, well so what?

A lot of people write for cathartic reasons. It makes them feel better. I think I might be one of those people. At this point I would like to mention that at the time of writing this post my life is in the best shape it's been in for years and I'm hopeful that's going to continue. But it still may be a useful thing to do. When I consider that I could've had a record of all the things that I've been through in the last year, it makes me sad to realise I haven't recorded any of it with words. It just seems like such a waste. I've always quite liked the idea of recording my experiences. Not in a teenage "dear diary" way, but rather something I can look at and remind myself of things that have happened.

Ok, so if you're still awake and reading this then your staying power is to be commended. But where are we at this point? Shall we have a quick recap? Let's do that. Just to refresh you (and me!)

I've decided that I want to write a blog. I've determined that I need to find time to do it. I've realised that I've missed so many opportunities for a good blog post, maybe even some great ones. I can't help that now. Those posts never were and never will be. I've worked out, all by myself, that writing a blog may be useful to me, as I'm the kind of person who likes to record things.

Right, ready for more? On we go.

The next potential reason (excuse) my mind latched onto was the blogging wasn't at the forefront of my mind. When something happened the idea of blogging about it didn't occur to me. It was only after the event that I thought oh, I'll write about that. By then though the details were fading and I just didn't bother. This brought me back to my original question: do I really want a blog? After more thought and introspection, I came back to the same answer. Yes. But now I had a plausible, but not excusable reason for not writing. It was something I could work on.

So how do I go about changing this? Do I constantly ask myself is there a blog in this everytime something happens? Will I remember to do that? I use mobile apps, so maybe I could do it that way? Make notes for a once-a-week-blog? I like the idea of that.

Another result of my introspection was this: I lack the discipline to sit and write a blog.

That's a hard thing to admit. Nobody likes admitting their faults but this is a big one of mine. I have a very short attention span and I'm easily distracted. While hard to admit, I believe admitting there's a problem, especially to yourself, is the first step in solving it. So step one? Done!

I mentioned I'd discovered a new passion, that passion is photography. It's still very early days - a little over three weeks by the time this post is published- but so far I'm really enjoying it. I'm enjoying the learning process and I get a thrill out of seeing my photographs slowly improve as time goes on. Still, they won't be winning any awards but I'm ok with that. I'm still only learning. I do a lot of post-process work on my photographs. I edit to try to bring out the best in a photograph, and there's nothing wrong with that. I want the photographs I've put time and effort into capturing to look as good as they can look. So I edit. I have a facebook page. Go to www.facbook.com/saysathousandwords if you'd like to see the best of my photographs to date. I'm also considering setting up a website but that's still in the planning stages.

My point is, I have to sit down and put the photographs through post-process which means I have to be disciplined and do it. Otherwise what's the point? Exactly. There wouldn't be one. So maybe I can transpose that discipline into a blog? It's worth a try right?

Let me learn to walk before I can run. I'll limit it to one a week for a couple of months (unless I have a burning desire to write about something) and see how I go with that. I've written that before, more than once in fact. So until I actually produce a weekly blog, that's just an empty statement.

I've been told my mind needs organising. I completely agree. So for the third year in a row, and with the best of intentions I'll say:

Let's give this another go!

 

Dave C. Bannerman.

 

Finally joined the reading revolution!

Alas, 'tis true. After declaring point blank that I would never buy an e-reader I caved. I'm now the proud, and somewhat amazed, owner of a shiny Kindle Fire. Why am I amazed? I'm amazed it's taken me this long to get one if I am to be totally honest. I like reading. I have to admit I'm a very slow reader though. I get distracted. I can't help it. I've always been that way. I find it hard to settle down and focus, but I maintain that I enjoy reading. Some people buy books because they like the idea of having them. Some people buy books because they think they look nice on the shelf. Others buy books to make themselves appear more intelligent than they actually are. I buy books to read them. It just takes me a bit longer than everyone else.

Most people I know own a Kindle. My GRANDMOTHER owns a Kindle. They swear by them. They're always saying how good they are. 'Oh you can carry so many books'. What the hell for? You can only read one book at a time!

I'm halfway through the Song of Ice and Fire series, and if you don't know the books, they're pretty big, heavy and bulky. I recently took a trip and took the current book I'm reading with me. Big. Heavy. Bulky. It began to annoy me having to carry it around. I'd have to get it out of my bag, find my page, I'm sure I read this bit...Oh the book marks fell out! Hassle.

So when I got home I started thinking about Kindles. I'd seen a few people with them while I was on my travels and I have to admit they did look easier to handle than my 600-page hulking paperback.

I went online and read some reviews. Watched a couple of videos, the usual stuff. I was liking what I was seeing. So I decided to go for it. Went to the nearest outlet and purchased one.

Within a couple of hours I was off and reading. Account set up, Kindle set to how I wanted it, and a couple of book's downloaded after a bit of fumbling about. I'm actually writing this blog on it as I lay in bed. I can hear seagulls in the distance and the dogs snoring in the hallway downstairs.

What took me so long? I should've learned from previous experience. When touchscreen phones came out I avoided them. Then I got one and loved it. When tablets came out, I avoided them too. Until I got one. Now I wouldn't be without it. This particular Kindle is a tablet as well with many more features than your basic Kindle. I didn't buy it to show off though. It's just the one I liked.

Will I be using it as a tablet? Will I sync my email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts? Short answer: no. My tablet and phone are cluttered enough with that lot. I have enough trouble keeping on top of those, clearing junk mail and adding and removing people. This is a Kindle first. So that'll be it's primary function. I say that now though, ask me again in a few weeks.

All in all I'm very happy with it, If and plan on taking it wherever I go. If there are any typos in this blog I do apologize. It's 2:30 in the morning and I'm very tired. I did read a whole book yesterday afternoon. That's a massive achievement for me :) 

NDB.

Crowd Sourcing: Should we be concerned?

Following the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings I read a particularly iteresting news article. The article detailed how internet users decided it would be a good and noble idea to begin their own investigations using social media/netowrking sites. Reddit  apparently being the main one, but Facebook and Twitter played their part of course. The author of the article called it 'crowd-sourced inestigation'. Using these sites the general public began to hunt for clues and evidence to ascertain the identity of the bomber(s). A just and noble idea you might think? People pulling together and working autonomously towards a common goal? Taking their civic duty seriously? All potentially acceptable responses. Now here's the rub, they got it wrong.

These optic-fibre Federales, these Columbos of the information superhighways, armed with their laptops, Macs, tablets and smartphones messed up.

Instead of passng any leads they found straight to the authorities, these internet sleuths accused the wrong person. More than once. Anyone and everyone became a potential suspect. Pictures appeared online with accusing captions. Suddenly something as simple as not watching the race became a good enough reason fo be accused of planting and detonating bombs.

One case in particular is that of 22 year old Sunil Tripathi, who has been missing since March. Mr. Tripathis picture was flung across the world wide web amid a torrent of conjecture and speculation. Anyone else think this is wrong? One Reddit user did, calling it a "disaster", stating it had done "more harm than good" and finishing with "let's never do this again".

There were some defenders of this 'crowd-sourced investigation' though. A 22 year old man in Virginia was praised by Reddit users for the speed at which he made information public. Information sourced from television screens and police scanners.

The media isn't innocent either. Setting upon any tidbits of informatiom and reporting them directly to the world. I was chastised for tattling as a child. But that's the monster that is the media. If you don't feed it, it won't regurgitate rubbish.

We have law enforcement for a reason. This kind of mob behaviour can't lead us anywhere good, or can it? Does it have a place? They say Rome was ruled by the mob and look what happened there. How long before vigilantism starts, and people start hunting for criminals in packs? It might sound far fetched now, but when Gene Rodenberry created Star Trek back in the Sixties mobile phones were unheard of. Confused? You can always call Scottie and ask him to beam you up.

There are potential benefits to the idea of crowd-sourcing though. Medicine. More specifically diagnosis. A US-based company has launched a web tool they're calling 'CrowdMed', which will use the '"collective knowledge of the public to solve rare medical mysteries". Obviously this can be very useful, if used correctly.

In the end though, it was a good old fashioned phonecall from a concerned and outstandingly brave member of the public that helped authorites capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Nothing else.

A Week To Recover From?

This week hasn't exactly been quiet has it? With Margaret Thatchers funeral costing British taxpayers an estimated £10 million, a subject of great division in the UK.  The sad passing of Hillsborough campaigner Ann Williams. The explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. A potential measles outbreak in Wales. The US struggling with gun control votes, and of course the horrific bombings in Boston, Massachusetts and the subsequent events surrounding it. After all that the world deserves a week off from tragedy, horror, heartache and disappointment. I think it does anyway.

Time to recover and get our bearings back. Time which we probably won't get.

If you're reading this though, why not take just a little time? A few minutes to think about what's important to you. Doesn't matter what it is, as long as you appreciate it.

Why? Because as events around the world this week have proven, it only takes a minute to lose something or someone special. So take your minute, before someone or something takes it from you.

Let's Try This Again

It's been very nearly a full year since my last post. In that time I've moved house, got a new job, sold my car and got another motorcycle. I've also had one grandparent turn 70, and another one turn 80! All the blogs that could've been! I've also tried to get my head around nearly every social media site there is (except tumblr - couldn't even log in to that one). 

I tried them for a while, but then, inevitably got bored. Passwords were forgotten,  comments went unanswered,  accounts got dusty and people probably thought I was just downright rude. 

To be fair though, they're probably right.

Now though, I've decided to focus my efforts and attempt to produce something worth reading. I'm not promising a monthly masterpiece or a prize winning blog, I'll leave that to the masters such as gnostic bent. I will try to give honest and fair opinions though. If you like what you read let me know, if you don't,  well still let me know, and feel free to tell me why. 

So let's try this again!

A BIG Experience

Between the 20th and 22nd of April 2012, the attention of an entire city was focused on a quite literally massive event.

The city was Liverpool, and the event was Sea Odyssey. A huge chunk of street theatre brought to life, as if by magic, by French theatre company Royal De Luxe. 

The Story (in a nutshell)

A young girl from Liverpool writes a letter to her father, a steward, or a stowaway depending on which version you like more, on the ill-fated Titanic. Before he could send his reply the ship hits an iceberg and sinks.

The girl waits and waits for her letter. It never arrives.

The story of Sea Odyssey is the finding and delivery of that letter by her uncle, who has spent the last one-hundred years searching the ocean floor for her fathers reply.

I first read about Sea Odyssey in one of those City Council magazines that, to be honest, I never pick up. They're usually just full of stuff that doesn't interest me. Anyway, it fell through the letterbox one morning and I began to idly flick through it. The centre pages caught my eye. The article title screamed: "The Giants Are Coming!"

More than a little intrigued I began to read on. By the time I'd finished the article I was buzzing! I saved the magazine for my girlfriend, who at first didn't know what I was on about. She read the article but I didn't get the same sense of excitement.

April approached and I was still thinking about this Sea Odyssey. I  was intent on going, even if it meant going on my own, I had to see this! I'd been to see La Princesse, La Machines 50-foot spider during its rampage around the city in 2008, when Liverpool was named the international Capital of Culture. How could I not go and see this??? Nearer the time though, my girlfriend, after twigging what it actually was, stated that she'd love to see it too. Sorted! Signs started appearing all around the city. Posters, adverts. I heard lamp posts were having to be removed from the streets along the intended route of the procession, which covered a large part Walton, Anfield and Kirkdale. How big was this thing???

I ended up working nights that weekend.

Undeterred I stayed up. We managed to squeeze onto a packed out train on the last day of the event, and arrived in the city centre among literally thousands of other passengers. We followed the crowd down to the Strand and got ourselves a spot just behind the Cunard Building, one of the world-famous Three Graces. We waited.

There were all sorts of people there, mainly children granted, but people of all ages had turned out. Roads through the city were closed, and before long it was standing room only.

We heard the music first. Pounding drums and blaring guitars, then we saw it, a giant! 50 feet of puppet, striding towards us! They disappeared around a corner and suddenly there they were, right in front of us!

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Xolo the dog appeared first, ten-feet high and as big as a transit van, wagging his tail and flitting around between the cordons. His operators scurrying about and bringing him to life.

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Next came Little Girl Giant, who by now had melted a city's heart. thirty-feet tall and brought to life by at least 20 operators, she strolled past the crowds to cheers and applause.

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After Xolo, Little Girl Giant, and a truck load of musicians providing a vibrant, unique and exciting soundtrack to this "March of the Massives", Uncle came striding around the corner. Dressed in his deep-sea diving gear, he towered fifty-feet above the crowds and was operated by at least 32 members of Royal Deluxe, he was definitely something to see. Uncle was followed by a "truckboat" and a pair of huge cymbals 

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The picture to the right is intended to give some idea of the size of this giant, and hopefully gives a little perspective. Due to his size there were two teams of operators working his legs, and they managed to make him move flawlessly. Leaping off platforms and pulling on ropes to commands of "right foot, down!" and "left foot, down!" they actually made it look easy. With perfect synchronisation, intense teamwork and split second timing, it was amazing to watch.

We followed the procession along the Strand to the Albert Dock, along with thousands of other spectators for the finale.

 The giants were leaving Liverpool.

They were to climb into a boat and sail off down the River Mersey.

ImageThey were hoisted into their boat by three huge cranes while other boats rocked the waterfront with more music from walls of amplifiers on their decks, or sailed around the dock pouring smoke onto the water, enveloping the crowds. Other boats and ships moored nearby blew their horns and whistles, the atmosphere was electric!

Once the giants were seated they gave the city one last wave as they made their way to the river, the music and smoke boats following in another wonderful procession as roaring crowds cheered them off, and little hands waved frantically as the last flurry of pictures were taken from the dockside.

Watching these giants walking through the city, it was so easy to forget that they were in fact just giant puppets. If you allowed yourself, however ridiculously, to imagine for an instant that there were no ropes, no pulleys, no frames, no support vehicles and no operators, then just for an instant, they seemed incredibly real. This was due in no small part to the amazing amounts of detail, time and effort that went into creating these larger than life puppets, as well as the skill and talent of their puppeteers. 

We only saw the very last part of Sea Odyssey, but it's not something I'll forget anytime soon. Just like La Princesse in 2008, the people of Liverpool took these giants into their hearts, and gave them the run of their town. Hundreds of people, months of planning, and a cost of £1.5m, Sea Odyssey, for me personally, and I'm sure for the thousands of people who witnessed it, was time and money well spent.

DCB - Liverpool.

Memories

I recently sat down with someone very special, and went through her photo albums with her. Although they weren't my pictures, and I wasn't in any of them, it was still a really powerful experience and I really enjoyed it. Looking at pictures isn't just looking at pictures. When someone goes through their photographs it can be a really personal experience, evoking memories which can cause some strong emotions. You're not just looking at someones pictures, they're taking you on a journey with them through their memories, their experiences, their life. That's what makes it special. This might sound silly to you. It's only pictures, I can hear you thinking it. But think about this for a minute: To just sit, with a hot drink, and go through a photo album with someone on a grey afternoon, listening to the excitement in their voice when they're explaining a certain picture, or watch their face light up when they see a really good picture of someone who's no longer around. To hear them laughing, either at themselves, or at someone else, or giggle while they're saying "oh, that was when...". To have the embarrassing pictures snatched away and hidden while the person goes bright red. When someone's feeling a bit low, a little bit down and needs a pick me up. When you think about that side of it, it's suddenly not so silly is it?

It's not just pictures though. The strangest, most abstract things evoke memories. It can literally be anything. A belt. A diary. A scribbled love letter from school. All of these things are normally put in a box in the attic, left to get dusty, and mostly forgotten about. It's when you get the box down, dust it off, and sit and go through it. For a couple of hours you can travel back in time.

Our experiences make us who we are. They define us as people, and they teach us. Memories are born from experience. We document those experiences and we tag memories onto them. It's human nature. There's all sorts of things we have to remember. From big things like birthdays and anniversaries, to the smaller stuff. Did I pay the phone bill? Has the dog been fed? Is the front door locked? Have I got milk in the fridge? Little, irritating everyday things. So the stuff we can't keep in our heads, mainly because we don't have room for it, goes into other things. Dusty boxes in attics and photograph albums kept in cupboards. If we let those things go, do we eventually lose the memories they bring? Do we forget about that trip to the theme park? Do we forget what that person looked like when they were younger?

You can make new memories, write new chapters, of course you can. But that's just it. They're new. Fresh. What about your 21st birthday party? Or the best night out of your life? What about the older memories? The chapters that were written in another place and time? Possibly when you were someone else? You can try to remember them, but after a while they'll fade, and if you don't keep hold of the things you associate with them, you'll forget. I'm not saying people should dwell on the past, I don't. I'm very much looking forward to the future. But everyone has a past, everyone has a story. We don't just appear. To forget that story, to not share it with someone, to not allow your book to be read by someone who cares about you, or someone you care about, to me is a crime.

I can keep going but I'll wrap this up by saying this: We can try to run from our past. We can try to block it out. Pretend it didn't happen. At the close of the book though, would you like to be forgotten?

So go phone a friend, put the kettle on, dust the box off, and take a trip, the results might surprise you!

DCB.

My First Blog...

Hi! Welcome to my blog. Ok, before I go any further I have to admit something: I'm ver new at this, and to be honest I always thought blogging was ridiculous, I'll admit it. I did. I never saw the point of it. I use the internet all the time, news, travel, keeping in touch with friends, the usual stuff, and to be honest blogging never really appealed to me. I had nothing against those that blogged, it just never seemed worth the effort to me. Over time though, the more thought I gave it, the less ridiculous it got. I found WordPress and began reading random blogs, just clicking on anything and reading it.

I discovered a lot of really interesting blogs, some very nice photographs and some really nice stories. After reading them I decided I wanted to get involved. So yesterday, nearly a month after finding it, and after some serious reading. I set my own up. I'm still finding my feet with it granted, but what was I afraid of?

I suppose it could be the fact that I didn't feel I had anything interesting to say, but others do it. People blog about anything and everything, so any tips or pointers would be appreciated. I'll probably just keep it random until I find a thread though, or I might just keep it random full stop. Either way I've got a blog, and I never thought that'd happen. The next test will be to see if I can keep it up, and then a further test will be to see if I can keep it interesting. I can only do my best. For the moment I'm aiming for a weekly update, unless I really get the urge to write about something.

DBC