All posts by ab

He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!

Last week I shared my all-time favourite – this week, it’s my close second place.

The Princess Bride is yet another film that I could easily watch with the sound down (this time, missing a cracking soundtrack by Mark Knopfler) as I’m pretty confident that I could provide the dialogue. [you’ve got to note here however – how much of my formal education has received the same memory retention?]

What is it about this film that I love? I suppose it’s the tongue in cheek pastiche of a fairytale – that could be equally watched by children and adults. As a fairytale, it has everything – pirates, giants, an evil prince, a beautiful princess, swordfights, torture chambers, a six fingered man and a fire swamp (I’m probably missing lots of important bits out here!)

As a screenplay, it is filled with wonderful dialogue:

Inigo Montoya: You are sure nobody’s follow’ us?
Vizzini: As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable. No one in Guilder knows what we’ve done, and no one in Florin could have gotten here so fast. – Out of curiosity, why do you ask?
Inigo Montoya: No reason. It’s only… I just happened to look behind us and something is there.
Vizzini: What? Probably some local fisherman, out for a pleasure cruise, at night… in… eel-infested waters…

or this:

Buttercup: You mock my pain.
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Perhaps my favourite scene is the interjection into the story by narrator (Peter Falk), reminding you that you are in fact being read this story, which in the intervening period you’ve forgotten. Peter Falk’s character is reading the story to his grandson, who is ill in bed. He stops the story momentarily, as he sees his grandson getting so involved in the story he is worried about his emotional state – so he gives away a little bit of the story to come to ease his disposition:

Grandpa: She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time
Grandson: What?
Grandpa: The eel doesn’t get her. I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.
Grandson: I wasn’t nervous. Maybe I was a little bit “concerned” but that’s not the same thing.

Which got me thinking – would we interrupt a chain of events in order to help someone we love, if we could?

About ten years ago I was given William Goldman’s fabulous book by a colleague, and it proved to be an even better read than the film – I’d heartily recommend it!

“As you wish…”

image credit: oxygeon.

Being green

Green Web Hosting I once read a post that claimed how detrimental to the environment web technology was. It was very interesting to read afterwards a post from Google setting the record straight. Whilst I don’t doubt that web technology is in some way detrimental to the environment, the alternatives that we seem to take for granted would appear to be far worse!

When I decided to come back online, it was really important to me to find a host that did something about this. I wanted to find a host that used the greenest tech available, and offset against that which it couldn’t alter. For those reasons, I’m happy to promote my host – supergreen hosting. They are very reliable, and have been exceptionally quick to answer any question I have posed of them. Good news on both fronts there then. (Yes, I know they are owned by justhost.com…)

Kermit the Frog once famously said – “It’s not easy being green” – there are lots of other steps that one could take to improve their carbon footprint – so this is just a simple, random act to consider today. How green is your host?

The only true voyage of discovery

The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is. – Marcel Proust, The Captive.

In our fast, bright and shiny society, we are encouraged to seek out the next best thing, and constantly strive to experience the new. Perhaps our greatest challenge lies not with seeking the new, but re-examining the familiar? Perhaps we would be better served by stopping to consider anew that which surrounds us that we possibly take for granted – that which maybe, just maybe in our frenetic lifestyle we pass over all to quickly as we seek out the next best thing. Do others see what we see? If you stopped and looked at what surrounds you today, would you discover something new amidst that which you know so well?

image credit: Librairie du Voyage – Rennes.

Wednesday is a day for the movies

The holes we leave behind.

We all have favourite movies. It’s funny how some of them stay with us through life? The movie I often claim to be my ‘favourite’ is the 1979 Peter Yates film ‘Breaking Away‘. It takes the top spot for me for a number of reasons, and I know there have probably been far superior films in terms of cinematography, acting, screenplay etc, but I do love this film.

Why? In the early 1980’s our family got a video recorder. My dad recorded this film, and I’m sure it would have been recorded over like so many others, but this one stayed – in no small part probably due to a son who was mad keen on cycling at the time, so a film where the principal character does a lot of cycling was unusual, and of huge interest to me then, that I probably pestered him to keep it and not wipe over it.

It’s a coming of age film, where a group of town teenagers feel their position threatened by the incomers to their town attending the university. It charts part of their first year out of school, coming to terms with life in the real world, how they relate to peers and family, and what they each learn in different ways taking the big leap into adulthood.

Whether it’s a simple byproduct of watching a film far too many times in my life (although, that said, it’s been a number of years since I’ve watched it now), but I feel I could watch this film with the sound turned down – I’d miss the beauty of the soundtrack (Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture, Von Flotow’s Martha, to name but a few), but I could probably fill in all the dialogue myself.

What makes a film strike a chord with us? What makes a film become a favourite? For me, it’s either that the film has been beautifully crafted, or I connect with some aspect of it on an emotional level.

One of the main themes of the film is the relationship between ‘Dave Stoller’ (Dennis Christopher) and his father ‘Ray Stoller’ (Paul Dooley). In one scene, they go for a walk in the campus. Dave’s father Ray was previously a stone cutter, and remarks about the fact that he and his former colleagues cut the stone for the university buildings:

Ray: “And the buildings went up. When they were finished, the damnedest thing happened – it was like the buildings is too good for us. Nobody told us that – it just felt uncomfortable, that’s all. Even now, I’d like to be able to stroll through the campus and look at the limestone, but I just feel out of place.”

Ray: “You guys still go swimming in the quarries?”

Dave: “Sure”

Ray: “So, the only thing you’ve got to show for my 20 years of work are the holes we left behind”

I love this bit of dialogue – a father and son having an awkward discussion about the sons future – whether he will go to college, and achieve everything he is able to. How his father feels about him, and what he hopes for him. At the same time, reflecting on his own achievement, and what that means for his son. Add to this the typical unhealthy unease at either of them sharing their feelings, and it’s a great scene.

Dave’s dad was a stone cutter, so he literally left holes behind in the ground from where the stone was cut out the earth. I wonder, what are the metaphoric holes we leave behind? Last week I quoted Gandhi, in that “everything we do is insignificant, but it’s really important that we do it anyway”.

I think we need to be proud of the holes we leave behind, no matter what size they are.

image credit: SandersQuarryIndiana by Sphinxcat, under a Wikimedia Commons licence.

The price of happiness…

Hatfield Galleria Shopping Centre - courtesy of Barry Lawson

I read with interest a few weeks ago of the UNICEF report into materialism amongst British children. If you haven’t read the report, then I would urge you to have a look at it. It presents a view that seems brimming over with common sense – spend more time together as families, and less attention on wanting ‘things’ that don’t actually improve our sense of wellbeing.

Simple enough to say, but how do you get a culture obsessed with materialism and a pursuit of fame/eternal youth to mend its ways? I think a simple way to set out to achieve this would be to start small. Have a look at your own actions – do you spend enough time with those that you love? Do you put time with them above other pursuits? Do you as a family eat together? Perhaps this would be a simple place to start. We try to eat together as a family as often as we can (this is dependant on me getting out the office early enough! – more on this to follow), and we make sure it’s technology free. No TV, no laptops, no mobiles. Just us, enjoying each others company. A simple first step.

I have loads more to say about materialism, but I think I’ll save that for other posts. Besides, I’m breaking myself in gently to sharing my thoughts online again, after a long break.

Image credit – Barry Lawson, under a Creative Commons Licence.

Do, or do not.

Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford

I’m the very proud father of a two year old son. Each day, I watch him try out new things, without a fear in the world of something going wrong. So far it seems, he has little concept of this – he just does things.

At some point, I’m sure this will go. He, just like other children, will probably begin to question whether he can achieve things, where as right now he’s happy just to do.

I think Ford presents a lovely picture for us. Unless we turn out thoughts into action, we’ll never know the outcome. Perhaps we need to be more childlike in our approach to trying things out?

Tuesday is a day for random acts…

adrig72 - pay it forward

I say Tuesday, but in all honesty, any day ought to be a day for random acts! I’m just going to use Tuesday to talk about them.

Over the coming weeks, Tuesday will be a day that I talk about my random acts, but to kick things off, I thought it best to talk about one in particular that’s much more than I could ever achieve.

Pay it forward.

What is ‘Pay it forward?’ – well, simply put, don’t repay a good deed with a returned favour – instead repay it with a good deed for someone else.

Traditionally, this may have been seen as a greek concept, but was best described by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody. – Compensation, 1841

This concept has grown so huge, it’s started a foundation, and even had a Holywood movie about it. What a lovely simple concept though – don’t just help one person in return, help others.

 

 

Insignificant

Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it anyway. – Mahatma Gandhi

ruojo - 5 Thursday

I think we have a problem of motivation in our world today. All too often, I think the reason people do things is because of some inflated sense of self-importance, or mis-fed belief that they will become renowned for what they do. For many, their aspiration is to be famous, rather than contributing to the betterment of society by their simple daily acts.

I love the juxtaposition of ‘insignificant’ and ‘very important’ – they seem on the face of it contradictory. The simple fact of the matter is this – much of what we do will affect very few people, or indeed do little to improve the lives of others. I believe the key point here however is that everything we do, insignificant and small though our actions be, affects others, as our small actions are part of a much, much bigger whole.

Perhaps we ought to take pride in our small acts, instead of vainly hoping for an elusive prize of fame or fortune.

Monday is ‘quote’ day…

Do not conform to the standards of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

There’s something about a Monday that makes most people look for a spring in their step, or something to ponder to set them up for the week.

I plan therefore to use each Monday to share one of my favourite quotes with you, and reflect a little on its meaning.

Today to kick things off, I’ve chosen my favourite section of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. As virtually everything around us in the media tells us to conform, I love this declaration – don’t conform to the standards of the world. Renew your mind, and think about what is good. We live our lives constantly bombarded by other people telling us what we should do or think, or how we should fit in. Our media attempts to sell us a lifestyle that we should aspire to, or worse still, be in debt in order to realise. We need to think for ourselves, and question whether what the world suggests we do is the right path.

Fair enough – the reflection bit of the posts in future may be a bit longer! Give me a break though, eh? I haven’t been blogging for about two years!

What’s in a name?

Welcome!

I say welcome, but you’re not quite here, are you? You’ve found your way online to my new digital home, but no matter which way you look at it, it’s just not quite real.

You’re looking at pixels displayed on a screen that form the shape of characters that I typed at some point into a computer. The thoughts I had in my head to shape these words left my fingertips and through the complexities of technology have found their way online. If you actually know me, you can perhaps imagine me saying these words out loud, and hear the intonation that I would give to the sentence structure, but if you don’t know me, you are putting your own rhythm and meter to these words. In many ways, they are therefore no longer mine, but yours.

So ‘welcome’ to almostab.

 

Why call a site ‘almostab’?

I have a very common name, and it’s not possible for me to buy the domain name that would be simply my name. I’ll write more about that in the future. For now, I chose a name that signifies my feelings about the online world. This is the closest you can get to me beyond the physical world. And let me be quite clear about my feelings here: online is a poor second place. Try as I might, I will not be able to convey exactly what I mean here. Sure, the thoughts and opinions you’ll find here are mine, but due to the limitations of technology, the closest this comes to me is ‘almost’. Great though technology is, it’s just not quite good enough to convey all that we need. Do you know that the majority of what we say is not conveyed by our words but by our bodies? If I’d chosen to video this, would you still be getting the whole message? I would contend that you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t get the fact that my breathing is shorter or my pulse is quicker when I address a group of people. You wouldn’t have seen me prior to or after my speaking. All you’d have received are the carefully selected moments that didn’t make it to the digital cutting room floor. I would contend the only way to really get a complete message from me is to engage with me in the real world.

If real life is best then, why keep this site at all? The thing is, I think ‘almost’ can be really useful. Here, we don’t have the problems of time or location. Overcoming both of those makes this site potentially worth its digital weight in gold.

So for those of you that aren’t able to interact with me in person, then this site is for you –

whoever you are,

wherever you are,

whenever you are.

Welcome.