Sunday, 22 January 2012

Saturday, 21 January 2012

BrumArt :-)

Leonardo da Vinci comes to Brum with a selection of sketches from the Royal Collections.
Worth the brief queue for a glimpse of the restless genius' ideas, rarely finishing but showing superb skills in the anatomical sections for arm and leg muscles, for example.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery website for details.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Winter Scenes

A good Read

"Ten stories about smoking" by new author Stuart Evers. I worked at the same bookshop as Stuart years ago, and it's heartening to see him produce this really touching, skilful, very human and humane set of stories with smoking (or giving up smoking) as a recurring theme. Love, loss, day to day city life in modern Britain and the USA, Swindon, an older man's reflections and a younger woman's suspicion of a (possibly) philandering partner, I'd really recommend getting a copy of this collection - in print or e- form - and enjoying the poignancy and insight of each story.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Apple and Foxconn

Read this disturbing new report of exploitation in the workplace of Apple manufacturers Foxconn.
Child labour included, allegedly of course.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Die Deutschen im Osten Europas

Just finished reading a fascinating collection of pieces on the combined histories and populations of the various German settlers, immigrants, descendants and their relations with the countries of Eastern Europe from Poland and Russia to the Hungarian, Romanian and Black Sea communities. "Die Deutschen im Osten Europas" is by historians and authors from Spiegel magazine.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Voices of Conscience

In our troubled times, some groups and individuals stand out against the waves of greed and self-interest of the powerful (and maybe against the apathy of others?)
UK Uncut and UK Uncut Legal highlight the huge amounts that should be paid in tax (allegedly!) by major corporations such as Vodafone.
See their blog here.
The Occupy movement has also hit the headlines across the world.

Student campaigners such as Ed Bauer at Birmingham Uni challenge the orthodoxy of raising fees, as well as the injustice of low paid staff being given low pay increases while the salaries of Vice- Chancellors and other Senior university Managers go stratospheric.
Note: Birmingham Uni managers don't like protests, as their injunction on student protests on campus shows ... (Read the Guardian article linked here)

It is individuals and newly-formed groups who are leading the way, not the established political parties.

Globally of course, protestors in Syria show that Conscience really can be a matter of life and death - and huge respect is owed to those who risk their lives daily around Syria and elsewhere.
Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma demonstrates that peaceful opposition can be possible, even in the harshest circumstances and against the least peaceful and democratic of regimes (with the possible exception of Syria).

What will 2012 bring?

Picture: Unions' demonstration against the cuts in Birmingham in 2011.

Read these - Reasons to be Watchful in the UK today

Why British Public and Academic Life is Under Threat.

1. "Universities under Attack": Keith Thomas in the London Review of Books on Higher Education in the UK. The somewhat patronising response following the article is by a Head of College (ie a Senior Manager) at the University of Birmingham.
- Open source article on this link.

2. "The Assault on Universalism - how to destroy the welfare state" - and cogent, well-argued points by authors McKee and Stuckler on why this is happening and why it is a Bad Thing for all of us. In the BMJ Christmas 2011: Open link to British Medical Journal article .

Time to Review ? 2012 starts here.

I admit I've been very quiet with this blog lately, though not many people see it anyway! Other things preoccupied me, work, going out, Amnesty group interests, and anger with current political developments not least in the realm of Higher Education and Arts.

British public life is under serious threat now, with anti-public service right wingers seemingly keen to use a genuine financial crisis to dismantle provision of affordable education and health care for all, as well as further reducing funding for the arts.
I've seen some penetrating articles on the above concerns and will try and list these for anyone who does read this blog.

In the meantime, here's a picture of some wonderful celebrators in Trafalgar Square during the happier days of Egypt's successful protests in Tahrir Square, early in 2011. Things have taken a darker turn there, with military suppression of dissent apparently the norm. Let's think of the brave demonstrators in Egypt, Syria of course and elsewhere where oppressive powers try to stifle the public.