A realisation that’ll make you feel old in a heartbeat

Are you ready to feel really old?

I was born in 1985. As I was growing up, the music of the 80s was fairly current, 70s was a bit dated, but music from the 60s was really old. The 50s and earlier was prehistoric and I’m not sure that I really heard too much music that predates the 60s.

Thinking about this is somewhat bizarre because in reality, the 60s were as recent as just 16 years prior to my birth, but that segues nicely into my next point. Continue reading “A realisation that’ll make you feel old in a heartbeat”

It’s time for paid maternity/paternity leave in America

I’ve written many posts on this subject (e.g. The sad state of maternity leave in the States) because I’m very passionate about it, but I just saw another great TED talk which drives the point home some more.

Maternity/paternity leave is not something that we should be thankful for. It’s a fundamental need for new parents to bond with their children and recover from birth. It promotes the wellbeing of mother and child, reduces post-natal depression and gives mothers the support they need to make it through the early days of raising a child and be able to choose whether or not to have another child without being forced to stop at 1 because they had such a horrendous experience or because it cost them so much to do the only thing they could to spend a little time with their newborn child: take unpaid leave.

As highlighted in the talk, there are 9 countries in the world that have no national requirement for paid maternity leave. The first 8 have a combined population of 8 million and include countries like Papua New Guinea, Suriname and the Marshall Islands. The 9th is the United States with a population of 320 million. How the United States can continue to claim that it would be such a burden on employers or the state is beyond me. Literally everyone else has done it: stop hiding behind this bullshit America and give new mothers the paid leave they need.

Social services suck, but we can fix them AND save money

Hilary Cottam’s approach to social services is akin to “it takes a village to raise a child”. The more that can participate, the better it is for everyone. Her model sees everyone helping one another to practically and positively change the lives of those most in need.

This TED talk from an entrepreneurial front-line social worker in the UK gives a very considered and honest discussion of how the modern welfare state was created (in 1940s Britain) and how it simply isn’t a model for today.

Rather than just bash the system, as we all love to do, Hilary Cottam has come up with a radical new approach to social services in which resources are spent directly on helping people rather than on a system which manages said people. In fact, by spending far less, she’s been able to make significant positive changes in the lives of many people in South London who are all now helping one another. Continue reading “Social services suck, but we can fix them AND save money”

Privilege is invisible to those who have it

As a middle-class white man in America, it can be easy to think that society is equal but that’s because I can be invisible to my privilege

In a recent TED talk by Michael Kimmel he talks about how he came to see the world from the point of view of minorities such as women or black people. In a discussion with some of his peers he came to the conclusion that

Privilege is invisible to those who have it

He was talking about how as a white middle-class man, he was about as privileged as he could be, but he didn’t see the world that way because he saw how opportunities were being provided to women and racial minorities all around him. The experience of women and black people was different however, who still saw the world around them as it oppressed them.

Continue reading “Privilege is invisible to those who have it”

Comparing films to their respective book

Films and books are entirely different artistic media that produce very different results. So let’s stop comparing them when a book births a film.

Creating films from books is nothing new. Since the dawn of cinema, screenwriters have taken the success of literature and used that to create cinematic masterpieces. One of the earliest films I can think of – Gone With The Wind (1939) – was adapted from a book that was published 3 years prior.

However, films are not books. They are materially different media and to make a point of comparing a film to its literary genesis is pointless. If you’re a fan of literature – creating characters in your mind and taking artistic license to join the dots in the story – then by all means continue to do so, but to expect the same experience from a film is foolish. Continue reading “Comparing films to their respective book”

My favourite album: The 2nd Law

Whenever I’m asked for my favourite anything, I always seize up because a favourite anything is so binary. It’s less clear cut for me and I can always convince myself that there are many favorites for different occasions and situations.

This is equally true for my favourite album. It’s so hard to select a single album which reigns supreme above all others. There are certainly a lot of good albums out there.

However, I think that all considered, my favourite album ever is The 2nd Law by Muse. Muse have probably been my favourite band ever since Origin of Symmetry came out. Their songwriting, production, creativity and especially their talent (as evidenced by their live performances) have rightly made them one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st century. Continue reading “My favourite album: The 2nd Law”

John Oliver – a perfect blend of journalism and comedy

John Oliver is something special. He jumped into the limelight last year with his own show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver after a brief 8-week stint guest hosting The Daily Show.

Last Week Tonight is an HBO show and as such, I’ve never seen a full episode. However, they put the main segment of each show on their YouTube channel which I look forward to watching each week. The main segment is a 15-20 minute piece looking at a topic that John wants to shine a light on. Sometimes the topics are current and other times they’re longstanding issues.

John does an excellent job of making us care about things that we’re either unaware of or that we’ve just had a tendency to accept as a society. He and his team of journalists research the topics in great depth and show just how much of a mockery they have become, both from a social and a political standpoint. He publicly highlights and humiliates politicians that pander to big business and lambasts companies that conduct themselves unethically, all while threading through a wave of comedy.

I think watching a few clips will do a much better job of highlighting the kind of show this is, why it’s such a hit and maybe cause you to take action on a few things yourself.


Continue reading “John Oliver – a perfect blend of journalism and comedy”

Take your email privacy back

Your email archive tells a lot about you, which is why Andy Chen’s team created a new, better system from the ground up: ProtonMail

Don’t know much about Internet privacy? Think your email is private and secure?

Andy Chen’s brief TED talk explains how email works, why it’s not as secure as you think and discusses his team’s alternative: ProtonMail. Continue reading “Take your email privacy back”

Paper people

Harry Baker may well have changed my mind about poetry. I never thought it resonated with me, but his poems were really enjoyable to listen to.

I’ve never considered myself a poetry lover, but this TED talk by Harry Baker, the world poetry champion, may have changed my mind.

All three of these poems are fantastic, particularly the one about prime numbers and the one about the paper people. Thoroughly enjoyable! Continue reading “Paper people”