Sunday, December 30, 2018

Goodbye 2018 – Our Best Year Yet

Yes – I know about Trump, Putin, Brexit, Man City slipping to third place, the All Blacks losing to Ireland (again!) and all the hoo-hah around feminism, sexism, transgenderism, ageism, privacy, Twitter abuse etc, etc, etc – but despite all that, 2018 was the best year ever recorded.

I know I am a Radical Optimist and see hope and dreams everywhere, but Philip Collins in The Times sums it up factually.

We end 2018 healthier, safer, freer, better educated and cleaner than ever before.

We have never been better off – extreme poverty is at its lowest ever level.

1.2 billion people have gained the power of electricity in the 18 years of the new century.  The villages of India are lighting up.

Education is the driving force behind our increasing global prosperity.  The world literary rate is an unprecedented 85%.  The number of girls enrolled in primary school reached 90% this year.

Human beings have never been so healthy (and IQ’s are increasing 3 IQ points per decade) as diets become more and more effective.

Global life expectancy is at an all-time high and child mortality has never been lower – largely because of the staggering increases in the number of one-year-olds immunized.

The battle against vicious diseases is being won.  Bye-bye malaria and polio – cholera should be beaten in the next decade.  Aids deaths have halved in the last 10 years, leprosy deaths have fallen 97% since 1985.  We can expect cures for heart disease and cirrhosis in the next decade.

And (amazingly!) we are cleaner.  The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica shrank to its lowest in 20 years; population in the developed world has increased by 50% since 1970 but water use has not increased.  In 2018 more than 90% of the world’s population had access to safe water.

Crime rates are falling and deaths from terrorism have fallen by 20% since their 2014 peak.

Mr Collins says “Prosperity, education, health, cleanliness and security are the components of a life lived at liberty”.

This is the formula for freedom.  And it’s working.

Let Freedom Ring.

Happy New Year.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Springsteen on Broadway

Mr Born to Run – up close and personal.

My Hero.  My Age.  My Height.

If I could sing, I’d want to sing like him.

If I could tell stories, I’d want to tell stories like him.

Sunday was his final Bruce on Broadway show.

The album has just been released on iTunes.  The full 2hr, 33min performance movie was released on Netflix after the final show.

Drink it in.

Because Kids like us, Baby we were born to run.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Hear Me This Day

Raheem Sterling was subjected to racist abuse from a Chelsea fan at Stamford Bridge last weekend.  Sterling spoke out about racism on an Instagram post after the incident.  And called out the media criticising their treatment of young, black footballers.

I support the stance of Raheem Sterling and Nike.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

For Robin

Sam Hunt is one of my favourite New Zealand poets/performers (close friend Brian Sweeney used to be his Manager back in the day).

‘Coming to it’ features 120 of Sam’s poems, covering 56 years of work – and Colin Hogg’s book ‘Sam Hunt, Off the Road’ is a great new look at hanging with Hunt.

‘Coming to it’, … the poems were chosen by the poet, are undated and are not in chronological order – so no evidence of development, just sheer enjoyment of the poems as they come.

No Poem

I went outside
thinking there could be a poem
buried in the long grass
or down the banks to the river.

I scrambled down
swinging totara trunk to totara trunk
and landed on my arse
in thick Kaipara mud.

There was no poem to be had.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

What’s Going On?

I was asked a few questions last week by a group of leaders from Lancaster Royal Grammar School.

What am I listening to?
-      John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness.  His first original album since 2005 – am going to see him with my Country sidekick Robin in Phoenix later this month.
-      Bob Dylan’s latest bootleg of one of my favourite Dylan albums – More Blood, More Tracks – his 14th published bootleg.  A genius.  (How did ‘Up to Me’ not make the original Blood on the Tracks album?)

What am I reading?
-      Roger McGough’s biography ‘Said And Done’ – author of one of Britain’s top hundred favourite poems (Let Me Die A Youngman’s Death) – leader of the Liverpool poets, author of 1967’s The Mersey Sounds (I’ve still got my first edition paperback), member of The Scaffold and the working-class man’s Poet Laureate.
-      The greatest Espionage story of the Cold War “The Spy and the Traitor” by Ben Macintyre.  A true story about a KGB double agent.

What am I watching?
-      The Romanoffs on Amazon Prime.  Mad Men’s Producer Matthew Weiner’s seven unconnected stories about people who are descendants of the Russian Royal Family.  Am two episodes in – great production values, delicate pacing and low key, intriguing storytelling.
-      Series Two of Goliath (also Amazon Prime) with John Prine’s buddy Billy Bob Thornton killing it as washed up LA lawyer Billy McBride.
-      The Little Drummer Girl (iTunes) – the BBC mini-series of John Le Carre’s great book.  Complex, not easy to follow – but worth it.

Where have I been recently?
-      Back to the Middle East (Tunis, Kuwait, Oman, Dubai, Cairo and Beirut) and to one of my Lovemarks, Porto.  Off to Surfers Paradise this week with a couple of grandkids (Tilly Plum and Winnie), then LA and Christmas in the desert in Arizona.

What am I studying?
-      Hayden Wilson, a young teacher, leader and friend from Melbourne sent me a folder of all Jeff Bezo’s annual letters since his first in 1997.  Fascinating.  There goes my next Sunday.

Living Life Slow.