Category Archives: Uncategorized

Vote for the Padley Centre

I don’t normally do this but a local charity, the Padley Group, is potentially in line to receive a £3,000 grant from Lloyd’s Bank. They support local people through both accommodation and specialist support, tackling a variety of complex needs such as homelessness, substance abuse, long term unemployment and mental health issues. If this is something you’d like to support, you can vote for them at this link. Voting closes on November 1st.

And I promise to update this blog in the near future!

Ada Lovelace Day 2012

Ada Lovelace

So it’s Ada Lovelace Day, and while I was thinking of writing about Mary Anning (I like dinosaurs), that post got overtaken by events. Because only last week, a 14 year old girl was shot because she wanted to be a doctor.

The whole concept of this is almost beyond belief – no, scratch that, it’s horribly believable. After all, this isn’t the first time girls have been attacked because they dared to try and get an education. And while it’s bad enough that women face a hard time working in STEM subjects (and in geek culture in general), the idea of teenagers being killed for having that ambition is just…

So let’s celebrate Malala Yousafzai. She’s fourteen and decided to speak out publicly about the Taliban’s edict that girls shouldn’t attend school in her home town of Swat in Pakistan, an edict that has lead to the destruction of 150 schools. Malala wrote a blog about all this for the BBC, and thanks to this and her activism (which has lead to her being awarded a number of peace prizes), she was shot by the Taliban last Tuesday.

She wanted to be a doctor.

Malala Yousafzai

Now she wants to be a politician to help fight for those other girls who want to become doctors, or engineers or programmers or whatever. And yes, that’s a noble and necessary goal, but isn’t it horrific that the world loses a doctor because the fight to see girls receive a decent education is so necessary?

Now I know that I’m a white western male, and am therefore up to my eyeballs in privilege, but it seems ridiculous that we’re marginalizing and persecuting the ambitions of around half the world’s young people. Look at all the talent and passion humanity is squandering because people like Malala not only receive a lack of encouragement but are shot at. Yesterday was Blog Action Day, and it was all about ‘The Power of We’, about how working together and forging communities can change the world. Well, this is the flipside – disenfranchised teenagers and dreams and ambitions being destroyed by extremists. And yes, we can demonise and hate those extremists, but 150 schools don’t get destroyed, women don’t get paid less, without some level of tacit approval from everyone else. That should be a wake-up call; for the sake of young people like Malala, let’s hope it is.

(Okay, so I got a bit political this year. For a less politicized response to ALD, here’s my post from last year…)

International Day of the Girl Child

Today is International Day of the Girl Child.

Two days ago, Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old from Pakistan, was shot because the Taliban didn’t like her stance on girls receiving a decent education.

Some contrasts speak for themselves.

An Apology and an Announcement

I’d just like to apologise for not updating the blog recently. However, I have a good reason for this – look what I did on Saturday:

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They say that getting married and moving house are two of the most stressful things you can ever do – my wife Helen and I have done both of those in the space of three weeks, and it’s fair to say that it would have been impossible without the love, support, time, effort and resources of our friends and families.

We had a lot of help, to the extent that the wedding was almost crowd sourced from among the people we know – flowers, catering, photography and logistics were all provided by friends who used their talents and professionalism to make our wedding day something very special.

And to Helen, I just want to say thank you for becoming my wife. I love you so much and I know we’ll be happy together in the years to come. I love you.

And to readers I haven’t just married, there will be forthcoming posts on my explorations of my new home town, further Geocaching adventures and musings on The Princess Bride. See you there!

You Are What You Choose To Be: Happy Birthday, The Iron Giant

On this day in 1999, one if my favourite films was released; here’s a repost of my review.

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This post contains spoilers!

Today is International Animation Day, and so I thought it would be nice to talk about one of my favourite animated movies. The Iron Giant, released in 1999 and starring Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr and Vin Diesel, is the story of a lonely child, Hogarth Hughes, who encounters and befriends a giant robot from space. You’d think that would be enough, being an adaptation of Ted Hughes’ book The Iron Man, but there’s something else that makes the film dear to me. You see, The Iron Giant is the best Superman film ever made.

At one point in the film, Hogarth is showing the Giant a pile of magazines when they come across a comic featuring an evil robot, Atomo. The Giant instinctively relates to the cover – over the course of the film it’s revealed that he’s a heavily armed war machine – but Hogarth’s having none of this – he sees the Giant as being more like another comic book character:

Oh, here. This is Superman. He’s a lot like you. Crash-landed on Earth, didn’t know what he was doing… but he only uses his powers for good, never for evil. Remember that.

Hogarth’s being naive, of course – the military antagonists hunting the Giant probably have a clearer grasp of the situation, as he was obviously sent to Earth on a mission of conquest. Naivety triumphs over expedience though; although the Giant reacts to perceived threats by, well, blowing them up, his relationship with Hogarth helps him to transcend his programming:

DEAN: He’s a piece of hardware, Hogarth. Why do you think the army was here? He’s a weapon, a big…big gun that walks.

THE GIANT: I… I not gun.

You can’t help but have sympathy for the guy – we’ve got a tendency to categorise each other by what we do for a living, or where we come from. Often that’s not meant to be malicious or exclusionary but it creates a straight-jacket all the same, trapping us within the expectations and perceptions of others. There are still jobs in which women are seen as anomalies; when Obama became president, people wanted to see his birth certificate. Prejudice become handcuffs we slap on the dreams and aspirations of other people. Heck, this is more widespread than we’d imagine – how many rock stars were told to get a job in a bank because of the limited career opportunities for musicians?

Anyway, the movie takes its inevitable course; the military are called in and, because the military in these stories are always misguided and foolish, a nuclear missile is launched at the town. This is 1957, the height of the Cold War, and atomic destruction is an ever-present spectre. And yet there is hope, because the Giant has s decision to make:

HOGARTH (IN FLASHBACK): You are who you choose to be.

THE GIANT: Superman.

With that, the Giant flies to intercept the missile, saving the town but being destroyed in the process, and I’ll openly admit that I cried. One of the themes of Superman over the years is that it’s not really about the powers, it’s the heart and soul behind them, and that’s always been a powerful idea to me. And so maybe it was the animation, maybe it was the evocation of all those Superman comics I’ve read over the years, but The Iron Giant hit me in an emotional way that few movies manage.

(And yes, I’m aware that it’s a very similar twist to Terminator 2. I found it moving then as well.)

Because maybe we all carry around an element of fear – that we’re not good enough, that we’ll never really achieve much, that we lack purpose or, worst case scenario, that we’re a gun and that’s all we’ll ever be. It’s not true. Grace and change are possible. You don’t have to be Atomo; you can be Superman. You just have to make that choice, and act like it’s true.