Scotland’s Liberation????

Opening ceremony for Highland Games in Alberta, Canada
Is this the future? Opening ceremony for Highland Games in Alberta, Canada

The Big Event

This coming Friday Scotland gets to vote on whether it wants to be free from the UK. Right now those favoring independence for the rugged patch of land seem to be slightly ahead……But a lot can change in the days leading up to the vote, even among those picturesque hills that cover the northern tip of Great Britain. No matter how you look at it, this vote is big and the results could create political-cultural ripple effects that would travel around the globe.

If Scotland Votes Yes

As a U.S. citizen, I can’t vote in Scotland, but still that does not stop me from voicing my opinion that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation. Nonetheless, there is no way to predict exactly how a yes vote will play out. This scenario could play out badly for all parties involved, especially Wales, which may want to follow in Scotland’s footsteps, if they succeed.

What A No Vote Means

A “No” vote means the status quo remains in place. Still, there will be changes in Scottish-English relations, for there is a very good chance that London will give the Scottish a little more autonomy within the UK union. A “No” vote also means it will be a long time before Scotland is faced with another opportunity to establish itself as an independent nation. And it also will make things more difficult in Wales, for those who wish to secede. By the way the majority of political leaders from the western nations have gone on record as being opposed to Scottish independence, including our own president, Barrack Obama, who made a very briefly statement that he thought it would be best if the UK remain united.

Quotes About Scotland

1. “My point is there’s a hidden Scotland in anyone who speaks the Northern Ireland speech. It’s a terrific complicating factor, not just in Northern Ireland, but in Ireland generally.”  Seamus Heaney

2. “Forgive your enemy, but remember the bastard’s name.” Scottish proverb

3. “In Scotland we have mixed feelings about global warming because we will get to sit on the mountains and watch the English drown.” Frankie Boyle

4. Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.” Sir Winston Churchill

5. Oats. A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” Samuel Johnson

6. The Scottish sun, shocked by having its usual cloudy underpinnings stripped away, shone feverishly, embarrassed by its nakedness.” Stuart Haddon

7. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world, the history is fascinating, the men are handsome and the whisky is delicious. But don’t eat the macaroni pies.” JK Rowling

8. Learning to pipe isn’t easy. At first it always sounds worse than a chicken yard full of squawking adolescent roosters.” Amy Jarecki, from Beauty and the Barbarian

9. Scotland is the Canada of England!” Rainn Wilson

10. Edinburgh is a great big black bastard of a city where there are ghosts of all kinds.” Sara Sheridan, Ma Polinski’s Pockets 11. The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!” Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

12. “If you make a film about a pig farmer in Wales and you are a huge hit as the pig farmer’s wife, the next thing is you’ll be asked to do a film about a sheep farmer in Scotland.”  Kristin Scott Thomas

Quotes About the Independence Vote

1. “I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone. I know first-hand the contribution Scotland and Scots make to Britain’s success – so for me there’s no question about whether Scotland could be an independent nation.”  David Cameron

2. “I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect… are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.” Tony Abbott Prime Minister of Australia

3. “Scottish independence throws up the possibility of a more progressive England. We won’t be British any more, we’ll be English.” Billy Bragg

4. “The simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same 21st century pressures as the rest of the world. The more I listen to the Yes campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks.” JK Rowling

5. “I would hate to have you lose Scotland,……..I hope that it doesn’t happen but I don’t have a vote in Scotland……..I would think it would be a loss for both sides.” Hillary Clinton to Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight

6. (Scottish Independence) “is too good an opportunity to miss”  Sean Connery

7. “Thank you very, very much and Scotland – stay with us.” David Bowie

8. “Staying in the United Kingdom presents greater certainty and stability.” Barrack Obama

9.  “I’m deeply suspicious of patriotism.  People following the band, you know?  I don’t want to be part of it.  It’s paved with fools.” J.K. Rowling

10. “All division worries me.  The secession of a nation without a history of forced unity has to be handled with tweezers and analysed case by case.” Pope Francis

A More Conservative England

Despite Billy Bragg’s rosy optimism, an independent Scotland could result in a more conservative England. This may be come as a major surprise to anyone residing in the USA or Canada, but the elected Scottish representatives serving in London are a very left-leaning bunch. Take away these politicians and not only will GB be more conservative, but the Labor party, which has a lot of support in Scotland will be significantly weakened. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with a system where there’s been 17 years of a Tory Government and the people of Scotland have voted Socialist for 17 years. That hardly seems democratic.” Sean Connery

A Glimmer of Hope

Most observers seem to agree that a “yes” vote for independence would spur other cultural minorities to seek independence from their respective Motherland. Even before the vote takes place, independence movements have been spurred on in places like the Catalans in Spain and the Flemish in Belgium. Even though it is possible that these movements might succeed in the near future, there is one place, where a new independent nation might be particularly beneficial.

And that my friends is the Middle East, where a internationally recognized Kurdish nation is long overdue and greatly needed. If Scottish independence translates into a Kurdish nation, down the road, then I’m all for it.

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Five Disturbing Trends From 2012 That I Hope Are Not Continued In 2013

640px-Otley_Cemetery
A municipal graveyard near Otley, Yorkshire, Great Britain, from Wikipedia, photo by TJ Blackwell

The Mass Killings

Two mass killings in the U.S. during the second half of 2012 have saddened and shocked the entire nation. The last one in Connecticut was particularly disturbing because of the large number of school children that died and since its occurrence happened so close to the Christmas holidays. I hope that finally universal awareness that over 10,000 handgun deaths a year is way too high for such a technologically advanced country as the United States. However, bringing the number of deaths down in the future, may be not be so simple. The silver lining in this ominous cloud is that the goal has been clearly defined.

journey-h-kopp-delaney
Journey; photo by H. Koppdelaney

Awareness Of Global Warming

The situation with global warming is twice as complicated as the first issue. Awareness of the extent that global warming affects our lives is much more varied. Take for example the current cold snap that has gripped Southern California and the Southwest. Even though weather scientists attribute the root cause of this weather phenomena to unseasonably warm winter temperatures over Greenland, there will be many that see the cold weather outbreak as proof that global warming is a hoax. Please note that unseasonably warm temperatures have also found their way into Alaska.  And then, there still remains the common scenario that even if global warming was more readily acknowledged, the solution to the problem may still prove to be very elusive.

ravens
photo by H. Koppdelaney

Fifty Shades of Anything

English author E.L. James (Erika Leonard in real life) got this ball rolling with Fifty Shades of Grey. The popular piece of erotic fiction quickly sold millions of copies and soon thereafter morphed into the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which now includes two new volumes, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. So far the bundle, which is somewhat derivative of Stephanie Meyer’s characters in the Twilight series. So far, Miss James has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, making her one of the most popular modern authors.

Stylistically, Fifty Shades of Grey has fallen under the slang of “mommy porn”, due to the age and gender of a majority of its readers. The trilogy definitely falls under the catch-all category of erotica, but more specifically is labelled as BDSM or dominance/submission erotic fiction. Critical reception has varied widely, as many authors have joined the bandwagon and put out their own version of Fifty Shades. These titles range from 50 Shades of Alice In Wonderland to 50 Shades of Obama (or Romney)…..your choice.

Self Published Erotic Authors

Sites like Smashwords are filled with the works of amateur erotica authors, who now due to the ease of self-publishing an e-book, are putting out one title after another. Presumably following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Anais Nin, Erica Jong, Anne Rice (alias A.N. Roquelaure), Henry Miller, Mark Twain, Marquis de Sade and Susie Bright, these budding authors will all probably be millionaires by year’s end.

lifeofpi
Movie still from The Life of Pi

Loss of Biodiversity

The biological diversity of our planet has been decreasing, as of late. This sad fact has been well documented by many scientific organizations and more often than not the root cause is closely related to man’s economic activities on the planet. Some good news is out there, in that conservation efforts are still quite numerous and their practitioners are often very optimistic and dedicated towards this issue.

Romney’s Delusions

NGC 6357: Cathedral to Massive Stars
NGC 6357: Cathedral to Massive Stars
Image Credit: NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (IAA, Spain)

Election Night

After a long and drawn out campaign Mitt Romney went into election night with an overwhelming  feeling of competence that they would win the election. Evidence for this can be seen in the website that was put up right after the polls by the Republican Presidential Campaign Staff and in the fact that Romney only wrote an acceptance speech, which of course he planned on delivering to the nation sometime later that night. I hate to gloat, but I would had loved to been a fly on the wall, when Mitt finally sat down and penned a short concession speech. In Mitt’s defense it should be noted that concession speeches are usually very brief, while a victory proclamation necessitates a bit more effort. And furthermore, writing a victory speech is good PR, especially if you are able to get a press release out before the polls close. Still, the overall effect, remains that despite the fact the race was close, Romney and staff missed some key warning signs as to how the election would turn out, especially in the electoral college, where President Obama outpaced the ex-Massachusetts Governor by more than a 100 points.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, from Wikipedia, photo by Alkarex Malin äger

Romney’s Miscalculations

Unseating a sitting president is not so easy, especially when the incumbent enjoys a 50 % approval rating. In this sense presidential politics is a lot like a heavyweight boxing match. And that means you have to soundly beat the champ to get the referee’s decision. I think this is one area, where the Romney camp underestimated the challenge of defeating the president.

And the other would be the swing states. Even though Obama’s lead was statistically slim it was still steady and did not change much during the last few weeks of campaigning. The fact that Obama carried places like Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada by a good five percentage points raises the question whether these places really were toss-ups.

What Romney Did Right

The best thing Romney did for the Republican party was revive the Nixon strategy….and that is…… where you run to the right to get the nomination, then circle back towards the left and the center to win in November. I think that if the Republicans what to revive their hopes in the next presidential contest, they will have to follow this strategy. Also of note is the fact that Romney was the only major Republican candidate to accept the likelihood that “climate change” is affecting us right now in 2012. How it affects us and what we can do about it, is another story, but acknowledging the existence of this recent phenomena does put anybody running for higher office on the right track.

What Gore, Romney and George W. Bush Have In Common

Quite simply, they are all sons of prominent politicians. And they have all been selected by their respective parties to run for the office of the President of the United States. As a group they have not fared well, for only George W. has been able to break the 50% barrier…..and that only occurred once in 2004. Even then, Mr. Bush saw his popularity plummet after the election due to war and a deteriorating economy.

Bob Dylan’s Transfiguration

Bob Dylan with Joan Baez
Bob Dylan with Joan Baez in 1963, from Wikipedia, photo credit National Archives and Records Administration

“In my case, there’s a whole world of scholars, professors and Dylanologists, and everything I do affects them in some way. And you know in some way I’ve given them life. They’d be nowhere without me.”   Bob Dylan from the Rolling Stone Interview

The Interview

Last week Rolling Stone Magazine officially released their September 27 issue, which included a lengthy interview with Bob Dylan. The interview, which was conducted by Mikal Gilmore had generated some pre-publication press, especially around his quotes concerning plagiarism and U.S. slavery. I actually got my hands on a copy of the R & R mag yesterday and had a chance to read the in-depth discussion between Mr. Dylan and Mr. Gilmore. What I learned was very interesting and also very informative.

Transfiguration

Transfiguration – A marked change in form or appearance; a metamorphosis.     from the American Heritage Dictionary

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the interview is Bob Dylan’s belief…… that he was transfigured, when another person bearing the same name, died in a motorcycle accident in 1964. This is heady stuff indeed, but its inclusion makes for good reading. And that other person, who died in 1964 was named Bobby Zimmerman…..and…he was president of the San Bernadino chapter of Hells Angels at the time of his death. Even stranger still is the publisher’s footnote stating that the Hells Angels guy really died in 1961 almost at the same time that Bob Dylan (formerly known as Robert Zimmerman) got his first big break in the form of a NY Times interview.

The Fifties

Another important fact to note, when discussing the folk bard, is that Dylan was born right before Pearl Harbor and that he attended high school in Hibbing, Minnesota during the fifties. Not only were the 50s a more peaceful time, but also the future folksinger’s early life in the hinterlands of America may have been instrumental in the development of Dylan as a singer and social critic. A quick look and listen to some of the rock’n roll artists of that era will go a long way in learning about how somebody from those years might view the world. If you don’t agree check out this list of the top five R & R hits for that decade.  In descending order it includes Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry, Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley, Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, Tutti-Frutti by Little Richard and Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On by Jerry Lee Lewis. This list says a lot.

Other Interesting Topics

Other areas of discussion that caught my eye include a defense of borrowing and some thoughts on John Lennon. Plagiarism is a term tossed around the literary world a lot. In Dylan’s opinion this happens more often than it should be, for it is in unavoidable dilemma that any folksinger, poet playwright, writer or whatnot cannot create fresh material without borrowing from the past. For me that kind of says it all.

Bob Dylan and President Obama
President Obama rewarding Bob Dylan with the Medal of Freedom at the White House, from Wikipedia source NASA

The Case For Slam Poetry

Northern Lights Over Iceland, Credit: Stephane Vetter (Nuits sacrees)
Northern Lights Over Iceland, Credit: Stephane Vetter (Nuits sacrees)

Controversy At The White House

Just last week the White House invited a rapper, who goes by the name of Common Sense, to give a reading at a Wednesday Night poetry reading. Common Sense, whose real name is Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., has been on the rap scene for many years now. He still manages to draw White House attention, even though he has not recorded anything substantial, since 2000. Nonetheless, “Common Sense” managed to draw some fire this time from Sarah Palin, among others, due to his pass support of Assata Shakur.It should be noted that Common Sense has appeared before (notably the Christmas season) without drawing any fire.

Further Developments

The debate did not stop there, for just last night Jon Stewart appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program, “The O’Reilly Factor”, just to exchange views with the host about Common Sense’s White House visit, rap music in general and the limits of free speech. It appears just by his appearance and ability to hold his own on the Fox News show, Jon have may benefitted more from the debate. Anyway the two pundits got to know each other much better, and left the show best of friends.

Pushing The Envelope

But why should the WH appreciation be limited to listening to one Chicago over-the-hill rapper. Why not sponsor a genuine Poetry Slam with numerous contestants, a panel of judges and a lively audience cheering on their favorite contender. Slam Poetry fests are a lively form of literary entertainment that could  use some more exposure. Although they display a verbal influence from Rap, they are very much different to sitting in a bar or state occasion getting bombarded with the latest lyrics du jour.

Obama Trumps Osama

The Cat's Eye Nebula from Hubble
The Cat’s Eye Nebula from Hubble Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The Story

Just the other day a man named Obama tracked down another man named Osama, who was quickly dispatched to the next world.  Actually, Obama only gave the orders, for the secret mission was carried out by a bunch of SEALs, as in Sea, Air & Land mission. In the few days since the great event occurred, news of the action has traveled many times around the world. Now that Osama is gone and our president (Obama) is currently enjoying a small surge in popularity, I thought It would be of interest to look into the origins of these terms words and take a look at what meaning each name confers.

Obama

According to answers.com the family name Obama is derived from the Dholuo, the name of the language of the Luo people of southwestern Kenya, a place where President Obama’s father was born. The family name actually comes from the base word bam, which can be translated as something that is crooked or bent. This word most likely refers to a crooked stick or leg rather than someone who is dishonest.

Osama

On the other hand, Osama comes directly from Arabic and when translated into English, means lion, as in king of the jungle. I guess it is fair to say that Osama was not very much a lion if he got done in by a bunch of seals.

The Rest of the Story

To complete the discussion of names, it should be noted that Barrack, Obama’s first name is derived from Swahili, which is very similar to Arabic, and simply means “blessed”. And then there is bin Laden, which is a family name that is passed down to the son.


Tainted Cup of Tea

K2 is a mountain on the China-Pakistan border, from Wkikpedia
K2 is a mountain on the China-Pakistan border, from Wikipedia

Fiction Or Non-fiction

As of late, 60 minutes is becoming a regular visitor on the literary scene. Their latest excursion into the literary world occurred this Sunday night and concerned one of the best-selling non-fiction writers in the English language.  The writer of concern is Greg Mortenson who has written the best-seller, Three Cups of Tea. If just some of the things that Mortenson’s critics claim are true, Mortenson might have to re-classify his popular travel and humanitarian story as fiction. Does anybody remember James Fry and the controversy that erupted over A Million Little Pieces? Seems that Greg Mortenson might have problems of a similar nature.

Add Fraud

Unfortunately, Mortenson’s problem may not be limited to telling a few tall tales in a non-fiction venue. You see Mortenson has developed a whole network of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that are operated from funds provided by philanthropists from around the world. Some of the more notable benefactors include Jon Krakauer and Barrack Obama, both of whom are successful authors in their own right. According to the reporters at CBS 60 minutes, Mortenson has participated in several questionable practices with his fundraising activities. These include misuse of non-profit status to promote a private enterprise, funding schools that don’t exist or are no longer in service and fabricating facts.

Deeper Problems

Just for stretching the facts in his memoir,  James Fry in conjunction with his publisher had to refund dissatisfied customers, plus give large sums of money to several deserving charities. Still, Fry was able to complete and sell a follow-up novel that has enjoyed good sales. So when all is said and done, the inaccuracies in “Million Pieces” may boil down to some very expensive advertising for the next novel. Events may not turn out so well for the author of “Three Cups of Tea”.For even if only half of what 60 Minutes reports is true, Mortenson could be in much deeper trouble.