Monday, 3 May 2021

The Great Marvel Adventure

We decided rather late on in the last lockdown to embark on a marvel-ous cinematic journey. We set ourselves the task of of watching all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in release date order. All done on the new Disney+ streaming service, which is absolutely brilliant.

We started the great MCU adventure the last week of March. Now we are in May we are 17 films in and onto the Black Panther, having watched Thor Ragnarok last night, coincidentally the best of the Thor films, in my opinion. With Ragnarok they clearly made a conscious decision to ramp up the comedy particularly with the introduction of Korg, one of the funniest Marvel characters.

So Phase 1 and 2 done. Some excellent films in there. The fact that the wife was asleep about 10 minutes into our adventure didn't detract from the enjoyment. I don't know if she made it past the opening credits of Iron Man. It was a close call. 

The big dilemma was, watch all the films in chronological order or according to their release date. We eventually decided on release date as we figured, because the writers had the entire Avengers universe planned out it should all tie in according to their release dates. There are a lot of little nuanced scenes linking the marvel universe together that I missed seeing the films separately the first time round but picked up on this time around. Which is a large part of why we wanted to embark on this film adventure. We also found out that the little post credit scene nuggets that link the movies together increases as the universe rattles off the films. What starts off as an arousing little teaser in Iron Man, grows into a 5(!) scene circus come Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. 

If I had to pick my favourites so far it would probably have to be Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor Ragnarok, with Captain America Civil War, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron a close second.

Onto the last 6 films!

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

The Magic of a Fantastic Imagination

A doorway to another world...

There is nothing more precious than a child's imagination. A vivid, creative mind is a truly beautiful thing. And a scarce thing these days. When I was little we didn't have video games or the television on for 5 hours a day. I spent most of my free time playing outside, sports usually, and reading books or playing with my GI Joe figurines with my older brother. Creating grand, made-up scenarios in our room.

What I hope for my little girl is that she keeps dreaming and keeps fantasising. In today's world there are so many scary, external stimuli for young children and so many negative influences for grown ups that being able to stay in that innocent and magical bubble for as long as possible is an absolute blessing. The time children get these days to be truly young and careless is shrinking every year. Social media has taken hold of their lives and keeps dragging them further and further away from the natural joys of life.

I started reading science fantasy at an early age and that opened up my mind to imaginary worlds, magical creatures and adventure stories. I see books as a huge asset in allowing children to explore their imagination. Through books and the stories held within them they learn about the world.

Imagination is the gateway to all possibilities. Dreaming big is critically important for young minds. School is where they can then start working hard at those dreams. It's ok to work hard at your dreams and there's no shame in dreaming big. Imagination is the essence of evolution, the start of exploration and the catalyst for change. Imagining a better more expansive world is the foundation on which change is built. Without this creative, open minded thinking there will never be a drive to improve and explore alternative options. Einstein once said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge".

As a child I used to dream about our planet and all the amazing flora and fauna that inhabit it. I used to dream up imaginary worlds of elves, dwarves and trolls. Epic quests to faraway lands kept me entertained for hours. It's no surprise really that I ended up with a thirst for understanding the natural world and thus studying Biology, twice falling to a lottery system to study veterinarian science at the University of Utrecht. I attribute that curiosity of the world we inhabit in part to my imagination as a child. 

Imagination not only takes us to wondrous places and makes life interesting, it stimulates innovation, creates knowledge, but above all it gives hope in difficult times. As long as we have our imagination we can find ways to cope wit whatever life throws at us. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Bush Diving is back!

One of the pleasant consequences of the global pandemic is that bush diving has made a real resurgence. It is once again fashionable and cool to dive headfirst into the nearest hedge as soon as you spot another human being within the same postcode as yourself. 

Now that we all have to socially distance and keep away from each other because, let's be honest, any one of us can have "the bug", it has brought to life a whole new variety of stupid, massively over-exaggerated human behaviour. 

Every time I'm out walking the dog, I encounter about 6 people who decide to plunge demonstrably into the hedge next to them as I get within 30 meters. It's basically a game of chicken to see who dares to come closest. I have to admit, I'm a real badass and I generally push the limit and so I usually win. 

My question is, what happens when you both dive into the hedge at the same time. Does it then develop into a stalemate, a COVID 'sur place' as it were? A standoff to see who moves first. 

To be honest I'm not a bush diver. I tend to stoically keep walking and drop an ice breaking "This crazy world we now live in ey?" as I pass them by. I have no idea if they can hear me as they've impaled themselves on a hawthorn branch and accidentally swallowed a handful of blackthorn berries in the process. 

What's next? 

(My money's on disinfectant spray or possibly shining a very powerful light inside the body...)

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Back to the Future - Racial Equality and Education

I was privileged enough to have been educated at an International School in Switzerland. From the age of 7 I was raised in a culturally diverse environment. I consider myself extremely lucky and grateful to my parents for having that wonderful opportunity. It is a privilege that I have cherished ever since. 

This upbringing not only shaped my view of the world around me and laid the groundwork for my perception of our multicultural society, it also opened my eyes to the changing world and the way we all behave within it. 

The recent social upheaval related to racially unjust brutality in the United States brought me back real quick to my experiences as a young boy at the International School of Basel. Because even in that wonderfully diverse and inclusive environment there still existed a degree of racism. I witnessed it first hand as we headed towards basketball practice. Kobe Bryant, my teammate one grade above me asked for a sip of Coca Cola from one of his fellow American classmates, to which the response came, "sure, just don't n***er-lip it". Kobe cooly handed the Coke back, smiled and walked away.  

This was 1993 and we were 13 and 14 years old. It shocked me at the time that something like this could happen at my School. An international school that always felt like a big happy family. It opened my eyes to the fact that some of the children at my school had a particularly backward view of the world that must have been installed by their parents. 

Looking back on it now I can't say with any sort of confidence that anything was done about it. I sincerely hope something was done about it because I loved that school and always held it in very high regard. However what it proves to me is that even in the most diverse and accepting parts of society you will still have rotten apples. I don't think that will ever change unfortunately. It's what the rest of society does in situations like that to ostracise such behaviour and educate those people.

Whether we can completely eliminate racist behaviour is doubtful but we can certainly do a better job of eliminating it where possible and teaching our children about racial equality.