Thursday, 29 January 2009

Hello, Mr Obama!

A Black Man becoming President, Yesterday

"As much as I would love to see it, I don't think there will ever be a black President of the United States. It's a fantasy." I said that a year-and-a-half ago, when I first heard the name Barack Obama. Sometimes, it's nice to be wrong.

Say what you like about his politics; say what you like about America; say what you like about the promises he's made. The 20th of January was historic.

The BBC has very helpfully decided to track the New President's Professional Progress for his first 100 days in office. Read it all here.

Now, watch this man predict the possibility of a "negro" President "within the next forty years".

Goodbye, Mr Bush!

George W Bush, Idiot and Murderer. Stole Power 7th November 2000 (and again on 2nd November 2004); Dumped in some god-awful ranch in Texas 20th January 2009 (eight years too late)

Nine days ago, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief as the most unpopular president in the history of the United States of America (second only to Everybody's Favourite Crook and Disgraced Politician, "Tricky Dicky" Nixon) was finally escorted out of the White House amid a pantheon of pomp and ceremony, as is customary for these occasions. Of course, the celebration was double, considering his successor, but more of that later.

Regarding the polls, President Bush had this to say: "I frankly don't give a damn about the polls... to assume that historians can figure out the effect of the Bush administration before the Bush administration has ended is... in my mind... not an accurate reflection upon how history works." Hmm: no, but to figure out the effect of the Bush administration during its tenure is a very effective means of recording contemporary attitudes for the sake of future historians. Sorry, chum, but you lost that one.

The reasons for Mr Bush's lack of success both at home and abroad are varied and arguable, ranging from his mishandling of the American economy (turning Clinton's budget surplus into a deficit within eight years; allowing the beginnings of a worldwide economic failure), his neglect for an entire region of the country at a time of local turmoil (the name Katrina rings a bell), his somewhat "folksy" (read "simple") nature and his heavy-handed foreign policy (I'm holding my tongue). Personally, I think it's mainly down to the fact that he was a blundering moron who cared only for pushing a neo-conservative agenda on the rest of the world, and bullying "rogue" states into submission. As far as US history is concerned, he was the most honest of the recent presidents...

Having said this, Mr Bush has provided the world with so much entertainment. Who remembers the trouble with naming foreign head of states while campaigning for the most important job of them all? Or the incident involving a dog and a pretzel? How about the time he was caught lying live on air? There is always, of course, the final fling with a shoe?

History may say what it likes about the man. I wonder if there'll ever be a sitcom, though...

Mr Bush, you will not be missed, and I dare say very eagerly swept under the carpet...

Any daring lawyers willing to take this one on...?

Goodbye, Mr Hart

Tony Hart, Artist and Broadcaster. Born 15 October 1925; Died 18 January 2009

Eleven days ago, the popular children's entertainer died peacefully at the age of 83. His career spanned six decades, beginning in 1952, when he became resident artist on the BBC Saturday morning children's programme Saturday Special.

Over the years, he continued to delight children, inspiring them to try their hand at arts and crafts, presenting Playbox, Titch and Quackers, Vision-On, Take Hart, Hartbeat, Artbox Bunch and Smart Hart. In 1958, he created the iconic "Blue Ship" image which appeared on the iconic programme Blue Peter and its highly-coveted accompanying badge (I have two).

In the 1970s, his clay creation, Morph, made him even more popular with family audiences, eventually becoming something of a break-out of his own right, being commissioned for two short series, in the 1980s and 1990s.

As well as being an inviting, warm, fatherly figure to generations of children up and down the country, Hart was an accomplished and serious artist, occasionally appearing on more adult programmes dedicated to fine art, commenting on classical as well as contemporary artists and their work.

It is difficult to explain the popularity of his programmes, but the amount of time Hart was on our screens is testament enough. Both my dad and myself enjoyed his programmes over the years, despite the lack of talent the latter has for any drawing whatsoever. The point of sending work in to Hart (which was heavily encouraged, with frequent spots of being presented throughout the airtime) was not just to learn how to draw, but aso to learn how to appreciate art and culture from an early age, and is probably responsible for several British artists working today - whether they are aware of it or not.

You can read The Guardian's obituary here, and the BBC's report of his death here.

Mr Hart, you will be greatly missed...

Friday, 2 January 2009

Hello, 2009!

A Pensive, Slim Sanya, a few years ago...

So, New Year, New Me. After the personal disaster that was 2008, I'm going to attempt a turnaround for 2009. Starting with Resolutions: -

  1. Lead a Healthier Lifestyle Namely, I'm going to actually join a gym, this year, and go back to swimming, as well as modify my diet and try and lose some weight. God knows, I need to...
  2. Sort out Finances
    Which have been messy ever since Summer 2007. Since I'll soon have to do messy and complicated things like fill out tax return forms, I might as well learn how to make sure I look like a good, financially stable citizen, despite the financial instability affecting us all.
  3. Organise My Life I'm a mess, and that has got to stop. First things first, work towards getting the best marks I can, at university, this year, and really take advantage of my priviledges.
  4. Learn New Skills
    I'm finally going to take the plunge, and learn French; and Salsa.
  5. Give More of Myself
    Depite me always moaning about how busy I am, I know I can spare an hour or two to do something for other people, so if you have any ideas of a charity for I could volunteer, I'm all ears.
  6. Write More About Spain (One for the Blog)
    Since some people seem to be wagging their tongues about the content of a blog called "Sanya in España" being dominated by pretty much any topic other than that advertised. Well, sorry, but, as I have said before, I've been too busy doing it to bother writing about it, afterwards. Watch this space.
How long before I can them all in? Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets...

Look! Sanya with Spanish People...In Spain! Sanya's in Spain...!

Goodbye, 2008...

This is How We Do New Year's in Madrid...

So, the Last Goodbye has been said to 2008, now officially dubbed The Worst Year of My Life (so far). Ah, well, after three years of uninterrupted pleasure and excitement, the disappointment had to come sometime.

Main causes of upset have been the break-up of my family, the financial crisis affecting the entire world, my summer hell, and almost ruining my chances of even arriving in Spain in time for the start of the academic year.

However, some interesting things, have happened; and so I thought I'd have a look back at yet another eventful year.

Politics and Current Affairs: As the global stock markets continue to fall, people start to wonder - "Does this mean recession? Nah..."

Politics and Current Affairs: Fidel Castro steps down as President of Cuba, and his brother, Raúl, takes control. Most people expect it to be business as usual, until some startling changes begin to happen.
Personal Life: I get my first "proper" student job, after a year-and-a-half of attempted laziness. My efforts are paid in food and money.
Other News: A total lunar eclipse crosses North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.

Politics and Current Affairs: The farce of presidential and parlimentary elections are held in Zimbabwe - Mugabe "wins", again, surprisingly...
Culture: Hype begins to build over the second Batman installment, in no small part due to the death of Heath Ledger, in January.
Personal Life: After two years of membership, I finally perform with the National Youth Theatre - being an "in-house" production, no-one has actually paid to se me. I met Mark Ravenhill, though...

Personal Life: Easter is spent working, eating, and reading. Well, two out of three ain't bad...

Culture: Reading Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure changes my opinion of the world.
Personal Life: See above

Personal Life: Despite my various extra-curricular ativities, I manage to scrape an overall First Class mark for the academic year: no-one is more surprised than myself.
Other News: Expo 2008 is held in Zaragoza, Spain, with the topic of "Water and sustainable development".

Politics and Current Affairs: The 34th G8 Summit, bringing together the leaders of the eight most developed democratic states in the world, makes more promises: this time, they'll pour money into African Aid and seeking sustainable energy as a viable alternative.
Personal Life: I flit between London, Brighton, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Henley-on-Thames. Rock and roll...

Politics and Current Affairs: Spanair Flight 5022, from Madrid to Gran Canaria, skids off the runway and crashes at Barajas Airport with 172 on board. 154 of them are killed and only 18 survive.
Culture: The Games of the 29th Olympiad are held in Beijing, China; opening, running, and closing with great success. Well, dictatorships are disciplined, you see...
Personal Life: Desperate, unprepared, and with no money, I find myself making some of the worst mistakes of my life (so far)

Politics and Current Affairs: President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa resigns after accepting a call by the African National Congress. Good riddance to the arrogant, stupid, AIDS-denier...
Personal Life: I finally get to Spain, with a lot of help from some friends.

Politics and Current Affairs: "Hmm, the world seems to be falling further into financial turmoil. We'd better do something soon, I suppose..."
Culture: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is officially inaugurated. It is a collaboration of over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories.
Personal Life: I make lots of new friends. I miss my old ones, though.

Politics and Current Affairs: Barack Hussein Obama II is elected the first African-American President of the United States of America. 'Nuff said.
Personal Life: Turning 21 makes me realise how much needs to change, in my life.
Other News: Claudia Castillo of Spain becomes the first person to have a successful trachea transplant using a tissue-engineered organ.

Politics and Current Affairs: Israel initiates a series of airstrikes against the Gaza Strip, killing at least 375 (including at least 60 civilians) and wounding over 1,700. And counting...
Culture: Ruins of an ancient Wari city are discovered in northern Peru.
Personal Life: Christmas and New Year's Eve are spent in Madrid, my new home. My New Year's Resolutions are to primarily improve my outlook on life and experience new sensations.
Other News: An extra leap second (23:59:60) is added to end the year. The last time this occurred was in 2005.

Phew! And that was only a small portion of it... Well, here's to the future...

Goodbye, Mr Pinter

Harold Pinter, Playwright. Born 10 October 1930; Died 24 December 2008

On Christmas Eve 2008, Harold Pinter, one of the greatest English playwrights in history, died aged 78.

The Nobel Prize-Winner had written consistently over a period of fifty years, receiving his award in 2005.

Apart from being a consumate artist, as a writer, actor and thinker, Pinter was also a fervent political activist, strongly opposing the aggressive foreign policy employed by the Bush-Blair administrations thoughout the curent decade.

On a more personal note, I was terribly saddened by the news, as he has always been one of my favourite writers and critics of the theatre, The Birthday Party, The Homecoming and The Caretaker being an exciting trio of plays challenging the notions of contemporary theatre, and inspiring many writers of our generation. His recent performance of the title character in the Royal Court's 2006 production of Krapp's Last Tape will probably be one of my greatest regrets, as I didn't have the chance to see one of my favourite writer/actors perfom the work of Beckett, another favourite.

His astonishly accurate speech on Art, Truth and Politics, transmitted upon receipt of his Nobel Prize, is posted, below, while you can read The Guardian's obituary here, and the BBC's report of his death here.

Mr Pinter, you will be greatly missed...

Goodbye, Ms Kitt

Eartha Mae Kitt (Keith), Singer and Entertainer. Born 17 January 1927; Died 25 December 2008

On Christmas Day 2008, the legendary performer, Earth Kitt, succumbed to colon cancer.

The star was famous for, among her other achievements, her feline purr, sultry voice, and playing Catwoman in the gloriously camp 1960s Batman TV series.

In the mid 1980s, she made a name for herself with a new generation by releasing a series of hit disco-pop singles, beginning with "Where Is My Man", and continuing with similarly titled successes "I Don't Care" and "I Love Men".

She wasn't all camp charisma and gay abandon, though. After becoming a virtual pariah in the USA, when speaking out against the Vietnam War, she spent time touring in Europe, where she had a consistently appreciative fan base, before returning to her home to make the comeback only a true Diva could: in style.

Her rendition of "Santa Baby" will always be one of the most memorable, and is posted below for your pleasure. Also, you can read The Guardian's obituary here, and the BBC report of her death here.

Ms Kitt, you will be greatly missed...