Saturday, 28 March 2009

The underground press of the late sixties

Long before the term information technology or IT was invented, a small underground newspaper was founded in London and found its way onto the streets.
Founded in 1966, international times was born. The name was soon changed to it following objections from The Times of London. The paper was good, containing a mixture of graphics and new journalism. Some remnants can be found on the international times web page.
Contibutors to it included Germaine Greer, William Burroughs and a host of other to be prominent writers of the future. Content ranged from politics to alternatives, drugs, the Vietnam war, feminism ...
Over time interest waned and at times the paper was a little over the top. My favourites ramain the many issues of the late 1960's.
The cover of the May 1967 issue is reprinted here. I understand that this would constitute fair usage. The source is Wikipedia

Friday, 27 March 2009

Earth Hour 2009 - switch off to make a difference

The organisers of Earth Hour 2009 are hoping for 1 billion people to turn off their lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday 28 March.
The difference can be seen by saltelites in space.
This is a positive move by the people of the world towards putting an end to climate change and reversing some of the damage that has already been done. There are alternatives to using fossil fuels to light up our lives.
Bring out the candles and sit down for a romantic dinner at 8:30. Lets all make a difference.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Stadiums take shape for 2010 FIFA World Cup

There were many doubters that South Africa would be ready in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. But the stadiums are taking shape in spectacular fashion.

This is the Nelson Mandela Multipurpose Stadium from various viewpoints from a blog by Dissol.

Other infrastructure - including roads - are being upgraded on a massive scale.

Nelson Mandela Multipurpose Stadia lighting Test

With less than 500 days to go South Africa is showing signs that everything will be ready to the highest standard well ahead of the required time.

Nelson Mandela Multipurpose Stadium
Nelson Mandela Multipurpose interior

Saturday, 07 March 2009

Five easy stress reducers

Stress is one of the big killers of the day. Stress can wreck the health, relationships and career of those that suffer from its effects. We all know how it feels and how it affects us at home and at work. As one of the main health-hazards of the age, stress must be managed on an ongoing basis to minimise its impact.

After a stressful day at work many find themselves in a bar in a vain attempt to drown their sorrows. Some take on illicit relationships or indulge in narcotics, gambling or overeating. These are not solutions! In the long run destructive practices can lead to even greater levels of stress.

A few simple yet effective techniques can help!

Exercise is a key remedy. You can start with a few breathing techniques. Deep breathing is very beneficial and can help to turn a stressful day into one that is relaxed and under control. Breathing can be done in any position standing, lying down or sitting. Begin with a four-part cycle. Inhale to the count of five, hold your breath for a count of five, exhale to the count of five and finally leave your lungs empty for a count of five. Repeat five to ten times. Both inhalation and exhalation are through the nose. Apart from promoting deep relaxation, deep breathing ensures greater circulation of oxygen through the body. The breathing techniques can be applied on rising, before retiring and at key times during the day.

Running, walking or exercising at the gym are healthy and constructive outlets. A bio-kineticist may help to identify precisely what exercise you need. Stressed people often avoid exercise, but a few minutes per day of physical activity can produce very beneficial results. Yoga provides a more gentle but equally beneficial alternative. Remember, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.

Creative activities such as drawing, painting and music are known for their therapeutic effects. Consider joining an art class! Listen to music. Words come from the heart, music from the soul. If you can play an instrument, then make a practice of doing it. Find people to play with you. Music puts us into a different mind-set and can help to change our levels of stress in a very real way. Take yourself out of your usual stressful environment into a world where the power of your brain's right hemisphere is unleashed. Art is a very effective stress reliever.

Spend more time with your family. One of the harmful effects of stress is to push our family into take second place. But isn't it family and friends that that are really important? Think of activities in which the whole family can take part. Make time for real communication. Find time to listen to your partner and your children. Find out who they are. Do things together.

A day in the country, a weekend of boating or a few days at the coast away from the rat race can work wonders. The annual summer holiday has great benefits, but the results tend to be short lived. Making more of the weekends and more often can help to provide that much needed balance. Put the stresses of daily life aside for a while. When you return with less stress, you will be better placed to face the world.

Finally, get yourself a pet. The benefits of forming relationships with animals are well documented. Retirement homes and hospitals have introduced the concept of animal visits because of their profound therapeutic effects. A dog or a cat can provide a lot of comfort and company. Animals do not judge but give pure love.

Relieving stress is not only vital to our health it is fun! Remember. Less stressed people are happier and live longer. Begin a stress relief programme today!

Thursday, 05 March 2009

Rock festivals - memories of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival

The golden era of rock festivals was undoubtedly the late 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps the greatest of these festivals was the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival which attracted a crowd of 600,000 young people. Click here for some great photos of the site and the people that were there.

No musical event has ever been staged to compare to this magnificent event which featured many of the world's most influential musicians of the time. No musical event has ever matched the huge number of people that attended.

The festival began on Wednesday August 26 and ended in the early hours of August 31.

At the tender age of 17, I purchased a ticket for the grand price of 7 and made my way from London
by train and ferry to the quiet and peaceful island festival site. The locals were mostly of a much more conservative type, and many were alarmed to see hordes of long haired hippies' wearing tie-dyed t-shirts, flared jeans or velvet pants, long dresses, Afghan coats and beads streaming across the island.

Armed with little more than a sleeping bag, the five days of summer were dry and the nights were warm. All around were people. The air was rich with the smell of hashish. LSD was readily available for those that wanted to experience the event in true psychedelic style. Police maintained a low profile but there were few reasons for them to intervene.

Around the festival site were tents where Hare Krishna devotees offered food, a tent for those experiencing bad trips' or horror experiences under the influence of LSD, and other religious groups.

The technology at the time allowed for a large screen. The TV cameras were large. Between each act was a long delay while equipment was moved on and off the stage.

The festival was truly five days of peace music and love.

Amongst the musicians that performed was Jimi Hendrix, just three weeks before his untimely death. Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, The Who and The Doors were just a few of the acts that graced the stage. The complete festival programme is characteristic of the era and well worth seeing.

One of the highlights was the Miles Davis who featured his controversial Bitches Brew composition. Miles Davis' band included such luminaries as Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul and Larry Young. Bitches Brew ushered in a new era of avante guard and fusion jazz.

The world has changed in many ways since then. The Hippy generation have turned straight, many nearing retirement. But the ideals and hopes of that generation expressed in the experience of the rock festivals of the day will never be repeated.

Sunday, 01 March 2009

Memories of Youngs Beer

I first tried Youngs beers in London in the early seventies. At the time most British pubs were dominated by the 'big 4' breweries. Most pubs were owned by these breweries whose beer was watery and full of chemicals. But Britain also had a longstanding tradition of independent breweries mostly known in specific local areas. Most pubs in the UK are owned and controlled by a brewery. There are few independents that sell beers from competing breweries.

The independent breweries around London still made quality beer or bitter using traditional methods. In the London area these included Fullers and Youngs. The real beer movement was just taking off at the time.

The Youngs family bought the long established Ram brewery in 1831. The Ram brewery actually dates back to the sixteenth century! The purchase included 80 pubs many of which still belong to Youngs today. The Youngs brewery was located in Wandsworth in South West London where I lived for eleven years. Throughout the seventies Youngs still delivered their beer to the pubs on horse drawn carriages. The horses were the most beautiful and well groomed shire horses.

The popularity of Youngs pubs in South West London of the time lay not only in the tradition but in the quality of the beers. The beers were beers to be enjoyed. The bitter was light bodied and fairly fruity with a hint of malt. The alcohol content was about 3.5 % - low by international standards but more than the big breweries offerings. My favourite was Youngs Special.

My group of friends frequented many Youngs pubs in the area. One pub in particular that I remember was a pub in Putney on the river Thames. During the summer of 1976 - at the time one of the hottest and driest on record - London underwent a kind of revolution. The tables and chairs of restaurants and pubs alike migrated to the sidewalks and any outdoor areas adjacent to the facility. The pub in question had also virtually moved outdoors and was the scene of many pleasant summer evenings enjoying Youngs Special.

After an absence of thirty years I may be forgiven by being unable to name the individual pubs that I frequented with friends. Names that I thought that I would remember forever. Many of the pubs offered pub lunches as an alternative to outside restaurants. A Wandsworth pub close to my last workplace in London offered good food at reasonable prices. The menu varied from day to day but included a delicious cauliflower cheese to be washed down with a pint of Young's bitter.

By the time I left London in 1979 the real ale movement was gaining momentum and Youngs was thriving. Today, Youngs beers are available in the South East and parts of the South West of England. Apart from the fine draught beers offered in Youngs pubs, a variety of quality bottles beers are even more widely available. The Youngs brewery is much larger and is no longer in Wandsworth. As for the horses, I hope that they are still a part of the Youngs family.