Avaaz – hear our voices – internet global petitioning

Avaaz in their words are ‘a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere’.

Avaaz comes from the Persian word for ‘voice’ or ‘song’ and was founded in 2007 in the spirit of other such burgeoning social media at the time most notably Facebook and Twitter.

And in the spirit of the disconnect between those governing and those governed – and not just in Dictatorships but alas in Democratic nations and the spectre of Croney Capitalism with the mainstream media fused with its governments and global corporate interests – with most of the mainstream hard working populace left out in the cold.

Avaaz is an attempt to bring the often unheard voices of peoples of all countries together to persuade our often remote and unlistening global leaders to a particular cause.

Identifying causes which are universal, shared across cultures and nations, is no easy task and in the television program Hard Talk on the BBC 24 channel Stephen Sackur addressed these and other issues very forcefully.

The program also addressed the politics of the organization – broadly liberal.  This is not an issue for me – the world is diverse and we are not going to agree on all things – but if we believe in an issue then campaign for it – if you don’t like the particular cause espoused then you do not have to sign your name against it.  Further similar petitioning organizations are likely to be set up from a conservative outlook and agenda – it is all about peaceful if passionate persuasion of a particular cause.

I have taken part in a few myself recently – a petition against Rupert Murdoch and his move to increase ownership of BSkyB and hence control over the UK Media and another petition against the appalling practice of corrective rape in South Africa (raping gay women to cure them of their ‘lesbianism’).

Another campaign to the UN Security council to protect the Libyan people protesting against the Government Dictatorship from violent reprisals may have been influential in the decision to impose a No Fly zone over the country on March 19.

It is heartening to be reminded that there is so much that unites rather than divides us and that those who share our values come from every country of the world, from every culture, from every class.

Avril Lullabys

Avril Lavigne’s fourth studio album Goodbye Lullaby is an introspective affair and one which the smart bubblegum pop of her current single What The Hell may not prepare you for.

Girlfriend heralded her last album The Best Damn Thing and that pop gem was followed up in that same go-for-broke spirit on One of those Girls and I Don’t Have to Try but among many other highlights were the more reflective sweeping ballads When I’m Gone and Innocence.

It is in the spirit of those and the glorious I’m With You from her first album Let Go and Don’t Tell Me from her second Under My Skin that Goodbye Lullaby is placed.

From the opening piano keys of Black Star via the plaintive I Love You right through to the closing epic Goodbye she sings her heart, her voice finer than ever.

I understand that her broken-hearted blues springs from her divorce from Sum 41 lead singer Deryck Whibley – Sum 41 have just released a new album ‘Screaming Bloody Murder’ – the other side of the divorce story?!

Goodbye is my favourite lullaby from her collection – so far – spare and sedate with occasional piano and string accompaniment.

Actually the final song on this album is not Goodbye but Alice her contribution to the 2010 Alice in Wonderland film but though a fine song feels an appendix here not quite fitting with the rest of the album.

Another heartfelt collection of songs from Avril Lavigne.

Women in Love – Episode One

BBC 4 RemakeI have just watched the first episode of the Company Pictures production for BBC 4 the D.H. Lawrence adaptation ‘Women In Love‘ – an adaptation not just of the book of the same name but its prequel The Rainbow.

Women In Love was also made into a film by Ken Russell in 1969 but unseen by me like the novels are unread so this then was my first introduction to its saga of the Brangwen sisters.

Set in the first decades of the 19th Century this is a tale of passions bridled and unbridled, in marriage and out, amidst science and religion colliding – industrial technological progress welcome and unwelcome.  All unfolded in a whirl quickly bringing the first ninety minute episode to its close.

Hermione Ruddice played by Olivia Grant

I thought the casting was impressive throughout and I particularly enjoyed Rachael Stirling as Ursula Brangwen, Rory Kinnear as Rupert Birkin, Joseph Mawle as Gerald Crich and Olivia Grant as Hermione Roddice.

I am looking forward the second and concluding episode aired later this week – in these days of time-shifted programming I am not going to list particular dates and times save to say it will be aired a number of times on BBC 4 and its HD channel along with the web courtesy of the BBC iPlayer

And yet more books that I will have to add to my reading list!

I Just Love You More – My Ignorant Youth new Kate Nash blog

Song poet Kate Nash has extended her musical and lyrical talents to a new blog My Ignorant Youth.

It came to my notice from this tweet of hers on March 20th – and she is certainly committed to it so far – no half-hearted record label blog is this with infrequent posts when the artist has new merchandise to promote or feels the need to attach themselves to some current news-story – it is in keeping with her songs poetic, creative and passionate.

Her most recent post was a very non-music business one of her Nan’s 80th birthday.  Yet others about her Rock and Roll After-School Music Club – a scheme to get girls into song-writing (see this Independent Article for more details) – and of her current tour across the UK.

In addition to the words and photos fitting artwork is contributed from friend and fellow blogger Kate O’Brien.

I made no hesitation in following her – my only surprise is that there are only 197 followers so far – I am sure that will change as much for her wider celebrity as it being a creative and original blog.

I seem to have followed her twice myself – not intentional – I got bamboozled by the Google Blogger registration process – and I am not that easily bamboozled – I think!

I will be following her ‘My Ignorant Youth’ blog with as much pleasure as I do her tweets.

Fashion Couturier Brix Smith-Start

Gok’s Clothes Roadshow last week reached its Channel 4 London fashion finale.

Whilst Saint Gok is the centre-piece of this show I enjoy Brix Smith-Start’s high-fashion mix just as much.

A thankless task potentially as she flies the flag of Haute Couture against Gok Wan’s creative re-constructing of High Street wares in these times of tightly controlled purse strings. And though more often than not the vanquished in the catwalk showdowns she always responds in good grace and spirit.

In Gok’s Fashion Fix she was teamed up initially with fashion buyers from Harrods, Selfridges and Browns but only Brix stuck around for subsequent fashion head to heads against this clothes magician.

And in this series she got even, literally as Gok would say – drawing the series to a close!

I enjoy too her trips around Britain to our fashion sites of creative excellence – Burberry, Barbour, Gina, Christys, Dents, Garrard among others were visited this series where each produced a specially commissioned Brix piece – lucky her! – ending this series with a Matthew Williamson gown – celebrating the craft as well as the art of British fashion.

I think though she should have a show of her own – haute couture is art as fashion, fashion as art – and if priced beyond most of us we can still appreciate dream and aspire.


Who Do We Think We Are?

The Wall to Wall family research series Who Do You Think You Are? which originally broadcast on the BBC back in 2004 and currently is being re-aired on the Yesterday channel (strapline The Past Is Always Present!) I always make a point of watching its new episodes not just because I have an interest in family research and a tree set up on Ancestry but because I enjoy the social history that underpin such programmes.  In school our British history was generally the tale of our ruling orders – Kings, Queens, other such noble (and often not very noble) aristocrats and latterly governing politicians – but the history of ordinary working people was often a footnote if mentioned at all and Who Do You Think You Are is a fascinating resource in correcting this – leaving aside Olympic Gold Medalist Rower Matthew Pinsent and Actor Brooke Shields and their very aristocratic backgrounds!

Royal Brooke

I enjoyed this social history of Britain and I enjoyed the USA spin off when the BBC aired some of its episodes from June 2010 as an opportunity to explore the wider history of its country.  I note also versions for other English speaking countries such as Australia, Canada and South Africa.  And a number of non-English speaking ones from various Scandinavian countries – even without knowing much about the particular celebrities of any of these countries I would be interested in viewing a few episodes from those series too, again to discover more about the history of their peoples.

The greatest family history resource for most of us in the UK for the last few centuries has been the decade frequent census first commenced in 1801.

Today we are having to fill in the 2011 census – I just completed mine online – and I completed it with my future descendants in mind so much as for the Scottish government officials who will utilize the data for the various social planning mandates stated in its purpose.  The census started as a quite modest affair and though not unsurprisingly the number of questions it asks has multiplied I still do not consider it intrusive as some people do. Though I cannot but wonder with the web and the trail we leave behind us on it whether far more richer sources of information will be found in these personal domains than in this public government overseen resource.

The BBC to mark this census aired ‘This is Britain with Andrew Marr‘ which provided a fascinating profile of our country past and present.

And indeed I found the social make-up of this country as revealed in the very recent history of the 2001 census as revealing as the social history detailed from the two centuries preceding us.

Facts and figures can be dry and prosaic but what they can reveal on closer scrutiny is as poetic and revealing as any fictional account of those times – and provide an instructive insight of a country and its people beyond the political spin and ideology of its times.