Friday, June 26, 2009

MJ Day

I had to do this. I'm sorry to anyone who's sick of this already, but I had to.

During primary school, my best friend and my brother's best friend were coincidentally also brothers- Harry and Sam Skinner. Quite often, we would invite Harry and Sam over for sleepovers. We would come up to our bedroom and hang out. Not long after, one of us would insert the cassette of Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" in our mini hi-fi which had the crappiest tiny speakers, turn off the main light, switch on a couple of lamps, and proceed to dance our asses off.

I loved those days.

The weird video for "Leave me Alone". The "Moonwalker" movie. The "Moonwalker" videogame! That camera trick in "Smooth Criminal". The claymation in "Speed Demon". The giant statue along the Thames to celebrate the launch of "HiStory". The concert where he descended to the stage in a space suit to perform "Man in the Mirror". That's Michael Jackson.

Recently I shared this sleepover-dancing anecdote with my good friend Aaron, and he told me he had virtually the same childhood experience with his friend Greg. We were both very excited to find we had such a quirky bond. For us and millions of others, Michael Jackson literally shaped our musical experience as we grew up. I love music anyway - I don't think I could happily live without it. But to this day I still thoroughly enjoy the energy, passion, and variation of Michael Jackson's music.

Watching the news last night, hearing he had been rushed to hospital, I was slightly fearful but considering his age, not overly concerned. I flicked over to BBC24 anyway. As time went on it was more and more obvious what had happened, but somehow, even now, reading the words


is one of the most unreal sentences I have ever read. It seems almost impossible to me that someone with such stage presence, vitality and talent could just stop existing. To be honest I'm not that upset- I didn't know him, he was at the end of the day a performer who I was (am) a great fan of. It's just...really weird. His music is still there, but the man himself isn't. It just doesn't make sense to me, and I don't know why.

I didn't feel this way when James Brown or Ray Charles passed away. I'm a big fan of their music, but it seemed more acceptable that they should pass- perhaps because of the age difference, or perhaps because I didn't grow up with them, who can say?

Whether or not his forthcoming UK tour would have been a renaissance or swan song is a moot point now. His music from the past stands forever, and I think anyone who makes jokes about a dead man is a disrespectful moron, and I fully anticipate that karma will one day deal with them sufficiently. Regardless of what happened in his personal life, he is dead, and that much at least should be respected. I would have hoped in death all that nonsense can finally stop.

I know it's a monumental occasion, but in a few days I'm sure we will find there are other news stories occuring in the world. In such times of global conflict, I would at least hope so.

I'm not going to be too cliche as to post an original MJ song, but just enough to maintain my cheesiness - a cover instead.

I am very, very thankful for Michael Jackson.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I was on the tube today, and as it was pulling in to the platform, there was a guy with a magazine in his hand running alongside the train. I can't lie- I giggled a bit inside as I thought he was trying and failing to make it in time. As he and the train were running side by side, it soon became clear he wasn't running for himself- he was trying to give the magazine to a guy who had just walked off further along the platform. As the train stopped and I walked off with music playing in my ears, it was clear that Magazine Recipient Man was extremely grateful and somewhat surprised that his item was so swiftly returned.

This action, in turn, made me smile and feel good.

Recently, I have undertaken the task of training for a 26 mile Bikeathon for Leukaemia Research (although my friend Ed is pushing me for the mammoth 52 mile challenge). Through the process of donations, it has slowly and only slightly re-connected me with people I haven't spoken to in a long time - albeit in the virtual world of Facebook . It gives them an idea of what I'm doing, a sense of a huge challenge I am accepting, and, through their generosity, it shows me their more caring side. Not that I was unaware of that side anyway. The overall activity of fundraising gives me a great feeling of being connected to so many people. In total, I think I have invited upwards of 300 people to donate- a fraction of which will be kind enough to empty their pockets - but it's a very satisfying feeling nonetheless.

Last week I attended an alumni networking event of the Windsor Fellowship; a charity which runs various programmes for ethnic minorities, one of which I was lucky enough to participate in. All in all, there are about six thousand alumni out there in the world, and the possiblity of connecting to, interacting with and working with even 1% of that is overwhelmingly exciting. I had no idea I had a network that extended so far. Lucky me.

I guess this is a continuation of my last post, but connecting with people who you know, knew and probably more importantly don't know is such an immensely powerful prospect. I have, over time, come to appreciate how powerful networks can be - beyond our comprehension. They can help you achieve your goals in no time, help you help others, and help you start something you had no idea you could create in the first place (like a bestselling book, a film or even a business).

I swear I am not sponsored by Nokia. Connecting People.

The above picture is a representation of the internet, and this is an absolute tune to wake you up. If you don't love it, you're dead inside. It's Stevie Wonder for crying out loud:

Almost forgot: Here's the link to my Just Giving donation page for the Bikeathon. Please donate!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


There are over 6 billion people on this convoluted planet. The human race has existed for thousands of years, and each of us can be expected to live for around 80 years. Logically then, we can conclude that we're all just minute blips in a massive, constantly moving pool of life. Hence, there lies an ultimatum for the humble human; focus on your own life, live only for you, work hard to become rich, retire, then die. Game over.


Refute the notion that you are insigificant and choose to live outside of yourself, to influence and change the lives of others. If, in your short amount of time on this earth, you can create a ripple effect that lives on and reaches out beyond one John Doe, your life will have actually meant something.

What I'm trying to say is that if your goal in life is to be rich, have a great job and a steady family, that's nice and all, but you're not really doing anything, are you? You are simply existing, and what's the point in that? Personal achievements can mean nothing they only benefit you. If however, you can reach more people and create action or change, you can take part in something epic, something much, much greater than 2.4 children. If you can do that, you will have truly lived.

I'm not saying you should try to get into the history books purely to be remembered, but try to live beyond yourself. Engage with other people, other families, other communities, because before you know it, it'll all be over. Don't be just another number; another tombstone; another name. Make no mistake, as one person on your own, serving yourself, you are definitely not important. As a self-involved human, you are a pointless spec of dust on mother nature's vast windscreen as she races down the motorway. But you, with your actions and your ability to influence others can be immensely important, perhaps even literally life-changing.

This video clip is the final scene from the film "Bobby", depicting the aftermath of the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy. The clip is visually, a manipulation of emotions. But the actual message is, I feel, vitally important.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I was researching for one of my essays recently, which was on death & immortality. I came across the notion that "heroes" are very important in society. We need them as shining examples, and their brushes with death (war, protest etc) showcase the limits they are prepare to go to. This goes all the way back to the Epic of Gilgamesh. Moreover, the author stated that more than anything else, we all want to be heroes, because they are the highest of the high.

The Free Online Dictionary tells us that a hero is:
1. In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.
2. A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life

So beneath the HR managers, PR assistants and mortgage brokers, we all want to be Hercules (or Xena, Warrior Princess for the ladies). We all want to be admired and looked up to - for the right reasons - not for staying in a jungle with That Guy From Blue.

I don't know if "an inner hero" is an obvious concept, but for me it's true, and in my traditionally cheesey fashion, I think it's very nice. But what is stopping us from being the heroes we were all born to be - or at least, what's stopping us from being heroic? 

I have it in mind, at some point in my life to help/teach kids, and educate the masses about a few of the wrongs that exist in the world today through film. I'll have to think that one out a bit. But it's worth thinking about. Heroism. Corny, yes. Cliche, perhaps, but tell me one thing that's wrong with that?

I like this (click Paladin heading to see video if subscribing).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Four Years

As of Friday 1st of May 2009, I have been a free man. I have finished my degree at the University of Birmingham reading American & Canadian Studies.

Some people may (and indeed have) pooh-poohed my choice of degree; claiming that I didn't work as hard as other students, that it was not employer-friendly, that it was not valid compared to the likes of History or Law. 

Let me say right now, I am eternally thankful that I have had the chance to study this course, because it has given me so much. Over the past four years I have grown immensely. 

I have read some fantastic books that include "Black Like Me" by John Howard Griffin, and "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.

I've discovered some absolutely amazing historic authors including Melville, Whitman, and Hawthorne. I wholeheartedly encourage you to discover their works.

My passions for filmmaking and writing have grown exponentially: I have written for my student newspapers in Birmingham and California, I have shot a 16mm film and made my own documentary, which I am very proud of.

I have been inspired by some fantastic teachers, listened to John Cleese wax lyrical, been inside the private Pixar studios, and I have travelled up and down the wonderful West Coast of America. I've researched a paper inside the JFK library, getting exclusive access to CIA files, and seen Stevie Wonder live- for free.

I admit, my class hours were light to say the least, but I have been pushed and tested enough to warrant Honours like anyone else.

Finally, I have made so many truly spectacular lifelong friends who come from all corners of the world. Beat that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Motortown Records

I haven't been able to listen to the radio or watch the TV the past week or so without a mention of the 50 year Motown Anniversary (I know the Anniversary is not that recent, but it's still being celebrated, and quite right too). My brother, how I love him so, often kids me about being an old man in a young man's body given my taste in music, but I don't think anyone can deny the genius that came out of that Record Label, hit after hit.

I don't really need to say anything about this, but I thought I'd have my two cents, and, well, just post some music here. It can pretty much speak for itself*. Please turn your speakers on with the bass turned way up. Feel free to sing along whatever you're doing. Especially if you're working.

Happy Tuesday.

(*Again if this has come to your email inbox, click the title to head to the blog web page to view the music videos).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I'm about one month away from finishing my degree at Birmingham, and recently I decided to make a kind of video-yearbook thing. Asking my coursemates what they'll miss most about their time in Brum and why they chose to do the course in the first place, that kind of thing. It was really only after I interviewed about 10 of my coursemates that I started to get quite nostalgic. Then I interviewed our American Studies receptionists, who pretty much hold the department together, and are very affectionate towards us kids. I soon realised that over the years, I have been very fortunate to become part of a community.

Not much more than 40 like minded people- students and teachers alike, who I enjoy spending time with, who are kind, caring, wise, and literally very close. Our humble department is a small one, but one that I am proud to be part of. In Birmingham, I'm a 10 minute bike ride away from campus, and about a 5 minute ride to my furthest-placed friends. Such short distances reinforce the strength of the community that I have found at university.

This year, I've also encountered something very unusual in England, let alone Birmingham. It's a place called Canvas House; a Christian ministry (queue Jeremy Clarkson voice) ....with a twist. Inside, it looks like a giant coffee lounge, with THE most comfortable sofas in the world, and a stage for bands to play open mic nights. Now, I'm a Sikh, and I don't much fancy being converted to anything else just yet, but the guys there - get this- are normal. Their main focus is actually creating a solid community among the students of Brum. There's very little mention of their faith, and if you do ask them questions, they're very cool about it. Oh and they're American, which by default makes them more friendly and fun. So far I've gone there to see my friend Aaron play open mic and jam out, watched a couple of movies on their massive projector, played some Goldeneye, some foozball, hung out with a bunch of people, gone to a nice local bar for drinks, and generally had a good time. More of this needs to happen in the UK. Fast.

When I move back home to London, I would like to have a sense of community. My closest friend lives 45 minutes away by tube, and I don't feel like I really "belong" to anything back in the big smoke. My brother is fortunate to have a genuine community with his colleagues at work, but how many others can say that they wholeheartedly love and respect their workmates, and not just for after-work drinks?

If you're lucky to have it, hold on to it. I will miss having so many likeable people around me on campus and in Selly Oak, but I will find a way to replicate it to the best of my abilities.

(If you subscribe to this blog, you'll have to click the "Community" title to view the videos below)

Here's a really weird video with the loveable morph. A laugh a day...

I try to put music up here every now and again, and this girl is simply awesome: