Britz

No, it is not the “cool” way of saying Brits. It is in fact a two-part mini-series presented by BBC. Britz is a daring step by the media giant in which they take a closer look at the Muslim culture in the United Kingdom. If you remember, London had its own run in with Muslim extremist years ago when the London Tube was bombed in 2005. The series, however, is not a re-enactment of the tragedy. Instead, Britz focuses on the lives of two second generation Muslims – a brother and a sister – and how their lives branched out into two separate paths.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Britz is “flawed” but compelling:

This two-night miniseries has an interesting format: The first follows Sohail Wahid (Riz Ahmed), a law student who eventually goes to work for MI5, Britain’s domestic spying operation. During the second installment, the same period of time is covered but is told from the perspective of his medical student sister, Nasima (Manjinder Virk).

The first half of “Britz” works well as a stand-alone spy thriller as well as a reasonably deft exploration of the conflicting cultures young Muslims living in the West navigate every day. We’re never told exactly why Sohail wants to join MI5, but the agency quickly realizes that he’s a valuable asset, given his ties to the large Muslim community in his home town of Bradford, Yorkshire.

I think that I shall find the time to watch Britz, if only to gain another perspective. Has anyone seen it yet?

Photo courtesy of Courant

Today I read a feature article about the young black British men who have risen above their circumstances to reach where they are today. I suppose the issue of color has always been around but it has never been at the forefront as much as it is now. This is probably due to many factors, one of the most influential being Barack Obama’s historical win in the United States presidential race. However, we cannot ignore the countless other people who are carving their places in this world such as Lewis Hamilton.

Despite the fact that a large number of people in the world want to say that racism is an issue of the past, we have to admit that there are still stereotypes that exist and a lot of people are still hanging on to those perceptions. The article I read over at The Independent states:

Chris Wilson, 45, an educationalist who has had stunning success getting young black children into top academic institutions, feels their pain. “It is very demoralising,” he says, “because there is an exaggeration of negative stereotypes, an over-dramatisation.”

This kind of thinking, as much as many would like to deny it, exists all over the world today. That is why I found the article quite moving. It highlighted the work of people in Britain – people who are not afraid to stick to their principles and continue to help those who are in need of their help, in the hopes that one day, these young black British people will make a difference in their lives and in the rest of the world.

People in the UK – and Europe in general – are lucky to have a very good public transportation system. The railway system in particular is very extensive and a lot of British people make use of it on a regular basis. Truth be told, this system may be taken for granted by some, especially if they have not traveled to less developed parts of the world.

I am thinking that more Britons will realise just how lucky they are once the New Year starts because of the expected increase in train fares. According to the BBC, the expected increase can be anywhere from 6 per cent to 7 per cent! The news report continues:

Train companies said the revenue would be reinvested, but watchdog Passenger Focus said some rises were unjustified.

Gordon Brown believed it was important customers got “good value for their money”, said his spokesman.

Regulated fares – including season tickets – are generally based on a set formula which limits increases to 1% above retail price index (RPI) inflation, although there are some exceptions.

The government’s policy is to increase fares above inflation and reduce the contribution from the taxpayer.

Naturally, commuters are not happy with the news. In fact, a lot of noise is currently being heard from this sector. What will happen is yet unclear but it seems that the increase is going to happen. In the meantime, British commuters have to get ready for this and hope that the government will be able to do something about it.

The problem of the gap between generations has always existed across the world’s cultures. Think about the relationship between you and your parents. Even if you have the best of relationships at present, I am sure that you had your periods of not understanding each other. The same gap probably existed between your parents and their parents.

The present situation in the UK seems to be quite serious, however. According to a poll recently conducted by YouGov, 54% of adult Britons perceive today’s youth as “beginning to behave like animals!” More so, a little less than 50% of the respondents believe that the youth of today are increasingly becoming dangers to themselves and other people in society. Even more alarming is the 43% who believe that something should be done to protect them from today’s youth!

If you think about it, these figures and perceptions are very surprising as the UK has consistently been known to give birth to sub-cultural movements that have spread to other countries. Think mods, rockers, and punks. It seems that the older generation of today is becoming less and less tolerant of the youth and their behaviour.

The question is whether the perception is justified or not. The people at Barnados, a charity focusing on children, say that it is not. According to Pam Hibbert, the charity’s associate policy director, “People in Britain now routinely refer to children as `feral,’ `vermin’ and as `infecting our streets.’ The shock here is that people show such intolerance toward all young people, when in fact only a very small number are involved in anti-social behaviour. The truth is that young people in Britain are responsible for 12 per cent of crime. But the public overestimate that by a factor of four, according to the recent British Crime Survey, with people believing the young commit half of all crime. So a major part of the problem here is a question of perception.”

How about you, how do you perceive the youth of today?

Recognise these words? If you like Disney films, then I am sure you would. It still evokes images of the cute baby Simba prancing around the wild, singing to his heart’s content. This time, though, it is not a cute little lion that I am thinking of. Instead, the image of an austere Prince Charles is what is in my head.

The Prince turned 60 on Friday and this event highlighted the fact that he is still waiting to take the reins of monarchy from the present Queen. For Prince Charles, the wait started in 1952. It has been a long 56-year wait and the end does not seem to be in sight. I feel for Prince Charles, I really do, especially when you read write ups such as the one I just read in The New York Times, where he was described as:

In the meantime, he’s relevant — kind of — in a low-key way. He christens ships and travels to funerals. He speaks out on architecture and global warming and organic farming. He paints, he drives an Aston Martin that uses biofuels. He presides over meetings and charities.

But mostly, he waits for his mother, Elizabeth II, the Queen, to give up the throne in life or death. (And you thought your mother was a royal pain. Did she ever deny you the throne?) Unfortunately, she seems to be enjoying herself too much to quit. She still gallops horses and got the satisfaction of being played by Helen Mirren. Besides, she’s only 82 and her mother lived to 101. Time’s on her side.

Then again, he has those longevity genes as well, doesn’t he? So maybe, in 20 years time, he will finally ascend to the throne.

Remember those days when you had to find a public telephone booth in order to make a call? How many times has one saved you a great deal of trouble? I cannot even begin to count the instances that I thanked the heavens for the presence of a phone box. You can find public phones practically in any country but in the UK, the red phone box is an iconic fixture in the streets.

I am sure that you have seen these fixtures in movies. Originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the red phone box was given its colour so that it would be easy to spot at any time. These boxes have had their heyday but today, it seems that they are not being used as much as before.

In fact, statistics show that they are barely being used and this means that the 12,700 phone boxes all over the country are in danger. If they are not being used, they are not earning the telephone company any money and this might just mean that they are on their way out. Fortunately, these phone boxes are loved more than they are used.

BT wants to scrap around 400 of the phone boxes but the local authorities are increasing their efforts to save the boxes. Though they may not be used for their original purpose, the locals are trying to find other useful purposes for them. Some examples would be as community notice boards, greenhouses, miniature art galleries, and so on. The effort includes villages and local governments adopting a phone box in order to save it.

I’m glad to hear this effort being made to save the boxes – the streets wouldn’t be the same without them.

Today marks a special day in history. For many of the younger generation, it may not mean much more than a vague idea. Still, for many, November 11 is something that we cannot afford to forget for it marks the day that the First World War ended.

The red poppy has long been the symbol for death, life, and renewal. Three distinctly different things but all interrelated. This symbolism is attributed to Lt. Col. John McCrae who “was able to distill in a single vision the vitality of the red poppy symbol, his respect for the sacrifice made by his patients and dead comrades, and his intense feeling of obligation to them. McCrae would capture all of this in the most famous single poem of the First World War, In Flanders Fields.”

Today, the poppy remains the strongest symbolism of that war long ago. As the years pass, the memories and the implications may fade slowly for many people. Yet there are those who strive to keep the memory alive, if only to remind this generation and the coming generations of the stark horror that occurred. In this way, we hope that such a thing will never happen again.

I particularly like Jonathan Jones’s column for today. In it, he wrote:

Yet, the November rite of Remembrance, instituted to appease survivors and smooth official consciences, served its original purpose long ago. Why does it endure? Because there is nothing, nothing at all, that redeems the first world war in memory and turns it into happy lies. It is a scar, a void, a horror. In remembering it we are doing a duty to those who died with no glamour, no heroic myth, no purpose – like cattle.

The second world war killed more people but it generated myths. The first world war left no illusions standing. No myth-maker has ever been able to redeem it. In this war we therefore see the true face of all wars – the unmasked skull, rotting in a muddy trench. That’s why we should never forget it. That’s why we never can.

More than being moved, we should strive to keep the memory of the First World War alive and create something good out of it, don’t you think?

No one knew for sure who was going to win the F1 championship this year. For the longest time, it was Hamilton who was dominating most of the races but you know, in this sport, you can never be sure about the outcome. In the end, Lewis Hamilton proved to be all that his fans have been dreaming of. The global media has been having a heyday at his win as well. This young British driver has made the headlines all over the world and countless eyes are on him. It is just fitting to show an excerpt of a news report from The Times Online, one of the leading British newspapers:

Lewis Hamilton produced the most dramatic climax to any Formula One season at Interlagos yesterday and the world’s media has responded by hailing the man many believe can go on to become one of the true greats.

Hamilton and his McLaren team kept their nerve in the rain, overtaking Timo Glock’s Toyota almost within sight of the finish line to write the 23-year-old’s name into motorsport history. Hamilton has become Formula One’s youngest champion and only the second man to win the title in his second season.

In Britain Hamilton has dominated front and back pages with The Sun leading with the headline “Phew, Lew”, the Daily Mirror saying “Lew Beauty” and the Daily Mail declaring the champion as “Last-lap Lewis, the £100m British hero”.

Naturally, not everyone is happy with his achievement. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, of course, but this is something that Britain can be very proud of.