Our Society is under attack

If it wasn’t for the neo liberalism that is driving vacant messages with questionable ethics, the alt-right and visibly present far right are continuously on attack of the basic principles that make us human, and therefore civilized.

There is a lot of anger, and even more so the internet and free flow of information has opened Pandora’s box. Corrupt regimes and individuals have been revealed, whilst governments have their resources diminished and police and health services struggling to deliver fairness. Law maybe the only dynamic challenge to all of this.

And now art is under attack, again.

I remember when following the financial crisis local government budgets were slashed letting thousands of staff go.

Youth services and cultural activities were the first to go and the arts council was told it has to raise the funds itself and from corporations. This the sector frowned upon and questioned the viability of independence in the circumstances.

Luckily the arts sector, used its creativity, and survived.

However we now have another attack under the wider hostile environment agenda.

The Guardian newspaper reported dozen authors who were planning to attend this year’s Edinburgh international book festival have had their visas refused. The ultimate right to creativity, refused. 

How does this hostile policy justify this? For they really believe we will silence our human nature to this extend? And what next, will they shut down the Internet so we can no longer share? 

What is the cost of this to society and why they feel the need to isolate? 

The ones kept inside, as always are the ones that have the key. 

I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way. 

Calgary BKS Dance Festival

This post discusses the Calgary BKS Experience [url: http://www.dancebks.com/], a dance festival I attended over June 22-24, 2018. BKS refers to the three featured dance styles: Bachata, Kizomba, and Salsa. Bachata and Salsa are Latin dances, while Kizomba is of African descent.
bks banner
The festival was self-contained in the downtown Delta hotel. The instructors were from all over (Canada, USA, Dominican Republic, etc.) and most of the remaining 250+ attendees were Canadian. The main draws of festivals of this type are workshops by the local and visiting instructors, performances by professional and non-professional dancers, and social dancing until late at night. Some instructors provided private lessons on demand for a fee. There was also a small expo where one could buy dance shoes or see a chiropractor.
During the daytime I busied myself with a total of eight Bachata workshops. The most interesting workshop for me was “Sensual Bachata Isolation” by Angela of Unleashed Dance Company [url: https://www.unleasheddancecompany.com/] in Calgary. Below is a panel of photos from the lesson demonstrating body rolls. These moves are initiated and controlled by the male’s hand on Angela’s back. In the right panel, Angela is set upright as the male creatively moves his hand up and left like a fish swimming upstream. I was so enamored with Angela’s teaching that I took a group private lesson with three other individuals (which reduced the cost without diminishing the quality of the lesson).
Dr Angela of Calgary lessons
My second favorite workshop was “Dominican Footwork With Style” by Julie of Fiestafitness [url: http://fiestafitness.ca/] in Montreal.
Julie from Montreal
Also popular was the workshop “Bachata: Various Triple Steps – The How & When” by Rodchata, who teaches in the San Francisco Bay and Reno, Nevada areas.

Rodchada in action

Performances took place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, with the best ones happening on Saturday. Some of the highlights from Saturday night are pictured below.
Robin & Felisa:

Robin and Felize perform

Indira Castello’s Ladies Team in green catsuits:
Ladies team
Salsa Rica Semi Pro Team:

Rica performance

Patrick & Scarlet, who have won many awards for their Salsa, including three Canadian championships:

Patrick and Scarlet perform

While I was having tons of fun at the festival, I was also eager to see city of Calgary itself. From what I saw of the downtown, Calgary seems to be a clean and safe city (relative to San Francisco, at least). I was also pleasantly surprised that the weather in Calgary was warmer (approximately 77 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 degrees Celsius) and more humid than San Francisco.
A few themes emerged when exploring downtown Calgary. First, Canadians are extremely friendly and fun to talk with. This was also true to the Canadians back at the festival. Second, the downtown area is populated with random, yet tasteful, artwork. Below are some examples.

City art in Calgary

Finally, Calgary is famous for its historical ties to the Wild West. This is evident from western-themed shops and references to the annual Calgary Stampede rodeo and festival. Examples below.

Cowboy montage

In closing, I strongly recommend visiting Calgary. It is only 175 miles north of the Montana-Canada border and is an easy three-hour plane ride from the American west coast.

Written by Tim Weinzirl, 2018 July

Messene western Peloponnese from Methoni

So here I am, baggage dropped off at our spacious apartment at Ilias apartments on Methoni beach and I find myself having late lunch on the seafront at the brilliant Varka Bay restaurant (biggest portions of homemade delicious Greek cuisine around at incredibly reasonable prices) in camping Methonis, reflecting how I got to decide what brought me here given I have no family connections, neither special recommendations by friends or acquaintances.

Earlier in the year, late in the heavy British wintertime, I was trailing Google maps for the perfect spot on the beach. I sought the experience the Ionian sea following the many summers I have spent riding ferry boats for hours to the beautiful yet overpriced cycladic islands.

This time I was looking for a shorter journey time from Athens, and a solid mainland vibe of Greek culture, with a smallish village for the ultimate necessary ice cream and souvlaki supply. And I got my dream in Methoni.

In my blog I will talk about the best bits of my holiday here and highlight a couple of things worthwhile your visit in the region of Messene.

Methoni is a village on the west coast of Peloponnese featuring a brilliant castle from 14th century. The village has an array of corners and squares connected by two main roads the upper and lower streets. It is truly homely and unpretentious.

On the seafront there’s a castle built on the contrasting, to the sandy waterfront, rocky outpost. Methoni Castle is the perfect afternoon walk offering unique views over the sea with plenty of areas for exploration in the castle grounds. You can also walk around it on the clear water beach to the fishing boat pier moorings, and on its other side for dramatic views over the rocky landscape, the Ionian sea and the sunset. It costs a mere 2 euro.

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My friend turned up from his archaeological work at Nestor’s Palace to join us for kayaking and drive us to more unique finds in the region.

Nestors palace

We went to Voidokilia, the whale tail water shaped beach where surfers have the safest low surf. The water is warm but do bring an umbrella or visit in the afternoon, the trees are far and few, but there’s cold coffee delivery from the turn up the road a few miles up, so do bring a phone!

Voidokilia

My friend also talked of the Griffin Warrior. An unidentified man of leading importance in the region excavated from his tomb recently alongside thousands of mycenaean gold and bronze swords cups, boar tooth helmet parts, body armour and all sorts of antiquities. I’m waiting on edge to find out more about this man and it will only be down to the work of scientists.

Please donate here http://griffinwarrior.org/griffinwarrior-excavations.html without them we would be in the dark about our history or even worse the looters could have gotten to it before us.

In Methoni town h Palia Istoria restaurant and Nontas souvlaki are my favourite eateries in the village. The decor in the form has rainbow umbrellas so I guess gay friendly, and an outdoor nursery space so kids can do their thing out of your way.

Palia Istoria restaurant in Methoni

On the beach, Kotronakia cafe is the ultimate bohemian oasis. Hanging off the rocks above the beach you get the best sea breeze under the shade and beautiful views across the bay to the castle.

In front of the Kotronakia bar
Messenea is rich in ancient history. Nestor Palace is a must historic place to check out. It was discovered in 1950s and recently got a canopy for our enjoyment and its protection out of the sun.
On our way back we stopped at the Kookoonari beach cafe bar where you can use the kayaks for free or play beach volleyball up the walkway. I really loved my time at this place. The vibe of the staff there is as cool as it gets.
Kookoonari beach bar

In the evening, we headed to Finikounda, a young family haven built off the pier with restaurants patisseries bars and shops lay on the paved high street, the central walk to spend time. A mile away are camp sites and wide pavement makes cycling back and forth fun to any time of the day. Boat trips are on offer to explore more of the region by the sea.

Finikounta

Staying in Methoni is the perfect holiday choice. The sea is clear and shallow and the length of the bay offers light busy and really quiet spots overlooking the two islands of Sapienza and Schiza.

Methoni beach view

The locals are friendly as you get and you run no risk of being overcharged. If your idea of a beach holiday is to spend peaceful hours swimming, tasting many greek dishes in very reasonable prices and discovering greek history, you have

arrived at your destination.

Bath and Wiltshire

So I decided to pull this guide together after having visited Bath and the wider Wiltshire a number of times over the last two years, visiting friends who moved there from London, for a change of lifestyle.

Wiltshire is a true representation of rolling English countryside, opening up to create the setting for the landscape of fields further afield in Devon and Cornwall, and to the end of the land of the British Isle. Scenic drives, quaint old cotsworld like villages dot the landscape, however note these are increasingly interrupted by new housing developments.

The area is knows for its afluent resident demographics. Housing is as expensive as it is in London, and Bath is a catwalk of contemporary design options, found in inoffensive gorgeously lit boutique shops. There are a lot of options to choose from, and an equal amount of cafes and foodie options to satisfy the pickiest of the souls out there.

Some of my favourite moments are both in Bath and the surrounding Somersetian countryside. When I get there, on a Friday, we head for the Star, the only – I believe – authentic pub, a mix of old and new, music or not, regulars and all embraced in a coffin shaped building. The walk there is equally cool, strolling past residential windows of yellow brick roman dwellings, sitting on the rustic raised walkway above the passing traffic passing below.

On days out, more recently I discovered Corsham. The walk through the tiny village, or the walk of the green space outside the stately home, are true to form of cutiness. The home itself and the gardens are architectural highlights so pick based on the season, trusting both will be a very rewarding experience.

Castle Combe is another little wonder to check out. I loved the walk from the car park to the village itself, hanging branches of tall trees canopying over the road. Prettily decorated door fronts, stone buildings, stone brick bridges, and water streams would have you thinking you are visiting Smurf land. It is not too far off that, hoping no offense caused by this description.

My earlier experience of Wiltshire was visiting Avebury stone circle. If you haven’t, this is a piece of british ancient history that equals Stonehedge. Avebury stone circle is the largest, with a village in the middle of it, supported by numerous super natural stories. I think my dream home is also in that village. Walk around the circle, but also do go for a walk through the village. I am sure you will get lost.

Box is known for the train tunnell and Thomas the tank. There is an underground town down there built out of sight to evacuate local residents on occassion of need.

Devizes has an eerie story of its own. The Black Swan is known to harbour ghosts of past times, and I did stay in room no 4 where numerous signtings and disturbances are known to take place. I must say I did not enjoy neither slept much and things happenned that I can not explain. The landlord soon sold the pub and moved on, like many others. However can’t fault the pub food and the atmosphere – warm, cozy and lively.

Devizes is also known for another trouble – that of its locks. If you own a riverboat, you will know the ladder of locks one has to wait through to get one side to another. A friend that did it told me that it took them around 9 hours to do Caen Hill. Not a feat for the lighthearted boat dwellers.

There is a lot more to see in this wonderful area however I will leave you with these pointers to begin with. I am sure you will be soon returning for more.

I learnt a new word today, Decarceration

Decarceration means more than getting individuals out of prison. It means healing trauma, restoring civil rights, and ending the suffering this system has imposed on American families and communities.

The U.S. puts more people in prison than any other nation in the world.

Today we have over 2 million behind bars, 10–14 million arrests every year, and 70 million Americans with a criminal record. Not included in these numbers are all of the families, who have committed no crime at all yet suffer greatly from the separation of loved ones.

Read more at Decarceration.org
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Our overly punitive system only increases the threat that individuals pose when they are released back into their community. Even for people who have committed serious and violent crimes, it is time to offer effective rehabilitation based on high quality mental health services.

Of course, with over two million still behind bars, our first priority is to release those prisoners who represent little or no threat to public safety. But releasing people isn’t enough, because the taint of punishment has a debilitating effect on the millions who return. We need to confront our own social stigmas and the long shadow cast by mass incarceration. To be successful, we need a paradigm shift.

Our systems must move from punishment to public health.

We need new social institutions to replace our prisons– places of healing and reconciliation. We must build local resources of peer and family support. We must provide meaningful support, not just supervision, for people after release. Over 5 million prison survivors already live in our communities as convicted felons, and their life prospects are severely limited by the restrictions that our legal system imposes on them. We must restore their civil rights.

Our politicians must now confront the devastation that mass incarceration has wreaked on poor and minority communities in America, and to take responsibility for treating the wounds of a racist and brutal institution. The primary goal of decarceration is one of healing, and I am launching this website with the hope it will become a useful tool in this newly energized struggle.

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About the author

Ernest Drucker, PhD, is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in NY State and conducts research in AIDS, drug policy, prisons and criminal justice policies, and is active in global public health and human rights efforts in the US and abroad. Ernest is a Research Professor in Criminal Justice and Anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He founded Decarceration.org in 2015.

Ode to the London Overground

So imagine you are in your city but it suddenly feels a different place altogether.

It wasn’t in a place I had not been before either. I think my state of mind was in an altered state being there like that for the first time. It involved using the public transport but the difference was in the vibe, the society, the moment.

I have been on the london overground a number of times, going to meetings, hopping out east to the wick or north to highbury. I know the trendies, the mummies, the original hackneys carriaged away up and through neighbourhoods previously out of reach. I been in situations where the rodent were getting trodden on by the passing cars, in full view of affluent dining audiences. Seen it all.

But that was new. Before midnight jumping on the overground at Hoxton station, me and others after or on the way to boozing. Gracefully space etiquette adhered to, spaces between seats, no roughing, no shuffling. Air con, smooth ride. Hovering just about leveled with top floors of Victorian terraces, bridges, warehouses. Light reflections on the inside, obstructing sensible assessment of the view on the outside. Spaced out in a spacious vehicle, with all the room for a poetry based on shuttle messages, all so effortless and out worldly smooth.

Getting to attention, dating under the spotlight

My week of complexities

One day last summer, having had a fun packed weekend swiping other people’s Tinder, I decided to put myself out there and started talking to this really cute tall ginger guy. We hit it off really well. Others were popping up trying to cut us, mostly entertaining, however the ginger guy was really clicking with me, not letting off having interesting discussions, sometimes cheeky, other serious, other inquisitive. We kept on chatting til late. And the next day he got in touch again. Same again, long chats for many hours. By the third day, we were messaging and realised he was going away for the weekend so assuming we would have no contact, wished him fun.

We kept texting until and through to the following evening during his flight and as he landed in customs. I fell asleep shortly after and woke up the next morning to messages and a voice message saying how much he is looking forward to meeting me when back. I had just woken up, 6am in UK for rowing training when more voice messages and texts were coming through. I had to arrange catching up after he would wake up, he wanted to continue chatting when I had to go out. He explained he was meeting friends in Minnesota to see Coldplay, and after the gig, there he comes around and there he is again with numerous texts. We spent the weekend chatting between me going to training and him going to bed in a different time zone. Whether he was out at the dinner or the gig, he was in touch soon as he had the chance. Funny me having just come back from a holiday in Cornwall staying in Port Isaac I was streaming Doc Martin and his number kept popping up on my phone interrupting the series. I thought at this rate it would take me months to watch it. Seeing the messages and his interest was really sweet, I started greeting the pic on his number every time it would appear. I even thought this guy will go down as the American in the sleeveless red top that kept popping up in the Port Issac’s Cornish landscape. I would say ‘hello baby’ and then switch off the tv so I could text him avoiding the rest of my neighbours seeing I was chrome casting my texts.

He came back to London, we were hot on it, getting more romantic sharing what we would like to experience together. It was really sweet. But there was one thing I could not understand, why this guy that invests his time in me is not actually asking me out?

I must admit I contemplated shutting the conversation down. He is over cautious I felt, something not quite free flowing as I would have expected at this stage. It’s been nearly a week of texting 24/7, practically having a virtual relationship, why not meet? I probed him if he is shy, he admitted a little, yes. We carried on chatting, romanticizing about the things we would like to do when we would finally meet. The walks, the park, the riverside bar. His last message landed in my mailbox as I had again fallen asleep late for texting til early Wednesday morning. I woke up the next day and his contact details lost from WhatsApp. I must say it took me by surprise and reminded me how exposed and vulnerable we can be sometimes. He didn’t return that evening. A colleague had mentioned dropping a picture online for identification so off I went. Dropped his pics and off they went into Google. At first, I had to squeeze my eyes and take a step back from the screen to have a walk about to regain my focus. An hour later I knew most about the guy, a well known american sport player. The benefits of noone watching NBA in England. I had a fake name for a accomplished athlete. There online, I found a forum amongst other things where a bunch of girls are ripping him to pieces about his dating routines, a few years ago. For a split second, I judged him but then I stopped. This boy is a child of this earth as everyone else and given he is high profile in the US I can understand how it can be difficult meeting someone that is not after his multi million cash or self promotion. Who am I to judge him? Surely I have come across as a dick to people I broke the heart of. His ladies just have an audience and therefore talk. My exes can talk too but who really cares in the end?

I asked myself how would’ve managed now, knowing who he is. I would have definitely made his challenge trice as hard. Call it my insecurity, call it his easy access to women and anything really… I know, money can’t buy love and he is probably putting on a brave face managing weird attention whilst seeking out to be loved. In many ways, don’t we all?

Update 31 August

So he returned and hey ho, off we went onto a daily ping pong of messages. On a standard evening, we spent 3-4 hours together exchanging around 60 text and voice calls. On a light evening, 25 messages, on the understanding I was ‘beat’ from training and although he wanted to chat more, he would let me rest.

More messages kept flowing in the coming days. I can’t wait to meet, missed our chats etc. The magic was in full spin. So here we got to, when are we going to meet? Date, time and place set, checked in with each other the night before, all set. Until the day itself came. Sent a quick ‘how are you getting on’ message, and nothing. I was at work, which would have met him nearby. Nothing. I read on the news the next day he has just been flown back to the US to test train for a well known NBA team. That didn’t work out. Nor we ever spoke again. Who said dating pro athletes was ever fun? A well known rocker’s wife once said basketball players in the US are the worse to entertain the idea of a romantic relationship with. She’d been married to a rock n roller, with all the divorces, flings and dramas to tell her story in perspective.

The guy I was talking to, is now settled back on the southern West Coast sand, doing something else in sport, retired from the NBA. Once, there was a saying

‘your voice gets me to attention’, to the soundtrack of My Hero by the Foo Fighters.

Isn’t fame a gift that never truly gives yet always pays?