Thursday, 31 May 2012

Knowledgeable, open-minded, thinker....

Bright eyed and bushy tailed i was in 2008, signing what become to be my life away to the IBO...

The years studying the International baccalaureate left me mentally drained indeed, and the years since i have been vocally critical about not only by decision to study a course plainly too hard for the common man to take, but also the organising of the course itself at my school.

However, upon reflection, it was not perhaps as bad as i might make it out to be. While you might enjoy a blog about the pitfalls of IB a bit more, this blog is actually going to lavish some praise on the IBO, and it starts with giving credit, to the IB Learner Profile. 

The IB Learner Profile
At the time it was a big joke, we would laugh about how the IB was supposed to make us: Principled, Risk-Takers, Knowledgeable, Balanced, Communicators, Reflective, Caring, Thinkers, Open-minded and Inquirers. All a bit to good to be true. When we were told this is what we would become, i couldn't help but sense the undertone of a children's TV show, i can imagine somewhere there is a program installing these values into five year olds...

Do the IB they said, it'll make you better people they said. Bah! I scoff at your perfectionist model of how we can be brilliant. Excelling individuals? I just lost my virginity and i'm doing just fine thanks. 

Two years on, and i did not have much to show for my efforts. One grade less and i would have failed. Two years of study and i nearly had no qualifications at all. You may read with concern, I wear my sixth-form under-achievements as a badge of honour.

Second lowest point score of all my class mates. Yet, I look at where i am today with disbelief. 

Okay, i am not the Maitre'd a the Ritz, nor am i a Professor at Cambridge. But...University of Hull, about to do a years placement in Whitehall? Things haven't turned out so bad. I have no doubt this recovery, coming "back from the brink" in the words of many a famous writer, is down to a certain resiliency and desire i have to do well. Was i born with it? Did it come from Mum or Dad? Or did it come from that course i did when i was 18? (We don't actually talk about the IB in our house anymore).

The IB taught me - admittedly the hard way - about how to cope with big workloads, with reading endless material and in general, taught me about how to give up a social life in order to get my head down and meet a deadline. For sure, this is something my peers lack at University i have found. Yet, i tend to come out of deadlines relatively unscathed. No meltdowns, only two all nighters to my name thus far. I'm taking Uni life in my stride. I have no doubt because i've done this all before, i know how it works. I've been there, and i actually did by a teeshirt...

Nonchalantly i walk into the exam hall. Slight smirk on my face, other people are sweating, crying, in the distance someone is actually loading a gun and putting it into his mouth. Meanwhile, smoke off the page, i'm churning out acceptable work, if not good work, no problem at all. There is no panic revision, there are no tears to mum and dad on the phone, embarrassed at the pending idea of having to resit the year. 

I'm sure this sounds like i'm tooting my own horn. I'm doing that a bit yes. But the point is when it comes to working, i'm pretty much the definition of the IB learner profile. I'm coping just fine. For that, Thanks IB.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Gordon Brown

The book i've been gorging on most recently is "Brown at 10", and i tell you it is a slog. The content is engaging don't get me wrong, but it is a very long book. Of course, it was put on hiatus while i was revising for exams, but i still am reading this book, its been nearly 6 months! Indeed, testament to the fact how long it is, i do cite Anthony Seldon's book in an earlier blog, that was published in February and we're still going. 

Anyway, i'm up to April 2009 of Gordon Brown's premiership, a year from the 2010 General Election i thought i would share some thoughts about about his job thus far. 

Reading what is a finely written book, a few things come across about Gordon Brown's strengths and weaknesses. His intelligence truly is remarkable, and i think it is often underestimated. Say what you like about the recession, i am in now doubt that Gordon Brown is a very clever man when it comes to Economics. Unfortunately, as Prime Minister, he had to go from a Chancellor, specialising in monetary policy, to an 'all-rounder' that is the role of PM. Indeed, his economic interests often clashed with those of his Chancellor, Alistair Darling. The two clashed far to often, disagreeing on policy far to often. The fact is the Prime Minister should have kept an eye on, but not got in the way of Darling. This was not the case, and as a result i think what were, i believe, sound economic decisions were made to seem rushed, muddled and even haphazard. 

His commitment to international development is touching. Brown rather blew hot and cold when  it came to oratory performances, however some of his most moving came when talking about foreign aid and global development. It is regrettable that his Premiership will forever be scarred with the wounds of a global economic crisis. Had the crisis not been on the scale it had been, or indeed not happened at all, i'm sure Brown's commitment to economic development would have been applauded for many years to come. 

Indeed, during the G20 summit held in the UK in April 2009, while many leaders where ready to bash out deals regarding their own financial interests, Brown was insistent on not forgetting Less Economic Developed Countries during the crisis. Indeed, many considered Brown's chairmanship of the G20 summit to be one of his finest hours. His ability to converse with global leaders is something he was readily praised for. Brown's engaging personality earned him many friends on the global stage. Indeed, Brown's suggested most unlikely of all playmates, George W. Bush, was very complimentary about their relationship during their last conversation before Bush handed over to Barack Obama. 

Even the illustrious Sarkozy, pomp and circumstance and all, got on well with Brown. While the two shared different ideals, they came together at a time or global economic need. However, while Brown's globetrotting was beneficial in building bridges, notably in the Far East and China, it is not global relationships that win General Elections. While on the international stage Brown was eloquent, charming and overall a leader, his domestic control always seemed to be lacking. The communique from the G20 summit was applauded as a success, safegaurding international development and economic security. However, domestic policy blunders such as the 10p tax debacle and extension of detention for suspected Terrorists, resulted in a generally unhappy cabinet and an unhappy electorate. 

As a result, numerous plots against his leadership never painted a picture of a leader. There are only so many mutiny's a captain can stand before his credibility is all but wiped out. Damning press-releases, the most infamous perhaps by David Milliband in the Times in which he effectively announced his readiness to run for leadership at some point, did no good to Brown's effectiveness as a leader. 

Some were keen on over-throwing Brown, which was not helped by the fact Brown had a tendency to alienate most of his cabinet, the majority of Junior Ministers and near enough all of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Brown took most of his advice from Ed Balls, Ed Milliband and the likes of Number 10 staff such as Jeremy Heywood, which left most other high-profile MPs in the lurch.

Altogether, Brown was always under intense pressure. Perhaps it was his personality; in general  being quite difficult to work with and a bit of a perfectionist. Maybe it was always living in Blair's shadow got to him? With a botched General Election, which was expected in 2007, Brown never had a mandate, he never laid down a policy proposal in a manifesto that the public voted him in for. As a result, he never had a direction to pursue, policy was always a bit reactionary. His speeches at Party Conferences never pointed members in the direction he was going to take the Government - perhaps this is why domestic policy never got him any plaudits, and perhaps this, aside from global success and recovering an economic crises, resulted in failure to win the 2010 General election. 

My Movies

Ah, welcome back, it's been a while. Coursework and Exams unfortunately meant my blog had to be sidelined for a while (commitment to the blog's cause indeed), but we're back, and this time we're here to stay, or at least stay until my next bout with coursework.

Inspired by the "My movie life" section of Total Film magazine, this blog is much like my previous blog Desert Island Discs, but it's for films. Here we go.

The First Movie I ever saw

101 Dalmatians (Disney, animated version) - I'm 99% sure this is the first film i ever saw in the Cinema, at the now defunct St Albans Odeon. A quick IMDB search about the film suggests it was released in 1961, which makes me assume there must have been a re-release of the cartoon version to tie in with the 1996 version of the film, staring real people and real dogs. I don't remember much of the experience mind you, nor much of the film. Unlike the first (proper) book i read, Band of Brothers, it's not something i feel i could go through again, hence why i haven't seen it in a long, long time. In fact the only thing i remember from the film is the song: Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil, if she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will.

Movie I hate but everyone else loves

Spiderman (Tobey Maguire) - Never really got into this movie. The first time i watched it i fell asleep, which perhaps has not helped the films cause. Every time i've tried to watch it since, i give it a fair go, but always end up drifting off or finding something better on the TV. In general i'm not a big fan of superhero films, though when they tie a bit of personality and enjoyable storyline a la Dark Knight they can be bearable, if not enjoyable.

The Movie that always makes me laugh

Difficult because i tend not to enjoy comedies as much as i used to (i'm quite boring you see). I'd have to say Meet the Parents i think. De Niro and Ben Stiller are both polar opposite actors in what they do, i would say, which is why this film just works. As well as the funny moments such as Stiller being dragged out of an airport for saying "Bomb" on a plane, the general ambiance and body language between the protagonists, Father and Son-in-law make the film so very watchable. Meet the Focker's was also alright, if not more fabricated to pander to a mass audience, and i have not seen the latest installment, Little Fockers.

Last movie that made me cry

Senna (2010) - I may have cried at a film more recently than this, however if i did the experience obviously didn't stick with me. Senna on the other hand is not a tragic film, it is just plain up tragic. There are of course no actors or camera trickery. As a Formula One fan, you know it's coming, and i remember wondering how it would be shown at all. The on-board camera follows senna for a whole lap of the San Marino Grand Prix Circuit. You feel sick as you know whats coming. And then  it happens. You watch a man die.

(Interestingly, or perhaps happily is a better word, the television producers cut-away from Ayrton Senna's on board camera, only moments before the accident. There is of course no film feel in the car recording the footage, it's just broadcasted as and when the producers see's fit. As a result of the producers cutting away from the on-board shot, there is no "clear" video evidence of how he died. He died in the crash of course, but the specifics are unsure. Perhaps it is best the camera cut away, and we'll never know.)

The Movie Character I most identify with

I could be a bit ordinary here, be predictable and say Batman in the Dark Knight, the anti-hero. Instead, i'm going to cite a character from a TV Show. Richard Shiff's character, Toby Ziegler in The West Wing, is incredibly intelligent, down to earth and over all focused on the job. However, an ex-wife and streams of disappointing election campaigns later, he cannot be blamed for having a withdrawn personality. This makes him more serious, and it's his seriousness to the job and his life that makes him respected in what he does. The monotonous personality however is all there is to him, tested he will explode into a rage, holding a grudge and fuming against those that wrong him. Sound familiar?

The movie i haven't seen  but should have

So many. Quite a few "classics" spring to mind: The Good the Bad and the Ugly, neither of the Godfathers, Shawshank, i've never even seen Grease! However, i do love the work of Michael Sheen, and the content is right up my street, hence my choice Frost/Nixon. Okay, yes, perhaps the aforementioned titles (with the exception of Grease) should maybe be given  more attention, however no doubt those films will be shown for the rest of time they will get their chance.