Travelling Era

I was once in the tube in London on a Friday morning, seeing crowds travelling shoulder to shoulder in the narrow, dull and damp carriages. Men were in suits with cases, women stood straight.  It was silent except for the announcement of stations. No one talked, or even had a smile on their faces.

This week’s New Statesman pointed out that we travel six times more than we did fifty years ago, The figure is forecast to be doubled within twenty years. We spend far more time on each journey: on the way to work, on the way home, on the way to a famous travel site during the holidays. As Zareer, the author claimed: “Our travel habits are creating a transient society.”

The most frequently cited argument is that we damage the environment. Though public transportation is improving a lot, people are unwilling to give up their own cars. Energy consumption is increasing sharply; more carbon is being emitted into the atmosphere, thereby exacerbating the greenhouse effect.

Another concern is about the relationship between people. We are taking steps towards a “hypermobility” society as the links between people are fading. Once I rented a flat. During the two-month lease, I had three different neighbours. I could not tell whether it was a he or a she. In contrast, I had neighbours family when I was a juvenile.

High migration might be an index for evaluating the development of an economy. Surplus labour transfers to where required. But, it also puts stress on the environment, transportation, and even society. We need to face it; even, with a smile on the tube.

Published in: on March 9, 2007 at 11:30 am  Comments (1)  

It Is All About The Money

This Week’s Economist leader discussed the most essential thing in the world, money.There is going to be an interesting change to Britain’s £20 note. Adam Smith, the first economist, will replace Sir Edward Elgar as the face on the note. The Economist attributed this change to the “end of the cash era”.

Is cash fading that fast? I doubt it.

Firstly, the replacing movement depends on the development of technology. It takes time to build up an electronic net. It demands POST and ATM machines for using debit cards, especially in rural areas. It requires software and programs to run electronic system. It also asks for guards to keep transactions’ safety. These equipments are foundations of this movement. All these are not likely to be completely prepared in a short period.

Secondly, it takes time to convince people, especially elderly people to trust the electronic system and adopt the change. My father, for instance, suspects the stability of the electronic system. He believes there is a high risk that the system will collapse for some reasons someday. He prefers to pay in cash rather than credit card. It is a common concern of elderly people. They stick on what they used to, have less confidence in high technology.

Lastly, the replacing trend is based on the maximum capital principle. As money has intrinsic value in itself, the cost of digital money is much less than cash. But it also cost much to build up the electronic net, which is considered as sink cost. Who is willing to pay, if there is no guarantee whether it will pay off?

Nobody can predict “how fast bits and bytes will drive out metal and paper”, I am afraid.

Published in: on March 4, 2007 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Love means…

In today’s Financial Times, there is a short piece of news: “Love is around and that’s official”. It briefly reported about what was happening around, and unexceptionally, all about love.

If you have visited the Clinton shop during the last couple of weeks, you would probably be aware that sparkling decorations were around the shop. The Valentine’s cards have been listing on the shelves from late January, along with the Valentine’s gifts: cups, balloons, bear toys. You walk along the street, noticing that shops are offering “special discount” on jewelleries, restaurants are encouraging you to book a “romantic dinner” in advance. The world is sending you a message that you can enjoy a romantic Valentine’s day only if you spend money on these things, and that it is the only way lovers should spend that day.

Here raise the questions: Who actually benefits from Valentine’s day? You and your beloved? Or rather, the business man? What is Valentine’s day for? Roses? Romance? Or money?

The aura of Valentine’s day is changing. It used to be a simple day to express emotion, but it is not that simple any more. Advertisers try to persuade you to buy flowers, though roses are as twice expensive as they used to be. What is worse, it is yourself who accepts these advertisements, by considering flowers and chocolates to be essential, rather than the love expressions.

It is time to question how we celebrate Valentine’s day. My friend Chris said she would never treat it as a special day since “it is too commercial.” Love does not mean endless buying on a particular day, but to tell the people you love that you love them.

Published in: on February 20, 2007 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fecund France

It seems thatFrance is now the most creative nation among European countries.

An article in this week’s Time magazine talked about the birthrate in France. In 2006, “France pushed past Ireland to become the most fecund nation in the European Union, with an average of two babies per woman.” French mothers are giving birth to and raising more babies than ever. So, in the next 25 years, there will be more French workers provided for the market economy, while Germany, Spain and Italy, along with other Central and Eastern European countries, will probably be worrying about the diminishing workforce.

Labour force is an extremely crucial factor to influence market economy. A country rich in human resources is more likely to produce consumer products, such as clothes and shoes, with lower costs. People are able and willing to spend more on these products. This will certainly stimulate the economic and GDP growth. China, for instance, is benefiting greatly from its lower labour costs.

On the other hand, we are one step further towards the aging society. The population of over 60s keeps on growing. This means more expenditure on facilities for the elderly, such as hospitals, nursing homes and so on. It also requires more people to take care of the elderly. The young generation has to take on responsibilities, as well as contributing to the economy. Obviously, a larger proportion of young people is going to help.

It is said that the young generation is the hope of the nation. The economic, political and culture developments are all depending on them. Now the French are creating babies, they are creating a future.

Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Give Blood, the Gift of Life


“Jo McAuliffe has a rare blood disorder known as TTP. During five years of treatment, she has received around 1,000 units of plasma and many units of red blood cells. These transfusions have saved her life. ‘I feel so lucky to be here,’ Jo says. ‘I’m able to enjoy and appreciate my favourite things again, thanks to the dedication of blood donors.’” 

This amazing story comes from the National Blood Service website. Indeed, there are numerous stories about how blood donors help save lives. Giving blood is a moral obligation which is highly respectable.  But according to Ms. Charmaine, Iles, the blood donor recruiter of Welsh Blood Service, at this moment only six percent to the population donate blood. Compared with the demand that 600 donations are needed to keep the hospitals in Wales afloat every single day, it obviously can not meet the requirement, especially during this busy Christmas period. 

Based on the statistics of previous five years, blood stocks will probably run low during this time of the year. Current blood stocks in the National Blood Service are totally 38,000 units (not including the hospital blood banks), which may only supply a big hospital for month and a half. The main reason behind this is traffic accidents. People are busy and rushing around Christmas, careless driving leads to more accidents than at any other time of the year. Sports activities, and even kitchen accidents, can put people at risk of serious injury. “It is amazing that all these sorts of accidents can happen around the Christmas period just because more people are around,” Charmaine noted.  

Campaigns are made to bring awareness and to encourage people to donate. But it seems that there are never enough people being involved. “Often people think that somebody else will do it,” Charmaine commented, “or they are too busy to find the time to manage it.” Actually, it just takes 40 minutes to give blood and the process is very simple. Good care is taken of donors during the process. In addition, their personal details are stored securely on the Welsh Blood Service computerized donor database, which are kept under the Data Protection Act (1998). Furthermore, donations are guaranteed to be used for the benefit of patients, never for profit. Some people argue that giving blood will do harm to their health. “It is not true,” Charmaine smiled, “If you give blood too often it will harm you, but only after four months can a regular donor come back to give blood again.” For most people, giving blood is a simple and trouble-free experience. “Most people are healthy enough to donate as long as you are aged between 17 and 60,” Paul McElkerney, spokesman of the Blood Transfusion Service said. 

We all dream about making our world to become a better place so it is up to us all to contribute. Tom Payne, a 19-year-old regular donor considered: It is “such a good idea to help someone even without doing that much.” He encouraged his family and friends to donate. For him, moving stories are not only on TV, “I can do it myself.” And that applies to all of us.

(more information, please see here )

Published in: on December 15, 2006 at 7:48 am  Comments (1)  

Nothing Else Matters

When referring to buskers, people tend to consider them to be poor, failed, wacky, hopeless and helpless. But, how buskers see themselves?

In front of the Queens Arcade Shopping Centre, there is usually a man sitting against the crimson mailbox. He is in his 50s, with silken blond curls. He wears a blue checked shirt, left his white patterned coat on top of his case even it is blowy. What makes him remarkable is his way of wearing sunglasses-putting them on top of his head rather than on his nose, and, definitely, his guitar. He immerse in his music, playing without taking breath. That is Martin, a busker in the city centre.

Martin was born in Cardiff. He used to be seaman and learnt his instrumental craft in the traveling which toured countries around world. When his journey ended, he became a busker by chance rather than choice.

Most of the time, Martin plays the classical music. He believes it helps people change their mood. “People come and pass, they are all stressed. I try to calm them,” he winked, “and classical music works.” He doesn’t care much about people’s feedback. He is there playing pieces of music which come to his mind and waits for passersby‘s “thanks” when they dropping the coins.

Another brilliant guitar busker is Brian plays in the subway in front of the City Hall. Perhaps music warms people’s heart as well as their bodies, it is not that surprising when Brian appears in just a T-shirt in the windy underground passage. He used to be a waiter in a restaurant, but later gave up. For he heard his passion there, calling.

Chasing after a dream is never easy, but Brian perseveres. His rock-style songs are rakish, filling with gladness, hope, and ardour, all positive, cheerful and affirmative emotions. Taking the subway as his own stage, he appeared, a band following him behind. “I hope my songs remind people something delightful when they rush to office, shops, homes or elsewhere.”

In contrast, Ninjah appears negative. He concentrates on the seamy side of the world, killing, pillage, gaps between the poor and the rich and so on. He thinks people require more than they have offered, gain more than they have contributed. Somehow, he manifests weirdly, emphasizing that “I have to destroy before I create.” Ninjah imitates robots when dancing in front of the Capital Shopping Centre. He deems his performance can absorb people’s negative emotion, such as enmity, jealousness, obduracy, in return for positive energy.

Though they three seem quite different, they all believe that in return for the small change in people’s pockets, they are transforming humdrum daily life into something magical with their performance. They might influence passersby’s steps, countenances, moods and minds even they don’t halt. It appears to be the willing to “help” people, rather than the requirements of earning a living to encourage them to show up day by day, even in the severe weather. They consider themselves to be independent and conducive to the society. Therefore, to some extent, they’re successful. “I’ve been playing here for hundreds years,” Martin commented, “and I’ll continue enjoying the next century. Nothing else matters excepts the music.”

Published in: on November 19, 2006 at 9:02 pm  Comments (1)  

Story Pitch

1, What is the story?

    It is a story about the buskers in Cardiff, especially the ones playing with loudspeakers in city centre.

2, Why tell it now?

     Winter is coming. It might be too harsh a climate to earn their living by performing in the pedestrian zone since the flow of people evidently declined. The point is whether they persevere in it for their meal or because of the pressure of life.

3, How am I going to do it?

    I shall interview them, maybe spend hours together with them.

PS: What I am wondering is how this story would be categorized, a report of minority group? Or just a lifestyle story? Maybe 500 words don’t suit a report, but I think this might attract more audience than a life story…

Published in: on November 6, 2006 at 2:42 pm  Comments (4)