six fifty-six

Half-night dusk-light

Dims the lingering lilac-white

Rough-cut cloud, not cotton soft,

But dead and dull, dry tufts of hair

A thin-drawn rip in jet-torn sky

Glows deep and fine

As a lamp-lit scratch in a table-top

Then sinks its smoke to smoothness –

Stops.

The happiest-making story I’ve seen for a while

So, Ricky Jackson has finally been released from prison, after 39 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. If I’d been convicted for murder based on a lie extracted from a child by corrupt police officers, I suspect I would have spent my four decades of incarceration plotting extensive Old Boy-style retribution. Luckily, Ricky Jackson is a far better human than I am. What a thoroughly lovely bloke.

(P.S. If there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind over why the death penalty is a really, really shite idea, cases like this will hopefully help to illuminate)

Coursera and the Art of Brevity

I admit it: I have a problem. My family is concerned, my friends are perplexed and my boyfriend is beginning to despair. Due to a crippling psychological disorder, I am physically unable to allow pockets of free time to creep into my hectic work-life schedule.

That’s not to say that I’m some kind of superwoman. Far from it. I’m just as susceptible as the next person to naps and YouTube and all-encompassing hangovers that last until 10pm the following day. My problem is that I see a week of free evenings stretching out ahead of me and, instead of thinking, “Great! I’ll piss about and go to the pub and watch an entire series of House of Cards,” I think to myself, “Great! I’ll learn Spanish and write a novel and master macroeconomics.” At which point I piss about, go to the pub, watch an entire series of House of Cards, then panic and try to squeeze 6 months’ worth of intellectual activity into the hours I should be sleeping on a Sunday night.

The latest enabler of my addiction is Coursera. If you haven’t discovered it yet, take a look: it’s amazing. Coursera is a website where you can sign up for online versions of degree modules from major universities, wherever you are in the world, for free. These are made up of video lectures and set reading, and are assessed through multiple choice tests or short essays, depending on the demands of the course.

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Skins: a shiny shiny shrine to all that is wrong with TV

Ah, Skins: a menagerie of awful, entitled, jaded rich kids doing awful things to each other whilst seemingly getting a sexual kick out of this posturing, faux-nihilistic awfulness. Occasionally, we are asked to suspend our disbelief whilst the unbearable little shits export their particular brand of awfulness to a range of exotic locations, unlikely warehouse raves and/or what appears to be the set of Brighton Rock, all the while uttering the kind of wallowing, baseless, psychology-by-numbers banalities that make Amy Childs seem insightful and complex.

Inexplicably, according to Skins, no one in Bristol has a Bristolian accent, jobless teenagers never run out of cash and no one under 30 can act, with the possible exception of (OMG LIKE SO FUCKED UP!!!!) Franky’s psychotic cockney drug-dealing love interest, a sort of Scum-era Ray Winstone-cum-Topman model.

Unless the world has changed beyond all recognition in the seven years since I left sixth form college, the only thing amongst this drivel which actually rings true is the pervading sense of vacuity and selfishness that permeates all adolescent activity. All that is revealed by C4’s extended turd-polishing exercise is that, for all their slender limbs and agonised pouts, the lives of 17-year-olds are just too boring to stomach without a liberal smattering of violent sex, hourly drug intake and ill-conceived ‘serious issues’ to sledgehammer away any semblance of reality and/ or meaning. Luckily, there’s plenty of jumpy editing, elaborate sound design and the odd hallucination or dream sequence to distract from the very silly script, allowing the audience to focus their attention on what the cast do best: lolling around in their underwear, reciting clichés, with narrowed eyes and flat, plummy-voiced resolution. Gripping stuff.

Skins: The Young Offenders

Dreadful People.