A Change Brewing?

Tea is as synonymous with the United Kingdom as the Queen of England herself. However, new figures show that Britain’s love affair with tea may soon be going the way of the dinosaur. Every year since 2011, the amount of tea sold in British supermarkets has declined. Not only has it declined, but the amount of decline has roughly doubled every year. The amount of tea sold in 2013 was down over 6% compared to 2012.

Closing the gap. Google searches for coffee (blue) in the United Kindgom have grown to match searches for tea over the past 7 years.

Closing the gap. Google searches for coffee (blue) in the United Kindgom have grown to rival searches for tea over the past 7 years.

At first glance, it would seem crazy that Britain could turn its back on its most prized export. After all, in 1773 Boston patriots organized the Boston Tea Party and not the Boston Coffee Party. But this is 2014, not 1773. The worldwide expansion of American fast food chains (I’m looking at you, Starbucks) as well as a global society that’s increasingly always on the go has caused a sea change in British caffeine consumption habits.

Starbucks is fueling Britain's growing love for a cup of joe. The company now has over 730 stores and 12,000 employees since opening the first British cafe in 1998.

Starbucks is fueling Britain’s growing love for a cup of joe. The company now has over 730 stores and 12,000 employees since opening their first British cafe in 1998.

As tea sales have plunged at the supermarket and tea rooms, coffee sales have increased at a proportional rate in general and at a nearly exponential rate in public. The change is most dramatic on Britain high streets, where coffee sales hit the £1 billion mark in 2013 compared to only £480 million for tea. In fact, the coffee sector in the United Kingdom is growing at a rate 7 to 8 times faster than the British economy itself.

This news hasn’t gone over well with at least one person in the UK’s blogosphere. Emma Sturgess, in the Word of Mouth blog with The Guardian stated that it was “hard to swallow” Britain’s growing love for coffee.

The Americans may have had a big hand in introducing espresso to the Brits, but it is now a new wave of British entrepreneurs that are cultivating a distinctly British coffee culture. In much the same manner that happened in the United States in the 2000s, independent cafes are popping up all over the country. Not only do Brits want coffee. They want good coffee that’s just as meticulously prepared for them as their beloved tea. Urban blogger Peter Thomson has taken advantage of Britain’s growing coffee scene as a way to explore new parts of London. Other coffee aficionados have turned into teachers as interest in the art of making a latte has grown.

Perhaps Britain’s growing love affair with coffee is the final revenge of the Boston revolutionaries that gathered at the Old South Meeting House and planned the Boston Tea Party. One thing that is certain, however, is that the interconnectivity of today’s world will continue to alter traditional cultural values and tastes. We are becoming one giant, global melting pot.

Across Borders: A Parkour Generation

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Human motion need not be delimited by carefully-set sidewalks nor inhibited by obstacles. Leap over walls, swing from the rafters to get to your next destination via le method naturelle. The spectacle often leaves average pedestrians awestruck in the dust. Parkour enthusiasts, called traceurs, draw unique lines of approach to this sport of urban free-running and develop their philosophies from the spirit of it. The movements evoke practitioners’ primitive sides while the discipline places them vis-à-vis with moments of fear and truth about the psychological and physical limits. The conceptualization of parkour breaks down ideas of spatial and social confinement, which have restricted our harmony with our environment. As one enthusiast put it, “The idea that the only way to get to the second floor is from the inside of a building is preposterous.”

Nicola

The community’s consensus is that this adrenaline-pumped martial art was born in Lisses, France, where modern legends-in-the-making like Sébastien Foucan and Jérôme Ben Aoues expressed their free-flow style by jumping, flipping, scaling, leaping along their own paths with exceptionally acrobatic, and distinctly defiant, French flair since the 1990s. Here, skateboarding was not allowed and public playgrounds had rules against this type of play. They developed a sport that complemented surrounding architecture in creating alternate, and often impressive, routes of transit for the nonconformist traveler. The style quickly spread throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Americas. Parkour Generations America started in 2005 with a runabout rendezvous – here is their showreel: http://youtu.be/lD3_Fn0erPw

 

The most spectacular stunts are done among rooftops, but fundamentals should be learned at ground level. Today, online organizations like ParkourGenerations.com and Monkeyspirit.org seek to inspire young French traceurs by providing tips, tricks, and testimonials from those who have become proficient in the art of creative movement. The masters teach use of fundamental and natural motions, mental rehearsal, and hard work to become fluid in the art of manipulating your horizon, because after all, “the art of moving is about hard training.” Exercise regimes challenge cardiovascular systems, build core strength and improve muscular endurance. The essence is in the footwork, the hand placement, the unique flow of the individual in their route and how they assess obstacles. Uncontested sensei Sébastien Foucan explains that, in his experience, “practice is best done alone…to be focused in yourself. When you are alone you’re a little bit afraid and you need to find why and the solution.” And Monkeyspirit.org urges hopefuls in its introduction not to put the cart before the horse. “The flow comes from years of hard work. Even apes and monkeys practice all the day long during their childhood learning from their parents.”
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Groups like UrbanFreeFlow and Freemouv display skill at international competitions, most recently this July in the French Alps and in August in Wisconsin, USA. Their talents have also been displayed in such recent films as 007 James Bond: Casino Royale and Jump Britain. Foucan recently helped K-Swiss develop the Ariake, the first freerunning and parkour shoe. Nikon and GoPro have contests to sponsor amateurs in creating parkour videos for the web.

To date, the writer has personally adopted many movements of Animal Planet in conquest of free-running basics. Visualize me at 25, meditating at dawn and practicing throughout Missouri’s karst landscape during my frequent hiking trips. I still get the urge to climb to the top of the playground tower and every other imposing structure I come across. As a novice, I hurt my ankle while leaping between platforms last month and haven’t been as spry since. I should have been wary of encouraging instructions that included the phrase, “various opportunities to jump off the roof.”

 

Ultimately, parkour is for hard-chargers, fast runners, young kung fu masters, trapeze artists, and those kids who grew up having the most fun on the school playground. It continues to be rapidly embraced by a generation of unprecedented physicality and philosophy: a parkour generation.

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The death of Wikileaks?

Courtesy of Flickr creative commons

The controversial founder of Wikileaks — an organization responsible for releasing several classified documents — has been embroiled in a sexual assault controversy for several months.

The transparent-skinned leader for corporate and government transparency lost his appeal, on Nov. 2, of extradition to Sweden to answer questions about the alleged rape of one woman and the molestation of another in Stockholm last year.

Mastercard, Visa, Paypal and others have blocked support to Wikileaks, and Assange has said himself that it would be impossible for him to run Wikileaks from prison.

So, is Wikileaks toast?

The success of Wikileaks has become both a positive and a negative for the organization. It’s positive because they’ve drawn attention to various issues through people viewing their leaked documents, and it’s negative because with more attention to their illegal activities comes punishment by law; Assange has made a lot of powerful enemies.

Wikileaks has been forced into inactivity due to a lack of funding and I think it’s likely to remain that way. However, I think the concept of releasing classified documents as a means to creating transparency is far from toast. There will be another Wikileaks. Whether you think Julian Assange is a dirt bag or you’re against everything Wikileaks stands for, it’s impossible to deny the impact it has had.

Our world culture has shifted to being a more open culture — much of this has to do with the massive popularity of social media. Since people are becoming used to being so open, they are beginning to expect the same openness from their governments and corporations.

If governments and corporations remain resistant to this type of transparency, the concept of Wikileaks will not die. If there’s a demand for another Wikileaks-type website, someone will fill the void — it just might not be Assange.

Anon & Iran Mixing With Tor vs. the Panopticon:: Interesting Implications

18th century England,  through its social theorist Jeremy Bentham , manifested the European notion of the Panopticon.

The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. The design comprises a circular structure with an “inspection house” at its centre, from which the managers or staff of the institution are able to watch the inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter.”

–comment from Wikipedia’s Panopticon Article

Now take a jump from the 18th century to current times.  If we were to take a look at current European censorship laws would find that there is a long history dealing with the idea of limited information and now-a-days we find that the UK itself is counted amoung the strictest censorship laws (being centered upon the ideas of censorship of motion pictures, video games and Internet sites).

The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to suppress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.”

–Courtesy of the UK based SpyBlog

It was once written that…

Any fair-minded person with journalistic experience will admit that during this war official censorship has not been particularly irksome. We have not been subjected to the kind of totalitarian ‘co-ordination’ that it might have been reasonable to expect. The press has some justified grievances, but on the whole the Government has behaved well and has been surprisingly tolerant of minority opinions. The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.”

-– George Orwell

This notion of the panopticon has steadily taken effect and is being realized as we speak through the use of the internet, credit cards, and other such ventures.  With sites such as Facebook monitoring all our likes and dislikes, what we do and who we do it with are being cataloged by programs trying to discern patterns out of human lives. We are essentially facing the idea of a virtual prison where we must always assume we are being watched.  This is not something we should condition ourselves with, and programs like Tor are helping stem the pan-optical growth, but without a mass of individuals fighting against this injustice cohesively freedom and privacy  will eventually be filtered out of the human experience.  There is a global understanding that people in this society are feeling powerless and trapped within the developing internet panopticon and a call is being made for the need of the…

“assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.”

–(comment courtesy of spyblog.org.uk)

Coupling this notion with the example of political instability of Iran, there should be no question that the government or other governing systems rule the media.  For example, in a country such as Iran the media can only report what their superiors let them report. With this in mind, here is some information on the Inform Iran movement and the projects that they are pursuing along with some insights pertaining to new character archetypes developing in this global world such as that of the new archetypal figure of “Anon.”

For one thing, Iranian people and their supporters are using a computer program dubbed the Tor Project. This is essentially how they have been communicating and connecting to rally those who are unhappy with the current regime of government. Imagine if you would, a secondary layer of internet that is secure and can go past sites that have censors on them. With a simple installation of Tor, your computer becomes part of a greater internet consciousness allowing this new layer more bandwidth by sharing your own. This project is a node of connection that allows more and more information to flow in and out of different revolutionary groups. All you have to do is essentially set the program up and keep it on or in hibernate mode and you will be doing your part in helping such political reactionary groups or simply being anonymous in your own internet dealings. So if you have ever felt the need to have privacy on the internet, downloading programs such as Tor or freegate this is step one.

An interesting implication to the idea of a Tor network is that it works based of creating different connected nodes which spread the overall network out in a free and without corporate sponsorship, internet connection. Why might people not want such a thing? For starters it would take money away from the corporations selling internet as a resource. We must ask ourselves in such unique times, why is free information being sold, and why haven’t we been just doing this ourselves? With a constant bridge between each computer that is on, we could have global internet for free.

Another funny idea that comes along with the advent of a global, free internet is the idea of the anonymous character archetype. The virtual bully, the villain without a form to attack. We see such identities on websites that have been censored such as 4chan with their /b (or random channel) which is made of individual beings that come together to form the idea of Anon. The anonymous god of the internet, blessing those it chooses to with information, while at the time time tearing down religious groups such as Scientology.

–image via Flickr

With these thoughts in mind we must ask ourselves how we feel about the fact that there are anonymous presences on the internet, actively working in real life to overthrow governments, or simply just to have privacy.  In a day and age where privacy has succumbed to the vast machine’s virtual panopticon (the grid), shall we do our part to ensure ourselves privacy?  OR is all information simply there to be filtered through by programs and people alike, searching for your patterns and your essential identity?

Just things to think about.

A History of Winning, But What About the Future?

Manchester United’s reign over the English Premier League for the last 25 years, ever since Sir Alex Ferguson took control of the club, has been unmatched throughout history. In the last 25 years they have won over 37 major honors, including several league titles, and seeing as the club has been around since 1878 and has won a total of 61 major honors, it’s safe to say they are only getting better.

That being said, they hold the current record for the most league championships won.  Now the question is whether or not they can continue this incredible run.

Image taken from Google.

I think that if they keep pulling in the major endorsements and major fan bases, they will continue to have  proper funding in order to maintain their world-class team. After all soccer is the same as any other major sport anywhere in the world, the team with the most money, gets the best players.  Most people think this is the wrong way for teams to gain players, but in reality who doesn’t like getting paid obscene amounts of money to play a game they absolutely love? But the thing is, the better the team, the more fans, the more money to buy better players, the better the players, the better the team. I agree that it is an unfair advantage over the smaller, not as good teams. Its always been that way, But in the world these days it’s a dog-eat-dog world and only the best survive, and at the rate they’re going Manchester United will be around for a very long time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_united

http://therepublikofmancunia.com/

On the pitch, in the Closet – Homophobia in football

In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa over the summer, Fifa, the international governing body of professional football, actively spoke out against racism. Before every match, players from both sides came together and held a banner that read,“Say no to racism”.

But Fifa hasn’t been nearly so vocal in speaking out against other forms of discrimination. In fact, on the subject of homophobia, Fifa has been conspicuously silent.

England captain, Rio Ferdinand - John Dempsey, Creative Commons

Described as the scourge of football by England captain Rio Ferdinand, homophobia is something that, though prevalent in the stands of football stadiums across Europe, manages to go largely unaddressed.

The problem begins and ends with the fans. Football stands have long been the home of some of the worst society has to offer, from racism to neo-fascism, and racial and homophobic slurs targeted at players can often be heard. Many cite this as the primary obstacle to gay footballers coming out.

Earlier this year, the <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Football_Association” target=”_blank”>Football Association</A> (FA) of England released a video addressing homophobia in English football. It took the FA two years to release the video, which depicts a white-collar football fan using slurs against people in everyday life, and the campaign which the video is a part of is completely devoid of professional English footballers.

Apparently nobody, from David Beckham to John Terry, captain of England at the time, to Fabio Cappello, manager of the English team, wanted anything to do with the campaign.

But this is hardly surprising. As Musa Okwonga, a blogger for the Independent newspaper in London, writes, homosexual footballers shouldn’t come out if it makes them uncomfortable. Okwonga acknowledges the physical and professional dangers of coming out, but thinks that the internal struggle of figuring out one’s sexuality might be another important component.

In the last 20 years there has been only one prominent case of a professional footballer coming out. Justin Fashanu was an English player who played for such clubs as West Ham and Manchester City. Fashanu came out in 1990 and was immediately condemned, and even publicly disowned by his brother.

He committed suicide in 1997.

The BBC’s Inside Out produced a short documentary on homosexuality in football, which touched on Fashanu’s case.

The homophobic culture of football is one that will take time to change, and won’t unless the entire football community comes together to change it. Football is a beautiful sport, one that brings people together, and it is truly sad to see that it is still a harbor for so much hate.

Paul the German octopus dies

Paul the Octopus, who became famous during the 2010 World Cup after he predicted all of the correct outcomes of Germany’s matches, as well as the final match, died on Tuesday, October 26 at the age of 2 1/2 years of natural causes in his aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen.

During the World Cup, Paul would make his predictions by opening the lid of one of two clear plastic boxes, each containing a mussel and bearing a team flag.

Paul the Octopus predicts Spain over Germany during the World Cup.

We had all naturally grown very fond of him and he will be sorely missed,” Sea Life manager Stefan Porwoll said in a statement.

After the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, in which Paul correctly predicted Spain to win, his trainers retired him from predicting matches, and going back to his normal role of entertaining children. A large part of this was because of the death threats that he received, after he caused quite the stir-up in Germany when he picked them to lose to Spain.

It says a lot about a culture when the people send an octopus death threats simply because he picked his homeland country to lose a soccer match. Why are people caring this much simply on what an octopus picks? He is probably picking whichever box has the best smelling food, and the country’s flag is just a side bit.

Regardless, Paul’s is an octopus that will go down in history. At the start of the World Cup, he became an instant celebrity because of his picks, and had since been requested to appear all across Europe. He had his own agent, and was even an official ambassador of the England 2018 World Cup bid, since he was originally born in England before being moved to Germany. Also, “El Pulpo Paul” became so popular in Spain that the northwestern Spanish town of O Carballino tried to borrow him and make him an “honorary friend.” That was just one of hundreds of requests that Paul received to go to Spain. In addition, the Madrid Zoo asked Sea Life if it would be willing to make a deal to bring him in as a tribute to the Spanish soccer team’s victory, either temporarily or for good. But the German aquarium turned down that offer, too.

SoccerLens, an international soccer blog, isn’t grieving at all about Paul’s death, and is excited that people will start getting back to normal soccer now.

Some people love Paul, some will hate him since he didn’t predict their team. Regardless of how people feel about him though, it is obvious that this wasn’t your everyday octopus.

DJ’s Mortal Remains in Vinyl

RIV - need copyrightRob Perkins, a disc jockey from Munich, Germany since 1991, is best known for his performances in radio and television. While most of his work as a DJ is in Germany, he also works at private parties worldwide. This German DJ has a funky idea of the perfect resting place after death.

The online British company andvinyly.com makes it possible for anyone to RIV (rest in vinyl.) This literally means you can have your cremated remains pressed into a vinyl record. These Vinyl records can be further customized by adding artwork and recorded music or a personal recorded message from the deceased.  The price for this service ranges from  $4600 – $7700 dollars.

The final resting place of the deceased varies depending on the culture. To the British culture, which is known for an ironic and dark sense of humour, the RIV solution may be completely appropriate, if not humorous. But the Germans are stereotypically thought to lack a sense of humor, especially from the viewpoint of the British. Additionally in Germany, the post-death tradition is: get rid of it as cheaply as possible.  So it’s no wonder if you are surprised that a German has decided to RIV.

Would you want to be remembered this way? How does RIV spin in your culture?