Oct 092013
 

Potala Palace by Duncan HarleyBy Duncan Harley.

Dr Choje Akong Rinpoche, the founder and abbot of the Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Scotland, has reportedly been “assassinated” in the south west Chinese city of Chengdu.
Dr Akong was aged 73 and had lived in Britain since 1963. He co-founded Samye Ling in 1967 in a former nurses home in Eskdalemuir.

It was the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West and is currently home to a community of around 60 monks and lay-people.

A statement from police in the Chinese city of Chengdu said Choje Akong Rinpoche, his nephew and his driver were killed in a residential area and that three suspects had stabbed the men to death in a dispute about money. The usual suspects have been arrested by Chinese Police.

A statement posted on the Samye Ling website by Akong’s brother Lama Yeshe Rinpoche said:

“To all dear friends of Samye Ling and Choje Akong Rinpoche, I am very, very sorry to inform you all that tragically, my brother Choje Akong Rinpoche, my nephew and one monk who was travelling with them were all assassinated in Chengdu today.”

The Foreign Office said:

“We can confirm the death of a British national in Chengdu, China on 8th October and we stand ready to provide consular assistance.”

Akong Rinpoche will be missed.

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May 092013
 

By Duncan Harley.

It’s not just Donald Trump who gets into trouble for using misleading advertising (see Tilting at Windmills – Aberdeen Voice 18th April 2013). The Advertising Standards Authority investigates complaints on an ongoing basis.

In 2011, for example, they dealt with 31,458 complaints and investigated each of these to see if they seemed to breach the rules. As a result, over 4,590 adverts were changed or withdrawn.

Whether you are the boss of FCUK branded clothing or even Prince Charles the rules are there to be adhered to in the name of protecting the public from misleading advertising claims.

In essence the ASA’s role is to monitor and regulate the content of advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing in the UK by investigating complaints and deciding whether such advertising complies with the UK advertising standards codes.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website claims that:

“The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. We apply the Advertising Codes, which are written by the Committees of Advertising Practice. Our work includes acting on complaints and proactively checking the media to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements.”

Set up in 1962 and funded by a levy on the advertising industry the ASA is the first port of call if you find an advert misleading or offensive.  Anyone can refer a complaint and the online complaints form on the ASA website is very simple to complete.

The ASA has a range of sanctions at its disposal as Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd found out when they were ordered to “not to make claims unless they could be substantiated with robust evidence and not to use misleading imagery”, after 21 complaints were received regarding an advert featuring a US wind farm plus a reference to “the release of terrorist al-Megrahi “for humane reasons” – after he ruthlessly killed 270 people on Pan-Am 103 over Lockerbie”.

Publicity in the form of numerous press articles appeared regarding this adjudication and although some marketing theorists may claim that even bad publicity is good publicity, it might well be said that the Trump advert raised concerns in Scotland about the interference of a foreign national in Scottish renewable energy policy making.

The ASA can also refer problematic broadcast advertisers to Ofcom

Apart from the negative publicity generated by the weekly ASA adjudication lists, the Authority can order advertisers not to advertise unless the CAP Copy Advice team has seen the advertisement first and allowed the advertisement to go ahead.

For example, the ASA told French Connection UK Ltd, which makes the FCUK branded clothing, to have all its advertisements pre-vetted by the CAP Copy Advice team.

The ASA can also refer problematic broadcast advertisers to Ofcom and if the ASA has trouble with a repeat offender, it can refer the matter to the OFT under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988.

Following more than 1,300 complaints to the ASA about the shopping channel Auction World.tv, the ASA referred the matter to Ofcom and the shopping channel went into administration following a £450,000 fine.

Mind you, both Trump and Auction World.tv are in good company alongside a wide variety of advertisers who have been deemed by the ASA to have misled the public.  This weeks ASA adjudication list includes upheld decision’s  regarding an ad for ”Dead Sea Kit”, a product that purported to remove wrinkles and featured text which claimed to unlock the secrets of anti-aging.

Cash Lady was similarly chastised for advertising pay day loans at a representative APR 2670% in misleading and socially irresponsible manner. The ad included the voice-over claim: “You could see your bank and fill in loads of forms, but there is an easier way to get a loan; check out www.cashlady.co.uk, with cash lady it’s simple to apply for up to £300. It’s dead fast too”.

In 2009 the ASA banned an Israeli tourism advert following over 400 complaints by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and members of the public after a map in the advert showed the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

The adverts read “There is probably no God”

In the same year Nestlé’s claim that it markets infant formula “ethically and responsibly” was found to be unsupported in the face of evidence provided by the campaigning group Baby Milk Action.

Perhaps one of the oddest complaints to come under scrutiny was the Atheist Bus Campaign in which Atheist groups aimed to place “peaceful and upbeat messages about atheism” on the side of London buses in response to “evangelical Christian advertising”.

The adverts read “There is probably no God” which prompted complaints from folk who no doubt thought that there probably is a god. Some of the complainants claimed that the advert was “offensive and derogatory to people of faith, who faced the prospect of having to decide if God existed in order to rule on the complaint.”

In a master stroke of diplomacy the ASA ruled that the advert:

“was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation.

“Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence.”

Diplomacy however was not in order when in march 2009, Prince Charles came under heavy fire when his Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture became subject to complaints and ridicule.

The claims to be able to detox the body and aid digestion when one or two drops are added to a glass of water were challenged and the product, which contains dandelion and artichoke, was variously described as “implausible, unproven and dangerous” by Professor Edzard Ernst of Exeter University and “outright quackery” by some others.

After investigation the complaint was upheld and the prince’s company Duchy Originals was told in no uncertain terms not to make misleading claims which it could not substantiate. The press were less kind and headlines such as “Make-believe and outright quackery – expert’s verdict on prince’s detox potion” appeared in the Guardian.

Next time you see an advert for an instant baldness cure or a land grab by some foreign state, you might like to take the time to consider filling in the online complaints form on the Advertising Standards website. After all, its you the public who are being misled.

Sources

Prince Charles accused of quackery: http://www.guardian/prince-charles-detox-tincture
Advertising Standards Authority: http://www.asa.org.uk/About-ASA.aspx
Snake oil: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_oil

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Mar 212013
 

Educate or Unfriend? That is the Question … or at least one of the questions to which Duncan Harley explores possible answers.

Unless you were a resident of that far off planet Mars, it would have been difficult to avoid all the media coverage regarding the events surrounding the recent election of Pope Francis.

The radio and television news fed a constant stream of comment interspersed with iconic views of the Sistine Chapel chimney emitting various shades of smoke according to how the latest voting had gone plus interviews with commentators explaining the secret voting process and providing background information to what is a fairly major event for the estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world.

The Catholic Church claims just over four million members in England and Wales and another 695,000 in Scotland.

Out of a total UK population of about 60 million, that means about one in 12 people in Great Britain and around 7.5% of the population of Scotland are Catholic. Significant numbers indeed!

On the day after the election of the new, media coverage of course switched to new topics such as the upcoming budget in the UK and the rather unusual decision by the Cypriot Parliament to commit economic suicide by imposing taxes on bank deposits.
The tabloids and broadsheets of course lagged behind by one day since the nature of printed news means that it is often out of date even as the presses are running.

Newspapers such as the Guardian ran with “Buona Sera, Pope Francis” as a leader and Aberdeen’s Press and Journal somewhat predictably led with “Crashes and chaos as thick snow sweeps in” under a banner reading “Hats off to the ladies” and “Fun times roll for Olly Murs”

All good informative and jolly stuff really!

Then social media sites such as Facebook began to fill up with posts referring to the new pope. Some were polite and informative, some were humorous but good mannered and some were very nasty indeed.

The first two categories I think are generally acceptable in that comment and humour go hand in hand with democracy and hopefully informed debate. The latter kind of comment is simply unacceptable in any civilised country. I suspect that the “unfriend” button on many folks walls may need replacing following unexpected comments by folk they thought they knew.

The UK and indeed Scotland have many ethnic and religious minorities and from time to time evidence of bigotry emerges against many of these. Immigrants, blacks, Jews, gays and Muslims all get the odd verbal battering from the misinformed within our population.

Bigotry can be defined as the state of mind of a bigot. Someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats other people with hatred, contempt and intolerance on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, language or socio-economic status.

In an attempt to address such issues we in Scotland have the much criticized “Offensive Behaviour Act” covering football grounds, public places and pubs and clubs.

It’s difficult to evaluate the success or otherwise of such legislation, but at least the existence of the act recognises that there is, or has been, a problem.

In addition the UK press is now likely to adhere to certain standards when publishing news and comment or face the wrath of the courts. Leveson for all its failures in implementation has at least exposed certain segments of the press to severe scrutiny.

But what about the internet?

The net is an area largely ungoverned and uncensored. There are systems in place which allow censorship, and recent closures of file sharing sites point to the fact that where money is involved, sites can be closed down. The blogosphere in particular is awash with individuals and organisations commenting on anything you could possibly think of and indeed lots of things you had never even thought of!

There is a quotation attributed to Herman Goering which reads as follows:

“it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

If you look at the internet in the light of the above quote it should be clear that the ball game has changed big time and that the masses now have a very loud voice indeed. The London Riots and the Arab Spring have in their opposing ways proved the point that social media is a powerful force for action and change. Neither would have been likely to have gained momentum without the communication means now available to ordinary folk.

Gone are the days when a slogan painted on a wall proclaiming “No Proddies Here” or “English Out Remember 1314” was a call to action or intimidation and thank goodness indeed.

The laptop and the mobile phone can reach out across the globe though. It would be a shame if the folk who write and digitally publish poisonous and inflammatory content caused a contraction of freedom of expression via censorship.

The motivations for censorship can of course range from well intentioned desires to protect children from unsuitable content to authoritarian attempts to control a nation’s access to information. No matter what the censors’ reasons are, the end result is the same: access is denied to “unsuitable content”

Internet censorship isn’t just a parental or governmental tool. There are many software products on the market designed to limit or block access to specific web sites. Most people know these programs as Web filters. Censorship opponents have another name for them: Censorware.

The internet may be a crucial stage at present. Control of content is still largely in the hands of the users. However if we allow the offensive content to increase it is certain that censorship will increase and possibly at a very fast rate.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said:

“The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract”

But Ogden Nash said:

“The door of a bigoted mind opens outwards so that the only result of the pressure of facts upon it is to close it more snugly.”

I don’t know which view is correct but it might be time to reflect on whether to “unfriend” or try to educate the bigots of this world.

Sources:

Catholic Numbers: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-21443313 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/11297461
Population figures: http://www.scotland.org/about-scotland/the-scottish-people/population-of-scotland
Offensive Behaviour Act: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/dec/14/scotland-religious-hatred-football-law
Quotes: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/21729-the-door-of-a-bigoted-mind-opens-outwards-so-that

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Nov 152011
 

With thanks to Bex Holmes.

Aberdeen was one of five locations across Scotland where the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) shot a series of short films to show what humanists believe.
The films cover a wide range of important moral issues, including physician-assisted suicide, sectarianism and same-sex marriage and feature more than fifty people – from 10-year-old Mellin Buchanan (Thurso) to 81-year-old Margaret Ferguson (Inverness).

The films can be viewed at the society’s H Factor campaign site http://www.thehfactor.org.uk/ where they can also be downloaded and shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Among the contributions in the film on humanism, Alex (Edinburgh) says:

“As far as I am aware, no humanist has ever killed anyone because of their beliefs”.

Among those commenting on physician-assisted suicide Catriona (Aberdeen) says movingly:

“We had to watch my granny die over a period of months, in pain, and wasting away in front of us when she’d told me years ago she’d had a great life and she was ready to go. Why can’t we afford people the same compassion that we show to our animals?”

HSS Convenor Les Mitchell says:

“We’re delighted with the H Factor films.  They show that humanists are deeply committed to making the world a better place.  Humanism is becoming daily more familiar in Scotland.  But, although our ceremonies grow ever more popular, very few people actually know what humanists believe.  In these films they can see for themselves and many of them may realise that, without knowing it, they’ve been humanists all their lives.”

The HSS is also inviting members of the public to win £1,000 by creating a new slogan for the society in an online competition hosted at the H Factor site.
http://www.thehfactor.org.uk/

Humanist weddings were made legal in Scotland in June 2005.  In 2010 there were 2092 weddings led by Humanist celebrant, compared to 1776 Catholic weddings, making Humanist weddings the third most popular form of marriage in Scotland [after Registrars and Church of Scotland ].

The Humanist Society Scotland is a charity founded in 1989 and currently has more than 7,000 members.   Christopher Brookmyre is its president and distinguished supporters include Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins, Professor James Lovelock and the novelist Iain Banks.

The Society aims to represent those in Scotland who choose to live a moral life without religion. We have a network of trained Celebrants who carry out non-religious ceremonies such as funerals, weddings, baby-namings etc.

For further information please contact:
Tim Maguire, HSS Media Officer
Tel. 0131 556 0128 or 07770 555 224
Email: media@humanism-scotland.org.uk

Aberdeen Group  Main Contact:
Marion Richardson, Secretary
Tel: 01888 562 237
Email: aberdeen@humanism-scotland.org.uk
Website: http://www.humanism-scotland.org.uk

Nov 112011
 

With thanks to Elizabeth Lindsey.

A group of Tibetan monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in South India, on an extensive UK and European tour, will be giving a performance at the Sanctuary, Queens Cross Church, on Monday 21st November. Their performances of masked dance and sacred chant have enthralled audiences from all over Europe.

‘The Power of Compassion’ offers a taste of Tibetan monastic culture with dramatic and colourful costumes, masks and musical instruments – including the great Dungchen or Long Horn, traditionally played from the roof of Tibetan monasteries.

The dances are interspersed with prayers and chants from the monastery using traditional instruments such as bone trumpets, drums and cymbals. The performance has been described as “A psychedelic whirl of chanting, dancing, drums, cymbals and processions” (The Times)

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tibet was founded by the 1st Dalai Lama in 1447, and became one of the major centres of Buddhist learning with over 6,000 monks and students, and the seat of the Panchen Lama, second only in importance to the Dalai Lama.

Following the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949, and the 14th Dalai Lama’s escape into exile ten years later, it became impossible for the monks to have freedom to practise their religion inside Tibet. Consequently, several of the monks escaped into exile and re-established their monastery in 1972 in the large Tibetan refugee settlement of Bylakuppe, South India.

Now numbering around 300 monks, the monastery is once again regaining its reputation as a great centre of learning. It is internationally renowned for preserving the unique Tibetan culture and the tradition of masked dance and sacred music.

The UK and European tour in 2011 is organised by the Monastery’s UK charity. Proceeds from the tour are sent directly back to the monastery to support the monks in their day to day work, ministering to the spiritual and physical well-being of the local Tibetan community, and also to help with building projects as their numbers expand.

The performance at the Sanctuary, Queens Cross Church on 21 November will be at 7.30pm with tickets at the door: £8/£6 concession.

Aug 122011
 

An unconfirmed rumour that the controversial Westboro Baptist Church  is about to open a church in Aberdeen came to the fore this week, when an alleged biography of the incoming WBC minister was discovered by your intrepid reporter Dave Watt.

The elders at Westboro HQ (obviously taking seriously US televangelist Pat Robertson’s claim that Scotland “is a dark land overrun by homosexuals”) have apparently decided not to risk their incumbent being attacked and sodomised by the gangs of gay rapists that infest the Granite City – and have agreed to send one of the wimmenfolk instead.
www.godhatesfags.com/index.html  

Biography of the new WBC Minister to Aberdeen

The Reverend Walmartina Navratilova ( pictured ) was born in Westboro County in June 1982, to Jim-Bob and Loribelle Navratilova (nee Pork). Her rather unusual Christian name was chosen in celebration of the location of her conception back at Thanksgiving in Walmart the previous year. This was the result of a romantic moment when Loribelle was in the store checking out the Grilled Racoon Special – and Jim-Bob was in having his banjo re-strung.

All went well in the Navratilova shack for several years, with the doting parents basking in the reflected glory of their eldest child being named for one of the US’s top female tennis players. However, in 1988, during one of the Sunday readings of the National Enquirer to the congregation by Pastor Jack Perspex, the unfortunate couple discovered that not only had their daughter’s role model been brought up a ‘godless red commie’ but was, in the Pastor’s own inimitable words, ‘a self confessed rug muncher and crack snacking dyke of the most insatiable kind’.

Although the couple were initially devastated by this revelation – and even Jim-Bob’s coon hound, Skeeter, was ostracised at the local Canine Obedience School – they gradually came to accept the situation. Following a long discussion with the Rev. Perspex, they decided to wait to see how things developed, and keep a close eye on the young Walmartina during puberty for any outward signs of a tendency towards lesbianism, communism, and even worse, tennis.

Fortunately for Jim-Bob and Loribelle’s peace of mind, the youthful Walmartina developed a 225 tenpin bowling average, became the county’s first Junior Imperial Wizardess in the Ku Klux Klan, and has presented the Navratilovas with a grandchild each year since her fourteenth birthday (some of them even to fathers outwith her own family).

Adulthood presented its own problems to Walmartina, when the Roadkill Canning factory at which she worked closed down. She spent several years on Welfare with her steadily increasing brood, until one day she found an advert in the local newspaper for Genuine Degrees in Theology for $50 and, amidst the rolls of baling wire and rusting station wagons, she found God in her hour of need.

Since then, Walmartina has travelled the length and breadth of the US Midwest preaching that the love of God is universal except for fags, commies and anyone with a three-figure IQ. She is looking forward to the challenge of bringing God to the backward heathens of Aberdeen, and has stated that her wayside pulpit message shall be :

“Repent Now, Scotch Limeys – or Burn In Hell!”
May 272011
 

Voice’s Old Susannah casts her eye over recent events, stories, and terms and phrases familiar as well as freshly ‘spun’, which will be forever etched in the consciousness of the people of Aberdeen and the Northeast.

To the amazement of the entire City, the Rapture came and went this Saturday without our Council floating away through the skies to heaven. Some American religious-types (who are not nutters at all) believed this past Saturday was the date for the righteous and holy to ascend to heaven.

However, since Kate Dean, Donald Trump, Stewart Milne and HoMalone have been seen walking the earth since Saturday, we can conclude that the Rapture was nonsense (or the date was wrong anyway).

Those who believed in the Rapture also believed that Hell on Earth would follow for those left behind. I hear the Council is working on it.

Then again, that’s maybe why Dean, Trump, Milne and Malone are still among us. Any similarity between these four local dignitaries and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse is purely coincidental. Some say Hell doesn’t exist except as a state of mind. If it does exist, I’ll be its got lots of concrete, parking, chain stores – and level access from all sides.

So the Rapture didn’t come Saturday.  But then when my mini polytunnel started floating out of my garden to the skies with the high winds on Monday night (along with a few roof slates), I wondered if the Rapture hadn’t just been delayed by a day or two.

Speaking of delay, I am told that Marischal College is not exactly up and running yet, despite Monday being the official opening date. It’s just not like our Council to be imprecise or miss deadlines, I admit. I guess if even the Council aren’t reliable 100% of the time, then God can be a few days late with his Rapture too.

I have a friend in Torry who is most concerned about Marischal being delayed – he is more than happy to have waited a couple of years for the Council to fix the leaky roof over his head, knowing that Marischal was given priority.

Even if the great building isn’t fully functional, citizens are still overjoyed that any ruts in the road surrounding Marischal have been smoothed over. After all, we wouldn’t want visitors to Aberdeen to get the wrong idea and think we had any potholes. And it’s only cost you and me £60 million, £80 million or somewhere in between, depending on whom you talk to.

This next definition may not fully make up for the Rapture not happening – but it’s the next best thing. I bring glad tidings of great joy: Aberdeen has launched another Consultation!

Open Space Audit: noun – another consultation.

Yes, another one. The Open Space Audit is a specific consultation asking for public opinion and which like previous consultations leaves a wearying feeling of deja vu.

Open Space: the final frontier. These are the consultation papers of the Flagship Enterprise Committee, whose continuing mission to seek out new green spaces and destroy ecosystems – to boldly develop what no council has developed before.

I hadn’t realised it, but there are still one or two green spaces that haven’t been carved up by developers – I mean which still need connectivity and improvement. You should feel very flattered: these important people want to know your opinions on these ‘new’ green spaces.

I only hope this time we are smart enough to give them the opinions they want, unlike when we turned down the opportunity to improve and ‘connect’ Union Terrace Gardens (which will still be ‘improved anyway – don’t worry). If previous consultation exercises are anything to go by then I’m happy to help. After all, it is a privilege to give up a few hours to read massive consultation documents, digest hundreds of pages of council-speak, set my thoughts on paper – and still be totally ignored.

“How do they always get it so right?” I hear you ask. Well, there is a scientific scale the Council uses to decide what the results of a consultation mean:-

  • if 300+ people want something left alone, and 2 people want the same thing changed – then change it  (like the comments on Union Terrace Gardens made during the last local development plan)
  • if people don’t object to a deer cull they didn’t know about – then get on with the deer cull, however many thousands of people and community councils beg you not to.
  • if more than half of respondents to a consultation (let’s say about gardens for instance) don’t  give the answers that the council or ACSEF want- then it means the consultants should have ‘massaged’ the results better – and it means the people didn’t understand what they were supposed to do.

Anyway, back to this exciting Consultation at hand.

Right: we have these ‘new’ green spaces, which obviously can’t be left as they are – we have to improve them. Some of them are even hard to get to. I therefore hope we will be building carparks in the Cairngorms and some connectivity enablers (shopping malls) on Loch Ness, which would increase the economic viability of the region as well.

What good is an open space if you can’t park, shop and eat at it? But rest assured – this is a local plan for local people. If you wish to read the 43 page main document, then please be my guest.

I was fascinated to learn Union Terrace Gardens is not really a city centre park (as if you need me to tell you). It is obviously a local park that “generally serves a smaller catchment area than city parks but can contain specific attractions. Most visitors will be from the immediate locality but some will travel further to use specialist facilities, e.g. sports centres or horticultural features in season.” (Aberdeen City Council Parks Hierarchy document, 1998). Glad to have helped with that.

Here is a highlight to entice you into reading the consultation papers:-

The Open Space Strategy has very close links with other strategies such as Aberdeen City’s Nature Conservation Strategy and should not be considered as a standalone document for delivering wider environmental benefits. Links to the various relevant policies and strategies are provided in Figure 1.

Supplementary Guidance on Open Space has been developed in parallel with this strategy, and sets outs the Council’s approach towards planning and development of new open spaces.
See www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/openspace

I think they are really going for a literary prize with this one. Again, I don’t understand what makes green spaces with bronze age burial grounds or Victorian garden features ‘new’ green spaces – even after reading all the helpful literature.

You will be pleased to find a fetching diagram with arrows, nice colours and shapes and soundbites at ‘Figure 1’. A free Brewdog to anyone who can explain it to me.

Whatever it means, it links to the Nature Conservation Strategy, so that’s OK then. Presumably this strategy includes taking a beautiful, unspoilt hill like Tullos, letting people set it on fire for a few decades, suddenly calling it new, saying it’s under-used, killing (“managing”) whatever lives on it, and putting 40,000 trees on it for the benefit of future arsonists.

Nature Conservation: noun – to find any remaining land, cull or ‘manage’ any nature that’s there, change it into something else, and to act like a Conservative who’s smelled money.

So you see, some of these green spaces have wildlife – which will consume the green stuff on the green spaces – so we need to ‘manage’ the wildlife. With guns.

How Nature ever managed in the past without HoMalone’s help is anyone’s guess. There are even ‘birds of prey’ which go after the captivity-bred, helpless, battery game birds found on some estate without paying for what they eat. Quite rightly we are continuing to poison these freeloaders, as witnessed recently at the Glenbuchat Estate in Strathdon.

Accidentally of course, a golden eagle got hold of a banned pesticide, carbofuran, and was ‘managed’ successfully by a painful death. Thankfully this kind of event will soon be a thing of the past, as we’re ‘managing’ to finish off the birds of prey quite nicely.

The fox which Mr Forbes bravely killed – sorry – – sorry ‘managed’ at his golf club was a dangerous wild beast.  A wild beast which normally would have eaten worms, and which was the size of my cat.

But we do have an even more serious issue: Ms Malone is still ‘desperate’ to plant her tree for every citizen. First things first, right?  The deer might eat some of the trees. Just for your reckoning, 40,000 trees divided by the 30 deer the City says live on the hill is equal to each deer consuming 1,333.33 trees. Food for thought.

When there are conflicts like this in nature between deer and vicious predatory beasts, there can be only one solution. However Ms Malone hasn’t resigned yet. Please keep your complaints to the City Council coming. You might want to ask HoMalone what’s going to stop people burning the new trees for that matter.

I eagerly anticipate sending in my response to this Open Space consultation. But once again, I must put up my hand and admit I am not smart enough to have any opinions until I have read the ‘Supplementary Guidance’ document. At only 38 pages, it’s a really brief read. It starts by telling you

“Access to good quality open or green spaces is important in contributing to a greener, healthier, smarter, safer, stronger, wealthier and fairer city”

How this city could get any fairer is beyond me. Still, you start by reading that sentence, and by the end of the document you’re brain hurts so much you’re ready to get a gun and start blasting seagulls like Mervyn New, or culling deer like HoMalone. This set of consultation documents is hypnotic persuasion at its best.

I am not sure I can handle waiting – but in due course there will be ‘The Open Space Strategy Strategic Environmental Assessment Report.’

When this is released, expect scenes reminiscent of when the final Harry Potter book was released as people queue in the streets to be the first to get their copy. To tell the truth, I can’t even figure out what the title means.

To sum up, our Aberdeen City plan is inclusive (unless you are an endangered species, fox, gull chick or deer), and your opinion counts. Tell the Council what you’d like it to do with its consultation. And its trees for every citizen.

Community Signature: noun – a positive outreach project which makes people in Torry feel a great sense of community.

People colour code triangles on a piece of paper. A valuable (£25,000 at my last count some years ago) exercise which isn’t in the least bit preposterous or patronising.

Let’s start defining this wonderful initiative by visiting its description on the City Council’s web page:-

“So what is a Community Signature?

“The Community Signature is a picture of the community. It’s built up by people sharing their views on what Torry is like as a place to live and work. The discussion’s really important because we all have lots of different views and experiences. The group also colour in a grid with green, yellow or red to reflect what works (community strength), where there is room for improvement (community opportunity) and what does not work at present (community barrier)”.

As you can see, nothing patronising there at all. The police, the city (that’s you and me as taxpayers), and the Foyer have spent tens of thousands of pounds on this colouring-in exercise. Not that we would have spent the money on saving the Tullos Hill Deer, had we been given any choice.

Once a Torry quine or loon has used a few coloured pencils, they are part of the community, are involved, and get a warm, fuzzy feeling. The fuzzy feeling may be a symptom from the logic employed by this scheme. But I don’t want to ruin the experience for you.

Get yourself some paper and coloured pens. Make some triangles – green for strengths the Council has, Yellow for what’s not quite great, and red for what is completely beyond the pale of what any reasonable, rational person should put up with. On second thoughts, just get yourself a green pen. Draw a few triangles. Talk about your feelings. That’ll be £25,000 please.

There is a newsletter, too. Value for money indeed. It reminds me of the guy in the States who’s made a small fortune from the Rapture – he took money to look after your pet dog or cat once you’d floated up to the clouds. Very creative and enterprising indeed – and not at all a rip-off.  I offer a similar service to anyone who’s going to be drinking flaming mojitos on the lake of fire instead of going to the pearly gates.

That’s all I can cope with. I’m going to get some green pens, start drawing triangles, and then read nearly 80 pages of the Open Spaces consultation. Definitely time to leave Brewdog tonight – there is a giant Stoat behind the bar that says it’s his birthday. Perhaps the Council has some policy covering stoats – Ms Malone should be told.

Next week (unless Rapture happens) – appeasing volcano gods, register of interests, and conflict of interests.

Oct 292010
 

By Fred Wilkinson with thanks to Christine Wilkie.

The Final Solution to the problem of Evil is a thought provoking and, in parts, controversial examination of the role of religion, faith, relationships and politics in modern day life. Two years after the authors tragic death, the piece has been released as an e-book by Chipmunka publishing.

David Alexander Edward Murdoch, born in Aberdeen on 21st January 1965,  was diagnosed with manic depression (bipolar disorder) at the age of twenty-one.

Davie, as myself and many others knew him, was a widely known and popular character who, despite his own difficulties, displayed a friendly and caring nature towards others around him. As fortune would have it, I only ever caught up with and spent time with Davie when he was ‘in good form’ and therefore have only pleasant memories of time in his company, and never fully appreciated the devastating impact of his mental health condition.

Never afraid to speak his mind, conversation with Davie could be surprising but always stimulating, and whether through his subtle sense of humour, or in focussed discussions, his need to question and to look at things from different angles always brought something fresh to our exchanges.

Davie had difficulty accepting that he had an illness. However, the condition dominated his life until his tragic death by suicide in Aberdeen on 23rd November 2008.

The Final Solution to the problem of Evil was inspired through his studies in Theology and his constant questioning of the meaning of life, the relevance of religion in today’s world and his often controversial views on day to day politics.

Unfortunately, Davie did not consider the piece to be finished. A short time before he died, he had written more on his computer which was misplaced during his last bout of mania. Perhaps we will never know what he really considered to be “The Final Solution to the Problem of Evil”

Chipmunka Publishing specialises in books, multimedia, music and art from themental health and well being community with the aim of giving more people a voice and changing the way the world thinks about mental health.

For more information on The Final Solution to the problem of Evil, click here.

Also by David A. E. Murdoch – Flying My Own Plane

Jul 092010
 

By Dave Watt.

There you go. Giving them £41.5 million a year isn’t enough. You have to pray for them as well.

With the ConDem government introducing what is widely accepted to be the new Screw The Underprivileged measures almost hourly you might think there are others in our society more in need of prayers but Gilcomston Church would appear to see things differently.

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