Archive for September, 2011

Reflections on 9/11 ten years on

September 12, 2011

Our Grief is not a Cause for War — banner in New York ten years ago

9/11 was a terrible tragedy, nearly 3,000 killed as the Twin Towers were demolished in New York, a plane crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed in a field.

Questions, questions, questions.

Why were fighters not scrambled to intercept the hijacked planes and shoot them down? For the fourth plane it was probably shot down as the crash site was that of a plane that had broken up in the air, the wreckage spread over a large area.

To bring the towers down as they came down would have required a highly skilled demolition crew, careful timing and placed charges.

The fires in the Twin Towers were fuel rich, oxygen poor. Most of the fuel burnt off in a fire ball on impact.

The towers were designed to withstand a plane crash. The steel cage structure would have conducted away the heat. Similar towers with top-to-bottom fires have not collapsed.

Why did WTC7 collapse?

Why was the crime scene not preserved?

At the Pentagon, why fly all the way around and come in on the one wing not occupied due to building work? Had they flown straight into the Pentagon they would have taken out the top brass. Why were people picking up the wreckage? The image on the building before the roof collapsed did not match the plane. Why did no missile defence system take out the plane?

I know where I was when the towers were hit. I was sat on the step of my French Windows. I thought World War III had broken out.

It was an affront. The attack was on US soil.

The attackers were Saudi, not Afghan. Why bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age?

The Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden if the US provided eveidence of his involvement.

It was a crime, a heinous crime, but not a call to war.

Pakistan was given a choice: You are with us or against us. If against, we bomb you into the Stone Age.

The day before, a senior Afghan leader was killed. Was it the trigger?

US is in Afghanistan to control pipeline routes for US oil corporations.

Bill Clinton had reached agreement with the Taliban for pipeline routes, even down to the price for using the pipelines. This fell through due to pressure from human rights and women’s rights groups.

There were plans to attack Afghanistan before 9/11. 9/11 gave the pretext.

Iraq was nothing to do with 9/11. It was a distraction. But US wished to control Iraqi oil.

Christian fundamentalists rode into town on the coattails of the US military. Their meddling has led directly to the slaughter of Iraqi Christians.

US and British corporations rode in to share the spoils of war.

All three countries have been destroyed, the region destabilised by the US.

The dust from the collapse of the Twin Towers was toxic. New Yorkers were told it was safe. It is kept in secure containment.

Teddy bears parachuting off the church tower

September 12, 2011

Teddy bears were parachuting off the church tower. Bruno did not make it. His corpse was outlined in chalk at the foot of the church tower as a warning to other bears not to jump without a parachute.

No, I was not halucinating.

It was Saturday afternoon in Farnham, the Parish Church was holding a church fete. Stalls selling junk dotted around the graveyard, including a barbeque and a beer stall. Inside the church cakes, cream teas and a trip up the tower which sadly I missed out on.

I am sure I have been in the church before, but if so, I did not recognise it. The pews have been stripped out. The church is now open as a medieval chuch would have been. What I did not like was a large box at the rear with seats on top. From the entrance beneath the tower this sadly obcures the view of the church.

I lit a candle for my friend Sian who sadly is becoming engulfed in her own madness and one for Paulo Coelho as thanks for Aleph. Prayer cards were also filled out.

I think, but not sure, there are tours of the church tower on Saturdays throughout September.

Wandering around Farnham I found a lovely hand-panted set of Japanese tea cups.

In Waterstone’s played a game of hunt for their only copy of Aleph by Paulo Coelho. [see Paulo Coelho in Waterstone’s and the author the publisher forgot]

A walk in Farnham Park, then caught the train home.

James Daunt discussing how bad is Waterstone’s

September 9, 2011

Yes entire chain, no display at all, no mention of it anywhere in shop, really crap, think Waterstone’s need more business acumen. — Pandora

Hi Keith – we are very much aware that Paulo Coelho is one of the world’s bestselling authors – we’d love to do some work with him. — Waterstone’s

It was a breath of fresh air listening to James Daunt lunchtime today on BBC You and Yours talking about how bad is Waterstone’s.

Buy two get one free is to go. Far better is to offer the books on offer at one-third off.

Staff in bookshops to have greater autonomy. We used to have a chain where this was true. It was called Ottaker’s. Waterstone’s bought Ottaker’s, then destroyed Ottaker’s.

Waterstone’s does not compete with independent bookshops. This is true, but only because Waterstone’s has destroyed our independent bookshops.

It was brought home to me last month just how bad is Waterstone’s when I saw they had no mention of a new release, Aleph by Paulo Coelho. When I querried this I was told Paulo Coelho not well known or not popular. I thought maybe this was unique to Waterstone’s Guildford, but sadly I found it not true, the problem was widespread. [see Paulo Coelho unknown author]

Nor did Waterstone’s make up for lost ground once Aleph published. I expected to see window displays, displays in store. Nothing! [see Paulo Coelho in Waterstone’s and the author the publisher forgot]

It is perverse. An international best-seller, and yet Waterstone’s make no attempt to display either in their windows or in store.

A week on from publication, Waterstone’s had sold 431 copies of Aleph. Assuming 300 bookshops, that is less than one and a half copies per bookshop.

Waterstone’s made no mention on twitter of James Daunt on You and Yours!

Today I bumped into a friend who I had not seen since Guildford Book Festival last year. She used to work in a bookshop. She found it unbelievable my experience in Waterstone’s. But they work in a bookshop, how can they not know a writer like Paulo Coelho, that he has a new book out? The small bookshop she used to work at would have had Aleph on display in the window and sold dozens in the first week.

Another friend who I bumped into earlier in the day was also very surprised.

Top story Book Beat (Friday 9 September 2011).

James Daunt of Waterstones
James Daunt of Waterstones 2

changing Earl Grey tea

September 7, 2011
bring back real Earl Grey tea

bring back real Earl Grey tea

just say no to dishwasher tea

just say no to dishwasher tea

Earl Grey tea is a tea blend with a distinctive flavour and aroma derived from the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit.

The blend Earl Grey is a blend of tea made for Earl Grey by Twinings.

Twinings have encountered huge controversy by reformulating their Earl Grey tea in April 2011, claiming to have added “an extra hint of bergamot and citrus”.

This fake Earl Grey tea is not Earl Grey tea. It has been described by those who have tried it as tasting of washing up liquid.

Personally I have not tried it, any more than I have tried drinking from the gutter.

If Twinings wish to launch a new blend of tea, that is fine, but please do not call it Earl Grey when it is not.

Earl Grey revolt
We’re pining for our old Twinings: Furious Earl Grey drinkers dismiss new recipe as ‘an affront to tea’
Bring back the original Twinings Earl Grey tea

Make the most of your journey!

September 7, 2011
Make the most of your journey - half page advert page 21 Metro

Make the most of your journey - half page advert page 21 Metro

Make the most of your journey! Download E-version of Aleph by Paulo Coelho £1-99 one week 7-14 September 2011 UK only!

Paulo Coelho in Waterstone’s and the author the publisher forgot

September 5, 2011

Aleph starts the week with three no ones! Thanks Holland, Croatia and Latvia. — Paulo Coelho

Last week we forgot to mention Paulo Coelho’s brilliant new book Aleph. — HarperCollinsUK

HarperCollinsUK “forgot”. This is pathetic. — Paulo Coelho

Thank you for checking the bookstores and showing how pathetic is HarperCollinsUK. I eventually will make this public. — Paulo Coelho

Walk into Waterstone’s and you will usually find Paulo Coelho books on the shelves.

O Oleph released in Brazil August 2010 shot straight to Number One within days of publication.

O Oleph released in Portugal February 2011 shot straight to Number One within days of publication.

Elif released in Istanbul March 2011 shot straight to Number One within days of publication.

The first six contries of release, Aleph shot straight to number one.

Publication of Aleph in English September 2011 has been eagerly awaited.

Paulo Coelho has sold in excess of 130 million books.

At a book signing at Borders in London, 2,000 people turned up.

Paulo Coelho has over 2 million followers on twitter, over 5 million friends on facebook.

It is therefore somewhat perverse that Waterstone’s had no mention of Aleph with their new releases prior to publication. Waterstone’s Guildford somewhat belatedly a couple of days before release had Aleph chalked up on their board of new releases. The pathetic excuses: Paulo Coelho not well known, Paulo Coelho not popular. [see Paulo Coelho unknown author]

Once published, Waterstone’s made up for lost opportunity. Erm, no.

Waterstone’s Lincoln when asked for a copy of Aleph had not heard of it and had to look it up on their system to see if in store. Yes, it was. It was upstairs, someone would bring a copy down. Ten minutes later, no copy had appeared. When the long wait was querried, apparently they did not know where to look. Copies were then spotted on a nearby table. Did they know of the free trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway? No.

Waterstone’s Guildford, to their credit, did have Aleph on display near the door. Nothing in the window.

Waterstone’s Godalming not a single copy could be found in store. Maybe they had had a run on Aleph? No display in store, nothing in the window (or so I thought), nothing where books by Paulo Coelho were shelved. On my way out I spotted a single copy of Aleph hidden behind books by second-rate writers (and that is being generous).

Waterstone’s Alton had no copies of Aleph on display either in the window or in store. Three copies of Aleph were found on the shelves with the other Paulo Coelho books. No attempt had been made to shelve with the cover on display. When asked, zero copies of Aleph had been sold. Apparently people of Alton were too pragmatic and the author was not very well known or popular. Asked of any promotion, yes there was a promotion, £3 off the cover price, no, not aware of free trip on Trans-Siberian railway!

All Waterstone’s have an area where new books are displayed. None had Aleph on display.

The publisher of Aleph has of course done their best, putting Waterstone’s to shame. Erm, no. Not a tweet on twitter from HarperCollinsUK. Apparently they forgot! They forgot to mention that one of their most important authors had a new book out! How pathetic can you get?

HarperCollinsUK forgot! They forgot! But even after they had been reminded by myself and others, including Paulo Coelho, the best HarperCollinsUK could do was point to a pathetic piece by Kindle Post UK where they could not even get the author’s name right. And even then they pointed to the website of Kindle Post UK, not to the article itself. HarperCollins could not even be bothered to cobble together a press release! [see Exclusive Interview with Paulo Coehlo]

Other than word of mouth, how does anyone know an author has a new book out, if the bookshops and publishers make no attempt to promote the book?

In Godalming, I was chatting to a lady in the Parish Church. Paulo Coelho, yes, he is a very famous writer, author of The Alchemist.

Alton Secondhand Books a good selection of Paulo Coelho books. He is very popular.

On the streets of Alton I bumped into an attractive female I had seen earlier in an Italian Coffee shop. Yes, she knew who Paulo Coelho was, he was a famous writer who had written many books. Why do you ask? He has a new book Aleph. Thanks, I will look out for it.

If I was a bookseller and knew there was an international best-seller I would make sure I had plenty in, that it is was on display, and my staff knew about it. Not it seems if you are Waterstone’s.

If I was a publisher and I had an international best-seller, I would make sure all the bookshops knew about it, that they had it on display with plenty of promotional matererial. Not it seems if you are HarperCollinsUK.

Waterstone’s is like a game of pass the parcel. No one wants it and it gets passed around until the music stops. Tim Waterstone sold to W H Smith. W H Smith sold it back to Tim Waterstone. Tim Waterstone sold to HMV. HMV has since sold it on. Waterstone’s has recently been disposing of what they call surplus stores in an attempt to cut their losses. In the meantime, Waterstone’s has decimated independent bookshops.

Guildford used to have several bookshops. All that is now left is Waterstone’s (the former Ottaker’s flagship store) and a small Christian bookshop.

HarperCollinsUK is part of News Corp, the Murdoch Empire.

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian writer. Aleph was released in UK 1 September 2011. It is due for release in USA 28 September 2011.


September 1, 2011
Aleph - Paulo Coelho: A spiritual journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway

Aleph - Paulo Coelho: A spiritual journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway

Paulo Coelho: A spiritual journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway

A certain nobleman went into a a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom and return. — Luke 19:12

I realised a long time ago that a warrior in search of his dream must take his inspiration from what he actually does and not from what he imagines himself doing. — Paulo Coelho

When faced by loss it’s best to take advantage of the large space that opens up before us and fill it with something new. — Paulo Coelho

An oak tree at least half a millennium old silently watches the follies and foibles and woes of humankind. It fears the axeman and of late man with a chain saw. At least the man wielding the axe puts in some effort.

The oak tree knew William Shakespeare, was there long before the existence of the United States of America.

Man clearfells old growth forests not even for the timber but for wood pulp. All with the approval of Greenpeace, RAN, WWF. Shed a few crocodile tears, pass the tissues, they have FSC approval.

An all knowing, all powerful God, full of love and grace. Why therefore does he allow suffering? A question most frequently asked and rarely answered.

Why indeed?

Maybe God does intervene. But how would we know? God does not write a sign in the sky.

Were God to intervene, we would have the Law of Unintended Consequences. One bullet, one shot, triggered the start of World War One. We stop one path, we follow another. Were God to regularly intervene, the laws of physics would not work.

We doubt our faith. There is nothing wrong with that. Those who do not doubt are fundamentalists.

It is the Jewish tradition to ask questions, to challenge God. If we have run out of questions, there is something wrong.

Abraham and Job questioned and challenged God. The Book of Lamentations virtually put God on trial. Jesus nearly always responded to a question with a question.

Doubt makes us question our faith. We dig deeper.

When things go wrong in our life, it is a message.

A tragedy can destroy us, it can also open the opportunity for good to enter.

A friend was raped when she was aged nine, her sister aged thirteen. Both were raped by their Mother’s boyfriend. She kept silent, fearing what would happen if she told. Eventually she went off the rails: drink, drugs, sleeping around. Slowly she has pulled herself together. She wants no retribution but cannot forgive.

Collective memory: He who controls the present controls the past, he who controls the past controls the future. We cannot go back and change the past. We can redeem the past in the present and thus change the future.

We live in parallel worlds. Sages, saints, prophets can with ease cross the transition zone. Seemingly so can subatomic particles. Us mere mortals have greater difficulty.

The eyes look into the soul, tears are the blood of the soul.

I looked into the eyes of my lovely friend Sian and time stood still, we had known each other for ever. Sadly she was mad, or at least schizophrenic, her madness grew and destroyed us both.

We sacrifice animals, sometimes people, in order that the sun rises in the morning. We have the proof our rituals work as each morning the sun does indeed rise. We could put this to the test, and not carry out the rituals, but why risk the wrath of the gods, why risk the sun not rising?

We know this to be nonsense. The sun rises due to the laws of physics.

But are we any different? People say their prayers, or at least make demands, they see God as a friendly grandfather with a flowing white beard handing out the sweets to the children.

When I sit on Brighton Pier or the sea wall in Puerto de la Cruz and look at the sunset I am looking at the Divine.

Writing is telling stories. I can always tell when someone has been on a creative writing course. Their writing is so bad. Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, did not need to go on a creative writing course.

What is it about railway journeys and grand stations? I do not mean short commuter hops and stations that are little more than a platfrm with a bus shelter.

I used to travel down to Penzance in Cornwall. I put my cycle on the train, then cycled around Cornwall and walked along the cliff paths. More recently, I travelled down to Swansea in Wales for an International Film Festival. Arrive at Brighton and the station is a work of Victorian art and engineering.

Two of the famous railway trips are the Orient Express and Trans-Siberian Railway.

When in Istanbul I was staying around the corner from the railway station and walked past it everyday. Passengers from the Orient Express were carried from the station, across the river and up to the Pera Palace Hotel in a sedan chair. It was at a press conference on St Joseph’s Day at Pera Palace Hotel that Paulo Coelho discussed his trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

How do you plan an unplanned journey? An oxymoron if ever there was one. Easy if you are a well known writer at the London Bookfair. You speak to the first publisher you meet, who happens to be from Bulgaria. You say arrange for a book signing for the following week. To the next publisher you say arrange a book signing for two weeks hence. And so on. Eventually you have sufficient. Oh and by the way, after the afternoon book signing throw a party in the evening in order that the author may meet his readers. You then go out to dinner that evening and ask your Russian publishers to arrange for trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

At a press conference at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul to mark St Joseph’s Day, Paulo Coelho said he lost his way. He found himself by going on a journey. Part of that journey was on the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is the story of that journey that he tells in Aleph.

Aleph is a point in time and space.

Aleph, a point in space and time.

Jorge Luis Borges describes it:

The Aleph was about two to three centimetres in diameter, but all of cosmic space was there, with no diminution in size. Each thing was infinite, because I could clearly see it from every point on the universe.

Paulo Coelho describes Aleph:

The small Aleph always appears by chance. You’re walking down a street or you sit down somewhere and suddenly the whole Universe is there.

The great Aleph occurs when two or more people with a strong affinity happens to be in the small Aleph. Their two different energies compete with each other and provoke a chain reaction.

What is reality?

I take pictures with my camera. I transfer to my laptop. I upload to the internet to share with friends. It is all an illusion. What I have uploaded is sequence of binary digits.

As a child I used to think our eyes projected onto the world. When I studied optics and light I became confused. I then learnt we process what we see, our eyes are pinpoint light detectors arranged in a matrix, which send electrical signals to our brain. We construct our image of the world.

Why travel? Whey did millions of medieval pilgrims travel El Camino de Santiago? Why did Paulo Coelho in the mid-1980s? Why do many modern-day pilgrims today.

There are things we cannot teach or preach or read about. That is why Jesus conversed with the Devil in the desert.

I didn’t make this journey in order to find the words missing from my life but to be king of my own world again. And it’s here that that I’m back in touch with myself and with the magical universe around me.

Aleph is a journey in time and space. A journey to a lake, a journey to the Spanish Inquisition, a visit to a shaman, a journey from Moscow to Vladivostok.

It was on this journey that Paulo Coelho met Hilal, a young Turkish violinist.

Our environment talks to our genes. The subatomic is influenced by the universe

The Trans-Siberian Railway is 9,288 km, it crosses seven time zones. It was constructed under the direction of Alexander III.

Paulo Coelho is criticised by the critics in their bile drenched reviews. No doubt Aleph will get the same treatment.

Aleph is a work of literature, a literary masterpiece. Destined to become a modern classic.

Published as O Aleph in Brazil (August 2010). Elif in Turkey (March 2011). Aleph in UK and UK (September 2011). in the first six countries of release, Aleph shot to No One within days of publication.

At the press conference in Istanbul, Paulo Coelho was asked was Elif a true account of what took place. He responded that apart from small changes for narrative flow, yes, it was a true account of what had taken place.

Synchronicity: I thought of my friend who was raped. I read why Hilal learnt the violin. I listened to the music of Hildegard von Bingen. I read of Hilal playing the violin.

Aleph quotes on Paulo quotes
Tears are words that need to be written
the fire of friendship
– Aleph in Farsi
The Aleph Video
– The Pilgimage
Love Wins
The Shack
– What’s So Amazing About Grace
– The Tao of Physics
– The Dancing Wu Lee Masters