It is not about flash photography

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Calvin Craig on Unsplash

In 1512, Pope Julius II held a special vespers service. It was an evening event that was held to inaugurate the Sistine Chapel after Michelangelo had finished four years of toil painting frescos on the ceiling. It is now the most visited room in the world.

If you have ever visited the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, you will have heard the guards saying, at regular intervals, “No photo! No photo!” There are signs everywhere forbidding both photography and video and this is enforced every few seconds by the staff.

I have personally been told off there when I checked my phone and a largely disinterested guard just tapped me on the shoulder. I had been pre-emptively warned. I was one of 6 million visitors that year and from what I saw, nearly everyone else was snapping a picture and then being told off. …

The first Caucasian not killed by the Jibaros tribes became the king of thousands

Image for post
Image for post
King Alfonso I of the Amazon Photo source: Quora

Ildefonso Graña Cortizo, better known as Alfonso Graña, was the first white man to meet the infamous headhunting Jibaros tribes and live. Not only was he not killed immediately, but he ended up as the king of the Jibaro (or Jivaro) peoples. For 12 years, he ruled over 5000 subjects and a huge swathe of the Amazon equivalent in size to half of Spain.

The remarkable story of King Alfonso I of the Amazon has been largely forgotten.

Alfonso’s background and history

Alfonso Graña was born in northern Galicia (Spain) in 1878. At the end of the 19th century, the mountainous regions were blighted by high levels of poverty and disease, prompting many to emigrate to the Americas. Like many others, Graña and his family moved to Ibero-America, the Spanish speaking region of the Americas that comprised most of South and Central America. …

The true story of a group of teens who were stranded on a remote island for over a year

Image for post
Image for post
‘Ata Island Photo: Google Maps

Ten years after William Golding released Lord of the Flies, six teenage boys found themselves stranded on a real desert island. Like in the book, there were no adults and it was up to them to survive.

In the novel, things famously went badly with the boys reverting to savagery and even murder. Golding was trying to make a point that humans, stripped of civilization, were still beasts at heart and would regress to a more primitive state.

So what happened when the scenario occurred in real life? Reassuringly for humanity, things turned out very differently. …

Historic alternatives and the future of ‘rear hygiene’

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

In the early days of the Covid pandemic, there was a lot of attention given to toilet paper, resulting in panic buying and hoarding. I live in Southeast Asia, however, and there was no such panic. Nor was there any in Japan, Italy or huge chunks of the planet.

The reason for this is that people in this part of the world prefer to use water to clean their posteriors, as do those in India, the Middle East and other places. Most toilets here have a hose — nicknamed a ‘bum gun’ — and it is a lot more hygienic. …

Get more done with this simple rule

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

There is a new year on the horizon and that means it is time to try and up your game. Get stuff done. Whether or not you do New Year Resolutions, staying motivated is crucial if you want to be productive and achieve your goals.

One such method to increase and maintain your motivation is by using the Goldilocks principle/rule. This simple idea is surprisingly effective and can help you achieve ‘flow state’.

‘Flow’ is when you are so into what you are doing, the world seems to fade away. Hours can fly past without you noticing and you achieve peak productivity. It is hard to attain at first and even if not reached initially, the Goldilocks Principle should increase motivation and productivity. …

Dmitry Agarkov literally rewrote the small print

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Etienne Martin on Unsplash

When Dmitry Agarkov was going through his junk mail one day, he came across a credit card offer from Tinkoff Bank. The Russian man thought it seemed a good deal at first with 12.9% interest and decent credit limits. But then he read the fine print and changed his mind. The real interest rate, hidden in the fine print, was a lot higher at 45%.

Instead of throwing the offer in the bin and getting on with things, Agarkov decided to have a little fun.

What happened next was meant initially as a joke but things soon escalated culminating in a court case worth $727,000. …

The cross-overs and homages are strong, frequent and extend to other series

Image for post
Image for post
Image courtesy of

Being a huge fan of both Star Trek and Cheers/Frasier, I knew there was a surprising amount of crossover and interlinking between all the series. But I didn’t realize quite how deep the references and mentions went.

Curious, I looked into it and discovered it wasn’t just the actors that appeared in both shows, there were links that constantly ran through them all — Cheers, Frasier, Star Trek the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise and even the Trek movies. The fondness that runs between the franchises is deep.

Warning: there will be some unabashed nerd info in what follows. …

In case you haven’t experienced him, here are some of his best books

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

JG Ballard was an English writer who died in 2009. He wrote several books, short stories, and essays and is one of my favourite authors. His writing is best described as ‘genre-bending’. They can be science fiction, modern-dystopian, surreal, weird or controversial. Or all those things at the same time.

In fact, his work is so distinctive it even became an official adjective. The Collins English Dictionary defined ‘Ballardian’ as work:

Resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, esp dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes, and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.

While certain themes, such as man-made dystopia, are prevalent in his work, the stories themselves are incredibly different. Ballard was originally associated with the New Wave of science fiction but that changed as he developed and tried new things out. …

There’s been a lot of disruption but is it for better or worse?

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by André Noboa on Unsplash

For several millennia reading was limited to a very select few. Books, scrolls and parchments were written by hand and were both prized and rare. Only a small percentage of people were able to read.

Then, in the 15th century, that began to change when Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press. Literacy rates began to rise but progress was slow. However, the Industrial Revolution and the ability to mass-produce paper soon changed that. Education, news, and the rise of popular novels and literature soon became mainstream, leading to a correlating growth in things like libraries and bookshops. …

Tech reviewers love it but what about writers?

Image for post
Image for post

I have recently been watching a lot of tech reviewers on YouTube as my old Microsoft Surface was dying and I needed something new. I finally reached a critical mass of everyone saying the same thing — the new MacBook Air and Pro were astounding.

So I bought a MacBook Air 2020 with the shiny new M1 chip inside. The reviewers effuse over the fact that it can render 4K video faster than real-time, which is good to know, but not something I do.

The big question for me was — what’s it like to write on? I write for a living so this is pretty essential. If you already have a MacBook Air would you notice the difference? …


Jason Ward

Freelance Journalist, Author, Writer. Lives abroad. Or email:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store