Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ryanair Schoolgirl Scandal

Budget airline Ryanair are refusing to apologise for an advert which shows a "provocative" model dressed in school uniform on the grounds that this is "censorship".BBC ARTICLE

This is an interesting moment because I am a big fan of sexual openness and expressive freedom, but I can hear the fnaar! fnaar! of popular protest resounding loudly up and down our prurient land, as people jump on the non-PC bandwagon to defend Ryanair's right to use the image.

It will be nigh on impossible to have a measured debate about this - in tabloid Britain, we either snigger or scream when it comes to sex. Rational discussion of the issues is rarely an option. I remember left wing MP Clare Short once wanted to ban Page 3 of the Sun newspaper, with its time-honoured bare-breasted working man's titillation, and how viciously she was derided for being an ugly and unattractive killjoy with no attention to her socio-political argument at all. She was victimised along traditional male lines even by women - but that should not surprise us, after all, look at Thatcher - for daring to question the traditional view. Yet, this tradition sustains perfidious prejudice and ongoing female disenfranchisement.

We decry the national lack of success in prosecuting for rape, yet we defend the continual objectification of ever younger women without conceding that they are intimately, causally related. More and more cases of long term systematic abuse of women (and children) come to light, yet we do not make the connection between this widespread behaviour and our ingrained and hardened attitudes towards women as sexual commodities. This is a massive failure of thinking on the part of our culture, and our nation.

My view is that this is a human rights issue, and the way to show that is to translate the image from sex to race. In racial politics, over 200 years, the arguments have been won. Even Australia is finally apologising for the appalling treatment of its Aborginal inhabitants. If this image used ethnicity to illustrate "HOTTEST" in a similarly seaside cartoon fashion, using a native black women with, say, a bone through her nose, it would never have got past the ad agency drawing board.

We cannot legislate for respect, but we can show it, and we can demonstrate it to our children. I say, ban the advert, and kick reactionary Ryanair into the 21st century.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Here Comes 2007 TU24

A thing is coming close to the earth at around 08:33 GMT - just over four hours. You can read all about it here. Is it a lumpen blob? Is it a loose pile of space shite? "Scientists" are going to study it, in case they learn something. It probably won't require a Hollywood explosion - just as well, since the writers are all on strike.

Get the washing in.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, January 25, 2008

Please Welcome Your Host

While I've been sick I've been watching videos, but I keep nodding off. When I wake up, I'm carrying the previous video in my mind, dripped slowly through the filter of half-dreams, and then magically combined with the new video. The hypnotic quality of the experience seems to have given me some sinus relief, along with some strangely psychedelic concepts of the world.

I'll come back to you on this.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Winter Blues

When it comes down to it, I'm as vulnerable as the next freak, and especially at this time of year. Despite the increase in daylight hours, the occasional glory of bright sunlight, early spring flowers poking their heads up in the parks, I find myself trudging the flatline of the testosterone tundra with my eyes fixed on some imaginary destination, telling myself to believe, just believe, that there will be better times ahead.

My feelings are compounded by pain. About a week ago, I noticed a sudden sharp pain in the area of my left cheek, on the side of my head; within a few hours, I felt the bridge of my nose become so tender that merely touching the tip of my nose sent reverberations of agony through my skull. It felt like a spectacles injury, as if I'd been hit in the face by a football whilst wearing glasses.

Not having had any recent colds, and blessed with my customary dramatic imagination, I was alarmed, remembering the X files. I am sufficiently sane not to imagine that I had been abducted by aliens, but I did vividly recall the onset of a peculiar form of cancer which in various episodes caused Gillian Anderson's fabulous nose to drip darkly artistic blood.

Being in pain and feeling miserable brings on these kinds of fears. Knowing this, I back-tracked to the obvious: sinusitis. Cold weather and living in student digs without proper heating once gave me such regular and intense morning headaches that I thought I had a brain tumour. It is a weakness of mine, these resonant cavities of my skull. When I die, I wil leave instructions to make my head into a drum, taking my musical revenge on biology.

I decided to treat myself with painkillers, bought some aspirin, a menthol and pine oil-based inhalant, and stopped working so hard. I have allowed myself to sleep as much as I feel is needed. I have kept exercising, lessened the caffeine intake, paid good attention to diet, sensible stuff which seems slowly to be working. On Monday, I visited the doctors and came away with some hardcore anti-inflammatory spray, which delivers measured puffs of chemical into the inner recesses of my nasal cavity twice daily.

The pain leaves me and returns like a throbbing pendulum, but the severity seems to be diminishing slowly, and so my holistic self is now looking for the cause of this physical stress. When I step back and assess, it's clear that I am currently attempting too much at once, and like so many people, I am craving simplicity.

There are far too many tasks and challenges immediately before me to comfortably deal with. Usually this is a situation I relish, but right now, with the winter blues upon me, I lack the appetite to take them on. Mundane tasks regulate my life, delays, minor disappointments, human shortcomings, plus the onging struggle to achieve something worthwhile, and I am beginning to question my situation, perhaps more deeply than is justified. My normal buoyant optimism is flagging. No wonder my body is complaining. Something has to give, and I don't want it to be my health.

It seems that, for the moment at least, I just have to keep on top of things, remain calm, seek clarity. As the Tao says, sometimes the best action is taking no action. In the realm of my sinuses, however, that option is ruled out - too damn painful. And in the realm of work, I know I am going to have to rationalise. So, I've booked an acupuncture session for later today, and drawn up a list.

Taking a long, hard look at what I can do without, I'm going to start clearing some ground. It's easier said than done at this time of year, but I need to take the long-term view. I need to be the gardener of my life, and prepare the winter earth for summer blooms and autumn fruit. Later this year, I'll be pleased I did it now.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pod of Funk Number Thirty One

This glorious image comes from here - I'm using it to celebrate number thirty one of my world-famous funk music podcasts, now available for your aural delectation.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, January 18, 2008

Concentration Camp Gaza

Now that the pressure is on Israel to make peace, I notice the way the ongoing marginalisation and destruction of Hamas-run Gaza seems to be tacitly accepted by the West, and it appalls me.

The focus of Jewish paranoia and anger is falling more and more intensely on the inhabitants of this God-forsaken piece of land who dared - in free and fair elections, lauded at the time as a model for the Arab world - to elect Hamas. Now they are being crushed, thoroughly, relentlessly, and cruelly, with the world looking on, doing nothing. We do not say a word, we just observe. It's just like the 1940s.

For the terrible crime of political self-determination, and for the greater crime of refusing to accept their occupier and oppressor's moral superiority, the people of Gaza are cut off from power, water, medical supplies, attacked with tanks, warplanes and troops. Even on days when nobody is killed, warjets scream across the sky, creating sonic booms. Unable to leave, they die of perfectly avoidable illnesses. Children and adults are malnourished. The Gazans are living in a significant hell, created by Israel, that hugely wealthy, sophisticated, military Theocracy, on the basis that they dare to resist.

A word on the so-called terrorists: the crude, home-made rockets they fire into the adjacent Israeli towns rarely damage buildings, and extremely rarely cause loss of life. The rockets are a symbol, the unmistakable sign of non-capitulation, the nose thumbed at the bully; and this is the main reason the Gazans are hated, and bombed, and shelled - for refusing to be cowed. The Israelis also use methods you cannot see to destabilise Gaza. Wound up, disenfranchised, frustrated young men are armed to the teeth, factionalised, and encouraged to shoot one another - one of the central strategies of Israel being to keep the Palestinians divided and weak. Israeli agents infiltrate as much as they can, using bribery, blackmail, threats, and holding family members hostage to exert pressure on key individuals.

Every day of the recent meetings in Jerusalem, "peace" talks brokered by the West, the military pressure on Gaza was unabated. Abbas, and his party Fatah have abandoned Gaza to Hamas, in the belief that then they can have the remaining West Bank territory. This is repugnant hypocrisy to many Palestinians, who had so little faith in the compromised and corrupt Fatah leadership that they failed to elect them. Bear in mind that "fundamentalist" Hamas were not elected for their Islaam, but because they were a "clean" alternative to the failures of the previous regime.

My own view is that the contemporary Israeli psyche is predicated upon the fear and loathing of the other, in an exact mirror of their own treatment by (mainly Christian) others over the past 2,000 years, and particularly during the 20th century under Nazism. Now, with "peace" forced upon them, Israel sees its chance to cleanse their Holy Land of those inconvenient indigenous Arabs diminishing, and it even faces the awful spectre of dismantling its strategically placed hilltop settlements as part of the peace deal. Israeli anger and fury, bottled up for so long, continues to boil and seethe; and denied retribution upon the whole of the Palestinian population, they sure as hell aren't giving up on the Gazans.

Even as Bush and Blair preach peace, with all the vanity of their future legacies to guide them, there are daily killings of "militants" who are often civilians, children, mothers, while the entire population suffers endless collective punishments. The Gazans are not just in a prison, they are the inmates of the latest concentration camp. All the time other nations accept this scapegoating and the supporters of Israel allow this to happen in the name of peace, they are guilty of supporting the worst kind of inhumanity. Call it what you will, I call it fascism.

I agree with the great actor and humanist Peter Ustinov who said many years ago that the Jews were the first victims of the Nazis, the Palestinians the last; and I pray for some kind of enlightenment in the ranks of the powerful, that we might see an end to this awful brutality.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Nuclear Two Minutes

I am pleased that my Four Reasons Why Nuclear Power Is Stupid post found its way into BBC Radio 5's weekly Pods and Blogs review.

I wasn't totally surprised that Blog of Funk was featured - after all, I write this blog with some attention to quality, and have reasonably consistent readership - but pleasant it truly was to witness at least one small moment, albeit on a rather less-well-known-than-it-deserves late night radio programme, which bucked the trend of the almost entirely editorially pro-government reporting that characterised the rest of the BBC's coverage of the nuclear subject. Thank you that man for putting the argument to a larger audience.

Audio direct link here (for another few days only) - Blog of Funk referenced at around 26 minutes, and BBC Pods and Blogs website here.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, proud leader of Apple Computers, denizen of the digital domain. But what do you know about the man behind the aura?

On the cusp of the keynote, here are ten things you didn't know about Steve Jobs:

  1. He likes Norman Wisdom films - and he loves to surprise staff with his sudden cry of "Mr Grimsdale!" and his falling over routine;
  2. He eats tutti frutti ice cream every day - he's a fan of the hard little buttons of colour;
  3. After an Aspen skiing accident, he once spent 24 hours thinking he was Richard Branson;
  4. He has a phobia of artificial scents, and particularly scented toilet paper;
  5. He owns a set of Marcel Duchamp's golf clubs which he bought at auction in 1996;
  6. He is a qualified podiatrist, and gave his reason for quitting the profession as "Feet";
  7. He has a twin sister called Eve;
  8. He is a prize-winning harmonica player with a cabinet full of trophies;
  9. He likes his eggs "shiny side up" - but nobody ever asks him what it means;
  10. He has said that he would have preferred to have been born as either Brian Eno or Alexander the Great.

Blog of Funk, once again bringing you much more truth.

Labels: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, January 14, 2008

Facebook Is Dangerous

It's rare for me to link to an article without having much more to add, but Tom Hodgkinson in the Guardian does every human being involved in internet anything (and possibly more people than that) a massive service by writing this article on Facebook. It's a superb exposé / deconstruction of the reason for Facebook's existence, it's modus operandi, and the scary political vision of Peter Theil, the "real face behind Facebook".
This little taster from their website will give you an idea of their vision for the world: "TheVanguard.Org is an online community of Americans who believe in conservative values, the free market and limited government as the best means to bring hope and ever-increasing opportunity to everyone, especially the poorest among us." Their aim is to promote policies that will "reshape America and the globe". TheVanguard describes its politics as "Reaganite/Thatcherite". The chairman's message says: "Today we'll teach MoveOn [the liberal website], Hillary and the leftwing media some lessons they never imagined."

So, Thiel's politics are not in doubt. What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes' famous characterisation of life as "nasty, brutish and short", and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: "For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe."

Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries - and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

This social media revolution is all about "sharing" we are often told, but what does that mean? As Tom says, "Share" is Facebookspeak for "advertise". In this context, share is all about survival of the kind of open society we enjoy - read his article, come to your own conclusions.

I previously wrote about Facebook here. I collect links on Facebook here:

Labels: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Four Reasons Why Nuclear Power Is Stupid

As a dedicated flaneur, I try to avoid reacting to bad news, but the UK's misguided, shortsighted and potentially lethal decision to build more nuclear power stations is taking me dangerously near meltdown.

Four Reasons Why Nuclear Power Is Stupid

  1. Nuclear waste is a dreadful poison, inimical to all forms of life and impossible to control.

  2. There is no guaranteed, failsafe way of disposing of nuclear waste. None. Just doesn't exist. Even in Britain, we have earthquakes, and we certainly have lots of underground water. It doesn't matter how deep you bury it, or in what container, it's inevitably, predictably impossible to prevent leakage and the consequent immense, lasting damage to biology.

  3. The nuclear power process is fraught with pollution potential. Just making the stuff creates a million hazards. Where there are humans, there are errors.

  4. The nuclear power process is fraught with security issues. I don't need to explain this one, do I, with eastern Europe awash with people selling enriched uranium. Nuclear power = bombs.

Building new nuclear power stations is going to seriously affect our environment, not just of Britain, but in all probability the entire north western region of Europe, and possibly even wider geographically. Beyond that, we are looking at pollution issues which will outlast current society by multiple thousands of years. Cracks in society, wholesale movement of populations due to climate change, the ending of entire nations, and the draining away of funding - all of these things are going to happen, it's just a question of when.

With our future so completely unknowable, for politicians to be convinced of their rectitude in making this blind and idiotic choice shows me how barren our leadership has become. While this is something I have long suspected in the UK, with misguided plans for ID cards, and the national travesties of corruption in all its forms playing out before us, I now know that I cannot remain here. Or else, I cannot remain silent, save for creating entertainment for the temporary distraction of the privileged few.

Did I ever tell the story of how my middle name became Radioactive? To paraphrase Blair, this is no time for soundbites. I feel the heavy, glowing hand of Homer Simpson upon my shoulder...

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Passive Aggressive

Sometimes I find myself unwittingly revealing the dark side of people. It's probably a defense mechanism. People don't fool me, much, or for long. Though they sometimes come dressed in elegant and fashionable black, I still see them vampires with sharp teeth, charming con-men are still thieves who will steal, and my vindictiveness antennae are finely tuned to the extent that I have found myself exposing the shadow side of otherwise lovely people on numerous occasions.

I have learned to recognise the sounds and shapes of fakery, the poison in the bakery, the pickles in the pram. It's part of what I am. As a child I found myself reading the backs of adult's minds, the scared cupboards they hid behind, the chasms and schisms they never stared into, preferring to be blind.

I used to be quite hostile to this strange sensitivity in myself, but I have learned that it's not something to be spurned, and now, instead, I just accept that the part of me that sees these truths has survival value for others as well as me. Nowadays, I tell myself: Just don't take it personally, learn to duck, be unafraid and always trust your luck.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, January 06, 2008

One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor

Everyone is entitled to have a party, but there is a basic rule, which is summed up as "one man's ceiling is another man's floor". Paul Simon wrote a great song entitled this on his album, "There Goes Rhymin' Simon". This album was seminal in my development and appreciation of black harmony singing and american folk, and contains some of Simon's best work. It also contains a rousing song called "Loves Me Like A Rock".

I slept fitfully five hours with earplugs inserted (painful) until 6:15am, when with music growing louder rather than stopping, I decided that since the raving was actually gathering intensity, I would have to resort to the Rock.

The Rock is large and heart-shaped, usually reserved for door-stopping, and weighs several pounds. I made myself a cup of tea - herbal, in case I was going to be able go back to bed and actually sleep - and then prepared myself for the confrontation. I would have to impress upon my new young neighbours the need for them to address the volume level at his sacred hour in this shared block, and the Rock was going to assist me in this time-honoured purpose.

Dressed in nothing but my old toweling robe and slippers, I opened the front door, and stepped out onto the balcony, and breathed in cold January air. For a full minute, I heard the sweet, tuneful call of a blackbird, celebrating the pre-dawn silence of the city, a clean line slicing through the drunken raucous voices and pounding dance rhythms, echoing between brick-faced buildings, and acknowledged a wordless prayer of thanks that I was awake to hear it at this forsaken hour.

Holding the Rock, I went into my living room where the noise was loudest. In the room below, party drugs were still coursing through the veins of two dozen people. I lifted the rock six feet above the floor, and let go. It fell with a satisfying "crack!". I had to be careful not to let it hit furniture as it bounced. Whack! Whack! It was unmissable, the sound of Thor.

I repeated this seven or eight times to cut through the fug and furore. It felt good, but I was cautious. I wanted it to successfully admonish and correct, not create even more problems. Eventually after five or so minutes, the music reduced. Then it went back up, even louder, defiant. I retired into my study, wondering whether I would need to go and knock on the door, decided to give it a second attempt.

As I was giving my floor / their ceiling an increasingly louder and more resonant hammering, my partner appeared, bleary eyed, and asked whether I wanted her to go down and speak. No, give it time, I said, and dropped the Rock a couple more times. Please, don't do it, she said, so I stopped. Waited. Then I heard the sound of a neighbour banging also, somewhere else in the building, an insistent and regular thump-thump-thump-thump-thump. That will be Olly, I thought, a nice man, Irish. He came two floors up to tell me to STFU once, when I had a stupid, deaf person living here who had cranked up the stereo at 1.30am on a week night. If he has to get dressed to tell them to cool it at pushing 7am on a Sunday morning, they will remember it for a while.

The noise of several apartments at once in united protest seemed to do the trick. A final blast of Bob Marley, and the music has diminished.

If it creeps up to earplug level again, I'm ready with the Rock.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Resolutions For Sale

Welcome 2008, aka ZOOB, which as my arab-speaking girlfriend points out means penis or more accurately knob or dick, the word being a shortening from ZUBOR, and used to make jokes and insult people in much the same way.

In ZOOB have some ideas for sale, which I am going to put on Ebay, since it occurred to me that I give away too much of my intellectual fruit, and I should start to create some tasty IP preserve and sell it in jars to passing motorists with a price tag attached reflecting the scarcity of such original thought. I can't remember how many people caught on to the unsocial nature of social media since I first wrote about it, and I have an inbox full of Google alerts drawing my attention to the passing of Facebook fashion since I wrote about that back in November 2007.

Still, mine is not to whinge, it is to delight. And so I bring you a list of new year's resolutions which you might find useful if your own are all unoriginal, boring and uninspiring, and unlikely to find favour at the water cooler the day after tomorrow.

  • Read the second chapter of one thousand books. I call this "random knowledge acquisition" and it's great for dinner parties, job interviews, staffroom small talk.

  • Learn a prayer in every major language of the world (you can dress this up a bit - a "prayer for peace", a "prayer for global cooling", a "prayer for Paris Hilton"). This combination of faith and learning will impress even the cynical, and the secular will not dare to question it.

  • Give up smoking - and take up steaming, which is a far better way to prepare food than either smoking or boiling, retaining as it does the essential nutrients in far greater quantities.

  • Exercise mind and body simultaneously and establish a regime to achieve a sublime level of internal/external fitness. So, perform mental arithmetic whilst playing tennis, sing on the toilet, recite poetry whilst making love, or if you're English, play cricket.

  • Walk out of every bad film you find yourself watching. This should be taken as an absolute, meaning, cinemas, your own living room, your partner's parent's house - anywhere. Leave. Each time you stay, that's two hours of your life poured into the waiting grave.

  • Avoid hearing / watching / reading NEWS (so-called) as often as possible. Treat rolling news in particular as a banned drug to be totally shunned. You know how when you come back from a holiday where there's been no access to news, refreshed and clear-headed, and ask what happened while you were away? It usually takes one minute to be brought up to date. Remember that.

  • Give something of yours for free to someone that really needs it, once every week of the year, and that means fifty two times in 2008. Your time, your cash, your body - you choose. But give, and don't think of receiving. Just once a week. Go on. Yes, I am serious. So much so, that I'm giving you this list for free. Because I can, and because you need it.

So, glorious readers, make sure you have a bloody good ZOOB, and remember that since this is the year of the dick, it's up to us to make it hard, and keep it that way.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Web pages referring to this page:
Link to this page and get a link back..