Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Debate vs. Dictation

"Do you know something?"
"What's that?"
"Smoking's bad for you"
"Really? I never knew that! Thank you for telling me, I'll stop right now..."

The above is a conversation that it is incredibly unlikely you will ever hear (certainly spoken seriously. You may hear it with massive sarcastic overtones, but not seriously) and that is because it is well known that smoking is bad for you and those around you.

Despite this, some people choose to smoke. There is obviously a reason for this. (And yes, I know that they are addicted, but something must have made them start initially). So smoking can't be all bad, at least not to those who do it.

DISCLAIMER - Before I go any further with this, please be aware that I am a non-smoker, and that I do think that enforced passive smoking is bad (particularly for children).

There's a report out that says that smoking should be banned in all places where young people congregate, as well as in cars. Now the "places where young people congregate" bit I can understand, although one does wonder practically how much passive smoking occurs if you, as a child (and yes, I know you're probably not a child, I'm asking you to imagine you are for the sake of this analogy) are playing in the park and there's a man on the bench opposite you smoking a cigarette. My suspicion is "Not a lot."

However, the cars thing is disturbing. Cars are private areas. By suggesting this, we end up within the eternal argument of what should be regulated. Should what we do in our own homes be regulated? Even the report seems to realise that's a step too far. "The doctors acknowledge that a ban on smoking in the home, however desirable it believes this to be, would be neither politically or practically possible, but sees the car as an intervention in the private sphere which the public would tolerate."

Well obviously they're just talking about cars with kids in right? I mean, that's OK, they could sell that....

" argues that the only way to make it practically enforceable would be to introduce it as a blanket ban on all private vehicles - regardless of their passengers, as exemptions would prove too complex. "

So hold on, a law that says "It is illegal to smoke in a car which contains an under-18 year old" is a complex exemption??

To me, even as a non-smoker, this is a step too far. I was all in favour of the smoking ban in public interior places, pubs etc. are now much nicer for me to spend time in. But this is more than that, this is now just punishing people for smoking. And that's not going to work.

The problem is that at no time does any official position even acknowledge that cigarettes have any good points at all. For example, the other day a group of 11-12 year old students at the school where I work produced little video interviews about smoking, and they all without fail said "Smoking's bad." Given the number of kids they interviewed, my guess would be at least two or three of them are lying. They've tried it. They've probably liked it. But they know they can't say that.

I'm not saying I like smokers, I don't. (Well, individually I like quite a lot of people who smoke, but I mean I don't like being surrounded by them) but I'm not going to tell them how to live their lives when they are old enough to make decisions for themselves.

I firmly believe that to make a decision you need to know both sides of the argument. If the government, or the NHS, or anyone else launched a campaign that said "Smoking can relax you after a hard day, but it can also give you cancer" and went on to discuss both good and bad points of it, then people would be much more well informed. However, as any parent knows, if you tell a rebellious teenager not to do something, they'll do it. If you discuss it with them, they'll make their own decision.

But we, as a country, don't seem to like discussion. We like to be told what's right and wrong. What happens once smoking is effectively outlawed? Is drinking next? Chewing Gum? We're rapidly progressing into a police state, and I've seen enough sci-fi films to know that's not a good thing.

I would suggest we protest in the normal, civilised way, by voting for people who won't support it. But because we all know "Smoking is Bad", no-one's going to oppose it....

Maybe I should start my own political party..... what could possibly go wrong? :P

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A Play by any other name... is less important than Shakespeare apparently.

Why are there some people, be they writers, musicians or filmmakers, who automatically have to be held up in high regard? People like the Beatles, Martin Scorsese, Charles Dickens... why are they considered better than their peers? (I'm not picking on any of them in particular, I'm just showing examples. Although I do think that at least two are overrated to some degree) Shouldn't it be judged on the work alone? And why, Brawny, are you bringing this up now? (That last question was the one you're all asking. I know you are. Go on, admit it. ADMITTT ITTT!!!)

Well, it turns out that there's a new Shakespeare play. Except it's not new. It's been around for 300 years. But it wasn't credited to him. Now, however, according to Shakespeare expert Professor Brean Hammond (And yes, that is his name, not a typo) "I think Shakespeare's hand can be discerned in Act One, Act Two and probably the first two scenes in Act Three of the play"

Let's ignore the multiple jokes I could make at this point involving Shakespeare's disembodied hand, working alone, and just focus on the ridiculousness. It had been assumed it was written solely by John Fletcher, whom it has been established also co-wrote Henry VIII and the Two Noble Kinsmen with Shakespeare (although, how it can be established is beyond me. Presumably they do some clever comparison of the writing and figure out the likelihood of it. Or maybe they hired a medium to speak to them and clear the situation up. Who knows?) even though "Theatre impresario Lewis Theobald presented the play in the 18th century as an adaptation of a Shakespeare play but it was dismissed as a forgery." So it looks as if Lewis Theobald was ahead of his time. By about 200+ years....

My point is, who cares? The play's existed for 300 years, and it's no different today than it was yesterday. The text is still the same, the plot is still the same, the dialogue is still the same. It's just today it's been published in a collection of Shakespeare, so people will now instantly love it.

Another artist who suffers from this is the late Michael Jackson. Regardless of his personal issues or problems, it can't be denied he was an important force in popular music, and therefore his musical reputation is, by and large, deserved. However, today news comes that his estate has signed a massive record deal . I'm not necessarily saying I'm against posthumous albums in general (although they're rarely the artists best work) and I'm not particularly surprised that there was interest in his unreleased material. However, it's this sentence that is disturbing. "The deal reportedly involves 10 album projects over seven years - including one of previously unreleased material. "

Hang on a minute, TEN albums?? And only ONE is previously unreleased material?? What are the other nine going to be? Well apparently they're likely to be "revamped packages of old hits." Forgive me, but didn't we get that at the point he died?? This seems like overkill to me. Even The Beatles, who are several light years above Michael Jackson in contribution to music terms, only released three double posthumous albums, and they all had stuff on that die-hard fans wanted to hear (mostly demos and out-takes). So one wonders how they're going to fill ten albums. And how many of them will have versions of Thriller on them.

Seriously. I imagine that the unreleased material comes from late in his life, and who can honestly say he was at his best then? Keeping with the Beatles example for a second, who rates Free as a Bird as one of their all time best Beatles songs? Answer, not many.... (At least as far as I know!)

It's just depressing. In an age where it's harder than ever to be a new artist, Sony will give $200 million for albums of rehashed stuff they've already released before.

Not much to say really. Just disappointed in them.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Pimp My!

While listening to Spotify, I keep hearing an advert for, which is as insufferably annoying as you would imagine it to be, but after having heard it several hundred times, I started to wonder what sort of dating site it is.... Because it sounds very dodgy doesn't it? Either you're going to be encouraged to date people who are already friends of yours (and if that's the case, you really don't need a website for that, alcohol and meddling friends is a much easier route), or you're going to pimp out a friend of yours that is single.

Well it turns out that it is option B.

Yes, Pimping your friends on the human equivalent of eBay is now the done thing on the internet, apparently. According to the FAQ on the site, the way to use the site is as follows:

"a friend describes their single pal, an email goes to the single who then has to look over, approve and add comments to the description before it goes live. or a single can nominate themselves, ask a friend to describe them, again approving the description and adding comments before it goes live."

OK. So basically, it's just like every other dating site out there, except you can get your friend to do all the dull data entry for you? Wonderful..

"We wanted to invent a dating site that was more fun, more interactive and less scary than the traditional way - so we could get people talking and meeting who probably wouldn't dream of joining a conventional dating agency and have the chance to get to hear about each other. How are we going to get all these wonderful cool people to meet? A little help from our friends!"

Um... the flaw with this logic is as follows. If people wouldn't dream of joining a conventional dating site, then why would they allow themselves to be put on this one? As you said in the first paragraph, oh slightly patronising website, the person is asked if they approve, so you'll still end up with the same people you get on every dating website.

NOTE - Before I go any further, I'd like to point out that I am not criticising people who use dating sites, I am just ridiculing this one for failing to be different. That is all. Back to the body of the post now.

"Single and a secret?"

Who keeps themselves a secret? Really? What do these people do? Hide under tarpaulins and then sneak out in the dead of night to gain sustenance from 24-hour Tescos (Where they may get seen by the employees, but night employees at Tescos are definitely NOT human...)

"If you are the single person, or you know a single, whose own social circle is now desiccated of decent dating potential then this site could be for you."

Or you could, you know, meet some more people in the real world...

"Wondering where all the good ones are?"

I'll give you a clue, they're not on "Please Take My Friend I'm Fed Up With Him/Her Being A Third"

"You can imagine that it's really not easy to describe yourself and throw yourself 'out there' all on your own. So we think the idea of having a friend persuade, endorse and depict someone is far less intimidating, and it certainly makes for a more fascinating and enlightening read!"

OK, so basically you're implying that it's easier for a friend to do it. This may be true. It may also be much more embarrassing...

"You don't have to be 'looking for love' – let's just get a wider dating pool of super-singles, resulting in some good, old-fashioned, decent dates!"

Rough Translation: Even if you're not looking for a relationship, sign up for a super-duper-fuck-fest! (Excuse my language)

"It's different too because YOU AND YOUR FRIEND are both involved; the friend who describes the single has login details too – gaining the ability to search through the latest potentials online, and recommend them to their single friend to take a look at (just like the meddling we all do offline!)."

Yeah, cos that's what you want if genuinely trying to broaden your friend circle / possible relationships, a friend sticking their nose in!

"Having a friend involved means that checking out a potential can be done together- and friends seeking out suitable types for each other generates a little matchmaking amusement – and not by a computer, but by someone who actually knows you."

This paragraph is the one that makes me laugh the most, because it basically sums up the point of the site. It's so that your friends can sign you up and then laugh at you, you poor pathetic single person, while simultaneously mocking all the other poor pathetic single people who are trying to talk to you via the website, all the while feeling superior because they have someone special in their life and you don't.

This website appears to be the start of a worrying trend, where anything can be done online. Ideas for more sites include:
Hire My; Where you can hire peoples mothers to do your cooking and cleaning for you. The mother in question gets no option, they have to turn up and do it
Improve My; Where you upload photographs of your ugly friends, theoretically for people to make comments about how they can become more attractive. However, the whole site will end up being taken over by trolls making comments like "U iz well butterz, stik ur hed in a bag bitch"; Where you can buy babies....

Any more ideas? That's what the comments box is for folks!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Kicking the Daily Mail's Ass

Firstly, I'd like to apologise for not writing sooner, I know you feel neglected, and I'm sorry about that... I'm just really busy at the moment (at work, which is full of irritants.... you know what? Don't even get me started on it...)

So yesterday I saw a link to this story, and I felt that I had to let rip. OK, I grant you, it's the Daily Mail YET AGAIN, and I did wonder whether I've done too many blogs about their news stories of late (quick check of my blog shows that I haven't written any for a while though, so I feel vindicated) but I wanted to have a laugh at this.

This is the Daily Mail picking up on the information that the film "Kick-Ass" is going to be released in April, and, shock horror, it has a swearing 11 year old assassin in it. Now, from my perspective, the film looks fabulous (and if you don't believe me, just watch the trailer - I was going to embed it here, but Youtube appears to be broken... will attempt to link/embed it later) but I can see that it might be unsuitable for young kids. You know, in the same way Watchmen was... but it's not marketed at them. It's expected to get a 15 certificate, and you don't hear the Mail moaning about other films that are rated 15, so what's the difference?

The difference is, they can attach a name to it that will shock the average Mail Reader. They have managed to attach Jonathon Ross' name to the film, trying to build on his "shocking" behaviour from 'Sachsgate' (Seriously? Is everything a -gate now? How about when I left my keys in rehearsal the other night and had to walk back in to get them? Is that keygate? Stupid media..). How have they connected him? Well, I'll print their headline in it's entirety for you here:

"Jonathan Ross's wife Jane Goldman causes outrage with film featuring a foul-mouthed 11-year-old assassin"

Ignoring the appalling way that headline is crafted (I mean, come on, that's not a headline, it's the first line of the article surely! I'm sure they could have thought more about it - maybe "Ross's wife writes twisted tale" or "Child Killers: Ross approves" or my personal favourite "Quick, we're the Daily Mail, let's over-react to a film because we can vaguely link it to a celebrity we dislike!" Yes that's right, his wife Jane Goldman wrote it. Except actually, she co-wrote the script, which is adapted from Mark Millar's comic book....

Needless to say, the article goes on to tell us how films and TV influence impressionable children and that ‘This promotes the idea that infantilising adulthood is okay and that we are no longer expected to draw lines between us and kids". What a load of rubbish. The point is that kids are not SUPPOSED TO SEE IT. It's going to be rated 15.

It goes on, saying that the "film has already provoked complaints in the U.S. after children were allowed to access violent trailers of the film online." Um, as far as I know they weren't ALLOWED to access it, they will have clicked through a screen that says "I certify that I am over 18". And kids click on those all the time...

A media analyst (is that a real job? Really?) from L.A. (Oh OK, he doesn't count as a real person then, he's from L.A.) tried to invoke even more celebrities into the article by saying "One of the joint production companies involved is Plan B, which is owned by Brad Pitt. I wonder if he and Angelina Jolie would want their own young children to hear kids cussing in Kick-Ass." No, they probably wouldn't, which is why it's coming out with a certificate to PREVENT KIDS SEEING IT!!

But my favourite bit of argument is this: "Protests about the film have also erupted in Australia where John Morrisey of the Family Association said: ‘The language is offensive and the values inappropriate – without the saving grace of the bloodless victory of traditional superheroes." OK, so it's OK for kids to want to be a superhero, like, for example, Robin the Boy Wonder, who works outside the law and regularly beats people up and all sorts of other things, but because it's bloodless it's OK and he's a good role model? Dumbass Aussies!

The article spends it's last two paragraphs reminding us how Jonathon Ross is involved in this story, presumably to satiate those people who looked at the headline because it had his name on...

Can we have some better journalism than this? Please?