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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Quote of the week

was in last night's Evening Standard, believe it or not. Harry Potter - sorry, Daniel 'naked on stage' Radcliffe - was mobbed outside the Gielgud theatre where he's playing in Equus, by a few young girlies. Or, at least, that's what the papers would like us to believe (God forbid they stood outside a theatre in the cold for two hours for a non-story).

Radcliffe was whisked swiftly away without incident, leaving only the theatre's management to rub its hands in anticipation of today's headlines.

The play's producer, David Pugh, managed to restrain his 'free publicity' glee rather admirably, however. Instead, he gave us this rather fabulously unforgettable mental image [complete with box office directions for potential theatregoers, obviously]:

"Richard Griffiths and Jenny Agutter had to get out of the theatre through a side window by the box office in Rupert Street. You try getting Richard Griffiths out of a back window. It was touch and go".

Splendid stuff.

P.S. Harry Potter. Hasn't he grown?
(Oh, come on, I'm not the first one to think it).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Smackaddled Shocker

'Former TV actor Paul Danan is recovering in hospital after suffering a suspected heroin overdose.

The 28-year-old ex-star of teen soap Hollyoaks was taken to a hospital by emergency services on Tuesday after a friend called 999 from Danan's parents home near London.'


You mean to say that the thyroid-eyed wildness, terrifying eyeballing, finger-waving and crazed violent mood swings the chap has so eloquently displayed in all his televisual outings was not, in fact, the result of mere childlike, simpleton enthusiasm?

I for one am shocked.

One-eyed pink squid

'‘New Zealand fishermen have caught what is expected to be a world-record-breaking colossal squid.
Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said the squid, weighing an estimated 450kg (990lb),took two hours to land in Antarctic waters.
Local news said the Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni was about 10m (33ft) long, and was the first adult colossal squid landed intact.
One expert said calamari rings made from it would be like tractor tyres.’

Oh,OK, so this isn’t it, but this is my favourite photograph of all time, and what better excuse…?

Man likes dogs

Ahhhh. Somehow, you’d never have thought it of him, would you?

‘Comedian Ricky Gervais is putting up £650 towards a reward for the return of his neighbour's dog.
Elsa, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, went missing in Russell Square, London, in January and local resident Gervais saw posters appealing for information.
Lisa Murray, who owns the missing dog, said Gervais had offered to increase her reward offer from £350 to £1,000.
"He said he kept seeing the poster and feeling sad," she told The Times newspaper.’

Religious intolerance

The Guardian’s John Crace has written an article about the Saudi-funded Islamic school, The King Fahad Academy. Now, enough has already been written about this school and its allegedly racist teaching practises without my sticking my oar in, but one sentence from Crace’s piece struck me as a little peculiar.

He makes reference to an apparently offensive textbook that the school stocked, in which religions other than Islam are described as being ‘worthless’. The school got into terrible trouble over this (the head ended up stumbling her way through a grilling on Newsnight), and the book has since been removed from the school. The headteacher tried to point out that the passage in question – “a footnote” – was not something that the school’s pupils were taught, and that moreover, it was open to less offensive interpretation.

Crace, however, had this to say:

‘Yet footnote or not, read or unread, any religious work that is open to misinterpretation and can be used to incite intolerance has no place in a school.’

Really? Are you quite sure? You don’t want children, in a religiously-adherent school, to be taught from ‘any religious work that is open to misinterpretation’?

Well now, by my reckoning, that would be all of them, wouldn’t it?

They should not have access to texts ‘that can be used to incite intolerance?’ Well that’s got the Bible, the Torah and Koran covered, hasn’t it?
That’s a hell of a lot of schools that are in trouble there, I’d say. I mean, it would be ridiculous for Crace to suggest that Islam is the only religion that actually preaches intolerance of non-believers. I’m sure that’s not what he’s doing. No.

What about the problematic fact that most religious texts endorse intolerance of people who – even if they believe wholeheartedly that the world was built in a week, and that virgins can become pregnant – are rejected from the faith for being women, or gay, or in some other fashion acceptably ‘intolerable’? Don’t they count as being religious works that ‘can be used to incite intolerance’?
Are there degrees of intolerance that are acceptable?
Would Crace have us remove Bibles from Church of England schools?
That’d be absolutely fine by me (it’s a bloody dull book), but in the interests of fairness, I think John really needs to explain further.

I have always found the very notion of ‘religious tolerance’ to be absurd. What IS religion if not a way of differentiating yourself from others? Of proving your worth against their lack of it? A way of ensuring your path to heaven/Nirvana/wherever at the expense of others (who, according to most major monotheistic faiths, are going to drown, burn in hell, or generally just have a rather unpleasant time of it when the judgement day comes).
On that basis, if you think you are part of a chosen group, from whom non-believers are necessarily excluded, how is it possible for you and your kind to ever be described as ‘tolerant’?

Intolerance, as Crace would have it, is the very touchstone of religious adherence. It is at the very heart of all faiths, and to pretend otherwise is ridiculous.
The notion of ‘them and us’, the ‘righteous and the damned’, is what religions are built on, and provides precisely the social control for which religious faith was created. Religion is not so much the opium of the people, more the straightjacket – be a believer, and live a life of virtue according to the controls and dictates laid down by another (especially you women), or….erm…..burn in hell.
Not much of a choice, granted, but I reckon I can take the heat.

While I’m on the subject, it’s similar to this nonsense that people spew about Christian charity and Christian forgiveness….well now, I’ve read the Bible, and it doesn’t say a hell of a lot about charity and forgiveness in there, that I can recall. It does state quite clearly, however, that the Christian God is a vengeful God. Look at what he did to the once-belegged snake, and to Eve. Painful childbirth – it’s all your own fault, ladies.
Christian forgiveness, my arse. It was only an apple, for fuck’s sake…

Monday, February 19, 2007

Route Meister

Quick question: if Ken Livinstone was so convinced that his DOUBLING of the foul, £8 a day congestion charge area was going to reduce the amount of traffic on Kensington's roads, why did he choose to launch the extention on the first day of the traditionally-traffic-free-anyway school half term?

And given that socially oblivious school-run mothers (or let's be more accurate, au pairs) in their 'chelsea tractors' are a large part of the problem in west London, what difference will the charge make when most of the mothers in question will be exempt from payment?

This was another one of your post-liquid-lunch, back of a napkin ideas, wasn't it, Kenneth?

Like Faeces for Chocolate

Joseph Rowntree made chocolate. Very nice chocolate. And Fruit Pastilles. Which are fabulous, fabulous things (so long as you're not too partial to your teeth).
He was also a very nice chap. A Quaker, he did more in the nineteenth century to single-handedly improve the lives of poor inner city workers than almost all his contemporaries. (Strangely, there’s a lot of this sort of thing about in retail – have a look at the history of the John Lewis Partnership if you don’t believe me).

Putting aside the fact that Rowntree’s was shamefully sold to the Swiss baby-milk-pushers Nestle a few years back, Joseph’s legacy is still very much upheld by several foundations that bear his name. One of which was in today’s Guardian for having done the following:

‘The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has sold its £2m stake in Reed Elsevier because of concerns the publishing firm is stepping up its involvement in arms fairs writes Katie Allen. Susan Seymour, chair of the trust's investment committee said it had; 'become apparent that the company not only has interests in the arms trade, which is deeply unethical and irredeemably corrupt, but that these are rapidly expanding.'

The reason I mention this is because I quite like the irony that rival chocolate maker Cadbury has also been in the press AGAIN. This time, it wasn’t for it’s devil-may-care attitude towards anaphylactic shock (the mislabelling of nut-containing chocolate having caused mild disconcertion in the allergy-suffering fraternity recently). Nope – this time, we’re going back to last year’s legendary contamination story.
Otherwise known as the “Mum, why is there shit in my Buttons?" scandal.

‘Confectionery giant Cadbury is set to be prosecuted under environmental health laws over last year's food scare involving chocolate contaminated with salmonella. The national health alert made dozens of people ill and cost the company £30m in lost revenue.’

Marry Baldy Biscuit

Fox’s, the biscuit company has – for reasons best known to itself – released a poll of the ‘ten most naturally attractive women in the world’.

Here it is:

TOP 10
1 Kate Middleton
2 Charlotte Church
3 Claudia Schiffer
4 Kate Moss
5 Catherine Zeta Jones
6 Keira Knightley
7 Gwyneth Paltrow
8 Scarlett Johansson
9 Beyonce
10 Victoria Beckham

Now, quite apart from the fact that I had to look up ‘Kate Middleton’ on Google to find out who she is (apparently she’s shagging one of Prince Charles’ terrifyingly-prematurely-ageing offspring), there’s something even more peculiar going on in this curiously nonsensical top ten.
Before you start scratching your head in wonderment that anyone (I mean, ANYONE) living outside of Henley, Ascot and the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea would even know what a Royal knock-off looked like, stop yourself and take a look at who has snuck in at Number 10 on the list…
How we laugh, and laugh, and laugh again.

Back to the supposed global number one beauty, though: one presumes that this Middleton bird is being lined up as being sufficiently non-skanky, polo-club attending and country-luvvin’ to wed a balding Royal.
Is the Fox’s Biscuits company owned by the Queen, or something?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Olympic outrage, again

It’s apparently not enough that they’re planning on building a pointless and ugly Olympic ‘village’ at enormous cost to London taxpayers, concreting over precious green spaces and closing down Hackney’s much-loved allotments (yes, I am bitter)...they’ve actually found new and even more depressing ways of screwing us.

Naively, it had never occurred to me that money would ALSO be taken away from the stuff that Londoners actually WANT in our city. Things like theatre, art and culture.

Oh, how TRULY proud we should all feel.

‘Four British Oscar nominees have urged the UK government not to cut funding for live theatre. Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren, director Stephen Frears and writer Patrick Marber said British theatre had been crucial to their success.
"The British subsidised theatre is admired and envied throughout the world," Dame Helen said in a National Theatre statement.
Some fear arts funding will be cut to help finance the London 2012 Olympics.’

Pride of Australia II

Stop everything: the Australian National Gallery really should get a portrait painted of this fella, known to the world's media as 'the pissed Australian who picked a fight with a shark'.
Come to think of it, they're probably already commissioned one.

Pride of Australia

Germaine Greer’s portrait in the Australian National Portrait Gallery in Canberra has been replaced by one of Steve ‘most annoying voice in the history of time’ Irwin. He's the chap who was killed by a stingray a while back, having made a career out of taunting and poking dangerous animals with sticks, his arms, and – on occasion – his infant children.

Oh well. Can’t really see Germaine losing sleep, over it, god love her, but given that they appear to have done it in response to Greer having slagged off the late, permanently be-shorted Irwin, it’s just so bloody typically small-minded and tedious, isn’t it?

‘Steve Irwin has replaced Germaine Greer - who caused controversy by criticising the TV presenter after his death - in Australia's National Portrait Gallery.
After Irwin was killed by a stingray last year, Greer wrote that the animal world had "taken its revenge", saying he manhandled and distressed them.
A spokesman for the Canberra gallery said the removal of the Greer portrait was not linked to her comments.
He said they often rotated pictures - but the "irony was not lost on us".
The gallery, based in Canberra's Old Parliament House, only has space for 100 portraits to be displayed at any one time.
Spokesman David Edghill said the decision to swap the photographs was "not politically motivated".’

What’s most surprising about this, of course, is the fact that they need to rotate pictures AT ALL: I mean, bless ‘em and love ‘em, they might only have space to exhibit 100 at a time, but it’s not as if the world is so crammed full of Australian men and women of note and fame that they’re vying for space on the gallery’s walls, is it?*

I’m not Australian myself, and nor am I someone who’s really ‘into’ the idea of national pride. However, were I to think about it in any detail, rather than demonise the genuinely interesting and free-thinking Greer - one of the 20th Century’s most intelligent and influential feminists - I imagine I’d feel far prouder of her achievements than I would those of many other high profile Australians. The croc botherer, the cross dressing comedian, the womanising pasty-faced cricketer and the bearded “can you tell what it is yet?!” cartoonist included…

* See, I’m not sure I even really mean this. I say it because I know how much this sort of statement upsets Australians, and as such, winding them up is a temptation I find impossible to avoid. It’s so easy, I SIMPLY CAN’T HELP MYSELF.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Planes, trains and automobiles

So MPs spend fortunes on expenses. There’s a surprise. However, the defence of Scottish MP’s – that they are obliged to spend £40,000 odd a year to travel between their constituencies and the Houses of Parliament – is somewhat weak.
I can’t help thinking that, if they were ever obliged to pay for their own travel costs, they might not be so keen on the congestion charge, they might think twice about the road tolls the government is proposing and they’d probably do more to address the increasingly-ludicrous prices train companies charge the rest of us to get from A to B…

‘Scottish MPs claimed the most, Labour MP for Falkirk Eric Joyce topped the list with £44,985 and Orkney's Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael claimed £38,750.
Overall MPs spent about £2m on driving, £1.5m on trains and £1m on flights.
Mr Joyce said the amount he claimed was down to travelling between London and his constituency, and promised to review the number of meetings he travelled north to attend.
"Expenses for Scottish MPs are different to other MPs, because of the geography and distance," he said.
Total expenses claims for last year - including travel, the cost of running constituency offices and constituency homes - were £86.6m, up £6m from the previous year.’


This story is truly shocking: a woman whose father worked with asbestos when she was a child is sueing the MoD for £75,000 after having contracted an asbestos-related cancer, she believes, from him.

The headline “Woman claims hugging gave her cancer” seems to make an absurdity of her claim at first, which was what first drew my attention to the story.
However, upon reading, the story becomes horribly tragic, and demonstrates just how utterly heinous a substance asbestos truly is. According to an industrial disease specialist (granted, working for the woman’s solicitors, but bear with it) it is entirely possible the woman DID in fact develop her illness due to proximity to her father (who himself died of the same asbestos-related, small cell lung cancer, mesothelioma). This is not, it would seem, the first case of its kind.

The 47 year old woman’s condition is terminal, she has never come into contact with asbestos in any other way, and it is understood that ‘cases of mesothelioma, cancer of the lining of the lung, can lie dormant for 40 years before surfacing’.
Whichever way you look at it, it’s a tale without much redemption…

‘[Debra Brewer’s] father, Phillip Northmore, worked as a lagger at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth for five years in the 1960s when she was a child.
Mrs Brewer said she remembered he would always arrive home from work covered in dust but as a young child she never imagined that as she played with her dad, the dust he was coated in could be life-threatening.
She said she first started having breathing difficulties in 1994 but was not diagnosed with mesothelioma until November last year.
John Messham, industrial disease specialist at Debra's solicitor Bond Pearce, said he had spoken to other woman who had been exposed to asbestos in the same way and now had an asbestos-related disease.
"Most have never knowingly come into contact with asbestos other than through washing clothes," he said. "It is a terrible shock for the families involved and I am seeing more and more inquiries of this nature."
It is understood cases of mesothelioma, cancer of the lining of the lung, can lie dormant for 40 years before surfacing.’

Oh GOD, I appear to be talking about Doherty again

I don’t drive, so I don’t know if this is true or not, but isn’t a TWO MONTH ban for driving without both a license and insurance a bit…well, lenient? Particularly for a known drug addict, a man who was caught because he had been ‘driving erratically’ in central London, accompanied by two friends holding heroin and cocaine?

When you consider that the man is seemingly being caught with Class A drugs every 12 minutes, you have to suspect that someone, somewhere, is making a great deal of money from Mr Doherty not being in jail.

You’ve got to love the wilfully illogical affrontery of the Doherty man though: he admits to driving without having a driving license (isn’t this the man who owns three cars?!), but he blames his lack of insurance on a flunky, who was apparently supposed to be arranging insurance for him.

How would said assistant have gone about arranging insurance for a man who isn’t legally allowed to drive, I wonder?

‘Babyshambles singer Pete Doherty has been fined £300 and disqualified from driving for two months. The 27-year-old admitted two charges of driving without insurance or a licence at Thames Magistrates Court in London. District Judge Jane McIvor warned the singer that he faces jail if he drives without a licence again. ..
Mr Doherty's defence counsel said the singer was eligible for a licence, but had not applied for one after passing his driving test. Sean Curran added: "Mr Doherty accepts that he was driving with no licence and insurance.
"He had left the task of getting an insurance policy in the hands of one of his managers, who hadn't done so."’

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"We are at a loss as to what he might be referring to"

Good to see that Kilroy Silk has his finger on the pulse as usual.

Although quite why he should be so concerned with the state of women's dressing rooms is probably something one ought not to probe too thoroughly.

'Marks and Spencer has said it is mystified by a claim by MEP Robert Kilroy-Silk that it uses "distorting" mirrors in its changing rooms.
Mr Kilroy-Silk has accused the store of misleading women with mirrors that make them look slimmer in its clothes.

He made the allegation in a written question in the European Parliament.

An M&S spokesman said: "Our mirrors are perfectly normal, standard mirrors. We are at a loss as to what he might be referring to."

In his question, Mr Kilroy-Silk asked if it was "conceivable that within the millions of EU regulations covering virtually every aspect of life in the EU" there was not one that made it illegal for M&S to have mirrors that "deliberately distort women's shapes".'

A right Hoohaa

Oh now this is just the kind of comedic absurdity that you want, need and expect from our more conservative American friends:

‘Stage play The Vagina Monologues has been renamed at a theatre in Florida after a complaint about the title.
It will be known as The Hoohaa Monologues - a child slang word for the female organ - after a woman in Atlantic Beach complained.’

The Hoohaa monologues.

Weirdly, though, the complainant (try pronouncing this ludicrous moniker: I think she should be renamed Mrs Thingumewotsit, personally) actually thinks that the word ‘vagina’ is offensive:

‘Bryce Pfanenstiel from The Atlantic Theatre told local TV station Channel 4 the woman said she was "offended" when her niece asked her what a vagina was.’

Apart from the fact that this demonstrates a frankly embarrassing sexual oppression (bordering on self-loathing), it's slightly worrying that the 'niece' in question is old enough to ask what a vagina is, but seemingly hasn't been made aware that...well, she's GOT one.

Personally, I can think of a hell of a lot more offensive terms that Eve Ensler might’ve used for her play. Just ask Ms Greer.

I’m not sure ‘Lady Love Your Hoohaa’ has quite the edge that Germaine was looking for.

No Means No

What? Pardon? What MANNER of grotesque foulness is this? How on EARTH have I missed this opportunity for outrage?

‘The BBC has been accused of "trivialising rape" with its new show The Verdict, in which a jury of C-list celebrities decides the outcome of a mock trial.
The End Violence Against Women campaign condemned the BBC2 programme, which began on Sunday night. The fictional rape case involves a 19-year-old waitress who claims she was subjected to a degrading sex attack by a footballer and his friend. All are played by actors.
End Violence Against Women is a coalition whose members include Amnesty International UK, Refuge and Women's Aid.
According to their campaign, 47,000 women in England and Wales are raped each year, with most attacks committed by someone known to the victim. Of the cases reported, more than half do not reach court and only 5.3% result in conviction.
Professor Liz Kelly, campaign chairwoman, said: "The Verdict is guilty of trivialising rape. This is reality television that misses much of the reality of rape.
"With rape rarely dealt with at any length by broadcasters, The Verdict is a missed opportunity to show the facts on rape. The bleak truth about rape is that little support or justice exists for women in this country."’

So, let me get this straight: the BBC – a publicly-funded body – has screened a reality television ‘game’ show, in which a panel of ‘celebrities’ decide whether a fictional woman has been raped or not?

We’re actually giving screen time and precious exposure to such beacons of social morality as convicted criminal and liar Jeffrey Archer, wife-beating ‘dogger’ Stan Collymore, and some chap who, humorously, goes by the title ‘Megaman’ and who, according to the BBC’s own website, has also done time in prison for murder? Oh wonderful.

And we’re asking these people for their opinions on rape crime, for ENTERTAINMENT purposes?
Good to know.
Really FUCKING good to know that - in a country in which a raped woman has (roughly speaking) approximately bollock all chance of getting justice - we're able to watch 'rape as entertainment' over our early evening spaghetti hoops on toast.
I suppose, if you like a bit of morally and ethically reprehensible 'grit' chucked in with your reality shows, it's got the edge over Dancing on Ice on the other side.

It’s not often I say this, but I’m genuinely almost lost for words.

Oh but hang on, it gets worse; this is a case of a young woman being ‘raped’ by a footballer, is it?

That’s wouldn’t be an unfairly loaded scenario right there, would it? We wouldn’t be implying that rape is the fall-back position of stupid young women, desperate to get their claws into rich and famous young men in exchange for cash and tabloid exposure, would we? Not on the BBC, WOULD WE?
It's lucky normal women don't get raped by normal men, I suppose.

According to Ofcom, there has only been six complaints about this show so far. Six. No wonder poor old Jade ‘conveniently dispensible celebrity scapegoat’ Goody is feeling a little hard done by.

The Ofcom complaints page is here:

The BBC complaints page is here:
Go on.

Stop Everything

cos it's back...

Fisher Price FuckUp

Robbie Williams has gone into rehab, apparently. Yawn.

‘Williams, who celebrates his 33rd birthday on Tuesday, is one of Europe's most successful entertainers who rose to fame as a member of the hit boy band Take That before going solo.
"Robbie Williams has today been admitted into a treatment centre in America for his dependency on prescription drugs," his public relations agent in London said. "There will be no further comment on this matter."’

Am I the only person that finds this sort of thing rather depressing?
Today’s music ‘stars’ are so tame and boring, even their drugs are bloody legal.

Almost makes you feel grateful for Pete Doherty (almost). He might not be the talented poet of a generation that he seems to inexplicably think he is, but at least he knows what a drug addiction should look like.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Oh my jesus: I just read about this and hardly believed it was true.

But it is. I'm sorry to tell you, people, it truly is.

Gillian McKeith: proud advocate of a brand of sex pills entitled, "Fast Formula Horny Goat Weed Complex".

Honestly, is there anything left to say?

Dr Poo...

...ain't no doctor after all.

'TV nutritionist Gillian McKeith, star of the You Are What You Eat programme, has agreed to drop the title Dr from her company's advertising following a complaint to the industry watchdog. Gillian McKeith was the subject of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority over her use of the title "doctor" on the basis of a qualification gained by correspondence course from a non-accredited American college.'

Erm, now I don't want to pick this 'humiliating McKeith' story apart too much, on the grounds that it's so childishly satisfying, but I'm a little confused by this really rather old new suddenly 'becoming' a story. As rumour would have it, didn't Holland & Barrett or one of the many stockists of her products get a little upset about this very thing a few years ago? As I recall, they were rather put out at having paid serious promotional cash to a hatchett-faced, seriously ill-looking old crone who'd somehow convinced them that her noddy, out-of-a-cracker PhD was actually a real qualification.

Oh well. If nothing else, the story has prompted some extremely lovely vitriol from McKeith's many detractors from the (legitimate) world of science and medicine. Such as this from a particularly fabulous article in The Guardian:

'McKeith is a menace to the public understanding of science. She seems to misunderstand not nuances, but the most basic aspects of biology - things that a 14-year-old could put her straight on.

She talks endlessly about chlorophyll, for example: how it's "high in oxygen" and will "oxygenate your blood" - but chlorophyll will only make oxygen in the presence of light. It's dark in your intestines, and even if you stuck a searchlight up your bum to prove a point, you probably wouldn't absorb much oxygen in there, because you don't have gills in your gut. In fact, neither do fish. In fact, forgive me, but I don't think you really want oxygen up there, because methane fart gas mixed with oxygen is a potentially explosive combination.'

“Kiss My Fat Ass”

Apparently, Kate Winslet doesn’t like people implying that she’s fat and desperate to lose weight:

Actress Kate Winslet plans to sue the weekly magazine Grazia over claims she visited a diet doctor in California. The magazine claimed she had been to the Chinese Healing Institute in Santa Monica to help with neck pain, and also to lose weight. The 32-year-old Hollywood star told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat: "I'm very upset, it's categorically untrue, it's a complete lie."

Now, I’m not actually interested in commenting upon whether or not Winslet’s body is bloated, but there’s absolutely no doubting that her ego is flabby and out of control: “Role model to young women”, indeed…

"I know I am a role model to young women, it's a role I take very very seriously. I would never want anyone to think I was a hypocrite in doing something like going to a diet doctor," she added. Winslet's agent, Sarah Keene, said the actress met the doctor "several years ago" for a "completely separate issue".

Uh huh.

Apparently the magazine in question said that, inexplicably, they’d ‘yet to hear’ from Winslet’s lawyers. Clearly Ms Winslet’s been attending the Heather Mills school of litigation…

P.S. On the other hand, HERE’S how to get pissed off about people calling you a dirty fat giffer:

Can the peaches. Please.

Oh dear lord, give me strength…

Who IS this preposterous teenager, WHY am I forced to read about her, and WHY is a reputable retailer indulging the playtime fantasies of a potato-faced, overpriviledged ego explosion on two (bandy) legs?

Influenced by African culture”, my fat arse.

'First Kate Moss signed up to design for Topshop and now wild-child Peaches Geldof has jumped on the bandwagon.

Wannabe DJ Peaches has revealed that she is to design a new young and funky accessories range for the fashion store. It will be influenced by African culture because Peaches is keen to use her dad's campaign work in the continent as a design influence.'

She said: "I've chosen to do this because it is ethical, fashionable and original".

and this is a good look, is it?

I know that the word 'brave' must, by law, precede every sentence ever written about Kylie Minogue these days, but there's no need to make it relevant to the wardrobe, is there..?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Some of my best friends are black

This is absolutely brilliant.

A group of parents at a school in West Hampstead are upset and protesting against the school’s decision to serve kids halal meat only.

Now, in fairness to the school, they did do a poll among parents, to which many of these parents didn’t bother responding, and the school therefore had the go ahead to make the decision it did. Furthermore, it’s fairly understandable that – in a school with a 77% Muslim intake – the school would be keen to find a fair and cost effective way of catering to all. In today’s anti-Muslim climate, I’d say it's worth pointing out that this was clearly a financially motivated decision, rather than one based on misplaced religious sensitivies.

Nonetheless, you can sympathise with the position of a group of non-religious parents, in a non-denominational school, being angry that decisions are being made on religiously-sensitive grounds that affect their children. As someone who personally rejects all religion, I know I wouldn’t be happy if I discovered my children were being fed kosher food in a non-denominational school. (The only way it would be acceptable would be if I’d sent them to the Jewish Free School. You get the point).

Anyway, this brings me to the point of view of Jacqueline Gomm, one of the parents in question – or, as she’s described by the Guardian, a ‘protest leader’.

She starts off reasonably enough: “I deny being guilty of racism”. Quite right.
However, where she could have gone on to justify her protest on the grounds that – ooooh, I dunno – “the method of killing animals for halal meat is cruel and unnecessary, and as the parent of a child whose religion doesn’t demand the eating of halal, I object to their being forced to eat it. I have as much right for my needs and interests to be represented as those who, in this school or elsewhere, operate from within the dictates of faith”.

She could have done that. Instead, she said this:

“I totally deny being guilty of racism. We allow people to come into this country and we end up being in a minority. We accommodate other cultures at the expense of ours.”

Oh dear.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Shaun the sheep! He's back! And getting his own show!

Even though he's a Yorkshire sheep and I have serious issues with anything wooly from Wakefield or thereabouts, I'm rather excited by that.


This is wonderful: the government has announced a shake-up of the school syllabus for the 14-19 age group, to try and re-engage an uninterested nation of teenagers. The idea is to make what kids study more ‘relevant’ to their lives (you always know there’s going to be trouble when politicians talk about making things ‘relevant’ to the kind of everyday lives they themselves last enjoyed in 1979).

Anyway, I digress.

The Daily Mail brigade has predictably got its knickers in a twist about ‘political correctness gone mad’ and the like (yes, because learning to speak Mandarin in a world in which China is the most economically important emerging nation on the planet, that’s obviously a MADNESS) and, frankly, there are some potential flaws in the plan. There are also new additions that simply read like marijuana-induced lunacy (‘Pupils will have to complete 12 key 'life skills', which include making a 50-mile unaccompanied journey by bus or train’ apparently. Alrighty then…).

However, none of that is in any way surprising. If you accept that education is subject to the dictates of fad and fashion as much as any other aspect of public life, it becomes all too predictable. What I found disturbing, though, was a comment made by Mick Waters, the QCA’s curriculum director, i.e. the man behind the plan.

According to Mick, this review aims to 'move away from an overconcern with content’. A WHAT? An ‘overconcern with content’? Dear God.

You know what? If it’s the learning of actual CONTENT (!??!!) that’s the problem, why the hell are we bothering to send our kids to school at all?

Monday, February 05, 2007

A bitter pill

Apparently, there are plans afoot to make the contraceptive pill available to women in pharmacies, instead of at medical surgeries.

About bloody time.

Certain doctors and medical professionals have (not unreasonably, I suppose) voiced their objection to this plan, claiming that the practice will increase the risks to women’s health.

“Patients can't be on drugs that their doctors don't know about, and the pharmacist would have to know about someone's history of thrombosis and high blood pressure before they prescribe the pill”, said Dr Nigel Sparrow, of the Royal College of GPs.

A fine point, Dr Sparrow, in principle.

However, it does rather miss a really quite fundamental problem with the status of women’s reproductive health within the medical profession and society in general: the raw and often unpalatable truth is that women’s health is not treated with the respect that it – along with all other medical concerns – deserves.

The worry about pharmacists doling out the pill to women without taking the time to check their medical history would be a valid one if…erm….DOCTORS bothered to check such things when they distribute the pill.

Go on, ask the nearest woman: when she went on the pill, did her doctor ask her a long series of questions about her general health, and present her with a list of options? Did s/he list the pros and cons of each product and explain how they worked in detail so she would understand the hormonal changes soon to be wrought in her body?
Or did s/he hand her three months’ worth of Microgynon and turn back to the computer screen?

Yeah, thought so.

In the personal oral contraceptive history of what I suspect would be the MAJORITY of childbearing-aged women, I bet that virtually none will be able to recall a time in which a doctor took time to discuss their individual medical history, their own individual health risks, or indeed their individual preferences when prescribing the pill. In the world of female reproduction, ‘preference’ isn’t a word you hear terribly often.
Remember ladies: you should be grateful.

This is true of the prescribing of contraception, and this is true of the prescribing of the morning after pill (in which, personally, if it’s a choice between enduring the pointlessly disapproving sideways glances of a newly qualified GP or the utter indifference of a Superdrug sales assistant, I’ll take the chemist every time, thanks).
And don’t even get me started on the treatment of women requiring abortions – suffice to say that women might well have the right to choose, but we sure as fuck don’t have the right to choose and not be judged on it.

We live in a world in which overworked doctors often don’t bother reading through the medical notes of people upon whom they’re about to perform major surgery. In this kind of medical landscape, unfortunately, the handing out of contraceptives (or indeed the morning after pill or Chlamydia medicine) is probably BEST done by pharmacists.
Sure, they might give you a pill that doesn’t agree with you, but they’re no more or less likely to do that than a doctor.

Don't do drugs, pretty kids

Now, say what you like about Ms Moss and her often unsavoury personal habits, but one thing she has never been is ugly.

And yet...
And yet. The recent - and curiously unexplained - alteration in the lady's nostril shape aside, am I the only one who thinks that her appearance in these new photographs is beginning to disturbingly resemble that of an 'after' shot model in an anti-drugs campaign poster?

Silence of the Students

There’s nothing quite like, on a cold and blustery February day, getting a fine bit of good news to cheer your thoughts and put a spring back into your step:

‘Play at Glastonbury? Not for 15 years, says Chris Martin.

"I think Glastonbury is bored of us," Coldplay singer Chris Martin has told BBC 6Music. "I don't think we can even take a harmonica down there for a good 15 years."
Coldplay were among the headliners when the festival was last held in 2005, but chances of a quick return seem slight. "We might go, but you've got to know when you are welcome and when you're not," said Martin.’

Friday, February 02, 2007

Big Brother goes Bonkers

Erm… they’re a dozy bunch of bints, I know, but isn’t this taking it a bit too far? And more to the point, if the spouting of seemingly-innocuous recreational racism is a custodial offence, shouldn’t the employees of the Daily Mail and Evening Standard start looking furtively over their repulsive, scabby and hunched shoulders?

‘Danielle Lloyd has been questioned by police over the Celebrity Big Brother race row. Reports said she spent more than an hour with police on Thursday - as a witness - at London solicitors Schillings. The Sun said contestants Jade Goody, pop star Jo O'Meara, Jade's mother Jackiey Budden, actor Dirk Benedict and singer Jermaine Jackson could be questioned next. The show's winner Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty might also be interviewed over insults directed at her.
The paper said police could "in theory" bring charges of incitement to racial hatred - carrying a maximum seven-year jail term - over alleged comments made on the programme.’

Oh, and a bunch of sweaty and leering Miss Great Britain organisers standing in – entirely unnecessarily vindictive – moral judgement on anyone? You have to admire their audacity. (And, for that matter, their PR skills):

‘Contest bosses, in a website statement, said they wanted to disassociate themselves from Lloyd and the race row.
"With hindsight, it would have been better not to have fired Danielle last November because we could have fired her today - and if we could fire her twice we would!"’

Credit where it’s due

As anyone who has ever met me knows, I’m hardly the biggest fan of supermarkets (Wal-Mart is a particular conversational topic to avoid) but it’s nice to see in this week’s news that they’re actually dealing with some of their more obnoxious retailing practices: trans-fats are being phased out of own-brand foods, and some offending supermarkets have finally cottoned on to the fact that oranges, bananas and potatoes already come in their own packaging:

‘Fresh fruit and vegetables are being stripped of their plastic covers as part of a project that could transform the way goods are sold by one of Britain's biggest supermarket groups. In an experiment next week, Asda is to revisit the days of the 1950s greengrocer by removing all packaging from most fresh produce at two stores in north-west England. If buyers are not put off, the policy will be applied to the chain's 316 stores in the UK.The company has set itself an ambitious target of reducing all packaging by 25 per cent this year.’

Nobody really believes that the likes of Tesco etc have had some kind of Damascene conversion and actually care about the environment (or our arteries), obviously. The fact that these things are actually happening in response to public pressure just makes it all the more satisfying.

Blimey – monkfish is endangered!

‘ASDA has banned the sale of monkfish from its supermarkets following pressure from environmental campaigners. The supermarket says it will stop selling the fish until the industry takes "appropriate action" to ensure its long-term survival…Asda is the only major supermarket to ban monkfish. However, other retailers have pledged to stop selling other threatened fish such as marlin, shark and swordfish.’

It’s all good that supermarkets are starting to ban it though, if only because there are only about 12 people in the country that know how to cook it without making it taste like greasy shoe leather.

Incapacity Benefit – again

According to the figures, there are 1.1 MILLION people suffering from depression in this country. Over a million. To a sufficient degree that they are rendered unable to work.

Now I’m no doctor, but that sounds like utter bollocks to me. I know a number of people who genuinely suffer from mental illness, and I sympathise with them hugely as it’s a horrible condition to have to live with, but I cannot believe that 1.1 million people suffer in the same way to a sufficient degree to render them unemployable (neither, it seems, can the government).

Anyway, since when does being ‘stressed’ mean you can’t work, and being a crackhead mean you should receive welfare? Eh? (Am I sounding like a Nazi yet?)

‘The number of people out of work and on long-term sickness benefits because of stress and mental disorders has soared since 1997. The figures, revealed yesterday in answers to parliamentary questions, show almost 1.1m people were claiming incapacity benefit last year who said they were unable to take a job because of problems with mental health, up from 730,000 in 1997.
The number of claimants suffering from severe stress had trebled to 49,000 while those who had endured episodes of depression had almost doubled to 501,000. Those suffering from alcohol or drug-related problems almost doubled to 137,000.’

In any case, I’d have thought that if you’re genuinely depressed, getting out of bed in the morning and doing something constructive is a far better way to deal with the problem than sitting around in your nightie eating Smarties and watching Jeremy Kyle.

Feminism: it’s all your fault

I haven’t the heart to comment on this article (well, not twice anyway, I’ve already vented spleen on the site’s comments section. Be interesting to see if they choose to publish my comments alongside the already-published views of several Daily Mail-reading mentallers).
Instead I simply urge you to read it. Personally I haven’t laughed so much since Amanda ‘Goebbels’ Patell announced that being a victim of domestic violence shouldn’t be a reason to leave your boyfriend:

Having children lands you in jail: Official

‘Parents could be fined or jailed if they fail to keep their children in education until the age of 18. Gordon Brown says he's considering ways of making youngsters stay at school or undertake training after their GCSEs. In the biggest shake-up in education for 30 years, the Chancellor's officials are considering extending truancy laws to the 16-18 age group.’

Yes: that’s right. You’re old enough to drink alcohol and have sex (anally with your same-sex partner, should that float your boat) but if you dare exercise your will not to attend a PE lesson (in which the government now deems it necessary to tell you what sports to play), your parents could go to jail. Lucky that that self-same government plans to build a lot more prisons, really, isn’t it?

Oh, if only it were true

I’ve read through the following Telegraph clipping twice already, and I still don’t quite get it: surely they’re not trying to suggest that the offspring of actors (“can I take your order, sir?”) and JOURNALISTS are….um…..recipients of wealth and privilege?
Presumably they’re referring to ‘journalists’ such as the £150,000 a year columnist Ulrika Johnsson, rather than the journalist who actually writes the column:

‘Two teenagers a year from Kingsford Community School, in one of the most deprived parts of London, will rub shoulders with the sons and daughters of actors, lawyers, politicians and journalists at Brighton College, which charges £24,000 a year. Bright pupils from the ethnically mixed inner-city comprehensive will be given free places at the boarding school.’

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Snakes and Ladders

‘A new pre-registration system for music fans wanting to go to this year's Glastonbury Festival starts on Thursday to ensure that every ticket features a passport-sized photograph of its owner. Those wanting to register must fill in details available on and return the form before midnight on February 28. However, even those who pre-register will still not be guaranteed a ticket, which will cost around 150 pounds.’

Am I the only person who misses the days when Glastonbury meant hitching a lift to the countryside with a sock full of mushrooms, and getting a leg up a rope ladder from an enterprising young scally in exchange for £2 and a joint?

And am I the only person who genuinely feels like those days really weren’t all that long ago…?

This won’t be heaven, this will be hell

Dear God, let it not be true: if I have to listen to the heinous Hotel California – or, sweet GOD, a newly-reworked 2007 version of same – I may break out in something nasty…

‘Seminal 1970s soft rockers The Eagles are close to releasing their first album of new music in almost 30 years, according to reports. Founding member Don Henley has been quoted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal as telling a concert crowd that a new collection was nearing completion. The band, best known for the song Hotel California, are one of the most successful recording acts of all time.’

From human contraceptive to human spectacle

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this is just the kind of shit that happens when there’s not enough on telly…

‘A baby, Antonio Vasconcelos, born weighing 6.6kg (14.5lbs) has caused a sensation in Mexico with crowds gathering at the windows of a maternity unit to catch a glimpse.
The bouncing boy, nicknamed Super Tonio, is wearing nappies designed for six-month-olds and guzzling 5oz milk every three hours.’

Virgin ™ Umbilical Cords!

It is apparently not enough that Richard Branson has invested in – and made a right balls up of – cosmetics, condoms and intercity trains (it’s best we don’t discuss the airline, as I think only a highly accomplished accountant knows what’s going on there) – because now he’s decided to try his hand at ‘storing stem cells from children’s umbilical cords’. Or, as we like to call it in this house, ‘preying on the fears of parents for financial gain’:

‘Sir Richard Branson is to launch his most controversial business venture to date by offering parents the opportunity to store stem cells from their children's umbilical cords.
The company will operate under the Virgin brand and will put blood from the umbilical cord into cold storage.
Some companies already offer the service in the UK but medical experts say there is insufficient evidence to recommend the practice, which is becoming increasingly popular in the United States.
The services typically cost about £1,500 for collection of the blood and about £100 a year for cold storage.’

Lovely, lovely Mr Branson. I suppose we should feel grateful that he manages, momentarily, to wipe the pound signs from his eyes long enough for him to stop just short of describing the anticipated onset of childhood leukaemia as ‘extremely lucrative’:

"If you can actually get the amount of samples stored from 7,000 to 100,000, 200,000, 300,000, then you as the parent may well find that your child has leukaemia in the next few years, and therefore it will be extremely useful."