Archive for the ‘Life’ Category.

Magazines don’t kill people…

The latest organisation to apparently succumb to the march of the bansturbators was the high street newsagent WH Smith (SMWH) when it announced a change of policy with regards to shooting magazines:

“As part of our commitment to operate our business responsibly, we have a till prompt on shooting titles.

“It asks our store teams to check that the customer is 14 years old or over, based on this being the legal age at which someone can possess a firearms certificate.”

Being a private company they are, of course, entitled to do such barmy things – as is so often demonstrated when it comes to supermarkets and alcohol – and customers are perfectly entitled to take their custom elsewhere.

Strictly speaking the spokesdroid was correct when they said a firearms licence is restricted to those over 14. What they failed however to mention was that it is perfectly legal for under-14s to be in possession of a shotgun licence and to use firearms whilst supervised.

Whilst that should amply demonstrate the stupidity of this rule change, the obvious problem which springs to mind is that what proof of age can a 14 year-old produce? The only ones I can think of are a birth certificate and a passport (children now having to have their own for international travel whereas back in the day they could travel on a parents’ passport pre-16). National Insurance cards aren’t issued until your 16th year, 17th for driving licences and proof of age cards are only for those over 18.

So what then prompted this silliness?

The answer is not government but the animal rights organisation Animal Aid. A poll conducted on their behalf of 1,000 members of the public (less than 1 in 60,000) found that 74% wanted such magazines moved to the ‘top-shelf’ and that 84% thought that they should only be sold to over-18s.

Whilst the sample size is certainly small, those asked demonstrate a worrying level of hoplophobia and illiberalism. Retailers should be allowed to organise their magazine shelves as they like and sell publications to whoever wants them. If you don’t like something then don’t buy it. What someone else buys is none of your business.

Animal Aid appears to be claiming that the glossy covers of these magazines, which allegedly feature pictures of shooters (yes, including children) with the creatures that they have shot, will attract children to shooting. That sounds remarkably like the argument that the tobacco control lobby are using over plain packaging to me…

Why target SMWH for their campaign though?

A major focus of Animal Aid’s ‘top shelf’ campaign will be high street newsagent WHSmith, which has so far rejected the national campaign group’s written request for a ban on gun magazine sales to under-18s. The company claims it operates an ‘age prompt of 14 years or over on our tills for shooting titles’. After receiving that assurance on July 30, Animal Aid sent five young researchers – aged 11 and 12 – into WHSmith branches in different parts of the country. Each bought a copy of Shooting Times without difficulty.

So it appears that SMWH may have already had this policy in place, albeit rather ineffectually. Is their announcement then just a reaffirmation of existing foolishness or statement that they intent to take the matter more seriously?

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler: ‘Since launching our call for a ban on the sale of gun magazines to children, shooting lobbyists have characterised us as “crazy” and “extremists”. They can see now that the vast majority of the public back our call, and that it is they who are out of touch with rational mainstream opinion.’

Sorry Andy but I think you are a bunch of crazy extremists as well and yet I’ve only once in my life fired a gun and have never been a member of the Countryside Alliance or the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. I’m also not keen on the tyranny of the majority and see nothing wrong with gun ownership, let alone the purchasing of magazines about the subject by people of any age. A bit less hoplophobia is a good thing as the sooner more people realise that a gun is just a tool the better we will all be as a society.

Who to believe?

A minor bout of swearing erupted on Sunday after seeing reports in the MSM that the Isambard Community School in Swindon had insisted that all parents must obtain a CRB check before watching sporting events at the school:

A spokesman said: “It is with regret that from now on we will be unable to accommodate parents wishing to spectate at our sports fixtures unless they are in possession of an up-to-date Swindon Council CRB check.

“At Isambard we take safeguarding very seriously and because of this we are unable to leave gates open for access to sporting venues at anytime during the school day.

“The current access arrangements are frustrating for both Isambard staff and parents and have recently resulted in reception staff and PE staff being on the receiving end of verbal abuse from parents who have become frustrated trying to get into or out of the school.”

Taken at face value this sounds like a very stupid idea. It is the preceding paragraph to this however which begins to shine some light on matters:

The school introduced the new measure at the start of the term to prevent strangers from accessing other parts of the school from the playing fields.

That the school is hardly keen on random people wandering the halls is fair enough. Can’t blame them for that but CRB checks are hardly the way to do it and parents don’t exactly count as strangers.

What I can’t work out though is whether the press release which the school issued on Monday morning is aimed at correcting what it sees as inaccurate media coverage or if it is a total climb-down on a massive over-reaction:

In light of the recent press coverage regarding CRB checks on parents wishing to watch their children play in sports fixtures we would like to issue the following statement:

“Parents are more than welcome to attend to watch sports fixtures at Isambard Community School. However, there is no access to the sports pitches through the main school building. Parents are requested to use the Tadpole Lane entrance where there is ample parking. There have previously been issues with parents and other visitors arriving at the Isambard Way entrance and being annoyed to be asked to drive to Tadpole Lane. However, we are unable to allow visitors access through the school during the normal school day, which includes the enrichment time between 3:15pm and 6pm. We hope this clarifies the school’s position.”

We apologise for the fact that the Advertiser were given out-dated information regarding this issue prior to the article going to press.

Given the state of the MSM in this country and the knee-jerk “Won’t somebody please think of the children” reaction of the unthinking section of the populace, it could be one, t’other or both!

Young love

As we know from that bit of the media which isn’t still raking over the Andrew Mitchell non-story and the waste of time which was the Liberal Democrat party conference, a 15-year-old girl has eloped to France with her maths teacher.

Cue much wailing as well as pleas for her to come home and him to give himself up.

As she is under 16 the word ‘paedophile’ as well as various slang terms have been used online, if not by the media. It is, of course, the wrong word to use as she is, in terms of sexual development anyway, mature. If the teacher really does prefer partners in this stage of life then the term is ‘ephebophile’.

A teenage girl being attracted to an older male is not a story. As a general rule they tend to prefer older boys and men simply because the boys of their own age are usually behind them on the maturity curve.

Given then that developing teenage girls in the UK (and the developed world) tend to spend a significant part of their lives in schools and that schools will likely have at any one time several young-ish male teachers, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that sometimes the object of a girl’s affections will be her teacher.

Most of the time it will remain just a crush, one that the teacher may well be unaware of, and will go nowhere. There are times though when it will go further and I’d be surprised if there is a secondary or upper school in the land in which a relationship between a pupil and a teacher hasn’t taken place at some point.

I can think of one definite example from my days in the sixth-form* attached to my secondary school and there were persistent rumours about one of our humanities teachers*** involving a number of female pupils. In neither case, to the best of my knowledge, was any action taken against the teachers concerned.

Some will rail about the age of consent and how, because the law has imposed a legal age of 16, sexual congress with anyone under this age is an issue whilst waiting until the day of their 16th birthday isn’t. What they forget is that they themselves were young once and that the idea of the law telling you on which day you were able to make the beast of two backs with your partner may well have been as meaningless to you as the laws about when you could drink and/or smoke. Or perhaps, depending on personal preference, even the laws surrounding narcotics today.

Indeed the Telegraph has reported that the French police aren’t actively looking for her because the age of consent on the other side of the Channel is 15 and thus there is no crime taking place.

(Across Europe the age of consent is generally between 14 and 17 years of age, with the outliers being Spain at 13 and Turkey at 18.)

The sin in such circumstances is not that girls involved are 14 or 15 but that the teachers, who are In loco parentis, breached the trust placed in them by the families of the pupils and their employer.

By involving himself so comprehensively with Megan Stammers, Jeremy Forrest has destroyed whatever life he might otherwise have hoped to build in the UK. Assuming he does come back to these shores he can look forward to a criminal record, an entry on the sex offenders register, potentially some gaol time and the inability to ever work or act as a volunteer in any position which requires a CRB check to be performed. And, I would suspect, speedy divorce from his jilted wife.

Megan, who is unlikely to be an entirely innocent party, will likely get away scot-free.

* We were both going through 6th form together and he was one of our maths teachers. Barely out of university himself, he was no more than 8 years older than us and the relationship between the two of them ran for a couple of years or so. The first that the rest of the students knew about it was when we were in pub celebrating the end of our lower-sixth** and they spent a reasonable part of the night tonsil tickling. We certainly didn’t tell anyone about it and they kept it discrete (he didn’t show up on the 18th birthday party circuit for example). She showed up at my 18th wearing an engagement ring whilst only 17 herself at the time (she was the only person in the year younger than me IIRC) and my mum pestered me for sometime to say who it was. I eventually told her after my younger brother left the school 3 years later.

** Obviously none of us were 18 but we were all drinking and no-one was asked for ID.

*** The closest I got to the truth was over a beer with a mutual friend some years later when I found out tha he’d got married. Jokingly asked if it was to one of his former pupils, my friend smiled and said no.

The Duchess and the Photographer

Apparently the woman formerly known as Catherine Middleton has breasts.

Shocking, eh? I could scarcely believe it myself but from the feeding frenzy which has accompanied this ‘discovery’ anyone would think that she was the first post-pubescent female to have them rather than being just one amongst several billion.

Quite frankly I really don’t understand what the fuss is about. At some point we’ve all seen someone elses’ boobs – whether they were our mother’s, our partner’s, our girlfriends’, by the pool or on the beach, on the internet, on page 3 or in any other situation. The size varies, the shape changes (even on the same body) and some are more attractive to look at than others but in the long run breasts are breasts. If this is an issue for you then I suspect you have other problems to deal with first.

Where then does the ‘blame’ for this business lie?

According to Anne Diamond on BBC News 24 on Friday morning*, the Duchess of Cambridge has only herself to blame as she dared to bare them somewhere other than behind closed doors with the curtains drawn and the lights off**.

Since this is clearly ridiculous, we need to look further out. Should we therefore blame the Peeping Toms hiding behind their camera a kilometre or so away? They are certainly an easy target but they would say that they are just doing a job – as (at least in my opinion) distasteful as it is.

How then does this come to be a job? If there was no money to be made then it is unlikely that there would be hordes of people with cameras chasing the rich and famous around the world all day and all night.

So where does the money come from? It comes from the publishers of the likes of ‘Closer’, ‘Hello’, ‘OK!’ etc who know that they can make more money selling their glossy, large print magazines containing images of the aforementioned celebrities than it costs to buy the pictures from the photographers in the first place.

Why? Because a significant number of people apparently like to do nothing better than pour over the minutiae of other people’s’ lives and then gossip about it afterwards around the water cooler.

And that, right there, is the crux of the matter. Until our species grows up and stops caring about the private lives of people we will continue to get this sort of thing happening.

I would like to be around when that finally happens – if only to breathe a sigh of relief – but I suspect I’ll be dust long before then.

* I was in the gym, I didn’t have my iPod with me and the other option (besides silence) was Jeremy Kyle.

** Ok, she didn’t mention curtains and lights but the prudish inference certainly was there.

“I do not think it means what you think it means…”

It would seem that this year’s (much abbreviated) silly season will run into the party conferences if reports of some of the motions to be debated at the Illiberal Democrats confrence are anything to go by.

A motion, to be debated on the Sunday 23 September, says the party should call for “fiscal measures such as the taxation of heavily sugared drinks”.

The plan – which has been proposed by Baroness Parminter, the party’s co-chairman of its Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee – is part of a series of “policies and measures aimed at promoting healthier and more sustainable diets”.

Party officials said taxing fizzy drinks was only one example, and the levy could also include heavily sweetened sweets and other goods.

One idea would see a charge levied on products which breached a set sugar content threshold.

This is, I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to hear, for the children. Apparently we have half a million children at risk of suffering from liver disease because they are too fat but as this figure comes from Professor Martin Lombard, England’s National Clinical Director for Liver Disease it is possible that we can dismiss it as rent-seeking.

Even if it isn’t, the Torgraph article helpfully tells us that “taxing sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods could cut up to 2,700 heart disease deaths a year” (my emphasis).

Given that in 2010 the Office for National Statistics tells us that 493,242 people across England and Wales, 53,967 in Scotland and 14,500 in NI, that is less than 0.5% of the total.

For comparision, 3,377 people committed suicide in 2010 in England and Wales alone.

Fizzy drinks and sugary items are therefore hardly a national emergency, are they?

Yet another example, it would seem, of politicans searching for answers to a non-existent problems rather than just letting people get on with their lives. Not exactly the actions of a so-called Liberal.

The only potential justification that I can possibly see for an extra (Pingu) tax is if the amount currently raised by VAT doesn’t cover the externalities. Does anyone know how much VAT on these ‘harmful’ products raises against how much treatment (denistry, medical care etc) caused by their consumption costs?

She [Lady Parminter] said that the party was only asking for a consulation on the plans and was not at the moment in favour of a sugar tax.

Looks like the start of another branch of that non-existent slippery slope to me…

Olympics

As we all are probably aware, right about now in a place formerly known as Stratford, the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Security Theatre and Censorship Olympic Games is getting under way.

With something like 20,000 members of the armed forces deployed to provide protection from ‘terrorism’ in ways which range from having HMS Ocean stationed in the Thames, RAF Thyphoon fighters on patrol, missile batteries deployed in various places around the captial (woebetide you if you object to having a battery on your roof as the justice system thinks that this is perfectly fine), as well as 12,500 police officers (some armed with SA80 A2 Rifles), the UK has excelled itself in producing a piece of security theatre to rival that of London Heathrow – but then again LOCOG and the IOC wouldn’t know about that as, like with LHR, ‘VIPs’ such as them don’t have to put up with all of that inconvenience… unlike us ‘little people’.

If that isn’t enough, a censorship regime which would have had Erich Honecker drooling with envy has been enacted. Legislation to protect sponsors and branding means, amongst other things, that, unless your company is a corporate sponsor of this bloody expensive shindig, your stores in the shopping centre next door to the pretty looking stadia can’t even mention that there is a wee sporting event going on least they fall foul of the branding police.

But that won’t bother the members of the Orwellian sounding ‘Olympic family’ as they won’t be shopping in Westfield – they, their relatives and hangers-on will be splashing the cash at the high end stores on Bond Street and the like, and will be using the specially created Zil Lanes to allow themselves to be whisked from their five star hotels in the west end of London to the Games on the east side. Should they feel it necessary to actually watch any of the sporting events that is.

In the mean time those of us who chose to use the Olympic Motto (Citius Altius Fortius’ / ‘Faster Higher Stronger) or common words such as ‘Games’, ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’, ‘2012’, ‘twenty twelve’, ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’, ‘Bronze’, ‘London’, ‘medals’, ‘sponsors’, and ‘summer’ in a sentence in the wrong combination and context – however innocently – might find ourselves in a spot of legal bother.

And of course I wouldn’t want to be someone who once again reminds everyone that the logo for this whole business looks like Lisa Simpson giving a blow job, would I?

Lisa Simpson giving a blow job

The UK can at least console itself with the knowledge that, even before the sport gets underway, we are certain to win at least one Gold medal at London 2012 – in how to enact a quasi-facist state in order to protect corporate sponsors on a money-spinning brouhaha using income stolen from the tax paying public. Silver and Bronze medals won’t, of course, be awarded.

I wonder how if the people of Rio de Janeiro are yet aware of what their politicians have let them in for come 2016?

On a less sour note, all the best to those who are competing. You’ve all generally spent years training for this so it is just a pity that it should be against a backdrop of totalitarianism.

Compare and Contrast

Leda and the Swan is a story from Greek Mythology in which Zeus takes the form a swan and seduces (or possibly rapes) Leda.

Compare…

During the Renaissance their union was depicted in potentially erotic overtones by many artists including in paint by Leonardo, Michelangelo (a copy of which is shown below), Correggio and in marble by Bartolomeo Ammannati.

Leda and the Swan, a 16th century copy after a lost painting by Michelangelo, 1530

A number of the paintings, including those by the aforementioned artists, ended up in the collection of the French Royal Family. The ones by Leonardo and Michelangelo are now lost, believed destroyed by moralistic family members, whilst Correggio’s had to be repaired after Louis d’Orléans took a knife to it.

Contrast…

A modern day take on the subject by the photographer Derrick Santini (shown below), which had been exhibited in The Scream gallery in Mayfair:

But a Metropolitan police officer who saw the Derrick Santini image from a bus was alarmed.

He alerted his colleagues and two uniformed officers went to the gallery, which is owned by the Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood’s sons, Tyrone and Jamie.

Jag Mehta, the sales director at the gallery, said she spoke to the officers and asked what the problem was.

“They said the photograph suggested we condoned bestiality, which was an arrestable offence,” she said.

“It’s crazy. Perhaps the cultural references were lost on them.”

As the exhibition was already over, they took down the artwork, which shows the animal ravaging the naked woman.

“They stood there and didn’t leave until we took the piece down.”

Ah, the stupidity of the extreme pornography law passed by the our previous, unlamented government.

Leda and the Swan by Derrick Santini

Prudishness is not dead, it has just changed slightly.

A drink free university?

University. A place to study and – in many, many cases – a place where you find yourself drinking until your liver begs for mercy. Of course, you don’t have to but many do and probably every campus in the country has a subsidised bar or three which will sells gallons of cheap, nasty lager as well as plenty of other alcoholic products on a nightly basis. And if you fancy something which isn’t watered down then there are no doubt plenty of licensed establishments close by.

At the university I attended there were, as I remember, a total of two places on campus which sold booze (both within the union building) and no shortage of places which didn’t – including much of the union. Assuming that this is not an uncommon arrangement, I am somewhat befuddled therefore as to why the vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University*, one Prof. Malcolm Gillies, is

…considering banning the sale of alcohol from some parts of the campus because a “high percentage” of students consider drinking “immoral”

Unless London Met is different from what I experienced, the vast majority of the campus – including the refectories – will not be used for the selling of alcohol. Indeed I’m almost certain that it is possible to do everything a student might wish to do, with the possible exception of consuming alcohol, without setting foot in that small percentage of floorspace where the sale of alcohol is permitted.

So, who are these students that the good professor claims to be speaking for? The clue it seems is in the make-up of the student body: one fifth are Muslim and most of that 20% are women.

Oh, and as he admits himself he is

…not a great fan of alcohol on campus.

Therefore I see two possibilities here

  1. the professor is using the Muslims as an excuse to enact up his prohibitionist tendencies, or
  2. the Muslims have found a willing ally in promoting their wishes.

and in the crazy world of prohibition and cultural appeasement in which we live, either option is possible and Alaa Alsamarrai, the vice-president of student affairs for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), was quick to jump on the passing bandwagon:

“We want our universities and unions to be inclusive – where students from all walks of life can come together and share experiences.

“Alcohol is a barrier to many Muslim students participating in freshers events and often in society activities – so we’re in support of moves to have some alcohol-free zones and events.

“Though if a student wants to drink in their lifestyle, we of course don’t want to ban that.”

How nice of him to include that last line…

Yes, students drink but unless you are joining those groups which specifically include the consumption of alcohol (wine, beer etc societies) then I don’t think anyone will care if you aren’t a drinker – even the Athletic Union will more than likely tolerate a teetotaller in their midst if you are any good.

Understandably the idea didn’t go down well with the University’s Student’s Union, with their president calling for him to apologise:

Claire Locke said Malcolm Gillies had “offended” Muslim students by generalising about their beliefs. There had been no calls from students to create alcohol-free areas on the London Met campus, she said.

Ms Locke argued that London Met’s Muslim students were “respectful of other people’s cultures”. Muslim students’ union officers were currently fighting for a new student bar to be opened at the university’s City campus, she added.

Ms Locke said it was not true that Muslim students did not drink, and that in the previous academic year three out of the four Muslim students’ union officers had drunk alcohol. “He should retract the comments and apologise to the students he has offended,” she said.

The unrepentant vice-chancellor then apparently chose to widen his net of those who might agree with his stance:

…some students, particularly Muslim women, would feel uncomfortable attending university events in a pub, for example, and that the concerns he raised could apply to other groups such as American Protestants or Buddhists.

It seems that in his desire to be a good little prohibitionist, the professor isn’t adverse to using minority groups as cover.

From a personal perspective, having worked along side a few Muslims, met one or two others socially (in a pub) and currently having one as a lodger, none of them have cared that I’m a consumer of alcohol – or, indeed, bacon.

Certainly at home I haven’t stopped eating bacon, drinking booze and wearing clothing considered decent by Western standards but probably positively shocking by Pakistani standards. Yes, it might be my gaffe, my rules but, because I have a small modicum of common sense and can sometimes demonstrate a tolerance for the foibles of others, I’m not going to ask him to join me for a drink and some pork scratchings. Indeed he is free to leave anytime he wants*** but has, as yet, chosen not to.

Thus once again I come to the conclusion that if the Prof Gillies’ and Alaa Alsamarrai’s of this world just left well alone we’d all manage to rub along quite happily and the world would be a better place for it.

* If one can call something which was formed in 2002 from the merger of two former polytechnics a University.**

** Yes, I’m probably being snobbish here. :)

*** Like with any lodger, there are times I’d be quite happy for him to up sticks and leave but his religion is not the problem.

Snow Clearance

In my corner of the South East we had 4″ or so of snow last night. As I live in a cul-de-sac there is not a snowballs chance in Hell that the local council will even try to grit or clear the roads and/or footpaths.

Therefore this year I invested in some rock salt, a snow shovel and went out to do the right thing.

Before:

Cul-de-sac before clearance

One blogger, with one shovel and 100 minutes of work later:

Cul-de-sac after clearance

The only downside was the number of my neighbours who walked past with even making a token attempt to acknowledge my efforts.

Happy New Year

By the time you read this 2011 will have finally – and thankfully – winked out of existence. I was thinking of doing a review of the year but quite frankly 20011 has, in all honesty, been so full of stupidity, fascism and general moronic behaviour that it was just to damn depressing to do.

Instead may I propose a toast to the new year?

May 2012 be the year when our species finally starts to grow up and stop acting like a spoilt child.

*chinks glass*