Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

The excellent article below – from the NY correspondent of the BBC – discusses the fascinating phenomenon that is Donald Trump, politician, businessman, and possessor of the most bizarre and oft-photographed hairpiece of all time.

For those of us wondering how this buffoon can suddenly look like the most popular candidate to lead the GOP into the next presidential election, it is chock full of good reportage and explanation.

We do not believe for a moment that donald-trump-bad-hairTrump will survive increasing scrutiny as the race progresses. We are still in the “silly season”. But he may, as this article points out, achieve something more lasting – the trashing of the Republican brand before the general election has even started. Because achieving knee-jerk popularity with the more fervent of the GOP’s right wing is not the task at hand. The GOP needs a candidate that can build a winning coalition in the whole country, and in America today, that means with the Hispanic vote. Calling Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists” seems an odd way to do that.

Interestingly, the British Labour Party is currently mesmerised by a similar character on the other side of the political spectrum, the dyed-in-the-wool left-winger Jeremy Corbyn – a late entrant into their Leadership campaign – who unlike Trump increasingly looks as if he can win it. The right in the UK can hardly believe their luck – Labour would look marginalised and irrelevant to the mass of Britons in no time flat.

For the same reason, Democrats in America are hugging themselves with glee at Trump’s performance. He doesn’t have to win the nomination to deliver the White House to them on a plate for the third election running, he just has to make the Republican Party look un-electably bizarre. And unlike the UK, where any “Corbyn effect” could be dissipated by 2020 (especially if he didn’t survive all five years as leader) Trump has the money and the bull-headishness to keep campaigning till well into the Northern hemisphere autumn and beyond. The damage he does will still be causing the Republican brand to reek a year later.

No wonder party managers in democracies wince when someone suggests the membership should select their leader, and increasingly common phenomenon.

Those who are motivated enough to join a political party or register as a supporter are often the very worst people to judge who has both the gravitas and the broad credentials to win a general election.

Donald Trump: Master of the demolition derby

Donald Trump

And lately it has come to resemble a gruesome episode of Big Brother, where it becomes near impossible to evict a boorish and abusive housemate because of his popularity with viewers.

Trump, evidently, is more than a guilty pleasure, the political equivalent of a late-night fix of tabloid TV for those returning, drunkenly, from a long night in the pub or bar. Judging by his poll numbers, a significant proportion of sober-minded voters who will next year select the Republican nominee like both him and his take-no-prisoners message, even though to many it sounds deranged and racist.

The latest poll, conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, shows him with a commanding lead: 24% of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, compared with 13% for the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and 12% for the former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. Labelling Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists”, as Trump did in June when he announced his bid for the presidency, sounded like the demagogic rant of a fringe extremist.

To question the military record of Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war tortured so brutally that he is unable still to raise his arms above his shoulders, would ordinarily have been suicidal. But Trump is operating under rules of his own making that are perfectly suited to the voracious metabolism of the modern media, and the hyperventilated style of modern campaigning. The more outrageous his remarks, the more coverage and social media comment he generates. And the more coverage he receives, the better his polling numbers seemingly become (though most of the polling in the latest survey was conducted before the McCain controversy). Increasingly, notoriety equals popularity amongst a large cohort of Republican voters.

 

Senator John McCain

Trump questioned Senator McCain’s war record

 

This was an equation that the Texas Senator Ted Cruz hoped to turn to his advantage, until he was trumped by Trump. Though easy to lampoon as cartoonish and crazed, the billionaire tycoon has come to personify the dilemma faced by the modern-day GOP. From the late-1960s to the late-1980s, when it won five out of six elections, the party dominated presidential politics largely by appealing to disgruntled whites unsettled by the pace of racial and social change – a constituency that includes many who agree with Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration. Nowadays, however, party leaders recognise that, after losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests, the GOP needs to broaden its demographic appeal. It cannot rely on what was known as “the southern strategy”.

 

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are currently trailing Trump in the polls

 

Reaching out to Latino voters, who Ronald Reagan once memorably described as Republicans who didn’t yet realise it, has become an urgent priority. After all, in 2012 Mitt Romney secured just 27% of the Latino vote, proof of what Senator Lindsey Graham has called the party’s “demographic death spiral”. The GOP’s electoral conundrum has been finding ways of courting new voters without alienating longstanding supporters. Trump, who obviously runs the risk of erecting a wall between the GOP and Hispanic voters akin to the impregnable barrier that he wants to construct along the Mexican border, is single-handedly demolishing that strategy. Not only that. His early success suggests that the broad church strategy might be politically unfeasible.

Messenger or message?

If a quarter of Republican voters truly are embracing Trump – many presumably because of his nativistic rants rather than in spite of them – the outreach programme is in serious trouble. The party’s establishment will hope that voters are warming to the messenger rather than the message, but the two are increasingly entwined. Moreover, voters devouring the red meat being thrown them on a daily basis by Trump will surely look upon inclusive Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as kale-eating vegans. Now a major problem, a month ago Trump presented an opportunity writ large in the kind of large gold letters affixed to his hotels and office buildings.

 

Mitt Romney waits to address a campaign rally at Pinkerton Academy in Derry in January 2012

Mitt Romney notably failed to secure the Latino vote

 

Had the other candidates taken him down immediately after his “rapist” comments, they could have helped transform the Republican brand. Instead, figures like Jeb Bush hesitated. It took the former Florida governor, who is married to a Mexican, two weeks to come up with a strong rebuttal, calling Trump’s remarks “extraordinarily ugly”. Corporate America reacted more swiftly, with companies like NBC Universal quickly severing their ties with Trump, even though they know he is a ratings winner. There is an argument to be made that Trump helps the candidacies of Bush and Walker, the other front-runners, if only because he is eclipsing rivals, like Rubio, who pose a more realistic threat. But that line of reasoning surely underestimates the damage that he is doing, long-term, to the Republican brand. Here, the hope will be that Trump is seen as such an outlier, and such an outsider, that he does more damage to his personal standing than the party’s reputation.

Early impressions key

But early impressions are hard to shake, as Mitt Romney discovered in 2012 when the Democrats successfully cast him as an economic elitist long before he could define himself. Latino voters will surely remember the party’s rather feeble response to Trump after the media caravan has moved on. In the Twitter age, media cycles are so momentary that Trump could well turn out to be summer silly season special, much like Michele Bachman who unexpectedly won the Iowa straw poll in the summer of 2011. Certainly, party leaders will be hoping he follows the boom/bust cycle that was the hallmark of the 2012 race. Remember the Herman Cain surge or the Gingrich spike? But Trump is a seasoned pro, with more staying power and more money. His business empire has been built on his extraordinary gift for self-publicity – he is a human headline – and an ability to make improbable comebacks.

 

Nelson Rockefeller

Richard Nixon struck a deal with Nelson Rockefeller to secure liberal Republican support

 

Back in 1960, when Vice President Richard Nixon sought to tie up the Republican nomination, he ended up making a pact with the then New York Governor, Nelson Rockefeller, to secure the support of liberal Republicans. Because the two men met in Rockefeller’s luxury Manhattan apartment, it was dubbed the Treaty of Fifth Avenue. Arguably, the Republican Party needs a new Treaty of Fifth Avenue, the home of the famed Trump Tower, this time aimed at disembowelling “The Donald.”

Next month, he looks certain to appear on stage in the first televised debate of the campaign, qualifying as one of the ten most popular candidates.

That, surely, will be car crash television, and Trump has already proved himself the master of the demolition derby.

MutluKaya

Screenshot of Mutlu from YouTube

 

Last weekend the world thrilled to the fun of the Eurovision Song Contest. But now the shooting of a 19-year-old woman following an appearance singing on TV is bringing violence against women in Turkey to light. Mutlu Kaya was shot in the head southeastern Turkey’s Diyarbakir, in what is the most recent in a string of high-profile attacks on women in the country. Her crime? Singing. That’s it.

Such cases have brought attention to a rising tide of violence against women in Turkey. According to Bianet, a Turkey-based NGO and news source, there was a 31 percent increase in murders of women by men between 2013 and 2014. Researchers place the number of women murdered in 2014 at nearly 300.

According to local media, Kaya began receiving death threats from her extended family after being selected to appear on national TV in Sesi Cok Guzel, a talent competition in the vein ofAmerica’s Got Talent. Kaya was shot in the head while at home early Monday morning. She was rushed to a local hospital before being moved to a larger hospital in Diyarbakir, where she remains in intensive care.

 Although it has yet to be confirmed, it is reported that Kaya was threatened by her extended family for going to Istanbul to participate in the contest — there is speculation that the attack was motivated by Kaya’s choice to step outside of traditional gender roles.
Degir Deniz

Degir Deniz

Kaya’s shooting comes on the heels of two other high-profile murders. On May 5th, the body of a popular 39-year old singer-songwriter, Deger Deniz, was found strangled in her Istanbul home.

And on February 11th, Ozgecan Aslan, a 20-year old psychology student in Mersin, was brutally assaulted and murdered after resisting a rape.

Her burned and mutilated body was later found in a creek outside of town.

Aslan’s murder sparked an outcry against violence against women in Turkey. Protesters – including men wearing miniskirts to show solidarity – took to the streets.

Ozgecan Aslan

Ozgecan Aslan

Hundreds of thousands women tweeted their experiences with sexism, gender-based violence and harassment under the hashtag #sendeanlat, which translates to “you tell your story too.”

In the aftermath of Ozgecan’s murder, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that violence against women is Turkey’s “bleeding wound.” However, the AKP has repeatedly placed a paternalistic emphasis on women only within their context as mothers and daughters. Erdogan went on to call on men to protect women, based on their relationship to men: “I call on gentlemen occupying most of the important decision-making positions: This could have happened to our daughters as well.”

Erdogan’s conservative Justice and Development party (AKP) has been widely criticised for its stance on women’s issues. The party renamed the Ministry for Women and Family as the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, positioning their focus not on women’s rights but on women as just one of many at-risk social groups. And in 2014, one of the party’s most senior members, Bulent Arinc, said that women should “be humble and protect their chasteness. They should not laugh out loud in public,” prompting an avalanche of tweets of women doing just that.

At a women’s conference in Istanbul in 2014, Erdogan said that to put women as equal to men is “against nature” because they are “delicate.”

Speaking on a BBC podcast, The Inquiry: Is Life Getting Worse For Women In Erdogan’s Turkey? in March, Professor Deniz Kandiyoti, who specializes in gender relations in Turkey at the University of London, said of the AKP’s rhetoric: “what trickles down of course is that some women are worthy of protection. Other women: it’s open season.”

To see this happening in what was always touted as the most Westernised and secular Muslim state in the world is especially distressing. To be sure, familial violence against women is a cultural issue not a primarily religious one – it occurs in Christian and Hindu communities too – but it would be hoped that the fitfully modernising trend of a country like Turkey would reduce its prevalence and set an example of tolerance to the rest of the region.

Sadly, apparently not.

(From Think Progress and others)

It is common to consider Lawrence of Arabia as Peter O’Toole’s finest moment, as David Cameron did today, but that would be to belittle a body of work of outrageously talented schtick.

O’Toole’s striking good looks and charm sustained him through a stage and film career of more than 50 years that swung wildly between triumph and disaster, garnering him eight Oscar nominations but, to the disgust of his admirers, no win.

The most-nominated actor never to win the award, he eventually – and reluctantly – accepted an honorary Oscar in 2003.

His early turn as Hamlet brought him to many critic’s attention, just as a later one as Macbeth almost ended his career.

Some of his roles showcased a gentler side to O’Toole than the rabble-rousing drunk of legend or the half-mad T. E. Lawrence yelling “No prisoners!”: Goodbye Mr Chips was a charming diversion, as was his performance in The Last Emperor, curiously, in both he portrayed a teacher.

A year after his career re-defining role in The Last Emperor, at the age of 56, he won rave reviews for playing his old Soho drinking pal in the play ““Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell” in a part that seemed to mirror his own alcoholic misfortunes. I reproduce it here, in full, for your enjoyment, in a BBC recording of the live show.

Genius is a much over-hyped word. In Peter O’Toole’s case, it is unquestionably justified.

Enjoy.

mccann-suspects-729-620x349

This is the man British police are desperate to interview in relation to the kidnapping of Madeleine McCann in Portugal. He was seen near the McCann’s holiday accommodation carrying a young child.

Although the two faces look different, police are convinced it is the same – German speaking – man, seen in and around the resort before Madeleine vanished on May 3rd 2007.

Her disappearance sparked a global search that gripped the world’s media but, despite extensive appeals, her fate remains a mystery and a Portuguese police inquiry (which erroneously targeted the McCann’s themselves) closed five years ago.

On Monday a British team of detectives, who began a new investigation in July, said they pieced together a new sequence of events suggesting Madeleine was targeted by abductors.

They said they wanted to trace a number of men, including some thought to be either Scandinavian or German, while another line of inquiry is she was taken after disturbing burglars.

“Madeleine McCann’s disappearance does, on one reading of the evidence, have the hallmarks of a pre-planned abduction,” Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood told BBC’s “Crimewatch” programme which broadcast a new reconstruction of the events.

British police have also reportedly arrested a man after he boasted at a party of having recently seen Madeleine on a Mediterranean island.

However, it appears the man was arrested for reasons unrelated to the child’s disappearance from her family’s holiday apartment.

Britain’s Sunday Mirror newspaper reported a week ago that a barrister had given a detailed statement to police after attending a party in Manchester where the man made the extraordinary claim.

The man boasted that he had been introduced to Madeleine on the island this summer. She was in the company of another adult.

Madeleine McCann

The barrister said he took the claim seriously because of the level of detail.

The Sunday Mirror reported that the man making the claims was arrested during the week and computers were seized.

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police told the paper “a man was arrested … on suspicion of possession of drugs and conspiracy to distribute indecent images of children”.

He was bailed pending further inquiries.

Madeleine McCann’s parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, are interviewed on the BBC for a program that will air on Monday night in Britain.

Police in August released this image of how Madeleine McCann might loom today. If alive, Maddy is today 9 years old.

madeleine mccann today

Look, OK, I’m sorry. I just wanted to write that headline.

Image

Not lovin’ it … do you want fries with that?

No blame attaches to the Big Mac purveyors. As BBC, Yahoo and other news sources reveal a British woman who attempted to purchase goods from a McDonald’s drive-thru while on horseback then allowed her horse to defecate inside the restaurant, and has been fined.

Greater Manchester Police noted the woman, who has not been named, was in the saddle when she was initially turned away by McDonald’s drive-thru attendants.

According to BBC News, the woman was accompanied by a young girl riding a pony.

The women then reportedly led the horse inside the establishment where it relieved itself on the floor, much to the dismay of fellow diners who captured the scene on their mobile phones.

“Staff had refused to serve the women due to company policy,” a spokesperson for the fast-food giant told BBC News.

“The women then took the horse into the restaurant who ended up doing his ­business on the floor.”

“The incident caused distress and disruption,” the spokesperson continued.

Local police were reportedly called to the scene after the horse defecated.

“The sight and smell of this caused obvious distress and upset to customers trying to eat, as well as staff members,” a representative of Greater Manchester Police said.

“Officers arrived at the location and the woman was issued [with] a fixed penalty notice for causing alarm and distress to other customers and staff.”

McDonald’s policy stipulates that only patrons in a moving car may access the drive-thru services.

“The health and safety of customers and staff is our top priority. For this reason we are unable to serve ­pedestrians, bike riders or customers on horseback at the drive-thru,” a company representative said.

I bet that’s the first time “or customers on horseback” has been added to that sentence …

Meanwhile all jokes connecting “McDonalds” and “shit” are please not to be left appended to this story. Send them instead to “Sue, Grabbit and Runne, Solicitors, c/o McDonalds Head Office, Somewhere.”

And meanwhile #2, the bigger question … who the hell owns a horse in Manchester?

Mel Smith dead at 60

Rest in peace – or rest disgracefully as is your wont – Mel Smith

I am really – genuinely – sad to see that Mel Smith has died aged just 60.

Apart from being a scary intimation of one’s own mortality, he was one of the funniest, wittiest, and most important comedians of his era.

I have lost track of the number of times he and his collaborators reduced me to tears of helpless laughter.

He was an intimate and unmatched part of the soundtrack and video closet of my youth, and he epitomised a fresh, wry and perceptive view of the world that never shirked from being less than honest and truthful.

He also had impeccable comedic timing.

To lose someone of his talent at his age is a terrible shame. Apparently he has been seriously ill for some time.

To enjoy, again, his talent, especially from the Not The Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones, and the read the reaction, just head to this BBC page.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23390982

Or just enjoy the genius of Melvin with his great friend and collaborator Griff Rhys-Jones in the immortal Drunk/Darts sketch.

And although this showcases the whole NTNON team rather than more specifically Mel, it is my favourite sketch, so please indulge me. If you can watch this without tears of appreciation in your eyes, well … well, we obviously are cut from different cloth. Perhaps the most charming thing is watching Mel trying to keep a straight face – along with everyone else in the sketch – while Griff riffs on as only he could …

Enjoy.

Not always, but often.

Not always, but often.

Regular readers of Wellthisiswhatithink will know that we have weighed in before about the disgraceful standards of material that Facebook allows to be posted on its pages.

In one case, companies dropped advertising because Facebook allows content that promotes violence against women while banning women’s health adverts, in another situation Facebook refused to remove content that jeopardised a police case against a rapist and murderer.

Facebook photo sharing

That photo you don’t want your future employer to see? Checkout our story on FB photo sharing now.

We have also pointed out how questionable Facebook’s privacy settings as regards photographs are; and if you use Facebook, you need to read this article.

Anyhow: much as we enjoy using the platform in general, in our view, some of the content on the massively popular site is morally questionable, and quite possibly illegal in multiple domains.

And we remain of the view that they need to review their general terms of service urgently.

Especially as entirely innocent posters frequently get banned because someone tags their post as Spam merely because they disagree with it – a phenomenally common cause of complaint, against which there is no appeal that we can discern.

(If you don’t believe us, hop onto Facebook now and see if you can find a link to customer service that doesn’t just direct you to a bland series of FAQs, or even, yet, a customer service email address or – gasp – phone number. If you make any progress, let us know …)

Banned Facebook content DOES include images of breastfeeding, apparently, as this Australian mother discovered to her cost.

Banned Facebook content DOES include images of breastfeeding, apparently, as this Australian mother discovered to her cost.

In fact, Facebook is now so large that they seem to handle such matters automatically by computer rather than with human intervention, and in our experience there is no way to get such bans rescinded.

So much for free speech.

I have seen complaints of such bans from all sides of the political and social spectrum, from extreme left to extreme right and everything in between, and from non-political posters who simply add material that someone or something in Facebook apparently decides is offensive.

Many posters simply migrate to a different Facebook name in order to keep posting, (the same problem afflicts Twitter), and it’s clear the problem needs resolving urgently.

If someone comes up with a social network with real customer service Facebook and Twitter will go the way of MySpace and others, taking investors with them. Anyhow, here’s the story of one lump of pressure against Facebook that did win out – because it targeted their revenues, of course.

Facebook removes ads from controversial pages to avoid boycott

Social media pressure increases against, ironically, social media providers.

Social media pressure increases against, ironically, social media providers.

Some recent consumer pressure on FB advertisers has produced rapid and meaningful results.

What is becoming increasingly fascinating to me, having spent a lifetime in marketing, is how social media pressure can now bend corporations – even bend social media providers – to its will, and with some ease.

Clearly, the days of companies blithely acting in defiance of popular will are declining.

This from the Technology correspondent of the BBC:

Facebook has announced a major revamp of its advertising systems in an attempt to deal with concerns about offensive content.

There will now be new restrictions on where adverts appear on the site.

Marks and Spencer and BSkyB were among companies to suspend advertising after complaints that adverts had been placed on pages with offensive material.

The social network is now planning to remove any advertising from many of its pages.

Facebook’s move follows complaints about a Sky advert promoting an M&S voucher.

The advert was placed on a Facebook page called “cute and gay boys”. The page featured photographs of teenage boys.

In a blogpost on Friday, Facebook said: “We recognize we need to do more to prevent situations where ads are displayed alongside controversial Pages and Groups. So we are taking action.”

‘Gold standard’

The company said that from Monday it will implement a new process to determine which pages or groups should feature adverts alongside the content.

There will be no adverts on pages that feature any violent, graphic or sexual content, even if such content is not in violation of the company’s rules.

According to one source, Facebook will create a “gold standard” of around 10,000 pages that are deemed suitable for adverts, and then inspect other pages to see if they can be added to the list. All adverts will be removed from other pages.

A spokesman said this would be a labour-intensive process but we take this” very seriously.”

BskyB said it looked forward to discussing the new measures and would keep the situation under review.

M&S had asked BSkyB to remove the advert, and it suspended some of its own advertising campaigns on Facebook.

BSkyB suspended all of its advertising on the social network, where it has been a major customer.

Misogynist content

Both companies had said they were keen to use Facebook again, but needed to be sure that their advertising would not appear next to offensive content, or material that might reflect poorly on their brands.

Speaking before Facebook announced its policy change, a spokesman for BSkyB told the BBC: “We have asked Facebook to devise safeguards to ensure our content does not appear alongside inappropriate material in the future.

“We will review the situation in due course.”

Sources at Marks and Spencer said Facebook had been taking the issue very seriously at the highest level.

In an additional statement, an M&S spokeswoman said the company did not “tolerate any inappropriate use or positioning of its brand and has very clear policies that govern where and how our brand is used”.

She added: “We take any suggestion that these policies are not being adhered to very seriously and always investigate them thoroughly.”

Earlier this month, Facebook was forced to act against misogynist content on its site after protests from women’s groups led some advertisers to suspend campaigns.

Now: if we can just get rid of Rush Limbaugh …

Other stories:

Sexism protests target Facebook

Facebook bows to anti-hate campaign

Facebook hate speech row: Sky joins ad boycott (guardian.co.uk)

The Daleks
Ok, there are some really, really really silly people in this world.

And occasionally they come up with absurdist humour. Now I don’t want to go all hi-falutin’ on you, but I do think we should have more absurdist work around to cheer us up. So do yourselves a favour and have a listen to this …

http://www.b3ta.com/links/Dalek_Relaxation_Tape

What I just really love is the way this combines Dr Who – surely one of the great British cultural icons – with another modern meme – the seemingly relentless production of meditation materials for all us stressed out modern people who can’t cope any more.

And you know what, it is not only laugh out loud funny, it’s also strangely soothing. Bizarre.

I originally published this last Easter, when I was going to do a long, serious piece about the deeper significance of Easter to us all, but I think this is just as meaningful, in it’s own nonsensical way. So now let me wish you all Merry Christmas, if you haven’t seen it before :-)

Enjoy.

The 21st birthday, set in 1920s Chicago. No, it has not escaped my attention that she looks ever more gorgeous, and I just look fatter. Helas, it was ever thus.

So last night, see, for reasons which need not concern us here, The Family Wellthisiswhatithink are schlepping all over rural Victoria in the darkness and pouring rain. Cue an hour and a half of trying not to get written off by wayward road-trains, or driving off the side of the unlit road into a gum tree, or aquaplaning into a swaying oncoming caravan.

She Who Must Be Obeyed is very kindly driving as Father has cried off with sore eyes. (An inevitable result of too much blogging which does sometimes get one out of driving.) Fruit of One’s Loins is in the backseat, half asleep between texts to various friends.

We have all just listened to a fascinating but rather tiring BBC podcast about the history of mathematics, trying to keep awake – specifically about a Swiss guy called Leonhard Euler who is well worth checking out, interesting dude, actually – but understanding what he did that was so clever has left us all a bit brain numbed, so we have now resorted to desultory conversation and flicking around the outer reaches of Father’s iPod listening to “driving Music”. (Usually long-lost one-hit-wonder 1970s bands.)

The rain slows to a steady drizzle, Melbourne’s lights loom vertically and vaguely in the far distance, the largest skyscrapers punching through the gloom, and planes landing at Tullamarine light up the sky with their nose searchlights, picking out the way home. At this moment a warm bed and sweet oblivion seem worth trading ten years of one’s life for.

You get the general picture.

For some reason, we fall to discussing the foibles of Fruit of One’s Loins early conversations with us. The way, like all kids, she couldn’t pronounce certain words properly, so just did her best, and how those words pass into the fabric of a family, un-noticed and un-remarked, until they become a habit.

My nephew, par example, aged one and a bit, christened all road-working heavy equipment as “Tac Tacs” as he couldn’t manage “tractor”, and would scream “Tac Tac!” delightedly whenever the car passed any yellow-painted earth-moving thing of any type. Gradually, generations of us decided to agree with him and repeated it. I confidently expect Tac Tac to pass into the English language one day.

“I upped the adorableness meter a few notches, Daddy, is that OK?” (Un-retouched photograph from cheap bedside frame where it has resided for, oh, about 20 years.)

It was a gentle conversation as we drove through the night-laden, moonlessly sodden suburbs. I recalled that she christened wallabies wobble-ies, which in retrospect seems a better name altogether given their bizarre ambulatory habit, and their propensity for ending up as roadkill. For some reason, she never learned to say “By myself” as in, “I can do that by myself”. She preferred “By my own.” Which makes perfect sense, even if it’s incorrect English, and to this day, every member of my family now says “By my own” to describe a solitary act. Vitamins were morphed into “Bitamins”, and so on.

As she grew a little older, and established a command of the English language that makes her writer Father proud, she never, ironically, learned to apply a concomitant filter to her thought processes, encouraged, one supposes, by a laissez-faire attitude to free discussion that her mother and I encouraged as being about the only thing we thought we knew about parenting beyond “love all your kids to bits”, which seemed just obvious and sensible.

She would simply say the first thing that came into her fertile, creative mind, often long before she has paused to consider the logic of it, a characteristic which I am delighted to see she still exhibits. It makes her refreshing, charming and sometimes hilarious company.

So it was that in her middle teen years – and attending a Christian school – she was one day sun-baking on a forty degree day by the backyard swimming pool when she asked her parents, with all the seriousness of not stopping to parse an idle thought adequately, “It must have been hot in olden days too, before swimming pools and air-conditioners. I bet people died of the heat back then. I wonder what Jesus died of?”

Suggestions came flying as what she had said dawned on her. “Really bad diarrhoea?” “Smallpox? Wasn’t there a lot of smallpox around back then?” “Old age?” “Maybe a car accident?”

It would be some years before she would be allowed to forget that one. Correction, it will be some years. Perhaps never. Of such little moments are the history of a family made, and each family’s is unique, and really rather wonderful.

“Could someone get me up from here?” Kind regards, Big Bird

Swerving off the freeway to catch a turn-off to home that she had nearly missed, the car teetering on what felt like two wheels but probably wasn’t, the Leader of the Opposition suddenly said to me “I’ll tell you one you don’t know, if you promise not to tease her about it.”

“Sure,” I said, “Go for it. I promise.”

A worried little voice warbled up from the back seat … “Is it about ….?” No, it wasn’t. I knew that one already. “Then is it ….?” No, I knew that one too.

“Well,” said my wife, cheerfully carving up an incautious motorcylist or two who had dared to travel on the same road as us at the same time – obviously hadn’t got the memo – “She used to wake up with sleep in her eyes …”

“Oh yes, yes, I know this one,” came the backseat cry, “I know, I used to wipe the sleep from my eyes, and you told me it was Fairy Dust that the faeries had put there to send me to sleep, so in the mornings I would wipe the sleep from my eyes and then rub it into my shoulder blades, because then one day I would grow real fairy wings of my own.”

I turned to look at her, charmed by the story. With all the good-naturedness of her affable, life-affirming 21 years she beamed at me.

I turned back to my wife, and said to her. “That’s not silly at all. I can completely see that. I bet it works, too. I bet you do grow fairy wings if you do it often enough. Yeah, good one. I might try that myself.”

The car fell silent again as we negotiated the last few sets of traffic lights and roundabouts before home. The rain started up once more, hammering on the roof of the car, turning the whole landscape into some sort of vast film noir set. I half expected to see Phillip Marlowe standing in a bus shelter, collar upturned, silently watching the world for clues, head turned away from the icy Antarctic wind which by now was bending the trees almost horizontal again.

I glanced back at my daughter again, and was rewarded with another grin. And it occurred to me that she had never grown fairy wings, no matter how hard her little four year old hands had rubbed her shoulders and dreamed of flying through the air in clouds of glitter and magical primary colours. But that, huddled in the back seat, and secreted under the coat and scarf and wooly jumper and warm shirt and thermal undies, she was almost certainly hiding a fine set of angel wings.

And I made a mental note to remember that more often. And to be grateful. And to smile more, even on winter nights, even when the road winds on forever, and the sky cries its eyes out, and the dark seems darker than nothingness.

Oh, those crazy wacky Chinese.

Somewhere in a dingy office with a picture of the President on the wall there’s a little guy in a bad suit cackling quietly to himself. “I had this idea to make the floor transparent. So velly funny!”

I love that there is a warning sticker on the handrail. No doubt it says, in Mandarin, “In case you no notice, don’t jump over, long flucking way to bottom likely death here.”

I couldn’t walk here if my child’s life depended on it. Well, maybe I could. But I wouldn’t want to test the theory.

 

Anyway, it reminded me I wanted to post this link to a really excellent BBC radio show – lasts about 30 minutes – on phobias. I think my fear of edges is perfectly rational. On the other hand, that doesn’t explain why I can stop half way up a hill that 98% of my fellow drivers don’t even consider more than an exaggerated speed hump and refuse to drive any further.

But fear of buttons? Spiders? Travelling on the “tube”?

Suzy Klein

This little show is not only well made and compelling, it includes real hope and advice for all phobia sufferers – it’s packed full of useful information and a good listen.

It’s made by a BBC cultural journalist called Suzy Klein who suffers with claustrophobia, and it is both human and courageous.

I really recommend it if you’re frightened of, you know …. that. Them. In the cupboard. Out there.

http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b01lv7y0

 

Julian Assange, from Wikileaks, at the SKUP co...

The British Supreme Court has apparently released its judgement on Julian Assange‘s appeal against extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex offences. It is reported by the BBC (as at 6.33pm AEST) that Mr Assange lost his appeal against extradition.

The Wikileaks founder denied the claims and said his European arrest warrant is “invalid and unenforceable”.

In February, his lawyers told the Supreme Court judges that the Swedish prosecutor who had issued the warrant did not have the authority to do so.

The 40-year-old Australian has been on conditional bail in the UK.

Mr Assange is accused of raping one woman and “sexually molesting and coercing” another in Stockholm in August 2010 but he claims that the allegations against him are politically motivated.

Mr Assange’s Wikileaks website published material from leaked diplomatic cables embarrassing several governments.

The key legal question for the seven judges is whether the prosecutor who issued the arrest warrant had the judicial authority to do so under provisions of the 2003 Extradition Act.

Further appeal?

At the February court hearing, Mr Assange’s lawyer, Dinah Rose QC, argued that the Swedish prosecutor who had issued his warrant was a party in his case and was not therefore impartial or independent.

She also challenged whether a public prosecutor could be considered a “judicial authority” as required by the act.

Clare Montgomery QC, for the Swedish Prosecution Authority, argued that the High Court was plainly correct to accept that the term “judicial authority” had a wide meaning.

She said when the EAW framework had been set up, the drafters had intended it to include the prosecutors of many countries.

This “broader approach” recognised the “historic role” of public prosecutors within EU member states in authorising arrests and making extradition requests, she said.

If Mr Assange loses his Supreme Court appeal he could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

If that court then decided to hear his challenge, Mr Assange could lodge an injunction to have the extradition process put on hold.

But the Crown Prosecution Service said if the ECHR declined to take the case “he will be extradited to Sweden as soon as arrangements can be made”.

Many campaigners on Assange’s behalf argue that the extradition is based on no or poor evidence in Sweden, and is primarily a “front” for America to extradite Assange to the USA to face charges over Wikileaks.

dinosaur

Was that you?

According to Fox News (so it must be true, right?) “The Dinosaurs Farted Their Way To Extinction”.

http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/18162128/dinosaurs-farted-their-way-to-extinction-british-scientists-say

Now I come to think of it, I know a few colleagues who are threatening their continued existence, but not through global warming. Their end may be swifter.

UBS ripped off

Just what we need: a major banking scandal

Just released on the BBC and elsewhere in the last hour: UBS shares opened sharply lower after an announcement from the Swiss bank that says unauthorised trading by a member of staff at its investment bank has resulted in a loss worth an estimated $2bn (£1.3bn).

The bank said it was still investigating the matter, so the value could change. This could lead to a loss for the third quarter of 2011, it said in an official statement.

No customer accounts were affected, the Zurich and Basel-based banking group added.

Its shares opened 7% lower shortly after the announcement was made.

The bank said in a statement: “The matter is still being investigated, but UBS’s current estimate of the loss on the trades is in the range of $2bn. “It is possible that this could lead UBS to report a loss for the third quarter of 2011. No client positions were affected,” UBS said.

ZKB trading analyst Claude Zehnder said the news would damage confidence in UBS. “They obviously have a problem with risk management. “With this they are losing a lot of credit that they had regained with effort.” UBS was rescued by the Swiss state in 2008 following huge losses on toxic assets held by its investment bank. Last month the bank announced 3,500 jobs cuts.