Archive for the ‘Popular Culture et al’ Category

Our dear friend and regular contributor Richard Ember from Texas is very fond of ranting and raving to us that CNN is a hopelessly biased bunch of left wingers who make no more attempt to be even handed in their media coverage than, say, Faux News.

He may or may not be right. Opinions are divided.

On one thing, though, surely, we can all agree.

Their copywriting is a miracle of clarity and precision.

  

So today, beavering away at the coal-face of capitalist society, we took a break to have a laugh about pushy parents – you know the type, the ones always lurking in the wings at performances – usually artistic, thespian or sporting – abusing the world from the sidelines, photobombing their famous kids, cheering over-enthusiastically and generally making a public arse of themselves as they live vicariously through their offspring.

What, someone pondered, was the right name for a collection of such people? Was there a collective noun for these horrible folks?

Someone else suggested A Smother of Parents, which had us all giggling with its appropriateness. So spread the word. A Smother of Parents. Let’s see if we can get it popularised!

murder_of_crowsCollective Nouns are a bit of a thing of ours. We all know “A Murder of Crows”, of course – that’s a favourite – but did you also know that it’s an Unkindness of Ravens?

Don’t know what the Corvus ever did to offend everyone.

Maybe the genus is on the nose because Ravens became forever associated with the Tower of London and the bloodthirsty goings on there, and Crows are carrion feeders, of course, so, you know, just generally, “ugh”.

But then again some of their close relations get off a little more easily. Jackdaws – well, they’re “A Clattering” – and Rooks are the wonderful “Parliament” of Rooks, which perfectly reflects the racket generated by a rookery. The same noun is often applied to Owls, by the way. One can surmise the former is because of the mindless noise generated across the benches, and the latter a reflection of the supposed wisdom of owls.

Some as less well known, and quite obscure. Did you know those guys caterwauling in the back alley are called a “Cluster” of cats? No idea why. Or that a group of Peacocks are (quite perfectly) called an “Ostentation”? It’s a Charm of Finches, which surely reflects their melodic chirping, but why is it a Knot of Toads? And what on earth is a “Neverthriving” of jugglers when it’s at home?

Brief_History_of_Wood-engraving_Wynkyn_de_Worde_Fishing

A group of monks seen together (in England at least) has been known since 1486 as “An Abominable Sight of Monks”, from The Book of Saint Albans (or Boke of Seynt Albans), a compilation of matters relating to the interests of the time of a gentleman. It is also known by titles that are more accurate, such as The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms. This edition credits the book, or at least the part on hunting, to Juliana Berners as there is an attribution at the end of the 1486 edition reading: “Explicit Dam Julyans Barnes in her boke of huntyng.” It contains three essays, on hawking, hunting, and heraldry. It became popular, and went through many editions, quickly acquiring an additional essay on angling. 

Interestingly, the section on heraldry contains many coats-of-arms printed in six colours (including black ink and the white of the page), and was the first colour printing ever carried out in England. Dame Juliana Berners (or Barnes or Bernes) was believed to have been the prioress of Sopwell Priory near St Albans but the book is in fact a metrical form of much older matter, going back at least to the reign of the ill-fated Edward II of England (1283-1327), and written in French: the Le Art de Venerie of the huntsman Guillaume Twici.

Anyhow, apart from the marvellous “Abominable Sight” of monks, the book contains, appended, a large list of special collective nouns for animals, such as “gaggle of geese” and the like. Amongst these are numerous humorous collective nouns for different professions, such as a “Diligence of Messengers”, a “Melody of Harpers”, a “Blast of Hunters”, “a Subtlety of Sergeants”, “a Gaggle of Women”, and a “Superfluity of Nuns”.

Sometimes there are multiple collective nouns for one item, reflecting the fact that different parts of Britain developed languages that remained quite separate until the middle ages, and thereafter continued with strong local dialects (some of which persist to this day). Thus a “Congregation of Plovers” can also rightly be termed a “band”, a “flight”, a “leash”, a “stand” or a “wing”.

Dabblers

Dabbling or Dopping Ducks, taking a break from Paddling

Ducks are even more complicated. The very obvious but nonetheless charming “Paddling” of ducks (which should only be used when ducks are actually in the water, apparently) is nevertheless contested by supporters of “badelynge” (an old Saxon word for paddling, perhaps, that has survived only in this context?), a “flush”, a “brace”, a “bunch”, a “dabbling”, a “dopping”, (possibly a corruption of dipping?), a “plump”, a “raft”, a “safe”, a “skein”, a “sword, a “string” or a “team”. Phew.

On the same bit of lake you might also spot a “Whiteness of Swans”, which is a very ancient name, also expressed as a “whiting”.

And it would be wrong of us, given our geographic location, not to remind everyone in the northern hemisphere that it’s a “Mob of Kangaroos”. And for other southern hemisphere types, it’s nice to remember that it’s “A Stubbornness of Rhinoceroses”. And for our Indian readers, don’t forget it’s an “Ambush of Tigers”. Your life may depend on it.

So what’s YOUR favourite Collective Noun, Dear Reader? Do please let us know.

And what’s your suggestion of the best possible Collective Noun for … Collective Nouns? We’ll dream up a prize for the best idea!

Just leave a comment in the box below:-) And if you like the blog, please subscribe – find the box top left of the page.

 

In yet anther example that a loosening of the brutish theocratic rule experienced by Iran’s population is still very far from being realised, a concerted attempt to intimidate and prosecute women who choose to appear on Facebook’s Instagram app, and the creative people who work with them, has just been revealed by the BBC. All forms of cultural expression in Iran are still rigidly controlled by the State, despite the election of “moderate” Hassan Rouhani as President in 2013.

 

A woman walks down a street in Tehran, Iran (28 April 2016)

Image copyright EPA The covering of hair in public has been compulsory for women in Iran since 1979

Iran has arrested eight people working for online modelling agencies deemed to be “un-Islamic”, the prosecutor of Tehran’s cybercrimes court has said.

The arrests are part of an operation that has seen women targeted for posting photos showing them not wearing headscarves on Instagram and elsewhere.

Women in Iran have been required to cover their hair in public since 1979.

The eight unnamed people were among 170 identified by investigators as being involved in modelling online. They included 59 photographers and make-up artists, 58 models and 51 fashion salon managers and designers, according to a statement from the court.

‘Sterilising cyberspaces’

The arrests were announced by the court’s prosecutor Javad Babaei during a state television programme broadcast late on Sunday that focused on the “threats to morality and the foundation of family” posed by social media. Mr Babaei claimed modelling agencies accounted for about 20% of posts on Instagram from Iran and that they had been “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity”.

Of the 170 people found to be involved in online modelling, 29 were warned that they were subject to criminal investigation, the prosecutor added.

“The persons who reformed their behaviour after receiving a notice did not face any judicial action, and eight out of the 29 have been arrested,” he said.

A spokesman of the Iranian Centre for Surveying and Combating Organised Cyber Crimes, Mostafa Alizadeh, said: “Sterilising popular cyberspaces is on our agenda. We carried out this plan in 2013 with Facebook, and now Instagram is the focus,” he added, saying fresh operations would begin in the coming days.

There was no immediate comment from the photo-sharing site Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

Tay Tay's girl gang at the MTV Awards in 2015

Tay Tay’s ‘girl gang’ at the MTV Awards in 2015

 

If you’ve got more than a handful of friends, it seems you may need to kick some to the kerb as science reckons our brains can’t handle more than five besties at a time.

A study by the MIT Technology Review looked at a theory by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who noticed that there was a direct correlation between people’s brains and how many friends they have – basically the bigger your brain the bigger your friendship group and the smaller your brain, the less friends you’re bound to have.

According to Dunbar, humans are only able to have FIVE best friends, with maybe another 10 close friends, 35 acquaintances, and 100 additional contacts, due to the size of our neocortex.

And if you were having doubts about his theory, Dunbar actually tested out it out recently by examining 6 billion phone calls made by 35 million people in an anonymous European country.

“The team assumes that the frequency of calls between two individuals is a measure of the strength of their relationship,” the MIT Technology Review states. The study found that Dunbar’s estimate wasn’t too far fletched: “The average cumulative layer turns out to hold 4.1, 11.0, 29.8, and 128.9 users,” researchers found — again, that’s besties, close friends, acquaintances and “contacts” respectively.

So maybe Katy Perry and Rihanna had the right idea when they chose a girl squad of two as opposed to Tay Tay’s massive army? And who are Taylor’s best besties from among the girl gang? We think the people should be told.
We reckon we’ve got at least six friends, Dear Reader. Coz we’re really, er, you know, brainy. You know who you are.

Oh dear oh dear, Channel 9 Australia.

  
No, there isn’t a Grand Final in the #EPL. It’s a league. With no finals.

There is a Final in the F A Cup. That’s a different competition.

  
And replacing it with this doesn’t help. You don’t defeat someone 2-2.

God forbid you ever win the rights to broadcast football and have to explain the offside rule.

9 News. The only news organisation on the planet who don’t understand what just happened.

Congratulations Leicester City.

Disturbing video has emerged of police in the US reportedly removing a lesbian woman from a ladies’ room because they ‘didn’t believe she was a woman’.

The video, which was posted on Facebook, begins with police officers approaching the woman in the bathroom line and asking her to leave the facility.

She responds to their requests: “I’m a f—ing female. Do I have to tell you again?”

One of the officers answers, asking her if she has ID.

 

The officers can be heard in the video asking the woman to “get out” a number of times because she doesn’t have ID. Source: Tamara McDaniel Facebook.

Another woman in the bathroom can be heard saying ‘she’s a girl’ as the same officer repeatedly asks her to leave, telling her:

“If you’ve got no ID, get out.”

It appears that at least one of the officers places their hands on the woman as she’s being moved, before they all come to a stop in the hallway where the officers point towards the door as they again tell her to leave.

At least one of the officers appears to put his hands on the woman. Source: Tamara McDaniel Facebook

Another woman can be heard in the background saying: “So you’re saying you have to have ID to go to the bathroom?” Which seems a legitimate question, and one that authorities in America might care to answer.

Blogger Tamara McDaniel posted the video to Facebook about a week ago.

 

The video has been viewed more than 2.7 million times. Souce: Tamara McDaniel Facebook

It has the caption: “Lesbian harassed and forced to leave a public restroom because the police insist she’s a man. Is this what ‘Make America Great Again’ means? This makes me very sad and I want no part of this irrational fear.”

The video has been viewed more than 2.7 million times and has more than 6,000 likes. Quite what male policemen were doing in a Ladies toilet is less clear. They also insist on calling her “sir,” which just seems like deliberate dickishness.

Meanwhile another lesbian who was ejected from the ladies’ room at the Caliente Cab Co. in Greenwich Village filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit against the Mexican restaurant Tuesday.

Khadijah Farmer, her girlfriend and a pal dropped by the Seventh Ave. South eatery on June 24, after attending the city’s gay pride parade.

But the visit was cut short when a bouncer allegedly told Farmer while she was on the toilet that a customer had complained about a man in the ladies’ room.

“I don’t go out of my way to wear pearls and pink dresses,” Farmer said. “However, I shouldn’t have to.”

Farmer admitted she’s not “the most effeminate woman in the world,” but remains outraged that she was mistaken for a man. She said the bouncer refused to look at an identification card that identifies her as a female.

“Men and women come in all shapes and sizes,” said Farmer, 28. “I should not have been thrown out of the Caliente Cab Co.”

Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said the restaurant didn’t show Farmer much sympathy when she complained about the incident.

“Their response was that Khadijah can have a free meal, which is the equivalent of flipping us the bird,” Silverman said.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court demands that Caliente Cab Co. provide sensitivity training for its workers and seeks an unspecified amount of money.

Caliente Cab Co. fired back with a statement that denies wrongdoing and accuses Farmer of being out for money. “[Farmer] is not interested at all in getting at the truth here,” the statement said, noting that Farmer was “threatening continuous weekly protests of our business rather than expose the facts to the light of day in an appropriate forum.”

So. Yeah. If you want to take a pee in today’s USA, remember your papers.

Everyone knows Australia’s legendary reputation for things that bite, sting, chew and generally act in an anti-social manner. Great White Sharks, innumerable venomous snakes, an entire nightmare full of horrid spiders, jellyfish, even an octopus that kills people paddling in rock pools.

 

Australia's redback spider

Redback spider bites are relatively common in Australia, with around 2,000 people bitten each year.

But this one takes the, er, biscuit.

An Aussie has taken himself to hospital after a venomous redback spider bit him on the penis. Yup, you read that right.

The tradesman was using a portable toilet on a Sydney building site on Wednesday morning when he was bitten.

A spokesperson for St George Hospital confirmed that a 21-year-old man was treated for a redback bite.

The redback spider, closely related to the black widow spider, is distinguished by a long red stripe on its abdomen. And its bite causes severe pain, sweating and nausea.

The BBC spoke to the owners of the property who confirmed that the man had been bitten on the penis, as described in various media reports.

He was later discharged from hospital in a stable condition.

Although there are recorded cases of deaths from redback bites, none have occurred since the development of anti-venom in 1956.

Still, no. No thanks. Nu-uh. Nope. No.

Sometimes, we can spend a few minutes we’ll never get back just being impressed, amazed, amused. I wonder if the chap who lavished Lord knows how much time, effort, skill and money on this project knew at the start how much joy it would bring people.

Enjoy.

 

PS The owner of the train set and the home is in Queensland, Australia. Queenslanders are … er … special.

Spotted this on a friend’s Facebook page. I really admire someone – in this case Laura Buskes – who has the courage and public vulnerability to talk about important issues.

More and more I’m noticing how words like “tough” and “strong” are used as praise for people, and seen to be something to aspire to. I get it, it’s an evolutionary thing; survival of the fittest etc etc. Being strong and resilient is desired because it comes from an ability to outlive your attackers/predators/competitors.

The thing I don’t like is how we romanticise these traits over traits like vulnerability and seeking help. The amount of times I’ve seen memes that point out how “someone busier than you is at the gym right now”, or how much sleep a mother has lost but she still works, or how great it is that someone never complains about their difficult circumstances. It’s all synonymous with strength, and I get it. 

LauraOn the other hand, strength is a mask. It implies that someone is dealing with some kind of pain but they push through, alone and stoney faced. It reinforces an ideal that when things are hard we should shut up and get on with it.

We don’t cry, or seek help or give up, and those who speak up are “complainers” and they’re a nuisance.

Can you see what I’m getting at? This same ideal is extended to mental health, and sure it’s getting better, but we still carry this view that the ones who cry, who break down, who admit that life is too much are the ones who are weak. And weakness is oh so bad.

We want to do everything ourselves, we want ALL the praise and we want to prove that we are worthy of admiration, so we don’t ask for help.

I don’t want to say that strength is fake and bad, but I don’t want to look at it as the alpha quality of humans. We already know that issues of emotional suppression manifest themselves into mental illness and event violent behaviour, so why isn’t there a bigger movement to encourage vulnerability?

Talking about our problems is hard; we often can’t articulate whats wrong because we aren’t encouraged to vocalise and express our pain. We often don’t have the skills to pin point why we’re hurting because as children we were told to buck up.

We have the abilities to help each other, we have the ability to offer love and support to anyone suffering. But we shroud the issue of suffering in language that implies weakness rather than honesty and openness, so we shy away from it.

Vulnerability is not weak, it’s real and it’s what makes us human. You don’t have to be tough and cold in order to be socially respected, but you do have to create room in your heart for someone to help you mend it.

Amen.

The other great resource on this topic is the famous Ted Talk on vulnerability by Brené Brown. If you haven’t watched it, you really should. it’s one of the best Ted Talks ever. So here it is.

Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in a Montreal Metro station Wednesday and took part in a random act of kindness when a person with a disability was having difficulties because of a broken down escalator.

trudeau

 

Like everything he has done so far, very classy. Note, this is not a semi-official “photo op”. The snap was taken by a passer by and posted on Twitter.

Americans are apparently so impressed with Trudeau’s leadership of his country that many are begging him to come South and run for President. Apart from that being a legal impossibility, we strongly suspect he’d have more sense.

And Liberals in the UK, still smarting from electoral near-destruction, view him as something akin to a Messiah. Especially as he took his party from third to winning a majority in one leap. A move is afoot to get him to address their autumn conference in Brighton later in the year.

Good looking, charismatic, humble, compassionate, well-educated. Little wonder women in particular find his allure almost irresistible. This is the man, remember, who almost single-handedly re-set the public debate about countries taking in Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict, and just last week spontaneously explained quantum computing to a smart-arse journalist.

His father was a remarkable man. It looks like the son is even more so.

 

FailYesterday we reported on how Facebook sometimes very obviously fails to protect individuals or groups from hate speech on its pages, even when it claims to do so.

Meanwhile, we continue to oppose racists who pop up spouting their hateful filth on otherwise reasonable threads.

Today, we were talking with the racists about the many refugees who have made a fabulous contribution to Australian society, like Michael Gawenda, one of Australia’s leading journalists and editors from Poland, Tony Le Nguyen, the Vietnamese actor and social activist, and Matur Gak, a doctor from Sudan.

When these stories were offered as evidence for the irrationality of their fear of refugees, this was the response:

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 2.07.26 pm

 

We may be mad – obsessive, quixotic, take your pick. But we are not prepared to let people assert this sort of nonsense un-challenged.

So this was our reply:

I am not sure why you would assume 95% of refugees going to Europe are male. Where do you get your facts, from? NaziOpinionsAreUs?

The United Nations has registered over 4.2 million Syrian refugees, a step in seeking asylum from other countries, and has a demographic snapshot of about half of them. Of the 2.1 million registered in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon there’s a pretty even split in gender: about 50.5% are women and 49.7% are men. For men and women, the bulk of refugees (a little under a quarter each) are between the age of 18 and 59.

It is true that in 2015 there were a surge in young men, about 62% of all migrants that have traveled to Europe in this year were men. A little under a quarter, 22%, were children and 16% were women. This is caused by two factors: firstly previous refugee flows from Syria and Iraq were heavily biased towards women, the men traveled later. Secondly, young men in 2015 were fleeing round-up forced recruitment drives for the Syrian army, and most of these young men would have been shot or made to fight their own people had they not fled.

I know you are utterly ignorant of these facts. What I don’t understand, when they are freely available on the internet by a simple Google search, is why you persist in repeating vile rubbish. Do you think you’re funny? Are you just having what passes for you as fun? Well, you say or do what you like. Most of the rest of us want to get on with building a peaceful, productive and happy country. One that the ANZACs would be proud of.

(It is Australia’s national holiday next week, to remember the Australians and New Zealanders who have fallen fighting for their country. These types often make a big play of their support for the Day. Pointing out how their opinions are exactly the crap the ANZACs were fighting against is another vital piece of agit-prop. And one they never care to answer, in our experience.)

 

The day ANZAC was most obviously co-opted by violent racists - the Cronulla riots of 2005. As the New South Wales then Returned Servicemens' League President, Don Rowe, later explained: “We were absolutely disgusted. That is the last thing that Anzac is interpreted as being. The Anzac spirit is mateship, looking after one another . . . you certainly don’t go around waving flags and call yourself an Anzac and go around belting people up. That’s totally the opposite to what Anzac is.”

The day ANZAC was most obviously co-opted by violent racists – the Cronulla riots of 2005. As the New South Wales then Returned Servicemens’ League President, Don Rowe, later explained: “We were absolutely disgusted. That is the last thing that Anzac is interpreted as being. The Anzac spirit is mateship, looking after one another . . . you certainly don’t go around waving flags and call yourself an Anzac and go around belting people up. That’s totally the opposite to what Anzac is.”

 

Before you ask “Why bother arguing with racists?” we’ll give you the answer, because that’s easy. Racism must be opposed wherever it rears its flithy head because other people read racists’ poison and without a countervailing point of view they become convinced by it all too easily.

That’s how fascism happens.

And that’s what has happened in large parts of the American public, right now. It can happen anywhere. In any culture. Of any type.

Racism and fascism are Siamese twins, and they rise unchecked when logic, rationality and patient, evidence-based debate flies out of the window.

My father fought in a World War for six long years to protect a civilised society. We will not allow his sacrifice to be tossed away on the funeral pyre of populist bullshit, nor the efforts of millions or others.

In the last 48 hours, we have been copping some flack for our report on the asylum seeker fined for daring to try and kill himself while in detention on Nauru.

Not from sane, normal people. But from the closet (and not so closet) racist keyboard warriors who leap all over anything on social media that gives them a chance to peddle their vile crap. Sadly, we have plenty of those in Australia like everywhere else, despite our very successful multi-cultural society.

They seem to be most common on Facebook, where they lurk in the shadows like ravening beasts hidden in the electronic undergrowth with gore dripping from their bared teeth, waiting to snatch any unsuspecting sane, normal person that wanders by.

What is interesting, though, is Facebook seems to let them do it unchallenged by any sort of meaningful moderation.

Check this out from “M”. We have deleted some of his rant, on the basis that it’s just plain ignorant. The stupid is strong in him. And we’ve deleted his name, because he doesn’t need publicity from us, and he might be a bona fide nutter with an AK 47 in the garage. Yes, that’s what society has come to. But we’ve left in the bits we complained to Facebook about:

 

Max

 

Facebook claims not to tolerate racism, and hate speech. Interestingly, though, calling an entire race “Arab scum” (not relating to any actions taken by any Arabs, at all, just a blanket comment about every Arab in the world) does not contravene Facebook’s Community Guidelines.

Read that again. We have the records of the complaint made and Facebook’s response, which we strongly suspect is automated by some racism bot somewhere ion the ethersphere.

Well, we’re sorry, Facebook, but “Arab scum” and “Fuck the Arabs” SHOULD contravene your Community Guidelines. Unless you have some rational reason why not? Or you could simply scrap your Community Guidelines as meaningless.

So how about this? These are part of those much-touted Community Guidelines:

Facebook removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their:

  • Race,
  • Ethnicity,
  • National origin,
  • Religious affiliation,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Sex, gender, or gender identity, or
  • Serious disabilities or diseases.

But this, apparently, did not offend those guidelines. Again, details are removed to protect the guilty.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 11.53.09 am copy

So come on, Facebook, explain these apparent discrepancies. What is the procedure to review reports? And how on earth can you justify these decisions?

We think your users – and customers – should be told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Elizabeth IILike most other Brits (originally, at least). and much of the rest of the world, we are full of admiration for Queen Elizabeth II as she approaches her 90th birthday, having recently become the longest-serving monarch in the country’s history.

We are not, in truth, overly in favour of the monarchy, as we are highly sceptical as to whether it really offers the economic boon that is always quoted whenever anyone questions its existence.

And though it is supposed to be non-political, it undoubtedly wields behind the scenes influence, and whether that influence is for good or ill it really should play no role in a truly democratic society.

One cannot help, by way of example, to wonder what might have occurred had avowed Nazi sympathiser Edward VIII remained on the throne to apply his influence in support of Halifax and the appeaser faction in the Conservative Party in 1939. No ascent of Churchill and an ignominious accommodation with the Nazis would have been much more likely than the stout defence of country and Empire – and subsequent defeat of fascism – that actually occurred. For a fuller discussion of the fight between Halifax and Churchill on the conduct of the war, one of the most seminal events in the whole of human history as it turned out, we recommend this Wikipedia article, which is fascinating.

And non-Brits sometimes forget we have chopped the head off a king on our way to a participatory democracy. We are by no means mindlessly adulatory to our monarchs. The approbrium heaped on future King Charles III’s head over the breakdown of his marriage with the adored Princess Diana shows how shallow the British public’s acquiescence really can be. Our monarchs really do rule at the public’s favour.

Nevertheless, one would be hard pushed to find anyone with a word of criticism of the Queen. Despite her advanced years, she maintains a punishing schedule of public engagements, (the equivalent of almost one a day), and despite having, by all accounts, something of a temper (an attribute she shares with most of her ancestors), she manages to seem to deal with almost everyone with impeccable courtesy and good humour.

She has never had a whiff of scandal anywhere in her personal life, and unquestionably is held in great affection by the vast majority of her own people, by people throughout the British Commonwealth (a push for a Republic in Australia, for example, is widely believed to be on hold while she still lives, out of respect for her personally), and ordinary folk in the world in general. He continued occupation of her throne (well, a total of eight thrones, actually) is undoubtedly the democratic will of her subjects, and that should be respected.

Which leaves us with one burning question.

If she is still on the throne ten years from now, as might well be the case, who will send her the official telegram that always goes from her to a centenarian subject on their birthday? After all, such an outcome is by no means unlikely. Her mother, it should be remembered, was mostly hale and hearty until her 102nd year.

She can hardly send one to herself, now can she?

We think the people should be told.

"And we should put all the long haired ruffians in the army, too, that'd wake em up ..."

“And we should put all the long haired ruffians in the army, too, that’d wake em up …”

One of the things that drives us into a blue billy-oh state of mouth-foaming rage is that oft-repeated moment where people cheerfully announce “I’m not a racist, but …” and then proceed to say something effortlessly racist and dumb, because you just know they’re going to say something to emphasise someone else’s perceived otherness.

So today, this made us laugh.

Actually laugh out loud, not just typing lol, but really, you know – lol.

We hope it does you, too.

 

I'm not a racist

 

PS Dear Reader – and you know who you are – the next time you feel moved to pronounce “I am not a racist, but …” you are almost certainly about to say something racist. So don’t.

“Awa’ an bile yer heid”

red carpetYesterday, in the context of populist politics, we railed against the warped value systems and mindless celebrity that are skewing everything from how we feel about ourselves on a day-to-day basis to the result of the next American Presidential election.

Today, we’ve just watched one of the best things we’ve ever seen. Certainly the best thing in a long time. Also great to see one of my heroes, Josh Radnor, opening the video.

This is celebrities thoughtfully, honestly talking about the value of being a celebrity. Their real lived experience of celebrity.

 

Watch it. Most of all, share this blog post with your kids. Because if we are ever to stop the runaway train that our society has become, it will start with young people rejecting what we in the West have done to our values system.

Let’s get back to what’s important. Because fame (certainly for its own sake) isn’t. Celebrity isn’t. A recent survey in America asked teenage school-kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. The biggest single answer given was “famous”.

Famous? Really? Famous people are unable to do what they want without continual scrutiny. It can be life destroying. They are held up to impossible standards of behaviour, far more rigorous than the rest of us. Merely because they are well-known. They can’t drop into their local pub or restaurant for a meal without being hassled by fans. They’re not even safe: they’re far more likely to attract the attention of stalkers or crazies. Remember Sharon Tate? John Lennon? Jill Dando? Gianni Versace? Tupac Shakur?

Fame? Be careful what you wish for.

And ever-increasing wealth simply does not bring happiness. Ask just about any genuinely wealthy person. They’ll tell you one of the biggest stressors in their life is now losing the money they have accumulated.

Remember, the Bible never said “money is the root of all evil”. It said “the love of money is the root of all evil.

Think about that.

Enjoy.

stars

 

ONE NIGHT OF MANY


I lie beside you, a long wait into tomorrow

and listen to you gently snore.

Whoever invented that phrase

~ gently snore ~

they knew. There is ungentle snoring,

when I nudge you in the back and roll you

half awake into silence

but that is not this. This is a soft rhythm

like the sea carressing white sand.

 

The rain on the new tin roof

syncopatedly changes tempo

as if to accompany you.

For a while there, it rises and falls

in time with your chest

in time with your dreams.

And the life in your breath

and the life in the rain

soothe me.

 

Without warning, I am assailed by images.

Unbidden. What would happen

if you were taken out of our lives?

A truck, a tree branch, your heart.

Police at the door, our daughter’s face.

The nights.

I could manage the days, I think.

But not the nights.

I listen for the gentle heave of air.

 

And again, and again, there it is,

that gentle heave of air, and I am stilled.

Do not distress yourself with imaginings.

Not yet. Not yet awhile, at least.

Go to sleep.

The rain falls on the world like balm.

And by the moonlight of the clock

I see your perfect calm face and think

how you would hold me, if you knew.

 

 

readMeTo buy a printed copy
of my collection of
poetry, “71 Poems and One Short Story”,
(there’s a download, too), please go to:

http://tinyurl.com/cumbx42

 

 

Not his time. But just maybe, it's time for us all to be very concerned.

Not his time. But just maybe, it’s time for us all to be very concerned.

In that curious vignette that seems to happen so often when politicians lose an election or end their careers, Marco Rubio finally managed to say something really important as he suspended his presidential campaign in a heartfelt speech on Tuesday night American time, after suffering a crushing defeat to Donald Trump in Rubio’s home state of Florida.

“America is in the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming,” Rubio said. “Look, people are angry and people are really frustrated.”

While not mentioning Trump’s name, Rubio attacked the Republican frontrunner and called for a more inclusive party that’s “built on principles and ideas, not on anger, not on preying on people’s frustrations.”

“Tonight, while it’s clear that while we are on the right side this year, we will not be on the winning side,” Rubio said.

Rubio, as we have been saying for some years, is absolutely right. The Republican Party has been captured by a coalition of discontents, that first reared their head way back in the early 1960s, who reject the general consensus at the core of American politics that America is essentially a well-governed, mixed economy with a balance of private and public enterprise, and an internationalist outlook, a consensus that had held in place since long before the Second World War.

These discontents span a variety of motivations and types.

The new American revolution

On the one hand, we have the extreme free marketeers – the right wing small government libertarians that have made a virtue of damning central government as inevitably incompetent, if not corrupt, and for whom a Democratic administration is automatically to be opposed at every turn (even if it creates national gridlock) because the Democratic party believes in wielding Government’s levers of power, where the libertarians believe those levers should essentially be abolished.

libertarian-howlDriven by a tiny, minority economic view and a perfectionist view of what constitutes individual freedom, which purports to be as anti-Republican as it is anti-Democrats, but which invariably feeds support to the right in reality, they want nothing more nor less than a re-writing of the social and political compact for the American Republic, and all existing power structures are fair game.

Because of their fundamental opposition to both taxation and public expenditure, they find it impossible to even acknowledge, for example, that Obama has done a credible job of slowing the growth of public debt, and has been a fiscal conservative compared to previous administrations.

Nothing Obama could have done would elicit a cheer from them to balance their continual, canting scepticism. He could have run a Federal government surplus and they would complain that was merely gathering funds for future irresponsibility.

Instead, they argue fiercely that Government itself is the problem, which is always reduced in populist terminology to”Washington”, largely ignoring the huge levels of both public debt, and expenditure, by State Governments and local Government, for example. Because no one ever bothers to check the facts – and don’t even believe them when they are presented to them – the assumption is that their criticisms are valid, and they gain traction in the wider debate sphere even though they represent a tiny fringe movement as far as economic thinking goes.

The second major grouping are the “Tea Party” rightists, who ape the libertarian’s concerns about tax and spending but without any real intellectual rigour behind their position and really have no alternative to propose to the current system beyond wanting a tax cut and savagely cutting expenditure and – with a strong streak of Protestant work ethicism – assuming that everyone in sight is not working hard enough to improve their lot.

Politics.TeaParty-600x438Whilst enjoying common cause with the libertarians they are a distinct group because they are limited in their effectiveness by their essential incoherence: they have little vision of a future besides knowing in their bones that they dislike the present.

In America, this grouping is also overtly involved in two related but non-economic issues.

They are fervently pro-guns and pro-evangelical Christianity, and their religiosity is very often focused on their opposition to legal abortion. They are the hunters and shooters and the religious right organised into a loosely co-ordinated grassroots movement that is larger than the sum of its parts in publicity terms, but less effective as a co-ordinated organisational force as different parts of its base get turned on by different things.

The movement is also extremely American exceptionalist and internationally isolationist in its outlook.

Thus, these are people who simultaneously believe that America should not be involving itself in overseas wars, but should nevertheless be “kicking the shit out of” whoever opposes American hegemony at any one time.

The incompatibility of these goals, which go back to the later 1930s in their genesis, is never tackled. The same crowd that chants “USA! USA!” when an Osama bin Laden is killed will, in the blink of an eye, be waving its fists and bitching and moaning that their taxes are so high – a vast amount of which, of course, go to maintain America’s ludicrously bloated military services, but they perceive no irony in that – and they will also complain furiously that any American defeat is the result of a Government that doesn’t know what it’s doing, instead of a perfectly natural and concomitant price to be paid for endless overseas adventurism.

In short, the Tea Party is a badly organised and illogical anti-politics populist front.

hate

The third group are what we call the “Ultra Anti Democrats”. These people are not just anti the Democratic Party, or even anti the conservative central managerial structure of the Republican Party, but they are anti the very concept of American democracy as it functions now. For them, their view of the American dream is that it has turned, emphatically, into a nightmare.

In effect, they have simply lost faith entirely in the efficacy of the system to address their woes.

And their woes are essentially (a) we have no job, (b) we can’t afford the lifestyle dream we have been sold, (c) we are disconnected and unsupported, (c) other people get all the benefits, we get none, (d) politicians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt, and (e) we’re “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

The worldwide appeal of populism

Importantly, in order to understand precisely what “we should have seen coming”, we need to examine these people. This latter group of voters transcend traditional party dividing lines, and they are simply not amenable to a fractured and incompetent central governmental system seeking to mollify them.

They are very largely working class, poorly (not tertiary) educated, they have rarely (if ever) travelled outside their home area, (and certainly not overseas), and they only consume media that plays to their frustrations.

And there’s one simple reason why they are not amenable to mollification.

Their complaints are very often justified.

(We will return to this point further down the article.)

The danger is, of course, that this complete disgust with the status quo makes them ripe pickings for any populist politician without a core plan to fix things for them, but with a good understanding of what ails them, and the ability to translate that into easily-consumed slogans. And indeed, if they can deliver those slogans in a strangled and muddled syntax that emphasises their outsider status, then so much the better. “Look!” says the lightning rod candidate, “I am as incoherent as you are! Vote for me!”

We can see this “anti intellectualism” and “anti politics politics” being repeated all over the world, in the popularity of parties (and most importantly, individual leaders) that seek to leverage the discontent without addressing the causes of it, and entirely careless of the long-term effect of doing so.

Piero Ignazi divided right-wing populist parties, which he called “extreme right parties”, into two categories: traditional right-wing parties that had developed out of the historical right, and post-industrial parties that had developed independently. He placed the British National Party, the National Democratic Party of Germany, the German People’s Union and the former Dutch Centre Party in the first category, whose prototype would be the disbanded Italian Social Movement; the French National Front, the German Republicans, the Dutch Centre Democrats, the former Belgian Vlaams Blok (which would include certain aspects of traditional extreme right parties), the Danish Progress Party, the Norwegian Progress Party and the Freedom Party of Austria in the second category.

Right-wing populist parties in the English-speaking world include the UK Independence Party, Australia’s One Nation – although that has now mainly been supplanted by a consolidated hard right faction in the ruling Liberal Party, just as UKIP have been outflanked by concessions made to Eurosceptics in the British Conservative Party – and New Zealand First.

And in the ultimate irony, the success of the anti-austerity Syriza party in Greece is an example of the exactly similar phenomenon on the other side of politics.

The role of immigration in this movement

Importantly, especially in the historical context, most of these parties have an overt or coded anti-immigration stance. It is the one core strand that unites and binds nearly all populist movements.

They blame someone else for the mess. And immigration (or the demonisation of a minority group) is the easiest target of all, because immigration is both the least understood economic factor in our societies and simultaneously one of the most easily noticed.

trump muslims

If there is one thing that unites the Tea Party supporters and the Ultra Anti-Democrats it is that they are furious about immigration, and anti-immigrant rhetoric excites them to fervour. “Look at these immigrants taking our jobs!” they cry, “Chewing up our welfare payments, living in our houses, not speaking our language!”, and on and on it goes.

Make those immigrants from a non white Anglo-Saxon background – call them “Muslims”, for example – and the rhetoric becomes almost unstoppably powerful.

American.Muslim.girl_.flag_.face_picThis has always been how fascism happens, from the slaughter of the Hugenots in France in 1572, through to the murderous fascist, statist regimes of Stalin, Mao and Hitler. Someone else is always the cause of the problem.

In social studies, “Othering” is the term used by some to describe a system of discrimination whereby the characteristics of a group are used to distinguish them as separate from the norm.

Othering plays a fundamental role in the history and continuation of racism. To objectify a culture as something different, exotic or underdeveloped is to generalise that it is not like ‘normal’ society.

Europe’s colonial attitude towards Africa and the Orient exemplifies this.

It was thought that the East, for example was the opposite of the West; it was feminine where the West was masculine, weak where the West was strong and traditional where the West was progressive. By making these generalizations and othering the East, Europe was simultaneously defining herself as the norm, further entrenching the gap.

Africa in its turn was violent, tribal, feckless, disorganised, and uncivil where Europe was the opposite. (Precisely what the Africans thought of the tribal nature of Europe as demonstrated in, for example, 1914-1918 was never asked, of course, but we digress.)

Much of the process of “othering” relies on imagined difference, or the expectation of difference. Spatial difference alone can be enough to conclude that “we” are “here” and the “others” are over “there”. Imagined differences serve to categorise people into groups and assign them characteristics that suit the imaginer’s expectations.

But the problem with anti-immigration rhetoric, of course, apart from its inherently nonsensical nature, is that it is based on an essentially flawed economic model.

Because as the OECD have noted:

Labour markets

 Migrants accounted for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the United States and 70% in Europe over the past ten years.

 Migrants fill important niches both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy.

 Like the native-born, young migrants are better educated than those nearing retirement.

 Migrants contribute significantly to labour-market flexibility, notably in Europe.

The public purse

 Migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in benefits.

 Labour migrants have the most positive impact on the public purse.

 Employment is the single biggest determinant of migrants’ net fiscal contribution.

Economic growth

 Migration boosts the working-age population.

 Migrants arrive with skills and contribute to human capital development of their receiving countries.

 Migrants also contribute to technological progress.

Understanding these impacts is important if our societies are to usefully debate the role of migration. Such debates, in turn, are essential to designing policies in areas like education and employment that maximise the benefits of migration, especially by improving migrants’ employment situation.

This policy mix will, of course, vary from country to country. But the fundamental question of how to maximise the benefits of migration, both for host countries and the migrants themselves, needs to be addressed by many OECD countries in coming decades, especially as rapid population ageing increases demand for migrants to make up shortfalls in the workforce.

The great failure of politics in America today (and elsewhere) is that no one has had the political will to address the legitimate complaints of the disenfranchised, but with facts, and with ideas.

For example: if one is living in a sector of the economy, or a geographic location, with mass unemployment – say 10% or greater – then one has a perfectly legitimate complaint that the “system” isn’t working. Not for them, at least.

unemployed

One of the basic roles of any governmental system must be the provision of a balanced, stable economic environment that provides enough work to satisfy the essential needs of the mass of the people. But employment is a stubborn problem to fix as it relies on expanding the economic activity of the state.

Ironically, this is one reason that fascist governments immediately embark on grandiose public works spending to create employment – it is to satisfy the hunger of their natural supporters for work and wages. Such Governments invariably rely on either conquest or domination of other societies in order to fund such largesse, or the forced exploitation of natural assets by the underclass, as nothing else fills the financial gap. Coming soon to your neighbourhood – the Trump Highway to nowhere.

Basically, such regimes either eventually invade next door, or send their population down the mines.

How much more durable, and effective, it would be to explain to the un- or under-employed that immigration actually boosts economic activity (the studies are virtually unanimous and incontrovertible) and they they, too, will benefit from this growing of the overall pie.

The problem is, those arguments are somewhat esoteric, and the mass of politicians simply do not attempt them in a media environment where a mindless soundbite and appeal to prejudice works faster and possibly better, and where those in the media demonstrate the same inability to understand the thrust of the argument as the public does.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

So much for jobs and immigration. Let’s return to the Ultra Anti’s list of complaints.

(b) we can’t afford the lifestyle dream we have been sold,

(c) we are disconnected and unsupported,

(c) other people get all the benefits, we get none,

(d) politicians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt, and

(e) we’re “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

It’s very easy to see, again, how the elite genuinely have failed this group.

Until the 1960s, the expectation of what constituted a “happy” life – a fulfilled life, a successful life – was much more limited in its horizons than since the social revolution that swept the world in that decade. The growth of consumerism in the sixties, matched to the new ability of TV to emotionally communicate the rewards of luxury and comfort, has vastly up-rated our view of what is both valuable and normal. We should all be tertiary educated. Every family member must have an automobile. The home must be crammed with every possible labour-saving device. Holidays should be regular and fully-catered. We should all live way past our previous life expectancy with premium health care and comfortable, funded retirement. Entertainment, both in-home and out-of home should be continuous and constantly improving. And so on, and so on.

consumerismSome commentators and candidates have called this “the American dream”, or “Morning in America”, or various other platitudes. Very few – and certainly no successful ones – have had to courage to say “You know what? We f****d up. We didn’t realise that we couldn’t keep endlessly expanding the size of the economy. You need to get used to the idea that you might not be able to get everything you want handed to you on a plate. You might not be able to afford it. Times have changed.” In fact, quite the opposite. The media elite, aided and abetted by their supine acolytes in politics, constantly promote and celebrate ever more garish celebrity lifestyles, which are held up as an example of what can be achieved. When it proves entirely impossible for “ordinary people” to mimic those lifestyles, even minimally in some cases, they completely understandably become restless and disenchanted.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Disconnected and unsupported? They certainly are.

We no longer live in villages where people know our business and we know theirs, and people rally round in times of trouble or distress. Most people dont even know their neighbours’ names. And expenditure on Government’s attempts to create “community” through social services, healthcare and other levers are the very first “soft” items to be stripped from spending budgets.

detroit

We have an entire underclass now cast adrift from support that we thought – wrongly – would always characterise a “modern” society. The state was expected to step into the breach and “help”, where previously communities would have done it for themselves. It did, partially, for a while, but inefficiently, and expensively. Our staggering inability to attune Government activity (at all levels) to the legitimate aspirations of ordinary folk is a failure that all politicians, of all political skews, need to “own”. It’s not excessive for people to expect their kids to go to school in buildings that aren’t falling down, where they are protected and safe, and where they achieve a minimum level of development. It’s not unreasonable to want to live in a town with properly maintained roads and pavements, where one sees a tree from time to time, where the very fabric of society is not crumbling around us. And it is completely fair to assume that if one falls through the cracks of life – whether in terms of health, or marital discord, or violence, or financial – then SOMEONE will be there, not to offer a handout, but a hand up.

Instead, we demonise the underclass and provide it with fewer and fewer ways of fixing things up for themselves. Not only do we not offer a hand up, we surround all activity to address personal or communal disconnectedness with such a mind-numbing and stultifying collection of rules and regulations that even if people want to help themselves, they can’t. Not unsurprisingly, the people rail against such an arrangement, and those in power ignore their pleas.

populism

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Someone else gets all the benefits? Well, there is benefit fraud, to be sure, and a sensationalist media does an excellent job of publicising it.

But in reality, benefits are set at a much lower level than people realise (even in the benefit-rich societies of Western Europe, and certainly in America and Australia) and benefits are generally handed out parsimoniously and sparingly. What is truly sickening is that politicians find it easier to go along with the “unmarried mother with six kids lives in a penthouse on your taxes” stories than they do to make one very simple point – without a social support structure, people cannot get back into work, cannot fix their addiction problems, cannot successfully re-enter the community having paid their debt to society in prison, cannot deal with mental illness, and a hundred other barriers to full participation, without a bit of judicious guidance and help.

The result of that guidance and help – just as the result, for example, of a healthier and better educated society – is greater productivity. Greater wealth to go round. Why does not one frame the discussion of social support in those terms? You tell us. In our view, simple cowardice is the answer.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

organisedcrimePoliticians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt? Well, that’s half the problem, right there, isn’t it? How can anyone seriously argue that they are not, when time after time they are clearly shown to be exactly that? The complaints of the governed against the mindless yahoo-ism, corruption and rank incompetence of those we elect to rule us are bitterly and utterly justified.

The great tragedy is that many politicians are well-meaning, hard-working, and “clean”. But in continually demonising them (as we just did, right there, and be honest: your head was nodding, too) we make it impossible to see through the fog of despair that clouds our opinion of their performance and their motives.

The elite places no pressure on itself to perform more creditably. To speak more plainly, To deal more honestly. To resist baleful external influences more firmly. Just as one example, whenever campaign finance reform is seriously mooted in America it is simply howled down. Corporations are people, remember. They have rights. No responsibilities – except to their stock holders – but they have rights. Pffft.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Faced with no leadership worth the name, the people are very, very angry indeed at the turn of events. And those who would exploit that anger are in the ascendancy, flirting with an increasingly rabid populace with terrifying disregard of the consequences of unleashing their anger on the very institutions of society, and our fellow citizens. Our response should be evidence-based, principled answers to the legitimate concerns they have. Instead, we are flinging up barricades and passing out scythes and pitchforks.

Morning in America? More like a deeply darkening dusk. And those with torches to mark our way back from the brink are too cowed to light them.

Quite right, Marco Rubio. You should have seen this coming. But you – along with your cynical, power-hungry colleagues – tried to ride the wave rather than break it up. To mix our metaphors, you grabbed a tiger by the tail, and now it’s well and truly turned back to bite you.

So thanks for your words – finally – but also, frankly, shame on you.

It’s not morning in America. We just hope it’s not goodnight.

Simon-Titley-009We were sitting at our desk this morning, thinking about our rambunctious, opinionated, stubborn, cheeky and very longstanding friend Simon Titley, who died ridiculously young at 57 a couple of years back, of a brain tumour. For a man of such luminous intelligence to die of a brain cancer was ironic indeed.

A few years earlier he was irked by the use of jargon in something he was reading and to make his point he very wittily translated the opening of the Bible into PR speak (he was a PR professional and consummate writer) to illustrate his point. We recalled it when grumpily seeking to persuade a colleague of the joys of plain English earlier today. It bears re-reading.

1. At the outset, God’s agenda was to basically focus on his core deliverables, namely two new leading-edge products, (a) heaven and (b) earth.

2. However, the earth lacked an overall concept, and had a low profile in terms of its key audiences. Obviously the Spirit of God had to step back and benchmark the existing waters before his game plan could get the green light.

3. And God’s key message was that light was a strategic objective, and it was covered-off.

4. And God’s perception of the light was that it was fit for purpose. However, his desired goal was that light and darkness should be differentiated in the marketplace.

5. So God branded the light ‘Day’, and the darkness he branded ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Light’. And the evening session and morning session made up Day One.

6. Then God set out with the object of factoring-in a firmament to interface with the existing generic waters, to bring to the party two segmented brands.

7. So God tasked himself with the job of rolling-out a firmament, to supply a proactive vehicle for launching his two distinct waters products, and it was up and running.

8. And God branded the firmament ‘heaven’. And at close of play, the prioritised actions for Day Two were ticked off.

Simon was an atheist, so probably found himself somewhat surprised to be in a heaven where unctuous black pudding and Lincolnshire sausages were available daily, and the fountains gushed forth good Belgian beer 24/7. What’s for damn sure is the angels are pissing themselves at his wry humour and admiring his gentle goodness.

We miss him so much. One day it will stop hurting that he’s gone: until then the legacy of his writing is a comfort.

More memories of Simon can be found here, written soon after his illness was announced.

Kim KardashianThe internet has gone into meltdown over a teasing photo of celebrity Kim Kardashian (yes, she of the leaked sex video and numerous other public displays of flesh, some paid for, some leaked, and some just put out there) standing nekkid but censored in front of a mirror.

Commentators, especially other women like Bette Midler, have laid into KK for her posting of the photo, and a seemingly equal number have spoken up in her defence. Kardashian herself has defended her posting of the photo as “empowering”.

Surely the issue really in debate here is whether the relentless sexualisation of women in the media really is empowering to the women concerned or whether it merely contributes to a society where the first matter of interest in a woman is, by default, her sexual nature, which is very limiting.

Women should be able to “own” their sexuality without shame – sure, no issue at all, and we are big fans of #freethenipple – but where a woman is known for nothing but her sexuality (where her celebrity is merely a by-product of continually promoting her sexuality) then the message that sends other women is questionable, in our view.

Let us consider, for example, the effect of this bias in society on women who are not “conventionally attractive”, particularly women in the formative years of their life. Are the encouraged to measure themselves up against such images to determine if they are “acceptable”? What effect does this have on their morale, and sense of self?

We have zero objection to nudity. Or for that matter, a healthy sexuality, whatever form it takes. But we have a lot of concerns about what effect people like KK and her antics have on our broader society as a whole and its psychological health.

This is an issue that divides feminists, and it’s worth debating.

She is also, for the record, and the rest of her family, utterly boring.

coffee (1)

In another confirmation of what we have always fervently believed, you can chalk up another benefit to downing your favourite morning brew: drinking coffee may protect your liver, research from the our old alma mater the University of Southampton in the U.K. has found.

After analyzing data on 432,000 people from 5 separate studies, the researchers concluded that people who drank one cup of coffee a day were 22 percent less likely to develop cirrhosis—scarring of the liver that eventually causes it to fail—than those who didn’t drink any.

But it gets better. The more coffee they consumed, the better their livers fared: People who drank two cups a day were 43 percent less likely to get the disease, while those who drank four cups a day had a 65 percent lower risk of it.

The study didn’t separate between decaf and regular coffee. But it’s likely that the caffeine does play a protective role, says study author Oliver Kennedy, M.D.

Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in your body, which are responsible for activating certain liver cells that lay down scar tissue. If this process is hindered, scar tissue—and eventually cirrhosis—may be less likely to occur, he says.

Still, it’s possible that there’s something in coffee itself that may be responsible for the beneficial effects, too.

For instance, one component called diterpenes — found in both regular and decaf coffee — may tamp down inflammation in the liver, reducing the risk of cirrhosis, Dr. Kennedy says.

So if you want to keep your liver safe, consider adding a cup or two of coffee to your day, as well as maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption, says Dr. Kennedy. And stick to no more than two alcoholic drinks a day.

We’re not sure about that last one, frankly, and we’d love to stay and talk, but right now we’re off to make another coffee.

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