Monday, 31 January 2011

Veggie Love - Another WTF PETA moment

PETA have a history of creating a bit of a mess when it comes to transferring their good moralistic ideas into advertising campaigns. They also have a history of getting right on my tits. It just so happens that their latest endeavour to get people to ditch meat in favour of the more colourful and altogether less murdery food-type that is vegetables is another crashingly fail-tastic example of how not to present yourself to the world. It's like they don't even want people to forget that they dug up that grave, or complained about Lady GaGa's meat bikini, or slagged off that multi-offspringed family, or they wouldn't keep getting me all riled up like this.

It's not that they're a ridiculous organisation, or that they constantly play up to their opponents by being exactly the type of over-the-top, cringeworthy idea-shouters the world expects now thanks to their past behaviour - hang on, I've forgotten where I was going with this. What I want to say, in complete sincerity, is that they have got a founding in real issues that make sense. I may eat meat and be a bit iffy on the fur issue (I have an heirloom fur coat given to me by my great grand Nan who died in 1998 aged 100 - so I'd prefer not to be judged for not burning it and then pissing all over it or some other type of childish anarchistic thing) but I appreciate that if I was a better person, I'd agree with most of what they say. Animal cruelty is wrong, end of story. But their latest campaign...this is something else.

'Enticingly' titled "Veggie Love", it involves a video of women getting intimate with vegetables. I kid you not. Here, have a look: Gratuitous video footage to boost ratings. The first video I saw was here, and I have to be honest, I was shocked. I'm not easily shocked, as you may or may not be aware, but in this instance the initial waves of "ha, this is stupid" turned quickly to shouts of anger.

Woman licking pumpkin. OH THAT REMINDS ME - I'm off to become a vegetarian, CU L8R BAI


Firstly, I'd like to ask the makers of this video - in what instance is it acceptable to campaign tirelessly against cruelty to animals, and yet make light of the porn industry, with all it's exploitation and instances of violence? Not to mention how clearly it undermines women in every way.

Secondly, I want to know why getting women to act like whores is going to encourage people to eat vegetables. In fact, I don't even need to ask that. By now all PETA is interested in is the coverage it will garner from it's next half-baked purposefully confrontational ad campaign. Who cares if it makes sense? As long as people talk about it, it worked. Right? (Despite this, I asked my mum who PETA are, and she knew all the things they'd done - throwing red paint on people being her favourite - but had no idea that they did other things beside anti-fur campaigning. So it doesn't work after all.)

I talked to a good friend of mine about the advert, who out of all the people I know, I thought would be a fan of what PETA do. In fact, he felt quite offended that I should think so. After all, he's a well-informed, intelligent vegetarian with a pet cat. Why should I tar him with the insanity brush?

"That ad in particular is very crass and demeaning, I'd say. Not just to women (although it is) but to anyone with a measure of basic intelligence: the assumption behind a lot of their campaigns seems to be 'People like sex. If we pair sex with vegetables people will think "Duurrrrrh... Me go vegan now..." Obviously, people tend to be a tad more complex than this. In fact, the animal rights debate itself is a lot more complex (and interesting) than it seems PETA and similar organisations would like to believe. They have, broadly speaking, a valid, non-mental point to make. But, obviously, that wouldn't grab headlines or go viral. So instead of trying to communicate an argument against the different forms of animal cruelty in an intelligent and engaging way you get all this other shit: aping whatever cultural dross is currently in mode with a 'veggie' slant, women lolling about in their knickers tossing off moolis and shoving radishes up their chuffs. It's absurd, trenchantly anti-intellectual, and makes it very very easy to say there's no need to listen to their argument.

There's other arguments to be leveled against PETA - that the argument, in some cases, maybe animal testing IS required isn't EVIL NAZISM; that the ubiquity of battery-farming is far more worthy of the zeal and attention they lavish on the far smaller fur industry; and all the other stuff they're associated with - against pet-ownership, controversies about their animal euthanasia programme, their barely veiled crypto-support for the ALF, the fact they just seem to be DICKS - other arguments to be leveled, as I say, but best not now, eh?

So there ya go, ya filthy meat-eating pet-owner." (The opinions of the wonderful and decidedly non-PETA @vivmondo)

As @oye_billy very succinctly put it on Twitter: "PETA are a black ops organisation formed by the meat industry to discredit vegetarians. Or they're fuckwits."

I don't think I could have put it better myself.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Keep protesting, Egypt. Show us how it's done.



It's amazing what people can do when they're pushed. Show your solidarity.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

I contemplated writing about sexism, but nearly every "SMASH IT" joke has been done. Then I started writing a spoof pro-man article, but Anton Vowl did it better. After a half-baked plan to spool out 500 words on how there are never enough female comedians on panel shows, I remembered that I'm not a huge fan of most female comedians anyway - probably because I've only seen the same four in circulation since the dawn of humanity. Deciding against this possibly highly offensive and divisive Real Life Issue, I was then given the gift of something beautiful popping up on BBC 24.

A grand piano has been found washed up on the shore of Miami. It's not newsworthy, it's not relevant to any of the world's Big Issues, and yet it's the most interesting thing I've seen in a long time.

I have a whimsical imagination, I think it's fair to say, and I love the idea of a grand piano floating around the oceans. It could have been anywhere, it could have seen shoals of silver tuna and breaching whales. Where did it come from? It could have been planted there by an artist, or dumped by a late-night fly-tipper, yes - it could also have been played in the elaborate dining hall of a 50s cruise ship. It could have been part of a shipment across the world for a famous concert pianist. It could have been on the Titanic, it could have been played at a beach bar in Tobago, it could have been used to hide Tommy guns in the 30s. And now here it is, washed up in Florida, upright and dignified, waves lapping around it's mahogany legs. I want to know what people played on it, and I want it to be left alone on that sandbank forever.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Obama Says: "I HEART NERDS!"

Nurture the nerds! Give Geeks some Growing Space! Show solidarity to scientists! Sexy science takes on more followers, as Obama admits: "At school I really wanted to be one of those dudes with the molecule statues and a pair of safety specs"*

*May not be a real quote
As usual, the ever-intelligent and gorgeously coiffeused Ben Goldacre has found a better link than I could to something interesting that just happened.
Here is Obama's State of the Union address, in which he shares jubilation for the toilet-swirlied and much beleaguered boffins of our time.
God luvvim.
[cue gratuitously lovely picture and relevant link]
BEN'S BLOG POST
 

Monday, 24 January 2011

No motivation, no talent, whatever.

Today my morning news was punctuated by several "stories of interest". These get flagged up in my brain with a sound not unlike when Solid Snake gets discovered in Metal Gear Solid. A trumpet-frog being stood on in a dimly-lit street while you're trying to be quiet. That sort of sound. It's a bit unnerving when you're still a bit sleepy - even more so when you're only halfway through your first cup of tea and Frasier hasn't even finished being on yet.

But which one would I write about? If you follow me on Twitter, you may be aware that recently, after several THOUSAND failed job interviews, I have become aware that I am possibly irreversibly stupid; unable to write, to come up with plausible ideas, incapable of even holding a pen while signing my name on a receipt at TK Maxx after forgetting my pin number for the last time. I am terrible at everything, even - no, especially writing blog posts, and for the past two weeks or so I have found it increasingly difficult to come up with even one decent idea for an article.

If you don't believe me, you should see my desktop recycle bin. It's filled with imaginary scrumpled up bits of lined A4 with "exercising? - good and bad" and "baking is fun!!!!! Maybe do another Dorset comp?" written on it. The truth is that like most people who've had a bad run with regards to job hunting, I've lost all confidence and therefore motivation to do any of the things I used to think I was good at.

And before any of you losers (I love you) begin telling me that I might be good at writing or any other motivational gubbins, I am sort-of joking. Although I am shite at everything at the moment, hence my current obsession with walking miles and miles around the park. I can walk, and I am fairly good at it. I have only fallen over once in a whole week. Here is where I would normally put a funny hashtag. I told you I was rubbish at writing now. What a stupid dum dum idiot with a face as dumb as a butt.

Being unemployed is very strange. I feel as though my days are secret; as though I'm getting all these chores and fun things done, but it's naughty of me to be doing anything. Very much like when you took a sick day off school and you felt better by lunchtime, but if you started acting better - say, dancing around the front room to Nineh Cherry or loading up the megadrive, Mum would swiftly be on the case to inform you that "ill people do not get out of bed". So I am now blessed with the constant niggling feeling that I should be in my front room looking and feeling like crap instead of schlepping around Kirkgate Market in my "girl about town" clothes looking for Gurnard (yes, I have been sat in my house watching C4s Fish Fight for the past week - why do you ask?). It's odd, but I do feel like I'm being very naughty. I suppose that's the point of Jobseeker's Allowance. If you haven't got a job you are indeed being very naughty. My possible retaliation to this is that literally nobody will employ me - be it through sheer bad luck (I nearly got a job and then their old person asked for their job back) or simple errors on their part (I was not given a job for being "too much of a communicator" despite it being a marketing/PR role), and so there is nothing short of bribery and/or physical violence I can do. Perhaps I shall get wonderful Jedrzej on the case.

One thing I can do without feeling too much of a cheeky mare (there is a fine line between "shopping to survive on the dole" and "going to a deli and buying awesome chorizo on the dole") is sit at home and write. Which brings me back to my original conundrum - I CANNOT WRITE ANYMORE. I have been typing, yes, but none of it is very good. I am currently attempting to write a book, but all that seems to happen is I write 300 or so words and then start daydreaming about the man who has kidnapped the protagonist. God, I love a man with a Slavic accent.

This all stands to reason, because a person who gets out of the house every day and has a job and a real life would not be doing such silly and unproductive (and downright WRONG) things.

So what I'm asking is simply this - Please. Somebody. Find me a job. Because if you don't, all my blog posts will end up being like this.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

2001 versus 2011

It occurred to me while I was lying on the sofa watching Futurama and feeling sorry for myself (never ever ever drink Tequila mid-week, no matter who dares you to) that the series of Futurama I was watching was 10 years old. I used to watch it when I was 13, and I am still watching it now.

So I started pondering. 2001 was the year I (sortof) began high school. My little sister is now in her first year of high school in 2011. How different is the experience for her, if it is at all? Pop culture has certainly moved on as you would expect it to in ten whole years, but how far removed is it from the millennium-bug obsessed, blue lipstick-wearing world that I cut my teenage teeth in?

Music


2001

  •  Staples - N*Sync, Britney Spears, Robbie Williams, Steps, Basement Jaxx, Gabrielle, Kylie Minogue, B*Witched (there seemed to be an over-abundance of unnecessary punctuation in early '00s music)
  • Dubious comebacks - Cher, Shaggy
  • Surely they'll never be unpopular? - Crazytown (exactly, who?), Atomic Kitten, Linkin Park, Daniel Beddingfield, Wheatus, Dido
  • Defining one-hit wonder track - Eiffel 65 - "I'm Blue"
  • Breakthrough "Play Loudly To Annoy Parents and Assert Adultness and Position in Household" Genres - Nu-Metal, UK Garage, Eminem Rap (but not any other rap, because it has too many drug references and my mum might get angry. Best to stick with songs about killing my wife.)
  • Worst Fashion mishap - Blue lipstick, thanks to the promo vid to "Deeper Shade of Blue" by Steps. 


2011


  • Staples - Rihanna, Beyonce, Lady GaGa, Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Usher (basically, imagine all the pop bands from 2001 had a car crash. These are the leftover parts of the horrific twist of pink plastic metal and bumpers. And Katy Perry.)
  • Dubious Comebacks - Nelly, Alesha Dixon, Enrique Inglesias, Take That, Britney Spears
  • Surely they'll never be unpopular? - Tinie Tempah, N-Dubz, Ollie Murs, Taio Cruz, Flo Rida, Ne-Yo, Cheryl Cole, Brandon Flowers
  • Defining one-hit wonder track - Willow Smith - "Whip My Hair"
  • Breakthrough "Play Loudly To Annoy Parents and Assert Adultness and Position In Household" Genres - Dubstep, Wobble, Whatever N-Dubz is, Assertive female-led stripper-pop
  • Worst Fashion Mishap - Every girl and young woman in the world dying their hair cherry red, in an attempt to mimic everyone's favourite kazzoo-singing forehead, Rihanna.

TV

Television is my best friend. But has it changed over the years to suit my needs, or have I found myself increasingly cramped by it's inability to put the remote somewhere I can easily find it, and it's infuriating habit of leaving all the broken biscuits in the bottom of the tin? It would appear in some aspects that this decade of futuristic lifestyle lust had encouraged TV to become still more of the type of fella I want around the house. This isn't about me though - it's about my little sister and her little know-it-all friends. What TV shows are they watching when it's past their bedtime? What CBBC gems are there now? Does anybody else really miss As If, or is it just me that thinks about it nearly every day?



2001
  • South Park
  • Futurama
  • As If
  • Spaced
  • Trigger Happy TV
  • Zzap!
  • Diggit (Basically the Disney Channel for Saturday Morning ITV watchers with an added King Charles Spaniel)

2011
  • South Park
  • Futurama
  • Horrible Histories (the best kids show ever made)
  • Facejacker
  • Top Gear
  • Harry Hill's TV Burp
  • Keith Lemon and whatever it is that he does
  • Skins
  • Late Night Hollyoaks
I think it might be fair to say that the youth of today are being catered for in all the major areas of TV viewing - be that late night swearing, incidental boob-flashing or cool-music-drugs-slang-violence. They still don't have the outrageously colour-saturated 2001-era filming techniques that saw turquoise and purple being used together frequently and with gay abandon, mind. They will have to make do with haircuts that are so bleeding-edge they go out of fashion before your very eyes. They also have Harry Hill, which is something, at least.

So, what have we learned? Well, for one thing, you and I are a lot older than we thought we were. Also, it doesn't matter how much you protest, bassline is still essentially garage, which means Daniel Beddingfield is long overdue for a successful comeback (as is Dane Bowers, God help us all). If anything though, we have learned that the youth of today who are not out on the street drinking VodkaRedBullRelentlessCocaine with their small ferocious dog pals are indoors, quietly absorbing pseudo-offensive TV shows and making up dance routines to angry sex music. Awww. Just like wot I use'a do, init.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Stargazing, Nature, Panned out shots of the Earth From Space

Since becoming an Atheist became somewhat of a fashionable decision, Christmas has gotten a whole lot easier for me to celebrate (not that I had much of a problem with watching Elf and eating my body weight in Lindor before). The whole period from Novemeber to the beginning of January has now become a fantastical array of opportunities to watch documentaries and TV specials on the rain forest, which is absolutely 100% alright with me.

The great thing about this Christmas was that the centrepiece of it was 9 Lessons (I originally wrote 'Songs' - a private joke involving Ben Goldacre singing FIIIVE GOLLLLDENN RIIINGS) and Carols for Godless People, which anchored around it several other scientifically-based events thought up after my bestest-westest horrible friend bought me my ticket. It meant an excursion to London, which of course is a huge deal for Northerners. We find it easier to fly to Disneyworld than take a train to Kings Cross, and as such we don't do it very often. Throw into the equation the fact that I was on death's door with what I can only now describe as 'flu (despite many people claiming "ooh, you wouldn't have been able to get out of bed it if was"...believe me, if I could have stayed in bed, I would. Instead I overdosed on aspirin, caffeine pills, paracetamol and ibuprofen, was very close to giving myself an ulcer, and had a panic attack in the science museum. So don't tell me I didn't have the 'flu. I really really did. Just because I have an inordinately high pain threshold that makes bedridden turn into "walking around Bloomsbury a little bit miserable", doesn't mean I don't get as ill as you. Once I broke my arm severely, and had to walk a mile back to my house in the snow because I was in the middle of the official Middle of Nowhere. Anyone else would have gone to hospital. I put a tubey bandage on it and continued about my business. So I am a total IDIOT, but I'm just proving how little I feel in the way of pain.) my trip was arduous, and filled with moaning. I made it though, you'll be happy to hear.

[Pic courtesy of the BBC]

During the magical science tour of London, I visited (with a friend, I'm not a complete loser) the science museum no less than six times. Have you been to the Science Museum? It is so good that it ate my Harrods, Hamleys and Beard Papa time right out of contention. It has IMAX cinemas inside it, where we saw Hubble 3D. Can I just point out here that if there is a better use for 3D cinema in use at the moment, I would very much like to see it. Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio (an odd but essentially brilliant choice), the 40 minute epic on the final mission to fix up Hubble and get it's hair did made me weep like an uncontrollable baby in a Toby Carvery. Oh god, they're blasting off (waa waa waa), look, the Earth from space (WAAAAAA) "nebula - star nurseries" (GGGGGGAAAWWWAAAAA). Myself and my un-named friend were blubbing our stupid heads off while kids were visibly bored down the front. I would recommend it to everyone. In fact, if I ruled the UK, everyone would be forced to see it. The same cannot be said for 4D Apollo mission, which was probably the worst thing I have ever been party to in my life. For one thing, when the rocket blasted off, they blew bubbles into the auditorium.

The other best thing about this Christmas/Post-2010 period was the sudden abundance of science-type programmes on my telly. I am talking, of course, about Stargazing Live and The Bear Family and Me. Now all we need is a regular science show of a Tomorrow's World calibre (or better, please) and I'll be a very happy biped. Stargazing Live was incidentally a brilliant piece of BBC genius, showing us at home exactly what we can see when we look at the skies, where some of the science funding goes, and also gives BriCo a chance to ramble live on air about how much he doesn't like football. What's not to love?

Bear Family and Me was a lovely and enlightening piece of documentary film-making, made and presented by everyone's favourite curly-bonced Scotsman Gordon Buchanan (a name I cannot say without reverting to my now almost long-gone Aberdonian accent). Wild bears, bear cubs, human interaction and a lot of information on the perils and difficult decisions surrounding the conservation of these impressive animals. It left we with a refreshed need to re-watch the Lost Land of the Volcano.


Yes, Christmas is a time for family and food and presents and God (if you're that way inclined), but it has increasingly becoming about the BBC kicking everyone's arse with documentaries, and the Channel 4 Christmas Lectures. And Robin Ince, of course, because if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have gotten drunk in the Bloomsbury theatre and told off for being noisy by the atheist equivalent of a sandal-wearing crystal therapy subscriber. I was only caterwauling at Chris Addison. If you are a human and do not caterwaul at Chris Addison then you might need to consider whether you are alive or not.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Writing, Saving, Sending to Email, Losing chunks of plot on the way

As some of you may be aware, I technically failed at NaNoWriMo this year. In my mind, I didn't so much fail as use the time to begin writing my MAGNUM OPUS - a work of such startling similarity to a series of books I haven't even read yet (The incredibly popular and apparently ball-explodingly amazing Millennium Steig Larsson collection) that I might as well become clairvoyant. Not that my book will be anywhere near as fantastic, or expertly written. What I mean to say is that it is a twisty-turny crime thriller, set in a Scandinavian backdrop. When I woke up a few mornings ago realising what had happened - essentially that I had sub-consciously thought "what a good idea" and copied these ideas down into Microsoft Word - I was angry and gutted. I seriously had hoped to be sending manuscripts to publishers in around a year's time. Now I'll be lucky if I don't get sued for copyright infringement for having the occasional dream about the insanely hot main character, gangster and icy-hearted but issue-riddled Jedrzej.

Ah Jedrzej. I will melt your heart. Once I finish the book you are in and you become real. Which is how it works, right?

I haven't written fiction since I left high school. Since I started my so far ill-fated career in journalism/copywriting/absolutely anything, please just employ me, I have only written about personal experiences, features about rats looking for love (look it up, it's on this blog somewhere) and thousands of gig and album reviews (I have typed the words "garage band", "folksy" and "quirky" more times than anybody ever should have had to) NONE of which I have been paid for, unless you could count the odd pint I can cajole people into buying me, in which case I have in the last 4 years earned about £5.20's worth of Fosters. As you have probably gathered I have as a result spent a long time working in retail to supplement this income. Fiction hasn't really played any part of my career, only popping up when I read on the train or while I was on holiday. One of my most impressive talents is that I can read at an ultrasonic pace, often finishing novels within an afternoon. It makes my book collection massive, and it also means I have read a lot of terrible books through necessity. In one week on holiday I read a book about 16th Century Danish lute player Music & Silence, a brilliant book by Margret Atwood The Year of the Flood, Black Mischief and Engleby (Vintage International) (which took me a record-breaking six hours with lunch included because I was frightened and wanted it to be over). I'd like to remind you at this point that I was on holiday, and although four books in a week is not truly impressive on it's own, I was also spending a lot of time having fun, going on bike rides, becoming wholesomely drunk on local beer and vodka, and generally taking pictures of everything I saw. Also, I never skim. I have to read every word. It's a bit obsessive of me, I know, and it means I end up reading a lot of receipts and the back of biscuit packets, but there you go. I like to read, but it can become a chore, especially when I know I should put the book down and go to bed, but my mind calculates that I only have an hour max left until I finish, and if I leave it til tomorrow reading the final climaxwill be a very unsatisfying endeavour. I go through cycles, where I read obsessively for about two weeks, nomming all sorts of word-nourishment in my path, getting through all my previously untouched Amazon order piles until they are all finished, and then I stop for another few months. I can't read casually. I am either totally engrossed and reading at traffic lights, or I'm not reading at all.

Which is why I don't usually write fiction. I never have an idea interesting or exciting enough to become engrossed in. I could never write chick-lit or a jolly little paperback about a fox that loses his top hat (as much as I'd like to - children's books are one of my most favourite things, and I have indeed read a number of decently characterised chick-lit novels out of necessity on trains and national express coaches), simply because I'd never be totally immersed. I have to invent a world i can walk around and touch in my mind's eye, a phenomenon that I almost entirely blame on my compulsive completion of RPG shoot 'em ups. I love having a different universe to explore, and people to play with and learn about. I feel as fondly towards Nico Bellic as I do towards McNulty or the Mayor of Casterbridge, and so playing games doesn't seem like a waste of time to me. It feels like a useful endeavour. How reading seems more socially acceptable than gaming does, I have no idea. Telling someone you've recently read a Karin Slaughter book is seen as interesting, but letting somebody know you just unlocked several thousand achievements from practicing head shots on infected zombies isn't seen as a real way to spend your time. I disagree. reading intensely violent books is just as sadistic, if not more so, than playing a game. A game you can turn off. A book and it's accompanying universe stays with you forever.

I'm not sure how this turned into a rant about gaming, but I'm fairly sure it has something to do with the fact that my mum does not have a TV and I have not rescued any Mexican fugitives or blown up a mine full of cannibals for at least a week. Instead I read Michael McIntyre's autobiography. In my defence, it was a present from my sisters for Christmas. As you can imagine, it is terrible, and as a result I am now annotating it with humorous and helpful comments of my own. So look forward to that. It will be my second greatest achievement, after becoming the WHSmith's bestseller for people who like reading books about gangsters and gun crime on the train to work.

My author name will be Katie Cronshaw. Look out for me next to my comedy restyling of horrible autobiographies in the "Probably Shit" section.
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