Archive for the ‘Current opinions’ Category

Tough Talk

Posted: October 7, 2010 in Current opinions

One disagreeable aspect of modern politics is the habit of inventing or utilising an existing phrase, and then repeating such a phrase often over a long period of time so it gives the impression that it is a fact that has always existed. One such phrase that I find to be uber-annoying is “tough decisions” in relation to potential cuts to the budget. The cuts themselves are not the issue I am contending here, but the idea that one would have to be “tough” in order to take a person’s livelihood from them. One particularly nasty feature here is that once someone has lost their job society is being encouraged to see them as a cheat or a “scrounger”.

My definition of a tough person would be one who would disregard their own suffering in order to relieve the suffering of another, or in the context of a sporting activity one who would be willing to undergo a more arduous training regime than a competitor in order to excel. I do not consider insensitivity to the suffering of others to be tough, whether this should manifest itself in areas such as politics, business, domestic violence or warfare.

The idea that the ability to reject people without emotion is an asset seems to have trickled from the business community into the mainstream in the last decade or so. Programmes such as The Apprentice or Dragon’s Den have seen the viewer invited to fantasise about a life spent exerting power over others whilst disregarding their feelings, and instil the idea that such insensitivity is the norm. The cruelty of such entertainment spectacles of Britain’s Got Talent or Over The Rainbow, where rejecting and upsetting children is accepted as part of a ritualised decision making process may be more traditional, but has never been more popular or been executed with such fervour. Whilst the above brain drainers may not be harmful in themselves, I believe they have contributed towards a climate whereby someone such as David Cameron can cast himself as the tough hero in what will be very difficult times for many, but is unlikely to affect the lifestyles of multi-millionaires such as himself.

 

Roll your sleeves up and rate for toughness...

 

BatteryPICI didn’t consider a love of ice cream and animals to be mutually exclusive until I bought an ice cream maker last summer, and upon reading a few recipes I realises that most ice cream contains eggs.  I try to avoid buying products made from cruelly treated animals, however a majority of commercial ice cream producers use eggs from intesively farmed hens.

Caged heat

Without going into the horrendous details (there are plenty of sites for that) hens bred in indoor cages (or “batteries”) spend their lives in extemely cramped conditions with a few fellow unfortunates. If they survive for around 12-18 months they are killed. Fortunately the practice is now so widely regarded as cruel it is to be banned in the European Union in 2012.

Bred with two faces

A good excuse never to help anyone or anything ever is that it might be hypocritical to do so. I would argue that to do a little for any just cause is much better than to do nothing. And even if we choose to do nothing but talking about it raises awareness and certainly does no harm. So, if one were to refuse to eat meat but wear leather shoes it would simply mean that a few less animals would die in the meat industry and those in the skin trade would be unaffected. Or if you were to cease to buy products containing eggs from caged birds for a month and write a letter to an ice cream company or supermarket voicing your concerns the world would be a tiny bit better than if you hadn’t.

Nice as ice

My favourite ice cream is the delicious Greens and Black’s organic, available in a sumptuous range of flavours at around £4 for 500ml – like all organic products it legally must be produced with a high standard of animal welfare, and the hens have significantly more space than those bred for the use of products simply labelled “free range.” A little cheaper is Mackie’s organic dairy ice cream – a serious yum-yum at £3 a litre. Swedish Glace is nice enough, contains no animal products at all and retails for a bargain £2 per 750ml.

Avoidance

I sent emails to a number of companies voicing my concerns about the use of caged birds in ice cream. From the replies it is clear that unless products are labelled as organic, or there is some sort of animal welfare marketing campaign, cruel farming methods are employed. I would single out Walls as sending me a particularly smug and self-congratulatory response to my first email before admitting when I pressed further that caged birds are used in their ice cream production. Haagen Dazs also use eggs from “indoor farmed hens”, which is shameful at their premium price point. But according to them the “fresh yolk…acts as a natural emulsifier, helping the texture and body of the ice cream and also providing the delicate flavour to our ice cream products.”

Show some compassion

The process of being in contact with these companies really put me off any sort of food, however the excellent organisation Compassion in World Farming deal with these types of people constantly, having discovered that the tactic of persuasion and co-operation helps animals more than the old fashioned shock tactics and shouting. There employees must have extraordinary levels of self control. If you’d like any more to help animals I suggest you head over to their website and follow there very sensible and measured advice on purchasing and campaigning.

JVeyes

This was to be an article about how pleased I was with my improving health, however my eye reached new levels of agony ten days ago with agonising abrasions to my cornea hitting double figures in one night.

I, Casualty 

When I eventually got to Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital Emergency Eye Clinic, the impressively skilled and efficient doctor said my cornea was like “patchwork”, and after applying anaesthetic, scraped the whole top layer clean off! This left me in a fucking world of pain and effectively unsighted for a couple of days while it grew back again, and only today am I able to use a computer long enough to do anything other than waste five minutes looking at bicycle components and blog stats. In fact, there has been very little to do at all. Unable to face sunlight or TV for a week, I just had radio and CDs for company in the daytime.

The Blind Leading the Partially Sighted

The radio populated my mind with bilge by likes of Gordon Brown, Michael Martin and hysterical commentators, their faux assertive voices feigning outrage at Daily Telegraph revelations concerning expenses claimed by Members of Parliament. My understanding of the situation was that MPs were underpaid (many times lower than their potential value in the private sector) and by way of recompense received very comfortable living expenses. Which seems fairs enough for working 16 hours a day job from which you might well get ceremoniously sacked from every 4-5 years. MPs were also clearly happy about the situation as they voted to keep it that way ten months ago. Disclosure is the only recent change. All the current mock-apologising and rehearsed grovelling is exactly what I dislike about politicians. The sums of money concerned are miniscule on a national scale – I care not if I inadvertently spend an incalculably small amount of tax on a “flat screen TV” (what other sort can you buy?) – I just dislike lies and opportunism. David Cameron is surely the worst case. As in the tragedy of Baby P, or any other real or imagined crisis, he jumps into every media op yelping “change…change…change”, morally posturing in an attempt to adopt a leaders’ role with “strong” words, but only caustic self-interest at heart. Perhaps he would like it if MPs returned to being unpaid, so, like in the good old days, only rich Conservatives could afford to take on the job? Or perhaps he believes that highly paid and morally dubious consultancies should be undertaken, as is already the case with many of the shadow cabinet. The present Government may be rightly unpopular, but Cameron led Government would be ruinous. Meanwhile, I wish an end to the fuss.

Noise is Off

With most music radio (with the exception of the excellent D&B shows on 1Xtra) living in retro-pop tedium, and the computer off-limits, I turned to CDs. Listening to music eyes shut and in pain is pretty intense and not altogether enjoyable. I got extremely pissed off listening to hardcore CDs – apart from the odd decent track the lazy programming seemingly abandons the listener while noisy-yet-dull sequences repeat. Classical music is more interesting, picking apart the various textures and guessing the intent of the composer, but any visualising made me move my eyes (ouch!) and any searing climaxes and overtly high pitched violins just made me think of my eyelids growing teeth and ripping ripping ripping!!! THE RIPPING…

Total Downer

After a week I had signs that could easily be mistaken for serious clinical depression. The constant pain had made me irritable and preoccupied, my inability to do anything useful lowered my self-opinion and physically I was weak due to zero exercise. All those symptoms left with the worst of the pain, but it is easy to see how lazy GPs mistake the symptoms of physical distress for mental illness and dish out the anti-depressants. This short experience has underlined the opinions I outlined in my earlier Prozacrap post.

Fit as a Frequency Modulator

It is a shame about my eye, as otherwise I’ve been really getting back to full fitness. I will write a full explanation of my chest illness on the main site when I’m sure it’s gone, but it would seen that I had a long-term muscular problem which was confused with the symptoms of oesophagitis, which I also had and ran concurrently for around a year. As a result, the muscular illness went untreated while the oesophagitis was believed to continue after it was cured. Now I’m normally pain-free except for if I bash my chest hard, lift very heavy objects or eat too much. As cycling generally doesn’t involve any of the above and as such I’ve managed regular rides, including a couple of 60 milers, which I’m very pleased with as six months ago I could barely wheel the bike from the garage without discomfort. I’ve also lost quite a few of the 104kg I was hulking last year. As my body gets more agile, as does my mind and I’m now pretty well zipping round music software program Cubase 5. I’m doing a couple more remixes and cover versions and I hope to be technically competent enough to concentrate on content and make some works of note by the year’s end. Meantime, here a couple of visual treats I was enjoying before the ripping…

Recommended

martyrs1Shamefully, my knowledge of French horror starts and stops with Switchblade Romance, but I’ll certainly be checking out more after watching Martyrs, out on DVD on Monday following a limited UK cinematic release. Forcing mainstream film media into namechecking Ichi the Killer and Italian gobble ‘em up Cannibal Holocaust, due to the extreme violence, it is unfortunate that a film such as Martyrs – made to communicate and understand pain – should get confused with those that glower over it. This is an unexpectedly emotional study of long term physical and mental sufferance, and memories the film comforted me after my latest eye injury. Best viewed knowing little about it, this is one of my favourite films of all time in any genre.

miner_xboxboxartXbox 360 owner burrowing into community game downloads may discover gem Miner Dig Deep, a superbly addictive mine building collect ‘em up featuring a shopful of earth moving powertools. Fans of Toolbox Murders will be disappointed by the lack of underwritten female characters to use them on, though. Around four hours top entertainment for less than £2, this is one internet purchase that really will make you gasp as your shaft grows huge!

 

martyrs4

F1 tryers

In another embarrassing attempt for Formula 1 motor sport to gain ecological credentials, this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix will feature cars with green striped tyres. Personally, I love the sport and am happy to spend a couple of hours of excitement and escapism, tending to forget the prospect of being globally warmed. All the silly painted tyres will do is remind viewers of the car’s huge fuel consumption – as well as mass air travel to the races, and possibly even how the automotive industry are using Grands Prix to promote road car use in the new markets of the Middle and Far East. Indeed, if F1 continue to draw attention to the political issues inherent in international motorsport, perhaps the promotional material for the last few races of the season could look something like this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After being too ill to cycle for a over a year, I sometimes peruse my Raceface hydropack that lurks in the kitchen. I first bought a hydropack around ten years ago – it’s a backpack that contains a plastic bladder (usually around 1.5-2 litres) to fill with water or energy drink, a tube goes over your shoulder and you suck on it to have a drink. There’s also space in the pack for a few spares, pump, inner tubes etc – I guess you get the message that it isn’t an especially glamorous piece of equipment. In fact, I used to get some very strange looks. SCARY!

However, around five years ago some “extreme” mountain bike riders were photographed wearing hydropacks whilst performing outrageous tricks – road gaps, cliff drops, 360s and even fully inverted – upside down and fully hydrated. WOW!

To begin with I thought there to be some humourous fad, but no. These were freeriders (previously, “freerider” was cycle company Cannondales’s copyrighted term for non-race or downhill mountain biking) who, the story goes, ride on 45lb bikes pulling mad tricks but covering enough of Canada to require tools and water. Now the UK cycle industry are playing it is that, if you’re on a normal UK trail rider you need an expensive overbuilt bike with 6 inches of suspension travel – plus a hydropack – presumably for bandages and morphine. MENTAL!

Even more bizarre, though, is the appearance of backpacks is new quad bike videogame Pure. They may have lost the plastic tubes, but I recognise ‘em – hydropacks worn whilst the riders race and perform fantastical freeride manoeuvres – a utilitarian device rendered free of any practical use! Now we’re just literally twiddling our thumbs – controlling a virtual hydropack. AWESOME!

I blame Red Bull for making the link between drab items and adrenaline fueled excitement – their marketing has implied for years that opening a can of pop may make you an F1 pilot or aeroplane racer. But I remember long before Red Bull there were Pepsi Max adverts making the link between extreme sports and soft drinks. Now even PCs are also often described as “extreme” – another thumb twiddler. Along with shitty brick-slow 4x4s. And every other crappy TV programme that inserts the word into the title to luridly suggest voyeuristic danger – all from the safety of one’s own armchair. CRAZY!

The word “extreme” and most of the surrounding vocabulary were wrought into marketing buzzwords around the turn of the century, and you can blame the same kind of marketing people who re-invented the hydropack. Or maybe it was Bill and Ted. But I’d rather imagine it was an elite squad of London-based media chicks, replete with 3 litre hydropacks containing enough vodka and Red Bull to talk shite for weeks. LET’S ROCK N’ ROLL

 

Links

Pinkbike.com has thousands of genuinely awesome freeride shots – with and without hydropacks

Camelback are the originators of the hydropack

Before the drugs kicked in, this post was going to be about Pure, a quad bike game – see developers Black Rock Studios

Gaddfly

Posted: August 24, 2008 in Current opinions
Tags: ,

God, how I tire of paedophile “news”. As I don’t read the tabloids I’m normally spared the lurid details but as I have an overactive imagination so every time I hear the name “Paul Gadd” or “Gary Glitter” my brain is bombarded with grotesque images. Which is all very well when there is actual news story but when the man is simply catching a plane I don’t see any reason for it to be a top story on the BBC, especially when there is actual news, such as the Russian invasion of Georgia.

If someone has broken the law then that is surely a matter for the criminal justice system, but paedophilia seems to bring out the worst in the British, and characters like Gadd, like the proverbial rapist in the dark alley, fit into a convenient stereotype as opposed to facing the real problem which in this case is that child molestation is, in the vast majority of cases, carried out in secret by relatives of the victim.

I wonder what the world would be like if instead of picking incendiary non-news items people were to instead confront what is making them intrinsically angry and do something about that instead – I’ll provide a musical soundtrack as required. That way perhaps trained professionals could concentrate on containing and treating paedophiles whilst me and others like me could continue my life relatively free of a subject which does not concern us, apart from perhaps the odd charitable donation. See www.childline.com

Update (March 2009): Six months on and nobody seemingly knows or cares where he is because it doesn’t matter after all. Doh!