Referendum Flu

Since every other motherfucker in my Facebook and Twitter and household is telling me what they think and/or why I’m wrong, I thought I’d return the favour while I still can – and share some of my favourite referendum satire. I can’t upload the entirety of this week’s Private Eye coverage, but if you see a copy please do have a read, they’ve outdone themselves.

So, for what it’s worth and despite the EU being flawed beyond belief, I’m voting remain. I think the economy could be fine/shit either way, not that many people seem to actually have a clue, and I’m more interested in the fact that we live in an unstable world in which isolation of any kind would be a bad idea. Whether we like them or not, close cooperation and communication with our neighbours is crucial. The EU was originally something the British helped create to prevent another war, and I might be getting sappy in my old age but I think that’s something worth preserving (although I would like to see it sort out all the bullshit).

And now for the satire: the Now Show did a Vote Now Show which takes the piss for a solid half an hour, and John Oliver explained the referendum to the US. If you watch any of that, please for the love of god watch the song at the end just for the rhymes. I’m also in love with this, which asks the right question:

I have probably forgotten something funny (the number of people who think Boris is a suitable candidate for Prime Minister, maybe), but in case this is my last 24 hours of living in a country that hasn’t collectively voted to agree with the likes of Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and every racist who’s ever lived, I think I will leave this here and go and look at last minute plane tickets to the continent.

 

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Rachel Dolezal/I Have No Idea What My Opinion Is

I don’t know what prompts it, but I seem to have the blogging heebie jeebies either very early in the working day or in the evening. I’ve no idea why – maybe because when I was at school I wrote everything when I got home unless there was an emergency post that had to be finished before school? (By heebie jeebies I mean ‘desire to blog’, not the creeps. Not sure what else to call it.)

Anyway, today’s topic: Rachel Dolezal. I had never heard of her until about two days ago; she was president of the NAACP, the black civil rights organisation in the US, until she resigned over a row about race. She didn’t suddenly announce her affiliation with the KKK; the issue is whether or not she’s black. Her parents say she’s white (they are white and have adopted children and extended family who are black), but she says that she identifies as black. Some people who are unquestionably black have said ‘excuse me, that’s a bit rude, please don’t pretend you’re one of us because you think we’re a cool club have you seen how we can be treated?’.

I’m white and I don’t have enough direct experience of the black American civil rights movement to get on a soapbox about the politics, except to say that racism is gross and will require all people from all races to realise it’s gross before it goes away. In terms of Ms Dolezal, my initial feeling was that if she says she’s black the response should be ‘okay, whatever’. Like if a queer person insists they’re straight, it’s not anyone’s place to drag them out of the closet – and if someone says they identify as non-binary, even if you think they’re off their rocker because you’re a bit ignorant the polite thing to do is say ‘okay, whatever’. If it’s a phase, it’ll pass – like how a lot of people in senior school announced they were bisexual for, like, a week in year 10. If they still are now then yay for them – if it was just something they were trying or wanted to be part of then that’s their business.

By the same token, if somebody insists that they’re of a race different from what they were assigned at birth, so to speak, is it not polite to say ‘sure whatever’? Like that one straight friend who wants to go to a gay bar for a ‘gay experience’? They’ll leave eventually, either when they realise no one’s interested in fulfilling a bucket list or when somebody really is and your friend has a mild epiphany that they’re straight. I don’t know – nobody I’ve ever come across has decided they identify as Caucasian… can’t think why.

I get the impression that the wider issue is more concerned that she once actually sued a college for discrimination because she was white, before becoming president of a prominent black civil rights organisation? Like did she just decide one day that she was over being white? I think I would be pissed if a LGBT person became the first out prime minister then said ‘actually yeah I’m straight/cisgender’. Does that detract from the significance of their work? On top of that, I kind of feel like underneath all the race appropriation arguments, Ms Dolezal is looking for some sort of acceptance from a social group?

I have no idea. And I did a lot of stuff between drafting this and finishing it so I’m not sure if I had an opinion earlier and have since forgotten it, or if it’s just a really complex topic that requires a lot of thought and may never have a solid conclusion (it’s now nearly five; I started this at 8am. Told you.) Thoughts?

Such a Beautiful Game…

I’ve been working on Ghost Stories II and on copywriting a lot lately so my indifferent ignorance radar has been turned to low. Or maybe the thought of analysing Mohammed Emwazi is too depressing to make a reality. Actually, the rest of the news is pretty grim as well, and I feel like it’s way too soon to make jokes about the sex abuse in Oxford or baby deaths in Cumbria.

It may never be a good time for joking about those things.

In fact, the most laughable piece of mainstream news at the moment is the Qatar football fiasco. When the bid was announced, I a) didn’t care and b) thought that they had already decided to host the competition in December. Apparently it’s taken until now for Fifa to make anything official, and people are grumbling about the fact it will upset league competitions.

Shouldn’t Fifa have thought about that before they accepted bribes from the Qataris? I mean, if I was going to take money for something, and if I knew other people were going to know it, I’d take pains to make sure I got a deal so sweet no one cared about the corruption. Or maybe the Fifa people decided they got paid enough not to give a shit about anything else.

Sometimes I am very glad that I’m not invested in team sports. What do you think the odds are that, by the time 2022 rolls around, Fifa will think the same thing?

The Six O’Clock News: It’s Okay, USA

How many of you guys are from Missouri, USA? Me neither man, I’m not totally sure where Missouri is. But I do know that a load of shit is going on there at the moment, in the town of Ferguson. This BBC article has a good (detailed) explanation about what’s gone on – I think that essentially a black kid got shot by almost-definitely racist police and when locals protested they were deemed a riot, so now there kind of is a riot.

It’s brought up another debate about racism in the US – it exists, yuck – and has had relatively little UK media coverage, probably because the whole of the middle east is currently trying to kill everyone else in the middle east. But if Americans were worrying that only their country is home to a less-than-stellar police service, it’s okay! Look what this fortnight’s Private Eye has reported!

Private Eye 1372 Met Shooting

So it’s okay, America. We get you. We have Stephen Lawrence and we all remember what cased the 2011 riots.

From theyuniversity.tumblr.com
From theyuniversity.tumblr.com

But do yourselves a favour and don’t actually have a riot, because they are messy. Maybe stick to vigils and legislature change? I’ve been learning a bit about the US court system lately and you guys seem to be into suing each other – can you take the police to court for dickheadedness misconduct of duty?

If anyone has any suggestions to combat police dickheadedness and/or racist dickheadedness, please share. I’m kind of stuck for intelligent suggestions that don’t involve painting swearwords on people’s houses

The Ten O’Clock News: Penguin Classics Represents Barbie…

It turns out I’m going out for the evening, which happens so rarely I haven’t got my shit together properly (on the plus side, Guardians of the Galaxy). Since I’m going to be entertained – or not, depending on whether it’s as good as my Twitter feed says – let’s all scratch our heads over the weird new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover:

from BBC.co.uk
from BBC.co.uk

Is it commentary on how the novel came out in the sixties, when everyone was screwing children, or did someone click the wrong file and send an illustration of a chocolate box to the cover for Barbies and Hookers?

I may have invented that title.

The Independent quotes a Penguin spokesperson as explaining  that the cover represents’“both the light and the dark aspects of life”’ but I swear I read that book a few times as a child and never imagined abject poverty or spoilt children in the form of a creepy doll child…

Seriously, I took A Level English Lit and I can’t link that picture to the book in my head. Anyone got any ideas?!

The Six O’Clock News: Keeping Up With Current Events

With the ever-changing nature of ‘current events’ and the complications of understanding it anyway, I thought the Israel-Palestine conflict (war? See, defining this shit is tough) would be a good topic to use to discuss ways to keep up with the news. All the cool kids are doing it, so listen up!

The Traditional Way: Newspapers and Magazines

Aw, print media. A declining medium and usually so full of editorially-biased bullshit that often it’s not worth going near anyway. We all know that tabloids aren’t worth even opening (I discovered a Daily Mail parody on Twitter the other day. It’s beautiful) but what about the broadsheets?

Well darlings, there are some good choices. The Guardian and Telegraph, traditionally a bit leftie and rightie respectively, have pretty decent articles which give a detailed explanation of a story, usually with some photos or maybe an infographic. I don’t usually get the Financial Times but I’ve heard it’s good too, as is The Times, if buying something owned by Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies. Then there’s the Independent and its sister publication the i, which I loved to read at school because it’s really short and has super-duper-easy-to-digest articles. It’s also only 30p and available from Starbucks, so you can look smart while sipping a skinny mocha polkadot frappe. All the papers have websites too so you can read an article as many times as it takes for your blood pressure to return to normal!

That’s pretty much the extent of my paper knowledge and I encourage you to utilise your local library and have a read of whatever you can get your hands on – you’ll find your favourite style of writing pretty soon. One word of warning: even the news articles will contain bias. Not as much as a column – not as obviously much as a column, anyway – but differentiating between reported fact, the writer’s opinion and a senior management-based reference (like a journalist highly rating a film released on a company owned by the newspaper’s owner) is a fun and useful skill. One that Daily Mail readers are lacking above all others.

In terms of magazines, there is only one I read, though I read it more thoroughly than I do all papers: Private Eye. Edited by the dude who sits on the left in Have I Got News for You, it’s predominately satire but also has some serious reporting and its Street of Shame section calls out other newspapers’ crap. If I remember correctly, it was one of the few publications that picked up on Cyril Smith being a paedophile about 20 years before the Jimmy Savile scandal – I think they got sued over the allegations. They get sued a lot. The Economist is also useful if you want to get really intellectual – and the ads in the back are brilliant if you want to pretend you have a PhD.

The Family Debate Way: Television

Ah, the real Six O’Clock News. I love it. If you’re anything like me, couch-surfing wise, you start your channel-flicking marathons around the entertainment channels (Virgin Media 121) and go up to music (Kerrang! TV is 342) and maybe into films (avoid the porn channels just past them).

This is stupid.

Go straight to the good stuff: the plethora of news channels. BBC News 24 HD is 604 for me and it’s on all the time. So if you’re out at ten o’clock or eating at six you can keep in the loop! I’m assuming your family bought a huge massive mega TV broadband phone package deal, in which case you probably have access to CNN, Al Jazeera English, Euro News, BBC Parliament and if you’re unlucky FOX.

The good thing about TV news is that because they’re broadcasting to everybody, they have to explain everything. Hence why reporters go to whacky places or walk through green screened graphics – the information needs to be understandable to the average viewer. You’re not the average viewer because you’re a) reading this and b) you know that you can access CNN.

A downside to the TV is that because most non-24-hour slots are short, detail can be missed from a story, and some stories aren’t told at all. Syria is big news when there’s been a huge bombing or war crime, for example, but gets overtaken by the next big thing. The same thing happened in all areas of the mainstream media to #BringBackOurGirls and Flight MH370. Both are still missing, by the way.

 The Hands-Free Way: Radio

You know, the way they kept up with business in World War II. Radio is cool because you aren’t rendered immobile and you can listen while you’re in the car or doing boring stuff, like chores. BBC Radio 4 has a good broadcast in the morning, which I discovered completely accidentally when I was searching for a radio station without jingles or adverts for my morning alarm. I’ve also heard good things about the BBC World Service, which apparently has a worldwide following because it’s an alternative to propaganda-ridden state media.

The Hipster Way: Websites and Social Media

I should probably point out that I’m not entirely sure what a hipster is, although many of the people I’ve known who have declared themselves to be one have actually been twats. I’m not sure if that’s the point. Anyway, social media basically sparked the Arab Spring, because for the first time people had ways to communicate meet-ups and ideas quickly. So instead of using Twitter to hashtag how great your favourite band is to promote a crappy MTV contest, use it to keep up with a conflict or political situation as-it-happens. There was a Russian soldier who posted a picture of himself with Russian weapons inside Ukranian borders on Instagram, and Osama bin Laden’s house’s siege was posted about on Twitter as it occurred, which says it all. The people inside war zones are exactly the same as everyone else so you can see the actual stuff that’s going on. You don’t have to follow accounts if it bums you out, but searching a tag here and there makes you like well intelligent.

Word of warning: social media is the least moderated of all broadcasting platforms and there are just as many idiots posting political things as there are idiots posting pictures of themselves in their underwear or bitching about their boss. Take with a bucketful of salt and always use two sources to corroborate information, especially if it’s for a school thing. I once stumbled upon a Hammas-supporting website which bitched a lot about Israel and the stats I collected were totally the opposite to the ones we learnt in school. For quick info, use the BBC News app and for research, the CIA World Factbook has great profiles on each country – well, they would – and lists states numerically by how great their literacy rate or GDP is, amongst other things. The BBC also has great country profiles for getting a simple explanation and timeline of a country. This explains Kosovo perfectly, for example.

The Fun Way: Entertainment

Not going to lie, Tim Minchin taught me the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Then there’s Have I Got News for You, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Daily Show… the list  of programmes is endless. If you’re prepared to put up with some Hollywood gloss, films and books are useful. Some, like Shooting Dogs or books by Khaled Hosseini, don’t have gloss. They may make you cry noisy tears and expand your cynicism. But they’re actually really important because you’re more likely to empathise and understand the nuances of a situation through fiction than you are just by watching the news.

Documentaries are also excellent because it’s their job to make sense, tell the truth (again: apply salt) but keep hold of your attention. Plus your teachers will support the concept of watching them instead of doing a timed essay. Probably. Possibly.

Okay, I’m off to watch the diving at the Commonwealth Games and keep a tally of my parents’ homophobic comments regarding Tom Daley. Let me know if I’ve forgotten a supercool way to follow the news!

The Six O’Clock News: Examining the Bigger Picture of the Oscar Pistorius Trial (Mostly Unscientifically) So that You Don’t Have To!

I haven’t been sure what to talk about today because the week’s big news, Ukraine, is changing so fast that a blog would be redundant in about twenty minutes. In a lot of ways so would the Oscar Pistorius trial but Ruby and I were talking earlier about aspects of it, so let’s have a go. Not at the ‘this could be a crime drama’ element – though it could which is unnerving – nor the ‘he shot her deliberately! Ah no he didn’t’ element (let’s let the courts decide).

The thing that I haven’t seen anyone talking about, unless it’s just on blogs like this  (which I don’t read because this is exhausting enough, is that bad?), is that the basic story of ‘person shoots other person apparently by accident and turns out to have a propensity for firearms’ is really similar to the stories that come out of the USA seemingly every week. This CBS bulletin explains that a man was charged with aggravated manslaughter of his three-year-old this week after she accidentally shot herself. A five-year-old’s death from a gunshot wound is believed to be accidental according to ABC. WPXI reports that a three-year-old has been hospitalised after accidentally shooting himself. All of those stories are from this week.

In terms of analysis, I reckon those stories raise two questions. One: why, if people own guns, are they loaded in places that small children can reach? If you feel that you need to own a firearm for sport, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t keep it in a purpose-built gun cupboard, preferably not loaded until you go out to shoot some deer or whatever. Children are generally smarter than adults in terms of the meaning of life but the best of them are usually kept out of anything that’s bigger than they are and difficult to open. Two: if you feel that you need a firearm for self-protection, as I believe is the general reason why South Africans own them and Americans won’t ever stop owning them, why can you not take half a minute to check that your gun is on your person and not anywhere a small child could reach? Let’s face it, your aim and judgement about when to pull the trigger is probably better than your toddler’s even if you are paranoid.

By the way, according to this fun map, America and the Yemen have the highest number of guns per hundred people and Colombia has the highest percentage of homicides by firearm. Yay. So, as good politics students, we’re going to discuss what these statistics imply. Here is a handy and completely unscientific list:

  1. A large number of people feel that it is in their best interest to own a firearm.
  2. Presumably this is because of their area’s crime rate and general safety atmosphere. Car jackings are so common in South Africa that one insurance company won’t cover a certain type of VW Golf because they’re too easy to jack. Taking steps toward self preservation is a-okay, right?
  3. Like the knife crime situation in the UK, owning a gun is probably more likely to get you hurt than to hurt other people who want to hurt you, which adds to the shitty aura of gun ownership.
  4. Nobody wins except gun manufacturers.

Oscar Pistorius claims he shot his girlfriend after mistaking her for a burglar and given South Africa’s notorious crime rate, he could well be genuine. Nobody’s questioning that the families of those toddlers had the guns for legitimate reasons (I’d dispute shooting game as ‘legitimate’ but if that’s your culture then I’ll judge you from afar because now’s not the time to explain about the circle of life). But people are being hurt and killed because at some point a person has decided that possessing a gun is a good idea… which begs the forty million dollar question: should we be taking these cases as a sign that there’s a picture bigger than ownership and intent and start focussing on the reasons why societies have made the ownership necessary? Because no one owns a handgun in little English villages where everyone throws garden parties with signs on the front door saying ‘It’s open and so’s the back :)’.

Just saying.

If that hasn’t completely depressed you please leave a message with your opinions so we can all feel like we contribute to the very society we’ve just realised is full of shit!

 

The Ten O’Clock News: “and the Oscar goes to… every fuckin’ person who was involved in this goddamn hearbreaking real life fuckin’ example of human evil!”

So I think something like two-thirds of this year’s Oscars nominations are based on true stories – 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers’ Club, etc. (I’m assuming they’re nominated. I’ve seen them in the press, you know?!) On an almost entirely unrelated note, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical Stephen Ward is closing after a handful of months. I paid vague attention – not enough, clearly – because the actor playing Stephen Ward, who was involved in basically the first contemporary political sex scandal, was in Jesus Christ Superstar which was flipping brilliant and it got me thinking:

If you could make a film or musical about any news story, what would it be?

There are the heartbreaking stories, like the Ugandan tabloid that printed the names of gay people on their cover the day after homosexuality was made punishable by life in prison, which as a topic may well be made into a 12 Years-esque piece in years to come. So may the story of the women who were held in a basement in Ohio for, ah, almost twelve years. Or the Syrian civil war. Or the horrible one about an elderly lollipop man who was hit by a car while working.

Imagining them as films, they’re all up there with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in terms of ‘things I wouldn’t pay money to see again’. Which is sometimes what turns a film from ‘interesting’ to ‘brilliant’ (hello again 12 Years) because sometimes we need fiction to teach us about reality.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' from static.tvtropes.org
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from static.tvtropes.org

On the other hand, we have the funny stories. Gordon Brown calling that woman a bigot. The time a woman put a cat in a bin. That Japanese toilet system that got hacked and started spewing out sewage. These might be more GIF material… I sort of want a musical about the toilet system though. Then there are the utterly brilliant and heart-warming stories, like Canada letting a child have three parents or Endal the dog who could get his owner’s cash out of machines for him. (I’m looking at you, Fred. Fred thinks that human objects are designed to be chewed; as far as I’m aware he’s never eaten our cash but he did nick an entire kebab the other day and got it clean off the skewer leaving only an unsavoury tomato. Part of me wants to reward his tenacity.)

But thinking about it, how many happy news stories get dramatised? No one wants to see The Day the Bus Driver Let Children Board for Free or Supermarkets: Assistants Are Lovely. We want Honey, I Think the Kid’s Self Harming and Kiddiefiddlers Unlocked Part 87.

Then there are the gross stories that are just made for bad adverts. You know those parent blogs where people live post their labour? Yeah. They’d be those adverts at the cinema that never, ever seem to end.

Ew.

Right, current events that should be turned into films: go!