Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shouldn't you be dead before you can recieve an obituary? It seems not.

This week has marked a further sign of how low the tabloid news and glossy magazine industry will sink. I am of course talking about the release of the OK! ‘Jade Goody Tribute edition’, which comes complete with a photo-history of the stupid tart, a massive heading of “in Loving Memory” and Jade’s ‘final’ final interview. I’m almost certain she did her final interview a couple of weeks ago, but then memory seems to be short in the world of the tabloid media.

Now some of you may think that an entire tribute dedicated to the dubious character that is Goody is debatable in itself, or that she is an important figure-head for Cancer (All I can say is I think I know what Cancer is thank you very much, don’t bloody patronise me) and should have one, although I’m going to steer well clear of that discussion.

The issue was launched on Tuesday and was publicised on the TV and in the press. Naturally a tribute edition, launched when the person being tributed is still alive, albeit only just (allegedly), is in bad taste and has been complained about as a result. Jade is (at time of writing) still alive at this very moment, and has been hanging on for about a week since it was reported “she had hours to live”. Now to me hours implies less than a day, although it now looks like that this was just PR spin, probably by everyone’s favourite slimy PR cunt (and Goody’s agent) Max Clifford to sell even more stories about the ailing celeb.

The fact that the media are actively dragging the story, and even adding tragedy which is often reserved only for a soap opera to this tale of a morally bankrupt media is even more chilling. Indeed it seems that soap scripts have been adapted for the real world and for the average glossy reader, although, what we are witnessing is real life, and as will probably happen, real death.

I’m sure Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond (owner of OK! And other lamentable British rags like the Daily Express) is quite happy with the whole thing though. He has probably made a fortune on the controversy alone and only has to tangle with the PCC, which is about as fearsome as a toothless panda cub. In other words he’s going to get off scot free.

At the moment all we are seeing is a process, which I know from my own personal loss is a painful and tragic experience for any family, being contrived into a rather dark media blitz. Even sadder is that it almost managed to overshadow the more tragic and actual death of a real celebrity; that is the untimely death of Natasha Richardson; wife of Liam Neeson. This was a heartbreaking tale, and Richardson probably is a more fitting candidate for a tribute edition, well, of anything. Considering of course that she is actually dead, which is when people traditionally honour the memory of a person.

So what we have seen instead is an attempt by the tacky end of the media to milk Goody dry, while they still can. After all, as I’ve written before Goody is still alive and could be for another week or two. That’s just enough time for OK! to release another and this time real ‘Tribute’ edition and naturally cash in on the proceeds of that too.

I feel it is sad but apt that Goody has only proven her critics right, that she is a media whore of the highest category and has literally sold herself to fame. Not to mention this also shows the lengths that members of the Press and PR media will sink to for a few pounds more. After this last week I have absolutely no doubts about either of these things.

Also for your Perusal is this little issue that Father Ted writer Graham Linehan has been looking at which also involves tabloid skulduggery from Desmond.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stupid or Not?

I had the rare honour yesterday of attending a preview screening to an upcoming film, in which the director was also present. The film in question was The Age of Stupid, a docudrama about climate change. The films approach is quite unconventional, as it partly set in the speculative (based on current scientific theory) dystopian future of 2055, where the earth has suffered run away climate change, and partly in the present era. This is all weaved together by Pete Postlethwaite (Brassed Off, Romeo and Juliet, The Usual Suspects) who plays ‘the archivist’, a man who trawls through news, and film footage of the past to try and demonstrate how we knowingly destroyed ourselves and our planet.

The present day footage all centres upon current disasters, changes in the planet’s usual patterns and some of the human rights injustices committed in the name of the oil industry. There are six people all interlinked by the archivist, and each tells their own story in different episodic chapters. For instance one film follows a young girl in Nigeria, which is one of the most oil rich nations in Africa. She dreams of being a doctor to help people who have suffered from pollution from nearby oil drilling, and those who suffer the effects of extreme poverty. It was quite shocking to see how an area so rich in natural resources has been plundered and exploited, when really the local community should be vastly rich.

Another story focuses on a man from Cornwall who works in the business of wind farm construction, and how his plans to build a new wind farm in Bedford, which could power tens of thousands of homes is thwarted by middle England activists. The activists in questions are all very well spoken, well to do types, who are trying to prevent the construction of what they see as an eyesore.

Throughout this the archavist muses upon how we saw it all coming and how could we not have done something to stop what we knew would happen.

I have to admit this film is a gripping and thought provoking flick, which considering its tiny budget has been very well put together. I even found myself thinking about how I could reduce my carbon emissions during the screening, and I am not what you would consider as a wasteful person. But however, the point is that we really need to sit up and do something. It’s not beyond us, and we shouldn’t continue to bury our heads in the sand about the matter.

After the screening was a Q&A session with Frannie Armstrong (McLibel 2005), the director and Jane Davidson a Welsh Assembly minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing. This was like an awkward version of question time, and I have to say some very intellectual questions were asked, as well as something’s that were meant to be questions but turned out as elongated statements. The presence of some very impassioned audience members also made the situation quite suspenseful however anarchy didn’t erupt thankfully. I was not very impressed with Davidson who answered her questions in a fairly obtuse “look how much me and my department are doing” kind of way which didn’t necessarily address the question asked. But then again should we expect much else from a politician.

I’d like to end by appealing for you to sign up for the Not Stupid action campaign, which is associated with this film. It is basically a pressure campaign for the Copenhagen climate summit. The summit which will see the signing of a new agreement for countries to cut down on carbon emissions (a bit like the Kyoto agreement). It can’t hurt to see what’s going on after all. I know the portrayal in the film is the worst case scenario, although it’s a scenario I’d rather not experience all the same. Besides sustainable energy sources are long overdue, and we should wean ourselves off fossil fuels, which are dirty and outdated. Also try and see the film if you can. It's really interesting and well worth a look.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Evil to go

I wish today to talk about an evil. It’s not a conventional evil such as terrorism or paedophilia, or anything else the red top tabloids whip up panic about normally. No in fact it is one man, well whether he can be called a man or not is up for debate. I am of course talking about Ronald “Big Mac” McDonald, the McDonald’s corporation’s symbol of terror and authority.

Now while it might be true that he looks innocent enough, after all he is a clown and seems too much of a fool to be any threat, but remember the devil is able to take many forms. Why have rants about Ronald McDonald you may ask? Well I’ve been studying this crafty character for a couple of weeks now, and have managed to build a damning case against him from his portrayals in adverts.

First of all he is guilty of stealing children from their homes, and seemingly luring them to his headquarters (McDonalds naturally). What will he do with them when he’s got them there? Well I’m sure it doesn’t take a huge guess as it’s probable that he fattens them up, while getting them to spend all their pocket money on his paltry produce. Don’t believe me? Well an ad from the late 80s, shows Ronald turning up outside a child’s home, in his tumbledown car and carts the kids off to McDonalds for a slap up feast of fun and saturated fats, with the slogan “Ronald McDonald has time for you”. I should also add there are no parents around in this ad, and I’m dubious as to why the kids decide to get into a stranger’s car. Notice how the adve… I mean propaganda encourages them to see Ronald as a surrogate father figure. The slogan “Ronald McDonald has time for you” seems to imply that kids if neglected by their parents should simply turn to him instead. In short, it looks as if he’s turning our kids against us, the fiend!

However, there’s more and it goes beyond just the kids, and lord knows I wish it stopped at them. Another ad shows a group of anthropomorphic Chicken McNuggets, playing Ronald at basketball. Well sort of. In fact Ronald has made a game of this, as he’s challenged the live McNuggets into seeing if they can dunk themselves in sauce (and thusly preparing themselves for eating, and I have no doubts that they know their fate) and then obligingly offer themselves up, so they can put a smile on some demanding fat child’s face. As this ad shows, Ronald has enslaved an entire species (namely the McNuggets) and brainwashed them into willingly sacrificing themselves for our consumption. And all with a smile on their crinkly bread-crumbed faces. Ronald it would seem is also guilty of genocide (notice my PETA like semantics here).

I for one am slightly suspicious of food which is enthusiastic about jumping into my mouth. I mean if I was to hunt, kill and eat something, which put up a bit of a fight at least I’d have some respect for it. But with this there’s no integrity, and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Ronald had spun some lies about them being awarded 70 virgins in heaven (that is assuming that McNuggets reproduce sexually). I generally prefer my food not to talk back too.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Elect This!

I don’t know about anyone else but I am sick to death of the Student Union elections.

These two dark weeks (which is ironic as they occur at a time of year when the weather is more favourable) are marred by a rag tag collection of fools who hover about Park Place, screeching their cries, and forcing leaflets into your hand. It is a daily chore to pass these loud and annoying creatures, but it is not the end yet, oh no. You normally arrive at a lecture and you find they have followed you in. That’s right, just as you thought you were free (until you pass park place again) they pipe up with their shite slogans and surprise you with their complete lack of political material.

I wouldn’t mind these pests so much if they maybe had some compelling or novel policies behind their campaign slogan, but that is often too much to ask. Instead we are fed the idea that we should vote for someone because they are dressed as giant cat (get it, her first name is Cat so she has themed her campaign on our feline friends, what an imaginative and hilarious individual). Either that or they’ll use some other vague pop-culture reference, like dressing up as some character from Coronation Street who shares the surname of the candidate. After all they might see the need to lower themselves down to the level of us simpletons.

The worst case scenario is that you end up with a hopeless gimmick as your SU President, as happened at York University when they elected a pirate as president (even then at least he was committed to something, although whether “Talk like a pirate day” is important to York students or not remains to be seen). Maybe it would be a better idea if campaigners dressed up as giant arses, as it would be a better reflection of the shit some of them speak.

I feel a more satisfying way to deal with student elections would be to keep the campaigning as it is but change the voting system, so that each candidate is put in a set of pillories for two days and the one who is least disliked (i.e. has had the least rotten fruit thrown at them) wins. Let’s be honest the only winner is democracy itself.

I realise of course that people may call me a cynic for writing about this matter as such, claiming that despite the trivialisation of the whole event, the student union election is an important process. I have no doubts that it is, but I have spent three years here at Cardiff Uni now where each time we have voted for a new sabbaticals etc, despite their enthusiasm, they have changed little. I have seen few improvements in the running of the union to be fair; therefore I think I have earned the right to be a bit cynical.