Sunday, 19 April 2009

Diana Watch

“I was handcuffed to a dwarf……………….., in leather shorts”.

“So… I have a demon?”, “No madam, you have oedema.”

It seems that for the second time I have been setting the news agenda. On the 28th of February last year I wrote a little blog (on Myspace) about the post office leaving a nice little present for me in the form of little red elastic bands on my door step. This week I have heard this story on 3 separate BBC news programs. I say news programs; one of them was BBC Breakfast so that doesn’t really count. It’s nice to know you matter.

At the end of last week 114 environmental were arrested at a primary school for allegedly planning to break in to a PowerStation in order to cause some disruption. It was claimed that they had “specialist equipment” by which they meant bolt cutters. The coverage on the 24hr news channels and on news websites was wall to wall. News vans and camera men camped outside the school despite the fact that no one was there anymore. Endless speculation about what they were planning and how they might have achieved this.
However they were all released without any charges. Try hearing that on the news. I had to search on the BBC website for this information. I know that this is less dramatic in televisual terms, less police vans, but it is important news. People being arrested on the suspicion that they might commit some criminal damage. A police spokesperson said that no one has the right to commit criminal damage but I feel that he needs some correction. Last year when another group of campaigners broke into a different power station and climb one of the chimneys in order to paint the word “Gordon” on it they were arrested. However, when their case was heard by a nice judge they were acquitted because he felt that their actions were justified in the face of global climate change and the power stations carbon emissions. Now, British law is set by precedent so if you are justified, a decision that can only be made by a judge, you can cause criminal damage to help make your point.

There have been a remarkable amount of surveys realised this week. Most surveys that make it into the news really aren’t proper surveys and they don’t really tell us anything interesting as they are mostly used for advertising. For instance a survey this week talked about music that people are choosing for funerals. Whilst we can chuckle at someone choosing “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC or “Disco Inferno” for a cremation (father in law had Jethro Tull and Leonard Cohen) it was really an advert for or to raise awareness of Co-operative funeral services. PR companies play an important role in what gets onto our news programs and into our papers. Surveys and science papers are pimped and sexed up in order to get them some coverage.
We have also leant that your average 30 year woman spends £240 per month on “looking good”, beauty products and getting a hair cut etc. This sort of money is the reason that we have so many meaningless beauty products adverts on the television of an evening. Total meaningless language is employed to sell you stuff in order to correct problems that you didn’t know you had but have just been told you had by some meaningless ad speak.
The no-shit-Sherlock survey of the week was one that stated that Britons are more “fearful” than they used to be. We have increased levels of anxiety and fear. No, really? Why do you think that might be? Do you think it might be because this item, when it was on the news, was sandwiched between police beatings at the G20 protests and tails of possible terrorism that never seems to occur?
Is it any wonder that people are a little more scared, we are constantly told that we should be scared. About everything. All the time. Under the Bush administration there would be a press conference, every so often, in which a man, who wouldn’t answer any questions, would wonder out and tell us that the terrorism threat level was being raised for a reason that he wouldn’t tell us. Fear has dominated politics since the end of the second world war/beginning of the cold war. Governments, with the collaboration of the press, have been trying to keep us in line by scaring us for a long time and now we wonder why people have raised levels of anxiety. Constantly being advertised at, you need these things in your life otherwise your life is worthless. You should be working longer hours so you can afford these things you don’t really need but are told that you want. Poor science reporting that tells you that everything will either give you cancer or cure your cancer, until next week when all the sides will change. Immunisations will give your child autism, despite there being no science to back this up. Has you child not reached these preset goals yet? Oh dear, maybe you should start to worry about them. Do you have money in a bank or a mortgage? Oh dear then your life is ruined. Is it any wonder we are anxious. I’ve had palpitations just typing this.

Dorset is about to turn yellow. The colour I mean not that there will be an epidemic of cowardice. It is spring and so the Oilseed Rape is about to flower. It is the most yellow flower you have ever seen and we grow acres and acres of it. If fact it is the 4th most cultivated plant in the country. The thing is it’s not really a food crop. It makes vegetable oil and this oil is used in the production of processed food but most of its uses are industrial. It is used as a biofuel, despite the fact that biofuels are rubbish and use up valuable food producing land and hydrogen fuel cells are the way forward, lubricants, surface coatings, cosmetics and plastics. All that land being used for things that don’t help that much. That is my point here, use land for growing food. There is a food shortage in some parts of the world, exacerbated by our pointless demand for biofuels, and we are growing things we can’t eat.

Now, after Countryfile there let’s do some awards,

Award for Most Literal Metaphor of the Week,

This goes to the advert for the Gillette Quattro for Ladies. The advert involves various ladies wondering past some standard plants or bushes and as they wonder past these BUSHES, the BUSHES change shape. They become slightly neater. Trimmed if you will. Do you see what they’ve done there? A trimmed bush metaphor. See, trimmed bush. Subtle I thought.

Award for Unsurprising Event of the Week.

The nurse who filmed her patients being “abused” and “neglected” for the BBC Panorama has been struck off the nursing register by the NMC for breaking patient confidentiality. You see she filmed them without getting permission first and that is the issue here. She filmed their faces as well and I can assure you that this is a no-no. When I was filming a drug round to show how inefficient the whole process can be, to be reviewed by nurses who worked on that ward, I was advised to avoid filming faces for this reason. Whilst permission was obtained before broadcast of this program it mostly came from the families of the patients, not the patients themselves because it was felt that some were unable to give informed consent. Now this is a whole other debate, informed consent is a very complicated subject. Personally I think that instead of filming the “abuse” and “neglect” it might have been an idea if she had done some work and sorted these patients out. A little simplistic maybe but a reasonable point I think. If you are the staff nurse looking after a group of patients, you are responsible for those patients care, no one else. You are accountable for your actions.
I have some sympathy for her point that there is a certain lack of caring within nursing staff and I have a little pet theory for why this might be amongst staff nurses. Do you want to hear it? Ok, I’m not going to wait for each of you to get back to me individually so I’ll tell you anyway. The reason is pay. The reason is the increase in nurses pay. It used to be that you only went into nursing because you wanted to look after people. It certainly wasn’t for the money. In the last 15 years, however, being a staff nurse has become quite well paid. The national average wage is roughly £25000; a newly qualified nurse can now get a starting wage of £24000. It is now a job that pays well. You are now not motivated by altruistic desire; there is now serious fiscal reward. It’s just a theory that most people will disagree with but consider it, that’s all I ask.

The Award for Trying To Ruining Many People’s Fun of the Week,

This goes to the Swedish authorities who have prosecuted the people responsible for the Pirate Bay file sharing website. I hadn’t heard of this website but the advertising for them has been excellent. The website is still up and running because the 4 gentleman are going to appeal their 1 year sentences. So in order to try and stop illegal downloading from file sharing sites, record companies have in fact done the opposite. They have created endless hours of free advertising for a website that not that many people had heard of, whilst not actually getting the website taken down. I think that went very well then. I’ve not used a file sharing site but I am now thinking about it. First the problem was bootlegging (a good documentary on radio4 last night about it) and then home taping was killing music. If you read the copyright agreement on the back of your CD it seems that you are not legally allowed to lend it to a friend. I believe that it is technically illegal to upload tunes to your Ipod (other mp3 players are available but they are not as good), although I think that a change in the law was suggested for that. Record companies really don’t understand the people who buy their products. They don’t like paying £12.99 for a CD in HMV that they can buy on-line for £7.99. That probably isn’t the way that illegal downloader’s justify what they do, they just want it for free. It is just much, wider spread, home taping that didn’t kill music in the end. That will be the record companies that want to shift product and not sell the records of artists.

I think that will do for now. My fingers are tired and it’s sunny outside. Hope you all have a nice week.

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