Procrastinator Extraordinaire

Twignity

“Twignity” is not something that I’ve just made up, I’m no neologist. It is simply a word blend of “Twitter” and “dignity” and I think it’s a great word to describe current happenings throughout the whole social network spectrum.

This idea is a fairly current one for me, because seemingly people seem to be losing their twignity all over the place. Whether it’s a tweet from an ordinarily serious lecturer that says: “Inn thej pubb, seoooo wanjkerefd” (true story), or a Facebook status update from a friend that says: “Off to Tesco to buy lettuce for my new salad diet”.

I’ve never been one to pander to the demands of social networks. By this I mean – when Facebook asks me every minute “what’s on your mind” I generally don’t tell it. However some people seem to see this an an open invite to spill their guts, and every detail of their personal life to a list of 1600 ‘friends’ who they barely even know and probably haven’t even met.

This has always confused me. Why on earth would you tell everybody about every waking thought that’s in your head? I’m not talking here about the people (like me, I hope) that post a status one or two times a week that’s usually something funny, or an inquiry, or an announcement. I’m talking about the people that update their status incessantly. The kind of posts that I’m talking about are the ones that are cryptic, and are just begging for attention from people asking “what’s wrong”. And then, what angers me even more, is that the common response from the status-ee is “Oh nothing, don’t worry about it” – Well don’t fling it out into the public domain for people to worry about it then!

I think that status updates and tweets of this nature are doing to friendship groups what violence in films has done to society – desensitising. Surely if someone is constantly yo-yoing from positive to negative posts throughout the day because of the slightest dip like their phone not working or a boost like it being sunny (i.e trivial things) then when something genuinely tragic or amazing happens to them, the people who are meant to be there to support or celebrate, won’t be.

Luke, sees people loosing their social networking dignity as something that is paralleled by bad spelling, grammar and apparent lack of self respect: “The lack of education they show in a developed country with a great schooling system annoys me. The omission of simple spelling and grammar gives a bad representation of the person and all social networks.”

I do agree with him on this. The combination of the nonsensical tweets and status update mixed with the bad spelling and grammar are the things that really grate on me. Everyone who has English as their first language in this country has no excuse for not being able to use that lingo properly. People say that it’s about being individual and standing out from the crowd, but that’s equally as nonsensical because so many people are doing it!

The “individualised” and shortened words that make me laugh the most are the ones that end up having more letters than the original. The other day I think that someone said “maiytee” for “mate”. Just horrific.

I think the real problem for me is that in my opinion Twitter is a professional means of contacting people. It seems almost like a public portfolio that will be looked at by future employers. This doesn’t mean that the stuff that is posted on there is fabricated to form a version of me that I think would be appealing to employers – it just means that the tweets are meant for public consumption by people that don’t know me. My private Facebook is treated differently; but people still see that as a portfolio of their life to show off to everyone else.

(Originally posted on The Pedants on 7th Feb 2012)

In the eye of the beholder

You can sit in any populated area around the world and see beautiful women, I’m sure of it. Regardless of colour, regardless of creed, and most definitely regardless of weight.

In my eyes, something has happened in the last decade that has made people, women mostly, question every single thing about their bodies. Maybe it hasn’t been the last 10 years, maybe that’s just the only time that I’ve been aware of it.

Everywhere you look now, there’s something unachievable to compare yourself too. No one even thought to explain that we’re not all the same. You can have a 5’5″ woman with bodies issues because she can’t make herself look like the 5’10”, skinny, technologically enhanced model that’s staring at her every time she picks up a magazine. The model has sat in a make up chair for 3 hours whilst artists and stylists buzz around her trying to make her perfect, and the 5’5″ perfectly proportioned woman tries her best to become something that is totally wrong for her – because she believes that it’s how you become happy.

Last week, Eva Wiseman wrote about how more and more women’s clothes stores have been ordering “plus sized” mannequins for their shop floor’s. In these terms, “plus size” equals size TWELVE and above. (For all the men who might possibly be reading, a size twelve woman looks like this.)

In my mind, striving to be a size zero is something that has come and gone from the media and from society since it’s creation and outing onto the fashion scene a few years back. So how is it that a size that represents healthy, normal women all over the country is regarded with such disdain by anyone in *that* industry? This opinion still trickles down into mainstream culture, too.

Why is it that “beauty” gets to be decided in this way by a notoriously arrogant fashion community? And why do they get the say on what beauty should be? – All of the problems stem from here. If I was in charge, I would revoke their rights. All they’ve done so far is create a wide generation of boys and girls, men and women, who are unable to see their own allure. Even post-size zero, not enough responsibly has been taken to tackle the explosion of dimorphic ambition that was produced.

“Everyone can look lovely. It’s what’s in your head that counts – your outlook,” 83 year old silver haired model Daphne Selfe told The Guardian this week. The article called “Meet the models breaking the mould” showed a range of a-typical models – from plus sized to black – who have managed to break into the modelling industry, even though they’re not the usual editors choices. Why are they even a-typical, who was it that decided that if you’re not white, skinny and tall with shiny hair and gappy teeth then you’re not worth anything?

What are the rest of us average, non model types meant to do in the meantime? Twiddle our thumbs whilst looking at the “beautiful people” on the internet and *sighing* with acceptance? I don’t think so.

The whole point of this post is for me to ask a question of you, because it doesn’t make sense in my own mind: How did we get to this place where beauty is defined by categories and parameters that such a limited amount of people fit in to?

(Originally posted on The Pedants on 6th March 2012)

My country’s government (part 2)

Aside from the many obvious problems with our government, I’d like to bring too the floor one more: the lack of people to admire.

Never has a child at a school in Britain uttered the words: “I want to be like David Cameron when I grow up, daddy,” but I have a creeping suspicion that many-an-American-child has at one point aspired to be the next Barack Obama. It’s about the men themselves, but it’s also about how they portray the job that they are doing. It’s about how Obama can appear on prime-time comedy TV as himself and get away with it – making people like him even more, but if Cameron was to be a guest on any talk show over here then he would be laughed at and we’d all be sat with our head’s in our hand’s feeling ashamed. Obama trends, Cameron couldn’t if he tried.

The power of these men is overwhelming, yet Cameron doesn’t seem to understand that his rescue mission for the country and tirade of blaming the previous owner is gaining him no followers. There seems to be no understanding in the government that cultural ‘sweet spots’ are not enough. If you want inspire people to improve their situations and fulfil their potential, then give them something to aspire to. Be a winner. Be a leader. It won’t change every person’s outlook but it’s worth a hell of a try for the people lives that it will change.

It’s even worse for women in politics, in most countries. The character of Ainsley Hayes in the West Wing says it best:

“A new amendment we vote on declaring that I am equal under the law to a man, I am mortified to discover there’s reason to believe I wasn’t before. I am a citizen of this country, I am not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old, white, men. The same Article 14 that protects you, protects me, and I went to law school just to make sure.”

I loved that speech every since I first saw the episode where she said it. It not only highlights a problem that remains, but also made me realise that she may be a bit of a role model to me. If you’ve ever watched the West Wing (if you haven’t -do!), then you’ll know that Hayes is a southern Republican lawyer based at the White House. Now, I’m pretty sure that if it mattered then I wouldn’t be a republican, but the piece of her character that I aspire to be is the incredibly smart, logical and feminist slice. Tell me who in the British government is like that? Tell me where all the women are.

I don’t think that having a favourite President is a unusual thing in American. Shamefully even I can name more American Presidents than I can British Prime Ministers.

Our government, and even our prospective governments from other parties are uninspiring. It seems that in order to get to be the Prime Minsister you have to have gone to OxBridge, and to get in to OxBridge, you have to have gone to a public school. The DNA of our Cabinate has been forever plucked from the affluent and the privileged list of families that run in circles that get documented in Tatler magazine.

The country needs to up it’s game and let meritocracy be the deciding factor, not where you were born.

(Originally posted on The Pedants on 15th May 2012)

My country’s government (part 1)

This idea that I should be proud of my country.

My country who’s boss is barely qualified to run a race and hires people like Michael fucking Gove to be education secretary when he has never tried to teach anyone anything. The idea for the UK to incorporate O-Levels as well as GCSE‘s was a gem. I mean, like I didn’t feel insignificant and invisible enough to teachers at school – just because I didn’t fuck about all the time – so now I have to overachieve in order to take the exams that are the only ones that will get me anywhere in life? Gove, did you go to a comprehensive secondary school? I did. Were you one of the good, vaguely clever kids that got no encouragement because the teachers were too busy punishing the students who were stuck in a cycle of self-fulfilment because they were put in the lower sets after exams that didn’t represent real life at all? I doubt it, Michael.

Cameron, you had the opportunity. What happened last week? Were you blinded by the gold medals? Was your jealously of popular Boris clouding your judgement? Why did you keep that arse in the Cabinet?

I know what it was. It was all your Eton buddies calling and messaging, metaphorically poking you and nudging at you with their elbows. I bet that the MP for my Dad’s area of Dorset was one of them. He’s called Mr. Richard Drax. He lives in a mansion which has deer statues over the arches of the entrances to it’s land. One of the deer has 5 legs because Draxy dearest couldn’t see four when he flung opened his bedroom curtains of a morning. True story.

Tory nob’ed.

I am proud to be British for so many reasons. Not this one.

Gumption trap

Have come to the conclusion that in order to get the life that I dream about so frequently (cool bohemian flat, excellent writing job, dog etc) then I need to complete this simple 2,000 word essay entitled: “Research suggests that women and members of ethnic minorities are relatively under- represented in journalism. Why might this be? What effect, if any, does it have on our understanding of what constitutes “news”? Illustrate your answer with reference to current news sources.”

I have even already completed a presentation of this essay question, yet starting to write it seems harder than writing my CV, which was hard because I’m not an ‘anybody’.

I’m in a gumption trap.

Any tips?

PIP implants and the MHRA

Courtesy of Medzooma.com

With breast enhancement figures rising year upon year and the story of cosmetic surgery never being far from the front of people’s media minds, who would have thought that as many as 47,000 women would be given potentially dangerous implants that were left unchecked for years by British regulators?

In late 2011, a frightening and implausible revelation started to leak onto the spectrum of the British media. A woman in France had died from anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, a cancer that was thought to be caused by a ruptured breast implant. This caused an investigation and it was soon revealed that thousands of women from the UK and all around Europe could potentially be affected.

The implants in question were made by Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), a French company who begun to manufacture them in 1991 and who’s inevitable fate was liquidation by the end of last year. When founded, the company was like any other trying to get off the ground; reliable, safe and stringent with regulations. However, evidence suggests that the founder, Jean-Claude Mas, saw how lucrative it would be to use cheaper non-medical grade silicone to mix with the proper silicone to create the implants, so he adapted his company and threatened his staff into using unsafe ingredients. It was also revealed that PIP were decreasing the amount of ‘dips’ that were used when making the implant to save on the silicone. This meant that the shells of the implants were thinner, more permeable and highly prone to rupture and bleeding.

This came after the PIP implants received a CE (European conformity) mark for their silicone gel breast implants in 2000 via the German Notified Body TUV Rheinland.

According to Adrian Richards, surgical director and a plastic surgeon for Aurora, a private plastic surgery group, the implants that were produced by PIP don’t respond in the way that is typical for breast enlargement patients: “I’ve never, ever seen any other implant other than PIPs rupture in this way. 90% of the ones I remove have a lot of gel bleed, so only one in ten of the women with PIPs that I operate on is okay.”

In the UK these implants, and any other medical technology, were regulated and approved for the market by the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). However, there is no evidence that there was ever any follow up checks for the PIP implants, meaning that Mas, and his faulty products, were allowed free reign on the global cosmetic surgery market. Even when complaints of unusual side effects were submitted to the MHRA in 2006 there was not any attention brought to the situation. The regulation agency stand by their view that they were a secondary regulator (bested by European testers), refused to take any responsibly and wouldn’t comment.

For women like Emma Sutton and Chelsea Anderson, however, this response was not enough. Both women have PIP implants; Sutton recieved hers in 2009, and Anderson in 2007 – both within the prime range of 2005 and 2009 when the implants are thought to be the most dangerous. These women, like many other patients that received their implants in the UK, feel let down by the ability of regulators that they thought were there to protect them. “I just took it for granted,” said Sutton, who has suspected ruptured implants “I expected to be looked after to the highest standard because I was paying so much for my treatment. You don’t expect to get any sort of unapproved medical care in the UK.”

“My care was second-to-none, even when I was in critical condition because of a ruptured implant I couldn’t have been any happier with the way that I was looked after,” comments Anderson, who had emergency surgery to remove her implants after they had started to cause her extreme pain: “but I just don’t understand how the MHRA could have been so nonchalant about something that is going to be implanted into people’s bodies. How could they not care?”

Antonia Mariconda, beauty expert and author of ‘The Cosmetic Surgery Companion’ believes the MHRA had a significant number of complaints from surgeons of rupture and gel bleed caused by PIP implants even before 2006, yet chose not to act: “It was only once a French patient died due to suspected complications with her PIP implants that the MHRA chose to do anything, the ridiculous policy is that there has to be substantial complaints from all around Europe in order to get an implant banned in the EU.”

However, Mariconda somewhat agrees with the decision by the NHS not to remove and replace every potentially faulty implant in the women who have been affected. Many of whom cannot afford to get the surgery that they need from their own private clinics: “The women with a clinical need for replacement will be seen to, but these tend to be patients who had their original surgery on the NHS for reconstructive reasons. The women who originally went privately cannot expect the NHS to remove and replace their implants unless they are making them ill – the National Health Service cannot afford to help 40,000 odd women who will then become patients with them for life.”

The MHRA are meant to be the gatekeepers to the British surgery market, whether it be a hip replacement or a breast augmentation, they should be the ones who take responsibly when something goes wrong. However this time they are blaming their lack of regulation on their reliance on PIP to regulate themselves, something that cannot be allowed to happen when there is clearly a problem of profit-over-safety. With the MHRA’s refusal to comment when questioned, it’s easy to assume that they know that they’re in the wrong this time.

Walking out of class: an anger blog

I just did something that I’ve never done before: I stormed (like a grown up, not a toddler) out of a seminar at university.

We’d arrived on time for our 11.30am session with a lecturer in the news room. We went and sat down, logged on, and waited for the lecturer (I’ll call him R) to stop talking to one person in the class. I was checking the BBC website and reading about Shrien Dewani halted extradition to South Africa for the apparent murder of his wife on their honeymoon, and I was talking (obviously quietly) to my friend Nick who was sat next to me about the Panorama that was on BBC 1 last night about the same subject. All I was saying was that Panorama – balanced as they tried to be – had convinced me that the husband was probably guilty. That was it. Probably 50 words. Yet my lecturer who was still only teaching one person in the class and ignoring everyone else told me to stop talking.

  1. I am not in secondary school, I was not shouting, I was not talking across the room, I was talking about a current event that might actually be relevant to our….what was it again?… oh our JOURNALISM degree.
  2. R was talking to a fellow student who happened to be sat behind me near the back of the class, he was giving them an example of an idea that they could use for their assessment which is obviously fine, as he is the teacher. But the problem was that he expected the other 10 people sat in the class to just sit there, not making a sound. Not moving.
  3. Our session started at 11.30 and we were on time, but R was just carrying on from the session before totally oblivious to the fact that the class had changed even though he was reminded.
  4. When he told me to be quiet, this was fine. And I was. But when I asked him if we could get on with what we were meant to be doing instead of him focusing all his attention on one person (admittedly that was a bit offhand), he said no. What followed was me trying to understand why he wouldn’t teach us, why he got to change the schedule and do what he wanted when we most certainly aren’t allowed to do that.

R is a notoriously bad teacher. He doesn’t know how to teach. We may be in university and not in school by that does not mean that the whole process of explanation and help goes totally out of the window. You cannot just stand at the front of the class, run through something on some pretty complicated software and then get angry when no one is listening because you went too fast through the example and we all got lost.

I really do hate when people do the maths and say things like “We just paid £60 for that lecture and it was absolute shite,” however I could definitely say that about today. R is the most unqualified, patronising and rude lecture in a very good department. It’s so disappointing that after all the complaints by students (which I know there have been a lot) that nothing has been done about it. I bet that there is a huge amount of highly qualified video specialists who would be excellent lecturers at such a great university like mine.

So I got up and left the room calmly, just because he was being an arse and I don’t think it’s right to have to pay to be talked at by an arse. It may have been the wrong thing to do or maybe it was right, but me sitting there and stirring at his inability would have unleashed all kinds of anger from me after the 90mins session was up! Apparently he felt bad. I’d rather he changed his entire teaching practise (or left…) instead of just feeling bad about making me annoyed.

Anyone that goes to my uni and know’s the identity of R, please don’t post it on here.

Book review: ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue

Room was bought for my Kindle on Wednesday Feb 29th, and by Saturday March 3rd it was finished. It’s compulsiveness surprised me, never before have I been grabbed by such a poignant and heroic tale of strength and courage.

The book is a narration of 5-year-old Jack’s thoughts, and his view of his world, which he thinks extends no further than the 11×11 foot room that him and his ‘Ma’ are living in. Near the beginning of the book Jack is 4, but when he has a birthday everything changes. His vocal notion he is ‘grown up’ and totally different to how he was when he was 4 prompts his mother to tell him the truth about Outside, and the life that she used to have. She finds herself having to ‘unlie’ to Jack about why they are in Room.

I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone looking to read the book so here’s the official synopsis:

“To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world….

It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn.  There are endless wonders that let loose Jack’s imagination-the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells, the imaginary world projected through the TV, the coziness of Wardrobe beneath Ma’s clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night, in case Old Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it’s the prison where she’s been held since she was nineteen-for seven long years.  Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack’s curiosity is building alongside her own desperation—and she knows that Room cannot contain either indefinitely….

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience-and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.”

Emma Donoghue‘s inspiration for the book was the story of Elizabeth, the woman held captive and abused by her father, Josef Fritzl. When I found this out, before I read the book, I thought that it wouldn’t be possible to write a book that wasn’t pure heartbreak – without any hope. There are moments of this; Ma and Jack scream as loud as they can on some days – Jack thinks that it’s a game; When Jack’s asleep Ma turns Lamp on and off, in the hope that the dim light will project through the skylight and attract attention. However the story being narrated by Jack, who’s naive and thinks that everything that’s not in room is only in TV, makes it endearing and joyful.

How Emma Donoghue imagined Room to be. (Courtesy of http://www.roomthebook.com/inside/)

 

Would they miss you? I hope so…

The man in this story had been dead and undiscovered since 2007, what a hideous thing.

How can you live your life and not make enough of an impact on anyone at all for them to even inquire as to where you are after a week of you not picking up your phone?

It’s really similar to the story of Joyce Carol Vincent who died in her London flat and wasn’t discovered for 3 years. Her story has now been made in to the film “Dreams of a Life“.

It’s frightening to me how people can disappear without anyone noticing.

Courtesy of the BBC

Snowday

20120205-160745.jpg

Action shot of Nick Spearing chucking a snow ball at Ben Goold’s face.

Taken in Harrow-on-the-Hill.

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