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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Blog 48. Best of BGOTR, thanks and have a great summer.

Thanks to all the BGOTR bleaders for being blog readers.

Also massive thanks to Melissa Chaplin for setting up this blog for me, powering through my resistance to IT and for Elayne Chaplin her mum for filling me with cake to keep me calm while I was dragged into the 21st century.

Thanks to Aidan and Annie for a great gig at the Chilli and for Poetry Jack and Sam Hawkins for a lovely gig at the Pride fest on Saturday to end the summer term.

BGOTR is taking a summer break but until Tuesday 3rd September here is a list of some of the most popular posts in case you want to check out the archive.

Overall highest number of hits was for Blog 20. the blaunch
Most popular in terms of comments was Blog 4. Dinosaurs Cured my Performance Angst.

Blog 10. My One Night Stand with the Ghost of Bill Farrell
Blog 17. How to make Monopoly more interesting
Blog 23. What is Love? (The philosophy of Wile E. Coyote)
Blog 39. What is the Point of Newcastle City Council?

See you the first Tuesday in September

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Blog 47 Smoking Causes Government Insanity

...and cold-blooded, calculating, short-term, profiteering, self-interest

According to news reports, the decision not to legislate on plain packaging for cigarettes is because a. there is ‘no evidence’ plain packaging discourages smoking and b. it may lose jobs.

Let’s run that past again.

Plain packaging is not to be compulsory because there is no evidence that it will discourage smoking. The concurrent argument is that jobs may be lost. But if making packaging less attractive doesn’t reduce smoking then jobs will not be lost so basically the government are talking bare faced contradictory shite. If a. is true, b. becomes an obsolete argument and vice versa.

You can’t have it both ways.

That’s like saying you won’t reduce the speed limit on roads in built-up areas because there is no evidence that slower driving leads to fewer fatalities but also because if you reduce the speed limit some funeral parlours may go out of business.

It’s like saying children must not be encouraged to brush their teeth because there is no evidence it reduces decay but also dentists need the money.

It’s like saying grass is pink and we’re not listening la la la la we’re bonkers and we don’t care anyway.

It is one of the most depressing cynical announcements of recent times. (Yes I know I say that often but each cynical new announcement seems to trump the last one – or maybe I’m just fickle with my loyalty to the cynicalness of announcements and any new cynical announcement that comes along just catches my eye!!!)

Clearly the result is fuelled by the tobacco lobby and vested interest. When have the Tories ever worried about whether government decisions lead to job losses? And here they are dealing with an industry that is relying right now on getting the next generation of young people addicted in order to protect profits.

It is heartless on a level that makes leaving a toddler staggering round the fast lane of the M6 look caring.

If, as I have, you’ve watched a loved one struggling for their last gasps attached to oxygen, grey before the last breath has left their body having lived with the debilitating, life disfiguring horror of cigarette addiction from early youth, this decision is punch in the face.

In despair I watch kids, some young enough to be my grandchildren, sucking away on those white sticks as if their lives depend on it. In fact it is the profits of the tobacco firms and their share-holders that rely on their highly likely miserable, premature deaths.

A simple trick is to do the common-sense-test and turn the question around. If pretty packaging had no effect, would the cigarette manufacturers bother with the extra cost of it? The half answer to this is that it is a ruse to tempt smokers from one brand to another. But even that is a tacit admission that all that design work and gold and blue and red DOES attract people. If you accept that, how far are you from being able to determine if it encourages people to smoke in the first place? Too close to call in my view.

Then take the issue back to its roots (literally). Tobacco – which kills people – is being grown on land that could be helping to feed the world. Is that an issue we can ignore?

It is estimated that half of those who take up smoking will die prematurely from related illness. No other product would even be allowed on the market with that level of mortality rating let alone in ‘come get me’ wrapping.

We don’t send children up chimneys any more. We don’t send pregnant women down mines. We don’t hang people for stealing bread (or worse, send them to Australia) isn’t it time to protect young people from the cigarette industry?


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Blog 46 Deadly Sin no. 8?

Much as I felt a nudge to write something about the latest evidence of E. Milliband’s own special brand of being a prize twit – each time I typed his name, I felt myself drifting off and slumping over the keyboard – so instead – here is a suggestion for an 8th Deadly Sin.

Many and varied modern activities presented themselves for examination, nomination, short listing and prize giving in my theoretical 8th Deadly Sin award scheme. It was an exhausting process of elimination. It became obvious that many modern and seemingly new sins could be shoe-horned into the existing 7. A startling number just begged to be shovelled into the gaping hole marked Greed, which I think of as a subcategory of Gluttony allied with Avarice, Acquisitiveness and Materialism.

What marked this particular chosen activity out as a contender (to rival Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy) was not so much that it created a new category but that it seemed to combine more than half of the headline sins. Certainly Pride is involved but also Covetousness, Gluttony and Sloth. I could see no evidence of Lechery but if I could have identified Anger and Envy there might have been an opportunity for a memorable acronym.

The nomination goes to the use of bio-fuel. Broadly speaking this means taking stuff that hungry poor people could eat and making motor fuel to power our overused vehicles.

I’m not going to dish out a whole Parson’s Tale deal here on the Seven Deadly Sins. Who would dare tread on Chaucer’s toes in that way? Suffice to say, if there had been such an abomination in Chaucer’s day, the use of bio-fuel may well have got the medieval personification treatment and warranted its own tale.

The idea that we have the right to do this fulfils the requirements of the definition of Pride so we’ll put that one to the side. Let us move to Covetousness, which is at the heart of global exploitation. The Haves are not content to use their own resources but turn beady eyes on the rich assets of the Have-nots in countries too poor or under-resourced to defend, develop and use them for their own people. Let’s face it, the G8 countries would be very different places if they weren’t permanently operating with their hands in other countries’ cookie jars, slapping away the malnourished hands of indigenous populations.

At this level, Greed, as over-consumption, takes on a whole new aspect. Greed or Global Gluttony is killing them by deprivation and us in the West; not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We know we have too much of everything but all our efforts are being put into making sure we can keep devouring at this devastating level. Think of that post-Christmas Dinner feeling. We are creating that effect with our general consumption every day.

Sloth in this context is more a kind of inertia. This may seem contradictory but imagine an obese guy at a table stuffing himself with fat burgers and he doesn’t stop – not because he can’t but because he can’t be bothered. A subtle distinction but that is where we are at. The effort of changing our behaviour seems greater to us than continuing with the deadly pursuit of over-consumption.

I’ve often wondered why dishonesty was not an original Deadly Sin (not to be confused with Original Sin – boy this could get complicated) but maybe it just goes without saying. Like it goes without saying – literally – that we cannot carry on the way we are. No one says it. (Yes – I know dishonesty is in the Ten Commandments but we’re on sins here not commandments so get off my case.)

It is somehow easier to promote the lie that we can ‘science’ our way out of the current mess. ‘Discovering’ new forms of exploitable energy is euphemism for saying we intend to carry on using at our current rate rather than bite that particular bullet, the ‘we-have-to-change’ bullet.

In the world we live in, how mad is using food for fuel?

Tomorrow, try denying your own family food for just one whole day and tell them it’s because it’s going in the petrol tank...


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Blog 45 T.B. gave me a headache!

It must have been the effect of the juxtaposition of complete twaddle and total load of old bollocks that did it – gave me the headache.

D.E.F.R.A have been selling T.B.-infected beef for human consumption because a. it’s almost-completely-safe and b. it’s profitable. At the same time, it has been using the argument that T.B.-infected cattle are a health risk to humans as a reason for badger culling. And they don’t seem to think this is problematic. That was the news item that kicked off this week. It’s a wonder I make it to my Tuesday blog without going up in a puff of smoke.

Surely this comes in the same category as – ‘We must do something about the welfare budget’ – hence cuts to the incomes of the most vulnerable in our society, put next to the other new news that M.P.s (who’ve done so much for us of late – pointless, illegal wars, global financial meltdown, Michael Gove) must have a 10% pay increase. There is ‘nothing’ David Cameron can do about it apparently. Pay increases for M.Ps must be like the weather. His hands are tied. He is powerless against this juggernaut of pigswill.  There is no way out of this unfortunate impasse. OMG.

What else could we throw together like nuclear particles of fatuousness that would explode in a Hiroshima of utter shite?

The Olympics v poor quality sports provision in state schools and stolen playing fields.

Posturing about human rights abuses in other countries v colluding with America to abuse the human rights of our private citizens – Prism.

Posturing about human rights abuses in other countries v secret police squads set up to spy on lefty organisations and the victims of crime.

Public spending on palaces v spare room tax for the poor.

Maybe as a poet it is my artistic duty to welcome the opportunity to contract T.B. Perhaps I should live in an attic in the nineteenth century also and write with a quill pen. But then I think I also need to be a white bloke called Keats.

But let’s get back to badgers. If it’s all fine and dandy and ok to feed to the peasants (oh yes – did I forget to mention – beef from the infected carcases is not being sold to Claridges) why are we culling badgers? The meat from infected carcases is apparently OK for school and hospital canteens so what’s with the whole badger thing???

Oh my head!