The Daily Mail quandary

I remember being in the UK. Downing a coffee and heading out into the rain to work. Popping into the hospital newsagents in the morning and buying the paper.
I generally stuck with The Times or The Telegraph. If it was Monday, I might get The Sun for the football news. I wouldn’t touch the Daily Mail, because I didn’t want to read alarmist nonsense about house prices or the latest idiotic health-fad idea, e.g.:

How 40 winks in the afternoon can raise your risk of diabetes.
Daily Mail, 9 March

Diabetes risk ‘soars with lack of sleep’.
Daily Mail, 12 March

Quite. But now, in a sinister turn, it seems that the Daily Mail has run out of bad things to say about Britain and Britons (amazing!) and has turned it’s attention overseas. Peter Hitchens’ piece is arguably the most damning, one-sided, ignorant, pessimistic, alarmist thing I’ve ever read about this country. It’s not the most racist, obviously, because some people have the courage and honesty to at least speak openly about their views, however repugnant those views may be.

I sighed when I got to the standard disclaimer a few lines in:

I can promise you I will be accused of alarmism and pessimism for saying so, and quite possibly of ‘racism’ too.

How many times have I read that? It’s put in there because the piece is alarmist, pessimistic and ‘racist’. And when you point that out, the author can say, “Well, I knew you’d accuse me of that”. Of course, it doesn’t make those accusations any less valid.

The article is also inaccurate on many points. The “African Chernobyl” comment made me laugh – I’m about 12 miles away from Koeberg nuclear power station at the moment and I’m really not scared at all. In fact, I don’t know anyone who is, so where did he get that soundbite? 
The power blackouts indicating “a country on the slide” are long gone, as the nation pulled together to use electricity less wastefully.
The upcoming election is being overseen by the strong arm of the IEC together with international observers – it is not “crooked”.
His comments that we do not hear about crime or HIV or corruption is completely laughable. Would that we could hear about something else for a change.
And finally – that machine gun song – only the most desperate of propagandists have ever been foolish enough to take it literally.

And then on Zuma: jibes about his weight and his “charisma of an ashtray”. This from a man who has Gordon Brown as his Prime Minister.
Hitchens points out that Zuma is a polygamist as if this is unexpected and wrong. Well, yes he is. And in the Zulu culture that’s completely normal. Many from that tribe would probably look at Barack Obama and Gordon Brown and wonder why they only have one partner. This isn’t America or Britain – so why should Zuma conform to your Western norms?
And then the fawning support for (white and Western) “popular and effective mayor of Cape Town and leader of the Democratic Alliance” Helen Zille. I had to read twice and then check I wasn’t reading a DA election ad.

I caught up with her at Stellenbosch University, where she was speaking to an almost wholly white student audience, switching easily from English to Afrikaans. Unlike Zuma, she is a witty, fluent orator. She does not break into song, and critics joke that if she did it would be ‘Bring me my cappuccino’ rather than ‘Bring me my machine gun’.
Her aides, however, point out that she also speaks fluent Xhosa, Nelson Mandela’s language, and that many of her meetings are full of black and brown faces. 

 [Her] diagnosis is impressive, cool and clear. [Her] cure: a real law-governed democracy, is attractive.

Once again – the naïve assumption that Western government is the cure-all South Africa requires. But of course, It won’t happen.

She knows the Alliance must break out of being nothing more than a white liberal party. But alas she is a white liberal, albeit a very impressive one.

Indeed. If only those silly black people would understand that the DA doesn’t stand for “Darkies Aside”. But no – they insist on voting for parties that they choose, instead of the ones that Hitchens would prefer to govern the country. How very trying.

Altogether the worst bit of journalism that I have ever seen. But, of course, there will be those who believe every word, like the Daily Mail readership. And then they’ll tell their friends Roger and Helen over a pineapple juice at the Black Dog on Friday evening, wonder if JZ killed Princess Di and then all worry about how it will affect their house prices. Sad, but true.

So why this “quandary”, then? Surely one just avoids the Daily Mail and its obnoxiously snobbish racist viewpoints?

But no, because the editors (who swore they would never again use paparazzi pictures after that 1997 Paris tunnel incident) drag you in with their loss leader: Kelly Brook in a bikini in the Caribbean.


Kelly – Hello!

It’s unfair, but it’s brilliant marketing. And while I hate to admit it, it’s working on me. I just wish I didn’t have to put up with misleading, racist crap to be able to see skimpily dressed ex-Breakfast TV presenters frolicking in the sea.

Sofa danger

There are a plethora, a myriad, a lot of different things in your home which can do you harm. Your iron may scald you, your oven may burn you, you may plunge from your ladder while trying to rescue the cat from the roof – your cat may scratch you on the way down, your wife may chastise you as you lie, broken, in your hospital bed.
And then there are the soft, safe things in your house: your bed, your newly declawed cat, your sofa.

But you’ll soon scrub that idea, as you read of the terrifying reality of the woman ‘made ill by toxic sofa’.

A woman from Oxfordshire has spoken of the injuries she says she sustained from a toxic chemical left in a leather sofa.
Wendy Preston, 67, from Chipping Norton, is still recovering from the burns and rashes she says she received after buying a new sofa from an Argos store in July 2007.

Can this be for real? Well, yes it can.

Mrs Preston said she noticed the itching a few months after buying the furniture.
She said: “It was very intense and burning. Then it spread up my back, down to my toes and into my hair.”

Hairy toes are considered very attractive in some parts of the world, I’m told.

Mrs Preston was prescribed antibiotics by a doctor – but the itching did not go away. 
“My doctor asked me if I had started using a new detergent,” she explained.
“That’s when I remembered hearing something about toxic sofas.”

Ah yes. Of course – the old “toxic sofas” thing. I often recall it (usually after a couple of beers, to be fair) when I’ve just bought a new sofa and then I start itching up my back and on my hairy toes.
Yes, it’s at those times, when I’m really struggling to work out what it is that’s making my hirsute podial digits so very uncomfortable that it comes to me, like a flash of light in a less light place: it’s probably “something about toxic sofas”. Trouble is, you can never work out where you heard that sort of thing though, even though it should be pretty obvious. I can’t remember every conversation I’ve had about football – there have been millions of them. Or microbiology stuff – cos I do a lot of that, too. But I can’t imagine that I’ve ever really spoken at length with anyone about poisonous lounge furniture.  
But somehow, like Wendy Preston, I do remember hearing something about toxic sofas. And I always bring it up when someone asks me if I’m using a new detergent.

I’m sure you can see the link there, too: New detergent/Toxic sofas. Clear as day.

We’ll leave the last word to Mrs Preston though, bless her blotched and scaly skin:

“It was very frightening. When you buy a new sofa you don’t expect this kind of trouble.”

Well, no. Of course not. I mean, you may expect a little rowdiness from some of the three-seaters, obviously. And some whining and moulting from some of the corner-units, perhaps. But certainly not frightening toxicity.
That’s way out of line.

Dan Power wastes energy

VOTE FOR ME IN THE 2009 SOUTH AFRICAN BLOG AWARDS!

We’ve all had it up to here [indicates height of rising sea level at about neck level] with eco-whiners whining about the eco, haven’t we? 
It’s not that I don’t recognise the need to be kinder to the environment, it’s just that I’m getting annoyed with constantly being told about it – like the utterly pointless Earth Hour this weekend. Switching off my lights on Saturday evening  won’t raise any awareness amongst my neighbours, because they’ll all be watching TV with their lights on and their curtains closed. And then when all the treehuggers switch their power back on, there’ll actually be a bigger power demand with the “spike” as appliances start up again. Possibly.
Who can forget the embarrassing fiasco of Energy Saving Day in the UK last year, when power consumption actually increased 0.1% above average. Oops.
Anyway, I utilise about 8 hours of power saving each night when I switch all my lights off and go to bed. It’s like 8 Earth Hours in one go. Brilliant.

If the upcoming Earth Hour has made the festering boil on the neck of humanity come to a oily, oozing head, then step forward Dan Power – because he’s the man to squeeze the pus out and ease the pressure with his Energy Wasting Day on April 1st.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1_O6NDTbvw]

Embarrassingly cheesy amateur British comedy at it’s best. Yes, I’m cringing too.

Of course, it’s all in a good cause: namely treehugging and eco-awareness via together.com. But what a refreshingly not in-your-face way of going about things. Because you can easily make a bit of a difference every day, without gimmicks like Earth Hour. At Chez 6000, we already institute a wide range of energy saving practices, we recycle and we only fly long-haul when we need to be somewhere far away from the place where we currently are. But I don’t go round constantly telling people about it (apart from just now) and I don’t go round forcing them to do the same.

What I do around constantly telling people about and forcing them to do is voting for this blog in the 2009 South African Blog Awards. It won’t save the planet – hell, it won’t even win me the award – but it’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like a high-quality brandy on a cold winter’s day. Which we won’t be having many more of if global warming kicks in, anyway.

Map

More than just a quota picture, honest.

Considering I’ve never lived in London, I have always had a strange fascination with the London Underground. I’ve never lived in Budapest, Paris or Berlin either, but I have a strange fascination with their underground systems as well. Sheffield, Oxford and Cape Town don’t have underground systems  (too hilly, too small and big flat lump of rock in way, respectively), but I was happy to flirt briefly with the Metro in Newcastle whilst studying there. It was fun for a while, but it was never going to last. I was so hurt when I discovered that she had been allowing other people to ride her during our time together.  

Anyway, one of the best known things about the London Underground, aside from its innate ability to attract young muslim men with rucksacks, is the famous network map. First devised by Harry Beck in 1931, the evolved version is now a design classic and inspired Simon Patterson’s 1992 piece The Great Bear, which I don’t have a copy of.

picture120
Map

What I do have is a copy of is the map above by Gerald Higgins, downloaded from here. And, thanks to my wonderful wife, it is now framed and sitting (vertically) on the wall right next to me.
Yes, this is the UK Motorway System documented in the style of Beck’s Underground map.

Revisiting Higgins’ site recently, I see that he now has another one (which has nothing to do with Beck or the Tube) to add to my collection: It’s Grim Up North – a map showing all the towns and cities mention in the KLF’s 1991 song of the same name.

Brilliant.

How to prevent cervical cancer

I have been reading through the most recent issue of Private Eye magazine, replete with several spectacular examples of two-facedness regarding the whole incomprehensible media circus surrounding Jade Goody, such as this little pair of gems from Scottish poison-dwarf Lorraine Kelly

The bubble has finally burst for the thick, foul-mouthed and thoroughly nasty piece of work that is Jade Goody… As for Jade’s boyfriend, Jack Tweed, all I can say is that they deserve each other. He actually makes her look reasonably intelligent.

Lorraine Kelly, The Sun, 20 Jan 2007

I sincerely hope Jade Goody has her wish for a perfect wedding day tomorrow…

Lorraine Kelly, The Sun, 21 Feb 2009

In their Medicine Balls column by Dr Phil Hammond, (writing under the pseudonym M.D.), however – something that I didn’t consider when I wrote my post about Jade’s wedding:

Jade Goody may be encouraging more people to have cervical smears and HPV vaccinations (if only the NHS could afford them), but a much cheaper way to dramatically reduce your risk of cervical cancer is not to smoke.

The risk is greater the earlier you start and more you smoke. Twenty a day increases your risk seven fold, 40 a day increases it 14 fold, because the damaged cervical cells can’t clear the human papilloma virus. A simple message that not even Max Clifford has thought to mention.

Good point, Doc. And another sign that the NHS in the UK continues to struggle – poorly funded and overworked – to save the lives of those who do nothing to help themselves.