Saturday, 23 April 2016

Celebrity Deaths R4 Everyone?

Yes, I know. 2016. What a shit. So many celebrity deaths so far.

You may be tempted, as are many others, to dismiss people posting their own emotional response to the death of somebody they hardly knew as attention grabbing bollocks and you know what? In most cases I believe you would be right to do it.

BUT, we Brits live in a fucked up society in many ways and one of those ways is that do not discuss, encourage or even admit the existence of grief. We have become a society that allows “a couple of weeks off work” for the loss of someone very, very dear to you. It’s a sort of emotional sickness and I’m not sure what we can really do about it.

Here’s the thing about celebrity deaths, though – it is one of the only ways that the media is comfortable in encouraging the grieving process. It is exploitative and often intrusive but it is a way of sharing the experience with others.

I have seen very often people who say they are having trouble stopping grieving a particular loss only for it to have triggered the sensation of a previous – perhaps more profound – loss. Someone can very easily slip into denial over the loss of a family member, friend or partner only to find the later experience (maybe years later) of losing a distant relative or a pet or a celebrity deeply and genuinely affecting.

I’m not suggesting that every attention seeking post on social media is “worthy of your sympathy” because that’s not true and sympathy wouldn’t help them if it were. I would like to suggest, however, that there will be some – possibly several in your group of Facebook friends – who actually are working through something and those few should hopefully convince you to offer some empathy across the board.

Taking the piss a bit out of a grief-junkie can be funny and I can also see that somebody’s indulgent behaviour about celebrity death might be upsetting you about your own suppressed grief but … and this is very important … please keep it civil and respectful.

I can see 2016 getting worse as a number of factors combine to change the way we look at life, death and fame. There will probably be more celebrity deaths, and if so there will certainly be more whining and showboating from arseholes but alongside that there will be people using these deaths as a way to mourn their own losses.

I mean, you don’t have to listen to me. Do what you need to. It’s just, if some weird behaviour happens, this could explain it. I hope it helps.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Grown-Up Debates R4 Other Countries

Maybe you saw the recent “Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die” documentary on BBC2. Perhaps you’ve commented on it on some forum somewhere. If you have commented then the chances are you didn’t watch the documentary but have instead been told a comforting lie to bolster your way of thinking. 

   For those who care and for the far greater number who couldn’t really give a damn let me point out some of the factors missed or glossed over by other commentators.

   Suicide is legal in this country.

   Seriously. Hasn’t been a crime since the early sixties. You can’t be prosecuted for attempting it (although repeated unsuccessful attempt may push a medical professional to diagnose a case of mental instability).

   This is suicide we’re talking about. Suicide by healthy people who are suffering a loss (bereavement, loss of income or position, just been dumped) is commonly attempted but is still not a crime. If life is sacred then why aren’t the religious or the ethically baffled attempting to redress this decision? Is it because you’ve been diverted onto this issue because the ill and infirm represent a trickier body of subjects into whom you can interject your weak arguments?

   (Hang on, Trev.  You sound awfully cross about this. Steady on. Some people have perfectly valid views about assisted dying. You shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them.)





Ok, let’s make this fair. Take out the word “valid” ...


“People might feel undue pressure to end their lives.”

Where is the evidence to support this claim? There are several countries in Europe and two states in America that allow assisted dying. There is plenty of data to scour for figures to support that claim. Those figures do not exist.*

People already feel pressure to end their lives and still attempt it in horrific ways, often unsuccessfully. The evidence suggests that this is actually alleviated by the option of suicide being available. The comfort of the possibility of a controlled end with dignity can allow people to choose hospice or palliative care. The existence of Dignitas correlates with an increase in spending in these areas. Switzerland is talking about the difficult subject and everybody wins (a qualified win – sure – but a win nonetheless).

“Life is sacred.”

That’s your opinion. Can you be sure you wouldn’t change your mind if tortured by a degenerative condition for years? Still, even if you are unshakeable that life is sacred – your life still is. Nobody is forcing you to drink the poison. If you are of the opinion that people who disagree with you don’t know any better and should be protected from their ignorance then that is totalitarian thinking and unacceptable.

“If we allow this then where will it end?”

Seriously? Disability activist Liz Carr kept returning to this one and only argument in the after show debate. I was stunned. Disabled people rarely get a voice in the youth-driven, beauty obsessed media. I was appalled to see one of the disabled voices on that show talking out of her arse.

If you have evidence for this “slipping into eugenics” of which you are so fearful then let’s see it. If you don’t then it’s just a slippery slope fallacy and beneath you.

“We should only talk about terminal illnesses and they’re dying soon anyway.”

“Soon” is a very subjective term. And people have been chuffed about the term “weary of life” used to describe 20% of the subjects who die at Dignitas. “Look, there are a few glum teenagers – Goths, probably – who end it all. They would have gone on to discover High School Musical and Jesus if they had lived.” 

While that sounds to me more like an argument for suicide let me remind you that suicide is legal here. A ‘leave no mess for my parents/partner/children to clear up’ option is possibly the most debatable of the problems here but it would be allowed here. Enshrined in law. Case closed. Shut up and go home.

The Dignitas deaths described didn’t have a terminal illness. That’s all. In the debate Liz Carr tried to argue that Multiple Sclerosis isn’t terminal. I’m biting my lip not to cuss at Liz because she has usually put the time in to consider these matters but MS not being terminal is a case of semantic pissmouth. “It’s not the noose that’s going to kill you – it’s planet Earth and that pesky gravity that gets the job done.”

Please grow up. 

There are plenty of other conditions that perhaps they didn’t discuss on camera that diminish quality of life. Quality of life is a consideration in this country. It’s a measurable unit used in equations to work out NHS spending policy. Don’t imagine that it’s too ephemeral a notion to define. People are defining it but you know what? If somebody wants to stay alive ... they can still choose to. 

At the moment the best way to be allowed to die is to contract something too expensive to treat. Then consent and influence are ignored. That is a cruel reality but then people appear to have great skill in avoiding those.

   I can’t stand anecdotal arguments so I’m not going to enter into it here but I probably will on Friday when we talk about this on think/RANT. Please comment here (or there where I will probably repost this) as the scope of differing opinion between the co-hosts is fairly narrow (it's how we don't get into fights) and a few shouty but intelligent arguments would be welcome.

*The studies done in these countries and states have overwhelmingly shown a positive outcome for all involved. The meta-analyses (which root out poorly controlled studies whether they support or reject a certain outcome and collate the figures to show a larger pool of data) are even more convincing.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Live Broadcasts R4 Other People

Hullo again. Crikey, what happened to April? (Don’t worry – I know what blogs are like. One day I’ll be writing “Crikey, what happened to the last three years?”)

   Anyway I thought it best to prepare a bit of explanation ahead of the inevitable “car crash” episode of a podcast I’ve been appearing on -"think/RANT" - with two very dear friends, Johnathan Stabler and Steve Brett. Well, maybe not dear friends but we get on very well indeed. Maybe not very well but we’re polite to each other. Okay, we’re a trio of belligerent spite monkeys but we enjoy mulling over the week’s news in a great podcast called “think/rant” which I joined from episode 23.

   The thing is ... it’s recorded live. And it’s available for live streaming.

   This has two very important ramifications. Firstly, there is no editing so I would ask any listener to imagine our chat, banter and repartee to be at least 35% funnier and more professional than it first appears. Maybe even 38%. We should take out the awkward silences, fumbled words, talking over each other and general twatty behaviour but I don’t have the first clue how. I don’t think Steve will be too upset if I refer to John as the technical brains behind the operation. If John sat down to edit the thing he would – and I’m paraphrasing here – “take about ten hours fine-tuning a one hour bloody podcast because I’m a little bit of an OCD control freak. And I have a new baby. Cut me some slack, Trev. Jesus.”

   Or something like that. I don’t remember it all. Bit scary.

   Secondly, there is no editing. If that sounds to you a little bit like point one then congratulations – it is, but there is another serious problem. One of the biggest problems with being variously spazzy* is that I can suffer (don’t you hate the martyrdom in that word?) mental as well as physical aberrations. I have believed bizarre crap while hypoing. I have behaved like an aggressive/ weepy/ terrified idiot for no explicable reason. I have had a phone call whereupon the recipient had time to drive over and treat my hypo while I maintained the hallucinatory conversation with them long after they had hung up (it’s very alarming to tell somebody not to interrupt you because you’re still on the phone – with them).
   The point is that some kind of disaster is fairly inevitable at some point but I will delay it for as long as possible. High blood sugar is the least likely time to have any problems (though a sudden drop from high to less-high is still a problem for me) so I engineer a bit of high blood sugar 8-9 every Thursday night. It means I have to usually top up with a small dose of insulin and stay up a bit later moderating it but I enjoy the hour so it’s worth the kerfuffle. 

   So this entry is for anybody hoping to enjoy think/rant and understand what’s going on; for anybody I may have upset or offended with awful comments or outlandish behaviour; for anybody who enjoys watching formula one only for the crashes and hopes to listen for a similar reason. 

   I may, of course, say something that offended you and truly mean it. I have lots of patience for most people most of the time (I can’t afford not to, to be fair) but the podcast is where we give opinion full reign – that is the point. There’s a good chance I will be annoying somebody (though not purposefully offensive I hope) with sane and well-thought argument but I might just as likely be out of my tree. 

   That’s my (main) problem and hopefully it won’t ruin the podcast. I think a podcast, though, is where my limit lies on “live” performance. If you know how to download a pocast (or indeed, what the Hell a podcast is) then you pretty much know what you’re going to get. A radio broadcast or similar is something people can whine about with greater authority, I believe. So here it is. My standing apology for if (or when) the condition of my conditions leads me to have a brainfart of some kind.

   Don’t forget you can contact the podcast if you have any questions, leave a comment here or at think/RANT’s blog page. I, of course, expect there to be no reply whatsoever until I have an “episode” on an episode.

   See you then. 

*It’s a reclamation of the word, okay? It’s worth doing don’t you think? Cerebral Palsy, spastic colon, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and a bunch of other disorders causing spasms or spasticity (for both of which the term “Spaz” has been applied) have been limited by language and need to reclaim it. The “OUCH” BBC radio show is doing a good job with similar words and should be congratulated for it. People are either terrified to talk to a “fitter” for fear of causing offence or are happy to call them “Spaz” as a powerful condemnation. Screw that.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Religions R4 the Religious

Hi, everybody (I say everybody – I mean several ... I say several – I mean both ... I say both ...). Come in, have a seat. I’d offer you a biscuit but even if I had successfully fit all of that last one in the computer I don’t think it would have arrived in an edible state. How have you been? Have you done something different with your hair? It looks gorgeous.
   So, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been very busy. I’m sure you’ve been busier but then I’m very, very lazy (I pronounce it “ill” – my partner assures me it’s spelt L.A.Z.Y).
   It’s been a while since I posted anything, right? Well, I have been studying a (part-time obviously) course that lasted eleven weeks so that’s the excuse I’m using. I’ve contributed (is “contributed” the right word for someone who arrives, slags off, talks crap and giggles for an hour?) to a podcast called think/rant. You might want to check it out and even post a review on iTunes. Unless you hate it in which case let’s just both pretend it didn’t happen.
   I’ve got at least one future appearance booked where I intend to rip founder host John a new metaphorical arsehole about the comfortably nihilistic view of Determinism (and hopefully we’ll have another “Religion is a force for good: discuss” rant – I like those) but for now if you want to pretend like you’re in a pub with three poorly informed creepy gob-shites then get episode 23 now. You won’t/will/may regret it (delete as applicable).
   Finally I’d like to remind everybody about their census forms (a day late but come on – you haven’t got around to it either, have you?). In 2001 we all thought we’d be a bit clever and put Jedi on our forms to point out the insanity of insisting that people must identify with a religion. Apparently more of us did that than identified as Hindu but I can’t find the stats so it may be an urban myth (my Google-Fu isn’t up to it – wait ... is Google-Fu another religion?).
   I’d just like to point out something to everybody who doesn’t go to church, doesn’t believe that Christ died for our sins, rose on the third day etc. Please tick the “no religion” box. Don’t worry – they won’t take Christmas away from us. They won’t stop Easter. You can identify culturally as a Christian to oppose things like Sharia law. Sure, I can see that. But you don’t have to line up with Christianity to do it. There is no external benefit to being a Christian.
   Faith schools are not the panacea for education they appear to be, for example. The slightly higher grades they achieve is actually – when you take into account that they refuse admission to “trouble” kids (nice Christian attitude there, by the way) - a lot lower than it should be. The more dogmatic a church is the less charitable it is (if you dismiss donations to churches and pressure groups – as you should).
    You don’t have to call yourself a Christian to be a good person. Look at you – you’re lovely.
   I know only the die-hards have sent their forms back already. It’s only the couldn’t-really-care-lesses left. I hope you do care a bit though. Anglican bishops in the House of Lords are still ruling our lives. Religious dogma stops sensible compassionate laws like assisted suicide, global sex education* and contraception being promoted. Help to take away their unearned legitimacy. We’re not trying to take away their churches or their lovely hats. They can keep them.
   Believe what you want. Don’t tick a box out of fear. Cheers.

*although I’m not entirely sure what global sex is. I’d love to try it.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Soft subjects R4 the bin?

   So they did it. They actually did it.
   The British Government has voted to extend the cap on tuition fees (in England only – Wales and Scotland found the money elsewhere) to £9,000 per year. F#(kers. Almost all of them.
   Here is my biggest problem with the vote, the coverage in the media and the generally projected “mood of the nation”...
   Whenever a “man in the street” or a “didn’t he used to be-“celebrity on some panel show is asked about the situation, desperate to appear middle-of-the-road they decry the violent minority, applauding the intellectual students who kept their heads. They suggest paring away soft subjects like “David Beckham Studies” and subsidising “useful” degrees. They suggest that maybe this government isn’t legitimate, yeah? Right on. Then they shut up and look for the next story about a cat in a bin.
   To all these blethering dickwads spewing such arse from their facecracks I have to suggest that they shut the frog up and possibly ... go frog themselves.
   HOW DARE ANYBODY* suggest what types of education consist useful or beneficial use of time? Scientific research can't only go after "useful" subjects. You don't know if it is useful until you've done it. That's what research is.
   Subjects such as History, Philosophy, Sociology and Journalism are all seen as soft options but ALL of them have a vital part in ensuring that the country as a whole is not lied to. At least not successfully lied to. These four subjects all involve teaching a skill-set of analysing data provided and dismissing unwarranted conclusions (obviously not all students will necessarily gain these skills).
   Fully qualified doctors can fall prey to dreadful data analysis that can lead them to piss away their careers on alternative medicine. A single semester on the Philosophy of science would have steered them clear of such fallacies.
   News channels keep reporting about the surprising amount of non students on the marches lately. Any attention paid by a worthwhile graduate of Journalism or Sociology (insert joke here) would be able to point out that current students will be largely unaffected by the changes. It is the students of the future – children – who should be protesting, but obviously and thankfully others have taken on that burden.
   These “utterly useless” degrees like David Beckham Studies are usually tabloid fables. If anything, they are only poorly titled modules on a course with a little more weight.
   Students of all four of the above disciplines (but particularly History) will be able to tell you that once such a cull of apparently “useless” subjects has happened it will be next to impossible to bring them back. If these subjects are left underfunded they will be the province of the idiot rich (who, historically, would enter the priesthood and, currently, take English degrees**) and the rigour they currently enjoy would dissipate, leaving them the kind of cartoon subjects the tabloids imagine them to be.
   Any numpty on the street can see through Nick Clegg’s pitiful Clegging*** that “we promised to do this if we got into power but we didn’t so we’re not.” The LibDems were never going to get into outright power, nor did we expect it – we expected pledges to be a statement of behaviour to be followed in parliament and we were not wrong to do so. The excuse “we didn’t know how bad it was” makes Clegg either a liar or inept. They might as well have promised us flying cars and sex robots.
   Before politicians, with their economics and politics degrees, decide to flail about through the wreckage of this country’s education system they should look at their own qualifications. Both those degrees are essentially fiscal or political History, but seen through a single filter – the leading theory (or possibly theories) of the day. Intellectually empty exercises. If an Economic or Political theory were viable it would be able to predict events. It can’t.
   Actually the only politician I can think of who foresaw the current state of affairs – where promises made could be horse traded with the Tories until the Liberals get their voting referendum – was Nick Clegg. The clever, devious bastard. “Have some sex robots. Oh, actually now that I’m here they look dangerous. I’m not sticking my cock in that thing. No sex robots – and it’s for your own good.”
   And he studied Social Anthropology.

*Oops. Shouting. Sorry about that.
**Sorry. Couldn’t resist. It seems that the Human Resources departments of large companies are run by typical English graduate types - “I got a degree, therefore, I am clever. What is your degree? ... Shit, it actually sounds intellectual. Can’t have you sniffing around my desk.”
***to Clegg; to excuse the indefensible. “Sorry I had to piss in your mouth but in these tough economic times one has to seize opportunities – your mouth was open and my bladder was full.” (Thanks to Charlie Brooker)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Festivals r4 Everyone (or “Hannukah and her Sisters”)

Anyone who knows me might expect a righteous rant this time of year about how Christmas is much older than Christianity and Santa is nothing more than an advert for Coke, but I’m not such a cynic. Christmas is lush. I cannot recommend heartily enough Tim Minchin’s white wine in the sun, a beautiful secular carol and I think the Muppet’s Christmas Carol is one of the finest works of cinema of the last twenty years. I’m a sucker for Christmas.
Yes, it does kind of annoy me when the religious bang on about the “true” meaning of Christmas and talk about the nativity as fact but they know as well an anybody (in the UK at least) that it was an ancient winter feast of indulgence long before the Christians made it here. Then, of course, you have the mentals who will bang on about the druids and the pagans and ancient rituals (little realising that most of the gubbins surrounding ancient mysticism was invented in the 18th or 19th Century by posh blokes with too much time on their hands). Sigh.
You know what, though? They’re welcome to whatever they want to believe in. Much the same as I believe in every field of thought – follow your own opinion as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else. Have your festival and dress up, decorate, do what you fancy. Follow traditions or invent your own. Hooray. Everybody part – whoops. Nearly used the word “party” as a verb – have fun.
Oh wait. Hang on.
I can’t let this one slide. I investigated Hannukah. I shouldn’t, I know. There’s no way I’m going to be agreeing with it, so why torture myself? Well, here’s why.
I’ve been watching the excellent “Walking Dead” on FX, and it’s been surrounded by ads for “Joop: Homme” or – as the bloke says – “Jew Pom”. I’ve been so perplexed with a combination of chuckles and shame that it’s been making me think of the plight of the British Jewish Male. Which leads me on to Olly Mann on the brilliant “answer me this”. He (and Helen and Martin-the-sound-man) constantly invite listeners to question everything. And send their questions to him. And for him to answer them. And they’re, like, funny. And that.
But all I can think of in December (since I looked it up) is “Hannukah? Is that it? Seriously?” and I don’t want to so blatantly challenge anybody’s precious beliefs about any holidays.
But come on. Have you heard it?
A tribe called the Maccabees frees their temple from an occupying force. They rededicate their temple by relighting an “eternal flame” but then realise they don’t have enough oil. It will take eight days to make more oil. The oil lasts until more oil is made. MIRACLE!
Let’s pretend for a second that nobody called the leader an idiot for relighting an “eternal flame” without the goods to back it up. Let’s further pretend that the amount of oil originally available was correctly assessed to be only a day’s worth. Let’s add to that pretence the idea that nobody in this new Jewish state would secretly add any oil they found to keep it going. Let us, in fact, go so far as to say that all laws of the natural world insisted that the flame would go out at the end of day one but a deity stepped in and kept the flame burning.
Is that it? Is that seriously the miracle on which you’re going to base an entire holiday? God barely turned up. He could have made an actual appearance. He could have spoken with a voice of thunder, sent pillars of smoke or flame, burned bushes, parted rivers, he could have sent them a “thanks for retaking my temple” card from a newsagent.
But no. The light didn’t go out. That’s it.
God barely even got out of bed for that one. This was the snooze button of miracles.
I’m sure there are pompous, pious explanations full of “aah”s and “my poor fool”s and such but truly – I don’t want to throw any kind of challenge to anybody. I support your right to believe if you do. It’s just ... it’s no wonder that when Christianity (itself only a breakaway sect of Judaism after all) came along it did things a bit louder. None of these new ideas were an iota more plausible than the old ones but at least they don’t provoke a reaction of “really? Is that it?”
Still, the great news for modern day Judaism is that Christmas is so decidedly torn from its religious trappings that everybody can fling presents at each other in as ostentatious a manner as they can afford. Just avoid adverts around “The Walking Dead”. You may find them offensive.
Christians should be fine with it; and the show is about creatures risen from the dead – it should be just like Sunday school.*
*it definitely isn’t.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Illnesses R4 soft girls

I'm not very well.
   I can't even be bothered to post a self-aggrandising message to myself on my own blog. Why should I? Nobody's reading (hello btw - obviously got that bit wrong).
   It occurred to me, however, that this is a good opportunity to write one of those "Crikey but it's complicated being a spaz" posts. This can be a point of reference for any time in the future when I am ill. Hello. If you are reading this then I am most likely coughing/sweating/sneezing/vomiting/randomly and/or explosively evacuating myself. Poor Trev. Man flu probably (patronising git).
   Thing is, none of these symptoms are the problem I have to worry about. Or even being ill. Illness is not a problem for someone on insulin. Wellness is the problem. When one is ill, blood sugars go up. This is actually as true of non-diabetics as it is of me but the scale is different. Illnesses pushes a diabetic's blood sugar level (the level of sugar in the blood - does what it says on the tin there) to crazy high numbers. Unfortunately, in order for a diabetic's already compromised immune system to fight off illness they need to control their sugars. So here's the thing...

   I need to inject more insulin than normal to properly recover from the thing that's making me ill.

   While ill I am far more likely to fall ill with other illnesses - my already buggered immune system being even further compromised.

   Eventually I will recover.

   That last point sounds like a good thing - and it is - but I have no idea when wellness will arrive. When it does arrive I won't need all that extra insulin in my system. But it will still be in there. Because I will have put it there.
   So the weight I have thankfully lost in being "all unwell and that" will come back in an orgy of mars bars or biscuits when a massive, massive hypo hits (you remember hypos, yeah? First post. Low blood sugar - very dangerous).
   There we have it. "Guy on sickness benefits actually admits to being afraid of wellness". Call the Daily Mail. Tell George Osborne he isn't quite the tool he appears to be*. "Unwell bloke feels sorry for self on Blog!"
   Still. Come on. That's what they're for.

*Of course he is. Just look at him.