Friday, 30 September 2011

Gisele Bundchen's lingerie ads are offensive to men if we suffered the same humour by-pass as feminists

Brazil’s official women’s rights secretariat has taken exception to a national TV campaign featuring home grown supermodel Gisele Bundchen promoting the Hope lingerie brand.
The complaint that the ads are “offensive and sexist” has attracted attention in varying degrees of seriousness around the world, because Brazil is almost synonymous with naked flesh in popular myth if not reality.
Although Dilma Rousseff became Brazil's first woman president last year, the country's feminists consider the ads "no laughing matter."
In what is intended to be light hearted advice Gisele - and once removed women viewers - is recommended how best to break the bad news to her husband/boyfriend that she has crashed his car again; overspent on both their credit cards; and her mother is moving in with them.
All that is required is a playful confession stripped down to a pair of Hope bra and knickers and all will be forgiven.
This isn’t a million miles away from the “erotic capital” Catherine Hakim has suggested women exploit in making the most of their assets including the physical.
If treated as seriously as some feminists have done the sentiment behind the ads is more offensive to men than women. The implication is that men do all their thinking below the waist rather than above the neck.
I’d like to see a TV sketch take the Hope ads into the absurd. “Honey, I lost the kids, again”; “Honey, you’re broke; “Honey, I shot your mother”. Gisele wouldn’t assuage her partner’s displeasure even if she lost the rest of her clothes and lay naked on a bed of Viagra.
I imagine that Brazilians get the joke - it takes rather more than two wisps of material to make a woman look like a supermodel. What the ads are really promoting is marital nookie. Feminists are still in favour of that, aren't they?

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Can you exorcise a catchy song haunting your brain?

I’m haunted by part of the chorus of Concrete and Clay, the 1965 international chart topper by English talented but sadly one-hit-wonders Unit 4 + 2.
I don’t remember being particularly enamoured by the record first time round all those years ago. But somehow, recently, it’s crept into my head and won’t let go.
In moments of concentration I find myself quietly singing “the concrete and the clay/Beneath my feet begins to crumble, but love will never die.”
It’s just part of the chorus of the song written by group members Tommy Moeller and Brian Parker – and I can’t get it out of my head complete with cow bells (see video below).
This is not the first time I’ve been snared by a snatch of song. Once it was just the phrase “Brown boots” in the voice of Stanley Holloway, a snippet of his classic monologue. Then there was “Drugs&Sex&Rock&Roll” as per Ian Dury; even just “Lay--la.”
I've stopped fighting it. Concrete and clay will remain embeded in my subconcious until something else comes along. As long as it's not "Come on Barbie, let's go party." Oh, no, too late.
“Extraordinary how potent cheap music is,” said Noel Coward.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Carlos Tevez - a salary cap would bring wayward soccer stars down to earth

Manchester City soccer fans will disagree but there was something exquisitely absurd about the apparent refusal of Argentine’s Carlos Tevez to come off the subs bench in the Champions League match away to Bayern Munich on Tuesday night.
Tevez said later he was “misunderstood” and hadn’t refused to play but manager Roberto Mancini couldn’t have been more adamant that the striker had indeed sat tight.
Estimates of Tevez’s wages vary but it is said to be in the region of £286,000 a week. The deal that brought him to Man City made a dent in the £600 million the club has spent in the transfer market in the last couple of years thanks to its Abu Dhabi backers.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ed Miliband in Liverpool - a work in progress

Labour leader Ed Miliband did just about enough today in his keynote speech at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool to send delegates away satisfied. With a general election more than three years off, his speech was always going to be light on policies. But he achieved his main goals.
First, he didn’t screw up. Oratory isn’t Miliband’s strong suit. But he was rather better than the “all the authority of wet lettuce” description by the Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce.
He managed to score some open goals awarded him by the Coalition – the chief being “You can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”
Most importantly, he began to shape a future for the Labour party that owed very little to either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown in his enthusiasm for a “something for something” society.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Peak viewing - breasts and TV medical shows

I can imagine having markedly uneven sized breasts would be distressing for women. So it was particularly for Ms X in the health show my TV channel hopping settled on the other night.
Such medical programmes are staple television fodder these days. However Ms X’s description of her embarrassment in changing rooms etc was undermined by her keenness to strip off in front of the cameras at the TV doctor’s request.
There was indeed a couple of cup sizes difference. I can’t tell you what the solution was because I moved on – swiftly, as I will explain later.
On reflection I can see why Ms X might seek the skills of a plastic surgeon but why would she want to advertise the fact to family, friends, and work colleagues?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Death, the great motivator - an appreciation

I wish I could talk about death to friends and family. Not necessarily my death in itself, although I wouldn’t blanch at a discussion of burial v. cremation, organ donation, funeral service, music (Forever Young, please) and the like.
I would definitely express the hope that when my time comes the Law and the medical profession have reached agreement on how Britons can shuffle off their mortal coil with the minimum of pain and indignity. And that’s going to be a good while yet.
No, even raising the subject in general terms prompts accusations of being morbid and depressed.
Not so long ago the hearse was as familiar on our streets as milk wagons and coal carts. In cossetted 21st century Britain increasing longevity seems to have made dying so alien to the natural order that it mustn’t even be allowed to creep into our thoughts.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Ed, try and not muck it up in Liverpool next week

Labour leader Ed Miliband has an impossible brief facing him, as he prepares for his party’s annual conference in Liverpool next week.
Years away from a general election he can only talk in broad terms about policies; he has to sit on the fence about the legitimacy of strike action as his union paymasters square up to a confrontation with the Government on November 30th; and he has to look like a prime minister in waiting to the electorate.
The last of these is the most difficult. He’s been a year in the job and made little headway.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Come on Rupert, sell the Sunday Times

I hope Sir Harold Evans – one of the English speaking world’s most respected journalists – is right in his assessment that Rupert Murdoch might well sell his British newspapers, because I miss my Sunday Times. Always given, of course, the new owner respects the traditions of a great Sunday journal.
I knew the Murdoch empire was powerful and feared but I had always judged it enjoyed the fruits of success legitimately earned.
I swore off ever buying a Murdoch newspaper when the News of the World telephone hacking scandal revealed the corrosive effect the organs of the world’s biggest media baron had had on those pillars of the Establishment – politics and the police – and the depths to which they were prepared to infringe the personal privacy of everyone from celebrities to a murdered schoolgirl.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Thought police target wrong movies in bid to protect young

Researchers are keen movies that contain scenes showing actors smoking should be banned for the under-18s. If this were the case Spiderman would carry the same 18 certificate as Pulp Fiction.
It would place most classic movies beyond the reach of children.
Survey analysis found a correlation between teenagers who had watched age-appropriate films (ie U, PG, 12, and 15) and smoking – in that those who had seen the most movies depicting smoking were more likely to have tried cigarettes than those that had seen the least.

Monday, 19 September 2011

In poor taste - the Daily Mail despises women celebrities

The strength of the female readership of the Daily Mail never fails to amuse me because the newspaper doesn’t really seem to like women as a gender.
Every wrinkle, fashion mistake, and extra pound of fat is derided whenever the ‘culprit’ is a woman celebrity.
The online version of the newspaper positively salivates today with “Emmys worst dressed” and “Where did the curves go?”stories. “Worse for wear? Kerry Katona goes for scruffy look”; "Pixie Geldof where’s your sense of style gone?” “Can she really be only 25? Haggard Heidi Montag…”

Friday, 16 September 2011

Colliery deaths - the cost of coal counted in lives

The tragic deaths of four miners at the Gleision Colliery gripped the nation today. With every expectation they would be rescued, the discovery of each new body deepened the gloom of news broadcasts.
Sympathy was heightened by the knowledge the men’s families didn’t know who had died and who might have survived. As it turned out all four are gone.
It is one more reminder of just how dangerous coal mining is as an industry. To the threat of flooding which brought death to the mine cut into a Swansea Valley hillside are added the hazards of explosion and pit collapse.
Miners can suffer the crippling effects of pneumoconiosis and vibration white finger decades after leaving the mines.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Cut cinema ticket prices now – and they will come

With 3D and internet television the next gizmo in home entertainment, I suppose it is inevitable when a multiplex re-fits, it goes were TV sets can’t – installing 20 metres high Imax screens.
This has been the direction taken by my local Odeon cinema in Swiss Cottage, an area in north-west London nowhere near as quaint as the name might imply.
The cinema has had a £3 million overhaul and makes a welcome return tomorrow after a three month face-lift.
Looking at ticket prices seniors such as I don’t come off too badly at £7 off-peak, £ 8-50 evenings and weekends (£10.75 for ‘adults’).
This is still too much but compares favourably with a nearby art-house cinema, the Belsize Park Everyman, which charges £13 a seat; it’s only concession is to knock £3 off the ticket price for weekday matinees.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Britain faces a winter of public sector discontent

Three of the UK’s biggest public sector unions Unite, Unison, and the GMB gave notice today in the closing hours of this year’s TUC Congress that they will be balloting members to hold a day of action (or rather inaction) on November 30th.
The one day strike could well be the most widespread industrial dispute since the General Strike in 1926. It will mark the opening of a sustained campaign by the unions to thwart the Coalition’s plans to limit the pension benefits of its members.
Cabinet minister Francis Maude is charged with what looks an impossible brief – to convince public sector workers that they work longer until retirement, pay more into their pensions, and collect poorer benefits at the end of their working lives.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

George Osborne - would it really matter if he had snorted cocaine with a dominatrix?

Bankers, wankers, or spankers?” would be the crude though appropriate response when members of George Osborne’s press office pick up the phone to answer enquiries these days.
The last of these is my tacky reference to the re-surfacing of allegations by a former dominatrix Natalie Rowe that she snorted cocaine with the current Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was 22 back in 1994. The two are pictured in the now-notorious photo which heads this post.
Osborne has vehemently denied the drug-taking accusation since it emerged in 2005 when he was masterminding David Cameron’s campaign for leadership of the Conservative Party.
More recent embellishment of the story has dragged in elements of the phone hacking scandal and the role of Andy Coulson, first as editor of the News of the World and later as Cameron’s communications chief.
The British finance minister – either directly or through friends – holds the whole controversy a smear and a pack of lies.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Verona, Venice, and what makes a holiday memorable

I’m back after a fortnight’s break during which I spent four and a bit days based in Verona, Italy. After much heart-searching here and here at the beginning of the year I chose to stay in the city of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet rather than Venice, neither of which had I visited before.
For me and my grown up son and daughter it was the right choice as was our hotel-apartment Arena House. The city has great charm, room to move, good restaurants, and a decent night life. My euros went further than they would have done in Venice.
Verona provided an opportunity to visit the city’s Roman amphitheatre and watch the opera La Boheme under the stars on our first night; the following day a short rail journey took us to the Lake Garda-side resort of Desenzano; and the next a rather longer journey to Venice. The rest of the time we seemed to be eating ice cream.