Sunday, 16 December 2012

Boys and Girls Toys

I have three loud, excitable and incredibly wonderful nieces and nephews to buy gifts for. So recently I've stumbled into the unfamiliar territory of the toy section armed with a vague idea of what the parents have bought and what they like. The first thing noticed is how divided a lot of it is divided according to gender and traditional ideas of gender roles. For girls it's all pink and other pastel colours, and for boys its so many shades of blue. Sometimes it is a case of same toy, different colour, other times it actively promotes gender stereotypes. Try finding a toy vacuum that isn't bright pink.

A Swedish toy retailer gained attention for publishing a "gender-neutral" catalogue, including a boy in a Spiderman costume pushing a toy buggy. Thinking to my own childhood I eschewed the many attempts to play with Action Man-type boys toys in favour of my sisters toys which I borrowed in the same way I "borrowed" their dresses. Children don't know about the gender rules or what they should or should not play with until it gets socialised into them later they will take what they enjoy playing with use imagination and be loud, excitable and incredibly wonderful.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Christmas Ads

Ah December, early nights, seasonal songs in the shops and the incessant blast of Christmas ads. There is nothing more likely to suck the seasonal spirit out of me than doing Christmas shopping it doesn't stop the marketing industry from trying to persuade me to visit a store.

Following the success of John Lewis' ad campaigns there does seem to be more "emotion" centric campaigns. ASDA are the the latest to try this route, ditching their long-standing "hey we're cheaper" campaign for a little movie featuring a mother figure organising Christmas.

Except it's horribly ill conceived and patronizing to both sexes even in a world of sexist advertising. While their previous campaigns were hardly inspiring or right on, they clearly conveyed the message, were probably cheaper and didn't smell of someone trying to ape a campaign that revived a lot of buzz. 

If I stumble into the nearby ASDA I can see males manage to push a trolley, I can also guess some will happily wrap presents and so on while their partner rests or watches the football where the fan is portrayed as a mindless "passionate" male lad to be sold gassy larger, takeaway pizza and cars.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Roundabouts, First Days and a Niche Sexual Proclivity

Just come back from the Co-op between the large Christmas display and Halloween items I'm grateful they still have enough space to stock some milk. bread and other frivolous items....

Hello. It has been a while, a result of the colds you inevitably pick up at this time of year, new courses and work and the realisation that my first day nervousness doesn't diminish with time.

On the first day of college you get there far too early and dressed well but by December you're turning up late in second best pyjamas and dressing gown. Unless you are one of the few who turns up to lectures in a suit and are well on their way to their first million.

Another thing walking around a college is that you can feel old among those who opted out of sixth form, and I wonder why you would stay and choose to wear a school uniform for another 2 years. I took great delight in burning my green school tie after my last GCSE exam, which succumbed  to the flames worryingly quickly considering the times I was mere centimetres peering over a Bunsen burner.

One of the searches that directed to my blog was "Swindon girls porn". Now there's a very niche sexual proclivity for you. Somewhere there's someone  getting turned on when a local pronounce Primark, premark. While someone else is offering to show his DMJ Tower?

Considering I pronounce the aforementioned Reading based value clothing retailer that way and understand how to get through the Magic Roundabout you could say I've become a naturalised citizen. The Magic Roundabout, which has just celebrated its 40th anniversary. Like the offside rule its unnecessarily complicated and simple to understand. Originally given the prosaic name of the County Road Junction the local nickname stuck it was an innovative piece of traffic management and continues to handle large numbers of traffic and baffle the unfamiliar to this day.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Dandy

I've held off commenting on the demise of The Dandy's print edition because as Charlie Brooker pointed out in his Guardian column recently it's not like I've been buying copies recently.

It's not that children are no longer buying magazines, the recent ABC'S showed Moshi Monsters to be one of the country's biggest selling paid for magazines and other print publications are still selling by their tens of thousands. Its just that a product has reached the end of its life cycle and no longer appeals to the children of today.

It was already old fashioned at the time I was reading and hasn't changed much in the strips set up and obvious pay off in the final panel. Take away the smoking and overt racism not much had changed from the 50's.

All of this hasn't stopped a wave of misty eyed nostalgia, the same who point to a so called golden age of children's comics/ television/ books. Ignoring the many great artists producing fantastic stuff today.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Marlborough Workhouse

Opposite Marlborough Common on a lane leading to the hilly beauty of the Marlborough Downs, where assorted horsey and other rural types live, there's what was the towns former workhouse. Today, the listed building has been converted into up-scale retirement flats (although rather haphazardly, as one writer noted) with a few more crammed in for good measure.

After the workhouse was closed it spent several decades as a children's convalescence hospital and a special educational unit mainly for intellectually disabled children called St Luke's.


Behind the site is a overgrown graveyard with forgotten graves, this small acknowledgement of what was there.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

No Place For Bullying

A few weeks school inspector's from the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) released a report into bullying at school entitled No Place For Bullying.

As a child I was bullied and the three schools at secondary level I had different attitudes to how to tackle the problem ranging from its your fault for being bullied to a proactive style from staff with clear lines that were not to be passed and repercussions if transgressed.

In the report half claim to have been bullied or picked on, though inspectors could not delve deeper in classroom situations for fear singling out. And nobody will express surprise children pick on those who deviate from the accepted norm or have the latest branded sports goods and so on. The best schools it found combined their behaviour and anti-bullying policies, and were lead by example, pro-actively by the teaching staff.

Sadly it seems disabled children often ignored in anti bullying policies and words like spaz, mong still common. Again unsurprisingly children often reported picked on because of their sexuality or perceived sexuality gay, lez, batty man all mentioned. The modern evolution of "gay" to mean something crappy was also discussed.

What was interesting was how schools went about tackling this especially in areas where parts of the local community are less than sympathetic to the idea and inventively addressing non nuclear families (“mum Pat and mum Dawn” in the case of same sex parents).

The comments on transgender and non gender conforming seemed to have grabbed most of press headlines. "Schools are labelling children as young as four as 'transgender' simply because they want to dress up as the opposite sex," says the Daily Mail adding that the report "provoked disquiet". The Telegraph online ran a similar piece highlighting another example of the six year old boy who wore a pink tutu to school.

In a world where children are told at. too young an age what boys and girls should and shouldn't do its marvellous that he is not beaten down with all gender role bullshit. Though it's hard not to feel a sense of tut tutting in the article and while many do grow up not transitioning or further down the transgender spectrum, thats not an argument to say they should be forced onto the gender binary or will grow up binary.

Children can be wonderfully honest, they can also be total bastards. Schools can show the way and encourage acceptance of our rich and diverse world. Not just in weekly PSHE classes but throughout the entire school despite prejudice from parts of the community and media.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Five Year Plan

Time for the bloody-hell-have-I-really-had-a-blog-for-that-long moment when I realise I started this blog five years ago. There's better advice out there on how to build audiences, attract advertising and so on. The only slight gasp of wisdom I'd give is that you should take time to find your voice and be authentic. Also don't play around with the layout so much that you disable comments for the first 6 months.

Hardly Yoda like wisdom I know, anyway, enjoy the sport but if you don't there's always BBC 4, the Food channel or listen to some Spice Girls and admit to yourself that they recorded some really good pop songs.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Femfresh and That Icky Area

"Mini, twinkle, hoo haa, flower, fancy, yoni,
lady garden...
Did you know that regular shower gels and soaps, if used on your privates, can strip it of its natural defences causing dryness and irritation?
With its pH-balanced formula specially developed for intimate skin, femfresh is the kindest way to care for your va jay jay, kitty, nooni, la la, froo froo!"

Femfresh has been under social media attack from feminists some justified others not.

Labelled as a feminine hygiene brand designed to clean that horribly icky evil area known as the vagina. As we all know the best way to cleanse that area is with fire but some slightly sensitive souls consider that a little painful. We should ignore those considered people who have studied the area say that while it may be of use to very niche segment you don't need such products, mild soap and water is sufficient. Further they may cause damage but hey what do the NHS know? Especially when there's a happy woman in the advertising with copy saying you need this to deal with your bad part.

As I've said before it is an invented want, much like sports drinks they have their niche for a tiny number but are not helpful for the rest of us.

As for objecting to euphemisms, its an advertising campaign not your gynaecologist and the intention was to be light hearted even if the impression I get is jaw dropping cringe making. Yes some can be a bit ropey but some for all private parts can be fun and display the inventiveness of language.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The River Lambourn - Before During After

The River Lambourn (which runs from Upper Lambourn to Newbury, where it joins the Kennet) before, during and after the drought from roughly the same spot. As you can see the waters clearer and fresher and underlines despite all the complaints, how much the rain was needed.

The dog at the top is my folks who will happily leap into any bit of water no matter how dirty and muddy and will leap at you with the enthusiasm of a small puppy and the force of a small car.

There are more pictures on the Environment Agency's Flickr page.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Depressing Village Centres

Months ago I got lost in the maze of new housing, Google maps being no help still believing I was the area was still fields and I was stood in the middle. A lot of new estates have a similar lay out including the "village centre" comprising of a pub, church, estate agent, takeaway place, hairdresser and a shop, almost always a Tesco. For a bit of variety I could walk to the next estate and.. oh. It is an almost depressing uniformity and lack of variety. There are 11 Tesco stores in the Swindon area only one being a "Extra" supermarket. Throw in the wholly owned One Stop subsidiary stores and its a worrying dominance especially in the convenience store market. Even more so when you realise they are not very good supermarkets, every one has a sterile industrial nature feeling like a profit centre wrung for every penny. No wonder customers are starting to turn away.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Mildly Diverting Fluff

Not much has been happening personally, I guess I should go out more and fill this digital space with exciting and sexy tales but pffffffft and all that. Though i'm a little busy and the weekend the thought of dingy bars, grotty loo's and trying to get a taxi home against the home comforts of a nice settee, not encountering a charming drunk and the hope of a half decent film on TV or failing that some mildly diverting fluff.

Not falling into the even mildly diverting fluff category is the latest series of Big Brother  There has been many "trans" contestants over the years, including a winner and possibly one who shouldn't have been put into such a show, though Luke is the first f2m I can recall. For all the criticisms the dumb glamour wannabes and brain-dead geezers with anger management issues, female, LGBT and non white contestants have performed better compared to other reality shows.

The honours list came out last weekend bringing the usual crew of party cronies, celebs and those patronisingly dubbed "ordinary people". I could criticise it but then again, its harmless if rather gaudy bling and an interesting day out. Included on the list was April Ashley for her transgender work and a life unwittingly or otherwise helping to fill tabloid newspapers for several decades.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Fibbies On Your CV

I was sent away to learn advanced PowerPoint, and no I don’t know why either, I’d have thought the last thing industry needs was another person who can do a wipe effect with a whoosh noise between slides but there you go. Having suffered many interminable PowerPoint presentations, some folk need to be told to keep it brief and to the point. As for those past presentations, I believe they have been collected by some government agencies for use when milder forms of torture like waterboarding fail.

But it is something I have completed and could put on a CV along with all the other courses I’ve collected pieces of paper to prove just how brilliant I am. Unlike the former CEO of Yahoo! Scott Thompson who was caught out telling a little fibbie about his degree effectively providing a cautionary tale for anyone in any profession. It was a rather unfortunate way to go given he seemed to have a good track record and tons of experience more than enough to show suitability for the role and the CV probably shows there’s a spark of creativity which they probably needed.

For someone toiling away in the corporate salt mines that had to provide ludicrous amounts of evidence judiciously verified, it surprises me that Yahoo! didn’t do similar; it might have spared them a lot of embarrassment and the inevitable exit of their search committee chair.

A lie on your CV will certainly get found out long before you get to perform that open-heart surgery you’ve been dreaming of and will result in the sack. Stephen Hawking told me that after I suggested he might sell a few more copies if he changed his book title from A Really Long and Boring History of Time.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Bill’s New Frock

“Bill Simpson wakes up to find he's a girl, and worse, his mother makes him wear a frilly pink dress to school. How on earth is he going to survive a whole day like this? Everything just seems to be different for girls”.
Bill’s New Frock is a children’s book which superbly examines gender roles and how children are treated differently because of it by adults and his peers.  There is no magic spell or explanation, it just is. Instead we just follow a journey where he experiences, from his initial horror and later bafflement, of being in a girl’s world and finding it different in many ways.
It seems as true today as when it was published in 1989 and when I first came across it in the early 1990’s. Anne Fine describes it all in wonderfully vivid language, posing the question why does Rapunzel wait to be rescued instead of making a rope from her own hair and climbing down?

Certainly recommended for tweens and young teens.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Chaos Of Trouble

And so its April, a time of local election campaigns and where money is suddenly found to do improvements and turn street light back on, providing local council leaders with regular photo opportunities in the local media especially the Swindon Advertiser. Though looking at their dwindling circulation and thinning advertising you wonder how long they'll be around for.

Talking of newspapers The Sunday Times Style Magazine had an article about the pressure women faced to be stick thin and blemish free. Citing the unrealistic portrayals in the media as not helping it went on to mention the work of The Geena Davis Institute whose work to gender stereotypes and the portrayal of female characters in the media, sounds totally worthy of my support.

Unfortunately the section rather undermined this message by on the following page placing an advert for moisturiser featuring two models thoroughly photo-shopped and a feature several pages on headlined how to get on in the office, just had a lot of pretty clothes you could buy instead of something really useful to advance in your career.

As you are probably aware the Home Office has opened up a period of consultation into civil marriage consultation, all the detail's and questions are on the website and if you haven't already I'd encourage you to take a few minutes to respond by the deadline. You can guess my opinions on the matter and my hope that it will resolve the ridiculous position with transsexuals and the spouses post transition.

I stumbled over the fact the Ben & Jerry's ice cream brand have come out in support. It's remarkable that they have managed the feat of maintaining credibility despite being part of the hyper-global-mega-Unilever corp. Some brands can't be controversial while others like Benetton, being the text book example, can. Then there's alliteratively named turf accountants who I wont mention. Enough has been said about the two ads one invited negative stereotypes and mockery of trans people, the other involved the word chav which is generally used by smug Jet types to mock poor people and its use I hope will continue its increasing unacceptability.

And that's it, no exciting adventures just an exchange of witty bonhomie from some teenage girls, a few more grey hairs and to get round to having the chat all over again with my new gp, having moved out of Dr Hairybum's catchment.

So here's Kermit being David Byrne.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Do You Really Want To Know My Name

I’ve never understood the attraction of novelty / character pants; generally they’re children’s characters and while some people want a beloved animated character from their childhood on a bit of cloth in front of their privates. Not very arousing or sexy either. It all smacks as being dubiously infantile and should follow the novelty tie into near oblivion.

As I’ve said before you can buy cheaper and better coffee than Starbucks and in a less false, homogenised corporate environment. But then again it keeps the fools, many of whom ostentatiously flash their iPhone’s (presumably to get a free fatty over-sweet flavoured gloop into their drink), out of my place ensuring I can get a seat. Also thankfully they don’t have to ask my name and pretend like they really care in some horrible attempt at so-called personalising the experience.

All I want is a nice tasting hot beverage which also provides me with a decent dose of caffeine, not a pretend “relationship”.

Talking of keeping people out of your favoured store Greggs does the same for my preferred sandwich place at lunchtime it perhaps says a lot for the power of the brand that people are prepared to queue out the shop for food that I find bland and salty. Probably says a lot about the brand and their customers loyalty.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Nightjack Revisited, Pregnant Men and Privacy

Back in 2009 I wrote criticising the decision of the court to overturn the injunction preventing The Times naming the police blogger who wrote under the pseudonym of Nightjack. I stated that i thought it was little more than a trashy expose discouraging people from writing openly about the inner workings of public institutions and potential whistle blowers. He had been won an award for his writing, not broken the Contempt of Court Act and received no financial reward.

At the time I also added as an aside
" would be interesting to know all the methods used)."
We have a greater idea of how the journalist working for The Times at that time went about obtaining his identity, which confirmed my suspicions that Richard Horton's email account was hacked into during 2009 and that it did not reveal that fact from the High Court.

I don't know if that would have lead to a different decision but you wont be surprised to learn such methods are not approved of.

Later that year, Dr Brooke Magnanti was revealed as the widely read and bestselling "Belle Du Jour" although no allegation of illegality the privacy of her family was intruded upon in a way that the story did not need.

Between writing this entry the media got in a mild frenzy and search for (including a do you know this man, call the newsdesk appeal from a newspaper that so hates witch-hunts) the "first" (that the press know of) "pregnant man" in the UK.

Understandably he wished to remain anon and the reporting kinda shows that he made the right choice. He also maintained a blog which in lieu of any interview snippets from, formed the basis of several further articles. He managed to put up a eloquent final post which I'll ineliquently paraphrase as oh bugger and goodbye.

Although the Levenson inquiry presents a fabulous opportunity to reform or introduce, depending on you viewed the PCC, the system of regulation with enforceable sanctions when someone crosses a line. One can argue whether and to what extent celebreties are fair game, we should ensure what happened to Christopher Jefferies does not happen again.

Blogging is a way of writing about whatever you want, whether that be your experiences working as a detective, going through pregnancy, working as an escort or the rubbish ramblings of me. It does not mean its open season on your whole life. The world would be a duller place if people were to censor themselves for fear of their privacy intruded and life turned upside down and many interesting stories would be hidden.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Viewpoint TV

With all the news about local television pilots it’s a good time to write about a previous government report into local TV which ran in Swindon from the mid 1970’s until the end of the decade. Like many nascent cable companies’ experiments was run from the late 1960’s, the need to create content to attract or retain subscribers to pay 18p a week in an age without multi-channel TV.

The launch of “Swindon Viewpoint” was among the first wave across many towns and cities in Britain and was credited as helping to stem a loss of subscribers after the initial launch of the system.

Swindon was considered an ideal place for such a system on the edge and divided up between two television regions, no local radio and a large number of new residents who it was thought would need information about the local area and amenities. I would also note that high definition is not a new term, in those days it referred to 625 line broadcasts.

With a degree of optimism about the future and financially supported by then owners, Thorne EMI, a small team set up studios in what is now an Indian restaurant at the bottom of Victoria Road. Unlike the proposals the channel ran more than just news including covering the “Miss Thamesdown” contest and bizarrely, a retelling of the passion filmed around Swindon.

Unsurprisingly despite their best efforts viewers brought up only on network TV found the channel a bit amateurish although they appreciated the local news and sport.
With restrictions on advertising such local networks were reliant on subscription revenue and goodwill from owners for whatever reason, willing to sustain the channel which dwindled year on year. By the 1990’s a less restrictive regulatory atmosphere appeared tempting media companies to try again like Associated Newspapers in Bristol and the Guardian Media Group in Manchester. Like their 70’s counterpart’s the revenue was never there and they have either withered or died.

Like the ITV regions the new channels will be given a licence to print money, although unlike the ITV network there probably won’t be popular and occasionally great drama, comedy and entertainment around the news it will probably be shopping, gaming and porn and sadly not a retelling of the passion filmed around Swansea. It may work though to me it looks a doomed exercise in political vanity.

Monday, 13 February 2012

No Thanks For The Mammary's

Page 3 was brought up at the Levenson enquiry and the editor of The Sun trotted out a tired old defence to what is a tired and dated section of the newspaper.

It was described as an institution. Not all institutions are worth preserving though. It perhaps should have followed that other "institution" Miss World and disappeared (from UK screens, at least).

That it hasn't suggests a large number of readers of The Sun and Daily Star enjoy it, though its debatable whether it is the deciding factor to buy said publications, The Sport had an abundance of nipples and very little else, which didn't save them from going bankrupt (or bust, if you forgive the pun).

Do I support a ban? No, I am not a fan of censorship, if you believe there is something worth censoring, I do not consider breasts pornographic and the same goes for bottoms, in my opinion. But then I'm probably out of step and enthused with too much western European liberalism. The participants are adult, consenting and paid and there are more trubleing and sexist images appearing on celebrity websites and magazines everyday.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

PR Stunts and Proton Savvy's

I do think the unhappy face on the hand written sign is an poignient touch. Hello, I'm now on the other side of one of those busy peaks of the year where I was sat infrount of a spreadsheet beyond what is good for me or any normal person for that matter.

It is coming up to Valentine’s Day, I guess at its base there is a celebration of romance and lurvvydovvey stuff but my word it’s hard to like something when there is just so much crass and cynical commerciality piled on top. A few years ago someone mocked up a Tesco Value valentines cardsatirising the commercial aspects before going viral only for ASDA to really produce one several years later as a cheap PR stunt Anyway,I’m sure a lot of uncomfortable frilly and lacey pants will be sold.

The subject of breast implants raises some hackles but when trans joins the equation everything is turned up to 11 and it invariably gets very trollish (a word?) but what everyone should agree on is that they should not kill you like the PIP implants apparently have from what initially looked like some cheap and nasty product going wrong is showing signs of dodgy dealing and rather poor regulation. Ideally the government should have brought out its smiting stick and ensured that the large profitable private companies,some it has been suggested sold it as a Bentley when in fact they were installing Proton Savvy’s, have a duty of care and should remove them free of charge. A lot of women have been deeply troubled over this but hopefully the outcome will lead to greater protection to all, including trans who go private in future.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Recycle The Tree

Now on the other side, its time to add 2012 to the collumn on the right and put the tree out for collection.

At least unlike last year there's no royal wedding to bore me senseless for the first 1/3 of the year with newspapers producing supplements in the desperate hope that a proportion of the population will buy their wares again, even the Guardian jumped on the bandwagon despite a large part of the readership are waiting for the first republic and the rest couldn't give a flying stuff. I predict there'll be more flannelling though in time for the jubilee and more pictures of an upper middle class bum whenever the thinnest of excuses appears.

Dubbed on Twitter as the obscenity trial, the acquittal of Michael Peacock has delivered a interesting kick  to the OPA. People more specialised to comment in detail on the implications will, or indeed have already done so, here and there. I'll just say that I hope that the law finally ends intervening in the bedroom affairs of consenting adults, there are things on Gumtree more worthy of police attention and you can safely bet publishers are wondering how far to push the new envelope.

Like last year I'll probably be posting irregually and without any concl