The Price of Profanity

While Americans are focused on the run-up to the General Election, Brits are in a frenzy over a late night prank on BBC Radio 2. Now you might think that put in perspective, the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross scandal is insignificant. Perhaps it is. But in and of itself, it is quite significant.

There are a significant number of people who think it is much ado about nothing. They argue that only two people complained when the broadcast went out and that it was only the national media outlets that have churned up the froth. Listeners to the more youth-oriented Radio 1 appear to be mostly in support of Brand and Ross. It says a lot about Radio 1 listeners that they have found the abusive and obscene phone calls to 78-year-old Andrew Sachs amusing.

For those blissfully unaware, Brand and Ross placed four telephone calls to the actor whose most famous role was as Manuel on Fawlty Towers. Using the crudest language, they describe how Brand had slept with Sach’s granddaughter. They also joked that Sachs might kill himself. That’s the bit that made the pre-recorded broadcast. Senior producers who signed off on it, actually cut fouteen lines of the dialogue. Sensitive readers might not want to click here for a transcript of what was said.

To draw an American analogy, it was basically like a Howard Stern routine with all of the obscenity explicit rather than implied. The other difference is that it was funded by license payers – in other words, everyone who owns a television. Television viewer pay for all of BBC Radio, with our forced £139.50 per year charged by the government (or fines of up to £1000 for failure to pay, and roaming enforcement vans with electronic spying equipment to catch offenders). If you had to pay $240 a year for other people to listen to Howard Stern say things for which he would be fined by the FCC, you might have something to say as well.

Jonathan Ross is the highest paid performer at the BBC, getting £6 million per year for crude and juvenile humour. When over 2,000 job cuts were announced at BBC News soon after he sealed his £18 million three-year deal, Ross openy boasted that he was worth more than 1,000 journalists. Russell Brand was on a mere £200,000 for an act that is entirey based on graphic details of his sexual exploits and proclivities.

Those who support Ross and Brand believe that entertainment, and particularly language, should have no boundaries – that there is nothing actually indecent. Well, you can’t say anything about Muslims, but other than that, everything is fair game. (And the whole Muslim thing is driven by fear rather than decency.)  Worse than that, it is a philosophy that anything that gets a laugh is acceptable regardless of who is hurts or offends.

Will the resignation of Russell Brand and the £1 million discipline of Jonathan Ross change the face of entertainment? No. Willing the BBC become a more decent place? Perhaps for a time, while everyone holds their breath waiting for the furore to settle. Sadly, I think that the values that underpin the glorfication of profanity are well entrenched, particularly amongst the young, and this creates a vicious cycle. The media panders to the profane and the profane become evermore acceptable, creating a greater appetite for it in entertainment.

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Sneaky Piggy Profits

I have uncovered one of the underhanded tricks by a major corporation in the UK.

Since time immemorial, Marks and Spencer have sold Percy Pigs. For anyone outside the UK (as there would be no one inside the UK unfamiliar with Percy Pigs) they are a raspberry-flavoured gelatin-based, and yes, pig-shaped confectionery. In other words, they are small chewy pink sweets. They are delicious. Everyone likes Percy Pigs, proving the words of George Orwell that some pigs are more equal than others. Some people have been known to be almost addicted to them at times.

When I was in M&S recently I intended to purchase a bag of Pigs. I usually bought the largest size (400 grams), but recently had been in the habit of buying the medium size (200 grams) Percy Pigs together with a medium size bag of lemon-flavoured but identically shaped Penny Pigs.

I picked up a bag of Pigs and immediately noticed that it seemed lighter than usual. I thought perhaps it had been split open and some of the contents fallen out. No, further inspection confirmed that the bag was intact. I picked up another bag and it also felt unusually light. Then I saw something strange.

I saw a 7. I happened to glance in the direction of the lower left hand corner of the bag and there was a 7 next to a 0. It all became clear. There was not 200 grams of delectible pork-derived gelatin in the bag. There was 170 grams.  That woud be 15% less.

But wait, there was more. I looked at the price tag. Had M&S lowered the price to reflect the reduced quantity of pigs per package? No. Rather they had raised it. That’s right 200 grams of Pigs at £1.09 had become 170 grams of Pigs for £1.19. No announcement. No fanfare. No warning.

It’s because M&S is losing money so they have to tighten their belt, right? No. In May this year, they reported that their profits were up 20% over the previous year. They tucked £1.1 billion into the bank after paying their bills.

I will be calling M&S later today to get an explanation about this development.

Not As Easy As It Looks

At our house we’ve already started ballet, karate and Scouts. The next logical step is musical instruments.

The Older Child has been on about learning to play the guitar for some time. He was even looking into taking lessons at school. While the former seemed plausible, the latter is ridiculous, given that the Older Child’s father has been playing guitar for almost 29 years and has taught guitar for almost as long, including teaching children not much older than the Older Child.

Because my acoustic guitar is way too big for the Child to use, we considered repairing a 3/4 size guitar belonging to the Unnamed Woman. It ony needed a bridge, nut, strings, and perhaps a few other bits and bobs, plus I’m not sure the tuning mechanism even holds. And it’s still a bit big for his hands. Or we could buy a new one. We took the Woman’s guitar to a repair shop to get an estimate for bringing it into working order. It was only £15 more to get a new half-size guitar.

We went with the latter option. He had money from his grandfather and at least he was putting some of it into something of more value than most of the toys he buys.

The Older Child was under the same impression about guitar playing that I was about snow skiing when I was 5. You just put on the skis and away you go, right? As soon as he got the guitar, he did the musical equivalent of standing still in the snow. He wanted to play a song and the Woman wanted me to buy him a guitar book.

After explaining how the strings and frets are numbered for reference, he tried his first chord. E minor. I always start with E minor because it is the simplest. The finger positioning wasn’t a problem for the Child. Pressing down with his fingertips and not touching anywhere else on the neck of the guitar was another matter. He had no idea that guitar playing involves pain.

His enthusiasm began to wain a bit. He finally began to understand that he will not be playing “Johnny B. Goode” like Michael J Fox in Back to the Future any time soon.

This morning he was strumming on his guitar again, playng a muted E minor. I hope he has the interest to follow through, even with the pain in the fingers. He is starting 10 years earlier than I did. I hope one day he is better than me.

Living in the Discredited Past

Someone forgot to tell these kids that the 1960s are over.

I am always amazed at how the most left-wing, commie organizations always like to use the word “democratic”. I think the idea is that if they can finally convince 50%+1 of the population to adopt their radical socialism, they can collectivise the US and finally turn it into a communist paradise. After all, look how it has worked so well everywhere else in the world.

They know it’s not going to be easy: “This demands a broad-based, deep-rooted, and revolutionary transformation of our society. It demands that we build on movements that have come before, and alongside other people’s struggles and movements for liberation.” Maybe Mao’s Cultural Revolution didn’t go far enough.

The comforting thing is that these are students for a democratic society. It’s why the first incarnation of this group didn’t outlast the 60s. Everybody has to grow up at some point. Well, most everybody.

Specious Analogies and the Liberal Politics of Hate

What a contrast in two blogs.

The Alaskan Anti-Palin, the very popular liberal blogger AKMuckraker over at Mudflats, has compared the governor of that state and current GOP Vice Presidential candidate to the White Witch of Narnia. By the time  I read the article posted yesterday, there were over 250 cheerleading comments by fellow liberals who have happily fallen into the same fallacies that AKMuckraker has pulled together to create her analogy. Some were even so absurd as to say that Lewis would be impressed or happy with the analogy. Some recognised and lauded the obvious parallel analogy of Obama to Aslan. (An Aslan who apparently be happy with leaving unsuccessfully aborted babies in cupboards to die. Yeah, that’s what would make Lewis proud. Definitely.)

In contrast, over at Hillbuzz, a pro-Hillary pro-McCain pro-Palin blog – yes, a Democrat blog – you can see what Obama followers have done in Gainesville, Virginia. This was picked up by the local press in Northern Virginia, but it doesn’t seem to have made any national outlet. Funny that. Something tells me if it had been anti-Obama messages spray painted, there would have been a lot more interest.

At least the hanging effigy of Sarah Palin in West Hollywood, California was picked up by the press. That was so over the top it really would have been hard to miss. But again, if it had been Obama . . . Well, it doesn’t even bear thinking about all of the recriminations. The same house also had McCain in the chimney with flames around him. The local CBS affiliate wanted to be sure their coverage was balanced and unbiased, so they mentioned that the vandalism went both ways. There was a report of a single Obama yard sign in the LA area that had a racial slur on it.

Open Font, Open Heresy

I went to a baptism today. Actually it was a triple baptism.

Being an Anglican rite, certain things are optional. For example, none of the parents were Anglican. I know that at least some of the godparents were not Anglican either. (My best guess is that none of them are.) I know that the parents of two of the children are not married. (My best guess is that the others weren’t either.)

Now here is what I don’t get. Even in the wishy-washy (or rather, the wishier-washier) alternative to the Common Worship text, the parents have to turn to Christ, repent of their sin, and renounce evil. If they are living in fornication when they walk into the Church and when they walk out, with no intention of changing that arrangement, how is it that the church allows them to go through the motions?

The church cannot know the secrets of the heart, but they can easily know the openness of cohabitation. The C of E substitutes social occasions for sacraments. Having the baby “done” is an excuse to have a party. Actually when I saw the godfather of one of the children with a diamond ear stud and his shirt undone to show off his bling, I knew this was going to be what could only  be called an ex-chav-aganza.

Is it any surprise that if the sacrament of baptism has lost its sacredness, the rest soon follow? You end up with things like women pretending to be priests (or even bishops) or the proported marriage of a man and a man.

The Prince of Darkness and the Unaccountable Media Bias

Anyone who has been watching media coverage of the US Presidential election can hardly have missed that any misstep by the Republicans is amplified and that of the Democrats is minimalised. Right now, with Obama leading in the polls, Katie Couric (who I watch most nights) is almost bursting with enthusiasm and joy.

Things are not much different here in the UK. George Osbourne, the Shadow Chancellor (Opposition spokesman on treasury matters) once attended a party given by rich Russian businessman on his really big yacht. He didn’t ask for a donation to the Conservative Party and he did not receive one. As a result, the BBC and other media outlets have been running this story non-stop. They are almost urging people to call for his ouster.

On the other hand, the sleaze-ridden twice-resigned and twice-rehabilitated Prince of Darkness, Peter Mandelson, back in the cabinet again, has now admitted that he lied about when he also met with the same Russian oligarch. He had previously said he met Oleg Deripaska, merely in a social context, in 2006 and 2007. Or as he finally had to admit, “During the weekend when I moved from Brussels to London and prior to me being admitted to hospital for an urgent medical procedure, a statement was released to the press which said I had had meetings with Mr Deripaska in 2006 and 2007.  Some people formed the reasonable view, therefore, that my first meeting with him was in 2006. This is not the case: To the best of my recollection we first met in 2004 and I met him several times subsequently.”

It also just happened that Deripaska’s aluminium business made huge profits because Mandelson, as European Trade Commissioner, cut back the import duties in 2005. Deripaska owns the largest aluminium producer in the world, UC Rusal.

But it’s not Mandelson, a member of the Government, that is being pressured to resign again, it is a front bencher in the not-so-Conservative Party. As David Cameron, the Leader of the Opposition, said, this must be the first financial scandal where there weren’t any finances involved. In fact, it is not even illegal to solicit political donations from foreigners (something both Mr Osborne and Mr Deripaska agree didn’t happen), it is only illegal to accept them (something the Tories didn’t do).

And it would seem that the only one in a position to start the allegations against Mr Osborne was someone else who was at the party, namely, Lord Mandelson. This would be the same Lord Mandelson that was recently attacked by George Osborne for his ties to Deripaska. Mandelson’s approach seems to be, “Attack me for my long-time relationship to a dodgy Russian tycoon and not only will I lie about it, I’ll say you were the one doing a dodgy deal.”

And unsurprisingly the BBC and print media have go along with it. They ignore the fact that Mandelson has fallen from power in a Government that has made it very difficult to fall from power in two separate financial scandals. They turn on the otherwise squeaky clean George Osborne.

It is as if the BBC is playing a game. Someone has decided that they will continue to report on this long enough and often enough that the Tories have to say something to deny it and then report the denial long enough and often enough until people figure there must be something to it, or the Tories wouldn’t keep denying it.