Sunday, 26 February 2006

The most important meal of the day

When I was a child it would never have occurred to my mother to let me go to school ‘breakfastless’, as it were. I don’t think it would have occurred to any mother at the time. Breakfast was a ritual. You had to allow time for it; get up early enough to partake of the traditional café au lait served in a big bol, with tartines beurrées and confiture or miel. Most people only had croissants on holiday, in hotels or pensions de famille, for instance, or on special occasions: they were a luxury (which was just as well since they’re very fatty and not very good for you at all).

I know there are children who go to school in the morning without so much as a glass of water in their tummies. How are they supposed to be alert and able to take in anything they're taught? I can’t think at all when my blood sugar is low (I may have lost a job once, years ago, when I went for an interview several hours after lunch, without realizing I was bound to get hungry halfway through it. Had they asked what my name was at that point I wouldn’t have been able to answer, let alone respond to a grilling from a potential employer). When I am very hungry I stop being compos mentis, and I’m an adult.

Everyone needs nourishment after hours of nocturnal starvation, but because these days children cannot be told what to do and cannot be persuaded to eat or drink anything that is good for them just because it's good for them, and because everything has to be fun fun fun, the clever people at Kellogg’s have come up with another gimmicky breakfast product: Coco Pops Straws. They’re biscuits lined with chocolate, through which you can drink milk. Chocolate-tasting milk and biscuit is yummy and everyone loves it – the Australians have Tim Tams (you break off opposite corners of the biscuit and suck milk through it) – but biscuits are full of sugar and fat, and therefore unhealthy, and cannot be deemed to supply growing children with adequate amounts of vitamins and other nutrients. The advertisements for the product have been called ‘socially irresponsible’ and have been referred to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority for being misleading. Kellogg’s answer was that they were trying to encourage children to drink milk. But of course you were!

Irresponsible advertising directed at adults is bad, but irresponsible advertising directed at children is unforgivable. Slap!

Thursday, 23 February 2006

Out of sync

That’s what I am at the moment re. this blog, so today I offer you these two facts that send shivers down my spine – for different reasons, obviously:

1) Apparently, 4 out of 10 Brits believe Darwin was wrong. (The number is probably even higher in the US.)

2) The number of deaths in British hospitals from MRSA, i.e. from infection caused by lack of hygiene, has increased in the past year in spite of official assurances that the problem was being tackled vigorously.


Monday, 20 February 2006

I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole

They showed the Baftas on the TV yesterday. The whole thing looked very much like the Oscars, except that it was cold and dark and rainy outside, and all the stars who’d made the trip to London were interviewed under dripping umbrellas.

But that’s not what I want to talk about: they showed a few clips from Capote. The hitherto underrated Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Best Actor award. He looked very cool and I don’t think he understood any of Stephen Fry’s jokes. In fact, I doubt any of the Americans in the audience understood them: they sounded as if they’d been written by whoever writes Humphrey Lyttelton’s text in I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue so they were very British and rather surreal. George Clooney, William H. Macy et al. smiled politely but looked more bemused than amused.

I remember reading In Cold Blood when I was young – after seeing the film, I think – and being bowled over by the writing. What I didn’t know at the time was that Truman Capote had been smitten with one of the murderous psychopaths and actually developed a close relationship with him. Just like those women who write love letters to men on Death Row.

What is that about? Is it always women who can’t manage to attract ‘ordinary’ men? Is it just the thrill of dealing with dangerous people? Do they believe they can 'save' those hardened criminals? They are deluded, of course.
On the one hand, you have women stuck with men who beat them up and who would dearly like to be free of them, and, on the other, women who seek out men who very often embarked on their murderous careers by beating women up. It’s totally beyond me.

I wonder what message it gives to men in general.

I'm slapping those women and anyone else who thinks they can play with fire and not suffer the consequences.

Thursday, 16 February 2006

Têtes à claques VII

See these people here? (I’ve arranged them in strict alphabetical order so that they don’t think I’m being unfair.) What do they have in common?

1) They're all actors
2) Each of them is a louse (read on: a pattern will emerge very soon)

Louse no.1: Charles Dance – I knew him, back in the ‘70s, when he was with the RSC: he was a very nice, very considerate man (I expect he still is). He asked me to look after his underpants once… nah, it’s a long story. Well, he had been married for a very long time to a woman who’d supported him through the lean years when he fell in love/lust with a starlet, less than half his age. As I asked in a previous post, “What does a man of 58 see in a girl of 25?”

Louse no.2: Ralph Fiennes – he was married to the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life. Alex Kingston is stunning. You have no idea how much. And a real sweetie. Ralph left her for Francesca Annis (can’t stand her as an actress: she adds a little laugh at the end of every line she utters – extremely annoying), who was old enough to be his mother. Strangely enough, they met when he played Hamlet opposite her Gertrude. Duh! I can’t remember whether she was still married at the time, but, who cares, it was unseemly. And now he’s left her – what a surprise! – for a very much younger woman. Yuck!

Louse no.3: Anthony Hopkins – he’s had four wives. I don’t know the details; I just know he left the penultimate one minutes after giving an interview in which he said he was now a reformed character (he used to drink a lot) and happy. How can someone who can express such subtle emotions (that scene in Remains of the Day where Emma Thompson tries to prise the book he’s reading from his hands… oh, it’s so painful!) be such an inconsiderate human being?

Louse no.4: Ben Kingsley, oops, sorry, Sir Ben Kingsley – what’s that nonsense about insisting on being called ‘Sir Ben’?! It’s so ridiculous. Those titles mean absolutely nothing and everyone knows they don’t. The problem with BK is that he takes himself sooooo seriously. Always have. I attended a talk he gave at the Shakespeare Institute, at Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1975. It should have been a ‘talk’; it was a lecture. I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but I remember it as very very boring. I didn’t care at the time because I’d seen his Hamlet the day before and I was still under the spell: I'd been sitting in the aisle in the RSC studio and BK had directed one of the speeches straight at me. He’s got such intense dark eyes; I was completely mesmerized.

I know he can be relaxed: I have on one of my walls a big black and white photo taken during a rehearsal of Nicholas Nickleby (that unforgettable RSC production). It shows BK (who played Squeers) and Edward Petherbridge (who played Newman Noggs) laughing their heads off, while Timothy Spall (who played Wackford Squeers) is pretending to chew on a huge roll of sellotape (who plays a bun). So, BK, lighten up! Anyway, he too left his wife of many years for a floozy, who has to call him ‘Sir’ even in private, they say.

Louse no.5: Kristin Scott Thomas – I’ve seen so many articles (in French and British magazines) telling us what a charmed life she had in Paris with her wonderful obstetrician husband and three well-behaved children. It was all a sham. She’s now left her hubby for a young actor. Erm, it won’t last, Kristin; see above, Louse no.3: in time, you will be Francesca Annis to his Ralph Fiennes.

I’m old-fashioned: I believe in loyalty.

Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap!

Update: If you want to read about what it feels like for a woman to be left for someone younger, click here.

Saturday, 11 February 2006

Call yourself a human being?

I’m afraid I can’t tell you about the near miss the other day, but, don’t despair, I may still have cause to slap that person properly in the future. I’ll let you know.

Anyway, while we wait for World War Three to start because of a cartoon, I want to slap a couple of people for whom drawing and quartering isn’t good enough. I mean the babysitters that were recently jailed for raping a 12-week-old baby girl and taking pictures of their repulsive acts. The mother was totally unaware of the abuse until the police discovered the photos and showed them to her. You don’t want to even imagine what her reaction must have been.

The man is 40 years old and the woman 19. Sentencing them, the judge said the young woman was “also a victim and had come under her boyfriend’s ‘malign influence’ and was to some extent ‘corrupted by him’.” I’m not quite sure what I think about that. I believe anyone with a smidgen of moral sense should be capable of resisting such evil influence, but I’m obviously wrong. Obviously, some weak-minded people find it impossible to do so in certain circumstances. I really don’t know. What they did stuns me. My brain refuses to understand how anyone can do such a thing and consider themselves ‘human’.

What does a 40-year-old man see in a 19-year-old woman, in the first place? Apart from the obvious, I mean; apart from an unformed, malleable personality he can mould as he wishes. Neither partner wants to have a relationship based on equality and mutual respect, so the age/life-experience discrepancy doesn’t matter.

There have been lots of similar cases in the past, but I don’t think it’s ever been suggested that the women were the instigators in any of them. I take comfort in that, at least (even though I want to slap them harder yet for being so pathetic).


Thursday, 9 February 2006

Interim post

I was going to slap someone very hard today, but he's redeemed himself a bit in the meantime, so I'm having to readjust my head and, since I haven't got the time to write a proper slap right now, I'd just like to say this: whatever field you work in, do not tell someone who's worked in it longer than you what is or is not traditional in that field. It's kinda insulting.

That's all.

More later.

Sunday, 5 February 2006

How much lower…

As a child, I remember being told by my parents not to stare at people who looked ‘different’: lots of not-so-old men who’d been horribly injured during WW1 were still around at the time and they were a startling sight. They were affectionately called gueules cassées (broken faces) and the French National Lottery was set up to collect money for them. They were respected, not mocked.

So, I never let my gaze even linger on someone whose appearance is a bit odd or who is in a wheelchair or whatever. Like everyone else, I am curious and would sometimes like to find out what happened to the person; like everyone else (I hope), I feel compassion and would like to offer my sympathy, but I know it’s not acceptable, so I try not to behave in an offensive way just by looking. I have seen children stare openly at a disabled person and not being checked by a parent standing next to them. I have myself been stared and pointed at – when I had bright red hair that seemed to offend some people. When there was a possibility that I might lose an eye, fifteen years ago, I knew I would probably have to have counselling in order to help me cope with the stares that I would no doubt be subjected to.

I thought we were supposed to be a more tolerant and caring society, but we are all turning into the worst kind of voyeurs. Until recently I believed Big Brother and other reality shows had plumbed the depths of shamefulness, but then there was Extreme Plastic Surgery (or whatever that ignominious programme was called) and that went well beyond the limits of bad taste. At least the people taking part in those shows were volunteers (whether or not they were getting paid for appearing in them). Now Channel 4 has gone further and has revived the Victorian Freak Show by broadcasting a series entitled Bodyshock, advertised as ‘Extraordinary and captivating real-life stories’ and as ‘A collection of startling and shocking real-life stories’. Here are the titles of the programmes that are to be shown in the next few weeks:

The Boy Who Gave Birth to his Twin
The Man Who Slept for 19 Years
The Man Who Ate His Lover
The 80-Year-Old Children
The Two-Headed Baby

Because I don’t like to dismiss anything without at least catching a glimpse of it, I watched ten minutes of one programme, The Curse of the Mermaid (about a baby girl born with her legs fused together and no external genitals). It was seemingly about the operations that were going to be performed to make her ‘normal’, but it was just a chance for people to gawp at a poor, deformed little body. I haven’t been able to avoid the trailers for the next programme, Half-Ton Man. You can just imagine what that’s going to be like.

What Channel 4 is doing is ignoble and panders to our worst instincts. The irony is that the very first programme that company broadcast, back in the mid-’80s, was a wonderful, compassionate film about a man with learning difficulties, called Walter, with Ian McKellen in the title role. It seemed to herald an era of responsible programming.

I’ve just read Channel 4’s Statement of Promises. It says that Channel 4 should ‘foster the new and experimental in television. It will encourage pluralism, provide a favoured place for the untried and encourage innovation in style, content, perspective and talent, on and off screen. [...] We are a commercial broadcaster, with a funding structure and public service remit to provide diverse and innovative programming and services. [...] Channel 4 aims to set ambitions for innovation in British media that others aspire to meet.’

‘that others aspire to meet’ – this is only the beginning, then…


Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Guest Slapper of the Month I

Recently, on this very blog, FullTiltRedhead (a fellow perfume lover) suggested this slap and, trying to reassure me of her good intentions towards me, ended her comment with ‘Your fan’. She didn’t actually say, ‘Your No 1 Fan’, but I thought it wiser to let her have her say. I do care about my shins, you know. LOL!

So, without further ado, here is FullTiltRedhead’s Slap of the Day!

Have a look at the ad that Estée Lauder is currently running for their new men’s cologne, called ‘Unforgivable’, in connection with Puff Daddy – no, that’s P. Diddy – no, wait, it’s Sean Jean now. Or Jean-Sean. I can’t keep up. (I had no idea he was French.) Through their subsidiary, Aramis, of course, because who would want to actually put the Estée Lauder name on this vile piece of macho posturing.

To start off with, P. Diddy's apparently flipping us the bird. He's got himself two ho's and he doesn't care too much what anybody thinks about it. Unforgivable. It's none of my business what he does in bed, so who's supposed to be forgiving him? Are we to understand he's messing around on someone? He plays around behind her back, and he doesn't care if she doesn’t forgive him. And EL thought that was so cute, they made a perfume about it. EL, come here so I can slap you!

Ok, maybe that’s a reach, an imaginary partner in an imaginary back-story. Then why the name, Unforgivable? It’s been suggested by greater minds than mine that what’s Unforgivable by racist standards is that P. Diddy has managed to overcome the oppression of The Man; he’s rich enough, powerful enough, and independent enough that he can achieve the ‘two women’ fantasy. That makes sense; he is, after all, flashing the bling, reminding us that he’s got enough money to hire all the women he wants, and threat them however he feels like. Life is, after all, all about the money. I'm happy for him. So why is the ad so hostile, so domineering, so full of stereotypes, so disgustingly cliché?

For example, where are the Asian woman's arms? I’m guessing we’re meant to think she’s handcuffed, or at least that he’s restraining her. Ah, the stereotype of the passive Asian woman! She’s gazing with apprehension into his lap. Is it THAT big? Well, you know what they say about black men. And there's what looks like maybe a Latina woman in the background. She doesn't look pleased. Well, you know how demanding those hot Latina women are!

There are no black women. Why? Black women don't figure in black men's fantasies?

And lastly, here's the bottle. Why, it's ribbed for her pleasure!

Thank you, Bela, for allowing me to come here and SLAP the fool out of Estée Lauder for this racist, sexist, and vulgar piece of work.

As the heading of today's slap indicates, I intend Guest Slapper of the Month to be, well, a monthly feature here (less work for me, more fun for you). However, this will be by invitation only (unless I’m really scared of you), so don’t form a queue yet.