Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Blair's election promises

Why is Tony Blair bothering this year? He never kept them in the past! Remember when he said he wouldn't raise income tax? And he wouldn't introduce tuition fees? Here's what Tony said at the Labour conference in 1994:

"We meet in a spirit of hope, hope that change can come....
hope that we can rid our country of this Tory Government
their broken promises
their failed policies
their discredited philosophy
and elect in its place, a Labour Government for Britain."

Actually its worth a read of that speech in full... but here are a few highlights:

"We applaud Yitzhak Rabin's Labour government and Yasser Arafat's PLO, for breaking new ground to help the Palestinian people towards self government in the Gaza Strip and Jericho and bring peace to the Middle East."

Yes Tony, peace in the middle east is good...

"Fifty years ago, the British Labour government helped to form theUnited Nations.
We will continue to work for it to be stronger, more cohesive and capable of bringing new order to a world no longer dominated by the Cold War."

...oh and we'll also ignore what it says and head off war-mongering on our own when we feel like it. The leader of the UN will describe our behaviour as "illegal"....

well and it goes on to complain about how the Tories are leaving students in poverty and letting the rich get richer and so on, all the things that Labour has done nothing about and in a fair few cases made worse.

Not that I wish to suggest the Tories would be a better choice. But at least they tell you they're going to screw you before they screw you...

Monday, September 27, 2004

Another body count

I have been searching the web unsuccessfully for any sign of a site which keeps a count of deaths resulting from plastic surgery. No surgery is without its risks and after last weekend's college reunion when I discovered a friend of mine from college has ALREADY had botox (she must be under 30...) I have started to develop a hypersensitivity to the balance of media coverage on the issues. So far apart from Awful Plastic Surgery which has a negative slant (mostly) to its stories, I really can't find very much other than enthusiasm for these dangerous proceedures in the media.

Naturally over the nice posh dinner I quizzed my friend about why she'd had botox and she said that she thought she needed it because she had a "really animated face". Well maybe I'm biased because of my erstwhile second career in comedy and the need to be expressive but I think an animated face is a good thing!

A few weeks back at a different party I met a nurse who works at a London hospital for plastic surgery patients. She told me two things that made me uncomfortable: Firstly that she thought 99% of the people coming in for treatment were actually really very attractive people - not people with any sort of genuine disfigurement or even people who could be descibed as below average for looks. Secondly she said these days younger and younger patients are coming in, mostly women, including some who were still halfway through puberty but had already decided they wanted breast enlargement. And their mothers would come in with them, encouraging them and often paying for them as a birthday present, etc.

Well anyway someone else pointed out to me recently that Olivia Goldsmith died from complications arising from cosmetic surgery and I wondered how I'd missed it and all the natural outcry that it should have generated.

Anyway a bit of research shows another death at the same hospital where OG died. And then this website says there have been over 100 deaths from liposuction in the US in the period to 1998. Also Rosemarie Mondeck died after liposuction. Then there was the animation company founder Micheline Charest. Another four are listed here. And another five here. As I dig I keep finding more and more. This Cosmo article says 20 out of 100,000 liposuction patients dies. Running total 118, but I suspect that is the tip of the iceberg.

Evidence (as if we needed it) also suggests that women who elect to have plastic surgery are twice as likely to commit suicide than the rest of us. Perhaps referring these people to unscrupulous plastic surgeons rather than psychiatrists to figure out where their self-confidence issues are coming from wasn't a good idea either.

Need I remind the reading public that no-one has ever EVER died of ugliness...?

Baby obsession, this exchange made me laugh...

(From a private egroup I belong to, names changed.. have to start reading at the bottom though cos I haven't changed it round from the email I sent)

no shit. i agree with jim for once. i'm really pleased for you maggie, cos its what you want, but i think motherhood (not something that has ever figured in my life plans) should be thought of as a very hard job, rather than a spiritual experience. and i agree that you have to balance needs of maggie and darren with needs of ankle-biter.

cruella (also no offence ruby)

From: Jim
Sent: 27 September 2004 09:24
Subject: RE: Happy news :-)

Oh ffs. Pass the bucket. ;)

Millions of women get pregnant, and whereas I'm happy for Maggie as it's what she wants, I know it's also gonna be hard work for both Maggie and Darren alike.

There is more to life than 'being a mum'. Just because you have kids, you shouldn't let your IQ dribble out of your ears. You should also take time out to remember that you and your partner are just as important as your child. Only between you all, can you make a cohesive happy unit.

Sorry, but sanctimonious motherhood really gets on my t!ts (nothing personal ruby).


-----Original Message-----
From: Ruby
Sent: 27 September 2004 04:20
Re: Happy news :-)

Congratulations and enjoy being pregnant for the first time. It's such an experience, and may you feel like the first woman in the world to be pregnant, because you deserve it.


----- Original Message -----
From: Maggie
Sent: 23 September 2004 15:28
Subject: Happy news :-)
Just wanted to share with you all our very happy news.

I'm NOT fat


Baby is due end of March, and is currently 13 weeks "old" and doing fine. We had our scan last week which showed the correct number of legs, arms etc (when baby finally stopped jigging around and doing a headstand and stayed still long enough to count!)

So I happily join the "Mamas and Papas" club - do we get a discount with that or a free cuddly toy ?

Love Maggie

Friday, September 24, 2004

How does God want YOU to vote?

I am starting to wonder whether the Republicans are seriously trying to put Ripley's believe-it-or-not museum out of business. This article from the NY Times was sent over to me by a friend. I have been looking for the 1st April date tag or something but, no, it appears its true. You have to register to see NYT articles but it's free.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Moving goalposts...

The ongoing "rebranding" of the Iraq invasion has taken another new twist today with Tony calling Iraq a "Crucible of global terrorism". He really should try to keep better track of who we're at war with and why:

We went to war with Afghanistan to combat global terrorism. Thats because although 17 out of 18 of the 9/11 suicide pilots were Saudi Arabian, the other one was Afghani and their leader Osama Bin Laden, who is still on the loose, and who is also Saudi Arabian, was rumoured to be hiding in a cave in Afghanistan. We didn't find him so we don't know if that's true but we did bomb the cr*p out of Afghanistan and then by pure co-incidence installed a president who was an ex-employee of Unocal and long before anyone had time to organise elections we got him to sign an agreement so we could build a big oil pipeline through the country in exactly the place that the old regime had said we couldn't.

Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden aren't friends, actually they pretty much hate each other. If they had any connection at all it would be through their mutual friend George W Bush, whose Dad installed one and armed the other (ok armed both...).

Now we went to war with Iraq because Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction and we needed to overthrow his evil regime and free the Iraqi people. We did find Saddam but we didn't find any of these weapons and actually in the end we decided that there weren't any there and that we just hadn't read the reports carefully enough before we started.

So when did Iraq become the "Crucible of global terrorism"? Well actually probably around the time that we started bombing the cr*p out of them. Of course what we should remember though is that this is "new" global terror - it has nothing to do with Al Qaeda or any such thing, this is terror which we have created. Also its not very global, what Tony is talking about is bombs and hostage-takings within Iraq, focussed on the foreigners who are part of the military and administrative occupational regime which came in uninvited to their country and killed thousands and thousands of people.

I wonder if Tony has ever read "The Crucible"?

More evidence that the BBC is going down the pan...

Yet another hugely unbalanced human interest story off the health pages today. A woman who suffered an unusual illness the treatment for which was thought to have left her infertile has had a baby. Is this helpful? I don't think so and here's why not:

1) In this story doctors failed to identify they woman's condition for a lengthy period of time and, indeed, dismissed her as a hypocondriac. I had exactly the same experience several times at the doctors and would be really interested to see what proportion of female patients are "fobbed off" without proper testing. Actually I was once told by a male doctor that he didn't believe women who told him that taking the pill messed up their hormones, to which I, spluttering, replied "well you f*cking take it then!".

2) The doctors also failed to mention to her that the treatment they were giving her would render her infertile. Surely this doctor should be struck off! Again I've been given treatments at the doctors which I later discovered had a common side effect of "depression" without anyone mentioning the fact (despite my history of suffering).

3) The story repeatedly refers to how this woman would do "anything" to have a baby, including putting her own life at risk. Yet they never ask the question whether this is a healthy attitude and whether she had been encouraged to consider not having children or other options such as fostering or adopting a needy child.

4) Disproportionately little press coverage is given to the many women who are unable to have children, to unsuccessful IVF treatment, to years of being poked and prodded around and the stress that that puts on relationships. There is a really good article on this called "Don't fuel the baby obsession" by Germaine Greer, but I can't find it on the web, its pretty old and relates to provision of IVF treatment on the NHS.

People who have kids are really not going to say that they wish they hadn't bothered - of course not - these young people exist now and to wish they didn't would be harsh. However we need to have a society in which not having kids (now the choice of one in 5 women in the UK) is also considered healthy and normal.

Betrayed by New Labour

Greg Dyke's documentary "Betrayed by New Labour" on Channel four last night was pretty interesting. For those who missed it I believe the book is available. Inevitably focussed on the events leading to GD's resignation and inevitably focussed on his side of the story (although there was a highlight, for me, when he read out an email from an employee after his resignation which read "f*ck off, i never liked you anyway"!) it none the less made some interesting points. GD and the news team working for him received angry letters almost daily complaining about their coverage of the issues in Iraq... from Alaister Campbell. AC also commandeered interview shows on channel four to lecture the listening public on how the BBC's report was "a lie, a lie, a lie, a lie,...". On the one hand I almost admired AC for just having the nerve to try to pull off such a huge coup - buck-passing the blame for the conspicuously sexed-up dossier and the subsequent death of David Kelly, the troops lost out there and thousands of Iraqis in the direction of Dyke and co. On the other hand I can't help wondering if as he swept out of the studio angrily he didn't leave behind a whiff of sulphur...

Cruella "will not quit" blogging due to stress

Ok I have had a few days off, due to mainly having to go back to my old uni for a reunion dinner the details of which definitely don't bear publishing on the internet and various other commitments. However I am back now and stronger than ever,...

The whole hoo-haa about Tony and whether or not he wanted to quit office at some point earlier in the year is a bit daft. Strikes me as an attempt to engage in smoke and mirrors to obscure key things going on right now such as the fact that he's had to admit we're still at war with Iraq...

I suspect part of the cunning plan behind the deliberately "spun" story is to generate public sympathy. Poor Tony, it must be tough being in charge of the country, earning a raging fortune and being waited on hand and foot but an army of flunkies. If we need another sob story there are plenty in Iraq: civilians and soldiers on both sides injured, killed, tortured, broken. I'm sure a large number of them would happily swap jobs with Bliar. I also think we need someone to run the country who can give 100% to the job. Then maybe they could do stuff like checking intelligence reports thoroughly before marching to war.

Stupid republican idea of the week

Those clever men (note: men) over at the Republican party have had a great idea on combatting poverty: promoting marriage. Yes ladies, move back in with your abusive partners or starve to death... Luckily Kiersten Stewart at Gadflyer has writted this one up very succinctly, as I don't actually think I could do it without getting into a real rage and probably breaking my computer or something...

Note that Kiersten raises the very valid point that the benefits to children of growing up with two parents rather than one are almost entirely explained financially. Maybe someone should mention this to Fathers4Justice...

Monday, September 13, 2004

Women work harder than men - official stats

Turns out girls study harder than boys at university according to the BBC. Apparently thats why they get more 2:1s and higher grades. Meanwhile boys get more 1sts than girls because they study so-called "hard" subjects which hand out a disproportionate percentage of the firsts. Of course its pretty hard to say which are the "hard" subjects - they list "computer studies" as an example. But its classic chicken and egg, if language students were 95% lads probably languages would be considered the hardest subject. Still - nice one girls!

Would you let this man look after your kids?

Fathers "4" Justice are at it again. This time while the UK is allegedly on "high" terror alert, or whatever it is at the moment, some pratt in tights and a leather-effect mask is burning up the cash the police should be spending on catching real "baddies" by trespassing halfway up a Buckingham Palace wall.

If I donned my "stop the war" T-shirt and did the same thing I'd say there's a reasonable chance I'd be shot. I'm not exaggerating incidentally: according to the story on the BBC "Sir John (Stevens, Metropolitan Police Commissioner) said police made a split-second judgement that Mr Hatch was not a security risk because of the way he was behaving and the clothes he was wearing - and for this reason they did not open fire." So expect a run on batman outfits for the international terrorist community this week.

Well aside from the absolute stupidity of the guy, the fact that these F4J are getting a hugely disporportionate amount of press coverage relative to how many of them there are, etc, etc he must have some point to make so lets have a look at what he's protesting about...

He wants greater access to kids for non-resident parents. Well that's a good enough cause right? Its got to be good for kids to spend time with their Dads. As a general principal I would completely agree. Personally I suspect that most single mothers would agree with that statement too. Here are a few issues I have with it though:

1) If these guys are so keen to see their kids - why didn't they/don't they apply for custody? Well maybe some did/do but statistically it's a tiny number. If they're not prepared to take on the responsibilities of looking after a child then shouldn't we let the person who HAS taken on the responsibilities make the decision on what they do at weekends. Do people who give their kids up for adoption have visiting rights? I think not.

2) Life as a single mother is not easy. We should realise that. Giving fathers legal rights to access their kids at certain times and for certain time periods places a further burden of organisation on someone who probably really doesn't need it.

3) Lets not forget (lest we ever...) that 1 in 4 women is a victim of domestic violence during their lifetime. In a typical year 500,000 women will be victims of domestic violence in the UK while 25,000 men will have contact orders for access to their children broken*.

*The shock-horror statistics will tell you that this is half of the contact orders made. So why are only 50,000 contact orders made? Well because everybody else either is able to have access without an order, or didn't bother applying for an order, doesn't want to see their kids or was turned down by the courts as not fit to have access to the kids.

Don't get me wrong here, I do believe that in an ideal world every kid would have a wide range of adult role models including both of their biological parents, their grandparents, etc. But this is the real world and while that lot are busy breaching national security... someone else is looking after the kids!


Went to see it on Sunday and it's excellent. Well worth seeing. Essentially a lot of it is barely fiction but I think if anything the experience of being IN the darkened theatre rather than the crowded train hits home a little harder the feeling of what war is or might be like. Its pretty funny in places too if you can manage to laugh at such dark and worrying matters. There is a review on culturevulture that i think is relatively balanced. Better still why not go along yourself? Tickets can be bought online here.

John Snow

The BBC has seen their way clear to publishing a nice article about John Snow. Well worth reading for historical interest although one point they fail to make is that there is a very nice pub named after him just next to where the nasty water-pump was - corner of Lexington Street and Broadwick Street. I feel his memory would be well-served by a refreshing ale or two there at some point.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Going too far?

The BBC reports nearly $3bn has been spent so far rehabilitating the relatives of those who died in the world trade centre. It doesn't say exactly how many people this money has been split between nor does it give much in the way of detailed breakdown of how it has been spent.

So here's the maths: The total dead in the incident was around 3,000. So for each person who died an average of $1m has been spent helping their family members. Thats a lot of money. Some families have, according to the article received several thousand dollar in actual payouts and on top of this large amounts have been spent on therapy options particualrly for the children involved.

Since the majority of those working the towers will have been well-paid family bread-winners, this is not as shocking as it sounds although I do have the feeling that some of the people involved will be laughing all the way to the bank after charging well over the odds for art therapy, music therapy, aromatherapy, etc (all of which I am fully prepared to believe have a positive effect - i just wonder where the line falls between letting kids be kids and draw pictures with some 50c crayons and charging serious dollars for "art therapy").

However there are two more significant issues I felt the need to raise in the light of the article:

1) How much of this stuff is being offered to victims families in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Answer: nothing. Even the 50c pack of crayons is well out of the price range for many families who have been affected by US and UK military action in these places.

2) Is there an element to this on-going focus on therapy, the fact that they are still trying to identify remains and still holding funerals, and the fact that it is talked about day in day out by the US government which might actually be dragging out the pain these people are going through?

The widow of one of the victims said: "To be murdered live on television is unusual enough. To get to see it every day for three years - there's not a day you don't hear it, or see it. On the other hand, you don't want people to forget. It just hurts so much."

And another: "The repeated invocation of 9/11 at the recent Republican convention has been hard to bear. I was watching with my daughter, and it was brought up so much. I don't think I resent the fact they did it, but there could have been less imagery involved all the time."

Stop Press

...I'm suitably delighted to report that Osama "the hat" Bin Laden's secret underground hide-out has been uncovered! Have a look at this!

From the international desk...

Well I do like to trawl through papers far and wide and leave no stone unturned in my quest to... ok my mate sent me this (the second letter). Well I'm not sure how long these things stay on websites but here's the text of a letter to the "Herald Review", a local Illinois paper, which I must admit is not usually the first thing I pick up off the mat in the morning:

"Use of God shows morality

I have never written a letter to the editor, but after reading the letter "Bush is using Christianity, God as a way to get votes" in the Sept. 4 newspaper, I felt I had to.

I think this is a great way to get votes. A born-again Christian is one who stands for moral values, such as marriage between man and woman and any abortion is murder. Both of these are sins, and God cannot stand sin.

Our nation was founded by our fathers, who were God-fearing men. Did you ever stop and think about 9/11? This could be a way to wake us up, as this country is getting more immoral each day. If we get too evil, we could end up having a dictator like Saddam.

Praise God for freedom of speech. I don't know what to think of John Kerry, but because I believe in God, I will not ever vote for someone who is for gay marriage or abortion.

I pray that God will have mercy on our great nation. I beg for everyone to remember that someday we will all stand before God, whether we believe it or not.

John W. Moon


This is pretty scary. This guy seems to have the impression that Saddam Hussein is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. This is news to me. If anything though the most frightenng part of the letter is the opening where he points out that he's never written a letter to a newspaper editor before because it hints at just how many hundreds of thousands of similarly-minded people there might be out there.

The other tricky issue is that there isn't a great deal of detail in my copy of the bible about the legality of civil partnerships and the rights (or otherwise) of a woman over her foetus. You really have to look hard to find that stuff. I did notice quite early on though there was a big section where God (whoever she is), quite clearly said "Thou shallt not kill". Etched it on some big stone tablets, thought it was obvious...

Not that it makes much odds to Dubya, I'm sure he will just rig the results anyway if he doesn't get enough votes.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Interesting viewing

Did anyone else see "Don't Worry!", described as "Britain's first investigative consumer affairs series with puppets!" last night? Today I can't seem to find out any info about it except a bare-bones listing on the Channel 4 website. Last night's was about the oil industry and the pending distruction of the entire planet. The highlight was the discussion of "greenwashing". Better still right after the discussion on greenwashing there was a commercial break and one of the adverts shown was "E$$O has been investing in the fuels of tomorrow..." one of these classic efforts where no actual numbers on the % of profits or revenues being invested are offered, just a lot of pictures of sunsets and kiddies and stuff. Exactly what they had just been talking about.

My watching it really just preaching to the converted. But it makes a nice point, with the puppets, that you don't need to be Einstein to understand things like environmental issues. Its a strange time-slot but perhaps it will catch a few people unawares and spread a little healthy discomfort.

Is the government stopping the media covering the story about the government stopping the media?

Ok maybe that's a bit of an overstatement but when famous Hollywood celebrities come over to London and get involved in smaller-scale theatrical productions, usually there is so much press about it it gets pretty boring. Not so the latest Tim Robbins play "Embedded", now playing at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Seems that poor old leftie Robbins has been leftie-out in the cold, etc, etc (insert own weak pun here). Anyway finally the BBC seem to have noticed today here although they say it received poor reviews (where?). But better still, just think of all the people who log on to Cruella-blog... Don't worry Tim, you'll be sold out in no time. Seriously folks, it looks like an interesting piece. I'm going to go at the weekend and I'll post a review up when I get back.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Whatever happened to good old fashioned face paints?

Spotted this on the BBC website. Interesting statistics on the % of children who wear make-up regularly. Amazing their response to this is not to ask searching questions of the government about whether young children are being exposed to too much unhelpful advertising (a bugbear of mine, expect a lot more blogging about this on here) but instead to propose installing lipstick vending machines in schools!

Personally I don't wear make-up except for the occassional fancy party, I gave it up about five years ago having at one stage been a can't-leave-the-house-without-it gal. And I'd never go back now. I've tried asking a few of my friends who do wear it daily why that is and they say things like "I have terrible skin", "I look so old without it" and "I just feel weird without it". No-one said that they thought they looked particularly glamourous or more professional WITH make-up. Surely somewhere back at the dawn of time, make-up was about making yourself look good, rather than disguising the terrible secret fact that you look ghastly without it.

I guess the advertisers cunning ploy has got us all fooled. These days we "need" make up rather than feeling that its a luxury we can enjoy but also live without if needs be. Which reminds me of the recent TV show (which I deliberately missed) on the beauty school in Kabul. Now I can appreciate that any money-making scheme for Afghan women is likely to be a positive step and frankly anything is better than nothing. Still you can't help thinking we've started to treat perceived, conventional, market-dictated beauty (i.e. not the real stuff) as a necessity. And we're helping to push the idea along to the world's poor and the under-10s.

Proposed action:

1) Lets all stop wearing make-up. Actually its good for you too, I have much better skin since I stopped.

2) Lets stop buying those magazine that are full of that sort of advertising. Little girls only want magazines like that cos they see grown-ups reading them. So lets stop, the rest of the content is usually rubbish anyway.

3) Lets lobby parliament to ban advertising which is aimed at children. This law does exist in parts of the world, lets join in.

Welcome to my new Blog

Hi there. Well this is all new to me so apologies right now if it takes a while to get up to speed or if it turns out that I am not smart enough to type straight or something. Hopefully over time it will take shape and be quite interesting.