Monday, May 29, 2006

Idiots, Idiots, Idiots

Yes half of Britons believe in the paranormal. Cru-blog begs to differ and blames Gillian Anderson for starting all this...

Fear of Censorship

There is a big stink being made by Amnesty International and to some extent the BBC at the moment about censorship on the internet. Now I'm a big fan of Amnesty and I'd probably become a member again if they stopped chugging on the streets of Soho (I think chugging - charity mugging - people with clipboards on the street asking people to sign up to direct debit contributions to good causes - should be banned but that's another story...).

And indeed in this case I agree with them again. Governments locking up dissident bloggers and banning the public from accessing the BBC website and so on goes down as wrong in my book.

What bothers me though is that again and again we have this idea bandied about that censorship is - 100% FACT - wrong. Well I think excesive censorship which limits peoples' access to information or political discussion is wrong. But I also think downloading child pornography, violent pornography, incitements to murder or violence or footage of apparent crimes recorded explicitly for the purpose of selling the footage (be it happy slapping or rape), is wrong and should be banned. All of which makes me ... wait for it ... PRO-censorship! I'm just anti-unhelpful censorship and pro-helpful censorship. All this absolutism "censorship is wrong" malarky really annoys me.

The internet is the fastest and most effective means of international communication there has ever been. Couple this with the fact that we live in a world of monstrous economic imbalance and there's a problem. It's not enough to ban the production of images we would all find abhorent in our own country, we have to ban the downloading of them too. Otherwise a few desperate people in the third world, able to earn many years salary from just a few such images, will inevitably ultimately be tempted to produce them.

In fact it's much worse than that... I don't have any great up to date data but back in 1999 it was estimated that there were 170,000 pornographic websites, increasing by 300 a day, bringing in around $700 million per year. And many governments have very little control over what is being downloaded and by whom. At least off-the-shelf pornography is policed for offensive images. Not so the internet: "click here to confirm you are over 18". Mmmm. Maybe a little bit more censorship is a good thing. And the news that Saudi Arabia is censoring websites which criticise gulf governments...? Of course they are, the same way they censor books which criticise their regime. Why would we expect them to make an exception for material published on the internet. I agree their approach is an infringement of human rights but it's not a change of policy for them. It strikes me as odd to imagine Amnesty and co. ever thought the internet would suddenly be treated differently to other published media...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What Women Want

Well the "experts" have decided that "too many" women are having caesarean sections. And they're blaming it on - celebrities and medical officials, who apparently should be talking women out of it and into a more painful delivery method. Fair enough but WHY? I have this weird sneaking suspicion that the real experts are the women themselves who have probably spent most of the last nine month worrying about this. They need information about safety rates, interventions and options open to them. Not hounding into things they don't understand by doctors who "know best". Of course what no-one is mentioning out loud is that C-sections cost a lot of money compared to other types of births.

Of course women who want to have a natural home birth get, ooh lets see, no help at all from the NHS in a lot of cases. Something a lot of people are unhappy about.

So what do women want? Could it be the right to choose for themselves, as usual?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Horror!

A woman in Wales has been the target of local anger for sunbathing naked - in her own garden! Now this was making me laugh already but the story gets better. 55-year-old Miss Burgess was happily wandering about in her own garden dressed as nature intended when her 34-year old neighbour, Mr Morien Jones spotted her. His horrified reaction? Avert his eyes? Usher his children indoors? Ask her to cover up? No he says: "I went to get my video camera to record the incident".

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Compulsory Reading

In case anyone was in any doubt that womens rights were at the absolute bottom of the government's priority list... It would appear that victims of misogynist crime worldwide are treated with the with the same or even more disbelief and contempt than they are when the crimes take place in the UK.

Heavy Hands

How many police officers does it take to control three unarmed peace activists? About fifty apparently.

The excessive way in which the government continues to react to one man, Brian Haw, camping in parliament square with a few signs really smacks of paranoia. For anyone who missed the fun, they even tried to pass a whole legislative bill aimed solely at evicting him and then it still didn't work. Looks like they are really going to chuck him out soon. Brian meanwhile has started a hunger strike...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tabloid Policy-Making

I am nothing short of horrified by the latest suggestions from home secretary John Reid. He think victims of crime should be allowed to influence release schedules for imprisoned criminals...

Now let's have a little recap of what the justice system and prison service are supposed to do for us. Basically the way I see it locking bad people up serves four purposes:

1) Acts as a deterrent to the population at large.

2) Acts as a deterrent to criminals who might re-offend.

3) Keeps dangerous criminals out of public circulation while they continue to present a risk.

4) Provides an opportunity for rehabilitation and re-education of criminals to provide them with the opportunity to integrate into non-criminal life.

What is NOT on that list is "Makes people feel better about being a victim of crime". That's not there. What this effectively does is takes the system out of the hands of highly-trained judges and the jury of your peers that we're all so proud of as a means of treating everybody equally and puts it into the hands of whoever looks the most hurt.

If your son or daughter's been murdered then no amount of input into the justice system is going to help you deal with that. They could make you chief of police and you'd still be the parent of a murdered child.

And now we're headed for a situation where it'll be a definite no-no to murder someone who has a close-knit family with a reputation for stroppiness, but a homeless guy with nothing more than a social worker on his side probably won't get you more than a fortnight's community service. WRONG! The whole point of the justice system is, err, you're going to think this is radical but, err, JUSTICE!! Bingo! Clues in the name... And justice means that the punishment fits the crime, not that the punishment fits how emotionally engaging the victim or his/her parents can be in court.

The next time I'm being followed down a dark alleyway by a dangerous-looking stranger perhaps I'll stop and show him my Equity card: "Seriously mate, don't rape me, I trained at RADA!"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Adrenaline Rush!

If you're in London and you'd like to catch the Adrenaline show - I'm doing it tomorrow night (Thursday 18th) at Shortfuse - a comedy, poetry and spoken word night. There are two fabulous poets supporting me and giving the show a "first half": Baba Brinkman (a Canadian guy who will be performing extrcts from his version of the "Rap Canterbury Tales") and Paul Marshall and the excellent Nathan Penlington as host. It's 8:30pm upstairs at the Camden Head, Camden passage Islington. £5 to you...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Us Argumentative Feminists

The Guardian's ever more fluff-like "gender" section features an interview today with Melinda Gallagher and Emily Kramer, founders of Cake - a movement revolving around women's sexuality and advocating greater freedom of sexual expression for women. There are a few points about the article and what is said in the interview that I wanted to make:

I think in general they have a great point. We do still live in a society that considers women who show an appetite for sex somehow disgusting. That's not doing anybody any good.

They may have a very liberal attitude to sex but actually, though you'd have to read a long way through the article to find this out ... they dislike most pornography. Just like me and most feminists I know. Now you sure wouldn't find me showing up to their striptease-a-thon or lapdancing night but then that's because I think those means of sexual expression have unpleasant associations to degrading women as well as forced labour, human trafficking and coercion of young women into roles they may not be genuinely comfortable with and I would steer clear of getting involved with anything that appeared to legitimise that.

They insist women have a "right" to an orgasm from sexual activity. Which I sort of agree with and sort of don't. I think women have a right to decide for themselves what they want from sex and then demand it.

The trouble with this sort of "raunch feminism" to my mind isn't that their points are wrong, it's that really feminism has much bigger fish to fry than sex. Equal pay, maternity rights, exploitation, FGM, oppression of women in the third world, access to education. These are the REAL issues. While we're waiting for some coverage on them though, why not go check out Cake's website, it's quite cool.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Four Star Comedy in Brighton

Yes I'm back in Brighton tomorrow. That's the new flyer with the new quote from the new review and all them stars on. Yippee! Got lots of friends coming down to see it so I'm really looking forward to it. If you're in the area and want to come along book now because there are only a few tickets left!

Third Reich Revival

A Scottish MP (a Labour one for the record) has been out and about coming up with great ideas like adding oral contraceptives to methadone prescriptions so that recovering addicts (female ones that is, no mention of compulsory vasectomy for the men) can't have children. This apparently is in reaction to the death of a toddler who drank his parents methadone and died last year. So I suppose he's saying it would have been better for that child to have never existed in the first place. How about putting the stuff in child-proof bottles or, and this is super-radical, offering high quality support and help with childcare to people in that unfortunate situation.

We in the "civilised" world think it's wrong to control people's fertility by force but we do have in place the statutes to allow us to take into temporary or permanent care children whose home environment is unsuitable. Clearly this is such a case. But of course that costs money...

The tabloids meanwhile have been focussing on the 11-year-old girl who's announced she's pregnant. Tut tut tut. As usual it's round after round of finger-pointing. No-one seems to have noticed that kids have fathers and fathers have to have sex with mothers and having sex with 11-year-olds is a crime - statutory rape. Now in this case the father's only 15 himself so there's an issue of criminal responsibility but of course no-one is tut-tutting him (or his parents). The girl is a victim of a crime and deserves sympathy and support ... isn't that obvious?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Breakfast Blog

My good friend and fellow presenter at Radio Jackie - Neil Long has started his own blog. Neil does the breakfast show on Jackie which is a lot of fun. He used to be a comic about 5 years ago and we're all trying to talk him into getting onstage again. Meanwhile you can read his musings here and find them through my sidebar any time.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Brighton Rock!

Saturday's show went really well. We sold out, people were enthusiastic and liked it and I really enjoyed doing it too. Even better we had reviewers in from (one of the big Edinburgh and Brighton Festival reviewers) and they gave me 4 stars (out of five) and heaps of glowing praise!! It's online here, but you do have to register with them. To save you the effort here's what they say:

comedy review

Adrenaline – Kate Smurthwaite

Amused Moose Comedy

In this fast paced stand-up routine, Kate Smurthwaite instantly engages her audience with witty and satirical musings on adrenaline and its various forms. Delivered with natural enthusiasm, her funniest moments are when she plays herself as opposed to the charmingly familiar but unnecessary characters she introduces along the way. Her intelligent and usually self-deprecating reflections on her numerous forays into extreme sports are hilarious and instantly relatable while the audience, whose participation is greatly encouraged, is on her side almost as soon as she opens her mouth. All in all, this is high quality stand up not to be missed - the only downside being that, as with all good adrenaline rushes, at some point it will come to an end.

The Marlborough Theatre, 6 May, 13 May, 10:00pm , £7 (£5), fpp fringe pp 13

tw rating: 4/5

Yipee! Giving it another run through in the Red Lion in Soho tonight (9.45pm) then if HSBC ever unfreeze my credit cards I shall be buying a bottle of bubbly!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

In Brighton this weekend?

I hope so because legend has it that top stand-up comic Kate Smurthwaite is in town with her whirlwind one-woman wonder-show Adrenaline and I wouldn't want you, you personally that is, to miss it.

I'm at the Marlborough Theatre, Princes Street, 10pm this Saturday (6th May) and next (13th May). Tickets are £7, £5 concessions from 07782 278 521. I'm really happy with the show and really excited about performing in the Brighton Fringe Festival and in a proper theatre too. Please come along and tell your friends!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Is there an award?

...for describing the cause of the problem, then joining in?

Catherine Bennett, interviewing Shere Hite in this week's Guardian: "Now in her mid-60s, she remains extraordinary to look at; her celebrated pallor still set off with the springy golden ringlets that have, in the past, diverted so much attention from her findings on women's inner lives."

Funnier than that though is her opening line: "For almost any woman, you might think ... there must come a day when she wearies of discussing the clitoral orgasm". There must? Says who? Orgasms, orgasms, orgasms, yawn, yawn, yawn. Am I the only one who thinks Ms Bennett might be doing it wrong and could probably benefit from a quick browse through Ms Hite's book?

Also she seems to have missed something out in her interview... what is the book about? What is the point of interviewing an author and not mentioning the topic of their book? You might as well interview a chef and not ask about food, or a footballer and not mention sport. Total waste of space...