Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Pseudo-Scientist

Terrible article in this week's New Scientist about the royal wedding. The link is here but sadly you have to register which is a bit of a pain. Here, anyway, is my letter to them complaining about it:

I was intrigued when I saw [P36, Issue 2809] your coverage of the royal wedding and hoped to read something that explained the public and media excitement about a relationship between two people who most of us don't know at all. Sadly the article seemed to be distinctly lacking in science. Firstly author Geoffrey Miller claims "male brains will be sparked by Will's military titles", without offering any evidence of this. I happen to be married to a former military journalist but when I asked him what William's titles were he said "I dunno, something over the top that he doesn't deserve". He didn't even seem interested in finding out.

Then we are given the classic outdated theories about sex appeal. Will likes Kate because she's attractive (obviously) but also because of her sense of humour which indicates fertility. Speaking as a professional comedienne I can assure you than men who find my jokes funny are rarely overwhelmed by a pressing need to impregnate me. You might well argue however that it is pretty logical when committing to spending large amounts of time with someone to pick someone whose company you enjoy. Perhaps it's not evolutionary prerogative at work here but conscious common sense?

Then we hear about Kate's cunning in convincing William to marry her because of the benefits to her potential children. We seem to have forgotten that William's genes also stand to benefit from his commitment to the wellbeing of their children. The notion that men only make good fathers because women have lured and tricked them into doing so is an insult to the many great caring dads in Britain.

Of course the true agenda of the piece emerges about half way through. Apparently the media fail to give Kate the credit she deserves for bagging herself a future king. We are (allegedly) tripping over ourselves to praise Oprah, Meryl, Hillary and Nigella but not Kate. Has Miller bothered to open up a single page of the national press in the last three months? Articles praising Kate for every outfit she chooses, every comment she makes, every smile she throws at a waiting paparazzo take up page after page of coverage that could have been dedicated to a tsunami or human rights crisis. And the only coverage I can find of Nigella recently is a nasty article in the Daily Mail calling her fat (which surely ought to be a compliment for a chef, but clearly isn't intended as such).

And whose fault is this mythical lack of coverage of the royal bride-to-be's evolutionary man-bagging prowess? According to Miller - feminism. Yes those pesky equal rights campaigners. Can Miller give a single example of a feminist who has criticised Ms Middleton? Evidently not. I'll explain why: the pay gap in this country is wide and not closing, the latest round of government cuts are set to hurt women on an unprecedented scale, rape has a 6% conviction rate against reporting and two women a week are murdered in Britain by their male partners or ex-partners. We feminists have bigger fish to fry than attacking a (probably) lovely posh girl about to marry a (probably) lovely posh boy she met at college.

[I hope they publish it though probably they'll edit it down to the line "...feminism. Yes those pesky equal rights campaigners." and leave it at that!]

Friday, April 22, 2011

Late-term abortion privacy debate

I had a very serious piece published today on The Guardian's CiF website. It's about the Information Tribunal's decision to release detailed breakdowns on late term abortions for medical reasons to the Pro-Life Alliance. [Yes, I can see the flaw in this plan too!] And extra extra special thanks to the women who were kind enough to let me interview them yesterday about their own experiences and feelings.

I'd advise NOT reading the comments if you want a calm stress-free afternoon. And if you want to comment on it here where I get to moderate the comments and won't be publishing* lies, derailments or other general hate mail, go ahead!

*Unsure about my comment policy? Think my refusal to publish your comment "probably a lesbian, has fat arms" might be infringing on your freedom of speech? Do read this.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dear Cru - How Should I Vote on AV?

A fan* writes: Does anyone else (like me) just not get how AV is supposed to be better than FPTP??? I have had it explained about the 50% of the votes bit, but how does ending up with someone who may have been many peoples 2nd or 3rd choice getting elected, become better? also it's hard enough with todays lot to even find a credible 1st choice! how the hell are we supposed to find another two???

OK listen carefully. The problem with politics is (I agree) that there are never any good candidates you really want to vote for. Why not? Well here's the trouble: imagine you have brilliant ideas and want to be a politician. You have two choices right? You could spend 20 years sucking up to one of the major parties even though you disagree with most of their policies and think their leaders are a bunch of corrupt dickheads. OR you could run as an independent or part of a smaller party (maybe your own, new, party) with a list of policies you actually want.

But here's the problem. Option one won't get your brilliant ideas into politics. It will just waste your life working for stuff you don't believe in.

But option two is worse. If you stand for election under the current system (FPTP or first past the post) you will simply split the vote for the party who is nearest to you. So lets say you're against student top-up fees. People now have to choose between you (no top-up fees), a "reduce the top-up fees" candidate, a "keep the fees the same" candidate" and an "increase the fees" candidate. So every vote you get is one less person voting "reduce the fees" or "keep the fees the same" and good news for the "increase the fees" candidate. In fact running as a candidate yourself significantly increases the likelihood that the ultimate winner will be someone who you completely disagree with.

However with AV your supporters can vote for you #1 and maybe that's enough to win and they can put "reduce the fees" #2, and "keep the fees the same" at #3. What they're saying is "if I can't have exactly what I want, I'd like the nearest thing available". Which should surely go without saying.

And importantly it means that new and independent candidates are encouraged to stand. Bringing more ideas into the system and giving us all more choice and more likelihood of finding a candidate we do believe in! And you can vote for them without "wasting" your vote. So you don't have to resort to "tactical voting" to keep hated parties out! You can actually vote for who you want to win and put your tactical choices as #2, #3,...

It's loads better than the current system. You should support it.

*not necessarily a fan of mine.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Some Snippets

(1) The Whistleblower by Kathryn Bolkovac with Cari Lynn. You should buy and read this book. I was very kindly sent a review copy ages ago and read it in more or less a single sitting. Been meaning to write a proper review for ages but there isn't much to say apart from "HOLY CRAP, that's terrible, everyone should know about this, something should be done.". I hear there's a film coming. You should go see that too.

(2) I had a rather interesting, if somewhat after the event, email about the debate I did on Islam on The Big Questions the other month. The author (who claimed to be an Algerian muslim woman, but this being email I can't verify) says I am wrong to criticise Islam's treatment of women. In fact, I am assured, in 95% of life Islam treats men and women the same. And even if that's true that's still the problem isn't it? Cos 95% isn't the same as 100%. I do't want to be rated as the equal of a man in 95% of situations, I want full equality. I want to be regarded as as much of a human being as everybody else, men and women. Doh!

(3) Comedians - don't ever gig for a Daniel Lewis/Lasserman. Everyone else - don't ever go to a gig run by this rogue. In over 7 years in this industry I've only walked out of a gig once* - and it was last Friday at the Marble Hill Pub in Richmond at a "gig" organised by this Daniel Lewis/Lasserman**. It seemed dodgy from the outset - no contract, not much info, etc, but having said "yes" I figured I didn't want to let anyone down. I arrived to discover no separate comedy room, no mic, no lights and no other acts booked - all of which my manager had been assured there would be. Instead I was expected to perform in the corner of the pub within a few metres of family meals - children, dogs, etc. Not wanting to let people down I approached the "audience members" and explained this was going to be a weird gig but if they were happy to be friendly and have it as a "chatty" gig I would do my best for them. They responded by shouting abuse at me. So I left. As I was leaving one of them even grabbed me (yes, physically, while the landlord stood by and did nothing, luckily I was able to shove him off and shout at him til he backed off) and urged me to come back and "fight harder"! Ha ha ha, even the audience thought it was a "fight" rather than a "performance". I didn't think it needed saying but if you plan on running a comedy night, first you should probably go to a few and make some notes on how they work (and how they don't work)!! Now I have a lengthy angry phone message about how it was my job to "control" the audience*** and about how he's going to be running comedy nights in 200 pubs and he knows lots of top acts who will want to perform at them. But trust me top act or total newcomer - you definitely don't want to work for this douchebag. If by some freaky chance you were one of the audience members who wasn't shouting abuse (and I would recognise you, there were only about four such people) drop me a line and I'll be more than happy to guest list you for a real comedy show I'm performing at some time, plus you can enjoy the rare thrills of a mic, lights, other acts, no dogs, etc!

*I did once walk offstage many years ago at the Live Bar in Deptford after being physically threatened (with a lit cigarette, back when you could smoke indoors) by an audience member but the promoter and landlord swiftly removed this man from the premises and I agreed to go back on and finish my set.

**You can always trust a guy who needs to change his name from time to time!

***Presumably including the dogs, children and the drunk abuse-shouters.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

But Daily Mail - who should I blame?

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