Friday, 2 January 2009

Next stop rational thought

Waiting for a train from Wakefield station on a cold and frosty December morning, my eyes glance over at the opposite platform. Cold commuters rub their hands together, bleary eyed workers sipping on their Costa coffees. Billboards run across the whole of the wall, most advertising the local indoor shopping centre. One however, directly in front of me shouts at me, in bright bold letters:

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." (Psalm 14.1)

Oh thank you very much thoughtful sign. I was just thinking to myself how a God could exist in this world when I am made to go to work on a Monday morning. I better believe one exits before I am branded a fool.

That's why I've just donated to the Atheist Bus Campaign. Started by The Guardian's Comment is Free Ariane Sherine, the comedy writer proposed:

[if all atheists reading this] contribute £5, it’s possible that we can fund a
much-needed atheist London bus ad with the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now
stop worrying and [enjoy] your life.”

Sherine thought of the idea after seeing a similar advert to myself on a London bus stating:

“When the Son of Man comes, will He find Faith on this Earth?” [sic]

Visiting the URL on the bottom of the advert, she was told that, as a non-believer, she would be:

"condemned to everlasting separation from God and then spend all eternity in
torment in hell”.

Nice. Thank you enlightened advert. Sherine researched into how religious groups could advertise websites warning that atheists were going to hell, she found that the Advertising Standards Agency were unable to censor any URL links as they weren't part of their remit.

Her idea for an atheist ad campaign soon picked up speed with political bloggers, the British Humanist Society and even Richard Dawkins getting involved. The eminent biologist and author of The God Delusion even agreed to match donations to a campaign (up to the tune of £5000).

The campaign has become reality and has now raised a staggering £134, 805.83. Really quite an achievement in the face of religious fundamentalism. Buses will be rolled out across the country with the message:

'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life'

Here, here. 2009 is going to be a tough enough year for all without the crippling doubts over the danger of a fiery end. All aboard the Atheist bus campaign.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

20 rubbish reasons for 20 weeks - Daily Mail Bollocks

The Daily Mail, that great bastion of 'truthful' reporting reached a new low yesterday with their article on Tory, Nadine Dorries MP's campaign to change the abortion limit from 24 to 20 weeks. I've already gone in to why there is absolutely no need or indeed scientific proof for this suggestion, but the fact that this plan is taken as credible by the paper really got my knickers in a twist.
Apparently, Britain is becoming the abortion capital of the world. Fair enough. If the statistics saying there was 193,700 abortions is true then nobody can deny that this is shocking. However, why do these people suddenly think the problem will go away by cutting the time limit? Attacking the limit just puts the people who are the most desperate at a severe disadvantage. Lets remember that only 2% of all abortions take place after 20 weeks and the majority of these women are suffering from severe hardships and situations. If you want to cut down the number of abortions then surely the answer is education. Nobody can argue that women like having abortions. Better sex and relationships education, more conversation in PSE and more support is the answer to stop unwanted pregnancies.
But instead of the logical answer, the ex-nurse and her pro-life cronies have come up with 20 ridiculous reasons for 20 weeks. You've got to admit that it's catchy but that doesn't make them credible. So here they are:

Why the campaigners led by Tory MP Nadine Dorries say the abortion limit should be cut:
1. Two thirds of GPs and two thirds of public - including three quarters of women - support reduction in upper age limit, say polls

Ok, well this is different to Abortion Rights statistics but how do you judge these things? Nobody has ever asked me to be involved in a poll.

2. More babies surviving well below 24 weeks, including world’s most premature baby Amillia Taylor, born at 21 weeks in 2006

There is no overwhelming evidence to support this argument. There has been no significant improvement in foetal survival before 24 weeks.

3. High-resolution 3D ultrasound images showing babies ‘walking’, yawning, stretching and sucking thumbs in the womb
These images are highly emotive. These pictures are not 'babies' and could not survive outside the womb. They are foetuses and they are not 'walking' or 'sucking their thumb', they are moving. This is claptrap.

4. Two thirds of babies born at 23 weeks survive in top neonatal units
Surely this is still reason 2? Again no evidence.

5. Foetuses can feel pain as low as 18 weeks, research suggests

Whose research? I can do research but I'm no Doctor. The British Medical Association and The Royal Obstetricians and Gynaecologists defend the limit and surely they would think again if foetuses could feel pain.

6. Mothers first feel their babies kick at 19 weeks in a first pregnancy and at 17 weeks in a later pregnancy

Kicking is primitive movement. Not communication. This isn't a reason, next!

7. More babies being born alive after botched abortions - some as young as 16 weeks

Where is your evidence? I will repeat again, there is no evidence to say that babies are surviving better before 24 weeks. To say that these babies are born perfectly fine is rubbish. Most suffer severe brain damage and die before there first birthday.

8. Rising number of abortions being carried out between 20 and 24 weeks

How is this a reason against? Yeah maybe it is rising, but it still is a tiny proportion of overall abortions and the women who have an abortion are often in dire need. Are you suggesting that a women raped, suffering from severe trauma should be forced to have her child? These groups (or papers, like the Daily Mail) bemoan teenage mothers but by cutting the limit, they are increasing the number.

9. Leading public figures such as Tory leader David Cameron calling for a cut to at least 20 weeks

How is this a reason? Have I missed something? Is David Cameron somekind of demi-God that we should start praying to because he has all the answers? This is the most ridiculous reason yet.

10. Britain’s abortion laws among the most liberal in Europe: The 24-week limit is double that in France or Germany, and six weeks later than in Sweden or Norway

So we should all follow are friends in Europe? Is that in-line with Conservative policy now? Watch it, we will have the euro next! What would Maggie say, eh?

11.’Abhorrent’ methods used to abort a post 20-week baby, including a lethal injection to the heart, and dismembering the body and removing it from the womb limb by limb

Argh. It is not a baby. It is a foetus. And yes, abortions aren't nice but it is the living woman that should have priority. Foetuses at this age cannot feel pain and it is a group of cells.

12. A possible link with mental illness for late abortions, say psychiatrists

What for? The woman or psychiatrists? Hang on, what do you think would cause more mental illness: a late abortion or being forced to have a baby against your will? Women who have terminations after 20 weeks take the decision very seriously and often could not go through with it before.

13. Most late abortions take place in private clinics, charged to the NHS - meaning there are financial vested interests involved

This is crap. Yes some people make money from healthcare but there should be better provision for women on the NHS. A significant number of GPs actually obstruct women from having terminations or are lost in the system. Private clinics may not be ideal but they give women a way out.

14. Babies can now undergo surgery in the womb under 24 weeks, such as Samuel Armas who had surgery at 21 weeks for spina bifida

Why is this a reason? It still wouldn't survive if you took the foetus out the womb at that age.

15. Few UK graduates willing to perform abortions beyond 16 weeks and most who do so are from overseas

Oh here we go. You can almost here the Daily Mail singing 'Send the buggers back!'.

16. Guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, supporting 24 weeks, should be updated in line with latest evidence on neonatal survival

There you are folks. Leading medical UK bodies are out of date, apparently.

17. 1,000 doctors signed petition against the British Medical Association’s support for 24 weeks and the Royal College of Nursing has not consulted its members

How many Doctors are there in the UK? A bit more than a 1,000. Plus how many of these Doctors are women who would actually be affected by this limit.

18. Pregnancy testing kits are freely available at chemists, so there is little excuse for not diagnosing pregnancy before 24 weeks.
Some, often young women do not experience the typical signs of pregnancy such as regular periods stopping. Other women, like those nearing the menopause do not expect to get pregnant. Better education at school-level about women's bodies would make a difference. Also, pregnancy tests are expensive and embarrassing. A lot of young people are in denial about their sexual experiences and leave it too late.

19. The Commons science and technology committee was heavily influenced by pro-abortion witnesses
So the evidence you got is not heavily-influenced by pro-life and religious groups? And what eveidence do you have?
20. Picture of a 20-week foetus (Above)
Reason 3 repeated. Emotive picture of foetuses are not photos of babies that would be able to survive outside the womb.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Victory for Yapping Virgins

On Monday I heard conclusively that ASK, the developers behind Leopold Square in Sheffield had decided NOT to continue talks with the Hooters chain. They had finally realised that this proposal would mean shooting themselves in the foot. For the past year, ASK have worked hard to create an upmarket and prestigious dining area, safe for families and single people alike. Hooters would not only be a step backwards for the square and for Sheffield, but it would also be damaging for the surrounding businesses.

Lets take a look at the concept for a moment. Hooters claims to be 'tacky yet unrefined'. This is not only a motto but is sprayed across the back of the waitresses t-shirts, along with 'HOOTERS' across the chest. So not only are women labelled as a derogitary word for a woman's breasts but they are also told what to be. Tacky and unrefined.

Hooters likes to call itself a 'sports themed restaurant'. I've been to a sports themed restaurant, namely Champs on Ecclesall Road. None of the waitresses there where shorts and vests with the body parts labelled for easy viewing. Wings over England, the company behind the UK version of the chain also like to say that the bar is suitable for families. This is ridiculous. What kind of society do we live in where parents think is is acceptable to take their impressionable youngsters into a restaurant which had bikini competitions, stag nights and a soft-porn magazine? Because this is exactly what Hooters is: A bar which is based on sex. A bar where there online site sells calendars of the girls and where there girls pose naked in Playboy:

Don' t get me wrong, I do not hate sex. I'm not a virgin, a prude or a man-hater. What I do hate is sex appeal brought to the lowest common denominator. People telling us 'Look at that pair of breasts, aren't they great? Now lets get drunk.' I hate women being put into boxes, that of breasts, leg or thigh. I hate the fact that this company insults the intelligence of men out there, because not all men like this. Not all men read Zoo or Nuts. However the ones who stand up and express their opinions about this raunch culture we live in are vilified. Many men who have wrote on the 'Yes to Hooters in Sheffield' group have been called gay or poofs, just because they stood out of line.

Wings Over England contradict themselves, first saying their for families and then saying "Sex appeal is legal and it sells. Newspapers, magazines, daytime talk shows, and local television affiliates consistently emphasise a variety of sexual topics to boost sales." Oh so you admit it then? I want to be employed on the basis of my intelligence not how big my breasts are. I want my children to grow up without a t-shirts like this:

Oh and I want them to figure out what sex appeal means, not this socially constructed raunch culture where women kiss each other to turn men on and girls where Hugh Hefners logo of crap.

I could probably go on and on but my fingers are tired and I'm fed up of writing on this french computer (where's good old qwerty when you need it, eh?)

Abortion limit under attack

Some MPs are planning to use the upcoming government Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to attack abortion rights for woman, particularly cutting down the time in which a woman can have a termination. Supported by Pro-life campaigners and religious groups, they argue that better technology has ensured ‘babies’ are now able to live before the 24 week limit. However all of the major medical boards, including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists plus the governments own cross-party parliamentary Science and Technology Committee state that there has been no significant improvement in foetal survival below 24 weeks since the law was last reviewed in 1990.

Pro-choice campaigners like Abortion Rights maintain that as well as there being no evidence for a change, women will undoubtedly suffer from a smaller time limit. They argue that a tiny proportion – less that 2%, of abortions take place after 20 weeks. The overwhelming majority, 89%, are carried out at less than 13 weeks. The 2% of abortions that take place after 20 weeks are not taken lightly, often due to complicated and different circumstances including:
● Late identification of pregnancy – some young people do not realise they are pregnant early on, due to lack of sex education and an ignorance of their menstrual cycles. Older women may believe they are experiencing the menopause.
● Change in personal circumstances – a wanted pregnancy may be impossible due to domestic violence, loss of partner or problems with existing children.
● Denial in pregnancy signs – Some women may be in denial. These are often young women, with poor mental health or who have conceived in traumatic circumstances like rape.
● Delays in service provision – Some NHS abortion services have long waiting lists, 2 and a half months in certain areas. Others are obstructed by Doctors unwilling to provide an abortion or misdiagnosed.

A women’s right to choose on abortion in supported by an overwhelming three-quartes of people in Britain. Abortion Rights say that women should be listened to on whether or not to continue with a pregnancy and should be allowed to make fundamental decisions on their own body. If you support a woman’s right to choose, write to your MP and visit

Out of Luck - 'Three and Out'

Funny man, Mackenzie Crook stars in new British Flick, Three and Out as ‘down and out’ tube driver Paul who dreams of moving to the Scottish highlands and becoming a writer. Accidently killing two people in one month on the London Underground, he hears about the ‘Three and Out’ rule. Three under in a month and you’re out, but with a big pay-off. Sounds like the big break Paul needs to realise his dream…

The premise is good but unfortunately things start to unravel pretty quickly for this film. Paul proposes that suicidal drunk, Tommy (Colm Meaney) should jump in front of his train after Tommy has made up with the family he ran out on in Liverpool. Cue Tommy visiting his old haunts with Paul alongside, as some sort of Dickensian ghost of Christmas Future. Their sudden closeness is unbelievable, especially as Paul sleeps with Tommy’s grown-up feisty daughter, Frankie (Gemma Arterton) in an unlikely (and rather graphic) night of passion.

There are some glimmers of hope though. Paul’s despair at having to kill Tommy after their weekend of reconciliation is dramatic and moving. Imelda Staunton is great playing Tommy’s wife, Rosemary as a strong and together woman who has moved on without her man. Comedic moments are brought by Maurice, the French cannibal who Paul meets whilst searching for a willing participant in the suicide pact. His creepy “I want you to eat my penis” phone calls bring some light relief in contrast to the darker points of this movie.

Unfortunately though, the film script is not tight enough and eventually lets it down. This film could be much funnier and much shorter. The end, in an attempt to pull together any loose ends and close with some romance is laughable. ‘Three and Out’ is a perfectly fine way to spend an hour or so but unlikely to win any awards.

‘Three and Out’ is in cinemas from Friday 25th April

Friday, 21 March 2008

Some Ting Different?

One of the hottest new groups of 2008 is undoubtedly The Ting Tings, a pop duo from Manchester. Formed from the remnants of various groups, Katie White and Jules de Martino became housemates in Salford’s hip Islington Mill. Inspired by the great scene surrounding them, they became The Ting Tings. “I used to work with a girl called Ting Ting” says singer Katie, “and she said it meant an old bandstand in a park or the kind of ting sound on a percussion instrument. We were doing lots of sounds like that so Ting kind of fit.”
Their name isn’t the only thing that is different about The Ting Tings. In the music scene where skinny indie boys with guitars rule the roost, the band are unashamedly pop. Single ‘Great DJ’ has been a firm favourite of Radio 1’s Zane Lowe and named most popular independent track by song identification service Shazam. The buzz around the band is huge and 2008 should be their year.

“We’ve kinda ignored the buzz around us because we don’t read reviews and stuff. All we know is that if we make a record and we like it, we’ve fulfilled what we want to do.”
“We’re always chasing something,” Drummer Jules chips in. “We’ve made the single, done the artwork, and produced it ourselves and really enjoyed it. We love just being creative and making our own records and the tour has taken us away from that. It’s taken off to another level now, we’re going to the States for a month and then releasing our album.”
There is no doubt ‘Great DJ’ is a catchy number, combining Katie’s pop voice, funky electronic beats and indie sensibilities. ‘That’s not my name’ is also a hit live, a female declaration of independence.

The Tings Tings are in Sheffield as part of the NME Awards Tour, supporting The Cribs, Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Joe Lean and The Jing Jang Jong. I ask them if their sound fits the bill.
“No! The Cribs rock out more but I suppose with Does It Offend You, Yeah?, it makes sense as they are kinda different” says Katie.

The Tings Tings are planning to release their debut album in May, which they have produced themselves and designed the artwork. “I think people may have an idea of us when they hear about our pop background and it’s a nice surprise when they hear we have produced this all ourselves.”

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

"Radiohead bottled it"

Interview with The Futureheads

The lads from Sunderland are back, this time with a new album and on their own record label. ************* meets opinionated guitarist, Ross Millard and talks to them about a comeback on their own terms and the state of the music industry.

What have you been doing since your last album, News and Tributes in 2006?
We basically had a little bit of time off and then started some new tunes. It was difficult at first because we didn’t know how we wanted to do it but we started our own label and then the songs came pretty quickly once everything was resolved.

Are you excited about the new album? Does it sound different to your old stuff?
Oh most definitely, I have a good feeling about this one and I think it’s definitely our best record. We’ve kinda gone through the mill this year and now we can see the four of us are really buzzing again.
With our last album, the sound was completely different to the first one (The Futureheads) and people didn’t seem to go for that! I think we’ve figured out what we’re best at and the new album is somewhere in between those two. It’s a mixture between the energy of the first and the song writing of the second.

Were you disappointed with the reaction to your last album?
Yeah, ‘679’ (their previous label) didn’t do a very good job at pushing it and I’m not afraid to say that. But on top of that, if Radio doesn’t play you then people don’t buy your records. There’s not that many people in this country that are totally enthusiastic about music, you know. I lot of people wash their cars on a Sunday morning, go to Tesco and buy their albums there and our second album totally passed that lot by. That’s fine but it’s not the end of the world and I think in time that record will do us alright cos we’re proud of it.

What do you think of the new music that has come out since you’ve been away?
New Rave is alright, I dunno, I think a lot of those bands are quite shambolic live. The Klaxons have made a really great record but every time I’ve seen them live they’ve been pretty appalling. But they’ve made a good record and that seems to be what counts.
We’re all into DJing at the moment. I love bands like Digitalism and Glasvegas, I’d love to do something with them.

Do you still enjoy touring? What about the student dates of the tour?
Oh yeah, I mean it’s the reason we got the band together. You never sure if you gonna make an album or get a record deal but you are sure that you can give it all you’ve got live and have fun.
This tour has been great playing to students and took us to a lot of places we haven’t played before that we missed the first time around. The set list is a mixture of old and new and we want people to have a good night. We don’t get annoyed playing the hits like ‘Hounds of Love’ and it would be foolish as it’s better to have hits then no hits! It’s kinda ripping people off not to play the favourites.

What do you think of the state of the music industry today? Is the album dead?
Well I think it would be awful for us to think that the album is dead, it kinda renders our job pointless in a way. We’ve set up our own label for our new record and I think that’s the future for a lot of music. Young bands should probably think about taking that road rather than looking for a record deal because companies are scrabbling around taking shares of bands like merchandise and stuff which they have no right to take. For me, I feel that we’re one of the first bands adopting this new model of business. Even Radiohead have farmed their business off to XL (who released their album on CD) and bottled it a bit. They’re ok to stick their new record online and say you decide what you wanna pay for it because they’re already millionaires. It’s not as brave as they could have been and I think what we’re doing a lot of people will do in the future. It is a bit make or break, and if it fails we’re fucked but at the same time it’s quite exciting.

Don’t you feel that now though you’re businessmen and not musicians?
No I think it’s the other way round because now it’s solely for the music. The minute you make the decision to put an album out there, you have to think about the whys and wheres, how it’s being marketed and how it’s being received because otherwise it’s not yours anymore. The stupid people in labels just see you as a product like a bottle of water but now we’re in charge and doing the job for the right reasons.

New single “Beginning of the Twist” is out 10/3/08