Thursday, 30 September 2010

Big is beautiful

Everyone knows that the magazine industry has a love/hate relationship with fat people. Editors are notorious for their dislike of images of anyone carrying more fat than a Muller Fruit Corner. But at the same time, they fill half their pages with ridiculous workout regimes and desperately unappealing diet plans.

Want to look like Jennifer Love Hewitt? Simply drink hot water with lemon five times a day, and for a treat, indulge yourself with a small handful of seeds. As if anyone other than a malnourished grey squirrel would think that was any kind of a reward.

But things are all set to change as the magazine industry sees the launch of its first title aimed at women sized 14-20. The rules are simple - no skinny models, no dieting tips and no airbrushing. Instead, I guess they'll fill their pages with pictures of women trying to fish a dropped Minstrel out of their bra.

It may be intended as a positive, life-affirming magazine for 'normal-sized' women, but even its title sounds somewhat defensive - 'Just As Beautiful'. Maybe their original name - 'It's Water Retention You Heartless Bastard' got shot down by a narrow-minded focus group.

The magazine's editorial stance takes a similar tone. Editor Ronnie Ajoku explains "We have normal interviews with women who happen to be size 14-16. We might have interviews from plus size celebrities like Ruth Jones but they are straightforward interviews and don't concentrate on their size. The point of the magazine is not to make such a big deal about women's figures like other magazines do."

So they're not making a big deal about size, but interview subjects will be selected according to the size of their bingo wings. Forget about talent, back-story or human interest, if you've got back-fat we'll run a feature. Surely this is precisely the kind of obsession with weight that their readers don't want?

Still, imagine the conversations that'll ensue when a poor agent has to explain to her 'slightly-less-svelte-than-she-used-to-be' client, that 'Just As Beautiful' have been sniffing around for an interview and photoshoot in Greggs Bakery

Reality is all well and good, but let's be honest, when have magazines ever tried to reflect reality? Back in the 1980s, a fortnightly publication attempted to convince a generation of housewives that they could cater the most elaborate dinner parties using only their microwave and a cupboard full of plastic appliances.

Nobody who reads Homes And Gardens actually lives in the kind of abode that would ever grace its beautifully designed pages. Unless they did a special issue about mildew covered sheds and how to hide a patchy lawn with broken go-karts.

Magazines are there to give us a tantalising glimpse into how the other half (less 48%) lives. We don't want reality, we have enough of that at home. Would Vogue run a photoshoot of Elle MacPherson trying to dry her tights over a radiator?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Do it yourself

It's almost as if the world has actually stopped spinning. There is literally no news about anything. So what's a blogger to do?

I could try and write about Katie Price driving her hot-pink horsebox in a reckless manner. But would that really come as any surprise?

How about covering Pete Doherty's arrest over cocaine possession? That's like the Pope being arrested for wearing robes.

Oooh, hang on a minute. Lord Sugar has announced that the new Apprentice hopefuls are all 'credible'. Nope, can't really do anything with that either. They're all likely to be slick of hair, loud of mouth and wide of tie.

This is the problem with writing a daily blog - you're dependent on interesting or surprising things happening. Without them, it's just a random selection of words with little or no reason for being.

Since the celebrities of the world are unwilling to cooperate today, here's a 'build your own p0pvulture' - simply choose your own elements and chuckle away.

First, pick a name:

Katie Price, Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, Liz Jones, David Hasselhoff, Simon Cowell, Susan Boyle, Angelina Jolie, Demi Moore, Madonna, Jan Moir, Ann Coulter, Beth Ditto, Lady Gaga, Christina Hendricks, Louis Walsh, Posh Spice, Cheryl Cole, David Beckham.

Now choose a news item:

Cheating, smuggling, whoring, snorting, lying, quoting, slamming, driving, drinking, drinking and driving, adopting, bitching, Tweeting, auditioning, interviewing, singing, judging.

Kick off your sentences with a few loose conjunctions:

However, given that, on the other hand, with this in mind, nonetheless, it's funny, surprisingly, unsurprisingly, predictably, with, but and although.

Then finally throw in a few similes, a little alliteration and a couple of snippy remarks at the end of every other paragraph.

It's that easy. Let me know how you get on. And if you have any ideas for new posts, please let your blogger know...

Monday, 27 September 2010

Remember my name...

It's a sad day over at Daily Mail towers, as the entertainment team wakes up to a cold, unforgiving new world. After a week of frenzied speculation and almost hourly character assassinations, Chloe Victoria has departed the X-Factor.

In a way, Chloe is to be congratulated for achieving the impossible - becoming front page news at Boot Camp stage. At this point in the show's interminable run, most contestants struggle to be remembered as more than 'her with the chin' or 'him with the arms'. Not so for
the Ridings' most graceful and demure beauty. Chloe has managed to capture the tabloid's imagination like no-one since Diana, Queen of HeartsTM.

Since her first appearance at the Manchester audition, wearing jeans that looked like she'd narrowly escaped from an industrial thresher, the luminous looker has become the Mail's poster child for 'Broken Britain'. Batting her enormous eyelashes at Simon (in itself an admirable effort, if only for the strain it must have placed on her neck), the Wakefield wannabe pulled out all the stops to prove she was worthy of a second chance. And despite sounding like Vicky Pollard auditioning for a stage production of 'Kes', she got through.

Aghast that someone so vulgar might actually go far in the contest, the Mail launched a staggering attack on Chloe, composing new headlines every day for a bunch of recycled 'content'. Rather than take the 'innocent until proven guilty' approach, the paper branded her the 'Leeds-based hooker' based on the findings of an 'undercover reporter from the News Of The World'. And let's be honest,
that's an unimpeachable source, if ever there was one.

Obsessed with every gloriously grotty detail, the Mail has painstakingly
reproduced the same images every day - Chloe with a vodka bottle, Chloe in a pink bra, Chloe's Bebo page. I'm not sure what to make of that last one, since the death of Bebo was predicted more than six months ago, and besides which, the ages don't even seem to match.

She maintains
that she's not a prostitute, and that the whole thing has been invented by the media. Instead, she works as a 'sexy dancer' - suggesting she's more likely to be punished under the Trades Descriptions Act than any kind of vice clampdown. 

Chloe's final indignity, at least the one we can talk about here, was to be set up for a cocaine sting by a friend in a West Yorkshire hotel. No sooner had the lines been cut and a rolled-up twenty stuck in her nostril, the pictures had been
sold to the Daily Mirror.

By the time last night's 'boot camp' episode aired (showing Chloe's departure from the show), she had already been allocated a new media-friendly nickname. Rather unsurprisingly, today's front page thoughtfully bellowed '
At last! Cocaine Chloe is kicked off The X Factor'.

Given how concerned papers like the Mail seem to be about the thoughtless and insensitive way that contestants are treated on shows like the X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent, this 'throw them to the lions' bloodlust seems slightly incongruous. Heaven forbid that anyone might suggest that the media are complicit in building people up, only to delight in knocking them down...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The butler didn't do it

The times, they are a changing. Next time you throw a sicky, you'll need to sift through countless awful cable channels to find something to amuse you, in between sniffs of an Olbas-drenched hankie. 

Long-standing daytime staples such as To Buy Or Not To Buy, Diagnosis: Murder and Murder She Wrote are being ditched by the BBC, in a move that's set to leave dedicated couch-potatoes thumbing powerlessly at their remote controls. 

With university budgets being slashed by almost half a billion pounds in the next year, UK students are going to be under increasing pressure to make their grades. So the removal of popular time-wasters from the TV schedule can be seen as the BBC's contribution to the further education effort. 

But it's hard to conceive of a world without Jessica Fletcher. The world's favourite octogenarian jinx has been acting as the unofficial Grim Reaper of Cabot Cove, since the show first aired in 1984. 

Boasting an extended family that makes Donny Osmond look like Orphan Annie, Jessica has an uncanny knack of dropping in on blood relatives just as they find themselves accused of double murder. Thankfully, she's never happier then when finding a bludgeoned corpse in a locked room, it gives her something to sink her ceramic dentures into. 

Although Murder She Wrote was officially cancelled in 1996, after 264 episodes and more murders than Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein combined, the show has been become something of a TV staple. Like the Six O'Clock news or the blonde test-card girl with a chalk-board. 

Nonetheless, it's hard to picture daytime TV without Angela Lansbury tapping away at that Victorian typewriter, and carefully removing the index finger of each of her victims with a cigar-cutter, in order to taunt long-suffering Sheriff Tom Bosley. Shit, I might have just spoiled the twist ending of episode 264. Don't hate me for it. 

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Time to grow up

Being a parent isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Sure, it means that in seventeen years you'll be able to take advantage of a free taxi service (less petrol costs, natch). And at least there'll be someone to check you into the nursing home once you start leaving patches on the furniture.

In the meantime, there's an awful lot to endure - from sleepless nights and neon faeces to horrendous mood-swings and temper tantrums. However, the real reason most parents look like they're a bug's eyelash away from buying an automatic weapon and shooting up a shopping mall, is the kids' TV they have to endure. 

Inane, repetitive, and featuring more headache-inducing colour clashes than Katie Price's make-up bag, children's programming can turn even the most advanced academic brain into lukewarm oatmeal. So it's hardly surprising that Sesame Street has endured for over 40 years, since its canny producers are wise to the fact that their output is being watched by grown-ups too. 

The show deftly blends in adult concepts and intelligent humour with the low-tech animation and counting sequences, to make sure that the parents in its audience don't end the broadcast wondering if its possible to commit suicide with a Fisher Price building set. 

This week, the show even took on one of HBO's most challenging and controversial dramas in an extraordinary sketch called 'True Mud' - depicting a version of the vampire thriller where Merlotte's Bar gets visited by a stranger with an insatiable hunger for sludge. The sketch even features a fleeting appearance by the fuzzy version of cross-dressing gay chef Lafayette. You never got that on Playschool.  

The street was also visited by Katy Perry this week, who showed up to serenade Elmo with a new version of her single 'Hot and Cold', designed to introduce children to the concept of opposites. Interestingly, the song didn't need that much rejigging to be appropriate for the under-fives, suggesting that Katy might not be the world's most advanced lyricists. 

No-one seemed particularly concerned about the bizarre coupling of a squeaky-voiced, goggle-eyed muppet with one of Sesame Street's longest-running residents. In fact, most people's issue with the online clip was Katy's somewhat inappropriate strapless dress. The low-cut lime-green outfit was in danger of encouraging too many young viewers to count to two - which would be confusing if that day's episode happened to be sponsored by the number six. 

After a flurry of complaints about the footage, the show's producers issued a statement, which said "In light of the feedback we've received on the Katy Perry music video which was released on YouTube only, we have decided we will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street, which is aimed at preschoolers." 

It's not all bad news though. Viewers who enjoy the curious fusion of childhood innocence and mature humour will soon have a new show to fixate on. PBS has announced a new concept called 'Next Avenue', aimed at baby boomers, rather than babies, which will teach them "how to handle their lives now that they've reached middle age, much the way the preschool TV show teaches kids their A-B-Cs."

I look forward to seeing how the show's innovative composers handle manage to create catchy songs about final-pay pensions, endowment mortgages and sexual harassment in the workplace. 

Friday, 24 September 2010

Praise be!

One of the problems with modern Christianity is the way it's been hijacked by socially regressive literalists. Despite the fact that they willingly edit out the bits of the Bible that don't suit their own lifestyle needs (shellfish and divorce spring to mind), they insist on taking some of the holy book's most unbelievable anecdotes as categorical fact.

So heavens be praised for an article in today's Daily Mail, which erroneously claims that many of the Bible's 'best stories' have a basis in scientific fact. I'm not sure who determined which were the best stories - maybe there's a Channel 4 pop culture list show where Fearne CottonLucie Cave from Heat and Fiz off Coronation Street select their favourite Biblical passages?

Anyway, the point is, the article attempts to apply scientific reasoning to some of the phenomena depicted in the Bible, as if to prove that they could have occurred.

Noah's flood? That would be global warming, as glaciers melted and flooded 60,000 square miles of land around the Mediterranean. The Ten Plagues of Egypt are attributed to a volcanic eruption and its impact on the amphibious ecosystem.

The Walls of Jericho may have collapsed due to an earthquake in Palestine. And The Burning Bush may just have been growing "over a natural gas vent". But what about the voice of God? Easy - "Hebrew University psychology professor Benny Shannon proposes that Moses was taking a local hallucinogenic substance derived from leaves of the ayahuasca plant found in the Negev and Sinai deserts." Hardly the thing that deathbed conversions are made of.

In typically supercilious style, writer Zoe Brennan argues that, in the case of Adam and Eve, "even the Godless believe she existed." And that's the fundamental flaw in her article. Brennan believes that attributing scientific explanations to biblical stories in some way validates them. In fact, it achieves precisely the opposite effect.

As a system of belief, religion makes the inexplicable understandable, in lieu of a more comprehensive or conclusive explanation. By picking apart these incidents and looking for a geological, anthropological or biological explanation, Brennan effectively eradicates the role of the Almighty in any of them.

Now who's 'Godless'?

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Any junior spy worth their salt knows that the best invisible ink is lemon juice. Simply squeeze, dip and scribble, then hope that the recipient doesn't just discard your conspicuously blank note. Instead, they need to hold the note over a candle flame (taking care not to burn the paper) and your top-secret missive will be instantly revealed.

If you thought that invisible ink only existed in the minds of second-rate writers, who envisage clandestine catch-ups between black-coated strangers on park benches, you might be surprised to know that MI6 spent the early part of the last century investigating its uses.

According to a new report in the Telegraph, the Secret Intelligence Service experimented with a variety of ink substitutes, none of which you'd be likely to find on the shelves in Rymans. Rather bizarrely, their preferred alternative was in plentiful supply, but came with its own complications - not least, a sperm count.

That's right, the first chief of MI6 believed that semen was the best invisible ink. Of course, his name was Mansfield Cumming, so perhaps his was a biased viewpoint.

Anyone who uses a fountain pen knows the standard shaking motion involved in liberating the last few ink drops. And by the sounds of things, a similar technique would be employed for generating this particular kind of spy stationery.

The boffins at MI6 were particularly enamoured with their spunky solution because it "would not react to iodine vapour" and was "readily available'. Although it's a little more awkward than simply popping in a new ink cartridge, especially in polite company.

Unfortunately, the unnamed agent who originally recommended man-fat for scribbled subterfuge had to be transferred when he became the victim of 'jokes from other staff'. Presumably this means he was sent a lot of inter-departmental memos on scrunched up toilet paper.

The other main reason that his seminal discovery never took off, was that 'fresh supplies' were recommended, since those receiving his messages 'noticed an unusual smell'. If only he'd thought of using brie wrapping for note-paper, the world of modern espionage could have been a very different place.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Neighbourhood watching

As the last few clumps of firework ash slowly drop from the skies over Elstree, Big Brother fans will be contemplating life without their favourite dose of carefully stage-managed 'reality'. After ten years spent dominating the schedules, the front pages of the tabloids, and conversations around the water-cooler, TV junkies are facing an uncertain future.

Or are they? It turns out that Channel 4 has another trick up its sleeve to satiate our hunger for interminable shows about ordinary people - stretching that particular definition to breaking point in the process. 'Seven Days' is a bold new concept in democratic documentary programming, in effect turning editorial control over to the viewers.

Focusing on the lives of the eclectic people of London's Notting Hill, the new show is described as "part-reality show, part-soap and part-documentary." Presumably, the eclecticism might actually involve a slightly more diverse crowd than the well-heeled white faces who exclusively populate the borough in the mind of Richard Curtis.

Ostensibly another long-running show about regular people doing regular things, it promises to make the output of Mike Leigh look like Michael Bay's back catalogue. But what's really different this time, is the role that viewers will play in the ongoing series.

According to executive producer Stephen Lambert, "This programme not only disobeys that conventional reality TV rule, it actively encourages it, through a new interactive part of the show called Chat-Nav." This oddly named function will enable viewers to connect with the show's characters between episodes, "offering advice on dilemmas and decisions they are making in their lives." It's not enough that these people will be suffering the trials and tribulations of every day life in front of a bank of cameras, they'll also have illiterate teenagers from Birmingham advising them on how to handle that big job interview.

Since the show takes place in the 'real world', its participants will also be encouraged to discuss pressing social issues - which hopefully will amount to more than just Katie Price's parenting skills or Gemma Arterton's shorts. Given the current state of debate around current affairs, it's a little ambitious to expect everyday people to get caught up in a heated exchange around matters of "religion, morality and sexuality." If the show's cast are anything like the 'ordinary people' we've seen on Big Brother, we'll be lucky if they know how to boil an egg.

Channel 4 might be trying to convince us that they've selected a fascinating cast of 'real people', but the claim that they "wouldn't think twice about revealing all about their lives" suggests another group of intolerable exhibitionists.

Another issue that may hinder the success of this admittedly bold concept, is the troubling issue of self-awareness. It's now commonplace for anyone leaving a reality show to complain about damning character assassinations planned in the editors' room. As though anyone with more than a few weeks' experience on Avid could misrepresent a mild-mannered university student as a chain-smoking, racist nymphomaniac.

With the show being aired in real time, the participants will be able to see how they're coming across to the general public and adapt their behaviour accordingly. The moment they see how the press is interpreting their behaviour, it's guaranteed that they'll dial those characteristics up to 11, making the fly-on-the-fourth-wall show about as authentic as Balamory.

Lambert might claim that "Seven Days is a new kind of reality, what happens when you take the walls down. In reality shows like Big Brother in the past we have put people in an enclosed space and watched what happened to them. Seven Days is going to break down those walls and break all the normal rules."

Unfortunately, the biggest rule the show looks set to break, is the unwritten one about "Ignore thy neighbour". Modern London life has become so insular that if someone's house caught fire, their neighbours would only intervene to ask them to keep the noise down. If we struggle to care about the people who live on our own street, what makes Channel 4 think we'll give two hoots about someone else's neighbours?

Lost and confused

With just two weeks to go, p0pvulture is now counting down the days to its much-needed (and well-deserved) holiday. But as my thoughts turn to itineraries and days out, I'm reminded just how different some people's idea of a dream holiday can be.

The sun worshippers will be packing a bag full of cooking oil and heading to the Canaries, more adventurous types will be stocking up on scorpion venom antidote for a trek up Machu Picchu, and nerds will be looking for a week-long sci-fi event that will shield them for the light of day for 90 hours.

So they'll be gutted to find out that they missed just such an occasion last week, as the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square played host to a Lost viewing marathon to celebrate the final season's release on DVD. Although 100 foolhardy fans were there for the inaugural episode (widely believed to be TV's most expensive pilot), only 21 remained as the series stumbled to its confusing and largely disappointing conclusion. It's not clear whether the missing 79 people gave up, expired or slipped through a wrinkle in the space-time continuum. I suppose anything's possible.

Apparently short breaks were taken every four hours, and paramedics remained on-site throughout - presumably to deal with outbreaks of alopecia triggered by excessive head-scratching. Or to extricate the larger members of the audience from their seats for sporadic bathroom visits.

One dedicated fan, Donna Lalek, emerged from the darkness to tell reporters that by the culmination of the islanders' adventures, she had "no concept of time any more". Which seems entirely apt, given the show's propensity for flashing back, forwards and sideways.

Donna took a week's holiday from work as a bank administrator to attend the event, claiming that "most people think I'm absolutely insane." After enduring 121 back-to-back episodes, her friends' judgement might not be so far off the mark.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Appetite for distraction

Congratulations go to the editorial team at the Mail for inspiring the third successive post this week - the ambassador really is spoiling us.

Today's foaming-at-the-mouthpiece is the latest chapter in the Mail's ongoing battle with Islam, as they uncover the 'shocking truth' about the widespread use of halal meat. Of course, it would be easy to accuse the Mail of bigotry for its incessant attacks on Muslims, so they've taken a different route this time.

Shifting the blame away from their own cynical fear-mongering, the article's writers focuses on issues of animal welfare, despite having no compelling evidence that the animals suffer in any greater degree than in non-halal slaughterhouses. Churnalists Simon McGee and Martin Delgardo have shared their reactionary report with an RSPCA 'spokesman' who helpfully gave them a quote: "The public have a right to know how their meat is produced. Many people are extremely concerned about animal welfare. What The Mail on Sunday has discovered shows that people are not being kept informed."

This argument is disingenuous at best, since most members of the British public seem only loosely aware that their food is even animal in origin. High profile campaigns to eradicate battery farming have been met with the kind of apathetic ambivalence usually reserved for party political broadcasts. And when Jamie Oliver tried to get parents focused on the food their kids were eating, we saw desperate mothers poking Turkey Twizzlers through the school gates.

In a world of mechanically-recovered animal derivatives, the plight of Bessie the Cow in her final moments on Earth seem to be of minimal concern to the general public. I'm sure if people actually gave a moment's thought to the way our farmed animals are slaughtered and processed, there'd be a mass conversion to vegetarianism overnight. But that's not the way the world works, and McGee and Delgardo know that.

The real clue to how these purchasing decisions are made, can be found in a quote from a spokesman for Whitbread, which 'admitted' (a far more powerful word than 'confirmed' or 'said') that 80 percent of its chicken comes from halal poultry suppliers: "We don’t specify halal as a requirement in our procurement. We base our decision on quality and price. It just turns out that we source that amount of chicken from suppliers that happen to be halal."

The facts may suggest that meat is sourced according to price, and that the general public don't interrogate the origins of every value burger they cram into their mouths. But that doesn't stop the Mail from carefully choosing its examples to portray the full extent of this insidious Islamification of Great British institutions.

They're concerned that "famous sporting venues such as Ascot and Twickenham are controversially serving up meat slaughtered in accordance with strict Islamic law to unwitting members of the public." The article is even illustrated with a hilarious picture of two rather posh-looking race-goers "indulging in fast food" at the famous racecourse, despite the fact that the 'fast food' in question is clearly a cardboard box of cod and chips. I'm no expert, but I imagine that the North Sea fishing boats have very few Muslim elders on hand to bless the floundering fish as it breathes its last.

It's clear that the real issue here is the fact that unsuspecting white people are tucking into food intended for Muslim mouths - why else would the writers investigate the sourcing policies of Marlborough and Cheltenham Colleges? They're hardly hotbeds of racial and cultural diversity.

With every passing day, the Mail is becoming more and more of a caricature of itself, as if it's being pieced together by Maggie and Judy from Little Britain.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

What not to wear, or read

With a haul of awards that threatens to wrench even the sturdiest mantelpiece away from the wall, Lady Gaga can rightly consider last week's appearance at the VMAs a triumph. As she hung her meat dress up in the walk-in fridge, I wonder if she took a moment to reflect back on the last 18 months.

Seemingly overnight she's gone from electronic pop novelty to the world's biggest music star, Queen of Twitter and the most popular living person on Facebook. Not bad for a woman who spends half her time looking for giant inanimate objects to balance on her head.

But you don't inspire that kind of following without ruffling a few feathers. Which is why post-feminist social commentator Camille Paglia found the popster worthy of her own specialist brand of verbosely over-analysed critique.

In a lengthy article (no-one seems to know exactly how lengthy, since most of it is tucked away behind Rupert Murdoch's infuriating paywall) Paglia attempts to deconstruct the myth of Gaga - ultimately blaming her for 'the death of sex'.

Labelling her the 'Diva of Deja Vu', Paglia tears strips off the chart-dominating 'icon of her generation' (which, given last Sunday's outfit, might have made for a very nice carpaccio). But I have to admit feeling a little disappointed with the depth of Paglia's understanding - you hardly need to sit on the board of a humanities journal to figure out that "Lady Gaga is a manufactured personality". What next? Gaga's not a real blonde? Actually, yes, that gets mentioned too.

Ultimately, Paglia's real error is in condemning Gaga for being unsexy, comparing her to "a gangly marionette or plasticised android". The content of Gaga's videos and music may be heavily sexualised, but it's rarely intended to be sexy. In the same way that it's possible to eroticise something without being erotic.

If you thought that Paglia's eviscerating attack was tough, that's nothing compared with what Liz Jones has in store for The Artist Formerly Known As Stefani Germanotta. At least that's how it probably sounded inside Liz's raven-haired head.

A couple of weeks ago she tried to follow in the footsteps of Julia Roberts' portrayal of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. Sadly, the only thing anyone will have taken from the article is a profound sense of pity for a woman reduced to recreating a shot from the movie - sitting on a Rome bench eating sorbet with a plastic spoon.

Liz Jones is no Julia Roberts. Then again, she's no Camille Paglia either, as her latest article makes woefully clear. Feeding off the scraps that Camille Paglia obviously felt were beneath her, Liz attempts to offer new insight into "the strange exhibitionist...who steals other performers' creativity and claims it as her own". There's a definite irony here that she's clearly missed.

Ignoring the fact that art, fashion and music constantly recycle and re-appropriate ideas, Liz lists a litany of far more creative and innovative artists - Courtney Love, David Bowie, Victoria Beckham. I wish I was making that last one up, but no, apparently Victoria invented the concept of wearing a hat.

In Liz's mind (a dark, feverish maelstrom I can't even begin to imagine) Lady Gaga is more con than artist. But surely the point of any artist is to provoke discussion, debate and multiple interpretations. If so, Gaga deserves to be installed in the Louvre. And Liz Jones deserves to be slowly devoured by her beloved cats.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Baby, wait

Maybe it's because I'm a man, and will never experience the joys of weak bladder control, elasticated waste-bands and the sensation of excreting a living human being out of my extremities, but pregnancy doesn't sound like my idea of a good time. As Rita Rudner once said, "Life's tough enough, without having someone kick you from the inside."

But actually, pregnancy is the easy bit. You get to eat all sorts of crap and blame it on the 'cravings', double your portion size because you're "eating for two" and always get a seat on public transport.

The hard work begins after you've had the baby. But it's not the sleepless nights or interminable conversations about the smell of baby sick that seem to get women down. It's the expectation that they'll snap back into shape like a rubber chew-toy.

It can't help matters that celebrity sprog-droppers manage to drop the weight in less time than it takes to hand the baby over to the nanny and order a car to Mahiki. For many famous mummies, the weight loss is quicker than the labour itself. What nobody ever seems to mention is that many of them book themselves in for an eight-month C-section (before the major weight-gain kicks in) and have the fat sucked out while they're still in the stirrups.

But is this really the healthy way to go? Not according to Julia Llewellyn Smith, who's written a coruscating critique of the trend in today's Mail. She feels "deep unease" at the sight of Denise Van Outen "cavorting on a Dubai beach in a leopardskin bikini" just five months after giving birth. If she thinks that's bad, she's obviously never heard her sing.

She laments the fact that "we’ve had to endure every female celebrity from Nicole Kidman to Myleene Klass flaunting their fabulous figures almost hours after giving birth." And she puts this unhealthy trend down to the celebrities' 'overweening narcissism' - although she's at least grown-up enough to acknowledge that these extra-yummy mummies work "in an industry that judges women on their bodies, and pictures of skinny post-natal celebrities are nothing new."

She's right - they're nothing new. In fact, it seems as though every day brings with it more paparazzi photos of famous faces (and their bodies), just weeks after straining to the point of constipation and screaming for epidurals. And where do those pictures appear? In Julia's paper of course.

Try searching the words 'baby weight' on the Mail's website, and you'll find an astonishing 4930 articles on the subject. 247 pages of them.

You can read all about Tamzin Outhwaite's magic pants, Halle Berry's flat tummy, Colleen Rooney's weight loss, Katie Holmes' slimmer figure, Nicole Richie's diet, Rebecca Loos' bikini, Octomom's trim new shape, Tina Hobley's makeover, Natasha Kaplinksy's work-outs, Javine Hylton's new body, Bethenny Frankel's post-baby look, Myleene Klass' return to modelling, Christina Milian's divorce diet, as well as good old Denise Van Outen's beach adventure.

If Julia wants to know where this unhealthy trend originated, she really needs to inspect the glass house she's throwing stones in.

The Mail seems to have invented an entirely new idiom - it wants to have its cake, eat it, and then purge. Bulimic journalism, it's the way forward...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

What's the scoop?

Megastars are notorious for throwing tantrums when things don't go their way. So it's highly likely that the Pope's closest advisors are currently learning to duck like Naomi Campbell's housekeeper as his Holiness vents his anger at the massive misfire of his forthcoming UK tour.

The whole venture has been one long PR disaster, from the politically charged atmosphere surrounding the abuse cover-ups to the 'embarrassment' caused by the creation of a pamphlet explaining Catholicism in more contemporary lingo.

Now, with the news that thousands of tickets remain unsold for what was promised to be a kneeling-room-only affair, the Catholic Church is having to try and convince the public that "Catholics are looking forward to this visit very much indeed". It's a good job, since the rest of the population seems decidedly non-plussed about the least anticipated tour since Cher's decade-long 'farewell'.

In a time of penny-pinching cutbacks, the estimated £12 million cost of the pontiff's visit is harder to swallow than a pillow-sized communion wafer. It's not all bad news though, since a BBC poll found that 70% of British Catholics believe that the Pope's visit will "help the Catholic Church in the UK".

One person who's delighted about the impending arrival of everyone's favourite one-time Nazi is ice cream maker Antonio Federici. His company's new ad campaign is notching up some major news coverage on account of its controversial depiction of lustfulness inside the church.

With its heavily eroticised imagery of pregnant nuns and interracial gay priests, the campaign has clearly been designed to get people hot under the dog-collar. And although the Advertising Standards Authority has demanded that the 'immaculately conceived' ad be discontinued, Federici plans to replace it with a similarly provocative image that would be "a continuation of the theme".

The press attention generated by the campaign must far outweigh the impact of whatever media spend has been invested so far, and media observers are now on the edge of their pew waiting to see what image will appear on poster sites around Westminster Abbey. Just don't be too surprised if it's a choir boy being offered a Rocky Road by his Father Confessor.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

His cup runneth over

With the exception of being spotted in Iceland, queuing to buy a Pot Noodle, I imagine there are few things more soul-chillingly embarrassing than being asked to "provide a sample" at a fertility clinic.

Childless couples are under enough pressure as it is, having tried unsuccessfully to reproduce the natural way. By the time you're standing in a crowded reception room as a harried nurse hands you a translucent cup and asks you to fill it, you'd be lucky if you could still spell your own name. Never mind having to shut yourself in an unwelcoming broom cupboard to knock one out, as the rest of the attending patients think to themselves "we know what you're doing..."

To help expedite the process, many NHS trusts provide specialist 'reading materials' - figuring that a little visual stimulus might make the onanism less onerous. But centre-right think tank 2012health is disgusted by this process, even getting Chief Executive Julia Manning to write a damning report about the practice.

As a well-known Tory advisor, we should hardly be surprised that Manning's paper makes repeated references to the cost to the tax-payer of this practice. Even though, as her own methodology reveals, the average annual cost per NHS trust was an astounding £21.32.

Rather than being horrified at the misappropriation of NHS funds, I'm more disgusted by what this means for the quality of pornography being offered. It's bad enough sitting in a dentist's waiting room, having to make do with a three-year old copy of Tatler, and a couple of dog-eared Beanos so old that they still show Dennis the Menace getting slippered. Now imagine a similar scenario, where you're being expected to bash out some baby gravy to a well-thumbed copy of Razzle that only opens on every other page.

Obviously, no-one's going to start burning effigies of Sir David Nicholson over the NHS spending twenty quid in the local papershop. So Manning makes the central premise of her paper the fact that pornography is the universal degrader - offending anyone who makes it, reads it, or wipes it down every time a patient leaves the room.

She argues "It’s also worth considering what the NHS, by supplying porn, is effectively suggesting to a man that rather than thinking about his partner, he should sexually objectify an unknown woman while producing a specimen." Since he's going to draw on fantasies anyway, where's the harm in lending a hand (figuratively speaking of course)?

Interestingly, one of the few media channels that picked up this story was the Daily Star, which used traditional tabloid language to describe the fact that "Hospital bosses were slammed for supplying porn." Rather helpfully, they chose to illustrate the story with some sample pornography, in an image almost twice the size of the text written for the article.

Even more dubious is the fact that the pornography reproduced for illustrative purposes is produced and marketed by Richard Desmond who, coincidentally, also owns the Daily Star. As media blog Tabloid Watch rightly points out, this is just another example of deceitful and misleading tabloid cross-promotion.

Hopefully someone's going to end up with egg on their face over this. Or something that looks a lot like it.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Was it something we did?

Everyone knows that break-ups are tough. But when you're sifting through the wreckage of a broken relationship, dealing with all the ugly recriminations and retaliations, it's easy to forget about the innocent victims caught in the cross-fire.

Not the kids - fuck them, that's what therapy's for. It'll probably make them grow up into more interesting people.

Think of the brands. The ones who've been with you through thick and, well, stupid. They're looking at your broken home, hugging their knees and sobbing, wondering whether it's all their fault. Questioning if they're the reason why you two don't love each other any more?

OK, so maybe that's not what most people have to deal with when their marriage hits the skids like Richard Hammond in a jet-powered car. But for people like Wayne Rooney, it's a major consideration.

As well as having to make amends with Coleen for having a threesome with two prostitutes while she was pregnant with baby Kai, his future with Coca-Cola currently hangs in the balance. According to news reports, the world's biggest brand name is currently feeling 'horrified and bewildered' by the revelations.

If the King Edward-faced footballer wants to patch things up (and save his £600,000-a-year contract), he's going to have to sit down with the soft drinks giant and explain that he still loves them very, very much. And that whatever happens between him and his wife won't change how he feels about them.

Perhaps he could offer to take Coke to McDonalds every other weekend. Or he might want to refer to Katie Price's argument that often, the products of a broken home get lots more Christmas presents than those in a nuclear family. That's sure to put a smile back on their face.

Thankfully, not everyone's turned their back on him - 50 Cent has kindly offered Wayne a place to stay while he puts his life back together.

Inviting him to stay in his Manhattan penthouse, the generous rapper has said "I’ll make sure that if Wayne comes here and we party that he doesn’t get into any trouble." Which presumably means some kind of 'skank-discretion' screening process.

It's nice to know that someone's looking out for the big guy.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

How gay is 'too gay'?

When it comes to generating news headlines, nothing works quite like a 'furious debate'. It suggests heated arguments, the passionate exchange of views and an oppportunuty for the news organisation in question to demonstrate its objectivity and balance.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, in the search for easy content and stories that write themselves, the 'debate' is engineered after the fact. The news team invent a topic, choose and inflammatory angle, and then go looking for talking heads to either support their view or shoot it down.

Which is how CNN came to run a story this week entitled "Is The Surge of Gay Characters on TV Sending the Wrong Message?" Filled with ugly rhetoric that makes it sound as though America's moral foundations are being attacked by a well-groomed sleeper-cell of catty best friends, the story wasted no time engaging the services of Dan Gainor, VP of the Culture and Media Institute.

This conservative action group, which pompously pronounces its mission of 'Advancing Truth and Virtue in the Public Square', believes that mainstream TV is 'promoting the homosexual lifestyle' and that can only be "bad for American society". I've never understood the whole concept of promoting a 'gay lifestyle' as though it's referring to an exclusive retirement village on the Florida coast.

Gainor believes that TV shows are "normalising something which a lot of people don't want to see normalised". Which is the 'la la la I'm not listening' approach to a progressive society. His views are then followed by interview footage of a handsome gay couple with their twin kids, talking about the value of visibility and representation. But for some reason, known only to the editorial team, the clip has been artificially aged, giving the sinister impression that the film was found in the flooded basement of a serial killer.

CNN's 'objective position' is also hampered by the fact that its reporters keep pointing out that people like Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch are 'openly gay in real life' with a disbelieving tone that makes it sound like the two actors also regularly release flocks of doves form their sleeves.

The weakest element of the whole story, besides the fact that anyone saw fit to commission it in the first place, is that the whole point of the item is undermined by the final segment.

In its annual audit of the major TV networks, GLAAD assesses the treatment and representation of LGBT characters and personalities - this year finding that there was still a long way for many of the networks to go before they could consider themselves fully inclusive. And yet CNN references this study, even pointing out how several of the networks had scored pitiful ratings. So where on earth did they come up with the idea that there's been a surge of gay characters, when CBS currently doesn't have a single one on any of its shows.

I guess it's too much to hope that a little common sense and professional integrity might one day "invade" TV news coverage.

Big Mutha strikes back

Farewell Big Brother, it was nice knowing you. We'll miss your dominance over our summer viewing habits, your ever-fading relevance, and your increasingly obnoxious housemate selections. But most of all, we'll miss Davina.

For over a decade, she's been a regular TV staple, standing on that stage of a Friday night, bellowing into the camera, in an endless procession of unflattering black outfits. She may be responsible for a million broken volume buttons, but she's hard to dislike.

As well as genuinely loving the show that made her a household name, she seems to sincerely care about the contestants, no matter how awful they might appear. It's one of the reasons the nation took her to its heart, even forgiving her for some truly egregious career decisions.

But not everyone is so willing to give Davina the benefit of the doubt - especially the Daily Mail, which is today running a story about her irresponsible approach to parenting.

As a recovering addict, Davina has an obligation to give her kids an honest answer when they ask about drugs. Quite rightly, she feels that telling the truth is the only way to make it believable.

So when her eight-year old daughter Holly asked what drugs feel like, Davina told her "Heroin is so fantastic you’ll want to take it again, then you’ll get addicted, which is horrible." It's not like she gave the kid a burnt spoon to play with.

Unfortunately, her open-minded approach was too much for the Mail, which delighted in reporting on the "furious response" that she drew from David Raynes, head of the National Drugs Prevention Alliance. Although, to be honest, he doesn't sound that furious - he actually described the news as "very worrying".

Another Daily Mail staple (the grieving mother) has also been deployed, this time it's Maryon Stewart, whose daughter died last year after taking GBL. She said "I think that is an outrageous thing for someone to tell their children. It is important to highlight the dangers of drugs, but certainly not to tell someone how wonderful they think they are."

Interestingly, Maryon is "currently advising the government on how to educate children on the danger of drug use." Which is a little odd, given that she doesn't appear to have been too successful in steering her own child away from experimenting with Class As.

That's not intended to sound unkind - just to acknowledge the fact that one mother who has lost a child to drug abuse might not be in the best position to lecture other mothers on how they should be bringing up their kids.

Maryon's theory is that "If [Davina] wants to warn her children about drugs, she should be showing them what happens to heroin addicts." But that's the problem - as an ex-heroin user Davina is showing her kids just what does happen to some addicts. They're able to rebuild their lives and forge a successful future. Surely that's worthy of celebration rather than condemnation?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Erogenous twilight zones

Reader beware - the links in this post will definitely be NSFW - by all means click on them, just not if your boss happens to be strolling nonchalantly past your desk. Some of the images will be difficult to explain away, especially in front of an industrial tribunal.

Pornography and popular culture have always had something of a quid-pro-quo relationship. In fact, you might even say it's all about give and take.

On the one hand (the one that's free anyway) pornography has exerted considerable influence over the music industry, contributing to what John Whitehead refers to as the "pornification of American culture". On the flipside (don't be disgusting), the porn industry has plundered popular movies for a series of often quite inspired pastiches - the best being 'Rears in Windows' and 'Wetness For The Prosecution'.

However, the sex industry is now reaching out with its well lubed extremities, and taking hold of other, more surprising, pop culture properties.

With depressing inevitability, the talent show format has made its way into the world of pornography, although I doubt you'll be seeing any footage on T4 on Sunday afternoons. Created by porn supremo Dominic Ford, "So You Think You Can Fuck" takes its profane inspiration from the similarly named dance show on TV.

Featuring a collection of 12 would-be stars, the website showcases the talents of 12 men hoping to be voted "America's Favourite porn-star". They're even divided into 'tops' and 'bottoms' to facilitate the decision-making process. After almost a decade of tragic stories about contestants' tough upbringings, a profile that features the quote "I’ve been lactated on, but I won’t go into that…" seems fairly innocuous.

But it's not just reality TV shows that have generated an enthusiastic following, science fiction also has a solid gay fanbase. Even so, it's a little weird to see the work of horror and science fiction author H.P. Lovecraft brought to life in an erogenous sense.

The next time you're in an adult novelty store, browsing the 'batteries not included' aisle, perhaps you'll notice a curiously crafted artefact - one that looks as though it should be used to animate the aggressive nature of tooth decay bacteria. If you do, you'll have discovered the Mythos Art Dildo.

Based on Lovecraft's horrific writing, the demonic marital aid has been designed to represent his Cthulhu mythology. In a way, it's probably mildly appropriate - a creature from the shadowy netherworlds, repurposed as a dildo that's destined to be stuck where the sun most definitely doesn't shine.

When Lady Gaga sang "That boy is a monster..." I'm sure this isn't what she had in mind...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

There's no smoke without ire

The phrase 'be careful what you wish for' has never been more apt. Quick-tempered right wingers have spent the last few years, both here and in the States, attempting to demonise Islam as a religion of terrorists and radicals. On both sides of the pond reactionary rhetoric has been cleverly composed to manipulate the populace into a position of fear and intolerance.

The most recent hot-button issue has been the announcement of plans to build a mosque at 'Ground Zero' - interpreted by certain news organisations and commentators as an opportunity to dance on the graves of the 3,000+ people who lost their lives on 9/11.

A wide variety of politicians and pundits have been quick to add their voices to the mix, usually taking the stance that the concept of 'freedom of religion' was never meant to include Muslims. There have been a number of protests - with one Muslim cab-driver even being stabbed in New York. Ironically, his attacker was later identified as a "volunteer with a nonprofit organization that works to promote cross-cultural understanding." I guess they need to work a bit harder at that.

But the anti-Muslim sentiment reached its nadir last week when the Pastor of a little-known church in Florida announced his plans to organise an international 'Quran Burning Day'. Despite arguing that he's not a bigot, Terry Jones, head of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, intends to burn a pile of Islamic holy books on the anniversary of 9/11. He told the press, who were quick to pick up the story, "It's something that we feel we need to do. It's a message that we feel we need to send."

But there's a silver lining to the cloud of acrid smoke that will gather in the skies over Gainesville on Saturday. Key Republican mouthpieces, who have previously been keen to stoke the fires of anti-Islamic sentiment, have spoken out against the pastor's plans, seemingly horrified by the antagonism they've helped to create.

Fox New lunatic Glenn Beck and photogenic brain-donor Sarah Palin have both written eloquently (the latter, likely using a ghost-writer who understands basic sentence construction) about the fact that burning religious books is 'antithetical' to American ideals. Sure, freedom of speech might entitle people to demonstrate their displeasure, but that doesn't make it acceptable or appropriate.

Even more comforting, is the fact that Tennessee Pastor Steve Stone is doing his bit to open minds and hearts in his (red) neck of the woods. When he heard 18 months ago that a new Islamic Center (American news source, American spelling) was opening in Memphis, he was quick to post a sign that read "Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the neighborhood."

The local Muslim community were apparently overwhelmed by this welcoming gesture, and as a result a thriving interfaith network has been forged between the two constituencies. Stone and his counterpart Dr. Bashar Shala have even appeared on news shows together to talk about their mutually respectful relationship.

Stone recently blogged that "The majority of the response both locally, nationally and internationally has been positive and affirming. And honestly, that has been both surprising and heartening to me. My guess would be that 90+% have responded that way."

Whether it's God at work, or simply the natural order of things, it's comforting to see that the universe has a way of correcting itself. The appeal of extremism (on either side) tends to be fairly short-lived.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Mind your language

It was all over the news this week, when an Australian teacher decided to redraft the lyrics of one his country's best loved songs. Thanks to Principal Garry Martin's delicate sensibilities, the kids at Cheltenham’s Lepage primary school in Victoria found themselves singing about rather less merry kookaburra.

Martin was concerned that the little 'uns might find singing about the 'gay' life of the native Australian fauna might encourage use of the word which is being increasingly used as a one-size-fits-all pejorative. So he changed the lyrics of 'Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree' to "How fun your life must be".

Media reactions were depressingly predictable, although at least the Herald Sun, which originally broke the story, allowed Martin to comment on his actions: “It was my decision to replace it. I guess that was hypersensitive of me. Political correctness is to the fore in schools – what’s appropriate and what isn’t – and sometimes we rightly or wrongly err on the side of caution.”

But this awkwardness around which words are or aren't acceptable is becoming increasingly common. According to a story carried by the Associated Press, a Microsoft Xbox gamer from West Virginia found his online privileges suspended because his registered address was a small town called Fort Gay.

Microsoft's 'slang engines' had added the word 'gay' to their code of conduct regarding offensive language. It's just a good job that the would-be player wasn't logging on from Cockermouth.

Given this knee-jerk reaction to any kind of terminology that may cause upset, it's great to see that some musicians are happy to keep challenging our understanding of the power of language. The latest star to open up the dialogue is heavyweight singer Cee Lo Green - best known as the voice behind Gnarls Barkley and their chart-conquering Crazy. His new song 'Fuck You' looks set to provoke, offend and entertain in equal measure.

Weirdly, it sounds like a peppy, perky sixties finger snapper, and even has a video that pays unofficial tribute to Little Shop of Horrors with its 'sixties girlgroup as Greek chorus' motif. And yet its decidedly adult lyrics seem to deliberately jar with the frothy, upbeat nature of the melody and production. Funnily enough, it's almost exactly the same effect as Lily Allen accomplished last year, with an identically titled song aimed at George W Bush.

It's hard to feel offended when a song is so catchy and engaging - which throws up an interesting question about whether context is important in causing offence. It's all so confusing, it almost makes me long for a more innocent time, when Frankie Goes To Hollywood found themselves banned by Radio One for 'Relax'. Even though the song itself now sounds about as offensive as the minutes of a WI meeting.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Fancy a tipple?

You know how it goes. You're given a bad glass of wine and you pull a face like you're working the mixing desk for a Jennifer Lopez recording session.

Asked what's wrong, you tell them "It tastes like piss", only for the smart arse in the group to ask "Oh, when have you drunk piss then?" Hilarious, I know.

Of course, you could tell them that you're like Sarah Miles, and believe in the medicinal qualities of urine. Or point out that, since taste is approximately 70% smell, you have technically experienced the flavour before. However, there's now a third option - just say that you're a whisky drinker.

Now I'm not saying that all whisky is bad - even though I'd rather give Joan Rivers a bed bath than drink it. However, one industrious distiller has created a curious new malt blend out of other people's waste. Although I can't see it flying off the shelves.

Perhaps inspired by the water-saving concept of "If it's yellow, let it mellow", designer and researcher James Gilpin has taken advantage of the alarming rise in type-2 diabetes, turning the urine of diabetes sufferers into 'Gilpin Family Whisky'. In retrospect, it all seems so logical - millions more people producing litres of pee with a high sugar content, and the whisky market growing faster than any other alcoholic beverage.

Now I'd pay good money to see him pitch that to Deborah Meaden and the other Dragons. If they turned him down he could at least throw a drink in their faces.

Gilpin's dubious dram isn't commercially available, but apparently he's giving bottles away at the Abandon Normal Devices (AND) Festival in Manchester. James is trying to initiate debate about health-care and recycling, asking "Is it plausible to suggest that we start utilizing our water purification systems in order to harvest the biological resources that our elderly already process in abundance?"

Rather than complaining that Grandma smells of wee, just grab a tumbler and some oat-cakes and you've got yourself a cut-price Robbie Burns Night. It certainly gives a new meaning to the idea of a night on the piss.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Look into the eyes, not around the eyes...

Poor old Christina Hendricks. She should be on top of the world, with a starring role in one of American TV's most acclaimed shows and the prestigious title of 'Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive', but she's still not happy. Apparently, the fashion industry doesn't know what to do with her 38DD-26-34 figure.

Since they're used to dressing stick-think lollipops with breasts that can support themselves, they're unsure of how to style someone who looks like she just stepped out of a giant clam shell. Christina's spectacular statistics don't fit into conventional gowns, meaning she has to look far and wide for an outfit that can reach, well, far and wide.

In the run-up to last week's Emmy Awards, Christina struggled to locate a dress that would cover her ample blessings, with most designers flat-out refusing to dress the Rubenesque red-head. Thankfully, she was able to pour herself into a lilac Zac Posen gown, that drew everyone's attention to the fact that she was trying to sneak Phil Collins and Larry David into the ceremony without tickets.

Although Mad Men went home with the award for 'Outstanding Drama Series', Christina missed out in her category, where she was nominated as 'Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series' - cue endless jokes about 'best supported actress' being a clean sweep.

Hendricks' stylist, Lawren Sample, told a Scottish newspaper that her employer's curvaceous figure has designers worried, since it requires "a flattering cut, the correct amount of support, intricate boning, darts, seams and draping require a great deal of skill, time and expense." Failing that, it needs two wheelbarrows and enough fabric to re-skin the O2.

Only Zac Posen was up to the task, choosing to show off her shape, rather than cover it up. Unfortunately, some snippy style experts were quick to condemn Christina's golden globes, griping that once again they were hogging the limelight.

Posen remained undaunted, arguing "She's got a beautiful body, there's no reason to hide anything. Let's celebrate what she has." Irrespective of the fact that it would take an articulated lorry to 'hide what she has', at least he's got the right idea. There must be millions of men who regularly hold parties in honour of Christina's endowments. Someone pass me a party-popper.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

It takes all sorts

Someone's cracking open a bottle of Cava in Peter Hitchens' house this weekend, as the noToryous columnist finally lays claim to having been right all along. Apparently, he's been claiming for 20 years now that the BBC, our venerable public broadcasting institution, leans to the left.

This shouldn't come as a massive surprise to anyone with functioning neurones, but to Hitchens, this is the vindication he's been seeking for the last couple of decades. Dancing to the tune of the world's smallest violin, the horrendous hack claims "I have made this case patiently, with evidence, not crudely. And I have been met with unending scornful denial."

However, Hitchens has finally discovered the 'smoking gun' he's been seeking for so long - Director General Marc Thompson has admitted that when he joined the BBC thirty years ago, he felt that there was a 'massive bias to the Left'. But that's not all, apparently the Corporation has been collaborating with David Cameron, to try and make the Conservative party more palatable to people who wouldn't see a burning cross as the sign that it was a good time to dig out the marshmallows.

As a consequence of these 'under the radar' meetings, the BBC switched its coverage of the Tories from "an unending stream of high-pressure slime to cautious approval, gradually warming into endorsement". Honestly, some people are never happy.

What Hitchens fails to recognise, is that the Tories didn't meet with the BBC in order to gain better coverage. They clearly had a heritage of policies and attitudes that jarred with the British mainstream, and needed to moderate some of their long standing positions in order to court the populace.

The way Hitchens sees it, the BBC "gives or withholds its blessing to the leaders it approves of. Lean to the Left, or face frozen disapproval, consistently unfair coverage, misrepresentation and actual exclusion from the national debate." Those are serious accusations indeed, and paint a worrying picture of modern political discourse. They're also complete horse pizzle.

Hitchens needs to remind himself that, as the national broadcaster, the BBC has a mandate to represent the views, interests and realities of everyone in the UK. And that kind of open-minded inclusivity is precisely the kind of thing that old-school conservatives like him cannot abide. The unfortunate truth is that his world view is increasingly becoming a minority perspective. Still worthy of coverage, but not in any position to dictate to the rest of the country.

Still, we should all be thankful that in these troubled times, where the national consensus is manipulated by a left-leaning conspiracy, that there are still some independent voices in the national press. People who pride themselves on their independence of thought and journalistic responsibility. People like Peter Hitchens in fact, whose next article starts with the lines "What a very odd creature is Anthony Blair. I feel I can justly point this out because Mr Blair has devoted so very much of his gruesomely interesting book to making nasty comments about the weirdness of Gordon Brown."

Ahhh, smell the integrity.