Saturday, January 27, 2007

Big Brother and Racism

Let me first say that I haven't watched any of Celebrity Big Brother but of course, like everyone, I have heard the news reports and surrounding debate.

Let's go back to basics: Big Brother is a TV show formula that allows us to peek in at a range of people, hand selected going about their daily lives all living in close proximity. BB gives these people a range of tasks for the contestants to perform which they either pass or fail. If they fail they get minimum food rations. As the weeks unfold, contestants get voted off by the general public, usually after the contestants narrow the field down to a choice of 2 or 3 candidates. The public vote (and advertising revenue) give producing company Endemol the huge profits that they've come to expect.

BB thives on tension. There have been years where the non-celebrity version has been quite "uneventful" due to the people getting on quite well and working well together. This was a huge flop. People said it was boring and that BB had lost it, it was a formula that had run dry. The following year BB was more "evil" adding more scrutiny, impossible tasks and double crossing. Viewing figures and profits soared.

The secret apparantly is in getting the right mix of contestants: wierdos mainly, not the sort of people you meet on a day to day basis. The secret (again) is tension. If you have an ayslum seeker in there, you need someone who hates asylum seekers in there too. If you have someone gay, stick a fundamental Christian in there to stir things up. The secret is people who won't get along.

Then there are the tasks which aren't designed to help pass the time, but to potentially humiliate and induce more tension. In the liklihood that the task is failed, you get to point the finger at the slacker who let the team down, There's also "comedy value" in seeing someone addicted to nicotine, having to withdraw as there's no money in the economy budget to buy them their fix.

Why am I going through all this? Because we have probably just had the most controversial BB ever (and that's saying something). We have probably the second worst accusations that can be thrown at people, have been thrown. The first worst would be to say that you're a paedophile, in this case the charge is racism. The victim is Shilpa and the culprits are Jade Goody, Jo O'Meara and Danielle Lloyd all shown on screen picking on their victim. And yet all my analysis above points to the fact that we should have expected this from the start. Why did BB choose the people they did to go in the house?
Well Dirk Bendedict was in there to be an aging lethario.
Danielle is there because she's a WAG, eye candy and I'm guessing that BB were hoping that she'd say something stupid.
Jade was definately in there because she would say something stupid.
Carole Malone was put in to be militant and gobby and unlikable
Why would "stars" do this to themselves? Well because they want to relaunch their careers, get massive exposure and unlike "normal" BB where there is a prize for the last remaining contestant, all celebs get paid. So it works both ways: BB get the wierdos and extroverts they need to make the show a success, the celebrities get some money and some exposure.

I guess the key question comes with why Shilpa was put in there. There are multiple reasons I think with probably her looks coming top- she is very stunning. Joolian also pointed out in his summary that they probably want to engage the interest of Asian viewers both in this country and in India- a bit of a niche market. I think she was also included because BB thought that she wouldn't be able to hack it and that she would throw tantrums. As they were all being introduced in the house Davina said that two of the housemates had servants in real life and Shilpa was one of those two. She was used to a certain pampered and privilidged lifestyle, they wanted to see her freak out at the conditions they were going to impose on her. She was there to be a precious princess.
At this point I also want to say (obviously) that she is from another country. This always adds tension, whether the person is from India, America or Somalia (like Ahmed in BB5) because culturally things will already be alien being in another country. Then add the tension of being locked away with people who at least have that culture as a common ground and the result is BB gold.

I think that cultural differences have made Shilpa seem aloof and maybe even snotty which haven't endeared her to the other girls of her sort of age. Like any person who was bullied at school knows, being different makes you a target. If you don't get the jokes, if you expect things done in a certain way and don't make an effort then things aren't going to be easy for you. From the clips I've seen (and let's be really careful about the clips because they can prove whatever BB want them to prove) the girls have picked on Shilpa. Some questions:
Is this racist? Well not really- they don't really get on, people don't and in the BB house they're not meant to.
What were the odds of them not getting on? Really high- BB knew that it would be difficult for Shilpa to communicate well in an alien culture, that's why she was in there.
Isn't picking on people really nasty and don't you really mean bullying? Yes and yes. Yes the picking on scenes were horrible but people do it and in that environment do do it (see BB5 again). Do I think it was bullying?- yes probably but bullying is over time so it's borderline. I think with more effective communication and with less BB silliness it probably could have been sorted out. So in that respect it's picking on, amplified.
What pressures do you think are in the house? - The house is selected to be full of tension. The characters aren't supposed to get on, the house is designed to be open and give nowhere to hide and the tasks are supposed to increase tension. The task that I'm aware of that the contestants had to do was an "Upstairs, Downstairs" theme with some being servants and some masters. Surely waiting on people even as a joke has got to be irksome?
Isn't BB just a mirror and isn't it showing how people really are?- No not really. People under extreme pressure react out of character
So what has happened then in your opinion? Well I'm glad you asked. I think that some silly girls picked on another girl because she wasn't fitting in. This was based on cultural differences but not in my opinion racist because it wasn't based on her race (she could have been Canadian) It could have been sorted out over time possibly or if the rest of the group had said "ease off" but it didn't. What happened was that BB saved what was being called "the most boring BB that we'd had in many years, maybe ever" by engineering hype around some girls argueing. The victim was Indian therefore the picking on was racist. Once that label sticks, it's very hard to shake off.
And if someone manages to convince me that those three girls are racist and did display racist behaviour then fine, I will accept that. But I believe that BB and Endemol are responsible for what happened in the house. Completely.

What do you think?

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cook with your microwave? Really?

Here are the top 10 things that can be done with your microwave (bar cooking!)

1 Get more juice out of lemons and limes, by softening them on high for 15-20 seconds.

2 Sterilise garden soil to make it fit to plant seedlings. Spread 400g soil on a flat dish and heat on high for 90 seconds or until steaming.*

3 Get extra life out of a dried-up mascara stick by heating for 30-40 seconds on high - with a cup of water in the microwave beside it for safety's sake.

4 Dye up to 225g of material. Wearing rubber gloves, stir a packet of Dylon natural fabric dye with 200ml cold water in a bowl, add 400ml more water and immerse the fabric. Put the bowl inside a plastic bag in the microwave on high for four minutes. Remove, tip away the dye, and rinse the fabric in cold water. Wash in hot water, then dry away from direct heat or sunlight.

5 Dry herbs, on high for around 40 seconds. Wash them first and spread them on kitchen paper, with more kitchen paper on top.

6 Melt wax for removing leg hair, on 80% power for 10 seconds, assuming it's a full pot. Beware: it doesn't need to boil!

7 Zap fresh breadcrumbs to make them dry enough to coat food for deep-fat frying.

8 Warm plates - though not if they've got metal edges or decoration. Sprinkle each one with water and pile them up. Heat on high for around 30 seconds.

9 Sterilise jars for jam-making. Put up to six in the oven with about an inch of water in each. Heat for 1½ to 2 minutes, until the water comes to the boil. With oven gloves, remove from microwave, tip out the water and they're ready.

10 Make jelly faster than normal, by putting jelly cubes in a bowl or mould with four tablespoons of water on high for 60 seconds. Stir, then add the rest of the water, cold.

* surely this is the best one of all?


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Comments on posts

There are multiple reasons why I don't post comments on blogs:
  • the blogger has written so comprehensively that nothing more need be said
  • the blogger has written so comprehensively that it will take my feeble brain time to get my head around the subject and even then, it probably won't quite get there but I feel proud to know such brainy people
  • the blogger has written so comprehensively that to say "well done" sounds lame and patronising
  • the post may not warrant a reply (like the get yourself a ridiculous title one below)
  • lots of other people have commented and I don't really need/want to
  • lack of time
  • (very rarely) I don't agree with the blogger and I don't really want to start a discussion about it
  • the blogger in question is my husband and I feel like I always comment on his blog
  • I have been the first to comment for the last three posts of that blogger and I'm starting to feel like a stalker
  • are there any more to add?

Labels: ,

Monday, January 22, 2007


I was watching the Climate Change programme on BBC yesterday and was struck by a development that they featured called BedZED that I had never heard of before. Imagine my surprise when I checked out the website and saw that this is managed by the Peabody Trust, which is the housing association that my mum used to work for (she currently lives on one of their estates)
Although, inevitably, there appears to be trouble in paradise. As this article shows, with so many concepts to maintain out of the mainstream, there is bound to be a list as long as your arm of things that are broken or don't work. It appears that the wood chip fuel system is one thing so all the residents are having to buy gas and electricity from usual suppliers and the reed bed sewage filter system is out of operation too. But I think it's better to try than to carry on building as we have always done.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Duchess Helen the Laconic of Durdle Door
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Friday, January 19, 2007

Five Things You May not Know About Me

Thanks Phil! This time, there's a twist in the fact that I allowed Julian free reign to think up the facts himself. Enjoy!

1. I worked in a betting shop many moons ago
2. I'm a qualified aerobics instructor
3. I have been seen along Ber Street and King Street after the hours of 10pm
4. I won a belly dancing competition in Morrocco
5. I talked like Sara Cox when I was 11

Thursday, January 18, 2007


A lot of my work is with young people with a range of learning and physical disabilities. I really enjoy this as I find they themsleves enjoy working with people who aren't teachers and really enjoy a different approach to their learning. But actually I wonder if my verbal based style is really so inclusive? I think that I'm learning as I go along and I have great admiration for the teaching staff that assist in lessons.
I had the good fortune to visit a sensory room yesterday and thought it was lovely. It got me thinking: even though people with disabilities are obviously at a disadvantage, would it not appear that more effort is spent in trying to engage them? The sensory room proves that every sense is engaged in providing meaning into the lives of what the general public would consider "broken" people.
At the Worship Central conference I went to at the weekend, we had a video shown of Team Hoyt a father and son collaboration with a difference. They compete in marathons, half marathons and triathlons together, the father pushing (or pulling in a dinghy or cycling with) his son. From the website: "Rick was born in 1962 as a spastic quadriplegic, cerebral palsy, non-speaking person. The ability of his mind and person have always been strong, and his family have been hearty supporters of his quest for independence and inclusion in community activities, sports, school and the workplace. Rick is a graduate of Boston University."
The website gives lengthy back ground into the trials of bringing up a child in 70s America and goes on to say, "Rick told his father [via a computerised voice system] he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a local lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Dick, far from being a long-distance runner, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished next to last, but they felt they had achieved a triumph. That night, Dick remembers, "Rick told us he just didn’t feel handicapped when we were competing."
The comparison on Saturday was clear: the human father represents our Heavenly Father, carrying, nurturing, loving us through all difficulties. That we lie broken but with feelings of pride, love and determination as Our Father carries us.

I love to think of ourselves as helpless as that. And I love to think that actually rather than us being able bodied, that we're all broken. Who knows? Maybe the kids I work with are less broken than those of us who think we are so perfect and upright. I look forward to meeting up with them in heaven and for them to reminisce about the days when I came to their school.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 15, 2007

International Slow Down Week

I have had an email letting me know that this week (January 14-20) is INTERNATIONAL SLOW DOWN WEEK. The email tells me "It's not too late to slow down and renew your intentions for a saner, more mindful way of life in 2007. If you’re ready to experiment with a different, more fulfilling rhythm, join us in celebrating the second annual For one week, instead of running to catch the bus or zipping in and out of traffic, try walking to work. Instead of grabbing take-out on the way home, cook a meal with your family. Leave the TV and computer off, and play an old-fashioned board game, or just sit and catch up with family and friends. If possible, take a day off work — and then while it away with a long walk and an afternoon nap." Further information can be found here.

That is my challenge to you my friends. In your busy week this week, I want you to make space to do something you wouldn't normally do that slows down the pace. I'm going to try too. Don't forget to leave an account on your blog (whether you fail or succeed). And most importantly, have fun!


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Writing a Eurovision song

One of my hidden and non-verbalised goals is to write a Eurovision song. Not sure that this is the year for it but you never know, one day I might! However I'm wondering whether I have as much chance as Morrissey of penning the winning formula. Strange but true: after last year's trouncing of Daz Sampson's he remarked, with his tongue firmly in his cheek that he should have been asked to do it. It seems he has. But will he pick up the mantle or is it a little too different from what he's used to? As a bloke that comes across as totally humourless, I'm not sure that the words Morrissey and Eurovision should ever be together. But I'm sure that the plot will thicken...

My tips for writing a (winning) Eurovision song:
  • Make the song tuneful and melodic
  • Include something that speaks about the nation you represent (ie in Ireland have haunting pipes or harp, in England have the band dress as Beefeaters, etc)
  • Include in your song elements that talk about harmony, working together or alluding to the fact that country boundaries are just a human creation
  • Make your artist be very stiking and/or wearing very revealing clothes
  • Ensure your artist has a voice up to the job
  • Humour is probably best left alone as it's usually a wild card
  • Write your song in English but throw some other languages in there too if you can to show how broad minded you are
  • Make sure that your country has not had any adverse press or has the pity of the other competing nations
  • Try and have an "angle". If I knew what that was, I'd write the song and not tell you on here
  • The most important feature of all is that you must, MUST have a key change in your song

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Book Review

Here is a book that somebody very kindly bought for Joolian. I think using the sub title of the book that this was a purchase for dreamers as opposed to realists but it makes a rather fun read. Just by flicking through, I now know how to skin a rabbit, what acreage is neccessary to be completely self sufficient, whether to have a cow or 6 sheep on one acre of land and many other incredibly necessary facts and figures.
Now I'm off to my very comfortable bed to dream on...

Labels: ,

Monday, January 08, 2007

Blogging hiatus

Well after a month and 3/4 of daily blogging, I was having a little holiday. In part I was considering what to "do" with my blog but have come to the conclusion that posting 3 or 4 times a week on the day to day musings in my life is probably fine so I will continue to do so. Here are some things that have happened in my absence:
  • I had a chest infection over Christmas
  • I have new glasses
  • I have read a book called "Small Island"
  • A group of musicians had a practice of some new songs at church yesterday afternoon
  • I watched the Christmas edition of Doctor Who which I really enjoyed
  • I watched The Ruby in the Smoke which I didn't enjoy quite so much
  • I now know how to skin a rabbit
  • I now get to read Pete's blog- which is good
So for all of you who have wished me a happy new year- the same to you. Let's make it the best yet!