So Peaches Geldof has named her baby Astala. Now, I have never heard this name before (mostly because it is just a few vowels and consonants spontaneously shoved together) but my instinct would be to say it is a girl’s name. I would be wrong. At least if Astala was a girl, she could be beautiful, mysterious and delightfully kooky. Astala the boy will just be ridiculed.
Maybe I’m being too cynical. He probably won’t be Astala all the time, he’ll be nicknamed… Ass? Maybe not. He’ll just have to use his middle name…Willow…hmm, still not particularly manly. At least Peaches had the foresight to give him Dylan as another middle name (because, obviously one middle name is simply not enough).
I have never quite understood the celebrity trend for emotionally traumatising one’s child from the moment they enter this world by giving them random words for names. At least Astala pretends to be a name; Frank Zappa adhered to no such rules when he named his children Moon Unit, Dweezil, and Diva Thin Muffin. The fact that they have not yet set up a glamorous weight-loss programme in space is simply a wasted opportunity.
If you told someone you had spent a week’s holiday freezing cold, wearing boots you could hardly walk in, and bruised and aching all over, they would think you some kind of crazy person. But if you then explained that you were skiing, you would suddenly seem completely rational – envied, even.
Why is this popular alpine activity widely seen as a totally justifiable reason to endure the above miseries? I feel fortunate to have begun skiing at a young enough age that I do not remember those torturous first few weeks of snowploughs and falling off button lifts. But even now, at what I modestly consider to be a reasonably experienced standard, I still come back after every week’s skiing covered in bruises (the latest being from a particularly spectacular face-plant just this afternoon). I cannot remember one skiing holiday where I have not shed at least a couple of silent tears beneath my goggles.
But despite all this, I absolutely love skiing. Mad, I know. Although do not really consider myself an adrenaline junkie, the rush of excitement, a smidgeon of fear, and laugh-out-loud fun I get whilst whooshing down the mountain is the most exhilarating feeling in the world to me. On a particularly grim chairlift today, I thought to myself, “this next run had better be seriously good to make up for how miserable I’m feeling now”.
Fortunately, it was.
It is amazing the things that people will do simply because someone else has told them to. Petrol sales have shot up by over 80% in the last 24 hours since government ministers advised people to stockpile petrol, and the panic-prone British public willingly complied (amazing how most of the time this very same public criticises ministers for being disconnected and ignorant…but who doesn’t love a good panic buy?)
And all this in aid of petrol tanker drivers’ strike – that hasn’t even been announced yet. Nevertheless, today has seen massive queues at petrol stations and pumps running completely dry - a completely self-induced petrol shortage. Which does somewhat seem to miss the point of warning against…well, a petrol shortage.
Perhaps it is a pride thing: we’d rather a self-induced shortage than be made helpless and petrol-less at the hands at the hands of trade unions. Perhaps it is a selfish thing: those who have been queuing today don’t care if there’s a national shortage, as long as they have their jerrycans safely stashed in their garages. I, for one, haven’t filled up my car all week (far too busy enjoying the sunshine), so I suppose I’ll be completely screwed when this strike comes. Or hey – maybe I’ll just take the train.
So it’s the last week of term, deadlines are fast approaching, the library is packed. Finding any seat is hard enough. But when I have to find a seat which is not in the vicinity of certain people I now know by sight to avoid, it gets even harder. Maybe I am too easily annoyed by the quirky habits of others, or maybe I have just been unlucky in my seating choices this term; whatever the reason, that list is growing every day.
Firstly, there is the guy who eats with his mouth open, making more slurping and chewing noises than it is every necessary to make whilst eating. He also has a never-ending supply of food; he once sat next to me for an hour, just munching away. Very loudly. Then there is the girl with the very odd habit of rubbing her thumb so hard against her teeth that it squeaks repeatedly (I promise, I’m not making this up). I really don’t know how to elaborate on this, it’s just weird. And very annoying. There’s also the quiet looking chap who hums along to his iPod slightly too loudly (and slightly too out-of-tune): more amusing than offensive, admittedly, but still not conducive to me writing my dissertation.
Today, however, may have been the worst. I sat next to one guy for seven hours, and I did not once see him do any work. He watched a lot of YouTube videos; there was one terribly funny one he watched at least three times, apparently unaware of how much laughter carries in an otherwise silent room. What really did it for me, though, was the dancing. Clearly he had some great tunes on his iPod and just could not resist wiggling around in his chair and whipping out some funky arm movements. It is somewhat difficult to concentrate when can see a dancing madman out of the corner of my eye. I think I shall avoid sitting next to this fellow in future.
I seem to have been being ‘made aware’ of things via Facebook a lot the last few days – the need to stop Joseph Kony, the need for equality for women…‘raising awareness’ is such a buzz-phrase these days - but does it actually do any good?
I will certainly not judge or generalise on the motivations of those doing the awareness-raising, but it does seem that many feel, simply by changing their Facebook status, they have done a good thing. Maybe they have. It is, indeed, amazing how such campaigns go viral in a matter of hours. Furthermore, it is far, far better that people feel engaged and passionate enough about something to want to take part in spreading the word, than demonstrate the political apathy that ‘the youth of today’ are often accused of.
I just worry about a few things: firstly, that people are not fully informed of what they are raising awareness for, and have no clear idea of what their actions would be once awareness has been raised. Although no-one could doubt that the horrendous crimes committed at the hands of Joseph Kony should not be allowed to continue, for example, how many people are actually aware of the complex history of the region, and how many would advocate the military intervention they claim is the solution if they knew how detrimentally such actions had affected similar situations in the past?
Secondly, I worry that people are so consumed by an issue for a few days, but then move on – whereas those they are campaigning to help continue to suffer day and night, for years and years.
Finally, I worry that ‘awareness’ has become the end goal for many people. I fear a future where, as long as everyone knows about all the bad things that are going on, everything will be OK. Sure, awareness is better than ignorance, and it is a door that has to be opened if change is to be effected. But making people aware is the easy bit.
Yesterday afternoon, my friend and I were walking through campus, when we saw a girl sitting on the ground, crying, and soaking wet (bearing in mind this was a gloriously sunny day). She looked completely distraught, yet everyone was simply walking past her; looking and muttering, sure, but no-one actually stopped to talk to her. My friend and I (admittedly, my friend more than I, she being ever the more virtuous of us two) decided we couldn’t simply leave her there is such a state, and crouched down next to her.
We asked what the problem was, whether we could do anything to help; she told us she was just having “one of those days”, though she seemed pleased that we’d stopped. It wasn’t until my friend asked why she was all wet, and the girl responded “it rained on me”, that I twigged and stood back up. My friend, however, is infinitely more trusting than I am, and continued to sympathise with the crying girl – even reassuring her that she drops books in the bath all the time, and so the girl should not worry about her now soggy library book.
After a couple more minutes, the girl (still crying) managed a smile, thanked us for stopping, and gave us badges with the words “I stopped” on them. Yes, we had just fallen victim to some sort of social experiment. Whilst my friend was mortified, claiming she felt like a gullible fool, I couldn’t help but feel happy that we’d done the right thing. We may have been tricked, but as far as we were concerned, we stopped to help someone who was in trouble, whilst everyone else simply ignored her. I’m proud of that.
This week is ‘Go Green’ week on campus. An admirable campaign that aims to teach people about climate change, and get them involved with environmentalism. The reason I am aware that it is Go Green week is thanks to the numerous posters advertising it stuck up around campus. Today I counted eleven A4 sheets of paper taped to a wall, all directly next to each other, all advertising the same event. Clearly, this would qualify as wasteful whatever it was advertising; but the fact that all these pieces of paper were inviting me to a lecture on how to save our environment made the whole situation seem somewhat maddeningly ironic.
Now, I’m not suggesting that paper usage is the biggest evil currently threatening our planet. And I understand the need for such events to be successfully advertised. I just wonder whether it might have been more in keeping with the essence of the week to add to the countless emails I receive in my inbox each day, rather than the countless posters already adorning the walls of the library.
I can only hope that whoever spent their time putting up all these posters will go round at the end of the week taking them all down, and put them straight in the recycling bin.
Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/) was born a couple of years ago, and has just come on to my radar in the last few months. And it is, quite simply, fabulous. It basically allows you to create themed image boards online, on which you can ‘pin’ items of media. Popular categories include food and recipes, style and fashion, and (my personal favourite) home and garden.
It’s incredibly easy to use, too - you simply add a ‘pin it’ button to your bookmark bar, so you can pin whatever you like while you’re browsing. Then Pinterest sets its out in a simple but stylish way. The end result (besides wasting hours and hours drooling over The White Company website) is that I feel terribly artsy.
It is also an interest shift in the focus of social media - away from who you know, to what interests you and appeals to you. A person’s Pinterest boards are a unique visual representation of that person, which permits you a much greater understanding of them than, say, their Facebook page. The PR and communications industry is very interested in this at the moment: with so much of the ‘news’ we consume being spread around the social networking sphere rather than through traditional media channels, companies need to know more than ever what makes their stakeholders tick.
But above all Pinterest is just great fun. I strongly encourage you to give it a go - you’ll be hooked!
So far I have been able to restrain myself from writing a post about snow, because it seems to be all anyone can talk about. But it appears that I have caved. I’m just too excited by it! However, many people are not so excited, and are moaning and grumbling about the snow. This is a sad state of affairs.
When the first flakes of snow fell where I was last Saturday, I was immediate swept up in a wave of childish giddy excitement. I wanted to crunch through the snow, kick it up in the air, catch it on my tongue. Of course, I had nowhere particularly important to travel and could afford the time to enjoy the snow without worrying whether it would ruin my plans for tomorrow. But if only all the worriers could realise that, in most cases, their absence at that meeting will not cause the world to implode, they might notice how pretty the cause of their woe is. Whilst out walking early this morning, with the sun struggling through the clouds to set the snow below all a-sparkle, I realised there are few things in life that can make me happier than the beauty of the natural world.
I know it would be naïve of me to assume that everyone has time to stop what they’re doing and enjoy the snow (one of the benefits of being a humanities student!). But if we could all take just a few minutes to appreciate the snow and re-find that childish glee, maybe we would all be a little bit happier.
As Queen Elizabeth II today celebrates 60 years on the throne, it leads to discussion of the ever-present issue of the future of the monarchy. There is always grumbling from some corners about the financial burden the monarchy places on tax payers, and its irrelevance in today’s society. However, this apparent dissatisfaction does not seem to be borne out by opinion polls: the percentage of people asked in Ipsos Mori polls who favoured retaining the British monarchy has risen from 71% in 2004 to 75% in 2011.
This rise, of course, must be partly attributed to the Royal Wedding in April last year. Some had no interest in the day’s events (including my father, who took advantage of the clear roads on his motorbike). But the wedding went some way to showing the power of the monarchy and British tradition in bringing people together in celebration, at least for the estimated 1 million people who lined the procession route and the 24.5 million who watched the ceremony on BBC and ITV. However, these viewing figures are nearly surpassed by the number who watched it from the USA (23 million), which illustrates another point – that the monarchy is a massive selling point for the UK.
Although it is difficult to say exactly how much of our income from tourism is attributable to the monarchy, estimates put it at around £500 million. This is considerably more than the alleged crippling cost of the monarchy, which is around £40 million. Although this seems a lot, it averages out at less than 70p per tax payer (including the Queen herself!). So rather than moan about the monarchy, let’s celebrate it – or at least the two extra bank holidays it gives us this year.