Sunday, 24 February 2019

Awards Season

Tonight is the annual TV-athon that is the Academy Awards, aka the Oscars. The TV channels can't show us the films, so instead they wax lyrical (or otherwise) on red carpet fashion and interview as many as possible for their brief promotional speech for a category in which the outcome has already been decided.

There's been a lot of controversy in the news about the awards - are they diverse enough, who makes the long lists, who gets to vote, why do we have to see the awarding of the technical awards when most of us have no idea whatsoever about the difference the technical stuff makes - and this year's awards have been no different. I happened to be in the US for the Golden Globes and watched them on an American TV channel, and they were very lengthy and there was certainly far too much mutual congratulatory back-slapping for my personal taste. But - I watched them.

So why *do* we watch them? Many of the films haven't even been screened in the UK yet, and a number of them are not to everyone's taste. The voting may or may not be along the lines of 'he hasn't had one yet and he deserves it' (or 'he may be a brilliant artiste but at a personal level I can't stand him so I'm not voting for him') but it is still interesting to see which films are deemed worthy/worth seeing, without the hassle of sitting through the trailers for another film that has only come to my attention courtesy of another film critic.

And of course awards are nice to give. Public recognition of being outstanding in one's field is a huge compliment, even if one doesn't particularly like being recognised in public. At a local level, we give them too. At the end of last night's final performance of the annual village pantomime, various significant contributors from a creative aspect were thanked in front of the audience, with lots of applause. At BCOS too, we have internal awards with associated banter for the general post-show humour, but we also like to thank external contributors very publicly, as so often the work they do, much like the cinematographers and sound editors, is essential without being highly visible - until it's not done, of course.

So here's to an entertaining session on very late-night TV and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for all those original screenplay writers who made the shortlist....

Friday, 15 February 2019

Educating Us All on Climate Change

Most of us have accepted the concept of climate change, rather than global warming, as the weather around the globe becomes more extreme. There are still deniers, who appear not to understand basic science, or who point to harsh winters and think that's incompatible with global warming, or who don't believe that the activities of the human race are accelerating a possibly cyclical process.

Here in our village, many of us have solar panels on our roofs, a small contribution to the diminution of fossil fuel use and its subsequent impact on the environment. Of course, the lack of support for public transport means we usually have to drive to get out the village as the buses are few and far between. But we try. At least, some of us do.

Today a number of UK schoolchildren joined a growing global youth protest against the lack of effort being made to do something about climate change. Emission reduction targets are feeble at best, and at worst not even being met. For the younger generations, this has a potentially catastrophic effect, and it is no surprise that they are annoyed at the lazy reactions of an older generation that will have died before the sea levels rise to a significantly destructive level.

Younger people are becoming more mobilised on a number of issues. It is a year since the Parkland shootings in Florida, and thanks in part to the protests led by the survivors of the shooting, 67 bills have been signed in various states, by Republicans and Democrats, to curb gun violence. It's a start, though the Parkland students would ask for more; adolescent hormone-driven emotions and guns are not a good combination.

In the UK, young people have been the driving force behind other protests, not always with noticeable success. Tuition fees still went up, though they have stalled for now. Many young people who want to be part of the EU blame the older generation for the Leave vote, and feel betrayed by people that they think won't be around to reap the whirlwind.

Have young people always been this politically engaged? They were certainly active in the 1960s, and formed part of the protest against the poll tax in . But now they are more organised, and that must be thanks to social media. Today's protesters were asking for the voting age to be lowered to 16, and politicians will have to change their ways radically whether they grant this demand or not. Young people know what they want more than we realise, and they're not afraid to ask for it vociferously.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Her Prime Highness?

While some condemn the British Royal Family for being dependent on state handouts, I find myself quietly amused by the news that a member of the Thai royal family is being criticised for getting herself a job.

Okay, to be fair, the 'job' she has got is the nomination for prime minister via the party that is associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist party that is anti-royalist and that was also ousted by the current ruling military. She's probably not getting paid much for it, but her leading critic is her brother, the king.

Thai politics and the Thai royal family are like oil and water - they are not supposed to mix. The princess married a commoner some years ago and renounced all her royal ties, so that even though she is now divorced, she is claiming that she can engage with politics.

Criticism of the Thai monarchy is considered treason, but these days, criticism of politicians the world over is fashionable. I wonder whether criticism of a semi-royal politician will diminish the Thai monarchy itself.

Two links if you haven't seen the story, one in the Washington Post, the other from the BBC.

Friday, 1 February 2019

The Unkindest Cut

For the first time in the UK, someone has been found guilty of the genital mutilation of their daughter. Is it more shocking that it is mother who has been found guilty?

Doing a little research on the topic of FGM before writing this blog entry (and goodness knows what that's going to do for the ads I get shown now!), there are several reasons put forward for FGM, some of them suggesting that there are health benefits, but most commentators posit it as a means of controlling the girls in question, usually within a patriarchal society. There are different levels of mutilation, the most extreme of which effectively creates an external hymen, so that a potential husband can easily tell whether his bride is a virgin or not. (Putting a young girl through such pain so that a man many years later doesn't have to take her word for something - take it on faith - seems exceptionally cruel, especially when the cultural arguments usually cite religious reasons. Religion is all about taking things on faith without physical proof. But I digress.)

It seems bizarre to me that a mother would, having endured the pain of FGM herself, choose to inflict it on her own children. Perhaps it's hard to break with a cultural tradition, particularly in a tight-knit community, but that is a good argument for greater integration of people with different traditions into our society. Not all cultural practices are worth preserving.

And as for calling it 'female circumcision' as a means of normalising it, instead of using the word 'mutilation', that really just calls into question the whole business of male circumcision instead. But on a snowy day in the shires, that's a debate for another day.