Book Review: Kiss Chronicles by Virginia Sanders

I just stumbled across this book by accident but the synopsis intrigued me and I gave it a go. The premise is simple, having reached thirty without having been kissed, Virginia Sanders decides to auction off her first Kiss to raise money for charity. The book details this process.

image

The opening stages of the book are pretty good, with Sanders explaining how she’s made it so far without being kissed, her thoughts on kissing and some personal background. She is an amiable presence as a writer and these early parts are the strongest section.

The plan she hatches is genius but what follows is a frustrating story about the difficulties and complications that beset the project. Sanders talks about the stress and troubles with openness and doesn’t hide from responsibility but the ending feels flat, and the charity bureaucracy doesn’t make fun reading at times.

The end stages are a bit frustrating and it loses momentum, but Sanders is still likeable until the end. I would have enjoyed it more with a better ending, but sometimes in life we don’t get satisfying endings. On the whole though the book works, and for free you can’t be too miffed that it doesn’t live up to its promise.

The charity plan doesn’t quite work out and Sanders asks readers to donate on an honour system, so come payday I will make a donation to Cancer Research as a thank you for this book.

Verdict: Sanders is a warm, amiable writer and some of the book sparkles, but the ending is a bit disappointing and it stumbles in places. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Christian Aid, please, stop bothering me

It’s Christian Aid week.
I know this because they’ve texted me about it twice.
They have my mobile number because I did one of their text donation campaigns. You know the ones, you text a specific word and it deducts a fiver from your credit.
It’s a good idea, because it’s a simple, quick way to donate to charity. For someone like me its a good thing because I’ve already paid for my phone credit, and with free texts that £5 isn’t really going to be missed. Better it goes to a good cause rather than I waste it listening to voicemails telling me I’m owed PPI or money for my recent accident, which must have involved a blow to my head as I have no recollection of it.
Anyway, I have no problem sending them money. My policy on charity is simple- I might be poor but there’s plenty of folks who are worse off, so when I have some spare cash I’ll give them to a chugger or drop them in a pot.
So with text campaigns I’ll text when I can afford it.
Which is why Christian Aid texting me is annoying me. I get they need to chase donations to keep doing their good works, but seriously, guys, back the hell off.
People donate when they can, and what they can. CA knows of me because I’ve already donated, as have plenty of others. I just don’t think it’s cool for them to go after people for more, making them feel bad or like they haven’t done enough.
CA should consider that maybe people can’t give more that that £5. That they want to help, but can’t afford more than that.
CA and other tragedies should gratefully accept what people can give and avoid this direct approach, which just feels a bit too full on. I don’t mind seeing ads or posters, but coming straight to my inbox is not on.
Charities need to respect boundaries and consider who they might be messaging, they could be making people feel bad or guilting them into giving more than they can comfortably afford to give.
At the very least they could make their begging texts funny or clever, not just route one “send us £5” style messages.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


UKIP are wrong about Foreign Aid

UKIP launched their manifesto today and one of their policies is to reduce foreign aid spending.

This is exactly the kind of policy that ‘Kippers will like because they probably assume that a massive was flies out every year so that Johnny Foreigner gets a pool or something, when it really should be used on reintroducing national service or building a giant wall around the UK.

For me it was just depressing to think that this is what might be a deciding factor in how some people vote.

“Send money to victims of natural disasters or the developing world? Bah! Not on my watch.”

You must be one callous dude or dudette to think like that.

And before anyone chips in with “charity begins at home”, tell me exactly how UKIP are sticking up for our poorest and most vulnerable?

The thing is on issues like this the general public will, sadly listen. This is because they are pessimists or morons, sometimes both. A study a few years back (link) revealed that the general public tend to think things are worse (subjectively) than they actually are.

Foreign aid is one of these.

In 2013 the UK hit its foreign aid target. That target was 0.7% of the gross national income.

0.7%.

That’s pretty damn low already.

The Guardian (link) worked out this was £180 per person. Or £15 a month.

That’s not a lot.

UKIP would argue that its wrong for each UK citizen to be deprived of £180 a year. Well, that’s not the issue. The government would find somewhere else to spend it, and probably somewhere less moral than foreign aid.

Personally I’m glad and proud that the UK aids other nations. But maybe I’m just soft or, you know, possessing compassion.

Not only are UKIP wrong, but contradictory. They should embrace foreign aid spending.

UKIP are extremely anti-immigrant (unless they’ve married them) and this xenophobic nature lurks behind the “cheery bloke with a pint” photo ops. It’s little wonder the party is repeatedly hit with racism scandals, racism being xenophobia’s nastier big brother.

The thing is if you don’t want immigrants the sending money abroad is a good idea. It’ll improve the situation there, and the nicer it is there the less likely they’ll want to come over here.

Nige and co. should want to spend more- a theme park in every Polish town, ponies for all Nigerians and free WiFi coverage for every inch of Romania.

Of course, that’d be a harder sell. Far easier to ignore the facts and scare a bunch of heartless, pessimistic morons.

The kind of people who have ensured that Comic Relief has to point out they help UK causes too.

When did we get so heartless, Britain?

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Something is rotten in the state of Florida

Sometimes it must suck being a cop. I think a lot of folks probably join the service because they buy into that “protect and serve” line you get in movies, and probably dream of catching serial killers, running down muggers and generally doing some hero type stuff.

So it must have been tough for Fort Lauderdale cops to roll up and bust a 90 year old man for feeding the homeless.

Abbot being busted

Abbot being busted

Yes, that’s right, in parts of Florida feeding the homeless is against the law. The 90 year old in question is was Arnold Abbott, who runs a Christian homeless charity, Love Thy Neighbor (sic). Apparently the city had passed a new law about homeless feeding, as a “public health and safety measure” and to show they were serious the boys in blue were sent to grab Abbott and two associates.

The three charity volunteers now face up to 60 days in prison and $500 fines.

The new rules insist that there can only be one homeless feeding location per city block and they must be at least 500 feet from residential areas, which suggests that this law has more to do with people not wanting to have to see or acknowledge the presence of the homeless.

It would be bad enough if Fort Lauderdale was an anomaly, the one callous city in the whole of the US, but since January 2013, 21 different cities have enacted similar laws.

Frankly this is a depressing trend and is essentially criminalizing helping some of society’s most vulnerable people. Some of these programmes are the only way that some of these people get food, and by taking this away from them their health is being put at risk.

It’s not a solution to homelessness, unless the plan is to starve them to death or force them to leave town, which is probably hard for them to do, being homeless and all. In fact you’re basically pushing them into a corner which could cause some to go to greater lengths to get food, or make them have to beg more, which might not be a great thing in Fort Lauderdale, as Florida had the 2nd highest rate of attacks on homeless people in 2013.

These attacks on the homeless are symptomatic of the lack of empathy and charity that people have for them, and the local government has compounded this by appearing to want to push homeless people away from the general public and going after the people who do try and help them.

It’s a terrible state of affairs, and one of the most callous laws I’ve ever heard of, essentially punishing the most vulnerable and needy in society and those who try and help them.

I hope that the ludicrous charges against Abbot and his fellow volunteers is dropped, and that the law is repealed. The policy makers in Fort Lauderdale and those other cities should be ashamed of themselves and instead of persecuting the homeless people should be trying to help them.

Doing so is the right thing to do, and would help everyone more than the current legislation will.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


What meltdown?: How Miley Cyrus is actually kinda cool

I’m 29 years old. I have a Motorhead tattoo. But I love me a bit of Miley Cyrus.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be getting some Miley ink anytime soon, but I kinda dig her. “Can’t Be Tamed” and “Fly on the Wall” were good, catchy pop tracks and I dig her stance on marriage equality. Plus there’s her ace version of Jolene:

I think she’s managed to be fairly successful at emerging as a more grown up star after initially finding fame as a squeaky-clean kids’ TV star.

Last year she got a lot of flak for her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, where she twerked against Robin Thicke and the world clutched their collective pearls, decried her lewdness (in the process of saying it was wrong she grinded on a married man everyone forgot that really the married, older man was probably the creepy one in the situation) and acted as though she was flying off the rails.

For someone who remembers the hysteria over the Madonna-Britney kiss (everyone forgets she kissed Christina Aguilera too), it was depressing to see that nowt had changed in around a decade, all it took was a formerly sweet, innocent star to act slightly sexual and dress in skimpy clothing for everyone to lose their minds.

I’m not saying I was all for the Miley-Thicke performance, I’m not a Thicke fan and his Beetlejuice suit and Cyrus’ hair were faux pas even someone as fashion ignorant as I could see.

Everything she did was treated as further evidence she was turning into a rock ‘n’ roll tragedy before our eyes- she had a haircut! She smoked weed! She broke up with her boyfriend! She got more tattoos!

She’s 21! Most twentysomethings will do at least 2 of those things at some point.

Then the video for “Wrecking Ball” dropped (that’s right isn’t it? That’s what the kids say about something being released, yeah?) and this created fresh hype. She was crying in the video, she was nude- yadda yadda yadda!

miley wrecking ball

Outrageous on stage activity added to this and all these people were saying she was definitely cracking up. Personally I wasn’t buying it. She wasn’t doing anything dangerous or stupid, there didn’t seem to be massive distress and it wasn’t like the worrying slide Britney Spears went on a few years back.

I thought Miley was being quite smart, she was burning her bridges and using the controversy to draw attention to herself while still doing good work (“Wrecking Ball” is a pretty decent, heartfelt track) and enjoying herself.

A sign that Miley might be more on the ball than people thought came at this year’s VMA’s. A year after her raunchy antics caused a fuss, Miley was back with a mystery man on her arm. She picked up the award for Video of the Year (for “Wrecking Ball”) and sent her date up to accept it.

Her date turned out to be Jesse Helt a homeless man, who she’d met through some charity work. He read a statement revealing his identity and guiding people to Cyrus’ Facebook page which showed how to donate to the charity, My Friend’s Place, which aids homeless youths.

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Backstage And Audience

It was a clever move from Cyrus, as she used the instant online discussion of her date and a large televised event to draw attention to an important issue and help generate donations to a charity doing good work. As of August the 27th it had generated $200,000 (approx £124K).

Miley also responded well to a disappointing backlash, which felt Helt had “chosen” to be homeless as he’d left his family and home to pursue a modelling career in LA. Yes, how dare a young man pursue his dream.

Others drew attention to Helt having a criminal record and breaking parole. Miley’s response was quite good, arguing that the media had ignored the opportunity to discuss the issue, preferring to “go after” Helt, acknowledging that Helt had been through hard times and made mistakes, and asking “Does looking down upon the homeless help people excuse their inaction?”

So, yeah, all in all I think Miley Cyrus is pretty cool.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Life is a lemon

I’ve been to two different Costa Coffee’s this week and in both I saw the same challenge set forward- “Balance a 20p on a lemon, get a free coffee”. It was for charity and I thought it made a nice change from just having a little pot for donations. You should give to charity anyway, but it’s always a bit more appealing when you get something out of it too.

Next to the sign was a lemon floating in a large mug of water, a couple of 20p pieces at the bottom. I had a few in my pocket and figuring I’d do a good deed and maybe win a free coffee I decided to have a few goes, it might be a bit tricky but with a steady hand and some logic, how hard could it be?

lemon

My first attempt was a disaster. I dropped it from a little too high and this meant that the whole lemon bounced in the water and it went right in the drink.

For the second attempt I waited for it to stop bobbing about and decided to softly lie it down on the fruit. No dice, it slid off.

The third went the same way.

I was about to dig into my pocket for more change, but luckily I was snapped out of it by having to order.

A couple of days later at a different Costa in a different town they too had a lemon floating in water.

I only had one single twenty pence left, but I slowly tried to slide it onto the surface of the peel.

SPLOOSH!

Right into the water.

I knew the chances of doing it were slim but I’d had to try. It’s the old gambler’s folly- “I know I probably won’t win, but what if?”.

I began to wonder if it was even possible, apparently it is.

lemon2

The fact is despite knowing that it’s really hard if I was to see a lemon in water on my next visit I’d have another pop.

I could probably find that some kid’s show or internet nerd has done a video showing how to do it, but that would be cheating. And defeat what is the major draw of this challenge.

It’s not the free coffee, although that would be nice.

It’s the fact that I really want to prove I can balance a 20p on a stupid lemon. I know I shouldn’t care, I know I should accept that most people would fail, but I want to be one of the few who succeeds. If I’d managed it I’d have walked out with a smug grin on my face and that little victory would have carried me through the day.

That’s the genius of this kind of fundraiser, first it capitalizes on people’s desire to get something in return and then it hits that gambler zone of making you want to just keep playing, because you’re bound to win sooner or later, aren’t you? But the third stage is the real killer. You’re about to walk away when you feel a slight sting. That’s pride messing with you.

You feel you should be able to do it. You’re a smart guy, you can figure this out. And splash, there’s another 20p at the bottom of the mug.

Those charity guys are sneaky, but we’ll see who has the last laugh when I finally get that free coffee.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Soda Stream > Oxfam?

At Wrestlemania X8, Hulk Hogan took on the Rock. I didn’t see the match until several years later but watching it I found myself in a bit of a dilemma, did I cheer for the Rock, the most electrifying man in sports entertainment and the face (goodie) in the match? But could I really turn my back on my childhood idol the Hulkster?

rock hogan

In the end I wound up cheering on the Rock because I knew a defeat was what Hogan to come to his senses and use the 24 inch pythons for good.

So, as you can see, I have extensive experience of conflicts of interest so I understand the tough position Scarlett Johansson recently found herself in.

Johansson has served as a celebrity ambassador for the charity Oxfam since 2007, and it’s clearly a cause that the Hollywood star cares about a lot, but she’s recently had to step down from the role due to a conflict of interests.

Scarlett recently became the face for Soda Stream, which is a bit of a weird one as I’ve always seen it as a slightly naff item and it’s become a sort of punchline, so an A-lister like Johansson advertising it feels a little incongruous.

scarlett sodastream

Anyway, Oxfam decided her endorsement deal with the brand was problematic due to their opposition to the company because they operate within the Israeli occupied territories of Palestine. Personally I’m with Oxfam on this because quite frankly the fact the international communities failure to act on the Israel taking this land is disgusting.

So Johansson was in an awkward position and had to step down.

I mean, she’d probably already been paid by Soda Stream and so the deal was done. And she may have been unaware of Oxfam’s objections, but I kinda think for Oxfam they can come out of this pretty well. It’ll get people talking and highlight the issue of the occupation and perhaps open up debate.

For Johansson, it’s not such a good thing, it looks like she chose a gizmo that puts bubbles in your drink over an international charity, which isn’t a good thing. I mean, she could donate her fee to Oxfam, I suppose, which would save face.

More here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Cut to ribbons

I’m a pretty big fan of the BBC, they make some quality shows and are the best channel for news in the UK. However, they are capable of some major gaffes, the continued presence of Mark Lawrenson on their football coverage for one.

But recently they did something that was just stupid.

Graham Norton, who hosts a Friday night talk show wore a World AIDS Day ribbon, as did his guests Colin Farrell, Sharon Osbourne, Jeremy Clarkson and Jo Brand (I’m a tad gutted I missed it now, because that sounds like a pretty interesting mix).

Norton with his guests- Colin Farrell, Sharon Osbourne, Jeremy Clarkson and Jo Brand

Norton with his guests- Colin Farrell, Sharon Osbourne, Jeremy Clarkson and Jo Brand

But now the Beeb has had words with Norton and the production company for breaching corporation guidelines, which state that they have to remain independent of “government initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas”.

Except, of course, for poppies.

Here’s the thing, I get that the Beeb can’t have political stuff, because that could be seen as giving a specific party unfair bias, but come on, you’re warning someone over an AIDS day ribbon! Are you afraid you’re going to upset the pro-AIDS groups?

This is a dreadful disease around which there is still a lack of knowledge and stigma around. A high profile show with a wide audience attempts to bring attention to it, in a small, understated way and this is criticized.

As for the whole Poppy Appeal being exempt thing, that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The BBC effectively forces it’s on screen talent to wear poppies out of fear that the tabloids will attack the corporation and it’s stars for not being patriotic enough. Well, sod that, but I think the AIDS campaign is a damn sight more w0rthy of endorsement than the Poppy Appeal.

I ain’t having a go at the poppy folks, it’s a fine campaign and serves to remind us of the horror and waste of war, but it has been hijacked of late, into a jingoistic showing off competition to prove who’s more patriotic. It’s not about glorifying the armed forces, it’s about tribute to those poor bastards who were used up by those organizations and left to die in the mud.

At best, it should help those who have served reintegrate into civilian life or aid the families of those who have died, it should not be used to score political points or beat the war drum. Men and women gave their lives in conflicts to ensure the freedoms we enjoy, and to see something intended to pay tribute to them corrupted into some kind of measurement of patriotism is truly disgusting. If you don’t want to wear a poppy it doesn’t make you less British or less respectful to the war dead, it’s just your personal choice. And that choice should be accepted and not cause vile hatred to spill forth at those who choose not to.

Someone electing not to wear a poppy is infinitely preferable to having everyone forced to pin one on just to satisfy the tabloid hacks and armchair reactionaries.

And don’t get me started on this horribly manipulative advert I saw earlier this year. It is the first recorded incident of a charity advert making me think “Oh, f**k off!”

poppy guilt

The poppy appeal is far more controversial and divisive than World AIDS Day, and pretty high profile already. Yet a sadly ignored disease which effects millions around the world isn’t allowed on prime time TV.

I hate to say it, but the Beeb are wrong on this one.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Taking the Ish

We’re in that weird time of year where Halloween is front and centre in the shops, but the distant jingling of bells heralds the approaching Christmas. I took a wander into the city centre today and was a little annoyed to see that Cardiff Castle already had it’s Christmas lights up, this paled into insignificance when I saw how St David’s was tarted up.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a “Bah, humbug! Christmas is coming earlier every year!” rant. Although I do think there should be some kind of rule that you can’t start anything until after Remembrance Day (11th November) or at least Guy Fawkes’ (5th Nov).

No, this is a rant about something completely different.

As I strolled along I saw a Big Issue vendor dressed as Frankenstein’s monster, in honour of Halloween, which I thought was a nice touch and clever bit of marketing from the dude.

I was about to tweet about this and was debating the ethics of taking a snap- I had sod all change on me, so I couldn’t buy a magazine off him, which is the only way taking a photo would have seemed okay to me.

Head down and headphones in I didn’t notice a guy approach me and hand me a magazine. Being a student and lover of free reading materials, I took it, thinking it would be some ad-laden rag or propaganda of some sort. But something for me to flick through later. I was strolling off in a world of my own when the guy caught up with me.

It was at this point I looked down and realized that he’d given me a Big Issue and was now asking for the cash.

I just want to point out that I hadn’t asked for a magazine or approached him in any way other than the fact he was in the general direction I was walking.

Now, he was wearing the proper vendor gear (ID badge and vest thing) but this didn’t seem kosher to me. I know you’ve probably got to be a bit outgoing and imaginative to sell your magazines, and it’s important that you do, but come on! This wasn’t on.

I’m sure as a tactic it works. You disorient the customer and they just hand over the money because they feel awkward. But that ain’t what it’s about, and it sure as hell isn’t going to generate much good feeling towards you or your fellow vendors.

Realizing what was going on I handed the magazine back to him. He seemed reluctant to take it back and jabbered about how much it cost. He was pretty small and hardly the most vicious looking dude, but I can imagine for some people he could be intimidating or throw them off.

Hell, it rattled me.

I said I had no cash and this is where the guy really started to grind my gears.

He stated that there was a cash machine just down the road.

Screw you, man! Firstly, I ain’t entirely comfortable walking to a cashpoint with a homeless dude following me every step of the way. I like to imagine the best of people, but I ain’t some naive fool. And secondly, you’re really leaving the line of acceptable vendor behaviour behind you now.

Also, the guy’s selling style still bothered me and even if I had the cash on me I’d have refused to buy one off him, on principle alone. Hell, if I’d had the cash I’d have told him to get stuffed, walked back to Herman and bought one off him, and then walked past this douche to show him that Mrs Page’s baby boy is nobody’s fool!

I said no, forced the magazine back into his hands and stalked off feeling pretty damn annoyed about it all. Part of me feels I should’ve taken his vendor number or something to file a complaint so he can’t do this to others, but I didn’t think about it at the time.

It was one of those annoying little moments that niggled at me for the rest of the day, hence why I’m getting it off my chest here.

The really irritating part is that if this guy had done this to someone else they might see it as exactly why they shouldn’t bother with the Big Issue again in future, which is a shame because it’s an organization I’ve got great admiration for. They put out a pretty decent magazine for a very good cause and in my experience 9/10 of their vendors are tidy enough folks and trying to help themselves out. Unfortunately idiots like this give them all a bad image and will just alienate folks from the cause.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Oh, come on, ladies, get a grip!

I’m sure that there are lots of One Direction fans, or “Directioners”, who are perfectly nice young ladies, the problem is these voices of sanity, rationality and sense are lost in a tumult of complete and utter dicks. Following threats to random women the boys find attractive, this week they kicked off again on Twitter, not so much tweeting as screeching like demented harpies.

This weekend there was a charity match taking place up in Scotland between a Celtic XI and a team led by Stiliyan Petrov, one of the 1D boys, Louis (the one with brown hair who’s not Harry), was taking part in the Celtic team.

Louis got passed the ball and before he could clear it was tackled by Aston Villa and England player Gabriel Agbonlahor. Louis went down and shortly after limped off.

Now, when someone goes down and looks hurt, you’re always a bit concerned, especially in a friendly match. But, it was just a bit of a knock and I doubt there’s going to be any lasting damage for the pop star.

louis down

And the main thing is, the challenge was quite clean, there was no malice in it and it was a 50-50 ball, it’s not like Agbonlahor hacked him down with a studs up lunge or anything.

louis challenger

Agbonlahor went over and checked he was alright, and a bit of physicality is par for the course in football.

Clearly the section of overlap on the Venn diagram of One Direction fans and football fans is quite a small one, as this seemed lost on several Directioners who took to the web to send vile threats to Agbonlahor, these included:

this guy hurt Louis knee. I shall hurt your face. I better hear that you apologized or I will find you, and I will kill you

I like the Taken vibe at the end there, although a witless teenage girl isn’t as intimidating as Liam Neeson.

i will chop your balls off

Direct.

DON’T EVER TOUCH LOUIS AGAIN WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE

All caps, the song of the angry douche.

My whole timeline is full of pictures of Louis getting hurt. I’m going to kill that guy!!!!!!! HOW DARE YOU HURT LOUIS?!

Excessive exclamation marks are also a douche staple.

@Louis_Tomlinson Are you ok?? If he hurt you I promise that I’ll kill him!!! No one can hurt my baby!!! Grrrr!!

“my baby”, seriously?

Get a grip, ladies! He got dinged on the leg, it’s not like he walked off the pitch like Terry Butcher or something.

That's a sporting injury!

Now, that’s what you call a sporting injury.

Here’s the thing, even if Louis was crocked, and had broken a leg or something, is there any need to send death threats to some bloke who I’m guessing most of them weren’t familiar with a day earlier?

I doubt Agbonlahor was intimidated by the tweets of a gang of idiotic teenage girls, and has probably heard similarly horrible things from opposing fans, but still, it’s a horrible insight into the ridiculous overreaction obsessions can provoke. Take a breath next time, ladies, and think about what you’re actually doing- sending abuse and aggression because someone you’ve never met got hurt while playing a contact sport.

I can’t help but think Louis’ first response after the game would have been to thank his fans for their support and well wishes, but to openly criticize this particular bunch of knobheads.

thinktweet

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.