All 11 entries tagged Rants And Reviews

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October 31, 2006

Shower Power

I really hate the fact that our shower is right in the middle of the house. Downstairs, within full view of the Lounge and the Kitchen – the two main areas where people tend to congregate.

So call me an absolute prude, and ok, maybe I am a bit, but I really detest having to make a dash for the shower clad in nothing but a bath towel, within full view, often, of my flatmates, half of whom are boys.

And it wouldn’t be quite so bad, if it was only flatmates, but I tend to shower quite early in the evenings a lot of the time, and often people still have friends over here at that time. I’ve had to run the gauntlet in nothing but a towel in front of people I don’t know too well, and occasionally random strangers, not to mention one creepy individual who I can’t mention, but who’s around a lot…

Alright, so maybe I’m overreacting – I’ve worn dresses rather more revealing than my large turquoise bath towel, (I’ve been seen, once or twice in a bikini, for goodness sakes, but then only on holiday and at the beach, and usually only my family know who I am, so it’s ok) but the thing is, it’s all about context. Bikinis are acceptable on the beach, and this is the important bit – other people are wearing them too. When you’re the only one around wearing one, you feel a little over-exposed. Similarly, being the only one in a towel tends to make one feel a little nervous that you’re not with the dress code.

Besides, towels – even my lovely big fluffy turquoise ones – are so liable to be compromised, by the slightest gust of wind, or misplaced hand-hold or even someone yelling “boo!” and you suddenly drop it. You just don’t feel very safe. Or at least I don’t. Plus, of course, in this weather it’s rather chilly.

Am I the only person who feels this way? Or am I not alone in finding that good personal hygeine always runs the risk of several shades of embarrasment?


May 01, 2006

Dentistry in Crisis

The new NHS dental contract is unfair to dentists, a bad deal for patients, and more focussed on bringing dentists under government control than actually providing a better service to the nation.

Contrary to what Rosie Winterton, Minister for Health, would have you believe, NHS dentistry in this country is facing a serious crisis with the imposition of a new contract that has had dentists across the country up in arms.

10% of dentists have refused to sign altogether, and though Ms Winterton believes this to be an acceptable margin, it has left over a million people stranded without the dental treatment that they need. What is even more worrying is that 60% of dentists have signed “in dispute” and may still pull out of the contract at a later date.

So why has this contract caused so much upset?

Previously, dentists were paid by item of service. There were over 400 different treatments available on the NHS, and every dentist in the country got paid the same amount of money for doing the same amount of work. While Acting chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft calls this method of working “outdated,” it was at least understandable and provided value for money for patients, even if the actual payments the dentists received were low enough for them to feel overworked and underpaid. The system basically worked, and, with a little tweaking, should have provided the best care for patients and the best working conditions for dentists.

However, instead of making minor adjustments to the old system – such as making the most expensive and non–essential treatments unavailable on the NHS and slightly altering the costs of others – what the government has done is overhauled the entire system and replaced it with an untried, target based one, which will cost the patient double, and in some cases triple what they were paying before, ensure that dentists are still overworked, replacing an old treadmill with a new one, but prove much better for the government because not only is it cheaper for them, it brings another section of the NHS firmly under their heel.

The government has said repeatedly that this new scheme has been piloted with success. This is an outright lie. It has not been tested at all. There have been schemes piloting a completely different system (PDS schemes) – and a much better one at that, which both dentists and patients were happy with – but this is not the one that has been adopted by the government, as it proved too expensive for their liking.

We have seen how the target based approach has done very little to improve the education system, with teachers now so wrapped up in red tape that they have barely enough time to teach, and children are examined to within an inch of their lives, and now Blair’s government seems set on a similar destruction of dental health provision in Britain. Dentists’ earnings will now be calculated using a system of UDAs, or Units of Dental Activity. Dentists will have to perform a certain number of UDAs per month in order to get their allocation of the money the government has provided to local Primary Care Trusts. However, the amount paid to dentists per UDA varies not only from region to region, but from dentist to dentist within that region. So firstly, this system is unfair because dentists across the country will be paid different amounts for exactly the same amount of work.

Secondly, this quota system is unfair on patients, because of what constitutes a UDA. A patient requiring 1 filling now pays exactly the same as one with 8 fillings, 2 extractions and 3 root–fillings, because they both count as the same number of UDAs. Patients who have looked after their teeth will effectively be penalised for it, by being made to subsidize those who haven’t. However, those people who do need a lot of dental work will also be penalised, because they will find it very difficult to find a dentist willing to treat them. If the same UDAs are being earned for several time–consuming, difficult procedures as for one simple one, few dentists are going to be willing to choose the former over the latter when they have a quota to fill, and are already working a thirteen hour day in order to meet targets. If a dentist extracts a tooth that could have been treated with an hour–and–a– half root filling, he will earn the same UDAs and save considerable time. Perhaps this choice seems to reflect badly on the dentist, but according to the Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, for many dentists their main problem with the new contract is that their UDA target is far too high. They are being expected to work harder than they did last year, rather than having their workload cut by 5% as the government promised, in order to earn exactly the same money, and since most NHS dentists were overworked and under paid last year, Blair’s new scheme has just exacerbated the problem it was trying to solve. Dentists are still overworked, only now they are being forced to cut corners if they want to gather enough UDAs to get paid. This target driven system can only lead to a reduction in quality of care

The way the new system is being priced is also grossly unfair. Now, instead of 400 different treatments with their own individually calculated price, there are only three price bands, again based on number of UDAs. 1 UDA, the equivalent of a check–up will cost £15.50, 3 UDAs, which can cover anything between one filling and ten, will cost £42.40, and any more complex treatment which involves a lab technician and laboratory fees such as crowns or bridges will cost £189, and count for 12 UDAs. This may seem relatively simple, but this actually means that 69% of patients will be paying more for treatment, and on average costs will double. As already stated, this system also penalises patients with low treatment requirements, and the British Dental Association is concerned that this will therefore discourage people from regular visits to the dentist. Once patients realise that it costs the same to get one tooth filled as three, there’s an incentive to delay treatment to get value for money. If basic emergency treatment is £15.50, then it works out as cheaper to wait until a tooth is causing pain and needs filling than to make a routine appointment for the same filling which will cost £42.40: more than double.

One of the main aims of the new contract was to allow dentists more time to focus on preventative dentistry, but yet again it has failed spectacularly, and only served to make the problem worse. A patient now has to pay nearly triple what they used to for a dental check–up: £15.50, rather than £5.80. Many dentists believe this increased cost is going to act as a disincentive for patients, and hardly surprising, since the point of having a National Health Service is to make medical care affordable for all, never mind “free at the point of contact”. Under this new system it is the people in society most dependant on NHS provision who will be the most disadvantaged: the young, the elderly and those on a low income. Also, dentists now have no incentive to talk to patients about dental care, or to visit schools to educate pupils, because these activities have no UDA value, which in the long run can only be a bad thing, and will lead to more people needing dental care.

Despite all of this, the Government has been trying to con us into thinking this is a good deal for all concerned, instead of just for them. It has been asserted by Rosie Winterton and others that “an independent dentist with an average NHS workload can earn about £80K a year plus expenses,” and since the amount that dentists are being paid per UDA has been calculated on their earnings for the last year (which accounts for different dentists being paid different amounts per UDA) the government is now trying to persuade everyone that dentists will still be earning this amount under the new contract. This is absolute nonsense from beginning to end. If the new contract was really offering dentists salaries of £80K plus expenses, they would be mad not to accept it. Government figures themselves contradict this assertion, reports suggesting that average earnings for NHS dentists are closer to £65K. One has to wonder where Ms Winterton is getting her figures from, if it’s not her own imagination.

Apart from the deficiencies this contract will lead to in patient care, the government seems also to be underhandedly trying to gain an element of control over dentists in this country that is worryingly despotic. What all these reforms mean is that the government will be imposing a salary on NHS dentists, making them more dependant on government handouts, like NHS doctors, rather than allowing them to work in the more independent way that they are used to. Not only is this an unwanted imposition on the freedoms of dentists, but in the long run this will be damaging to the growth of NHS dental practices. What the government doesn’t seem to realise is that unlike doctors, dentists receive no financial assistance with setting up or running their practices. Everything comes from the dentist's own pocket; some own their own premises, there are no notional rent arrangements, no 80% contribution to staff salaries, no funding towards expensive equipment, nothing. And so for the government to try and dictate how a dentist runs his or her practice – towards which they have contributed not one penny – is, I find, somewhat unreasonable. The government is essentially a sub–contractor, and in any other business it would be impossible to find another sub–contractor who would dream of having the control over their contractors that the government wishes to gain over the dentists. Besides which, under the terms of this new contract, dentists will be unable to fund improvements to their practice without government funding, which has not even been suggested. They cannot increase their income by taking on more work for a month or so, as used to be the case, in order to fund the purchase of new equipment, for example, as they will not be paid any extra money if they exceed their UDA quota for the month. This means that the growth of individual practices will be stunted, and in time NHS dentistry will be unable to keep up with new developments in the industry.

The Government has systematically said publicly that they have been "negotiating" with the British Dental Association, the body representing dentists in the UK, but in fact, the truth is far from that. There were no negotiations. The BDA was summoned to meetings at the Department only to be told that new arrangements would be brought forward irrespective of any objections. Despite the BDA repeatedly telling Departmental officials that the proposals would be unworkable, they were unable to change anything but the most minor details. This, unsurprisingly culminated in a BDA walk–out of these "negotiations" last December. In short, although there have been some meetings since regarding minor issues, the BDA have been unable to influence policy one iota. I don’t think anyone who knew the meaning of the term could seriously call this “negotiation”.

Perhaps the most underhand issue about the whole business is the way that the government has rushed this new NHS contract through. The timescale for its implementation was ridiculous. Dentists were only given the new contracts eight days before the deadline for signing them, and some were given even less time, and were therefore not given enough time to seek legal consultation, or really think the new contract and its implications through before they had to make a decision. They were asked to make a decision that affected their entire livelihood in just over a week. They were put under enormous pressure to meet that deadline, or they would be unable to treat NHS patients, and since there is still a large number of dentists who want to be able to offer patients NHS care, despite the benefits of going private, many of them have signed the contract under protest. After looking at the contract in more detail, and seeing the shoddy deal it proposes, it’s a wonder any of them have signed at all.


September 16, 2005

Don't Leave Home Without…

Books not to leave home without. Fantastic books. Books that Everyone should read. Books that I love and will take places with me, just so I have them at hand to dip into.

Dracula By Bram Stoker

A book that my English teacher in 6th form persuaded me to read when I should have been reading Evelyn Waugh. Part letters, part diary, part newspaper articles, part phonograph transcript… I think if Stoker had been around today, Dracula would come with a CDRom.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Coming of age, feminist, murder story, about a girl's relationship with her mother, and all the women/parent figures in her life. A book that was originally given to me by the mother of an ex boyfriend of mine, oddly enough.

101 Poems that might save your life and Poems to help you understand men and women ed. Daisy Goodwin

Emergency poetry aid.

The Scarlet Pimpernell by Baroness Orczy

The most beautiful love story ever written. A real swashbuckling adventure told mainly from a woman's perspective. Fantastic. Beautiful. Gorgeous.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee

I actually went to see this play when I was in New York. And what a sick and twisted little piece this is. But it's also really funny. Hugely black comedy about two couples' marriages which have become their own little living hell. Mmmm.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Who knew the end of the world could be soooo funny?

To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

This book is just so well written – there is not a word wasted anywhere, and as well as tackling serious issues in a totaly non-preachy way.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Hamlet, but with jokes. Funny jokes. And two characters who can't quite decide who they are, what they're doing and why they're anywhere at all.
Warning: may cause existential angst.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Fate, Religion, Vietnam, America in the 60s-70s. Unputdownable. Joe – read it.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Because you have to have something pretentious looking on your shelf, and lying down it makes a good book-end. Also, it's Shakespeare.


May 13, 2005

H2G2

H2G2 was quite good. I loved Marvin (Big hand to Alan Rickman there) and Martin Freeman did a credible Arthur Dent. Ford and Trillian pissed me off somewhat, but Zaphod Beeblebrox was damn cool. The dolphin song was fantastic, and sung by Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy fame, I loved Deep Thought, the infinite improbability drive and the Heart Of Gold. The mice were funny, and the scenes on Magrathea were incredibly good. The bit with the Sperm Whale was funnier than I've ever seen it before.
However.
The love story between Arthur and Trillian was overplayed. I hate the way that the cinema these days refuses to acnowledge the existance of a movie without a Hollywood ending, and the two main characters getting together. That I think should have been played for laughs, rather than in the serious way it was done.
They could also have cut the section on Vogsphere, and opted for some Restaurant at the End of the Universe instead. The whole Zaphod-being-chased-by-the-vogons-and-some-random-woman plot line made very little sense without Gag Helfrunt, and felt like it was introduced to add another Hollywood esque strand to the plot – the final showdown.

That's not to say that some of the new things weren't good too – I liked the Point of View gun, and the idea-face-hitting-things, and the inclusion of the Jatravartids of Viltvogel VI. And the movie quality SFX were good, but a lot of the humour was surgically removed, and replaced with Hollywood gunk. The opening scenes with Prosser, and the bit in the bar were cut down so much that almost all funny bits were removed. The famous line "I eventually fond the plans in a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard" was cut, and the humour completely went out of the episode with the "almost, but not entirely unlike tea" with the disposal of the nutrimatic drinks machine, in order to make way for another Arthur/Trillian scene.

Basically, it's a good film. Perhaps I'm too much of a purist, but I feel it lost a lot in the 'movieization' of it. Yes, the SFX are good, but what really kept hitchikers going was Douglas Adams' snappy dialogue, and a lot of that has been pushed aside to make way for cheap tricks, which I don't feel is really in the spirit of things.

The guide itself is suitably retro, but again, I think I prefered the 70's version, personally.

Fans of the TV serise will of course note a few cameos made by Simon Jones (the Magrathean ansaphone message) and the Original Marvin (in a queue on Vogsphere) And I was gratified to notice that I'd actually been to the place where they filmed the Dolphins at the beginning (Lorro Parque, Tenerife, if you're interested) Also, some of the original music was used in the opening sequences.

Anyway, So long, and thanks for all the fish.


April 30, 2005

Some thougts on Feminism

I’m not a ball breaker, not a bra burner, not a lesbian or tragic and desperate. I don’t want to be unfeminine. I don’t want to be a man, I just…
I don’t want to be judged on my breasts first, or my face or my arse. I don’t want to have to look a certain way just to get anywhere. I want to be taken seriously when I try to do something serious, and if I do it well enough, earn the same respect and pay that an man in my position would earn.

I don’t want to be unfeminine, or de-sexed, but I don’t want to have to flirt and look pretty in order to get anywhere. I don’t want to have to be weak and girly to get some help. If I need help, I want to be able to ask for it without being judged. I don’t want to have to be strong all the time, proving with my every breath that I have a right to exist, a right to be doing what I do. I want to be allowed to be fallible occasionally – because everyone is, even men.

I want to have the opportunity to have it all without censure. To have a family and have a career. If I want to choose only one, I don’t want to be criticised for it, and I don’t want to be criticised for wanting both either. Men have always had both – it is so normal that people wouldn’t even think to comment, but for the disparity, but it seems whichever way a woman chooses people will find fault. I don’t want to be forced to make an either/or choice. I don’t want to be forced to have both, but I want the option of both.

I don’t want to be seen as an object. I don’t want to wear high heels that hurt my feet to make my calves look better to watching men. I don’t want to feel I have to paint my face and wear clothes that expose myself in order to be noticed. I don’t want to be forced into a concept of beauty. I want to be me, seen as beautiful in that I am a person, with a mind and personality and feelings and ideas. No woman who conforms to patriarchal definitions of beauty is asking for it. Not every woman who doesn’t is a lesbian or a troll.

No woman wants to be raped or beaten.

I don’t want to feel incomplete without a man. I don’t want to feel a failure without a husband, as if all of life revolves around marriage and children. I don’t want to be afraid of ending up alone, and as a result be pushed into marriage with a man who thinks it is alright to have an affair because it is glamorised in the media, or because he can’t be bothered to try and make the marriage work. I don’t want to feel I am anyone’s property. I want to be left alone by society to find a man I care for and who truly cares for me. I hate this culture that makes men feel that they have to be promiscuous, and women have to be virgins or whores. I hate this culture of casual sex that means loving relationships are passé, and marriages without divorce are few and far between. I want to celebrate my golden wedding some day.

I do not want to be dismissed out of hand as a “feminist”. I do not want to be above men, just their equals. I do not want to be ostracised, victimised or made out to be a monster or a villain, because I do not want to conform to what a male dominated society expects of women. I do not want this to be about ‘us’ and ‘them’. All I want is equality.

Questions

Why is it supposed that women are intrinsically inferior to men? Why, if we want to be treated as equals, do we have to emulate them? I do not want to be accepted as a man, or “as good as a man” as if maleness was the benchmark against which I should be measured. Why can’t men and women be different, but equal, both measured against a gender neutral standard of achievement? Why does one sex have to strive to be superior? To be the standard? Why is it strange to suggest that men are failures if they do not emulate women, and define their success by making a home, and being nurturing and compassionate in that way? A virtue is a virtue, whether it be seen as typically male or female. Why must a woman be criticised if she only excels in one? If only feminine, she is ‘un-ambitious’ if only masculine, she is ‘unfeminine’. We must be both, or we are nothing. Men can only excel in masculine. If feminine, they are almost ridiculed, but still they are only expected to live up to one standard, not both. Why cannot the sexes choose by which standard they wish to be measured? Why is there no parity?


April 12, 2005

Lucia comes to stay

Ellie's French exchange partner arived the other day, and now I'm subconsciously translating everything I say into French. It's wierd. I have to consciously think, and stop myself talking French,for fear that I'll sound patronising, reminding myself that Lucia is here to learn our language, and reminding myself of my own experiences on an exchange. My French improved dramatically when I was away, and I was perfectly happy with people speaking to me in a language I couldn't understand. I also understood a lot more than I realised I could before I went away. So to be perfectly honest, Lucia (who is actually bilingual anyway, speaking Spanish fluently as well as French,) can probably understand the sentences I could manage to say in French perfectly well if I'd said them in English.

All the same, I still feel very aware of the complexities of my own language as soon as I am placed in a room with someone for whom English is not their native tounge. I don't want to seem patronising by altering my language to any large extent, but I'm never quite sure just how much I should alter my language for the sake of comprehension.
When I was in France, I didn't take offence if anyone spoke to me a little in English, or if they slowed down or anything, but then, the balance of power was different. I was the one in a strange country, and I was younger than anyone else. I've never been comfortable being in a position of power over anyone else, so being the one slightly at a disadvantage was perfectly fine for me. And to be honest, I wasn't struggling that much – my knowledge of French was better than my partner's knowledge of English, so French was easier to get along in. Pas de Problem.
It's different when you're the one in charge, as it were. As the host, you're the one regulating the conversation – unless you have a fairly exceptional exchange student who will take the initiative. So you don't want to be too challenging, or too patronising. Personally, I'd rather be the one who just has to worry about understanding it all.


April 10, 2005

Students of the World Untie!

I'm struggling at the minute with my journalism piece for CW.
So I'm listening to Greenday: Warning, hoping that it will illicit the rebelious teenager in me, and inspire me to write something gritty and passionate.
Because I'm writing about a subject close to my heart, or at least my spleen: Student Protests.

Basically, I'm angry that the political apathy that seems to be sweeping across the nation seems to have penetrated the universities and the same student population that only a few decades ago was willing to fight and die for the cause.
I mean, look at the Iraq and Top-up-fees protests. Those are the only major demos that have happened in my memory, and look at the scale of those in comparison to the sixties, where there were mass sit-ins, riots students getting shot, arrested, feminists burning their bras and people setting themselves on fire, just to make a statement and be heard.
People these days still have posters of Che Guevara on their walls, but because he's an iconic figure, rather than because they support his political ideas.
Why have we become so apathetic? Why? Why? Why?

Anyway…


April 01, 2005

A Ffourth ffrom Fforde

Have you ever had that feeling when you're starting a new book that you almost don't want to start it because it's too good? You just have to savour the moment of opening it – put it off perhaps – because all too soon you'll have read it, and it will be over. That first reading can never happen again, and no matter how much you may get from a second, third, fourth reading, you can never get the suspense, the exploration of the unknown, and the sheer feeling of "It's 3am but I can't put this thing down! I need to know what happens!!!!" ever again.

At the minute, I'm putting off beginning the fourth novel by Jasper Fforde, and probably the last in the Thursday Next serise, entitled Something Rotten.
Honestly, for any fiction fan out there, I cannot urge you strongly enough to read these books! Thursday Next is a Literary detective in an alternate 1985, where literature has a much higher standing, Dodos have been re-engineered, and are now common household pets, and the Crimean War is still going on. Thursday's story begins in The Eyre Affair, when the despicable Acheron Hades has stolen the manuscript of Jane Eyre, and with the use of the Prose Portal (creation of Thursday's inventor uncle, Mycroft) is holding Jane herself to ransom. Meanwhile, the devious Jack Schitt, member of the evil Goliath corporation, wants to get his hands on the Prose Portal himself.
Thursday's Adventures continue in Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots, where the reader is introduced to the crazy world of Jurisfiction - the police force inside fiction, and a whole host of literary characters.

What makes Fforde stand apart from the crowd is his sheer inventiveness – sepecially when it comes to names. I need only reel off a few – Thursday Next, Braxton Hicks, agents Kannon and Phodder, and the trully unbeatable Jack Schitt, and his brother Brik Schitt-Hawse. But apart from that, the alternative 1985 he creates is so vibrant, and not too hard to imagine. The similarities to our own world are as noticable as the differences, and I especially love picking out the tiny side references to things that you might miss, such as some building being built during "the occupation".
Fans of literature of any kind will also appreciate that Fforde knows where he's coming from as well. I could almost call his work meta-fictional, featuring as it does frequent references to the entire corpus of English Literature. Most major authors are in there at some point or another, often as breif asides, but some, like Shakspeare, feature quite substantially (with a title like the fourth book's, could you expect anything else?) Fforde's playful nods to all that has gone before makes the reader feel like they are sharing in the biggest in-joke ever. The biggest mistake in fiction of this sort would be to become too self-conscious, but it's a mistake Fforde easily avoids, and instead of pretentious literary elitism, his books read like that 'novel' one of your mates penned at school and passed round in class, with all of your friends as featuring characters. Except twelve zillion times better.

It's no use. I can't put it off any longer. I have to read Something Rotten right now…


March 26, 2005

Yes, but is it Art?

If you haven't been to see the latest exhibition at the Baltic, go see it. I don't care if you live in London, and think Gateshead* is rather a long way to come, it's a damn good exhibition.
I've often found that Modern Art really doesn't apeal to me all that much. I don't want to sound like some phillistine, saying that "All modern Art is rubbish", because I don't think that. I just don't get quite a lot of it. It annoys me that the visual impact element seems to have been lost, and people have to go away and read things about what the artist is trying to say, rather than being able to look at the work, and figure it out for themselves. In effect, we have to be told what to think before we can appreciate the work. No-one has to tell us what to think about a Van Gogh, do they? Monet's Waterlillies doesn't need a long explaination, no-one has to justify it's existance. It's beautiful, it's innovative (for the time it was painted) and knowing things about the conditions it was painted in only adds to what was already an experience.
On the other hand, we have Damien Hurst and Tracy Emmins. Now, call me a Ludite, but I do not see how Unmade Bed or the one with the bits of dead animals is really "Art". You can look at them, and they don't speak to you. I have no clue what the 'artist' was trying to do or say. The point of their work seems to be to shock, and turn people into pretentious twits. I say this because anyone who finds that kind of work appealing tends to turn into a pretentious twit when trying to describe it and why they like it - "Well, you see, the symbolism of the bent can, signifying the destruction of capitalism and the blood being the blood of the downtrodden masses…" – oh give me a break.
On the other hand, there is some stuff out there, that I would genuinely call Art, and would stand up whole-heartedly in support of. Anthony Gormley, for example, most famous as the creator of the Angel of the North. Now, I'm not going to talk about the Angel itself, because I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it, despite its being around now for aproximately seven years, though my oppinions have changed in that time. Originally I wasn't too keen, but now I've come to quite like Kevin (One of our local radio presenters named him that – I think after Kevin Keegan, after someone managed to dress him up in a Newcastle strip. It was legendary.).
What I do want to talk about is an exhibition that Gormley did at the Baltic in 2003 – one of the first exhibits on show after its opening – called Domain Field. That was bloody brilliant. And that was Art! The visual impact of walking round that room was incredible. You didn't need it explaining to you - it's a load of people; sculptures perhaps, but made in a different way than classically. i didn't need to know what other people thought about it in order to enjoy and appreciate it. Knowing that all the figures were real people, constructed from the plaster casts made of volunteers was nice to know, but it enhanced the experience – it wasn't pivotal to my appreciation of the piece.
Unfortunately, Domain Field is no longer at the Baltic. I'm not entirely sure where it is, but it's not here. What is here at the moment is rather good though. Phyllida Barlow's Peninsula is a bit... well... verging on the pretentious shite, actually, but only verging. The Carol Rama exhibition, I wasn't quite sure what to make of, but the star of the show in my oppinion, was The Ruins of Democracy by Bob and Roberta Smith. That was just cool. But I'm not going to be pretentious, and tell anyone what to think about it. Why don't you go see for yourself?

*Gateshead: The city on the other side of the river Tyne to Newcastle.


March 15, 2005

Dealing With Life's Certainties

"Three things are certain in life: Death, Taxes and < Fill in humourous third option here >"
Alex Campbell

Paperwork tends to piss me off. Forms, beauracracy etc. The whole bloody lot. It really really gets dull after a while, and frustrating as well, because inevitably you get it wrong, and drown in the mass of red tape created by sad little men with boring lives who take a sadistic pleasure in creating little bits of paper that they convince us are essential that we fill in correctly down to the most infinitessimal detail and often make us run around and chase after impossibly long codes and numbers that are on other bits of paper that you lost down the back of the filing cabinet three weeks earlier, or threw out with the trash yesterday.
It drives me insane!!!!! (Note 5 exclamation marks as proof of insanity.)
And why are they always called form 'P' something? What does the P stand for? Pedantic? Pissed off? Pineapple?

Money tends to piss me off as well. Not actual money per say, just the things that tend to come with it. like greed, and coruption. And taxes. Which piss me off no end, I can tell you. Because it means I have to fill out lots more little P forms in order to claim it back from the IRA. Sorry, IRS. Although it would probably be easier to get money from the IRA.
I've just been filling out a P50, which needs to be completed and sent off along with a P45 (parts 2&3) in order for me to get £80 back from the tax office (Which reminds me – the union still owe me £80 which I needed to claim back off them for a wardrobe. That form was far easier to deal with, and wasn't a P form. It had a name that I understood. But can't remember now.) You see, If you've been following the ins and outs of my life, you may remember that over Christmas I did a spot of work for a [sarcasm] delightful [/sarcasm] little company called Frankie and Bennie's. Who neglected to pay me until about 3 weeks ago. And who never sent me a wage slip. But it then turned out that the Tax office wanted £80 of it. Well * * * * that. I went through hell for that! Worse! I went through the Christmas rush! And they have the cheek to nick Eighty Quid off've me!

So I've filled in my forms. Had to run around looking for one of them, and got wrongfully accused of loosing it, when actually someone had stashed it in his pile of paperwork. (We operate a vertical filing system in our house. Things get put in piles on the floor, chairs, any flat surface, really.) but it's done now, and waiting to be posted.

I'm thinking of creating a satirical pamphlet about tax returns (A la Bill Bryson in Notes from a Big Country if I recall…) entitled Alex's Revenue Service Explained. Or ARSE for short.


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