There’s A First Time For Everything

3 07 2008

Over time we come to expect certain behaviours from people we come into contact with on a daily basis, and the blogs we read are no different. If The Superficial went a week without mentioning breasts (particularly big ones) or Arseblog wrote a post about his undying love for Manchester United, you’d know something wasn’t quite right.

Textual Relations is not nearly as famous as either of those two, but nonetheless you lot have probably formed an idea of the sort of content to expect. If Mr President wrote a post about the evil oil companies and global warming, or how great Obama is, chances are you would know that he was either joking or had completely lost his mind.

Don’t adjust your sets, then, as Mr President discusses wedding dresses. No, you didn’t mis-read, he did just say wedding dresses. He saw a piece on the BBC the other morning about how some shops are now charging up to £50 to try on their stock.

It’s not the most fascinating piece of news this week but if it’s good enough for the BBC, Telegraph and Independent to cover, who are we to turn up our noses at it? The charge is apparently both a one-off (so not per dress) and refundable if you actually purchase a dress from that boutique or store. It does appear to be a pretty fair policy.

Anyone serious about buying won’t mind paying as the dress is expensive and obviously worth trying before buying it. What it will do is deter time wasters. Some have said people will feel pressured into buying their dress from the first place they visit but when the average wedding costs £20,000, who in their right mind is going to buy a dress they hate just to save £50? Besides you can go in and look at the stock for free.

Ladies, Mr President wants to know what you think. Is this a good policy or not?

Judging A Book By Its Cover

6 06 2008

Pile of books As a society we are fast in danger of ruining future generations forever with our approach to so many things. From teaching them about sexual issues to letting them go down to the shops.

The latest installment of project “cotton-wool generation” is a plan by publishers to begin printing suggested reading ages on books. This is a terrible idea for just so many reasons.

For starters we have the question over whether we define it by content or by the reading difficulty. There doesn’t appear to be an official response on which measure will be chosen.

Not that that would be the end of the problem, far from it. As that piece in the Guardian alludes to, people’s reading skills develop at different paces, so if it’s based on the difficulty of the reading material it would be a false measure. Not only does this not help the consumer (contrary to the argument put forward that this will help people buy books) as they may buy a book they think is suitable for a particular child that actually isn’t, but it has more wide-reaching consequences, most of which are serious.

For example will a child whose reading isn’t particularly developed feel comfortable reading a book with a lower age sticker on it in front of other kids? Mr President imagines that a lot of teasing would follow, which would in turn simply put that child off reading at all. And that, let’s not forget, is the very sort of child that needs to be encouraged to read more to develop. Will this move help them or hinder them?

Harry Potter, for example, would have a child’s age rating and yet is read by adults.

Arguably even worse is whether such a move will actually discouraged people who are precocious readers. The Guardian piece again is really helpful here, talking about Pullman’s material which is quite dense and complex and yet is read by quite a young audience. Mr President first read Tolkien at primary school, and yet he knows now that really the Lord Of The Rings is aimed at a teenage audience. Few of his peers read it when he did, but he was an advanced reader. Ratings will hinder such readers.

Less parents will buy “advanced” books for their children, more teachers and other adults in positions of responsibility will take books from kids if they’re deemed “unsuitable” for that age group. If people say such things are a “guideline” only and that people can factor in whether the child they’re buying for is “advanced” or not, then the response has to be how then will the new ranking help you? You’re still having to make a judgement over whether the book is suitable or not. You can still get it wrong.

If the guidelines are to be based on content rather than reading complexity there are still issues with that. The problem is well put (so Mr President won’t bother with a lot of editorialising) in the first paragraph of this Times piece. Of course that’s an extreme example, but it shows how even the most innocent story (Hansel and Gretel) can be construed to make it entirely unsuitable for children. This quote seems apt:

“Attaching a specific reading age to children’s literature is virtually impossible”.

The simple fact is, as that piece also intelligently notes, the way books are currently marketed, published and sold helps the buyer in making such decisions. By all means stack books by age brackets, and perhaps even make it mandatory for any book seller to do this, but the difference between that and a sticker is that such a shelving arrangement is merely temporary. The child never sees it, only the buyer does.

In the end the best way to know if a book is suitable for a child is to read it yourself.

Innocence Lost

30 05 2008

Mr President is baffled by the way parental outrage is on the increase. They seem hellbent on pretending they live in 1950’s suburbia. The irony is that the rosy vision they seem to have is false.

Kids were not safer back then, far from it, and this is something he’s touched on already before. Yet parents seem determined to undermine the very thing that makes their kids safer now.

Knowing all about the dangers they might face out there is the very thing that makes our children safer now than they were 30 or 40 years ago.

The old phrase “knowledge is power” comes to mind when Mr President sees the parental outrage over the latest attempt to equip their kids with the information they need to know. The obvious criticism of this sort of move is that it’s for parents to raise with their kids, yet the fact parents are outraged by the booklet suggests they weren’t planning to raise it until it was too late. What good is the information at age 11?

There’s a comment at the bottom of that piece that bears reading. Parents are worried that kids of eight are too young for this information. Well Mr President’s got news for those parents; paedophiles don’t think it’s too young. In fact if you leave it until 11 or 12 to raise it with them, the chances are they’re now too old for most predators.

What good is it telling someone about child abuse when they’re either too old to suffer it or have already fallen victim and been keeping a horrible secret for years? There’s a parent in the article who says that the booklet would harm their family. They don’t want kids to look at their uncles and think they might abuse them. How clueless are these people? Do they not realise how much damage to their family child abuse does?

Kids should be on the lookout for any behaviour by any adult, especially family members, that might be inappropriate. Child abuse is most commonly perpetrated by trusted family members, yet parents would rather brush it under the carpet than face the truth. They are the very sort of people whose lives will come crashing down when the brothers and sisters they trusted with their kids turn out to be their abusers.

Parents seem, however, to be more focussed on the idea that this is something that should be up to them to raise with their children. Mr President agrees, and wonders why, then, they choose to oppose a move that makes it easier for them to do so. If they don’t think their eight year old is ready they may be right. The problem is it’s the kids who aren’t ready that won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late to stop it.

The problem is that parents will always see their children as darling little angels, too innocent for this sort of thing, and who can blame them? They love them, they want to hang onto the memory of their cherubic offspring because the day when they’re all grown up comes quicker than anyone would like. It’s entirely understandable for them to do so. The problem is that it’s this innocence that predators are attracted to.

Worse yet, parents who are keen to preserve the innocence of childhood lose sight of the fact that it’s the very thing that child abuse robs them of forever. Once a victim of abuse a child’s innocence is lost, and can’t be returned to them. Their childhood will always remain scarred by the memories. Prevention, sadly, does necessitate that we deprive our children of some of their innocence, preserving as much as we can.

Please, let’s not bury our heads in the sand. The dangers are too great if we do.

Mackness Family Mauled By Media

8 05 2008

The Mackness family are sending not one, not two, not three, but four men to serve in Iraq. Father Danny and his three sons will all be serving in Basra together.

This is believed to be the largest deployment from a single family in a specific combat zone since WWII. Mr President salutes their commitment.

Yet whilst he is very thankful for their contribution to our nation, and to the allied cause of fighting the roots of worldwide terrorism, it is anger he feels above all else. Not with their family, of course, he has nothing but admiration and thanks for them and people like them, but with the BBC other media outlets. Compare the Mirror with the Mail.

Here at Textual Relations we hate quoting the Daily Mail. Yet our issue here is with the BBC which we’ve noted in the past has also started going down the road of tabloid sensationalism. When they interviewed the family, El Presidente was disgusted to see their attempts to use the natural apprehension any family would have in such a situation into an anti-war argument. This from the BBC, once a respected news institution.

They asked father Danny if the risk to his family was worth it and naturally he paused, weighing his conflicting emotions as both a father and a soldier. He then said that if they had to be there, they had to be there. Don’t let that seem like he was only saying that out of a sense of duty either, as he followed it up by saying that he believed they had to be there, serving in Iraq. The interview pounced on the hesitation like a panther.

Rather than focus on the statement that he, even as a father with three of his sons in the firing line, believed they had a duty to be in Iraq, they chose to focus on the pause, and tried to spin it. When they interviewed the mother they made her natural worries and prayers seem as though she opposed the war yet if you read their quotes in the Daily Mail piece, it clearly shows that they’re a proud army family. And so they should be.

Of course they worry for their children, and Mr President’s best wishes go with their family as he hopes for their safe return, but for the media to prey on this natural concern and turn it into something it’s not is deplorable. To use their emotions like this for political gain is quite frankly disgusting. We urge you to remember Andrew Olmsted.

If supporting our troops is to be more than a platitude the media must stop doing this.

A Disgrace To Maddy

6 05 2008

In a week where Madeline McCann was on everybody’s mind, with the one year anniversary of her disappearance falling last Saturday, the news that a couple allegedly passed out drunk in a Portuguese hotel while in charge of their three young children is disturbing. Of course full details of the story aren’t known but if what is reported is true, the parents should be locked up.

Judgmental? Perhaps, but when you consider the accusations that have been thrown at the McCanns for leaving Maddy in their room while they went to eat, what can you say about parents who went out and got drunk (hardly a necessity like food), without a care for their children who they left unattended in a hotel lobby ? It doesn’t compare.

If the McCanns were neglectful (which is debatable) then you’d need a whole new word to cover these parents. It was sheer good fortune that this didn’t turn into another Maddy, although this time the blame would fall squarely on the parents. Initial reports are that the couple are due to appear in court today. They won’t face neglect charges in Portugal but very well may when they return to the UK, which is good news.

Mr President says we should take their kids from them. He doesn’t care how much they protest that the children are safe with them, if what is reported is true, that they were so drunk they couldn’t care for their children, they haven’t a leg to stand on. In fact, even if they weren’t drunk, he doesn’t think they should have been drinking at all.

When you’re looking after your kids, especially in a foreign country, you need your wits about you at all times, and no matter how much or how little you drink, it affects your senses and slows your reflexes. Perhaps if they lost their children it might also scare a few more British holidaymakers into not seeing a holiday as simply an opportunity to get very drunk on the cheap. As a nation we seem to equate a good time with being drunk.

No other nation is as obsessed with drinking as we are (except perhaps the Irish). The French drink, but they always accompany it with food. To them the idea of drinking alcohol in isolation from food is quite alien, yet to us it’s a case of “drink first, eat later”, hence the proliferation of kebab shops. El Presidente likes a kebab as much as the next person but whether it’s because he’s had a binge drinking problem in the past or whether it’s simply maturity, he knows how to drink responsibly, ideally with food.

It’s a problem we need to solve. Not to mention a disgrace to Maddy.

Missing Madeline McCann: A Year On

3 05 2008

Today marks the sad one year anniversary since young Madeline McCann went missing. There will be church services of hope held in both England and Portugal.

Many still ask how the couple could have left their child in the room. This misses so many crucial points. Firstly they went out to eat, not to get their freak on in some club.

Whilst the latter would clearly have been neglectful parenting, eating is a necessity of life, a basic requirement. Could they have taken her with them? Sure, it was a mistake.

With hindsight they surely would say they wish they had, but hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20-20. At the time they felt it was safe and as she was asleep, they didn’t want to wake her. Every parent I know says it’s hard to wake a sleeping child, it feels somewhat cruel and perhaps here the McCanns allowed their hearts to rule their minds.

Had they known how unsafe it really was, they certainly would have woken her and taken her with them. Let’s not make them the villains here though, someone still broke into their apartment and took their child from their bed. Think about that. Is this acceptible because, perhaps, arguably, they are culpable a bit too? Of course not.

Despite the rights and wrongs of their actions, what happened to them is an absolutely heinous crime. Perhaps they’re getting disproportionate media coverage compared to other missing kids but so what? Firstly, can you blame them? They’re parents and want their child found, so will draw as much attention to this as possible. Secondly other kidnappings and missing children are getting coverage off the back of this.

For those who claim we don’t know if she was taken or wandered off, the parents know, they just can’t tell us what they know. They saw things in that room when they returned to find her missing, things that prove she was snatched, but things they can’t reveal to the public as they are material facts of the case and covered by Judicial Secrecy.

Thus those who are judging the McCanns don’t have all the facts, and yet are quick to cast stones in their direction. Let’s not forget, though, that whatever your thoughts of the McCann parents, Maddy’s the victim here. She’s a poor four year old taken from her family, a family she hasn’t seen in a year. Mr President says if you can’t set aside your issues with the McCanns (if you have any) and see this, you need a good slapping.

Let’s just all hope she’s still found alive (although it looks increasingly unlikely).

Much Ado About Nothing: Miley Cyrus’ Controversial Vanity Fair Photoshoot

29 04 2008

A little late this morning but better late than never. Anyway, you can blame WordPress for the delay. No, not technical issues, but rather the “Hawt Post” on the main page. When he logged in, Mr President was confronted with a post about a topic he was planning to write about in a couple of days anyway. Given it’s a hot topic now he decided not to delay it.

Instead he’s postponed the discussion he had planned for today for another day. This little shift has meant he’s running a little behind schedule. Here at Textual Relations we value the quality of our output and would be loathe to put out any inferior posts. Not having had much time to put together this story (as it was planned for another day), and not wanting to sacrifice quality, we simply delayed publication. Apologies for the wait.

So what is this issue that shifted the focus? Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus’ controversial photoshoot for Vanity Fair. Some have referred to it as a topless shoot or a nude shoot, but it was neither. A salient fact that’s missing from some of the reports is that she was wearing a top underneath the sheet that left her back exposed. It was designed to create a provocative yet “safe” image. Which, given the reaction, it did.

Besides, even if she were nude under the sheet, does that take away from the artistic value of the photographs? Of course not. She looks beautiful, and the use of the suggestive pose plays off the contrast between the innocence of a young girl, showing that here is a girl on the cusp of womanhood. No longer a girl, yet not quite a woman.

From an aesthetic point of view, they’re stunning photographs. Whether she’s nude or not (and those present at the shoot insist she wasn’t) is besides the point. Nudity isn’t sexual. We make it so. After all, are we not all born naked? As a child Mr President was fond of running around the house naked as the day he was born, and he knows he’s not the only toddler who did this. Is that wrong? What about pictures of babies in the bath?

Some have cited the book Lolita, or are talking about this being symbolic of a society where young girls are being expected to grow up too fast. Whilst we agree where it comes to 11 and 12 year old girls wearing makeup and dressing provocatively, this is a 15 year old girl. She’s not a kid, and how many girls of the same age wear halter tops?

Common sense should prevail. The photos are artistic and tasteful. End of story.