How Should the Media Be Regulated?

I was recently asked to fill out a survey about my thoughts on how, in light of the phone hacking scandal, the media and the press should be regulated from now on.
 
Now, that is a touchy subject with most people, as there are so many factors to consider in this. So, I found myself on somewhat of a rant when answering. I edited some of the more Sun worthy statements, but the end result had much the same feel to it. (waddya know, my mum was right – sometimes there really is no need to swear!)
 

NOTW - The Final Headline

 
It is believed that over 4000 people may have been affected by phone hacking at the now defunct tabloid, the News of the World. Without a doubt the scandal was a profoundly intrusive experience for many people, the vast majority of them being of high profile or celebrity status. However, this does not excuse the fact that, in the midst of the star spangled bellyaching there were real victims.
 
A perfect example of this would be the hacking of murdered school girl Milly Dowler. The hacking the phone of a missing/murdered child is out of order, completely. It is something that should never, ever have been done.
 
The guilty reporters even hacked the phones of victims’ families.
 
Sara Payne became a campaigner for better child protection laws after her daughter, Sarah, was murdered when she was just an innocent eight year old. The NotW paid her an undisclosed sum.
 
 Whilst the case of Madeleine McCann is still shrouded in mystery and, to this day, remains without conclusion, it was a media hotbed in 2007. Madeleine, three at the time, was taken from her Portuguese hotel room in 2007 while on holiday with her parents. Despite thousands of reports, spanning the world over, no sightings of her in the years since have been confirmed and the most important details of case are still unknown. No one knows who took her, where she is or even if she is still alive. The NotW stand accused of accessing the personal diary of Kate McCann, Madeleine’s mother, and publishing it without permission.
 

The McCanns

 
Surely, some morose bell must have rung the heads of those journalists. Some human instinct must have told them that what they were doing was just not right. To unduly increase the agony of the already tortured families of a lost child is perverse, and one must seriously question the morals and professional ethics of those reporters.
 
The question now is whetherUKmedia should be governed by an independent regulatory body or a government run one. This issue may be complicated with the imminent referendum for Scottish Independence, due in 2014.
 
Having an independent regulatory body would satisfy the need for freedom so that journalists can actually do their jobs but would also keep the rogues who would step out of line in check. Not all journalists are scum so they shouldn’t all be treated like criminals.
 
However, the Government should not use the NOTW as an example to let them step in and stop a story being reported just because it isn’t favourable to them. With a government run committee, free media would constantly be watching its’ back, leaving a danger of creating a new branch of reporter more willing to take risks and break new regulation – leading us inevitably right back into the situation we’re in. One disgraced tabloid down and a plethora of angered MPs, a handful of genuinely wronged victims of trauma, and a spattering of wounded pride and celeb drama to top it all off.
 
The phone hacking scandal has acted as a warning to other news outlets that misconduct will no longer be tolerated within the media. The NOTW has been made an example of and the whole thing has been a farce with all the celebrity attention. But, it has been used to show that no matter how long it takes, investigations will now take place into such accusations.
 
There is a definite case for more regulation, but as I have said, it’s a volatile issue. I do not want us to suffer a press shackled by a restriction on its freedom of speech, a quality this country has always fought passionately for, but to commit morally unjust acts such as to hack the phone of Milly Dowler, or someone similar, is unacceptable conduct given any circumstance.

If you want to know more deatils about who got paid what:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14187122

Lent (4)

All has been well so far, this being the 23rd day of the Lentathon de-caffeination experimentation.

 

All except for the slight wavering of my resolve when I had an accidental whiff of Starbucks Christmas Special Coffee. What are the chances that work decides to whip put the fancy coffee maker that’s been gather dust in a cupboard, unlooked at and unloved for many moons, right when I cannot give it the care and attention it deserves?

It was the super special Christmas coffee they brought out this year, covered in a cute little design which, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with coffee or even beverages of any sort. But still, it looked cute even in March.

It was the warm red of Santa with a white snow base and little wintry figures dancing about on it, like snowmen who had made friends with scarf clad red breasted robins and such (because that’s so obviously the way life happens).

I saw at work that the kitchen has acquired a fancy new coffee maker (a curious purchase, considering there is only two, perhaps three people in the whole building who actually drink the stuff) and so I inspected further. Beside it lay the packet of joy!

I took a tiny sniff that turned into a deep inhalation after I had established it was granulated. Mmmmmmmn… ground coffee beans have a far stronger scent than regular instant coffee, and Starbucks especially has a lovely rich smell, so much so that it feels like you are tasting it! It’s the next best thing to actually drinking the stuff.

I’m terrible, I know. I don’t allow myself such improper contemplations anywhere other than right here; this is my little piece of self indulgence.

I’ve wondered about getting a job at Starbucks actually. The coffee shops in the area already seem over staffed as it is, though of course I would never wish for them to become less so because anybody with a job is doing something right or being smiled at by luck. It beats being smirked at by that fickle bitch and being without one for no reason – other than the less than gracious disposition of something out-with your control.

Anyway, I would like to get a job in a café or a coffee distribution centre of some kind. I think even just learning about the different drinks and how to make and serve them to a customer satisfactory level would be interesting.

Because, it is one thing to make one for yourself and quite another to charge someone £3.80 for the pleasure of having it made for them. I feel that if I had the know-how myself, maybe I would be less reluctant to hand over my (fairly) hard earned cash for it. Coffee is over-prices in café’s especially the ones that are, or feign to be chic.

Sure it tastes a lot better coming from someone whose job title is Barista and it’s somehow thicker and more luxurious to drink – but that’s because they use what we call cream, and nothing so pedestrian as regular old fridge milk, but I won’t tell if you won’t.

And there is something quite continental and cozy feeling about having coffee that’s not made from home. But essentially, a lot of coffee shops, especially the cheaper ones, are just in it for the money. So you are most likely to be drinking the same old thing you would normally be if you were to drink it in the house.

Other than long hours, there doesn’t immediately appear to be anything particularly challenging about pressing a couple of buttons on a sophisticated, shiny machine, pre-programmed to make a perfect cuppa every time. The only real skill seems to be remembering to whip the cup away at the right time before it overflows, yet still filling it half way up with froth so that the customer doesn’t realise you’ve conned them until they are half way through their Partially Filled Tall De-Café Latte with Unexpectedly Extra Froth. By then, it’s too late to take it back and it’s Cheeky Barista – 1, You – 0.

These were my thoughts until I watched Singaporean blogger Xia Xue, also know as Wendy, trying her hand as a barista in a coffee shop in aSingaporeshopping mall for her YouTube channel.

She was taught only one full order, a specialised coffee and a pasta dish, all to be made and served quickly, professionally and entirely from scratch. I was truly surprised at how complex the whole thing was. A bit of a rigmarole to be honest. If it’s going to be that much of a mission, I don’t think I’ll be ordering what she was making any time soon!

Despite this, I just really like the atmosphere you get in a good coffee shop or café. How you can feel like you’re in a lively city when you’re surrounded by the scent of hot drinks and accompanying treats, the sounds of clinking dishes and chattering people of all ages, how the sound of tables and chairs always seems muffled, regardless of the surface they’re on or the material they’re made from. All of this, and you could be sitting in your tiny little town, in your local tea room or just the caf doon the front. You could be chilling with your Small Low Fat Super Skinny Latte, a Large Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream, Mini Marshmallows and a shot of Syrup, an Expresso or a cup of Tea, and yet, a good coffee shop will always leave you with that same feeling of contentment.

Lent (3)

So it’s day 19 of lent aaaaand…

I feel fine!

It’s so good. The majority of the cravings seem to have worn off and I’ve stopped replacing the mugs of coffee with sweets and cake. Which, y’know, is good because then I won’t get fat and spotty. Again 😄

I still get the wanting when I’m around places that smell strongly of coffee for ages and also when I’m hungry and tired, but, generally I’m not feeling that bad about it. I do get a distinct sense of dread when I think about the fact that I still have half of this time left to go, but at least it’s not as bad as it was before.

Lent (2)

 Update on the zero caffeine situation.

Picture taken from Womans' Day

For the first couple of days, maybe 10, I was experiencing the most horrendous cravings, all the time, every day, every time I passed by somewhere serving or making coffee, someone holding a coffee, or of it was a time of the day I would have idealistically been holding a coffee myself. It. Was. Awful!

Because I am used to having my little dose of sweet caffeinated bliss at certain times of the day, my body was craving it, like some kind of beast, reaching from my inside out trying to grab what it was after. It left me with a kind of emptiness and I knew that the void could be so easily filled if I just gave in to the cravings. But you can’t! 

Along with the ache for the forbidden fruit, there came the headaches. I tend to get pretty bad headaches on a regular basis, but it’s the kind of thing you learn to ignore. Stress causes them, yet a lot of hypochondriacs who get them put them down to some chronic imaginary illness. This was something entirely other. It took me a while, but I’ve put these down to dehydration. Yeah, I know, weird right. But then when you think about it, I was drinking a tonne of coffee which is basically water with (delicious) murky brown stuff in it. Take that away and I really was only drinking about half a bottle and one glass of water a day. Not really that much. I had no idea.

There have been other “side-effects”, though in actual fact some of them are more beneficial than not.

I seem to have a bigger appetite and my metabolism has sped up a little. I think it’s because of the coffee but it could also be that I have also increased the amount of exercise I’m doing a little. Should probably have only changed one thing in my life to be absolutely sure, but hey! I definitely feel like I’m storing a little less pudge than I was before. So it’s all good!

Except for them damn cravings…

Lent (1) Intro

About a month ago I was speaking to some friends when an interesting opportunity presented itself. We each decided to give things up for Lent and I will document our progress here over the next 40 days
 
 
Having only known each other since September, when four of us met on the first day of Uni, none of us really knew anything of each others beliefs. For some reason, the subject had never come up in our lunch breaks or over drinks. I wonder why… Oh yeah, coz we were too busy partying!!… I mean, studying… obviously… 😛
 
I’m more agnostic than atheist, but basically I don’t follow any religion. I’m not in complete denial that there might be something out there though. This view, it turned out, was shared by two of my friends, Gillian and Phoebe. We’ve all had our own experiences of religion and we’re old enough now to be able to come to our own conclusions.
 
But enough of that! Totally separate issue.
 
However. With Irish heritage and having been raised inGlasgow,Shannonhad been raised a strict Catholic. She was enlightening us ignorant and undecided whelps on the truth of what it really is to be a Christian. (coz honestly, after hearing her speak of Catholicism, we realised we really didn’t have a bloody clue! That was quite humbling)
 
It was really quite inspiring and touching to hear someone speak about a faith that has been so slandered in the press in recent years with such passion and total commitment. She explained to us how frustrated she was with the misconceptions of Catholicism people have these days, all because a few of the shadier aspects were picked to pieces by the press. Even though we are, all four of us studying to be a part of that world, it did make me think that often people and subjects may receive an unduly bad rap.
 
 
Everybody has their dark side, it is a reflection of the faith they follow. But that doesn’t mean something is rotten to the core. It just means that you should try to isolate that darkness, fight it into submission by flooding it with light. As some smart cookie once said, “We need darkness to prove the light”.
 
***
 
Anyway…
 
Gillian and I decided to set a challenge.
 
Lent is a Christian tradition where, on Ash Wednesday, you give up something for the 40 days and nights preceding Easter Sunday. This day comes immediately after Shrove Tuesday, but in true heretic fashion, most people know it as Pancake Day. There is some story to do with Jesus and the crucifixion and his rise from the dead and a massive boulder or something… But no one really cares about that when the sickly sweet and delicious scent of fresh pancake is being wafted under your nose so, Pancake Day it is!
 
Now, I write these here words and confess to you, hand on heart… My name is Gemma, and I am a coffee addict. 😄
 
Gillian thought that an interesting and productive use of her time would be to use me as her glorified lab rat – an experiment into the effects of caffeine withdrawal in a teenager. 40 days without coffee. 40!
 
Faced with the daunting prospect I counter struck with a vicious blow – give up junk food. All of it. Unhealthy snacks, take-away, the lot!
 
The crisp addict hesitated, but to her credit, only for a moment. And that was that. Decided. The winner gaining nothing but boasting rights, and if it was a draw, pride.
 To be honest, she has more to gain from this than me, the way I see it. Take-away food for the most part is bad for you. She’s just cutting out all the stuff you shouldn’t be eating if you have any sense anyway! Me, however…

Coffee makes me smile 🙂

How can a person deny themselves the bittersweet goodness in the luscious warmth of a steaming hot mug of coffee? (I take mine black, one sugar, just in case you were wondering 😉 )

The KPOP Weight Issue: Media Pressure, Personal Choice, International Expectations or a National Obsession?

So perhaps the title is misleading – I think the answer lays within them all, and in yet more contributing factors. But we’ll get to that.

First of all, fans of the genre will know that KPOP is an acronym used for Korean Popular Music and Popular Culture, though the predominant genre within that is pop, not so closely followed by hip-hop and R&B. Predominantly the genre is saturated with the sort of overly sugary cuteness that aspires to be sexy through the lavish use of hot pants and swishy hair.

An issue almost as important as the music itself has always been the image that came with it. The mere term ‘KPOP’ walks hand-in-hand with the term “idol”, and the face of an attractive young Korean – who is, almost without fail, stick thin. That is, at least where the girls are concerned. The guys often go for the overly muscular, 6 pack and pecks of steel image, if they are not trying for the androgynous, waif-like feminine figure favoured by those boys unable to achieve the so-called “chocolate abs”.

For some time now there have been concerns about the image these girls and boys (for few of them could really be called women and men) are presenting to the public, not to mention the impact it must be having on their own bodies.

The age range of an “idol” can be anywhere between 12, as demonstrated by GP Basic, to over 30, as can be seen with After Schools Kahi and Brown Eyed Girls Narsha and Jea. They average out in their early 20s, though training for the profession can begin in their early teens. Making it into a band, recording an album and finally being shown to the general public through release of an EP and performances on variety and music shows, is known as “debuting”. It is frequently referred to in terms of, “back in their rookie days”, or, “when they first debuted”…

In this way Asia runs their music industry in a completely different fashion to the West. For sure, Asia does have a thriving underground and Indie music scene, it just isn’t really paid all that much attention to in terms of media coverage. You really have to search to find people.

This stands in total contrast to here, where the club singer is king and the underdog the champion. Take newcomer-turned-superstar Ed Sheeran. Here we see a 21-year-old man who has worked himself from the guitar strings up, travelling to America with nothing more than the clothes on his back and the lyrics on his lips, hoping to catch a break (which he did – thank you Jamie Foxx!). Less than two years on and he has millions of YouTube views, a platinum selling No. 1 album, a string of hit singles, sold out concert dates, a world record and a Brit Award!

Stories like that just aren’t really heard of in the South Pacific.

This is just one of countless examples of how the two sides of the globe handle the music industry entirely differently.

In Asia, there is an incessant pressure to maintain a certain, very specific image. One may not be blamed for sometimes thinking, especially when it comes to girls, that if you’ve seen one big eyed, contact lensed, glossy haired selca taken from a flatteringly high angle – you’ve seen them all. If you’ve seen one girl doing a puffer fish faced peace signing pose, you are just as likely to look at the girl next to her and see her doing the exact same.

And what do all these lovely ladies have in common?

They are all further homogenised by their pale complexions and severely malnourished bodies.

Asian people are a naturally smaller, fitter, thinner group of people than, for example, the deep-fried-mars-bar loving Scots, or the quadruple McCheese Burger, quadruple by-pass Americans. It all comes down to staple diet and environment. They just live healthier in terms of their eating more fish and rice and vegetables, meat being eaten only sparingly.

Yet that does not excuse nor account for their bizarre and utterly inexplicable obsession with weight loss!

They seem completely obsessed with how thin girls are. To them, a girl we would deem slim, or athletic, would be a large girl, fat. A girl we would deem skinny may be lucky enough to only be bordering on fat, but is still likely to make it in to their plus size equivalent. This is not a healthy attitude to have.

Many companies and record labels have taken to monopolising the diets of their artists so as to maintain their “milky” complexions and super skinny frames.

I am ashamed to say it, but SM Entertainment, label of SHINee, Super Junior, TVXQ, Girls Generation and F(x), amongst others, is one of the most publically guilty of this.

Following scandals involving a court case with three ex-members of TVXQ, several nasty details of the way it often treats its artists were revealed. While the boys of that ill-fated court battle seemed to suffer the worst in terms of a “slave labour” contract, the girls certainly did not escape the evil hand of the KPOP diet enforcer.

Girls Generation, or SNSD as they are often known, are thought of as being amongAsia’s most beautiful women. The nine strong supergroup was formed in 2007 by SM Entertainment and have become one of the most successful and influential bands the continent has ever seen.

But.

This fame has come at something of a price with regards to their image. Following extensive plastic surgery to enhance the already naturally beautiful girls, as well as a strict exercise and eating regime, a new look was created.

In conjunction with the popularity of their music, the national obsession with their “look” began. Specifically, it was not their clothes which captivated people, nor was it their exquisitely crafted faces (plastic surgery is so common in Asia that it caused little more of a stir than is paid to any other plasticised celebrity). Oh no, it was an obsession with their painfully skinny bodies.

Except that they do not see anything wrong with them being so tiny. In fact, they practically worship them as glamour goddesses, queens of fashion and with figures of the most perfect and highly enviable status.

When I first saw them, I just about made it through their music video for “Gee” before I had to turn away in disgust.

Every one of those poor girls’ looks like an eating disorder help add. Serene, smiling faces, photo-shopped, flawless skin, glazed, glossy eyes, all features of faces that are 50% natural bone structure, 40% plastic and 10% computer generated. All on a head attached to a pole thin, torso, thread skinny arms and skeletal legs.

Their waif-like appearances prompted extreme dieting in order to achieve SNSDs’ “perfect” legs, and yet there is not ever, ever, one single mention of them being anorexic in any magazine or web article you care to look at. The closest you will get is a comment at the bottom of a page, quickly swamped with fans claiming otherwise, drowning out any protests.

Why, you ask?

Because none of their “look” has been their personal choice. While they were obviously determined to succeed and willing to work extremely hard to get to the top of the KPOP ladder, their company sought to turn them into the greatest beauties the industry had to offer, whatever the cost.

They were rumoured to have been forced to survive in only 900 calories a day, coupled with an intense work out. For the hours of training Korean performers are usually expected to do – sometimes up to 12 or even 14 hours continuously, some claiming without a break or water – this is clearly not nearly enough.

For their music video for “Hoot” the boots they wore are said to have been custom-made. The official line is that it was to fit the style of the video and give it a haute couture finish. But it is more likely that the girls’ legs were too thin to fit a normal sized boot.

For someone to be that unhealthily thin there is clearly a real problem. Last year, one of the girls, Yuri, known as “the fat one” due to the fact that her thighs were not invisible from the side, went on an exercising binge, reportedly eating only vegetables in vast quantities. She dropped to a weight reportedly somewhat under 6 stone. With her height, that placed her in the category of “dangerously underweight/at risk of death”. No joke, that is the medical term for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruQVIJ5ZFkY Here is a video of her performing in that condition.

The images split fans, some in favour of the drastic diet, those who had clearly not lost their minds realising that this was completely insane and that that poor girl was damn near killing herself in an effort to be the thinnest-and-therefore-prettiest girl in KPOP. Thankfully, she soon after put back on a little of the weight, though not enough to be considered “the fat one” anymore. Was she proving a point or bowing to the insensible will of a warped cultural and professional pressure?

Now, I may be sounding a little harsh here. This is not to say that the girls are not all very pretty. They are, in fact, very beautiful. I just do not like my second thought after seeing a beautiful young woman to be – but my god is that girl ever so skinny!

SM Entertainment denied they had ever mistreated their employees and artists in this way and then started the obligatory round of interviews, with the girls talking about how their calorie intake was 1600 or 1100 or whatever it was when they were on a diet and if it went under that number it was self-imposed. Yes, because when all nine of you decide to weigh in at around 6 and a half stone, we are totally going to believe you did that to yourself. Obviously.

As recently as the end of 2011/start of 2012 they issued statements and televised interviews claiming that, actually, they ate whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted and showed footage of them backstage after performances, tucking into crisps and sweets and cake. Guesses on how long they starved for after that footage was broadcast… Especially since soon after they gave details, along with two other girl groups famed for their fat-free physiques, regarding their strict, portion controlled, content planned diet. Of course, ladies, you are totally not misleading your fans or hiding anything.

And they are not even the only culprits. The guilty parties can be seen across the board. Most of the girls you look at are the kind that needs a good McDonald’s shoved down their necks, if anything to make you feel better about doing the same to yourself!

They must not have any real kind of freedom! They are being pushed into a professionally regulated black hole of anorexia and depression. As if working under those conditions was not hard enough, they are not being allowed enough nutrients to even form correct hormones to deal with the pressure!

This national obsession is a disgusting mar on the collective psyche of a wonderful country. It is like a female version of their mandatory military service for men. All women must at some point suffer from Body Dismorphia and industry fuelled peer pressure and go on an insane diet that will leave you a cocktail stick sized sliver of your former self.

It may seem that I have a hatred of KPOP. This is absolutely no the case. In fact I have a mild obsession with it – for some reason. But I do have an issue with this. The way they often treat people is horrendous, even by the standards of an industry that is tough no matter what country you’re from. I will gladly document some of the happier stories, but with young women in Seoul starving themselves for glamour and North Korean people just thirty mile away too poor to eat, I just felt that this was an important issue.

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