Wasn’t There Supposed to Be Cake?

Hey Hey Guys!!

Cake is a curious thing.

It’s something that is expected in certain situations, can have strong connotations and memories associated with it, the taste, the texture, the scent, the colour. Where you had a certain piece and how it made you feel.

Then there is cake in a general sense. It appears in certain situations; birthdays, weddings, anniversaries… funerals.

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Have you ever noticed (well, you will have, even if you don’t immediately realise it) that cake is often present to sweeten the pill in horrible situations?

mood cookies

Fancy Shmancy little Battenberg...

Fancy Shmancy little Battenberg…

Now, I’m going togeneralise here and cast the same net over certain biscuits as well as cakes. In fancy waiting rooms, there is often a sweet “treat”. You might be offered a slice of battenburgh with a beverage, or a very British, Victoria Sponge, if you are particularly fortunate (and so help you god if you mention the fact that you recognise that cheap, dry sponge and overly sweet, grainy filling as the £1 round you get from the co-op when you are absolutely desperate for a favour to take to the neighbours’ BBQ).

homemade cupcakes

homemade cupcakes

**As a wee aside, I actually hate Battenberg cake and am always bitterly disappointed to see it in a selection. Marzipan is the devil. It is always a bad omen.**

I absolutely HATE Battenberg...

I absolutely HATE Battenberg…

The thing is, there are some situations where cake is a terrible omen. Whether you are presented with a stale selection of sponges that might be the same ones you declined from your elderly neighbour, or strike gold with one of those pick ‘n mix boxes of biscuits, the result is always the same and always two-fold; the custard creams, jammy ones, cookies and anything containing chocolate are snapped up as soon as the seal is broken and the Garibaldis’ and those weird little wrinkly edged ones that taste like cardboard and aren’t quite a tea biscuit, nor a shortbread, are always left neglected. And you are in for some serious news. Generally, bad.

Snapshot_20120514_12

See, these are the sweets and semi-sweets that are broken in places like hospitals, doctors surgeries, lawyers offices. Places where there is a 50/50 chance you were to nervous to have lunch before you went there so just swigged from the open wine bottle in the fridge, put on you best “I’m totally in control” mask and walk in there like you’re heading to the gallows. Those who run these establishments know this and it means all sort of paper work for them if they have a client pass out on them, so they try to gently pump you full of sugar.

But when I got my bad news today, it was over the phone. I was on my way back to my (soon to be vacated) flat. I was outside. So I ask you;

Wasn’t there supposed to be cake?

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SSDD

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Are You Happy In Your Job? Neither’s America!

Are you happy at your job?

Think about it – are you really happy doing whatever you’re doing?

Phillip DeFranco’s Youtube video the other set me onto an interesting thing. A social experiment was conducted recently in America and it turns out the American dream ain’t all so accessible for 52% of Americans. That’s how many people were said to be unsatisfied in their job and that the “perks” of working in certain establishments, such as games rooms and massage parlours and free catered meals and casual Thursdays, beer Fridays, health care and dental and whatnot, are not enough to grant them overall satisfaction in their work. 18% said they were “actively disengaged”. Essentially these people are just slumped over their desks, buggering about, pressing a few keys then slipping off for a beer to take the edge of the boredom.

What makes me sad is that only 30% felt their job to be “actively engaging or inspiring“. In a population of millions, in a country apparently busting at the seams with opportunity and preaching happiness and fulfillment and all that overly positive Americanness, such a tiny number of people have actually found that.

What does that say about the productivity of such a vast country? If they can have the amount of influence that they do with only 30% of people actually doing any properly motivated work, can you imagine the madness that would ensue if the other 70% were engaged?? It would either become a world so overrun by sunshine and productivity that the actual sun would feel like an underachiever and find another solar system (assuming of course it isn’t an unmotivated working class American, of course, in which case it would probably just stop shining) or it would be complete carnage! War. Need I say any more? They’re already farting rainbows over there, who’s to say what could happen!

When_The_Sun_Is_Gone_by_artofkerem

Which made me think. This isn’t even the number of people who are not doing the job they want, that dream job that has everything they are looking for in a satisfying occupation – these are just the people who are doing a job, one to get by, get some money, get paid and go home. What of the people who got the dream job – then discovered it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?

I’m under no illusions. In a society so uncertain of its future, life seems to be filled with “just getting by” moments, people doing what they can for money to support themselves and their families – but isn’t that such a crap way to live?? Argue that life is full of winners and losers, people who get what they want and people who don’t and that it all comes down to whoever has the balls to go out and get what they want gets it, but I think that’s a load of bull.

happy accordion player

happy accordion player

That’s like saying those 52% of unhappy people never tried to achieve their dream. Maybe they did. Maybe it just didn’t quite workout. Maybe they wanted to make it as a street accordion player, but unfortunately, the public were more into skater haired street buskers at the time. Gutted for them. Now they sell insurance in a call center.

Forget that – who is to say they’ve even decided what they want to do with their lives and are just trundling along at half speed til they can work it out. I’m 19 and I’m currrently trying to work out what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of my life. There are times when I think “well Gem, you’ve made a royal balls up of your life so far, what are you going to do about it??” Terrifyingly (though not altogether unexpectedly) the general response from that voice in my head is either silence or… “…fuck if I know, you control the legs in this situation, you work it out!” Yeah, coz the voice in my head is extraordinarily rude, by the way. Should probably have a word with it about that actually…

try again! never too late to rock the street XD

try again! never too late to rock the street XD

So now I’m wondering; what can the people represented in that awful stat do about it? Can they do anything? Go back to that accordion and hope the market’s changed? Get a hair cut and conform for the sake of a taste of success? How do you even measure success. I think it’s personal. If you are satisfied then surely that’s a job well done? You might not have millions in the bank, but you will be rich in spirit.

From the sounds of America, this whole appearance of total contentment in life is a facade, a nation wide pass time of pretence and self disillusionment. Maybe they should take a look at a happy busker, an old man and his accordion. A guy who took up the art again after years wasted in a desk job, having given up on the dream of his youth ; chances are there are holes in his shoes and a couple of missing buttons on that old thing, but I’ll bet there’s a smile on his face. Because he’s made it; he’s playing to his audience. Whether they listen or not is irrelevant – that little bugger with the cool hair has gone home… I hear he sells insurance now…

SSDD

Sometimes We Must Weep For Kismet

I think of myself as being open minded. I may not be religious, but I believe in something being out there, exerting some kind of control over the goings on of the world. A tweak here, a nudge there. Maybe even a big ol’ slap in a certain direction from time to time.

But there are some things that make me hope to (a metaphorical) god that there is some kind of quantifiable reason for. Because if there’s not – whatever force influences us is a bit of a scummy entity.

s-JUSTIN-STANFIELD-THOMAS-large http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/08/justin-stanfield-thomas-killed_n_3407551.html

I encountered this story on the Huffington Post Crime and it made me feel sick. A father and his 4 year old son went to visit a friend. Somehow, the boy got hold of a gun fired it. The bullet hit his father. His father is now dead.

Some things you hear make you weep for the way the world spins. Surely this proves American gun laws are stupid. Surely this is another nail in the coffin of the argument in favour of guns being allowed in private residencies; a coffin, I might add, which has now got to be so riddled with nails that it resembles a giant stud ball, by the way. Kids are still getting hold of guns, even if this was an accident – guns. and. people. = bad. I am quite sure residents can look after their homes without them.

No more details are known, other than the fact that the father and son were visiting a friend and the bot is now with his mother. I have no idea how or why the gun came to be in that child hands, but the fact remains that it did. And now a man is dead.

Something has to change.

What if that gun had blown off the head of the 4 year old? Would that have been better? Worse? No, it would still have been tragic. It just means that now someone has to have the job of telling that poor child the truth when he asks why daddy isn’t still around. Can you imagine how that conversation might progress?? Oh, I’m sorry sweetie, you shot him when you were 4. Now he’s dead and you are to blame. Well, American gun laws are also to blame. But still, you killed him.

He may have pulled the trigger, but as far as I am concerned, America handed him the gun.

 

SSDD

Child Poverty In The UK Is Worse than Expected

So, you’re 28, a single parent with three kids, renting a flat in a bad area, acquiring toys and clothes for your little ones second hand for little or no money, living on minimum wage and working just 16 hours a week? (source: BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat)

Well, says the government, if we raise tax a little more…

In the UK today there seems to be a greater interest being taken in politics. There are currently huge overhauls being made to various societal features that seriously affect the everyday running of people’s lives.

Some of the main issues we are facing regard child poverty.

It was revealed just the other day that a shocking number of children are still living well below the poverty line – an estimated 2.8 million in the UK. The severity of these figures have prompted childrens charity Save the Children to launch their first ever campaign for youngsters in within the UK, having previously only raised money for projects in places like Africa.

It is thought that one in eight UK children go without at least one hot meal a day and one in seven will go without a warm winter coat or proper shoes because their parents simply cannot afford to pay for them. There are even parents choosing alternative lifestyles in order to eat more cheaply, living vegetarian to cut out the rising price of meat and 80% admitting borrowing money for essentials such as food and clothes. (source: Savethechildren.com)

The coalition has sanctioned that to be considered able to keep your family out of the “impoverished” category you must be earning at least £17,000 a year. It transpires that up to 60% of the families worst affected by the budget cuts and tax increases are living below these standards and have been struggling to keep up since the recession hit. Where they might once have lived a comfortable lifestyle, job losses and pay freezes have meant that families have fallen on harder times. In times when the entire country is struggling ways not previously thought of it might be an idea for the government to reassess their borders what it actually means to be “impoverished”.

More needs to be done to help these children, that much is certain. The uncertainty then, lies in what?

Measures are being considered to raise taxes for top earners, but this policy is unpopular within wealthier voters – and really, who can blame them for voicing their complaints?

Another would be to add taxes to various amenities and spread the cost over the good departments; but again, this is deeply unpopular, this time within the “squeezed middle-class”, who seem to be getting lumped with a whole load of added strain that could scarcely be afforded to begin with. To raise the cost of food again would most likely see the numbers of impoverished children increase yet again, yet to raise the price of sports and leisure facilities would be destructive to all the good done at the London Olympic and Paralymic Games this summer, ultimately obliterating any profit of benefit they stand to make to our health and economy.

It is a tricky mine-field to negotiate, for sure.

Another question we must ask is; what happens when they get older? What happens when those youngsters we keep healthy in the mean time grow up and find that, without the thinly veiled charity from friends and relatives or the support of organisations such as Save the Children or schools, there are no jobs for them to be able to support themselves?

Such realisations should be made in Parliament that it is not just amendments to the current treatment of our nations poorest parents that need to be made, it is preventative measures that need to be put in place to ensure this cycle does not extend to yet another generation.

Here are some links for more information on this, if you are so inclined to investigate:

Telegraph Cal Flyn 5th September     Child poverty: minimum wage ‘does not meet basic costs of raising children’

Telegraph Cal Flyn 6th September     Child Poverty, Mapped

BBC News Save the Children Urges Action

BBC News Poverty Target Will Not Be Met By 2020

Bernardos

End Child Poverty in the UK Campaign from 2009

SSDD

T-ara Contoversy

On the 30th July news broke that T-ara member Hwayoung would be leaving the band, effective immediately.

The news came as an utter shock to thousands of fans, as the girls have only recently been embarking on promotions for Haru Haru. The girls popularity had been at an all time peak with their music charting well and successful runs in television programmes.

Yet controversy has struck again for these girls as the reason for Hwayoung’s sudden departure was revealed – bullying.

She has allegedly been the victim of bullying for her (now former) bandmates and has suffered to the point that her agency, CCM, agreed it was time for her to go.

The story has progressed further. Following a deluge of negative feedback directed at CCM, they released further statements claiming that, not only was the decision to terminate her contract was not solely the fault of her members actions, but her own – apparently Hwayoung has become too big for her boots and had become arrogant, which was another contributing factor. One might have expected that joining late into an already established group would be an advantage; but oh no, this seems to have been part of the problem.

My reason for posting this is to condemn the actions of the agency and her bandmates. It is not to troll on any specific people, however, so not hate, please.

At just 18 years old, this talented, beautiful musicians’ career is being put on halt and it appears to be because her supposed friends and colleagues, saw her as an easy target. In a professional  environment, this is utterly unacceptable.

From all of the stories and footage emerging to back the bullying claims, including one eyewitness saying they saw member Eunjung slapping Hwayoung, it begs the question as to why they did not release the version of her becoming too arrogant, first. So, you allow the release of a story that completely decimates the reputation of several of your most valued employees, then suddenly the game changes and it was actually all her own fault.

Yeah. Coz that sounds totally legit.

Everything about the situation is just a disaster. Were it all true, then her agency should have disciplined her and corrected her attitude or fired her and have this version released first. It would have limited the damage to the entire groups reputation instead of this mess of a fiasco.

Hwayoung

KPOP is synonymous with a wholesome, butter wouldn’t melt image, generally, but I do not personally know even one person who has been taken in by all that. There have been too many suspicious reports of mistreatment, quickly quelled whispers of dire working conditions and the odd, highly public, deeply embarrassing lawsuits for big companies, regarding “slave contracts”. The public are not so naive as the industry would like.

It seems that everyone is aware of the secret black heart of KPOP and yet are willing to get involved with it anyway. The legions of screaming, obsessive fans would indicate that they are practically foaming at the perfectly sculpted mouths to be a part of it!

Creating a group so large (they have 7 members) may have worked with the nine-strong Girls Generation, but appears to have been less successful here. T-ara have always been plagued by controversy, making headlines as often for their “mistakes” as their merits, from that concept to those outfits.

All this raises the concern of how many other bands are hiding the cracks under public displays or sugar-coated friendship? Will this incident open a crevasse into which other members shall fall? It would not be the first time such a domino effect was created in the fall-out of scandal. Once Pandora’s Box has been opened, it is very difficult to close again…

We can only hope that those suffering tyranny instead of savoring success find freedom and that those whose sibling-like relationship is real stay strong in this latest unveiling of KPOP sham.

Fighting!!

SSDD

To Ink Or Not to Ink… (2)

a very dedicated maths teacher…

Tattoos often get a bad rep: they used to be the body modification of choice for soldiers, sailors, bikers, criminals and mobsters. Dangerous people, or folk with dangerous jobs. But that is no longer the case. Yes, some nasty people have tats. But so do celebrities, teachers, doctors, even politicians.

So this poses the question: with so many of us now getting tattoos, should society as a whole be changing its prejudices against them?

Finding up to date statistics on public opinion on tattoos has been a little difficult, apologies for that, but…

In a survey conducted by the ask Jeeves website in 2010, an estimated 30% of UK adults between the ages of 23-35 have been inked and there are an estimated 1700-plus tattoo parlours – up from around 300 a decade ago. However this figure may seem miniscule considering that in the late 1800s, 90% of the British navy alone was inked up. Figures are higher in younger people now than ever before with the number falling to just 16% in people in their 50s and above.

Being a tattooist is now a level of artistry on par with a painter or sculptor in terms of creative skill and imagination. There are celebrities within the community, such as Ed Hardy, Cat Von Dee, Ami James, Jason Zube, Alex Binnie and Joey Pang. An entry-level artist is likely to be a fine arts graduate meaning that it is not at all a go-to job for the lazy-yet-creatively-gifted-wild child.

The study conducted in 2010 found that 26% of UK adults (out of 1000 participants) are said to regret their tattoos within a decade of getting them (between the ages of 18-10) but I’m sceptical of this figure. If that were the case, then almost all adults would regret their decision and I find that quite hard to believe – if the opinion were really so wide-spread, then surely people would cotton on that it is a bad idea and, I don’t know, stop getting them maybe?? But this has clearly not been the case as tattoos see a year on year rise in popularity, with many studios insisting that patrons book their appointments well in advance. Books are often full for weeks at a time with very few unfilled slots.

A survey conducted in September 2010 by Uxbridge High School revealed that over half their students had plans to get a tattoo, but that up to 50% of those students parents were not happy with them to do so. A third of these students felt that tattoos were a good creative outlet, one even siting that they “want to use their body as a canvas for art”.

We hear it all the time; if you are going for a job interview, be sure to cover your tattoos; of you are at work, cover your tattoos; if you are meeting the new partners parents for the first time; if you are going to be near children; if you are in any environment that is not related to your personal life, it seems – the consensus seems to be that tattoos should be covered.

Granted that does not apply to all professions, but the vast majority of professional environments would prefer all ink to be hidden away. Some have argued that it is a breach of human rights. Some have argued that it is unfair that body art and even piercings must often be removed/hidden while Muslim women are allowed to wear burkas. It may seem that this is double standards considering a headscarf can be easily removed, even if it is for religious reasons that it be kept on, whereas a tattoo cannot be removed at will.

In this age where freedom and liberation of character are arguably at their most potent for decades, one must wonder why such an inconsequential thing is such a big deal to employers. They do not make you unclean or mean that you can do a job better or worse than anybody else, yet the sight of a tattoo can often instil feelings of anxiety or doubt in someone’s mind. They are seen as being unprofessional.

For example, say a police chief were to confidently handle a suspect and work a case. They lead their team with authority and good judgement. Now, say it is summer time and that same police chief walks into the room wearing a short-sleeved shirt – revealing heavily tattooed arms beneath them. What would be the reaction? Would opinion change? Would it mean they were unable to lead their team any less competently? Of course it wouldn’t. But it would mean that their team, and anyone else they encounter in their work, might view them in a different light. An air of suspicion – no, curiosity – might then hang over them.

It is this attitude that I do not think is fair. To think any less of a person, even limit their job prospects, purely based on their tattoos is unfair and while it has, I believe, improved in recent times, that stigma is still attached and needs to be shaken off.

And it will, because at the rate we seem to be going at, most of the world will be inked up to their eyeballs within a few years.

SSDD