Monday, April 30, 2007

What's Chinese for "I am not an ethical bag?"

Just when you thought the story couldn't get more disheartening or disgusting ...
I speak, of course, of the "I'm Not A Plastic Bag" cloth bag, designed by fashionista Anya Hindmarch and distributed by Sainsbury's supermarkets. This very bag, for which people were lining up hundreds-strong outside several Sainsbury's outlets in the early hours of the morning, was touted as the ecological answer to carrying one's shopping home. Of course. Re-usable cloth bags were unheard of before this! Hindmarch really struck a goldmine here, folks. I mean, honestly: Before now, who had ever heard of fabric bags?!
Now for the million-dollar question: How many of these fashion-conscious nitwits, do you suppose, carried their "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" bag home in a plastic bag? Furthermore, how many of you actually believe these bags are going to be used for actual grocery shopping? I've always liked Tower Bridge—would you like to sell me that?
Short of the supermarkets themselves removing plastic bags and using only biodegradable—or recyclable—paper ones, or government internvention in the form of a ban (as Ireland has done), then the plastic bag, sadly, is here to stay. I don't for one moment believe that all those who forked over £5 for Hindmarch's creation are as concerned about plastic bags as they pretend to be. It was the must-have item du jour, simply because Kate Moss had modelled it. But come to think of it, Kate Moss could be selling samples of her stool and you'd have people lining up around several blocks at 4 a.m. to purchase that as well. Because, like, ohmigod, I just couldn't be seen without it! *cues ditzy laugh*
But, as it happens, that is not the most disturbing aspect of this story. Turns out that this hippy-dippy sack was made in China by cheap labor. Hindmarch herself said, "We never claimed this bag is perfect. We have just tried to use our influence as a maker of luxury goods to make it fashionable not to use plastic bags."
Now I can guarantee you that this bag won't see the light of day again amongst all those who were salivating at the thought of purchasing one just last week. Good going, you bunch of moronic, consumerist sheep! Are you proud of yourselves now?
You know, maybe I'm just strange or whatever, but something tells me that paying third-world workers a dollar a day to make cloth shopping bags for feather-brained Westerners is not going to save the planet.

Friday, April 27, 2007

If they won't help themselves, neither should we

The lastest episode of House, as shown here in the U.K., was quite good. This morbidly obese man-slug was admitted to the hospital after lapsing into a coma and, until it was discovered that he actually had cancer, he refused to believe that any of his problems were related to his outrageous, 450 lb. weight.
The young Aussie doctor, Chase, wondered aloud why, "if we don't give liver transplants to alcoholics and if we don't treat non-compliant diabetics, why should we waste time and money on those who are clearly eating themselves to death?" I was in agreement with this.
But treat the man they did, because, amazingly, morbid obesity is listed as a condition for which treatment cannot be refused. Of course, given the state of most couch-potato, car-addicted Americans, who probably think sidewalks are there purely for show, I wasn't really that shocked to hear that. Hey, if we're all a nation of fatsos, then we can't discriminate on a condition with which most of us are afflicted, eh? (And that may have sounded incredibly anti-American for a guy like me who's normally a don't-fuck-with-my-country patriot, but I considered THIS particular comment a form of tough love.)
I guess the show was making the point that, hey, this guy had an illness that really wasn't related to his mega-portly condition. But that doesn't take away from what Chase originally said. If someone just cannot stay away from food in the same way others can't help staying off drugs, booze, cigarettes or gambling, then they need to seek professional help. And if they've done nothing to help themselves kick the very addiction that's killing them or severely harming their chances of leading a healthy life, then we shouldn't spend one penny or one second trying to save them. To do otherwise would amount to a total abdication of the notion of personal responsibility. It may sound cruel, but ultimately that must be the medical profession's—and the public's—position.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Please, just start shooting the bastards!

This is just one of the many things about life in this country that drive me mad. Welcome to Britain, where the criminal dictates to the police, not the other way around. This has got to be the fourth such story I've heard in the past year. No kidding.
This wasn't a hostage situation, was it? But given the way police pussy-footed around and catered to his trailer-trash ass for six goddamned hours, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was the hostage situation of the century. I tell you, anywhere in America that this young shit tried this, he'd have been shot with a stun gun and the police probably would have stood back as he tumbled off, allowing him to break an arm or a leg (or hopefully both) in the process. I know that's exactly what I would have done. (In fact, I personally really wouldn't care if he'd split his head open upon impact, but alas, that could never be official police protocol.)
Instead, this waste of precious oxygen demanded a cigarette and McDonald's food from the police. Aside from the very unsurprising fact that this loathesome tracksuited dipshit considers McDonald's food a square meal—he also probably listens to rap and pretends he's a "brutha"—what is even less surprising is that the police catered to him.
The pussies that our "law enforcement" officers have become under eight years of soft-touch Labour has left them unable to act even in situations like this. They've got to respect his human rights, even if in this case, said rights apply to a sub-human species of primate as opposed to a genuine human. I repeat, if this kid had tried this in the U.S., he'd have been shot off the roof less than a minute after police arrived. It would be nice if the police in this country took law enforcement even half that seriously.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Who's really culpable in the VT Massacre blame game?

OK, so who do I blame for the Virginia Tech gun massacre? The psychiatrist who let Seung-Hui Cho get away. Cho was taken into custody on December 13, 2005 after having harassed two women. Neither young woman pressed charges, but Cho underwent a psychiatric evaluation that had declared him mentally ill. However, the psychiatrist in charge of his evaluation decided outpatient therapy would work for Cho and that he was not an imminent danger to himself or others and a district court judge agreed with this evaluation and did not overturn it.
This meant, when ordering his guns, Cho was assumed to have had a clean record. Had Cho had an inpatient stay at a mental health facility on his record, both state and federal law would have denied him the gun purchase.
I do feel, however, that for all our rules and regulations, gun purchases are too easy. Guns are seen too much as a commodity in American society. The Second Amendment gives us the right, but does anyone seriously think that if the Founding Fathers knew what our society was to become, they'd still be talking about an easy right to bear arms? Please. Mentally competent, law-abiding people have the right to a gun, but they should have to jump through several hoops, each one higher than the other, to obtain one.
However, gun crime in and of itself might not be such a problem if not for what my friend Eden said, that we are fed a high-violence media diet which rots our brains. It isn't of course just America that has this culture of violence. The two extremely violent films that had inspired Cho's rampage were South Korean. However, any society that allows a million-and-one versions of Grand Theft Auto as a capitalist right just might be inviting problems. Never mind how such videogames (not to mention gangsta rap, along with many films and TV programs) glorify outrageous violence.
For instance, a mentally disturbed young man in Britain went outside to stab a woman to death after spending all night smoking skunk (a very strong variety of cannabis) and playing Grand Theft Auto. Do we blame the drug or the videogame in driving his illness to a murderous level? The drug—which can induce schizophrenia in mentally incompetent young users—certainly played its part, but drugs need not necessarily encourage violence when the influence, in the form of violent audio/visual "entertainment," exists in the first place.
Besides, let's face facts, no matter how politically incorrect they may be: If it weren't for America's inner-city communities, in which gangs that constantly feed at the trough of "respec'" thrive, then U.S. gun crime statistics would take a nose-dive.
The inconsistent rules that determine gun ownership from state to state and the culture of violence which encourages gun use (or abuse, rather) are certainly culpable in last Monday's shootings. But, if Cho had been locked up 15 months ago, thirty-two Virginia Tech students would still be alive and well. And that is where the lion's share of blame ought to lie.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Canada had it coming ...

GOOD! Serves them right. I hope the bastards all die of exposure or starvation, whichever comes first. I have no sympathy for these fishermen. They earn their living by profitting in the fur trade. They sit around drinking 10 months of the year and then have a surfeit of work during the spring, shootin' and clubbin', which is subsidized by their government. I suppose Ottawa thinks: anything to shut these Newfie hillbillies up and make them happy.
Now don't get me wrong. I can see the sense in controlling the seal population. Perhaps it's even for the seals' own good as their staple food has run low. But Canada cannot deny that they (along with scores of other countries, to be fair) have overfished their waters, and they have found a convenient scapegoat. So, subsidize the rednecks in Newfoundland to engage in an orgy of killing and problem solved! Can't they devise a much more humane way of dealing with the seals than letting boozed-up hicks take inaccurate shots at them and club them and strip them while still alive?
I have written of my disgust for this practice three times now (See here, here and here), and it's high time it ended. Maybe this is the price Canada must pay before it realizes that its precious seal culls are not only outrageously inhumane but dangerous?
As I said, I really have not a care in the world for those hick fishermen. But even if it's for all the wrong reasons, maybe this is what will force the Canadian government to drop its indefensible annual seal cull. If so, the fishermen's deaths will not be for nothing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The First "Lady?" I think not ...

Not that I had previously entertained the idea anyway, but I cannot endorse Rudy Giulani for the Republican nomination for President after recently reading some distressing news regarding his wife. Judi Giulani performed experiments on dogs that can only be regarded, by any open-minded, thinking person, as egregious torture. Technically, what she did couldn't even be considered medical research—it was simply done to test surgical equipment for a medical supply company. Judi herself has refused to comment on whether or not she sliced dogs up in the name of boosting her firm's product. And even though I am surely not a Daily Kos reader, I do agree with the author of the linked piece that Rudy himself cannot have much of a conscience to love a woman like that. Frankly, I'd rather have The Wicked Witch of the West, a.k.a. Hillary Clinton, as President than this sadistic bitch as First Lady.
It was bad enough having cat-killer Bill Frist as Senate Majority Leader. I did my best to ignore that. But I tell you, if I hear any more news about Republicans and animal torture, I'm becoming an Independent or a Libertarian, because this is getting to be outrageous.
As long as we're on the cheery subject of animal experimentation, it's always nice to know where our tax money goes. This might give you an idea. Cambridge University spent £1.6 million of we British taxpayers' cash on performing illegal drug studies, doping animals up on substances like crystal meth and cocaine and then running psychological experiments on them. Golly gee, that really sounds like vital fucking reserach, doesn't it, folks? For instance, the "researchers" found that getting rats high on cannabis produced "the munchies." You know, I really am glad that some of the money I earned contributed to such experiments as I had NO CLUE that MARIJUANA causes HUNGER!
But, as long as money talks and animal torturers under the guise of "scientists" hop into bed with the government, this kind of idiocy will sadly carry on.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Why don't we just use the word "warm" to describe the weekend?

In case you missed it, it was warm here this past weekend. Very warm, in fact. But I would refrain from saying it was "hot," or "steaming," or "baking." Yet, that's exactly how most of the papers described it, complete with pictures of people cramming the beaches and eating ice cream as if it was facing a ban.
To which I say: COME ON! Honestly ...!
The highest U.K. temperature so far this year was set yesterday in Surrey, southern England—79.7°F (26.5°C, for those of you who prefer metric)—but that didn't stop The Daily Express and other papers from rounding up and splashing "80°!" across their front pages in 200-point bold face. Forgetting, of course, that most places in the U.K. had highs that were closer to 75 than 80. Yes, the sun was strong and yes, it was absolutely gorgeous outside. But it wasn't as if the mercury had topped 90 or anything! Why do the British always completely lose all sense of persepective on the first really warm day of the year?
It's not as if it hasn't happened before. April 2, 2001: 70° in London. April 3, 2002: 72° in London. Then there was April 17, 2003, a day I'll never forget: We actually did hit 80 degrees that day. Still, just because it's above average, all the papers have to hype it all up and pronounce the weather as "sizzling" or some such absurdity when it was nothing more than a perfectly nice, warm, sunny day! But if you were to read the papers today, you'd think the heat index had been through the roof!
Why do the English do this? I mean, Jesus-on-a-pogostick, even Canadians or Alaskans wouldn't react like this on a 75° day in April.
Of course, we're talking about the same race of people who are perfectly happy to use Celsius when the weather's really cold ("Cor, it was -2 degress this morning, didja know? Minus 2!"), yet will more-than-gladly switch to Fahrenheit to measure hot weather. ("Blimey, it must be 95 out 'ere!") Every other nation on Earth sticks to one system of temperature measurement, but the Brits will deliberately pick which one to use in order to make their weather sound more impressive.
We're assuming, of course, that any other person on planet Earth ever could be impressed by the ever-so-mundane British weather, but don't tell the Brits. Bless 'em, it's like wearing meteorological shoe lifts for most of them!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Recycle! Or why we should all be concerned about aluminum

I rescued 50 soda cans the other day. Yep.
Allow me to explain: My workplace has a weekend shift, but there are no cleaners over these two days. Hence, the wastebaskets tend to be pretty full by the time my shift begins on a Sunday night/early Monday morning. And I was not at all happy with what I saw last Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. when I walked in: Aluminum cans in every single wastebasket in the place.
Now, I'm not about to trashpick in front of my co-workers, so the next night, late Monday going on early Tuesday, I made a point of secretly going through the bags of refuse in the dumpsters—where it's pretty dark and no-one can see me—to recover every can that I knew would be in them. Sound crazy? Who would do this sort of thing without even being paid to do so? I guess I'm just an altruist when it comes to the Earth. (And, as a dragon, I like to think I'm more in touch with the planet than most human schleps are.)
But there's another point to this, and it's that aluminum is the most easily recycled material. I hate to see it wasted. The aluminum industry keeps growing and as the future rolls on, there's going to be more of this metal around than ever before. I even once mentioned to my wife that we should invest in aluminum stocks, knowing full well what a boon this material is. Even The Financial Times dedicated an entire business section in their paper to aluminum last year.
Yet, so much of this useful and much-in-demand metal goes to landfill. I ask you: Does this make any sense whatsoever? People, being the dimwits they are, just don't think. They sit at their desks, sipping their soda and, as soon as it's finished, drop the can into the wastebasket and don't think twice about what a phenomenal and tragic waste that amounts to.
Aluminum can be recycled 100 times over and it will still be as good and as strong as it was the day it was mined from the bauxite. Would you feel any less safe flying on a plane that you knew was made from recycled aluminum? I wouldn't and I have no reason to. Besides, the aluminum industry, despite its prestige and power, is one of the least environmentally friendly. It uses a lot of energy, emits a lot of carbon dioxide and leaves a lot of waste from the mined bauxite behind. Although the industry is trying to cut down on the environmental impact of processing virgin aluminum, the fact is recycled aluminum uses only 5 percent of the energy needed to process "fresh" aluminum and is virtually waste-free. And the aluminum industry, as long as they have enough of the metal to provide, should be none the wiser about whether it's "fresh" or recycled. They are still going to profit either way.
Glass and paper (to an extent) can be recycled over several times too and plastic trash can be used to create more long-lasting plastic (or similarily synthetic) products. And I recycle everything—steel food tins, all paper and cardboard, glass, plastic bottles and, of course, aluminum. But even if you recycle nothing else, at least recycle your aluminum. The aluminum can was a great invention and I'm not saying it's regrettable that it's what we use to keep carbonated drinks cold and fresh once they make it to market. But, once you've enjoyed the drink, don't just toss the container out. Give it a quick rinse and keep it for recycling later. Get a separate trash barrel just for your cans and keep them in there until it's time to take them for recycling.
I drink two or three cans of Diet Coke myself every night and I always put the empty cans into my gym bag and bring them back with me. I'll either drop them in the recycling bucket once I get home or drop them off at the recycling bins near the train station before heading home. And, besides, most states still have a financial incentive for recyling them. Think about it: If you save up 200 cans, which would probably all fit into one trashbag and wouldn't be at all heavy, you can, at 5 cents per can, make 10 instant bucks! Who wouldn't want at least some of the money back that they spent on their cases of Pepsi or Heineken?
No such incentive exists here in Britain. People are trusted to recycle as long as the powers-that-be make us feel guilty enough about global warming and rapidly shrinking land space. But we should be concerned about that, shouldn't we?

Friday, April 13, 2007

In the news: Frozen embryos, Tony Blair's diss, Rutgers' boo-hoo blubberers, and better not tell the Iranians!

● Cancer patient Natallie Evans lost her final appeal to have embryos fertilized by her former partner implanted in her womb. Now, while it's all very sad that she lost her only chance to have a child of her own flesh and blood (she was rendered infertile by her cancer treatment), the European Court made the right decision by upholding British law, which states that both parents must give their consent for fertilized embryos to be used. Her former partner, Howard Johnston, had changed his mind about using the embryos in the wake of their split-up and the courts rightly decided that this wasn't a right-to-life issue as only the potential for life existed in the fertilized embryos, not life itself. And before we dump on Mr Johnstone for being selfish, consider: Why can a woman change her mind, but not a man? For whatever reason, he no longer desired children, and no-one has the right to say that he should have offspring against his will! Secondly, Ms Evans should now turn her attention to adoption if she wants children so badly. Insisting on children of your own is a selfish act—understandable, perhaps, but intrinsically selfish nonetheless. Time to move on, Ms Evans. There are plenty of children out there in need of a home. Give one a chance if you're that set on motherhood and move on.
● Tony Blair has blamed the recent spate of violent murders in the London black community on the black community itself. He also blamed society in general by noting that political correctness demands that people act as if the black community is not responsible for the lion's share of violent crime. "We won't stop this [the killings]," Blair said, "by pretending it isn't young black kids doing it." He also called on the black community to sort out their own issues, such as absentee fathers, rampant truancy, drug abuse and dealing and the violently narcissistic culture of "respect," where any diss, no matter how minor, is cause for a stabbing or shooting. Tony Blair may be a pathetic Prime Minister on too many levels to even consider counting, but when the man's right, he's right. Brave words from Mr. Blair indeed—but perfectly true.
However—and where Blair is considered there always seems to be a "however" in the equation—as the Daily Express editorialized yesterday: "But isn't he culpable in the betrayal of inner-city teenagers? He has allowed the notion of 'institutional racism' to be used by Left-wingers to prevent schools and the police from nipping bad behaviour in the bud. As a result many youngsters who could have been set straight have been lost to the nihilistic gang culture which disfigures our major cities." Indeed. Mr. Blair, perhaps if you and your government hadn't been so phenomenally and outrageously poor at tackling crime and hadn't crippled the police forces across the country with this very political correctness that you now chide, things would never have become that bad. This latest failure at social liberalism is down to you and your Labour Party, Mr. Blair. No, not entirely. But enough for you to shoulder a lot of the blame yourself.
● And speaking of black people: I would have to agree that what Don Imus recently said about the Rutgers University women's basketball team was really thoughtless if not disgusting. But let's not pretend that Imus is going away. His show is worth too much money and nastiness sells. Imus is too good at what he does—being a prick—and is yet another man getting rich off being offensive. Welcome to the world, folks. Imus will bounce back, however regrettable and unfair that may be ... But, to the young women on that team, I say: COME OFF IT, WILL YOU PLEASE? That crying act at the press conference was too much. "Oh, boo-hoo-hoo, Don Imus called us nasty names. Boo-hoo-hoo, it's so unfair. Don, you mean man, you! Waaa!" Stop it, stop it now! You've gotten all due attention and the whole nation is on your side, so stop hamming it up and acting like your puppies have just died, OK?!
● Finally, Channel 4 recently aired a made-for-television movie entitled The Mark of Cain, in which four young British soldiers get caught up in the abuse of Iraqi civilians. Inflammatory, you say? Channel 4's programmers, whose feet are stuck firmly in the stinking mud of the New Left, would argue that the program was simply a dramatization of real-life events concerning the abuse of citizens in British-controlled Basra. Oh? So why, if the film was simply a mere matter-of-fact dramatization, pray tell, did Channel 4 postpone the film during the British hostage crisis in Iran? Fears that the film, despite its obvious anti-war message, would somehow imperil the negotiation process with the Iranians? Golly gee! So much for the nonchalance with which we were to regard this show!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Nice and easy does it: A runner's advice

I was reading in one of the papers the other day—and I can't help but do that as newspaper advertising is how I earn me bread 'n' butter—that Nike (I think) has produced a television commercial in which a runner becomes exhausted and throws up. Gross? Well, sure, but the point the company—if it was Nike—was trying to make was this: Just do it, but don't over-do it.
Apparently, 38% of Britons admitted that they were scared to take up running because they thought it would be painful. My God, what a load of morons. Can someone tell me why there's this big perception that, in order to run, you must act like you're caught in a monsoon? Why go all-out if you're not used to running?
Let me put it this way: If you're not used to swimming, do you start off by doing eight consecutive laps of furious butterflies, à la Mark Spitz? Of course not, you'd have to have the lifeguard rescue you before you drowned! If you're an amateur at ice-skating, do you push off onto the ice thinking you're Sonia Henie? Of course you don't! So why on earth would anyone assume that, to begin running, they must suddenly morph into Joan Benoit Samuelson?
I am a seasoned runner of 23 years myself (began at the age of 14), and even I need to work up to running again after time off. I have had injuries which forced me to take it easy. I can only burn up the pavement (1) when I'm feeling absolutely healthy and (2) I've had a load of training under my belt. To become a runner, you should do only a half-mile at a pace that's comfortable. Gradually, but surely, you will be able to run longer and faster the more you train. But you must be dedicated. Once a week won't cut it. Every day should be your goal. Naturally, aching legs (at first) or inclement weather may cause you to take a day off here and there, but the saying is true: No pain, no gain. It's the only way to become a runner, to work those legs until they're used to it.
But, high up on the list of don'ts, if you've never run before: Don't go for a two-mile sprint and think "Gosh, running's hard." No. More a case of stupidity is incurable, perhaps.
I encourage everyone to take up running. It's fun, you need only to invest in a good pair of sneakers (a pair of good Saucony runners cost me only $57) and some suitable clothes. It is a real calorie burner at 18 calories per minute (swimming is a distant second at only 10 per minute!)
But, heed the commercial's advice: take it slow and easy at first. Ease yourself into becoming the runner you want to be. There is no other way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Introduction to the Nightdragon

Hello and welcome. This is my first Blogger weblog, although I am a veteran blogger, having done so since 2001. Over the past six years, I have blogged at Diaryland, LiveJournal and Blogcritics. (I do, however, still maintain my Diaryland page and still contribute to Blogcritics.)
I won't waste a whole lot of time here describing myself in detail, especially as, by the time many of you read this, there will be other entries written. I'm going to try to update this everyday. I'll think of it as a place for my daily thoughts or other little things I wish to share. Nothing too serious. That's why I think of it as my (i.e., the Nightdragon's) nitpickings.
You will, in time, get know more about me and my interests and politics and whatnot. No need to mention any of that now. The more I write, and the more you read, the more about me you will know. For the simple fact of the matter is, I hate introductions. All will be revealed over the course of time, for as long as I wish to remain here.
My first "real" entry, as such, will be forthcoming. Till then, au revoir.