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November 2010

Friday Ephemera

At last, a blog devoted to William Shatner’s hair. // Happy dog. // Sneakers made from Play-Doh. // An igloo made from fridges. // Couches made from fridges. // A skeleton made from wool. // Dinosaur skull found embedded in church wall. // Implanted sight. // Freelensing. // Bagelfest. // Nuclear weapons simulator. // Near Earth objects. // The Nile. // SpiculesSide view. // Making glass signs. // Steep. // Tipping etiquette. // How to eat sushi. // Water, sand, slow motion. // Condoms of yore. // Filip Dujardin photographs unreal architecture. // There’s pleasure to be had in a pile of leaves.

Like Fun, But Less So

With bonfire night almost upon us – and with it a feeling of crushing ecological terror – let’s turn for reassurance to the pages of a certain newspaper. A troubled Guardian reader asks,

Setting light to bonfires and sending fireworks up into the sky don’t strike me as very environmentally friendly. Is there a better way to mark bonfire night?

Mercifully, Leo Hickman has some thoughts.

Attend an organised public display instead of setting off fireworks yourself in your own backyard. Surely it’s better to contain the noise and pollution in one area than see it dispersed across a wider area?

This fairly innocuous suggestion leads Mr Hickman to more emphatic, and revealing, territory:

Quite why fireworks are not just restricted to organised public events has always been beyond me, given how dangerous they can be to children. Or maybe – as was fiercely debated on this site last year – fireworks should be banned altogether?

An earlier Guardian poll - Should Fireworks be Banned on Environmental Grounds? - was a close-run thing, with a narrow majority willing to permit an evening of explosive hedonism. The Guardian’s Felicity Carus suggested a possible compromise in the form of “green fireworks,” a quieter, less colourful, less explosive alternative made from sawdust and rice chaff.

As regulars will know, Mr Hickman and his colleague Lucy Siegle steer Guardianistas through the labyrinth of modern living with their Ask Leo & Lucy column - “your ethical dilemmas sorted.” Dilemmas that, for Guardian readers, include, Should I Employ a Cleaner? (“If you employ a cleaner, their pay should be fair. Buy some less toxic cleaning products or make them yourself using ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice or vegetable-based soap.”) Among many other agonies of note are, What’s the Greenest Way to Wrap my Sandwiches? and What Should I Do with the Fur Coats I Inherited from my Mother? (Since you ask, suggestions range from the inventive – “donate them to an animal sanctuary that uses them as bedding for abandoned puppies” – to the slightly surreal - “Turn the central heating down and wear them indoors.” And, “Use them in the home, where everyone understands their history etc.”)

Mr Hickman, whose radical credentials have impressed us previously, is also the author of A Life Stripped Bare: My Year Trying to Live Ethically, the cover of which displays the Guardian’s eco-gnome denuded and brandishing his veg box. Positioned to the right of Mr Hickman’s shirtless torso is an approving comment by Radio 4’s Libby Purves:

Very entertaining.

Full of useful new things to fret about.

The Observer’s Carol McDaid was equally thrilled:

There are plenty of facts - Quaker Oats and Tropicana juices are both owned by George Bush-backing PepsiCo - and a selection of helpful letters, like the inspiring one from a woman who crochets her own dishcloths.

An essential purchase, clearly.

Back Scratching

Goodness. The Sunday paper of the left is shilling for the Beeb. An Observer editorial bemoans the 16% cut to the BBC’s annual £3.8 billion subsidy and the six-year freeze of the license fee. We learn,

These are serious cuts with serious consequences.

The details of which remain somewhat vague. We do, however, learn that David Cameron finds the corporation’s modest austerity “delicious,” which of course makes him A Very Bad Man.

Is he in hock to Rupert Murdoch?

Bad men with dastardly motives. That must be it. Only a fiend would stand in the way of the Beeb and its subsidised tumescence. All good people know that the state’s statist broadcaster is entitled to your earnings, being as it is wise, impartial and utterly benign. [The aforementioned tumescence is illustrated rather nicely by rjmadden in the comments.]

The BBC's ability to compete as a world-class programme maker stands in grave doubt.

There isn’t, then, a market for heavily-branded world-class programming? Is voluntary subscription not an option?

Of course, continuing spasms of introversion, such as the pending journalists’ strike over pensions, don’t help.

Strikes that were scheduled to coincide with the Conservative Party conference with a view to depriving it of air time, thus saving the public from any ideological waywardness.

But there is nothing delicious about their predicament, nor about the real losses of freedom and resource involved.

Freedom for whom? For those of us who are coerced into subsidising a vast media organisation whose political bias has been announced by employeesadmitted by its own Director General and catalogued daily and at length

The licence fee isn’t a tax, to be turned on or off like some Whitehall tap. It is a contract between viewer and corporation.

Contracts are generally entered into voluntarily. If I want to watch Sky, I enter into a contract by choice. I choose a package that suits me and am free to change my mind. In contrast, the BBC license fee isn’t a contract in any meaningful sense. I cannot choose the programming I have to pay for and, short of renouncing television altogether, I cannot opt out. For most of us, the license fee is a condition of television ownership and has to be paid irrespective of personal preference. It is, in effect, a tax.

Meanwhile, Labour’s Ivan Lewis tells Guardian readers,

Labour will stand up for the BBC, make no mistake.

A favour that will doubtless be reciprocated at public expense.