July 16, 2009
On December 29th 2006 Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara gave birth to twin boys in Spain. Nothing strange about this you may think. Twins are born everyday and not too many people bat an eyelid. What’s so special about the birth of these twins is the age of there mother. At the time of their birth Ms. Bousada de Lara was 66 years old. At the time she was the oldest mother in the world. Almost immediately there was an outcry from the world at large. Surely sixty six was too old to have children, how could it be fair on the children when in all probability their mother won’t live to see them reach adolescence?
Ms. Bousada de Lara cited her mother’s age of 101 when she died as evidence that there was a very strong chance that she would live into her children’s early adulthood. This, as it happened, turned out to be false. On the 11th of July this year Ms. Bousada de Lara died of cancer at the age of sixty nine. Her twin boys, named Christian and Pau, the Catalan for Paul which means peace, are aged only two.
These children are now orphans as they were conceived through IVF treatment with no father figure present. It is left to Ms. Bousada de Lara’s family to look after the boys. This brings to the surface again the ethical and moral arguments against allowing fertility treatment in older women.
Every child has the right to know and grow up with their parents where circumstances permit. Sometimes this is unfortunately not possible but the odds should be stacked in favour of the parents living well into their children’s adulthood. As people, it has been shown in countless studies that we need a parent figure well into adolescence and obviously a biological parent is always going to be preferable.
The death of Ms. Bousada de Lara brings back to the fore the question of ethics regarding giving IVF treatment to older ladies. It is an incredible blessing that now we are able to give the possibility of children to people who would otherwise have been unable to have their own. The problems created by this however all stem from the fact that we are indeed tampering with nature and nature always does things for a reason even if we cannot see what that reason is. Women naturally stop been able to conceive children at an age where it would be reasonable to assume that she would see any children she had grow into adulthood. This is both beneficial to the children and the parent concerned and is intended to be this way.
Most clinics do put an age limit on the women that they will give IVF or other fertility treatments to. There is however no official age limit therefore you will always get rogue clinics. Surely this case once again highlights the need for legislation to be put in place globally to cap the age that people can receive fertility treatment. Also, although Ms. Bousada de Lara did lie about her age still there are not sufficient checks in place to check the age of the ladies going to the clinics. The doctor who helped Ms. Bousada de Lara has said, “We don’t ask for passports, obviously. When is the last time you went to a doctor and he asked you for a birth certificate? We’re not detectives here.” Why not? I think that’s the least we could do for the children, for after all at the end of the day it is they who are going to suffer. By this I am not saying that their family cannot care for them adequately. What I am saying is that they have unfairly had their chance to grow up with their natural parents taken away from them.
The question we need to ask is, is this right?
July 14, 2009
After a hard day there’s nothing like relaxing in a big comfy chair watching television. Nowadays we are no longer simply restricted to the five terrestrial channels, but have hundreds of different channels to choose from. Surely this must mean that no matter what your tastes you will always be able to find something to watch. Not so. Instead of been more original programs to watch there are simply more reruns.
When I was a child, we here in the UK had only four TV channels to choose from. Later on there were five but the fifth one was always a bit on the dodgy side. You could only receive it if the wind was blowing in the right direction and the tide was in. Then came the revolution. Satellite dishes started appearing on the side of houses and people started getting TV from all sorts of countries in all sorts of languages. Next along was the installation of cable TV with its promise of four trillion channels all with new and unique content.
This is where reality has come to bite us. We do have hundreds of channels but the content is far from unique and in no way can it be called original. New TV programs are expensive to make, therefore it seems like less and less people are willing to invest in the making of them. Instead we are inundated with repeats of programs we have all seen a hundred times or fly on the wall documentaries that document subjects that normally we would have absolutely no interest in. The state of things wouldn’t be so bad but really, do we need to see what the life of a dinner lady is really like? Can this really be called entertainment?
Constantly more channels are added but the programs always seem to remain the same. All of these new channels that appear have a common theme; they all make their money from advertisements. What this means is that the channels are not so much concerned about the content that they show, really they are just platforms for advertisements. The programs that split up the commercial breaks seem like an unfortunate evil for most of the channels and if they could do without them then they would.
We have got to and streaked past the point where we need more channels. What we need now is better programs. There are only so many times that you can watch the same episode of a sitcom or a repeat from a topical quiz show first broadcast five years ago.
July 13, 2009
As I sit here typing this there is somebody stood on top of a plinth in London. This plinth just happens to be in Trafalgar square. It just happens to be the vacant fourth plinth. After one hour that person will come down, to be replaced by another person. This procession will go on until the 14th of October. In total 2,400 members of the public will stand atop of the plinth. All of these people have been randomly selected by computer and can do anything they like during there allotted hour. This is art in its modernist form, or it is according to Antony Gormley the artist behind One and Other.
According to Gormley this represents the true spirit of Britishness. To get over our generally reserved nature and to reveal what we really are underneath. What this has in fact revealed is that we are a strange bunch and given an hour to entertain, both ourselves and other people, we find it very difficult very quickly. In the exposed environment of on top of the plinth we stumble a bit but generally we pick ourselves up and simply carry on, all dignity intact. This is what we appreciate in ourselves and others, the ability to carry on regardless.
What is also interesting and could almost be considered part of the work itself is watching the public’s reaction to this spectacle. There may be little comments passed, mocking the current participant baring themselves on the plinth. In the most part however these comments are passed in jest. In truth most of the crowd gathered will be supporters. They will be wishing the current ‘Plinther’ only well. I imagine that if you listen carefully you would hear a whisper ripple through the crowd; so many people will be saying the same thing “I couldn’t do that”.
Really that is why so many of us love this way of using the controversial plinth. It may not be art but it is fun. It shows that ordinary British people do have the courage to perform even if their performance is merely to stand there. We always celebrate courage and I personally think that this project is something to celebrate.
Some of the fusty intellectuals at the national gallery may declare that this cannot be called art. Probably they are right to run from such an embracing piece. It exposes art to and includes the masses in a very unique and strangely British way. They are scared art is been taken away from those in higher places and given back to the public to enjoy how they should be able to enjoy it, out in the open in a gawking, reserved way. Because that is really the way we are in this country and deep down we all know it.
July 10, 2009
He was known by many monikers, Wacko Jacko, The Gloved One and probably most appropriately, The King of Pop. Michael Jackson was many things to many people and I must say that I am not a fan of his and I never have been. All in all I believe the sense of global mourning has been overstated somewhat but also I believe that I understand why this has happened, why it had to happen.
Here in the UK we are a constitutional monarchy. This means that we have a royal family, a family that represents us as a nation. When a popular member of the royal family dies we feel a national sense of grief as if it is a member of our own family who has died.
The United States, been a republic, do not have such a family. To feel a true sense of patriotism they must feel a sense of national grief. To achieve this, subconsciously Americans have created a royal family of their favorite celebrities. They adorn them with royal titles, like the king of pop. There are several other celebrities who are part of this makeshift royal family. They are the elite and the people will mourn there passing.
When Princess Diana died in 1997 there was an instant massive outpouring of grief. The public in the UK where shocked by the sudden passing of a member of the royal family. This, even though she was actually an estranged member of that family. The once vilified princess became a national treasure over night. The same sense of grief washed over the nation when the queen’s mother died. This sense of grief was different to that felt by the loss of Diana however for one reason. People where able to prepare for this, they had seen it coming long before the event. But she had also been queen consort. She was as much at the core of the royal family as cheese is to Cheddar.
The same grief is now been felt in the US. They have lost a member of their royal family and they are grieving like the UK did Diana, through shock and surprise. But this is not the first time that America as lost a member of its royalty. One of the founding members of this family was Elvis Presley. When he died there was a similar sense of national loss. Thousands lined the streets outside Graceland as they did at Neverland and the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Both men were monarchs, both men were kings. Jackson was the king of pop and Presley was the king of rock ‘n’ roll,
All I hope for now is that the hysteria surrounding Michael Jackson calms down soon. That will be the only way that Mr. M. J. Jackson can rest in peace and his family can be left in peace.
July 8, 2009
“You need to learn the value of money”. That was something I, and I imagine a lot of other people heard as a child. But that’s quite a strange thing to say. Surely the value of money is obvious, a penny is a penny and a pound is a pound. But is this really true?
The question is not a matter of economics as it might look at first sight. Rather it is a question of perspective. To the rich man driving his Aston Martin what is five pounds? It’s loose change that he leaves on his dressing table. It’s what he gives to the collection plate on Sundays; it’s what he pays to have his soul saved.
But to the homeless guy sleeping in a doorway as the drizzle comes down around him, it’s a good meal and a hot drink. It could also be oblivion, time of undisturbed sleep induced by amber liquid from a plastic bottle. Whichever way that he chooses to spend the money it will be a special event even if it’s only for a short time.
This may seem like a very obvious thing to say but really it is merely only scratching the surface of what shapes our perspective towards the value of money. There are people in the world with great riches who will haggle over a few pennies and there are people in the world who merely scrape to get by but they don’t hesitate to spend money when they get it. Some people horde and other people splurge there cash. It’s all a matter of perspective again.
Where does this perspective come from? A reaction to our parents’ attitudes towards money must play an important role in developing how we ourselves feel. If our parents drum into us the need to save, encourage us to do so and show us the benefits then we to, may well become savers. If however, we as young people are deprived because of this attitude then it could well be the case that we rebel against this trend of thought and become more frivolous about financial matters. Our parents could be exceedingly poor and then when we ourselves are free as young adults, without children or responsibilities money seems to be in almost endless supply. Then responsibility hits and we become like our parents, scraping to survive. At that point there is no ability to save.
There is also nowadays a distorting factor. That is credit cards. We can go on massive shopping sprees without spending a single real penny. We don’t hand over cash so is the money really real. The answer to the question of whether or not credit cards distort our perspective of money is an easy one. The real question would be by how much, but I think that is a debate for another time.
From this mere scratch on the surface of this subject it seems that status or upbringing do not alone give us a true sense of the value of money. The news is constantly, every hour, filled with news of how much our money is worth. These figures only show what our money is worth to other people. The only person who can know the true value of money to you is you and because of this fact I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you measure it in.