Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Grey" Incorrect in Scotland

We read:

"Land Rover has angered a Western Isles councillor after promoting a new colour called Stornoway Grey. Angus Nicolson claimed the colour will damage the town's image among tourists and leave people with the impression that it was drab and dull. The councillor has called on the car manufacturing giant to rename it Silvery Stornoway.

However, Land Rover said it was one of its strongest colours and that it will help "keep" Stornoway on the map.

Mr Nicolson said: "This is deeply insulting and is offensive, inaccurate and inherently degrading. "This will hit tourism as it subliminally implants adverse connotations in the minds of those who have never experienced the reality of these beautiful islands."


Scotland is rather Green politically, anyway.

Stornoway is the port for the Outer Hebridean Island of Lewis and it WAS rather grey last time I was there. The picture above was probably taken on the one bright and sunny day of the year -- and it is cloudy, even so.

The exercise craze that crippled a generation

They were promised the body beautiful and their mantra was "No pain no gain". Two decades later they are feeling it again - in their knees, hips and lower backs. They are the casualties of the aerobics boom. The craze began in the late 1970s but it was the actress Jane Fonda who really got people moving. Following her lead, thousands climbed into Spandex, donned headbands and twisted and punched the air in church halls across Britain.

Now they are more likely to be seen in physiotherapy. Nicki de Lyon, of Sports and Spinal Clinics, London, said: "They have knee and hip and lower back problems. It was not just the constant impact on hard floors, which put pressure on joints, but the twisting movements. And in the 1980s there had not been any research into the right footwear."

The fitness industry was in its infancy. Robin Gargrave, of the YMCA, said: "People didn't know what they were doing. They were just following America. Now we know that jogging on the spot waving your arms in the air isn't the best thing for your body."

Derrick Evans, who went on to become Mr Motivator, visited a leisure centre in Harrow in 1981 and saw hundreds of women doing "Popmobility". He hired the two women leading them and set up a class at a church hall in Neasden. "After a few months I decided I could do this," he said. Before long he had become the presenter Gloria Hunniford's trainer and was motivating millions of viewers on This Morning. "In those days it wasn't critical to have qualifications. There weren't really any around." Now 54, he claims to be "fitter than a fiddle" - but his routines were always "moderate". Others were less so. Andy Jackson, of the Fitness Industry Authority, says that, in the first flush of the craze, "a lot of deconditioned people suddenly started exercising with the intensity of Linford Christie".

Disciples were told that pain was good for them. "It's positive pain, just like childbirth," devotees in America shouted. As the craze took off in Britain, Geri Livingston bought a cat-suit and joined an energetic group in a church hall in Cheshire. All through the 1980s she sought out the toughest classes, attending up to four a week. "My knees just kill me now," said Mrs Livingston, now 44. "I can't jog any more, and I have lower back problems."

Hardest hit were the instructors. "I would be taking 20 classes a week," said Ebony Williams, who now teaches Pilates. "My knees are painful and swollen, I'm seeing a chiropractor for my back, and I have to have regular massages. All the instructors I knew have had the same problems with their knees, back, joints and shoulders."

Aerobics is now in decline. In Britain it has been supplanted by a bewildering array of low-impact routines and "conditioning" programmes aimed at people in their mid50s. There, in softly lit studios, next to Japanese fountains and no longer wearing Spandex, the walking wounded of the aerobics boom may seek to soothe their battered bones.


Another vacant "racism" controversy in Britain

Those who condemn Tory MP Patrick Mercer confuse political incorrectness with something more serious. I myself had something to say on this matter on Tongue Tied. Post below lifted from "The Guardian" (!) -- which see for links

Poor Colonel Mercer, he is denounced as a racist, summarily dismissed from his front bench post and roundly abused on the BBC's Question Time by five of the dimmest panellists ever let into a TV studio. Be clear about this, Patrick Mercer is not a racist, nothing like a racist: rather he is the victim of a collective reflex in the political class, a reflex which has all the complexity of a tape recording and which speaks received standard opinion.

What the colonel was actually trying to do with his remarks about "fat bastards," "ginger-haired bastards" and "black bastards", was to ask for a sense of proportion, the very last thing routine political minds could hope to find. He was saying that the army is a rough-mouthed place, happily adjusted to top-of-the register adjectives without going to law. That is surely right. Indeed Mr Mercer is being slightly euphemistic. It would be less likely that the noun, around which the adjectives "fat," "ginger" or "black" usually gathered, would be anything so eirenic as "bastard." In the army, as at the football stadium, it would be "c*nt" or "wanker." A pity really that Mr Mercer didn't get himself hanged for the sheep of "c*nt" rather than the genteel lamb of "bastard." That is a word rapidly passing out of offensive use, as "bugger" has long been. "There's a canny bugger; have you got your milk money?" is standard parent-to-child usage between Jarrow and Ashington.

The reaction of the professional reactors to "black bastard", - not uttered second person vocative, merely remarked as natural rough soldier talk - is perfect Victorian middle class. It is Thomas Bowdler, cutting the dirty bits out of Shakespeare, it is old-lady-ish, prim, hands-over-ears, Frinton-on-Sea, unhand-me-sir niminy-pimmery of a very high order. It is also close to a sort of right-thinking McCarthyism. For "commie subversive," read "racist".

Mr Mercer told the truth: that hard words pass among men, likely to be blown apart fighting Mr Blair's futile wars, as being not very important. Soldiers, if they do not start grown-up, quickly become so, learning what matters, the point made with fierce eloquence by the black sergeant who ran to his colonel's defence. "I've talked with him eaten with him, shared the night sky with him, and I tell you he isn't a racist."

This is the perspective which the colonel, with a slightly clumsy choice of words, was commending to us. Another part of that perspective is real, foul-breathed, in-your-face racism. Try the Stephen Lawrence case which, for the record, the liberal media were slow to make trouble over. The trouble came, through his personal acquaintance with Neville Lawrence, from that highly prejudiced about most things, four square Tory and inspirational editor, Paul Dacre. It was the Daily Mail which to its eternal glory, did the screaming headlines where screaming headlines were absolutely needed. Racism lies among the other street killings, the monkey noises I heard at a Yorkshire football ground a week or two back. It was racism in capitals when an Israeli minister said of the Palestinians generally "they are lice."

There is too, a good deal of covert racism in the way ministers talk about and behave to the illegal immigrants whom they promise to give such a bad time. These are foreigners who, for having failed the target-let criteria of all-too fallible boards, are commonly treated like convicted criminals, incarcerated, abused, the door kicked-in at six in the morning before they are taken in handcuffs to the airport. These are foreigners we can really behave badly to, with the home secretary to guide us.

What really distinguishes racism from a touch of politically incorrect stocking is intent, what the law call "malice." Do the words complained of express hatred for someone or for a set of people? Do they seek, in the language of the libel law, to incite "hatred ridicule or contempt"? The point about Mr Mercer's reference to cries of "get a move on you black bastard," was that he was convinced that they didn't. It was rough boys' talk. But this useful nuance is clearly lost upon David Cameron, whose response on Thursday was the sort of flashy weakness which masquerades as strength. "Oh my God, the press will be after us. We mustn't step out of line, mustn't give offence mustn't reason a case through. Sack him at once. Won't that be super PR?"

When Ted Heath fired Enoch Powell in 1968, he went against the grain of half his party and against a far larger corpus of public anti-black feeling than exists now. He was giving a genuine lead and, for all Powell's wrong headed virtues, he was right to sack him. Heath was being brave. Cameron is being commonplace, limp, tide-borne, fashionable, not inclined to think when he can be seen to mimic action. He comes over as a slight unmeritable man slavering in the best Pavlovian fashion before jumping through all the received standard hoops. He is a politician not worth trying to be interested in.

I repeat the words of Mr Mercer's black sergeant. "I have worked for him, eaten with him, shared the night sky with him and he is not a racist." That's good enough for me, but clearly not for David Cameron. Mr Mercer is indeed not a racist, but out of cowardice and mediocrity of mind and spirit, David Cameron has sacked him. The thing speaks for itself.


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