Monthly Archives: April 2013

My Weekend Review

The world of fantasy…

According to a report in the Daily Mail last Friday, Britons are not, as outsiders perceive them to be, a stuffy and staid bunch.

The truth is that beneath that calm, there lies a mischievousness which to some degree is at odds with a projected conservative image that seems to initiate out of character behaviour.

The research found one in five women indulge in a daily bout of ‘naughtiness’ to help pepper up their day.

Regular bad behaviour is pulling a sickie, and secretly lusting after a partner’s father. Other ‘naughty’ acts include women keeping a picture of a heartthrob rather than a boyfriend or a husband as their mobile or computer screensaver.

Some fifteen per cent of two thousand women surveyed also admit they touch up pictures of themselves before posting them online, to hide any imperfection and glamourise their looks. One in six will lie about how much they spend on a new outfit, handbag or other purchase – even pretending it was a gift.

The survey of Cadbury’s comes as adverts to launch its Crispello include one in which a girl reveals she fancies her boyfriend’s dad – something ten per cent of women now admit to.

Almost one in four women confess they flirt to get a freebie or a discount, from suggestive banter with a coffee shop barista to fluttering eyelashes at a car salesman.

Studies have found indulging in the odd mischievous treat reduces stress and leaves us feeling healthier, happier and younger – especially in order to cope with the present economic doom and gloom.

It is an acknowledged fact that a woman who lives her life to the full, discarding convention and, from time to time, dabbles in the forbidden fruit, is more interesting than one staid to the point of boredom. Such a woman has men crawling at her feet and normally makes a desirable and exciting companion.

Feminism rarely brings comfort and happiness to a woman. It is the interaction with men or other women on an equal and absorbing level that generates the sexual frisson that keeps the flame of their relationship alive and glowing.

Men and women today have the same pressures. The gap in our biological differences is shortening. We both struggle in our diverse ways to achieve the same things. So what applies to women applies to men, though perhaps in a varied form.

What we forget is that the world of fantasy can often be a tonic to keep us sane in the competitive environment we live. We fantasise about being rich when we are poor, we seduce women in our dreams to keep us from becoming stale, we unwind through our imagination and engage in all kinds of optimistic games that our brain conjures up when we feel low.

In other words, fantasy plays an important and integral part of our daily life – without which we become miserable old sods, who suffer the indignity of being passed over and forgotten.

The Correlation Between Sex and Music

Scientists are saying that music is as pleasurable as sex.

In my view, it has two functions. It can induce an amorous mood and in some circumstances can give a special treat bordering on an orgasmic sensation.

Research suggests that good music activates the same part of the brain that responds to other positive stimuli, such as a delicious meal or sexual congress. Scans found that areas in the brain’s ‘pleasure’ centre became active when people heard a song for the first time.

The more the listener enjoyed what they were hearing the stronger the activity of dopamine – which promotes desire – in the reward regio,n known as the nucleus accumbens.

The study by scientists at McGill University in Montreal also pinpoints the specific brain activity that controls the decision to purchase music.

Participants listened to sixty previously unheard excerpts of music while undergoing brain scans, and were asked to provide bids of how much they would be prepared to pay for each item.

Dr Valorie Salimpoor said, ‘When people listen to a piece of music they have never heard before, activity in one brain region can reliably and consistently predict whether they will like or buy it – this is the nucleus accumbens. What makes music so emotionally powerful is the creation of expectations. Activity in the nucleus accumbens is an indicator that expectations were met or surpassed, and in our study we found the more activity we see in this brain area while people are listening to music, the more money they are willing to spend.’

She added, ‘The nucleus accumbens also interacted with the auditory cortex, an area that stores information about previous sounds and music we have been exposed to. The more a given piece was rewarding, the greater the activity between these regions,’ according to the findings published in Science.

A researcher, Dr Robert Zatorre, said: ‘This is interesting because music consists of a series of sounds that when considered alone have no interest value, but when arranged together through patterns over time can act as a reward. The integrated activity of brain circuits allow us to experience music as an aesthetic reward.’

Dr Salimpoor went on to say that ‘the brain activity in each participant was the same when they were listening to music they ended up purchasing, despite the chosen music being very different’. She concluded: ‘Each person has their own uniquely shaped auditory cortex, which is formed based on all the sounds and music heard throughout our lives.’

All this might sound too technical to ordinary people. But the reality is that music and sex have a distinct correlation that gives rise to sexual gratification, often hard to define in simple words.

Richard Wagner’s music in his great opera Tristan und Isolde is the best known example of the link between music and sex as the score is considered by critics worldwide to be the most sensual ever written and stands uniquely in a class of its own.

A testimony hard to beat.

A Labour Glamour Boy Who’s Boobed

Politicians have always been vulnerable to public scrutiny about things they’ve done or said before maturing in politics. It comes to torment them and sometimes seriously damages their reputation.

A case in point is Labour MP Chuka Umunna, tipped as a future leader, who finds himself deeply embarrassed by something he wrote in 2006 under an account registered with his middle name, Harrison.

Mr Umunna wrote, ‘Is it just me or is there a serious lack of cool places to go in central London at the weekend. Most of the west-end haunts seem to be full of trash and C-list wannabes, while other places that should know better opt for the cheesy vibe.’

Two years later he asked members for advice on ‘what’s hot right now in Miami’. He said he was spending ten days in the city and he listed his previous haunts.

The website, called a SmallWorld whose members are said to include the now disgraced Tiger Woods and Naomi Campbell, describes itself as an ‘international travel and lifestyle club for “jetrosexuals”’.

A spokesman for the Labour MP admitted that Mr Umunna was still a member of the site, but said that he had not posted anything for ‘many years’.

In a statement Mr Umunna said, ‘We’ve all said and done something stupid in our younger days which we regret – I’ve never claimed to be a saint and am no different. The choice of language I used in that post seven years ago was inappropriate and stupid, which is why I wholeheartedly apologise.’

Mr Umunna must be used to controversy by now. Last year he admitted smoking marijuana as a teenager and has been the subject of criticism for running a ‘presidential-style’ commons office with eleven people working for him.

The upshot of it all is that the good-looking, rather suave MP is perhaps much too grand for Labour. His turn of phrase when posting the offending words lead us to believe that he is a bon viveur whose usage of the word ‘hot’ might also indicate an active and healthy attitude towards the opposite sex, which I’m sure our mayor will find most refreshing.

I simply hope that his earlier pomposity is only a passing phase and that politics has taught him since then to be more discreet and less transparent. For he must remember he inhabits a jungle where hypocrisy is the norm and double standards are concealed behind a façade of puritanical zeal.

On the face of it I like the man. He’s articulate, always well turned-up and has a good measure of political acumen – although, he has a ruthless streak in him to get what he wants. We need more like him around to remind us that glamour is a good visiting card, especially to those who seek high public office.

Sock it to them, Umunna, and carry on where you left off – but choose your words more carefully the next time you write something outrageous, and stop trying to be too clever by half.

Would I Want to Die in the Ritz Hotel like Mrs Thatcher?

The idea itself is not one to be sniffed at.

In old age, one would expect all the comforts that life can give. Many famous people such as Coco Chanel, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams and Vladimir Nabokov, whose lives ended in hotels, must have opted to do so for special reasons.

Perhaps it was a discreet hideaway or an ambience that they felt more suitable to their frame of mind at the time, as old age sometimes restructures our habits.

Then there is the added facility of being pampered, seeking delicacies from the room service menu, having a relaxing massage when your body needs it, and being waited on at the press of a button.

In theory, this is what we most dream of; to expire in style when death gently knocks at our door. But in practice, and although the idea of leaving this world of great luxuries that five-star hotels can provide is tremendously appealing, I would certainly feel somehow a forlorn sense of not belonging.

The furniture would appear alien, my favourite reclining chair would not be there, my books not within reach, and when I looked at my surroundings they would all betray a superficiality that lacks the warmth of my own humble abode, with which I’ve established a special relationship over the years – as if the walls were my protectors and acting as my guardian angel.

I would like to die where I lived, where I spent my happy days, recovered from a bad illness, experienced sadness and fought calamity.  Then my journey would end as it began full of promise but never without the glorious zest for life to the last breath.

A Woman a Week: Abbey Clancy

With a rather cynical title of ‘Wag Shoe Looks Good’, the Sun newspaper showed a sizzling Abbey Clancy last week as she posed in nothing but a pair of towering heels.

The twenty-seven-year-old WAG, married to Stoke City striker Peter Crouch, bared all in a photo shoot for the arty magazine Hunger.

Top fashion photographer Rankin was the lucky fellow who used his camera to simmering effect, making her look absolutely gorgeous without her clothes on.

Rod Liddle, the impulsively acerbic journalist, in his column for the same newspaper was obviously sexually stirred, to wonder, how Peter Crouch managed to pull someone like her.

I can well understand his feelings, for men are beasts of prey when it comes to women who show their bits in such a provocative and enticing manner. We become totally ensnared and incapable of rational thought or behaviour.

However, women think differently. Katie Price, the great celebrity sex siren and popular writer of trashy themes, although acknowledging that Abbey looked fab remarked that she could do with ‘a good hamburger and chips inside her’. A rather catty snide, I thought.

For my money I would still have Abbey looking unusually slim in her birthday suit, without the ignominy of having any rubber enhancements pumped into parts of her body. For that alone, if nothing else, she’s definitely my choice of woman of the week.

My Weekend Review

Rifling through the pages of my newspapers this weekend, I found the bulk of the articles were devoted to Mrs Thatcher.

Indeed, since her death millions of words have been written about every aspect of her life – from her early childhood to her tenure as the first woman prime minister of Britain.

However, what I find rather surprising is that the same politicians of her own party, who plotted against and removed her from office, are now in the forefront of mourners – who, I’m sure, will cynically shed some public tears to reflect their sadness.

In addition, every Tom, Dick and Harry is now clambering to appear in print writing about her in glowing terms so as not to be outdone by others – whereas the backlash to all this will come sooner than anyone expects.

Despite her many virtues as a political leader who arguably changed many of the fabrics of British society – principally taming trade union power and winning the Falklands War – she remains a controversial figure, having alienated the working classes, who feel totally aggrieved to this day.

The present campaign by the government and the press of over exultation could be construed as provocative by a large number of people, who do not share the same views regarding her achievements. To compare her to Winston Churchill is over-stretching the point by far.

All this must be taken into account, lest we find ourselves carried away by a wave of sympathy at the expense of a more balanced assessment of her years in office.

Very few learned men have so far come forward to express in a clinical and comprehensive manner the reasons behind the strong apathy and, in some cases, hatred she generated through a number of her policies.

The City, which she backed to the hilt, has since become a focal point of contention for its sharp practices and philosophy of greed. As a result, industry suffered for lack of attention from her administration.

The term ‘Iron Lady’ suited her character. She ruled her cabinet with a ruthless determination, demonstrating to everyone concerned that they were no match for her. It was her mode of operation and single-mindedness that sowed the seeds of rebellion within her own party. She suffered great humiliation when she was unceremoniously dumped after eleven years of her premiership.

It is pathetic to see the very people responsible for her demise trumpeting her great achievements. Hypocrisy, especially in politics, knows no bounds. Winston Churchill, after the war was won, had a similar fate when the electorate decided to dispense with his services – although they did it in a more affable fashion.

The best that could be said about Margaret Thatcher is that she was a formidable prime minister who towered above the rest of her contemporaries; she had the courage to follow her instincts and stood resolute in the face of adversity, unlike the lot we have today. She caused tremors by getting some things wrong – but on the whole she deserves a special place in history.

A more measured epitaph, perhaps.

The Big Bang

We are told that we are sitting on a massive amount of shale gas that experts believe could heat every home in Britain for at least one hundred years.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) is expected to report on how much shale gas is under the UK within weeks. Some believe that the current estimate of five trillion cubic feet is on the low side and is due to be increased substantially.

Dr Nick Riley of the BGS said, ‘We are sitting on potentially a massive resource, but whether we are able to extract it we don’t know. We have to do the exploration and then we have to get the consent of the people.’

Industry insiders reckon that the BGS could report between 1,200 trillion and 1,800 trillion cubic feet of gas under the UK, mostly in northern England. The other main reserve is around the Hampshire basin in the Home Counties, including Berkshire, Sussex and Kent. There are also pockets in central Scotland, Wales and the Midlands. The top estimate would represent sufficient gas to heat UK homes for 1,200 years.

Usually it is only possible to extract about a third of shale gas deposits. Hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – allows companies to extract previously inaccessible gas from shale by blasting water into the rocks underground. Concerns remain about the possibility of triggering earthquakes after initial fracking caused tremors and water contamination when gases leaked into the water table.

The BGS is also analysing the groundwater in shale gas areas so that when the fracking begins it will be possible to tell if drinking water has been contaminated.

Promised Land, a film starring Matt Damon to be released this month, presents the negative impact shale gas exploration can have, and is expected to add to safety concerns.

It is too early to assess the possible dangers of this kind of exploration. But what is beyond doubt is that the earth we inhabit has secrets yet to be discovered by man which can either revolutionise our present thinking or cause catastrophes. The underbelly of the earth is a cauldron of such gigantic power that if tempered with unknowingly can possibly bring the ultimate destruction of the earth and every living species on its surface.

Nature can unleash forces that are beyond our comprehension and on a scale which no one has ever witnessed before. Perhaps even the Big Bang of creation, which the scientists acknowledge, will eventually turn into a reverse mode annihilating itself and the universe with it.