Columnist Peter Rhodes casts his eyes over the big news of the week, including Sally Bercow's expensive tweet and the health benefits of butter.
“IF they're smiling it probably isn't art.” Grayson Perry in his Reith Lecture on how to decide if a photograph of a group of people is art.
PERRY, the cross-dressing pottery maker, is a national treasure and his Reith Lectures have been great. The thunderous applause that greeted him as he walked on stage in satin miniskirt and high heels says much for the twin British loves of plain speaking and eccentricity. But I couldn't help wondering how many members of the audience would be quite so thrilled if their daughter brought him home. “Mummy, Daddy, this is Grayson. Daddy, put the shotgun down.”
DAMAGES of £15,000. Court costs of £100,000-plus. That's the price of silly Sally Bercow's tweet about Lord McAlpine and it should concentrate the minds of Tweeters everywhere. But it probably won't. The Tweetosphere seems full of people who haven't a clue about the laws of libel and think they can say the most outrageous things about anybody they choose. They can't. The rules on defamation that apply to every newspaper also apply to the internet and social media. So if you wouldn't shout it from a rooftop using a megaphone, then don't tweet it, email it or stick it on your website. Ninety-nine times out of 100 your tweet alleging that someone is a money-launderer, paedophile or Nazi won't even be noticed. But the 100th time, you'll get a writ for libel and it's goodbye life savings. As the Speaker's wife put it: “Mrs Bercow wishes and hopes that as a result of this matter other Twitter users will behave more responsibly.” Some hope.
AFTER thirty years of spreading squidgy unsaturated-fat goo on our toast, we are told this week that butter may actually be better for us. According to new research, saturated fats, long regarded as the enemy in the fight against obesity and heart disease, may be innocent. Refined carbohydrates and sugar are the real problem. This at least explains a puzzle I raised recently. Why was it that in the days before soft spreads were invented and we all ate butter, people were slimmer and fitter?
A LOST 15-minute broadcast by David Bowie, featuring views and music from 1973, was unveiled by the BBC this week - on Radio 6 Music. This is the pop equivalent of discovering Tutankhamun's treasure and displaying it at Cromer public library. Bowie deserves better than the backwaters of Radio 6 whose breakfast show host Shaun Keaveny described the coup as “beyond exciting.” Beyond belief, more like.
FIRST, Ed Miliband promises an energy price freeze. Next, the energy companies bump up their prices. Spot the connection?
AFTER my recent item on food banks, a volunteer at one tells me that online gambling is a big factor in the plight of many seeking help. One part of my Methodist upbringing I cannot shake off is the belief that gambling is a social evil. Online gambling, endorsed by celebrities and presented as a fun, glamorous activity, brings this evil into the homes of the poor, the desperate and the drunk. Next stop is not a beach in the sun but a trip to the food bank.
A READER brings together two recent threads, the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, and the dilemma facing women who are expected to take their husband's unfortunate surname (Nutter, Smellie, Glasscock etc) . Jane Austen never married but in 1802 she accepted a proposal of marriage from Harris Bigg-Wither. Having slept on it, the next morning she withdraw her acceptance. Austen never explained why but possibly she did not want to be responsible for a dynasty of Bigg-Withers.
SHOPPING in the rain. One of the big differences between men and women is that a lot of women see shopping as exciting and fulfilling, while a lot of men see it as an admission of defeat. Belly needs filling, old M&S chuddies are worn out. Thus the male of the species slinks into town, not to buy fripperies but to purchase two absolutely essential items. Bread and underpants. What a great election slogan that is.
OUR changing language. One forecaster described the week's wetness as “a swipe of rain.” Watch out later this year for a punch of frost, a nutting of fog and a knee in the goolies of snow.
CONSIDER the following: The grotesque characters of Man Down (C4). The bizarre plot of The Wrong Mans (BBC2). The creaking, spluttering comedy of Count Arthur Strong (BBC2). The Y-Fronts wackiness of The Ginge, The Geordie and The Geek (BBC2). The darkness of the Halfords “cheaper than a favour” ads, venturing into forbidden territory with acquaintances who will fix your car, and then make pervy requests. Has there ever been a time when telly has been so weird?