Friday, June 4, 2010


The iPad has arrived- in all its pomp and glory. For a mere £340 ($499)* you can hold one of these electronic beauties in your hands and do everything from surfing Safari, look at high res pictures of friends and even some work with iWork.

This new contraption has probably pleased Steve Jobs like little else- what with it selling to 1 million merry buyers in 28 days in the US (thus causing a 3 month delay to launch here in the UK). The iPad is expected to reel in a grand profit of £41 billion ($60 billion) in sales this year.

Personally, I am not too taken by an over sized iPhone that has similar features but can't call out (a bit like iTouch). But then again I've always been a little late on these things. I only got a new phone last year because my husband thought the one I had was an affront to the noughties period we're living in.

But back to the iPad. The thing that jars me beyond its annoying fresh, clean, hip and addictive marketing strategies is what it is doing to the value of human life.

Across the plains of Asia, in recent months, in a factory city called Shenzen, China, 10 young adults have committed suicide and two have attempted it. Perhaps 10 out of a 400,000 strong employee list isn't regarded as too bad because it's within the national averages, but the leaking revelations of the conditions of Foxconn's factories leave a lot to be answered.

The average Foxconn worker (Foxconn being the biggest global electronic manufacturer, who make gizmos for Sony, IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard as well) starts work by being ready for the the day's headcount at 7:35 am and finishing work around 9:00pm. They may get a 10 minute break-but not in peak production times (which with the iPad's current popularity means now). They will earn an average of £2.90 for that day's work. They will not be allowed to talk to any other colleagues during the day and will be constantly watched by militant security guards. This all after they have survived the initial severe induction drills to ingrain in them, Foxconn's ethos, 'Value efficiency- every minute, every second.'

For reasons that Foxconn, psychologists and Apple are still trying to grapple with, young people are throwing themselves from their dormitory windows to their death. Some say it's mass hysteria or that China's young people aren't as hardy as the previous generation. Parents' silence is being bought, Foxconn will not comment, Apple says it's saddened, a 17 year-old girl is now crippled from the waist down in a bodged attempt and still the iPads sell.

Perhaps some may argue: "At least they have jobs..." and other economically focused reasons, but it is a little hard to ignore something is going horribly wrong in China.

We want more iPads and other iThings and Apple tells this to their manufacturers (who also happen to be able to produce a high quota to maximum quality at very little cost-monetarily speaking) then an 18-year-old worker from rural China realises that dropping a drill in a panicked moment will result in them being forced to clean lavatories with their bare hands at times.

Do we stop buying iThings to make a point? Do we turn aside and thank God the suicide numbers are at least within China's national averages?

Or could we write an email to Apple and remind them as Foxconn's biggest client that what they say holds sway and that even though we can't pronounce the deceased's names correctly their life was extremely important? Just as important in fact as the scores of others who are thinking of ways they can get over the new barbed wires and take that leap.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Six months and 15 days on...

I was face-lurking earlier when I came across a friend in Nashville's comment of being married for one week and thought, 'ah bless, how sweet'.

There truly is something amazing about those early weeks, after the fanfare and fuss of the wedding has passed and you're getting used to finding your toes tangled in someone else's (as well as having to learn it is not appropriate to do star jumps in your sleep as you are now sharing a bed!).

But as I said to her, I say it here: "It only gets better." Some good friends of ours in Indy told us this. Some think the wedding day and honeymoon will be the best day of your lives-but I beg to differ. They will always hold something special in them of the gravity of those vows that are spoken but it's the next mornings for the rest of those long years you live that will be the best days of your life.

Those coming days will try, pull, tear, soothe, kiss, comfort, hold and embrace you. But the thing is, you face all those future days with your beloved. You get to dream with them, plan, talk it out, see the changes, learn your differences, find out those secret things that no one else knows (yes not even their parents!) It's in those days that those spoken vows grow deeper and anchor you in something so old and prehistoric you wonder how it found you.

And so six months and 15 days later I wake up next to my curly haired, handsome husband and best friend and think: "Ahhh, how is it possible I love you even more?" And the biggest compliment is that these short months later and he's feeling it just as strong.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Blyton's three Golliwogs.

This morning, instead of getting straight into some editing work I followed a rabbit down its hole and came across an article about Enid Blyton that paints a rather different picture than the beloved children's scribe she may have made claim of.

Her apparent perchance for using the words: 'Negro, golliwogs' and when feeling extremely colloquial, 'Nigger' has given contemporary publishers a pigs ear of a time trying to update some of her stories.

Those of her most avid fans (and older readers) have be-cried such editing of those offensive terms as interfering with children's literary history. Err, whose history, may I ask? It certainly was not acceptable for me to be called or call anyone else, the 'N' word. And is that really a part of history we want to preserve?

Of course we may argue that modern rappers use of the 'N' word far surpass Blyton's strongest attempts and I feel the same disappointment in them as I do anyone who picks on stereotypes to try and create a character.

When I was writing Ridley's tale I created a Roma person (otherwise known to most of us as, Gypsies) and I fell in the hole of predictable stereotypes. At the time I just wanted to finish the dastardly difficult chapter but then I woke up a couple of months later knowing full well I had written the character completely wrong. Ivy, did not wear shawls and long dresses; she wore jeans, wornout Dunlops and an old hoodie. I'm being serious. This character, Ivy, walked into my head as clear as day in a completely different get up and I felt shamed to the core for her into the 'stereotypical' corner-because Ivy is certainly not 'typical'.

But back to Blyton. Maybe what made me want to blog about her was not even this story of the three golliwogs but rather, 'The Little Black Doll (who wanted to be pink)'. I mean-Eek! I don't think there is any amount of damage control that can rescue that story. However, maybe oddly enough she's right about us wishing we could be something or better yet, someone else. Isn't our popular culture bursting at the seams to tell us we wish we looked like so and so and lived where so and so lived and went to Soho parties with so and so?

Bah- I say.

And to think this all spurned from me thinking about the creepy Children's story my Mum bought me when I was seven- 'The Night the Toys came to life'.