A Slice of Life
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commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology
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17 Oct 09 Shoes are The Window to the Sole

pointy_shoesI have always believed in the idea that you can tell a great deal about a person by looking at their shoes.  I don’t mean this in a pervy, fetish obsessed kind of way (really, I don’t).  When you think about it, the shoes people people wear possibly make more of a statement about the way they wish to be perceived than any other item of clothing.  Our choice of footwear may be much more a revelation of our subconscious selves than we realise.  When we decide to wear the well worn and holey sneakers we keep in the back of the wardrobe we are saying more about ourselves than simple ‘I want to be comfortable’.  When we make such choices our manner in general is likely to be just as casual our footwear.  If this is the case, just what statement are men trying to make when they don the new fashion in shoes?  Pointed toes which curve upwards have become ubiquitous; in fact, it is getting very difficult to buy a pair of shoes which have not been influenced by this fashion.

Women of course, have subjected themselves to extreme fashions in footwear for many years.  Foot binding was practiced on women for approximately one thousand years in China, beginning in the 10th century and ending in the early 20th century. The Chinese custom of foot-binding is commonly cited by sociologists and anthropologists as an example of how an extreme deformity by contemporary western standards could be viewed as a source of pleasure in other cultures and of how immense suffering can be inflicted on women and girls in the pursuit of so-called beauty. Source: Wikipedia

high-heel-xray-comparison

xray comparison of a high heeled foot and a foot deformed by binding

The trend has continued to the present day in the form of ever more extreme high heels.  While high heels elicit a powerful response the damage they do to women’s feet is undeniable.

“When a woman wears a high heeled shoe, the anatomy is changed and the pressure is put on the heads of the metatarsals rather than the base where it is designed to be (shown in the picture). This creates a slew of problems that I treat regularly.  Bunions and hammertoes are some of the more well known ones.  But most women will share the story of how “their heels killed them” after that night out, or how “I danced all night, but my feet paid for it the next day cause of my heels”.  This common problem is usually treated by most foot specialists by recommending better shoes.  Those same women, keep wearing their heels.”  Source: Beverly Hills Aesthetic Foot Surgery

foot-xray01Women’s high heels may have become indispensable for many modern women.  No matter how much pain and injury they may cause, the fashion shows no signs of dying out.  Stilettos are now as tall and popular as ever.  Perhaps it is only just that men are now forced to endure fashion trends equally as bizarre.  If the trend in upward pointedness continues the potential for similar deformation to male feet becomes a distinct possibility.

Most of us had not planned on turning up our toes quite so soon.

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08 Aug 08 Beijing haze

beijing birdsnest stadium in smogBeijing Olympics organisers have denied manipulating pollution statistics as thick smog worsens in the Chinese capital during the lead up to the opening ceremony. Climate change sceptics may quibble as much as they like, images like this one of the birdsnest stadium in Beijing are surely evidence enough for anyone that the environment is in a great deal of trouble.

While humidity has undoubtedly played a part in the recent build up of smog, air pollution levels have been more than twice the level considered acceptable. According to World Bank statistics, outdoor air pollution in China causes 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths each year. (The World Bank also reports that 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China.) For a lifelong Beijing resident, to look at a building whose edges are blunted by smog is, in effect, to consider your own mortality. China and India, the only two countries to have a population greater than 1 billion, together possess more than a third of the world’s population. China is now the world’s biggest carbon emitter ahead of the US. Considering the booming economic growth of these countries, levels of pollution are hardly likely to decrease any time soon. Whether climate change is real or not, the fact remains that we are poisoning the planet at an alarming rate.

Climate change sceptics seem very reluctant to acknowledge their own scepticism. They are aware that considerable numbers of people are very concerned about damage to the environment. Environmentally sceptical politicians are all too aware that scepticism has become electoral poison and now couch their inaction and stalling tactics in terms such as ‘getting things economically right’. John Howard described himself as a ‘climate change realist’ and didn’t fare too well. In the longer term, no one will profit from a poisoned planet. People are now accepting that short term sacrifices are the price we must pay for future survival.

I doubt too many athletes are looking forward to competing in the Beijing haze. The whole world might soon be competing to catch a breath as it engulfs the planet.

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21 Apr 08 China steps up to the Olympic plate

Scenes of protesters harrasing the progress of the Olympic torch seem incredibly ironic. They underline the fact that the ‘Olympic Spirit’ has become something other than the IOC would have us believe.

Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) is the organisation’s motto. Mutual understanding, a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play – that’s the definition of the Olympic Spirit from the movement’s charter.

How many of these qualities does China’s society possess? Even before the Tibetan crackdown human rights abuses by the Chinese authorities were common knowledge, but little action seems to have been taken by western countries. Words of concern and inconsistent economic sanctions aren’t enough to make a difference. Granting the Olympics to China is a tacit approval of the heinous abuses and persecution that exists in this, the last great totalitarian dictatorship.

Parallels can be made with the decision to hold the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
“The decision by the IOC goes towards justifying a repressive political system that each day flouts freedom and violates human rights… Following the example of Nazi Germany in 1936 and the Soviet Union in 1980, Communist China will use (the games) as a powerful propaganda instrument destined to consolidate its hold on power. The decision by the IOC goes towards justifying a repressive political system that each day flouts freedom and violates human rights.” said Francois Loncle, a member of French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s Socialist party.

The question must be asked: why choose China? China’s booming economy allows them to throw a huge amount of money at the games, build the best facilities and provide the best junkets for Olympic officials.

The stipulations that athletes do not voice any political opinions could also be seen as an infringement of their human rights. Don’t we have a right to freedom of speech? If the hosting nation’s human rights record was not a great concern would our sporting bodies be stressing these rules?

Perhaps the Olympic movement’s charter should be expanded to include the motto “money, money, money”.

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