A complaint to the BBC: The Papal visit to the UK, 2010

In case you didn't notice, between the 16th and 19th September 2010 the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, visited the UK. This visit was, largely, at the expense of the UK taxpayer and included heartfelt and publicly broadcast insults and slurs against a large portion of these taxpayers. The British Broadcasting Company, a supposedly impartial media corporation, covered this event but paid almost no attention to the significant number of people who were upset by many aspects of this occasion, including the twenty thousand who marched in protest on the day of the Pope's visit to London.

With this in mind, and in my role as a licence fee payer, I have complained to the BBC. My complaint is included below and I encourage anybody who pays a British television licence fee (this directly funds the BBC and is obligatory if you own a television set in the UK) and is also disappointed in the unequal weighting they routinely give to secular viewpoints to do the same. You can complain online using the form at this address and although it would obviously be better for you to voice your own opinions in your own style I have no problems with anybody using my complaint as a template:

The BBC's coverage of the Pope's visit to the UK between the 16th and 19th September was explicitly biased in favour of the country's Catholic community and was noticeably deficient with regards to atheist, secular, humanist and other non-religious issues, views and opinions.
There was a march during this period which included almost twenty thousand people protesting about the visit being funded by money raised from taxes (as well as other aspects of his visit). Pitifully few campaigners were interviewed in comparison to the plethora of Catholic leaders and supporters who were encouraged to voice their opinions over what is supposed to be an impartial news service.
This is not the only situation in which the BBC has shown ignorance of an increasingly large demographic: the non-religious. I am disgusted that my licence fee payments are funding an organisation with such a blatant disregard for the opinions of a significant portion of its customers.

Social poll: Are you religious?

Please take a couple of seconds to answer the question below. For the purposes of this poll you are religious if you believe in a god or other religious entity and follow at least in part their teachings and the moral code of that religion*.

In terms of religion, how would you describe yourself?
I follow a religion
I am agnostic
I am an atheist
Other (please comment) free polls

* It is, of course, possible for your personal moral values to fall in line with those of any particular religion without you actually following or believing in that religion**.
** Contrary to popular belief (in certain circles) it is entirely possible to have personal moral values without following any particular religion.

How to become a Saint

We all know, from Pope Benedict XVI*'s well-founded, superbly researched and not at all lie-ridden speech in Edinburgh the other day, that all the world's ills are caused by atheists. Ills such as wanton, unfounded prejudice and discrimination, child abuse (including rape), terrorism, mass murder and genocide. Or knowingly and deliberately doing something that will further the spread of a particularly nasty disease.

So now we know how to be bad people: simply put, just don't believe in a god**. But if we want to look at the other end of the scale, ultimate goodness and eternal recognition for it, then how on Earth does one become a Saint in the eyes of the Catholic church***?

Luckily for us there are just a few easy steps to attaining eternal religious superiority over our fellow human beings. They are as follows:

Step 1: Die.
In all honesty, the Catholic church doesn't 'make' someone a Saint, they simply officially recognise their Saintly status, but for someone to classsify they have to have been admitted into heaven. It's difficult to get into heaven without being dead first.

Once you're dead, the process really kicks off.

Step 2: Impress a local Bishop
Obviously, in order to be recognised as Saintly you have to have officially been awesome throughout your life. The Bishop of the area you lived in, once alerted to your feats of heroic virtue while alive, will research and document your life, work and writings in order to provide evidence for consideration by the relevant authorities.

Actually, thinking about it it's probably better to impress your Bishop before you die.

Step 3: Be submitted for consideration to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints
This is a bunch of Cardinals and theologians based at the Vatican who work together to evaluate your life. If the evidence is convincing enough, the Pope will proclaim you to be a role model for Catholics everywhere. You will then be given the title "venerable", which looks fantastic on any C.V. but doesn't come with a badge.

Step 4: Perform a miracle
Because there's no such thing, so you have to pick and choose from stuff that just happens.
This is where it gets difficult: not only do you have to perform a miracle and get it recognised as such by the Church: you also have to do it whilst being dead (see step 1). When you have performed this miracle and been recognised for it, you are then beatified, which allows you to be honoured by a geographical region or group of people and presumably involves a makeover of some sort.

The standard miracle is curing someone of a disease or affliction after they have prayed for you (specifically) to do so. Well-known helper of people**** Mother Teresa was beatified in 2002 after she posthumously cured an abdominal tumour of Monica Besra by emitting a beam of light from a picture of Teresa kept within a locket owned by Besra. The Pope has, as part of his 2010 tour of the United Kingdom, beatified 19th Century brummie clergyman Cardinal John Henry Newman who cured Deacon Jack Sullivan's spinal disorder after being prayed to. The Vatican concluded that these things couldn't just happen on their own, therefore the most likely explanation was that someone who was long dead did them by magic.

If you want to get a head start in proceedings you could always put an effort into making step 1 occur for reasons of a particularly religious nature. An in-service death for a Catholic, (martyrdom) is a fast-track route to beatification and trumps the performance of a miracle.

Step 5: Perform another miracle
One miracle is not enough, presumably because a single miracle can feasibly be faked, fabricated, invented or even made up completely. But two miracles is an entirely different matter.

Worry not, however, as miracles come in many forms, as can be seen by the Miracle of the Herrings in the player below:

Once your second miracle is discovered and verified by the Vatican, then you will be canonised. Congratulations! You are now a Saint!

Where to next?
Sainthood may seem like the top of the ladder, which may be a disappointment for the more ambitious good-doers amongst us, but fear not! There are yet further steps to take for the truly brilliant Catholic follower:

This is a kind of upper level of Sainthood; becoming a Saint Prefect, or a Saint of Saints, if you like. If your life and deeds have shown particularly outstanding commitment to the cause of spreading Catholicism you may be raised to this pedestal of pedestals and adored by thousands in the true sense of the word.

Certain groups, occasions and other things have their own special Saints known as Patrons. To become a Patron Saint is certainly the crowning glory for any Saint, and the great thing is that you can become a Patron Saint of just about anything: the Pope is currently looking for a Patron Saint of the internet and computer programmers, with Saint Isidore of Seville being the current front runner. There are Patron Saints of ugly people, fireworks, comedians, procrastinators, coffee pots, various phobias, mad dogs, dysentry and sexually transmitted diseases (which is hilariously ironic, considering the Catholic Church's dislike of condoms).

* Born Joseph Alois Ratzinger, or Palpatine to his mates.
* Or, rather, don't believe in Benny's God. The only way his comments make any kind of sense at all is if he is lumping followers of the thousands of alternative gods to his Catholic one in with those who follow no god at all. Which makes no sense anyway.
*** I'm looking at Catholicism because all other religious choices are false and therefore evil.
**** Unless, of course, they didn't want to convert to Catholicism, in which case she just let them die.

Weight loss: an update and a video

Oh, how I love thee...
I won't lie... this week hasn't gone wonderfully well regarding my weight loss target. After starting with the target of losing a stone by Christmas, I now have to lose a bit more than a stone before Christmas. I'm putting this down (mainly) to the delayed action of my 'last hurrah' weekend, which resulted in the addition of an entire 3lb to my body weight. I managed to get rid of most of that during the rest of the week, but last night saw an evening out in which the eating of curry and drinking of beer was necessary for fear of offending the birthday boy. So we'll see.

One thing I've successfully achieved is changing my choice of beverage at my bi-weekly after-school pub trip with colleagues. I'm loathe to give them up entirely as the layout, ethos and organisation of my school doesn't exactly lend itself to bumping into people outside of my department, and without my Tuesday and Friday wind-downs (and wind-ups...) it's perfectly conceivable that I could interact with nobody but maths teachers for weeks on end, and who knows what damage that could do to a mind.

Anyway... to the point: I've swapped my bi-weekly beer for a bi-weekly Diet Coke. I'm sure some people would suggest that a glass of diet water would be even better, but I'd feel somewhat uncomfortable about walking into a pub and sitting there for two hours and not paying for a drink. Buying drinks is, of course, what keeps pubs open.

A quick internet search* leads me to believe that a can of Diet Coke contains about 1.3 calories in comparison to the 142 on offer in a standard can of Fat Coke**. Compare this again to my usual tipple, a pint of beer (usually a Black Sheep, London Pride or Greene King IPA at this particular pub), which contains around 200 calories and you'll see I'm making an even bigger saving in terms of fatness. And, incidentally, financially.

The biggest issue with doing this is that I really like beer. And I feel like a bit of a girly ponce sitting with a Diet Coke in front of me. These issues are somewhat allayed by the fact that two of my drinking buddies are also trying to lose some weight and are happy to join me in a D.C. so we can possibly pretend we're in some kind of weird Diet Coke-drinking club and people won't judge us on our choice of drink***.

And then I found this...

... and everything is fine now.

* i.e. please correct me if you know better.
** Regular, non-diet Coca-Cola.
*** They'll be casting aspersions on our lifestyle choices instead, and for three people who are teachers and geeks, we're used to that.

Weight loss: a pledge

It's the start of a new (academic) year, so why not make a resolution?

I, TeaKayB, pledge to lose a stone in weight by Christmas.

This should take me down to being at the lower end of 'overweight' according to my BMI so, allowing for some seasonal weight gain, I should hopefully be in a position after Christmas to make a similar pledge and get myself down to reside comfortably within my 'ideal' BMI range by Easter ish.

How am I going to manage this? There are a few parts to my strategy which, with a hefty dollop of willpower, should work together to help me de-jaffer myself:

  1. Exercise:
     - At least one hour on my exercise bike every day.
     - At least 10,000 steps (to be judged by my ipod) every day.
  2. Diet:
    I won't be dieting, as such. I will be making an attempt to change my eating habits in the hope that I can maintain my weight without too much heartache once I've reached a level at which my scales stop pleading "one at a time, please" at least until I put my second foot on as well:
     - Smaller portions
     - A greater proportion of these portions will be fruit/veg based
     - No snacking at school (I'll eat what I take, and won't go to the shop).
  3. Tracking:
    I'll be tracking my weight and BMI ch-ch-changes using my Wii and Wii Fit board. I'll weight myself most days (but don't worry; I won't post about it as often!) Hopefully this will give me an incentive to keep it up and let me know how I'm doing.
I'm going to try to be extra-saintly with all of these so that the various birthdays between now and Christmas (including my own) can be celebrated without having to say things like "I'll have the salad."

Join in
Feel free to keep me up to date with your own goals and progress with regards to weight loss- it can help if you know there's someone else trying to achieve the same thing! You can comment on my blog posts or message me on twitter- I'm @TeaKayB!

So, without further a do... let the challenge commence!

Starting weight: 12st 8lb
This corresponds to a BMI of 27.68
Target weight: 11st 8lb
This corresponds to a BMI of 25.50

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