Category: iRant

Schrödinger’s immigrants: Brexit and the blatant xenophobia in the Leave camp’s immigration argument

Brexit rages in the minds and the mouths of this country, and the whole debate has pretty much boiled down to the question of immigration control. That’s understandable, as it’s the most emotionally charged aspect of the referendum, and the easiest target for the Leave campaign’s very cleverly calculated rhetoric.

We’re being flooded by immigrants. They come here taking your jobs and your children’s jobs. They come here without jobs and take your benefits and your children’s benefits.

So goes the Leave campaign’s prime argument.

Schrödinger’s immigrants

When challenged on this xenophobic stance, Brexiters are quick to point out that, of course, they’re not against all immigrants. Just, you know, the bad ones.

Taking last night’s Question Time as an example, the anti-immigration comments from the Leave camp (panel and audience alike) can be summed up as this:

“Oh we’re not against immigration as such. We do like immigrants. We just don’t want the ones that come here taking our jobs, and the ones that come here and don’t work and take our benefits.”

So tell me again, who are these immigrants that you do like, then? Because if you don’t want the ones that come here to work, and you don’t want the ones that come here without a job, that adds up to 100% of foreigners coming to this country.

And that makes you exactly one thing: a xenophobe.

Heart vs mind

I’m worried about Brexit. As a German, European and adopted Brit who has lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for the past eight years, I’m very worried indeed about a potential exit from the EU. But what worries me most is the blatant xenophobia driving the Leave campaign.

As Eddie Izzard kept saying on the Question Time panel, this stance is hugely damaging to our efforts to improve the state of humanity globally. What we need is not more withdrawal into our own little national bubbles, shutting our borders and throwing out people whose nationality we don’t like. History should have taught us enough of the consequences this approach tends to create. What we need is to reach out to each other and work together on the real threats facing us and our children: Climate change. Resources running out. Spreading political instability. War. Hunger. Good luck to any nation trying to make a difference to those issues on their own.

I’m worried about the referendum because when it comes to immigration, the Leave camp has a very emotionally charged argument that is being driven right into people’s hearts, while the Remain campaign is trying to appeal to economic considerations, humanity and plain old common sense.

I can only hope that when the people of this country vote on the 23rd, they will read their minds as well as their hearts and not let the scaremongering rhetoric cloud their human judgement.

The X-Files Revival Diary:
Episode 6, My Struggle II

Dear Diary,

My struggle indeed. What a stupid non-ending to a thoroughly flawed and frustrating series. This show should have just been left dead and buried. Not only was this the worst orchestrated-pandemic-apocalypse storyline ever scripted, it also ends with a completely unnecessary and frustrating cliffhanger. The kind of cliffhanger you don’t slap on a show that just had a one-off revival fifteen years after the original and no plans for a return.

Booohooo, Mulder is dying from the evil virus and the only thing that can save him is an injection of alien DNA from our son right this moment – BY THE WAY we don’t even know where our son is. And we’re stuck in the world’s biggest traffic jam in the middle of a fucking pandemic.

WELL YOU’RE SCREWED THEN. Even if all this is meant to lead into another movie, I’m not even interested. Let them all die. I don’t care.

Instead of a review I’ll offer you a drinking game: Have a shot every time someone says “ALIEN DNA!!!” If you don’t end up in a coma by the end of the episode…WELL THEN YOUR DNA IS PROBABLY FUCKING ALIEN, TOO. Congratulations.

Seriously, I’m so done with this.

Oh and dear Chris Carter:


The next mass extinction is already happening and we’ve got a seat in the front row

I learned a new word this week: Defaunation – the loss of animal populations as a consequence of human activity. Kind of like deforestation, you know, but with animals. The term was coined by Professor Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University, who – together with other scientists – published some pretty freaking scary research findings yesterday.

According to these scientists we’re right in the middle of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. These used to be caused by asteroid strikes and such – think dinosaurs – but if you look around at what’s been happening on our planet it probably comes as no surprise to hear that we – as in humanity – is responsible for the next extinction. And it will hit us, too. We’ve basically signed our own execution order.

Professor Dirzo has spent years studying the consequences of defaunation – what happens to an ecosystem if one species of plant or animal goes extinct, and how far-reaching the consequences can be.

Well, the answer is: pretty damn far-reaching. The effects can be global. They can kill us.

Here’s an example that shows how: These researchers have been conducting experiments in Kenya, studying areas that have been isolated from large mammals – elephants, zebras, giraffes – to find out how the ecosystem responds to the removal of these species. They found that pretty soon rodent populations will grow massively, because they find food and shelter in the seeds and shrubs that are now not being eaten or trampled by the big guys. We know rodents carry all sorts of diseases – the rodents in Kenya, for instance, carried the plague, among others. More rodents means more pathogens and a much higher risk of diseases spreading among human populations. And the more densely populated an area, the more defaunation happens, the more rodents you’ll get… Well, you get the picture. Mass epidemic of plague. Cheery prospects.


So, what needs to happen is this: We need to protect the animals – the elephants and giraffes, the rhinos, the tigers, the whole lot. And not just because they’re cute and majestic. But because they are part of a very, very fragile ecosystem that keeps a fine balance between all the species, making sure each of us has a chance to survive.

Of course this means stopping deforestation and other exploitation of the land that these animals need as their natural habitat. And it means stopping the hunting and poaching and illegal trade in wild animals and animal products. It means a whole load of people deciding to be more responsible in how they treat the environment.

Hopefully these researchers can shout loud enough and raise enough awareness. Because maybe, if the ultimate goal is not ‘save the tigers’ but ‘save humanity from extinction’, it will just change people’s minds enough for us to realise that this is serious.

Fore more news about the future, read our website and magazine Factor. It’s not all doom and gloom. We also look at happy and exciting stuff – space travel, floating cities, flying cars…everything that the future could bring.

How to take all the pleasure out of reading in just 90 minutes

The reading game is set to change forever, ladies and gentlemen. Well, at least according to this dude here who (along with the rest of the media this week) is getting all over-excited about an ‘insane’ app that supposedly lets you read a novel in 90 minutes.

Spritz it’s called, and it is out to ruin your reading pleasure forever.

Well. The speed reading thing may have its uses if you’re reading for work or for study. (I was certainly wishing I had this skill back when I was going through a combined British and American history and literature degree!) But when reading for pleasure – arguably the main reason behind most everyday novel-reading – why on earth would you want to take all the enjoyment out of the experience just for the sake of being able to boast that you read, like, four books in an afternoon?

I don’t speed read, but a lifelong obsession with books has turned me into a fast reader. Often too fast for my own good. Yes, maybe I get through more books in a year than the average reader, but the downside is I don’t always take them in as much as I would like. So I allow myself to speed through a book if it’s a bit rubbish, but I force myself to slow down on the books I enjoy, often going back a page or even a chapter to read it again, more slowly, and pay attention to the details.

Because really, all the pleasure of a novel lies in the detail and in the language – each sentence carefully crafted by the author, who generally takes a hell of a lot of time to create it all. (So take the time to bloody appreciate it.) If you’re speeding through, you just won’t take these things in. You probably won’t even notice what a beautiful thing language can be, or feel the joy of discovering a particular author’s unique way with words. All that will stay with you is essentially a plot summary; and you can get that in less time from Goodreads or Wikipedia.

Besides, it’s just incredibly sad to think that our attention span has shrunk so much that we now need an app to convert a novel into a bite-sized portion of entertainment that our overloaded brains can handle in between playing Candy Crush Saga and watching X Factor.

No. I refuse to believe that this is true. We don’t need a speed reading app for novels. What we need is to sit down and take a breath, set aside some time and throw ourselves into a book with all our brains and all our hearts. Because that’s the only way to really experience the magic of getting completely lost in a good novel for hours at a time. If it takes a week, let it take a week. If it takes a month, whatever! It will be worth it.

Let’s not allow today’s obsession with technology to ruin this ancient, timeless and absolutely essential pleasure for us.

In a nutshell, as the brilliant Emma Donoghue said on Twitter this week:

No, what’s ‘insane’ is thinking you’ll enjoy books more by giving them less of your brain and time!


My bookshelf – well, part of it anyway. The result of years of reading, not minutes.

Technology marketing vs feminism

We were about to get all upset about a really stupid technology/gadget marketing strategy: Eurostar’s ePad Femme.

Because apparently women can only handle a tablet if it comes pre-loaded with yoga, dieting, pregnancy and cooking apps. Ya know, because we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about anything else. (And it’s pink. Obviously.)

But then we founded a new feminist-scientific-religious movement instead. It is based on the gospel according to Kristina:

It’s only because men are not as evolved as women. Even if looking from the religious point of view – God made the earth, the animals then a man and only women last – as you can see the pattern here is starting from the inanimate to the most intelligent. Argument proved in any situation.

We’re not sure what to call our movement yet, but sacrificial Snickers will play a key role.

A sad day for Rock

Oh heavens.

It’s Rock Week on The X Factor. Well. Er, “rock” week. So far nobody really seems to have grasped the concept of rock music.

But you know the music industry is in a bad state when a member of Take That tries to explain to a member of N-Dubz what rock is…


…defining it as:

It’s not a pop song with a guitar stuck on it.

I can hear a lot of turning in graves going on right now.

Why you’ll see me starve before you’ll see me working for a women’s magazine

Spotted this morning on the train, in some women’s magazine (a weekly of the celebrity / gossip kind I would guess from the tasteless design) in a young woman’s lap.

On the left-hand page of a spread: Advertorial recipe feature promoting luscious-looking cupcakes.

On the right-hand page of the same spread: Huge red headline for the crash diet feature “Lose 5lb in one week!”

I’m not even going to go into the whole screwed-up body images and imposed beauty norms kind of stuff.

But still, I’m just as puzzled by the question how any editor with a shred of integrity can sign off such a spread as I am amazed that there are actually thousands of women out there who are willing to pay money to put themselves through the self-imposed emotional torture that these magazines promote.

re:View – Dark Angel, or: How to kill a perfectly good TV show

A friend got me hooked on Dark Angel recently. It’s a show I’d always wanted to watch, but back in the days, when I was still in Germany and still watching TV, its airtime clashed with X Files, so of course Dark Angel never stood a chance. But when my friend recommended the show, along with an offer to lend me her season one DVD set, I immediately hit “pause” on my current J.A.G. DVD marathon and jumped headfirst into a post-apocalyptic Seattle in the year 2019.

And, having finished watching the first season, I can honestly say, what a freaking fabulous show!

It’s got a kick-ass heroine, a ridiculously handsome male sidekick, a story that is thoroughly interesting (and stays interesting), an amibiguous super rogue, ambiguous good guys, a range of minor characters you’d totally want as friends, settings created with a loving eye for detail, a rocking soundtrack, it’s dead funny at times and makes you cry at other times.

So why did I not head off to buy the second season as soon as the credits on the last episode rolled?

Because, for all that’s great about it, Dark Angel has one big, fat, annoying flaw. And even without having seen the second (and final) season, it’s easy to see how this flaw became its downfall.

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Bi-lingual, bi-cultural, bi-d’oh!

Here in the house where I live, we’ve got a shared washing machine and tumble dryer for all the tenants to use. Everybody’s got their assigned time slots, which are approved by the landlord and clearly stated in a timetable next to the washing machine.

Today, and not for the first time, my laundry and I arrived at the washing machine at the start of our time slot, only to find somebody else’s laundry doing happy rounds right there, with about an hour remaining for the programme to finish.

After dragging my laundry basket up the stairs again, I decided to post a note for the Laundry Time Thief on the washing machine to sort out the issue. Without thinking much about it, I started writing down a simple and straightforward: “Dear XY, you could at least have asked before using my assigned time slot.”

Then I remembered that I was in England.

So, now instead the note says: “I’m sorry if there was some kind of misunderstanding. I might be mistaken in assuming that this particular time slot was supposed to be reserved for me…”

Don’t say I haven’t learned nothin’ in my 16 months in this country.

Either way, it didn’t exactly improve my current laundry situation.