We must begin this week’s Speed Read with a public service announcement to those readers anxiously awaiting their weekly cocktail of sarcasm, current affairs and age-related angst. Your regular writer is off mourning the interminable march towards decrepitude and senility (at least that’s what us whippersnappers are led to believe occurs on every birthday after the age of 35), so you’re forced to endure the ramblings of his understudy. PSA over. Let’s go.
It was a bold move for the powers that be to entrust a millennial (urgh) with this week’s Speed Read given our well documented apathy towards anything not involving hashtags or being offended. Given this shock display of trust, it feels only right to at least attempt to cover some of the rather serious things going on in the world.
In the latest instalment of our unstoppable spiral towards nuclear destruction and Mad Max-esque battles for survival, a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned by a nerve agent in what some are suggesting could be a Kremlin-sponsored assassination attempt. Given the multitude of terrifying questions – and even more terrifying potential answers – that this action invokes, it’s perhaps all the more perplexing that the Daily Express has chosen to focus on Mr Skripal’s penchant for lottery scratchcards. One can only assume that the Express’ army of highly talented journalists are several steps ahead of everyone else in their unstoppable quest for the truth.
This week has also seen the reddest of red carpets rolled out for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudia Arabia, or MBS to his friends. The darling of many, due to his liberal reforms (women at football matches? What is the world coming to?!), MBS is here to both refresh Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the UK (must…not…mention…arms…sales…) and to shore up international support for his battle against conservative elements within the state. The UK, for it’s part, is definitely not trying to persuade the Saudis to float part of its state-owned oil group, Aramco, on the London Stock Exchange…
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Speed Read without an obligatory mention of he-who-must-not-be-named (no, not Voldemort, the other one). The world collectively groaned as it was announced that world’s worst haircuts would meet face-to-face for a “milestone” meeting. As far as we can see there are two possible outcomes to this inevitable “mine’s bigger than yours” battle: nuclear devastation or the apocalyptic version of Laurel & Hardy (wait, those are the same thing. Forget we said anything).
It would also be remiss of us not to at least mention International Women’s Day. So far this year we’ve seen pivotal developments in the ongoing battle for gender equality and it was truly befitting of the centenary of women’s suffrage that International Women’s Day 2018 was an inspiring ode to the strength and influence of women from all backgrounds, races and sexualities.
As with any #InternationalXYZ day, brands were clamouring to be noticed for their completely altruistic, definitely-not-weak-attempts-at-CSR stunts. From the predictably controversial (we’re looking at you BrewDog) to the actually-quite-impressive to the downright vapid, there was a veritable smorgasbord of attempts to woo female consumers.
Twitter’s cacophony of trolls also undertook their annual tradition of lamenting the lack of International Men’s Day (apparently a straightforward Google search is too much for some: it’s 19th November). Thankfully, comedian Richard Herring spent the day on a one-man quest to rid the internet of misogynists – an unenviable task if ever there was one – and in doing so managed to raise an astounding £130,000 for Refuge, an organisation helping victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, so-called ‘honour’-based violence, human trafficking and modern slavery, and female genital mutilation.
In music-related news it came as a surprise to absolutely no one when the once-great NME announced that – with absolutely no dignity remaining intact – today would be its final print issue. Launching in March 1952, it will come as a shock to anyone under the age of 30 that the magazine was once the paragon of a thriving music press. But for many, the days of Julie Burchill, Paul Morley and Tony Parsons will evoke fond memories. Nobody is quite sure when the descent into irrelevance began but it’s nigh-on impossible to remember a time when the paper was discussed with anything other than tones of bafflement and pity. Still, it hasn’t stopped the nostalgia crew from filling the comment sections with the usual drivel of how digital has killed the media. In truth, its demise arose because it was clueless about what it was supposed to be doing or who it was supposed to be for.
Aaah the Oscars. That wonderful time when an industry of millionaires gathers to pat themselves on the back for being wonderfully creative and completely in touch with the important social discussions of the day. After last year’s antics, this year felt somewhat anticlimactic. Along with the presence of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, there was also some stuff about films. Call Me By Your Name didn’t win Best Picture (a travesty), Guillermo Del Toro did win Best Director for The Shape of Water (to be expected) and Get Out’s Jordan Peele became the first black screenwriter to win Best Original Screenplay. All in a day’s work.
And thus endeth your weekly dose of current affairs courtesy of TFSR. Amazingly, we haven’t even mentioned Brexit.
Damn. Maybe next week.
Have a great weekend.