Types Of BBC TV Programme

Types of BBC TV Programme

The BBC make the data available for their TV and Radio output. The graph above summarises the type of output you’d be exposed to by watching BBC1-4 for the 7 days that started on 5 February, 2010. There are many more categories mentioned in the data; the graph only includes categories that make up 1% or more of the output.

We have to conclude that the BBC know what the people want, and this reflects our needs. We want more soap opera than insight, more quizzes than programmes that inform, and more sports than advice. A cynic might suggest that this is a poor reflection on modern society, yet it more likely points to the main use of the TV medium, as an easy escape at the end of a stressful day.

Henrietta Lacks and the Tragic Story of Medical Ethics, Racial Politics and Health Care Reform in America


For months, the world has watched eagerly as Obama has tried to navigate the juggernaut of health care reform in the United States. I’m from Canada and I currently live in the United Kingdom, both countries with a long and ardent history of public health care. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand how such a great number of people can be so opposed to the idea that everyone deserves to be able to see a doctor when they are unwell. As recently as today, the Senate is giving no indication of when the watered down Plan B will be passed or when millions of uninsured American citizens can expect some support from their government.

In light of all that is going on with health care reform, Rebecca Skloot‘s book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks becomes all the more poignant, relevant and sad. It’s the true story of a woman who has been largely ignored by the people who write history, despite her involuntary but undeniably great contribution to science over the last century. The reasons for her omission are complex, and no doubt begins and ends with the fact that she was a “poor and largely illiterate Virginia tobacco farmer, the great-great-granddaughter of slaves. Born in 1920, she died from an aggressive cervical cancer at 31, leaving behind five children. No obituaries of Mrs. Lacks appeared in newspapers. She was buried in an unmarked grave.” (source) Her cancer was extremely aggressive and at some point, without her knowledge or consent or that of her family, cells (now called HeLa cells by scientists) were taken from her diseased cervix and have been used as the basis for medical invention for decades.

There are … “trillions more of her cells growing in laboratories now than there ever were in her body.” Laid end to end, the world’s HeLa cells would today wrap around the earth three times. Because HeLa cells reproduced with what the author calls a “mythological intensity,” they could be used in test after test. “They helped with some of the most important advances in medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization” … HeLa cells were used to learn how nuclear bombs affect humans, and to study herpes, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease and AIDS. They were sent up in the first space missions, to see what becomes of human cells in zero gravity. (source)

The only reason anyone knows about Henrietta Lacks’s contribution is because, decades after her death, doctors began to take blood samples from her surviving relatives to be able to better understand and study HeLa cells. Today, many of her relatives are living in Baltimore and, like Lacks herself did, they struggle to get by. Despite this, they are luckier than Lacks’s daughter who was institutionalised in what must have been a hellish facility – The Hospital for the Negro Insane – where she died at the age of 15. The story defies imagination and inspires disbelief, followed by a combination of anger and horror. According to Skloot’s research, the medical tradition has a long history of experimenting on African Americans in the name of science.

What does this have to do with health care reform?

Says one of Henrietta Lacks surviving sons, “She’s the most important person in the world, and her family is living in poverty. If our mother was so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?”


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book jacket image curtosy and copyright of Rebecca Skloot.

Robert McGinnis: The Art of the Femme Fatale

Robert McGinnis - The Lion House

Robert McGinnis is a prolific American artist, responsible for illustrations adorning the covers of over 1,000 paperbacks. Much of his work concentrates on the crime/mystery genre, which features alluring, semi-naked women, as clearly demonstrated in the Robert McGinnis Flickr pool.

His talents are also employed for movie posters. Among the most memorable of his film output to date are the posters for Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Man With The Golden Gun (along with many other James Bond posters), and the collectable cult-classic poster for Barbarella.

A recent documentary, Painting the Last Rose of Summer (2008), beautifully captures his story and creative process.

The Lion House photo by Flickr user Olivander

Murder Inc. – The Psychology of the Battlefield


The February 2010 issue of Vanity Fair has a great profile on a US military sniper called The Distant Executioner. Although the piece focuses on one man in particular, it delves into the politics and psychology of killing the enemy by sniper fire as opposed to killing at close range during combat.

In 1947 an army general and historian named S.L.A Marshall conducted a study and extensive survey that uncovered that “up to 85 percent of frontline American riflemen had not fired their weapons in combat – even when under attack and at risk of being overrun.”

He attributed low firing rates to an instinctive aversion to killing at close range, when the potential victim is clearly identifiable as another human being. At the vital moment, Marshall wrote, the rifleman becomes a conscientious objector… Numerous independent studies have since found similarly low firing rates among Japanese and German riflemen, as well as among the frontline soldiers of World War I, the American Civil War, and several other conflicts. For whatever reason, the Pentagon took Marshall on faith and initiated a decades-long human improvement campaign. By the Korean War in the 1950s, surveys showed that fully half the frontline riflemen who saw the enemy fired their weapons in response. In Vietnam, the number rose to 90 percent … Of course, to fire at someone is by no means to hit him. The 90 percent figure was undermined by a significant number of intentional misses, and it was inflated by a battle doctrine called ‘Quick Kill’, which taught American soldiers to spray masses of automatic fire rather than take careful aim. As a result of that doctrine, in Vietnam U.S. infantrymen fired 50,000 rounds of ammunition for each kill they made – a ratio that would have encouraged even conscientious objectors to go ahead and shoot.

This all leads up to the discussion on snipers, also referred to as ‘Murder Inc.’. In comparison, snipers with their advantage of being able to kill from a distance expended only 1.39 rounds for every Vietnamese killed.

“Big Gun” Susan image by ttstam.