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Saturday 29 August 2009
Letters: Giving Tarantino a try
Tarantino, the genius who is just pretending
Tarantino is a genius. Perhaps that means his films demand more of you when you experience them – you can't just wake up at the bloody bits. Johann Hari talks about the violence ("The tragedy of Tarantino: he has proved his critics right", 26 August), but Tarantino tells us that these are films; it's not real, it's all pretend.
For example, the wonderful Kill Bill: it opens (spoiler alert, but Tarantino fans must have seen Kill Bill already – three times at least) with a song by Nancy Sinatra, "Bang bang my baby shot me down". This song tells of two children playing, pretending to shoot each other. Then, in case you didn't geddit yet, Tarantino quotes "Revenge is a dish best served cold" but attributes this to a Klingon proverb. Klingons are not real, they are pretend.
Inglourious Basterds – spoiler here – is a Second World War film, but Tarantino gives us music belonging to a cowboy film – then he shows us a scene with a simple hut and a farmer chopping wood – it looks like a cowboy film too. I think he's saying to us here that this film as historically accurate about the Second World War as cowboy films are about the real history of America – and is to be taken as seriously. I don't know how else Tarantino can tell us that these films are to be enjoyed as pretend.
Let me urge all your readers to give Tarantino a try: he speaks the language of cinema so fluently and eloquently; his enjoyment in making the film shows, and is infectious; in my experience you can still enjoy it hugely even if you hide behind your hand in the particularly gruesome bits (sorry, Quentin).
What's wrong with the NHS
On reading the piece on the report of the Patients Association ("Inept nurses should be struck off", 28 August) my first response was to ask why this should come as a surprise.
I retired from the NHS a couple of years ago with over 37 years' experience in acute, community, and mental health sectors. I worked my way up from hospital porter to hospital administrator, and ended up as a national project manager. In the latter part of my career I began to despair at the way we were heading.
The fundamentals are getting overlooked, and common sense, compassion, and basic standards of care seem to have been replaced by statements of intent, obsessive documentation, platitudes about "the patient experience", and much staff time at the nurses' station apparently at the expense of direct patient care.
More recent experience as a patient and as the close relative of patients has only added to my concern. On occasions I have had to speak out to staff on failings in hygiene and basic patient care. Former colleagues, both clinical and non-clinical, who are now retired relate similar experiences. We still care passionately about the NHS, but almost without exception none of us faces the thought of growing old with much optimism.
Of course not everywhere provides poor care, but there is too much anecdotal evidence to dismiss as isolated instances. The underlying cause has to be a cultural thing, individual and organisational. Government-imposed contracting for services and changes in nurse training, together with over-emphasis on targets and throughput have changed the NHS. The tragedy is that it doesn't have to be like this, but too many staff don't know what they don't know, and those in charge seem blind to what is happening.
I was both amused and horrified by Dudley Dean's letter (22 August). As a health service worker of nearly 30 years I can assure Mr Dean that the exact opposite of his contention that the staff in the NHS are the root of the problem is in fact the case. Health service staff are the backbone of the service; it is a service provided by people for people and nothing less.
Since 1986, I have never known a year without reorganisation or restructure. Staff and managers are not allowed do their jobs without micro-management and the appliance of the stick of meaningless performance standards, which actually hinder patient care.
I was amazed that the best example Mr Dean could bring to the discussion was a case where a poor French GP was dragged out of his home in the early hours, to attend to Mr Dean's alarming symptoms. We have a robust system in place where if you have a sudden illness or injury, a highly professional 24-hour ambulance service will provide you with a fully equipped ambulance or response car and well-trained staff, who will assess you within minutes, using state of the art technology and give you sound clinical options for your further treatment.
Nor would they expect payment or even thanks for a job well done. If we do not continue to invest in our NHS and allow the insurance companies in, there will be no going back and we, in all ways, will be the poorer.
Mary Dejevsky's "disbelief" in the American resistance to a further government intrusion into their health services industry ("A mean streak in the US mainstream", 25 August) displays a typically leftist lack of understanding of both basic economics and history.
There is nothing "mean and merciless" in attempting to preserve the principles of individuality that America was founded on; principles that have allowed her to prosper and grow like no other society in history. Health services, while critical to human survival, are still bound to the same laws of economic scarcity as all other services. Only the market can allocate resources in an economically sustainable way, regardless of the good intentions of a centralised government scheme.
Americans would do well to ignore the elitist criticism from their European friends and look to free their health services industry from the stifling government regulations that already reduce supply, distort incentives and create a gulf between patient and doctor. Adding another bureaucratic monstrosity in between won't solve these problems, but is guaranteed to introduce a swathe of new ones.
And don't forget, these "merciless" individualists are the most charitable people on the planet – so much for tolerating "deprivation and suffering".
Mystery of attacks by angry cows
I am puzzled by the apparent recent increase in the number of people trampled to death by cattle (report, 25 August). Discounting the unfortunate farmer whose herd was spooked by a fire engine – a pure accident – three deaths in three months is surely way above average.
This may be due to an increase in dog walkers in the countryside, but it could also be due to an increase in the practice of keeping cows and calves in the same field, known as a "suckler" system. This practice fell out of fashion in lowland areas several decades ago as more intensive systems developed, but seems to have become much more common again recently.
But above all we should keep things in perspective. Cows are normally very docile creatures and, contrary to popular myth, most bulls are quite harmless, particularly beef breeds. The chances of death or injury from cattle are small compared with other risks that we take for granted – being hit by a car when walking down a pavement, for example, let alone crossing the road or driving a car. Nearly 1,000 people die each year as a result of accidental poisoning or exposure to noxious chemicals.
But to get an accurate assessment of the risk we need to know how many people a year walk their dogs through fields containing cattle without sustaining injury, and how often. I suspect the total number of these dog-walk days would be huge compared with the number of injuries.
I enjoyed reading your editorial "Follow the herd" (25 August) in response to the recent spate of attacks on humans by cows. As you rightly state, "animals are living, feeling beings as well."
Given this, don't you think that it is about time that we referred to these animals as "he" or "she" when the sex of the animal in question is known? In particular I refer to the sentence, "The mother will protect its calf" – surely a mother is of the female sex and therefore the pronoun should be "her"?
Hampton Poyle, Oxfordshire
I was interested to read the National Farmers Union's comments on the spate of death by cows. Its spokesman states: "We would hope that this is an unfortunate coincidence." May we ask what the alternative is? Are we at risk from an organised attack from the UK cow population?
Coursework is a training for life
I'm very disheartened by the decision to drop or reduce coursework in GCSEs. If the aim of our school system is to prepare children for a working life, then we are doing those children a huge disservice by assessing them purely on the basis of an exam.
I wouldn't dream of trying to do my day job as a software engineer without using reference material, and yet it seems that we expect to get an adequate assessment of somebody's capability by denying them reference material and then expecting them to be able to solve difficult problems purely on the basis of memorised facts in a very short space of time. Working life is about good performance over a long period; this is what coursework measures and we need more, not less coursework in our education system.
Black people in Poland
As a mixed-race Anglo-Caribbean-Pole who has lived, worked and studied in Poland, I take issue with John Lichfield's assertion that race is "Poland's great issue" (27 August).
While it is true that Poland is an extremely homogeneous society, that is a result of history rather than any Polish choice. To claim that it is a "deeply sensitive, but mostly concealed, nerve in Polish society" is journalistic hyperbole.
There have been black students in Poland since the Fifties and now there are a few second generation mixed-race Poles. As regards Asians in Poland, there is estimated to be a population of between 30,000 and 50,000 Vietnamese alone, mainly in and around Warsaw.
Dr Wanda Wyporska
Women can be sports fans too
I assure Christina Patterson (26 August) that it is not only men who become absorbed in single tasks or indeed in sport, as she suggests in her piece of gender stereotyping.
I am a woman cricket fan, and being an amateur classical musician I get thoroughly absorbed in single tasks when practising pieces for future performance. I also greatly enjoy discussing sport with my family, friends and work colleagues. Does this mean that I am less of a woman than those who don't?
Had Ms Patterson had a closer look at the spectators attending the recent absorbing Ashes series, she would have seen many women among them.
Wrath of America
If the USA showed its anger at France for not taking part in the Iraq war by renaming French fries "freedom fries", then after the Lockerbie dispute can we expect McDonalds to become Donalds?
David J Sargant
Settle, North Yorkshire
Cricket on film
David Lister (26 August) wonders about films about cricket. About 1950 a film was made entitled It's Not Cricket, starring Garry Marsh. Somewhere in my loft I have a copy of the script.
Sri Lanka war crime
Congratulations to Channel 4 for its broadcast of the video which shows Sri Lankan soldiers committing war crimes against unarmed Tamil men. Naturally, the Sri Lankan Government has sought to deny the accuracy of the footage. Since the Sri government has banished independent journalists and NGOs it is difficult to disprove the party line. There has been no meaningful International call to accountability. The £1.5bn loan granted by the IMF to Sri Lanka last month only reinforces the notion that the Sri Lankan authorities can do as they like with impunity.
A Doktor writes
You report that "Germany is still obsessed with the importance of academic titles. It is not only medical doctors who are entitled to be addressed as Herr or Frau Doktor but anyone who holds a PhD" ("German students 'paid thousands of euros in bribes' for PhDs", 26 August). Sorry, but I thought that was pretty much the case in the UK too.
Dr Stephen Wyatt
Don't believe it
Monica Finan suggests (letter, 28 August) that our use of adverbs and adjectives will soon be limited to "incredible" and "incredibly". Amazing!
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