This year’s Oscar “goody bag” is “an eloquent testimony to Hollywood’s enormous financial resources, as well its sometimes extraordinarily bad taste”, say James Gillespie and Alex Yeates in The Sunday Times. Those who attend on 28 February as nominees for either acting or directing awards can look forward to a wide range of gifts, including “a ‘vampire’ breast lift for £1,300” (which involves taking blood from one part of the body and using it to revive the decolletage in some psuedo-scientific manner) and “six packs of luxury Swiss loo rolls worth £190”.
Naturally, not all the gifts may be equally appreciated. It’s hard to see Leonardo DiCaprio (the bookies’ pick for Best Actor) taking advantage of the breast lift. But there’s still the “ten-day first-class trip to Israel valued at £38,000 and a 15-day walking tour of Japan at £31,000”. The year-long Audi rental might also come in handy. Overall, the bag is valued at around £130,000 – “more than 70 times the value of the Bafta version”.
However, as someone who doesn’t have a burning desire to sit through a 12-hour flight to Japan, I’d still prefer the gifts given out at the Baftas ceremony last Sunday at the Royal Opera House. As Patrick Sawer notes in The Daily Telegraph, the Bafta bag contained “a specially commissioned caddy of Fortnum and Mason ‘Bafta blend’ tea” and “an £8.50 jar of Savoy marmalade”. More costly gifts included “a £130 Cross gold and chrome plated fountain pen and a £120 Swarovski crystal chaton”, not to mention “the £1,045 leather and brass Globe-Trotter trolley case the gifts are packed in”.
A Valentine’s Day scam
Last Sunday was Valentine’s Day. It’s big business, particularly in the US – Americans apparently spend nearly $20bn a year on it. Small wonder that “romance scams” are on the rise, says Gonzalo Viña in the Financial Times. RBS data suggests these involve “mostly single men aged over 50” who are “duped into giving away tens of thousands of pounds in return for the promise of love”. One victim “gave away his life savings of £50,000 to help a ‘girlfriend’ who told him she needed the money to… stop her home from being repossessed”.
Still, it sounds better than what James Innes-Smith endured. A break-up left him feeling that “men and women were fundamentally incompatible”, he writes in The Times, and “that all love must die”. Desperate, he attended the “Noble Man retreat” – a workshop “run by women for the benefit of men” – held in a room whose ceiling was swathed in “exposed, puffy pink lagging”, resembling “the wall of a giant protective womb”.
Highlights included an “excruciatingly awkward, highly sexualised rendition of the Dance of the Seven Veils, performed with gusto by the counsellors”. Innes-Smith does say that his “emotional blockage” was “expunged” by the trip – I’m just grateful I’m married.
Tabloid money: “MPs really do take us for morons”
• Fraudsters “are clever in ways that most of us aren’t”, says Jennifer Selway in the Daily Express. So it’s good to know that “banks, police, the Home Office and the Bank of England are teaming up in a new outfit called Financial Fraud Action UK”.
However, catching the crooks may not be enough. After all, “when you’ve got your alleged villains in the dock you still have a mountain to climb”. During the recent trial against the six brokers conspiring to fix “Libor”, I “had to keep reminding myself what Libor was, along with derivatives and interest-rate swaps”. Evidently the jurors had the same problem, as “by day four of the trial one juror was found to be asleep”. Worse, the prosecution’s case “turned out to be hopelessly flawed” so that in the end “nobody was surprised when all six men were acquitted”.
• Tennent’s Lager “is to become the first alcohol product in the UK to display the calorie count on its labels”, says the Daily Mirror’s Brian Reade. In theory this should “ensure drinkers can make an informed decision” and “promote the responsible consumption of alcohol”. But the plan has a big flaw – informed decision-making and responsible consumption don’t figure highly in the “thinking of the majority of their clientele”. Indeed, “the ones who swig 9%-proof Tennent’s Super” are likely to be “so smashed that they can’t even see the words on the can”.
• MPs are due to get another large pay rise. Naturally, says The Sun, many say that “they don’t want the money” and that the hike is “being forced on them by IPSA, the regulator”. However, if they genuinely think it’s too much, “they can simply hand it back”.
Of course, “there’s as much chance of that happening as there is of David Cameron winning the Eurovision Song Contest” – so their protestations prove that “they really do take us for morons”. Worse, “it looks like the 80 or so MPs who chair Select Committees” are “going to get an even heftier increase”. It’s hard not to be angry at this “greed and hypocrisy”.