Monday, December 31, 2007

I Have (Just) Settled Here

Being in London for Christmas is bittersweet this year, as I am aware that next year my time home may well not be as extensive; after all, I will be working and time off is a precious currency. Despite it being wonderful to come home, we will have to weigh up the consequences of taking a few days here and now rather than there and then. Which is always depressing, to go through the cost benefit analysis like that.

Nonetheless, it's been extremely enjoyable, albeit limited on the whole time spent in London with London. I love London for its own sake, not just the people I love who are here, although obviously that helps. I've not yet wandered through lonely streets, besides the Thames, which is something I miss passionately. I'm just drawn to the idea that proper city living involves life revolving around a river through the centre. Manhattan may be surrounded by water, but it's just not the same; Boston, obviously, fits that ideal a bit better.

Reading xopo's post about DF was a good reminder that our homes and first loves may be elsewhere, and how important it is to remember why you were in love. Catford may not exactly be glamorous, but London is a part of me and I'd hate to be one of those people who hated where they grew up, and are reminded of everything that constrained them when they go back.

London for me is, instead, somewhat liberating. It's where I formed; I can wander here anonymously, without my responsibilities, without being part of a couple. Not that I begrudge that, obviously, but my identity is different these days. So to be reminded of where I come from, who I am, and how I came to be that person brings back a little of the teenager in me when I was malleable, growing, hardening into who I am now. And it therefore frees me up a bit to stop being angry at the world, to see wonder and joy. St. Pancras station did that for me all on its own last week. Another reason why I'm glad to be back, and will hopefully return to NYC refreshed and ready for the next stage in life.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Resolute

It's that time of year when I think about what it is I want to achieve next year. Many of those things are things I always want to achieve - less body fat, less laziness, more organisational skills, more happiness, yada yada yada - but I really do want to do that. Maybe because this is my last year in which New Year will come and I will be in my twenties. I'm also graduating from an academic institution, quite probably for the last time ever, and therefore entering the unknown realms of being a grownup, having responsibility and being accountable. Ulp. and ugh.

I just looked at my resolutions from last year and, of course, I haven't really stuck to any of them.

Still, this semester promises to be a bit easier going than usual, and I really do hope to do more of the relaxing, exercising and so forth. Hence, in an attempt to make me accountable for my resolutions (last year's clearly having done so much good!):
  1. Keep track of my resolutions! Therefore, I will set a reminder on my computer so that every 28th of the month, I will take stock of what I set out to do this year AND will be forced to blog about it. Ha! Maybe that'll work.
  2. Get my body fat down to 25%. This is not merely for aesthetic reasons, but also because my family has a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and so on; I would like to do everything possible to avoid that.
  3. Go out for a BIG night out every month - and I mean BIG. More dancing. That sort of thing.
  4. Work our way through the classic films. Using the IMDB's top 250, or whatever it is, and various more learned tomes, that's what we'll do. Netflix does make this all so much easier... and then I'm going to write about that on the sister blog.
  5. Read more classic literature. I talk about this a lot, but this year is the year I do it. Ditto with the sister blog, poor neglected thing that it is.
  6. Always have fresh flowers in the house. And maybe even not neglect a plant. Although don't want to go overboard, there, one step at a time. My propensity to kill plants is quite remarkable.
  7. Try a new recipe from our multitude of books every week.
  8. Go to one of: a museum, cinema, classical concert every month.
That's enough for now. Definitely. But it's a good start. Sort of. We'll see.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Live It Up

This year we went to a fair few concerts that were absolutely excellent. So here is my list of my favourite concerts of the year - and then that's it, dunzo with listmaking... until we get to the NY resolutions... and then I actually have to check how few of the things I wanted to do this year I actually achieved. Ulp.
  1. LCD at Webster Hall. Unsurprising, I know, given the last few posts, but it really was extraordinarily good. And, as some poor souls now know, is definitely in my top ten (if not five) of all-time concerts.
  2. LCD & Arcade Fire at Randalls Island. A perfect combination, although I was disappointed with the lack of dancing to LCD, but everyone raved about them afterwards... but I really enjoyed Arcade Fire, and grew a new love for their music.
  3. M.I.A. at Terminal 5. It was an absolutely rocking show - she has so much stage presence and it was utterly brilliant. Again, increased my love for her music even more.
  4. A Touch of Class at PS1's Summer Warm Up. Ok, so that shouldn't really count, but it was one of the best days out I've had in NYC, and certainly the best "clubbing" experience outside the first time I saw Optimo. A whole heaving crowd screaming along to Roxanne and London Calling... genius. And he played the song that is guaranteed to get me moving, one Flat Beat by Mr. Oizo... sigh. Genius.
  5. Richard Hawley at Bowery Ballroom. A late entry, but it was so beautiful, and his encore consisted of my two favourite songs. And we got in on the guestlist - sweet!

Honorary mention to Jamie Lidell (whose gig was my favourite of 2006), who I love dearly but think I should branch out and therefore try not to choose him two years running.

And those concerts that were cancelled and would possibly have made it in:

  • Genius supported by Jamie Lidell - a very strange but compelling combo - sob!
  • The Long Blondes supporting The Gossip - that would have been so so so good. Sob again!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Air on a G String

That surely would require putting a Snoop Dogg tune in for song of the year, yes?

But that's not going to happen. This Songs of the Year* may feature many of the artists from the previous "Albums of the Year," but I will try to diversify. No guarantees, mind.

  1. All My Friends - LCD Soundsystem. It defined this year for me in a way that nothing else has even tried, really. It was utterly glorious both times we saw them live, and it sends chills up my spine just thinking about it. Love it.
  2. Keep the Car Running - Arcade Fire. Another spinetingler... and live it was utterly amazing.
  3. Body Baby - Pharaohe Monch. Fun, dirty, and very gnarls barkley-ish - which is only a good thing in my mind.
  4. The Beat That My Heart Skipped - Dan Le Sac v. Scroobius Pip (or whatever the hell they were). It's funny, and the line "good gosh gracious and other such phrases" has entered the domestic lexicon.
  5. Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control) - Groove Armada. It's funny, self-deprecating and a diss to the now very annoying sugababes - sweet!
  6. Bitter Sweet Love - Kyza. The whole album's excellent, but I love this the most.
  7. 20 Dollar - M.I.A. Because any sample of the pixies is grand, and this was brilliant, and is my favourite off the album.
  8. Merrymaking at My House - Calvin Harris. The album's pretty repetitive, but I just really enjoyed this.
  9. Hustler - Simian Mobile Disco. Because if I had the money, I WOULD go to the record store. I would. Just ask the other half.
  10. Someone Great - LCD. Because it's gorgeous and sad and shows just why LCD are so much better than anyone else.

Here, far less importantly, is what someone else thought.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Listmania

It's getting to that time of year where I announce my much-anticipated albums / songs of the year lists. I know, you've been waiting with bated breath all year, just to find out what could compete with last year's choice selections.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
For some reason, I decided to only do five top albums last year. Ulp. I will be very brave and try for five here. Ulp ulp ulp. Drum rolls please!

1) Sound of Silver - LCD Soundsystem. To anyone who knows me, this comes as no surprise. Or who has read this blog in the last month. It was the best album by miles - inventive, sweet, touching, jump up - it had it all. As the Observer put it, too, it sounds even better as a whole album. The tunes don't just stand alone - almost all of them are a 5* on my 'Pod - but as an album it truly shines when listened to in its intended order. That's rare these days, and another reason why I love it so. Also, anyone who can write a song as beautiful as Someone Great about a dead hamster deserves even more credit than I've given James Murphy.

2) Desire - Pharaohe Monch. Although the reviews raved about this album, I only really started listening to it a couple of months ago, ages after purchasing it. And they were spot on. It's funny, gnarls-barkley-ish in places (like Body Baby); in others, like What It Is, it's bleak and sparse, sort of like a much better eminem (I don't like him very much despite acknowledging his talent and the genius of Dre's production). The production values also have the Kanye-influence, and sound much like Common's Be, which was glorious. Excellent from start to finish.

3) Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release - Simian Mobile Disco. Although there was a lot of (rightful) praise for the Justice album, this I think is a better overall album. It is funny, makes me want to dance, and is just excellent all the way through. It's been a good year for them, too, as one of them produced both the Arctic Monkeys' album, and the Mercury-winning Klaxons', too (although I really think they are massively overrated).

4) Kala - M.I.A.. Inventive, unusual, and a banging live show which made me appreciate the variety, musicality and innovation behind this. I think it's even better than Arular, which has grown on me an awful lot over the last year. She's excellent.

5) Experience - Kyza. While it seems wrong to mention him in relation to every UK rapper, I do miss Roots Manuva; for me he was the best by miles. However, I am now a huge convert to Kyza, and have been trying to appreciate more British hiphop. This was funny, wry, well-observed and the tunes were excellent. Big big fan of this. Hope he doesn't go the way of many British rappers and go slowly a bit loopy (Matty from Credit to the Nation, Roots himself). Maybe it's our chronic underappreciation of British hip hop talent that has such a damaging effect on them. That's my theory, anyway.

That's enough for now - I have to go and do something about my tubbiness at the gym. Songs of the year and gigs of the year also coming up at somepoint soon when I need distraction from my Securities Regulation studying (or lack thereof, to be more accurate....).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lacuna

Well, I won't be blogging for a while. Mostly because, in theory, I am working my backside off. More honestly, I'd be moaning about my work, and enabling my self-pity and procrastination by distracting myself. So there you go.

The pressure is, somewhat, getting to me. But I will overcome. Oh yes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

When You Got So Much to Say

... it's called Gratitude.

Yes, today represents a horrible thing, in that the people who lived here have slowly been eroded from public life, made less important (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest I think describes this beautifully). However, I like horrible holidays - Guy Fawkes' Night being my favourite - for what they represent now, and try not to think about the symbolism or motivation behind them.

For me, Thanksgiving is about several things: one, the beauty of all the foods for Christmas, eating and drinking yourself into a stupor while watching tv, but NOT having to give / buy presents. Brilliant. Two, it's about the hospitality of Americans, who kindly open their houses and families to us foreigners without a place to go. Three, it's about remembering why your life is not so bad after all.

Here are ten things that have made my life good this year and for which I realise I am extremely lucky:
  1. LCD Soundsystem. No, seriously. The album, the concerts, have been some of the highlights of my year. And it has brought about a remembrance of the deep passion I felt for music as a kid, that obsession, the need to see every concert and know every word, and for that I am doubly grateful.
  2. Football. Although last night was a disaster, and the ramifications are now becoming clear, my playing has been fantastic. The Tigers are now a team with TWO WINS since September (bringing our all-time total to three), we are scoring, playing well, and with the same good energy. The mixed team I play on is a social and physical joy, week in, week out.
  3. Netflix. Why exactly did we wait so long for an on-tap source of joy?
  4. Hot Fuzz. Watched it again last night, and still deeply love it. It made my exam period earlier this year a lot happier.
  5. TOH and, particularly, his continual making up of songs. Today's: a rendition of "Do They Know It's Christmas" for the cats and thanksgiving. It's sort of hard to explain.
  6. Rediscovering my love for scrabble. Although I'm not sure it's going to help my GPA.
  7. Tea. Always tea. Yorkshire or Earl Grey cannot be beaten.
  8. Baking, which has become a new soothing pastime. Particularly good is baking in my awesome A&P apron from the summer. Aprons are incredibly useful. Who knew?
  9. Football Weekly Podcasts. They make my week.
  10. Annie Mac's mashup. Radio to get excited about, bringing me back to 1. And that Catherine Tate sample which does make me chuckle every time...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Sporting Chance

It's been fairly clear, I think, that I am a huge fan of sport. I'll watch almost any sport on tv. One of my biggest horrors was the emergence of Tiger Woods and the realisation that I actually quite liked watching golf; another set of hours lost to that every year. My no-nos consist of NASCAR and motorsports in general; darts, snooker, fine, and I have not yet been tested on ten-pin bowling. I'm hoping no.

What I haven't really talked about are the negative aspects. I have the tendency to be dismissive of women's dislike of sport, I know, in part because I don't really understand it. One, I think that a lot of the dialogue is dismissive of men - to treat it as a silly hobby, pastime, and trivial, is to dismiss a great deal of men. Whether that's in reaction to women being excluded or otherwise, I don't know; what I do think is that it's not positive or healthy for relationships and understanding between the sexes. Two, I was good at sport, loved it, and I went to an all-girls' school, so the pressures of running my newly-developed body in front of boys didn't happen. Plus, I know that schools didn't talk to us about the need for DECENT sports bras that might protect you.

I think one of the things I like about sport is its giving me an excuse to be combative, and I don't mean in the usual sense of competition. Every time I meet new people, particularly men, I have to "prove myself." There are assumptions made, presumptions spoken, and prejudices revealed about women and sport, be it our knowledge of it, or even ability to know about it. Every time I hear the words "play like a girl," yes, I'm dismayed, disappointed, but I also know that I get to challenge a lazy assumption, even from the most educated and intelligent men.

So many men seem to think we do not belong in sport, be it playing, in front of the tv or at the game itself. It's a last bastion of hypermasculinity, heterorthodoxy. It's interesting that, in lots of ways, I thought that American crowds are more accepting of women and "others" than in the UK - because there are tons who watch their colleges in the bars, who sit at the baseball and yell along with the blokes. However, a couple of things have come to my attention this week that show that this is a veneer; underneath, there is an underbelly of loathing, hatred and fear of the other, that expresses itself through bigotry and violence.

Jill at Feministe has a wonderful (although awfully sad) piece about the brave little college kid fighting for his right to spew homophobia at a game. If you scrape the surface, as she does thoroughly and carefully here, the bloke reveals himself to be a typical rightwing victim of the liberal elites, who hates the gays, thinks they shouldn't be allowed, wants to shout offensive stuff about them BUT is somehow a victim for being suppressed. Hmm. Funny how people do NOT understand the First Amendment at all - it's that Congress - and so government actors - cannot dictate your speech for you, not that I per se can't ban it, as a private actor, in my home, or as a private college in my sports ground. You don't have an unadulterated right to say whatever the fuck you want, unfortunately for these misguided souls. I really, really cannot wait to take First Amendment next semester; I will be reporting back on what I learn. It's going to be interesting.

Anyway, then I open the NY Times sports page this morning and this greets me: yes, apparently the Jets fans are demanding that women flash their tits for them as half-time entertainment. They even boo when they don't get to see enough. And even better - women DO IT for them; of course, they're the ones who are warned about indecency laws when they expose themselves. I don't know what makes me madder - but it's all pretty good for stoking up the rage before 9 in the morning.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lashings

So, say you're walking down the road, you're bundled into a car, at which point you are held down and gang-raped fourteen times.

If you're in a country where the hudood or hudad is law, as Pakistan was, you'd be bloody lucky to get a conviction, given that as a woman you require four male adults to testify to witnessing the rape; while a gang rape may have those four male witnesses, they're also probably the perpetrators.

Therefore, that there was a conviction - particularly coming as I do from a country where the rape conviction rates currently stands at 5% - was a good thing. That the rapists were only given five years - pretty disgusting but there you go. It's still a good result, right?

Oh, but what you didn't bargain for, maybe, is that you - the victim who was raped just the FOURTEEN TIMES - will receive lashings and a jail sentence for having been in a car with a man to whom you were not related, either by blood or marriage. Yet that is exactly what happened to this woman in Saudi Arabia. Originally she only had the lashings - she was given the jail sentence (and a doubling of lashings, just for extra spice) as punishment for trying to "manipulate" the judges. Now, I don't know the circumstances of this case; maybe she wasn't grabbed and forced into the car, maybe she got in of her own free will. Yet somehow the judges felt the need to punish her beyond the trauma and misery that came with the rape.

"Gah" seems inadequate. But what isn't in this situation?

Friday, November 09, 2007

The 300

Yes, I've been pouring out random ranty crap on this blog for 3oo posts now. In honour of this highly momentous occasion, I don't really know what to do. Ok, I'll do "how my life has changed since I started this blog."*
  1. Babies are becoming normal. One of my closest friends from undergrad had a baby a month ago, I have two good friends who are now pg, and it's weird. But sort of becoming normal. I'm still not really ok with it, but it's not a "you're so young, we're too young, ulp" sort of thing, but more of a "congrats, this is going to change our lives but I'm happy for you" sort of thing.
  2. I have cats. This is about as much responsibility for another creature's life as I want, to be honest. I honestly couldn't imagine our house without them, now, although I still have memories of not finding plates / coffee pots / glasses smashed when I get home. And the fluff. Ye gods, the fluff.
  3. I eat meat. Now, that has been a big change, in theory, but it really has just felt natural and I'm really not sorry. I am a tad ashamed that I don't eat only organic, free-range, I should; next year, it'll have to happen. But I love it; bacon alone has been entirely worth it. And those afternoons at Tequila Jack's would be much less fun without the wings deal...
  4. Africa. I always thought central & southern American would be my thing, because of the language. But after Malawi, I know I want to work in and on Africa. And I know it's reproductive justice and healthcare that I want to work on. That's been a good thing.
  5. Coffee. For better or worse, I have a problem.
  6. Embracing the US - love of Ken Kesey, Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee, knowing the AP top 25 College Football teams, dressing up for Halloween. It's all good. But it just makes me feel more English than ever, really.
I'm sure there are more, but my brain is not working - one of the things that has not changed is that whole drinking too much and rotting my braincells.

And it's time for work.


* and by "this blog," I mean this url, not the general idea of blogging on the old gracegoesabroad.co.uk site, because that's just too much.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up

This week I have used my powers, such as they are, for good. No, really.

For those who are not familiar with the evils of law citations, last year I spent a great deal of time in the library doing something known as bluebooking. You check people's cites, make sure the content is accurate, and that it follows the right format. There are many, many, many rules. It sucked the life out of me last year, but undoubtedly helped me get a job, so, you know, not too many grumbles.

It also came in handy when I helped citecheck an amicus brief for a Supreme Court case. No, seriously. My red scribblings on a piece of paper have formatted and checked a Supreme Court brief for content. Ulp. ULP. The case is going to be argued very soon, this term, and supports petitioners' contentions that the three-injection method of execution is cruel & unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. This is based on a lot of scholarship of a prof at my school, whose latest article (The Lethal Injection Quandary: How Medicine Dismantled the Death Penalty) is briefed here and is excellent. It really does explain the utter lack of research or reason behind the lethal injection - except that it makes people feel more comfortable about the death penalty. Another prof had an interesting take on this yesterday, arguing that if society is going to have a death penalty, it shouldn't hide behind ideas of humaneness and false reassurances that the person doesn't suffer or this isn't a violent taking of life. Instead, use a firing squad. Of course, having read that brief I could have told him that both Idaho and Utah actually do have firing squad options. Seriously.

While I see where he's coming from, I like this continual undermining of excuses and reasons for certain methods of the death penalty - I'm hopeful, although not too much, that it will eventually be undermined entirely. It's not soon enough, obviously, but it may bring about a sea change in what people view as acceptable punishment.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Nothing to do?

Read some of my favourite posts from the past week:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

TMI

My whole body aches today. All of it: shoulders, back, upper arms, feet. All, bizarrely, except my knees. Those knees that have been holding me back, somehow, for about five years now. More than the knees though - the creaking, the locking - has been my head. I've been using treadmills because I thought they would be better for me, yet I think they've been worse. Because I've fixated on the figures up and invariably tried to go too fast, and my knee has started locking at somewhere around two-and-a-half miles. I've been expecting to fail at a certain point and speed.

But I let myself listen to TOH and go slowly, without a watch (although, of course, I checked TOH's at the end), just going comfortably. We overtook some, got overtaken by many, and my flat-footed running style wasn't pretty (I really don't raise my knees at all). This was an exercise in both trusting someone else and trusting my body without the bleeping and LEDs.

So yesterday's near five-miler was a triumph. Without knowing time or distance I managed it. Not quickly - probably just under ten minutes per mile. Not without pain or difficulty - my knees creaked a lot early on, got better, but were, well, unhappy towards the end, but they got me through.

I have friends running marathons, qualifying for Boston (8:23s the whole way), doing triathlons and winning for their age groups, or even just managing to do the whole 26 and some miles. This is not heroic, or even that impressive. But it was exciting. And fulfilling. Let's hope it's not another five years before I run that far again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Read It and Weep

There are no words to describe how angry I am right now, having read this. However, it fits in beautifully with the book I started last night, Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex. The problems with forcibly piercing your thirteen-year-old daughter to stop her having sex with your OWN THIRTY YEAR OLD BOYFRIEND? It's distressing enough, but jurors agreed this wasn't child abuse. Do you think these are the same jurors who would convict someone for forced FGM? How is this different? Oh, yes, those FGM folks are Muslim and brown. That must be the only difference, because it seems bloody similar to me.

Kitten war. I need kitten war.

Friday, October 26, 2007

All Growed Up

Wowser. It looks like, despite the loading of the advisory panel with anti-choicers, the British proposed reforms on abortions are, shockingly, smart. Protective of women's rights. Practical.

Living in a place where we have battened down the hatches, and are desperately clinging onto and fighting for everything we can, I obviously assumed that the inquiry would be about reducing our rights. And, instead, I get to be pleasantly surprised by the proposals, which include:
  • Eliminating the need for two doctors' signatures for a woman to have abortion, and reducing it to one - albeit only for under 13 weeks lmp.*
  • Allowing nurses to perform abortions up to twelve week, and allowing such abortions outside licensed clinics.
Also, they will probably recommend maintaining the 24 week limit, which had been threatened by various anti-choicers.

It's a nice start to the morning. Surprising. If only the debate were thus here.

* lmp is "last menstrual period," which is how they calculate pregnancy's process.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Robotic

I'm trying to rant less. I recently celebrated ten years of friendship with people from university, and one thing we all noted about ourselves: less tolerant, angrier, rantier. I'm sure I wasn't this angry when I was 18. Maybe I thought I could change the world, that there was no need to be angry because I could do something about it.

Things, clearly, have changed.

This thing from the Today Show* is a prime example of why I get angry. I shouldn't fall for the bait; maybe they're doing it just to piss off people like me. Or maybe they're just lazy, stupid, and really think this is worthwhile.**

Anyway, so, apparently I'm one of these new brand of women called "fembots." Further to my earlier post, women who take time to think about children - who to have them with, when, how they can provide best for them, should they be parents at all - are not just immoral (thanks Rowan) but selfish, cold, emotionless, unnatural women who are denying their evolutionary wiring, and "sad." Ye gods.

And I wonder why I get so angry.

Which is why I need this and this and this and this to keep me sane.

*For my UK peeps, the Today Show is kind of like Richard & Judy. But stupider.

** Couldn't say something like this in the UK, surely - look at this judgment from a case Sheffield Wednesday boss Dave Allen has brought against bloggers to GET THEIR IDENTITIES (to, presumably, sue them or ban them from Hillsborough) and tell me we do not need a better libel & slander law.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lightweight

UPDATE: Yet another reason why I adore Unsprung. A great piece about an absolute pillock who thought the Frosts were irresponsible for having children. So tying in nicely to my whole "you cannot do it right" pressures... which indicates yet more clearly why taking childrearing seriously is something that women who choose abortions do.

ORIGINAL POST: Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (and so head of the Anglican Church) yesterday published an opinion piece decrying how lightly British women take abortion.

Originally, I was set to savage him, with some of the traditional pro-choice rhetoric: of course women don't take it lightly, it's a deeply difficult decision, they think long and hard about it.

Then, I realised, you know what, some do. Some don't. But before you try to get me sectioned, no I haven't lost hold of my senses. I realised that this is not the point. The point is that whether women take "abortion" doesn't matter, in many ways. Because what it indicates is that women do not take childbearing lightly. The most important issue at stake is not whether to have an abortion; it's whether to bring a child into the world. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, you may say, but I actually do believe there's a significant difference. The idea that there is no moral debate, as Williams claims, is just not true. Regardless of the reasons why women don't want to have a child - potential genetic illness, poverty, youth of motherhood, lack of education, or we simply do not want to be inconvenienced - all of these things indicate that women take childbearing and, even more importantly, childrearing lightly.

Abortion is often held up as "the most difficult decision a woman can make" (see Whoopi slapping down Hasselbeck - always a joy). I actually think the decision to have and raise a child should NEVER be taken lightly. Think about the pressures parenthood just in relation to the "obesity crisis" in Britain: We have the government threatening to send parents letters if their children are obese, and are already regulating packed lunches and isolating kids, supervising their eating because parents are not considered to be doing a good enough job. Working mothers are also held responsible for obesity because they don't have enough time to cook fresh meals.

We are bombarded with media stories about the failures of parenting, and how it is dooming society. No wonder that people are frightened of being parents. So what is a young woman to do when she finds herself pregnant?

Women taking abortion lightly indicates to me that they are all too aware of the consequences, to them, to their families, and the child itself, of bringing a child into the world. That to me says that their morals are, in fact, entirely in the right place.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fitter. Happier. More Productive. Undoubtedly.

Well, I was hoist by my own petard, I really was. After going on about how "interesting" the internet was, the internet then cut out for the remaining two hours of my class. I was then left to ruminate* on the use of internet while at school and just how much academic learning culture has, consequently, changed.
I was at dinner a few weeks ago with people of my age or older and, so, ones who had been out of education for a long time - maybe not that many years, but a different world, thanks to changes in technology. When I turned up at college, a decade ago, I'd never had an email address. I didn't get my own computer until my Masters, three years later; I had to borrow the other half's PC to complete my dissertation while working in my room, rather than the computer room. Only one person I knew had a laptop.

Oh how it has all changed. My beloved mac is my companion, constantly with me, and I really cannot imagine studying without it; I cannot quite remember what it was like to not use one for work. I claimed, at the aforementioned dinner, that I could concentrate and yet mess around on the internet. I realise that this was slightly overblown, indeed (fuelled by some very nice Pinot**), but in fact, I do manage, sort of, to concentrate well. I am not blowing my own trumpet; it's always been the case that I somehow manage to get work done and get other people in trouble by distracting them (my nickname in secondary school Spanish classes was "desgracia.") Nonetheless, last night I DID concentrate, much better than usual - and I took good notes. However, I've always managed to get by with merely adequate notes and a healthy dose of webserving. But last night was a stark reminder of our ADD Generation - people actually LEFT because they couldn't cope without the internet.

* A word which I slightly resent, as I had the letters for it for scrabble, but the only potential R available - which would have landed me a triple word score, too - ran afoul of another word coming down from there. BUGGER.
** They also do a lovely vin gris, a rosé)

Safe at Home?

UPDATE: Over half of all doctors don't support the UK's abortion laws. But that doesn't mean anything bad. In fact, what they oppose is the two doctor requirement - that is, most think that it should be enough for one doctor to approve an abortion. Sanity. In comparison to the below, anyway.

I've just been catching up on The F-Word - sorry, prof, but securities regulations is not THAT interesting and I have been paying attention for forty minutes or so without blogging - and I have just read this which is deeply depressing.

The abortion debate here is so impassioned, so polarised (despite repeat surveys showing that a majority of Americans support a woman's right to have an abortion) that home seems distantly quaint and safe. And yet, and yet, it's doing its best to undermine that right now with the people allowed to testify on an enquiry looking into the legal status of abortion (not to make it illegal, but they are looking into the 24 week limit and so forth):

The enquiry has solicited evidence from doctors and medical associations in the lead up to the enquiry, which is standard procedure. This morning, however, it emerged that the committee clerk has had to take the “unusual step” of writing to all individuals who have submitted evidence to the enquiry and asking them to disclose all of their affiliations. The reason this step has been taken is that it has emerged that at least eight of the private submissions have come from medical professionals who have not disclosed their affiliation with Christian groups opposed to abortion. Six of those are members or activists of Christian Medical Fellowship.

For reference, the CMF have made an organisational submission to the enquiry which suggests that:

  • the 24-week limit should be reviewed;
  • the limit for abortion for foetal abnormality should be no higher than the general limit;
  • “any change in the law which increases abortion totals should be resisted”;
  • the requirement for permission to abort from two doctors should remain; and
  • there is “overwhelming evidence that abortion causes significant rates of serious mental health problems”.

They further note that they regret that the committee will not consider ethical or moral issues associated with time limits and that they are “reluctantly restricting ourselves to the science in this submission”. So it’s pretty clear where their opinions lie. The CWF is an anti-abortion group.

Now we’re told that at least 6 of the (about 20) individual submissions are members of this group, and that a further two are members of groups likely to hold similar opinions.

Ugh, ye gods. Arseholes. ARSEHOLES - how can they think it's ok to have over a quarter of these "experts" to all be members of a publicly pronounced opposition group to abortion rights?

Forty years since it became legal, British people really do have to protect it and make sure that the UK is forging a path to be an example for the US. The F Word has ways you can help... including a special screening of Vera Drake. GO AND DO IT!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mamma Mia

Today is my mother's birthday. It's horrible being away from some of the most important people in your life at the best of times, but on days like today, it's really miserable, for all concerned. It doesn't help when the sun is shining; it jars, making me feel at odds with the world. The time difference is a huge problem; my day was just starting and my mother's was already in the afternoon, and is probably wondering why I've not phoned yet, when I'm going to. It's inevitable, even when you know rationally of the time difference and that it's impossible for them to call.

Still, my mother is hopefully rejoicing in the glow from TWO English victories yesterday (although how much glow you get from beating Estonia is up for debate) and the knowledge that it's also Cliff Richard's birthday today, too. So I decided to look up other important things, to prove it's an auspicious day:
  • Battle of Hastings - well, I knew that one. Still cool.
  • Battle of Byland - Robert the Bruce forcing England to accept Scotland's independence.
  • In 1582 this day did not exist in Italy, Portugal, Poland and Spain due to implementation of the Georgian calendar.
  • George Washington proclaims the first ever Thanksgiving in 1789.
  • Henry Blair is the first African American to receive a patent, in 1834
  • In 1963 it marks the first use of the term Beatlemania
  • MLK becomes the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
And awesome people sharing a birthday with my mum:
  • William Penn
  • Eamon de Valera
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Roger Moore
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Christopher Timothy
  • Steve Cram
  • Steve Coogan
  • and, my personal favourite, Usher
Happy Birthday Mum.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Unclean

This morning was an interesting one. I walked back from an extraordinary meeting with the Chair of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland - an amazing woman - only to be covered in smog and dirt from midtown. I loathe midtown. Times Square is disgusting anyway - they "cleaned it up," having got rid of the sex shops, but now it's a soulless horrible mess. I can't see how that's an improvement, really - sex is gross and dirty and must be expunged from the public view, but tasteless, commercial horribleness in the form of the Hershey's store et al. are somehow better.

Even worse, I saw the Mittmobile. I murmured obscenities under my breath as I walked past, obviously. Actually, all I'd have had to say to offend him would be words like "women are equal," "stemcell research saves people's lives and that's a good thing," "healthcare for all is a GOOD idea" and other horrible, dreadful things like that. I wish I'd thought of that at the time. Bugger.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Therapeutic

Well, my brain is still fuzzy, but that's mostly due to margaritas, not LCD (although it really was HAWESOME).

There is often a discourse about abortion talking about the reasons why women do it, and dismissing them as "superficial" (thanks Elizabeth Hasselbeck, you really are a moron); using it as a form of "birth control" (see this excellent article up at feministe on that issue - if it's about controlling whether you give birth, then of course it's a form of "birth control"); dismissed for "social reasons" (as the FLS Republicans decried on the noticeboards around school last year).

I went to a very interesting talk recently about Jewish law and its tolerance (or not) of abortions which was illuminating, and the rabbi was wonderful, but again she repeated the rhetoric of not allowing abortions for "superficial" reasons, as "birth control." Which is shorthand for dismissing a woman's reasons for having an abortion because she is silly or frivolous and saying that women don't know what they want or what they're doing; all of which leads to the anti-choice conclusion that women should be punished for mistakes - in contraception, in choice of partner, in being not yet ready for motherhood but ready to have sex.

This is all depressing and familiar, but particularly interesting to juxtapose with last week's Human Rights Watch report Over Their Dead Bodies, reporting on the results of Nicaragua's recent blanket abortion ban. So far, there have been over eighty documented cases of women's deaths directly attributable to the ban. As the guardian reports today, that is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Utterly depressing, and what we may retreat back to in the US if the Supreme Court gets its way. Although rich women won't suffer. As always, the poor ones are suffering most in Nicaragua and that's what will happen here. UPDATE: Ye gods, I just read this post up at Trailer Park Feminist about some arsehole who says that HRW is making up these reports of dead women so that it can make money from abortions in Latin America. Fucktard.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Misplaced Priorities

There's so much going on right now that I should be processing, mentally, and then blogging on, such as: the House bill that would bring criminal liability to contractors in Iraq; the speech by Harold Koh at my school yesterday, which was exciting, inspiring, funny and wonderful, and has prompted me to restart writing my international law thesis (that nearly KILLED me last year - so all things in moderation); and the birth of a daughter to one of my very best friends, which is a watershed in my life, let alone hers.

Instead, however, I am getting increasingly (and quite embarrasingly) overexcited about the prospect of seeing LCD Soundsystem tomorrow. I can't quite believe it's nearly here. All other thoughts are therefore blown from my brain and I can't think straight. Tragic, but true.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Are We There Yet?

I don't really want to head into the world just yet. Early mornings, responsibility for decisions, all that. Yet I think I'm itching to do it, subconsciously. I'm not sure I'm enjoying being at school that much - I think it's time to move on.

However, one of the things I will miss, beyond measure, is the exposure to the wonderful, wonderful people at my school. There are so many incredible people here, but one of the best is Professor Jennifer Gordon. I am working with her at the moment, providing research for a project on transnational labor citizenship. She is an extraordinarily bright, hard-working, inspiring person who looks for solutions, pragmatically, in order to make lives better for workers and immigrants. Read about the project in the editorial from the NY Times last weekend...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Blogorrhoea

Over the summer I really got into my political blogs, and that was echoed in my I read links on the right. However, things have changed. I am tired of being angry, ranting; I wanted to write about other things: more frivol & whimsy, less despair. So I really got into my friends' blogs again, fuming when they dared to have lives that meant no updates for a couple of days.

Generally, I read very few, now. I always read feministing; lawyers, guns & money (read today's post on CJ Rehnquist, the fascist, racist evil git, it's excellent); and Bitch, PhD (both her personal site and at suicide girls). However, the one that I really treasure right now is unsprung. I don't quite know why, but I think this post on the falling divorce rate exemplifies the thoughtful, intelligent and interesting writing. The post points out that feminism, rather than being to blame for the decline in marriages, is in fact responsible for marriages lasting longer and more often. It's an excellent post.

But my love for unsprung is based on more than just this post; it's the whole ethos behind the site. I love the idea of a pro-choice, pro-women, pro-family website - that is, the idea that these things actually follow on from each other, rather than allowing the right to co-opt the "family values" issue and dictate that progressive politics are automatically anti-family. It feels as if we've allowed Republicans and the Christian right to frame and define the debate and its terms for far too long. More sites as good as this would help.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Judith Warner Responds

And I think she still just doesn't get it.

The "S" Word

Very interesting piece in the NY Times today about Republicans bandying around the "S" word - socialist, socialism, socialized - to discredit Democrats' plans to reform healthcare.

My favourite part in the piece is the revelation that indeed there is socialised healthcare - for military veterans. No problem there - you put your life on the line, you deserve some kind of protection and treatment afterwards. However, how does draft-dodging Dubya get treatment there? Ah yes, the whole Commander-in-Chief thing. Still, leaves a nasty taste in one's mouth. As Mr. Boffey states,
a parade of Washington’s political dignitaries, including President Bush, has turned to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for checkups and treatment, without ideological complaint. Politicians who deplore government-run health care for average Americans are only too happy to use it themselves.

Also, yet more proof that Mitt Romney is a nasty piece of work - he basically did exactly the same thing in Massachusetts and yet now is yelling about Clinton's plans to socialize healthcare. Strange how what it takes to win in Massachusetts suddenly becomes something that he has rejected based on experience and wisdom, as he has discovered now he wants to be Republican President - like abortion rights, like stem-cell research, as with healthcare that actually delivers. I hate that guy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Misinterpretation

I always find it strangely odd when I don't agree with a mainstream view or interpretation of movies. I remember being shocked when a film critic I normally like (I can't remember who, or I'd link to him - I just remember it's a him) talked about the power of the Shawshank Redemption being in Andy's innocence and the brutality wreaked upon him by injustice. No, I thought, that's not the point at all - or, at least, not what I took from it. I took it to be that no one deserves brutality like he suffered, regardless of innocence or guilt; I thought the movie left it ambiguous as to whether his story was true or not. In fact, the elevating, elegance of the movie was that in the end, it didn't matter whether he killed his wife or not; that's what made it powerful and different from other prison movies.

Today I was pointed to an article in the NY Times about Thelma and Louise, which got me thinking about this all over again. In my mind, there was nothing "triumphant" about that movie. They died; and they died because their lives were so filled with violence and misery and subjugation that it was better to be dead than go back. It wasn't the police they were escaping, but the misogyny and abuse. Even when Thelma finally gets her kicks with a man, he steals from her and treats her like crap. It was certainly "dystopian," as Judith Warner points out.

However, I'm not convinced by Warner's point that things are so much better for women today than in 1990; her comment about the appointment of Justice Thomas and Roe v. Wade's perilous position seems particularly . . . well, ignorant - did she miss Gonzales v. Carhart, its utter misogyny and Thomas' position in the ascendant there? Today we found out that Illinois is perfectly happy to let isolated women do without reproductive health services. Even if rape figures are down, as she claims - and she assumes fewer women are being raped rather than fewer women reporting rape - we have a case where a rape victim was not allowed to use the word "rape" in the case against her attacker. How is this progress, exactly?

Here's what my extremely eloquent and passionate friend Xopo had to say on the matter - note that there was no collusion here, but we both saw and raged about it separately!

Restraint

Yesterday the NYCLU released its report on abstinence-only funding, to which I contributed some small support and research. It's excellent, because the people writing it are extremely bright, capable and wonderful.

So many people have written so many things about abstinence-only, brilliantly (see Feministing's section, and RH's sexuality education section, and SIECUS, of course, which is a ROCKING organisation), that I really don't think I have too much to add. It was extremely interesting thinking about this in Malawi, where many many activists, those with HIV themselves, were advocating abstinence-only as the only way to cure the epidemic. I do not want to deny the authenticity or the challenges of those facing the problems on the ground there, but the reasoning disturbed me. Basically, the idea was that learning about condoms made children want to use them. Does anyone know a young person who really needed that excuse to try out their bodies? Really? And it's hard to know how activists would be talking if it weren't for President Bush's insistence on AB - abstinence, be faithful - and if all else fails, use a condom - just make sure that the condoms are twice as expensive as they need to be, if they get mentioned at all.

Bush - and his supporters, as we found out at a debate at school last semester - claim this came from African nations themselves; read this wonderful article by Helen Epstein* to realise that, as per usual, he's full of it. He just MAKES THIS UP as he goes along. In case you doubted it.


* Which reminds me, I need to buy her book. And you should read the article anyway. She's saying incredibly important things which, of course, health officials completely ignore because it doesn't suit them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Frittering Away

I have recently, traumatically, decided to give up my old, beloved email address, for a spanking new gmail. I had my own domain; it spawned the name of this blog, and then others (well, one).

Alas, I have had to let it go for the simple reason that every hour I am getting something like a hundred delivery failure notices, all responding to accounts along the lines of gethairyjim@gracegoesabroad.co.uk. It has utterly paralysed my old account. Which makes me very sad indeed. It seems like a watershed; I am still going abroad, yet somehow I have to relinquish my symbolic statement. Now, I'm just like everyone else, not obviously linked to Blighty, with my metropolitan and ubiquitous gmail.

Apparently this sort of problem is due to email spoofing, whereby someone latches onto your domain and writes a programme that sends out hundreds of emails "appearing" to be from your account. According to my ever helpful host company, that's just something every internet user must bear, because the hackers are so much cleverer than the good guys and no one knows how to combat it.

What I honestly don't want to understand is why someone would write a programme that would annihilate someone's system like this; I can't see how it's for monetary gain which - have I been in the cradle of capitalism too long? - I would understand. It's the sheer maliciousness behind it that takes my breath away, because all it does is attempts to make your life difficult and miserable, which it has done.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Role Model Behaviour

Last week I heard a radio interview with a copper from Manchester, I think, or Liverpool, who said that ASBOs [anti-social behaviour orders, for those not au fait with the term] were not working - one of the reasons being is that when they are broken to the police's knowledge, people are going to prison, which hardens them and makes them far more likely to commit crimes later on.

This is interesting anyway, but particularly in relation to the calls for the drinking age to be raised to 21 in the UK, as it is in the US, due to such "anti-social behaviour." I honestly do not see the point. I have not met anyone here who did not drink due to the age, in fact, it just meant that they played Beirut, did keg stands and flip cup in sororities and fraternities. Which may be considered a safer place, but given the state of the kids, I'm not convinced. Essentially, youth will get its hands on alcohol somehow, no matter what age it is supposed to be.

Apparently, however, the youth is not the problem, not in the US. There have been calls, due to changes in mental health, to get the drinking & voting age raised to 25. Today, there is an editorial in the NY Times that exposes the fact that it is actually the parents of the youth, the baby boomers, that are the real troublemakers. Among the pertinent facts:

Our most reliable measures show Americans ages 35 to 54 are suffering ballooning crises:

  • 18,249 deaths from overdoses of illicit drugs in 2004, up 550 percent per capita since 1975, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • 46,925 fatal accidents and suicides in 2004, leaving today’s middle-agers 30 percent more at risk for such deaths than people aged 15 to 19, according to the national center
  • More than four million arrests in 2005, including one million for violent crimes, 500,000 for drugs and 650,000 for drinking-related offenses, according to the F.B.I. All told, this represented a 200 percent leap per capita in major index felonies since 1975.
  • 630,000 middle-agers in prison in 2005, up 600 percent since 1977, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • 21 million binge drinkers (those downing five or more drinks on one occasion in the previous month), double the number among teenagers and college students combined, according to the government’s National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  • 370,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for abusing illegal drugs in 2005, with overdose rates for heroin, cocaine, pharmaceuticals and drugs mixed with alcohol far higher than among teenagers
  • More than half of all new H.I.V./AIDS diagnoses in 2005 were given to middle-aged Americans, up from less than one-third a decade ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control
So there you go. I have been trying to think why. I'm pretty sure the wingnuts going to blame feminists and abortions, though; that's a given. Nonetheless, the question is not "It's ten o'clock; Do you know where your children are?" but "Do you have any idea of the stuff your parents are up to while you're out at the Dairy Queen sniffing speed?"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Random Generator

1) Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Bob Dylan. While I am not a complete Dylan devotee, it is remarkable how much more of one I am than about ten years ago. I used to find him difficult to listen to, and just utterly failed to appreciate how extraordinary he is. Not that I put him on that often, other than Blood on the Tracks, but No Direction Home is really rather wonderful.

2) Creature of Doom - The Only Ones. I have literally never heard this before in my life. Ignoramus as I may be, I have never heard of this band before. I have no idea how it got on my ipod. It's perfectly pleasant but I suspect that I will not be trying this out again any time soon.

3) Everybody Hurts - R.E.M. I am a huge fan of this album but, interestingly, this is one of my least favourite songs on the album. I remember once telling off TOH while we were doing our tortured transatlantic relationship because I was so depressed and missed him so much that I cried when this song came on. I was NOT happy about that. Still, I love Find the River more than I can say.

4) Las Vecinas - Alberto Iglesias. This is off the Volver soundtrack, which is pretty good, given that I really don't go for soundtracks, much. A friend of a friend recommended it, and there is some extremely beautiful Spanish music on it...

5) Kingdom Come - David Bowie. David Bowie for me is a lot like Bob Dylan - I know they're both excellent songwriters, more than capable of genius, but I don't really actively choose to listen to him that much. Although I did obsessively play Young Americans after seeing Dogville, despite its traumatising aftereffects.

6) Untouchable Face - Ani Difranco. Aaaaaargh why doesn't it put on something I listen to vaguely regularly? It keeps throwing up all these people I like but don't actively listen to. Perhaps I should actually listen to them more. Hmm. Maybe that's the point.

7) Out of Control - The Chemical Brothers. I always seem to get at least one of their tunes - or, more accurately, two. Fine - I'd throw some shapes if it came on while I was out, but I find the Chemical Brothers quite dated... just associate it with Big Beat and electronica at the time, and it does seem to be more about the big names they can get for collaboration. The new album is just not on my "need to purchase anytime soon" list.

8) Makeda - Les Nubians. Unsurprisingly, as this is "world music" (i.e. non-English, non-Spanish) this comes from KTB. I wish I spoke French. Then I could tell you what it's about. I think they just said croissant, but I realise that is probably fairly unlikely.

9) Wolves - Dead Prez. This is so, so different from the Dead Prez tune that I know well - Hip Hop - and it's fricking brilliant. It's a rallying speech by Chairman Omali from INPDUM (International Peoples Democratic Uhuru Movement), about power and race relations. It's extremely powerful for someone who's ignorant enough to have only just heard about what happened in Jena. And if you haven't, you should go here (Ps, Mayor McMillan, you are talking out of your ARSE). And watch the Mos Def thing.

On a non-political note, however, I find it really irritating that I don't listen to much hip hop these days but the majority of the time I'm listening to music I'm reading or writing, and I find that, other than MC Solaar, hip hop is not the easiest thing for me to listen to; nor is Blur, or Pulp, or a host of other things. I like bleepy noises. That's easier.

10) Celia Cruz - Yembe Laroco. Pretty sweet - a good friend of mine sent me a lot of Cuban music because she finds it easy to work to, so that's a nice segue. However, I don't find it that easy - too jangly and attention-commanding. It's not background.

YouTube Without Pity

Today I am too lazy to properly blog, so we're going with some YouTube links - for they are genius - and then some random rules, I expect.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No Way Out

A number of somewhat unrelated things, on the surface, have come together this week to get me thinking about women in sport - yet again.

First, it's the women's world cup. England are on the verge of victory in their first match; we may make it through the group stages, having qualified for the first time in twelve years. Yet, despite this almost unprecedented success, and being the sport most women play now in the UK, and being the fastest growing sport etc. etc., women's club football is on the verge of collapse due to the complete lack of financial support (as written convincingly and excellently by someone with whom I went to college and share an allegiance to Spurs). I harp on and on about women playing sport; do we need people to watch? I think we ought to, to provide the love and dedication that leads to fans paying out, which leads to higher profile female football stars, which leads to inspiration which leads to eight-year-olds wanting to play. Yet, I am as guilty as the next person - probably worse - because I don't really watch women's football. At all. Why not? I don't know. My allegiance is to Spurs (and minorly Carlisle & Sheffield Wednesday), and the English national team, but it's not like I don't watch other matches & leagues - or I would, if stupid ESPN didn't require a subscription for me to watch La Liga. It's just not an ingrained thing for me to do - yet. I hope this world cup will change that. Ah crap, Japan just equalised. But maybe that's a positive difference: When I was a kid, women were unusual for playing football, let alone being watched for it; maybe for younger women, that will change.

Why it's important is that sport is not a career option for women in the same way as it is for men. You can make it perhaps as a golfer, or tennis player (both of which, Williams sisters aside, are predominantly middle-class sports, which is relevant to my point below about making one's way out of poverty); but to make a living as a footballer is generally the province of US-based players only, and sometimes not even for them. Basketball players earn around $50k a year; Kevin Garnett, on his contract, could pay each and every woman in the WNBA twice their currently salary from his yearly wages. No wonder each woman stays to their senior year to try and win March Madness. And NFL... there is no equivalent to that monster, college football, which earns scholarships, adoration and the big bucks. Softball doesn't lead to professional careers for very many, unlike baseball.

What's my point? I was talking to a friend from Kansas, who grew up in a sufficiently remote place that high-school football was big because they were so far from any pro team. So all that pressure is put on 17 year old boys, which honestly makes me sad for them. But then I realised that they have a way out; a shot at escaping their towns, if academic success is unlikely. It's often their way out of poverty, parochialism, and a job in McDonald's, just as football is in Britain, or boxing, bizarrely.

What do women have? Cheerleading? That is, in advance of any protestations to the contrary, NOT a sport. They are athletic, incredible dancers, in great shape, and it's acrobatic and impressive; that does not a sport make. And, essentially, they are there to worship the football players. It's a way of using your body, but I would argue it is inherently different due to its derivative nature; it's a sideshow, titillation maybe, but nothing more, despite how difficult it is and how hard they work. It would be great if women could have options in the same way. Yes, there are other sports, and there is Title IX, but how many have the glamour, the prestige and the devotion that men's college football and men's college basketball have? I'd say none. Maybe that's not fair, but I'm yet to be convinced otherwise... I think there's also a difference for women to make their ways out of towns using their body to adulate men's while titillating an audience, and men to do it for sport.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

FLUFF!

I am not a tidy woman. It has been noted by many people. I don't desperately care about tidying, I can be highly disorganised, but I get everything done fine in the end. It may take me a while to find the stuff, obviously, but that's not the point.

But I am really truly beginning to despair at the amount of hair that my cats produce. Rock on the cold weather and their desperate need to retain it. Please, pretty please.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Highly Civilised


As I have mentioned, TOH and I could not but help divert ourselves by heading into the centre of Mexico City to pass the eight hours between flights.

It was so very quiet, and we managed to eat a lovely breakfast overlooking the Z������calo, the huge plaza near the cathedral, department of justice and, fortunately for us, the Templo Mayor. This was the centre of the Aztec civilisation, and was the high temple in Tenochtitl������n, its capital. It was the most sacred place in all of the Aztec empire.

What really struck me was that, comparatively, it wasn't that old. The White Tower, in the Tower of London, is nearly 1000 years old, so a good four hundred years older than the original templo. It survived the Blitz, the Great Fire of London, everything that could be thrown at it. It just sits there, white and "crumbly" (as a friend's daughter once memorably said). But what that has that the Templo Mayor doesn't is a sense of continuity. My friend Xopo comments regularly on the inability of Anglos - US and otherwise - to comprehend that the Mexican identity is NOT that of the Spanish conquistadores, not a Spanish-speaking monolith, but is a wonderful, polyglot mixture of indigenous and colonial peoples. I don't therefore want to offend or simplify matters with my lack of understanding. Nonetheless, it felt strange to be walking around the remainder of a civilisation that, it seemed to me, had been crushed; that was disconnected to the modern Mexican culture. It seemed incredibly symbolic that the Cathedral had just lain over the top of this most sacred place in the previous culture. The juxtaposition between the excavated site and being surrounded by a Christian Cathedral, the colonial architecture, was striking.

On the other hand, the White Tower was built by our own "conquistadores," the Normans. So it was really a symbol, like the Cathedral, of victory and destruction of a previous way of life.

What was genuinely fantastic, aside from all this, was seeing the artefacts from the Aztec exhibition that I saw at both the Royal Academy and the Guggenheim in the place whence they came. Unexpected pleasure and extremely wonderful one, at that.




Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Wuss and the Hero

Today I had one of those moments that wouldn't be out of place on Oprah, yet again. It really quite irks me to be able to compare it to that, but there you go. It's my frame of reference, albeit grudgingly so on my part. I was fully prepared to spend the next few blogs talking about my time in the Cod, where I was this weekend for a wedding. Musing on the unfriendliness of the locals, moaning on my tiredness, talking about the beauty of the region and the "loss" of another friend to domesticity, forever, but the great joy in it.

So, I've mentioned those, but will not expound further just yet because, due to the listening to fivelive this morning, I found out that one of the few people I really, truly and wholeheartedly admire, for their pure courage and guts, died yesterday.

Jane Tomlinson was an extraordinarily brave woman. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer seven years ago, given six months to live, and since then somehow managed to complete ironman triathlons, marathons, cycled across the States, cycled across Europe... she was physically incredibly strong, and dedicated to showing people what you could still do despite being in intense pain and, theoretically, weakened by the horrible thing spreading through her body.

It's pathetic, but whenever I was struggling to finish my training for my first Race for Life about six years ago, which are the breast cancer 5km races that take place in the UK throughout the summer, I would think about her. My legs may be hurting, I may be unfit, but think about Jane. How could I be such a wuss when she is going through much worse? Since then I have tailed off with my running; I am suffering from severe knee knack, but the problem is, at least in part, my failure to do my knee stretches & exercises. I think that's even worse than just stopping due to pain; I could do something about this, and I'm not.

So here we go, resolution time: a 10k race this autumn, to raise money for Jane's charity, and just to seize upon how wonderful it is to have a strong body and fitness. And knee exercises. Every day. Oh yes. I think it's a fitting tribute to her memory.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

With a Fanfare and Flourish

Last night (Tuesday, whatever date of August) TOH and I ate a stone’s throw from the Pacific, watching some late night impromptu football matches and pelicans swooping around, settling on the creels on the boats lining the bay. A digestivo seemed in order, to savour the setting. About fifteen minutes later my Irish coffee rocked up. Or, rather, what turned up was the equipment necessary for the most elaborate and loving preparation of an Irish coffee I have ever seen.

The waiter first started up a small camphor lamp, and when it was aflame, proceeded to pour whisky into a metal jug, which he then held above the lamp, lighting the alcohol on fire. After burning off the alcohol, he transferred the liquid into a glass, rekindling the flames in order to caramelise the sugar encrusting the top of the glass. More burning of whisky occurred, until there was a serious measure sitting there. Coffee was then poured from on high, before cream was added by a third waiter (there already being a second bloke observing the café master in action). Then a final spoonful of whisky was lit, and lowered into the cream.
All of this stuff might normally take place on the making of an irish coffee, but behind the scenes, but it was strangely and wonderfully done with a flourish, as a ritual, making it not simply a digestif but an occasion. Which, given the setting and general loveliness of the meal, was entirely appropriate.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Enforcer

To relax fully is a true art; it can be learned, for those to whom it does not come naturally; nevertheless, it is a continual study and the lessons can easily be forgotten or presumed no longer necessary.

I am one of those people who is not very good at relaxing. Not that I am not good at having fun; in fact, the whole having-fun business is a predominant reason as to why I need to relax better. I am convinced of both nature and nurture’s part in this, seeing my parents in action as I have for 28 years or so. Still, no blame attached; in this respect, I am my health & sanity’s worst enemy.

Therefore, TOH and I booked a holiday with the express intention of relaxing and having a genuine break, much to the chagrin of F&F (friends and family) who were mildly offended that we breezed into town last week and gave them a “tonight or else” ultimatum to spend a few hours in our company. It would be worth it, we reckoned, to peeve a few of the esteemed and beloved F&F if a break meant that we would not get quite so devastatingly exhausted this semester.

Nonetheless, we gave ourselves a torturous journey here (eight hours on plane London to JFK; eight hours layover in JFK; five hours to Mexico City then another nine hours layover). In fact, we managed to fit in a trip to the Zócalo, the main plaza in Mexico City/D.F. while we were there and saw quite possibly the best flag-raising ceremony ever (as well as some Aztec ruins, the usual stuff slapbang in the middle of a giant conurbation). So, although we tried to convince ourselves that it wasn’t really the start of the holiday, we were already deviating from the plan of DOING NOTHING.

However, luckily, fate stepped in. I come from a family of not just an inability to take things easy and relax when necessary, but also weak backs, also on both maternal & paternal sides, and that genetic heritage came to the fore within 24 hours of arriving. On a morning exploratory stroll, before you could say “ooh, me lumbago!” I had had, for want of a better word, a spasm.

Some may not consider this a good thing, but in fact, as I was able to manoeuvre myself about a bit, it has been (at time of writing this, Tuesday evening) a bit of a blessing in disguise. The pain has not been fun, ‘tis true, but in fact it has forced us to do what we planned to do: read a lot, swim (in the pool, not sea, but still) and sleep and catch a few rays (under SPF 30 protection, obviously). Essentially, very little. While it has been annoying to not be able to even try out surfing as of yet – and it may remain ruled out for me for the rest of the break – it feels genuinely as if there has been a mental breakthrough. Early doors, obviously, but it has been bloody great thus far. This relaxing thing is something I plan to work on, particularly if it involves sun, sea and sand – which I am sure it ought to, at any rate.

Written Tuesday, August 22nd, 2007

Clouds Beneath the Moon

Back down to earth and onto classes today. joy. Whereabouts of the luggage completely unknown at the moment, but hopefully it'll turn up at some point.

Blogging will resume tomorrow, I think, but perhaps I will post a couple of things that I wrote while on holiday. Yes, my commitment to you, dear readers, doesn't even cease while I'm sipping rum drinks by the pool.

Friday, August 17, 2007

National Treasures

It's been a bit of a whirlwind tour of good old Blighty, hence I have not blogged, despite having much to muse upon and wanting to articulate reactions to home. I'm sure you have all been desperate to know why so silent. However, as I have a week of Mexican sun, sea and sand, there certainly will be no babbling on then. But I am thinking of you, my public. Obviously.

Tonight is a night in with hopefully a glass of wine, chatting with my mum and a special on Stephen Fry on the beeb. Lovely jubbly.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Chewing the Cud-Chewers

Today there is an article in the NY Times about how women now eat meat in front of men when they go on dates. Go NY Times for serious journalism!

In fact, there is something deeply offensive about this article and the people quoted within it.

For example:
“I’ve been shocked at the number of women actually ordering steak,” said Michael Stillman, vice president of concept development for the Smith & Wollensky
Restaurant Group.
You're right, Mr. Stillman, shocking is certainly the word for women ordering a fairly regular foodstuff. They may even show their ankles while eating it, too. Or order - and whisper this - an alcoholic beverage to go with it... they may even know something about the wine list, too.

Or these beauties:

But others, especially those who are thin, say ordering a salad displays an unappealing mousiness.
“It seems wimpy, insipid, childish,” said Michelle Heller, 34, a copy editor at TV Guide. “I don’t want to be considered vapid and uninteresting.”

“Being a vegetarian puts you at a disadvantage,” Ms. Crosley said. “You’re in the most basic category of finicky. Even women who order chicken, it isn’t enough.” She said she has thought of ordering shots of Jägermeister, famous for its frat boy associations, to prove that she is “a guy’s girl.”

“Everyone wants to be the girl who drinks the beer and eats the steak and looks like Kate Hudson,” Ms. Crosley, 28, said.

Seriously, you'd do Jäger because fratboys drink it? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH.

What is genuinely offensive about this article is the title and its relation to what's contained in it. Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye. Really? Thanks for the permission, NY Times, Allen Salkin (the author of the piece) and, of course, men in general. This is a bloody awful example of many things I hate about the media and how women portray themselves, or allow themselves to be portrayed.

You see, what it boils down to is that women can now eat meat because it says a certain thing about them to men they date - that they're fun, unfussy, that they are undemanding, basically that we'll cause no trouble and won't cause men to alter their lifestyles or accommodate different eating habits, which of course symbolises that men won't have to change their lives in general if we live with them. It'll be (stereotype alert!) wings and NFL Sunday and happy hours and hooters galore!

And by eating meat on a first date, then the men they date may love them forever and ever and present them with a big shiny engagement ring to show how much they love them (and were willing and able to pay to show the world that).

As a recent convert to meat-eating again - I'm heading back to where I was reborn, at Dinosaur BBQ, tonight, and I CANNOT WAIT - I am so distressed to be tainted by these bloody ridiculous stories and the concept that, yet again, women only do things BECAUSE THEY NEED TO BE LOVED BY MEN. Not that perhaps a great big, juicy, bloody steak, or a plate full of soft, succulent ribs that slip off the bone taste really, seriously, good.

Gah.

UPDATE: I wasn't the only one peeved at this article.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Well that was fun

Left house - 8.35.

Got to desk (albeit via a detour for egg white sandwich and iced coffee*) - 11.15.

I kid ye not.

Gawker's take on the story tells you what you need to know, although it is rather exclusively east-sided - and while I work east-side, I am very much a westsider. It's one of the unexpected transitions I have taken in NYC, having gone from being a southeasterner through and through - and remaining so - in my Londoner identity, I am now living on the northwest corner of Manhattan.

To commemorate this situation, I present my top ten suitable songs for this morning:

1) Going Underground (or not, as the case may be) - The Jam (with an honourable mention for Down in the Tube Station at Midnight)

2) Drowned World / Substitute for Love - Madonna

3) Crosstown (or any bloody kind of it today) Traffic - Jimi Hendrix

4) Underwater Love - Smoke City

5) Stuck in the Middle (of Manhattan, the bus, whatever) with You - Steelers Wheel

6) (Pounding the) City Pavement - The Subways

7) People Under The Weather - Jehst

8 ) It's Oh So Quiet - Bjork (office is DESERTED)

9) Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers

10) Train in Vain - The Clash

*Yes, I have become yankeefied to that extent. Yikes indeed. You'll be pleased to know I counteract this by having a cup of Yorkshire tea every morning, what with Yorkshire being so unbelievably English that it nullifies the yankeeness.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Oh no he DITTINT

Oh yes, he really, really, really did.

This is absolute genius.

If you did not catch the August 7 Daily Show, you missed out.

Bob Allen is a Florida politician who authored a bill to outlaw public lewdness. He also was caught by an undercover policeman, to whom he offered $20 if the said policeman would allow Mr. Allen to fellate him. That would be a delicious irony of sorts, regardless. Nonetheless, it gets better - or, indeed, worse.

Because Mr. Allen is blaming his dropping to his knees on the fact that there were many black men around in the park, and he thought he would "become a statistic."

Others will comment on the evils of this guy, endlessly, no doubt. But aside from the horrendous racism at play here, there is something that particularly bothers me about police staking out to stop men having sex with other men. It just seems... grossly bigoted. Do they tend to loiter around hetero dogging grounds? I'd be surprised, somehow. The policing of it stems from a puritanism that indicates that people might see, and those decent god-fearing people will somehow be damaged by seeing sex, particularly gay sex.

So my joy is tampered somewhat. Only somewhat, mind you.

UPDATE: Have a look at the Daily Show's take on it, and John Oliver's better excuses.

Courting Disaster

I went to court today on a pro bono case. Obviously, the details are not for public consumption.

However, I will again share my thoughts on what a terrifying experience it is. As a basically law-abiding citizen* I am petrified by going to court.

Of course, these things are correlated but perhaps in different ways. Either it's a genuinely terrifying thing, and hence I'm scared, despite my good behaviour; or, alternatively, I am a good citizen because I'm terrified in the first place.

Having read the horrific NY Times series on New York judges,** and having taken the most wonderful Anti-Discrimination Law class, I can see that some people, and particularly some groups of people, are disengaged and disconnected from the system because it does not take their concerns, worries and lives seriously enough. I honestly believe that's true. Which is sad, because I think that being a judge - other than time management and having to be very careful about the people you choose to have around you - would be an extraordinarily interesting post in which you could really make a positive difference in someone's life.

DISCLAIMER: The judge this morning was sharp and smart; there are some good ones out there, definitely. However, what worries me is the appointment system and the abuse of power that does take place.

* I have been known to jaywalk, not present my ID when in drinking establishments, and surreptitiously sneak a beer in the open air.

** If you have Times Select and fancy a scary bedtime story, I suggest you find it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Counting Down

I have started the beginning of the end of my summer of work. It has been so much more instructive than I could possibly have hoped for at the start. It has also been an incredibly long summer, what with finishing exams so late, then Malawi, then straight here into work. Therefore I cannot articulate just how much I'm looking forward to some basic R&R and reading of lovely fiction books and just being a slob for a while. Not that I'm not a slob right now - our bedroom currently impeaches me on that point - but the need to laze is becoming increasingly urgent.

However, it really is hitting me that next year is my last year of school and then I don't really have any more excuses for not delving into the world of work. And not just any old work, but one where I am challenged intellectually, where I have to take responsibility for what I produce, that sort of thing.

I'm scared.

This is all a bit much.

So for now, I shall think of the DVD of extras waiting for me at home (First series, finally, after many viewings of the second) and catching up on The Soup. That hopefully will spur me on...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Don't Fight It, Feel It!

It's f-f-f-f-f-friday!

Sweet.

Even more sweet are:
  • Chris Dodds kicking Bill O'Reilly's sorry behind (favourite line: "I'm sure you respect both men as patriots.")
  • This genius suggestion in response to the Ohio senator who has introduced a bill requiring paternal consent for abortions. Not just notification, my friends, but consent. If you do not know who the father is, you are to suggest a list of the potential fathers. Awesome. What a git. However, if I were to find myself up the duff in Cleveland, this is definitely what I would do. I'd add Alito, Thomas & Scalia to the mix, though.

Less sweet: President Bush has truly discovered the power of the veto. Having not used it before 2007, he has now used it / threatened to use it for:

  • The expanded children's health insurance programme - because we'd rather have children die of treatable conditions than create welfare dependence on the federal government, obviously. My favourite thing about this: He objects on "philosophical grounds." Funny how he doesn't give a crap about babies' lives once they're actually born, isn't it?
  • The House's awesome response to overrule one of the most misogynistic, pro-discrimination decisions by the Supreme Court you could possibly imagine. I harp on about Ledbetter (here and here), but I honestly think this is one of the biggest disasters not just of this term, but of all time. Along with Gonzales v. Carhart, this is a really double whammy for women's rights. Unsprung has a typically fantastic take on it.
  • As well as any exit plans for Iraq.

Wanker.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Webbrawl!

There are currently streams and streams of posts ranting against Julie Bindel's views on transfolk currently raging across the blogosphere (ye GODS I cannot believe I just used that term).

To name just the three ones I read (admittedly, fairly popular mainstream ones - there may be others).

It's quite exciting.

It brought up a vaguely related issue that rankles me - both through the issue itself and the associated guilt some people bombard me with because of it. But I'm going to put it out there: I am made slightly uncomfortable by dragging up. Not because I don't think that you can wear whatever the bejesus you want to wear, or that you must dress a certain way depending on which genitalia you were born with. I don't give a monkey's about that.

I think what bothers me is one set of articulations behind it - not that, obviously, people always have a rational, logical, or even just plain old "good" reason for it. What discomfits me is the idea that putting on a skirt and a touch of rouge makes you feel "feminine, and so more sensitive, compassionate, more in touch with your feelings." Margaret Thatcher was never, as far as I can recall, photographed in trousers. Does that mean she was a compassionate or sensitive person? Fat bloody chance - she was a self-serving, mean-hearted woman who stole my milk (or, apparently, not personally, just on the government's behalf). I wear skirts all the time, and you know why? Because I hate how my legs look in trews. Plus make-up - does that make me feel "feminine?" I don't know. I just am a woman - it's all in me (chaka khan).

And that is the tragedy for transgender people that Bindel fails to pick up on - I am comfortable in my skin as a woman. I feel like a woman; I don't feel displaced, and that doesn't mean that my experience is like every other's, but there is something right about it. I really do feel for those people who do not have that comfort in their body, who feel like it's a casing that inhibits them. I don't really understand what it means to not feel like your body is your own, that you are the wrong gender - but that's because I cannot. Because I'm comfortable with what I am (and am not). Compassion would go a long way here.