Thursday, July 26, 2007

Far From Me

There are some days when I forget about not being at "home" back in London. It just doesn't seem to have a negative effect upon me; it's not hard to not be there.

The last couple of days have not been like that. It's when something bad happens, something that would normally require you to put your arms around someone and give them a great big hug, or you would need the comfort of their arms, that it really really really really... sucks, for want of a more eloquent word, to not be there. And what really hurts is that even if you were living in John O'Groats, you could jump in a car, or on a train, and get there. It would take a while. The distance seems so incredibly far from here, despite it only really taking about ten hours in total - the same time as it would for me to drive (or, more accurately, pay someone else to drive because I am not allowed to do so, seeing as I can't) to Lewisham.

I've been thinking about distance, off and on, for a while anyway, as one of my dearest friends is due to give birth in a couple of months. Her daughter won't know me as anything other than this university friend of her mother who flies in from time to time. She'll know of me, that I'm not doubting. Yet when I think about my mum's friends that I grew up with, who are some of the most important people in my life, they would talk of very good friends of theirs who weren't around and those friends didn't really impinge on me; if they really mattered, they would be around. But to put severe distance between the people here with whom I have developed bonds seems unthinkable, too. I want to see their children grow up.

An amazing woman I heard speak said that when you migrate, you begin to live in two worlds. My thoughts on this have developed further. It's not just two worlds, but it's almost like a horcrux theory (sorry non-HP peeps). It's like you've splintered your soul and one bit is kept in the place that you loved, lived, grew up in, fought, cried, laughed. It's still alive there, and is linked inextricably to that "container." And the other is here with me, just a little less intact than it was. But you can't go back to that fragment and be fully the same person by reuniting the bits. London will always be my home, and I intend to go back there to live - so that, apart from anything else, my children can know the place that formed and moulded me. Yet my relationship with it has changed, and I cannot repair that. I just have to move on and accept that our relationship is not worse, just different. And convince myself of that I will, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bundles of Joy

I've come to a decision, people, and you're not going to like it. I am about to enter into the world of true trash and inanity and start tivoing Katie & Peter. I just am. And you can't stop me. Seriously.

Why? An unusual source joining the embodiment of female empowerment regarding names has come along: Jordan has had her baby with Peter Andre. This from the Guardian's sidelines on the joyous new arrival:

Price of being a princess
Glamour model Katie Price - aka Jordan - and her disconcertingly cheerful husband Peter Andre, have revealed the name of their newborn daughter: Princess Tiáamii (tee-ah-me, should you ever need to say it out loud). We kind of like it. "Princess" denotes her as an unequivocally high-status female. Tiáamii is derived from Peter and Katie's mother's names - Thea and Amy - thus honouring the maternal line both ways. Good work, the Andres! Which you will now undo by dressing the child in nothing but pink until her 18th birthday.

Further, they go on to say: "We've put an accent over the first 'a' to make it a bit more exotic and two i's at the end just to make it look a bit different." Awesome.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

La Presidente*

One of the binds of the current election here in the US is that I have genuinely conflicted loyalties. I honestly believe Barack is the best candidate - on everything that matters to me, he seems to speak to my beliefs. But there is the eternal question: Should I support Hillary? Is it as bad to support her just because she's a woman as those who refuse to consider voting for a female Commander-in-Chief? Obviously, the answer to that is no - to coin Stevens, the difference between a welcome mat and no trespassing sign, although undoubtedly Alito/Scalia/Thomas/Roberts would disagree with me, the turds.

We do seem to claim women in leadership positions as being a unilaterally "good thing," and the landscape really is changing, with women in power in South America, Africa, genuine contenders in Argentina and France (although she lost to that git Sarkozy, sadly) and, now, a President in India. But is that the end of it? Surely not - and I, of all people, given my loathing of Maggie T, should not succumb to it. Which is why this post about Pratibha Patil is so good - because it does bring home that we're still at the stage where we're desperate for crumbs, and accept female leadership as that "good thing" without assessing who the candidate really is, and what she will do with her position.

Which is why I'm not going to feel guilty about rooting for Barry O, although I do think Clinton will end up winning the nomination. What I will do is get angry instead about coverage of Clinton's neckline, as if it's vaguely relevant or important. Even the bloody Times is at it with this article which points out why these women are sexy and fertile and therefore great, rather than dealing with their politics head on. Why do we not talk about men in the same way? Giuliani's third marriages are oft referred-to, but not Kucininich's, or McCain's...

But, as with coverage of Christina Kirchner and Segolene Royal, and, of course, Jacqui Smith**, apparently being sexy is at least as important as your politics. Just so long as you know. Sigh.

*En serio, Xopo, E, se puede escribir "La Presidente"? O sea "el", como "el primer ministro" - o se puede decir la primera ministra? La verdad, no se.

** Apparently it's their fault because Europeans and South Americans "just have sexy in their blood."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Potter and Out

So, I finished it.

I cried.

I'm still upset.

But I shall reveal NOTHING to you dear friends, unlike evil people who seem bent on ruining everything for everyone else because they are BIG FAT KILLJOYS AND MEAN. Although this is funny - and of course entirely true.

I need to re-read it - and somehow not convey the plot details to TOH before we go to Oaxaca,* where I shall read it again.

Nonetheless, if you have time to look up from the Deathly Hallows, or are trying to avoid all the spoilers on the internet,** then I suggest having a peek at these gems on a tinternet terminal near you:
  • Nona Willis-Aronovitz on why modesty is not where it's at - linked from Feministe
  • Caryl Rivers on why Bush is waging war on science to repress women, via Feministing
  • Anna Pickard deconstructing the Oh My God video by Lily Allen & Mark Ronson - this is absolutely bloody brilliant!
  • Scott Murray on faceless US golfers (do not read if you're so immensely patriotically US that you love faceless journeymen golfers with no charisma who do nothing ever again) - seriously, even if you don't like golf, this is hilarious as Murray nearly has a nervous breakdown over Sergio - plus here's the playoff as it happened but it's nowhere near as funny
  • The Times on the worst fifty premiership players ever - and kudos to TOH for guessing the number one man right. TOH, you am the best, as always.
  • GFY surpasses itself yet again by featuring some of my most favourite people to fug - Posh, the Cruisemeister - and combining it with references to Will Smith's awesome back-catalogue. I love these women.

*Did I mention that we're going on holiday? To this place? Did I?

Saturday, July 21, 2007



We've just booked our holiday.

I am somewhat excited.

Friday, July 20, 2007


I've not been posting generally on cultural differences - other than confectionery - of late. One thing that I have been intrigued by of late, however, is the huge differences between the general political campaigning in the UK and here. It is still six months until the primaries - where the Presidential candidates are chosen - and yet everyone is talking about it, constantly. Washington Weekly, a wonderful PBR programme and now, fortunately, podcast, talks about the candidates who are "ahead" - but it is almost exclusively based on cash raised, not on polling points. Whereas funding in the UK is only talked about in relation to cash for honours scandals.

It's a very strange difference indeed. On the surface I think the Anglos might think that it boils down to the brash, capitalistic nature of the US whereas our culture is about proper politics. Some of that may be true - the fact is, you have to be multi-millionaires' friends in order to run for President, or have your own personal fortune to supplement your campaign. Nonetheless, I also wonder if some of it is due to the openness and realism of the US, where it's not vulgar or crass to talk about money because it matters and does makes things happen; in the UK, we just pretend all that doesn't really need to take place, which is why you have scandals, perhaps... everything is behind closed doors and hidden away - which is why they can get away with behaving very badly indeed.

As to the primaries themselves, I cannot pretend that my heart doesn't want Obama to win. It really, really does. I don't want to be the equivalent of the wingnuts (my new favourite term) who head to the polls only to vote for Bush etc. because they are anti-abortion, yet Obama plays to my heart every time. This from the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Roundup:

Obama on Tuesday at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund forum said that he considers sex education for kindergartners appropriate if it is tailored to their age level. He has said that if a kindergartner asks a question such as where babies come from, they should be told accurate information. Obama also said warning young people about inappropriate touching is an example of the type of sex education he supports, adding that he was criticized for his position on sex education during his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign as well.

"Sen. Obama is wrong if he thinks science-based sex education has any place in kindergarten," Romney said Thursday during a speech in Sparatansburg, S.C. Romney on Wednesday at a fundraising dinner in Colorado Springs, Colo., said, "How much sex education is appropriate for a five-year-old? In my mind, zero is the right number."Obama on Thursday said, "We have to deal with a coarsening of the culture and the over-sexualization of our young people," adding, "Of course, part of the coarsening of that culture is when politicians try to demagogue issues to score cheap political points" (Davenport, AP/ABC News, 6/19).

Where did Romney have that fundraiser? Colorado Springs, no surprise because that is the hotseat for all wingnuts: Focus on the Family is so big there the HQ even HAS ITS OWN POSTCODE.

I'm telling you people: WINGNUTS.

UPDATE: This unsprung post looks at this too, and good it is, too - if just for the title.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Side Splitting

Thanks to Bean for bundling these both... Stephen Colbert on the Susan B. Anthony of Pole Dancing, and John Oliver on just why English should be the official, and only, language in the US. Genius.


... it's only a few days until Harry Potter emerges. Oh, the joy. Seriously. I cannot wait. I just don't quite know what I'm going to do with friends / family / work until then. Seriously.

When I was in Madrid, many many years ago, an acquaintance somewhat berated me for reading Harry Potter; he didn't understand, he explained, when there was so much of the great literary canon to read, why you would spend time reading children's books. Today, Unsprung has a great article in riposte to that line of reasoning. However, I take issue with reading that being simply in response to the lack of leisure time US-dwellers have; why do adults in other parts of the world, such as France or Spain with their six weeks' annual leave, read them? (Hmm, having said that, never seen a French or Spanish adult reading them. Oops).

Anyway, I think we're delving into it too much; they're simply rollicking stories, even if the story-telling is not everything people would like it to be. I like them. Not everyone does; that's ok. Still, it's nice to not have reading be hard work all the time. It's not that one shouldn't reject the classics - they are so for a reason, even Wuthering Heights, and I am trying to to rectify my stultifying gap of that canon. It's just fine to balance them with something mindless, easy to manage and, quite frankly, fun. Because after something as dense, torturous and miserable as a Dostoyevsky, you want to relax. It's how I know I'm stressed when I didn't even realise it: I somehow end up coming home from the library with piles and piles of detective fiction. Further, there are those fab people who argue for reading for reading's sake, in general, and enjoying the lighter side of fiction - I wholeheartedly agree.

And for anyone who doesn't think children's books should be read by adults I have a few words for you: The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman. It treats children like adults by according them respect and the ability to deal with death, God, existentialism and love. And those books are some of the few that I honestly re-visit every couple of years and continue to find something new, astonishing and beautiful about them every time. He also puts it best as to why we should read children's fiction:

We still need joy and delight, the promise of connection with something beyond ourselves. Perhaps children's literature is the last forum left for such a project.

So what, exactly, is wrong with that?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


One of the things I like about myself is my ability to find virtually any quirky news story and turn it into a rant. Here, I found an article about a "competition" to give away a kidney that turned out to be false but the tv programme did hugely increase the number of registered donors. One of the things I find genuinely frustrating about living in the US is my inability to give blood or organs.* The current Red Cross guidelines state:

At this time, the American Red Cross donor eligibility rules related to vCJD are as follows: You are not eligible to donate if:From January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1996, you spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 3 months or more, in the United Kingdom (UK).

However, there are far more reasons to be angry at the archaic and prejudicial reasons why you cannot give blood:

You should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV. You are at risk for getting infected if you:

  • are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
  • have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977
  • have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
  • were born in, or lived in, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea,Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria, since 1977.
  • since 1977, received a blood transfusion or medical treatment with a blood product in any of these countries, or
  • had sex with anyone who, since 1977, was born in or lived in any of these countries

I'm intrigued by the list of African countries - why not South Africa, for example, or Botswana, which has a rate of HIV infection approaching a quarter of all adults (second only to Swaziland)? Why people who have prostituted themselves at some point since 1977, but not the clients who, chances are, also do not make a one-time visit and are often the people who insist on splashing the cash so that they do not have to eat sweets with the wrapper on?** Maybe us females should be banned, too, given the level of infections and us being a quarter of all new infections right now, to say nothing of felons.***

However, in positive (ha) news, providing he really has kicked the habit, Senator Vitter can donate blood. Another way in which he's an awesome human being!

*Not that I'm actively trying to give them away right now, but you know what I mean. I hope.
** A particular favourite saying of mine from Malawi... where the rate without condoms was four to six times higher than with, and men really would pay the extra money which often equated to nearly a week's wages.
***Current risk of infection eight to ten times higher for HIV, nine to ten times higher for Hep C.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Today's post features another installment using the wondrous shuffle feature of my new (and growing increasingly comfortable & familiar) pod.

1. Let's Get Lifted Again - John Legend (from Get Lifted). Ye gods, I love this album. I love, love, love it. When Once Again came out I was obsessed with it, and I still think it's beautiful, but recently my love for his first album has been resurrected. His voice is extraordinary, and the production, as one would expect from a Kanye album, is extremely good. I think my favourite track is I Can Change (the one with Snoop), but honestly, it's all incredible. This is a beautiful, short interlude where his gently scratchy voice swoops over light guitars and finger clicks. Grand. I love him so much I am even considering getting up at 4.30 in the morning on August 3rd to see him play for free early in the morning. Considering. But not going to, obviously.

2. Psychotic Feeling - Of Montreal (from the Promo EP). This track really reminds me of a mixture of Clor, who in turn reminds me of the Buggles, and I think the Shins - not necessarily a bad combo. I got this recommendation from Scuttsy, and I haven't taken to it quite as much as I thought, but it's certainly enjoyable, probably a grower. It's that kind of quirky tune that I just don't reach for when scrolling my music collection, but when it comes on shuffle I'm reminded that I might quite like it. Yet I will not play it again until random rules come around again, in all probability. Shame...

3. Pick a Sound - Selah Collins (from Watch How the People Dancing). Dub from a collection KTB gave me after her phenomenal trip to Antigua Carnival. I'm still jealous. Dub is another of those genres that I love when it comes on, and particularly at Carnival time, but I forget about it. Although I don't think I could handle an entire night of it, but with it thrown into a general dance night I'd go absolutely nuts.

4. Army of Me - Bjork (from Post). I have mixed feelings towards Bjork, that fluctuate within even the course of a song: I can find her phrasing irritating, particularly where she does the naif / ingenue thing (It's Oh So Quiet particularly gets my goat), which annoys me given she is a strong, creative and passionate woman - why do the little girl thing? Which is probably why I love this song so much - she's just giving someone a smackdown, as I fully suspect her of doing on a regular basis when someone peeves her, and as many a photographer has found to his cost. Nonetheless, she remains one of the most innovative and unusual artists around, and I really, really, really must get her new album, Volta, which I know is rated by a lot of peeps I would usually admire.

5. Tear Out My Eyes - Tricky (from Angels with Dirty Faces). Hahahahaha, how utterly bloody perfect. I was going to make some crack about admiring Bjork's ability to go out with talented nutters (Goldie, Tricky) and then thought better of it; next comes this rather... tuneless and paranoid track from one of Tricky's most paranoid and tuneless albums. One night this album got stuck on repeat on my CD player and gave me nightmares, seriously. It was terrifying. But it still has my favourite Tricky track of all time, Broken Homes, on which PJ Harvey hams it up and a beautifully dischordant gospel choir never fails to raise the hairs on the back of my neck - it's glorious. It's such a shame that he's nuts, because his first three albums (Maxinquaye, Nearly God, and Pre-Millennium Tension) I think are genuinely brilliant.

6. Mental Alchemy - The Nextmen (from Amongst the Madness). And another beautiful segue from the nutter Tricky into a track from Amongst the Madness - do you see? The Nextmen are one of my other half's most listened-to artists, although they've slipped a bit down the top twenty. This is quality UK hip hop. Sadly, I don't listen to as much hip hop as I should, due to fears of not being able to work to it. Yet this works perfectly - I resolve to listen to them more.

7. The Love I Never Had - Mary J. Blige (from Mary). What I love about MJB is that with every album, this one is the cathartic one, the true expression of herself; she said it for this album, for No More Drama, for the latest one (name of which I can't remember, but it features the unbelievably great Baggage and then lots of other songs confronting bad men from her past). But I still have a serious weakness for her, simply because her voice is glorious, and she puts so much energy and emotion into her expression without being waily, in my opinion, a la Aguilera / Carey / Dreamgirls. For her, it never seems an exercise in stretching her voice, in showing off her range, but a necessary extension of herself, she cannot stop herself... Which may still not be to everyone's tastes, but it makes a genuine difference to my listening.

8. High and Dry - Radiohead (from The Bends). This remains one of my favourite albums of all time, and this song is one of the best off it - it was the one that made me fall in love with the album. I never did quite understand the "radiohead make you depressed, they're just so depressing" brigade. They sang, at least at their peak, exquisitely crafted songs, and Thom Yorke's voice is glorious - it soars, it snarls, it pleads, and is another spinetingler. A friend didn't think his solo album was great, because it was just quite like Radiohead; for me, that's why I rate it.

9. Knowing - Big Boi (from Speakerboxxx). This whole double-album thing, along with The Love Below, was one that everyone rated, and yet I never really felt the motivation to listen to the whole way. Other than a few choice tracks - I Like The Way You Move, Roses, Hey Ya! - it was all a bit... dull. Maybe I'd like it more now. I think it was that everyone was so desperate for a new Prince that they seized upon The Love Below. However, listening to it now, I am reminded that I liked Speakerboxxx better, to be contrary for a change. Having Pharrell sing over the top is never a bad thing, mind.

10. Royksopp's Night Out - Royksopp (from Melody A.M.). I really, really like Royksopp. It's not the band's fault that it created such a boppable first album that every advertising agency in the known universe wanted to use its tunes - Geico, T-mobile, come on down (at least it's better than Catherine Zeta Jones). The second album is surprisingly dancey. I bet live they're a bit like Thievery Corporation, whose albums sound loungey, yet when you see them sound utterly amazing and make you want to throw some shapes.

11. Cantaloop - US3. Now this is lounging music. Biddebiddebop.

12. Got Fucked Up Along The Way - David Holmes (from This Films Crap Lets Slash the Seats). I love David Holmes, but seriously - what's he done lately other than the Ocean's 11 Soundtrack, which was years ago? Let's Get Killed was the soundtrack to TOH & my first trip to NYC many years ago... He's the sheikh!

Friday, July 13, 2007


The current most e-mailed NY Times article is, indeed, one on how bloody rocking British chocolate is in comparison to US chocolate. And, quite frankly, it is. I think a friend made an apt, if inadvertent, point when he admitted that despite loathing chocolate, what he does like are Baby Ruth's and Butterfingers, which taste nothing like chocolate. I got my friend, who had emigrated to Florida, to send me a Baby Ruth's, because of the Goonies. I had anticipated that package with such passion, and then I tried one; it was, in a word, revolting. My teeth have never been the same. Although the article suggests that US candy (because it's NOT chocolate) tastes sour to palates such as mine, in fact it just tastes sweeeeeeeeeet, and not in a sahweet kind of way.

For my A-level revision, I had a crunchie and a coke (not diet, duh) for breakfast every day. Breakfast of champions, that. And virtually fat-free.

Put Your Hands Together

This morning I had to drag myself to the gym. I nearly convinced myself I couldn't go because my elbow was hurting, which would interfere with my weight-training. Never mind that it really shouldn't have any effect on, you know, running. Nonetheless, I have discovered the joys of a gym buddy. Seriously: Telling someone else I'll be there just makes me go. The other person and I don't necessarily do the same thing, arrive at the same time or leave at the same time and yet, it works. Unbelievable. So I went.

And I had so much fun. Seriously - fun. I did weights (elbow withstood them pretty well, although I didn't do the pull up / tricep dip machine, just in case - safety first). Then I went on the cross-trainer, so that I would not try to run - I can't bear just walking on the treadmills. I normally loathe cross-trainers. Yet, for some reason my random shuffling of music was absolutely perfect. Therefore, I can solemnly swear that the following selection of music made my gym visit amazing this morning and you should try it. Honestly.
  1. La Tortura - Shakira, from Fijaccion Oral (not the reggaeton remix, much as I love that one, too)
  2. Let's Push Things Forward - The Streets
  3. Turn the Page - The Streets
  4. Fell in Love with a Girl - The White Stripes
  5. Rose Rouge - St. Germain
  6. 2D2F - Avenue D

Bizarre. But the endorphins are still swilling around my system, so...

Cross-posted at

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Crossing wirelesses

Newest book-related post up. Going to try to work out how to put a feed on this site from my other sites. Should be... technologically interesting.

UPDATE: It is now possible! On the right hand frame, as you scroll down, my newest posts from the other places I write will be available. You lucky, lucky people...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Yo Yo Moi

Recently, there's been this whole "tapping" for awards phenomenon, which has sadly passed me by. It made me twinge a little, then wonder why I blog. Or, just as importantly, the inapplicable reasons for my blogging.

I do it to share thoughts, to sadly share with friends that I really don't see frequently enough, particularly with my rather unpleasant schedule and resulting severe sleepiness. I don't want the pressure of a serious readership. I'd rather blog about contraception one day and my cats or my iPod the next, and not stress. I am constantly having to think about what it is that I want for me, and not what I think I should want, in comparison to other people.

This has possibly been one of the best things about law school, bizarrely. There is a great deal of competition, of assumptions that your path should take this route - and those pressures are there regardless of whether you go the corporate or public interest route. So I've sometimes applied for things I thought I wanted but, on retrospect, it turns out I don't desire for me. But recently, I've been making decisions and rationalising my choices and they have been the ones that are - shock, gasp - good for me. Whether they are not going to work where people think I should - for whatever reason - or being an activist in an unpopular field or choosing courses I find interesting and useful not just in the future career but in terms of how I think, what I think, and why. Now, and for life.

Anyway, instead of this being my telling you what a great person I now am, the point was, through this "tapping" I found out what people I read read themselves, and have some new and exciting suggestions. Plus some new ones that I should read more often, as they are rather hilarious, but don't, so they're not all earnest, honest guv. So I'm going to re-do my right-hand column, which is probably a big reason as to why I blog - because when I look on my site I see the list of all my favourites on the right, and read those. And they are blogs by friends, strangers, political, frivol, and downright genius (GFY, I love you). Here are the newbies in the meantime:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Cornwall is officially beautiful; it feels steeped in mythology and legend. It is very, very different to the rest of the country, and feels as if perhaps centuries haven't really gone by.

When I was teaching English in Barcelona, we did a special day about language, somewhat a sensitive topic between Catalans and the rest of Spain. The Catalans particularly go on about Catalan being an older language than Castillian; it is incredibly important to them to have history anchored before that of Spain, to be authentically in their geography. Another teacher and I - he was an Aussie - did a special session on the "other" British languages and aboriginal languages from Oz. So I learned about the different groups of Celtic languages - the "p" ones and the "k" ones, the grouping into Manx, Gaelic and Scot, and Welsh, Cornish and Breton. The traces of Cornish names we end up with are glorious - Trescothick, Trethillian... and they could only come from Celtic origins.

Identity through language is particularly intriguing to me and, I think, incredibly important, having lived in Barcelona and now seeing the debates here over whether or not it is discrimination to force people to speak in English. Moreover, it is fascinating given that I speak an almost ubiquitous language, yet there is some primordial patriotic nerve within me that feels some twinge of frustration when it turns out that people are learning Americanised phrases and that my language is becoming obscure, useless in comparison. So in a small sense I do feel that a part of my identity is threatened by having continually to translate, to not be understood unless I modify how I speak. Which does, in some sense, change me. When I was getting near fluency in Costa Rica I would think differently, because the language and structure means that you think a different way. My dear friend Xopo wrote yesterday a beautiful post about the blurring (or not) of national identities through language, and I will not attempt to write anything on that topic. Chatting with another friend the other night, whose relationship is conducted in his language but not the native tongue of his girlfriend, it did bring home an appreciation that someone's language does help to define who one is and, in a way, I can understand people's sensitivities about a nation's tongue - be it those Mexicans who refuse to speak Spanish to Xopo, or those Anglophone Americans who are upset with the prevalence of Spanish.

For me, living in Barcelona, I never really felt accepted by those locals who tried to engage me in the gym and were disappointed at my stumbling Catalan and far more fluent Castellano. Yet Catalunya has a far stronger power and autonomy than any of the other nations that have been gobbled up by Britain, and so that desperate clinging onto language and locality can seem far more important yet far more futile. Which leads to desperate measures. Which is how I started on this topic - some bloke from the National Cornish Liberation Army has attempted to threaten Rick Padstow and Jamie Oliver out of Cornwall. Now I know those Jamie Oliver Sainsbury's adverts were annoying, but still... So a desperate measure, but probably not a desperately successful one. And young rich outsiders will continue to buy up property and turn villages into ghostly echoes of their former selves. Not quite the shadows of Aciman's imagination, I presume.

Monday, July 09, 2007


I have no real desire to go and see Sicko. I have, however, read a large number of reviews, reactions and responses to the documentary, which almost inevitably get caught up in the Michael Moore aspect, and his deliberately provocative visit to Cuba (flaws as to which are featured in the Onion review, I think - his failure to state that Cuba actually ranks below the U.S. is disingenuous, not entirely unexpected - yet who else but Cuba deliberately trains too many doctors to go to Africa and provide healthcare there, as I've heard from British doctors doing internships out there?). I have elsewhere detailed my own limited (and terrified) experience with the healthcare system here, and I do not want to revisit it.

However, I was pushed into doing more serious posting, and not so frivolous, by this notice I got from Kaiser's Daily Women's Health roundup.*

Although "little research" has been conducted on the effects of high-deductible health plans on women, "several studies point to potentially higher costs, ... especially where maternity care is concerned," MarketWatch reports. Under high-deductible plans, an individual is responsible for at least the first $1,100 of out-of-pocket medical costs, and out-of-pocket costs for family plans start at $2,200, "though deductibles often run much higher," according to MarketWatch.An April Harvard Medical School study on high-deductible plans found that in 2006, health costs for working-age women averaged about $1,844, compared with $847 for men. Among people ages 18 to 44, women's median outlays were about $1,266 for high-deductible plans, compared with $463 for men (Gerencher, MarketWatch, 7/5).

A June study conducted by researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute found that consumer-driven health plans generally require families to pay higher out-of-pocket costs for maternity care than traditional insurance plans (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/13).

This is scary on many, many levels. Our average health costs are seriously a thousand dollars more than those of men? We pay $800 more for receiving treatment? Oh yes, it's because we have all those complicated tubes and scary things like ovaries and periods and, shockingly, not wanting to be pregnant when we do not want to be. And so we have to do that, and suffer the ignominies of the pay gap (as of 2004 Government data, 75.5 cents of every male dollar) and, until Congress sorts itself out, not being allowed to sue for unequal pay after six months.**

I wonder what percentage of these women's partners actually share the costs of not having to have a baby. I try to be fair about the US system in comparison to Britain, and I think that Michael Moore might want to show the horrendous waiting lists for elderly patients to get hip replacements, for the time to get physiotherapy and so on. However, when it comes to contraception, the British system genuinely kicks the US's sorry behind, particularly now that students are now going to have to pay more for contraception.

* If you don't subscribe to this and care even a teeny weeny fraction of an ounce about gender issues, I urge you to sign up here - it's an excellent distillation of news about health, with a firm dose of politics and eye-opening horrors.

** That link is to a fantastic article about the Supreme Court's jurisprudence having fallen into the trap that illegal discrimination is all about the intent to discriminate, and not the actual action of discriminating, which Lily Ledbetter's employers did every single time they paid her less than her male counterparts. It's excellent, and well worth the read, even for non-law geeks.

Friday, July 06, 2007


It looks different. It feels different. It's not as soft and round-edged. It's a replacement, yet not a substitute.

I'm sure I'll grow to love my new iPod. It's just not quite the same; not yet. Still, Interpol and LCD Soundsystem have accompanied me this morning - some things have not changed.

In the meantime, here's why you should never offer to help with the washing up after a dinner party - at least, if you're not prepared to deal with some grizzly meat:

A Belgian man has been arrested after a dinner guest helping to clear up after the meal opened a freezer and found the bodies of the host's wife and stepson.

That makes me feel so much better about the state of my fridge - at least there's nothing that once was human in there. Still, a defrosting might be necessary this weekend. Ye gods I'm old. Full story here on the beeb.

And for those who are bored, here's some entertainment, all of which require sound:

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I survived. Just about. It was great - an excuse to eat a lot and watch fireworks which is, essentially, my idea of a perfect day. And only a few snide comments - from both sides which shows just how far anglo-american relations have come. Indeed.

Anyway, the NY Times has a fabulous editorial today about the Supreme Court. I am going to try for more levity in the next few posts, so less of the law and ranting, but this was definitely worth mentioning. Read it while you still can - I think it will only be up for a week. The general gist, however, is below:

It has been decades since the most privileged
members of society — corporations, the wealthy, white people who want to attend school with other whites — have had such a successful Supreme Court term.

UPDATE: Excitingly, I just found this from the fab feminist law profs: The House has already got before it, and passed through Committee, a law to overturn Ledbetter. Which is bloody brilliant news indeed. For a very good assessment of that utterly boswellox opinion, written by the gitlike Alito, read this. Ledbetter stood for the proposition that if you don't know you're being screwed over by your boss because you're a woman, or black, or a Rastafarian, tough luck - you only have six months to sue from the time your boss started doing it. Nice work, Alito. Luckily, the House is saying up yours, matey. That's made my day. Even more than the arrival of the replacement iPod. Sort of.

So less of the Supremes, more about fun stuff. Honestly. Although I cannot let this one go. So, the idiot Bishop of Carlisle has said that the gay marriage act is why the UK has been flooded in the past couple of weeks. That was quite exciting, and shows that really, we have our own brand of crazy churchfolk just as much as a nation with Pat Robertson (whose real name is Marion - who knew?).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Independence Day always a weird thing when the country you're in is celebrating overthrowing your very own nation; particularly when, as here, it's supposedly because they were rejecting everything we stood for.

I promise to be very good and only after many many digs will point out that really it was because, like the good capitalist nation it became, the Confederation didn't want to pay taxes. And then swim like mad when I am thrown in the East River.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Everything is Illustrated

One of my top five of all time presents came this year, from the other half, via a subscription to Sports Illustrated. No, I'm not joking. I love Sports Illustrated. It's generally very well-written, interesting and often historically illuminating, such as the articles on the school integration in Little Rock, or the Native American American Football team that beat Harvard, the army, everyone it could, and laid the foundations of modern play with its innovation and daring use of the forward pass. Seriously, it's good. Plus there is a lot about baseball, and I love me the ball of the base.

One thing that has come up in the last few issues was a female swimmer discussing her posing for playboy, and how proud she was because she'd "worked hard for this body." That provoked a letter in last week's issue, pointing out that women still have to be sexy / attractive as well as being bloody good athletes - that's simply not enough, despite the progress and, of course, Title X. I agree, to a certain level - Freddie Ljungberg's adverts are just an added bonus, not an expected part of his fame.

However, there is another level of discomfort I feel with the whole shebang. I bang on and on about how great I think sport is, and how women should play more, so admit I am not a neutral person. Nonetheless, the suggestion that even top sportswomen are doing this because it gets them a great body... that disturbs me. Women seem to rarely admit to playing sport because it's just fun. We go to the gym, we work out, but we don't play sport. I think that verb is incredibly telling - it's about enjoyment, not a chore, not another thing that we have to do to be acceptable or accepted. The bruising I get really does mean this is not for vanity, at least not traditional vanity (who doesn't enjoy showing off their war wounds, just a little bit?).

Not that taking care of yourself is a bad thing. I'm not even beginning to suggest that. Just that it might be a fun thing to do, and will boost your confidence in a way that stretching and contorting yourself in lycra, or pounding away at the cross-trainer may not do. Thinking of your body as a source of strength, of grace, of creativity, all these things can come from sport.