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.


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!


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.


Thursday, August 02, 2007


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.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Upward Mobility

I haven't really spoken much about my work - understandably, as I'm essentially on trial here to see if they want me afterwards - but one thing that drives me nuts about office culture as a whole is the way men absolutely refuse to leave the lift before I do. They just can't do it. And I can't go first without automatically saying "thank you," even though I really, truly do not want to do so, because it will encourage and reinforce such behaviour.

A woman I worked with once went nuts because some bloke passed us in the corridor and didn't stop and wait for us, who were going two-by-two, to go past. Given that I was working somewhere I thought the staff would not be bothered by that sort of thing, I was somewhat taken aback, and mumbled that I thought it was much worse to not say thank you when someone holds the door open for you (NB: I definitely do think that!). Why should a man have to wait for me to go past? Why is it "polite" in that definite gender context, and not impolite for a woman to rush past a man?

I don't think it's due to harmless, old-fashioned manners. I think it's still a way of men controlling women's movements, albeit in an oblique way. I always feel it's them treating me like a guest, instead of being there as equals. Not that gender differences should be unnoticed - or noticed - but rather in this sort of situation - where women still make up less than a fifth of partners at law firms - I appreciate every acknowledgement of equality and gnash my teeth at every remaining trace of our inequality. And as long as men continue to do this, we will never be their equals in the workplace.

And we won't be as long as law firms give etiquette classes to their summer associates, "for fun," which set out so many manners based on gender. Apparently, women need to walk in front of men going upstairs, and behind them going downstairs, all presumably based on the fact that having a uterus makes us think about pink and sparkly things which, in turn, make us giddy and need the potential support of a hombre when we faint. We also need men to walk on the side of the pavement nearest the street, presumably to shield us from running screaming across the traffic if we see a baby or a nice pair of shoes.