Friday, October 31, 2008

This week, I have mostly been reading...

Lots of blogs that I read do a weekly round up of interesting articles that have caught their eye. Usually I just rant about things that I've read, but I just read a really wonderful interview with Tracy Chapman, and cannot stress enough how fabulous she is. So I thought I'd collate some cool things I've read of late; do with the links what you will...
  • Tracy Chapman in the Guardian - a thoughtful and bright woman, who happens to have a glorious voice and puts her politics into her music with insight, sensitivity and passion. Just a lovely interview.
  • Another guardian article - showing my limited reading sphere, I know - on the danger of being the only single mother in the village.
  • Thanks to David Bentley's wonder strike for the mighty Spurs in their mighty drubbing of Arsenal (by obtaining a 4-4 draw), I was routed through youtube to the glories of the Top Ten Matt Le Tissier Goals... if you have a vague interest in footie you should watch these, for they are glorious. Almost as good as this one by Wayne Rooney, which is getting on for my favourite goal of all time.
  • Tina Fey is heavenly, she just is.
  • You probably have read a fair bit on this, but a good piece from Slate on the introduction of the progressive tax by socialist hero... Teddy Roosevelt.
  • An excellent piece by Scott Lemieux on another excellent piece on the vulnerability of Roe v. Wade.
  • And for something more cheery I give you... PEANUT CAT!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I'm in a bit of a pickle. Last night, I got a cab home. I already was bristling at the driver's assumption that no one really wants to live in NYC "except for the money." Apparently we all want to live in the suburbs. I said I could understand that (highly magnanimous of me, you'll doubtlessly agree) but I liked culture - theatres, independent movies, concerts - things not so easy to get in the 'burbs. But yes, parts are beautiful.

Then, when I got home, the exchange of money took place, I took the receipt, and then our verbal exchange went thus:

Him: This is a dangeous neighbourhood.
Me (not really listening): What do you mean?
Him: All those people loitering about. It's dangerous.
Me (looking around): Which people, where? What do you mean?
Him: Those.
He nodded at a group of about 6 teenagers at the side of my building's entrance.
Me: What them? They're kids from my building. They're nice. They're always friendly and holding the door open for me and everything.
He didn't respond.
I got out of the taxi.

Honestly, the more I think about this, the more fuming I am. He didn't say anything overt, as you can see, but I'm fairly sure his comments were racially motivated, and he wouldn't have said anything of the sort were the kids white - although maybe if they were wearing hoodies etc (the evil hoodie being the equivalent of 666 branded onto your forehead these days), he might have come out with the same.

What bothers me further is the underlying assumption that kids on the street are trouble, full stop. My neighbourhood is not rich and, like most places in NYC, kids don't have any real space of their own; they certainly don't have gardens to play in, or any coffee shops or places where they can just hang out with their mates, except for the street. What astounds me every time is that all ages hang out together - I've honestly never seen so many 18 year olds and 6 year olds playing peacefully together. There's no way I'd have done that when I was 18.

The kids are nice. They don't menace you with the ball, unlike horrible brats I've known in other places (or, indeed, the Columbia brats that menaced the homeless person, as viewed by WUB a few months ago). They stop playing to let you go past, open the door for you if your hands are full of shopping, and the kids that know me say hi. Yet someone like my cab driver sees kids on the street in the city at 9pm and that means a dangerous neighbourhood. In the 'burbs that's a "community," no doubt. I just can't bear them not being given a chance.

So the dilemma is: Do I report him for making what I think is an inappropriate comment on my neighbourhood - inappropriate for infringing on my personal choices (over which he has no right to comment - although that's a bit master-servant, no?) and for making a dubious assumption about the kids. The problem is, it won't fix anything. Still, the Taxi & Limousine Commission has an option to complain because the driver was "discourteous." I suppose that is the closest option I have... other than "fundamentally wrong and bigoted assumptions about passenger's neighbourhood."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Is anyone else bothered by this story, or are my rage buttons going off for the wrong reasons again?

Essentially, this old goat with tons of money (billions!) paid for the series between the England cricket team and various counterparts in the West Indies. He was spotted on the big screen at the match with one player's pregnant girlfriend on his lap, and was generally cuddling up to and flirting with the female players.

He's personally apologized for "the incident" - by calling the player with the pregnant girlfriend and the captain of the team. Is this not a tad... well... like treating the players as if he'd got on their horse, or sat behind the wheel of their cars? What about the women - what about apologizing to them? Or, indeed, not apologizing to them, because from the photos, none looks offended; they all look to be having rather a jolly time. Which, I suspect, is what really bothered the players in question.

There's something weirdly proprietary about the need to apologize to these women's men, as if they were the women's owners. And why Pietersen - because as head of his men he's head of his men's women, too?

Apologize to the women for offending them; or for causing trouble, maybe, but apologizing to the men...

It is just not sitting right with me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Random Rules: The Wiped Out Generation

The week before last we had a bit of an excitable dance party at wine club. I am now a wholehearted supporter of the dance party concept, despite it being inextricably linked with the horror that is the latter seasons of Grey's Anatomy. It's a brilliant idea - you don't have to pay $14 for a drink, no cover, and you get to hear the tunes you want to hear. Sweet.

Unfortunately, after the highs came the lows - it buggered up my iPod sufficiently that it whirred, creaked, and had to be restored by the kindly folks at the apple store. From 75gb of music, I had none. Ulp. Not the first time that it's happened, so the sheer horror was not quite what it could have been. And you know what? It's been liberating. I am starting afresh, and I don't have to put on all the things that were on before that I felt I ought to listen to but never do. I've got about 6gb on there at the mo. So here, courtesy of the shuffle function, is a random ten:
  1. Treasures - Thievery Corporation. This was one of the first albums I put back on the 'Pod. Very excited about their tour in the new year to support their new album. This album (The Mirror Conspiracy) takes me back to the year of my MSc - just moved back to London, living in Blackheath, and listening to this. A lot. This album also reminds me of our first trip to NYC, where we saw them and were stunned by how great they were live - much more upbeat and danceable. It was excellent.
  2. Multiply (Herbert's Hoedown Bump Instrumental) - Jamie Lidell. I have been disappointed with the new Jamie Lidell, I cannot lie. It's fine - but I loved the first one so much. Particularly, I loved all the remixes that he released on Multiply Additions. What I also love about that album is that we discovered it completely by accident - Tower Records by Lincoln Center was closing down, and selling off all its cds. We got in there, and didn't really find anything for the first ten minutes, were ready to leave, and then one of TOH or I - can't remember - spotted something we liked in the dance section. So decided to give it a more thorough look - and found this, several 2ManyDJs remixes, Stanton Warriors stuff, just tons of unexpected things that are highly expensive normally, as dance music tends to be. Brilliant. So it just makes me happy that a) I like the album and b) we discovered it by chance - just as I did with Jamie in general, as it was waking up at 2 in the morning that I first heard him on XFm back home...
  3. Samba Triste - Jackie & Roy. This, unsurprisingly, is off yet another Thievery Corporation compilation (Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi). Yes, I'm lazy, but their blend of Latin and Indian influences is just great for working to, produces some of my favourite albums, and so I'm always interested in what they're listening to, and nicking it.
  4. Chocolate - Kylie. Ahem. I have a deep and abiding love for Body Language, the album that this is from. It all started with Slow, which I think is a genuinely genius piece of sultry pop music, and the video is shot at the outdoor pool at Montjuic in Barcelona, which always makes me happy. It led to a love of all recent Kylie, but not this song oddly enough, which is one of my least favourite from the album. And this reminds me that I want to download a brilliant cover version of Slow that I'd heard ages ago and was played before the start of The Kills show a couple of weeks ago. And that reminds me that I need to put The Kills on my iPod. Weird that I've not, as they're my most listened to band of the last 12 months...
  5. The Meeting Place - The Last Shadow Puppets. This is one of those albums that I just haven't listened to enough, given how much everyone raves about it and the fact that I do think Alex Turner is a genius. What, you might ask, is it doing on my iPod when I said I'd put my favourites on it? Well, I started by going through my albums in alphabetic order, and as it's called The Age of the Understatement, that makes sense, non? Very Burt Bacharach, which is a pretty good thing in my book.
  6. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson. It's just genius. Reminds me also that I was having dance parties in 1997 in my first year of uni - three of us were dancing around like nutters to this and got caught by another friend. Looked rather stupid. Oops.
  7. Some Girls Are Bigger than Others - The Smiths. I am not an enormous fan of The Smiths, and this was another alphabetical choice - it's a best-of compilation, showing again my lukewarm commitment to them. But occasionally one of their tunes will come on and it's just the most perfect thing ever, and there are enough of them that do that that makes me think I do quite like them after all.
  8. Necromancing - Gnarls Barkley. Another highly anticipated album that was a bit pants this year, but this first one is still pretty damned good. Although I think I prefer ... Is the Soul Machine by Cee-lo Green, which was another random impulse purchase that turned out rather fantastically well.
  9. Meeting Paris Hilton - Cansei de Ser Sexy. Holy cow, this list is full of bands who made great albums in the past and pants ones this year.
  10. My Iron Lung - Radiohead. I've come round to the later albums, particularly Kid A and Amnesiac, as they are phenomenal to work to. They are just so much more courageous than bands such as Oasis, who continue to make limp versions of albums they made twelve years ago. Persistence with them makes them listenable, too, even if I'm not going to be humming the tunes as on The Bends or OK, Computer. That's not everything... although I'm one of the people who was a bit more lukewarm about In Rainbows, but I'm sure it'll grow on me - it also provides an excellent backdrop for document review.

Friday, October 17, 2008


The photo I put up yesterday reminded me of how glorious the Bo Kaap was. One of the things about coming back to NYC is a reminder of how... grey everything is. Well, it's also metallic, blueish, white, black... but all so cold looking, even though it's often, particularly in the form of the Chrysler building, utterly beautiful. But it all seems a bit flat, on occasion, and I get a yen for the streets of Barcelona, where you often see a green building, or blue; the use of colour by the Modernistas really was remarkable. I miss that. Which is one of the reasons why I loved the Bo Kaap so much. So I thought I'd share it with you.
This street was just stunning - one different colour after the next.

I loved the juxtaposition of this frankly garish salmon pink house - which I think housed a museum - with the woman in the hijab. There was just something great about the sight. I think what really is amazing and doesn't come across in the photos is that you are constantly aware of the presence of Table Mountain, looming (in this case) over what would be the top left corner of this photo.

I just loved the painted advertising on this store. It was amazing to see it because you get used to it in other parts of Africa, but seeing it in such an otherwise modern, Euro-like city like Cape Town was surprising. Nearby, there was a glorious shop full of spices, herbs, dried chillies and other assorted goodies. Ramadan had just started, and I remember thinking what an extraordinary test fasting must be in that situation, surrounded by luscious smells, things that constantly remind you of how wonderful eating is.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


My tidbit on the election this week. Well, second, if you count my revelation yesterday of a dvd-based-conspiracy to get you to vote for McCain. A dear friend pointed this my way, and I could not agree more: Why on earth does everyone have to go out of their way to point out that Barack Obama is not Muslim, or Arabic? It's ridiculous, because it just should not matter. Not in the least. Then people will point to "tendencies," and we'll get into a nasty stereotyping war. The current devout Christian in charge of the White House is happy to invade other "sovereign nations," bomb and torture people; his very first act in office was to repress women's rights all over the world by reinstating the Global Gag rule after Clinton got rid of it; as Governor of Texas he signed the death warrant of thousands of people. He has shown himself to be merciless, full of brutality. Not much to do with the compassion, caring, or, indeed, Christianity. So why is that so much better than loving Mohammed?

I recommend reading the piece and watching the video. Highly.

This photo, incidentally, is of a mosque in the absolutely gorgeous Bo Kaap part of Cape Town - there will be more photos of this region in days to come.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I'm pretty sure Netflix is supporting the Republican Presidential ticket. It took me a while to cotton on, but looking at the login page just now* it's right there, staring you in the face. Look at the examples of emails you might use to log in.

A coincidence? I think not. Much like a friend's attempt to warn you of the evil power of Dewar's, this is my own little conspiracy theory. Has Netflix officially endorsed a candidate yet? No, but unofficially, it's there for you to see, my friends. Yes, my friends, not that one, but this one.

* (yes, should be working right now, but I'm not - master of my own time, me).

Monday, October 13, 2008


I really am in a place I never, in a million years, dreamt I would be. I'm sitting in an office on Park Avenue, as an attorney. That's weird enough as it is. But tonight, Matthew, I really am going to be an attorney: I'm going to play squash. With a friend that works for a financial company. I may even join the squash ladder at the health club of which I will, hopefully, soon be a member.

Who on earth am I? I just can't work out if America has untapped all this previously unexplored... corporate-ness, or if it really has created it in vitro, taking my essence and doing something with it that naturally I should not be able to do. I do know that I would be utterly unrecognisable to my eighteen-year-old self. Everyone says things like that, but I really feel coming here veered me off onto a course over which I feel I have little control. Things just keep happening. It's all very Once in a Lifetime. But that's not to say I don't like it. I'm just constantly surprised by where it's all led.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


We just bought a bed. Other than the flight to Africa for the post-Bar trip, it's the biggest single purchase of my entire life.

Ulp. Still. We've been on the same futon that TOH bought when he first arrived in NYC, 6 years ago, since we got here. The only reason that even has a frame is TOH woke up when on the floor with a roach crawling across his extremely manly, chiselled chest. So it's about time. It's just... weird. One of the things about this place is I'm reluctant to make the big ticket purchases, in part because I feel it's a waste. Because we'll do all that when we're grown up, back home. It's part of the impermanence of living here - we're not staying so we shouldn't buy these things that we can't take home, or wherever we end up next. I can't get used to getting paid, and I can't get used to the fact that we're going to be here a while. And how much more grown up do I need to be before we invest in these sort of things? I carry a pack of tissues, breath mints and a Tide (stain removing thing) pen with me everywhere. I prefer midweek drinks in bars where I can hear my friends speak. I'm grown up. Sort of.

It is a truly gorgeous bed. Hopefully it won't become the cat hair magnet that the undertow of our current bed is. Wishful thinking, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


It's my 400th post, and I've been thinking recently that the name of this blog has held less and less meaning, other than my recent flurry of ramblings from Africa. So, I decided to think about what it means to be a (non-trying to live here forever, Homeland Security Authorities) foreigner living here, and hopefully the next posts will be more about this. Some serious, some less so - and also not just along the theme of "Americans are crazy/stupid/obese/obsessed with [insert stereotype here]." Because, for better or worse, this has been my home for four years now, and I feel a great deal of affection for the country and its people.* But I feel, nonetheless, that no matter how long I live here, I will never, ever feel American; I won't class myself as that; and that's something that I need to explore - which was the point of the blog, really.

However, I make these grand proclamations, but here are ten ways in which I am far, far, far more American than I ever thought possible:
  1. I not only see the point of wellies in an urban environment, I am considering buying a pair with woolly insides and polar bears on them. From J Crew. Ye gods.
  2. I voluntarily make myself egg-white only breakfasts.
  3. Related, to no. 2, I am under 30 and know my cholesterol level.
  4. Related to no. 2 again, I like American bacon.
  5. I describe not just baby animals, but outfits / people / houses / films as "cute." I also use the word "awesome" in a non-ironic manner. I high-five, too.
  6. When I say "the Times" I mean the NY Times as well as THE Times.
  7. I think Lewis Black is hilarious. You might do, too, but it took me a long time to "get" his humour, which I think is pretty darned American.
  8. I think a mere weeks of "vacation" is generous of my employer.
  9. I watch college American Football. On Monday mornings I even check the AP Poll to see the rankings, and I have an opinion on the end of season Bowl picks. That really is excessive.
  10. I buy pointlessly stupid-looking squash as decorations in Autumn.

Yep, pretty yankeefied, don't you think?

*Less so this morning after listening to a couple of minutes of the NewsHour featuring reporters from Ohio and Pennsylvania who could tell stories of how people wanted their names published in the paper to state to all and sundry that they would never vote for a black man. I know, I know, only yesterday I promised I wouldn't do it anymore.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


So... thanks to a phonecall with a much more politically active friend who couldn't quite believe I wasn't watching it, I managed to get suckered into watching / listening to part of the debate last night; despite promising myself I wouldn't. Bear in mind, this is not because I am not politically engaged; it is because I am too politically engaged. This is for my mental health. Which, already strained (work is a little bit much at the mo., as it turns out that three weeks into it, I'm not perfect/awesome at it), really suffered last night. Observations:

  1. I am not "your friend" Mr. McCain.
  2. How on earth can anyone seriously think of voting for him?

That's about it. He's untruthful and I honestly can't stand it. My blood pressure went through the roof just watching The Daily Show from Monday that talked about the VP debate - although that piece with Jason Jones watching the VP debate in Alaska was genius. Note to Palin/McCain: that's gotcha liberal journalism, if anything is - simply getting people to say ignorant things on tv. Fab. Most honest and insightful piece of political debate: "they're all gay."

I'm back on the abstention kick: no more politics for me. Last night poor old TOH did the whole meal and I poked at the pan with a wooden spoon, probably more often than not brandishing it as a weapon, thrusting it at the radio and yelling at McCain. You see? Not good for my health or my relationship which, despite his current rather busy time - some might say crunch / vital /most important of his life - is very much a lop-sided affair right now. For the good of the world, I am retreating once more. You'll thank me for it later.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Everything Old Is New Again


Just had a wash of notifications of marriages and, consequently, name changes. Whenever I log onto facebook it seems I get more notifications that various people I know - all successful, caree-driven women - have changed their names to their husband's. It clearly is one of my anger triggers - It really does make me quite remarkably incoherent with rage. I know I go on and on and on and on about this, but it is SO ANNOYING - not least because I have to change my address book to reflect your stupid gmail changes, as I discovered this morning. When you friend me on FB and we've not spoken for 10 years, I have no idea who you are. It's fricking inconvenient.

I also just don't get it. Just don't get it.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Procrastination. Again.

I have a feeling I've discussed this before (given that I have a tag for blog entries called "procrastination"), but I really am incapable of starting work on time. I'm incapable of not spending an hour procrastinating, finding things to do on the internet. Like writing this blog entry. I don't know why - I have several theories about needing to leave things to the last minute to be motivated, but that's utterly stupid, given how miserable it makes a) me and b) TOH. Still, no excuses. Going to start now.


After I've made myself some breakfast.