Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The break so far has not been great in terms of enough sleep or reading,* but it certainly has afforded me some time to try out some new recipes and mess around in the kitchen. So I made Christmas dinner, and the turkey wasn't quite as good as last year, but the sausagemeat stuffing (first time trying that) was really rather tasty. I also made some Jamie Oliver recipes - jerk ham (fabulous), homemade mulled wine (far too sweet - I think a smaller amount of sugar syrup and no vanilla pod next time), and some truffles with an experimental mix of ginger wine, cardamom and allspice - they were tasty, but I need to work on my presentation, certainly. Which is true for my life in general, I suspect.

* I've managed to re-read Pride & Prejudice and Bridget Jones' Diary, which is much sharper and darker than I remembered and much, much, much less like the film than I remembered. They toned down all the bigotry of Bridgets' relatives (a lot of casual racism that seems pretty realistic), and really toned down how integral her friends are to the book and indeed how little Mark Darcy really is in that book. So there you are.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I have eaten my own body weight in roast potatoes. Which, given my eating habits since I got home, is a considerable number of roast potatoes.

Luckily, nothing more strenuous to do today than go and see Sherlock Holmes and drink tea. I don't understand those people who go sales shopping today - I can't imagine anything worse than trying to contain all my potato-induced-bulges into clothes that are too small but are a good deal. Maybe next week...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

These Are a Few...

Home so far has consisted of: cheese; bacon sarnies; curry; a lot of footie; cricket; cryptic crosswords; decorating the Christmas tree; and a LOT of yorkshire tea.

It's been great.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Your week in marriage bigots news: The stupid NY Senate has just voted by 38-24 to not allow gay marriage.

From Gawker:
And then it went to an up-and-down vote with no one having any idea whether it would pass or not, and then it didn't, because some Democratic senators are cowards, some Democratic senators are bigots, and all the Albany Republicans are both.
You have to laugh, because otherwise, it's just too depressing. But, DC passed a law allowing it there. Good work, capital, good work.

Others are thinking up innovative ways to challenge the status quo, such as the Californians who are trying to ban divorce to preserve the sanctity of marriage (and, of course, call the bluff of same sex marriage opponents), and the British straight couple who are challenging the government for not allowing them a civil union, in order to highlight the inequality between marriages and civil unions. So it's not all bad news.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Medico, Medico...

Today, I finally got around to going to the doctor's to get something done. What that was is not the issue, but more that something that I could have done unbelievably easily in London was a nightmare here - my own doctor isn't trained in that procedure, and therefore I had to find one who was (there are fewer than 20 in NYC, apparently) and, of course, who takes my insurance. I was told repeatedly that certain places wouldn't, or certain doctors, despite those very doctors being listed on my insurance provider's website as being those magic words - "in network."

Finally, I found one, and rocked up at his office today. He was great - helpful, fun, hot - which always helps - and his staff and nurses were wonderful.

And, about 80% of my visit was done in Spanish. No, really. I had this wonderful Colombian nurse who spoke to me in Spanish. And it somehow helped to create this warm environment in which I felt well taken care of. Partly, I think, because Luz reminded me of some of the lovely women I taught in Spain, but also partly because this was a safe place for those who struggle in everyday life while surrounded by English. Everyone knows a story about an English-speaking person who tries to claim he's embarrassed at the doctor's in Spain but manages to say he's pregnant (embarazada being a truly false friend), or the Spanish speaker who took eleven pills instead of once (confusing "once a day" with once, as in the number - I believe this was in an episode of ER, once). But the doctor's surgery must really be a scary place if you're not sure about your insurance (I never am) and you don't have the linguistic skills to cope.

Undoubtedly, there are those for whom this is just more justification to harangue people about their lack of English, but really, this isn't a matter of principle, at least not there. I really, truly support speaking the language of a country not for Lou Dobbs type reasons, but because I think women particularly can get isolated if they don't speak anything that means they can be independent of their husbands or fathers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What a Gas

Well, last night was the Pixies at Hammerstein. The Hammerstein is not my favourite venue, at all, but it did reinforce two things:

1/ I need to get there early. I was trying to be blase about time, but it turns out, that was wrong, because as part of the Hammerstein rubbishness, it bucks the NYC trend and people actually go on early/on time. Dagnabbit. But if I'd followed my normal uptightness, we'd have seen a lot more because, of course, Doolittle is front-loaded with awesomeness.

2/ I am right to not leave concerts early. Did anyone who left last night really believe that they'd finish with Gouge Away? Or, indeed, after a couple of low key B-sides (and the utterly magical UK Surf Mix version of Wave of Mutilation)? No, of course not. Which is why they came back with U-Mass, Nimrod's Son, Isla de Encanta, and, gloriously, Where Is My Mind? into Gigantic. Absolutely spectacular.

That time we saw them in Barcelona was pretty special. This was fun, and I'm so glad I saw them, but it made Barcelona seem even more spectacular because then we were so close, and it was a much better venue. Not surprising, being open air and sunny and June in BCN. Which is a good place to be.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gaping Holes

Some of the most disconnecting experiences that arise from not being at home occur when you go home. It is particularly noticeable when I go home at the end of the year, and we do those "what happened in 2009" quizzes that newspapers print around Christmas, and I have no idea what's going on. So I do try and connect with home - I listen to The News Quiz (my favourite podcast of the moment), I read bits and pieces from the Guardian, I follow British folks on Twitter, subscribe to The Spin and The Fiver, and occasionally do British crosswords, too. I listen to radio 1 and podcasts from home to make sure I'm down with the kids and what they're listening to.

But it's just not the same - I have no real idea who Jedward are, other than X-Factor contestants. I cannot share in that experience. I am not watching the transition from David Tennant to that young pup who is now going to be Doctor Who (and I've really not even tried to reserve judgment about what a letdown it's going to be without Tennant, btw). I wasn't at home for Nick Griffin on Question Time, or for the remarkable Ashes triumph.

Right now, everyone's running a "best of the decade" about this, that or the other. And I've probably spent 60% of the decade at home, 40% in the US, which really is affecting my polls. For example, none of the polls I've seen here for album of the decade put Original Pirate Material in the top 50, whereas I - SPOILER ALERT - would have it in my top 5. I cannot imagine my life without it - it was an essential part of being in London in the early 2000s. And people here sort of get it, but not really, I don't think. The best tv show lists feature The Office, but do not mention Peep Show - a ridiculous oversight - or State of Play, which I think are two of the best British TV programmes ever, let alone this decade. Or, indeed, the reborn Doctor Who.

It made me realise that I like being this mixture of British and American culture - I would never really have watched Arrested Development or How I Met Your Mother if I still lived at home, I don't think. But I'm acutely aware that however desperately I try to maintain my British cultural knowledge, the listen again function can't really keep me current with it.

Of course, this is also an announcement that December will see many best of lists from me, whether you like it or not. Ha!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The Stupak Amendment has, unsurprisingly, filled me with rage. Rage at the amendment itself, rage at the framing of the issue... just rage. I have no real analysis for you, commentary. But I do recommend these things to read:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ceding the Day

Today is the day Dr. TOH and I celebrate as our anniversary.

But I realise that, in fact, there are other things celebrating anniversaries that might be viewed as a tad more important by some out there.

This is from a really, really beautiful blog called The Big Picture, that I highly recommend. It's utterly glorious - pictures from politics, science, and around the world - it's wonderful. They have a lovely post up about the twentieth anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, from both before and since.

And happy birthday to Sesame Street! Joy and education to millions of children, all over the world.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Rules

Now, I know I swore off resolutions, etc. But some good friends of mine have instituted their "rules that make us happy," and, of course, I'm now desperately trying to work out what mine would be. Theirs include always ordering a pickle plate if it's on the menu, and no more than two martinis per person, per night. I like their style. So, here are mine so far:

  1. Don't go out drinking on Wednesdays. Nothing good ever comes of it.
  2. Always order hazelnut gelato if it's there.
  3. Never eat tomatoes straight from the fridge.
  4. Don't work in your dressing gown. It is not conducive to productivity.*
  5. When stalled/mentally blocked/frustrated, put on the Fatboy Slim remix of Because I Got It Like That by the Jungle Brothers or Tribulations by LCD Soundsyste and just dance.
  6. Make the bed every single day.
  7. Always order a cocktail that lists cucumber or cucumber-flavoured liquor as an ingredient.
  8. Always watch Coming to America, Trading Places, Airplane, Blackadder, or Ferris Bueller's Day Off if you happen to come across them on tv - at no matter what stage.

This is a work in progress, obviously, but it's shaping up nicely.

* Inspired by currently being in this position and about to go for a shower due to self-sabotage.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What You Put Your Name To

I've had a few moments of late in which I've really been taken aback at what people are prepared to sign in protest or support of when they haven't really learned the underlying facts. It's so easy in the age of internet petitions to sign things you don't believe, haven't researched. I am certainly guilty of doing so. But a couple of things have given me pause in the last couple of months, and I hope from now on I will be less likely to do so.

First, I read the wonderful Rapture Ready. It really is worth your money and time. There is an awful part where the author confronts some kids handing out pamphlets that call children who were conceived by assisted fertility "abominations," or words to that effect. The author and his wife were unable to conceive without artificial assistance. His devastation as he reads it soon turns to absolute fury when he realises that the teenager handing him the pamphlet has truly no idea what it means or the implications of what he's saying. It was a lesson in really thinking through what one is standing for - the kid had no idea, and attempted to dodge the issue. Either you believe it, or you don't, but don't be ignorant and say that you believe it when you have no idea what you are, in fact, saying what it is you believe.

Second, the Polanski petition. As I have blogged previously, I am enraged by those who signed it: either they really do not think he did anything wrong, which is horrendous in and of itself, or they have no idea to what they put their names but blindly did so in ignorance of the facts. But that is why Emma Thompson has rebuilt some of her esteem in my eyes - of course, I'm sure that was pressing on her mind. Ahem. Anyway, a young woman had an opportunity to meet with Emma Thompson recently, and questioned her on her support of Polanski and wondered why she justified signing the petition. It seems to have had an effect, as Thompson is apparently going to retract her signature. I am impressed with Thompson's willingness to be open-minded and admit she was wrong. That is impressive. But it just emphasizes how celebrities have lent their names to something about which they know nothing - see Janeane Garofalo for another example.

So, the plan is to be a bit more informed. Because these things have shown me that you really should stand up for what you believe, but only if you actually know what those things are, or the impact of your signature on that piece of paper. Which, I suppose, is what a good lawyer ought to advise and practice.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The 500

This is my 500th post. It is also the anniversary of the election of Barack Obama. It's so hard to believe a whole year has passed. Looking back on my post from the day after the night before last year, I think a lot of what I was thinking then is roughly what I think now. To whit: racism is this country should not be underestimated--and, in the past year has, frankly, been more than a little terrifying as well as disgusting; homophobia should not be underestimated (please Maine, please, show us your good side).

He's been in power only since January, of course. Since then, there have been great positives (the Lily Ledbetter Act, and the general pushing of women's rights to the forefront of foreign policy, as well as - FINALLY - the lifting of the ban on entering the U.S. with HIV/AIDS if you are a non-citizen, progressive judicial nominees), as well as negatives (the general stalling on DADT, the horrific continued bombing of Pakistan using the drones, and general assertions of executive privilege that displease me).

But there are always to be ups and downs, and often the details are forgotten underneath a general narrative. As always, I avidly listened to The News Quiz from Friday and got highly disgruntled when someone said Labour had ballsed up the country for the past twelve years. It's simply not true. They have made horrific errors. But I don't think the investigation into Stephen Lawrence's death, legalizing gay marriage, or the repealing of Section 28, are to be sniffed at.

Friday, October 30, 2009

They're onto Me

The subject line of a piece of spam I just received:
Have you brushed your hair this morning?
It's almost like they are watching me. Regularly. And certainly this morning.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back to Where You (Sort of) Came From

My father is going back to Germany this week for the first time in 25 years or so. Seriously. He hasn't been back to Germany since there were two; since before the Wall fell. Yet he is (rustily) fluent in German, taught German, and lived there at various times in the 1960s and 1970s. I think it's going to be a strange, strange thing for him. Because where you live does infect you, become part of you. So it must be a strange trip up ahead, if wonderful, given the glorious things I've heard about Berlin.

But I thought about this, and it occurred to me how easy it has been to be a white person who moves around where she or he wants. When I lived in Barcelona, I just had to get a piece of paper filed with the police, then I had my numero de extranjeros and that was that - medical bills, no probs, taxes paid properly, bank account got. Of course, the little tarjeta that made me official took forever to come, but still - all relatively straightforward. And then I remember all the people who told me they hated immigrants, but that - after I pointed out little old me - I was "different." And so it probably was for my father in Germany, in a way it really would have been more difficult to do so if not white.

I'm not sure I would have taken this path of thought if it were not thanks to various pieces of anti-non-white things that have happened of late - Pat Buchanan's crazy rants about how white people's culture is under threat, Nick (shudder) Griffin on Question Time at home talking about how London isn't really British because so many non-white people are there. So I've been thinking a lot about this sort of thing. And I am grateful that Boris Johnson and Andrew Sullivan represent conservative thinking that stands up to this nonsense about how the English and Americans are so flipping "white," when, really, that doesn't mean anything given our nations' histories.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Deeply Personal Relationship

Melissa Harris Lacewell shares her Reflections on Marriage. The comments vary in quality/craziness, but Harris Lacewell's reflections echo some of my reticence to claim that gay marriage won't change anything; I hope it will, and for the better of all of us, but particularly women.

Typically advocates of marriage equality try to reassure the voting public the same-sex marriage will not change the institution itself. "Don't worry," we say, "allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will not threaten the established norms; it will simply assimilate new groups into old practices."

This is a pragmatic, political strategy, but I hope it is not true. I hope same-sex marriage changes marriage itself. I hope it changes marriage the way that no-fault divorce changed it. I hope it changes marriage the way that allowing women to own their own property and seek their own credit changed marriage. I hope it changes marriage the way laws against spousal abuse and child neglect changed marriage. I hope marriage equality results more equal marriages. I also hope it offers more opportunities for building meaningful adult lives outside of marriage.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Occasionally, I really do think I am a bad person. I will feel terrible about some horrendous thing I've said or done that has hurt people in some way. Often, those people are the ones I love dearly, as I have a tremendous propensity for lashing out.

And then, someone like Jan Moir comes along. And I realise that, in the grand scheme of things, I'm not that bad. Because I would never, ever sink so despicably low. Or, indeed, so pathetic as to deny that any of her drivel/bile was based on stereotypical assumptions about homosexuality or gay people. I often despair of the world, and this level of meanness and callousness is quite remarkable.

On the other hand, this mock up is excellent.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Diminishing Returns

I have just read a jolly romp, The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. It was sort of a grown-up Harry Potter (they go to magic university, rather than secondary school), but had much more of the texture of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (which I utterly loved, although I know my mother did not). To me, coming out of JS & Mr. N was like coming out of a haze into a cold world that was too sharp, without the weight of magic everywhere. Clarke created a world that was soft and heavy with the magic and wonders of her world, and The Magicians had something of that feel.

Nonetheless, the book suffered from what so many books suffer from: the rubbish denouement. Lots of books I really love for building up and building up a great head of steam, and then in the last third things go bonkers / off-kilter, and the ending is never as good as it should be. The Secret History is a killer for that - given how spectacular the first 3/4 of it is, it's just a bit of a letdown. Books do avoid it - by either being pants or by being amazing all the way through. But it's interesting how even very good writers somehow, truly, lose the plot.

I recommend it, though. Lots of good, dirty and unhealthy-alcoholic- fun.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Me, Myself & I

Jezebel has a somewhat incongruous, but lovely, article about the name Grace. Which obviously intrigued me.

Right now, it's hard for me to connect with the little girl who absolutely loathed her name. But that's what I was. For years, I dreamed of being called the same name as whomever I hero-worshipped at that point - "Elaine" after this girl who worked at the stables I went to every week, I remember, when I was about 6 and thereafter I can't really, but it wasn't Grace. My mother and her friends despaired. How could I want such names when I was so lucky to have such a pretty and unusual name? And therein lay the problem, at least in part. It shouldn't matter that the only people you knew with your own name were old ladies, but when everyone else associated it with them, and let you know, it wasn't so much fun.

Then something changed. I have no idea how or why or when, but at some point in my teens, it stopped bothering me. Perhaps when I went to secondary school and met another Grace, two years older. I then became a bit more protective of it, and started huffing and puffing when every time I went to the doctor's surgery, I would hear the name called and assume it was me, but it was directed to a child under five, and not me.

And then I grew to love it. And I really, truly do. I think it's a genuinely lovely name. It is elegant, and short and sweet. It is feminine and strong simultaneously. Whatever that means. It's fairly rare, at least for women of my age, and so I feel that I get to truly inhabit and make it my own. And then there are amazing namesakes, like Grace Kelly and Grace Jones,* who get to be so utterly different and yet it is not surprising that each has that name.

Although I think the real transformation was when I realised that, bizarrely, my name meant the same as my mother's. Which just feels right - a continuation of her, but as my own person. I love it.

* And it would include Grace Slick if she hadn't reformed Jefferson Airplane and did that horrendous Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now. Although if I'm named after anyone, that's her, so... better to think of her in the White Rabbit days.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


I can think of no other way to describe the apologists for Polanski. Obviously, me being me, I'm boycotting them. All of them! Although as I go so rarely to the movies, that's not saying much, but still... I'm just annoyed I gave stupid Steven Soderbergh my money for The Informant a fortnight ago before all this hit the fan. I also, obviously, stopped following David Lynch on Twitter. A little bit of me died inside when I saw that Martin Scorcese, Pedro Almodovar, and Emma fricking Thompson had all signed up. Sigh.

Still, several people have managed to capture beautifully just how terrible not just the crime was and is, but the support for Polanski. The claim that he has been victimized, that he has paid penance by not being able to accept an Oscar in person or holiday in Key West... ye gods. It's not just that they have supported him, but that people such as Thompson, whom I have loved and admired and thought were smart, are either complete morons, or they are awful people who think that making a good movie excuses drugging and raping that girl.

So here are a few people whose comments rocked my world:

Chris Rock.

Amelie Gillette (the hater podcast is my current favourite thing anyway, so I was obviously very happy to hear this).

And the wonderful Jay Smooth:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

With My Body...

This weekend will see a wedding extravaganza of the kind that I've not experienced in Britain. So, rehearsal dinner, brunch with Granny, speeches, skits, more brunch... My clothing choices get increasingly forgiving and able to expand as we move from Thursday to Sunday.

As always, I will carouse, dance, toast, and weep with abandon. And more than a few of those tears will be for Janice Langbehn and Lisa Marie Pond, who couldn't get married to each other because they're both women, and so spent all but a few minutes of the last 18 hours of Lisa's life apart. That shouldn't happen to anyone. So I will rejoice in my friends' happiness and keep hold of how unbelievably lucky they are, in many ways.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Softly, Slowly

I'm slowly getting accustomed to being on my own during the week while Dr. TOH is off teaching the youngsters at The College. I'm sat comfortably with some document review, one of my cats curled up next to me, with mindless tv on. It's not ideal; it's not what I really want to be doing right now, given that I'd much rather be gently drifting off to sleep while curled up in Dr. TOH's arms; but it'll do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Domestic Bliss

On Friday was the first dinner party in the new apartment. It was amazing - basil and baby tomatoes from the garden, barbecue in the garden, and organic steak from the co-op. Yum. And today, I made sorrel soup from the stuff in the garden.

Things I've learned about the place:
  • There is simply NO END TO CAT HAIR
  • This is not the best time of year for sorrel - earlier, when it's less bitter, is undoubtedly better. Or with more bacon. Always more bacon.
  • Along the bacon lines, there are few soups that aren't improved by sour cream.
  • This is an amazing recipe for steak.
  • I like gardening, but there are STILL biting things and I got feasted on, yet again, by those biting things. Sods.


Today I started the 100 Press Ups Challenge. Ulp. I am a rubbish press-upper: I don't dip enough, I find it hard to keep my back in the correct form, and I don't position my arms to get the optimal entire arm workout. Nonetheless, I am now able to do more of the rubbish press ups than I could before, and my aim is to a) get a little better and b) do more of the less rubish versions.

I also felt a little abashed reading Zuzu's post today, because while she has trucked on with the new rules of lifting for women and is on the penultimate stage, I have failed to keep up with my lifting, despite seriously enjoying it and also seeing some great results in terms of strength gains.

So, despite work entering a whole other "oh sweet zeus" stage this week, I'm going to try to go at lunchtime. Even if I don't get time to shower and have to start buying pot pourri / air freshener for my office. Thank goodness for having my own little space in which I can stink myself out and no one else.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Change of Focus

For the last couple of years I've kept track of my NYE resolutions on this blog. But I've decided to do things a little differently. Rather than read myself the riot act for not being healthy/cultured/whatever enough, I'm slowly but surely resolving to do things right as I go along - that is, find things that make my life better and continue to do them. The corollary to that is to identify and remove things from my life that make them worse. And, also, engage in a little bit of teaspooning here and there.

So, I'm making small resolutions, such as unsubscribing from bliss emails. I have also decided to stop buying "women's" magazines that don't explicitly have a positive mental health bent. I am using the quotation marks because I think that they often do more harm than good. They push self-loathing, which is never an attractive trait. I always thought that it didn't matter because I like the rest of it, and, for all my public neuroses, I'm actually pretty secure (too secure, probably - i.e. obnoxious). Nonetheless, I don't think I should be supporting this kind of article, which is, frankly, horrid. And I don't want to support photoshopping to this level, especially when it is so unrepentant and captures you "at your best" because, god forbid, your best cannot possibly be 15 pounds heavier.

So there you go.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Something Always Takes the Place

These are things I don't think I've blogged about, but that I will miss most about 5E:
  • The ride up the Westside Highway at night. "Highway" is a bit of a misnomer below 59th street - there are traffic lights every five blocks or so. But once you hit the ramp after the 57th street turnoff, then you suddenly hit a stretch of non-stop road. And, more importantly, you hit a blaze of tall buildings - residential, office, all glowering in the dark at you. It's best when you hit that time where there's a mixture of lights on and off, and they loom up at you like some smaller version of Akira or, as Dr. TOH and I have named it, Bladerunner. It's amazing, and if you've never been uptown - and I mean really uptown - then you've never had reason to suspect it exists. But it's beautiful, and such a gorgeous way to see the city. And then you have the buildings on the other side of the Hudson, which suggest the album cover for Original Pirate Material, and you get to see all the nighttime activity on the river - boats chugging here and there, as the city keeps working while you head home.
  • The orange wall. It took Dr. TOH and I four years to paint, but paint we did. Inspired by a glorious rug I bought in Mozambique, we decided to paint the wall buttered yam. Not with buttered yam, but that colour. It's glorious. One of the amazing things about the new place is how lovely the decor is, but I will miss the buttered yam wall. We're taking the paint. Just in case.
  • Watching the large tree in the middle of our courtyard change as the seasons roll around. It turns a very pretty red in late September, early October. Then, the leaves slowly shrivel and fall off. By January, it becomes laden with snow. It is bare in March but suddenly, at some point in early April, I'd notice the first shoots and glimpses of green. Sudden, blossom would emerge, and it would feel hopeful and sunny in the courtyard. I won't have any real indicator in the same way.
What is strange is how quickly we've adapted. I've not once tried to get the 1 home. I've not once directed a taxi uptown (although that makes it sound like I've caught millions of them, which I have not). But it's just not home anymore, and it happens that quickly. But I imagine that when the leaves start changing, I'll get a pang for the courtyard.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I Take It Back...

... sort of.

I am still wrangling with the genius feature of the pod. My past annoyances with it have lessened since previous rants, but some irritation remains. For example, it has a habit of instead of using remixes rather than the original you want to use - it does this for Music Sounds Better with You by Stardust. Don't tell me you can use genius for a song if you can't, you annoying thing.

Nonetheless, yesterday it came up with the best selection of 25 tunes. Not that each one was a total favourite, but I loved the variety and sheer weirdness of the tunes it came up with - the juxtapositions were just bizarre, but ace. It gives me hope that genius is learning about me and so, in turn, coming up with record selections more along my lines. So, having not made a list for yonks, I thought I'd reproduce it for you here... lucky you.
  1. Paris by Friendly Fires (starting song)
  2. The Eraser - Thom Yorke
  3. Just Like Honey - The Jesus & Mary Chain (am definitely getting into them, that will be my next retro discovery)
  4. Spooky - Dusty Springfield
  5. I Turn My Camera on - Spoon
  6. Long Hot Summer - The Style Council
  7. Fight Test - The Flaming Lips (I do not listen to this enough)
  8. Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
  9. The Hurting - Tears for Fears
  10. Baby Boy - Beyonce feat. Sean Paul
  11. Balloons - Foals
  12. Lovesick - Friendly Fires
  13. Eat Yourself - Goldfrapp
  14. Sea Within a Sea - The Horrors (best album of the year pour moi thus far)
  15. Don Gon Do It - The Rapture
  16. No One Does It Like You - Department of Eagles
  17. Turn It on - Franz Ferdinand
  18. Golden Phone - Micachu
  19. Naive - The Kooks
  20. Cheap and Cheerful - The Kills
  21. Strict Machine - Goldfrapp
  22. I'm Sticking With You - Velvet Underground
  23. Kids with Guns - Gorillaz
  24. Lovin' You - Minnie Riperton (no, I'm not joking!)
  25. On Board - Friendly Fires

Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't Strain Your Brain

I judge whether I've had a relaxing holiday by the amount of reading I've done. If it all happens on the plane, then it's not relaxing; one needs to spend rather decadent amounts of time by the pool / in the hot tub / on the beach / wherever reading for it to constitute a seriously restful time. Luckily, our hols were just that and I got to read an array of books that really did cover the gamut - Jeeves & Wooster, spy novels (the excellent Alan Furst, whose entire collection I am now queuing up in my library account), P&P&Z, the new Mark Haddon (having loved A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time), the new Sarah Waters plus TTV.*

When I came back I knew I had to return a book to the library, but having waited ages for it, decided to brave the fine and finally plough through Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture by Daniel Radosh. I'd heard great things about it from the RH Reality Check podcast, but I have to confess, I was expecting something different. I was expecting something that, frankly, was far less classy than the final product: more mocking, more jeering, more generally making-fun-of-the-crazies. Not that he doesn't occasionally, but it's more the hypocrisy and cruelty that he gently takes apart and mocks. Indeed, most of the book shows his utter fascination as a highly secular Jewish humanist from Brooklyn with this "parallel universe" - which itself is a pretty apt description. I remember hearing a Christian version of I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly in the south, because R. Kelly hasn't been saved, so you couldn't listen to his version if you were a good Christian. There is just this parallel world, that most people don't realise exists.

This was a thoroughly engrossing look at the people who purvey the alternative culture, and their motivations, their passions, and, yes, their hypocrisy. But, more often than not, Radosh (and the reader) is surprised by the generosity, warmth and compassion shown by some, as well as horrified by others' cruelty and intolerance and, indeed, sheer thoughtlessness. There's a harrowing bit where he engages with a "youth" about IVF, which for Radosh hits a raw nerve, and the discussion in which Radosh engages with the young man shows the problem with sloganeering generally, and needing to think through one's positions thoroughly - this lack of logic and compassion pains Radosh and the reader as much as the abhorrence of his views.

Particularly striking is Radosh's probing of the acceptance (or not) of Jews by the people he meets. People's reactions to him are very interesting, and he explores his discomfort and intrigue at the range of opinions he encounters.

I really cannot recommend this book highly enough.

* Conclusion: interesting, good romps/reads, but really, nothing touches Fingersmith, which I maintain is one of my favourite books, ever. Also, The Little Stranger is nowhere near as sad or creepy as another of hers, Affinity.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Something old, borrowed, new?

WARNING: Spoilers if you have not yet read Pride & Prejudice. Even if your beloved other half bought it for you ages ago. And yes, that OH may not have read all your gifts, but this particular book might just happen to be one of the aforementioned O.H.'s favourite books of all time and if she could be anyone in literature, it would probably be the main character.

Where was I? Ah, yes, after all the preamble of spoiler warnings, I wanted to note that, while away holidaying, I read with a mixture of amusement, fascination and horror, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It was... pretty good, actually. I have just two grumbles. One, it makes use of puns on "balls" much more than I really think any book needs, let alone an Austen, updated or otherwise (too much of something blue, methinks). Two, part of its very joy - things "falling into place" in the plot - are things that I find on some level troublesome and, really, a failure to understand the importance of the original. For example, Charlotte's decision to marry Mr. Collins makes much more sense, according to some reviews. But of course, in the original, her decision is due to feeling in danger of being left on the shelf, being stuck at home with her parents, and without anyone to take care of her were they to die before she married. The things that don't seem to "make sense" actually do when you look at them through the prism of how clearly women did lack choices and control over their lives.

Nonetheless, I'm not trying to write it off or be (too) humourless about the book. There is an interesting look at gender in both, and knowing the original is essential for getting the point of the later version. In P&P&Z, a large proportion of the nation's defenders the scourge of zombies are unmarried women*; a woman's worth is partly based on her immense strength and ability to kill zombies - Lady Catherine is an absolute legend in that field, which aids the narration by explaining why such an awful woman is so greatly esteemed. P&P&Z elevates women and explicitly recognises how vital they are to a nation's health; it also mocks the things that women were actually valued for - not strength or intellect, but sewing and being gentle and playing the piano - not that playing the piano isn't awesome, but it doesn't make you worth having a relationship with - unless you're really good, I suppose.

What reading P&P&Z mainly brought about was the renewing of my obsession with Austen books, and I have just re-read Persuasion in a day. I do utterly love that book. P&P does win out for me, but the older I get, the more Anne Elliot resonates, and the sadder and more thrilling the story. Maybe it's time to re-visit Emma, too, and of course, Sense & Sensibility - before S&S & Sea Monsters emerges. Would that I were joking.

* When they are married, they cease this work to devote themselves to the presumably much more important job of getting pregnant.

Cross-Posted at Hall of Shame.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Smug as a Bug...

And I really am. It's been an astounding couple of weeks. First we had the big move. Not that it's really over, yet, but we are here. We still have a mountain of things to do, furniture to buy, and, sadly, boxes to unpack, as well as sifting through all our crap because we packed so hastily that we did not have time to really do a big sort and offload/throw away a lot of stuff that we really do not need or want. Of course, because we're now in a much bigger place, we didn't have to worry about space.

Still. It's lovely. The garden is gorgeous. The exposed brick wall is heavenly. The dishwasher and washing machine / tumble dryer have changed my life - I - and not the Doctor - now do laundry! Me! For the first time in YEARS I've done the washing twice in a row. Astonishing, indeed. The cats took a while to adjust, but Clem has ceased hissing at Winston every time he comes within four feet of her. They're absolutely intrigued by the garden but, as yet, haven't made a break for it. I've signed up for the amazing food co-op nearby, and signed up for a local blog that showcases cool (and bad) things about the large avenue that delineates the start of Crown Heights to our east - and tonight my dinner was bought from the organic, 24-hour mini-supermarket I found out about on that blog.*

Plus, we just had one of the best holidays of my life, complete with manta rays, tons of fresh fish - both to look at and eat - an active volcano, stargazing, beautiful beaches, and a hot tub, plus fresh papaya and mangoes everywhere. It was wonderful. AND the end-of-hols gloom was defeated by England winning the Ashes and Spurs being top of the table.

Something, clearly, must go wrong soon. But for now - life is sweet.

* I also got called a "pot-bellied bitch" by local youth just past there. Well, not to be too egocentric about it, but I think it was directed at me. Having bought a giant bar of chocolate to comfort myself while the Doctor is in RI and having barely done any exercise in the past four weeks, I am inclined to agree. Of course, it is the product of several amazing weeks of overindulgence, and I'm therefore quite attached to this reminder of the fabulousness of the past month. I patted it fondly in response.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

So This Is Goodbye

Dr. TOH and I have two more nights left in our apartment. This is the apartment in which we first lived together. Now, it's hard to imagine a time when we didn't live together. But this was our first home. So it will be sad to say goodbye to it.

Living in that apartment opened up not just another chapter in our relationship, but opened our eyes to a whole social world outside our university-based friends, simply because our neighbours were friendly when we moved in, and we jumped on their overtures. Together with them we tried out restaurants, took swimming classes together, did football training before work, ate marvellous food, played ping pong. That simple generosity and open nature is something I hope I've taken on, although our lack of familiarity with the current neighbours belies that hope. Nonetheless, I want to take it into the next building we live in. Because I have learned, finally, that neighbours should be there for one another, and that's when good neighbours become good friends.*

So while it's sad to leave it, it's worth remembering how much we valued being next door from a wonderful set of people. Because now we're off to the outer boroughs, we get to be a lot closer to a lot of people, including our former neighbours. We get to explore a new neighbourhood, a new park, a new set of shops and restaurants. Find our bearings there.

Five years is a long time in any place. It's time to move on.

*Sorry, could not resist it.

Friday, July 24, 2009


It's the end of an era.

TOH is no more.

Instead, I give you: Dr. TOH. Yes, he has achieved what set us on this winding and, occasionally, torturous path all those years ago.

It feels so long ago. We thought we would be able to start afresh, almost, after he become a Dr. and I became an Esq. That it would just be the re-starting of our lives, becoming grown ups after years of studentdom and temporary jobs. It's not quite worked out like that. Yet again, we are constrained by geography - my needing to be here, his job being a three-hour journey away.

Yet, and yet... I rarely have been so happy as I am today. Because he has worked so hard, because he is wonderful, and because how often do people you love really achieve what they want - and it make them happy?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


In a mere three weeks' time, TOH and I will be packing and prepping for a (much-deserved, in our opinion) holiday to somewhere warm and sunny far, far from here. We are both tremendously excited. Of course, I have to fret about something, so now the fretting begins: What to read? NPR has published a list of 200 books that it wishes to whittle down to the 100 Best Beach Books Ever. Some of them are great and, indeed, I've read them while on the beach / on a lounger in close proximity to a pool: Cryptonomicon, Kavalier & Clay, The Moonstone are just a few examples. But some of these just seem... weird. I give you:
  • The Brothers Karamazov
  • Lush Life (rarely have I read a book more rooted in its place - so unless you're at the Water Taxi Beach, probably not a good choice. Who would want to take hipsters with them to invade their imagination when they leave NYC?).
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being - really? because an existential crisis goes so well with a tan?
  • War and Peace - because you'll have so long to actually sit down and read it?
On the other hand, although it is a thriller, I could not have predicted that The Moonstone would be such a perfect accompaniment to early mornings sat overlooking a beach in northern Brazil. So I'm not going to count these out, necessarily. As for us, I'm not sure what we're taking, but definitely the new Zoe Heller, the new Sarah Waters (and Tipping the Velvet). Suggestions?

Sunday, July 19, 2009


This weekend has been rather fabulous. Lazy, slow. We took a wander round the neighbourhood yesterday, up to 181st to pick up a tennis racquet and a scratching post for the cats, which of course they have studiously ignored, sitting a mere five inches away and steadfastly looking anywhere but at it, let alone contemplating using it. We've listened to a lot of cricket on TMS, and picked up a couple of books I've been wanting to read for ages from the local library.*

We took advantage of the fabulous courts by the GW Bridge and played truly terrible tennis for an hour-and-a-half. We then had a bit of a sit and a read while watching the boats serenely sail by, the jetskis thunder by, and the sun set over Jersey.

Oh, and a galleon. No, really.

I've been wanting to do more in the neighbourhood before we move - under three weeks to go - but these have all been about restaurants, sights, things like that. Yesterday reminded me that we really have not taken advantage of the area's access to the river; spending a few hours there went a little way to redressing that.

* If you're interested, Tipping the Velvet, which is the only Sarah Waters other than the new one that I've not read - we're saving both for the hols which will be in a mere 3.5 weeks - and Charm City by Laura Lippman - I'm slightly obsessed with this series. It's set in Baltimore in the 1990s (thus far), and has the extra interest value of being written by the woman** whose husband wrote the original Homicide - the book and the tv series which, while nowhere near as good as The Wire, set the scene for it, and I maintain the first couple of series are extremely good indeed.

** Of note, and annoyance, is the fact that David Simon's wiki bio does not mention to whom he is married - which is clearly interesting as she's a journalist of note in Baltimore, and a good, celebrated writer - but hers does mention his. I wonder why. Not for long, though.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Talking Points Memo is doing a great job of covering the discussion at the confirmation hearings for Judge Sotomayor - one of the better jobs, in fact, so I recommend using that for the next few days (and reading the prior coverage by Pincus - he's a new fave). More legally oriented than, for example, the NY Times site. Also recommended - El Diario's coverage on Twitter.

As to my own feelings on the matter... I actually do think the rigour with which they're questioning her is good - she shouldn't be guaranteed to get in, because it's bloody important.

Moreover, I find the liberal side's cries of "oh, but she's so qualified that they're looking elsewhere" (see Dahlia Lithwick on The Rachel Maddow Show) a little disingenuous. I disagree - one of the first things I loved about Obama was his statement on why he wasn't going to vote for Alito. Because despite his perfect paper qualifications, Alito's record indicated that he always came out on the side of the more powerful. That indicated an imbalance in his judgment. Sotomayor has a much more mixed record, which doesn't indicate anything like Alito's bias. The problem is not that they're looking elsewhere, but where they're looking - which is straight at the big fat fact that she's a Latina.

What I hadn't realised - that I learnt from TRMS - was the constant reference to other judges of Latino descent - and particularly revolting was the implication that she had to vote the same way as Cabranes ("himself of Puerto Rican descent") on the Ricci en banc decision, or she was a racist. Oh, Jeff Sessions. Really?

As for the "wise Latina," I would expect her to possibly know a bit more about what constitutes discrimination. I've had numerous discussions with extremely bright, thoughtful men who simply did not understand that certain things felt intimidating, harassing or unpleasant to women, particularly in the workplace. If you've occupied a position of privilege your entire life, you cannot be guaranteed to understand the feelings of someone who has had barriers erected in front of them - particularly when those barriers have become increasingly subtle because most people with power have learned that you can't go around referring to a black man as "boy" and getting away with it. You use experience to help you understand context - and if you don't have that experience, you may benefit from someone who has. The decision in the school strip search case really did seem to benefit from RBG's understanding of what was reasonable as a young woman. In contrast, people like Sessions only seem to understand "discrimination" as "deprivation of privilege."

As for SS, I don't think she's anywhere near liberal enough for what I would like to see the Court become. But she'll do for now. As will the Republicans' willingness to show themselves as bitter, angry men who really aren't interested in diversity - either on the bench or in their electorate.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Shifting Gears

Work has been, to put it mildly, manic the past few weeks. I have also managed to get sworn in (officially a lawyer now - yikes) and sign my first ever lease, which is also the first joint lease for me and TOH. So I've barely had time to think sufficiently to vent - not that there's necessarily much thinking before the venting, but I normally get wound up sufficiently to put a few words up. Not this time round.

It always takes me a while to shift back into "normal," and undoubtedly I will get poorly. Sleeping 8 hours last night made me almost feel worse because now my body is apparently punishing me for lack of sleep in the past three weeks. Nonetheless, I'm sure as I recuperate the rage will return. Sotomayor's confirmation hearings and the circus around them will doubtlessly help. But for now it's concentrating on the Ashes and getting back into a routine of gym, healthier eating, and sleeping, as well as spending time with those I love.

Oh, and planning a holiday. Hooray!

Friday, June 19, 2009

It Shall Not Stand

My dad researches and instructs other teachers on methodology and school effectiveness, including work in far-flung places, with it regularly taking him to Brazil, Pakistan, and Tonbridge Wells.* Because he is now such a seasoned traveller, he has got used to odd hours and his body clock being awry. One of my favourite ever conversations with him involved him announcing that he'd found a way to get over jetlag. Ever eager to get over it, as I suffer terribly when I don't sleep (as I may have mentioned), I asked him what it was. "Just don't give in to it. I've decided" came the response.

Would that I had the willpower. Waking up at 5 two mornings in a row seems to indicate otherwise.

* I always want to ask him if he ever comes across "angry of..." the aforementioned TW.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


At Shakesville, they ask "What is your favourite silly question game to play with friends?" Mine always seem to devolve into ranking games, with the number one game that TOH and I play ranking couples on who we could beat up in a fight. Sad, but true. We'd do reasonably well, based on our generally large weight advantage and my ruthlessness (i.e. spitefulness/viciousness when cornered). I wish I could say street smarts from growing up on the mean (ahem) streets of Catford, but that's sadly lacking.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I've been enjoying myself at home, despite the circumstances - the weather has been glorious, we have eaten extremely well, and I have spent some extended time with my parents and various wonderful home people.

Being home again provokes torn responses within me, parts of me struggling against each other. The New York part rallies against seeing the Daily Mail, the election of BNP politicians (and, more gallingly, the willingness of people to excuse voting for the BNP because people are pissed off with Labour and immigration - no matter how pissed off I am with any politician, it does not excuse racism), Boris Johnson, early closing, tube strikes, etc. etc...

Yet the Londoner rejoices in staying in a house, with a garden; the abundance of tea, decent dairy products, and curries as well as the availability of creme fraiche; cricket on the tv and radio; cryptic crosswords; pub gardens - the weather has been so good that everywhere you went this weekend, you saw people just hanging out with a pint and the sun on their shoulders. Lovely.

I just wish I could have both - the things I love about New York combined with the lure of home comforts and the proximity of continental Europe. If only. I can satisfy myself however with the knowledge that I have also been (not so subtly) waging a war on TOH's predilection for North London, which hopefully will, if and when we return home, pay dividends. Small steps.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


The cold-blooded, vigilante murder of Dr. Tiller on Sunday morning has left me speechless, with both rage and an inability to express that rage due to the seeming inevitability of it all.

But the overwhelming feeling is one of despair. Despair at what desperate women will do: those women whose babies are incapable of living, other than for a few hours, in agony because of defects and abnormalities, blood diseases; those women whose babies die in utero, and now, can only find two doctors in the entire United States that will remove the dead foetus beyond 24 weeks. Less than 1% of all abortions are in the final trimester; these require medical indications, such as those listed above. Women may go through labour with such children; that's their choice. But to force them to do so, particularly if it will cause the baby nothing but pain and agony, is inhuman. Terry claimed that what Tiller did was "literally demonic," but I really do believe that forcing a woman to go through that experience and inflict such pain on her baby is more deserving of such a label. Tiller's opponents are cheering this "saving" of unborn babies, yet judging by the stories, most of these babies are desperately desired and will, if they live at all, suffer greatly.

I am not going to post anymore on this, because most of it has already been said elsewhere, and with greater eloquence and focus than I can really muster. There's so much I couldn't collate it all, but I do urge you to read the stories of his patients, that recount his kindness, the funerals he shared with patients, his attempts to support a 15 year old on her birthday while being a patient at his clinic that week.

Monday, June 01, 2009

On a Wing and a...*

So, without wanting to go into too much detail, next week is going to be a little rough. I know this in advance, which is always strange, I think - most unpleasant things are anticipated only just beforehand, unless they are exams, I tend to find, and after last year, I'd hoped that was over.

Nonetheless, it's looming. Today, a colleague offered me her prayers. I always find that offer difficult to deal with - internally it feels hypocritical to accept, because I do not believe it and I feel dishonest in accepting it; yet it would be ungracious to get into a theological debate with someone who I appreciate on a daily basis for her support, friendship and general fabulousness. So, indeed, I just said "thank you," recognizing that it's something of great value to her that she has gifted to me. Of course, not all gifts should be received with grace: if it were KKK memorabilia that meant a great deal, I'd doubtlessly rebuff it with (more than) a few stiff words. But this was something she really thought would help me, and she wants what I want: a safe and good outcome. Clearly, I'm not still comfortable with this, but I think I've made a decision that this is an internal struggle that can be left to wither away; out of all the terrible things that happen to people on a daily basis, this really is a minimal existentialist crisis.

* I will never, ever, be able to think of this phrase without We Need To Talk About Kevin. That book certainly leaves an impression.

Friday, May 15, 2009

But This Is Different...

There's been liberal handwringing at the President's refusal to intervene in the case of Lt. Dan Choi, a West Point-educated Officer (this seems to be important, it comes up in everything - like he wouldn't matter if he was a grunt who came through community college?) who is an Arabic language specialist who came out on the Rachel Maddow show a few weeks ago, and has been fired by the U.S. military. Jon Stewart's mini-takedown is below and, while I agree with his anger, I don't think the presentation (from the media in general) is entirely fair.

One thing I will say first: I think the Obama Administration is going about this wrong, I think they should be absolutely pushing for legislation to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And perhaps, as Feministing says, he could suspend investigations into sexuality (although that wouldn't have helped Choi, who came out on television -harder to ignore, perhaps). But my point is that in one sense Obama's right that it is not his place to do this - because it needs legislation. It's a LAW. It's not some stupid Executive Order (unlike those ridiculous healthcare provider conscience things that Bushy Boy pushed through and Obama revoked), it's a law that was passed by both chambers and signed by the President. The President, as we've heard everyone (rightly) argue about the torture laws, does not get to pick and choose which laws to obey. He doesn't get to write an Executive Order and somehow, magically, it's not the law anymore. He does need to stick his boot up the arses of Congress to work on this. No doubt. But he has a constitutional mandate to execute and take care the laws are obeyed.

Yes, this is awful and it's an absolutely ridiculous, damaging, dangerous and unsafe law, but when Bushy Boy and Cheney et al. were violating and ordering violations of the laws of war, of the UCMJ, of the Convention Against Torture, this was thrown against them constantly - you can't disobey the law. To willfully misquote Lincoln, it's not all the laws but one. Now that the disobedience is something liberals want, Obama is supposed to disobey separation of powers? I thought he won, at least in part, because he represented a return to order and to respectful adherence to the Constitution and the structural balancing of powers.

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To repeat, again, he needs to throw his weight behind repeal of this. Their inaction is a disgrace. But make sure when you criticise him, it's for the right reasons.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Consolations of...

... well, if not philosophy, then stuff, I suppose. It's been a stressful couple of months, which culminated in an extremely busy and miserable week last week, in which various technological issues (ahem, like losing pieces of equipment, ahem) came to a head, I found someone had got my financial details and had taken $1000 from my account, that sort of thing. The last couple of days, however, have been much better, for various reasons. I had ceased doing the things that make me, if not completely better, less stressed. Therefore, I am compiling my list of things that make me feel better, without doubt:
  1. The Daily Show. Watching it makes me giggle so much, and it's nice that someone else shares my liberal outrage.
  2. The Friendly Fires album. I play it over, and over, and over. This includes the glorious Au Revoir Simone version by Aeroplane, too.
  3. Chime by Orbital. It is impossible for me to be in a bad mood when this plays. I should just have it on repeat at the mo.
  4. Playing squash. God, it's good to do that, even if I get utterly thumped and can barely walk the next day (which is currently the case). Exercise, people. There's always time for it. Always.
  5. Crosswords & sudoku. My brain needs to feel like it's competent at something, even if that thing is not work...
Of course, the thing that helps most is sitting on the sofa with TOH and the cats at the end of the day and having a hug and falling asleep during a detective programme, preferably Bones (at the mo, at least). But these five will help, for now, so need to make sure they're part of my everyday life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The State of the Union

I have become increasingly persuaded that opposition to gay marriage is not just about homophobia. I say this not to belittle the persecution, threats, and general horrors perpetrated by those opposed to gay marriage - those are awful and it makes me sick to my stomach.

But I do think the gay marriage opposition is about what gayness means in general: redefined boundaries of what it means to be a man, and what it means to be a woman. This post at Pandagon adds more fuel to that fire, despite being ostensibly about some Georgia preacher who thinks women should, essentially, stop talking back to their menfolk and learn their role in life - submission. One of the cliched things you hear from those opposed to women's rights is that a man should be able to get peace and quiet, and even if he's not boss at work, he should be boss in his own home - he's the husband, the father, and the head of the house. But how does that work when you have two husbands? Who is the boss then? Likewise, the Quiverfull movement - a disgusting piece of ideology if ever there was one - teaches women to be, essentially, brood mares to their husband's tribe, submissive in all things. "Father knows best" is one of the tenets it teaches, but of course, if you have two mummies, there is no father - so where does that leave discipline and order? Who is going to tell these women how to live their lives if there's no man?

So it's not just about being gay, it's about how gay relationships redefine societal roles, and the traditional submission of women to men. And so gay marriage does threaten people.

It's interesting, around the time of the elections, there was a series of ads - sadly, too little, too late - in California which had straight married couples revealing the shocking news that their marriages were not directly impacted by gay marriage being legal; they were still married, still in love, still happy. The sky had not fallen. But I actually don't buy the argument that gay marriage doesn't affect straight marriages. If gay couples can get married for the tax benefits, or immigration benefits, or "for the children," that does make straight marriages less "special," because now these things are open to everyone, not just the people fortunate enough to fall in love with someone who has "opposite" genitals (to misquote Miss California). Yet it makes straight marriages much, much, more special, because now everyone who loves each other can do so. The privilege is revoked, but the fact that you love someone and they love you, and the state and your friends and family can all recognise that - that is special.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Begone Dull Care

Work has been, frankly, horrible of late in terms of hours. I have friends who are much worse off, it must be said, and yes, I'm grateful for the job and being busy, blah blah blah.

When I did not feel grateful: Last night, when I could have been happily bopping away at the Junior Boys concert.* So doing a randomgenerator based on the song of theirs I fell in love with first, In the Morning.
  1. Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem. Genius.
  2. Fancy Footwork - Chromeo. I know they're well dodgy in terms of lyrics, but I just love Chromeo.
  3. Destroy Everything You Can - Ladytron. I always think I should like Ladytron and never really get overexcited about them. This comes from a friend's compilation, and I think I will try. I like this.
  4. Over and Over (Maurice Fulton Remix) - Hot Chip. I just can't take to them. Tune underlying = great, often, but his voice is just so frigging annoying. This, however, is excellent because his voice is barely on it, it emphasizes the sweet bassline, and it's on the rather fabulous Spank Rock's Fabric Live, which I love.
  5. Don't Stop - Brazilian Girls. We saw them in concert last year, which was a bit of an odd experience. They were very dreamy and soft, and then the tempo increased at the end, but by then we weren't really that engaged. But since then, I've enjoyed their music a lot more.
  6. Waters of Nazereth - Justice. I somehow didn't get my act together to see them. I regret this, particularly as they are, apparently, ludicrously hot.
  7. Earth Intruders - Bjork. Bjollocks has grown on me, it has to be said. I loved the Sugarcubes, loved her first album, then Oh So Quiet drove me mad and I lost interest. Now I think that her albums provide some of the best working music - phenomenal instrumentals, and I think Volta is one of the best she's made.
  8. Hustler - Simian Mobile Disco. Again from the Spank Rock Fabric Live. Awesome. I love that whole album anyway.
  9. Cherry Blossom Girl - Air. Not one of my favourites of theirs, it must be said. Irritating.
  10. Flip Ya Lid - Nightmares on Wax. Nightmares on Wax are responsible for two of my favourite albums of the last 15 years - Carboot Soul and Smokers Delight (despite the lack of punctuation). Their later stuff is nowhere near as good, but still, more listenable than Hot Chip, so there you go.
* Except, it turns out, no I couldn't - their equipment broke and they didn't even make it through three songs... silver linings and all that. Except my friend was, with some luck, going to get me on the guestlist for Franz Ferdinand, so I did also miss that...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ouch: Part II

I know, no pain, no gain. This keeps happening to me. I played softball - well, went to training - for the first time ever on Tuesday and my knees were a little creaky the next day.* Then yesterday I did my first "special" workout in the lifting program I've been using. It's pretty smart - you do a rotation of two workouts for 8 weeks and then, just when you may be wondering about your progress, you do a special workout in which you do as many reps as possible - AMRAP - of each exercise using the weight you used in your very first workout. And it's true, you can do a lot, lot more of each.

I knew that would happen.

I didn't realise, however, that it would still hurt quite a lot today. My quads, they are pretty damned unhappy buggers today.

Still, one more AMRAP workout to go, then onto an exciting next chapter in which I do things with exciting names like the "Bulgarian split squat," "dumbbell prone Cuban snatch" (teehee!), "lateral flexion" and "cable horizontal wood chop." Awesome.

* Yes, in some ways, the big glove makes it easier, but if you've never used one before you really have to learn to trust it - that it will help you make the catch. I got a few bruised fingers because I tried to cup the ball with both hands. I slowly got better at it during practice, but it's not something that's automatically easy. And ground balls - they're still pretty hard to field.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This is a treat to say thank you if you plowed through my previous post on that book... it may be the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

The Dutiful Wife

I have just finished reading American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It's a fictionalized and imaginary account of a woman's journey from teen in the Midwest to First Lady. People have stated that it's clearly based on Laura Bush but, I think, it's actually more accurate to state that her husband is based on George W. Bush. The reason being is that we know very little about Laura and so I'm not comfortable saying that Alice Lindgren is based on Laura Bush. Clearly there are things in common, but otherwise, the characteristics of Charlie, Alice's husband in the book, are much more strikingly like those of Dubya, including the privileged upbringing, the awkwardness, the general misbehaving followed by conversion to Born-Again Christian.

I thought it was an absolutely gripping read. It's rather long - over 550 pages, and so approaching Dickensian in length - but incredibly quick and easy to get through, with the bulk of my reading done on a plane ride back from England (although, to be fair, the movie choice on Continental wasn't up to much, and yet I managed to watch both Back to the Future and Pirates of the Caribbean -well, more accurately, they were on and noisy distractions while I read and did some work). It was lent to me by TOH's mum, and she had felt that the most interesting pages are the 150 or so after Alice becomes First Lady. But I was utterly intrigued by all of it - her adolescence, their courtship, his conversion, partly because it really did set the scene for her life as FLOTUS...

The most striking thing about the book, I feel, was Alice's ambiguity and, indeed, my ambiguous response to her. In part, I thought she was incredibly courageous and, frankly, sensible - she was able to separate the man she loved from his job. In some senses, she was right - how TOH is as an economist and teacher is, really, not much to do with me and doesn't, for the most part, affect my views on or feelings toward him. Yet I thought that this in some places really reflected a lack of conviction, or, perhaps, to be more charitable, a difference in the bases of our relationships.* Because it does matter that TOH does the best he can, and strives to make lives better, and is intelligent and committed to his job. At times it almost seemed wilful blindness for Alice to not quite understand the criticisms levelled at her regarding Charlie's politics.

Nonetheless, I'd then feel swayed by and, frankly, admiration at her integrity and successes at, for the most part, being able to maintain a relationship in the face of such differences and keeping his politics out of their personal lives. That was the bargain they struck and, for the most part, they stuck to it, which was a remarkable aspect of the book. Yet I think there's definitely a strong gender dynamic being played out here, in that the wife doesn't get involved in her man's business, at least not publicly, and that makes her a good wife. I think there's room to explore whether or not a male spouse would be so easily considered a good man and a good husband for being so willing to sit and be silent on the sidelines.

The success of their relationship in spite of their differences also struck me. TOH and I used to have virulent rows--usually on the way to the train station at Hither Green in the mornings--about the role of the NHS and poverty and various other things on which he as a hard-nosed economist (ha!) and me as a soft lefty-liberal (pinko) took radically opposed views. He was all reason, I was all unhinged emotion. We've come together a lot more over the years, as you'd expect, although we're still not exactly as one. Yet I think we've always had similar core values about what people are worth and what a just society might consist of. But I was intrigued by the book because I am fascinated by those relationships in which each person has unbelievably different viewpoints. I don't think I could cope with that, and not because I'm that prejudiced (I hope). More that you need to share values. I suppose I don't really understand how you can build a life together, particularly if it's one that involves raising children, with such fundamentally different views of what is truly important. The book raises that issue and is definitely food for thought.

* And yes, I am aware the book is not real.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


First full tigers match of the season was yesterday morning. My thighs and ribs and shoulder blades are not happy. at all. but it feels good. sort of.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No Pressure...

I started subscribing to updates on products and offers from Bliss, the swanky(ish) NYC spa, because I wanted deals from them - they have a very good sale just before Christmas, which has been a useful source of presents for the last couple of years. After about six months of being bombarded with messages that seem to continually denounce my body's condition and undermine my confidence, however, I've decided that I want no part of them anymore. It's not about feeling good, or attaining something, but more eradicating what's wrong with you.

Samples from the past week's subjects alone:
  • the summer slimming homestretch is on!‎ (and if you want to look good in that two-piece, you have to use all the fatgirl products)
  • new! introducing fatgirlscrub (which is, apparently, an exfoliator for those "less-than-perfect parts" and its use compliments the following products:fat girl slim, fatgirlsleep, and bliss love handler).
  • now back in stock: the buzzed-about slimming belt‎ (accompanying pieces promise to level your lumps and remove your bulge).
Eff you, Bliss. Consider me unsubscribed - and, indeed, unlikely to buy your products again anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tott(er)ing It Up

  • Hours spent asleep out of last 48: 8
  • Average count of despairing plunges of head into hands/onto desk: 1 per 20 minutes
  • Pairs of tights ruined by being unable to put them on without laddering/ripping them: 3.
  • Coffees drunk: 6 (am not yet onto double espresso shots but am, for the first time in my life, considering them) plus four cups of Yorkshire tea.
  • Drop in temperature between Las Vegas and NYC: 40F, more or less (about 22C)
  • Self-pitying thoughts: incalculable.
There are some jobs that provide you with some of these, but for genuine self-pity, mine right now is the best.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I tend to take various different routes to work in my stomp across town (I take the train south and then walk across), but they invariably mean I go past the deli where they all know my order and have it cooking as I walk through the door (which is awesome - I bypass the queue most days and it rocks). But from there, I always take the same route, because I always seem to catch the same part of the traffic lights' cycle. This morning, I didn't, and I hit Park Avenue a street lower than normal. And, for once, I looked up, looked south, and noticed outside St. Bart's an unbelievable sight - Leaves. Blossom. I looked north, and outside my building, six trees with leaves and flowers growing.

It has made me more than happy--I'm buoyant with the thought of spring, everything shooting out and growing. It'll soon be time to hit up the blossom at the Bronx and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - hooray.

Now, if only it weren't so fecking cold.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


So, a friend had to write a bio for her new post and welcome dinner (and jolly good for her, too!). I thought I might try a stab at mine. [clearing throat noise]

[Your faithful author] has no life. It is sunny today, 60F/15C (roughly) out and the only time outdoors was the walk from the subway to her office. She is miserable. She is procrastinating and writing this instead of making the dreaded phonecall she needs to make in order to find out what more work she should do. She will not be watching the opening game of the baseball season because she will, again, be stuck in the office.

Not much cop that. How about less self-pity and more bio?
[Your less self-indulgent author] is from Catford, whose claims to fame are Gary Oldman and a giant cat on top of the now seedy and desperately sad shopping centre. She spent her formative years, like many a 90s youth, obsessively listening and re-listening (thanks to the power of cassettes) to the Evening Session and Mark & Lard on Radio 1. Unlike many, she also managed to watch Starshaped, the Blur film, every single day for a year between the ages of 15 and 16. During that time she also went out with cousins of both the Rebel MC and Kenny from Grange Hill. She wanted to be an astrophysicist at King's College, Cambridge. That has not happened. University didn't lead to the career she wanted, but did help her reclaim her Catford accent after hearing the public school overprivileged brats without a trace of a Dorset accent because Mama didn't let them play with locals.

Through various twists and turns, she ended up being terrible at physics but ok at the history thereof, combining her two loves of feminism and war in her undergraduate and graduate theses, for which the Arts and Humanities Research Board was trusting enough to award her a grant. She has done nothing with her theses. She may not even have a copy of either, although the graduate one is, in theory, in the Imperial College library.

After periods messing around as a personal assistant and being a terrible teacher of English as a foreign language to unsuspecting Catalan children, she is now a lawyer. This is all very much Once in a Lifetime territory. How she found herself here is not clear, but is undoubtedly linked to a big Yorkshire oaf with an extraordinarily kind and generous heart who still gets up to make her tea before 7 in the morning most days, even after a decade of being together. Despite currently working ungodly hours and seeing far too little of her family and friends, both in NY and from back home, she is a pretty contented person.

She hates camping, has no known allergies, and thinks that Chime by Orbital might just be the greatest record of all time.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Babies, babies, everywhere. Today arrived the third of a trio of munchkins born to friends and family in the past seven days. It seems that everyone is getting sprogged up these days. I have two good friends getting married in the near future who plan to start trying pretty much as soon as the vows are done - although hopefully not as visibly as in The Wedding Banquet - and several other friends who are indeed up the duff.*

I am still - even despite my advancing years and ticking clock - very much of the feeling that sprogging is not something I want to do. Nonetheless, if everyone's doing it, I'm very happy that people I think will do wonderful jobs as parents are among them. Particularly as today's arrival was something his parents were told would and could never happen, with or without medical assistance. So he is, for want of a better term, a bit of a miracle. Which should put a spring in your step today, as it has to mine. Because good and much wished-for things can happen to good people.

* There are many fabulous ways to say the horribly coy "with child," my favourite being "up the duff," which is how my dearest HJ told me.

2009: March's Update

  1. Use the blog as active forum to update resolutions. Clearly not.
  2. Lower body fat. Well, for once, yes. I have been not very committed to the gym of late, but yesterday's session certainly can be felt right now. Not smart for my squash match tonight, but what can you do? It seems to be paying dividends, as I've picked up a bit in the last week or so and am lifting serious weights. As a result, 29.3%, so down 1% from last month. Can't expect results like that all the time, but I'm rather pleased and it hopefully will inspire me further, once the threat of wearing a bikini in Vegas recedes...
  3. Run a 10k. Hmm. At the moment, I'm not sure where I'd fit this all in. As a friend is running the London Marathon in a few weeks, I resolve to have at least scheduled an appointment by that date. Ahem.
  4. No TV one night a week. We're not even in the house to watch tv at the moment - I get home so late and we've been here there and everywhere. Hopefully this weekend I will get some time to myself. Hopefully.
  5. Read 6 books from Observer 100. I am still waiting for Anna Karenina from the NYPL - currently 6 out of 14 holds - and when that arrives, that's my next one.
  6. Watch at least 12 movies from the IMDB top 250. We have The Seven Samurai sitting waiting for us; reasons for not watching yet, see 4, supra.
  7. Not go onto the internet for recreation until midday every day. Clearly not happening, seeing as I'm doing it now. Right - start again. Seriously.
  8. Cook a new recipe twice a month AND (to make different from last year) recount the successes/failures on the blog. See 4, supra.
  9. Eat one piece of fruit a day every day I'm at work. Sticking to this pretty well - I'm definitely eating more fruit than usual.
  10. Win a game of squash! Well, I played my first game in ages and I lost 3-2, in the squash ladder. Having had 4 match points. Maybe I'm a loser, not a clutch player. A choker. AAAAAAAAAARGH. I'm playing two matches this week, and hopeful I'll win at least one of those.