Tuesday, December 29, 2009
* 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
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
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
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
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
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
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
- Jeffrey Toobin's piece "Not Covered" in the New Yorker - this is definitely one of the best things I've read on this.
- The Lawyers, Guns & Money people, particularly this piece about concession of middle ground. Amanda Marcotte has been banging on for months about the folly of "middle ground" and seeking a consensus when, as shown by the Stupak followers, there really is none. We should admit it and move on.
- Kate Harding's piece on the framing of the issue as "you little women don't understand the way the world works" is also ace.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
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
- Don't go out drinking on Wednesdays. Nothing good ever comes of it.
- Always order hazelnut gelato if it's there.
- Never eat tomatoes straight from the fridge.
- Don't work in your dressing gown. It is not conducive to productivity.*
- 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.
- Make the bed every single day.
- Always order a cocktail that lists cucumber or cucumber-flavoured liquor as an ingredient.
- 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
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
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
Monday, October 26, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
Sunday, September 13, 2009
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.
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
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
- 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.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
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.
- Paris by Friendly Fires (starting song)
- The Eraser - Thom Yorke
- Just Like Honey - The Jesus & Mary Chain (am definitely getting into them, that will be my next retro discovery)
- Spooky - Dusty Springfield
- I Turn My Camera on - Spoon
- Long Hot Summer - The Style Council
- Fight Test - The Flaming Lips (I do not listen to this enough)
- Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
- The Hurting - Tears for Fears
- Baby Boy - Beyonce feat. Sean Paul
- Balloons - Foals
- Lovesick - Friendly Fires
- Eat Yourself - Goldfrapp
- Sea Within a Sea - The Horrors (best album of the year pour moi thus far)
- Don Gon Do It - The Rapture
- No One Does It Like You - Department of Eagles
- Turn It on - Franz Ferdinand
- Golden Phone - Micachu
- Naive - The Kooks
- Cheap and Cheerful - The Kills
- Strict Machine - Goldfrapp
- I'm Sticking With You - Velvet Underground
- Kids with Guns - Gorillaz
- Lovin' You - Minnie Riperton (no, I'm not joking!)
- On Board - Friendly Fires
Monday, August 31, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
- 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?
Sunday, July 19, 2009
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
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
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
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
Friday, June 12, 2009
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
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
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
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.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
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 Daily Show. Watching it makes me giggle so much, and it's nice that someone else shares my liberal outrage.
- The Friendly Fires album. I play it over, and over, and over. This includes the glorious Au Revoir Simone version by Aeroplane, too.
- 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.
- 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.
- Crosswords & sudoku. My brain needs to feel like it's competent at something, even if that thing is not work...
Sunday, May 10, 2009
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
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.
- Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem. Genius.
- Fancy Footwork - Chromeo. I know they're well dodgy in terms of lyrics, but I just love Chromeo.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hustler - Simian Mobile Disco. Again from the Spank Rock Fabric Live. Awesome. I love that whole album anyway.
- Cherry Blossom Girl - Air. Not one of my favourites of theirs, it must be said. Irritating.
- 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.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
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
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
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
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).
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
- 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.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
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
Not much cop that. How about less self-pity and more bio?
[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.
[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
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.
- Use the blog as active forum to update resolutions. Clearly not.
- 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...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cook a new recipe twice a month AND (to make different from last year) recount the successes/failures on the blog. See 4, supra.
- 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.
- 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.