Monday, January 26, 2009

David Brooks Doesn't Know What He's Talking About

Surprising, I know. On PBS's News Hour last Friday, Mark Shields and David Brooks were asked to assess the impact of Obama's first few days in power - was this or that particular change symbolic, or real? All very interesting. One thing they mentioned was the lifting of the global gag rule. Mark Shields wasn't sure of the effects. David Brooks said the following:
Well, I agree. It would be very curious to know what actual effect it has. I remember going to AIDS groups in Mozambique and Namibia, and we have these big social issue battles over these issues. On the ground, it made no difference at all. So it'd be curious to know what the practical effect is.
Well, it's not really that surprising that those AIDS groups didn't think it would make much difference. I mean, pregnancy and AIDS both come from sex, but the global gag rule directly bans U.S. funds going to any overseas group that even mentions abortion as an option for pregnant women. So, although it does impact all reproductive health providers, and indeed HIV/AIDS is a part, clearly of reproductive health, David Brooks is either misstating, misunderstanding, or just an idiot. You choose which. I'm writing to him to just gently let him know of his mistake. Gently. Honestly.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Selector: Guitar Hero Edition

So, I finally got Guitar Hero. Tragic, but true. And, of course, dear reader, I am utterly obsessed with it. Actually, "obsessed" doesn't do it justice.

There is no Jimi Hendrix on Guitar Hero. You can do Paint it, Black, but again, Genius cannot apparently deal with that (really? The effing Stones? How rubbish IS this program?). Nonetheless, I was in the mood for some serious guitar music, and so I listened to that on the way home from football and thought, who better to start off a genius top ten? So here it is - the Guitar Hero edition stemming from All Along the Watchtower.
  1. White Room - Cream. I love this song, although in my mind, nothing ever beats Sunshine of Your Love which you can do on Guitar Hero, and is by far my favourite thing to play on it. And really is the best thing they ever did - sexy, genius guitar and fab. But I do love this, too.
  2. Somebody to Love - Jefferson Airplane. Oh, how Grace Slick rocked. I'm sort of named in homage to her, if not entirely after her. Rocking. If only they could have seen "They Built This City." That's tragic.
  3. Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones. I've been trying to work out what my favourite Stones song is, and I just can't. Under My Thumb is bizarrely, sadistically sexy; Paint It, Black is hypnotic and a wonderful description of a disturbed individual; You Can't Always Get What You Want is just fab. But if I'm in the mood for overwrought, haunting, dramatic and sexy, Gimme Shelter always wins. I just love that beginning, as the layers of sound and the volume build up.
  4. About a Girl - Nirvana (MTV unplugged version). The more I think about it and listen to them, the more I am amazed at just how great Nirvana were. I took them for granted, I think, and still do, but the melodies are spectacular and they just seemed to meld the Pixies' gift for melodies and songs with Sonic Youth's sensibilities on dischordant songs.
  5. Evil Ways - Santana. He's cheesy, but I still really enjoy it. The guitar is too smooth to really get to me - I know he's extremely gifted, but it's almost loungey to me - I prefer something a bit rougher. But, like I say, I still enjoy it, and this is much closer to the sort of stuff I like - more latin sounding.
  6. Old Man - Neil Young. I absolutely, 100% fricking LOVE this Neil Young album - it's from Harvest, and although I tolerate his other stuff, I just really love this whole album - it's amazing from start to finish. Theatrical in some places (There's a World), political (Alabama, Are You Ready for the Country?) and just plain weird in others (A Man Needs a Maid). This is just lovely - the guitar is so pretty and folksy, and the chorus and its harmonies suck you in so that it's really, really hard to not sing it.
  7. A Town Called Malice - The Jam. The start is so nicked from You Can't Hurry Love, but it's so exuberant, and I love the way that it takes a motown sound to talk politics. This is definitely one of my favourite Jam songs.
  8. Highway Star - Deep Purple. I definitely prefer the more hippiefied Deep Purple - Hush, Smoke Along the Water. This is a bit too headbanging without anything else going on.
  9. Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix. Sweet!
  10. Roxanne - The Police. This remains in my top 5 songs of all time. I just love it. I know, I know, it's The Police. But how could you resist those pleas to her, the way his voices gets strangled with the emotion? And I fricking love the backing to this - the guitar is just genius. I just don't understand how someone couldn't love this song. It is, also, my karaoke song, but that's a whole other, truly terrifying story.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I learnt two awesome new words yesterday: barratry and champerty. AWESOME. Needless to say, I will not be indulging in either of these pastimes anytime soon, given that I still have to pass the NY Bar's character and fitness assessment.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blog For Choice

Today is the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Therefore, today is Blog for Choice day! The message this year is: What hopes do you have for women's health in the Obama administration? It's supposed to be a "top choice," but it's hard to pin down one. If I were, my first choice would be the change in approach, because I think all the others stem from that.

Mine are:
  • A change in rhetoric and approach. I'm sick of the "abortion ruins women so we're going to save you from yourselves" argument that anti-choicers are now using to argue against choice. Some women are traumatised by their abortions. But a lot are not. I think a lot of what traumatises women is the very fact that they have to make the decision in the first place - that lack of control and being forced to deal with things that affordable contraceptive coverage, for example, would prevent; or, indeed, child care options or better jobs that understand the need for flexibility for parents. Either way, it's not up to you, male Supreme Court justices, to tell me how I will react or prevent me from making my choices because you're worried about my ability to cope. It's not your business. Obama nearly made me cry when he said he "trusted women" at the Democrat's Presidential candidates' debate. His answer could not be more starkly different from McCain's scare quotes. Obama seems to trust us, and has recognised that the Bush administration made great strides backward and is putting women at the forefront of his administration and his policies, domestically and in foreign climes. Thank goodness for his appointing a Secretary of State who recognises that women's fertility and autonomy are essential parts of foreign policy.
  • A focus on prevention that actually helps women have control over their lives, helps girls feel confident to explore their sexuality safely and without risk of punishment.
  • A removal of the obstacles preventing poor women everywhere from having control over their fertility and, consequently, their lives and livelihoods.
  • An increase in public education about exactly who has abortions and when - most being in their twenties and a majority being already mothers.
Here are links to what some of my fave bloggers are saying about their hopes for this Administration:
Plus Megan at Jezebel points out that on this day, the mainstream media isn't interested in the right to choose, but the right trying to make sure women don't have that right.

UPDATE: Shakesville reports this statement from Obama to commemorate the anniversary. Agreed, it's not perfect, but (as will happen often, I feel with this administration) just think about what we've put up with for eight years on this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

As Far As I Can Throw Him

Throw your shoes at Bush - thanks Lisa at My Ecdysis. I'm going for my walking boots (snowboots not yet arrived and it's slippery underfoot!) and a rather more elegant pair I use at work.

If only we could get Mr. Rick Warren in that, too.

It's Not Over Yet...

... but it's so close.  Lots of the blogs I read have done their "what do you think of the last eight years and did you ever think we'd get here" posts.  I have none of that.  I am just glad the day is here.  So, so, so, so very glad.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday Selector: NOT brought to you by Genius

I've not used Genius before - I hate the whole iTunes recommending stuff it thinks you ought to buy. But, one of my favourite bloggers uses it every Friday to generate a random playlist, and I thought that it might be a fun thing to try, to compare what Genius thinks about my record collection as opposed to what I'm listening to. Well, I'm trying to but it has to "gather information" about my library and has been doing so for several hours now. Gah!

Right, we're good to go. Genius, do your thing! Starting song: Stuck on Repeat, Little Boots. Oh, it turns out that Genius can't handle this song. Apparently it is limited to certain songs about which it can get information. How crap is that? I wouldn't mind, but I bought it from iTunes - if I bought it from another source, I could understand it, but I didn't. GAH.

So, anyway, this is suspended until I can actually get it to work. Also, a while ago I managed to wipe an awful lot of my iTunes library, accidentally, from my external hard drive. It finally showed up (I don't understand how, but there you go), and I am now painstakingly adding it back in. It means I cannot, alas, use the stupid old iTunes. In VERY BAD MOOD. That's also probably because TOH has gone away for five days, it's cold in the house, and I am working on what is supposed to be a day off.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Selector: Bopping Away Edition

This is not going to be a random rules selection, but the ten songs that I am bopping away to the most at the mo. Tomorrow I'm going to do a genius version to see what iTunes comes up with based on the same first song...

1) Stuck on Repeat by Little Boots.
2) London Girl by The Invisible (youtube vid here - honestly, check it out, this song is ridiculous)
3) Lovesick by Friendly Fires (plus basically that whole album).
4) William's Blood by Grace Jones (love the aeroplane remix too).
5) Cut By The Brakes by Grand National.
6) Get Fresh by Kid Sister. I really don't want to like this, but every time it comes on I love it.
7) Squeeze Me by Kraak & Smaak.
8) Get Down by Nas.
9) Two Doors Down by Mystery Jets (I know, I know, but still).
10) Magnets by Digitalism.

Friday, January 16, 2009


There was an article in the NY Times about women in my neighbourhood and the huge barriers they face in controlling their reproductive health and how they attempt to access abortion, often resorting to self-induced methods that seriously endanger their health. It is sickening to think that communities like in my neighbourhood - social stigma around abortion, lack of resources and access to healthcare - are the kinds targeted by Crisis Pregnancy Centers and the like. I really recommend reading the article, and the thoughtful and incisive letters the newspaper published in response.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Touch of Evil

Yesterday, Dick Cheney appeared on The News Hour on PBS to talk about his legacy.

I thought it would make me furious, livid, any synonym for irate you can conceive. I really wasn't sure I'd make it through it all. I listened to it via podcast today. I was hoping it would fire me up for my squash match. Yet it just made me want to cry. It was revolting. The nadir for me, at least, was the part in which he justified the torture, as defined by Susan Crawford, the official in charge of prosecutions at Guantánamo, in part because all the individual techniques were authorised. He couldn't know exactly how they were all being implemented, but they were authorised, so he's in the clear. Yes, they were, by a legally faulty and morally bankrupt memorandum that the Office of Legal Counsel wrote to justify torture. A memorandum that featured so many errors the subsequent head of OLC had to revoke it, something that almost never happens to OLC memos.

It didn't make me angry, just sick to my stomach.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Selector

This is what I'm now going to call my random rules posts. Those observant readers will gather that I plan to do this on Sundays, particularly when I am at work. Because I hate being at work on Sundays. But the same thing applies: ten songs at random from the Pod of i.

What this list cannot feature are the new bands with whom I am obsessed. I have started using myspace again because I can access these bands before the stuff is released, and it is fantastically useful. Not least because I read columsn raving about Lady Gaga and listened and didn't like it, whereas am still utterly obsessed after many listens to Little Boots (who I am going to see on Feb 6 which makes me very happy), The Invisible (how could I not love London Girl?) and Grand National (I really have been unable to stop listening and will be doing some purchasing tonight), plus an honourable mention to La Roux, whose site is slightly annoying but I like the tunes.
  1. The Party - Justice. Not my favourite from the album, and the vocals really do remind me of a cross between Avenue D and Hustler by Simian Mobile Disco (also touring, cannot wait to see them in April). But I like the bassline when it gets started...
  2. The Pills Won't Help You Know - The Chemical Brothers. Hmm, I'm not too keen on this or, indeed, this whole album. I have quite a few friends who really got into it, and loved it live, but I'm just not sure about it. Nothing they do can ever, for me, compete with Life is Sweet, which is one of my favourite songs ever, and the whole first and second albums, really. But it's still pretty good, and some of the songs from the previous album wormed their way into my heads so that I do really like them.
  3. 21st Century Life - Sam Sparro. This was from an album from 2008 that I really did enjoy, seeing as it sort of covered the same territory as Multiply by Jamie Lidell and Jim was disappointing in its straight-up soul (even though I did quite like it). Nothing on the Sam Sparro stood up to the glories of Black and Gold, but it is definitely enjoyable.
  4. Public Enemy - A Tribe Called Quest. This is from the first album, which is the one I've probably listened to the least. My big loves are Midnight Marauders and The Low-End Theory. But the Tribe is the Tribe, and I can basically listen to Q-Tip rap anything, such is my love for him. When people claim Lil Wayne is the greatest rapper alive it really does astound me when you have smarter, funnier and better ones in abundance.
  5. The Update - The Beastie Boys. I really still like Ill Communication, although the first half really is superior to the second. Apparently they're releasing a special twentieth anniversary edition of Paul's Boutique, which means that it's a scarily long time that they've been making music. I think they really have lost it, but they produced a succession of albums - Paul's Boutique, Ill Communication and Hello, Nasty - that I love. Particularly once they dropped the homophobia and the general misogyny from the early stuff, although Girls is a genius song. Can't help but stomp around to it.
  6. Tonight - Richard Hawley. I love, love, love this song. Cole's Corner, the album it's from, is utterly gorgeous from start to end, but this is one of three songs (the others being Coles Corner and The Ocean) that are truly special. The longing, misery and melancholy resonate throughout these songs and elevate them above anything else he's done. The hairs on my neck stand up every time I hear the guitar on this.
  7. Bryn - Vampire Weekend. This album was so highly rated last year, and I do like it - it's good to play when you have people over, and I've heard it most at other people's houses. But I find I rarely listen to it on my own, which I think tells me something about how much I really like it.
  8. Hometown Waltz - Rufus Wainwright. I love Rufus so, and this album, Want Two, is my favourite of his - the range of the music, and the sheer wondrousness of The Art Teacher and The Gay Messiah make it for me. His lyrics make me laugh and somehow infuse situations with humour, longing and wistfulness as well as sharp and harsh critiques, like this of Ontario.
  9. Cigarettes and Coffee - Otis Redding. Who on earth doesn't love Otis? Seriously? The man is a genius, and this is glorious, like basically everything he ever did. The production is gorgeous, the emotion in his voice that isn't overwrought but just pitched right... sigh.
  10. Jupiter (The Planet Suite) - Holst. During the last year of law school I started listening to classic music far more, as I found I am much more productive with that than pop music, and it was also a change from the electronic music (and MC Solaar) that I have been using to work to since I was 18. This is a result of that... Not my favourite at all, but not too intrusive.