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: