Friday, July 23, 2010

Dark and Stormy

The Big Picture is one of my favourite websites, with good reason: lots of absolutely beautiful photos gathered from around the world. I would share their selections every day if I didn't control myself, but today's entry, titled Stormy Skies and capturing lightning, tornadoes, and all sorts of wondrous things, had to be shared. It captures the awesome beauty and the devastation left behind. Scroll all the way down for the unbelievable photo of lightning and the Manhattan skyline.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Think of a Happy Place

Work is a tad stressful at the moment, and I was listening to a variety of fairly morose tunes in keeping with that mood earlier today (when I finally got a few minutes to myself in my office, that is. I'd not really thought of it as a sanctuary before, but today, I was so pleased to shut myself in, listen to a few tunes and sort myself out). But I have just realised that this was entirely foolish: what I needed in this mood was to listen to the one thing that, for some reason, is guaranteed to put a smile on my face and make me feel better about the world: Chime by Orbital. I've mentioned it here before, but really, truly, I can't explain or replicate the feeling I get from it through anything else. And having seen them play it at Coachella earlier this year, it brings me even greater joy to remember throwing my arms around like an absolute nutter to it. Chills up my back and, indeed, joy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Operation Anti-Knee Knack: An Update

As I have mentioned, I got knee knack after a match of football that prevented me playing footie anymore. Well, I've slowly but surely been recuperating and getting myself stronger and fit again, and yesterday I made a significant piece of progress: I played. Slowly, rustily, with terrible touch and little efficacy (either at the back or upfront) but I really enjoyed it. My knee was tight and painful afterward, it's not that happy today, but I'm making headway to even think about it. And I had similar pain and problems immediately after running outside for the first time a mere month or so ago. It's getting there. Slowly, surely, it's going to happen. And if I have to continue with discomfort and stretching and icing for the rest of my playing career - and yes, I shudder to use that word about my playing - then it's worth it just for the exhilaration, the adrenaline, and the sheer fun. Although I think I'd prefer it in temperatures slightly lower than yesterday, please.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Fight for Love & Glory

I have said it before and I'll say it again - Casablanca is bloody fantastic. Which is why I'm watching it for the umpteenth time this evening.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Selection: What next?

So, the World Cup is nearly at a close. It is certainly going to leave a void in my life. So this random list is in honour of that great competition's closing, based on I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself, as covered by The White Stripes.
  1. Is This It? by The Strokes (I've listened to the Strokes more in the past two weeks than I think I have in my entire life - I'm going through a phase, it seems)
  2. Electioneering by Radiohead.
  3. Here Comes Your Man by The Pixies. It is just awesome. That is all.
  4. Devil's Haircut by Beck. I had a moment a few weeks ago at physio where I heard Where It's At on the radio, and I realised that I did not own Odelay, except on an old tape somewhere. So I remedied that with haste.
  5. Dirty Harry by Gorillaz.
  6. The World Has Turned by Weezer. I really truly had forgotten how much I love this album, but a spate of articles about how hot Rivers Cuomo was (I didn't really share the fascination) then spurred me to revisit the record - it's great.
  7. Slow Hands by Interpol. Saw them at the Creators' Project a few weeks ago and although we only caught the end of the set, magically this was one of those. This album was the part of the perma-soundtrack of my first year of law school.
  8. So Says I by The Shins.
  9. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips.
  10. Boys Don't Cry by The Cure.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Animals Strike Curious Poses

Or, not so much - they're more just sprawled and desperately trying to keep cool. It's bloody boiling here, and it's a sign of how bad this previous week has been that a temperature of 85F/29C seems reasonable and bearable in comparison to the 103F/39F we suffered midweek. Still, thank goodness for ceiling fans and our place being so cool. We're sans air conditioning, and this week was a good test of surviving without it. Not too bad, but still - when it breaks it's going to be grand.

Anyway, it's been too hot even for the cats to survive happily. I've had the door open a couple of days this week and they've generally chosen to stay inside rather than out, such has been the heat. So, here they are.

I had to share this - how beautiful is it? Glorious.
Honest to god tomatoes! Growing! Growing!
I've had to learn that I've been over-feeding the plants - having feared I was under-feeding, it turns out that's really not what I've been doing. Bugger. So instead I'm acidifying the soil and leaving off the feed. But the tomatoes are growing, and we have some strawberries... awesome.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Good Court, Bad Court

This week has seen two diametrically opposed dolings out of "justice" in courts in the USA.

In Massachusetts, Judge Tauro held that DOMA unconstitutionally interfered with a) the rights of married couples within Massachusetts, who were legally married under state law but unable to exert those rights federally (tax, etc.) because of DOMA's definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman (violating the due process clause); and b) Massachusetts' ability to implement its own laws (violating the Tenth Amendment). This is the initial victory that a lot of marriage equality advocates were hoping for, planning to build on slowly but surely in the style of the civil rights movement toward desegregation, rather than the big federal Prop 8 trial in California (a really interesting article about that here).

In L.A., however, something much worse happened. I don't know if you know about Oscar Grant. He was an African-American man who while being held down by the police, was shot in the back by a transit policeman on the BART - the train system in San Francisco. I watched the video shot by witnesses once - I don't ever need to see it again, but if you google it, you will find it. The police tried to take away the phones and cameras that shot the footage. What is chilling about this is that for this officer's "safety" and a fair verdict, the California authorities moved the trial from Oakland, where it should have happened, to L.A. L.A. where, apparently, there has not been a guilty for murder verdict in a police-shooting-a-civilian since 1983. 1983. Because that's "fair," you see. And, despite the fact that he reached on the wrong side for his taser - he in fact reached for his gun - somehow the jury bought it that it was involuntary manslaughter. Watch the video, and see what you think. But honestly, I have no idea how they came to that conclusion. That poor man, and his poor family. There aren't words, really, to describe how awful it is. And it's also hard not to come to conclusions about how justice depends on what colour you are.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I'm New Here*

*Warning: personal life story and rant forthcoming.

Have I mentioned how much I am absolutely loving Gil Scott-Heron's latest album, I'm New Here? If not, I should have. It's definitely one of the best albums of 2010 thus far and, I think, has the potential to become one of the best albums I own. His voice and lyrics are glorious; the music is spectacular and some of the most inventive and amazing hip hop and electronic sounds I've heard in ages.

All of it is extremely good and you should check it out, but the first track is the one that really hit me hard: On Coming from a Broken Home. It starts with a sample from Kanye's Flashing Lights, those strings, and then he contemplatively discusses his view of his childhood in comparison to what others perceived. That has some resonance for me. The killer combo is this bit:
and I was full grown before I knew
I came from a broken home
When I was about 8, my parents went to a teacher-parent evening and the teacher, on finding out my parents were divorced, was shocked - "I didn't know she came from a broken home - you can't tell." Or words to that effect. My mother told me several years later when I was reminiscing about how much I'd liked my primary school and that teacher in particular - she pulled a face, and eventually I pried the insulting memory out of her.

That was the first time I ever remember that term being applied to my familial situation. According to this teacher, bright achieving kids who were well-adjusted didn't come from "broken homes" - it didn't happen to people like us (the class-based snobbery was supreme). But my home wasn't "broken." I had two extremely loving and supportive parents; I had an incredibly stable routine in which my parents always rang when they were supposed to, always came to my various musical performances, parents' evenings, sporting events and so on. You couldn't play one parent off against another because they put their differences aside to talk about things and make joint decisions about us. I have friends who grew up in far less emotionally well-off households with parents who were superficially arranged in the "optimal" way but, in fact, made each other miserable and their children tense. Of course my childhood wasn't perfect, but I had no idea until my mother told me about that parent-teacher meeting, several years later, that someone might consider it actively bad for me. And so, whenever people use raising children in a nuclear, hetero-parent family as the "norm" and the reason to deny gay couples a family, it incenses me, because for years people have assumed that divorce = automatic child-rearing failure and yet my parents did a bloody good job.

Anyway, I love this album. I love Gil Scott-Heron. And I love my parents for the job they did. They're great.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A Taste for Blood

While the nation I live in celebrates booting out the evil imperial forces from which I descend, some members of this country don't seem to realise that it is no longer necessary to go after English blood. Yes, American midges/mosquitoes/ticks/biting thingies - that means you. I have got about 20 bites in the past two days. They are huge, disgusting and uncomfortable, and I am distinctly unimpressed that the biting insects do not seem to realise the war is over.

Still. Despite the ignorant and hostile behaviour of these creatures, I will honour today's historic significance - I shall make burgers (homemade from free-roaming organic meat from the co-op, obviously) and grill hot dogs (Nathan's, also obviously) and drink Brooklyn Beers - summer and pilsner today. Currently I am working gently while listening to baseball (and the adverts for law firms chasing mesothelioma victims), then will sit out on my deck and listen to the revelry while doing more work and waiting for darkness and fireworks and parties. Overt displays of national patriotism bewilder me, I think, when they're not related to sport, but nonetheless I feel extreme loyalty to both London and New York, these cities that reared and fostered me as a child, and have been my homes as an adult, forming the person I am now. So tonight I will raise a beer or two to this wonderful city that is both quintessentially American and, yet, unlike anywhere else in this country. It's going to be fun. And, doubtless, the cause of many more welts and bites.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

But I did promise you photographic evidence of growth. So here it is.

The daisies are rampant right now - absolutely glorious.

Sadly didn't get these at their peak, but they're absolutely gorgeous.

The black-eyed susans are everywhere, flopping and filling up the garden with this glorious yellow.

The rose bloomed early, except for this giant branch that I trained up the fence and is leaning over into the rest of the garden. It smells wonderful.

The tomato seeds! Admittedly, no sign of actual tomatoes just yet, but the seeds have sprouted and grown into a more promising plant than I could have imagined.

The lavender smells and looks wonderful.

And it attracts the butterflies a lot - which delights the cats who really don't know what to do with them, but know they want to chase them.

These are just the prettiest things peeking out from beneath the daisies.

The hostas have these wonderful little white bell-like flowers.

Plum tomato! Plum tomato!

The chile pepper is suffering a little in this scorching weather, but there is one that I plan to use in some cooking sometime soon

Friday, July 02, 2010

Independent Thinkers

U.S. folk, before yet another of you asks me whether it's "weird" being here for "decolonization/beat England/we beat you day,"* the only weird thing really is that so many of you are obsessed with asking me about it. I'm intrigued by what my answer is supposed to be - am I supposed to take it as a personal affront? I'm planning to bake one of these next year and just throw it at people so that they're so befuddled they forget the question.

Also, please note: you're not even the only country this week to celebrate its independence from the British Empire.

* Genuine quotes from friends/colleagues.