Thursday, June 30, 2005

Yeah! Gay marriage approved in Spain

Olé as my friend Rita said!

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said:
"We are not legislating, ladies and gentlemen, for remote unknown people - we are expanding opportunities for the happiness of our neighbours, our work colleagues, our friends, our relatives."
Olé, indeed.

A birthday greeting to Private Pyle

Apparantly Vincent D'Onofrio turns 46 today.

And to think I missed the series finale of L&O: Criminal Intent a couple of weeks back (perils of a mis-set video recorder).


Steiner schools enthuse children for learning

As opposed to other schools?

Heard Professor Philip Wood on Radio 4 this morning talking about how Steiner schools offer a useful model to mainstream education "in their focus on the whole child" and that they "enthuse children for learning."

What the bloody hell is a school doing if it is not enthusing children for learning?

Oh, sorry, I forgot they're just supposed to be about the imparting of knowledge: nothing to do with thinking, enthusing or learning.

I'm not saying Steiner schools are without faults, but if we're identifying that a key difference is the way that they enthuse children's learning then something is very wrong regarding what education has become (failings in the policies of successive governments?)

Meanwhile, the Shuggy's of the world plough on with the thankless task of delivering a curriculum that limits the possibilities for inculcating enthusiasm of learning (and, in many instances, contrary to its proclaimed aims, knowledge).

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Teaching in the modern age

Couple of good posts at Shuggy on teaching.

The one on teacher vacancies is very good indeed, explaining the problem with Chris Woodhead (oh there are many I know), the effect of Thatcherism / Blairism on education, and why teacher pupil relationships are just wrong.

Good work, Shuggy.

You are what you read

Kara has a good little blog that points out her experience of buying Venus, a lesbian-friendly magazine. It highlights a problem with many texts -- magazines or books: does buying them (or reading them) mean we subscribe to their views, support only that view, or that we have a specific identity?

It's troubling whether or not to you approach the issue academically or socially, and it's a topic that students often get worried about: can I do work on this without it being perceived that I subscribe to the views I am writing about? (A friend completing his PhD on right-wing America absolutely does not support the views but has a hard time convincing people that to interrogate those ideas and practices it is problematic to automatically adopt a negative standpoint).

Still, as I say, what about on a social/cultural matter? Why should buying a lesbian-friendly magazine identify you as lesbian (not, as Kara rightly says, that that is a problem)? What is being assumed by those who see you with such a magazine?

For me, I just get fed up with stores selling magazines desperately trying to categorise them into genres: what's wrong with having them alphabetical? If you know the title you can find it easy enough. Still, I guess the opposing view would be that without having similarly appealing titles nearby people would not be able to explore further reading.

My brain hurts:I'm thinking too much.

I need to go and join Darren for some soothing viewing.

Venus in a fur coat, no knickers, clutching a felt-tip pen

Just Jane continues to share her reports on life with this gem about an innocuous pastime.

Loved the line about "Shaun of the Dead" and can immediately identify too many from my locality fitting that description: shudder.

The A-Z of iPodding

As one does when seeking the lyrics to accompany a compilation you've just stuck together (it's on its way George, honest!), you can stumble onto the most entertaining things.

This one certainly appealed, partly because I've been considering doing something similar. Of course, in our case it would be much more low-tech -- CDs and albums in alphabetical order -- but the principle remains the same.

Still, there is something really appealing about being able to play through alphabetically track by track rather than artistes in alphabetical order.


I'm resisting the iPod. Just get me the computer and CD-R as a starting point...

Monday, June 27, 2005

On loving things American

Lovely post at Norm's by Alan Johnson on loving things American. Go read it.

A dark six minutes

Since we inherited the record deck of Cloud's pa the other weekend, we've been steadily playing through some much loved viynl that has been sitting idle since our last (somewhat crappy) turntable was abandoned several years ago.

Cloud pulled out Elvis Costello's Blood and Chocolate and I had actually managed to forget the true awesomeness that is "I Want You". How could I do that?

Jeez, that is one excellently dark song. Bleak, chilling, and just about one of his best songs IMHO (favourite Costello album: King of America and not just because it has "Indoor Fireworks", one of the most poignant records of a bittersweet relationship; though I still have a soft spot for Spike and its vitriol on the late Thatcher era).

Online reviewer Richard Betts (freaky; I once worked with someone with that name) calls it "the centrepiece of Blood and Chocolate ..., perhaps the scariest six minutes of fucked-up obsession song ever committed to vinyl. The implied violence of the lyrics is superbly framed by a minimal accompaniment that subtly underlines words which could, frankly, have been written by a stalker. Even Dylan at his nastiest never wrote anything this vicious. Given that ‘I Want You’ was released as a single, it’s little surprise the album bombed commercially." Elsewhere (scroll) I read that this track "is seen by many Elvis Costello afficianados as the litmus test for would-be Elvis freaks. It is a big favorite among the Elvis hardcore." Well, whether that is true or just one fan's view, it certainly hits all the right nerves with me.
Oh my baby baby I love you more than I can tell
I don't think I can live without you
And I know that I never will
Oh my baby baby
I want you so it scares me to death
I can't say anymore than "I love you"
Everything else is a waste of breath
I want you
You've had your fun you don't get well no more
I want you
Your fingernails go dragging down the wall
Be careful darling you might fall
I want you
I woke up and one of us was crying
I want you
You said "Young man I do believe you're dying"
I want you
If you need a second opinion as you seem to do these days
I want you
You can look in my eyes and you can count the ways
I want you
Did you mean to tell me but seem to forget
I want you
Since when were you so generous and inarticulate
I want you
It's the stupid details that my heart is breaking for
It's the way your shoulders shake and what they're shaking for
it's knowing that he knows you now after only guessing
I want you
It's the thought of him undressing you or you undressing
I want you
He tossed some tattered compliment your way
I want you
And you were fool enough to love it when he said "I want you"
I want you
The truth can't hurt you it's just like the dark
It scares you witless
But in time you see things clear and stark
I want you
Go on and hurt me then we'll let it drop
I want you
I'm afraid I won't know where to stop
I want you
I'm not ashamed to say I cried for you
I want you
I want to know the things you did that we do too
I want you
I want to hear he pleases you more than I do
I want you
I might as well be useless for all it means to you
I want you
Did you call his name out as he held you down
I want you
Oh no my darling not with that clown
I want you
You've had your fun you don't get well no more
I want you
No-one who wants you could want you more
I want you
Every night when I go off to bed and when I wake up
I want you
I want you
I'm going to say it again 'til I instill it
I know I'm going to feel this way until you kill it
I want you
I want you

The day the music died (and was resurrected)

Our stereo died at the weekend. It went "phut"...

Well actually it just stopped working. Cloud said it was the power supply unit. One day he'll remember that I know he's a software engineer and not an actual electrical engineer who knows about power, circuit boards and other such gubbins.

Never mind, we resurrected it. Ah. The bliss of music.

The CSI Phenomenon; or, why JG Ballard isn't watching the same programme as me

Was I the only CSI watcher who felt there were substantial errors / misunderstandings in JG Ballard's fluff piece on CSI this weekend in the Guardian Review?

Claims made:
  • no cars
  • no interesting characters / character information
  • invisible daughter of Catherine Willows
  • night-time only sets
  • no location referents
Wrong on pretty much all counts (even if both the Vegas original and Miami both shoot principle photography in LA rather than their locales). In the end I felt like a cranky obsessive going "but in episode 8 of season 3...", which is never good. I had to let it go.

Wish I could go and see the stuff at the NFT though (scroll).

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Little Red Ridin' Hood of Nottingham

Look, see, I even managed to bully the Wolf (the Wolf!) to tell us something about the Wolf music collection.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

The location of Nottingham

Hak Mao provided today's big laugh with this little snippet. Apparently, Nottingham is in the North of England, which is certain to disappoint some of the southern nobs to the south of the city, but only confirms my beliefs about the overall cultural/social/political yen of the area.

However, Midlands anyone...?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What do we do about jazz?

Much provocative debate about jazz over at Counago and Spaves, which of course has been taken up by Norm as defender of the faith.

To add my own little nod to the controversy, I always proclaimed I hated jazz until, well, I realised that a lot of what I liked was jazz. One of the trickiest problems is that jazz is such a broad category, and like any broad category/genre it includes the good, the bad, the ugly and the indefensible. And like anything with its aficionados there will be snobs: people who make the sentiments of this character seem low-key and appealing. Being pretentious never does a subject any good; it tends to foster irrational hatred.

For the record, I like:
Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone
Miles Davis, Bix Beiderbecke, John Coltrane, Charlie Mingus
Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan

And this is just a selection.

So, whether you like all or any of these, jazz is just too broad and encompasses too many types of music (from blues and gospel to soul, from folk and bluegrass to funk) to be dismissed on the basis of poor journalism, poncy scholarship, or over-hyped rubbish. There's always a lot of the latter about and it wouldn't do for us all to be alike. A friend of mine declared a complete aversion to jazz only for us to find her happily bopping away to the swinging guitar work of Django Reinhardt! She was almost mortified when we cautiously explained that this too was jazz!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"A pessimist is never disappointed" *

With apologies to Reidski for stealing his manner of blog-posting (though I think he mentioned 'twas ripped from elsewhere...?), I hereby pass on this wonderful gem (scroll) recounted on Norm's site. What joy to all us pessimists!

* The Audience. The only track of theirs I ever liked.

Music meme

Norm wrote on this current music meme, and Darren smartly decided to skip waiting for an invitation and write on it anyway: smart choice. And thank you for thinking of me: usually they're several weeks old by the time they make it to my inbox. Still doesn't help me with the passing it on (especially as Kara as done it), and I'll have to write my answers at a slot when I'm at home...


Total volume of music on my PC:
BWAH! Sorry, but given that Noah would have turned his nose up at our antiquated machine, I can truthfully say that I possess no music on my computer - illegally downloaded or otherwise. Our house is a PC music-free zone. NTL have actually given up calling us offering Broadband having finally got the message that even if we could afford it, our machine would look at the concept and go "huh?" I can rather identify with this great quote I found on Television Without Pity from one of their reviewers:
If I were at my house with my Tivo, I would slo-mo through all of them to see if I can pick out the individual episodes, but I'm temporarily visiting The Luddites' Museum Of Consumer Electronics, a.k.a. my mom's place. This month's special exhibit is the first VCR ever made. Seriously. In place of a brand name, there are the letters VCR, and if you turn it over, the serial number reads 0000001. It's in stylish brushed aluminum and was bought by my parents in the beginning of Reagan's first term. Remote control? Not happening. It only records channels two through thirteen. Remember when the entire world of television was the range of channels two through thirteen? And that was if you had cable. If I get hungry and/or wish to work out later, I'll go into the kitchen exhibit and nuke some popcorn. The microwave has a hand-crank.
Song playing right now:
I cheated and waited till I was at home, left myself a note about this blog and then when I stumbled over the note later in the evening I went with what was then playing. It was of course Arcade Fire and the awesome dynamo that is "Rebellion (Lies)".

Last albums I brought:
Sons and Daughters Repulsion Box; Sleater Kinney The Woods (sadly still not quite up there with the breathtaking All Hands on the Bad One); and Rough Trade Indie-Pop Volume 1 (including early works by Magnetic Fields, Camera Obscura, and former house-mates of Cloud, The Darling Buds).

Bless Fopp and Selectadisc, for thou are the providers of quality music.

Five songs I've been listening to a lot:
Definitely Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" from Funeral, which just sends shivers through me for the pounding it sends out; Superqueens "Rat Poison" (ta George: the powers have got us running on a wheel); Boom Bip and Nina Nastasia "The Matter of Our Discussion" (haunting); Rufus Wainwright "The One You Love" from Want Two (for the musical key change on "I'm singing 'oh, Jerusalem, oh, Jerusalem' ..."); and Sufjan Stevens "For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti" from Greetings From Michigan. That last one is definitely an artiste I am looking to acquire more by.

Passing along:
Okay, if the Wolf saves himself for reading news and articles, then maybe he listens to music. Pah, of course the wolf does: I passed on the Wolf's fun answering of a series of questions with the song titles of a selected band. This was also taken up by Jim at TimesNewRoman under the title "Surrealistic Pillow"- good clue as to his chosen band! (And btw, added to my blogroll).

Otherwise I need some time to think of respondents: especially if I am going to get anyone new(ish). Add a comment here if you wish to be music-memed?

The post that made me laugh aloud today: award to Marie at "Struggling Author"

Oh I'm sorry, but I laughed like a drain with glee when I read Marie's post today.

As I think she's already a tad distracted, I don't think this will help but everyone on this blog knows how mischievous I am.

Nice to see someone else as distracted as I am about such things. Tee hee.

The book and the text

Over the weekend (Saturday June 18), the Guardian's Duncan Campbell wrote a story about Queen Mary - formerly Queen Mary and Westfield - dumping books in a skip.

Well, apart from being reminded of a favourite line from the slightly (hee) cheesy film If Only -- "...and books?! How can people throw away books?!" -- it did make me rather cranky. Especially when I read Polly Mortimer's follow-up letter in the Guardian yesterday (scroll):
The internet has a wealth of information that has made a lot of reference books outdated as soon as they are published. I applaud the bravery of the librarians of Queen Mary - there are too many who want to keep at all cost. And [Gibbons'] Decline and Fall is available as a Penguin Classic - no need to panic.
This is a classic case of confusing books (container) with the text (the content). I know that the text of many things can be made available via the internet; and a good thing too. I don't have a problem with that. I want democratically available texts available via as many media as possible. And I don't want to force libraries to focus on preserving books above the knowledge contained therein. But as a born archivist it saddens me to think that we are losing interest in understanding the particular histories offered by the book as a medium for preserving knowledge.

Yes, Decline and Fall is available as a Penguin Classic. But an edition of a book can also tell us many other things as well: it can tell us its publishing history (what edition is this? who published it? why? what audience was it intended for? was it edited / abridged, and what can that tell us?); it can also tell us its reading history (who brought it? who donated it to the library? when was it donated?). And this is before we get into observing the physical artifact itself (how degraded is it? what does this tell us about its owners/users? how was it printed? what paper was used? what binding?). So many questions that can only be answered by thinking about the book in relation to its text.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the difficult choices librarians are forced to make as budgets are cut back. And in terms of time and money spent it may be impractical to ask anyone and everyone who may be interested to take their pick first from the books to be thrown out. But there is something disturbing about throwing out books. Perhaps a shelf unit with a plastic sheet over the front, maybe even with an honesty box (a la Hay on Wye) would have been better than a skip...?

Anyone else interested in the issue of books and libraries should read Nicholson Baker's Double Fold. I know it's a polemic, but I often go back to it to provide me with a salutary tale of how we manage our repositories of knowledge and publishing history.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Looking back in Anarchy

Wonderful article passed on from Darren by died-too-young Ian Walker (also praised here and in the comments to the posting).

He likes.... (apologies: another Who blog)

I know, I know, I will get back to my usual nonsense soon.

But Anna sent me this and it was too enjoyable to not repeat.

From the Washington Blade as reported on the newsite:
"Captain Jack Harkness [John Barrowman] is the most singularly unique character I have ever witnessed on television. He likes women. He likes men. He likes — robots. He flies around in an invisible spaceship and swoops out of the sky just in time to stop a bomb, all brawn and machismo, and in the next scene makes a catty little quip and forms an exaggerated 'W' with his fingers. Did I mention that he hides a rather large laser gun in his $#@?"

Sweepies and poking fun

Darren and Reidski in conversation about the Sweepies. Always good.

Despite the lovely Clare, I have a long-term problem with the Sweepies (SWP) that just prevents me taking them seriously ... or just makes me get so wound up by them that I want to cause violence. How unlike me that is ...


Yet another blogmeister at Counago and Spaves

After John, Jose, Jordi, and recent addition Martin, here comes griff...

Nice remark on the future of pop musicals based on bands... not at all sharing the need to stare at my feet...

New blogger and a Coen connection

Since I am a huge fan of the (not so recent) Coen brothers films, couldn't help spot that St. Buff of the new blog Fear in the City of the Living Dead brings with him a fabulous connection.

Go eagles!

"Hmm... new teeth..."

BWAH! (laughter) and WAAH (sobbing, wailing, gnashing of teeth)!

I can't believe it's over!

Sorry, am past caring whether it should be a guilty secret. I'm with Struggling Author. (Not least because she has the good taste to like this guy).

Utterly brilliant episode(s) though: blinding conclusion. Laughed, cried, gripped the edge of the sofa, cheered loudly for a bit of bisexual kissing at 7.20pm on a Saturday, loved the special effects.

Have to say though, I do feel for David Tennant (note to Darren: no innuendo intended). DT was up for the part in the original auditions, lost out to Ecclestone and then took up the mantle when Ecclestone decided one series was enough for this diverse actor (Ecclestone has always prided himself on not taking easy options for long-term characters). If the pressure was on for this first returning series, with geek expectations and demands high, think what it will be like for the second now an entirely new generation of viewers - many I suspect not typical Whovians - have become entranced. It's a lot to live up to: Tennant will take a huge fall if it doesn't pay off, and that would be a real shame after the year he's had.

Still, I thought the transformation worked pretty well. How long before the first joke about being shot of the Ecclestone ears?

Line of the weekend

Overheard from under-tens playing in next door's garden:

"Stop spraying me with water or I'll tell you what happened in Dr. Who!"


Sorry. But Cloud and I were just about to go and watch it again, having been gripped over in Shropshire at his parents (like a couple of kids "please, please, please, can we watch Dr. Who?"). So we could certainly identify with their enthusiasm.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Torrents and pies

Interesting piece by Simon Waldman in the Guardian today on BitTorrent and its uses/abuses of copyright material. Made priceless by its final paragraph:
For example, one site, LegalTorrents, offers links to a wide range of music and video from creators who are happy to have their work distributed on the net. You won't find Star Wars there or Mr and Mrs Smith, but you will find The Meaty McMeat Show a "completely insane 99-minute-long animated movie that involves a diseased human organ and his colleague who travel back in time to meet a psychic talking pie".
And how can any technology that allows such a masterpiece to be seen around the world be all bad?

You are the band

Wolf describes it as a funny filler: I can't think of a band with whom this would work, but suggestions are gratefully received!

Fast with the funnies

Just Jane again delivers the goods with this little gem.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Clare is now Rob

Well, not exactly, but I didn't want anyone to think Clare has abandoned her realm completely as Rob (of "Lunatic, Meet the Asylum" fame Boob 1 June blog) will be maintaining the Boob Pencil (between his teeth? between his legs?) until our gracious orange one (of "Bits and Bobs") returns.

Do not abandon the boob or the pencil!

Damn: Cloud beat me to this exclusive

"If you eat meat, ..."

Wow. And to think that was reported here.

Revenges of the not quite so sith film

So, went we did! Guffawing at the appalling dialogue we were! Captivated by the villiany of Ian McDiarmid we found ourselves!

Okay, enough of the poor Yoda scripts.

Yes folks, last night I succumbed to the pleas of my friend Helen Lisette and off we went on a 2 for 1 Orange Wednesday deal to the local UGC to experience Revenge of the Sith (this made the cost only £3!)

What did I think? Well, it was no where near as bad as I feared. Yes, it could have lost a good 30-45 mins. (I say that about a lot of films) Yes, the dialogue is dire (memorable for what exactly I would ask IMDB?!). You can just imagine the cast of Oscar/Tony/Emmy/London stage award winners reading it and asking themselves 'I have to read this shit?' The action sequences in some cases go on way too long and are just effects-driven for the sake of it (much of the opening 30 mins). Hayden Christensen, bless, is rather leaden in his mannerisms, trundling around scowling from underneath his hoodie: he's just not very convincing as an actor (he's considering architecture apparantly - no jokes about building anything in wood). So there is something lacking at the heart of the movie with this much wrong with it.

Is this to do with a physical lack of connection in the movie and it's 'feel'? As Anthony Lane puts it in the New Yorker review:
Mind you, how Padmé got pregnant is anybody’s guess, although I’m prepared to wager that it involved Anakin nipping into a broom closet with a warm glass jar and a copy of Ewok Babes. After all, the Lucasian universe is drained of all reference to bodily functions. Nobody ingests or excretes. Language remains unblue. Smoking and cursing are out of bounds, as is drunkenness, although personally I wouldn’t go near the place without a hip flask. Did Lucas learn nothing from “Alien” and “Blade Runner”—from the suggestion that other times and places might be no less rusted and septic than ours, and that the creation of a disinfected galaxy, where even the storm troopers wear bright-white outfits, looks not so much fantastical as dated?
And yet: I still enjoyed it. Sorry. I know that's almost a heinous crime, but some of my fellow bloggers are watching Big Brother and with excuses such as it's a "social psychology practical".

Last night when we got back, my copy of Sight and Sound had arrived. Let's just say I have a lot of sympathy for Kim Newman's review.

Struggling author deals with the marriage question

Two wonderful posts over the last few days from Struggling Author. The first catalogued the irksome remarks about turning 30 and becoming infinitely less appealing for marriage, whilst the second followed up on this with reference to a book that should be a joke, but sadly isn't.

As long as there are still publishers putting such works out there and women living their lives by rules, and advice such as this, then there will always be a need for the f-word.

Clare's out...

Sniff... another blogger (temporarily?) departed.

Let's not mourn; let's wish her and her family and her next book all the very best. And hope for a possible return at some future point.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Just what I needed to prepare for tonight

Hat-tip to Pulp Movies for posting this. Am sure it must have been doing the rounds for a while, but this is a hoot.

Ewan MacGregor’s opening speech in the new Star Wars:

Choose the force. Choose a side, Choose a jedi knight,
Choose a teacher,
Choose a fuckin’ big death star,
Choose star destroyers, blasters,tie-fighters and a light sabre.
Choose a black suit, black helmet and boots.
Choose a loan from Jabba the Hut.
Choose a philosophy.
Choose an Emperor.
Choose a planet with matching moon.
Choose a three planet system in the Dromoda system and fuckin’ enslave them.
Choose the Rebels and wondering who the fuck you are, kneeling by the Emperor on a Sunday morning.
Choose sitting next to that Emperor watching whole planets being enslaved in mind-controlling, force-crushing battles, stuffing fuckin’ replacement parts into your body.
Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable death star, nothing more than a dictator to the selfish, evil fucked up brats who fight for you.
Choose a future.
Choose the Force.

I chose not to choose the Force.
I chose something else - I chose the Dark Side

Okay, so it doesn't make sense if you know that Ewan is really goodie-two-shoes Alec Guinness in the role that should have been played by Eddie Izzard, but it's a nice spoof on the well-known speech. I wish I had the Photoshop skills to please the Pulp Movies blog with a poster in the style of.

Anna and Ben: a tale of a blogger returned

Too enjoyable to reproduce too much from, and she should get the hits to get her blogging more regular, but it's good to see Ben Folds gets Anna back in the blogworld. Just a taster then, which really brought the gig to life in my mind:
"TELL 'EM TO STAND THE F*** UP, BEN!" Someone obviously wasn't having it. The crowd surges towards the stage and the whole room lifts, the happiness-factor (it exists!) is raised ten-fold. Ben smiles and nods like he's proud that his followers have come to join him - "The people have spoken!" he says, and starts rocking out to the fantastic 'You To Thank'. A few of the vastly-outnumbered audience members not of university age mumble about this having been advertised a 'sit down concert'. No-one cares. No-one cares because all eyes are fixed firmly on one middle-aged guy with thick-rimmed glasses breaking a piano as he hands round the Jammy Dodgers he's just been given by a fan... a roadie comes on to sort the piano, but Ben's not one for silence. Maybe he'd have told us a story if we'd been sat down, as it is, he drums out the famous riff from Nina Simone's 'Baby Don't Care' and adlibs for a good five minutes, his awesome band jamming with him in an instant. 'Looks like I f*cked up my piano', he sings, and then: ''The folks in Sheffield stand like they hate to sit down'.

We all feel a little proud.
As someone who has in the past also stood at sit-down gigs (an especially weird demand for those in the ground floor/stalls area), I giggled at the description of the crowd being swept along with standing even though I felt for the older fans who wanted to sit down. Mind, I often think if you're gonna be seated, why not be at home? I do think that for classical music, with its softer, contemplative (and perhaps even more complex?) musical artistry, sitting down allows an appropriate attentiveness. Not that pop/rock music doesn't deserve that attentiveness, but there should be something more raw and expressive, communal even, that gets you on your feet.

Anyway, nice blog: I almost felt like I was there!

On comments, agreements and blogging

Nice post by Norm.
Conclusion. There's a certain amount of a strangely fragrant and singing and dancing and calling out substance about, even (would you believe it?) in comments boxes. It emanates from perfectly intelligent people and imperfectly intelligent people both.
Wonder who he was talking about though...?

How many book memes in the world?

Another day, another meme: and unlike some, I have to say I love them (partly because they save me having to think of topics to blog about).

Thanks to Cloud and the Communist boys for this one that I have been enjoying reading here, here, here and no doubt will enjoy reading elsewhere (like here). As Cloud illustrated though, we're running out of blog friends to tag. We need to get out more (or stay in to blog more... somehow that doesn't seem right...)

Total books owned

About 2,500 and possibly up to 3,000. I have shed a lot over the years, especially from when I was so much older (I'm younger than that now).

Last book I brought

Well we had a splurge at the weekend and I picked up Kelley Armstrong's recently published fantasy novel, Haunted. The latest in her series on witches and werewolves, they have so far been ripping/gripping page-turners. I'm saving that to accompany my journey to Keele next month when the Intellectual History Reading Group meets to discuss Susan Sontag.

Last book I read

I wizzed through Conversations with Neil Gaiman and his Collaborators: Hanging out with the Dream King by Joseph McCabe (Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2004). At the moment I am reading a novel first published in hardback last year about Mary Shelley, Lady Caroline Lamb, Fanny Brawne and Augusta Leigh: Passion by Jude Morgan (London: Review, 2005). This latter one is the 'notorious' third book mentioned by Cloud.

Five books that mean a lot to me

This is sooo difficult since, like music, different books (even extracts from books) can bring to mind people, places, events and ideas. Some books are pleasureable for eclectic reasons.

Anyhow, here are some suggestions from my mind today (written 14 June 2005).

The Collected Dorothy Parker
a.k.a the Penguin, Portable or Viking Press DP

Yes, I was (and remain) the gauche, introvert, barbed observer of life. A "heartbreak and a wisecrack" indeed... She's probably terribly unfashionable now, and not a little problematic, but I found her entrancing when I was a frustrated and largely friendless teenager. And the one-woman performance about her life that Cloud and I saw at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton MANY moons ago continues to haunt me. I still really like "Symptom Recital".

Ways of Seeing by John Berger (Penguin, 1972)
NB the copy we now have is Cloud's: mine was well-battered by the years.

When I did A-level art history in the 1980s, it was still considered a bit radical to teach us about art via this text (although it has now become both respected and thoroughly critiqued). But this combination of photo-essays and philosophical/Marxist writing was a thrill that made me think and look at the world of images in a different way.

Yes, Walter Benjamin became familiar to me through this.
Yes, Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock's Old Mistresses (London: Pandora, 1981) made a different kind of impact regarding women artists (not just to be looked at, but active in the production of art).
Yes, there have been updates and copyists of Berger's approach. I especially like Mary Anne Staniszewski's Believing is Seeing: Creating the Culture of Art (New York: Penguin, 1995).

But I still take pleasure in how Berger stimulated and brought together thoughts about 'how we see.'

A Choice of Emily Dickinson's Verse selected with an introduction by Ted Hughes (London: Faber, 1968: 1986 reprint)
Maiden Speech by Eleanor Brown (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1996)

Sorry, I am too torn between these two slender volumes of poetry which encapsulate different moments in my life. The first is my beautiful and much treasured collection of Emily Dickinson that Cloud purchased for my birthday in 1990, the year we met. Although later a friend brought me the complete collected works, I still have a fondness for this selection with its fiery passion and thoughtful contemplation.

My Life had stood -- a Loaded Gun --
In Corners -- till a Day
The Owner passed -- identified --
And carried Me away --

Nothing beats reading poetry with a loved one, and Dickinson still draws me to the soul of love.

The collection by Eleanor Brown was brought for me at a strange time in my life: negotiating a move from Wolverhampton to Coventry and on-going studies in Leeds; the dissipation of friends across the country after University. Like Parker, there is a bittersweetness to Brown's poetry; but a truth as well. Her poetry draws together classical references (a very sharp analysis of the rape so poetically alluded to in representations of Leda and the Swan; a poignant report from the perspective of Penelope: "I know you've been with other women, though. You never did that thing with my hair before") and modern-day dilemmas. If nothing else, read it for the wonderful "Fifty Sonnets": you can read at least one of sonnets in the volume Being Alive (and by the way, Staying Alive and Being Alive are perhaps amongst the best poetry anthologies released in recent years). Brown's "Fifty Sonnets" charts a relationship and its aftermath, and I've often offered a citation from it to those who have had good (and bad) relationships that have gone wrong and yet continued to haunt.

The Oxford Complete Edition: The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (undated edition, no printing information; inscribed to Gwendoline Bryant with an additional inscription beneath of 'White Sands' dated 1914-1916)

I remain a huge fan of Browning's writing, not least for the adoption of her text by Yoko Ono on the post-Lennon murder release Milk and Honey. Like Christina Rossetti, Browning's work is full of Christian symbolism (this edition was actually published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and awarded as a prize for a Divinity entrance exam). Nevertheless, or perhaps because I have a fondness for such language and expression, I do still love her work. I have only ever had poorly printed editions of her work, save for a beautiful small press printing of her Sonnnets from the Portuguese, so this is a relatively recent acquisition. But since Cloud took citation of his luscious green leather bound edition of Shelley's works (possibly a work I would save in a fire ahead of many others), I'll settle for this.

The Holy Bible, King James Edition

Not just any old copy mind, but the Chapman family bible edition that I was handed by my mother/grandmother (great-grandmother came from the Chapman clan of Lowdham, Nottinghamshire). The frontispiece pages records in my great-grandmother's handwriting the births, marriages and deaths of the Chapmans from the late 18th to the early 20th century. It's a proper 'Sunday to be read by pa-pa to the family' bible: big, quite large print and hard-cover embossed binding. So not only is it a copy of one of the key social, poetic and religious texts, it also holds a great deal of sentiment for me as an Orphan Girl.

This nearly made the list:

The Spare Rib Reader edited by Marsha Rowe (London: Penguin, 1982) Too many essays and polemics here continue to be relevant. It rather saddens me. But again, it was one of my earliest encounters with feminist ideas, and I can't thank it highly enough for that.

Sadly, no room for such favourite books as the Sandman graphic novels (though if they had come as a 10 volume box-set I may have been tempted to cheat and include that); no room either for House of Leaves: a visual and verbal delight that still scares me as I read it; no Buffy related reading (aren't you impressed?!); nor even why I love reading Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (and watching it!)

Five to pass this on to

This is more tricky. I'll have to go with my usual suspects in the hope they don't shoot me down in flames for meme-overload (Casyn and Anna); I'll send it to Clare because since she had all the excitement of the quiz she's kept us all gagging for a new post; I'll send it to the Wolf because I'm intrigued to know how he'll respond; and... and... oh come on... I must know more people than this :(

I've started reading Just Jane through a link on Reidski's comment box: if she's game, then hopefully she'll take up this heavy burden. Now I feel like I'm imposing myself on the blogworld...

Just what is Jesus Juice?

Still wiping tears of laughter over the exchanges here. If it's any consolation John, when I read your comment I was thinking the exact same interpretation...


The latest George collection

Got home last night to find an envelope addressed to "Dudes!": yes, a fantastic selection of tracks including Superqueens "Rat Poison" (working on the wheel), The Pipettes "School Uniform" (I love a girl in uniform...), extracts of music and dialogue from the beautiful Before Sunset (including the poignant Waltz track), and - as if the guy knew / remembered I had loved it on first hearing - the breathtaking track "The Matter (Of Our Discussion)" by Boom Bip featuring Nina Nastasia.

Too, too much to take in.

We listened last night to these recommendations and I would have loved to have listened tonight as well. Unfortunately, I am committed to visiting the local UGC to view Revenge of the Shit (copyright John at C&S): aka "Back to the start we are; wasted our time we did" (courtesy of the Times review) and "Moody teen wanders with little green guy and man with beard. Teen gets new hat. Little green guy and man with beard hides. The End" (courtesy of a FiveLive listener responding to Mark Kermode's review). Mustn't grumble though: it gives me a chance to see how my pal Helen Lisette is getting on after I found her this. Any excuse for a girl's night out - even if we do end up laughing our heads off at the terrible movie.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Not cowering; contemplating

I have neither the desire nor the will to pursue a roll-call (as reported here): as the snappy cat elegantly categorised me, I'm Pink Froth. But with heart in hand - what a gross image that is - I supplicate myself to offer a response to the comment that greeted me this morning.

Provocation can be a useful tactic: I use it too. But where does that descend into being patronising, making a confrontation for the sake of 'debate' (funny how it often descends into a slanging match or barbed wit). Still, I have chewed on it and hereby lay my 'this is my size' feminism on the table.

I think that many people (and probably I should have said people, not women) believe that to be a feminist is to be a particular type of person: for some, this is why they refute feminism. It can be perceived as a 'one-size-fits-all' ideology. I do accept that it is possible that some may believe - in either a positive or negative sense - that feminism is about women being like men, or even intending to supplant men. However, I would say from my perspective and reading that I don't believe that is what feminism is about. I accept that some have found great hope in such a notion, but I think that is flawed and problematic.

One of the central ideas of early feminism was that personal experience had a validity in commenting on the social order. Of course, one could argue that anyone can present a counter example to any research. However, academic research should ask awkward questions about where ideas come from, the validity of them and the subtle - sometimes not so subtle - messages that are expressed within research. Critical analysis is fundamental to good research because it gets readers to think about the prejudices and assumptions of the writers and their interpretation of data. Do I think that violence amongst girls and women is increasing? From an anecdotal level you can argue so; from a statistical level also you could argue so (though one might ask when these statistics started collating the figures and whether prior to this there were built in assumptions about who commits violence). But the implication of the article was that this was almost uniquely traceable to a notion of feminism; one that also specifically implied feminism was 'born' in the late 1960s. And for me this raises questions about the research and its findings.

  • Do we tolerate women being violent less than men?
  • Has this always been the case?
  • What criteria are used to define violent crime?
  • Have these always been the same?
  • What punishment is given out to women who are violent? (We could get into a whole debate about responses to domestic violence, but that would require me to dedicate this blog to that topic and I do not feel I am best placed to do justice to that).

Statistics can show just about anything: drink-driving becomes a criminal offence, cracked down on by the authorities and lo, it came to pass there was an increase in the arrests/convictions... An extreme example but I hope the point is made.

To return to my comments, I had problems with some of the language in the MSN piece because there are always (hidden) opinions in the selection of words. To barrage or bombard suggests an attack, one which few could survive or to which they could fail to succumb. The choice of "barrage" therefore raises the idea that girls could hardly fail to fall under the spell of such 'sheroes' (urgh, what a clunky term: and in its own way a perfect example of how to undermine attempts to reform sexist language). Additionally, I think "a wider range of models" is a positive thing: but I doubt that in the context of the article it was intended to be read as positive. Especially coming hard on the heels of the notion that girls are "barraged" with these options.

As far as I can, I accept personal reports and experience that things were not as they are now 50 years ago. Though we are frequently subjected to 'halcyon days' nostalgia, prevalence is an issue that cannot be ignored. But there are too many simplistic readings that equate to "then=good, now=bad" that seek to blame certain social changes for current nastiness.

For me feminism is both individual and communal: it can be nothing if it does not take account of ourselves, but it can achieve nothing if we do not seek to explore and apply ideas to the world. To see "women's concerns" as unconnected to or separate from the heart of social issues is to see women and their experiences as somehow unrelated to the social, economic and cultural ideologies that shape men and women. I really don't think that is a helpful approach and highlights the problems of binary definitions (one nearly always has the power or upper-hand in the pairing).

And as for "what kind of feminist are you?": is there a quiz to answer that? (PLEASE, please, do not send them to me). How can I answer this? Perhaps, as is my thing, a personal example will help me illustrate the question. I once worked on an exhibition called A Company of Strangers. Its intention was to highlight that feminism needed to acknowledge the heterogeneity of women alongside our connections. We were feminists both together and separately: our social, economic and cultural needs were not the same for each of us, even though there were many things as women that needed to be socially, economically and culturally tackled in society. What type of feminist am I? One who is constantly trying to understand the world and how to change it.

Forthcoming book meme

Yikes, I have been memed by Cloud and the Communists! That's a lot of left-ishness and intellectualism to live up to.

Well, that's tonight before CSI taken care of then...

Stand up for women

Great post over at Counago and Spaves, reporting the New York Times op-ed on a gang-rape victim speaking out and her subsequent illegal arrest by the Pakistan authorities.

Truly shocking.

Credit where credit is due

Nice to see the "thank you Buffy" offered by our current TV genie. (NB link may need registration)

And btw, what a cracking episode last weekend's Dr. Who was: I've said it before many times and I'll say it again - absolutely excellent. Even the website opening page creeps me out (I know, wuss).

Still, to quote Charlie Brooker:
Best. BBC. Family. Drama. Series. Ever.

Not 24 again!

Should have blogged on this sooner but I had to laugh over the weekend when I spotted that BBC1 were repeated the first (and for my money, the best) series of 24. Cloud and I had caught the first episode when over in the US just a few weeks after 9/11. We didn't know it was the start of a series: we just liked its visual style and narrative thrust. When it came over to the UK, we watched the first episode, felt a sense of deja vu, realised we had seen the first episode during our time in NYC and promptly spent the next six months glued to the screens, chasing episodes across the BBC networks (we had cable TV at the time). We bit our fingers, screamed from the edge of the sofa at the television, and generally became frantic addicts: even watching the terrestrial screenings of the repeated episodes before turning over to catch the next on cable. When the final episode was delayed to let terrestrial viewers catch up with cable/digital viewers on BBC3, we were nigh hysterical with impatience.

All this preamble is to set up my narrative: Cloud is usually pretty resolute in NOT rewatching stuff. I think he would happily settle for there being no DVD or videos in the house (well, that may be a tad of an exaggeration...). Anyway, what can be said is that he certainly isn't that fond of rewatching older stuff for the sake of it.

So when he realised, and I confirmed for him, that yes, BBC1 were reshowing the whole of season 1 of 24 late at night, I didn't think too much of him running from the room groaning.

"I know, I know," I said, "you hate to rewatch stuff..."

He muffled a reply... "too tense..."


Turns out the reason he was so anxious for me to switch the TV off and us not get into watching it was because he knew that if we did, we would get hooked in again and he couldn't cope with the edge of the seat ride all over again!

Ah, bless: cracks in the armour of distainful regard for rewatching old TV.

Yoko Ono on feminism

Should have got this in with yesterday's posting...

There's many women now who think, 'Surely we don't need feminism anymore, we're all liberated and society's accepting us as we are'. Which is just hogwash. It's not true at all." The jaw juts a little higher. "You know, one out of four women who go to the emergency ward are there because of domestic violence - I mean that's in America, so you can imagine how difficult it is for women in third-world countries."

How, one wonders, did feminism come to be such a dirty word? "I think most women would like to forget about it and just have babies and maybe stretch their faces or something," she laughs sharply. "Society goes through phases, like breathing - breathing in, breathing out - I think there was a time when we, women, became a little bit freer and then we got scared. We got scared of being in a position of being ostracised, I suppose."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Why feminism still matters

Kara over at Radio Active (judging by today, site for the day!) tipped me off to this pile of badly thought through crap that got me really REALLY cranky (like I need much provocation).

The essay reports on violence amongst girls increasing. Well, firstly, I ain't saying that their stats are dubious, but I would have to say, really? Tell that to the fights I saw / experienced during my younger years.

Hmm, well, such problems of personal experience on the receiving end of girl violence being put aside, let's just look at this steaming nonsense and do some language analysis:

"Part of this spike in violence is related to evolving sex roles. Historically, boys have received messages from the culture that connect masculinity with physical aggression, while girls received opposite messages, encouraging passivity and restraint."

Well, thus far I would probably agree that these have indeed been the stereotypes perpetuated and promoted for 'social good'. But then it takes a wild leap and starts dropping in not-so-subtle messages we should read within the statements: I have highlighted these with italics for the slow of interpretation skills.

Now girls are barraged with images of "sheroes"—think Sydney Bristow on ABC's "Alias" or Uma Thurman's the Bride in "Kill Bill: Vol. 2"—giving them a wider range of role models and tacit permission to alter their behavior. Accordingly, says Spivak, some girls have "shifted from internalizing anger to striking out."

Good lord, we're being barraged! We're utterly overwhelmed by female action heroes who are able to think for themselves and make their own life choices without men putting them down or blocking their efforts... except not.

And heavens to Murgatroyd, what will women do if they have a wider range of role models?! Surely this will spin the earth off it's social axis and leave us at the mercy of the aliens?!

Tacit permission, eh? Intepretation? Were we not meant to read these possibilities in this way, as an invitation? It was just amusing?

Accordingly...some girls have "shifted from internalizing anger to striking out": Oh, that will never do. Clearly that was just plain wrong.

[Please, someone note I am being ironic...]

But then we get the real juicy knock: who to blame for this.

The women's movement, which explicitly encourages women to assert themselves like men, has unintentionally opened the door to girls' violent behavior.


Okay, many women have a problem with feminism, partly because they falsely believe that feminism is a one-size fits all ideology. Feminism has never been about making women like men - duh, why would we? - but it has been about opening ideas, opportunities, challenging accepted codes of behaviour (and exploring why they are accepted). At its best and most radical feminism should change the world and the way we think; our approach to social communities and responsibilities, our efforts to make the world a better place through thoughts and deeds. Feminism takes a lot of flack for things that it ain't (like being anti-men: still an old favourite I see trotted out on occasions) but rarely does it get many plaudits for the things it has made societies re-think.

I am a feminist: I also think it's pretty darn difficult to be one without being engaged with social justice in general (and likewise I grant short shrift to those who promote a 'come-the-revolution-sisters' mentality that ignores the particularities of women in social change).

Feminist and proud of it! The type of lazy writing that this article highlights just demonstrates further why feminism must not give up explaining and educating and changing the world.

And btw. Sorry the quotes aren't indented but blogger had a wibble about blockquote. Natch.

Brute force: Russell Crowe in trouble again

Yes, yes, I know this is so last week but I've been away Chick Flickering (not a sexual practice in case you just read my last post).

Anyway, I felt I had to add my two penneth to this saga, not least to reassure Helen Lisette that she did not endure last week's reports - and the comments stirred at work from events - in vain.

What really convinced me I wanted to write something though was Mark Lawson's piece in the Guardian on Saturday. Now don't get me wrong: Crowe can be brutish, blunt and antagonistic. He can be petulant. Is that because he is a movie-star? Is it because he thinks little of 'ordinary people'?

Actually, I don't think so.

My problem with Lawson's piece, and indeed much of the commentary on the violent reaction of Crowe, is that it is predicated on believing that (1) normal people do not behave like this, and (2) that film/tv stars/ public personalities behave like this because they are film/tv stars / public personalities.

I am more inclined to think that Crowe is just plain old short-tempered. I have a short-temper, and in a similar situation I think I would have probably lost my rag and thrown something as well (Cloud has perfected the art of 'duck the hitting' and 'prevent flailing arms and access to implements'). And yes, I would also have been arrested.

But to elide the issue of fame with violence... it just seems too much of a leap. I can well imagine that in an effort to get decent service, there is always a temptation to resort to the "DYKWIA?"* routine; but in our own small ways, don't we all do that? Frustration with inadequate services, being fobbed off: it doesn't help you feel inclined to rational behaviour.

On behalf of all short-tempered people therefore, can I just say: Russ, you're a bit of an ass, but you're not the first to do such a thing, and sadly you won't be the last - famous or not famous.

* Do You Know Who I Am?

There's just not enough sex on this blog...

... well, you can always drop round to the Radio Active gal. Kara has discovered the simple truth that no matter how ill you are, there is nothing that cannot be made more tolerable by sex or a sex quiz.

Of course, I'm WAAAAY too shy myself to possibly go and answer these quizzes myself (besides, I think the University may have an issue with some of them!)

Awh, go on then: just a little sweet one:

What kind of Goddess are you?

You Are Psyche! Eternally in search of purpose and insight. You're curious and creative with a total sense of wonder. Totally empathetic, you pick up on other's moods easily. Just be sure to pamper yourself as well!

Wow, that was actually quite nice... maybe just one more slightly more risque one...?

What kind of Sexy are you?

You Are Independent Sexy
You drive men crazy with your "playing hard to get act." Except, it's really not an act at all. You're a strong, sexy woman with her own life and interests. And makes men even more interested in you!

And... oh crikey, don't think I can legitimately do THAT one at work...

Friday, June 10, 2005


Very mean of John to bar me from mentioning a certain heroic girl figure, but I'll try and respond to this current meme as best possible. It was actually suprisingly difficult because whilst I'm a big fan of graphic novels, I'm hardly a superhero aficionado:

1/ If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? (Assume you also get baseline superhero enhancements like moderately increased strength, endurance and agility.)

The ability to enlighten people about inequality and inspire them to action with a slow blink of my eyes...

... dreamers the lot of us!

2/ Which, if any, 'existing' superhero(es) do you fancy, and why?

Oh lord, it's a bit too obvious to go for this wolfish figure, and I'm not sure that someone possessed by the spiritual offspring of a demon and an angel would count. Can't I just have Cloud? He's always been my hero...

3/Which, if any, 'existing' superhero(es) do you hate?

A couple of the respondents I have seen (and I am sure others) have commented on this from a socialist perspective: that it doesn't seem right to have an elite few rescuing the world; what about a mass rising? everyone their own superhero?

I always found Superman pretty annoying though.

4/ What would your superhero name be? (No prefab porn-name formulas here, you have to make up the name you think you'd be proud to mask under.)

Geek Girl (I'd like to think it would be Sirenesque but I'm a realist at heart: I'd be the nerd with the books ... the best I can hope for is having one of those great tranformative moments where the guy realises the stunner who's saving the life of him and his friends is the formerly ignored geek from the corner with a different haircut...

Sorry... I think I went off for a moment there!)

5/ Is there an 'existing' superhero with whom you identify/whom you would like to be?

I rather fell for Elastigirl, but 'm probably more of a Violet

And, passing it on...

Well many of the usual suspects have already been grabbed for this, but so as to not disappoint John, I'll definitely get Cloud to respond even though he hates this sort of thing (superheroes I mean), Casyn over the The Slayer Library is probably much better versed in such matters than me, and since Anna seems to need a friendly nudge to blog, I'll get her to complete the trio. May take a day or two to mail this on though!

This seems like a horribly predictable list of recipients: note to self - need more friends who blog.

And couldn't resist one link...

The things that make us happy

I'm usually pretty easily annoyed by Alain de Button-pressed-to-state-the-bleeding-obvious (sic), but I rather liked his piece in the Guardian today. Discussing film's portrayals of happiness, he goes on to identify Mike Leigh's Life is Sweet as a more realistic depiction of the realisation of happiness (a film I saw this with Cloud that really moved me). But it was this citation from the end of Manhattan where Allen's character/self "runs through all the reasons why life is worth living, his answers being deliberately small-scale and bathetic:
Why is life worth living? It's a very good question. Um ... well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. Uh ... Like what ... OK ... um ... For me, uh ... ooh ... I would say ... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing ... uh ... um ... and Willie Mays ... and um ... the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony ... and, um ... Louis Armstrong's recording of Potato Head Blues ... um ... Swedish movies, naturally ... Sentimental Education by Flaubert ... uh ... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra ... um ... those incredible Apples and Pears by Cézanne ... uh ... the crabs at Sam Wo's ... uh ... Tracy's face ... "
I had forgotten how much I loved that scene, and it caused me to think of similarly wonderful things that make life worth living. For me these would include the laughter of, and shared with, my closest friends/sisters; Bill Hicks, "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca; the crescendo of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue; John William Waterhouse's The Lady of Shallot and Ophelia; Katharine Hepburn; Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese; a certain Scottish voice talking to me; and the daily sight and pleasure of life with Cloud....

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Being adolescent: yay! (and why not?)

Last night I heard from my pal Ian B, a former PhD student at Nottingham now slaving to acquire sufficient publications to get an academic position (not easy). Ian and I, as noted here in my report on the Nottingham concert, share a passion for the work of Rufus Wainwright and - given Ian's absence last week on holiday I took it upon myself to leave a message for him to say I would record the Culture Show last week featuring RW.

So, having picked up my message about having taped it, Ian called and we swiftly fell into talking about meeting to pass on the video; last week's Jools Holland performance by Wainwright; sister Martha on Friday 27th May(I think I was otherwise engaged, a trip not utterly irrelevant to this post); and my loaning Ian the DVD that came with my copy of Want Two (live at the Fillimore). At which point, Ian chuckled and remarked that "it's like being a teenager: 'I'm off to phone Lisa to talk about Rufus - he's FAB!' ... can you believe it!?" (You have to imagine that Ian's cultured tones adopt the enthused and breathless gasps of a stereotypical teenager for that dialogue!)

But after we laughed and continued with the enthused conversation, his remark got me thinking (just in case you were wondering the relation of my post heading to the content). Being adolescent, behaving like a teenager in terms of an interest: why is this often spoken about as if it is implicitly 'A Bad Thing'?

Okay, so being a teenager - certainly now - pretty much sucks on a number of levels: pressured education, low/high expectations, self-image problems/bullying... the list can go on. But still there is this association between being a teenager and the intensity of an interest/hobby, a like/dislike. How often are we accused of 'adolescent fantasies' with regard to political or social change (the idealism of youth)? Yes, some find it moderately embarrassing to be the oldest at the party/gig: but why can't we continue to take something life-affirming and exciting from contemporary and/or popular culture?

The current advertising campaign for teachers talks about working with people who haven't yet made their minds up: not as sure about that one, actually. Sometimes in youth we can perceive things as very black/white, and maybe that is one thing that age can provide. The variety of experiences and different perspectives we encounter can change the way that we think about issues, from simplistic passions to articulated ideas.

But does that mean there is no place for passion, no room for idealism, no space for enthusiasms to be enjoyed for what they are (and nothing more or less than that)? Does abandoning adolescence mean we must lose our sense of delight in possibilities? Don't get me wrong, I like debate and there is something thrilling about a finely articulated argument. And equally, please don't think that I'm suggesting a shift to a "yah-boo-sucks" approach of "I'm right; you're wrong." But in between - in that moment of teenage, between age and youth clarity - we can sometimes see and take pleasure in things, in ideas and interests, precisely because they do not have to be spelt out, academically defended, legally articulated. And what's so great about letting that sensibility go?

A qualified 'yay' for adolescence I feel?

"It's OK to grow up -- just as long as you don't grow old. Face it ... You are young." (Here - and scroll)

This Year's Love: a charismatic Scotsman, eh?

You don't say....

Ah, the exchange continues.

Anyone would think that Darren had sussed I had a certain admiration for this actor...

Seriously though, my Dunfermline friend is absolutely right to shout for the pleasures of This Little Yarn. It's slight and very British; modest of aim, but unswerving in its humanity. Written and directed by David Kane, but brought to life by a really cracking cast, it warrants being sought out.

Kathy B is, as ever, utterly captivating: she portrays her character Marey with great tenderness and wit. The character's psychological self-loathing, and yet the limits to that, are a real pleasure to watch. If I recall correctly ('cos there are lots of echoes through this La Ronde narrative), there's a scene when she and Danny - Douglas Henshall's character - split up because of his poisonous jealousy, which is in effect fuelled by his own loathing sense of self. Marey admits that she hates herself ... but not that much; not enough to put herself through his reflecting torture. Grand stuff.

I have very fond memories of first seeing this film at Warwick Arts Centre with Cloud. I had just finished an intensive week acting as an emanuensis for a disabled student I was working with at Hereward College, typing up his dictated dissertation. TYL was to be my treat. Of course, because at this stage I was still casually watching Henshall's work without a declaration of interest (we just happened to be up to watch the weekend repeats of Psychos as it was still being aired... and btw GRR, why has this never been re-shown?), I had to plot carefully the motivation for seeing this film. This was not helped by it being promoted as a rom-com... TYL is a rom-com only in so much as there are some great comedy moments and a fantastic declaration of romance at a supermarket checkout...

... but I digress.

This was where Kathy B being in it just absolutely helped me out. Lord knows I couldn't sell the film on its promotional campaign or the soundtrack. But Kathy: she saved me. I pointed up Kathy and Ian Hart, and I just kept Dougie as a muttered under my breath additional extra. Of course, in the actual cinema Cloud soon spotted the casting and began to frown realisation, but this was before our trecks across the country in pursuit of cinemas showing the belatedly released Orphans or, much later, The Lawless Heart.

Anyway, I guess what I am chiefly saying is... Darren's right on to have a soft spot for this little gem, and it's not exactly 'outing' me to add that I do too. There's quite a nice article here: bit frothy and promotional but with some nice stills.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Quote of the weekend: CSI NY

Still laughing at the remark by Aiden Burn in response to entering a room full of unfeasibly well-endowed strippers:
Holy boob-jobs, Batman.
(Actual quote accessible through the Quotes thread here).

Sorry. That line just set me off. There is something ludicrious about cosmetic plastic surgery...

Radio Activity in the feminista zone

Well, word gets out pretty quick it seems but I feel I should add a little hello here to Kara and her newly utterly re-invented Radio Active blogspot. I'm sure that there are some out there with links to me who I would probably rather hadn't tracked me on the net, but Kara's definitely one of the good folk. Since I feel well-honoured to be listed with her, it seems only fair to list her with me (and give her a spot of promo at the same time).

Since we all need a little subversive pink in our lives, and with the 'promises, promises' sentiment we are holding out for the new blog (sex! pornography!), take a little time to get Kara off to a good start: go on, ya know ya wanna...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Architectural Perfume

Had to blog a brief comment on how much Cloud and I laughed last night at Paul Morley's Newsnight Review appearance. Talking about the Tate Modern architect's 'perfume' Rotterdam, Morley described how he responded to bewilderment at liking the scent: "Eau de Stockport".

Hee. Having been through the lands of Greater Manchester on many occasions, we rather liked that.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Kahlo on the Culture Show

Watched The Culture Show last night (only about the second or third I have caught: doh!). Mostly, I wanted to catch Rufus Wainwright talking about his passion for classical music, especially opera (man, that guy has some freaky laugh!). But I also wanted to see the preview for the forthcoming Frida Kahlo exhibition at Tate Modern.

Now, having studied art history, 20th century art, and especially with my interest in artists who are women, I was interested to see how they dealt with the tricky figure of Kahlo. Iconic? Absolutely. Did they deal with it well on the Culture Show? With reservations.

To start with, I wasn't entirely convinced by their claim that Kahlo was classless: given her politics and her concerns, I wasn't sure how legitimate it was to make her into a classless figure. And the opening passages of the narration quickly fell into reciting the elision of art and life - the tempestuous relationships, the emphasis on her (broken) body - that I have come to dread from art documentaries (especially those about women).

Nevertheless, I was glad that in the end the piece did talk about Kahlo's calculated contribution to her own mythology: that she was ultimately performing to a particular role/character. But it struck me that by opening and focusing on the standard ways of talking about Kahlo, of presenting her, these later remarks were squashed into being just another way to talk about Kahlo's work. Especially by framing the discussion with three women creators' responses (painter, photographer, shoe designer).

Will visitors to the Tate show see the works as simplistically autobiographical, as touchingly revelatory of the painter's life? Will they see them as sur-real, visually sumptuous (even in their 'visceral' gore)? I think that the truth of Kahlo lies somewhere beyond both these stances, in a space beyond positioning Kahlo as a unique woman artist where the complexities of her actions, and her own role in creating her mythology, might be explored with more nuance than is possible in a 7 minute review.

Aspect Ratio: a world-wide gripe

Aspect ratio! See: all the way across to Australia there are grumbles about this. Still, out of politeness I haven't cluttered Casyn's comments box with my ranting, and have instead brought the topic over to Rullsenberg.

Casyn gives a good impression of a growling beastie complaining about the DVD release of films, but especially television programmes, that do not present the product using the aspect-ratio in which the product was filmed. Now I have always been keen on seeing the correct ratio, though with some pleasure in widescreen formatting (hey, I actually LIKE the black borders at the top and bottom... if they are there for a purpose!): especially with films, since most are filmed in widescreen.

Anyway, my obsession with aspect-ratios hit a peak when our pal George moved in with us in autumn 2003 with a gloriously huge widescreen TV that could adapt its display to suit the ratio of the broadcast/DVD/tape. And when inducting him into the ways of Buffy: well, that was when things got alarming.

Let us take Buffy DVDs. Seasons 1-3 are fine. Filmed in 4:3 and released in 4:3. Seasons 4-6, filmed in 4:3...

...released in the UK in anamorphic widescreen. Cropped to create black bands at the top and bottom AND revealing info at the sides that was never intended to be seen! ARGH!!!!

Whedon intended Buffy to be 4:3. Except for Once More, With Feeling (which on the urgh widescreen crop is still wrong: just check out the title screen. URGH!) Only when we got to Season 7 - which was filmed in widescreen - did we get a widescreen release that actually was intended to be that!

Hilariously, on the UK VHS videos, seasons 4-6 were released on 4:3, with Once More, With Feeling in the appropriate widescreen format.

When George left, Cloud and I initially tried to replace the departing widescreen TV with another (albeit smaller). What did we get? Some sucky stupid widescreen TV that made 4:3 filmed works into 'fit-the-widescreen-TV' display! I wanted to see the 4:3 image in the centre of the widescreen with the appropriate black borders at the sides! Needless to say, especially since the sound was also rubbish, that beastie went back to the shop and we settled for a much less snazzy standard TV that at least showed stuff at the aspect-ratio of the product. Sigh.

Okay. Rant over.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Like "Overheard in New York" only more local

Thanks to Darren for directing me to the gem he cites (number 6, 19 May). Like Overheard in New York it's a collection of overheard remarks, but this time from the London Tube. I needed the laugh.

Sorry for relative blog absence today folks, am feeling a heavy hayfever head coming on.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

From the New York Times

Am sure this must have had coverage elsewhere, but my pal Rita sent this on and I thought it worth sharing. The title provides a full link to the NYT source.

America's DNA: Thomas L. Friedman
New Delhi June 1 2005
A few years ago my youngest daughter participated in the National History Day program for eighth graders. The question that year was "turning points" in history, and schoolchildren across the land were invited to submit a research project that illuminated any turning point in history. My daughter's project was "How Sputnik Led to the Internet." It traced how we reacted to the Russian launch of Sputnik by better networking our scientific research centers and how those early, crude networks spread and eventually were woven into the Internet. The subtext was how our reaction to one turning point unintentionally triggered another decades later.

I worry that 20 years from now some eighth grader will be doing her National History Day project on how America's reaction to 9/11 unintentionally led to an erosion of core elements of American identity. What sparks such dark thoughts on a trip from London to New Delhi?

In part it is the awful barriers that now surround the U.S. Embassy in London on Grosvenor Square. "They have these cages all around the embassy now, and these huge concrete blocks, and the whole message is: 'Go away!' " said Kate Jones, a British literary agent who often walks by there. "That is how people think of America now, and it's a really sad thing because that is not your country."
In part it was a conversation with friends in London, one a professor at Oxford, another an investment banker, both of whom spoke about the hassles, fingerprinting, paperwork and costs that they, pro-American professionals, now must go through to get a visa to the U.S.

In part it was a recent chat with the folks at Intel about the obstacles they met trying to get visas for Muslim youths from Pakistan and South Africa who were finalists for this year's Intel science contest. And in part it was a conversation with M.I.T. scientists about the new restrictions on Pentagon research contracts - in terms of the nationalities of the researchers who could be involved and the secrecy required - that were constricting their ability to do cutting-edge work in some areas and forcing intellectual capital offshore. The advisory committee of the World Wide Web recently shifted its semiannual meeting from Boston to Montreal so as not to put members through the hassle of getting visas to the U.S.

The other day I went to see the play "Billy Elliot" in London. During intermission, a man approached me and asked, "Are you Mr. Friedman?" When I said yes, he introduced himself - Emad Tinawi, a Syrian-American working for Booz Allen. He told me that while he disagreed with some things I wrote, there was one column he still keeps. "It was the one called, 'Where Birds Don't Fly,' " he said.

I remembered writing that headline, but I couldn't remember the column. Then he reminded me: It was about the new post-9/11 U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, which looks exactly like a maximum-security prison, so much so that a captured Turkish terrorist said that while his pals considered bombing it, they concluded that the place was so secure that even birds couldn't fly there. Mr. Tinawi and I then swapped impressions about the corrosive impact such security restrictions were having on foreigners' perceptions of America.

In New Delhi, the Indian writer Gurcharan Das remarked to me that with each visit to the U.S. lately, he has been forced by border officials to explain why he is coming to America. They "make you feel so unwanted now," said Mr. Das. America was a country "that was always reinventing itself," he added, because it was a country that always welcomed "all kinds of oddballs" and had "this wonderful spirit of openness." American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. "If you go dark, the world goes dark."

Bottom line: We urgently need a national commission to look at all the little changes we have made in response to 9/11 - from visa policies to research funding, to the way we've sealed off our federal buildings, to legal rulings around prisoners of war - and ask this question: While no single change is decisive, could it all add up in a way so that 20 years from now we will discover that some of America's cultural and legal essence - our DNA as a nation - has become badly deformed or mutated?

This would be a tragedy for us and for the world. Because, as I've argued, where birds don't fly, people don't mix, ideas don't get sparked, friendships don't get forged, stereotypes don't get broken, and freedom doesn't ring.

Explaining terms: DofS

Sorry: like my frequent English colloquialisms that confuse the lovely Rita, I occasionally get caught into using abbreviations like confetti.

DofS = Death of a Salesman (should be DofaS I guess but I mistyped: forgive me!)

The Big Blowdown: blooming brilliant

Maybe I was in the mood for some hardboiled reading, but on return from DofS picking up Reidski's recommended reading somehow felt right.

What a great read! I really got sucked into the world and the physical and mental characteristics of the key figures were wonderfully conveyed. And Reidski's right about the musical references: really brought the historical moment to life.

I'll try and get hold of some of the others. In the meantime I really should purchase the latest Kelley Armstrong in readiness for the Intellectual History Reading Group on Susan Sontag next month (that's me pseudo-intellectual by day; frothy vampire/witch reader by night).

Except when I'm indulging in hardboiled social fiction...

Cloud in work

Remember that Cloud spent some considerable time in limbo?

Well, the local authority seems to have pulled the collective human resources finger from its contemplative ass and got him started. Today in fact.

As a consequence, his blogs will be even more erratic than of late, though I am considering we should donate 30 mins each evening to blogging (just to encourage me to rely less on my lunchtimes, early mornings and post-work stay-lates in the office).

Wolf law

Just realised that I had failed utterly in my intention to link readers to the Way of Wolf's blogpost on the law.

Duly done. Excellent read.

A history of Clare

For those of you not yet reading Clare Sudbury's wonderful blog Boob Pencil (shame on you!), get your asses over to read the latest in her reports on her sexual history entitled "The Dyke Years". It's moving, witty, and most of all littered with evidence of her talent as a writer and her intelligence as a human operating in society.

I'll even forgive her affirmation of the Sweepies.

Questions answered by others

Following my efforts last week to up my blog production by completing an exhaustive questionnaire/meme, the challenge was taken up by Reidski (who dealt with it much more succinctly!)

Worth reading, especially for his links, the discussion in the comments about how poor Gangs of New York actually was, and for his ability to provide an answer to Q10 that does not result in masochistic humiliation by fellow bloggers. Hey ho. I don't care :)