Monday, December 28, 2009

I charlotte read that again

Well, it's been a while again. My computer finally carked it after several years groaning intermittently and a near-death experience a month or so back. And now I have a shiny, sexy, Windows 7 lap-top.

My goodness, Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks sucked. I'd promised myself I'd never slog through a book I didn't like again, but optimism that it would get better kept me going. It didn't tho'. Spoilers to follow:

The protagonist was terribly smug and she didn't do anything. She just mooned about over her fighter-pilot boyfriend. Honestly, it ought to be impossible to create a not-much-happens (or at least it feels like nothing much happens) book out of a plot set in Nazi-ridden France, with a protagonist in disguise during the occupation, with a missing-in-action pilot to find. Quite an achievement by Faulks, you might think.

Stuff did happen: two Jewish children were in hiding, messages were passed, treachery and some sex, even a killing or two. But did I care? Well, towards the end I was past caring. The sub-plot of Charlotte's damaged relationship with her father with the looming suggestion he'd sexually abused her was a constant pall. And then you find it wasn't even that, so the whole ugliness and nausea was unnecessary and I really loathe Faulks for that. It's a desperate way to try to engender compassion for your cold stilted unlikeable character and then to sidestep it all is a nasty cheat.

His protagonist didn't protag, she didn't do anything! And for someone behind enemy lines in danger of death and torture, that's quite something. She didn't save anyone, she didn't even find her stupid, also moonsome boyfriend. Nor did she manage love-struck fidelity, she shagged some other bloke, when over-excited by parachuted goodies. She stays in France against orders, puts people in danger by using the resistance network unnecessarily and achieves bugger all, yet somehow excites awe and respect in people around her and gets away with disobeying her department without sanction.

Oh and that unjustifiable smugness, it was unbearable. When she went to a public baths she realised another woman had noticed her collar and cuffs didn't match. Was she a bit scared or perhaps even bloody petrified that she would be turned over to the Nazis? Did she think 'oh shit, perhaps I shouldn't have gone to a public bath or perhaps should have thought to dye my nethers?' No, no, her response was: aha, that's the first mistake g-section have made in creating my cunning disguise. And later on when she gets home she enjoys embarrassing her superior with it, relating this error as entirely theirs. What about her responsibility to protect her identity? She blabs her true name to some old geezer she's barely met and waves her pubes at the public baths, as though the word "public" didn't give a hint.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

1, 2, 3, reasons to be careful

My brother-in-law has been in the throes of a nasty divorce for a year or so. His now ex-wife has custody of their children and so I'm concerned that my children will lose touch with their cousins altogether. As it was, we barely saw them.

It's soon the eldest's birthday and so today I got the children to write her a letter to go with her present and printed out some pictures of them to put in. I'm really anxious to get this right.

The eldest has rejected all contact with her father and also with her granny, my mother-in-law. She made herself too clearly on Dad's team, I think, and alienated her. Poor child has found herself in the position of choosing between, which should never have happened. She does want to maintain contact with father-in-law (the two parents-in-law divorced many years ago).

I made the damn fool mistake of going along with mother-in-law regarding sending presents to where the dad is now living, because she wanted us all to show support to him and so he could provide super-duper birthday/Christmas times during access. But with eldest refusing to see him, that doesn't truck too well. I didn't want to rock the boat and upset mother or brother-in-law. And because she's a retired social worker, I assumed she knew what she was doing. But of course, she's too emotionally involved. I don't know why I didn't see it before.

So now, to put this right. Daughter will obviously want a reply from her cousin to this letter she wrote today, and ideally a penpal relationship if nothing else. I'm hoping that this will be acceptable to the mum and that we don't fall into the rejected pile of the child.

I don't want to cause a problem by just barging in and going straight to the daughter, possibly offending the mum who might not want us in their lives. And of course, she will likely pick up the post so it's not like sneaking is an option! I'm thinking that I should send the parcel with a covering letter to her, explaining that we'd like to keep in touch. It's a tricky one to write. I can't ignore the divorce, but I'm certainly not wanting to take sides or engage with the rights and wrongs of it all. So I thought I'd just acknowledge they've had a difficult year and voice the hope they'll have better times ahead.

Even if this goes well, and they respond, I'm worried that mother-in-law and brother-in-law will see it as disloyal. Should I tell them about it or just see what happens? Should I send presents to both places (can't afford it, so it's moot)?

Staying in touch with the children has to be more important than other considerations, hasn't it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bournemouth

I really like the trip to Bournemouth, east along the A35. This post consists of my Tweet-like responses to the journey.

  • At Honiton there's this weird terracotta turret-house with battlements. You've got to wonder who designed it. At least their post shouldn't go astray.
  • Later on a sign to 'Triffords' and thought perhaps it was a cunning mis-spelling to throw us off track while the homicidal plants gain strength and size.
  • Past 'Deep Cut Farm' where the cows mysteriously commit 'suicide' with their own horns.
  • The first view of Dorchester and it looks like Noddy's Toytown. I want to move in immediately.
  • And then we find Troy Town where hopefully it's more Homeric than Star Trek, as Deanna was the most annoying character ever. My least favourite Star Trek series is TNG, and it was largely her (and Ryker's) fault. Not because of their on-off romance but his character's smugness and her character's wishy-washy, touchy-feely, hearts and flowers, new-age soppiness. "We come in peace, shoot to kill, Scotty beam me up!"
  • And then there's Puddletown on the same sign as various Piddles, (which cause puddles) and hey, I'm easily amused.
Why was I on my way to Bournemouth (shortly changing its name to Jason Bournemouth for the extra tourism, hat-tip Eddie Izzard)? Well, the clue's in that last sentence there.

Yes, I went to see Jason Bourne. But I saw Eddie Izzard instead, which was a much more amusing experience and frankly what I'd paid for. I'd have been quite disappointed with some stressed out assassin-type bloke who doesn't even know his own name.

I came away with aching sides and a cake-or-death mug. Life doesn't get much better.

Friday, November 20, 2009

You and your racist friend

It took a good long while but me and an old friend started to interact more after several years of estrangement. We exchanged mobile numbers.

The first text she sent me was a racist joke.

The full weight of my PC gorn mad disapproval lumbered forth and sat po-faced on my mobile keypad. I didn't honestly know what to do about it, as changing hearts and minds ain't really likely in a text, is it? So I could have replied coldly and told her off, or pretended it was ok or funny (and racist content aside it wasn't funny), or not respond at all. Which is what I did.

Thing is, I sympathise in some ways with her, because I can point to and remember where her racism was either born or shored up. It was bad and it was a sexual assault. This doesn't mean to say she has a right to be racist: it's just I know where it was compounded.

It may be that she and I are on a road to nowhere. I think we all shove things we don't like about people (their little foibles or hobbyhorses) into little boxes that we don't inspect too closely for our convenience and social harmony, or at least we prioritise our family/friends' good points over their flaws - but where do you draw the line? Some things probably don't jam into boxes too well.

The cruelty factor

I watched some of I'm a celebrity - Get me out of here and was nonplussed by it.
They do it to themselves, it's true, and that's what really hurts.

You know how Tarrant's audiences gasp with shock when they're shown some types of Japanese gameshows and you can feel the pleasurable frisson & whispers of 'ooh those Japanese people they're so weird and not like us' palpably running through them? I bet they're the same people watching the jungle and I've news for them: they're exactly like 'that'.

On the whole, I prefer sleb versions of reality tv generally because at least the people involved know the industry and very likely have agents and advisors who will help them to make the best money & get most mileage out of it.

Britain's Got Talent
and X-Factor make me uneasy, on a number of counts, particularly the early stages where the auditioning public often get thoroughly worked over by the likes of Simon Cowell. I think Matthew Wright used to refer to BGT as 'Laugh at the mentally challenged' or something like that and it does seem to be that way. Sure, once you reach the final stages it's supposedly about talent and performances winning out, but before that there's ritual humiliation for the majority of try-outs.

Of course the winners go on to high-profile careers (or most of them do) so there is that carrot and that hope for them in it. Big Brother doesn't appear to even have that going for it. One of the winners I think used to build for a DIY show and that screechy woman sometimes does talking head appearances for cheapo crappy "best 100 ___ of the year" clip shows. Otherwise they seem to tumble right back into obscurity. Which is no doubt a good thing for tv audiences everywhere, but presumably not what the contestants were looking for.

I suppose there used to be New Faces which was acceptable in the eighties. Iirc they had three judges sitting up in a box (like Statler and Waldorf from the muppets). I wonder if they were as scathing in New Faces as they are on these modern versions, I can't remember.




Reality tv is car-crash tv but this is where Strictly Come Dancing gets a big fat portion of win relatively, if you ask me. The worst humiliation a sleb gets there is if they just don't dance very well. The comments can be a bit cutting but being told (quite rightly) that you dance like my old dad isn't going to send anyone into a loony bin anytime soon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hitching

Christopher Hitchens: God is not great: how religion poisons everything.

I was not sure what to think about this book. I went into it as a relatively resisting reader, not expecting to enjoy it at all, but it was a brisk and easy read as it turned out. (I suspect that would not be the case at all for a theistic reader).

But at the end I'm not convinced. It was mostly because of the socio-political history that Hitchens refers to and uses that, well, I know I don't know enough about, but I felt fairly keenly that his biases are showing, and not necessarily just about theism.

I was uncomfortable with his reference material and would be a lot happier had there been the meticulous referencing you might find perhaps in Dawkins' works. Hitchens is an essayist and this was a polemic, but I felt there wasn't really enough substance to this book and that the reader was expected to know where he was coming from and have reached similar conclusions about recent historical/political machinations, and there wasn't a lot of room for diverting views.

What Hitchens and I can agree on is sort of the more we know the more we realise we don't know and that's really exciting and enthralling rather than frightening.

But I'm not entirely convinced he really believes he has much to learn.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Jedward

Forum bod on the subject of the twins from X-Factor's performance* this weekend:
"I just feel sorry for the people who have spent all that money on the large hadron collidor to get particles to spin round at the speed of light, when all they had to do was stand around poor Freddy Mercury's grave last Saturday night and watch him do it."


* Yes, I had the misfortune of seeing that bit. It was allegedly family-friendly** viewing while the children had some milk before bed to settle them after their exciting hallowe'en.
** I'm pretty sure it was unsuitable viewing. Should've come with a warning label: may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and potential jaw-dislocation.

Arsey with my RC

I really loathe remote controls. I wish all tvs and digi-boxes and such had proper pressable buttons upon their very boxy bits. Why make me dependent on a small thing that can slip through undetectable interdimensional vortices and between cushions when a few buttons on the device itself could make me confident and self-assured and happy?

Losing remote controls in the living room makes me fiercely angry in a slightly worrying just within grips of insanity kind of a way. Where is it? Where is it?

Hallowe'en

I had a most pleasant hallowe'en, not having expected to enjoy it at all. But it worked out nicely.

Daughter was dying to go trick-or-treating, but I couldn't see it working in the village. Then son was invited to a hallowe'en party, (she was invited too), but because of the demographic of the party-goers (small boys) she didn't fancy it. I'd also agreed to do face-painting that afternoon, so that was a time constraint, and I was worried about inviting her friend over (it was our turn) only to have them running around at the venue while obviously I couldn't supervise them properly. It was all a bit hmm and a bit haw.

I was at a loss until she was invited by her friend to go trick-or-treating from theirs. Yay.

The face-painting went well and I was pretty happy with how my faces turned out. And everyone who had 'em done was complimentary.

The children's party held by a friend was fun for me as well as son. Loads of people came to their door trick-or-treating and there were some fantastic costumes: one was an amazing paper pumpkin head, which actually lit up. I wish I'd taken a picture.

Everything meshed well with timings so it wasn't this horrible stress of rushing about everywhere, despite having to go here and there for dropping off and all that. Ah, t'was good.

I was most bemused by this article when I got time to myself for internet trawling. Okaaay. Apparently hallowe'en's all abominations and curses, very exciting, very old testament... I have to admit to some concern over revel nights being so very wrong. The coffee ones taste good.

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's a bit of a worry

Redundancy at its best:

It's time for Wonko the sane to rebuild his asylum.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Groß in Deutschland

I feel a lot better now my library fines are paid off and I can borrow books again. I have been enjoying my re-readings of Terry Pratchett, don't get me wrong, but it's nice to have something new.

I don't know what it is about library books 'though: despite having the ability to renew them online I have this mental block about doing it, as if rabid librarians are about to leap out of the screen and savage me with their dictionaries. It's ridiculous to allow the fines to build up to a size of a cow.

Well, a calf with a limp.

It occurs to me that I ought to read some Rosamunde Pilcher as she is a. Cornish and b. I've been lucky enough to be on the periphery of the filming of one of her novels. Apparently she's very big in Germany. As more of a tv movie, it was nothing like as big & exciting as last year's major film production, (which I'm not allowed to talk about. Squeak "I'm the mascot of an evil corporation!"[/Simpsons]) but it was still interesting. At least until my feet were getting cold and they did the same scene for the nth time from a slightly different angle.

Pilcher is definitely not my usual sort of author, but I might give her a go, just to see: it might have been pure assumption and misplaced intellectual snobbery based on automatically disliking something that a certain person would read. Argh, the pettiness. Or is it just knowing my own taste compared to hers? Or somewhere in between?

If anyone reads Pilcher*, don't be shy, tell me why she's good or why she appeals to Germans or if I'll enjoy her.

Hasselhoff appeals to the Germans musically, I believe.




* And don't be concerned that it might have been you I was being petty about disliking the things that they liked, because a. I didn't know you read Pilcher or I'd have been more circumspect, and b. I wouldn't have been petty about it here if it was you I was being petty about. So neah.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ghastly little man

I daresay I'm late to the party. Well, damned sure I'm late to the party about Question Time and the appearance of Nick Griffin, but I thought I'd write about it anyway before I look around and read other blogs and what have you online. (I'm not using the internet as much lately, which is probably a good thing, but means that I am a bit behind).

I thought he was a sweaty 'orrible little man and he was caught several times in outright lies & misdirections and felt quite satisfied that the man had made an utter tit of himself.

What worried me, however, is the idea that was suggested in the Andrew Neil prog afterwards that maybe some people would feel sorry for him as he seemed outnumbered.

This was borne out to me personally a few days later when some of the people I was working with, older middle-class people, were saying exactly that. They felt sorry for him and maybe he did have a point about immigration. They didn't seem to have noticed the stuff about holocaust-denial, nor where Griffin lied or fudged about holocaust-denial being illegal in this country, which it isn't.

I guess this is confirmation bias at work. When I see Nick Griffin's performance, I see a disgusting toad of a man, trying to weasel out of his own words. But when more right-leaning types see him they might see a much misunderstood, much beset fellow? Alarming. I hope no credibility was gained by him through the programme.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Petty little thing, let me light your candle

I like to take the moral highground when I can, but sometimes I indulge in reassuring fantasies of petty revenge. Or petty fantasies of reassuring revenge.

My boss who has done me wrong (you'll have to take my word for it and be on my side without knowing all facts as is meet and right on my very own blog, for I will explain no further) left his winkle-pickers unattended this morning and I amused myself well with notions of what to fill them with.

Would it be feasible that a squashed olive had managed to insert itself into the toe? A few crumbs might have crept in? Would he notice if a trampled chip were ground into the sole? What if the mop should drip by accident some bleachified dirty water? Would a stale drink seep out or slosh around inside? What if someone had mistaken them for a toilet brush? Could they mysteriously become ornament to the lamp-shades?

These musings kept me amused throughout my work and occasionally made me cackle out-loud like a lunatic. Fortunately shielded by the noise of the vacuum.

Alas, I contented myself with hanging them up out of the way (although in a manner that amused me mightily in my pathetic impotence) - and the fact that they are winkle-pickers and that's probably punishment enough.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Memories are made of this.

Ah, children. The first time they smile, the first time they laugh, their first steps. The first time they accuse you of treating them like a filthy slave, no less (for having the audacity to expect them to tidy their rooms).

These are the moments that make it all worthwhile and will raise a smile forever.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Never, without permission

There's a frankly terrifying shampoo advert on telly. I was too traumatised* to remember what the product was, but it was shampoo alright.

A woman is in a hairdresser's and some chappie is touching her silky tresses. Nothing so sinister about that, until you realise the frightening bit.

The frightening bit is that he turns out to be the water-delivery guy.

The mad woman smiles sexily as he pushes out his trolley, having been discovered, but that's because in stupid-fucking-advert-land women find it a compliment for weirdo strangers to pretend to work in their hairdresser's and rub one out** on their hair.

Eurgh.


* Hyperbole. And it turned out to be Head & Shoulders when I had misfortune to see it again.
**I may be overstating the case slightly: no actual masturbation going on as that would probably not pass the censors, haha. But it's still not a compliment and it's still not sexy for some strange man to help himself to parts of a woman's body. Gerroff.

Stop! This programme is getting far too silly... Attention director.... Wait for it!

I'm enjoying the new American series FlashForward so far, but the most recent episode I've seen, episode 3, **spoilers follow, highlight to read** features the FBI going over to Germany and releasing an ex-Nazi from prison.

Now this strained credulity beyond the stretchiest of stretchy-out things. What about German sovereignty? What about what Israel would have to say about it? What about internal American politics and lobbyists? What about an international stink kicked-up by the UN (and everywhere) surely? How come it takes a couple of phone calls, about five minutes and it's done?

Even given wide-spread devastation and fear, it wouldn't be a matter of 'let my Nazis go'. Extraordinary rendition when they sweep him off to Gitmo and water-board him til he squeaks maybe I could believe, but a bit of moralising from colleagues and yay, on with the plot?

Well, it was pushing it a bit, I felt.

Maybe all that'll come into play next episode. As it stands, it's a bit of jingoistic US arrogance in the plotting there.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Saturday night's alright for blighting

Saturday nights on the BBC are a masterwork of programming. The early evening contains possibly the most bizarre series ever, Hole in the Wall, where y*-list celebrities dress as tubes of toothpaste and attempt to form shapes before a polystyrene wall pushes them into a pool of water. When they add the piranhas, it'll attain a whole new level of joy to watch.

Hosted by Anton du Beke, a positive grinning machine of 'affectionate' racism, it features other Strictly people, notably Austin Healey's manhood. I mean, it features Austin Healey's package. I mean, it features Austin Healey's meat and two veg. I mean, it features Austin Healey's groin. I mean, it features Austin Healey's cock. You know, I just can't get that sentence out properly... It's mesmerising. You can't help but look, the eye is drawn... He might as well have an arrow painted on his chest pointing down there. It wouldn't damage the overall sartorial message.

Then there's Merlin, which is a reworking of Arthurian legend. It's interesting and good fun although historicity is probably not its strong point. Not that the legends belong reliably to any time period. But things like Arthur's interest in Guinevere (she is cast as a servant) which in those times (whenever they weren't) he'd probably have satiated by simply ordering her to his bed. I like the series in much the same way I liked Smallville initially, the taking of the material and making it their own rather than trying to remain faithful to what's gone before.

And then there's Strictly Come Dancing, which spawned the likes of Du Beke and Healey's package onto our screens, and for that it's hard to know what to feel. Oily pricks aside, I have to watch Strictly.

It's that or the X-factor and at least Strictly doesn't have those lousy 'heart-warming' sob-stories where I may throw up. I caught a bit of one episode where Cheryl Cole got up on stage to hug & comfort a competitor: it was the most awkward and faky looking thing. I don't think the fact that CC could barely walk in her high heels and had the tiniest tightest skirt on helped. She looked in need of the sea-witch to give her her tail back more than anything. Dressing impractically has its upsides no doubt, but walking naturally and being able to give a hug are not part of 'em.

Oh I enjoy Saturday nights viewing.

No, really, I do.


* As in "Whyyyyy?!" What have the poor British public done to deserve this? Apart from not bothering to vote and reading the Daily Fail, the bastards. And suffering Richard LittleJohn to live still. They deserve all they get.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Media and public health

I think it's very worrying the way that news about public health is handled in the media. In the last few days regarding Natalie Morton, the media were very quick to lash the HPV vaccine and her death together. Yet it seems today that the underlying medical condition she had was a tumour and the vaccination has been ruled out as a cause of death entirely.

This relieves my mind as a parent who has to make those vaccination decisions, although I can't imagine the grief of the bereaved family. How awful it must be for them to have her death (and then have it compounded by the attendant media interest).

I think the media should be more responsible and measured.

I think that the government could handle things better: with the MMR, they did these scary and patronising adverts of babies and cliff-tops and lions, irrc. Those made me quite angry. Their leaflets actually made me more distrustful because they didn't give me facts, it gave me spin, and I can recognise spin. I feel they would have been more successful in getting their message through if they had trusted people with the hard information. It's plain that they think poorly of their audience's comprehension, but if science is presented simply & well and isn't shrouded by a lot of patronising guff, I do think that most people would be able to weigh it up for themselves. Maybe I'm being naive, but then their cynicism about people doesn't work. An attitude of 'we need to bamboozle you' because you won't understand the facts backfired rather well I think, and the anti-vaxxers ended up sounding more genuine.

On the bright side, they now have Health News from NHS Choices, which tells you about the research papers and strengths/weaknesses of them that the Daily Fail et al fish out their striking 'facts' from, to help you put such stories into perspective. I urge you to pass on the url to anyone who swallows medical 'news' stories whole.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A few reviews

I notice that although I've kept my reading list post pretty much updated, I haven't actually blogged about any of the books I've read. This might be in part because I've been re-reading a lot of Georgette Heyer and therefore shy about discussing it, and partly because I have multiple places where I review books. But I think my reading post looks a bit unloved without links to rambles about the books themselves.



Georgette Heyer : The Conqueror

Now Georgette Heyer is a bit like a bar of chocolate concealed at the back of the art cupboard; her books are a bit of a treat and naughty self-indulgence. She's best-known for her Regency romances. Heyer's women and their relationships would not stand up particularly well to feminist critique, so I take care to remove that particular hat when I read her.

However, she was actually a better writer than you might think and her historical research was meticulous to the point of obsessive. One of her books that I've re-read recently was The Conqueror. For this book, apparently she re-traced William I's steps on his journey from Normandy to clash with Harold in 1066, as well as thoroughly researching the period and people. The Conqueror is a fascinating take on the time. Having read this, I picked up a book on the Bayeux Tapestry, something I wouldn't usually have much interest in and was gripped; I will hopefully get it out of the library soon (once I've paid off my fines, ahem).



Ben Elton: First Casualty

The storyline is of a conscientious objector policeman being sent into the frontline to investigate the murder of a prominent war hero/poet and aristocratic gay man, Viscount Abercrombie.

The depiction of the first world war trenches and frontline environment seemed realistic. But some of the scenes of the novel were rather far-fetched: such as performing forensics under fire in an enemy trench, which stretched credulity somewhat. Ahem.

Elton leans a little too much towards the didactic in his depiction of the history and politics of the time, which was a trap he fell into with his comedy too. There were aspects which felt squeezed in, so he could cover all the issues he wanted to talk about, such as the suffragette's justified hatred of policeman (the Cat & Mouse Act etc).

I also felt that although Elton tried to depict a free-loving feminist, there was some unfortunate slip-shod thinking in it: *spoilers in same colour as background* I didn't like her sudden and desperate falling for of the hero, which seemed to undermine her independence, nor the fact that to be raped she had to be anally raped. This I think played into issues about "rapability": ie. a woman who is sexually active loses credibility or the ability to say no, (tropes about which there is much discussion on The F-word and in feminism generally). The teenaged girl who is threatened with rape earlier in the book: she is naive and virginal, so threat of 'just' rape is enough for her, but the sexually confident suffragette, she has to actually be raped and sodomised. I think it was unnecessary and smacks somewhat of the virgin/whore construct.

I liked the self-conscious questioning of the investigation of one man's murder in the context of mass-slaughter in the trenches and the futility of war. But it was difficult to tell whether some of dialogue was meant to be funny or po-faced, so I felt the book didn't quite work as well as intended. The protagonist himself wasn't particularly likeable and the ending seemed a bit rushed and too neat.

Overall, it was a reasonable thriller/crime novel. A decent read.


Steven Poole: Unspeak

This book takes you through the language that politicians and the media use and explains how important that vocabulary is. Words can disguise, deflect and mislead in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The book deals with what you probably already knew or suspected, but perhaps hadn't put into words. If you've ever listened to a politician or spokesperson and some of their wording just itched at you, this book may explain why.

To give an example from Poole's book, the insidious use of 'terrorist suspect' rather than 'suspected terrorist'. The two may seem interchangeable but the inflection and meanings which go with them are not. And a lot of time and thought is put into these matters of wording by the people introducing them. The problem with 'terrorist suspect' is that it begs the question and denies the principle of innocent until proven guilty. We can lock up 'terrorist suspects' without trial indefinitely and waterboard them because they're 'terrorists' first and 'suspects' a poor second. With 'suspected terrorists', you'd have to find out whether you could prove they'd done anything or not first, which would be mighty inconvenient.

I found it an eye-opening and thought-provoking read.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Something very simple made complex

There's a lot of debate over the arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland, but you know, it's startlingly simple. The man committed and admitted statutory rape 30 years ago then did a bunk, and has been avoiding answering for his crime ever since. A full-grown man plied a 13 year old child with alcohol & tranquillisers and raped her.

It's a no-brainer.

I find it disgusting that some in the film industry support him and are arguing he shouldn't be extradited. How confusing it must seem to them for someone in that industry to be held to account for the crime he has committed. My goodness, why don't the films he's made make it all ok? What's the rape of a child compared to 90 minutes of glorious inspiring celluloid? Surely if one's evaded the law for thirty years one should just be allowed to get away with it for pure persistence.

Perhaps it's living in those shiny gold cages of privilege that makes it difficult for them to see what's so blindingly obvious to me.

Body Williams

What is Robbie Williams blithering on about in his new single, Bodies?

There's god and Jesus and the Bodhi tree and chemistry sets* and Gok Wan** and reflection perfections. And did Jesus really die for him or not?

There he chants his rhythmic senseless sentences (or sings even) and all I can think is, get some proper lyrics in. Is he arguing with his choir at the end? Why has he borrowed Buddha's tree? Is there some meaning to his warblings? Or is he just rhyming randomly? Or hoping to court controversy by saying Jesus did/didn't/did/didn't die?

Make sense, man.



* Well, chemistry.
** Well, "look good naked". Leave me alone, it's funnier when it's inaccurate.

You do it to yourself

In the local garage, there's a poster advertising pole-dancing lessons as the latest thing in fitness and female empowerment. Fitness, well, maybe: I grant you it must take some strength and agility to whirlygig around a bit of scaffolding. Female empowerment: nah, I don't think so.

It is again this thing of sexuality being the sum of womanhood, this twisted bastard born of our "post-feminist" society, (because after all we're all equal now, we all get paid the same for the same work, a whopping 6% of rapists get convicted, we never needed feminism in the first place, we've all always been able to vote and had the right to be educated & not to be raped in marriage, amongst other things [/heavy-handed sarcasm]).

Being or feeling sexy isn't the equivalent of being powerful. I can see it might help some women feel more confident, but it's through buying into something very suspect.

Fart music

There's a song on the radio, which squeals that someone has found shoes and is ready for the weekend. However, I persist in hearing it as "Oooh I'm gonna fart shoes and I'm ready for the weekend".

This neatly explains the squealing, I guess.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Facebookery

Facebook has myriad possibilities for social politics: it's a minefield.

I have recently been adding family, which posed questions. If I added my aunt and my cousin, would it be impolitic to fail to add my other cousin-with-whom-I-have-a-passive-aggressive-non-relationship? It's not that we are at outs, it's just that we don't interact.

And of course it puts her in the position of either seemingly rejecting my "friendly overture" (born out of not wanting to seem to dislike her or single her out by not adding her) or accepting me for the same reason that I'm trying to add her. I suspect we both would rather not be FB friends, but both probably thought not to be would be a political incident.

Ooh it's complex.

But I think FB has improved in the time I've been on there. The ability to hide "news" from applications which annoy me and not necessarily the people using them is a good un. I don't want to see the sort of slideshows some people think are amusing to send to others, for example, so it's good to be able to at a click dispose of such stuff.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What has a big streak of yellow running through it?

I often wonder about the experience of atheists in the US and whether the Bible-belt and religious right over there are as powerful as sometimes claimed. It seems so completely alien to the experience of being an atheist in the UK, which is frankly no experience at all. Day to day, nobody really gives a toss, quite rightly, and it's certainly never negatively impacted on me.

In the news though, a curious thing: that a British film on Charles Darwin, Creation, has apparently thus far failed to find a distributor in the US. The reason is believed to be the subject matter, which follows Darwin's personal life and alleged spiritual struggle, Christianity vs science. I say alleged, because I'm not sure that it was a big issue for Darwin. There's a terrible temptation to rewrite history and endow protagonists with prescient imagination for our own agendas, when writing a book or making a film about someone. A bit like the way Dr Who always hands Shakespeare that killer quote when he meets him.

Personally I can't see why evolution and god are necessarily incompatible (and neither can plenty of Christians and the RC church, if they know anything about it all). Besides, he's supposed to work in mysterious ways; it's part of the job description. Why would a lack of instantaneous kapowing creatures into existence be the god-killer?

Big cowardy custards, I say to those film distributors, if it's true.

It all seems so terribly unlikely somehow. It does not fit with the world according to Mephit, (which is of course the way the world should be).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eb-heyyyy...

I haven't ebayed anything for quite some time and don't necessarily pay much attention to the messages it sends, so I was a bit taken aback when trying to put a few things up for auction to find it's changed the rules.

Now, if you attempt to put p&p different to the majority of other people on the same item, it won't let you (unless presumably it's lower). This is all very well, but it means that if you are a casual seller like myself you're forced to compete with bulk sellers who charge nothing for p&p. I'm selling something used and so I can't & wouldn't expect to sell it for the same price as the bulk sellers selling new. They're all 'buy it now' at fixed prices, and here's me trying to sell to the interested party at whatever price they're prepared to pay, so long as I'm not making a loss through p&p. I just sell off things I no longer have a use for, not ebay as a business. I used to start my auctions low, and the chances were, with me, that the buyer would get an absolute bargain. I always worked out the p&p fairly, using the online Royal Mail postage calculator, so I wasn't overcharging or making profit that way. I was genuine ¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º article ¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º honest ¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º Ebayer++++++++.

Now if I'm to cover my costs, I have to start my item at a higher price, which means Ebay can charge me higher fees for just starting an auction. This pisses me off.

I wouldn't have minded if part of the selling process entailed having to go through a postage calculator, but it does seem DuncanBanntyne-ridicklus this way. It's simply not a fair playing field and weighted against the small-time seller. Making sure buyers aren't ripped off is one thing, but I feel picked on.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Riddle me this

Why does my cat go out to eat grass and come in to throw up?

Couldn't he just damned well stay out?

Alas poor OS

After just over two weeks offline due to the death of our operating system, I feel a tiny bit pleased to be back online. Just a smidge.

I do think it was probably good for me to be forced to abandon my Lexulous games, and now that my computer has to have everything reinstalled, it might be better not to add that which allows me to play it.

It was amazing how many times I had to stop and work out another way of doing things when I'd usually go straight to the pc. I use it for banking and bills, for looking up trivia, for checking and comparing news, for contacting people, for work and volunteering times, for finding places I'm travelling to, for recipes, shopping, all sorts really; it was an incredible pain in the arse not being able to just nip online and do all that stuff. And things would pop into my head that I'd like to blog.

I discovered that my phone can fit about 130 pictures on it before it's filled: I'd never tested its capacity so far before. I discovered that the only thing I cared about that we might have lost on the pc were the photos and most particularly the last one of my gran when we took her out to Lanhydrock shortly before she died. I was delighted that we got them all back and I'm going to be spending the next few days catching up on backing up all those photos of which I spent my time bemoaning the potential loss.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Heyer

I have read a frightening amount of Georgette Heyer this month. My mum inherited the first editions and hardbacks so passed on her paperback set where duplicated.

Heyer's books are old friends and comforting. It's the equivalent of eating chocolates. I feel a bit sick now...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Barbieque

I've been constructing a list of ideas for ways for us to occupy ourselves over the summer holiday:
library, beach, country walks, biking, museums, cinema, local fetes & events, camping, day-trips, swimming, wood-working, experiments, play-dates, art & crafts projects and gardening. We've tickets for the theatre and hope to see the Dr Who exhibition at Lands End. There are council-provided sports activities that I'll probably send them off to as well.

In Barbie's 2006 annual, which has somehow re-emerged from ignoredsville, her ideas for the holidays are "Monday is for beauty, Tuesday is for chat, Wednesday is for spa, Thursday is for shopping, Friday is for hanging out". Why, thank you, Barbie.

My next idea for the holiday: Wednesday is for burning Barbie on a pyre.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Haffilax

I don't like the Halifax adverts where all the bank workers make themselves into bridges and steps for their customers, something slavish and unsettling about it.

Curiouser and curiouser

Most days I have to chivvy and chide and getting the children dressed in school uniform takes a frustratingly long time.

Strangely, on a day when we suddenly remember it's mufti, changing out of uniform and into casuals takes seconds rather than minutes.

I can't think why. School clothes must have especially tricky fastenings, which seems somewhat of a manufacturing fault.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Schmorts Day

The children's sports day was a fun event. Well, I liked watching the races, anyway, if the social aspect left me cold.

I wanted to buy a bun or something, but couldn't find my money, and I could've sworn I'd taken a couple of pounds with me. I'd deliberately put them aside for it. I searched my bag twice and then my pockets, to no end. I found the money hours later when I thought to try my jeans pocket. D'oh. I'd looked in my jacket and hooded top pockets, but totally missed my jeans. Still on the bright side, it saved me from the meringues.

One sour note was the very loud man behind me grumping about the behaviour of one of the children and saying he'd like to smack him one. It made me wild, especially as a. that child has special needs and b. I, or anyone around me, could've been that child's parent for all he knew, the gobshite. Perhaps he didn't know about the special needs, so maybe it would just look like poor behaviour to him, but eurgh. Another one for my shit-list.

One really nice thing was the ball game where said child was part of a team, and his absolute pleasure when he caught the ball and threw it back was palpable. It really made me smile, and his teammates were amazingly patient and inclusive of him, despite the other teams having finished way before them. Warmed me cockles, it did.

Carpe jugulum

The bloke from the PostalGold tv adverts is quite frightening, I think. He is unnervingly rigid and it would not surprise me in the least if he were a vampire*. He looks as though he is staring you into submission and about to go for your neck.


*Apart from the surprise at vampires actually existing. But if they did, he'd be Lord God King Vampirus.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Know when you've been bespoken to

One of the things I like about myself, (and these things are often fairly few, depending upon my mood), is that when I get an idea into my head about a project, I don't let lack of knowledge or such frivolities dissuade me from it.

Yesterday I made a table out of the pieces of our old bed. I did one term's woodworking in senior school years ago, so I'm quite impressed with myself. It is not, I must stress, beautiful, but it is stable, sturdy and doesn't have any legs shorter than the other. I rock, but the table doesn't. Haha.


It fits perfectly in its designated space where it fulfils a dual purpose of lifting my crate of CDs to a height where I can actually look with comfort to see what I have, and also has a room underneath for the cat's litter tray, (and when we get a cat-flap, it'll accommodate his food tray instead). I may add a shelf in the middle at some point for extra storage. I'll probably drape something over it when we have visitors to conceal the cat accoutrements.

I'd been thinking about searching local charity shops for something to fit the space for a while and then suddenly the light-bulb went on about whacking together something myself.

I tell you something though, the circular saw gets my adrenalin going.

Monday, July 06, 2009

D.V and the Little Shit

T'other night husband went out drinking and afterwards went to have the obligatory kebab. Outside, as he stuffed his face with this goodly nourishment, he observed a young man of 18 or so (henceforth known as The Little Shit or TLS) call over his girlfriend of 16 or so, counting down "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, come here you stupid slut" and when she did, slap her around. This was rinse cycle repeated until her friends managed to lead her away.

TLS saw husband and snarled the cliché, "What you looking at?"
Husband responded: "You being a LS to your girlfriend."

Husband took off his belt and wrapped it around his hand. TLS seemed to have second thoughts about his inquiry. Husband suggested a course of treating the girlfriend with dignity and respect. TLS shat himself and withdrew.

Pretty much end of episode.

I only wish it would make a difference. I think it is good that husband called TLS out on his behaviour, although obviously I'm a bit anxious about him potentially getting into fights. It would've been better if he'd called the police and had TLS arrested. But anyway, no point in second guessing it all now.

It's just so depressing that this young pair are already in that cycle of domestic violence. It was their youth that got to husband most, thinking about our daughter growing up. I hope the girl gets out of the relationship before it does her much more harm.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Make my body chunder

Last night I fumed away merrily to the programme Make My Body Younger. It's a show that gets some poor sap to have a "living autopsy" (Post-mortem! Tut, tut, BBC - we are British after all) and tells them how old bits of their body are as compared to how old they really are. So if you're a heavy drinker, your liver's age might appear to be a lot older than your actual age, if you see what I mean. I suppose it makes a change from the makeover programmes that are about conformity and conventional standards of beauty, though.

They got this young Plymouthian woman on and because of her appalling diet, smoking and drinking, her age came out as 50 when she was in her early twenties. They then set about changing her lifestyle and diet. Most of it seemed to consist of making her eat raw vegetables while filming her gag & retch and setting her the task that she must try one new fruit and vegetable a day. In the makers' defence, I suppose they did send her to a hypnotherapist in an attempt to address the phobia she seemed to have, but I still think there was way too much voyeuristic camera-time watching her choke.

If you really wanted to get fruit and veg into her diet, wouldn't it make more sense to show her ways of sneaking vegetables into her meals and making fruit smoothies or something? Tastier methods than getting her to eat a raw mushroom.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ptooey

Just an addendum to my post of yesterday, the use of the phrase "joined-up thinking" automatically makes you wrong, wrong, wronger than a wrong thing. You're on my shit-list, (as L-7 so rightly...)

Roux-who

I was amused by the information that The Bill's "June Ackland" is the mother of La Roux. Or rather La Roux's lead singer, Ellie.

La Roux are problematic to me; they're very catchy and stick in your head-ish, but her voice grates on me. So I veer from irritation to enjoyment and back again as they play on the radio. Umph-argh-ah-argh-mmm-grrr.

By the by, if you've not tried Spotify, you really should. Free music streaming to your pc.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I think this speaks for itself


That is all.

BMPray

Today the BMA are discussing whether doctors praying for patients should be a disciplinary matter. This is a sort of reprise of the problem with Nurse Petrie.

The Wright Stuff had the topic this morning and I was surprised at how strongly I reacted against it initially, (but then it was phrased slightly differently to the Guardian's more considered piece).

However, I just don't think prayer is the business of doctors, and I don't think it's an appropriate time or setting. In hospitals, there are already chapels and visiting services, so that a patient can ask for a priest or rabbi or whatever. I mean, in these times of economic constraint, do we really want to put vicars out of work?!

A doctor, even more so than a nurse, is in a position of trust and authority over the patient: you're relying on their knowledge and skills to help you get better. It's hard to say no to a doctor, and often there's a feeling of indebtedness/gratitude towards the people who are caring for you (not always of course, given stats of violence against the emergency services, but often). When you're ill and vulnerable is not the time to be made to feel socially awkward unnecessarily.

And it does feel awkward to turn something down that is kindly meant. The alternative is to go along with it (graciously) when you don't want it, and that's an imposition and you feel a hypocrite.

Matthew Wright kept going on about the 50% of the population who apparently pray regularly potentially liking a shift that allowed doctors to pray with them, but where does that leave the other 50%? Potentially feeling put upon and less than. Why should the latter group's wishes be of less consequence than the former's, especially when religious facilities can be accessed in hospitals anyway, so believers aren't being denied anything?

I think it's OK for a medical professional to ask their patient if they feel they'd want a priest (or whatever) to visit them, because that gives a bit of distance where the patient can refuse (or accept) without feeling they are rebuffing that person. Offering to pray with them directly is a step too far, it's too personal and can feel like rejecting the person rather than the offer. Unless it's something that patient initiates, then it seems to me that doctors should keep their prayers private.

So I guess the answer I come to is that I do think that it should be a disciplinary matter. I wouldn't want anyone sacked over it, but I think it crosses a boundary that's there for good reasons, and if if that happens it's appropriate to intervene.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Alpha males

I watched the first in a series on Channel 4 about religion, called Revelations: how to look for God last night. It followed a group of agnostics through the 'Alpha course'.

It was a documentary by Jon Ronson, who I don't know much about. He has quite an annoying, scornful-sounding voice, although I couldn't tell whether sneer is his default setting for everything or whether it was reserved for this topic, not having seen anything else he's done.

All in all I found it quite disappointing, just the style of it. Although we were following a group, really only three of them featured to any extent and those were men. We found out very little about them, and even less about the other members of the group. One woman did reappear a couple of times, but her airtime seemed less than her male counterparts. The hour-length didn't allow for any great depth, it seems, and it was mere scratching at the surface. I think it would have been better to have a couple of programmes following them really, or a much broader focus on the wider course, as this format was unsatisfying in that you just didn't know enough about the people involved.

I found it surprising that on the weekend away with the Alpha course, the participants were invited to speak in tongues as well as partake of communion and so forth. This seemed a lot more out there and charismatic-churchy than I had expected the Alpha course to be. (Of course, I'd never really thought too much about what the course would entail before, but I'd assumed it was more restrained and buttoned up than that.) According to Ronson, all Alpha courses follow the same structure, but whether encouraging speaking in tongues is the norm as well, I don't know. (I had never considered speaking in tongues mainstream Christianity, and whether it is or not perplexes me).

What struck me about the scenes where the leader was trying to get them to indulge in speaking in tongues, was the tone of voice and repetitions he used. These reminded me very strongly of Derren Brown in his stage show, when he's trying to get some of his audience into a trance. Amusingly this atmosphere was dispelled when another conference being held at the retreat broke up and drove away in their sputtering sports cars just at the (in)opportune moment.

Two of our featured group were seriously repulsed by this stage and left. The woman decided the course had actually put her off organised religion. But one young guy, Dave, was intrigued and moved by it all and said that he would attend another Alpha course in the future, seemingly on his way to Christianity, (or rather back to it, having been brought up in it).

It was an interesting documentary, but I don't think an hour was long enough really.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Powered by belch

T'other day I was walking and it was hot and I was thirsty. I had 50p in my pocket and thought I'd go see if I could buy something to drink. I didn't have anything else on me.

My expectations were low - I thought maybe, just maybe, I could get a child's carton of juice, if I was lucky. But no, all those were at least 20p out of my price range. A small bottle of water was even further out of reach at nearly a pound for the cheapest.

However, I could buy a 2 litre bottle of own-brand fizzy lemonade and have 11p change.

There's something a bit screwy about that.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Of ponytail pulling

In the ad breaks during Supernatural (end of series finale last night! Eek. What to do without it? My Sunday evenings are ruined!), ITV2 kept running trailers for Katie & Peter Stateside.

It was strange watching these when the news came out that they were splitting and the ads were still all lovey-dovey. Now it seems the ads show more of the misery. I don't really have an opinion about the sleb couple as I don't watch the programme, (although I guess it hits my disapproval meter fairly high that they make their children live their lives in a goldfish bowl).

But anyway, what snagged my attention about the ads were the captions, 'you've seen them happy', 'you're seen the romance', 'now see the depressing, bitter break-up', 'drink it up & roll around in it*' - that kind of thing. But following a caption about 'you've seen the flirting', you see a scene of Peter pulling Katie's ponytail rather hard from behind. Of course, it's out of context so perhaps it was part of some mutual horseplay, but otherwise it seems an odd image to choose for flirting.

For being bloody annoying, it would work.

For being unpleasantly physical while expecting the recipient to laugh it off, it would work.

I want to find the trailer editors and pull the chairs out from under them (flirtily, of course).



* Not real captions.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Let me count the ways

This is the 800th post on this blog and I feel like celebrating with an appreciation of the good things in my life. Or at least some of the little things. I'm conscious that I often have a beef to express when I blog, so this is a bit of a breather. But if you're feeling cynical or hard-done-by today, you may wish to avert your eyes...

I could talk about my husband and children, but I'll just say that they make that simple song "you are my sunshine" feel profound. I could talk about my friends, but I want to break it down much further to some, in the scale of things, very minor things that please me.

Have I ever told you about how much I like dandelions? The top picture may suggest as much and I say I'm fond of them in my profile, but I don't think I've ever shared my full enthusiasm for them. Most people seem to hate them and think they're horrid weeds. And they are weeds*, yet the rich yellow flower is very cheery.

I love their cycle, first the flower, which when over closes and the old petals form a tip that you can pull off, and later opens the puff of the seed-head. Then of course we can play at deciding the time by blowing the seeds off the 'clock'. Not only are there these tactile and satisfying interactions, but every herbivorous pet adores the taste of the leaves. Feeding a dandelion flower stalk-first to a hamster through the bars is fun and strangely fascinating, as it draws it munchily into its pouches and ends with an Ermintrude-like moment with just the head at the side of its mouth. The other thing I love about dandelions is that we ourselves can eat them in salads and make them into drinks. It's useful, it's tactile, it's handsome, it's persistent.

The other thing I cite as being fond of in my profile is the chaffinch. It's such a nice little bird, if common as can be. I love the red of its plumage, not as bright as the robin, more tasteful. I like its calls and the flash of white as it flies. I like to see them flitting in the hedge, jolly little birds.

I love the view from my front door, when I look out across the river. I can see for miles and miles and miles [/The Who**]. Indeed I love the view as I drive anywhere from my house. I love that I can walk down to the beach and swim in the mornings, (although I don't if the waves look at all big as I am a wuss). I love the taste of saltwater on my skin afterwards.

I love walking barefoot in the grass.

There is certainly more to say, but it's nice to appreciate those things for the minute. Life isn't all bad.



* And the definition of a weed is merely a plant in the wrong place.
** Who I also like.


Finished: Neverness

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The stupid it burns

People are weird.

On the one hand, we have the fact the economy and government generally are in a bit of a mess. The people in charge of all this, the people with the power, are predominantly white, middle-to-upper class men. Yet to show outrage at the state of things, some of the electorate voted for the BNP.

Yes, everything would be hunky-dory if it wasn't for those naughty immigrants, taking the jobs 'we' don't want and clearly managing hedge-funds & mortgages etc terribly badly in their spare time.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Breakfast appearances


After Jesus in a marmite lid, the appearance of PacMan in a scotch pancake* is perhaps less impressive. (And not nearly as good as the man in my plaster, who beats Jesus in marmite into a cocked hat).

But don't knock it too much, we all need encouragement in our daily lives and this tells me to go on alternately running away from and chasing ghosts. Nom nom nom.



*And no, I didn't just cut a bit out of it, it was like that straight from the pan.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Chasing feathers

It's a more dangerous business than you might think.

Small boy managed to fracture his arm (in a minor way) yesterday, while in pursuit of plumage at school. Poor little chap. He's quite happy now he has a cast on, it's obviously supporting his wrist enought to keep him comfortable.

It seems the Birds wreak their revenge for whatever they might wish to revenge themselves in subtler ways than DuMaurier predicted.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hedgitant

If your neighbour trims your hedge, should you feel grateful or reproved?

Cameo broached

It doesn't sit well with me that apparently Mike Tyson has a cameo in a comedy film, The Hangover. Perhaps it would be unfair not to allow for the rehabilitation of his public persona: perhaps the rape conviction, ear-biting and so forth should be allowed to shimmer mirage-like into the past.

It does worry me that celebrities can make comeback after comeback, and apparently we forget or forgive their most extreme lows and crimes even.

It's fortunate that it's not the kind of film that would appeal to me anyway, I guess.



finished: The First Casualty

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hosses 1 - Human 0

Feeding four ponies is not as easy as it sounds, especially when a non-horsy person gets lumbered with the task.

Three of them are to get a handful of pony food, while the fourth, the geriatric, gets more to keep his condition up. In order to do this, you set the first three buckets down, far enough apart that one pony can't dominate and keep all three buckets to herself. She would if she could; ponies are quite mild-mannered creatures, but there's a definite hierachy. Then you take the fourth bucket and the old chap follows at a fair old clip to the stable, where he can be shut in safe to consume his dinner. The other three would drive him off his food, as he is their minion, the lowest ranked in the group.

Poor M, he had this task. The three buckets went down amongst the milling equines, and it was looking simple. Off he went to the stable, followed by the old boy. But the crafty fellow had seen that M had left the gate open, and instead of following him into the stable, did a neat sidestep and pegged it into the garden. In hot pursuit, M failed to rectify his schoolboy error of leaving the gate open, and one of the others joined the garden-time gambolling.

At this point, M did a lot of catch-up gate-closing: field and garden. He tried to tempt the troublesome two back into the field with much bucket-shaking, coaxing and showing of food. But the pair were unimpressed and uncooperative.

Chasing them about waving his arms, only got them excited and skidding about the bushes. When one of them raised its bottom to him threateningly, he decided enough was enough. He returned defeated and relayed his tale of woe.

I laughed six miles there, and while I caught them and while I sorted out their feed. I laughed six miles back again with added vigour.

Part of the problem was that he'd been trying to feed them fishfood.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Charming... Or how Jacqueline Wilson has a lot to answer for.

On a trip to a soft play centre, my daughter and her best friend were discussing good and bad dreams they'd had.

"Oh, oh, my best ever dream, that I'd be hoping to have for ages and I finally did about a year ago, was that our mums were dead and we went to the dumping ground together..."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pah

I'm not blogging very successfully at the moment. I had no less than six posts in draft mode that I'd written and abandoned half-way through over the last couple of weeks, which I've now deleted. This is either because they were too personal or because I'd lost confidence in my ramblings. Pish posh.

It's a bit pants. I should publish and be damned, perhaps*.


*Haha, don't even have the confidence not to use a modifier in that sentence!


finished: Darwin's Children

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eek

Lily Allen's current single, 'Not Fair', appeals very much to the children with its "I think you're really mean" and "it's not fair" refrains. Allen's got a knack for the unfortunately catchy.

While the song is all about not getting to orgasm with a selfish lover.

Bring back Mary Whitehouse, I say, dig her up!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Seals at Gweek

Over Easter we took a trip to the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek.



The weather was good for us and the setting of the centre is just beautiful. There are reasonably lengthy walks to get to the seal pools themselves and further to the otter area, but these are attractive and interesting to walk, interspersed with information boards about wildlife you can potentially see in the area or facts about the centre, its animals and its work. The question boards where you have to figure out the answers were a big hit with the children, particularly my eldest.



We were lucky enough that the children had the opportunity to participate in feeding the sea lions, and the short talk which went with it was just right for the audience. The seals and sea lions themselves were splendid fellows and we spent a very long time watching them swim underwater through a viewing wall, all of us trying to catch a picture as they sped by. Other attractions included paddocks of ponies, artificial rockpools with sealife, the "safari bus" and the otter enclosure. The wooded walk to the otters' home was particularly picturesque as we had left all signs of boatyards in the river behind: we saw egrets and nesting swans on our stroll.



The children made 'lucky pennies' in a machine on the way in, and their own badges near the rockpool. Making the badges was especially rewarding and something my son wanted to discuss at his next class "show & tell".

We had a great time and my daughter was negotiating to come back again, as we left.

One reservation I would have about recommending the Seal Sanctuary to others would be the pricing for entry. We were fortunate to have vouchers, but otherwise a family of four would have been £36. However, you can buy discounted tickets online, and of course, the work the sanctuary does for the seals is no doubt worth the money.

We didn't visit the cafe as we had lunched in the car en route, but the icecreams in the shop were reasonably priced, as were sticks of rock. The shop was relatively small, but that's not a bad thing (having chased children round massive ones before now, saying no fifty times a second), and from what little looking I did beyond sweeties and ices, the selection of toys and souvenirs appeared decent and seemingly not outrageously overpriced, unlike some places.

It was a little unfortunate that there are no toilets beyond a certain point in the sanctuary, so when small son needed the loo we had to hike back up the hill quite some way from the seal pools. What I learnt from this was, should I visit again in future, to insist they go on the way down whether they think they need to or not! It seemed to me that an extra loo near the cafe would be an improvement, but presumably there are reasons there isn't one, and it did warn us at the top of the hill that there were no loos beyond.

All in all it was a most satisfactory day out and the children enjoyed themselves greatly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mooedy

Cow and Gate's new advertising campaign for their Growing Up Milk seems to me to be rather misleading. Its main thrust is that to get enough iron a toddler would need to drink 20 litres of cows' milk as opposed to 2 beakers full of their formula.

The thing is, in your diet you don't look to milk to provide iron: you go for fortified cereals, pulses, meats and vegetables. Most children of one eat solids, and should be having smaller versions of what their parents are eating basically, thus obtaining iron in their normal diet shouldn't be too much of a problem.

It seems to me an irresponsible message, although I have little doubt it conforms to advertising standards to the letter, if not the spirit. It makes me quite angry that with the government spooling out healthy eating and living programmes such as 'change4life', that Cow & Gate is doing this soft-shoe shuffle. It may be true in its bare bones that their product contains more iron than 20 litres of milk, but this does some very convenient side-stepping. Cows' milk is not considered a primary source of iron to begin with, while the advert seems to suggest otherwise. Their website has a page showing other dietary sources, which is good, but how many people watch the tv advert and may not pick up on what is omitted (or is possibly in very small print)?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Overthinking ToddWorld

I caught an episode of ToddWorld today and it made me frown a bit.

Pickle had been given a guitar and was determined to become a rockstar that day. He started a band straight away and played a horrendous din to his friends. Todd and another character said encouraging things, while the black-haired girl, whose name escapes me, said it was awful, which upset Pickle


and was disapproved of by her peers.

The episode followed her coming round to the idea that she should "respect" Pickle's musical choices. In the end, they watched him perform again and she applauded encouragingly, having learnt to "respect" his rotten music.

I'm not against encouraging people, but there is such a thing as merit. Of course, I don't condone meanness, and the character was meaner in her comments than necessary, but it irritated me that the character of Pickle wasn't undergoing a learning journey as well. After all, becoming a guitarist is not an instant thing and surely a worthy moral would have been - getting good at something takes practice and effort. Not make a fucking awful racket, we'll all humour you and some poor sap is bound to like it.

I could go along with the storyline if it had been Pickle playing, say, his new music CD and she didn't like it and was horrid about it. We're all entitled to our musical preferences and tastes and in that case, she'd have been entirely unjustified. But to have Pickle entitled to make a terrible noise, having had no musical tuition, and expect applause and "respect" for it seems nonsensical. There has to be room for constructive criticism: shouldn't one wait to perform live to an audience until one has learnt one's instrument and rehearsed with one's band? Ideally?

Certainly the meanness of the girl character should have been addressed, but Pickle needed to learn about deferred gratification. Dagnamit.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bad Science's missing chapter on Matthias Rath

Ben Goldacre was being sued by Matthias Rath* when he published his book, Bad Science, so he had to leave a chapter on the fellow out.

Having won the court case, the chapter is now freely available here for those who read older editions of the book, or for those who are just plain interested.


* A man whose claims for his multivitamins have included curing cancer and being more effective for AIDS than antiretrovirals. Whose other lawsuits have included Medicins Sans Frontieres as targets.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why I hate the papers

If there's anything that demonstrates pure misogyny in the tabloids, it is the coverage of the acquittal of Peter Bacon compared to that of the conviction of multiple rapist Kirk Reid.

Guess which one made the front page of at least two shit papers (Daily Fail & Daily Suppress)?

Over seventy rape & sexual assault victims and a successful conviction are not apparently nearly as interesting or newsworthy as one man being acquitted of date rape. At least we know who to value in society.

There are not enough expletives in the world.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thinks of Lynx

It's a curious thing, those Lynx adverts. Which are ludicrously sexist (but it's 'all in good fun', so hur-hur-hur). The one with the stick-thin women who lose their outer garments when looked at by weedy bloke makes me feel a bit ill. Not helped by his posing pouch towards the end. Urgh.

It struck me that probably a large portion of Lynx products would actually be bought by women as stocking-filler type gifts. I also imagine that the greater proportion of day-to-day shopping would be bought by women, so deodorants and smellies for husbands and teenage sons probably are bought with the weekly or monthly shop. Are the Lynx ad people unaware of this, or are many women just numbed by the continuous deluge of sexism in the media?

Hair dyes for men are marketed differently to women's as well, although presumably the exact same products. One of the the ads has two daughters telling their dad it's time he got dating and new hair colour will get him a woman. The ones marketed to women tend to be all about not showing your age and looking young/healthy. The fruit for picking, I guess, as opposed to the picker.

Sigh.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Smothers fray

Mother's Day is a bit shit, if you ask me.

I liked the cards my children made me and the flowers they picked. The chocolates were nice. My children, they are sunshine and fairylights and laughter...

The slightly singed croissants for breakfast were a bit of a disappointment, but well, the cook was only 39. He's usually an excellent cook but seems to have a blindspot when it comes to croissants.

Our unexpected financial crisis pretty much sucked, as did finding my gran and her bathroom in a, er, fragrant state.

It took her an hour to realise who I was, however, which sucked more.

I won't go on any further to catalogue anything else that bummed me out and fucked me off yesterday, as it'll make me weep self-indulgently again.

The best part of the day was Supernatural and retiring to bed again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Share your views...

Go fill in a quick survey about attitudes to violence against women. That's right, jump to it*!


*Or just do the clicky-clicky with the mouse - possibly, very possibly more effective.

Monday, March 09, 2009

This will change your life


This leaflet amused me with its hyperbolic claims. When I first saw it, I presumed Jehovah's Witnesses or some such had been round. But no, on proper reading, I found that it was part of a recruitment drive for a local choral group.

Join a choir, it'll change your life!

I've heard such claims relating to religions and fad-diets before, but never a singing group. Choirs are obviously cultier* than I realised.


* This word employed since it works in Lexulous, haha.

Monday, March 02, 2009

What's yours is mine and what's mine is me own

Numbers is a series I usually quite like, although its premise gets stretched beyond breaking point at times and it's formulaic, etc etc. I like formulaic sometimes, quite often even... However, the most recent episode I saw really pissed me off.

The FBI are trying to track a killer who is trying to win an internet computer game, by popping off his real-life opponents.

Charlie is told by his girlfriend that she also plays the game with a group of online friends, and this is where the programme got my goat: his attitude is mind-boggling, really. It's not that he's afraid for her, initially: it's that he gets jealous and acts weird because he didn't know that she played the game or about the online group, and he's hurt that she didn't invite him to play along as well.

Like you become someone's partner and you are instantly informed about their every movement and every hobby, and if you're not and not immediately included, there's something wrong. His little genius friend (who was in Ally McBeal and whose name escapes me), is no better, suggesting almost at once that maybe she has an online thing going with one of her gamer-friends.

How about smacking him upside the head and demanding why he thinks he owns her entire life and must know every trivial detail instead, the controlling nosy nob-end?

Then of course, he forbids the FBI to involve her any further in the catching of the murderer, as though he has the right to make those decisions for her, plot twists follow, she disobeys and gets involved and ends up a damsel in distress. It all ends grandly while she boohooes on his shoulder.

Bleeeeurgh.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Album meme

Taken from Badger on Fire, a meme...

1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random”
or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to "Random quotations"
or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5. Random Wikipedia articles for the track listing.

Thus:

I give you, Slap & Tickle with their debut album "Well as the Earth".

Album tracks:

1. Trax
2. Count Camillo Marcolini
3. Jon Bridgman
4. Kouyara
5. Alfred Lyttleton
6. Appeal group
7. Katakado Dam
8. Settling accounts: drive to the East
9. Nieprzesnia
10. Haarlem Stadion
11. Methodrone
12. Jinx

Rapid ageing

I couldn't help overhearing a lengthy conversation the other day. No, really, I couldn't - it was being held very loudly all over the library as I searched for books. Without stoppering up my ears, I couldn't miss it. A man was bemoaning the situation with care of his wife and Social Services, and the librarian was consoling and giving what seemed to me, some sound advice. He wasn't really there for answers, though, you could tell he was just letting off steam.

Eventually she asked whether he could help in the care of his wife: "No, no, I'm sixty-three, seventy... eighty."

I never heard anyone age so fast!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Value added sex

There's a bit of a stir about a new government pamphlett that allegedly tells parents to keep morality out of sex talks with their children. What it is quoted as saying is: "Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own. Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what’s right and wrong may discourage them from being open.”

This seems rather sensible and innocuous to me. My reading of it is that it isn't telling parents not to talk of morality and values (unlike the media's reading), it is saying to discuss them rather than lay down the law, say it's black and white, right and wrong, do as I say.

I know that when I was a teenager, I did some stupid things and because I knew that my mother would be disapproving, I got into worse trouble than I would have, had I felt able to go to her sooner. If she had been even more strict and judgemental, I would never had gone to her at all.

I think it's most important to keep the lines of communication open, to be approachable as a parent. Teaching morality, values and self-worth to your children is something you do not through dictating their every move and thought, you do it through example, talking and giving them the opportunity to think things through for themselves.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Left Behind

Hahaha. You know the expression "so bad it's good"? Well, that's not true of this book. Oh no.

For those unaware, it's the first book in a series written by dispensationalist US Christian conservatives: didactic works intended to promote their theology as well as being novels.

Left Behind was unintentionally funny. Many of the plot devices were madly implausible - a super-duper fertiliser formula making Israel richer than oil nations and thereby bringing relative peace (until the Russkies try to kill them)? Agrarian based economies don't work like that, and even if they did, money is so unlikely to solve all Israel's problems! Carpathia's fantastically moving speech consisting of reciting the names of every country?!

Overall, it was poorly written, the characterisation rather basic, and the inner lives rudimentary. On the plus side, it was readable, if clunky. On the minus, its didacticism was overt and it had a hammer for those points and knew how to use it. It took crude potshots at all sorts of targets, from the Jews to family planning.

I found it impossible to take the novel seriously and snickered long and loud. For me, the best part was the naming of "Tribulation Force"* which was doubly a gift since it was very close to the end, thankfully. Oh me, oh my. Hahaha.

Needless to say, I shan't be rushing out to read any more of the several gazillion sequels, prequels and spin-offs from this stable.


*Not like G-Force, sadly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In which I am a useless toothfairy

Now, being a toothfairy doesn't sound that arduous a task, but I somehow manage to make a hash of it everytime. I have a horrible habit of forgetting to don my wings and tutu, and more vitally, not remembering to exchange tooth for cash until too late. Morning comes and it's apparent that the tooth fairy got caught in traffic or possibly was overloaded by all the other children's teeth, so she'll swing by tomorrow night.

I guess my heart isn't in it.

It wasn't me that brought the tooth fairy to our house: I think she came through television, school and books. I'm not against her as such, either. I think she serves quite a useful purpose, in turning something a bit icky and potentially alarming & tears-before-bedtime into something exciting. If only I could remember to make the exchange before I go to bed. I generally decide to wait until she's thoroughly asleep, but by putting it off, the thought drops out of my head.

Santa, on the other hand, I could gladly dispose of. He wants all the credit for the presents and means that to sustain him, we're supposed to buy presents "from us" as well as the ones "from Santa".

What a rip-off merchant he is.

He didn't make it to our house this year, the scheming gloryhound bastard. According to unnamed sources (ahem), he decided our children had plenty of presents and went on to some less fortunate family.