This is not a test. Unless it is, and no one told me so I haven't revised, which means I'm going to fail. Thanks for that.
Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rom coms are terrible

Back in july Pandagon talked about rom coms.

As a general rule I hate rom coms, I can't watch them without engagin my feminist outrage and analysising them down to the ground. For example, how terrible and saccarine was Down with Love. It started off well, independent woman doesn't need a man to be happy, enjoys a good fling, but then speeds dangerously down hill to a dismal conclusion in which original woman is swept off her feet by a (slimy and awful) man, happy ending for all. Not!

One of the best rom coms I have ever seen, if it can even be classified as that, is eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. They're stupid people. They're in bad relationships. They don't care that they hated each other but they're going to give it a go because they love life and experience. It contains need, even obsession, but that isn't the reason the characters come together, and then come together again. Plus I love the other relationships in the film - they're kinda off kilter too. It's a fatasy and it's romantic without being sappy and cliche and predictable.

Plus I guess it kinda taps into sci fi - the very stuff I was dragged up on.

Today Third Sector has provided me with a few things to talk about.

Third Sector home

Dont Shoot!

Firstly a feature piece written by Indira Das-Gupta looks at the way new anti terror laws will affect campaign groups.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act came into force last month, one of it’s specific aims being to quash animal rights activism. However the new laws and powers awarded to the police include a loop hole allowing the bill to be extended to cover other kinds of activism, also know today as terrorism.

Quote from the article
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act might have come into effect only on 1 July, but it has already been applied to circumstances beyond its original remit.

The article states the degrading of civil rights liberties should send a shiver down the spine of the entire [not for profit] sector; however I would go so far as to say everyone.

Fathers 4 justice, a group I am not personally fond of, have been warned their tactics could place them in deadly dangerous positions, and that new guidelines to shoot for the head. The fella who scaled Buckingham palace just under a year ago was merely minutes safe of a fatal shot it has been revealed.

This draws it’s base from the fatal shootings of innocent man Jean Charles de Menezes. I tend to think though that this is rather a leap of backward reasoning. For me this boils down essentially to, if you cause trouble or act up in any way be very afraid. Our officers are armed, dangerous and will shoot you without question. Shouldn’t we be addressing the failure of the security services to provide good accurate information and our ‘highly trained’ police force terror unit’s eager willingness to end lives without trial or justice.

Shouldn’t a shot to the head be the very very last resort, when intelligence conclusively points to a suspect, rather than because they climbed a building they shouldn’t or because one copper was taking a whiz when he was on watch.

It's a womans world, but men are in control

Harking back to my earlier post about gender imbalance in the not for profit sector, Beth Breeze has some interesting observations here.

Beth praises the profusion of women at a recent awards function for excellence in the fundraising sector, comparing her experience as an attendee to that of a mans everyday at work where he is surrounded by male peers. However despite the fact more women work for charities etc 39 of the 50 named influencers at the convention were men, and only 4 women even made the top 25, the highest ranking tenth.

She suggests a some of interesting, and for me quite amusing reasons as to why this may be.
The first being the make ego – that men are more comfortable with praise and being awarded a ‘guru like’ status. I would suggest that while this may sometimes be the case, I do not think it is a male only trait, and that today women are more and more comfortable with being rewarded for their successes. This I feel is more of an excuse for the occurrence than the reason behind it.

Secondly she suggests that men are more comfortable seeking success. I believe everyone wants to be successful at what they do, they may not want to be the best for it, but most people would like to think they do their job well. Perhaps men are more inclined to actively seek work related status than women who may base their self image on non work related things. I for one hate to define myself by what job I do – there is far more to me than pushing pencils about.

More realistically perhaps men find it easier to pursue the top jobs because people believe them to be more capable based on stereotypically make characteristics such as reasoning and decision making skills. Perhaps they do not loose out on promotions and perceived status among their contemporaries because they take time out to have children. This is a big issue still. The head of my department and senior manager gave a friend and colleague of mine a terrible time when she announced she was pregnant. When her yearly appraisal came up she was told there was no point because she would not be here – have she not just spent an entire year working her ass of? Did she not deserve feedback on her work even if she was going to take a few months off? I doubt someone would say this to a man going on sabbatical.

Thirdly Beth suggests women spend less time managing their image than their male colleagues. Excuse me? Did I hear than right? Women are forced to manage their image at all times – we have been doing it so long and so well that no one notices anymore.

Also in this issue

Childline are in a funding crisis
Prisoners receive a ‘radical’ new re-introduction programme to society. They are given advice on housing benefit and problem solving on their own outside the prison. I can astounded to find this is not the norm – no wonder re-offending rates are high, we take someone out of society, remove their independence and ability to make decisions for themselves, for sometimes many years until they become totally reliant on the system, then we turn them out, completely on their own. No wonder people go back to crime if it’s the only thing they know. Insane!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A victory for animal rights

How could you do it?
Eddie & celery, originally uploaded by travelling punk.

In the news today
Yesterday Newchurch guinea pig farm announced that is was ceasing business, a decision attributed in part to animal rights activists campaigning for 6 years for closure of the farm. This is fantastic break through for animal rights, but it is such a shame that it had to come at such a price.

Some might consider me moderate, but I believe that violence is rarely the answer to any question. Some of the tactics used specifically by the pressure group that is being heralded as a main influence in the closure were violent and morally ambiguous (such as stealing the bones of a deceased relative of the farm’s owners). It is a terrible shame that the struggle had to break down to this very base level in an attempt to achieve what is right.

I for one an opposed to animal testing, much of which is completely unnecessary and tortuous. Medical and scientific professionals have banded together to show support for the need for animal testing, but this support refers to crucial medial research into disease and treatment for major conditions – not the cosmetic and detergent research that is a matter of course for many, and that, I believe, the majority of the animals bred for testing are fed into.

I think there is a huge hurdle for the scientific world to overcome before any supporter of animal rights can sympathise with their view. This is to limit at all costs pain, suffering and casual (mis)use of animals. Much medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies, who wish to keep their findings secret in order to beat the competition to new breakthroughs and medicines, secrecy driven by profits. This secrecy and failure to share findings means that rival companies do their own research, often emulating exactly the same process as one another, for essentially the same result, but multiple lives will be lost in the process, that could have been saved if findings were shared from the beginning.

I also think that many of the supporters of animal research believe that all of this research is going on medical breakthroughs. Granted some of it is, but millions of animals suffer and die every year because of testing toothpaste, cosmetics, shampoo, detergent, deodorant – virtually every chemical substance in the home. These tests are repeated continually for new mascaras, new formulations of non bio powder and countless other new products. Component chemicals, proven in the past to be safe (through animal testing even), are tested and re-tested even though the specific need is not there. Computer modelling now provides a safe, cruelty free, method of understanding potential adverse reactions of chemicals.

I am no expert, and don’t claim to know better than 500 scientists that believe animal testing is absolutely fundamental to medical research, but I do know that there is so much testing going on every day, that animals like the Newchurch guinea pigs are being bred for, that doesn’t need to and shouldn’t happen.

Check out Uncaged for some more information.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Whitby weekend: dracula, morris dancers, mods, seagulls, canons and folky folks.

I went up north this weekend, to Whitby and Robin Hood’s bay on the Yorkshire coast. The weather didn’t look promising before I left, but by-gosh, did it clear up!

We left on the Saturday morning, early at about 10:30. Nothing exciting happened for much of the way, until we reached the Yorkshire Moors. As we pulled over a small hill this was the view that awaited us. Endless heather in full bloom; purple fields as far as you could see.

Purple heather

As we drove through the moors, through the villages and beside the heather it was clear and sunny. All was quaint and lovely in a way that is magnified ten times by sunlight and a light heart associated with a break from the norm.

We arrived in Whitby in the afternoon to find a town full of people. The whole place heaved with activity, activity that was lost on us at first glance, but that was to become a central feature of the weekend.

After spending some time searching for somewhere to park up the car, we gave up and headed south towards Robin Hood’s bay. I have never visited this part of the country before, and frankly didn’t know what to expect, but was truly charmed by the little village. Spiralling through meandering streets down a very steep hill to the sea, Robin Hood’s bay is striking and so quintessentially seaside English.

Robin Hood's Bay

Hidden all the way down by the sea are small galleries and jewellers full of the kind of trinkets and gems you would fill your home with if given half the chance. A little, heaving, chip shop sits snugly up on of the side streets. People spill out of its doors, down the street; queuing for a taste of traditional seaside fare in the most fitting of settings. Queuing all over the place, until a tractor unbelievably negotiates the narrow street with barely in inch to spare either side. People shrink into doorways, flee up stairs and scatter, abandoning their place in the queue; jumping back out again once it has passed.

We took our chips down to the seafront. The tide was in and looked rough as it came up against the shore. We set off along the beach, negotiating the boulders providing a tidal defence, climbing up and them down again to reach the main beach in the hope of finding some fossils the area is so well known for. The tide continued to come in, and before we knew it we were running back, timing each break with the break of the waves.

It was time to hunt for a campsite, it would be so much easier before dark, and so much more difficult after dinner. Up and down the coast, back and forth along strange and twisting roads, driving towards one possible site only to stumble across another. Minimum 3 nights, we were told.

We followed one sign for a campsite and found our way to Boggle Hole, a small cove below Robin Hood’s bay. There was no campsite to be found, although signs did indicate a youth hostel was at the end of a track that no cars were allowed down. We set off along the track going down to the sea, eager to see where it took us. At the bottom we found the small cove and the youth hostel placed right before it. I imagine there are few hostels in such endearing and secluded spots.

As we paused to watch the waves washing into the cove we looked along the cliffs traversing the beach and noticed a family huddled together, leaning out towards the sea. After watching them for a couple of seconds we realised they were scattering someone’s ashes into the swell. Although we were a few hundred feet away I felt quite uncomfortable, almost trespassing on their private moment. This feeling quickly passed when, after scattering the ashes, they promptly followed them by chucking the box and plastic bag used to carry them down in into the sea! That very action seemed like such a contradiction.

Lol and the field

Deciding that this place was far too strange for us, we made a hasty retreat, and the search for a campsite continued.

We drove back north towards Whitby and passed a site on out left, Rigg farm, I think. It was by far the most well designed campsite I have stayed at in ages. The plots were tiered, so the otherwise steeply sloping ground made great platforms that provided some privacy. We also had our own light as we camped in a tourer spot. Once the tent was set up we headed back into Whitby for dinner.

Being vegetarian, and with a taste for the finer things in life, I often find I end up in the posh establishments that don’t aim to attract such rag-tag clientele. Finleys was no exception. It had the atmosphere of a chi-chi wine bar, rustic old tables, but fantastic vegetarian food. We had a huge platter of nachos with foccacia bread and olive oil on the side. Yum!

After dinner we walked around Whitby, looking in shop windows and eventually drifting up over to the beach front. The sunset behind the headland was so many pastel shade of pink, and I wanted to take thousands of pictures to try and capture the subtle changes as the sun set – but it wasn’t to be. My camera spluttered and died of a drained battery, and from that point on the only pictures I could take were snapshots before it switched itself off again.

The waves as they lapped the shore reflected the light of the sky, and every so often seagulls gathered together, their shadows highlighted by the brightness of the reflections on which they were standing.

Whitby beach sunset

see weather station for more

Seagulls spotted by dusk

Looking back up to the cliffs a row of unintentionally industrial looking beach huts lined the wall. Lacking the life and bustle of beach goers during the day, they looked cold and eerie.

Beach huts at Whitby

We wandered back into town, past busy pubs with folk music filtering out through the windows. People walked purposefully from pub to pub with violins and guitars tucked under their arms. We had managed to time our visit to coincide with the Whitby folk festival without realising it.

The next morning we set off into Whitby after packing away the tent. Parking spaces were already filling up with visitors eager to take part in the folk festival and enjoy the brilliant sunshine. Morris dancers, decked in traditional costume danced in the square. A one man band sang MOR hits, accompanied by two howling collie dogs. We mooched around the shops and ventured up to the Abbey, overlooking the bay.

Whitby abbey

Later, after a walk along the beach and a paddle in the sea we came across more Morris dancers, dancing with swords, by the whale bone arch. As we watched their dance a rumble became a thunder and scores of mods on scooters pulled up. They parked their bikes right next to where the dancers were performing, and created a fantastic juxtaposition of old, new, traditional, and retro – a slight that crossed decades, and could only happen on a day like this in a place like this.

Morris dancers

Whitby morris dancers

One of the bikes warranted special attention.

Low rider scooter

As it neared the time we had to leave, we ran down the hill, back to Finleys for some lunch. Over delicious halloumi kebabs with tomato chutney and potato wedges we spotted a new group of Morris dancers, wearing tunics of rags, pheasant feathers and foxes tails in their hats and with blacked faces. Not something you see everyday, certainly not pulling a drum along on a trolley.

Later we saw them dance. I was expecting something wild, and pretty scary – I mean, imagine them! But their dance was as tame and intricate as the rest. The face paint was a throw back to the very origins of Morris dancing, originating in the east, coming from the term Moorish dancing

With the final dance over we were ready to bid our farewells to Whitby.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bunny girls

Gendergeek, Harry, Volsunga and the Guardian have been talking about WHSmith and their sale of Playboy brand merchandise. The pencil cases, note books, pens etc aimed at young girls (who else buys this overpriced crap?) all decorated with the bunny logo, in pastel colours sell like hotcakes apparently.

I tried to comment at Harry's place, but it wasn't having any of it, so since I've written it I'll post it here. It refers to comments on his original post as well as, well, generally.

Selling the playboy brand as a fashion item is not only mainstreaming acceptance of the brand, but also introducing it, as a positive symbol, to a generation of school children. And you can't say it's not school children, as who above 16 goes out the Smiths to stock up on pencil cases and files? Once school is finished you've very little need for them.

Essentially playboy opposes equality in favour of women as mens sexual servants. The way these women are portrayed is by no means hard core porn, but the fact remains that it is for the pleasure of men.

It makes me cringe to see little girls walking around with playboy written across their butts. Shouldn't we be teaching our daughters to value themselves *from an early age* and to shun oppressive symbols of the patriarchy?

Check out the blogs for more.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Through the eyes of aspartame

80s Converse, originally uploaded by travelling punk.

Did you know,

Aspartame was invented by a scientist trying to find an ulcer cure.

There have been over 4,000 seperate complaints about the sweetener from consumers, reporting over 6,888 adverse reactions/complaints.

The guys in big suites who allowed it to spread to general use in food and drink and pretty much everything are linked, many directly, to aspartame manufactuers, their pr firms and lawyers.

It has been proven that the sweetener breaks down to form formaldehyde in the body.

It has also been shown to cause lymphomas and leukaimeia in female animals.

The Ecologist arrived in my porch yesterday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The cult of the suicide bomber

This is not intended to offend anyone (other than government cronies possibly). If you have an issue with what is said here please leave a comment and hopefully it will better help me to understand the situation.

On Monday I watched Why Bomb London on Channel 4. I’ve had some trouble formulating my thoughts regarding terrorism and the threat to the UK since the programme, but I feel there is one over-riding point that must be addressed, and this is the reaction of moral panic across the country and world.

The message filtering through from the mainstream media is one of hyper awareness and impending doom. Anyone and everyone (Asian, Muslim, Islamic, so many labels are offered) is a would-be, could-be suicide bomber.

This is where the root of the problem lies. While there is so much panic regarding all young Muslim men being recruited in to Terrorism, (and remember, everyone’s a threat, and everyone’s a suspect) the average normal well integrated citizen is being sidelined, victimised by people who mistakenly believe what they are being told by the media and also disillusioned by a message that suggests they are capable, and under suspicion of, terrorism.

The programme last night mentioned that at least a dozen men have been turned away from Heathrow because of suspicions they were going out to Iraq to fight against the coalition forces [my emphasis]. It also showed an interview with what we were led to believe is a respected Imam, who stated that is it was a choice between British law and Islamic law than Islamic law will always be more important. If security services have only identified half a dozen surely that is a good thing, because if I recall what he said correctly believers in Islam are stirred to fight to protect for others of the same faith.

I’m struggling specifically with the knee-jerk reaction of the government lawmakers to the ‘new threat’ of suicide bombings. There have been two attempts on London. The first was successful, disruptive and deadly, but not on the epic scale of the wars we’re waging. The second, basically, failed. They were not highly sophisticated.

Britain has struggled with terrorists in the past in the form of the IRA, and although I recognise that I know very little about this as it was ‘before my time’, it seems their impact was felt deeper and wider (in terms of distribution around the country). The terror of the IRA affected the country; it was felt in town and cities across the UK. But we didn’t introduce new laws to detain people under house arrest, without trial, until we saw fit, based on the say of the home secretary. There was no mention of trying people for treason. They were not considered as an Other the way today’s bombers, and believers of Islam, and people from the middle east in general.

The Other is the key to this. The Other religion, the Other colour, the Other language. These differences can be used to identify and segregate members of our communities and humans in the world. These differences can be used to incite fear. It has been said many times that what we do not understand we fear; and we do not understand this.

The indifference and confusion towards the Other is only compounded by the techniques thought up to help non white British people feel more ‘British’ and feel more a valued, welcome part of our community. WHY has it taken a terrorist attack to prompt this?

The name Pakistani-British as well as others along a similar vein has been bandied around in the past few days as one of the solutions offered by the government for ‘helping’ people of mixed heritage (primarily middle eastern *I think*) feel more British. Many who have had the change to speak on the matter say it is not necessary, that they feel British, or they don’t, but really it does not matter to them. Essentially this is because they are not a threat! Everyday people, working and living in the UK are not plotting against the country. Labels do not matter to people who feel British. Labels will have little effect on those who don’t. This is a half baked, half cocked bad solution to the wrong problem.

I don’t think it is about feeling British (or not), more about identifying with other people, be it from their country of origin or based on dreams and romanticised visions of heroism/martyrdom. While UK troops are armed and dangerous in Iraq and across the middle east there will always be people who do not agree with it. Hell, there are over 2 million people in the UK who didn’t agree with it and protested in London against the occupation. For these people who do not agree, and for those who want to take a stand against it, they need to find an effective way to retaliate. This needs to be cheap (in monetary terms) and effective, and quickly responsive. Qualities fulfilled by suicide bombers. I think, in fact I am pretty sure that if we had thought of it first then it would have been celebrated as an act of heroism too. A captain going down with his ship, the ultimate sacrifice to help save your people and country; the ‘cult of the suicide bomber’ is not new, if has just changed.

I wouldn’t put it past some, Dubya name checked specifically, to send convicts, or death row detainees out against their will as suicide bombers. The ethnocentric view of the world that western governments (UK and USA leading this) possess obscures their vision so badly they cannot see anymore. Without it they might begin to understand the causes better and come to some kind of solution. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I ask of one thing, for them to think about the consequences of their actions on a global scale, rather than on their own pride and power.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

feel the rhythm

I’m beginning to notice a rhythm, I think it is my circadian rhythm but I’m not sure. It starts and ends at the beginning of the month, which is now, and is also why I have noticed it.

At the moment I’m treading water. My head is still above the surface and I can breathe, but every-so-often I splutter as I sink below the water and run out of breath. This is the feeling I get at the beginning.

I don’t want to sink again, but I really want to stop treading the water. I am tired. I feel as if I am paying lip service to life, when really I want to pack it all in, go back home, get into bed and sleep. I crave sleep like an addict. I’m euphoric when I get my fix and I hate everyone and everything when I loose out.

Today the tears are prickling the back of my eyes. I have too much stored inside, my self pity, self hatred because of this, sorrow for the stories I read everyday and joy for successes I see. I know when it’s starting because I cry at the t.v. Last night I cried at the House of Obsessive Compulsives – I get so involved with stories and people sometimes, I was overjoyed at their successes.

I wonder if knowing the rhythm will help fight the rhythm. Today I think it will be a loosing battle because I have no fight in me. I don’t want to fight anymore. Today I want to succumb. Today I can’t.

I have so much trouble talking about what’s inside. I am ashamed about the way I feel and like the anonymity provided to me here. I don’t know if it’s because those I turn to can’t or wont understand, but I get no comfort from it.

More often than not it turns into a competition. My partner responds to my thougts by bulldozing over them with comments about himself, how he feels. I try to avoid this situation. It doesn’t work.

He sees (or doesn’t see) me open up, and reads it as a cue for him to offload onto me. I don’t think he realises this is give and take of a different nature. He’s never been very good at support or sympathy. He has never had to learn these skills.

Monday, August 08, 2005

NMC crack strikes terror in the hearts of few

I finally got out to Derbyshire this weekend, this time with a view to climb some routes. You should know at this point that when I intend to climb routes it hardly ever turns out well.

On Sunday I thought we should head to Gardoms, near Birchens, in Derbyshire. I planned to climb NMC crack, a diff or v.diff climb (beginner to moderate level) that this time last year I would've walked up (I used to be strong). This time this year I did not walk up it.

I took a good deal of effort to just get my fat arse off the ground. The technique to use is called a layback, here you lean back (left) off the flake and place you feet out to you right. I could get on ok, but my spindly little wuss arms did not want to play along when I tried to move up the face.

After hanging around for about 15 minutes I though, one big effort and if I don't get any further than about 3 feet off the ground this time I'm giving up. The thought of giving up made me climb it.

About half way up I managed to become welded to a ledge. I couldn't move any further as the next step was so high I couldn't get my foot up onto it. Here I began to feel the burn, and my arms started to weaken and shake. When this happens I tend to overgrip, putting more strain on my already tired arms. It quickly became clear that if I was ever going to get over the ledge I would have to 'aid it'. I pulled on the rope from my belayer and heaved myself, far from steadily, over the ledge.

My reward for this achievement was a new, more solid platform on which I could stand quite securely. From this position I tried to remove a rather well set piece of gear. It was not planning to budge any time soon. After heaving, and pushing, and wiggling and cursing said piece of gear (something like the one in the picture above, but larger and further in the crack at an awkward angle) I resorted to using a big nut (piece of metal used for protection in the crag) to hammer it out. This was the right choice and it freed it up straight away.

I lumbered like some kind of shaking, weak, hopeless creature up the remained of the climb, elbow jamming (jamming my elbow in the crack) to get some security. I had a headache, and the exertion magnified it, seeming to thwack a new axe into my forehead with every move. After an ungracious struggle and some tears magnified my panic and pain I pulled over the top. Calm and graceful as ever, I flopped onto the rock I looked out through tear stained eyes.

It was a beautiful view.