Huzzah! Exciting new layout

August 12, 2008

Although classy I was finding the old layout a little hard to navigate. The type was also too small. And I wanted tabs at the top, which I have now used to start noting down my list of books that I want to read that usually rattles around in my head. Undoubtedly this will grow, suggestions are welcome. I think I’m labouring under the falsehood that eventually I will be able to read ALL the books. All the books ever.

I think I have a stone uterus: I can feel a whole lot of squeezing but not a lot of blood is coming out. A good metaphor for my own stubborness but uncomfortable when stuck on a crappy office chair.

I apologise if that was a little graphic for anyone but it says on the back of my feminist membership card that I can and am actively encouraged to blog about mentruation. So there it is. I’m not sure what the rest of the card says; I’ve had it in my back pocket for a while and some of the words have rubbed off. I did pull it out yesterday though, after soon-to-be-ex Housefolk made some joke about not needing women’s sports to which I replied “We do need them, or else we wouldn’t have any Olympic medals.” Take that, foolish fool!

The conversation took place after Team GB had won gold for street cycling and gold and bronze in swimming. I’m not in to sports myself but hope that these medals go some way to strengthening the legitimacy of female participation.


A terrible accident

August 11, 2008

Something awful happened yesterday. I was meeting one of my significants in town he called to ask where he could find me – on the spot I answered Borders. He arrived just ten minutes later but it was already too late and I had picked up a massive stack of books. It is the first time I have used a basket in a bookshop it was that bad. I purchased:

  1. The Watchmen graphic novel (that I tried to get last year but is now suddenly available since the movie trailers started showing)
  2. The Gothic and Lolita Bible (I had no idea that non-goth lolita was so popular. Also included bonus sewing patterns)
  3. Red Seas under Red Skies (the sequel to the Lies of Locke Lamora)
  4. An economics book (for the education of my brain)
  5. That GMTV Penny Smith book for my mum
  6. A gift for my partner to calm him down before his job interview

This is what happens when I decide to not spend money for a bit. And now my book pile is mountainous and will probably fall on me causing me to die horribly of crushing injuries and papercuts. If I should die with books unread I will ensure a clause in my will forces someone to read them all.

Superiority complex

August 8, 2008

My personal privileges as a white middle class UK citizen were brought to light this week by two very different encounters. The first was when a large group of black teenage boys wanted to get on the bus, weren’t allowed, then one of them sabotaged the bus. Although sabotaging a bus is rarely the best cause of action I sympathise with the boys. They are one of the most despised groups in our society, and one that it seems socially acceptable to despise since all the press about gangs, knife and gun crime. They were probably correct when they claimed the bus driver was being racist. I can appreciate the driver was intimidated by the number of them and only wanted to admit some to reduce the chance of rowdiness, but the fact that they could see there was space for them all to fit antagonised them. Unfortunately they did get a little rowdy then, proving in the minds of the passengers what they had suspected all along.

It’s actually that part that happened after that I had most problem with. The boys were not a gang, they were a football team on their way to practice. Despite that the disruntled passengers complained the driver should have done something sooner, they shouldn’t have been allowed onto another bus, and one of them called the police. These were all middle class white people, all very annoyed that their bus had been messed with. The guy who called the police actually shouted at the rest of us for not standing up with him when he confronted one of them (he’s obviously been reading too many opinion pieces on the Independent website). No one spoke up for the kids, but I guess there could have been some secret sympathisers.

I understand why they feel safer in large groups now, with so many suspicious glances.

Not that I understand their entire lives, obviously, though I do think hating teenagers is one of the first signs of aging.

My second encounter was with my new friend Neighbour. Neighbour lives next door (duh) and gets the same bus as me in the morning, giving us the opportunity for a five minute chat before the bus arrives. He is about 60, a working class Brummie who builds staircases for shops. I, being middle class and highly educated, assumed that I was so very much more clever than Neighbour, until we had a chat about books. He is a sci-fi fanatic and loves to read at any given opportunity, though for unspecified reasons (probably since he started living in pokey bedsits) he hasn’t read a book for 3 years. I could not allow this so I lent him A Brave New World and Oryx and Crake the next day: the only sci-fi books I could find at short notice. He was most pleased, and promised to lend me a book of his when another friend returns it, about a half-human half-martian and featuring philosophical discussion on the value of marriage. That is a book I would like to read. Which surprised me. Because I do have huge prejudices in the way I see the world, and I judged Neighbour on his appearance and class and his current main hobby of drinking Carling.

I am glad Neighbour befriended me, he has helped me see flaws in myself that I can address.

Minor updatage

August 4, 2008

I has a new tagline of which I am so proud as it makes me the clever.

I fiddled around with my About page on Friday and went through about 4 different versions. I am not completely happy with it but I’m not changing it again.

I have started adding things to my blogroll now that I know what it’s for. Today I added The F Word as I find it an interesting read and they once published an article of mine (obviously I can’t tell you which as this is my secret blog). I’ll probably go on adding more throughout the week.

Last night I started reading The Diary of a Nobody and I think I’ve picked up a little of its style…

Things that I love

July 31, 2008

To get back to the positive and the personal, a short interlude about things that I love this week.

I love… the latest book I picked up: The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield. After my Phantom book fail this is going very well. I love the way she captures the inner workings of people’s minds and how mood and opinion flickers with every little event. I forget that her stories are almost a hundred years old – I suppose the way people feel doesn’t change nearly as much as the way people write about their feelings.

I love… the toner I got from Lush. I can’t remember what it’s called, something Roma, and it’s based on rosewater with a little tea tree oil. Frankly I love most things from Lush, and I am amazed that my hair stays clean for two days with the Karma bar (oh the shameless plugs, these people should pay me). I am now free of the once ever-present threat of grease.

I love… making things. Sewing is going well and the addition of a box to tidy all my crap into has brought favour from the House Folks. I’ve also been working on a story under the place holder title: Electric Dude Interlude. So far I’m pleased with the fragments I’ve produced.

I love… coffee, though no matter how hard I believe it doesn’t cancel out a bad night’s sleep.

The Bridget Jones post

July 31, 2008

So, having a rant about Jane Austen adaptations the other day garnered some interest from I’d like to explain my thoughts around this but I have a feeling they will get terribly out of control and meander all over the place (my train of thought at the best of times being a wobbly shopping trolley full of impulse buys and reduced counter items). My plan is to number the sections and pretend it’s a form of organisation.

1) Jane Austen. My feelings on Austen’s novels are similar to the ones I have for Harry Potter: so many people love them already that I needn’t make too much of an effort to. Unlike Harry Potter I have read most of Austen’s books, my favourite being Persuasion, but I’m not about to have a fangasm by reading it over and over when there are many, many other books also worthy of my attention. Most of my Austen books are actually on loan to my mother at the moment in the hope of improving her taste…

2) Bridget Jones: the novel. This was not in itself a bad book though at the time it came out I was having a heavy aversion to “chick lit” (I think I’ll have to make a separate post about chick lit sometime) so I resented having to study it in school when I naively felt I should be studying “real literature”. It turns out on closer inspection that virtually every plot device in BJD was lifted from Pride and Prejudice and if I knew where that essay was I’d type it out and post it.

I found Bridget to be a stagnant character. She was always frustrated and never achieved anything. One thing she was aiming for was weight loss but even when she reached her goal weight it so happened that a few people said she looked ill that day so she gave it up and put the weight back on. I can appreciate her appeal as a character who didn’t really know what she wanted and just sort of muddled through, and that despite her screw-ups she didn’t do too badly in the balance (perhaps reflected by her tiny scratchcard profit over the year). She is essentially a mediocre person, but that’s ok because we all are. In that light I completely understand the book’s success.

3) Bridget Jones: the movie. The movie character was quite different to the book character. To make her more universally lovable they turned her into a bumbling fool. She was no longer mediocre, she was spectacular in her failure. I can’t remember a single thing that goes right for her other than having sex. If she had had one success, just one little triumph to cling to, if she’d even just been adequately good at her job, I would be able to forgive most of the rest of the movie. Sadly she didn’t, so I can’t, but that just means I don’t like the movie not that the movie itself was bad.

We all screw up, I get it. I’ve worn odd shoes to work, I thrown up in embarrassing places, dated awful men and forgotten to pay my rent. But I don’t accept that as my identity like movie Jones seems to. I’ve also got two degrees, do fairly well at work and make a mean vegetable curry. Really this leads me to my final Jones section:

4) Bridget Jones: the yardstick. This is the Bridget Jones incarnation that makes me shudder. The book was fine, the movie was blah, but the legacy genuinely distresses me. Bridget Jones has become the standard by which women are measured. The yardstick doesn’t do the character justice, not even the movie version, as it has reduced her to an even simpler form: a typical woman.

I resent that Bridget Jones has been chosen as the representative of womankind. I do not fail at everything I attempt; I do not fall over all the time; I do not go out looking like a tit without realising (mostly); I do not hear a clock in my head; I do not care about my size; I do not think that having a man is the be all and end all; I definitely don’t think it’s appropriate to start thinking about marriage 2 months after you start dating. And Bridget didn’t necessarily even do all of these things, they’ve just been added to the yardstick.

You can be a bumbling fool sometimes, but I don’t want people assuming that if they see me do it once that is all I am. The attributes above are not bad in context: Femme falls over all the time and I’m pretty certain she hears a clock in her head but she is a well-rounded capable person. In the same vein I act really childishly with my partner but it doesn’t mean I have the intellectual capacity of a five year old. If people/media were making Bridget Jones comparisons in relation to her character it wouldn’t be so bad, but it looks to me like an easy way of saying “You’re such a big dumbfuck, but we like you that way so keep doing it”.

The Bridget Jones Label is frequently abused to box women into a restricted catagory. I don’t know how easy it would be to shake that label. It especially bothered me when people (including the teacher leading my class when studying this) labelled themselves as Bridget Joneses, because love her or hate her is there anyone out there who respects her?

Book fail

July 28, 2008

I am developing an increasing loathing of mail order book companies. To put it in vulgar terms: they suck painfully hard. In the past my naive self signed up for a company thinking that the initial joining deal would furnish me with books so cheap I could sell them at profit and that after that I could order books that I either needed for my course or would enjoy to read (there was also a free gift which broke). An error on my part, certainly, but I learned from the horrible bruise on my wallet.

I realised during this time that the books clubs can sell so cheaply because they produce and sell their own cheap-grade hardback copies of books rather than the larger, higher quality versions you can get in shops. They especially like to produce their own versions of popular classics that are out of copyright, generating even more profit. A good business model, I guess, but having just bought a (second hand) Reader’s Digest copy of the Phantom of the Opera (one of my favourite books and one of the first ‘classics’ I ever read) I was upset to find a printing error: 15 pages had been repeated and the next 15 omitted. The book is impossible to read. This is probably why it was in the second hand shop. Naughty the person who sold it to them, and naughty Reader’s Digest for not having proper QA procedures (or for simply not caring, knowing that many people will consider it too much fuss to complain or not notice until after the return period).

I will never again join a book club. I know I was a fool to join one in the first place but they do work for some people. I found the selection very restricted, the quality poor and the shafting unwarranted. It may just be that after an initial flummox on leaving uni and having no more course texts to absorb I have found my feet and know how to find things I want to read – often things not available in high street bookshops which makes me feel ever so superior.