Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!

Is it just me, or does Jack Straw bear an uncanny resemblance to the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland?

Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor -->

<-- The White Rabbit

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And on the subject of gender...

It's tripe like this that has me, as a successful and yet happily married female, fuming.

To go through a few gems from Ms O'Reilly:

"Once a woman has a ring on her finger she is no longer an individual, but a wife. Her existence is defined by her husband. This is an archaic concept, but one that still stalks us like a dark spectre."

No longer an individual? Is that why I am still able to own property in my own name? To vote? To travel on my own? To drive? To have my work recognised as being done by me? Frankly, other than the beaurocratic paperfest involved with changing my name, no one seems to care either way: I'm still known as me, because that is who I am. My existence is not defined purely by my husband, but being married to my husband is an important part of what makes me me. If I make a mistake, that's my fault, not my husband's. If I do well, it's my credit, not my husband's. But when my husband and I do things together, that's our responsibility. There is a distinction, and it's important.

And archaic? Well, yes, maybe, but then all traditions must therefore be archaic. I fully intend to put up a Christmas tree this year. Does this make me an atavistic moron stuck in the nineteenth century?

"If a woman retains her maiden name following marriage, she enters into the commitment as an equal partner, maintaining the individuality and the history she forged during her pre-married days. If she loses her surname, she buys into a tradition that has kept women subservient since Eve ate that apple."

No, Ms O'Reilly. Let me explain. A woman in this country can always enter into marriage as an equal partner. No one compels her to change her surname to that of her husband once she's signed on the dotted line and nor do they compel her to stamp "Doormat" on her forehead at the same time. And you've used an important word there. PARTNER. Here's a thought. Perhaps the name change is a sign of the new partnership? Not to mention that any children (and yes, it may come as a shock here, but some married women intend to have them, even in the UK) would then share their surname with both parents. I'm sure if it were a burning issue (and she didn't mind the extra expenditure on ink for her cheques), she could hyphenate, or they both could. But, hey, if we're going down this route, why not just go the whole hog and make up random surnames to adopt when we marry? So, my husband and I like the countryside and we like dogs, so maybe our surname should be Mr and Mrs Open Spaces Spaniel? Sounds dumb, doesn't it? Or maybe, we could do something else, which partners always do, but which doesn't seem to have occurred to Ms O'Reilly. Wait for it, COMPROMISE, and choose one name. Given my husband agreed that any children we have would be brought up with my religion rather than his, giving our family his surname seemed perfectly reasonable. And even if we weren't compromising on other things, I still don't have a problem with our family brand being my husband's surname rather than my father's.

And that brings me onto another logical inconsistency in Ms O'Reilly's thinking. The names we are born with include our parents' surname: most usually, it would be our father's, but even if it is our mother's, it's still the same form of labelling - from birth we are tagged as "belonging" to someone.

"Cheryl Cole and Sarah Michelle Prinze have highlighted the social pressures placed on women to appear secondary to their husbands in the public eye. Cheryl Cole married in 2006, and by being branded Mrs Cole she wants to centralise her marriage as part of her identity."

So what if Mrs Cole wants to centralise her marriage as part of her identity? Ms O'Reilly, you seem to think that this is a bad thing. Every person I know builds their identity on a series of characteristics, such as their job, their age, their appearance, and yes, their family. Marriage, in case it escaped you, is actually quite a serious commitment. You don't just pop out to the shops and get hitched: you think about it, you get a nice outfit and if you can, you have a nice party, because it's important, and as such I see no reason why women should choose not to advertise this by adopting a new family name. It doesn't mean they "appear secondary" to their husbands. All it shows is that they have entered into a new partnership and that that partnership matters to them.

"The sudden decision to change, and conform to tradition, can be considered the direct result of sex-role stereotyping that would have wider society believe that a woman who fails to taker her husband's name is not fully committed to her partner."

And since the whole point of this post seems to be that these two women were uber-successful compared to their husbands (one of whom is a premiership footballer and is clearly a complete wastrel, in Ms O'Reilly's book), it seems rather strange that she hasn't considered the possibility that both of these women make their living in the public gaze, and that perhaps, just perhaps, these name changes may also have given them some free, wholesome publicity, which may have been more of a factor in their decision than the wish to subjugate themselves to their jealous husbands.

Gender politics: harrying Harman

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I almost feel sorry for our beloved Leader (of the House of Commons) who has been so categorically hung out to dry by Gordon over the donations scandal. That is I *would* feel sorry for her, but I am afraid, I am just embarrassed for her: promoted so far beyond her level of competence she's rocketing towards outer space. What kind of example does she set the rest of us in her role as Minister for Women and Equality?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oh, just get OVER yourselves

So there has been yet another furore about a group of juvenile betweeded hacks inviting some controversial speakers to participate in a debate at the Oxford Union. Union president Luke Tryl says he's standing up for free speech, whilst OUSU, Trevor Philips and various OU faith groups have weighed in to condemn him for his flippant insensitivity.

There has been a great deal of coverage of the debate, the demonstrations, and the fracas, as well as various comment pieces either calling for the debate to be cancelled or defending it in the name of free speech. I won't rehearse those arguments here.

What I would like to point out is that students are students, for pity's sake. Their whole point is to irritate the crap out of the rest of us wage slaves by lounging around being drunkenly intellectual at our expense and by saying and doing outrageous things. Any student who has not pissed off at least 20 people by the end of fresher's week is simply not trying hard enough.

So, yes, it was inflammatory to invite two people who hold such offensive views to join in their debate, but no, it is just not important enough for us all to be so worked up about it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The internet: numbing the pain?

I have been trying to avoid reading the numerous press stories which every day update us with yet more sordid details of the murder of Meredith Kercher, however, the fact of the murder raises some interesting questions regarding mass media and lines of social acceptability.

It seems to me that we live in an age where no matter what your appetites, and how disturbing or damaging they may be to others, if you look hard enough, you will be able to find someone of a like mind. In fact, with the growing sophistication of internet search engines and the broadband technology to share information and images quickly and cheaply, we are in serious danger of losing all sense of moral perspective. It seems it is now possible for anyone, no matter how depraved, to find a willing accomplice somewhere in the world: and so deviance is normalised.

We throw our arms up in the air at the child soldiers in the Sudan and Uganda, who have been so brutalised that they have lost all sense of their humanity, and yet, we seem not to see that by a less violent, less obvious, but more pervasive means, we are all heading for the same fate.
Footage of happy slapping, ever more shocking pornography, and unlimited and uncensored images of violence, which are now so easily accessible to all, desensitise us all to the suffering and degradation they represent. Indeed, it has become almost impossible to avoid this material when using the internet, with hidden links and typo squatters cunningly designed to intercept even the most innocent user.
Whenever I hear of a shocking crime committed against an individual I wonder whether without this ever present bombardment and our seemingly insatiable appetites for new and more shocking filth, the perpetrators of these acts would have had the imagination or the flagrant disregard of the rest of our species to dream up and then enact them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gender politics

Hear hear to Rosemary Behan who has today managed to put into words my feelings towards the incessant stream of drivel being spouted by government ministers on the Today program each morning.

The most woeful thing about all this from my point of view is it seems to be the women who are the worst offenders (Hewitt, Primarolo, Smith, Blears, Jowell, Harman).

If I believed in the conspiracy theories peddled by our more strident feminist writers, it would almost seem as though these women were being deliberately thrust in the limelight by our dominant male hegemony as part of a covert mission to maintain the current gender power imbalance by *proving* that women make dreadful politicians and should get back in the kitchen, but then that would just be silly, and would belie the real reason, which is Gordon Brown's astonishing track record in nipping in the bud any sign of real talent (a.k.a. potential threats to his increasingly tenuous position) and instead surrounding himself with incompetent yes-men of either sex.

Northern Rock

I have been becoming ever more irate at the seemingly unstoppable waste of my money that is the Northern Rock scandal. Every day brings with it a new revelation of mismanagement and governmental hypocrisy.

The latest chapters in this sorry tale relate that as a British taxpayer, I have now poured £900 of my hard earned cash into this stinking cess pool to prop up incompetence, failure and greed and that the shareholders are not happy that there is no buyer foolish enough to pay a vastly over inflated price for a bank reaping the consequences of its reckless fiscal policies.

Well excuse me, but I don't have any sympathy for the equity holders in Northern Rock. Every investor should have it drummed firmly into their heads that share prices can go up or down and that a company's market value is never determined as of right, but is firmly linked to the company's performance, which in turn is inextricably tied to the competence and wisdom of its management.

And I can't help thinking that if Northern Rock were called London Rock, or South-Eastern Rock, or hang on, wait for it, Barings, there would be no comparable life belt thrown out by a Treasury anxious to appease swathes of Labour voters who want to have their cake and to eat it too.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

How to fuel my paranoia

I was on the tube when the bombs went off on 7/7 last year. I had got on at Edgware Road and was stuck in a tunnel in the dark at Kings Cross for a long time. Although I managed to avoid being on the actual trains that were attacked, I was, nevertheless, somewhat shaken by the experience and am sometimes a little bit jumpy when travelling on the tube.

Today was one of those occasions. I got on at Edgware Road and was immediately sat next to by a man of middle eastern appearance. No problem there - hardly a surprise if you get on at Edgware Road! What did make me more than a tad uneasy, however, was the fact that this guy (1) was wearing a very bulky coat (in August!), (2) was visibly anxious and twitchy (3) kept checking his watch; and (4) was pressing buttons on his mobile phone.

Call me paranoid, but after a tense few minutes, I had to jump out at Baker Street and change carriages. I realise that I was almost certainly being irrational and maligning a perfectly innocent guy who was simply late for a meeting, but there you have it. Even if the police and secret services do manage to discover and prevent new terrorist attacks, the fear remains. It's just not nice for anyone.

Back at last (with one caveat)

Well, my hectic Summer is drawing to a close. I have moved house, been on holiday, started a new job, etc, etc and am looking forward to resuming regular postings. The only thing I should point out is that I am in the process of switching suppliers for my broadband, so may be internetless in the meantime. C'est la vie!

Monday, August 07, 2006

The old ones are the best...

A perennial e-mail favourite, this still makes me laugh...


You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
You feel guilty for being successful.
Barbara Streisand sings for you.


You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.


You have two cows.
The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.


You have two cows.
The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
You wait in line for hours to get it.
It is expensive and sour.


You have two cows.
You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.


You have two cows.
Under the new farm program the government pays you to shoot one, milk the other, and then pours the milk down the drain.


You have two cows.
You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one.
You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you have downsized and are reducing expenses.
Your stock goes up.


You have two cows.
You go on strike because you want three cows.
You go to lunch and drink wine.
Life is good.


You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains.
Most are at the top of their class at cow school.


You have two cows.
You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour.
Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.


You have two cows but you don't know where they are.
While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman.
You break for lunch.
Life is good.


You have two cows.
You have some vodka.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You have some more vodka.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.


You have all the cows in Afghanistan , which are two.
You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts.
You get a $40 million grant from the US government to find alternatives to milk production but use the money to buy weapons.


You have two cows.
They go into hiding.
They send radio tapes of their mooing.


You have two bulls.
Employees are regularly maimed and killed attempting to milk them.


You have one cow.
The cow is schizophrenic.
Sometimes the cow thinks he's French, other times he's Flemish.
The Flemish cow won't share with the French cow.
The French cow wants control of the Flemish cow's milk.
The cow asks permission to be cut in half.
The cow dies happy.


You have a black cow and a brown cow.
Everyone votes for the best looking one.
Some of the people who actually like the brown one best accidentally vote for the black one.
Some people vote for both.
Some people vote for neither.
Some people can't figure out how to vote at all.
Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which one you think is the best-looking cow.


You have millions of cows.
They make real California cheese.
Only five speak English.
Most are illegals.
Arnold likes the ones with the big udders.

Still silent, but not for long

After what I would say has been the most hectic Summer I have ever had, I am hoping to get back into regular posting in the next week or so... this is subject to the demands of my new job (starting Monday), but watch this space.