Thursday, 25 February 2010

Dr Jones' Feminist Film Nights: A Question of Silence.

Image from Wikipedia (VHS cover).

I graduated in 2007 with a pretty good degree in English Literature and Classics and unfortunately ever since this momentous achievement absolutely nothing in my adult life has quite matched up. This is probably why I still hang out at all my old student haunts and feel comfort just knowing that the uni library is only a stone's throw away from my flat. Its probably also why I agreed to go to a feminist film screening at my old Eng Lit department the other night. Well that and the promise of the booze afterwards - old student habits die hard, after all. But oh how I was hit with a wave of nostalgia as I entered the huge cavernous lifts of DHT, thrilled by the prospect of 95 minutes of gritty 80's militant Dutch feminist cinema in a windy Soviet classroom, so in keeping with the style of Edinburgh University's 70's architecture.
The film in question was conveniently called 'A Question of Silence'. No I hadn't heard of it either. And a film set in 80's Amsterdam that revolves around a single day when three women who have never met each other before kill a male boutique owner doesn't exactly sound like the most exciting prospect, and put it this way it was no Beaches. And yet despite the questionable acting, the stilted choreography of many of the scenes, the unintentional humour (a particular favourite was the doctor describing the poor boutique owner's injuries, 'his genitals were unrecognisable') and the 80's safety video music, there was something to be said for this wee film.
Sure it was completely saturated with all the themes us feminist/post-feminist/post-apocalyptic ladies are well versed in; sexism in the work place, domesticity, voicelessness, the tyranny of body image, ruddy male condescension (and from the Netherlands no-less, a place I'd always considered quite civilised)- I could go on. But it occurred to me that it had to be this way in the 80's because our second wave sisters were coming up against the sort of misogyny that's now taken for granted. These days its simply unfashionable to say the word we inherited from our foremothers' struggle - Feminism. And why and for what? So that we could champion Cheryl Cole as 'the nation's sweetheart', so Kate Moss could be lauded for having the 'perfect' body, so Katie Price could be crowned 'Mother of the Year'? None of this is feminism.
Now its feminism through the back door and we come out the other side holding hands with Susie Orbach and spouting nonsense about 'body issues'. So in light of this 'A Question of Silence' is a painful reminder of the hard-fought - not won battles - of a feminism which wasn't afraid to be a little bit difficult, a little bit political, hell a little bit angry with men! But if all that's just a little bit too difficult for you there's always the lesbian/sexual tension subplot and as previously mentioned, the awesome 80's safety video music soundtrack.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

In praise of 'Lost in Showbiz'

Marina Hyde's blog 'Lost in Showbiz' is proving to be one of the few things worth reading in The Guardian. Am I the only one who feels that since the recession has hit their more politically/feminist orientated articles have been sidelined for life and style pieces about making your own Christmas tree decorations out of discarded bog rolls and the politics of peeing in the shower? And don't even get me started on the proliferation of everyone's favourite middle class chicken saviour, Hugh Fearnley 'cayenne pepper really lifts a bowl of soup' Whittingstall's recipes. The bloody River Cottage is as removed from my life as melting ice-caps are for people in the Sudan, so he can take his well intentioned curly haired worthiness and ruddy well sod off ...

Anyway over the weekend I chanced upon Marina Hyde's article 'Gok Wan: God's Gift to Women' - a piece of writing so beautifully mesmeric, as to be utterly life changing and here I want to pay homage to its wonderousness. Marina Hyde manages to merge the seemingly impossible - all the outrageous showbiz gossip of a shameful trip to The Daily Mail website, with the biting politics of the old Guardian us proper socialists used to know and love. In these celebrity obsessed times its not just the gossip rag readers who want a piece of the action, everyone from psychotherapists to university lectures want to be clued up on the latest Kerry Katona story, Katie and Peter war of words or Su-Bo breakdown. And god love Hyde she provides it! Yesterday she criticised the once surely, tantrically speaking at least, untouchable, Sting, for taking a figure of between £1 and £2 million pounds for playing a concert for the daughter of the Uzbek dictator. Its blistering stuff and you can read it here.

I'm sticking to more familiar territory by discussing Gok Wan and more particularly one of the most shocking quotes I've read in recent times, straight out of the mouth of a man I once held up as the savour of all womankind. Here it is ' I had a huge crush on Tony Blair ... in a totally sexual way. He was so powerful but nerdy at the same time. That's my ideal man.' In one fail swoop Gok Wan's admission that he fancied Tony Blair has relegated him from position of quite possibly the ideal man - with his 'you go girl' attitude and nifty way with accessorising and sequins - to what looks like a phony stylist with New Labour tendencies. How can anyone fancy a man who dragged us into an illegal war?

Marina Hyde puts it far better than I ever could - Gok Wan is 'as at home manscaping the mad evangelist of the most disastrous foreign policy adventure since Suez as he is critiquing the new George Pelecanos or whaleboning a size 32 girdle.' And perhaps that's what 12 years of Blair's Britain has given us - Gok Wan, a compelling mix of deluded self-belief, capsule wardrobes, a champion of child labour (well I don't know if this is true but he uses an awful lot of Primark and cheap high street tatt in his make-overs) and the old fashioned gay best friend with the pretence of 'safety', but he'll whip your clothes of in a millisecond, photograph you and project it onto a high street where the great unwashed can laugh at your bingo wings. Perhaps after all 'How To Look Good Naked' (how many of us ever truly do?) is as disingenuous as New Labour ... You can read the full article here.

And in my own nod to all things showbiz I give you a truely astounding quote from Katie Price's new manshape Alex Reid. Apparently he got a lot of grief from Ms Price last week because the tabloids, with all their pretence to honesty, reported the seeming cheapness of the wedding ring he provided for his princess. Reid was quoted in The Mail as responding 'I can't say how much I paid but its more like £60,000. You only get married once, don't you?' Hmmm, try telling Katie that Alex. Indeed try telling Peter Andre that ... You can read the article here if you are not ashamed of going on The Mail website, or if you want to stare in awe at Katie Price's ability to remain unblinking as the paparazzi light bulbs flash. You will notice she's a pro - eyes wide open as if honing in on some unknown prey. By contrast Alex Reid's still getting used to his new found fame and therefore looks a bit constipated.

Quotes from,
The Guardian, 'Gok Wan, God's gift to Women', Marina Hyde. Thurs 18th Feb, 2010
The Mail, 'My parents are gutted': Alex Reid reveals his family's reaction to news of his surprise wedding to Katie Price', 21st Feb, 2010.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Thursday: Stuff that has cheered me up today.

Image taken by Edward Petherbridge.
Today as I walked into the New Town in Edinburgh, I passed Dylan Moran. He was dishevelled and carrying an old fashioned bird cage. He was inches distance from me and I had to hold in the urge to say hello to him. Maybe I should have said hiya, but I don't know him, and as much as I like to kid myself that if I ever encountered anyone famous whom I admired, I would be charming, witty and cool, I fear I'd merely melt into the gibbering, idiotic wreck who says inappropriate things because I think they are funny. So instead I walked past him and blurted out to my flatmate 'that's Dylan Moran!' in my stupid too loud voice which he is sure to have heard. Still, this is my first celebrity spot of the new year and therefore is in itself rather pleasing, particularly since I ended last year on Menzies Campbell.
In other news a few days ago I read an article on the BBC website that got me to thinking. It was about a cat that got its head stuck in a can of pet food. The theory goes that the poor wee thing was scavenging for food and managed to get his head stuck in the discarded tin. So far, so very sad. Still, I couldn't help but wonder why the BBC felt it was appropriate to head the article with a picture of said cat with the tin stuck firmly on his head. Someone obviously whipped out their digital camera before the can was removed from the distressed animal. Then someone at the BBC thought it was important to illustrate a story that's description is blatantly obvious with a distressing image. No wonder then, that I couldn't help but think the picture had been put there merely for amusement. On the face of it 'mog gets head stuck in tin can' sounds pretty darn funny, so an illustrative image is sure to inspire subsequent chuckles. Not that I laughed or anything.
And if you are wondering about the dog in the picture that heads this silly wee blog entry, his, no wait sorry, her, name is Bean. She's a rescue pup of ambiguious gender and she lives with Edward Petherbridge (star of stage and screen and my flatmate's father). She's just here because she's insanely cute in a rodenty/Chihuahua way. As far as I know she's never got her head stuck in a can of Pedigree Chum.
(p.s there seems to be some sort of weird formatting thing going on here were it won't let me make proper spaces between paragraphs. Since nobody reads this anyway I shouldn't let it raise my blood pressure, but damn I'm an English lit graduate and this kind of thing is simply not acceptable.)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Things that are making mid-way through the week better: Nurse Jackie.

Image from The Guardian. BBC/CBS/BBC

Last Friday I awoke from dozing off on the sofa to find a TV programme on BBC 2 set in a hospital and revolving around, shock horror, nurses. The progamme was called 'Nurse Jackie'.
Nurses are often the unsung heros of medical TV drama, the bit part players and trusty asides to the cavalier and grouchy doctors, but 'Nurse Jackie' goes some way to redressing this imbalance. Along with its tone being difficult to pin down - its not the pulsing drama of ER or the sickly schmaltz of Grey's Anatomy, nor possessing of the inane and bizarre life lessons of 'Scrubs' - 'Nurse Jackie' is particularly distinctive because of its wonderful central performance from Edie Falco as the aformentioned nurse Jackie.

Jackie is a flawed and deeply human character and Falco brings an aesthetic and emotional realism to the role of the nurse which can too often be sidelined to a one-dimensional sex symbol. There's no danger of this here as nurse Jackie pioneers her own brand of straight talking bedside manner that extends to challenging the system and the doctors around her who try to enforce a hierarchy.

'Nurse Jackie' is just as distinctive for what appears to be a rare opportunity to portray realistic looking female characters who are complex and compelling, who can carry a TV drama in their own right and are also allowed to deliver some of the best comic lines. I am so sorry that I've discovered this programme as it nears the end of the series (I've caught up on a couple of episodes on iplayer), but hopefully the BBC will repeat it and screen the second series at some point.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

No More I Love You's ...

I re-read over my last post, as I am prone to do, then re-read over it and re-read over it again. Its a bad habit and I ought to just leave the words be, but still its good for finding errant spelling errors and the kinds of embarrassing grammatical mistakes that send me hiding under my duvet in shame.

Anyway, while reading over my previous post 'Things that made last week better' I realised in total horror that I had said 'l love' more than once in the one blog. Given I wrote it the day after Valentines one might be forgiven for thinking I'd been merely swept up in the hearts, fluff and what I rather oddly said in the supermarket on Sunday 'bunny rabbits' of the commercialisation of romance. But no. I won't be drawn into such pathetic excuses. I am a Scot, a proud Scot at that, and we don't say things like 'I love' flippantly, not unless of course, we are extremely inebriated and then we are want to say all manner of extraordinary things.

And anyway I didn't spend Valentines day up to my ears in hearts and roses, oh no, on Cupid's day, St Valentine's night I walked to Waitrose. And that's it. Its not all bad though, Waitrose is a rather upmarket supermarket were there are no plebeian 3 for 2's and special deals. Well I tell a lie there was a BOGOF on condoms, but I let this go because it was Valentines day after all and there are enough unwanted babies in the world... Plus, I went to the one in Morningside in Edinburgh, which is what I had always considered quite a nice area. Given this naive assumption I did observe to my flatmate that 'I didn't think beggars were allowed in Morningside'. Thankfully she gets my black comedy.

Anyway I digress, I just wanted to clear up that I don't say 'I love' regularly, certainly not to people. We'll not real people anyway. I do have a good and pure love for Leonardo Di Caprio which however much I try to shake off, I fear will haunt me forever. Damn you Jack Dawson!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Some things that made last week better ...

Melody Gardot. This American Jazz/Pop singer puts all the pop tarts and pop babies in the corner. Cheryl Cole this is what a real voice sounds like. (Image from

Saturday Night Fever. Coincidently I watched this on Saturday night. Gawd they don't make movies like this anymore. Awesome soundtrack - I'm not afraid to say I enjoy the Bee Gees. My flatmate said she wasn't sure John Travolta was a particularly good actor, to which I replied, 'he wasn't cast for any pretence to thespianism, damn, he was hired for the dancing!'
(Image from The Guardian).

God I was having a crap day when When Harry Met Sally came on Comedy Central. It temporarily cheered me up. Particular highlights included Sally's hair evolution from Charlie's Angel's flick, to 80's poodle perm. They don't make Rom-Coms like this anymore, its all gross out humour at the expense of a decent script. I blame There's Something About Mary. I don't want to see bodily fluids, I want dazzlingly witty words! I love 80's New York in films, Working Girl - Melanie Griffith's hair is epic - and Cocktail are particular favourites. (Image from The Guardian)

Camille O'Sullivan, Irish/French Caberet Singer. Ah, I love this woman! I saw her perform for the first time last year at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe and she literally moved me to tears. Her shows are emotionally charged heltor-skeltor rides along pain, heartache, misery, joy, laughter and miaowing ... And its fun to watch the men squirm as she delves into the audience looking for a sheepish spectator's ear to sing into. I hope I'm lucky enough to see her again this year ... (Image from The Telegraph)

Nina Simone needs no introduction. She is an emotional education. (Image from The Guardian)

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Writing, writing, writing this because a blog doesn't work if you don't update it: After Dark.

Image courtesy of Word Power Books.

This week I've been thinking, when I've been capable of coherent thoughts, about a Japanese novel I read over the Christmas holidays. It was called 'After Dark' by Haruki Murakami. Its about a girl called Eri Asai who seems to have gone to bed permanently. Told partly through the perspective of her sister, Mari, and partly by an omniscient narrator who eerily observes the sleeping girl, the reader gathers that she's not always sleeping, but she's never awake to be with her family. Eri Asai just went to bed and never properly woke up.

Some of 'After Dark' was about the differences between siblings, particularly sisters, as Mari's fears that the divisions that already existed between herself and her beautiful sister appear to increase more expansively as Eri Asai lies in bed. By contrast Mari descends into an insomniac's lifestyle, spending the witching hour between dusk and dawn in an all night Japanese cafe. Mari wonders if Eri Asai is trying to work something out, something dark, that she couldn't talk about, through her sleep.

Its funny how sleep or lack of it is often one of the first signals or means in which we manifest our daytime anxieties and fears. Long gone are the days before the electric light bulb and our 24/7 lifestyle has rather pityingly totally screwed up many modern people's ability to sleep in a natural and coherent manner. I should know, I've slept, so to speak on both ends of the trajectory swinging from excruciating insomnia to a debilitating over-sleep. While insomnia leaves you climbing the walls, shaky, bleary eyed and often tearful, over-sleeping ironically marks your body with an overwhelming lethargy, suddenly all of your movements including speech, become very, very slow. It also disrupts your appetite. Both states make you feel as if you have the worst hang over without any of the fun of the previous night's over indulgence.

At the start of this week I slipped into a horrible over-sleep, whole days stretched out unbeknownst to myself. I'd wake and it would be dark outside, confused I'd go back to sleep. My mind was working through something, or maybe needed the rest, so I shut down and went to bed. Now as the week tapers off and without the relieved Friday night feeling after a week's worth of work, I'm contemplating slipping into a more familiar pattern of sleep disturbance, a version of insomnia which will probably see me into about 8.30 Saturday morning. Then, defeated, I'll turn in and try to steal myself a few hours of the black deathly sleep that comes with pure exhaustion. At least if you oversleep it feels like your sleeping. With insomnia I miss dreams.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Life For Rent

Image courtesy of

'If my life is for rent, and I don't learn to buy, then I deserve nothing more than I get, coz nothing I have is truely mine ...'

There's not really much more I can say today other than that Dido song 'Life for Rent' pretty much sums up how I feel about my life at the moment. Everything is in limbo and its not nearly as much fun as the party game with the pole that gets closer to the floor. And if it were, my bum would be hitting it countless times over.

I used to listen to Dido a lot when I was sixteen, self-indulgently thinking her first album 'No Angel' projected my teenage angst, and I suppose it did with all that mournful warbling about 'just wanting to be happy in my own skin.'

Thankfully to some, Dido appears to have stopped making music. Maybe she worked through her misery and felt it selfish to continue to inflict her middle class torture on the world. There are after all people with real problems. There are horrific things in the news that I don't feel the need to patronise one with by listing here.

Still 'Life for Rent' sums up how I feel today, I'm neither fully living in the world, nor entirely out of it, I'm just existing.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Not Getting Married.

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

Suddenly everywhere I look, everywhere I turn someone is getting married or getting engaged. When did this happen? When did it become fashionable to kid yourself on that you might actually stay attached to the same person for the rest of your life, when you are in your mid twenties and there are so many things left do? I know people used to get married back in olden times and forever meant forever, but those were dark days before the internet, reality telly and Katie and Peter and you probably died at 40 anyway so mid 20's was pretty old. The idea that in our generation where the sense of entitlement and choice are realised in x-factor phone votes, reshuffling your ipod play lists and updating your Twitter, might extend to the momentous decision to marry someone -FOR LIFE- is as ridiculous as Katie Price's recent nuptials to everyone's new favourite numpty Alex Reid.

And yet despite the less than savoury marital experience of the beautiful Cheryl Cole and her musical wedding ring act, will she or won't she be wearing it this week? my peers have never been keener to follow suit and walk up the one-way isle of 'happy ever after'. Hell, I even know someone who is counting down the days to their big day via their Facebook status. Don't stop there I say, why not just have a live video link up to the event itself or post your wedding video on Youtube?

But why all the fuss? Like I said earlier, and at the risk of a repetitiveness similar to the marital state, there are so many things left to do. I have goals but they don't involve playing the princess for the day. I don't want to wear a tiara and I have a ferocious aversion to anything chiffon. Perhaps this puts me at a head start. I've already decided I don't like the pomp and ceremony attached to the ever after pantomime. And honestly that's what it feels like. Marriage has become theatre, an act which is performed rather than lived. I doubt at 25 years old you can possibly envisage your life hence forth as one half of a married couple and all that this entails, but you can imagine the day, the single day when you make that decision in front of your family and peers, as though it were a court ... judgement .... last rites ............................ Sorry I had to stop there and vomit in the nearest waste paper bin. See I told you I have an aversion. Its an illness - pre-marital bulimia.

At this point you'd be perfectly within your rights to ask, well what the hell does this have to do with me? You're just bitter, you might say, no one wants to marry you, you'll die alone, a spinster, with Alsatians nibbling at your toes. Maybe. But perhaps not. Maybe I'll have a long term relationship or I won't, such things are in the lap of the gods. What I do know is that I'll have plenty of free time for myself. I can lie in bed all day on a Saturday and read novels, and books about cocktails, philosophy and life just because I can. I can stay up late and drink too much wine with my girlfriends, recounting tales of foreign adventures and ex-religious fundamentalist boyfriends, thanking our stars that we didn't marry them, not concerned that my other half might think I've been abducted or likewise not sat at home wondering where he is. Off the top of my head these are pretty standard alternatives, there's a world of single fun to be had. For instance, tomorrow I'm going to make Millionaire Shortbread.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Flat hunting ...

Flat hunting would be so much easier if I were Carrie Bradshaw. It would be all skipping along the sidewalks (pavements are so grey and well, British), couture swaying in the breeze, spring in my Jimmy Choo step. In reality flat hunting is a nightmare. And beautiful footwear is not an obligation, it merely slows you down. I simply can't bear to wear trainers for anything other than running and I can't quite make the dizzying heights of Carrie's Louboutins, so my Clarks wedges have proper taken a beating over the past few days. Not for nothing do they say that the three most stressful things you will do in life are getting married, having children, and moving house. Men get out of the second one (the lucky gits), so its a small wonder we out live them.

Back in the real world flat hunting assumes none of the New York connotations of girl in the city making it on her own, fist punching the air. For a start we're not in New York and this isn't Beaches. And don't I know it. Today I viewed a flat which could only be described as resembling the same aesthetic as a half-way house. There was wood chip wall paper and a scary looking, council house gas fire in the living room. Gawd I don't want to come off as a snob, because I'm not, but surely nobody willingly wants one of those honking, ugly beige things with the orange bars in their living room? Or have I missed something, is Only Fools and Horses chic in?

A familiar line in my house has been 'I'll kill myself if I have to live there!' We're of course being melodramatic and we love ourselves far too much for suicide, but you get my point. Over the past few days I've dodged grizzly, slobbery and jowly boxer dogs and been taken up stairwells that wouldn't be out of place in a gritty crime drama probably set in Glasgow. 'There's been a Murrdur' has become the jokey banter between my flatmate and I when we've deemed a building fit only for the habitation of vampires.