Saturday, January 31, 2009


We visited a museum and were enjoying the natural history part.

I explained to my little boy how the skeletons displayed show the bones we have inside our bodies.

He looked at the second skeleton and said "And those bones are like Granny and Granddad's?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Friends of friends

Facebook is a funny old thing, where sometimes you learn more about particular people than you really wanted to know.

Such as when a picture of some woman's breasts came up in my feed. Who was this woman? I had no idea, and why her breasts were looking at me, I wasn't sure. It turns out that she is a "friend" of a "friend" and obviously has no security settings on her photos or has them available for "friends of friends". Considering that my "friendship" with her friend consisted of nothing more than playing the same game on-line, perhaps a rethink would be in order.

I could be anybody, and very likely am...

Reading the numerous comments on the photos (as I had access to the entire album) I now have an idea of her location and family circumstances. I could save those photos to my computer if I liked.

It's not good really, is it?

Perhaps she doesn't care what she makes public, since her profile picture shows her in her underwear, so mayhap, she would be unfazed by complete strangers seeing the pictures.

She also had a tattoo of the Playboy Bunny. And you know, I really loathe the mainstreaming of the bunny logo. Not that her choices for her body are my business but let me just rant in general, moving away from the origin of the topic. I hate the stationary, the t-shirts, all the merchandising. When did porn star become aspirational? Why?

Women are expected to objectify themselves these days, it seems. "I'm totally programmed to do it and I wanna do it too [...] death to Bill and Ted!"

I'm not completely anti-porn, but I dislike the hyper-sexualisation that is in the media and society at large. I think feeling good about yourself has been contorted into feeling/dressing sexy. If you're a woman, it's all about being able to walk about naked in front of people, if you believe Gok Wan and other lifestyle programmes. No surgery, no diets, at least - but uncomfortable hold-it-in strap-it-up undies, lashings of make-up and careful lighting & posing.

This isn't freedom and empowerment, it's conformity. This isn't being yourself, it's being someone who can "pass" for "conventionally attractive" in the right light.

Monday, January 26, 2009

He's the most tip-top

I apologise if I'm turning into a mad-cat-lady blogger...

The cat is pawing insanely at a car transporter lorry*.
I ask him, rather politely, I thought: "What are you doing, you freak?"
He turns, fixes a green-eyed glower upon me and utters a questioning "browwww?" as though I'm the one with the problem.

I ask you.

* Toy one. Obviously. He's not that demented to take on the real thing.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Reading Record 2009

It's time for a new book list (2008 here, 2007 here, 2006 here). I've done shockingly so far this year: January is nearly through, and I've barely done any reading at all but nevertheless:


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass / Lewis Carroll
The Dawkins Delusion / Alister McGrath


Wrath of a Mad God / Raymond E Feist
Left Behind / Tim LaHaye & Jerry B Jenkins
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows / JK Rowling
Wings / Terry Pratchett
T is for Trespass / Sue Grafton
Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince / JK Rowling


A Proper Marriage / Doris Lessing
Cat's Eye / Margaret Atwood
Tender is the Night / F Scott Fitzgerald (abandoned)
Blind Assassin / Margaret Atwood
Cultural Amnesia / Clive James
C is for Corpse / Sue Grafton


The Historian / Elizabeth Kostova
Woman on the Edge of Time / Marge Piercy (re-read)


Castle Dor / Daphne DuMaurier
Darwin's Children / Greg Bear
The Book of Saladin / Tariq Ali
The First Casualty / Ben Elton (re-read)


Neverness / David Zindell
Far From The Madding Crowd / Thomas Hardy
Unspeak / Steven Poole


Sylvester / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
The Black Moth / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Devil's Cub / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
These Old Shades / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
The Convenient Marriage / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
The Corinthian / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Sprig Muslin / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
The Quiet Gentleman / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Charity Girl / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
April Lady / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Bath Tangle / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Frederica / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
The Masqueraders / Georgette Heyer (re-read)


Powder & Patch / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Arabella / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
The Nonesuch / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie / Muriel Spark
Royal Escape / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Lady of Quality / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
The Mayor of Casterbridge / Thomas Hardy (re-read)
Pistols for Two / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles / Thomas Hardy (re-read)
The Grand Sophy / Georgette Heyer (re-read)


My Lord John / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Jingo / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
The Last Continent / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
The Overlook / Michael Connolley
The Conqueror / Georgette Heyer (re-read)
Cotillion / Georgette Heyer (re-read)


Dawn of The Dumb / Charlie Brooker
The Truth / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Lords & Ladies
/ Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Pyramids / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Reaper Man / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Soul Music /Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Going Postal / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Making Money / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Interesting Times / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Her Ladyship's Guide to Modern Manners / Lucy Gray
Monstrous Regiment / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
Thud! / Terry Pratchett (re-read)
We Need to Talk About Kevin / Lionel Shriver
Straw Dogs / Gordon Williams


God is not Great / Christopher Hitchens
Forty Signs of Rain / Kim Stanley Robinson
The Telling / Ursula LeGuin
The Age of Wonder / Richard Holmes
Tricks of the Mind / Derren Brown
The Miracle at Speedy Motors / Alexander McCall Smith


Neverwhere / Neil Gaiman
The Book Thief / Markus Zusak
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest / Ken Kesey (re-read)
The Fabulous Riverboat / Philip Jose Farmer (re-read)
Pandaemonium / Christopher Brookmyre
Charlotte Gray / Sebastian Faulks
Venus in Furs / Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch (re-read)
The Hell of It All / Charlie Brooker
Rides a Dread Legion / Raymond E Feist
Unseen Academicals / Terry Pratchett

The indisputable

Cat ownership is generally great, but, 4am drips of saliva on my face while singing and making bread on my chest...

Well, these things are a bit of a downside.

Fantastic Four

For our DVD night, we watched 'The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer' together. I've seen it before, but not for a while. Since I have an affection for Marvel I want to like it, and generally it's a decent film, but I had my critical hat on and did have a bit of a problem with some of it.

Johnny, the human torch, is mysteriously affected by contact with the Silver Surfer, and swaps the powers with the others if he touches them. When this first occurs, he swaps powers with his sister. She panics completely when she is on fire, as well one might, but rather unlike the other superheroes in the group. When the Thing gets the power, he enjoys it and wants the opportunity to swap again. When Mr Fantastic gets that power, he not only keeps his cool (haha) but is able to control it immediately and save the day, welding the London Eye back together, ta-dah!

Susan, on the other hand, is helpless & screaming, swinging randomly in the air. And when their powers are swapped back she is, again*, naked in front of a gawping crowd.

In the first film, when Johnny first obtained his power and accidentally bursts into flame while skiing, burning off all his clothes and tumbling into a snow drift, is it a source of humiliation and voyeurism in the same way? I would say, absolutely not. He is out with a woman he is trying to impress and seduce, and his impromptu hot tub creation seems coded to succeed. He is not out in public, or vulnerable, exposed to the view of strangers.

In this second film, Johnny constantly wears his uniform under his clothes, in order to avoid ending up naked a lot. Susan however does not, despite like Johnny having a suit adapted to her powers. Since her ability includes invisibility, where to successfully use it she needs to remove normal clothing, it would seem to me that it'd be high on her priorities to wear her suit also.

* First film

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A historic day

All I wish to do really, regarding Obama's inauguration, is point you to Greta Christina's post on the subject.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An imposter in my own life

It's the time of year that I start thinking about going to my father's grave again. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to do this, but I have for the last few years. He died when I was very young, so I don't remember him and it seems a fraudulent sentimentality.

There's nothing there, just green stones. It would make more sense logically to go and visit my Grandfather's grave, if grave-visiting is sense at all, since at least I knew him well and miss him still. But I never have the least inclination to go there.

I think it's partly out of childhood traditions I cling to nostalgically, like sticky toffee puddings by the fire. But there's more to it also.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


In retrospect, I think it's not such a laughing matter, that atheist meme. I was a bit shocked by the rather juvenile point-scoring that "hardcore" atheists are supposed to do, but it's been playing on my mind since. To the extent that it's just a joky frivolous internet meme, that's fine, but otherwise it's a bit sad-making to think that it comes out of genuine experience. If it's rooted in fact that atheists in the US can risk being beaten up or losing their jobs over their atheism, it makes the sometimes strident and chip-on-shoulder attitude (that you can see online particularly) that much more understandable. I think I would feel oppressed in such an environment.

I'm very grateful to live in a mostly secular society. Hurrah. I may get all patriotic yet.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Atheist meme

I came across this meme about atheism which originally came from Friendly Atheist:

  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge. I don't even know what that is.
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person. No. Don't particularly want to either.
  3. Created an atheist blog. It's a blog and I'm an atheist. Occasionally I write about atheism/religion.
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone. No. I don't do much debating these days, but probably would if it seemed á propos.
  5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic. No, it's not something someone is likely to call me... and I wouldn't be offended. It's remarkably unlikely to come up as a subject, day to day.
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron. I don't know the show or the person.
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know. I dunno, we have three or four floating about - a couple of kids' ones and my confirmation one, for sure... I've never compared amounts of Bibles with anyone, so wouldn't know! Haha. It strikes me as rather amusing that.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc. No! Do I not have better things to do? And I never annotate books anyhow, not since college. I find it ruins perfectly good books.
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family. I'd argue about 'coming out' as such, it's no big deal in the UK. Maybe it's a biggie in the US and elsewhere, but here, nah. Some friends/family know, some don't, depends whether subject has ever come up.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering. No. Not sure what the point would be. "We don't believe in god(s), hurrah, let's go home, bye."
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization. . No
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony. No. Had registry office wedding.
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization. No. I do donate money to causes I believe in, humanitarian projects etc. I do choose secular ones rather than those that have a religious agenda.
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. No! Haha. I have a couple of his books, but he's not my hero. Hehehehe... I think this meme is rather giving weight to a lot of the accusations levelled at atheists. Which isn't quite as funny after all.
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism. No. I did have to stop arguing religion with a friend cos it was peeing us both off, and no bad thing.
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize. No, there's no point. I am tempted to be rude to Stress-Test people (Scientologists) and people who shout about hell and that on the streets, but I resist.
  17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away. No. Wouldn't dream of it. Why would you? If it's going to be that massive a deal to the person you're dating, it's best to be open about it from the start. I wouldn't be prepared to fake it forever, nor for five minutes. It is what it is. I need the person I love to accept me as I accept him.
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc). No! Haha.
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion. No.
  20. Attended an atheist conference. No.
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel. Who? No.
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school. Why now?
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism. No. Why would I want to, even if I could?
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die. Haha. This is atheist, how? I'm an organ donor and I guess I might consider donating my body to science. Never really occurred to me as an option before.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction. No, I'm not 13 anymore.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place. Haha. I find "blasphemies" most useful as ejaculations (of the verbal kind, haha)... Why would you think twice as an atheist? Surely as a theist you're supposed to think twice about using names in vain and all that? It's just useful words to me. The only time I try to stop "blaspheming" is when I'm around someone religious that I'm worried I may irritate or offend unnecessarily, which ain't likely to be someone I'm shagging, begging your pardon, cos my bloke is an atheist too. Not that it is something I'm likely to say during sex anyway. I won't go into what I am likely to say, as this isn't that sort of blog...
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism. No. Surely that must/ought to be illegal?
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count). I got chatting to a few people at an atheist forum and a book forum where the initial "us vs them" debate frontlines were the spark, but to endure beyond that, there has to be more common ground than atheism.
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills. No, I'm not sure I've ever even touched a dollar bill, much less had opportunity to molest one... I drew a moustache on the Queen on a stamp once, if that helps.
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I wouldn't recite it, but I'm not American so it's not exactly relevant.
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!” I say "bless you" and "gesundheit" or sometimes, horrifiedly, "I'll get you a tissue"; the former don't bother me. Why should it?
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying. Why would they think I was praying and why would I care if they did?
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you needed something entertaining to watch. No. If I wish to be entertained I watch something amusing like repeats of QI.
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist. No. Eh?
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant. Yes. Had to change it from capitalised Atheist to atheist, as the capitalised version did bug me. I identify myself as an atheist in the hopes that people will know what to expect and therefore only have themselves to blame, haha, if they read my comments about particular books or groups when it comes up on their feed.
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service). I don't know any dead atheists. Should I perhaps murder a few in order to attend their non-religious funerals to make me a better atheist?
  37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic) No. I read some sceptical online things, blogs and magazines occcasionally when in the mood. I'm not made of money, you know.
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism. No.
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God. No.
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift. I don't really subscribe to the title of New Atheist, whatever it's supposed to mean... I do lend books in the context to talking about religion/atheism, but I'm far more likely to suggest a book and they can look for it themselves if they really want to. I don't see it as a positive or worthwhile thing to try to persuade anyone in or out of beliefs generally and would only buy someone a book as a gift, when they had said they wanted it.
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public. No! Haha.
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them. No. I don't want to argue with them cos I find religious debating ultimately goes round & round in circles and it gets pretty darn annoying. I partake occasionally, but it's too well-worn, I get bored of retreading the same old ground very quickly nowadays... JWs tend to be very pleasant on the doorstep and while I'd prefer they didn't interrupt my day, I understand that they mean well. I worry about them getting people being horribly rude to them and possibly abusive, especially when they bring children with them, and think they don't deserve that sort of thing. There's no need. You can be polite and they'll just go, in my experience.
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God. No. Crikey, is it that bad in the US?
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants). No.
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it. No. Haha.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.” No. Religious people aren't the enemy, although I'm opposed to creationism or ID being taught in science classes at school. Cos it ain't science. In RE, fine.
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all. And this is about atheism how? Surely this is scepticism? ... I don't believe in astrology, but if someone asked me my sign, I'd tell them. Why not? I'm not such a contentious person, why do you think I have to be out to argue with everyone all the time?
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to… No! Haha. I accidentally got onto a Scientology mailing list after I bought a Dianetics book on Ebay to try to read about it after Tom Cruise was so excitable on Oprah's sofa, but they went away after I asked them nicely. Or at least for the most part they stopped. I get the occasional email.
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray. Yes. I've been in churches... It's not to make a point though, it's mostly that I forget the rituals and I'm not fond of acting.
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you. I don't really know much about Unitarian churches, but I wouldn't choose to attend such a thing, I don't suppose. I have pubs and cinemas and other places to meet people socially.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On annoyance with Beyoncé and the dreaded "it"

I'm annoyed by Beyoncé's current single, oh so annoyed.

It's called "Single Ladies". It seems a song calculated to try and get women up on the dancefloor in sisterhood and we've-been-dumped-but-we'll-get-by-so-neah-ishness; a theme that might include Gaynor's "I will survive" or even a previous song with Destiny's Child "Survivor", to give examples of the genre. Although whether the lyrics of these songs would stand analysis, I don't know, I'm not annoyed by them today so not looking at them with jaded eye.

The song seems to be about an ex getting shirty with the singer, for having a good time and being out with another man so she is telling him to back off as they have split and it's none of his business. So far, so bloody marvellous, not too much to complain about there really.

But you see, the refrain is "If you liked it you shoulda put a ring on it." It?!

The video shows her hand gestures and at the very end shows a very large diamond ring on her finger, so "it" no doubt is officially her finger.

But the "if you liked it"? C'mon, that "it" wasn't the finger. Hmm, yes, I like your finger so very much, I wish to give it jewellery... You have to wonder what exactly she was doing with her finger for such a result... Perhaps she's a hand-model and he's a catalogue photographer. The innocent explanation.

So what else is "it"? Well, the first verse is about a failed 3 year relationship, so "it" could be that, possibly - but it is stretching massively. For you cannot put a ring upon a relationship, being a less than tangible thingy, more a concept or emotional state. Nor can it be her sex-drive or libido, for the same reason.

The set-up of this song is of her dancing sexily with a man in a club and being disapproved of by the ex, while the accompanying dance for the video is very much about the body... Which leads me to the conclusion that "it" is her body. Referring to her body and/or on a larger scale, women's bodies as "it" gets me to feeling all tense about the shoulders. It's dehumanising. "It" is an object, not a person.

Another annoying lyric is within the verse:
"Don’t treat me to the things of this world
I’m not that kind of girl
Your love is what I prefer, what I deserve
Is a man that makes me, then takes me
And delivers me to destiny, to infinity and beyond*
Pull me into your arms
Say I’m the one you own
If you don’t, you’ll be alone
And like a ghost I’ll be gone".

Did you spot the especially irritating and wronger-than-a-wrong-thing line?

"Say I'm the one you own." What? I refer you, Beyoncé, to the sentiments of Leslie Gore. Even if the man in question had given you a ring, he wouldn't own you.

And the idea that if he had given her a ring that there'd be questions of permission, of going out or of drink in her glass?! Sure, if you're in a relationship, you keep each other apprised of your movements mutually and are answerable to each other, but this does not translate into asking permission. I can see dirty dancing with someone else as being a bit of a no-no, but come on, the rest of it? This sense I get that the song is saying if the man had committed to her in a relationship, he'd have a right to control her, is troubling.

I think what annoys me most is the way that this song seems to me to be cloaked as an anthem for independence and sisterhood, ie. its call to single women and post-break-up narrative, yet it's a rather epic fail because it reduces the woman to "it" and assumes some rather dodgy things about relationships.

* Buzz Lightyear to the rescue.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Well, it's 2009 and I've been a bit slack with regard to wishing readers happy new years and all that, for which I beg pardon.

And in what passes for real life, it hasn't been much better. We bought Christmas cards, but unfortunately failed to send any. Again. I'm sure that's a recurring theme each year.

Excuses and self-justifying follows: I had a Christmas job that ate my time and desire to use computers away almost completely, and had me scuttling off to bed ridiculously early most nights. It did give me some guffaws and people-watching opportunities, as I offered here. I overheard some wonderful conversations and some mind-boggling ones. One I particularly enjoyed was two men in their late fifties/early sixties explaining to a teenager how bowls is no longer an old man's sport... Her expression was rather disbelieving.

Now for a post-mortem on 2008's book list.

I read 65 books, or at least started to read that many. I abandoned 3 cos I couldn't get along with them. I also still have four books on the go from 2008, which haven't made the list as they are neither finished nor am I willing yet to declare them abandoned, (although I've been "in the middle of" the Illuminatus trilogy and Tender is the Night for months...)

I'm quite pleased with the variety of books I read: it wasn't just novels, which are my usual staple. I also read some non-fiction and an autobiography - I'm branching out, me! I'm also rather pleased with myself for reading quite a number of "classics" in order to stretch myself and enable me to fill in those book memes with read that, read that, read that, falalala.