Saturday, October 30, 2004

Warning: adult content 

There's an interesting Italian online museum dedicated to (often erotic) spanking artwork. Private vices, public benefits and all that...

Monday, October 18, 2004

Birmingham Baywatch 

From the people who brought you the "Birmingham: It's Not Shit" campaign, the new innovation of Brummie Baywatch.

What really amuses me about this is the very Brummie thing that the majority of the people in the video don't even look twice at what's going on, even as a nearly naked man runs past them in the city's main square to 'dive' into the fountain. Just look at the two girls chatting while one man lies 'dead' next to them. We've managed to take studied indifference to new levels here.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Changing pronouns 

I've long been accustomed to writing 'her' when writing about an unspecified subject in my work. For a while I went through a period of making all my unfavourable subjects male and all my favourable ones female, partly to see if anyone noticed. Admitting prejudices, I tend to be dismissive of the views of someone who continues simply to write 'he', 'him' or 'his', unless they're damn fine views otherwise (which I could appropriate for my own ends).

But using simply female pronouns doesn't seem much better. More enlightened, yes, but not satisfactory. 'His or her' is clunky, and 'they'/'them'/'their' is ungrammatical. So what's one to do? The temptation would be to create new terms for the purpose of each piece of work - 'sie' is one I've seen used by trans sites, presumably taken from German - but this is in turn alienating to the reader, and would go against my own intent to persuade. After all, a writer, even/particularly one who wants to change our normative culture, must operate within that culture's language, simply to be persuasive ('every revolutionary... is obliged to march backward into battle').

So 'she' or 'she or he' would seem to be the way to go, but the choice isn't easy, since on the one hand I might get dismissed as an overly strident feminist (fine by me, yes, but not when I want to succeed) and on the other I might get dismissed as a coward (fence-sitting doesn't do too well, either). We're too tied down we are by gender boundaries, since we can't begin to operate in mainstream discourse without using them, and without using one or the other in particular. The subjects in my head are mostly male, so they've crossed genders as soon as I put them on the page, and that's probably why I think about these things more often than most, and about twenty years too late. But that's probably not particularly normal...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Happy discovery 

I always thought the school I went to between 4 and 11 was a bit of a hippie school. In assemblies we'd sing things like 'Streets of London' and 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' (the source of my unfailing disrespect for the Beatles ever since). The principles were all pretty lefty, too, but I never before realised that some of our songs were taken direct from The Socialist Songbook!

I was singing this when I was five years old:

The ink is black, the page is white, Together we learn to read and write, to read and write...

But I didn't realise that the rest of the song was about social justice:

The schoolhouse doors were closed so tight, were closed up tight. Nine judges all that signed their names To end the years and years of shame, years of shame.

Of course, it's probably just the case that the song was used in a 'promoting multiculturalism' sort of way, but it's fun to think that whoever chose it could have been reading the same thing that gives us this:

Onward, Christian soldiers!
Duty's way is plain;
Slay your Christian neighbors,
or by them be slain.
Pulpiteers are spouting effervescent swill,
God above is calling you to rob and rape and kill,
All your acts are sanctified by the Lamb on high;
If you love the Holy Ghost, go murder, pray and die.

Primary school education was more fun in those days.

Remembering poetry 

[Via Crooked Timber and Backword Dave] It's National Poetry Day today. I've been waiting for a while now to have an excuse to link to some part of a long poem called 'Curing Homosexuality' by Jim Everhard. It's not a good poem, but it is very funny, and also moving in a naïve, awkward sort of way. At this point, he's discussing how, according to psychiatrists, "everything you saymeans something else even more sinister than what you meant":

For instance, never say: "I put my umbrella in the closet and found my brother in the backyard beating the shit out of a roosterwhile looking at nude pictures of Judy Garland."

To a psychiatrist this means:
  • umbrella = phallic symbol = womb = death = fear that it will rain atyour funeral and no one will come
  • closet = phallic symbol = womb = mother castration = desire to work for a fast food chain = prostitution = fear of underwear
  • brother = phallic symbol = sibling rivalry = castration = desire tostick your finger up your ass and smell it
  • rooster = phallic symbol = cock flying = fear of Karen Black =crashing = fear of impotence = hatred of women = fear of oxygenshit = phallic symbol = fear of dirt = work = puritan work ethic =father's penis = sexual frustration = deviations = fascination withdirt = bad toilet training = sexual hostility toward pilgrims
  • nude = phallic symbol = opposite sex = original sin truth = fear ofgardens = self-deception = poor sanitation habits desire fordeath and return to Earth Mother = return to disco = hatredof mother = love of analyst but always waiting for some-one to come along and say no = desire to live in ahole in the ground
  • Judy Garland = phallic symbol = fear of tornadoes = love/hate ofsucking = confusion of identity = desire to have oral relations witha lap dog = necrophilia = fear of Easter bonnets = desire tobe a woman = fear of bad breath = spiritual destitution = desire to be Dr. Kinsey = existential mal-function = fear of tubas = fear of dude ranchesand desire to perform unnatural acts withMickey Rooney = fear of short, pimply people

Like a cancer, one sentence can devour your entire psyche.

My addition to the sonnet debate would be arguments in favour of 116, but I could never remember it by heart the way some say they do for other sonnets. I don't make any great artistic claims for the music I like, but if Shakespeare could be put to popular music, then it might linger a bit longer. Of course, he'd have to be translated into the right style, and since all the popular music of our time is country and western, it would have to be something like this...

Don't let me put a bottle in the way
Of fools who think alike. Love just ain't love
Which changes when a man gets old and grey
Or cracks like broken hearts that beer won't soothe:
No sir! it is a Lord-lovin' affair
That twenty hurricanes could not impair;
It is the sev'n-eleven of the night,
Whose worth's untold, although it's price is right.
Love don't groan, though sweet-tongued airs and graces
Made me moan when you'd sleeve all your aces:
Love don't change with the oil in your old truck,
But bears it out even when down on luck.
Shoot me down if I tell word of lie,
And I'll hang down my head and cry-y-y-(oh-lord).

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Facing freedom 

[Via Norm] Guardian columnist Mark Murray is worrying about his son going to university:

"How will he cope with the sporty young men, the willowy young women and the politicos with their shock of hair and answers to every question? Will it make or break him? "

Willowy young women? Has he seen a British university recently? There are certainly some people who fall into the final category, but most of them aren't students...

Sunday, October 03, 2004


New medical research suggests that vitamin pills may only take you closer to death. I'm not sure whether this means that my inability to remember to take them (as a vegan) is good or bad... It seems I'm screwed either way, but as with so much of medical research these days, the overall impact of conflicting evidence tends to make me, and many others I know, abandon any attempt to follow health guidelines at all. Which I'm sure isn't the result intended.

Changing sex the Sharia way 

Taking a break from work, I've been reading about Iran's somewhat surprising approach towards transsexuality. While there's still huge stigma attached to it, and most get branded homosexual - sometimes leading to the death penalty - the gender reassignment procedure is becoming more accepted and receiving religious approval from, among others, Ayatollah Khomeini. There are clerics trying to show how it's consistent with Sharia law, state subsidies are sometime available for the expensive operations, and once successful the subjects will gain new birth certificates and national identity cards. (As a comparison, the birth certificate change is only coming in in Britain with the passage of the Gender Recognition Bill 2004 - a very important bill, which isn't receiving enough attention).

It's still not a great situation, though, with medical discrimination such that some male to female transsexuals have been cutting off their penises in order to receive as an emergency the surgery they can't get any other way. Also, the male dominance of Iranian society has produced the strange result that female-to-male transsexuals are much more easily accepted once operations have taken place. I certainly admire, and wonder at, anyone who would choose to become recognised as a woman in Iranian society, no matter how true it is to their real gender identity.

The main problem as I see it, though, is the illegality of homosexuality, which will almost certainly mean that some go through a very painful and lengthy procedure simply in order to avoid the death penalty for their sexuality. This in turn will make the general public more suspicious of genuine transsexuals, who will think that they are simply gay and avoiding punishment.

More needs to be done.

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