Monday, November 28, 2005

Winter of Discontent

I'm cold. I'm so cold that I'm seriously considering cutting my head off and burning it to produce some heat. I want to hibernate and not come out until there's blossom on the trees.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Asking for it

So... according to a third of respondents to the Amnesty survey out today, women who dress provocatively and flirt with men are asking to be raped.

I imagine I'm preaching to the converted here, because presuambly that third of people are sitting in a wood somewhere trying to communicate by banging on bits of animal bone. But it makes me too angry to ignore.

It's not only insulting to women, it's insulting to men by saying that they're so bloody primative that they can't help but rape a woman as soon as they've got a glimpse of her ankle.

Women (or men for that matter) always have the right to say no. Even if you've been flirting shamelessly all night. Even if you were hoping to have a one-night stand that night with someone else. Even if you've already promised sex and change your mind at the last minute.

To say that some women could use some crime-prevention advice is one thing, but to put any blame whatsoever towards the victim of a rape is absolutely unacceptable.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


So, a professor has shortened literary works into text message style summaries. Apparently this is meant to help students study literature. I have no problem with students being given a nice friendly summary PRIOR to reading the book (particularly with things such as Greek plays where the audience were meant to know the plotline beforehand), but to say that these summaries could actually replace literature is completely fucking ridiculous.

For example,

5Sistrs WntngHsbnds. NwMeninTwn-Bingly&Darcy. Fit&Loadd.BigSis Jane Fals 4B,2ndSisLiz H8s D Coz Hes Proud. Slimy Soljr Wikam Sys DHs Shady Past.Trns Out Hes Actuly ARlyNysGuy &RlyFancysLiz. She Decyds She Lyks Him.Evry1 Gts Maryd.

Where do I start... Where's the humour? Where are half the characters? How can you have Pride and Prejudice without Mrs Bennett or Mr Collins? How can you introduce Wickham as "slimy" when we're all meant to fancy him a bit when we first see him?

I appreciate that when you're young it might be difficult to get into Shakespeare, Chaucer, or even Dickens for that matter, but these summaries aren't helpful at all. If I were teaching a group of moody teenagers, I'd start with the section in David Copperfield when he gets pissed with his mates. This passage remains one of the best descriptions of drunkeness I know. I'd get them to read Northanger Abbey for Austen -I challenge anyone not to find that book funny. I'd take them to see Shakespeare at the theatre. I'd get them to read poetry aloud. Anything but those bloody awful bloody summaries.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Constant Gardener

I saw The Constant Gardener yesterday. It's one of those films that makes you want to pack in your job, sell all your worldly possessions, and go and work as an aid worker in some far-flung country the other side of the world.

The trouble is, you sit in the cinema feeling all indignant and self-righteous, but then that feeling slowly drifts away as you're on your way home, and before you know it you're watching Antiques Roadshow in your comfy slippers and eating a Kit Kat.

In reality, I'm never going to jack it all in to do something heroic and worthy. So what do I do with these feelings of wanting to do more? It's overwhelming to think about everything we could be doing. So I suppose the trick is to do things one stage at a time. Last time I saw a film like this I joined Amnesty and Oxfam. Maybe this time I need to realise that giving money isn't enough. I should actually start reading the stuff they send me and do things like selling raffle tickets and writing to my MP. But all of this seems pathetic and embarassing compared to the hard work that 'real' people are doing in places of crisis.

Oh dear, what am I going to do?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Call that art?

I went to the Tate Britain last Friday to have a look at the Turner Prize finalists. There was a tour by Mark Kemode which mainly consisted of him telling us he knows nothing about art and not to bother asking any questions.

I definitely have an ambivalent attitude towards contemporary art. On the one hand, I don't want to be one of those loud, middle-class people who talk too loudly at art galleries about how 'brave' the artist is, when they actually have no idea what they're looking at. And I really don't have any idea what I'm looking at. My knowledge of art history is pretty minimal and I probably couldn't pick a contemporary artist out of a line-up (apart from Tracey Emin, but I only know her because of that time she turned up for a television interview pissed and stormed out to phone her mum).

On the other hand, I think that artists are getting a really tough time at the moment. I hate it when someone says "a tent with names on? But I could have done that!" because I always think, well why didn't you then? It isn't just about artistic ability, it's about having innovative ideas.

And there are some exhibits that have really moved me in the past. Take Tracey Emin's unmade bed (don't actually take it though, she's still a bit cut up about what happened to her tent). I admit that on paper it sounds crap. An unmade bed. But when I actually saw it, I suddenly got what she was trying to do. It's a self-portait without the subject. It's as if she's just that second left that room but you can still sense her being there. It made me think of when I went to a funeral last year of someone I'd never met; I got a real sense of who she was by the things and the people that had surrounded her. In some ways I didn't need to meet her to know what she's like.

Looking at the bed made me feel incredibly sad. The bed (and all the paraphenalia surrounding it) showed what a mass of contradictions a person really is. It evoked both childhood and adulthood: innocence and sex. It felt empty and sad and probably affected me much more than a portait has ever done.

I've always said that all I want from art is for it to make me feel. Jude the Obscure will never be a 'favourite' novel because it's so bloody depressing, but the fact that Hardy can fill me with such a sense of doom is really impressive. So, my favourite of the Turner finalists is Darren Almond. After about two seconds of seeing his work I wanted throw myself onto the floor sobbing and banging the floor with my fists because it's so melancholy. I'm not sure whether he's necessarily the best artist there, but he's definitely the one that will stay with me the most.