Sunday, August 28, 2016

House of No Trumps

Now I don't know if you're bridge players or not, but appreciation of my cunning play on words here relies on knowing that 'no trumps' is a suit in the card game called bridge -- odd name for a card game, but never mind. It also relies on knowledge of the last name of the current Republican candidate for president of the US (he who shall not be named), as well as the name of the 2013 Netflix TV series 'House of Cards' .

To explain why I bothered with this tortured play on words, I will say that having come to 'House of Cards' late and just finished season two in which Kevin Spacey becomes president, a season that aired in early 2014, I have decided that what with the timing being about right and the candidate who shall not be named having a penchant for TV -- and a profound lack of his own ideas -- it is more than likely that he got the idea to run for president himself from Kevin Spacey. Stranger things have happened, especially in America.

It makes perfect sense, really. Hollywood seems to have a much better grasp on reality than what passes for the 'real world' of American life and politics. So why wouldn't Americans take their cues about how to act from Hollywood? I know I do.

Kevin Spacey has a lot to answer for
Still, I would recommend 'House of Cards', if only to get an insight into what the 'real' world Republican candidate, who shall not be named, is going to do next.

Not having finished all four seasons, and I believe there is a fifth in the making due out in 2017, after the 'real' world election, I can't tell you what ultimately happens to Spacey. But if the producers are paying attention, and, like many Americans, DON'T want that candidate who shall not be named to win, they will bring the release date of the fifth season forward to before the election and ensure that Spacey comes to fitting end. Perhaps he could throw himself off of a tall building with his name on it. Or, he could get stuck climbing a very high wall, crying out: 'I'm stuck! I'm stuck!', with no one, on either side, willing to rescue him.

No trumps is a hard suit to play, but played right, there are the most points to be gained.    


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Louie and Me

Technically, he's Louis C.K., but Louis doesn't rhyme with 'me' and his sitcom is called Louie, so never mind. I'll call him Louie. I think that's how the cool people pronounce - and spell - his name, anyway.

I have to confess I am yet to see Louie, but my kids have seen it and assure me it is fantastic, that the guy is a comic genius and an all-round fabulous person. And these are clearly sentiments shared by many people around the world.

And I agree -- to a degree. Comedian/Masturbator is funny, especially as 'masturbator' is not even a word, at least according to my spellchecker. It should be. Next to it you could write: Louis (or Louie) C.K.

But last night, Moose and I tuned in to watch Louie's 2015 stand-up that has just come on Netflix and I have to say, it wasn't altogether fabulous and funny.

Warning: Feminist analysis incoming...

But first, give the comedian/masturbator his due. His joke about how, being middle-aged, he now makes the sound when he pees that he used to make when he was climaxing, and visa versa, told with a convincing and entertaining demonstration, had us both in fits of laughter, though perhaps particularly Moose, who can identify. He does the same.

His joke about not caring how unfit he gets just so long as when he dies people still ask what he died of and don't just take it for granted that he died because he was overweight and unfit, was similarly very funny.

The best humour, no doubt, is when we make fun of ourselves and our 'kind', as these jokes do so well.

But... and it's a big but, his extended skit, with detailed and drawn-out demonstration, on how to make a 'girl rat' come by lying her on her back, tickling, blowing, licking his finger, spitting, etc, with the obvious point of mocking the female orgasm, was not so funny. If he'd made fun of how he failed to make a girl rat come, now that could have been funny. But he chose instead to make fun of the very idea of female orgasm.

Really? Does the clitoris have to be such a joke to men still? Couldn't some of them, those as smart as Louie with a platform to move us beyond clitoris humour and hate, give women a break and recognise that some things done to women by men, not least the amputation of the clitoris performed on millions of young African girls, is the extension of this kind of male mockery that reflects the general distaste of female sexuality by so many men who clearly don't want to have to think about giving women pleasure; and some, who don't want women to have pleasure?

I'd like to think they could.

No need for the whole hyena
But perhaps not Louie. Because in this same show he went on to pronounce sexism and racism 'fundamentally different.' Racism is bad, no argument, we must do better, he says. But 'sexism', that's just women and men giving each other a hard time, as it has ever been and always will be.

Hopefully he eventually figures out how wrong he is. He has two daughters, after all.

To help, I recommend he studies hyenas, the species with the proportionally largest clitoris of all the mammals and the species that is the most successful of all the species in the jungle. Amongst hyenas, males pleasure females, lower females pleasure higher females, but females never pleasure males and males never pleasure males. Males don't get any pleasuring at all, in short, apart from sex itself. I'm not sure about rats.

I don't think we need to go the whole hyena and flip the gendered hierarchy in terms of human sexual pleasuring that far the other way. But I would like Louie, and all the other men who doubt the importance of the clitoris to know, and to think hard about, the fact that there is a reason female humans have a clitoris, for their own sake, as much as for ours. Because those men who figure out what that reason is, will be, ultimately, the most successful men in the jungle. Masturbation is all very well.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Martians and me

Okay. So this is not an exact likeness of Matt Damon as 'The Martian' but it's close enough. You get the general idea of a dude stranded alone on a planet of orange aura and none too happy about it, the essence of Damon's martian. This dude seems perhaps a little more prepared for life on Mars than Damon was, though Damon did quite well to survive for many hundreds of days (I lost count) considering he would die instantly if exposed to the atmosphere. This guy's skin seems a little thicker. 

But my problem with the film is not that Damon's character is not a realistic martian. He is not meant to be. He is meant to be a realistic man stranded on a planet where nothing grows, for hundreds of days, because the commander of his spaceship, a woman, left him for dead, having been ordered to do so by another woman back on planet Earth. This is my problem. 

This gender distribution of labour is neither realistic nor progressive, though it appears to be trying, which somehow makes it worse. In 2015-16 we are trying to improve the representation of men and women in film and other art forms, or so we say, but we are not succeeding and if anything, are making matters worse. 

The Martian is a classic example. It is so obvious that the female characters are added as a clunky affirmative action afterthought, with roles that are not only secondary but stupid and, of course, sexual. Meanwhile, there is an endless list of male characters, from Damon down, strutting their stuff, being heroes against all odds, wielding real power and generally saving the day, to make up for the original mistake made by the female characters. 

I think we should, and could have done better. Never mind that the film is based on a book with a male lead. Many films are and end up looking nothing like the book. It can be done, the author still gets paid. And The Martian, though an okay film in other respects about a fairly neat concept of a human left behind on the orange planet, could have been a great film if 'the martian' had been a woman left behind by a male commander to fend for herself, a truer to life scenario after all. Men leave women to clean up the shit way more than women leave men. And women are pretty good at dealing with the shit they're left with -- they've had a LOT of practice -- as well as being keen gardeners.  

Ridley Scott of all directors should have known better. Ripley made Ridley and gave us all hope of cinema to come that doesn't assume, as all religions and cultures do, that men are primary and women are secondary, stupid and sexual, if not sinful. The Martian reverts, despite it's apparent efforts, to pre-Alien gender stereotypes and perhaps that's what this alien here is so pissed off about. Perhaps this alien is a She. Now there's a concept for a film. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Extreme vetting?

So, what is "extreme vetting" --

a) A good name for a band?

b) The lengths certain particularly committed animal-care workers will go to to ensure the animals in their charge are comfortable and well?

c) The latest attempt by a desperate and deranged man to get elected president of the United States?

d) All of the above.

Strangely, and a little sadly, it is d: all of the above.

But don't worry, I don't think it'll work for all. My money's on the band.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Misogyny 101: All you need is hate

The writing magnified by last night's second (ahem!) glass of vodka and coke is from a book I won at the open mic night on Wednesday, a collection of short stories and opinion pieces by a popular New Zealand writer -- who shall remain nameless.

The writing is funny, when the author is making fun of himself and other males, but predictably, if mildly, misogynistic when his male characters encounter girls and women.

In this story, the adult male narrator gives a sly wink to a young boy who punches his sister because she says he is dumb and won't let him on the computer, at least that is his story. When the boy punches his sister (which he freely admits), she gets off the computer to run crying to her mother. Mission accomplished. The narrator, a casual observer, unrelated to the children, clearly thinks the sister got what she deserved, and happily shares his sympathies with the reader in this sly wink.

The writing is fairly current, published this century, but a few critical years before the latest wave of feminism has begun to expose and challenge these more subtle forms of sexism or 'mild' misogyny that left-wing, educated men, have specialised in perpetrating for many a long year and century -- well before computers, indeed, but not before boys punched girls to get what they wanted and were forgiven, if not congratulated.

But, as in response to each previous feminist wave, there is resistance to this latest one. And one of the most pernicious, because not that obvious, faces of resistance to the fourth wave of feminism is the systematic, and wildly popular sabotage of Hillary Clinton's run for first woman president of the United States by Bernie Sanders and his supporters, male and female. An attempt that almost succeeded, and may yet succeed in a fashion, by handing over the United States to one of the biggest fools, and there have been a fair few, to take the reigns of power with a penis.

One of Sanders supporters who now actively supports Hillary, has recently admitted that his readiness to believe the hate campaign against Hillary was due to his own knee-jerk misogyny that, until now, he had failed to acknowledge, much less to confront. Because he respected some women, as left-wing men invariably do, he figured he wasn't a misogynist and that his distrust of and even hatred of Hillary, was just about her. She wasn't to be trusted, nothing to do with other women. She was being a bully, she wouldn't let the good guy on the computer. So she could justifiably be punched and got rid of, a fight that had nothing to do with her being a girl.

Unfortunately there are still so many others, men and women, who don't get that their distrust of Hillary and shared sympathies with that little boy in the book, etc, is the face of modern misogyny and the ongoing, never changes much, resistance to feminism and gender justice. Indeed it is a type of resistance that is potentially much more harmful than the Trumpet misogyny and online death threats to women who speak out against misogyny that is the far easier to take down misogyny of the right-ring.

So thanks, Michael Hulshoff-Schmidt, for admitting you were wrong about Hillary, and about feminism, and about yourself. If there are more like you who come out of the woodwork now, and in the future, to put pen to paper to own up to misogyny and admit that it is much more pervasive and pernicious than we think, then I might not need that second (fifth) vodka in the future. Cheers! Let's hope, for my husband's sake, that there are.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Open mic fright

So. I nearly didn't go. When nature serves up the perfect-storm of miserable weather on a weary week night, as it did last night, it's hard not to see that as the perfect excuse for staying at home in the warm welcome house, rather than going out into the cold cruel night, much less for going out to deliver your first open mic performance, something most people say they'd rather face a firing squad than do.

And I understand, at least with that, it's over with quickly. At least with a firing squad you don't have to say anything, unless you want to and, by all accounts, people don't. 'Just shoot me,' they might say, but don't have to; it's implied, which makes things a whole lot easier.

Not so in front of an open mic. Nothing's implied with an open mic, other than that the person taking the microphone has something to say and can say it, the hardest of all things to prove in public, or so it seems to me; I've made as many excuses for not taking the open mic as anyone.

I've spoken in public before, sure, most recently for the launches of my book, but those events were prearranged at least partly by others and couldn't be got out of without disappointing them. But this open mic session was all on me, nobody but me (and Moose) would be let down if I didn't show up, nobody would even know, indeed. There's always next month, and the one after that and the one after that...

But, as I eventually decided last night, I'm getting too old for giving into fear and putting things off. There's no surer firing squad than biology, after all, and my body and brain are increasingly conspiring together to make sure I know it.

So last night I did go out into the cruel cold, though complaining (to Moose) all the way, and thinking about turning back when the traffic was heavy, when we couldn't find a park, when we couldn't find the pub-cafe location, when there weren't many people there when we did find it, when it looked nothing like I'd imagined it to look, etc, etc. But the host was welcoming and there was another novice there who she introduced me to and so I stayed, and put my name down to speak fourth.

And, after another forty minutes of anxious waiting, I heard my name called, stood up, walked to the front of the room, opened my book, took a deep breath, and began to speak into the mic to a now full house, reading the prologue and part of the first chapter of my book, embarrassed not to be speaking from memory, as the other, more experienced poets and writers who presented their work before me had done. But getting a fair few laughs nonetheless, I gained in confidence and was able to leave the page at times and address the audience directly. They appreciated that and applauded generously.

Indeed it went very well altogether, much better than expected, and afterwards I felt a relief and warmth you can't get from staying in by the fire. And that's the difference between a firing squad and an open mic, the before might be similar, but the after is completely different. With the open mic there is an after, for starters, and even if you fall flat on your face as if having been shot, there's surely the relief of knowing that you can get back up, and in due course, learning from what went wrong, have another go, likely being less nervous the next time.

Whether my open mic talk sold any books, which was kind of the idea, is another matter. It probably didn't, but there's more to life than money. As they say, you can't take it with you when you fall flat and final, whatever takes you down.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Poked eggs

"Nell Whittle poked you' -- was the first message I received today upon switching on my computer, even before having my breakfast (poached eggs) and uninstalling my laptop keyboard (which I've poked to death) to begin my daily poking of the more hard-boiled mechanical keys. Let's see if you can unscramble that!

Curious, never having been poked before, and not having communicated with, much less been poked by Nell for some time, I opened up the poking notification, only to have it suggested that I poke her back. Charming. It's a Sunday. We should all be at church praying, not poking.

But the inappropriate poking didn't stop there. It was also suggested to me that I 'poke' various other Facebook friends, whose names and smiling, unsuspecting faces duly arrived on my screen with a 'poke' button next them.

It was tempting, in each case, but no. I want to maintain the pretence that we're still friends and as I understand it, poking is not the friendliest of things to do to someone, though it can be, in my part of the world, very friendly indeed, but I don't think that's the sort of poking Nell had in mind.

I could be wrong. I'm going to have to look into it further. To have a good poke around. Get the Moose whisperer (and Moose) onto it. Those antlers could be just the thing; they ought to be good for something.


Friday, August 5, 2016

The Moose Whisperer

Craftier than I look
You might not know this, I've been keeping it a pretty good secret for a while now, but by night, and sometimes, increasingly, by day, I am the Moose Whisperer.

It's difficult to explain entirely why this is, though the fact that I'm allergic to horses I think has something to do with it. I'm not allergic to moose.

Also, I married a moose. At least I married Moose, with a capital M, and he prefers me to whisper (especially when I'm calling him Moose).

I'm probably not the world's best moose whisperer, as I do like to shout when the mood (Moose) takes me. But I'm getting better, though I do find the antlers challenging -- they're not ears, you know. I didn't, but I'm learning.

I'll keep you posted on my progress. For now, it's over and out from the Moose Whisperer© (don't get any ideas about challenging me for the title; I'm craftier than I look).


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Short, but neither nasty nor brutish

Just as much of the man's world we live in reverts more emphatically than ever to a Hobbesian, pre-law state of perpetual warring wherein life is nasty, brutish and short, Pikachu, the short, tubby, perpetually smiling and infinitely non-nasty and brutish king of the Pokemon, is back to lighten and brighten our load, or at least to take our minds off the mean madness of the wider warring world.

And although I can't take part directly in the Pokemon Go craze that has revived enthusiasm for this cutest of cute critters, because I don't have a phone compatible with the app, I don't need to run around looking for virtual Pokemon to enjoy the revival of a thing non nasty and brutish that has come out of the minds of men.

Indeed I have a fluffy, non-virtual Pokemon of my own (actually belongs to my younger son) to remind me of this softer side to the male nature, even if the revival is also, of course, a mega money-making venture which has already turned ugly, though the craze is little more than a month old.

I choose to ignore the ugliness and enjoy the nostalgia for what seems like a less mad mean time, a time when my older boy proudly took his giant fluffy Pokemon to the cinema with him and everyone was smiling. What a pity they have to grow up -- though do they? Pikachu says no, and so, in may ways, does Pokemon Go.