Thursday, 16 December 2010

BIG SOCIETY Vs little society

What is becoming apparent is that, as promised, The Big Society is terribly fair.

And the Emperor Coalition has now pretty much guaranteed us a terribly fair approach to higher education. After all their bleeting and foot stamping, anyone who has looked at the proposal cannot but agree it is terribly fair. You pay for your education when you can afford it. How reasonable.

The problem with the little society is that they don’t think Big. I’ve been into the poorest schools in Devon and Dorset doing widening participation work and this is the main issue. In the Big Society a university education costing the individual £50,000-£60,000 is an investment; a transaction. The figures are comprehensible, the pay-off is a known commodity (from their own experience), and there is a safety net of savings, salaries, and contacts to fall back upon.

If only the little society could see beyond the size of the figures and the pressure of debt, they could man-up and break into that terribly fair Big Society.

Still, even for The Big Society, it’s hard times when you’re down to your last five million and isn’t everyone feeling the squeeze?

It’s only money anyway.

And it's all terribly fair.

What’s particularly fair about this education policy though is that it’s based upon a perfectly measurable equation: education=earning potential. Because higher education is not a right, it is not a good to be pursued for its own sake and it doesn’t necessarily benefit society itself (this is not the Good society! Lol). Education is something that improves the earning potential of the education-client (EC). The EC makes an investment and thereby sees returns for which the EC will pay later. Given the significance of these returns it is natural that the EC should pay upfront. It is a little gamble upon the EC’s ability to get ahead. The Big Society is a marvellous melee of confident competitive individuals and the fittest will flourish. The runts will stay runts forever! Ha. That’s just the law of nature.

The other fair thing about the fee rise is that it allows all universities the chance to better themselves and for this to be transparent. So Oxbridge will naturally as top dogs immediately raise fees to the max. The Russell group will all be in the +£6000 bracket and will play off in friendly competition the bargain vs. prestige of having lower or higher fees than one another. It will be like a marketplace of education! How exciting. And the genius is that even if the public school children go to the most expensive university, it’s still cheaper than their school fees.


And for the rest it's about time there was a bit more teaching on debt management. This system ensures a life-time's training on the job. Wooooooo!!!

Of course there will be closures - but only of the little society universities. And there were too many of these quasi-universities anyway.

The Big Society is about playing with The Big Boys. Like King Cameron and Sir Cleggalot.

And it all echoes delightfully with that blueprint for society, found in the Gospel:

“To those who have, more will be given, and to those who have not, even what they have will be taken from them.”

The Lord’s prayer, on the other hand is of no use to our terribly fair Big Society:

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us.”

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Admittedly, they strip, but it's witty, like a quip...

I was very excited to see so much female empowerment on display at the X Factor Final.

Screw the Daily Mail! Burlesque is totally ironic.

It's confusing though. I can't decide whether to be liberated by wearing no trousers, or by being as self-deprecatingly shy as Rebecca "Don't look at me" Ferguson. The two options seem to be mutually exclusive.

How to get into the final: don't be as gobby as Cher Lloyd.

Anyway, congratulations must go to Matt Cardle, who won the competition, and, it seems, a cat.

Or possibly many cats? I can't quite seem to lipread exactly what Harry from One Direction is saying to him here.

Remember Matt, no matter how famous your Christmas no.2 makes you, a pussy is for life, not just the festive season.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Must be... Bob Dylan!

Early morning. Must be to serve cava to a bunch of friends. I hope the party doesn't turn out like this....*

Who's got a big red cherry nose?

Hooray for Christmas! (and Advent, but I totally don't want to get in that argument).

And yes, La Maison Roaring definitely has columns too. Men with wigs, come to my party!

*I'm very sorry, but Bob in his wisdom has decided I can't embed the video. Which puts me in a bad mood. I'd better watch it again.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Why you should get drunk, eat as many mince pies as you can and snog someone at your office party...

I just read reallyquitetired’s post “adventageous” and the worthy sentiment of a Lenten approach to the season of goodwill. He’s right of course, Christians celebrated a good 1500 years of fasting and abstinence before our jolly pre-Christmas Christmas. And even in our judgement-averse culture RQT’s call for justice must strike some harmonic chord.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Forget the cuts, forget the ridiculous Royal Wedding (TM), forget the fact that Wagner is still in X Factor. Things suddenly got a lot worse.

Mean Girls 2 is coming out.

And it is SO not fetch.

I would post a more scathing critique of this nauseating tosh, but I'm afraid I'll be removed from public ministry by Ramping, who requires me to annually pledge my allegiance to Queen Lohan.

In other news, Joss Whedon is NOT going to direct the new Buffy film; I think I might have to go and have a very long lie down. Wake me up in 2013, won't you?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Gossip Girl State

I thought up a facebook application the other day called “slept with”. Beneath your friends list: ‘Leonidas Naboombu has 4310 friends’ and your mutual friends list: ‘you and Leonidas Naboombu have 62 friends in common’ you could have a ‘slept with’ list: ‘Leonidas Naboombu has slept with 106 people’ and a 'mutual slept with' list: ‘You and Leonidas Naboombu have 84 sex partners in common’. Not only would this be in perfect keeping with the Facebook raison d’etre of self-promotion, narcissism and stalking, but it would be incredibly useful in terms of tracking the progress of STIs. There could even be facebook-world-traveller equivalent of country tally - ‘you have slept with 4% of the world population... (and have an 84% chance of Chlamydia infection).’

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Bad Boys

*Trigger Warning*

So. Charlie Brooker has given up his Guardian column, Screen Burn. The man who called Cilla Black “the result of a unholy union between Ronald McDonald and a blow-dried guinea pig” has had enough of his misanthropic ways and is calling it a day, in terms of skewering TV “personalities”, anyway.

Brooker claims that meeting his victims and discovering they were actually quite nice, and feeling like a “witless bully” has encouraged him to leave the celebrity-bashing alone. But you and I know better. Why has Brooker mellowed? Because, obviously, he married a delightful young woman I like to call Konnie Hug, on account of the fact that she hugs every single person she interviews on The Xtra Factor.

Huq: Good at hugging wannabies.
Her hugs make the contestants glow and smile and think that maybe they might be able to win. I wish she’d hug me. It would make me less of a bitch. And hugging Huq has clearly charmed Charlie down from his bitter perch. Perhaps. Presumably also having a post-Blue-Peter-presenter-partner means he can’t write things like, “it’s a bit like watching a programme in which children queue up to be punched in the face by Father Christmas. Absolutely riveting for all the wrong reasons” about X Factor. (But she is very funny too: witness this segment she did for Screenwipe, where, apparently, they met.)

While I admire Brooker’s new-found love for the human race, I am also hugely disappointed. Which says two things: 1) I am a bitch who likes reading these brutal put-downs, much in need of a Konnie Hug; and 2) I am a complete stereotype of a woman who finds ‘bad boys’, or at least men who are appalling to other people to be funny/ exert their own sense of power, to be quite attractive.

The absolute apotheosis of my love for the Bad Boy comes in my admiration for (obsession with?) another Charles, Gossip Girl’s beautifully dreadful Chuck Bass.


Dude, I'm Chuck Bass. Even Europeans must know what that means.
Oh Chuck, with your bowties, your thick frowning brows, your billions of dollars, your little black book and your “I’m Chuck Bass” catchphrase, you make me swoon. Your machiavellian machinations are even more devious than Blair’s, and I can’t stop watching. (In the season 4 evil-off between B. and C., my money’s on C.)

And Chuck is also (temporarily) saved by a beautiful, kind, good woman (who incidentally seems to be a good hugger). He starts believing in the goodness of humanity. He gives money to charity. He realises his chauffeur is a person with a family who has feelings and needs a raise.

And – and this is something I’ve been watching out for since the beginning of season one – Chuck admits to the attempted rape of Jenny Humphrey. GG is a guilty pleasure for me, but even more so given the positioning of Chuck as a constant sexual harasser right from the first episode. It takes over three seasons for anyone to come out and call it rape. He’s shown to be penitent, and a changed man, but when his relationship breaks down (of course his girlfriend-saviour is really a golddigging prostitute), can we be sure he won’t revert completely?

Maybe I’ve talked myself out of my crush. What does it say about us that women are expected, encouraged, nay, assumed to watch Gossip Girl naked while rubbing ourselves with Creme De La Mer and fantasising about Chuck? Oh yes. Rape culture. And before you say, “Blah, blah, blah, humourless feminist,” the intersections of misogyny, racism* and unbridled consumerism are all there – it’s called western capitalist patriarchy in some parts.

And let’s not forget, Charlie B (the other one) has his moments of total sexism (but it’s funny!!! cleverly, he anticipates the reactions of humourless feminists and tells us we’re stupid in advance) and making homophobic slurs. But of course, that’s all in the past. His love of a good, here’s-one-I-made-earlier-let-me-give-you-a-hug woman has changed him.

So I’m back to sex and violence. Nothing wrong with falling in love with a foul-mouthed, preferably handsome man who has a reasonably big ego.

And nothing wrong with drooling over the delicious teenagers, yummy clothes** and sensational martinis in a silly but glamourous TV show.

But careful, readers; while they look like they taste good, these Upper East Side treats might just stick in your throat.

You know you love me... xoxo

* The way Chuck and Blair treat Vanessa is totally indicative of their sense of entitlement and incessant casual racism.

** Two references for clothes this season are GG and Mad Men: obviously MM is a million times cleverer than GG but still at risk of the same glorification of misogyny if watched without attention.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Et tu Brute...

Friends, Romans, Countrymen,
lend me your ears;
I come to bury Secularism, not to praise it.

The pope has had his visit and said what a wicked third world, sorry secular world, we are. (“Kasper, Kasper, shhhhhhh...” It is Fortunate Fr Lombardi was close by to translate “third world” as “a cosmopolitan reality, a melting pot of ordinary humanity and all of its diversity and its problems". Kasper himself was unable to comment being laid out in bed with gout that week, only emerging to attend a dinner in his honour at the German embassy.) ...And Christendom is terribly pleased because the atheists and the National Secular Society all looked a bit silly.

My personal highlight was watching Richard Dawkins lay out all the terrible abuses of the Catholic church, including spluttering that the pope didn’t even recognise Anglicans as having real priests! What a bastard. Hooray for Dawkins, defender of the faith.

Now the Pope didn’t say that atheist were just like Nazis. But there can be no doubt that by first talking about the Nazis as those who “wished to eradicate God from society” and only a breath later warning against “aggressive forms of secularism”, he intended to link the two, and for anyone who’s had anything to do with Radical Orthodoxy this won’t be an entirely surprising move. Even today I was speaking to the Bishop of London who argued the same choice: it’s either Faith or Nihilism.

So the catholics would have it that the good is interred with Christianity’s bones while the evil of secularism is that which lives after it, the festering parasite of Christ’s un-resurrected corpse. And Secularism has become ambitious leading to a ‘truncated vision of man (sic) and of society and a reductive vision of a person and his (sic) destiny’.

Only history tells a different story. For was it not the man who became Pius XII who made a concordat with Hitler establishing freedom of catholic religious practice and education in return for the Vatican insisting upon the withdrawal of all catholics from social and political action? And while, under the Vatican’s pressure, the last remaining democratic party collapsed, was it not Kaas, a Catholic and close personal friend of the pope to be, who agreed to the Enabling Act in exchange for the Reich Concordat?

If ever there was a Faustian moment for the church that was it.

So the noble catholics have told us that Secularism is ambitious, a grievous fault as they claim. But under leave of these honourable catholics, and they are all honourable men - I would like to speak at Secularism’s funeral.

The pope says Secularism is ambitious, and the pope is an honourable man. But hasn't Secularism brought us human rights, which attempt to legislate basic freedoms for all people. Did this in Secularism seem ambitious? And Secularism has brought about equality legislation in the attempt to make society fairer. It has developed a suspicion of power and an interrogation of those who presume entitlement. It has put down the mighty from their seat and exalted the humble. When the poor have cried in Latin America and Africa, Secularism has wept. Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:

Yet the Pope says Secularism was ambitious; and the Pope is an honourable man.

The truth is that Secularism is the younger sister of Christianity. It is a necessary force of Reform which continually calls the church to order. Its foundations are in Christianity and without its care it might fall into the abyss of nihilism, but that is only the more reason to tether this force to its older sibling. It is the natural counterpoint to the elements of authoritarianism and conservatism in the church. It can be fresh, creative, unbounded in its analysis, and at its best uncovers the undisclosed sins of faith and leads the way in societal reform and social justice.

For the church to cut off the secular and retreat back to its bones is to fail the people the church is called to serve. It would be to become isolated, out of date and cultic. Worst of all, it would risk a return to an authoritarianism that would once again put the church on the wrong side of the cross.

O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason. Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Secularism, and I must pause till it come back to me.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Sex and Violence

[Trigger warning for discussion of domestic violence.]

So. The Eminem/ Rihanna video, featuring Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox:

Monday, 16 August 2010

Sacramental Insurance

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Friday, 30 July 2010

Lovers Electric

I went to a concert last night at a church in the city where a "community of spiritual travellers who seek to live in a way that is honest to God and honest to now", called Moot, meet. They'd arranged for a few bands to play and a friend of mine, who knew the FATHER of one of the musicians, invited me.

That made me feel old. I'm sure I'm still of an age where I'm supposed to know musicians, not their parents. Still there's good reason in this case to blame the friend.

I don't think the bands were chosen for any particular connection to the church, or church in general, as was highlighted by one of the musicians, after extolling the virtues of the building, proclaiming "I'd love to get baptised in that!"

Pointing at the pulpit.

Anyway these guys were hot, entertaining and super-super-good.
(For a clearer version of the song [not live] click here.)

Monday, 26 July 2010

How to have a crap time camping

Why doesn’t Bella Swan just get a hobby? Like knitting. Or kayaking. Or stabbing herself in the face with a chopstick. I think I would rather have spent last night watching K-Stew take two hours to choose between two M&S ready meals than the drippy and curiously asexual vampire and wolf.

“I LOVE duck with noodles and hoi sin sauce. I want to eat it for the rest of my life.”
“But chicken and mushroom fried rice is so delicious.”
“No. I will have the duck. Even if it means I become a serial killer.”
“But the chicken! It’s so tempting. Maybe I can have a bite of it and still eat the duck.”
“Gosh I LOVE the duck so much. And it knows I want the chicken, and yet it still wants me to eat it. That makes me feel special.”
“Yummy chicken... It’s calling to me, saying, ‘Eat me too! I don’t care if you’re eating duck most of the time.’ But it’s wrong to have two dinners. Perhaps I’ll take them both camping and that will help me decide.”
“But I LOVE THE DUCK. Even though it’s cold. Maybe I should put it in the microwave.”
(And so on, for 300 hours, ad nauseam)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Bishops-Without-Penises: an appraisal.

The Church of England General Synod has inched even closer to the day when we might see people who don't have penises in the episcopacy. As a person who doesn't have a penis, and is in favour of people with all sorts of different genital make-up being ordained, I am very pleased about this.

We might even have a Bishop-Without-A-Penis in the next few years!

Katherine Jefferts Schori: Doesn't have a penis.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. Surely (you might say to me), these people who don't have penises shouldn't be Bishops! (In fact you might even think they shouldn't be priests but they are already, and you don't want to get sidetracked into a conversation about priest-genitalia.)

People without penises are definitely equal to people who have penises, but it is quite obvious (you might argue) that the having of a penis makes a person completely different to a person without one. For instance, those who don't have penises are actually more special than people with penises, because the non-penis people can be mothers! They can actually produce babies out of their no-penis area, and look after the babies! This is something that God likes, for sure. Especially because God was born from a person without a penis.

Anyway, to side-step the obvious point that Jesus had a penis (God couldn't possibly have been incarnated as a no-penis-person) and all his disciples had penises, the really important thing is that only people with penises can ordain priests (you might tell me). Thus people who are ordained by people without penises aren't actually priests and can't say mass. This is crucial, because the most important thing a Bishop does is to ordain priests. ('Theology of taint' sounds like an innuendo but in fact is very very serious.)

What Synod should have done was to make sure that for every diocesan Bishop-without-a-penis consecrated, there would also be a proper Bishop-with-penis to help out, so that those who realise that penises are crucial to sacramental authority won't have to put up with fake priests, fake eucharists, and a fake Bishop. Otherwise, any privilege usually gained by having-a-penis in the secular world is totally undermined by the fact of being under a non-penis-'Bishop' in one's diocese and puts one on a level with in other oppressed minorities, which is unacceptable. Instead we're going to have to trust that 'Bishops'-without-Penises will look after the pro-penis Anglicans.

So, you will conclude, though you are very fond of the Church of England and would like to stay in it, your only option is a) if you're Anglo-Catholic, to leave and go to the Roman Catholic Church, which is entirely governed by penises; or b) if you're an evangelical, to not pay any of your parish's huge income to the Bishop-without-a-penis. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholics don't pay very well, and you can't take your building with you; and if you don't pay your parish share, the diocese won't help out with your 10 new church plants.

It's a painful, distressing decision to make, and I have a great amount of sympathy for it. If only there was a way of thinking about sex and gender that could make it all easier: if only there was a way to trust each other that wasn't all about what we look like naked.

Monday, 12 July 2010

In My Beginning is My Spiritual Hologram...

“We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be, or to become, in the future.”

Amen. Thus spake the seraph aka Lady Gaga in the new-libertine creed. And forthwith the scoffers wagged their heads at “spiritual hologram” and gnashed their teeth at the po-mo superficiality of venerating the image. But wait a minute; isn’t there some ancient text that actually refers to as image, as the image of God?

And are we so sure that the glamour-gloss of Andy Warhol’s diamond dust shoes and myriad Monroes are quite so banal as arching [high-]brows, critical of mass culture would tell us.
What if Gaga has a point?

Subtly introduce the more acceptable language of imagination and it all starts to sound a little like contemporary theology. And if it’s conceded that the age of the photograph and silent film took to pieces the aura of the work of art, then high speed broadband
must surely be the death of all romantic notions of the original, authentic work of art. Perhaps we are all copies, and copies of forgeries, and counterfeit plagiarisms of copies of forgeries, and if we truly did make it to becoming perfect images then we might avoid that pernicious Augustinian originality.

Roaring introduced me last year to Martha Beck who has a lot to say about “starting from the end.” About imagining how you want a situation to resolve itself before you find yourself 1000 miles from home hacking your way through the Mekong Delta. This means a literal imaging/imagining a future that might bring you a little closer to who you are. And if my beginning can be found in my end, and my end in my beginning, this might give us an authentic spirituality which can be achieved by copying and forging ahead. But, as every successful school-girl/boy knows, the art of successfuly copying is to give it a twist, or, as Warhol would have it, a myriad of copies in negative, high contrast, technicoloured hyper-reality.

So let’s all imagine lots of lady bishops and gay bishops and see what spiritual holograms we can uncover that are unfettered by all the reactionary boredom of people with little imagination.

We are nothing without our image.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

After School Videos

You know, today's been a sad day. Andy Murray was knocked out of Wimbledon. Ghana's football wasn't good enough to beat Uruguay. Paris Hilton was detained for smoking pot at the World Cup. I had to fish a lot of my possessions, including a ton of work, out of a bin filled with maggots in true I'm-a-celebrity style without the consolation of meeting Ant & Dec.

So, naturally, to feel better, my thoughts turned to the beautiful D'Angelo and his gorgeous 'Untitled'; my favourite after-school-video of all time:

It was also Kelly Brook's favourite video back when she was a VJ in 2000. She would get all misty eyed when she played it, and can you blame her?

Of course the video was very 'controversial', and ended D'Angelo's mainstream career even as it started it. Never mind. We can keep watching (bearing in mind some excellent questions about masculinity, sexual objectification, race, and whether the, em, 'climactic' gestures are real?) and feel cheered.

How does it feel?

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Daddy's Girl

In honour of Father's Day, I'd like to direct you to the best father-figure in television, Mr Rupert Giles. (And if you haven't watched Buffy, really - what are you thinking? go and order the whole thing NOW.)

    (Sorry it's in Spanish! Fox are dreadful about copyright)

I love the Slayer/Watcher dynamic they have - thrown into nice relief by Wesley - not without problems and growing pains (remember her 18th birthday?), it matures into a really loving relationship of equals that still has a familial aspect. From the beginning he sees how special she is, tries to support her and guard her independence, even to the extent of becoming completely anti-institutional and losing his job for her sake. Who wouldn't want a dad like that? It's an often subversive model of fatherhood (Buffy's birth father is absent and uninterested), placing love above authoritarianism, where Buffy herself is confronted with Giles' past (as Ripper), sexuality (getting over the 'grossness' of grownup relationships) and knowing that grownups often don't get it right. He's comfortable with her sexuality (while there is never a directly sexual dynamic between them), and the show never descends into daddy-protecting-daughter's virtue nonsense. He leaves Sunnydale to let her learn to be self-reliant, but he comes back when he's really needed.

So (to change tack ever so subtly), this sort of subversion is why I think 'Father' language for God is often ok - as long as you have flexible, unessential ideas about gender. This is not to say that it's not unproblematic language, because both women and men can have damaged relationships with fathers/father-figures/priest-figures that make father language difficult if not impossible. Those of us with good relationships with our fathers/father-figures should constantly recognize that privilege and resist reifying father language in a way that is damaging for others. And it's important to remember that we all have women in our lives who display some of the best attributes of 'fathers'.

Janet Martin Soskice puts this subversive element well in her essay 'Calling God Father', where she relies on Ricoeur’s symbolic interpretation of the notion of a father as a way of reading of the biblical texts in which the flexibility of the concept of fatherhood comes to the fore:
What ‘father’ and ‘son’ mean here [in Jesus' calling God ‘Abba’] cannot be read off woodenly from normal family relationships or the Arians would have their case. Rather, ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ function as loaded ciphers, their full significance disclosed only with the unfolding of the ministry of Jesus.
Good theology starts with this, the relationship between Jesus and the 'Father', rather than legitimizing and reifying some inevitably flawed, and often essentialist notion of human fatherhood. Balthasar does this in the worst sort of conservative-bourgeois way, and it's insidious in its influence on Roman Catholic theology.

So happy Father's Day, all. Go hug your father. Or someone else's father. Or someone you love. And if you're father to someone else, remember Rupert Giles and be inspired.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Taking in the Holy

Ok, ok, you know I had to write something about it. The Alejandro video has more Catholic imagery than you can shake a thurible at.

Bill Donahue (of the Catholic League) isn't very happy. Big surprise. Though at least he grasped that the video is essentially one big Madonna homage. He claims that LG 'is treating us like Muslims'. A searing critique, really. The CL reminds me of certain other protesting priests... (Though the phrase 'manages to get raped' is less funny - nice intimation of victim-blaming, Bill).

It's no Telephone, but there's even more gender 'performance', and I like the bit where she ingests the rosary. Stephen Klein, the co-director, suggests that it's about "the desire to take in the holy." Coupled with all the sexual and S&M-y moves, the video comes across as an overwhelming and oppressive take on physicality. The nun as ascetic escape from pain/sex/embodiment?

(Katy Perry has described the video as "cheap". Ha.)

(I promise not to blog about Lady GaGa again for at least a week. Honestly.)

Thursday, 3 June 2010

I’m a free bitch, baby!

‘I am here to proclaim your liberation,’ she told us. A preacher for the night, a high priestess who couldn’t imagine any other death than one that took place in the sanctuary of the stage, a messiah sacrificing herself for our love. ‘Some say I’m an irreligious woman,’ she cried over Alejandro, ‘but tonight, let’s go to church, London!’

Such was Lady Gaga’s charisma that, right up in the gods of the O2 arena, when she lay down on the stage as if it was a psychiatrist’s couch and explained that she was nothing – nothing – without the love of her fans, that our love had spoilt her for a relationship with anyone else, I felt like I was the only one there. When she sang, ‘I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me’, the curious inversion of the dynamics of watcher/watched felt oddly intimate (and less manipulative than you might think).*

She hates money and plastic surgery and the fact that she loves alcohol-dependent men like her father. She loves difference. Again and again she told us to be free – free to be freaks and geeks, gay, straight or bisexual, to do what we wanted and to tell those who say we aren’t good enough, ‘Fuck you!’

She lay on her piano upside down, conducting her band and playing the piano with her stiletto. This lady is talented. Her voice is enormous. Her clothes are huge. She told us that she also has a very big penis. And her breasts actually shoot fireworks.

She was Dorothy, Tinkerbell, the Pied Piper, Mary. She was a monster-slayer who wanted us to kill our own demons. She was the Mommy to her ‘little monsters’. She very consciously sees herself (at least when she’s performing) through the eyes of her fans. It’s the love/applause of others that brings her to life. Christ or Tinkerbell?

Be free, she said. Be in the moment (we were told off for photographing her - ‘I’ll be back again!’ - a command to experience the present I wish had been emphasised when I went to mass at St Peter’s). This is no Madonna crucifying herself in the ultimate act of self-reference. Lady GaGa is something else altogether. ‘I promise I’ll be kind’, she sang to me. In the end, I believed her.

*Her tweets from the MEN Arena tonight, responding to a fan’s complaint that people weren’t being let into the venue with coke cans in their hair, are very cute. Sounds like she gave the arena staff a bollocking for being mean to her babies...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

All Women are Liars

[Trigger warning]

This week Roaring sent me Penny Red’s blog post on rape, which articulates the prevailing cultural attitude that all women are liars. She points to the government’s planned changes to allow men accused of rape anonymity and rightly notes that those accused of child abuse do not get this anonymity, which does seem to suggest that women are more likely to lie and are less reliable witnesses than children.*

By chance also this week I received the latest dispatch from the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (CBS) which argues that Catholics in the Church of England cannot receive the sacrament from women because of “sacramental assurance”:

“A woman might be a priest, or she might not; it might be a Eucharist or it might not; it might be the Blessed Sacrament or it might not!”

As its author, Fr Christopher Pearson, rightly points out (for the wrong reasons) "This is nonsense". Anglo-Catholics of this view have devolved the divine mandate on grace, on the very presence of God, to man. The worst part about this is that it’s not even to the church to which they belong, which with provision, has broadly accepted the ordination of women - but rather to a selective group of men. Never mind that the church has called women to be priests; it is a certain group of men that are granted divine powers.

And theologically this is an immense problem. It is the worst excess of clericalism in placing all sacramental authority in the hands of the few, not the domain of the church (let alone seeing sacramental presence throughout creation), and it relegates grace to superstition and magic in supposing that the hands of a selected few are able to conjure up the power of God. Didn’t the Church deal with this one and a half millennia ago?

What is more, for the now thousands of women priests in the Anglican church, it says ontologically - in your very being - you are liars.

* I don’t want to dwell on the recent case of the two ten year old boys and eight year old girl but it does appear to be a ghastly parody of adult rape cases insofar as a power dynamic of shame motivated the girl into claiming she had earlier lied about her experience of abuse: she said she lied because she had been naughty and was afraid of not getting sweets. Both the evident criminalization of the boys - in which society already others them (criminals/sex offenders) and the sexualization of a pre-pubescent girl as shameful suggests that the most harmful pressures of society are quickly imputed upon children. The media’s assumption that Of Course she lied (she’s a woman-to-be) and that this is all just innocent horseplay is equally horrifying, in its washing over of both bullying and sexual violence, and demonstrates the sheer folly of the Tory policy of killing off compulsory sex education.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

After-School Videos

When I was a teenager, when I got home from school I would make myself a cup of tea, pour myself an enormous bowl of Cornflakes and settle down to watch MTV Select (which boasts such alumnae as Cat Deeley, Donna Air, Lisa Snowdon, Kelly Brook, Edith Bowman, Richard Blackwood ['member him?!]...) until dinnertime.

Videos ruled my life then much as now (forget about homework), and the on-demand nature of Youtube and current cable programming doesn't have the same charm as waiting through an hour of Donna Air chuntering on and on to callers while you're waiting for the latest Britney single to finally come on.

Anyway, After-School Videos will be an occasional, totally self-interested blast of nostalgia for no other reason than I love nineties pop.

So here is Texas, 'In Demand':

Crap song, but ALAN RICKMAN! Doing the TANGO!

Look at Sharleen's face - never has a woman been so happy. And what is she doing to him with her knee?


(And note the 'twist' at the end - you see what they did there? You see? Clever.)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Britney’s New Clothes

So I was reading Roaring’s thoughts on being perfect and I was thinking what is this desire to be perfect and is it gendered? After all I’ve listened to Whatta Man, I’ve seen Justin dance and I’ve read 40 ways to get perfect abs in Men’s Health, but I suspect it’s not quite the same. What really struck me about what Roaring wrote was how quickly perfection for her became about flawless physicality, and although popular culture has shifted dramatically towards androgynous youthful beauty for men and women, I suspect men do better in the plurality of male types over the most obvious and prevalent female prescriptions.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

"It's time for a women's reformation"

In the wake of Hans Kung's open letter to the Catholic bishops, and before commenting more fully on the Catholic situation, I'd like to point you in the direction of Tina Beattie's marvellous call to arms over at her Marginal Musings blog. She rather unfortunately begins by saying
On reading this, I realize it's an extravagant polemical gush, but I decided to publish it anyway
which caveat, though I hate to be so essentialist, a man would never have given.

Given she's seen as pretty strident anyway, she should just own it and say what she really thinks (if you haven't read her intro to New Catholic Feminism, a fantasy of mourners getting up to all sorts of sexy high jinks in Rome at JPII's funeral, you should - most grabbing introduction to an academic book I've ever read). And note the references to Philip Blond and John Milbank... Feistyness is good, Tina! The conversation needs to be pushed on...

Monday, 26 April 2010

A Brave New Girl

I started thinking about perfection this week when a friend noticed that I say ‘Perfect!’ a lot [seriously you have no idea - Ramping]. ‘That would be perfect!’ ‘You’re perfect – thank you’, ‘It’s been a perfect day’, ‘Having coffee with her was perfect’, and so on, ad nauseam (apparently).

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Whip It, dude!!

I went to see Whip It last night. I'm not a great movie-goer (claustrophobic) but this was totally worth it.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

"Let the little children come unto me"


So perhaps the now super-sensationalist E4 series Skins has finally gone the way of all shock-TV in trading its original subtlety and humour - or at least lightness of touch - in portraying the teenage underworld of Bristol, for a more shock-and-awe/smash-and-grab approach. Still, what it has maintained throughout is an overriding preference and sympathy for the boozing, pill-popping, promiscuous wastrels - at the expense of the adults who, celebrity not withstanding, unfailing come across as dull, stupid, thoughtless, lumbering or downright evil.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Spot Ze Difference

This is Ze Man:

And this is Ze Woman:

Ze Man, he has ze microsite. It is for ze Real Men.

Ze Woman, she has no microsite. But she can recline, and ze men will come to her. Lucky Woman.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

"Bless God and bless the gays!"

Plenty has been written this week about Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’, a ‘homoerotic rampage of capitalistic ultra-violence’ . From the Tarantino, Meyer and Thelma and Louise references, to the ‘Baby One More Time’-esque dance routine, to Gaga’s crotch, the video – on its way to being the most watched video ever, beyond even MJ’s ‘Thriller’ - has been analysed to death (smelling suspiciously of rat poison).

Friday, 19 March 2010

If church was like this they wouldn't have to worry about falling attendance

A link to the marvellous Popjustice to start us off...
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